Fondly, Pennsylvania is HSP's main blog. Here you will find posts on our latest projects and newest discoveries, as well articles on interesting bits of local history reflected in our collection. Whether you are doing research or just curious to know more about the behind-the-scenes work that goes on at HSP, please read, explore, and join the conversation!
We're deep in the phase of making changes to our technological platforms (Collective Access, our DAMS, and Drupal, our digital exhibits platform) in order to launch the Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) project next fall. I recently wrote a blog post on the project for the Delaware Valley Archivists Group (DVAG) website. Head on over to the DVAG blog to learn about what we've done so far, what we still have to do, and how we plan to get there.
We invite you to keep up with the project by regularly checking in on the HINT homepage, as well as keeping an eye out for updates here on "Fondly, Pennsylvania." You can read my post for DVAG by clicking here.
As you might expect, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has a large collection of materials related to the founding father of Pennsylvania, William Penn. Much to my delight, many recipes of Penn’s first wife Gulielma Maria Penn have been preserved in The Penn Family Papers, an impressively large collection of personal written materials by William Penn and various family members. The cooking recipes were collected into a 4-part manuscript totaling more then 150 pages towards the end of the 17th century at the request of Gulielma and Penn’s son William. You can see in the images below that the original recipes are very difficult to read, which is largely due to the rushed manner in which they were transcribed and their use of 17th century spelling and words that are obsolete today. Luckily, HSP has an excellent transcription of the cookbook by Evelyn Abraham Benson that came in very handy in clarifying the cooking instructions and explaining the book’s origins. This week, I tested out two excellent recipes for “A Tart of Spinage” and “Fregasy of Chicken” which would like to share with you below:
Too Make a Tart of Spinage
Above: original recipe "Too Make a Tart of Spinage" by William Penn’s first wife Gulielma Maria Penn from the Penn Family Papers. Below: transcription by Evelyn Abraham Benson:
“Take a good Dele of spinaige and boyle it in water and a Littell salt, and when it is boyled well Drain out the water very Clene, take the yeolks of eggs and Creme strain them with the spinaige through a strainer, and seson it with suger, put too it a slise of butter then put them in the Coffen. and boyle them--” (Benson, 151).
Too Make a Fregasy of Chicken
Above: original recipe "Too Make a Fregasy of Chicken" by William Penn’s first wife Gulielma Maria Penn from the Penn Family Papers. Below: transcription by Evelyn Abraham Benson:
“Take your Chicken flea (flay) them and Cutt them in peces and boyle them gently in butter with a bunch of sweet herbs, after they have bin a pretty while in, putt sum good broath to them, and when allmost enough, a gill of white wine then take the yeolks of 4 or 5 eggs, and sum shred parsley 1/2 a nutmeg grated and sum juce of Lemon but if you have not that 2 or 3 spunfulls of vinegar beate them well together, and when the other is enough, put this to it sturring it up and downe together a Litell while you may putt mushroons to it, and slised Lemon, this is for 4 Littell biskets putt a bitt or 2 of butter too the eggs and other things when you mix them together--” (Benson, 29).
On to the Cooking
The general instructions in these recipes sparked a few challenges for me, but also allowed room for more personal creativity when cooking, unlike modern recipes which specify cooking times and ingredient measurements down to the minute and teaspoon and leave less room for diversion. This was more an issue with the chicken then the spinach. At the beginning of the recipe, the instructions tell the cook to gently boil the chicken in butter with some sweet herbs, but does not explain what gently boiling chicken in butter might look like or specify how much butter or what kind of herbs to use. These details were likely not included because a 17th century cook would not have easy access to ingredients, unlike modern cooks who can drop by their local grocery store to pick up extra butter or fresh cilantro even when it’s out of season. I decided that a healthy half stick of butter would suit my needs, along with a large helping of freshly chopped basil and rosemary. For my purposes, “boil in butter” translated into pan frying the chicken in melted butter on very low heat and covered with a lid. Similarly, I was left to decide when and how much broth and wine to add to the chicken.
Although the recipes’ lack of cooking specifics initially left me feeling uneasy, having the creative leeway to make my own decisions about cook-time and ingredients actually turned out to be refreshing. Replicating these 17th century dishes was more simple and relaxed compared to trying out some modern recipes that require intensive attention to details and timing.
If you’re wondering how long I cooked the chicken or spinach, I could only give you a rough estimation because I wasn’t focused on time. The chicken cooked for about 45 minutes on a very low heat while the spinach boiled for roughly 5 minutes and then was reheated and kept warm in a pan after straining out the water pouring whipped egg yolks and cream through the spinach as it sat in the strainer.
