More on the Mary Frances Series

Back in 2012, one of my early posts on a children’s cookbook was about the two copies of The Mary Frances Cook Book or Adventures Among the Kitchen People that we had in our collection. While that post was about the two different covers between editions of the same year, at the time, I didn’t do much research into Mary Frances as a character. A couple of months, completely by chance, I discovered she was the star of not only one book, but seven! Not only that, we had two more on our shelves!

First, there’s The Mary Frances Sewing Book; or, Adventures Among the Thimble People (1913).

Our copy is actually a 1997 reprint, which is why the cover looks newer, but the contents are the same as the 1913. The preface references the previous volume from 1912, and the style is much the same. This book combines stories, fairy tale-esque characters, simple lessons (in this case, patterns and stitches) to teach lessons and sewing and mending. (I love how nicely illustrated these books are!)

The other title, which I happened to spot on the shelf while I was browsing for something completely different, is The Mary Frances Garden Book: or, Adventures Among the Garden People (1916).

Our copy is an original 1916 (as you can see from some of the wear and tear). One additional element of this book is that it includes little garden cut-out pieces and fold out pages in which to place them. Our copy has a number of loose cut-outs tucked in among the pages and even some slits in pages to suggest it saw some use from some little girl or boy.

The whole series (as far as I can tell) consist of seven books, published over 9 years:

  • The Mary Frances Cook Book or Adventures Among the Kitchen People (1912)
  • The Mary Frances Sewing Book; or, Adventures Among the Thimble People (1913)
  • The Mary Frances Housekeeper, or, Adventures Among the Doll People (1914)
  • The Mary Frances First Aid Book: with Ready Reference List of Ordinary Accidents and Illnesses, and Approved Home Remedies (1916)
  • The Mary Frances Garden Book: or, Adventures Among the Garden People (1916)
  • The Mary Frances Knitting and Crocheting Book, or, Adventures Among the Knitting People (1918)
  • The Mary Frances Story Book: or, Adventures Among the Story People (1921)

Given the time period, this series appears to have been a multi-volume tutorial for young girls. It covers skills they would have been expected to have as wives, mothers, leaders of a family, and as educators of future children. Their storybook style and fairy tale themes can make them a little deceptive, but the lessons are clearly there. My lesson from this post? I have some more Mary Frances books to track down so we can complete our set!

Revisiting the History of Food & Drink Collection

So, for a little while now, two of us in Special Collections have been mulling over a History of Food & Drink Collection-related idea (pun intended, of course). I’m rather excited that this idea has stuck and we’re creating a new subset of the overarching collection. Back to that in just a moment! (Today’s post isn’t going to a feature an item, but I hope you’ll stick with us!)

There’s a long history the collection, some of which we’ve talked about on the blog before, but it’s been a quite some time. Today, in light of what else I have to share, it seems like a good time to talk about the current structure of the collection. Not to mention the fact that I’m working on some new paragraphs about all of our collecting areas (and sub-collecting areas) in Special Collections–which means I have nice, neat descriptions on hand!


Neil, Marion Harris. 1917. Ryzon baking book: a practical manual for the preparation of food requiring baking powder. New York: General Chemical Co., Food Dept.
Neil, Marion Harris. 1917. Ryzon baking book: a practical manual for the preparation of food requiring baking powder. New York: General Chemical Co., Food Dept.

History of Food & Drink Collection

If we take a step back and look at things from a larger perspective, the University Libraries are home to what we now call the History of Food & Drink Collection. (This had previously been known as the Culinary History Collection.)  To date, the HFD Collection, as I often refer to it, contains 4,900+ cataloged publications. I’m very pleased to say that number is actually over the 5,000 mark if you count items waiting to be cataloged or in process! About 30% of the HFD Collection resides in the circulating collection of Newman Library or in off-site storage and can be checked out for use. The other 70% is housed in Special Collections. In addition, Special Collections has 75 processed manuscript collections and another 40 more in the processing queue. All things considered, those are some numbers I’m proud of! Here’s what it’s all about.

