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A Pinch of History: Amelia Simmons's Apple Pie

One of the most interesting articles I have come across randomly browsing the Internet discussed last meals of famous inmates on death row. There are several outrageous feasts, but the most popular food of choice is apple pie a la mode. Why, you might ask?

To many, apply pie is quintessentially American. Yet its unmistakable scent holds specific memories. Memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas evenings spent gathered around the table with my large family. My mouth is watering as I write this post, as I am thinking about the remainder of this pie in my refrigerator and how I cannot wait to heat it up in the microwave when I go home. Other favorite desserts of the thirteen colonies were different variations of puddings, mini cheesecakes, bread puddings, and candied fruits.

Apple pie dates back to the 14th century, printed in a recipe book by Geoffrey Chaucer. It was referred to as "English pudding". This first variation consisted of a pastry crust, apples, figs, pears, & raisins. Interestingly, the British recipe did not call for sugar. It is believed the pears were to provide the sweetness; sugarcane, at the time, had to be imported from Egypt and was very expensive. Apple pie began to appear in America in the 17th century.

Like the cookbook of Hannah Glasse profiled in my previous post, Amelia Simmons's cookbook was published during her lifetime. However, HSP’s copy is a modern facsimile, so I was not as afraid to touch it as I was with Glasse’s book.

Simmons channeled Hannah Glasse when she garnished her cookbook with a lengthy title:

American Cookery, or the art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables, and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves, and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plum to plain cake: Adapted to this country, and all grades of life.

This book is significant because it is the first cookbook published in the 13 states upon its publication in 1796. Before that, the cookbooks in use were British or were shared through families, such as that of Martha Washington, also featured in a previous post of mine. The recipes combine British methods and tradition with American products, as different ingredients were available on these different continents. The book is also important as it calls for a chemical leavening of bread, a novel idea. This ingredient is an ancestor of modern baking powder. Bread was normally leavened with yeast at the time.

Very little is known about Amelia Simmons, other than that she was an orphan who may have lacked formal education. She paid the publishing and printing costs of her cookbook herself, as the title page says "For the Author". It was not bound in hard covers. This cookbook was very simple to read and understand, which I think just makes it easier to prepare meals the way they were meant to be.

After my last foray into the world of lettuce tarts, I chose apple pie because it sounded edible; I might be able to find all of the ingredients, and who doesn’t love apple pie? Maybe my family would actually eat this recipe (unlike Martha Washington’s lettuce tart—not a popular one). The original recipe reads:

Apple Pie.
Stew and strain the apples, to every three pints, grate the peal of a fresh lemon, add cinnamon, mace, rose-water and sugar to your taste—and bake in paste No. 3.
Every species of fruit such as peas, plums, rasberries, black berries may be only sweetened, without spices—and bake in paste No. 3.

Don’t judge me—after the lettuce tart I decided to use store-bought pie crust, not paste No. 3. If you ever want to bake a pie, use Pillsbury. It was so buttery and flakey. Unfortunately,  I could not get my hands on mace. I planned to bake this pie after my internship, so I had my mom run to the store while I was here. I told her to look for mace in the spice section. When I came home, she told me how she was looking for pepper spray. I love how she is concerned for me living and going to school in North Philly, as that is why she assumed I meant pepper spray. I improvised with some nutmeg, as mace is the shell of a nutmeg. Rose water is not so easy to come by, either. It was used to add flavor to recipes, so I tried a drizzle of melted butter.

This pie is delicious in its simplicity. It had the taste of conventional apple pie, but not so much artificial sweetness. It’s like a clean-eating apple pie (if pie can be clean-eating). My mom said it didn’t feel like she was eating a load of junk.

Besides preparing the crust, I also dreaded peeling the apples. Simmons doesn’t specifically say to, but I always do when preparing my cinnamon apple topping for crepes. For this task, I enlisted the help of my boyfriend. Colonial women most likely had their daughters helping them in the kitchen, so I felt justified in requesting a little help too! He decided not to conform to traditional vanilla and ate his apple pie with coffee ice cream on top. It’s all we had in the freezer, but you can use whatever flavor ice cream you please.

