The Homegrown Table: American Cookbook Highlights in the Academy Library

By Anne Garner, Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts

Last week I had the pleasure of hosting renowned chef James Kent in the Rare Book Room.  Chef Kent is interested in the history of American cooking, and as I was selecting highlights for his visit, I was reminded–again!—of the depth and variety our American food holdings.  Here are a few of our favorite early American cookbooks from our stacks (a later post will look at late 19th and early 20th-century highlights.)

American Cookery

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Title page of American Cookery by Amelia Simmons.

The Academy library has one of only four copies in the United States of the slim third edition of Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery, long considered the first homegrown American cookbook. The book’s intriguing title page, modified only slightly from the 1796 first edition, credits the book’s authorship to one “Amelia Simmons, an American orphan.”  The author’s nod to her Americanness is one of the earliest to occur in print—and possibly the earliest in culinary sources.

American Cookery likely drew from manuscript cookbooks with recipes known for some time, and now appearing in print. The recipes in these pages were known throughout the colonies and appealed to Americans living both north and south; they made use of thriving American crops, including corn, peas and beans. Recipes for pumpkin pie, American citron, and an adventurous chowder, composed of fried pork, fish and crackers, were recorded here in print for the first time.

 

The Virginia Housewife

Another early and influential American cookbook was authored by Mary Randolph, a Virginia housewife turned entrepreneur whose culinary creations drew generously on local crops. Before the publication of Randolph’s The Virginia Housewife in 1824, many home cooks in Virginia relied on English cookbooks, but found these sources lacking in recipes drawing on local plant sources.  Randolph earned her culinary chops—and her nickname, “the Queen” —while supervising the cooking in the kitchen of her boarding house in Richmond.  When she retired, she collected her recipes and published them. Randolph had a soft spot for bread; recipes for cakes and biscuits occupy a lengthy section of the book, and include instructions for making batter cakes (using hominy and cornmeal), “Apoquiniminc Cakes” (beaten biscuits), and corn bread.  Other favorites include classic southern dishes like sweet potatoes, peach pie, boiled turnip tops, ham, and apple fritters.

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Pages from The Virginia Housewife by Mary Randolph.

Praktisches Kochbuch

A number of cookbooks published during the 19th-century in America targeted immigrant audiences, hoping to minimize their anxiety about maintaining their own food traditions while embracing their new country’s agricultural resources and culinary influences. A favorite of these is Henrietta Davidis’ Praktisches Kochbuch. First published in 1844, Praktisches Kochbuch, or Practical Cookbook, was easily the most popular cookbook of the nineteenth century in Germany.  It was republished in innumerable editions well into the twentieth century, including a number of American editions, which were brought out by a Milwaukee publishing house seeking to tap the large German-American community in Wisconsin. In our 1897 edition, Davidis clarifies her intention to write a cookbook that combines German and American elements in her preface:

Ein deutsches Kochbuch in Amerika soll nicht dutsch oder amerikanisch, sondern deutsch-amerikanisch sein.  [A German cookbook in America should not be German or American, but German-American.]

For easy reading, the introduction and recipes were published in German, with English translations next to the name of the dish. Indexes in both German and English made it easy for new students of English to use the book.

Left, title page of Henrietta Davidis’ Praktisches Kochbuch. Right, Portrait of Henrietta Davidis.

Hoffman Family Cookbook

A number of manuscript cookbooks in our collection add dimension to the many American stories of cooking in the immigrant kitchen. A handwritten collection of recipes kept by the Hoffman family, papermakers by trade who opened their first mill in 1766 in what is now Hoffmanville, Maryland, dates between 1835-1850.

The manuscript contains a fascinating mix of ethnically German recipes, many suggestive of the regional culinary style now called “Pennsylvania Dutch,” and then-standard American recipes, some of which show the writer, apparently a German immigrant, struggling to master an unfamiliar cuisine.  Recipes for “sowar crout” and “soft rivals” (small dumplings) in milk soup suggest that the Hoffman household continued to eat German dishes, while recipes for pound cake, pumpkin pie and ketchup attest to a desire to incorporate the influences of their new country at the table.

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Pumpkin pie recipe from the Hoffman family cookbooks.