The History of Food & Drink Collection consists of several focused subsets and a variety of other collecting areas. Subsets of the collection include the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection, the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection, the History of the American Cocktail Collection, and the Food Technology and Production Collection. In addition, the History of Food & Drink Collection contains publications and manuscripts documenting or representing early American imprints, Virginia/regional/southern cooking, food technology and processing, community cookbook, nutrition and dietetics history, household management, domestic/economic/social history, food customs and habits, and home demonstration/home economics history and agricultural extension. Materials from the History of Food & Drink Collection also overlap with other collecting areas in which Special Collections is particular interested, like local/regional history, the American Civil War, and science and technology history. We are actively engaged in acquiring new items that contribute to this collection and can serve as primary and secondary sources for research in a variety of fields that study aspects of food and food culture.

This section includes hotel and periodical cookbooks, and even a book on the history of WW I and II army dietitians.
This section includes hotel and periodical cookbooks, and even a book on the history of WW I and II army dietitians.

Subset #1:

Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection

Of course, the HFD collection started with the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection. The Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection is a group of 750 published works documenting more than three centuries of culinary history. It consists of the private collections of Dora Greenlaw Peacock and Laura Jane Harper, acquired by Special Collections in 1999/2000. The collection includes a wide variety of contemporary and historic cookbooks, community cookbooks, household management guides, and home economics/domestic science manuals. As a result, the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection represents many perspectives on the history of cooking, social and cultural practices, and food science. Although this is not a collection to which new materials are added, it was the inspiration behind the History of Food & Drink Collection and remains the core of the larger collection.

The whole slideshow can be viewed and downloaded here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/faculty_archives/hertzler/hertzler_child_nutrition.html
The whole slideshow can be viewed and downloaded here: http://scholar.lib.vt.edu/faculty_archives/hertzler/hertzler_child_nutrition.html

Subset #2:

Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection

Then, a few years later, a new subset of the collection arrived on the scene! Beginning in 2006, Special Collections received an endowment from Dr. Ann Hertzler to acquire publications relating to children’s cookbooks and items documenting nutrition history. The Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection contains more than 500 volumes. Highlights include manuals for young mothers, guides on proper eating for children, Virginia Cooperative Extension pamphlets, books designed to education children about cooking (and eating!), and themed cookbooks. Dr. Hertzler remained a strong supporter of and contributor to her collection and the History of Food & Drink Collection until her death in early 2014, through the continued donation of books and her personal papers. Today, the endowment continues to fund the purchase of new and historic cookbooks for children, publications focused on the raising, feeding, and nutrition of children and families, and storybooks that feature food products, food advertising, and food history.

Front cover

Subset #3:

History of the American Cocktail Collection

By the end of 2011, we were working on a new crazy idea: cocktails! There is a whole amazing history there and we wanted to find a way to be part of documenting it. As a result, we launched a new subset of materials.

The History of the American Cocktail Collection includes more than 125 cocktail manuals and bartenders guides, books on social activities and entertaining, and a variety of items documenting the history of cocktail ingredients, cocktail creation, and cocktail consumption, as well as around 20 manuscript collections. The collection also contains materials on individual spirits, the medicinal and alcoholic history of bitters, temperance/Prohibition, and advertising ephemera. The cocktail—and spirits generally—have played a significant role in American history, experience revolution, prohibition, and revival. We are interested in acquiring and adding books, manuscripts, documents, and occasionally artifacts, which contribute to the scholarship around the ever-evolving place of the cocktail in food and social history.

Scarff's nursery, fruit, farm seed, live stock, 1931
Scarff’s nursery, fruit, farm seed, live stock, 1931

Announcing Subset #4:

Food Technology and Production Collection

All of that brings us to today. As you may know, our university’s history is that of a land-grant. We were and continue to have a focus on agriculture. We have the Virginia Cooperative Extension. We have a food science program and courses in wine and beer. So, by late 2015, we were pondering a new scheme: a subset of the collection that would benefit researchers in these, as well as other areas.After spending some time working on a name and goals for what we want to accomplish and support with future materials, we are excited to share with everyone our newest subset of the HFD Collection.