I actually enjoyed baking this pie, and I normally much prefer cooking to baking. Maybe it's because I cheated with pre-made pie crust, but either way I liked the feeling of preparing a simple apple pie the way it would have been done in the 18th century when the food was extremely popular. Simple and without all of the added artificial ingredients.

I think apple pie has withstood the tests of time in the United States because Americans love desserts and they love apples; it is easy to prepare and requires few ingredients; and it has become a symbol of patriotism and tradition. As the world increasingly becomes nutritionally conscious, the fate of apple pie as we know it could be in danger. However, as someone who likes to eat as healthily as possible, I have found many variations that provide the same satisfaction. Go crustless and create an apple "crisp" with a granola or quinoa topping. There are also countless recipes for grain-free/gluten-free crusts using almond meal or coconut flour. Then make the filling similar to mine, nothing but apples and spices, and perhaps substitute the sugar for all-natural Stevie or honey! Top it with low fat Cool Whip instead of ice cream and it's complete. Keeping the legacy alive.

Amelia Simmons’s Apple Pie

2 Pillsbury refrigerated pie crusts, brought to room temperature
3 Granny Smith apples
3 tbs. butter, divided
Granulated sugar
Lemon juice
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a pie dish with cooking spray

2. Unroll your first pie crust and line the pie dish

3. Peel, core, and chop the apples

4. Sprinkle sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg on the bottom of the pie crust

5. Add apples and spread them to fill the dish

6. Cover with more sugar, cinnamon, and nutmeg

7. Melt 1 ½ tbsp. butter and drizzle it over the apples

8. Add a drizzle of lemon juice (I didn’t use much)

9. Unroll your second pie crust & cover the apples

10. Seal the sides of the crusts together with a fork and poke holes in the center (I am not sure why I do this; I think I vaguely recall being taught to in high school cooking class, so the pie doesn’t blow up or something)

11. Melt the remaining butter and brush the top crust so it becomes golden brown when baking

12. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until the pie is browning

13. Allow to cool fully

14. Serve warmed, topped with whatever toppings you would like!

Discoveries and Encounters: HSP Launches New Databases and Catalog

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania is proud to announce two enhanced tools designed to support online research and exploration of our collections.


Discover, HSP’s online catalog, contains records describing printed materials, archival collections, and digital records associated with our collections. It is a researcher’s first port of call for discovery of HSP’s 21 million items. New functionality, enhancements, and data updates in this version make finding the information you’re looking for easier than ever before.

The Vatican and Social Change: The Pope Visits Philadelphia

Catholicism has a long and noteworthy history in Philadelphia, from the first recorded Mass celebrated in 1707 to the 200 parishes established between 1844 and 1924 and the founding of our nation’s first seminary. It is estimated that currently 35 percent of the population of greater Philadelphia are baptized Catholic, making Catholicism the single largest religious denomination in the area. Now, as the location of the 2015 World Meeting of Families, all eyes are on Philadelphia as it welcomes Pope Francis.

George F. Parry's Civil War Diaries: July 1865

Greetings! Thanks for coming back for more transcribed entries 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 Library where you can examine the volumes page by page, along with other digitized items from the Parry collection.


With the war over, things were winding down for Parry and his regiment. At the beginning of the month, he remained in Georgia, in a camp outside of Macon. And, as he noted in several entries, it was a hot, hot summer. It seems that Parry caught some sort of illness that led him to an extended hospital stay. At the end of the month, he was moved north, based on orders from command, with other sick soldiers. Parry ended up in Cumberland Hospital, a volunteer organization, in Nashville, Tennessee.

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.


Thursday, July 7

An excessive Hot Day[.] So Hot
Turpentine run out of Pine trees
by Gallons.
                   (Row?) some sick with
                    Flies very bad and almost
Hell on Earth[.] 'So Hot' and so
much torment.