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Matt Jozwiak, our indispensable Chef Curator

In 2017, we are working with our volunteer Chef Curator, Matt Jozwiak, on a variety of projects to increase awareness and use of our culinary collections. Matt is exploring historical recipes, helping us develop food-related events, and coordinating outreach to the culinary community to help them access the resources we hold. Two of his adapted recipes featured at the Academy’s 2016 Gala.

Matt also works with the Academy’s food policy group, which focuses on better food procurement for East Harlem community based organizations.  He is also currently developing his own nonprofit, which is focused on the better use of food waste.

We’re looking forward to serving up a number of collaborations with Matt this year, continuing a long tradition of great American food.

Godman’s mammals: An Illustrated Natural History

By Rebecca Pou, Archivist

I have our rare book cataloger, Tatyana Pakhladzhyan, to thank for introducing me to American Natural History, a delightful three-volume set by John D. Godman (1794-1830), a physician, lecturer, and naturalist. She initially came across it in our S.132 section, which comprises books on zoology, natural history, and mineralogy (The Academy library has a unique classification system – watch the blog for an upcoming series on our staffers’ favorite sections.)   After consulting with our curator, the decision was made to move the book into our Americana collection.

Godman, American Natural History, 1826-1828.

Engraved, added title page in Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828.

Though he is best known as a naturalist, Godman first made a name for himself as a medical man. Godman studied at the University of Maryland Medical School, graduating in 1818. He then moved around Pennsylvania and Maryland for a few years and succeeded in Philadelphia as a lecturer. Godman moved to Cincinnati in 1821, where he briefly taught at the Medical College of Ohio.1,2

In 1822, Godman moved back to Philadelphia. The next year he took over leadership of the Philadelphia School of Anatomy.1 Godman had a lifelong interest in nature, but it is in this period that he began to focus on his natural history studies. He became a member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, the Franklin Institute, and American Philosophical Society.2 In 1826, he became the chair of anatomy at the Rutgers Medical College in New York City, but he was ill with tuberculosis and soon resigned. Too sick to lecture, he devoted himself to his literary pursuits and died in 1830. In his later years, he wrote a series of nature essays that were first published in a magazine and then posthumously as a collected work, Rambles of a naturalist.1,2 These essays are considered to be significant yet understudied American nature writings.2

Godman also contributed to medical literature, both as a writer and editor. He published a work on fasciae of the human body, Anatomical Investigations, in 1824. While living in Cincinnati, he edited the short-lived Western Quarterly Report of Medicine, Surgical, and Natural Science, which was the first medical journal published west of the Alleghanies.1,2 He later served on the editorial board of the Philadelphia Journal of the Medical and Physical Sciences, which was renamed the American Journal of Medical Sciences thanks to his efforts.1

American Natural History is Godman’s effort to document and classify North American mammals. The creatures include wolves, bears, seals, cats, weasels, the domestic dog, and the decidedly American bovine, the bison. The descriptions are accompanied by illustrations depicting the animals with remarkably expressive faces.

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Bats from Volume I of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828.

As Godman details in the preface, he started on American Natural History in 1823 and anticipated a speedy year to year and a half of work to publish the first volume. Instead, the first two volumes were published in 1826 and the third followed in 1828. He explains the delay:

“It has been frequently necessary to suspend it for weeks and months, in order to procure certain animals, to observe their habits in captivity, or to make daily visits to the woods and fields for the sake of witnessing their actions in a state of nature. On other occasions we have undertaken considerable journies, in order to ascertain the correctness of statements, or to obtain sight of an individual subject of description.” (pp v-vi).

Godman’s emphasis on observation paid off; his work is noted for its accurate descriptions.2,3

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Title page of Harlan’s Fauna Americana, 1825. Click on enlarge.

Looking further down the same shelf, we found another early American book on mammals, Richard Harlan’s Fauna americana: being a description of the mammiferous animals inhabiting North America. This was published just a year before American Natural History. Harlan’s book was based on A. G. Demarest’s Mammologie (1820). Godman openly criticized Harlan for this reason and maintained the superiority of his work. A rivalry developed between the two, with Godman generally considered the victor.2 Wesley C. Coe corroborates this in his article “A Century of Zoology in America.” He regards Harlan’s text as “a compilation of work from European writers…[that] had little value,” while Godman’s is an “illustrated and creditable work.”4 Nevertheless, Fauna americana will soon join American Natural History on the shelves of our Americana collection.