Looking at the picture above, you might mistakenly assume that I immediately dug into the chicken and spinach when they were finished cooking. Perhaps a bit too relaxed when working through the recipes, I failed to notice that the chicken dish was meant to be served over biscuits. Less then 10 minutes until the dishes were ready to be served and I realized-- no biscuits! Since the herby white wine sauce that had been stewing along with the chicken for nearly an hour had collected all sorts of flavor, serving the chicken without some sort of bread to soak up the sauce would essentially be leaving a key component out of the dish. Luckily, I was able to put the meal on hold while my dinner guest kindly volunteered to run out in search of appropriate bread and returned with a box of biscuits from Popeyes.
While I could go on to romanticize that pairing 17th century Penn family dishes with biscuits from a fried chicken fast food chain was an innovative fusion of historic cooking with modern food, the combination was simply comical, unplanned, and tasty. Initially, I expected that cooking an entire meal from Gulielma Penn’s recipes would have allowed me to imagine inviting the Penns over for a dinner party. As I sat down to eat and tried to reflect on the history behind the food before me, I couldn’t help but laugh at the thought of Gulielma and William Penn sitting in my kitchen when a box of Popeyes biscuits was on the table before me. Although the meal may not have turned into the transformative historic experience I had anticipated, the vague instructions in these historic recipes gave me the creative freedom to make them my own and left me with new confidence in my cooking abilities. The chicken was phenomenal-- definitely the best I’ve ever cooked-- and no doubt this is the result of my interpretation of how much butter and wine should be used in the sauce. Though I would not recommend these dishes to my health-conscious friends, they have certainly earned a permanent place within my personal collection of recipes-- a perfect example of how history can be made relevant through food.
Come back next week for a special blog on Reading Terminal Market that will be the final installment in this food history series A Philly Foodie Explores Local History!
Ever since I heard that my family’s farm had begun selling Chambersburg peaches a few weeks ago, I have been craving summer peaches like crazy! Many hot summer days working Pittsburgh-area Duda farmstands as a college student were greatly improved by easy access to these peaches. I’ll admit that more then a few customers caught me with juice rolling down to my elbows when daily business had slowed down— and I will add that my uncles are smiling at my confession now since they know this is advertising at its finest! When I came across a 1910 Franklin County Charity Benefit Cookbook to raise money for the Chambersburg Hospital, Children’s Aid Society of Franklin County, and local home for the elderly, I immediately thought of Chambersburg peaches! This historic cookbook’s recipe for peach ice cream ended up pulling me into Pennsylvania peach history where I was not only impressed with the economic significance of the fruit detailed in two agricultural extension bulletins from 1896 and 1913, but also discovered it's ties to the Civil War." Dip into a brief history of Pennsylvania peaches below and in the additional images in the photo album to the right!
Brush up on your Peach History
1896 map of peach-growing regions in Pennsylvania published by the Penn Sate Experiment Station (Butz, 2) You can view a larger version of this map in the photo album attached to this blog.
Throughout the second half of the 19th century, favorable soil and weather conditions sparked the growth of peach production in central and southeastern Pennsylvania and you can see from the map above that a sizable peach industry was already well-established by the turn of the 20th century. In the early 1900s, it was common for state governments to fund agricultural extension programs who spread information about modern farming methods and technology to the agricultural community and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania has two state extension bulletins about peach production published during this time. The map above was published in an 1896 extension bulletin that grouped production into three peach belts in the Juniata, South Mountain, and Southeastern growing regions. Estimating that nearly 2 million peach trees were planted in the state at the time, adding up to roughly 11,000 acres in peach orchards, the bulletin argues that the industry was both substantial and sustainable in Pennsylvania over the long term. A later extension bulletin from 1914 lists 40 varieties of peaches being planted in America at the time, 7-10 of which were well-suited to agricultural conditions in Pennsylvania. Together, these bulletins simultaneously recognize the peach industry as a substantial and promising part of the state economy and encourage agriculturalists to take advantage of modern farming knowledge and techniques in caring for their orchards.
Ties to the Civil War
1910 map of the Battle of Gettysburg. In the top right corner, you can see where combat took place in the peach orchard opposite of the Round Tops in the bottom left corner. You can view a larger version of this map in the photo album listed at the top of this blog.
To readers rolling their eyes at my suggestion that peaches hold a significant place in Pennsylvania history, you will be surprised to know that a Pennsylvania peach orchard played an important role in a key battle of the Civil War. The map above is from John Bigelow’s “The Peach Orchard, Gettysburg: An Appeal with Supplement,” which details the combat that took place on a local peach orchard during the Battle of Gettysburg, primarily on July 2, 1863. Though Federal troops were harshly exposed to Confederate fire in this location, maintaining position at the peach orchard was an important defense for the (Northern) Army of the Potomac. Allowing the enemy to take the orchard would have provided Confederate troops with great opportunity to break through Federal lines in the combat at the Round Tops. Above, you can see the Peach Orchard (top right corner) opposite Little and Big Round Top (bottom left corner). A total of 1,334 Federal and 1,047 Confederate troops were lost in combat at the orchard.