Thursday, July 13

Dressed up[,] rode into Macon
called on Major Greens[,] got a
pass to go at will. also  got
$1400.00 in Confederate Money.
Had a nice time. [midling?] well to


Wednesday, July 19

Very busy all Day[.] moved camp
to what was [a] building for the
Grand Confederate Armory. works

of Magnitude and beauty. Now
the property of the U. S. Gov't.
                                                Sent a
Paper to Edward Buckman.


Monday, July 24

Very Sick with Fever[.] Called
the Dr.['s] attention to things and
was sent to the Ocomulgee [Ocmulgee]

Hospital. Examined by Dr.[,] placed
under treatment.  changed my
suite for a Hospital one. Slept
till four O'clock when the orders
came to send all sick to Hospital
train to go north.  placed in a
splendid car on a very easy bed
hung on rubber. All night in cars.


Thursday, July 27
Left Huntsville in evening and
travelled all night. Had rain
during night.  passed through many
small towns and arrived at
Columbia at day light and at
Nashville. Transferred by Ambulance
to splendid Hospital. Cumberland


Friday, July 28
In Hospital[,] lost Day some
           Suffering from Piles[,]
weak Kidneys & Inflammation
of Bladder


Violet Oakley: Citizen of the World


Violet Oakley was truly a citizen of the world; as a muralist, illustrator, portrait painter, author, designer, and visionary, Violet Oakley stood out amongst fellow female artists of her generation. Her devotion to art and the belief that it was not only for “the select few” was made apparent through her involvement in political activities, which mainly focused on international issues of world government and disarmament. With such devotion to art and its place in politics, Violet transcended conventional roles of painting and portraiture and by 1911 she had become the only American woman to have established a successful career in mural art.

An Artistic Lineage


Violet Oakley [b. June 10, 1874] was born into a third generation of amateur and professional artists. Her father, Arthur Edmond Oakley, was a successful businessman who held a great interest in arts; as a young woman, her mother, Cornelia Swain, taught drawing and painted portraits in San Francisco; her elder sister, Hester, was a writer and illustrator; aunts Julianna and Isabella Oakley studied painting in Munich; both grandfathers were members of the National Academy of Design. So, it came as no surprise when Violet began to show interest in the arts and her early efforts of expression were highly encouraged. With pencil or brush in hand she filled numerous sketchbooks from childhood well into adulthood that captured daily events, family outings, concerts, and landscapes.

Women Playing Piano: page from Violet Oakley's Sketchbook

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania boasts around 140 of these personal sketchbooks in its vaults. (Violet Oakley Sketchbooks Call Number: Collection n. 3336)

Formal Education


Enchanted by the stories her aunts wrote in letters home from abroad, Violet started to live vicariously through their tales of adventure and art in foreign lands. This prompted her to start a more formal education in the arts. However, her training was quite sporadic in the beginning. In 1894 she traveled with her father to New York City to study at the Student’s Art League, then in 1895 while on an extended family trip to Paris she enrolled at the Academie Montparnasse to study under Edmond Aman-Jean and Raphael Collin. In 1896, while still in Paris, her father became ill and the family returned for medical treatment in Philadelphia. Violet entered the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts to study under Cecilia Beaux, Joseph de Camp, and Henry Thouron. She would leave to study at Drexel a year later, but in 1913 she returned to PAFA to teach a class in Mural Decoration and was the only other woman besides Cecilia Beaux to teach there until the 1950’s.

After her year at PAFA Violet decided to change focus and left for the Drexel Institute School of Illustration to study under Howard Pyle, the most celebrated illustrator of the late nineteenth century. Pyle was known for his charismatic nature and generosity as an educator and was a significant inspiration to aspiring artists. He played a particularly large role in Violet’s education and was a tremendous inspiration to her. She admired him for his skill and versatile drawing style and throughout her career similarities in their aesthetic became apparent.