Please enjoy this selection of illustrations from American Natural History:

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Common wolf and dusky wolf in Volume I of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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Common and hooded seals from Volume I of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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Canada lynx and wild cat in Volume I of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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Harp seal and walrus in Volume I of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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American gerbillus in Volume II of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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Opossums in Volume II of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828.

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Mountain goat and prong-horned antilope in Volume II of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828.

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Bison in Volume III of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

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Dolphin in Volume III of Godman’s American Natural History, 1826-1828. Click to enlarge.

References

  1. “Godman, John Davidson.” In Dictionary of American biography, edited by Allen Johnson. New York : Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1931.
  1. Rosen, Susan A. C. “John D. Godman, MD.” In Early American nature writers: a biographical encyclopedia, edited by Daniel Patterson, Roger Thompson, and J. Scott Bryson. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2008. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.
  1. Faul, Carol. “Godman, John Davidson.” In Biographical Dictionary of American and Canadian Naturalists and Environmentalists, edited by Keir B Sterling. Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press, 1997. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.
  1. Coe, Wesley. “A Century of Zoology in America.” The American Journal of Science series 4, 46 (1918): 355-398. Retrieved from http://books.google.com, July 28, 2016.

 

Dr. David Hosack, Physician to Hamilton and Burr

By Johanna Goldberg, Information Services Librarian

With Hamilton-mania sweeping the nation, we’re not throwing away our shot to discuss the physician present at the infamous 1804 Hamilton-Burr duel, Dr. David Hosack.

Hosack was born in New York City in 1769. Like Alexander Hamilton, he attended Kings College (now Columbia University), then transferred to Princeton. After graduating in 1789, he received his medical education from the University of Pennsylvania.1 He briefly practiced in Alexandria, Virginia and New York, then went to Edinburgh and London to further his medical education. These travels both increased his medical knowledge and nurtured his interest in botany and botanical gardens. In 1801, this life-long interest led to Hosack’s founding of the Elgin Botanical Garden, the first garden of its kind in the United States, located where Rockefeller Center stands today.1,2

By 1794, Hosack had returned to New York City. He formed a medical practice with noted physician Samuel Bard and gained a reputation for the successful treatment of yellow fever.2 As his practice grew, he counted among his patients New York’s elite. Not only did Hosack provide care for Hamilton and his family (including at the deathbeds of both Hamilton and his son, Philip, after their two deadly duels), he also served as physician to Aaron Burr and his daughter and close confidant, Theodosia Burr Alston.3 Our collection includes numerous manuscript materials from Hosack relating to his practice, including copies of a letter to Theodosia and one to her husband, Joseph Alston. These letters give a sense of Hosack’s warmth and dedication to his patients.

Theodosia Burr Alston, 1802. Portrait by John Vanderlyn. Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society.

Theodosia was an educated woman; her father supervised her rigorous studies. In 1801 at age 18, she married Joseph Alston, 22, a member of the South Carolina legislature and a future governor of the state. After the birth of their son Aaron Burr Alston in 1802, Theodosia’s health declined.4

Hosack’s letter to Joseph Alston from June 12, 1808 begins: “Mrs. Alston having been under my care as her physician, you will naturally expect from me some account of her situation.” Theodosia had recently traveled to New York, and text that follows describes the effect of her journey on her health:

When she arrived she was much exhausted by the fatigue of her voyages—added to the diseases under which she labors—but by change of climate I hope she is likely to be benefited—her appetite tho still bad is somewhat improved—the pain on her right side and shoulder still continue troublesome, attended occasionally with violent spasms of the stomach and her other complaints, I mean those of the womb, remain as before—her general appearance is somewhat improved. My attentions hitherto have been directed to the general state of her health, when that is mended she will be enabled to make use of such remedies as are calculated to remove her local diseases—with the views of improving her strength. I have advised her to pass a few weeks at the Ballston Springs—she has already made some use of the waters and finds them to agree with her—but drinking them at the springs will be more serviceable to her—they are especially calculated to improve her appetite and strength, and in some instances have been found beneficial in obstructions both of the liver and womb which are her complaints—yesterday she left New York on her way to the springs—should any thing of importance occur and I receive information of it, you may expect again to her from me.

I am Dear Sir with respect and esteem

Your

David Hosack

Recto and verso of a copy of David Hosack's letter to Joseph Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents 1801-1826.

