Women’s History Month, Part 13: Marion Harris Neil

Welcome to Women’s History Month 2016! As with previous years, this month we’ve got a whole new series of profiles lined up. But first, a quick message from our sponsors–Us!

Your archivist/blogger Kira and two of her amazing colleagues, Laurel and Sam, are working on some Women’s History Month displays. We have a digital exhibit that went live yesterday, which you can see here: https://digitalsc.lib.vt.edu/exhibits/show/womens-history-2016. (Spoiler alert: there IS some History of Food & Drink material in it!). We’re also in the process of switching content in our reading room display cases AND setting up two other cases on the first floor of the library along with a touch screen monitor for the digital display. We hope you’ll check out one or both exhibits. (And hey, if you’re coming to the talk next week, “Cookery, Cocktails, Chores, and Cures: Food History in Special Collections,” you’ll already be here!)

…Back to our regularly scheduled blogging! This week we’re looking at the works of Marion Harris Neil. I say “works” for a very specific reason. Normally, I tried to include some biographical information in my aptly-named “profiles.” But Marion is a mystery. A prolific, prolific mystery. Census records from the eras during which she wrote include plenty of “Marion Neils,” but with no clues to go on, it’s hard to narrow things down. Her books and publications are often product-based, so the focus is on the company and the food, not the woman. Unlike some of our other authors, there are no biographical hints in prefaces or introductory pages. Still, she had plenty to say on the topic of food:

You can read about the 1917 edition of Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder in a previous blog post and you can view the 1914 edition of The Story of Crisco on the Special Collections digital collections website.

Marion Harris Neil Bibliography (items in bold are held by Special Collections):

  • “The Minute Man Cook Book.” 1909. [Alternate title: “The Minute Man A Brief Account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord by Wayne Whipple with Recipes for Minute Tapioca, Minute Gelatine (Plain) and Minute Gelatine (Flavored) by Janet McKenzie Hill, Marion H. Neil, Ella A. Pierce, and other culinary authorities.”] In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.
  • Alcono Cook Book. Newark, N.Y., J.M. Pitkin & Co., 1910.
  • Choice Recipes Requiring “True Fruit” Brand: Pure Flavoring Extracts. Rochester, N.Y.: J. Hungerford Smith Co., [1912?]
  • How to Cook in Casserole Dishes. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1912. (Multiple editions)
  • Good Thing to Eat Made with Bread. New York: Fleischmann Co., 1913. (Multiple editions)
  • Candies and Bonbons and How to Make Them. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1913. (Multiple editions)
  • Canning, Preserving and Pickling. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1914. (Multiple editions)
  • “The Story of Crisco: 250 Tested Recipes.” 1913. In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.
  • Cox’s Manual of Gelatine Cookery. 5th American ed. Edinburgh, Scotland: J. & G. Cox, Limited, [1914]. (Previous post on a broadside advertisement for this company)
  • Delicious Recipes Made with Mueller’s Products. Jersey City, N.J. : C.F. Mueller Co., 1914.
  • The Story of Crisco: 250 Tested Recipes. 5th ed. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., c1914. (Multiple editions) (Available online)
  • A Calendar of Dinners with 615 Recipes: Including the Story of Crisco.8th ed. Cincinnati : Proctor & Gamble Co., c1915.
  • The Something-Different Dish. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1915
  • Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder.  New York, General Chemical Company, Food Dept., 1916.(Multiple editions)
  • Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1916. (Multiple editions)
  • Dromedary War-Time Recipes: Appetizing and Economical Dishes Made with Dromedary Food Products. [New York?]: Hills Bros. Co., 1917.
  • Favorite Recipes Cook Book: A Complete Culinary Guide. New York: F.M. Lupton, 1917. (Multiple editions)
  • Good Things to Eat: A Selection of Unusual Recipes for Those who Appreciate Good Things to Eat. San Francisco, Calif.: California Packing Corp., 1917.
  • Ryzon Baking Book: A Practical Manual for the Preparation of Food Requiring Baking Powder.  New York, General Chemical Company, Food Dept., 1917.  (Previous blog post)
  • Economical Cookery. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1918.
  • Sixty-Five Delicious Dishes Made with Bread: Containing Tested Recipes Compiled for the Fleischmann Co. New York: Fleischmann Co., 1919.
  • The Thrift Cook Book. Philadelphia: D. McKay, 1919. (Multiple editions)
  • 40 Unique Dromedary Cocoanut Recipes. [New York]: Hills Bros. Co., [192-?]
  • 43 Delicious Ways of Serving McMenamin’s Crab Meat. Hampton, Va.: McMenamin & Co., [192-?]
  • Auto Vacuum Ice Cream Freezer Recipes. New York: Auto Vacuum Freezer Co., 1920.
  • Delicious Recipes. [Fresno, Calif.]: [California Peach Growers, Inc.], [1920?]
  • A Calendar of Dinners, with 615 Recipes. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., c1921. (Multiple editions)
  • A Modern Manual of Cooking. Cincinnati, Procter & Gamble Co., 1921.
  • Mrs. Neil’s Cooking Secrets: and, the Story of Crisco. Cincinnati: Procter & Gamble Co., 1924. (Multiple editions)
  • “Mrs. Harland’s Cooking Secrets.” [Crisco.] 1925. In the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, Ms2011-002.