Commissioned Work


Between the years 1896 and 1906, under the encouragement of Pyle, word of Violet’s skill began to spread and she undertook numerous commissions. Violet was contracted to illustrate for numerous magazines such as Harper’s, Century Magazine, and Everybody’s Magazine. In 1900 All Angel’s Church in New York City approached Violet to decorate their church. She designed for them five lancet windows, a glass mosaic altarpiece and two large murals for the Apse. These two paintings were the beginning of Violet’s established career as a muralist.

In 1902 Joseph Huston, the architect  of the new Pennsylvania State Capitol building in Harrisburg decided “at least one room should be decorated by a woman” and commissioned Violet to paint 13 murals for the Governor’s Reception Room. This would be the first time in American history that a woman was awarded such a commission in a public space. Violet decided the land of William Penn was a good place to begin her studies. She felt the imagery in the Capitol building should reflect ideals promoted by the founder of Pennsylvania, so Violet and her mother sailed to England and studied the history of the Quakers and of William Penn. Violet’s studies of the Quaker doctrine heavily influenced her personal outlook on life; she stated, “In time I became so impressed by the belief or testimony of the Quakers against carnal warfare that this idea, the victory of law, or truth over force, became the central idea of my life”. Violet would have another opportunity to exercise this new found doctrine. In 1911 Edwin Austin Abbey, the original artist commissioned to decorate the Senate and Supreme Chambers of the Capitol building, passed away before he could begin the work and Violet was approached to fulfill the rest of Abbey’s contract. From 1911 – 1927 she worked tirelessly on both rooms, taking the opportunity to continue to develop ideas found in the Governor’s Reception Room.

Violet Oakley with mural, photograph, undate

Violet Oakley with mural, photograph, undated

Art and Politics


Immediately after the completion of the Supreme Court murals, Violet left for Geneva, Switzerland to document the League of Nations. Oakley interpreted the creation of the League of Nations as an extension of William Penn’s ideals (as well as her own) and found herself a self-appointed ambassador. Violet’s involvement in this political event caused her to see a direct relationship between Geneva and Philadelphia and envision a “great Suspension Bridge connecting Penn’s City of Brotherly Love and the City of Geneva”. During the years 1927 to 1929 Violet created numerous portraits of the League’s member-delegates and other dignitaries for a Philadelphia newspaper, many of which were later turned into widely exhibited portfolios. These portfolios embodied Violet’s hope for a world where all nations could live together in peace. The originals were later presented to the Library of the United Nations in Geneva. After all of her involvement, it caused Violet great dismay when she learned of the United State's refusal to join the League.

Leage of Nations Delegate: page from Violet Oakley's Sketchbook

Violet felt politics was not an inappropriate activity for an artist. She strongly believed that the world’s problems are not to be left solely to politics and economics – that the attempt to create harmony in the world is in itself a work of art in which everyone has a part to play. Violet found a way to communicate this idea in a more accessible manner through two portfolios of color reproductions of all the Harrisburg murals along with a detailed explanation of them in a personally designed hand-lettered text. The Holy Experiment – William Penn’s term for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 1682, depicted the images found in the Governor’s Reception Room and the Senate Chamber. Law Triumphant, the sequel, contained reproductions found in the Supreme Court Room and portraits of delegates who participated in the League of Nations (1933).

Violet Oakley’s collective work represents a lifelong pilgrimage and quest to help establish peace and harmony throughout the world. She embraced this as her “sacred challenge” with passion and dedication until her death at the age of 86, at her home in Philadelphia, 1961.


A Pinch of History: Norfolk Dumplings

Hannah Glasse’s cookbook is the oldest of the four that I chose to focus on, with the exception of Martha Washington’s Booke of Cookery (which holds recipes dating to Elizabethan times). Glasse was English, but her cookbook was widely used on the American continent.

Published in 1755, Glasse's cookbook looks its age. The front cover is completely detached and pages fall out left and right. When researchers hold the book in their hands, tiny pieces of paper sprinke the table below. 

I was terrified of damaging a valuable piece of history. For these reasons, I was more comfortable reading an e-book version on the computer. It was an exact facsimile scanned onto the Internet. The photos are of the original book, which it now safely back in its protective acid-free box. 

