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Menu Electrique

  • Usine de Curepipe
  • The Central Printing Establishment
  • 152 x 235mm (6 x 9¼in)
  • 5 October 1889

For centuries electricity had a mystical quality that excited inventors, scientists, and artists alike. Today, electricity is an essential part of modern life for many people around the world.

In October 1889, on the island of Mauritius located off the eastern coast of Africa in the south-western Indian Ocean the arrival of electric light heralded an evening of celebrations and enjoyment in the small town of Curepipe as it became the first place on the island to have electricity and henceforth was also known as La Ville-Lumière (The City of Light).

Amongst the islanders honouring the occasion was the Usine de Curepipe who organised a special dinner event offering up a unique menu theme with every item having an electric-related term paired with each dish or drink. "Usine" when used in sugar-producing regions is a factory in which the sugar cane from the plantations is ground and the sugar extracted.

The history and development of Mauritius was inextricably bound with the production of sugar cane. In the 17th century, Dutch settlers introduced sugar cane, the French occupied the island in the early 18th century only to be replaced by the British in 1810, although surpringly, for a British colony, language, religion and customs remained French. For hundreds of years the development of sugar cane plantations was linked to the slave trade, penal labour and indentured labour.

Monsieur Nash's menu is a souvenir of a memorable occasion that was no doubt patronised by the wealthy families of Curepipe. The back of the menu has fragments of newspaper text stuck to it suggesting it was once pasted in a scrapbook. Acquired by a collector through a chance encounter at a ephemera fair has ensured its history has now been revealed. How many items in your collection have a story waiting to be told?



This regular feature shows special items from members’ own collections. Submissions by email should include a scan of the item.