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The General Collections



Starting Places
Biographical Sources
Women's Writings
Other Sources
Etiquette Books
Sex Manuals
Gift Books and Annuals
arrow graphicCookbooks and Domestic Journals
Game and Hobby Books
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Cookbooks and Domestic Journals
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“Daily Bills of Fare for One Week.” From Juliet Corson, Fifteen Cent Dinners. 1877. (TX715.C835), p. vii. General Collections.

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The subject heading “Cookery, American” produces more than five thousand entries in the Library's online catalog, and many other related works can be found under terms such as:

  • Home economics; Domestic economy
  • Home; Housewives
  • Entertaining
  • Kitchens
  • Desserts
  • individual kinds of food
Cookbooks have always contained more than recipes, and many volumes, especially from the nineteenth century, supply advice on topics such as medicines and nursing, laundry methods, house maintenance, and etiquette.

The vast majority of such works were meant to inform women, and until the 1960s most cookbooks were written by women. Like travel accounts and literature, the volumes served as another public forum for women's words and thoughts. The popular and prolific author Catharine Beecher in her Treatise on Domestic Economy, for example, argued for women's superiority to men in all questions relating to morals or manners [catalog record].35

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“Menus for the Week.” From The Cook, July 20, 1885, p. 3 (TX1.C75). General Collections.

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The illustrations, descriptions of home decorations, and types of recipes seem to reflect the world of Anglo, white, middle-class housewives. These women may have been the intended audience, or perhaps the authors and publishers were trying to teach other groups to emulate this style of living and ideals. Occasional titles, such as La Cuisine Creole, by Lafcadio Hearn (1885 edition, RBSC; reprint, Gretna, La.: Pelican Pub., 1990; TX715.H397 1990) [catalog record], or Juliet Corson's Fifteen Cent Dinners for Workingmen's Families (its second title page reads, “Fifteen Cent Dinners for Families of Six”) (New York: The Author, 1877; TX715.C835) [catalog record], recognize the existence of other types of households.

A subject search for "Cookery" in The Nineteenth Century in Print-Books leads you to the full text of four cookbooks. To read advertising cookbooks from a collection at Duke University, see Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920 - Advertising Cookbooks (see General Collections External Sites).

By the twentieth century, cookbooks increasingly reflect the growing diversity and cosmopolitan tastes of the American book-buying public. The Historical Cookbook of the American Negro, issued by the National Council of Negro Women, mingles recipes of Harriet Tubman's favorite cornbread with notes on African American organizations and history (Washington: Corporate Press, 1958; TX715.N326) [catalog record]. Nilda Luz Rexach's bilingual The Hispanic-American Cookbook (Secaucus, N.J.: L. Stuart, 1985; TX716.A1 R49 1985) [catalog record] teaches Latinas and Anglos to make ripe plantain pie, and Cookin' with Honey: What Literary Lesbians Eat, edited by Amy Scholder (Ithaca, N.Y.: Firebrand Books, 1996; TX714.C6543 1996) [catalog record], focuses on another group of women.

Domestic Journals

Recipes and domestic advice appear regularly in magazines. The Library holds complete runs of many women's journals focused on the kitchen and home, such as Household: Monthly Journal Devoted to the Interests of the American Housewife, published in Brattleboro, Vermont (1869-1900; TX1.H76), and Household Magazine, originating in Topeka, Kansas (1900-1958; TX1.H78). Scanning such magazines presents a panorama of issues that interested small-town and rural women for more than ninety years.

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Les stockyards—
Preparation de la chair à saucisse.
Jules Huret. 1911. LC-DIG-ppmsca-02920 DLC (scan from b&w copy photo in Publishing Office)

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These and other “domestic” journals supply information on almost any topic imaginable—prices, nutrition, health concerns, technological advances, women and work, women and war, women's place, male-female relationships, children, in-laws, modesty, cleanliness, religion, sports and recreation, sex, cosmetics, and fashion. “Food and Morals,” “The Effort to Obtain Pure Water,” “Wartime Kitchen Gadgets,” articles on suffrage, and women's rights appear between recipes and fashion stories. Certain issues such as weight, body shape, and “how to please your man” recur again and again over the years. Historians in many fields will find gold in these rich and varied collections.

Searches for "Cookery," "Cook-books," "Food," and other similar terms in The Nineteenth Century in Print-Periodicals yield many complete articles. The periodicals indexed are not "domestic journals," showing that information on women's home lives can be found in general-audience magazines as well.


Axford, Lavonne B., comp. English Language Cookbooks, 1600-1973. Detroit: Gale Research, 1976. Z5776.G2 A9 MRR Alc [catalog record]. Provides a useful chronological index.

Dyer, Annie Isabel. Guide to Literature of Home and Family Life: A Classified Bibliography for Home Economics. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1924. Z5775.D98 MRR Alc [catalog record]. List of magazines and trade journals, 218-31.

Lowenstein, Eleanor. Bibliography of American Cookery Books, 1742-1860. Worcester, Mass.: American Antiquarian Society, 1972. Z5776.G2 L68 1972 MRR Alc [catalog record].

Newman, Jacqueline M. Melting Pot: An Annotated Bibliography and Guide to Food and Nutrition Information for Ethnic Groups in America. 2nd ed. New York: Garland, 1993. Z7914.F63 N48 1993 [catalog record].


Cookery, American
Domestic economy
Home economics

LC CALL NUMBERS: TX1 (cookery and housekeeping periodicals).

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