objects

Recipe for a Culinary Archive: An Illustrated Essay

Historians are finally coming to realize that diet, the production of and commerce in foodstuffs, and cookery are not only important but are actually defining characteristics of a nation’s culture.

Early in the 1980s, at one of the first Oxford University symposia on food, I was asked to speak on the subjects of American culinary history and the history of American cookbooks. As the founder and proprietor of Ann Arbor’s Wine and Food Library, America’s oldest antiquarian bookshop devoted solely to the culinary arts, I must have seemed like a logical choice for this kind of presentation. But whatever this sophisticated and international audience thought about my bona fides as a food historian, they were somewhat incredulous that I could speak on topics as odd as American culinary history and American cookbooks. They said America had no cuisine or culinary history to speak of; all we ate were hamburgers and fries, with ketchup! Having spent more than a year preparing for the lecture, I knew they were wrong. I came home determined to learn more about American culinary history and to share what I learned.

Enter John Dann, who was then director of the Clements Library for American history at the University of Michigan. John had been a client of my bookshop and obviously shared my passion for this aspect of American history. From the beginning, John agreed with my very broad definition of American culinary history as everything that influenced or influences America and everything that America influenced or influences in culinary matters. Shortly after I returned from Oxford, John asked if my husband, Professor Dan Longone, and I would present an exhibition of our culinary books at the Clements Library. Motivated, perhaps, by the same prejudices that characterized my audience at Oxford, we first planned to show European works, many of them beautifully bound and illustrated. But we realized that since Clements was an Americana library, we ought to show our American imprints. It was a momentous decision, as it turned out. We were surprised and dismayed to learn that no one had ever mounted such an exhibition accompanied by a scholarly catalogue. Ours would be the first. In 1984, Dan and I co-curated our first Clements exhibition, “American Cookbooks and Wine Books,” and co-authored the accompanying monograph. This first marked the start of our richly satisfying collaboration with the Clements Library.

By the mid-1980s, the Clements had a very small but select collection of culinary material. Over the next decade and a half, as volunteers at the library, we began to see a larger, more coherent collection emerge. We were happy to be part of the process! After all, Dan and I had spent much of our adult lives creating collections of books on food and wine intended to define the American culinary experience. In 2000, I accepted the pioneering position of Curator of American Culinary History with the mandate from John Dann to develop an unequalled research collection.

Tenure at the Clements proved to be quite an education. Dan and I soon realized that the meshing of the Clements holdings with our own collections would create the kind of archive that would fulfill John’s mandate and our vision; thus we donated our collections to the library. Over the years, many bookshop clients generously donated their collections as well. Dedicated volunteers, old friends and new, helped this project in other ways. Together, they have donated about 50,000 hours in the last ten years and, along with the Clements staff, have developed new methods of descriptive cataloging. Staff and volunteers now examine and catalogue not only the culinary archive but all of the rich Americana holdings in all divisions (books, manuscripts, maps, graphics) for their culinary content.

The Spring-Summer 2005 issue of The Quarto, the semi-annual newsletter sent to members of the Clements Library Associates, was devoted to the First Biennial Symposium on American Culinary History: Dedication of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive and Inauguration of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research. Announcing the JBLCA, John Dann summed up the academic importance of culinary history:

Fifty years ago or more, wars were generally seen to be won or lost on the basis of military strategy or battlefield heroics. Today, historians are as likely to emphasize deficiencies in supply lines or perhaps disease caused by malnutrition … Historians are finally coming to realize that diet, the production of and commerce in foodstuffs, and cookery are not only important but are actually defining characteristics of a nation’s culture.

In 2010 the University of Michigan expressed its plans to establish culinary history as a scholarly research specialty.

This brief history of one archive, the JBLCA, is part of a larger story about the vitality and visibility of food studies. Culinary history classes and programs are increasingly reaching more students at all levels as well as interested amateurs throughout the United States and elsewhere. This would not be possible without the growth of culinary archives, which have preserved the historic literature in the field. Some are small, regional collections or are limited to a specific subject, but there are now a goodly number of broad and large archives available to the researcher. Significant institutional holdings now exist throughout the country, from New England to the West Coast, where they fuel new directions in diverse academic fields.