Recto and verso of a copy of David Hosack’s June 12, 1808 letter to Joseph Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents, 1801-1826. Click to enlarge.

By August 20, Theodosia’s health improved sufficiently that Hosack provided her with one of the remedies mentioned in his letter to her husband two months prior. The copy of the letter to Theodosia (written in a messier hand than the one to her husband) tells her what to eat and avoid while on the medication (“be careful to avoid acids and stimulant foods—lemonade, the acid fruits – spices,” instead eating “soups – milk – eggs – arrowroot – tapioca – rice – puddings etc.”). Hosack also recommended that two to three baths per week would “be useful in lessening your pain at the same time that it will give more effect to the medicine now directed.”

David Hosack’s August 20, 1808 letter to Theodosia Burr Alston. In: D. Hosack. Copies of Letters and Documents, 1801-1826. Click to enlarge.

Theodosia died young, but not due to her lingering post-partum health problems. In January 1813, just seven months after the death of her son, she was aboard the ship Patriot when it disappeared off the coast of Cape Hatteras on its way to New York. While stormy weather most likely caused the ship’s loss, some believed that pirates were to blame.4,5

Portion of page 59 of the January 12, 1913 New York Times. Click to enlarge.

Portion of page 59 of the January 12, 1913 New York Times. Click to enlarge.

David Hosack died of a stroke in 1835.1 His son, pioneering surgeon Alexander Eddy Hosack, took on much of his father’s practice, including the care of Aaron Burr.6,7 Alexander’s New York Times obituary noted:

It is said that on one occasion [Alexander Hosack] asked Mr. Burr if he did not experience contrition at times for having shot Hamilton. Burr, with an expression of stern feeling, replied with emphasis: ‘No, Sir; I could not regret it. Twice he crossed my path. He brought it on himself.’

Aside from his treatment of elite patients like Burr, Alexander Hosack (1805–1871) made a name for himself through his medical endeavors. Like his father, he received his medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, after which he worked as a doctor in Paris for three years. He was the first doctor in New York City to use ether during surgery, and he developed a number of surgical instruments. In addition, he helped establish the Emigrants’ Hospital on Ward’s Island.6

The Hosack name lives on at the Academy. In 1885, the estate of Celine B. Hosack, widow of Alexander, bequeathed $70,000 to the Academy for a new building or an auditorium within that building.8 The original Hosack Hall was on West 43rd Street, in the Academy’s home from 1890 until 1926. When the Academy moved to its current location in 1926, the new auditorium retained a name deeply embedded in American and medical history.

Left: Hosack Hall on West 43rd St. Image in Van Ingen, The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years, 1949. Right: Hosack Hall Today, at 1216 Fifth Avenue.

Left: Hosack Hall on West 43rd Street. Image in Van Ingen, The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years, 1949. Right: Hosack Hall today, at 1216 Fifth Avenue. Click to enlarge.

References

1. Jeffe ER. Hamilton’s physician: David Hosack, Renaissance man of early New York. New-York J Am History. 2004;Spring(3):54–58. Available at: http://www.alexanderhamiltonexhibition.org/about/Jeffe – Hamiltoss Physician.pdf. Accessed January 15, 2016.

2. Hosack AE. A memoir of the late David Hosack. Lindsay & Blakiston; 1861. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=o4A22YJI53YC&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

3. Garrison FH. David Hosack. Bull N Y Acad Med. 1925;1(5):i4–171. Available at: http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=2387360&tool=pmcentrez&rendertype=abstract. Accessed January 15, 2016.

4. James ET. Notable American Women, 1607-1950: A Biographical Dictionary, Volume 1. Cambridge: Harvard University Press; 1971. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=rVLOhGt1BX0C&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

5. Mystery of Aaron Burr’s daughter baffles a century. New York Times. http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1913/01/12/100604845.html?pageNumber=59. Published January 12, 1913. Accessed January 15, 2016.

6. Alexander Eddy Hosack, M.D. New York Times. http://timesmachine.nytimes.com/timesmachine/1871/03/07/78760572.html.  Published March 7, 1871. Accessed January 15, 2016. 

7. Obituaries. Med Surg Report. 1871;24(734):262. Available at: https://books.google.com/books?id=_kKgAAAAMAAJ&pgis=1. Accessed January 19, 2016.