Historic Peach Ice Cream
The peaches that I am most familiar with are from Chambersburg, PA, which happens to be in Franklin County where this Charity Benefit Cookbook, pictured above, originated in 1910. At 25 cents a copy, proceeds from the book went to the Chambersburg Hospital, Children’s Aid Society of Franklin County, and local home for the elderly. The contents was not was not limited to recipes alone, but also contained local advertisements and tidbits of advice about how to perform daily household chores like fixing squeaking shoes, what to eat, or even advice on "How to Live a Hundred Years!"
I found the perfect peaches to try out the cookbook’s “Peach Ice Cream” recipe when I ran over to the Fair Food Farmstand at Reading Terminal Market earlier this week and picked out a bunch of peaches from Beechwood Orchards. Located in Biglerville, PA, Beechwood Orchards is located in Franklin County, lies in the South Mountain Peach Belt, and is roughly 11 miles north of the historic Peach Orchard at Gettysburg. The 1910 ice cream recipe I sourced from the Franklin County Charity Cookbook is only a brief 2 lines: “2 pints of milk, 1 pint of cream, 2 teacups of sugar, 1 pint mashed peaches. Mix and freeze.” Mashing the peaches by hand and mixing the ingredients together, I poured the contents into a large tupperware container and popped it in the freezer overnight. Sounds simple enough right?
I only investigated the important role that churning plays in making ice cream, when I was met a solid frozen brick which I had expected to be a creamy frozen treat the next morning. A Google search revealed that an ice cream maker is an important tool to use when making ice cream because it aerates the liquid before it is frozen, preventing the formation of ice crystals in the mixture. The end result after proper churning is fluffy, user-friendly ice cream rather then the frozen concoction that I naively turned out by quickly throwing the ingredients together and freezing them.
Not to worry, making the ice cream was not a waste! A few seconds in the microwave has been my solution to the problem of over-freezing, though I would highly recommend that you churn the ice cream if you test out this recipe yourself. More importantly, the cookbook that the recipe came from drew me into a history of Pennsylvania peaches that turned out to be a more rewarding culinary exploration then my actual ventures in the kitchen.
Have you had an oh-no moment when using an old family recipe in the kitchen? What happened and how did you recover?
Stay tuned for another food-filled blog next week! There are only two more articles left in this series A Philly Foodie Explores Local History.
In 1903, political cartoonists – especially one man, Charles Nelan – made the governor of Pennsylvania so mad that he criminalized cartooning.
You read that right. Gov. Samuel Pennypacker and his allies pushed through a law that made it illegal in Pennsylvania to publish or even draw cartoons that portrayed people (i.e. politicians) as "beast, bird, fish, insect, or other inhuman animal." Who knew that cartoons could inspire such passion, such outrage, such . . . legislative willpower?!
This 1903 kerfuffle is just one of the interesting episodes we're researching while we continue work on HSP's Historic Images, New Technologies (HINT) project. As we've described in past blog posts, we're using historical political cartoons to demonstrate the new tools we're developing for describing visual materials in archives.
Poor Gov. Pennypacker was quite offended at how he'd been portayed during his election campaign in 1902, when cartoonist Charles Nelan of the Philadelphia newspaper The North American regularly depicted him as a parrot. The parrot was usually mimicking the words of U.S. Senator Matthew Quay, a powerful political boss in Pennsylvania and a cousin of Pennypacker's.
Here's one example from September 1902. The parrot in the top right represents Pennypacker, and the man in the center is Quay. (This cartoon also comments on a lengthy anthracite-coal strike that was then in progress, and the role of Chinese labor.)
Charles Nelan, "Miners' Friend," from The North American, September 1902 (Hampton L. Carson papers, collection #117).
Keep in mind that at this time, some newspapers printed a political cartoon on the front page, right under the newspaper's masthead. You couldn't miss them.
Nelan and The North American were clearly opposed to Pennypacker's candidacy, and to Quay's role in the campaign. Nevertheless, Pennypacker resoundingly won the governor's seat in November 1902.
When Pennypacker took office in January 1903, he made clear that he hadn't forgotten Nelan's attacks: his inaugural address included remarks about "sensational journals" that were a "terror to the household, a detriment to the public service and an impediment to the courts of justice." He suggested that state legislation might be needed, and Rep. Frederick Taylor Pusey complied within days.
