Victorian Advertising Cookbook… “an old-fashioned receipt.”

3 Apr

As I mentioned in a previous post, dad has moved into a retirement home. Mom had passed away 18 months previous and the ‘ol homestead (bought new in 1964) was too big for a single man of 85. Needless to say a four bedroom, two-and-a-half bath colonial with a finished basement, deck, patio and two car garage that contained fifty years accumulated stuff just wouldn’t fit into his new two bedroom apartment at the retirement home.

Dad inventoried the house and sent that inventory on to the three kids. We got to choose what we wanted and he would ship it to us with the help of my brother who is the only one who lives close enough to help with that kind of stuff. My brother told me that they had included a few interesting things that they thought I might like.

The boxes arrived the other day (two of them 8 by 4 by 4 feet and very heavy). The driver and my wife had fun getting them in the garage (Note that most garage doors are not eight feet tall.)

After a weekend spent unpacking and looking through the stuff, I noticed that they had indeed sent some interesting things. Including some artwork I had made in kindergarten that my mother had somehow managed to save lo these past fifty two years. But one thing that did catch my eye was this book, in complete tatters, mixed in with a bunch of cookbooks.

Victorian Cookbook

Yah, it doesn’t look like much. There’s no lettering or identifying marks of any kind on the cover. Nor is there any publisher or copyright information that would help me track down the age and other information as pages I, II, 1 & 2 are missing. All the other pages seem to be there as there are no other gaps in pages.

Pages III and IV are listings of business names and page numbers, Page-3 seems to be the introduction. (click to embiggen…)

The book is presumably called “Home Comfort. An Old Fashioned Receipt.” Receipt being an older form of the word recipe.

On the following page I find this.

Victorian Cook Book, Stowers ad

“Odd that a cookbook would have ads in it…”

I look further into the book and notice that every other page is an ad. The page right after this ad starts a section on Soups.

Victorian Cook Book, Soups recipes

If you clicked on the page to embiggen and read some of the recipes (or receipts if you prefer) they all seem fairly ordinary. Though some of the amounts seem rather vague, “…add this with a little salt and a large piece of butter…” Or the equally odd, “Take a peck of clams…” I had to look that up. It seems that a peck is a quarter of a bushel or about eight quarts (if you prefer 2 gallons).

Intrigued by the recipes and the ads I continue (carefully) leafing through this obviously old book of recipes and advertisements. How old I am not sure yet but I found a couple of ad pages to share.

I like the alliteration in this first one below: “The Lackawanna Laundry ‘DOZ IT'” and the enormous hammer in the illustration for John E. John’s hardware store. I wonder if they really built that giant hammer into the building?

Victorian Cook Book, The Lackawanna Laundry


The illustration in this carpet ad below is priceless. Love the first line too, “There is room… for improvement in any parlor…” The lower ad for a lumber yard has an amusing (if ham-handed effort at attention grabbing) title, “To Make Money.” Well yeah, but they left off a few words at the beginning and end, “For the owner…”  “…buy our lumber!” Hah!

Victorian Cook Book, Carpet ad

A little farther on I ran across an ad for Wm. Blume & Son, “Fine Vehicles of Every Description.”

Victorian Cook Book, Vehicles adWithout a doubt (!?) their finest carriage. Obviously a horse-drawn carriage. So exactly how old was this curious cookbook with ads?

So far my Googling had not turned up any mention of these businesses, but a little further on I ran across a rather plain, text only, ad for Scranton Savings Bank. It listed the owners and employees of the bank along with what services they offered. This time I got got a hit.

It seems that bank went out of business in 1878 so this cookbook is at least (in 2014) 136 years old! Probably at least a few years older.


So how about a few more pages?

The Angels on Horseback in the page below looks good if you like oysters, but maybe we can boil them in something other than lard? The Gulache looks interesting and I think I see a proto-hamburger listed as “Hamburg Steak.”

Victorian Cook Book, meat recipes


Oddly enough I was a big fan of Scrapple growing up. Mom would buy these little grey bricks of a vaguely meat-like substance vacuum packed in plastic that we would fry up for breakfast to go with our eggs. I haven’t had it in years but it seems I’m in luck as I just found a recipe in the page below. Also that beef heart recipe that calls for boiling “a fat beef heart,” stuffing it with veggies and then baking it sounds simply divine. Perhaps we should invite President Grant over the next time we make this?

Victorian Cook Book, Scrapple recipe


After a little bit more research I found that these Advertising Cookbooks were fairly common around the turn of the last century. Providing a ready audience of (in this case) Scranton women as a target audience. I see nowhere on the book a title or even a price, though a couple of pages are missing. But it seems that some of these were sold and some given away by the advertisers for promotional purposes.

All of the ads were specific to Scranton, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania. A few of them were for companies in Philadelphia and New York City indicating that if a local store did not carry their product you should write to them. Presumably so they could either sell to you direct or to get the name of a local retailer that could carry their product.

In all, this book contains some 115 pages of recipes and advertisements for businesses local to Scranton, PA. How it ended up in the hands of my family is unknown, but I am glad it did.


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