The Food Technology and Production Collection brings together aspects of agriculture, Cooperative Extension, and the history of changes to the growth, production, marketing, sale, transportation, preparation, and consumption of food. We are interested in acquiring books and other publications, manuscripts, and ephemera that document the agricultural, commercial, and scientific lives of foods and how these processes have evolved over time. We realize that changes in the way we produce and consume foods occur organically, as a direct result of human interaction and advances in technology, and because of continuing changes within the cycle. Our goal is to help support research being done in the fields like history, food science, English, material and cultural studies, and human nutrition.


We are already on the lookout for new acquisitions that will fit into this subset (along with the materials we are always seeking for the rest of the HFD Collection!). At the same time, one of my goals for the summer will be identifying materials we already have in the HFD Collection that we can make a part of the Food Technology and Processing Collection subset, too. Hopefully, as I find some of those items, they will be features over the next few months, and place where we can all get to know the food technology and production a little better.

Apologies for the lack of a feature this week, but as the semester comes to a close and summer is before us, it seemed like a good time to share this exciting news about a new initiative! We hope you’ll come along for the ride and learn with us about where agriculture, Extension, food science, and food history collide.

Gerber-licious Toddler Dishes

Next week, your archivist & blogger Kira will be teaching an information session in Special Collections. More specifically, it’s for a class focused on mother, child, and infant nutrition and feeding. While I know we have more than 400 books in the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Collection, as well as other materials in the History of Food & Drink Collection at large that address these topics, it’s the first time I’ve gone digging for extensive research or instruction purposes. And I’ve discovered some fascinating items. Some stand out for their obvious content, like the 1917 Baby’s Welfare: Proper Care and Feeding or the 1846 The Young Mother: Or Management of Children in Regard to Health. Others are more “recipe” oriented, like the 1950 The Body Building Dishes for Children Cook Book or this week’s feature, the 1956 Recipes for Toddlers.

Sometimes, it’s just pure serendipity that leads one to a…let’s call it “unique” recipe. I picked up Recipes for Toddlers and opened it, completely by chance, to page 9 (above). My eyes zoomed in on “Meat-Milk Shake” (and the next 5 minutes were lost to me horrifying colleagues). Now, while it would be VERY easy to spend a paragraph making fun of a beverage like this, especially one for children, I’m going to resist the temptation and I’ll even do so with as much ease as I would show in avoiding an actual “meat-milk shake.”And for a good reason. Even in the case of recipes we might question in the modern age (or a 17th century recipe for “Snail Water” that might be questioned in the 19th centuries), there is a purpose to the idea of a “meat-milk shake”–a purpose that isn’t solely about Gerber Baby Food selling jars of beef liver or veal flavored strained meat. (Though that most certainly plays a role from a marketing and corporate perspective.)

No, what we’re talking about is nutrition and finding ways to get children and infants–in this case, toddlers–to eat and to preferably eat well. A “Meat-Milk Shake” actually accomplishes two important food groups at once: meat and milk. Which leads us to a diversion in the history of USDA food groups…

In the more recent decades, we might think of the variations on the food pyramid. But before the pyramids, nutrition was a little more circular (think “wheels”). The first wheel released by the USDA in 1943 had 7 food groups, including one for butter and fortified margarine. In 1956, the same year Recipes for Toddlers was published, the USDA released a new chart with the “Basic 4” (milk, meat, vegetable-fruit, and bread-cereal groups–butter was sent packing). In 1980, a new wheel was released that included some old favorite groups and some new ones. It wasn’t until 1992 that the first pyramids appeared, and in 2011, those were replaced with the “myPlate” concept. In a way, we’ve come full circle (pun intended) and we’re back to a round shape, albeit no longer an actual wheel, helping us make dining decisions. (If you’d like to see some visuals, check out this great post from WFSU!) But, back to 1956 as we finish up…