Nelan and The North American were not impressed. Nelan drew Pusey as a cat, cozying up to the Pennypacker parrot:
Charles Nelan, "Mutual Admiration," from The North American, January 29, 1903 (Hampton L. Carson papers, #117).
Pusey's bill languished, but later that spring, state Republicans pushed through another libel bill backed by Rep. Samuel W. Salus and Sen. John C. Grady that included anti-cartoon provisions.
Those in the newspaper industry in Pennsylvania were outraged. According to historian Steven L. Piott, more than 300 newspaper owners and editors appeared at a public hearing on April 21, 1903 to complain that their legal and constitutional rights had been violated. Pennypacker signed the bill into law anyway on May 12, 1903.
However, the story doesn't end there. Criticism of Pennypacker and the anti-cartoon law expanded nationwide, at least among those who wrote and published the news. More than 75 out-of-state newspapers sent editorials to The North American criticizing the law, according to Piott. Cartoonists from around the country weighed in as well. The North American reprinted some of the supportive cartoons in its own pages, including this one by Washington Post cartoonist Clifford K. Berryman:
Clifford K. Berryman, "Effect of the Penna. Anti-Cartoon Law," from The North American, circa May 1903. Originally appeared in The Washington Post titled "Portraits of Pennypacker," on May 16, 1903. (Hampton L. Carson papers, #117).
The offending Charles Nelan himself depicted the law as a firecracker of negative attention that blew up in Pennypacker's face:
Charles Nelan, "Polly Got a Cracker," from The North American, May 16, 1903 (Hampton L. Carson papers, #117).
Perhaps because of this public outrage (or at least press outrage), the law was never enforced, and it was repealed in 1907 when a new governor took office.
As for Pennypacker, he also happened to be an avid historian, and played an important role in HSP's history, too. He served as HSP's president from 1900 to his death in 1916, including during his governorship. I'm sure he'd be none too pleased that HSP is now working to make these political cartoons even more widely accessible!
To learn more about Pennsylvania's anti-cartoon law of 1903, read Steven L. Piott, "The Right of the Cartoonist: Samuel Pennypacker and Freedom of the Press," which appeared in Pennsylvania History, v. 55, no. 2 (April 1988): pp. 78-91. Richard Samuel West also wrote about this episode in "The Pen and the Parrott: Charles Nelan Takes on the Governor of Pennsylvania," which appeared in his journal, Target, in Autumn 1986, pp. 13-20.
The closest I have come to knowing my great-grandmother is through my mother’s stories of sitting in Grandma Mary’s hot kitchen as a child while her homemade apple dumplings and sticky buns baked in the oven. A story about Grandma Mary is not complete without mentioning that her made-from-scratch sticky buns and apple dumplings were out-of-this-world. Since my great-grandmother was Pennsylvania Dutch, I was very excited to come across Leonard S. Davidow’s 1930s book Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. While I enjoyed bringing the book to life by testing out its recipes for “Eb’l (Apple) Dumplings” and "The Famous Dutch Sticky Buns,” the cookbook turned out to be lively on its own, complete with poetry, cartoons, and a unique sense of humor interspersed among the pages of recipes. Watch this historical cookbook come alive as I connect with my own Pennsylvania Dutch culinary roots below and view additional pictures of in the photo album to the right!
In the 18th century, a large influx of German immigrants settled in Pennsylvania and came to be known as “Pennsylvania Dutch” for their hybridized English-German language. In the introduction to the cookbook, Leonard Davidow briefly explains how immigrants' cooking evolved along with their language as they became acquainted to life in America:
“It was not always possible to secure the prescribed ingredients and it became necessary to develop new recipes to utilize the plainer foods in the creation of tasty dishes. Necessity was again the mother of invention and these good women became famous for their fine cooking until now Pennsylvania Dutch cooking is renowned throughout the world” (Davidow, Introduction).
Cover of the 1934 Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes: Compiled from tried and tested recipes made famous by the early Dutch settlers in Pennsylvania, by Leonard S. Davidow.
Davidow’s Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes contains a broader reflection of Pennsylvania Dutch culture then you might initially expect from a cookbook, with bits and pieces of witty poetry and cartoons paired alongside recipes. Below is a “Ballad in Pennsylvania German,” which is just one example of the additional cultural history that appears in the cookbook. The author does not include a note explaining the additional non-recipe material in the book, but you can see that including translated song lines and animated dancers like the ones below surprises the reader with a light-hearted, humorous glimpse into Pennsylvania Dutch life. While the Pennsylvania Dutch are most often remembered for their distinct style of cooking, this cookbook works to highlight the value of a broader view of their culture.
"Ballad in Pennsylvania German." The lyrics read: "One, two, three or four, / Lady if you want to dance, dance with me; / Five, six, seven or eight, / Lady, if you want to dance, wait till night" (pg. 31).