8. Van Ingen P. The New York Academy of Medicine: Its first hundred years. New York: Columbia University Press; 1949.

A Letter from Benjamin Franklin

By Danielle Aloia, Special Projects Librarian and Arlene Shaner, Reference Librarian for Historical Collections

To mark Benjamin Franklin’s 309th birthday on January 17, we thought it appropriate to share some information about the Benjamin Franklin letter in our manuscript collection.

Frontispiece of The Memoirs and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 1818.

Frontispiece of The Memoirs and Writings of Benjamin Franklin, 1818.

When we think of Benjamin Franklin, we usually remember him as a Founding Father, inventor, diplomat, printer, and publisher, but we are less likely to think of him as a medical man. In fact, he had a keen interest in public health and hygiene. He was one of the founders of the Pennsylvania Hospital, wrote a short treatise on inoculation, and even an essay about the health benefits of swimming. He also corresponded with physicians across the globe and with colleagues, family members, and others on medical topics.1

The Academy acquired a Franklin letter, dated December 8, 1752, in 1906, as a gift from Dr. William K. Otis (1860-1906), who inherited it from his father, Dr. Fessenden Nott Otis (1828-1900). Both were Fellows of The New York Academy of Medicine, the father elected in 1861 and the son 30 years later, and both specialized in treating urological disorders. Dr. F.N. Otis was a professor of venereal and genito-urinary diseases at Columbia’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. He modernized the treatment for urethral stricture by inventing both the Otis Urethrometer and the Otis Dilating Urethrotome, so it should not be a surprise that this particular letter by Franklin interested him.2,3 The letter was published in various editions of Franklins works and writings, in The Medical Side of Benjamin Franklin (1911), and as a facsimile in A Letter on Catheters (1934), with commentary by Dr. Edward Loughborough Keyes.

Front and back of Franklin's December 8, 1752 letter to his brother John. Click to enlarge.

Front and back of Franklin’s December 8, 1752 letter to his brother John. Click to enlarge.

In the letter, Franklin encloses a catheter (not in our collection) and describes its fabrication to his brother John, who was suffering from painful bladder or kidney stones: “Reflecting yesterday on your Desire to have a flexible catheter, a Thought struck into my Mind how one might possibly be made…” Worried that he might not be able to adequately convey his idea through description, Franklin goes on to tell his brother, “I went immediately to the Silversmith’s, & gave Directions for making one, (sitting by till it was finished), that it might be ready for this Post.” He then provides very complete instructions for having the size of the device adjusted by a silversmith should the diameter prove too large, and for using it. Though Franklin’s text suggests that he invented the catheter, Keyes, in the commentary published with the facsimile, quotes a letter from F.N. Otis in which Otis notes that he believes the wording in the first sentence of the letter simply demonstrates Franklin’s familiarity with a similar catheter already being used in Europe.

Transcription of Franklin's letter. Click to enlarge.

Transcription of Franklin’s letter. Click to enlarge.

At the end of the letter, Franklin shares his thoughts about Robert Whytt’s “An Essay on the Virtues of Lime-water in the Cure of the Stone” with John. Clearly both of them had read this book in an attempt to find a treatment that would offer John some relief from his ailment. Franklin responds to what seems to be an earlier query from John about the likelihood that Whytt’s method of treatment would help him. “I have read Whytt on Lime Water,” Franklin writes. “You desire my thoughts on what he says. But what can I say? He relates Facts & Experiments; and they must be allow’d good, if not contradicted by other Facts and Experiments. May not one guess by holding Lime Water some time in one’s Mouth whether or not it is likely to injure the Bladder?” As almost any elementary school student today would be able to report, all the basic elements of the scientific method are conveyed in Franklin’s elegant sentences: the question, the hypothesis, the experiments and observations, and the final conclusion.

In addition to the letter on catheters, the Academy library collections contain many published editions of Franklin’s work, along with a number of secondary sources about him. Please contact history@nyam.org or call 212-223-7313 to make an appointment to visit us if you are interested in exploring one of our most famous and engaging man of letters further.

References

1. Pepper W. The Medical Side of Benjamin Franklin. Philadelphia: W. J. Campbell; 1911.

2. Franklin, Benjamin, John Franklin, and Edward L. Keyes. A Letter on Catheters. Fulton, N.Y: Morrill, 1934.

3. Kelly H.A. Dictionary of American Medical Biography. New York: D. Appleton, 1928.