Women’s History Month, Part 23: Women & Cocktail Books (1893-1928)

This week, rather than profile a single woman, I pulled some of the earliest cocktail books/books with cocktail recipes that we have in our collection that were written by women. In one of these cases, we didn’t originally even know the author’s name, but all three of these books give us a little insight into women and cocktails before the end of Prohibition.

First up, it’s Beverages and Sandwiches for Your Husband’s Friends/by one who knows, published in 1893. We’re not sure who this woman–that it IS a woman–but the anonymity suggests it was likely. These days, however, the book is at the very least attributed to a woman, Mrs. Alexander Orr Bradley. So, we’ll run with it for now…

Mrs. Bradley’s book is relatively short, only covering some basic communal drinks (aka punches) and a few “well-knowns.” It’s only a couple of years after Harriet de Salis’ 1891 Drinks a la Mode, and it doesn’t have quite that variety, but drinks of course, were not Mrs. Bradley’s only goal. Hers was more a book on entertaining groups of men, and as a result, she relies more heavily on the classics or things easy to produce en masse, as it were. Still, it does have a fin-de-siécle (Or “turn of the century”) flair, as the half title page above suggests. “Fin-de-siécle” was also a term that referred the closing of the century in Victorian culture, a time in which the “New Woman” feminist movement emerged. This new feminism influence social, literary and cultural, and political history into the 20th century. Given the time period, we might wonder if there was a little of the “New Woman” in Mrs. Bradley, as she bravely entered the largely-male-dominated field of cocktails and boldly declared her audience of like-minded ladies.

In 1904, May E. Southworth complied a book called One Hundred & One Beverages. Our copy, below, is the 1906 revised edition. She collected popular cocktail and cocktail-adjacent recipes of the time, largely with an eye toward summer, though there are some hot drinks, too.

Compiled, of course, is a key word here. Southworth didn’t, in as far as we know, make up any of these drinks, but she did bring them to a new audience of readers and tasters. Many of her choices are drinks we don’t hear about today (the Beaufort or the Barbed Wire, for example), but if you ask me, some of them might just need a revival. Southworth is surprisingly brand-specific, even when talking about ginger ale, cider, or carbonated water, which isn’t something that was very common yet. Whether it’s commitment or actual corporate sponsorship, we can’t know for sure, but it was a growing practice in the cocktail and cookbook world.

Lastly, we’ll take a quick hop across the pond. Prohibition is one of my favorite periods in cocktail culture history. It didn’t do what it intended and it definitely had some unexpected consequences, including a lot of publishing about cocktails abroad. Mary Woodman’s 1928 Cocktails, Ices, Sundaes, Jellies & American Drinks: How to Make Them is quite an eclectic title. With the contents to match.

Diversity of cocktails was another consequence of Prohibition. After about the 1890s, cocktails may still be talked about in terms of classifications (cups, flips, fizzes, etc.), but they are also becoming individual and Woodman’s book gives us a laundry list of named drinks. In America, Prohibition was leading to cocktails that began to feature soda or juices or homemade syrups to cover up the taste of poor quality base spirits. Which we see in the punches or sugared drinks of the”American Drinks, Etc.” section. Overseas, where production was legal, spirits were being make into new combinations and concoctions like the “Coronation Cocktail” or the “Deep Sea Cocktail” (the latter of which, happily, does not contain seafood, which I half-expected). Woodman, though, ties all of this together into a sort of decadent volume reflecting cocktails and sweets of the time. You need syrups for cocktails, but you can also add them to ice cream. Some ices are a short trip to frappes or later frozen drinks. In other words, Woodman reminds us just how close dessert can be to a cocktail, if you need something sweet. Or sour. 🙂

Even if it wasn’t obvious, women were helping spread the word of cocktails from early on. They knew, as well as anyone, that cocktail were finding a place by the plate at a party or a quiet night at home, and they took on the challenge of incorporating them into their cookbook or tackling them on separately. And I know I can raise my glass to that. Cheers!

