Recipes Of The Past
I must have been hungry while I was looking for an item to include in this column because I was drawn to a local cookbook that the Fenton History Center recently received. The cookbook, “Mother’s Favorite Cook Book,” was from the Ladies Aid Society of the First Lutheran Church in Jamestown, New York. Beneath the elegant, gold-lettered cover, it contains a directory of members, many local advertisements, and, of course, recipes.
As with many printed items, a date was not included. With a little bit of research, however, the Fenton staff can usually estimate at least the decade in which an item was produced. In the case of this local cookbook and other similar items, the advertisements often help to solve the problem. This cookbook had many of the well-known businesses in town included, such as Blackstone, Jamestown Lounge, and Jamestown Worsted Mills. These are not very helpful clues, because they were around for many years, so they do not help narrow the possible years or even the decade. A better lead is to look for a business that we are not familiar with and start looking in the city directories for that local business. Seeing that there were three and four digit telephone numbers in this cookbook, we realized we could narrow our timeframe to around the 1920s.
With that information in hand, the next business I chose to track down was the Lake City Ice Cream Company. This company first appears in the 1922 city directory and the last entry is in 1926. Elmer F. Peterson was the President, with Clifford W. Tibbetts as the Vice President and Fred Bufton as the Secretary-Treasurer. The company was located at 25 Richmond Place. In the 1928 directory, Elmer Peterson was an ice cream maker at the Jamestown Ice Cream Company and the Lake City Ice Cream Company was not listed. Tibbetts was the manager of the BiState Ice Cream Company and Bufton was not listed. In 1930, the General Ice Cream Company was located at the same address as Jamestown Ice Cream Company had been. M. T. Davison, President of the Jamestown Ice Cream Company continued as the President of the General Ice Cream Company. Elmer F. Peterson was making ice cream for the General Ice Cream Company and Clifford Tibbetts was a salesman for the same company.
Elmer F. Peterson died at the age of 45 in 1934 and according to his obituary, he had also made ice cream for the Harris Bros. Bakery on Pine Street. This was before he started the Lake City Ice Cream Company. Tibbetts had been a salesman for Tinkham Bros. and Bufton was the bookkeeper for Harris Bros. before they were involved with Lake City.
Having this contextual information about the local ice cream companies allowed me to assign a pretty narrow window to the publishing date for the cookbook. Given that it advertised specifically for the Lake City Ice Cream Company, we know that it could not be earlier than 1922 or later than 1926. All of the recipes, cultural tidbits, and information would have been relevant to a person living in Jamestown in the mid-1920s. The text of the preface gives us a clue about what would be important for a housewife at the time. It states that “Mother’s Favorites has been prepared to meet the large and ever-increasing demand for a guide to wholesome and palatable home cooking. The housewives will find here complete, simple directions for making not only delicious cakes, pies and all kinds of baked foods, but tried recipes covering the whole field of cooking.” Despite its claim to cover all of cooking, however, there were as many pages of recipes for breads and sweets as there were for all other recipes — perhaps palettes have not changed very much in the last 90 years.