Fig. 12.

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.


Welcome to Commonplace, a destination for exploring and exchanging ideas about early American history and culture. A bit less formal than a scholarly journal, a bit more scholarly than a popular magazine, Commonplace speaks—and listens—to scholars, museum curators, teachers, hobbyists, and just about anyone interested in American history before 1900. It is for all sorts of people to read about all sorts of things relating to early American life—from architecture to literature, from politics to parlor manners. It’s a place to find insightful analysis of early American history as it is discussed in scholarly literature, as it manifests on the evening news, as it is curated in museums, big and small; as it is performed in documentary and dramatic films and as it shows up in everyday life.

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How to cite Commonplace articles:

Author, “Title of Article,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, date accessed, URL.

Sophie White, “Trading Looks Race, Religion and Dress in French America,” Commonplace: the journal of early American life, accessed September 30, 2019,


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