Neil also published in Table Talk, a long running home economics and cooking periodical, and wrote or edited numerous other pamphlets and ephemeral publications that aren’t likely captured by catalog records. I’ll also mention that many of the publications above (and the others) are available online through the Internet Archive, HathiTrust, and/or Google Books. You’ll just have to go looking for them!

With an extra Thursday this March, you can expect four more profiles, and I promise, they won’t all be about women of the food world shrouded in quite so many shadows. For now, you’ll just have to let Marion’s recipes speak for her.

Women’s History Month Profile, Part 6: Lily Haxworth Wallace

Our second profile for Women’s History Month is Lily Haxworth Wallace. Unfortunately, biographical information on Wallace is limited. (A bit surprising, considering both how prolific she was and her connection to at least one major company, but some people remain a mystery!) We know she was born in England and that she trained at the National Training School of Cookery in London, before moving to the United States around 1900. She quickly became connected to the Rumford Company and over the course of her career, authored, edited, and compiled pamphlets and cookbooks sponsored by and featuring Rumford products, as well as a number of general cookbooks.

We have nearly 30 of her publications in our collection here at Virginia Tech, published between 1908 and 1950. Along with the many editions of The Rumford Cook BookThe Rumford Complete Cook Book, and The Revised Rumford Cook Book, we also have:

  • The Modern Cook Book and Household Recipes, 1912, edited and revised by Wallace
  • Rumford Home Recipes, 1913 with Fannie Farmer and Mildred Maddocks
  • Recipes for Biscuits, Muffins, Rolls, etc., between 1920 and 1940
  • Rumford Fruit Recipes, 1927
  • Rumford Common Sense Cook Book, c.1930s
  • The Women’s World Cook Book, c.1931
  • The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book, c.1943
  • The American Family Cook Book, 1950
  • Our Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-022) also contains a number of items by Wallace relating to the Rumford Company

Five editions of The Rumford Cook Book (1908, 1918, 1925, 1926, and 1927) are available online through Virginia Tech. You can find other editions of Wallace’s books and pamphlets online through a variety of resources, too. As you can see from some of our examples above, some of them contain wonderful full color covers and illustrations. Wallace successfully aligned herself with a company in a way that both helped her make a name for herself, while not allowing it to limit her to publishing certain kinds of books and recipes.

Rumford, or, The Return to Baking Powder

It’s been quite a while since we talked about baking powder, baking fans. In the past, we’ve looked at pamphlets from three baking powder companies in the late 19th and early 20th centuries: Ryzon, Royal, and Snow King. This week, we’re taking on another big name–one that’s still around today: Rumford.

The Rumford Common Sense Cook Book is not the earliest Rumford publication in our collections, but it’s a rather interesting piece. It is one of MANY pamphlets and publications about Rumford in the History of Food and Drink Collection. Hardly surprising, in the case of company with a long history of production. Compiled by Lily Haxworth Wallace (who was associated with Rumford with many years), it consists mainly of what you would expect: recipes. Recipes for cakes and frostings, waffles and breads, pastries, puddings, candies and even salad dressings. Since baking is a precise art, the directions for properly measuring aren’t all that surprising either. However, a few other elements stand out.