The range and diversity of the images below speak not only to the state of the field but also to the strength of the JBLCA; selecting highlights for this issue of Common-place was very difficult. Each image was chosen to represent many others in our holdings. The archive is notable for containing not only most of the essential “high spots” in the field, but for strong holdings for related areas of interdisciplinary study. It contains about 25,000 items, about one-third of which are cookbooks. The archive is a work in progress and not all of our holdings are yet cataloged. But cataloging continues apace and we add to the total every week.

 

Please click on any thumbnail below to view images.

 

Fig. 1. Among the earliest works depicting Native Americans cooking.
Illustration from Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia, by Thomas Harriot. Illustrations by John White, engraved by Theodor de Bry (Francoforti ad Moenvum, 1590). Courtesy of the Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 2. A map cartouche of one of the Western Hemisphere’s earliest recorded recipes (for a form of beer).
Cartouche from America, a map by Jodocus Hondius (Amsterdam, 1606). Courtesy of the Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 3. A detailed study of the role of corn in Zuni life.
Zuni Breadstuff, by Frank Cushing (New York, 1920). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 4. A portion (central New York) of a large map indicating how thickly strewn were the butter and cheese factories in all of New York State in 1899.
Map of Butter and Cheese Factories of New York State, by the Commission of Agriculture, State of New York (Albany, 1899). Courtesy of the Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 5. Magnificently illustrated, this work is a most important reference for studying Renaissance cooking. It is an example of our large holdings of seminal European works, in all languages.
Title page from Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, by Bartolomeo Scappi (Venice, 1622). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 6. Plate illustrating knives from Opera di Bartolomeo Scappi, by Bartolomeo Scappi (Venice, 1622). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 7. A significant work on wine published in the seventeenth century. The JBLCA, unlike many culinary collections, has great depth in its holdings on grapes and wine as well as all other beverages.
Title page from Tractatus de Vinea, by Prospero Rendella (Venetiis, 1629). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 8. This English book, reprinted in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1742, became the first cookbook published in America. It represents the many sixteenth-to-nineteenth-century English language cookbooks in our holdings. All the major authors are represented.
Title page and frontispiece from The Compleat Housewife, by E. Smith (London, 1741) Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 9. A scientific and practical guide to the philosophy of cooking, dietetics, food hygiene, and chemical principles rather than a cookbook. This genre of culinary books is still popular today.
Title page and frontispiece from Culinary Chemistry, by Frederick Accum (London, 1821). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 10. Dumas thought this work would be his greatest legacy. It had only one printing and was published the year he died. He thought The Count of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers were not worthy of a long life, but history has proven him wrong on both counts. This copy belonged to Katherine Bitting, the culinary bibliographer, and has her bookplate. The archive has many items on gastronomy and on food in art and literature.
Title page and frontispiece from Le Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine, by Alexandre Dumas (Paris, 1873). Katherine Bitting’s copy with her bookplate. Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 11. The first cookbook written by and for Americans. Some consider it a second declaration of independence; it contains the first printed recipes using corn meal.
Title page from first edition of American Cookery, by Amelia Simmons (Hartford, 1796). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 12. This and the following two works by African Americans are the highlights of our holdings in this field. The Roberts book has no African or Southern influence but is a guide to other servants on how to run an upper-class New England household. Roberts was the butler in the household of Governor and Senator Gore of Massachusetts. It is believed that this is the first book by an African American to be published by a commercial publisher. The Russell book is the only copy known of the earliest cookbook by an African American woman. She was a free woman of color. The Fisher book had long been considered the earliest African American-authored cookbook, until the discovery of the Russell book. The archive also has many twentieth-century African American items.
Title page from The House Servant’s Directory, by Robert Roberts (Boston, 1827). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 13. Cover from A Domestic Cook Book, by Mrs. Malinda Russell (Paw Paw, Michigan, 1866). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 14. Title page from What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, by Mrs. Abby Fisher (San Francisco, 1881). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 15. This work represents books on bread, baking, vegetarianism, and moral living-common themes in America’s culinary history.
