Menu holders and place card holders were first created to hold a card which denoted the ‘Bill of Fare’ for the meal- or the menu, as we came to know it. These pieces were originally intended to be distributed across the dining table, rather than at each individual place setting which is the present practice for name cards and place holders.
Due to the menu holder being crafted with the intention of being spread intermittently between diners it is often difficult to locate sets of menu/card holders; locating a set will often present a set of four, although pairs and larger sets of six, eight and ten are occasionally available.
Menu holders were first introduced during the Victorian era, but began to flourish in popularity during the Edwardian era. The reason for this was the reputation of the King himself, who was enamoured with food and all manners of unusual and exotic fare. This required a brief explanation - by way of the menu - of what one would be eating, as the ingredients were no longer immediately obvious to the diners themselves.
Another way in which the King Edward influenced the menu holders was that he was particularly fond of hunting and fishing, and these were considered to be especially noble pastimes. Due to the reigning King’s propensity for shooting sports, many antique menu holders feature characters or animals based around these themes. Prior to this, popular styles included family crests, or more whimsical naturalistic designs featuring thistles and horseshoes.
Antique silver menu and place holders are a fine, formal and traditional addition to any table service, and continue to take pride of place during the finest dinner occasions.