As I stated in my second post, Hannah Glasse’s cookbook is a published work created for instructive purposes. It felt less personal than Martha Washington’s or Mary Plumstead’s handwritten books. The book bears a title reflective of its time: The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Easy; Which far exceeds any Thing of the Kind ever yet published. She asserts in the introduction that the purpose of the book is to simplify the art of cooking for the servile classes so that servants may better provide for their masters. To this, I would say that Glasse has succeeded. Her book provided the most instructions on how to choose the best ingredients, the most basic instructions on tasks like roasting or boiling, the most recipes in total, and the most explicit recipes— I was left with little questions on how to execute the recipes because she provided enough steps and insight in the first place. The handwritten books are much vaguer; they were probably thoughts scribbled down in live action in the kitchen. Amelia Simmons’s cookbook is published as well, though much shorter and less in-depth.


The other challenge I encountered with Glasse, aside from the fragile condition of the book, was her use of the formal “S”. I come across these stylized characters in my history classes while exploring primary sources. Eventually you get used to it, but when I first begin I cannot help but read with a slight lisp as the “S” looks like an “F”. 

Compared to others included in Glasse's work, this recipe was extremely simple. I also thought the recipe was adorable, how Glasse added her own opinion at the end even though the book was a more formal work. The original recipe reads:

“To make Norfolk Dumplings, Mix a good thick Batter, as for Pancakes, take Half a Pint of Milk, two Eggs, a little Salt, and make it into a batter with Flour. Have ready a clean Sauce-pan of Water boiling, into which drop this Batter. Be sure the Water boils fast, and two or three Minutes will boil them; then throw them into a Sieve to drain the water away, then turn them into a Dish, and stir a Lump of fresh Butter into them, eat them hot, and they are very good.”

To say the least, this recipe fits in to how many might imagine colonial cooking to be. It was slightly tasteless and bland, according to our modern tastes. The addition of the butter at the end is definitely necessary, and I am not even a huge fan of butter.

I have no measurement of the flour, but you need A LOT to create sticky dough that can hold its own. Cooking often cannot come down to exact measurements. My dumplings looked like shapeless blobs because, rather than roll them into neat little balls, I felt that I should just drop handfuls of dough into the boiling water. I had never prepared a dumpling before, so I had no idea what shape they should be. I am still developing as a cook, and I have much to learn from these 18th-century women.

Hannah Glasse’s Norfolk Dumplings:

1 cup milk (I used 1% reduced fat)
2 eggs
Whole-wheat flour
Sea salt

1. Bring a saucepan of water to a rolling boil
2. Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl
3. Add milk and stir to combine
4. Sprinkle some sea salt in before adding the flour
5. Begin adding flour little by little, stirring between. You want the liquid ingredients and dry ingredients to form a dough (I tried to get it to pizza crust or pie crust consistency)

6. Once the dough is cohesive, drop balls into the boiling water
7. After about 3 minutes, or when the dumplings are solid and cooked, drain them in a strainer

8. Place the dumplings in a bowl and stir a decent glob of butter into them while they are still hot, so that it melts fully—and enjoy!

Perhaps the addition of some honey & cinnamon would help to liven these dumplings up. Or they could simply serve as a dinner roll-type food!

Regardless of how each recipe is turning out, the experience of cooking from a historical cookbook is indescribable. I find myself laughing, grimacing, questioning, and feeling very excited to taste the results. Every recipe is literally an adventure-- who would have thought cooking could be so complicated and intriguing!

Before Stonewall, A Reminder

Before Stonewall, and long before the Christopher Street Pride Parade, there was Annual Reminder Day – a Philadelphia-based demonstration where gay men and lesbians protested for the same civil rights granted to their fellow heterosexuals.

The 50th anniversary of the first Annual Reminder Day, which occurred every July 4 from 1965 to 1969 in front of Independence Hall, inspired “Speaking Out for Equality: The Constitution, Gay Rights, and the Supreme Court,” the new exhibit at the National Constitution Center.

