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See the meals U.S. airlines were serving passengers in the 1960s

June 05, 2021
3 min read
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I'm of an age where I had the privilege of flying on global airlines back when that mode of travel was reserved for the rich. Passengers dressed in their Sunday best, coach seats were actually comfortable and the inflight meal was a highlight of the journey.

Northwestern University's Transportation Library has a collection of more than 400 menus from 54 national and international airlines, cruise ships and railroad companies. The collection spans from 1929 to the present, with a focus on mid-to-late 20th-century air transportation.

The majority of the collection was donated by George M. Foster, a pioneering anthropologist and Northwestern alumnus, who took his first commercial flight in 1935. He ended up flying hundreds of times, as well as traveling by rail and boat, for his anthropological research and as a consultant for such agencies as the World Health Organization and UNICEF. He collected remembrances of his travels in the form of inflight or onboard menus, which he donated to the Transportation Library in 1997.

A Pan American World Airways flight attendant preparing in-flight meals in the galley of an airliner, circa 1950. (Photo by Archive Photos/Getty Images)

What makes the menu collection unique is Foster's hand-written comments on flight dates, airplane types and food and wine ratings and descriptions. "The menus preserve a glimpse of the golden age of air travel in which fine dining, fine wines, and thoughtful design created a passenger experience of mystique and allure," according to the Transportation Library. "Menus, flight attendant uniforms, silverware, timetables, and even airline terminals were components of airlines’ visual identities through which they represented adventure, excitement, and an optimism about the future."

Below we look at what six U.S. airlines served in the 1960s.

United Airlines: San Francisco to Detroit, 1969

For many, it's pretty amazing that this was the menu on a four-hour and 20-minute flight. Foster noted that the poached quenelle of scallops, Nantua sauce was "Excellent". He also had his choice of cocktails, three entrees and two salads.

Northwest Orient Airlines, 1966: Seattle-Tokyo-Hong Kong

In his notes, Foster wrote, "Seattle--Tokyo--Hong Kong;" "Boeing 320C Intercontinental" on the menu. Note that the meal ends with complimentary cigarettes!

Pan Am, 1966: Tokyo to San Francisco

Breakfast on this flight included your choice of cereals, eggs served three ways, two kinds of meat, with rolls, coffee and tea.

Trans World Airlines, 1968

Foster noted that this "Olde English" themed menu was folded so that one leaf is wider than the other. "Serving Wench" definitely conjures up how different things were in the 1960s.

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National Airlines, 1968: Jet service to Miami

This airline, founded in 1934, operated flights between New York and Miami, Miami to the West Coast and, in 1970, Miami to London. The flight had a full meal service, including happy hour drinks, hot Hors d'oeuvres, an appetizer, a salad, a choice of two entrees and three desserts, along with a selection of wines and after-dinner drinks. Plus the menu could be used as a sun reflector.

American Airlines, 1966: Boston to Washington, D.C.

This flight was too short for a full meal. But a full bar was on the menu, including popular cocktails of the day, along with soft drinks.

Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Good, Excellent

Why We Chose It

It's hard to find a card that competes with the mile-long list of benefits that come with the Amex Business Platinum. While it's certainly not the card for the average consumer, a business owner with tons of expenses -- especially related to travel -- will find this card incredibly valuable. This card is similar to the consumer version that Amex offers, but with more business-oriented perks around statement credits and earning rates that are a better fit for business owners.

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  • An up to $100 credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck application fee every four to five years
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  • Gold status at Marriott and Hilton hotels (enrollment required)
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  • Extended warranty protection
  • International Airline Program and Cruise Privileges Program

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  • Steep annual fee
  • Difficulty meeting $15,000 welcome offer for smaller businesses
  • Limited high-bonus categories outside of travel
  • The Points Guy Exclusive Offer: Earn 150,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $15,000 on eligible purchases with the Business Platinum Card® within the first 3 months of Card Membership.
  • Get 5X Membership Rewards® points on flights and prepaid hotels on amextravel.com, and 1X points for each dollar you spend on eligible purchases.
  • Earn 1.5X points (that’s an extra half point per dollar) on eligible purchases at US construction material & hardware suppliers, electronic goods retailers and software & cloud system providers, and shipping providers, as well as on purchases of $5,000 or more everywhere else, on up to $2 million of these purchases per calendar year.
  • Unlock over $1,000 in annual statement credits on a curation of business purchases, including select purchases made with Dell Technologies, Indeed, Adobe, and U.S. wireless service providers.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year for checked baggage fees, lounge day passes, and more at one selected airline.
  • $189 CLEAR® Credit: Use your Card and get up to $189 back per year on your CLEAR® membership. CLEAR® is available at more than 50 U.S. airports and stadiums.
  • The American Express Global Lounge Collection® can provide an escape at the airport. With more than 1,400 airport lounges across 140 countries and counting, you have more lounge location options than any other credit card on the market as of 9/2021.
  • $695 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.