Now on to the Cooking!
In honor of my great-grandmother, I baked up a batch of cinnamon buns and two batches of apple dumplings using the recipes in this cookbook. While you can find the original recipes below, I will admit that I did adapt them to suit my own cooking skills and supplies. For example, the apple dumpling recipe was confusing to me at first when it called for the baker to: “Place (the) apple on each piece of dough... fill with cinnamon and sugar... wet edges of dough and fold over apple.” My impression of these directions is that the original author meant for the apples to remain wholly intact while the baker pared and cored them before wrapping them in dough. I have seen Personally, I do not have the skill or tools to core an apple without slicing it into wedges first and so I decided to slice the apple into chunks for this recipe. Admittedly, I have never made apple dumplings before and I initially encountered difficulty in rolling the apple wedges in dough. The first one I attempted to roll looked more like a wonton then a dumpling and I ended up scrapping the whole pastry after looking through Google images of what apple dumplings should really look like. The cinnamon bun recipe proved to be easier. The only change I made was to omit the citron from the rolls, on account that I could not find it in my local grocery store.
Recipe for "Eb'l (Apple) Dumplings" (pg. 46).
Recipe for "Cinnamon Buns," also known as "The Famous Dutch Sticky Buns" (pg. 47).
Handmade sticky buns hot out of the oven.
Thanks to the Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes, I was able to connect with my own culinary roots and enjoy the product of my efforts in good company. Less the 24 hours after baking the apple dumplings and sticky buns, I had given away all my Pennsylvania Dutch goodies to friends and co-workers. I’d say that the historic recipes were a big hit!
Want to try out some Pennsylvania Dutch recipes on your own? Find cooking inspiration in HSP's 1934 copy of Leonard Davidow's Pennsylvania Dutch Cookbook of Fine Old Recipes.
Learn more about this blog series A Philly Foodie Explores Local History.
Hello all! Thanks for coming back to our blog for more transcriptions from the George F. Parry Civil War diaries (George F. Parry family volumes, Collection 3694). If you're just joining us, in 2012 HSP acquired the diaries of Bucks County resident and Civil War veterinary surgeon George F. Parry. In that collection are three diaries he kept during the Civil War dating from 1863 to 1865, when he served with the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry. In celebration of Parry's work and the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, I'm providing monthly posts on Fondly, PA of transcripts of entries from his diaries.
To see other posts in the series, check out the links over on the right-hand side of this page. Clicking on the diary images will take you to our Digital Librarywhere you can examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.
August 1864 was both routine and probably melancholy for Parry. The fighting in and around Atlanta, Georgia, of the previous month had slowed down a little (or at least he didn’t note seeing much action), but it didn’t stop. During the month Parry wrote about a little about everything, from receiving items from home to condemning the regiment's animals to the deaths of a number of soldiers. Parry's regiment didn’t move drastically over the course of August 1864, though Parry mentioned late in the month that his regiment had detached from a brigade and made camp elsewhere.
Notes about the transcriptions: I've kept the pattern of Parry's writings as close as formatting here will allow, including his line breaks and spacing. My own additional or clarifying notes will be in brackets [ ]. Any grammatical hiccups that aren’t noted as such are Parry's own.
Monday, August 1
Rainy & Hot. Wagon train came
up and brought Rations for Men
and Horses. Received three Letters
from Home[,] one from J. V. Taylor[,]
also four newspapers. Drew
five days Rations. Moved at
Dusk about five miles[.] men
dismounted and ordered to fight
on foot. Horses left back some
six miles. Sent letter Home.
Friday, August 12
Condemned 15 Horses[,] turned lose[sic]
Killed 2 Horses. [Yancy?] rode out
in afternoon with Capt. Hilbury[,] found
my Rebel Horse with [illegible] 5th Mich.
Infantry. got him after much
Work. Received one Hat and
Two Newspapers from Home
also some other things. ----
Sunday, August 14
Sent a Letter Home[.] a Warm
Day and some rain.
For 5 days.
Bridgen E Co.
Rode out in the Eve.
with Capt. Newcomer, White & Harthranft[sic]
to view Atlanta – on fire from our
shells --- a grand sight.
Monday, August 22
My Birthday. 26 years old
Traded my Horse
Rosencrans off four a sorrell one[.]
Took dinner with Dr. Able and
Wm. Yeller. Pay time.
Rode out with them after Dinner
to Pine Mt. and took a view of the
Country. Rec'd a Letter from Mo-
ther[.] Sent a letter Home.
Tuesday, August 23
Up a light and joined the command
at or near Atlanta. Bad news[:] the
Regiment lost 52 men and Capt.