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Women’s History Month, Part 22: Betty Crocker (1921-present)

For the start of Women’s History Month (or, as we call it on the Virginia Tech campus, Women’s Month), I thought we would, oddly enough, talk about the woman who didn’t exist: Betty Crocker. The idea of Betty Crocker was (and remains) influential. And yet, she doesn’t (and didn’t) exist as a person–Crocker is an identity and a brand. On the one hand, we could argue that perhaps a fictional identity isn’t the way to sell products or best way to represent women. On the other hand, the fact is, it worked. Really, really well. Which is why it seems fair to take a look at just what this character did for culinary history.

We’ve highlighted a couple of specific publications “by” Crocker in the past: Betty Crocker & Salads  and Betty Crocker & Outdoor Entertaining. This week, we’ll add some more to the mix. Special Collections houses 21 books and publications attributed to Betty Crocker, including my beloved Betty Crocker card libraries. If you add in books housed in the circulating collection, that total doubles. You can view a list of the publications online. And that barely scratches the surface of materials attributed to this identity and image. There are books, card libraries, pamphlets (we have those in some manuscript collections, too), flyers/single-page instruction sheets, individual recipes cards, advertisements, and more.

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So, who was Betty Crocker, then? The idea behind her creation in 1921 was to have a female persona/representation for Washburn Crosby (by the end of the decade, the company would merge with others to form General Mills). The company’s advertising department was all male, but their intended audience was, of course, women. They needed an image to sell that. However, this is not to say that there weren’t women involved in helping to build the persona. When “Betty Crocker” got a radio show in 1924, she was voiced by a home economist on staff, Blanche Ingersoll. The publications that began to flow out to the public written by Betty were really the work of Marjorie Child Husted and a team of home economists who created, tested, and marketed the recipes. Husted worked on getting the persona of Betty Crocker to engage with real people for items like “Let the Stars Show You How to Take a Trick a Day with Bisquick” from 1935. The first portrait of Betty Crocker appeared on materials in 1936, giving further credence to the identity.

During decades of change, Betty Crocker’s work was adapted to meet needs of women around the nation: Publications focused on how to stretch foods during the Great Depression and how to cook under rationing conditions in World War II. While all of these things could have also been provided by a single author, radio host, home economist, etc. (or a series of them over time), as we’ve seen with other companies, we might also consider there is something to be said for the consistent image that we’ve seen now for more than 90 years. The idea of Betty Crocker as a constant companion in the kitchen, one who rises to the challenges of changing times and even reflects back some of what is going on for women during that turmoil. (*see note at the end of the post)

If you’d like to know more about the history and evolution of Betty Crocker, there are some resources at your fingertips (and beyond). I discovered the MNopedia article on Crocker, which helped me write this post. There’s a chapter in The Roy Rosenzweig Center for History and New Media has a brief article that contains images of Crocker of time. And Laura Shapiro’s book, Something from the Oven: Reinventing Dinner in 1950’s America, includes at least part of a chapter on Betty Crocker.


*On a side note, I didn’t know much about Marjorie Child Husted before I started this post, though I had seen the name. It was interesting to learn that in addition to her work with this persona, “during the war, Husted worried that women were not being honored for their work in the home. She developed the Betty Crocker American Home Legion in 1944 to recognize women for their contributions. Husted championed the rights of women in the workplace, criticizing General Mills and other companies for discriminating against their female employees.” (http://www.mnopedia.org/person/betty-crocker) It seems that much of what she did was tied to Betty Crocker, which gives us another perspective on both Husted and what she intended Crocker to be.

Women’s History Month 2018

Women’s History Month is only a few days away and again this year, Special Collections and the University Libraries, in conjunction with some friends around campus, have some plans a-foot!

“Coeds: The History of Women Students at Virginia Tech” (sponsored by University Libraries and Virginia Tech Alumni Association). Virginia Tech first admitted women as students in 1921, but it was a long road to acceptance. Women had to create their own yearbook and unofficial sports teams in the beginning, and it took decades to achieve important student leadership positions in student organizations. Additional barriers prevented women students of color from reaching the same status as white women students for years and sometimes decades, as with the first Black women who didn’t matriculate until 1966, a full 45 years after the first white women and 13 years after the first Black man. This exhibit highlights the many women who overcame these obstacles in order to obtain a quality education and to open doors for others to join the Hokie Nation. Wednesday, February 14th through Friday, March 30th, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at the Alumni Museum in Holtzman Alumni Center.