Given the changing technology in the kitchen, this guide includes a conversion chart of sorts that translates from the previous generation’s cooking temperatures (hot or slow ovens, for example) to the (more) precise temperatures of newer stoves. There’s also a great two page glossary of cooking terms and a diagram of a table setting for semi-formal dinner. (Apparently the formal dinner hostess will have to look elsewhere. ;)) There are even two illustrated pages  about knowing your cuts of beef and lamb. Perhaps not as exciting as our set of flashcards, but a bit more conveniently embedded within a handy pamphlet.

girl in bonnet with wildflowersargument for purchase of Rumford baking powder which does not use alumcan of baking powder surrounded by wheat

Baking powder and the baking powder wars were a topic of one our first blog posts back in 2011 and while looking at Rumford publications, I did find something particularly relevant. This small (and, as you may notice, somewhat fragile) 1913 Rumford Home Recipes pamphlet includes an intriguing defense of Rumford’s brand, sandwiched between front and back covers with comforting and sweet imagery.

So, next time you starting baking, take a minute to remember baking powder. There’s a long and intriguing history to that helpful little can. And always remember: “Watch the label!”

Snow King: Even MORE about Baking Powder

Yes, MORE about baking powder. It’s so much a staple of our kitchens, it’s unavoidable as a recurring theme. Late 19th and early 20th century warring baking powder companies aside, Famous Southern Baking Recipes for Better Baking (1929) introduces us to Snow King.

Snow King Baking Powder was based out of Cincinnati, Ohio. Like many of the smaller companies from the late 19th century, it didn’t survive into the modern era.  In 1937, Snow King was bought out by General Foods Corporation.

Although the recipes in this publication don’t stand out much in any particular way, there are a few interesting elements. First, there is an abundance of full color illustrations. Almost every other page is laden with depictions of cakes, biscuits, muffins, pies, and other goodies. And in a time period when the color of color illustrations was often less-than-authentic, Snow King has done a decent job of portraying reality. And they seem to have gone out of their way to create texture.

Second, it’s a compiled cookbook. We’ve seen this in the past on the blog, and I promise, we’ll see them again in the future. A detailed explanation on the inside explains that the recipes were collected through an advertisement in southern agriculture magazines with a $10 prize. Like some others, Famous Southern Baking Recipes for Better Baking includes the creator/submitter and their location. But Snow King goes a step forward and, in many cases, has smiling pictures of contributors! I’m not sure if this is meant to encourage us to trust these ladies more or to suggest they are, in fact, real, but it is a relatively uncommon feature of a cookbook.

Finally, Snow King Baking Powder has something in common with Charles B. Knox Gelatin Company–both companies were run for a significant period of time by women.

Mrs. L. P. Lillard, daughter of the founder, dictates all the company’s policies and sets all of the standards…Like other baking powders, Snow King is laboratory tested, but everybody in the company knows that the real test comes when Mrs. Lillard bakes real Southern biscuits.

Not many companies, large or small, could boast a female president in the 1920s or 1930s. However, corporations designing food products for a largely female audience might have a slight advantage here. Laboratory testing may be important, but so is knowing the person running the company uses the product in their own kitchen and knows HOW to use that product successfully. Which is a little gender food for thought.

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On a side note, August is National Sandwich Month. While I don’t recommend celebrating with thesethese, or even these, stay tuned for another sandwich feature next week…

Children’s Rhymes and Baking Powder Revisited: A Gingerbread Man

This week features another item from the Ann Hertzler Children’s Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Archives. It’s a companion post to one from early this spring about Billy and a visit to the strange land of Bunbury. Two years before, in 1923, Royal Baking Powder reached out to the children/mother audience with The Little Gingerbread Man, a sponsored look at a classic nursery rhyme character.

Once again, we’re supplied with vibrant images, rhyming couplets, and none-too-subtle product placement. Each illustration features a canister of baking powder and most include at least a partial view of the New Royal Cook Book, published in 1922 and in 1923, available for free by mail. In this story, the King of Jalapomp, a poor cook indeed, bans baked goods. It takes the influences of the Queen of the Flour Folk, Johnny Gingerbread, and a host of other characters bearing “good” cakes (all made with Royal Baking Powder, of course!) to change the King’s mind.