Cover from A Treatise on Bread, and Bread-Making, by Sylvester Graham (Boston, 1837). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 16. A very early book on Midwestern cooking. The archive has the major regional cookbooks, including, among others, The Virginia Housewife, The Carolina Housewife, The Kentucky Housewife, The Blue Grass Cook Book, Florida Salads, Good Maine Food, La Cuisine Creole, Early California Hospitality, and more.
Title page from Everybody’s Cook and Receipt Book: but more particularly designed for Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Wolverines, Corncrackers …. by Mrs. Philomelia Ann Maria Antoinette Hardin (Cleveland, 1842). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 17. A book written to teach the Irish how to cook using cornmeal, during the Potato Famine. Only a few copies are known. This author is well represented in the archive, along with other “great ladies” of American cooking including, in the nineteenth century, Child, Hale, Beecher, Cornelius, Crowen, Howland, Owen, Harland, Rorer, Corson, Parloa, Farmer, Lincoln and, into the twentieth century, Hill, Bradley, Kander, Allen, Rombauer, the Browns, Southworth, Wallace, and more. We have most works by each of these authors and others, including their advertising ephemera and the periodicals they wrote in and/or edited.
Title page from The Indian Meal Book, by Eliza Leslie (Philadelphia, 1847). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 18. Considered the first charity cookbook, it was written to raise funds for the wounded, widowed and orphaned of the Civil War. Charity cookbooks are one of the great strengths of the archive. We have more than 2,500 pre-1951 from all fifty states, plus a selection of later ones.
Title page from A Poetical Cook-Book, by M.J.M. [Maria J. Moss] (Philadelphia, 1864). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 19. This book and the author’s The Market Book (New York, 1862) are unique sources for any research on public markets in America.
Title page and frontispiece from The Market Assistant, by Thomas F. De Voe (New York, 1867). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 20. The first Jewish cookbook in America. Jewish cookery is one of the strengths of the collection, and includes works by Jewish charitable organizations.
Title page from Jewish Cookery Book, by Mrs. Esther Levy (Philadelphia, 1871). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 21. America’s earliest truly national cookbook. It was written to answer the question of visitors to the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia to celebrate America’s 100th birthday: “Have you no national dishes?” It contains recipes from all regions of the country as well as various ethnic groups, including a chapter entitled “Seven Receipts from an Oneida Squaw.”
Cover from National Cookery Book, by Women’s Centennial Executive Committee (Philadelphia, 1876). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 22. A charity cookbook, first published in 1901 by a Jewish Settlement House in Milwaukee, is still in print and has given money to all Milwaukee charities for over 100 years.
Cover from The Way to a Man’s Heart. “The Settlement” Cook Book, by Mrs. Simon Kander and Mrs. Henry Schoenfeld (Milwaukee, 1903). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 23. A detailed and accurate account of life and foodways among the Pennsylvania Germans.
Dustjacket from Mary at the Farm, by Edith M. Thomas (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, 1928). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 24. A useful resource for the study of women and gender. The archive has a large collection of such works in addition to cookbooks written especially for men.
Title page and frontispiece from A Thousand Ways to Please a Husband, by Louise Bennett Weaver and Helen Cowles LeCron (New York, 1917). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 25. One of the books of the “great ladies” of American cookery, as discussed under number 17.
Cover from Catering for Special Occasions, by Fannie Merritt Farmer (Philadelphia, 1911). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 26. The archive has a generous collection of children’s cookbooks, including those that teach adults how to teach children to cook, recipe books addressed directly to children, books on how to feed children which are meant primarily for the adult cook, books for children on the history and preparation of food but which have no recipes, and etiquette and manners books instructing children how to behave at table or in company. In addition, the women’s periodicals and the advertising ephemera contain information on children and food.
Cover from The Mary Frances Cook Book, by Jane Eayre Fryer (Philadelphia, 1912). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 27. Another strength of the JBLCA-immigrant, foreign and ethnic voices, from Albanian and Armenian to Welsh and Zuni. This includes American-imprint cookbooks in 26 different languages and foreign language items in the advertising ephemera.
