Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Mary J. Lincoln

I took a slight detour on route to this post in celebration of the birth anniversary of Mary J. Lincoln. I stopped off at eBay. I haven't been over to eBay in ages. Let me tell you how I wound up there. Well, you see, as I already mentioned, July 8 is the birth anniversary of one of the most influential nineteenth century teaches and cookbook authors; Mrs. David A. Lincoln (D. A.) Mary Johnson Bailey Lincoln was born on July 8, 1844 in South Attleboro, Massachusetts. You may be more familiar with her as the cited first principal of the Boston Cooking School and the author of Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What To Do and What Not To Do in Cooking published in 1883. Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book is said to have "revolutionized cooking in the 19th century." I am the very proud owner of Mrs. Lincoln's Cook Book so, I wasn't dropping by the auction site for that reason. No, I went there in search of another publication edited by Mary J. Lincoln. It's called, American Kitchen Magazine. You see what happened was, as soon as it sunk into this sometimes feeble mind of mine that today was Mrs. Lincoln's birth date, I immediately remembered that I wanted to find an issue of that magazine. As most of my regular visitors know, I am a HUGE fan of American Cookery Magazine, which was previously published as The Boston Cooking School Magazine and I thought it would be interesting to have at least one issue of American Kitchen Magazine. (which was also published as the New England Kitchen Magazine and various other names I think; possibly Home Science Magazine) As one of the true pioneers of household economics there is a wealth of information about her and her infamous cookbook at the Feeding America website which I have included in resources below. Below is a teeny taste:

Mary Lincoln was born in South Attleboro, Massachusetts, the second daughter and one of three children of Sarah Morgan (Johnson) Bailey and the Reverend John Milton Burnham Bailey, who died when Lincoln was seven. She contributed to the family income from an early age, sewing hooks and eyes on cards, setting stones, and helping with the household work. "Although it was often hard to 'help mother' when other children were at play," Lincoln recalled in her Boston Cook Book, she prized the early training which served her so well her whole life.

As luck would have it, there was one issue of American Kitchen Magazine offered at the auction site and I'm happy to report, I WON it!.  Why the sudden interest in this particular magazine? Actually, it isn't sudden at all. In an issue of The Boston Cooking School Magazine published in March of 1903, there is a review about another book authored by Mary J. Lincoln and Anna Barrows titled The Home Science Cook Book. Hmmm...In the review, which you can see pictured if you click, there is a statement that got me to thinking the very first time I ever read it. (which was many years ago) I had made a note to myself to find an issue and I suppose, today is as good day as any! I know I won't be able to share it today but at least I will have it for next time. This is part of what the review had to say: (you can also click it:)

...The book on a whole may be considered to be a "condensation of the many recipes and suggestions which have appeared in the "American Kitchen Magazine since it was started in 1894...Reliable in authority, excellent in contents, attractive in arrangement and style, this handbook of how to prepare and cook dishes will be acceptable to many a household.

Published by the Home Science Publishing Corporation, American Kitchen Magazine was a domestic science magazine published monthly. There is a little confusion about the title of the magazine because before it remained titled American Kitchen Magazine the first five issues may have had the title "The New England Kitchen Magazine," and were possibly published by the New England Kitchen Publication Company. To add to the confusion, the word magazine may have been totally omitted from the first two issues. Mrs. Lincoln offers the following piece of advice from Confucius in the Preface to her Boston Cooking School Cook Book which added to the urgency to heed the advice and get that magazine!

"To know what you do know, and not to know what you do not know, is true knowledge."

Much like Fannie Farmer, Mrs. D. A. Lincoln was devoted to bringing a curriculum for ladies from the cooking school into the home. She may have indeed been the first to use an element of scientific method in home cooking, although, Fannie Farmer is more associated with science in home economics then she was. In fact, she was so dedicated to the culinary education of American women and the culinary movement as a whole, she is often cited as "one of the most influential leaders of the Home Economics movement." Many of her textbooks, especially The Boston Cooking School Cook Book, were used in cooking schools and referred to by women who wanted to bring professional cooking into the home and treat it as a serious, scientific, domestic profession. As you may have discovered at Feeding America, in 1946, the Grolier Club held an exhibition of the One Hundred Influential American Books Printed Before 1900 which included only one cookbook. Which do you suppose that was?

Here was a women who took her beliefs, talents, and curious nature which were the foundations of her writings and lectures and created a true American Feast. It is difficult to find any other cookbook of the time that went into as much detail as Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book. When digested, one has to reflect upon the culinary history and American history composed within it's pages. In the words of the late James Beard,

"The written record of our cuisine is in many ways more complete than that of any other country. Beginning with Amelia Simmons we have the wisdom of such notables as Eliza Leslie, Catherine Beecher, Mrs. T. J. Crowen, Marion Harland {Mary Virginia (Hawes) Terhune}, Maria Parloa, Mrs. Sarah Tyson Rorer, Mrs. Mary Lincoln, and Fannie Merritt Farmer."

