Otis House Lecture Series Recalls Dining in Victorian Boston

Explore the history of drinking and dining in Victorian Boston on Tuesday evenings in August at Otis House. Come early for a reception in the courtyard.

On Aug. 7, historian Jim O’Connell analyzes historic menus from the Parker House, Union Oyster House, Durgin-Park, Locke-Ober, Café Marliave, Jacob Wirth and some long-forgotten eateries to explore how 19th-century Boston restaurants reflected Victorian culture. Topics include the influence of French and British cooking, ostentatious multi-course banquets, working-class oyster bars and eating houses, ladies’ tea rooms and ice cream parlors, and the emergence of ethnic eateries.

The Aug. 14 lecture recalls when Massachusetts was part of the Triangle Trade, the 18th-century world economy. Rum from New England was traded in Africa for enslaved people, who were brought to the West Indies and the Caribbean, where they cultivated sugar cane. The sugar cane was later refined into molasses, which was shipped to New England and often used in the distillation of rum. In his talk on molasses, historian Anthony Sammarco traces it from the eighteenth century through the teetotalism and abolitionist causes of the nineteenth century, to the Great Molasses Flood of 1919, which became an integral part of the North End of Boston’s history.

The Aug. 21 talk revisits In 1900 when Boston had the most breweries per person of any city in the country. The overwhelming majority of them were in the Stony Brook area of Roxbury and Jamaica Plain. During the heyday of Boston breweries, this area was the center of the industry, with at least 24 breweries along the banks of the Stony Brook. Learn from Michael Reiskind about the history of brewing in Boston, and the Irish and German immigrants who established the breweries in the city.

These talks, which are co-sponsored by Historic New England and the Victorian Society in America/New England Chapter, take place at the Otis House Museum, 141 Cambridge St., at 6 p.m. A reception precedes the lecture and starts at 5:30 p.m. Admission is $17, or $12 for Historic New England and Victorian Society members. Register at 617-994-5920 or www.HistoricNewEngland.org.

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