WASHINGTON, DC—Historians and scholars nationwide heralded the discovery of a children's menu on the back of one of the four original charters of the U.S. Constitution, Archivist of the United States John Carlin said Monday.
The U.S. Constitution And Children's Menu, originally drawn up at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, is housed at the National Archives Building.
The menu—on the back of Article I, which establishes a bicameral Congress comprising the Senate and the House of Representatives—provides dining options for children under 7.
"In this discovery, we see yet another example of the wisdom of our founding fathers," Carlin said. "While establishing a government that honors both the rights of the individuals and the unity of the nation, they also recognized the need for fun-to-eat, affordable dining options for the nation's youngest Americans."
Until now, scholars had focused on the elegant calligraphy on the Constitution's front, entirely overlooking the reverse side, which features two columns of fancifully named menu items, such as Yankee Doodle Macaroni, Jumpin' Johnnycakes, and Eagle Fingers.
"The wording of the Constitution is general, necessitating interpretation, and the same can be said for its children's menu," Carlin said. "We do not know exactly what the framers of the Constitution meant by 'Eagle Fingers.' Strict constructionists are likely to assume that they were strips of eagle flesh fried in batter, but loose constructionists might argue that the term was an amusing way to encourage children to eat their chicken or grouse."
Other dishes found by researchers include Bloody Great Blood Pudding, Cheese Betwixt Two Slices Of Bread, and Mother Goose.
The menu is offered "for children of weaning age until seven years."
"The menu reflects the relative brevity of childhood more than two centuries ago," Carlin said. "Contemporary children's menus are generally offered to children of up to 12 years of age."
Near the bottom of the document, a waxy, bluish spot almost obscures a line drawing of a man with a peg-leg.
"We believe the caricature could be Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, who wore a wooden leg—but it might just be a pirate," Carlin said. "Whatever it is, it's strong proof that the 'Pleasant Diversions' section of the menu was used by a child, as the figure had been colored in rather inexpertly, in blue from head-to-foot."
Near the stain is a small maze leading statesman and Constitution-signer Benjamin Franklin to a lightning-struck kite. To the right of this is the earliest-known example of a word-find, containing the names of Revolutionary War-era battleships.
So far, no adult menu has been found.
"What did the original framers intend [by this menu]?" constitutional historian Robert Lipscomb-Blaine asked. "Why was children's cuisine important to them, when America's fate was still unknown? In the spirit of compromise that defined the Constitutional Convention itself, was serving food to children a way to distract the young'uns while their elders concentrated on creating a system of representative national government?"
Next month, the U.S. Constitution And Children's Menu will be removed from public view for several weeks to undergo further study. In the interim, the National Archives will display the Constitution's predecessor, the Articles Of Confederation And Personal Advertisements.