Title page from Chinese and English Cook Book, by Fat Ming (San Francisco, 1910). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 28. An English manuscript cookbook, our earliest. The archive contains about 250 manuscript cookbooks, mostly nineteenth-century American.
Title page from A Receipt Book of Coockery, manuscript cookbook (England, 1698). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 29. This and the following represent the nineteenth- and twentieth–century magazines in the archive, some in complete or long runs, others in fewer copies. These include, among others, Godey’s Lady’s Book, The Woman’s Home Companion, Ladies Home Journal, Good Housekeeping, Table Talk, What-to-Eat, the Cooking Club Magazine, The Cook, The Bakers’ and Confectioners’ Journal, The Housekeeper, Chocolatier and Gourmet.
Cover from The Boston Cooking School Magazine (December 1906). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 30. Cover from What-to-Eat (September 1905). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 31. Our culinary advertising ephemera collection (about 10,000 items), beginning in the mid nineteenth century, includes all manner of foodstuffs and kitchen equipment, from stoves and refrigerators to ice cream makers and small utensils. This collection is about seventy-five percent cataloged. The archive also has more than 150 trade catalogues on foodstuffs, kitchen equipment and utensils, and gardening, seeds, and orchards.
Title page from A Short History of the Banana, advertising ephemera by the United Fruit Company (1904). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 32. Cover from Choice Recipes, advertising ephemera by the Walter Baker Chocolate Company (1912). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 33. Cover from Jell-O, America’s Most Famous Dessert, advertising ephemera by the Genesee Pure Food Company (1916). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 34. Our growing collection of menus is now being cataloged. This 1893 menu was part of the Columbian Exposition’s attempt to convince people the world over to show at the Fair.
Menu of the American Maize Banquet, (Copenhagen, 1893). Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 35. This 1975 item is from the Jeremiah Tower Menu Collection, including the early years of Chez Panisse. The archive also has many books about restaurants and chefs.
The front and rear covers of the Chez Panisse Bastille Day Menu (Berkeley, California, 1973). Jeremiah Tower Collection. Courtesy of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive, Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 36. A modern jigsaw puzzle, based upon a tin advertising sign from about 1906 that was on display at our 2006 exhibition “Patriotic Fare: Bunker Hill Pickles, Abe Lincoln Tomatoes, Washington Crisps, and the Uncle Same Stove.” The JBLCA has a small but select realia collection, including historic American cookie cutters.
Jigsaw puzzle (2006), based on a tin advertising sign from about 1906. Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 37. This imaginative poster was a party favor designed to commemorate the pig and America’s centennial. Each state or territory is noted with either the date it was settled or entered the union and with several of its favorite foods, at least one of which includes pork. All images in the Clements graphics division are now being examined for their culinary content.
The Porcineograph: A Gehography of the United States, by William Emerson Baker (Wellesley, Massachusetts, 1876). Courtesy of the Clements Library, University of Michigan.
Fig. 38. Representing the archive’s outreach are two posters (this and the following), of the dozen or so culinary history exhibitions at the Clements.
Poster for the Clements Library Exhibition The Old Girl Network: Charity Cookbooks and the Empowerment of Women (Ann Arbor, 2008). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 39. Poster for the Clements Library Exhibition 500 Years of American Grapes and Wine (Ann Arbor, 2009). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.
Fig. 40. The cover of our 2005 First Biennial Symposium; the 2007 Second Biennial was dedicated to regional and ethnic traditions. Further information is available on the Clements website: http://www.clements.umich.edu
Cover of the program for the First Biennial Symposium on American Culinary History: Dedication of the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive and Inauguration of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research (Ann Arbor, May 2005). Courtesy of Jan and Dan Longone, Ann Arbor, Michigan.

 

 

 

 

This article originally appeared in issue 11.3 (April, 2011).


Jan Longone, curator of American culinary history at the Clements Library, University of Michigan, and proprietor of the Wine and Food Library, an antiquarian bookstore, is a member of the editorial board or contributor to the Oxford Companion to Food, the Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, The Quarto, Gastronomica, and the University of California series Studies in Food and Culture. In 2000, she received the Food Arts Silver Spoon Award in recognition of her scholarly determination to preserve and honor American culinary literature and her many other contributions to food history.