“Courage, Resistance, and Leadership: Women in American History” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries).  Special Collections and Newman Library will be collaborating on two exhibits in two spaces on the first floor of Newman Library. Special Collections will have items from our collections on display in the Reading Room, along with a digital slideshow of additional materials, trivia, and fun facts. In a nearby location on the first floor of the library, there will be a display of posters highlighting women represented in Special Collections holdings, as well as from the Women’s History Month website, which contextualize their roles in American history. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Posters will be on display on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120; the Special Collections reading room is on the first floor near the cafe. 

“Together | We: Troubling the Field in 20th Century Architecture” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries). The Special Collections Department at Newman Library will have an interactive digital exhibition on display focused on materials from the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA).  The exhibit will highlight a number of women working primarily in the 20th century who were practitioners and often pioneers in the field. In addition to their architectural work they often had to overcome significant barriers to entry into the field, including access to the resources and networks of professional organizations. Several of these women became avid organizers and advocates, highlighting the contributions of other women to the profession and working to rectify the disparities in representation across daily practice and professional associations. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Display will be on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120.

For the sixth year running, our What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?! blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! (You can view the posts to date online.)  New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. So far, we’re planning to look at Martha Lee Anderson (pamphlet author for Church & Dwight, aka Arm & Hammer), the legend of Betty Crocker, and a manuscript cookbook from an alumnae of Randolph Macon College from the 1920s.  And you may see some women’s history-themed posts on our Special Collections at Virginia Tech blog, as well as on our social media channels (@VT_SCUA on Twitter and through our contributions the University Libraries’ Instagram account, @vtlibraries).

We are also involved in a set of individual events in March:

  • Wikimedia Share-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Come help enhance the visual record ahead of the next two events in this Wikipedia intervention series (see below). The workshop will start with an introduction to Wikimedia Commons and then dive into sharing photos on the platform. As Wikimedia Commons only accepts freely licensed images, there will also be an overview of Creative Commons Licensing. Tuesday, March 20 from 2-3:30pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • “FlowGround Session Wikipedia Editing Workshop” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in for an informal session to chat with colleagues about intersections between fields that could generate a push to make Wikipedia articles a more complex—yet still accessible—resource for the general public. Set up an account, learn about editing, talk with people from a wide range of disciplines about intervening in social spaces, and just generally share ideas that transcend specific disciplines, technology, tools, and processes. Wednesday, March 21st from 11:30am-1pm in the Newman Library Athenaeum (room 124).
  • “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in any time to help edit Wikipedia—or just learn about the process and purpose. Tutorial sessions, online modules, assistance in setting up accounts, and other resources will be provided throughout the day for new editors or anyone who wants a refresher. Share ideas, update articles in your area of interest, work with others to enhance existing materials, and enjoy the experience of coming together to make a difference. Wednesday, March 28 from 11am-8pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • 2018 International Archive of Women in Architecture Symposium(sponsored by College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee and the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA)).  For centuries, women in architecture have been involved in pushing the boundaries of architecture and architectural practice. Whether as registered architects, members and leaders of architectural firms, academics and scholars, or in any of the less conventional capacities, women have helped transform the discipline of architecture and the related design fields shaping the built environment. Wednesday, March 28th: 7pm; Thursday, March 29th and Friday, March 30th: 9:30am-4:30pm

There will be about 45 events going on during March all over campus to celebrate women’s history month and we encourage you to check out the calendar (which will be posted online this week) and get involved where you can!

Folk, Historical, and Patent Medicine: Creating New Access Points to Materials

So, as is the way of things, your usual archivist/blogger Kira has found herself a new project. (I want to talk about it, but it means a more text-based blog post this week–apologies for that in advance.) Good news: It’s for the benefit of everyone and it will provide a new access point to some of our materials–I think! Additional good news: It only took a set amount of time to accomplish and didn’t interfere with all the other projects. Bad news: Well, there isn’t any!