Taylor White Thompson and
Lieut. Hermens. All good men. the
4th Regulars lost also [Heany?]. this
Raid destroyed the Rail Road
between Atlanta and Macon[,]
also burnt one town.
Rec'd Papers from Home[.]
Dr. Able dined with me.
Saturday, August 27
Our Regiment detached from the
Brigade[,] moved camp to near
Rec'd two letters from Home
and $300[,] also two Papers
Rec'd a Letter from
Russell Thayer in regard to
Vet. Surgeon Rank.
As this blog series, A Philly Foodie Explores Local History, approaches the halfway point in its two-month journey in food history, I think it's about time that we visit one of Philadelphia’s best-known historic food landmarks-- the 9th Street Italian Market! With early beginnings in the 1880s when Italian immigrants began to settle in a neighborhood South of the original city center, the Philadelphia Italian Market is a collection of specialty food shops and outdoor vendors concentrated around 9th and Christian Streets. Inspired by historic photographs and local family recipes in our archives here at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, I decided to connect with this historic Philly foodie neighborhood by shopping for fresh ingredients at the Italian Market and cooking a dish from Celeste Morello’s The Philadelphia Italian Market Cookbook: The Tastes of South 9th Street. Experience the market with me as you read about my multi-layered culinary adventure below and view additional pictures in the photo album to the right!
Not-knowing what to expect when I went searching for material on the Italian Market in our archives, I was blown away when I happened to stumble upon the Penrose Collection of early and late 20th century photographs of businesses along 9th Street. In particular, the picture below of Tony Anastasio in front of his produce business really caught my eye. The best way I can describe this photo is that it carries a sense of weight with it-- of accomplishment and hard work. Started in 1938, Anastasio Produce has been in business over 75 years.
Tony Anastasio in front of Tony Anastasio Produce, as photographed by Joseph V. Labolito, in 1991. Check out the photo album in the top right corner to see other historic pictures of the Italian Market!
I also came across a fabulous collection of family recipes from shop owners and residents in the South Philadelphia neighborhood compiled alongside a history of the Italian Market in the Historical Society's copy of Celeste Morello's The Philadelphia Italian Market Cookbook: The Tastes of South 9th Street. After encountering a cheesesteak recipe from the founder of Geno’s Steaks, Joseph Vento, and reading a recipe for “Sicilian Blood Orange Salad” that was humorously connected to local accounts of Sylvester Stalone running through the market in Rocky movie scenes, I decided that it was only fitting to test out one of these historic recipes myself! To take advantage of all the seasonal produce available at the Italian Market, I decided upon “John & Marie LaTerza’s Recipe for “Jumbot.”” Below is the recipe and author’s description directly from the cookbook:
Shopping list in hand and eager to get cooking, I headed to the market. Walking up and down 9th Street, I spent most of my time admiring the fresh produce belonging to street vendors lining the sidewalk and talking with them as I made notes of what items to purchase. Shops and vendors at the Italian Market are well-known for selling produce at some of the most affordable rates in the area and my ingredient hunt turned up a number of good finds. My prized steal-of-a-deal was spending only a $1 for two large, vibrant eggplants. Since eggplant is in prime season now, vendors were practically giving them away by the box. Perhaps it was my inner foodie or former experience working a farm stand that made me so excited about the eggplant-- I’m sure I told at least three people about it that day!
I also visited Anastasio Produce for my first time and left the shop with a smile after stopping in search of mushrooms. Although the store mainly sells to restaurants in the area, the warehouse is open to the public and when I asked about mushrooms, one of the gentlemen organizing morning deliveries was happy to stop his work to help me. After deciding which mushrooms would be the best fit for the dish I was making, he brought out a box of beautiful Portobellos for me to choose from.
Below is a picture of one of the outdoor produce stands along 9th street. Underneath the picture is a list of the items I purchased and their prices. The grand total was $18, not bad!
Just as you travel to a museum or historic landmark to engage with history in a memorable way rather then remember every knitty-gritty historical fact related to your area of interest, my exploration of the Philadelphia Italian Market was centered around experiencing history rather then analyzing it. As you might have guessed, I came away from this journey focused not just on the product of my efforts in the kitchen, but more-so on the multi-layered experience of 9th Street that I encountered through historic photographs and family recipes and through my conversations with vendors and shop keepers in my hunt for cooking ingredients. Even though John & Marie LaTerza’s Jumbot has secured a spot within my personal collection of recipes, what I will cherish even more from this culinary experience is the feeling of personally connecting to bits and pieces of history in this iconic food-filled neighborhood.