One cannot underestimate the bravery exhibited by the demonstrators at the first Annual Reminder back in 1965. Visibly exposing oneself as a homosexual risked disastrous consequences, both personal and professional. If you weren’t “passing” as an heterosexual American, you were inviting trouble.

And it’s no surprise that in light of how potentially dangerous this visibility could be for the demonstration’s activists, the way in which activists represented themselves during the Reminder picket became extremely important.

Surprising to those familiar with gay pride parades across the country, the Reminder Day picketers were bound to a strict dress code – ties and jackets for men, dresses for women. Organizer Frank Kameny also instructed demonstrators to picket in a single-file line.

“We didn’t want people to gawk at us,” explained Kameny, who aimed to give onlookers the impression that the demonstration’s participants were, in his words, “employable.” “We wanted them to gawk at the message on our signs and in our leaflets,” he continued.

A copy of Frank Kameny’s original dress code, courtesy of Bob Skiva at the John J. Wilcox Jr. Archives

Also important to Kameny was the time and place of the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations. The picketing occurred after the city’s Independence Day parade, right in front of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, places which Kameny knew had an enduring symbolic appeal as emblems of the struggle for freedom.

When the flag-bearing – one of the most salient and sacred portions of the Independence Day parade – occurred during the demonstration, protestors would lower their signs, stand still, and place their right hand over their hearts, all in an attempt to communicate that they, too, were first-class citizens, and not just marginal people.

One could argue that this presentation was effective – the Annual Reminder Day demonstrations carried on in an overall orderly manner for the next three years. Each year, several more LGTBQ citizens would show up, growing from an initial group of about a dozen demonstrators to totals in the range of forty and fifty.

Then, Stonewall happened. Everything changed.

Often cited as the “true” beginning of the gay civil rights movement, the Stonewall riots were a series of aggressive, spontaneous demonstrations against an early morning police raid of the Stonewall Inn in New York City on June 28, 1969. These demonstrations were a sharp contrast to the orderly nature of the Annual Reminder Day; their participants seemed less interested in the idea of equality and more focused on the idea of liberation.

Less than a week later, a group of about forty or so gay men and lesbians from New York City chartered a bus to Philadelphia to participate in that year’s Annual Reminder Day. The changing tides of the gay civil rights movement increased the number of demonstrators at 1969’s Annual Reminder Day to nearly 150 participants, a number dwarfed by today’s standards, but thrilling for veterans of the protests, such as Barbara Gittings.

The precise, orderly nature of the demonstration, however, struck many of these justifiably angry New Yorkers as overly decorous and mild-mannered. Most annoying to them was the still-honored dress code.

A pivotal moment occurred when two women decided to hold hands while demonstrating, breaking the rule of picketing in a single-file fashion. Organizer Frank Kameny demanded that the two women walk separately; his angered reaction was met first with quiet rage, and then with a total disregard for the Annual Reminder Day policies, with many demonstrators holding hands with their same-sex partners while picketing.

Once these rules had been shirked, there was no looking back. The following November, at the East Coast Homophile Organization’s movement, Annual Reminder Day was phased out, and the Christopher Street Pride Parade was born.

The first Christopher Street Pride Parade in New York City in 1970 is now considered legendary, chockfull of confrontational activism, including dances, political meetings, a wild parade, and erotic art shows. Held on June 28, it visibly reflected the liberationist style of protest, with longhaired, shirtless protestors holding signs demanding GAY POWER and engaging in open drug use.

And while the precedent set by the first Christopher Street Pride Parade would go on to define the nature in which Pride functions nationwide were conducted to this day, it is important to remember not only the circumstances under which the first Annual Reminder Day took place, but the bravery it took these original demonstrators to flaunt their visibility as homosexuals.

As LGTBQ activist Barbara Gittings described in the documentary Gay Pioneers, “Coming out in a picket line in 1965 was downright revolutionary for that time. It took gumption, it really took gumption and the conviction that we were right [and] the world was wrong. We were just at the start of cracking that cocoon of invisibility.”


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