One of my favorite items relating to patent medicine, an advertisement for labels to bottle medicines. Featured on the blog in February 2017: https://whatscookinvt.wordpress.com/2017/02/24/medicines-patent-practical/

To explain: For folks interested in the history of medicine, there’s a really great resource out there from the National Library of Medicine: the History of Medicine Finding Aids Consortium. This resource brings together finding aids from institutions around the country that deal with aspects of medicine and allied sciences. Some of our food and drink, local/regional history, and Civil War materials touch on some related aspects of medicine, including patent medicine, folk/traditional medicine, practitioners, disease history/research, and even military medicine history. Which, it turns out, does make us good candidates to contribute content to this resource!

To further explain: In a case of perfect timing, we may also have some faculty and classes interested in history of medicine materials. So, I’ve spent a few hours this week identifying collections that relate to aspects of medicine and started working on a way to bring those collections together virtually. Namely, through the use of a new subject heading for this purpose: “Folk, historical, and patent medicine.” This heading itself is being used as an umbrella term to gather collections (I realize it’s a pretty wide scope). So, in addition, we are including more specific, and authoritative, headings in these collections, too. These are formal headings created by the Library of Congress for cataloging books (and, in our case, we’re using them to describe manuscript collections). For this project, we’re using “Medicine” (for collections relating to the history of medicine, medical practices, doctors, and patients, and the like), “Patent medicine” (for collections relating to the history of propriety, patented, over the counter “cure,” often plant and/or alcohol based), and “Traditional medicine” (for collections relating to home remedies and folk medicine). Because we also have some Civil War collections dealing the the military perspective, you may also see “Medicine, Military–History” appearing in collections.

This image includes two pages from the Hertford Receipt Book (Ms2008-027), which contains home remedies for various medical issues. This item is available in digital form online: http://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/HFDMss/Ms2008-027_HertfordReceiptBook.

Getting these collections into the NLM consortia will take a little time, but the good news is that you can already access these collection using these headings through Virginia Heritage, the statewide finding aid portal! There are 41 collections already tagged with these subjects and I’m working identifying some more. Then I’ll also be setting up a “Sources for Selected Topics” page on our food and drink LibGuide about home remedies, folk medicine, and patent medicines! We encourage you to take a look–and check back. You never know what might interest you!

title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

How the Sausage Gets Made (Or at least, the tools you need to do it)

This week, I thought we’d take a look at something that relates to culinary history in a way that we haven’t talked about much before: food production and technology. More specifically, part of the process of how the literal sausage is made.

title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900
McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers’ and Packers’ Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

Our collection of culinary materials contains more than a few catalogs for companies whose products support the creation, growth, transportation, packing, and consumption of food! This one comes from McArthur, Wirth & Co., who, at least in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, manufactured butchering supplies. “What kind?” you may ask. A wide variety.

The process of butchering animals involves a lot of steps and as even a few pages from this catalog suggest, there are a range of tools, supplies, and parts. It’s interesting to see how the company markets their product. They include a cabbage cutter with meat cutters, suggesting a butcher who also sells sauerkraut might make additional money. Personally, I’m intrigued by the addition of the “banana knife” and how it fits into the same category of food processing as butchery (there may be some application I don’t know about?). And a catalog like this can give us insight into things like the technology of transportation. The last page above includes different kinds of trucks and transport devices on wheels, but also offers skids. Anyone who is acquainted with parts of upstate New York, including the Syracuse area, can tell you what those winters are like. In February 1900, for example, wheels would not be the best way to move product.

One of the last pages of the catalog is actual recipes for sausages and meat products. (See, I said we were going to learn about how it gets made–all the way to a finished product!) It’s pretty detailed, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you read on…

We have catalogs from other butcher suppliers, as well as confectionery, dairy, farm, and bakery suppliers, just to name a few. We’ll look at some more in the future, since these tools place such an important role in how raw materials (animals, vegetables, and minerals) become the foods we know and love.

Vegetables…in Your Pocket

This week I went perusing the shelves for a feature item. Some bindings, colors, book shapes, spines, or titles can jump out at a person. The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book popped this morning for it’s size/shape and partial alliteration. Also, for it’s concept.

front cover of The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book
In the past, we’ve talked about at least one “vest pocket” type book: John Goins’ The American Waiter. Like that one, this item is tall, thin, and short in length, designed to fit in a vest or apron pocket for reference. (Though WHY why might need to carry a pocket guide to vegetables is something we’ll come back to shortly.) Anyway, it’s just over 6.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide, and at 134 pages, about .75 inches thick.