My task as a volunteer in digital collections is to add metadata to images posted in “Questions of the Week.” As a historian by training, my metadata interests lean toward the descriptive. What was the purpose of this photograph showing the Honorable Raymond Pace Alexander (1898-1974) and his wife Dr. Sadie Tanner Mosell Alexander (1898-1989), flanking business and civic leader Albert M. Greenfield (1887-1967)? While I could not identify the event, I did uncover what was probably one of the earliest associations of Alexander and Greenfield. Their interaction, however, was merely a footnote to a remarkable story about the first low income housing project in Philadelphia to be developed privately by an African American couple.
In 1939, Pearl and Benjamin Mason lived with their two children in a tiny house with no bathroom in South Philadelphia. For the past four years, this African American family survived on a weekly allowance of $11.80, afforded through the federal government’s relief program. At one time a garage attendant, Benjamin had been unemployed for seven years. On March 24, 1939, the Masons’ lives changed dramatically when a horse named Workman won the Grand National in Liverpool, England—a race that determined the winners of the widely popular Irish Sweepstakes. The Masons held one of the winning sweepstake tickets, turning their $2.50 investment into a $150,000 windfall.
The Masons received national media attention not just for winning, but for how they spent their winnings. First, they reimbursed the Department of Welfare $2,133.90, the amount they had received on relief. They paid off other debts and spent another $3,000 on a house in North Philadelphia for their family and a car. Acting on the advice of Raymond Pace Alexander, the Masons spent the remaining $90,000 to buy and renovate a block of 28 dilapidated houses at 20th and Lombard streets. At that time, Alexander was one of only thirteen blacks practicing law in Philadelphia. He specialized in desegregation cases. The property the Masons purchased bordered on the Rittenhouse Square vicinity, which even then was considered a “ritzy and exclusive white section” of the city. According to a December 1939 article in the Afro-American, the real estate concern of Albert Greenfield and Company was also interested in the transaction.
The Masons stipulated that at least 75% of the work be done by “colored workmen.” The project nearly died during construction when a bank sought to renege on its financing promise. According to a 1992 news article, Alexander “saved the day by putting up his property to guarantee a second loan.” Named after the Masons’ daughter, Frances Plaza opened in 1941 offering 50 apartments for rent to low-income black families along with an open courtyard and playground. Rents ranged from $30 to $39. In one year, Frances Plaza was fully occupied with a long waiting list. The Masons responded in a most unbusinesslike fashion and cut rents by 10 percent.
The Masons sold Frances Plaza to an investor in 1958. In its stead today are the Waverly Court Apartments. Other than their affiliation with the Holy Trinity Baptist Church on Bainbridge Street, little else is known of what became of Pearl (born circa 1900 in North Carolina), her husband Benjamin (born circa 1897 in South Carolina) and their son Benjamin Jr. Their daughter Frances studied music at Howard University in Washington and became a singer.
As we were preparing for the HSP Martha Washington Potluck a few weeks ago, Director of Conservation Tara O’Brien and I were brainstorming about what cookware items would have commonly existed in early American kitchens. When one of our reference librarians, Ron Medford, overheard our conversation, he mentioned that he knew of some old cookware catalogs... in box TQ.40. Intrigued by Ron’s coincidental knowledge of some forgotten material that might answer our questions, Tara and I immediately went on a hunt for it in our archives. What we found in mysterious box TQ.40 was a collection hardware, home furnishing, and cookware catalogs and magazines that would make any historian smile because some bit of social and cultural history is waiting to be unpacked on nearly every page. I am extremely excited to share three items with you: an 1882 merchant catalog from the Lancaster homegoods company Steinman & Co as well as an 1882 magazine and 1977 catalog from the Philadelphia department store Strawbridge & Clothier. While these catalogs and magazines don't exactly lay out an entire history of American cookware in their pages, an examination of their representations of cookware and cooking reveal historic differences in advertising that stand in stark contrast to modern ads today. Please reference the photo album in the top right hand corner of this blog post as you read!
Steinman & Co. Illustrative & Descriptive Catalogue of Hardware, 1882
Flipping through this catalog for the first time, I was so captivated by the detailed pictures and descriptions of cookware that it took me a few minutes to see another jarring difference between this 19th century advertising and its modern counterparts-- there are no prices to be found anywhere on the pages! This was very odd to me, how could you expect a customer to purchase an item, if they don’t know the price? The answer slowly started becoming clearer to me while I was looked at the illustration of some spoons below:
View a larger version of this image in the photo album at the top right corner of this blog post.
