Women’s History Month, Part 14: Eliza Leslie (1787-1858)

This week, we’re looking at the life and books of Eliza Leslie (1787-1858). Eliza Leslie was born in Philadelphia and most of her books were published there (or in New England). She spent the first 12 years of her life living abroad in England. After the family returned to the United States, for financial reasons, her mother opened a boarding house (and we can speculate about what influence that may have had on her future written works). She eventually began publishing stories in children’s and women’s magazines. It wasn’t until around the age of 40, however, that she published her first cookbook: Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats (1828). She did not publish under her own name. Rather, the title page of Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats reads “By a Lady.” Later editions and at least one publication would use this moniker. Another variation was “By a Lady of Philadelphia.” Eventually, though, she used her own name, often branding her books (as we’ve seen with other authors) by including her name in the title, as with Miss Leslie’s new Cookery Book (1857), Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies (1859), and Miss Leslie’s Lady’s New Receipt Book (1850). She died in 1858, and she was writing and publishing right up until then (Miss Leslie’s Behaviour Book: A Guide and Manual for Ladies appears to be a posthumous guide).

There is a brief, but good, biography of her (to which I am indebted) from the Library Company of Philadelphia that includes a portrait of Eliza. Many editions of her books (culinary, household, gift books, and novels) are available online through projects like the Internet Archive, Project Gutenberg, HathiTrust Digital Library, and many other sources. I’ve also scanned some pages from a few items in our collection (two are a bit too fragile for the scanners).

Bibliography of Eliza Leslie Publications at the University Libraries (items in bold are in Special Collections; items underlined are in Newman Library):

  • Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Munroe & Francis, [1829?].
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1833.
  • Laura Lovel: A Sketch, for Ladies Only. Lowell: Franklin Bookstore, 1834.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1835.
  • Pencil Sketches, or, Outlines of Characters and Manners. Philadelphia : Carey, Lea & Blanchard, 1837.
  • Althea Vernon, or, the Embroidered Handkerchief: To Which is added, Henrietta Harrison, or, The Blue Cotton Umbrella. Philadelphia : Lea & Blanchard, 1838.
  • The Violet: A Christmas and New Year’s Gift, or Birth-day Present. Philadelphia: E.L. Carey & A. Hart, 1838.
  • The House Book: or, A Manual of Domestic Economy for Town and Country. Philadelphia : Carey & Hart, 1841.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge: with other Tales, Representing Life as It Is and Intended to Show What It Should Be. Providence : Isaac H. Cady, 1841.
  • Mrs. Washington Potts, and Mr. Smith: Tales. Philadelphia : Lea and Blanchard, 1843.
  • Leonilla Lynmore and Mr. and Mrs. Woodbridge, or, A Lesson for Young Wives: Also, Dudley Villiers. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1847.
  • Kitty’s Relations: and Other Pencil Sketches. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Amelia, or, A Young Lady’s Vicissitudes: A Novel. Philadelphia : Carey and Hart, 1848.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. Philadelphia : Henry Carey Baird, 1851. 40th edition.
  • New Receipts for Cooking: Comprising All the New and Approved Methods for Preparing All Kinds of Soups, Fish, Oysters…with Lists of Articles in Season Suited to Go Together for Breakfasts, Dinners, and Suppers…and Much Useful and Valuable Information on All Subjects Whatever Connected with General Housewifery. Philadelphia : T.B. Peterson, [c1854].
  • The American Family Cook Book: Containing Receipts for Cooking Every Kind of Meat, Fist, and Fowl, and Making Soups, Gravies, and Pastry, Preserves and Essences; with a Complete System of Confectionery, and Rules for Carving; and also Seventy-Five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats. Boston : Higgins, Bradley & Dayton, 1858.
  • Directory for Cookery, in Its Various Branches. New York, Arno Press, 1973. (reprint of 1848 edition)
  • Corn Meal Cookery: A Collection of Heirloom Corn Meal Recipes Dating from 1846. Hamilton, Ohio : Lawrence D. Burns, Simon Pure Enterprises, c1998.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a single good bibliography of all of Leslie’s works that I was able to locate (there is a partial one on Wikipedia). [Perhaps one of these days I’ll finally get around to doing some Wikipedia edits and tackle the challenge!] But we do know that she wrote a great deal in culinary/household management, in what we might consider children’s literature for girls and young women (in so much as some of her stories were filled with lessons and instruction) and she wrote and edited for a variety of gift books. In other words, she had plenty of good advice to share. Next week, we’ll look at another women who wrote for the home and for children (so, Eliza makes a great transition)–Lydia Maria Childs. See you then!