Each page containing part of the story also has a recipes, basic baked goods like cinnamon buns, gingerbread men, doughnuts, sugar cookies, birthday cake, and “surprise muffins.” (The general lesson we’ve learned so far on this blog is that the word “surprise” appearing in a recipes makes us wary. However, this is a prime example of the opposite! “Surprise muffins” include jelly or fruit in the center–yum!)

Both The Little Gingerbread Man and Billy in Bunbury are relatively rare pieces. There are 17 of the former and only 3 of the latter cataloged in academic and public libraries. Both publications are prime examples of culinary ephemera never intended to last this long. Yet, here they are, sitting quietly on our shelves, little pieces of children’s literary and food history we are pleased to  preserve. Which is just a friendly reminder to visit your local Special Collections, whether it’s us here at Virginia Tech or elsewhere. Chances are, they have a treasure or two worth seeing that may just brighten your day.

Billy in Bunbury: More about Baking Powder

By the early 1900s, companies were reaching out to new audiences and finding new ways to interact with existing ones. Pamphlets and storybooks emerged that appealed to mothers and children. Although Billy in Bunbury lacks some of the language used by companies to both frighten adults from using the competition and encourage them to use a company’s own “good” brand, even a children’s story can’t escape some advertising for Dr. Price’s Phosphate Baking Powder (see the title page and last image above).

Still, it’s cute and likely to hold a child’s attention with its vibrant illustrations and rhyme. Published in 1925, Billy in Bunbury tells the story of a little boy “too skinny for his shoes,” and how Hun Bun and the other characters in Bunbury help Billy regain his appetite by providing his mother with new recipes:

Dr. Price’s Baking Powder/And King Hun Bun’s wondrous book/Have made Billy’s mother/an exceedingly good cook./He eats his lunch and breakfast/Each meal he finds a treat./The other fellows watch their step/When Bill comes down the street./Cakes like he met in Bunbury/His mother makes him now./And if YOU want some too, this book/Will tell YOUR MOTHER how!

When it comes to advertising, this is certainly a common idea: our product will make you a better cook (and in this case, mother!). Dr. Price’s Phosphate Baking Powder was popular in the 1920s and 1930s, so clearly someone was buying it. It was owned by Royal Baking Powder Company, a company that still makes baking powder today.

Here in the Culinary History Collection, we have baking powder cookbooks from many companies: Royal, Rumford, Ryzon, Calumet, Clabber Girl, and Warner’s. In addition to Billy in Bunbury, Royal Baking Powder Company produced a handful of children’s themed recipe pamphlets in the 1920s, including The Comical Cruises of Captain Cooky (1926) and The Little Gingerbread Man (1923).

On a final note, although there doesn’t appear to be a scanned copy of the publication online, there is an audio recording of Billy in Bunbury available online at the Internet Archive. It includes both the story and the recipes.

So, whatever your brand of baking powder, get out there and get baking. It seems a great way to bribe children to eat…

The Power of Baking Powder

Special Collections has quite a selection of pamphlets filled with recipes from baking powder, baking soda, and flour producers. After all, what kitchen would be complete without tens (or even hundreds!) of variations of biscuit and bread recipes! Most, however, are short in length, small, and paperback with tiny, if any, pictures. So it was a pleasant surprise to find this little gem last week, which features a hard cover, large full color illustrations, and more than 70 pages of recipes!

Ryzon Baking Powder was a product of the General Chemical Company in New York. It does not seem to have been produced for very long, though the company still exists today. There were only three editions of a Ryzon recipe book between 1916 and 1918. Our copy of the 1917 edition is one of about a dozen in public or academic libraries, though there are plenty in private hands. 

Recipes in the cookbook range from the usual (biscuits, parker house rolls, and corn bread) to the uncommon (“hot-dog” dainties, salmon and tomatoes, and apriba loaf). (Thankfully, no gelatin!) Many of the recipes were compiled from women around the country and there is even one for rice corn pudding from Puerto Rico.

You may not be able to get your hands on Ryzon baking powder today, but there are still plenty of options (some of which you’ll undoubtedly learn more about on this blog in the future), so go forth and bake! And if you’re feeling adventurous, try the “Artichokes a la Remoulade Shells” and let us know how it turns out…