If you look closely at this picture, you’ll see that the spoons are hand-drawn and not photographs. Although I was originally struck by the level of detail in the pictures, I hadn’t quite picked up on the fact that they were originally hand-drawn images that were then reprinted in mass for the booklets. Considering the amount of effort and attention that was paid to such a simple thing as spoons in this catalog, I became aware that creating this booklet full of thousands of items would have been a massive and expensive undertaking. This would explain why Steinman & Co. went to such lengths to recreate the items in their stocks without listing prices. Instead of continually bearing the cost of printing updated copies of the catalog with new items, it would have been much more practical and efficient to print one guide of items without prices which customers could use as reference over time to get an idea of what the company had to offer. Searching for concrete evidence in the pages of the book that would confirm my theory, I stumbled across an introduction that I had initially missed:
“This Catalogue is designed to assist merchants... (as) permanent reference and contains something of interest to every person. An effort has been made both by cuts and description, to give a clear idea of the most Salable Standard Goods and sizes in each department. It does not include all in stock, nor will that ever be possible, as new goods appear almost daily. It would also be impossible with so large a variety and the frequent changes, to keep in print our actual selling prices... we can assure you that our Prices are right...”
Although this introduction confirms my theory as to why the booklet does not contain prices, it ends up raising more questions. If the book is designed for merchants, then which stores were selling Steinman & Co. products? When a prospective buyer contacted the company for pricing did they have authority to negotiate prices? Were merchants from Philadelphia buying goods from this Lancaster company at wholesale prices and then selling them at a profit in nearby city stores? What kind of profits were they making? Were the Steinman & Co. catalogs sold to merchants or were they given away freely to attract business?
Strawbridge & Clothier’s Quarterly, Spring 1888
For those of you who might be unfamiliar with Strawbridge & Clothier, the department store is a giant in Philadelphia history that was founded by Quaker businessmen in 1868 and grew into a successful regional chain of stores over the following hundred years. As you can see from the cover above, Strawbridge & Clothier Quarterly labels itself as a magazine and is different from the Steinman & Co. catalog as well as the department store catalogs that we are familiar with today. This 1888 Spring issue, in particular, contains a whole variety of different articles ranging from short stories, fashion gossip, how to polish wood, and notes on nursing in addition to advertisements of desirable clothing and house materials for sale. Although the majority of the magazine is not focused on cooking or cookware, my favorite article is “THE KITCHEN,” which you can see below:
Written by Juliet Corson, who was well-known in the 19th century for her writing on affordable cooking, “THE KITCHEN” is a collection of recipes and tips for using fresh Spring ingredients on a budget. I suspect that some of the recipes, such as “Sago and Orange Soup” and “Creole Tomatoes,” would have been novel for many readers because they include imported ingredients like sago (a type of flour) and rice that could have only been grown in international climates. Corson seems to acknowlede the novelty of these recipes, when she writes: “... our menu will prove interesting to all our readers...” In addition to the recipes, the article also contains tips on determining the freshness of eggs, described by Corson as “that daintiest of all spring dainties.” I encourage you to experiment in your own kitchen and try out Corson's egg test by weight:
“Dissolve in a pint of cold water an ounce and a half of salt (about a tablespoonful) and float the egg to be tested in the solution. A perfectly fresh egg will sink to the bottom; and according to age, the eggs will rise in the water, a portion protruding above the surface when the egg is no longer prime for boiling, although it might be quite good for other methods of cookery” (Corson, 39).
Strawbridge & Clothier Home News & Savings, Spring 1977
Strawbridge & Clothier reached the height of its popularity in the 1980s and the image above is the cover of a 1977 company catalog. As you would expect, nearly a century-worth of advancements in technology make the advertisements in this catalog drastically different from the 1888 magazine. This is clear in the covers themselves, the older being black-and-white and originally hand-drawn while the second is a colored photograph. Changes in technology are obviously reflected in the cookware being advertised in the 1977 catalog as well.
This exploration of historic cookware catalogs and department store magazines not only gives us a glimpse into the local business history of Steinman & Co. and Strawbridge & Clothier, but also highlights the changing role of technology in American ads over the last century. Compared to today, when 3D online images and large department store chains make merchandise accessible, the 19th century catalogs and magazines discussed above seem antiquated. At the same time, it also seems that something special is lost from the hand-drawn images that give attention to the smallest of products. This leaves me with a question I have to ask: what do you think of these old catalogs and magazines in comparison to modern advertisements today?
Tell me what you think! Has something been lost from these historic cookware ads in modern advertising?
Learn more about this blog series, A Philly Foodie Explores Local History.
Stamps, photographed in situ, page 86.
Two-dollar revenue stamp (Mortgage), page 118.
Revenue stamps: Certificate, Protest, and Express; page 88.
Revenue stamps: Certificate, Bill of Lading, Express, and U.S. Inter. Rev.; page 92.
Revenue stamps: stamped cancelations; page 121.
Revenue stamps, hand-canceled: 'Northern Bank of Kentucky 9/11/66;' page 99.
Revenue stamps, Bank Check: both hand-canceled by patrons; page 85.