Our revised edition of Recipes for Toddlers was published in 1956, but it first appeared in 1950 (and later in 1959), which puts it square in the era of transition from the 7 group wheel to the 4 group “Basic” square. And our “Meat-Milk Shake,” quite literally, kills two birds with one stone, creating an easy and efficient way to get a toddler to eat protein, dairy, and meat. The malted milk powder, chocolate malt powder, chocolate syrup, or brown sugar may be a bribe in the end,  but it’s fair to say that liver and bacon flavor might just need an extra boost. Of course, not all the recipes in this booklet are as unique, either, but there is definitely a continued emphasis on nutrition. Even the desserts are light on sugar, heavy on fruit, and include substitutions like evaporated milk (for fattier cream).

One of the important points this publications reminds us of is that, especially when considering a historical item, we need also think about it in context. Whether a “Meat-Milk Shake” or a “Jellied Fruit Salad,” Recipes for Toddlers reflects the nutrition hopes and expectations of its time. And it might even teach us a lesson or two with its pages on the significance of mother-toddler meals and starting good habits young.

Staple Stories for Staple Items

This week, we’re back to the children’s cookbook and nutrition literature collection, looking at Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard by Mary and Elizabeth Kirby. First published in 1875, our edition is from 1901. There was at least one edition between those, published in 1895.

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Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard is a series of stories told by Aunt Martha to her two nephews, Charley and Richard. We learn that both boys are less-than-stellar students at their school. One Christmas, they are sent to spend the break with their Aunt Martha, who they adore for her company, her jolly nature, her locked cupboard full of goodies, and her stories. Aunt Martha comes up with a plan to encourage the boys to be more curious (and hopefully better students in the future). Instead of her usual fairy tales, which even the boys have grown weary of, she decides to tell them a bit of history about tea-cups, tea, sugar, coffee, salt, currants, rice, and honey.

The book includes a few color lithographs and 36 engravings, ranging from full pages to smaller illustrations. Aunt Martha’s Corner Cupboard is strictly a storybook, but as we have seen with many other culinary-related storybooks for children, it is full of lessons. In this case, Aunt Martha teaches the boys history of items in her cherished cupboard, inspiring them to think and explore. After she finishes her series of tales about tea-cups, Charley and Richard find some broken pottery and clay, and contrive to make their own. Her lesson about tea offers the moral that we don’t always get things right the first time, when she talks about the introduction of tea from China to England in the 17th century:

There is a funny story of two old people, who had an ounce of tea sent to them, and who were quite at a loss what to do with it. At last, the old lady proposed to her husband that they should sprinkle it on their bacon, and eat it; which they accordingly did–and very nasty it must have been.”

(There are similar stories of tea in early America, where people brewed tea in boiling water, then tossed out the water and ate the leaves.)

If you’d like to see the book in its entirety, you can see two different versions online. One is the first edition from 1875, held by the New York Public Library; the other is an edition from 1895, held by Harvard University. Or, you can always pay us a visit and learn a little more about honey and currants alongside Charley and Richard. Aunt Martha really does have some great stories. 🙂

 

Six Little Cooks: Narrative, Recipes, and Culinary Instruction

This week, we’re looking at another instruction manual for cooks. This one, though, isn’t for adults–it’s for children. And while we have shelves of children’s cookbooks, each filled with recipes and directions, this one is a little different. It has elements of storytelling, a frame narrative that runs through each of the 14 chapters. Our edition of Six Little Cooks comes from 1891, but it was first published in 1887. Elizabeth Kirkland’s book tells the story of Grace, whose aunt and cousin come to visit. Grace, inspired by a story book, asks her aunt to teach her, her sister, her cousins, and her friends to cook. The 14 chapters cover the 14 days Aunt Jane spends teaching the girls recipes and etiquette for different meals, occasions, and events.