Need a New Years’ Eve/Day Candy Rush?

Happy (almost) New Year! Special Collections is still closed, but we don’t want to leave you recipe-less or uninspired on the cusp of 2016. If you need some last minute candies for guests or a sugar rush for yourself, this week’s feature will help! It’s Plain Rules for Candy Making, published in 1922. It’s not a book or even a pamphlet. Rather, it’s a double-sided card. We’ve seen some similar items before in the Cocktail History Collection, but this is the first candy-based one we’ve acquired.

For the most part, Plain Rules for Candy Making  speaks for itself. Also, while your usual archivist/blogger Kira planned ahead and wrote this back on December 16, it’s the holiday season and there are more important (but only slightly more fun ;)) things to do than read a long blog post. However, before we part ways until 2016, there are a few points worth making. First, this sliding recipe card comes from Livermore & Knight Co., no strangers to the History of Food and Drink Collection. They published the set of tiny cookbooks you may have read about on the blog before in “A Tiny Post on Some Tiny Books” and “From Tiny Books to Chunky Books.” Apparently, quirky and unique methods of sharing recipes was there thing. Second, it’s a good reminder that there are connections to be made through the collection and not always in obvious ways. We have a variety of books it the collection that don’t contain related content, but are connected by other elements like publisher, which makes them an interesting study for other reasons (did a publisher produce books that all looked a certain way? focused on a certain theme/ingredient? contain a shared element?). Perhaps we’ll take some of that up…next year.

Happy New Year (and be sure to join us for a whole new year of feature items in 2016)!


Jack Frost in the Kitchen

With the holidays just around the corner, fall and winter baking season is here! (It’s baking season almost year round if you’re me, but this time of year can be especially popular.) And, in the past, we’ve talked a fair bit about flour and baking powder on the blog, but we haven’t said much about another staple: sugar!

This 1930-ish pamphlet belongs to the large family of advertising publications and icons in our collection. Eighteen Unusual Recipes has a center image, so each page has a half moon cut out, allowing Jack Frost and a few of his products to shine through. He’s framed by recipes that may not all seem that unusual. We have things like cakes and dessert loaves, and “Sea Wave Candy” (which may sound a bit strange, but isn’t really, when you see the ingredients). For the time, we might consider “Spanish Marmalade” and “Chutney Sauce” to be a bit out there. Perhaps more importantly, though, is convincing people to buy the right product. And, with as diverse a set of sugar products as the company made, they were certainly targeting a wide market. (I particularly like the little individually wrapped sugar tablets in the center of the back page.)

The National Sugar Refining Company of New Jersey isn’t called that anymore. It has long since become part of a larger company. But you might still see Jack Frost on a package or two, depending on where you live, continuing to bring you granulated sugar for all your goodies!

Cooking with Dromedary (NOT Camels, I promise!)

…Although the idea of cooking with a camel in one’s kitchen (not as an ingredient, but as a helper) is worth a giggle. Rather, our feature this week is from the Hills Brothers Co. of New York. Dromedary was the label of a variety of products, includes dates, figs, coconut, fruit butters, and tapioca. This particular cookbook comes from 1914. At 100 years old, it needs a moment in the spotlight.

Not surprisingly, then, the recipes in this little volume tend to highlight dates, figs, and tapioca. But, we can’t escape without our share of unique fillings (“Sweet Green Peppers Stuffed with Figs” and “Thanksgiving Squash Pie”), fried goodies (date AND fig fritters, plus croquettes), and curiously named recipes (“Golf Balls,” “Camel Fig Mousse”–named after the brand, and “Masked Apples”). Still, there are LOTS of great ideas for dried fruit in here and the recipes are diverse. It wasn’t all desserts, as I expected. So go on, try a “Delicious Sandwich”– It’s camel approved. 🙂

Candy! Candy! Candy!

Happy Halloween! (almost)

This year for the Halloween post, I thought it might be fun to feature variations on some classic Halloween/autumn treats. So let’s talk candy!


It’s amazing how much variation you might find in a basic caramel recipe. The examples below are from three different candy-making books in a twenty year period (1889-1919). Some of the differences come down to changing availability of ingredients and some could be the result of simple taste preference. Butter, molasses, and brown sugar will create a flavor distinct from cream, sugar, and corn syrup.