Not surprisingly, this book talks about vegetables and also supplies recipes for some, but not all, ingredients. The author uses “vegetable” in the broadest sense, as you’ll find fruits, herbs, spices, and even some grains throughout.

On the title page, the author, Charles Moore, informs would-be readers that:

The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book is not, as its title might infer, an advocate of the vegetarian theory, but rather, is an earnest plea for a more general recognition of the vegetable kingdom, as a prolific source of supply of appetizing, wholesome and nutritious foods for mankind.

Although the concept that vegetables are “wholesome and nutritious” certainly isn’t new (we have LOTS of volumes of nutrition and dietetics history to prove that), it’s interesting to see Moore defend his position so quickly and on the first page. It gives us (and any possible readers) what its intention is–and is not. If we jump back to the idea of the “vest pocket” guide, we get a sense of intended audience, too. It is not the housewife or home cook–it’s more commercial.

The object of this book is to popularize vegetables in hotels and catering establishments….The writer is of the opinion that the vegetable kingdom compares favorably with the animal kingdom in food value, and affords equal scope for preparing epicurean dishes for the table. The writer is also of the belief that where close attention is given to the vegetables the per capita cost may be reduced without detracting from the quality of the menu.

This guide is meant to inform and education owners, cooks, and staff of places that serve food. In that context, it’s actually quite helpful. While there are recipes, but the emphasis is on information about vegetables and the book does include some unique items like cardoons, truffles, even uses for oats. That doesn’t mean the home cook can’t also learn from this handy little volume. You might just have to wear a vest to carry it. 🙂

Tea Room Recipes for Hot Tea Month

During the fall, I wrote a series of posts about processing the Education Cookery Collection (#1, #2, and #3). That collection also includes a bunch of associated books and publications. Although those titles haven’t been cataloged yet, I pulled one of them to write about today. January is National Hot Tea Month and while it’s actually supposed to be around 60 degrees in Blacksburg today, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk tea-related food!

Tea-Room Recipes: A Book for Home Makers and Tea-Room Managers was written in by Lenore Richards and Nola Treat in 1925.  As the subtitle suggests, its purpose was two-fold: recipes for the home and recipes for food-serving businesses. Richards and Treat, it seems, ran a cafeteria, and in their previous lives, were on the faculty of the College of Agriculture, University of Minnesota. So, they probably both had an extension service background.

From the preface:

This book contains what the authors have come to call tea-room recipes. These recipes are richer, more expensive and designed to server fewer people that those in “Quantity Cookery.” [more on that in a moment] They are especially for the use of home makers entertaining at luncheon, tea and dinner, and for the use of managers of tea rooms, clubs and similar institutions.

Tea-Room Recipes is about half desserts, so we can see the distinct emphasis on the “entertaining” element. There are a sea of pies, cakes (with icings and fillings), cookies, ice creams, puddings, torts, and gelatins. But before you get to those treats (unless you’re hosting an event that goes straight for the good stuff), there are several chapters on the more savory side. These sections cover soups, some surprisingly hefty entrees (lamb chops, nut loafs, macaroni bakes), a few quick-and-easy to prepare vegetables sides, salads (with dressings and garnishes like cheese balls), and one of my favorite topics, sandwiches. The sandwich chapter begins with something called the “Tombeche,” which took a moment to decipher, but makes sense when you see the ingredient list: tomato, dried beef, and cheese. Plus, there are some strange ground/melted chocolate or orange fillings, lots of cream cheese/nut combinations, and a hefty dose of olives. A bread chapter covers the savory (including a bacon bread!) and the sweet (muffins and other breakfast sweets).

In addition to this book, Richards and Treat also wrote Quantity Cookery, which seems like a logical companion piece to this one. Tea-Room Recipes can be used to feed a family of, say 4-6, but it can also be used to feed a restaurant full of people. A book like Quantity Cookery takes that to the next level (though it has a more specific, commercial audience).

Oh, and in case you’re curious, since I started this post talking about Hot Tea Month? Tea-Room Recipes does not contain any recipes for tea. I guess the assumption is you can handle that part on your own…