The recipes are usually grouped in the middle of each chapter, numbered and labeled, surrounded by the plot and often information about how to properly prepare, serve, or clean up from the particular focus of the lesson. Unlike many children’s cookbooks and like many manuals for housewives of the period, there are no illustrations. The book is written in simple language that the intended audience of young girls would understand, and it seems clear they are meant to learn by reading and practicing, rather than being provided pictures or images of “how to” (though the story IS entertaining). That being said, it does seem like a more effective way to spread the message of culinary instruction. It gives young readers something they can relate to, while hopefully making it fun to learn–which is a lesson we can still use today!

If you’d like to read more, you can always visit us. Or, you can check out a digital copy of the 1891 edition on the Internet Archive’s website.

Urban Farming for the 1900s Child

In 1902, Mrs. Henry Parsons (or Fannie Grissom Parsons, if you prefer) launched an experiment. Her idea was to find a way to city children to have the rural experience. Basically, she brought the farm to New York City.

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Our feature this week is The First Children’s Farm in New York City, from 1904. This publication is the follow-up for three years worth of work on a project. It taught city children the basics of planting, caring for, and harvesting a garden plot by creating opportunities to work in De Witt Clinton Park. The report details how the project started (by inviting children to participate), covers what children learned, and, to some extent, documents the effect it had on participants and the neighborhood.

Based on Mrs. Parsons’ report, we can surmise that she had some success in the endeavor. She was even awarded a medal at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. In addition to recounting the how of things, her report includes a section titled, “Farm School Work in Aid to Schools, Hospitals and Asylums.” What follows is an account of where such programs are needed, the disconnect between city and rural settings in the start of a new century, and the benefits of teaching children about the environment, essentially. The report also contains a number of photographs (I’m partial to the before and after shots above).

While I don’t know how, more than 100 years, we can necessarily judge the effectiveness of Mrs. Parsons’ program, I think it does convey a message that still has bearing: finding a connection to what we eat. We might argue Mrs. Parsons’ work is a precursor to urban gardening and local food movements today. Our campus was host to a 4-H camp last week, and that has me thinking about what we are still teaching children today, whether in school, camp, or at home. The good news is that we haven’t lost sight of work that began over a century ago.

The Incredible Shrinking (and Growing) Girl

My French is pretty much non-existent, so apologies in advance for my inevitable translation and synopsis errors in the post that follows. Several years of Latin means I can read words and sometimes correctly interpret sentences, but we’re winging it a bit this week. On the other hand, Les Gourmandises de Charlotte, a children’s story that borders on a fairy-tale, literally stuffed with food (pun-intended), has to be shared!

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First published in the late 19th century, Les Gourmandises de Charlotte went through several editions between 1891 and 1915. We are lucky enough to have an early edition from 1891 (with a slightly fragile binding). This is the story of Charlotte, a little girl who gets a giant cherry-flavored candy egg for Easter, and all the trouble it causes. She develops a taste for sugar and sweets, first losing weight and eventually, in fairy-tale style, actually shrinking in size, as she refuses to eat anything else. She has a series of adventures while tiny (which are really meant as lessons to show Charlotte–and other children/readers–the importance of good eating). She regains her normal size, only to balloon up, facing mockery from other children. In the end, though, she sees the error of her ways and agrees to eating a more balanced diet.

Primarily, materials in the History of Food & Drink Collection, including many books in the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Collection are cataloged with cookbooks, medicine, nutrition, and other related call numbers. Les Gourmandises de Charlotte is one of the outliers. While there is a clear message about food and nutrition, this is first and foremost a children’s story. As a result, it’s actually cataloged with juvenile literature. It could an easy reader for native French speakers of a young age, and non-native speakers learning French, too. The illustrations help tell the story for even the youngest readers and read-ees.

Of course, it may also give you a craving for a super-sized cherry-flavored candy egg, despite all Charlotte’s troubles. While we can’t help you there, we CAN help you to another serving of culinary book history next week…