Many women who graduated from Mrs. Lincoln's School went on to spread her teachings in various ways. Most are familiar with Fannie Farmer's contributions after her graduation in 1889. I often write about reference books that I have as part of my collection. If you have a hankering to really dig deep into the "delectable past," I strongly suggest you take a look at the post I did on The Delectable Past (The Joys of the Table from Rome to the Renaissance, From Queen Elizabeth I to Mrs. Beeton. The Menus, The manners, and Most Delectable Recipes of the Past, Masterfully re-Created For Cooking and Enjoying Today) by Esther B. Aresty. It's easy reading with pages of information and recipes which Mrs. Aresty has carefully chosen. I would also suggest you visit the online Exhibition from the Esther B. Aresty Collection at the University of Pennsylvania. I have provided the link below. Plan on spending some time...Below is just a fragment of what Mrs. Aresty writes about Mrs. Lincoln.

By 1887 Mrs. Lincoln's influence had extended into the Boston public schools where students followed a text book prepared by her. In it, she lectured. "it is as really a part of education to be able to blacken a stove, to scour a tin, or to prepare a tempting meal of wholesome food, as it is to be able to solve a problem of geometry." At least she approved of geometry, which is more than can be said for the foremost champion of cooking education, Catherine Beecher...One of Mrs. Lincoln's recipes for school girls was a Cracker Brewis, almost identical with the medieval bread and milk gruel called by the same name in ancient English Forme of Cury described in Chapter 1 of this book. Mrs. Lincoln's Cracker Brewis, along with Miss Parloa's Darioles-Richmond Maids of Honor-had been traveling through cookbooks for more than five hundred years...some of Mrs. Lincoln's recipes did not fare well as the ancient Brewis and were fated for quick oblivion, though her Boston Cook Book continued to be reissued. (In 1896 it was taken over by Fannie Farmer, whose name is now the only one associated with it.) Orange Cake and Gateau a la Princess Louise vanished from the later editions, but I've resurrected them for the kitchen. You may wish to do the same.

Unfortunately, my copy of Mrs. Lincoln's Cook Book is in PA. Thankfully, I do have a few scans on my Mac. The picture of Mrs. Lincoln I believe is from that book. There are numerous books attributed to Mary J. Lincoln. I do happen to have a copy of Home Helps: A Pure Food Cook Book (1907) here with me in New York but, at this moment, I've decided to scan the recipe for Orange Cake and Gateau a la Princess Louise in Mrs. Aresty's book. As such a notable lecturer and author of the 19th century, an endorsement for a product by Mrs. Lincoln was much like a like the celebrity endorsements we are inundated with today. She offered her expertise in a variety of advertising recipe booklets such as Cottolene, Jell-O (1912), and the White Mountain Freezer Company to name a few. Other titles attributed to Mrs. D. A. Lincoln include:

  • Boston School Kitchen Text Book
  • The Peerless Cook Book (1886)
  • New England Cook Book (1894 w/ Maria Parloa)
  • Carving and Serving (1886)
  • What To Have for Luncheon (1904)
  • Diet For Infants and Young Children

  • 1. Mary J. Lincoln @ Feeding America
  • 2. Mrs. Lincoln's Boston Cook Book: What To Do and What Not To Do in Cooking (online 1883 ed. @ google books)
  • 3. A Curriculum for Ladies
  • 4. Exhibition from the Esther B. Aresty Collection
  • 5. White Women's Rights: The Racial Origins of Feminism in the United States By Louise Michele Newman P.72
  • 6. Fannie Farmer Tales
  • 7. The Delectable Past (Previous Post)


  1. EbAY is a great resource. Having gone to a private school where it wasnt available, I always wished for an home economics course(even then it was dying away). Seems its not as available now. But those courses are a valuable tool for any young man or woman today.

  2. Hi Courtney,
    Thanks so much for visiting. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful Home Ec. teacher. The little sewing I'm able to manage to this day I must attribute to her patience. Personally, I think they should bring it back to the classroom a bit more modernized. One can only hope I suppose:)

  3. I have a hunch that Mary J Lincoln's influence may have crossed the Atlantic. I'll have to do a little more research but I *think* her work may have inspired the creation of the large Home Economics institutes in Edinburgh and London. Particularly the work of Florence B Jack and the British Good Housekeeping Institute. Before these institutes housekeeping was seen to be the domain of servants, who went through in house training. There was a gradual shift in the early twentieth century to running a home on more egalitarian American lines and this is where the Home Ec. institutes came into their own. Mary J Lincoln's books were published in the UK too, and you can still find them quite easily today, as I say I *think* her work was useful over here too.

  4. Hi Dulce,
    I seem to remember coming across a few sites that mentioned her work abroad. I too will have to check my notes and resources. She was quite an amazing woman.

    Thank you so much for the additional information. Now, you got me to thinking; again...

  5. Very descriptive blog, I loved that a lot. Will there be a part 2?


Through this wide opened gate,
none came too early,
none returned too late.

Thanks for dropping in...Louise