Popcorn Balls

Popcorn balls aren’t just a fall treat, though they are most common (and popular!) this time of year. October is National Popcorn Poppin’ Month, but popcorn isn’t restricted to a single month. National Caramel Popcorn Day is celebrated in April and National Popcorn Day is in January. Home Candy Making (1889), The Art of Home Candy Making (1915), My Candy Secrets (1919), AND The Holiday Candy Book (1952) all had some variation on this sweet and (sometimes) salty treat!

Candy and Caramel Apples

A little more digging is required, but my initial hunt only turned up one candy book with caramel and candy apple recipes! I’m sure there are more recipes hiding among our stacks. but at least this is a start. And just in time for tomorrow, which is also National Candy Apple Day!

Halloween Shaped/Themed

The “Hallowe’en Faces” below begin with a base of a homemade mint patty. One wonders about the use of “yellow” to describe the color of a pumpkin.  My Candy Secrets (the full title of which is actually My candy secrets: a book of simple and accurate information which, if faithfully followed, will enable the novice to make candies that need not fear comparison with the professional product, by Mary Elizabeth [pseud.] … with fifty-three illustrations from photographs specially taken to show actual processes in making candies) was published in 1919, but this could very well be an issue of food coloring availability.

Halloween Faces and Pumpkins, pg. 138
Halloween Faces and Pumpkins, pg. 138

Whatever your plans, enjoy your favorite treats this Halloween–and beware those tricks!

From Powder to Ganache: A Little Chocolate Inspiration

Fair warning: This week’s post is ALL about the chocolate. With one day left before Valentine’s Day, some of you might still be looking for the perfect dessert. We here at the History of Food & Drink Collection are here to help. Chocoholics may want to consider a bib or drool guard for their keyboards….

All set? Okay!

This 1955 publication, The Chocolate Cookbook, includes cakes and pies, but also cocoas and chocolate sodas. It also has a hefty selection of candy ideas, from toffees to fudge. (Click on any of the images for a larger view.)


If you need some breakfast to go with that cocoa, but still can’t do without the delicious fix, the 1971 reprint of the classic 1934 Hershey’s cookbook can help. It includes directions for chocolate waffles….and a variety of pies that might do nicely after lunch.

Chocolate Waffles
Chocolate Waffles
Chocolate Pies
Chocolate Pies

Want something to compliment that chocolate flavor? How about berries and cream? The 1983 Baker’s Book of Chocolate Recipes (we’ve featured recipes from the Baker Company’s early days on the blog before) includes a decadent layered cake and some delicate lace cookies.

Chocolate Berry Cake
Chocolate Berry Cake
Chocolate Cookies
Chocolate Cookies

Looking for something not quite so dense? This 1984 book, Chocolate (the title says it all, doesn’t it?) contains recipes cakes, pies, and cookies. But it also has some delicious looking classics and interesting alternative: Bite-sized chocolate dipped fruits, truffles, a variety of flavored chocolate sauces, ice creams, and mousses.

Chocolate dipped fruits
Chocolate dipped fruits
Mousses and cakes
Mousses, cakes, and cocoas

If you can think about anything besides chocolate after at this point, it’s time to interrupt with a brief historical note (after all, we are trying to provide you with a little background alongside the recipes). You may notice how relatively recent these publications are. While chocolate has long held a place in food history, its role in the realm of American desserts is largely a development of the 20th century. This doesn’t mean, however, that references to this milk (or dark), creamy, dreamy favorite are absent. One of our favorite regional American cookbooks and blog favorites mentions chocolate once or twice.

Mary Randolph’s 1831 The Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook contains a recipe for “Chocolate Cakes.” It isn’t the classic layer cake we might think of, but a sort of griddle cake cut into strips and served with chocolate. The only recipe in her book that actually integrates chocolate is homemade chocolate ice cream. But fear not, Virginia culinary history lovers, Mrs. Randolph doesn’t let us down! Why not try a few cherries in brandy with a gateau, tip a teaspoonful of rose brandy into your cake mix, or sip a homemade mint cordial with your mousse? Any one might be just the extra kick you had in mind.

Celebrate your Valentine’s Day in your own style and enjoy! And if you’re including chocolate, sneak a little nibble while you’re baking. We won’t tell. 🙂

Trick or Treat: Candy, Please!

Happy Halloween! In honor of the sweet, sticky, and salty goodness that is candy, we have a brief post with recipes for some classic (and not so classic) treats: Caramel, candy apples, popcorn balls, and a few holiday characters…

Happy Halloween!

Oh, and Happy National Candy Apple Day!

(P.S. Don’t eat all that candy at once!)