Cooking With Ida–Cake Baking

Hello, again History Lovers,

A post from two weeks ago featured the cottage industry of Mrs. Alta Dunn, Cooking For Cash. Mrs. Dunn’s catering business supplied a friend and businesswoman with a weekly order of home-baked bread, desserts, one-dish meals, and dressed meats. She also filled orders from other folks from time to time. The article spoke quite a bit about her baking and even included one of her cake recipes. Curious about how Mrs. Dunn’s recipe compared to other recipes of that time, I did some research in Ida Bailey Allen’s Cooking Menus Service cookbook of 1924. Below I have posted Ms. Allen’s technical advice for cake baking. The ingredients are not so different from today’s however all the mixing and whipping would have been done by hand. Mrs. Dunn was from a rural area in the west and she likely did her baking in a wood and/or coal oven.

Enjoy!

COOKING MENUS SERVICE–Cakes by Ida Bailey Allen

Cooking Menus Service 1924 by Ida Bailey Allen

“It is not the materials alone, nor is it the manipulation alone which makes good cake, but a careful combination of the two. Every cookbook gives many cake recipes, but if these are analyzed it will be seen that the cakes themselves are closely related and belong to one of two families—(a) the sponge-cake family, (b) the butter-cake family. If one can make a good sponge cake and a good butter cake the entire field of cake making lies ahead, for the difference between one cake and another is more that of a slight change in consistency, flavoring, or filling and frosting than any basic variation in the actual cake batter itself.”

Making a Cake

“The proper order of procedure in making any cake is as follows:

  1. Read the recipe carefully.
  2. Prepare the pans.
  3. Assemble the ingredients.
  4. Assemble the utensils.
  5. Prepare the oven.
  6. Measure the ingredients and make the cake.

It is quite essential that these steps be followed in the order given, each being relatively important to the next. Reading the recipe gives the worker an intelligent grasp of what is to be done and how, and as some cakes might be spoiled if kept waiting before baking, it is obvious that the next point in order is the preparation of the cake pan: the reasons for the remaining steps are self-explanatory.”

Mixing a Butter-Cake Batter

“The mixing should be done sitting down. Measure the shortening; if it is very hard, the mixing bowl should first have been warmed with hot water, but the fat itself should not be melted. The shortening should then be creamed or beaten until soft, preferably with a flat wooden spoon; the sugar is then worked into it, flavoring added, and then the egg yolks or the whole egg, well beaten, according to the recipe.

Sift the flour, measure, and put back in the sifter with the salt and baking powder. Measure the liquid in the cup used for the fat. Put a little of the flour into the cake mixture, stir in some of the liquid, and proceed in this way until all are in. The direction in which you stir makes no difference. Then fold in the egg whites, whipped until stiff, with an over-and-over motion, if they are to be added last. They should be beaten until the mixture will remain in the bowl inverted.

The cake should then be put in the pan, the mixture being made higher at the edges and corners to ensure even rising. It is then ready to be baked.”

Mixing a Sponge-Cake Batter

“In sponge cakes in which no shortening is employed an entirely different method of manipulation is required. For some sponge cakes the egg yolks and sugar are beaten together until light, the flavoring added, the flour and salt well sifted, gently folded in and the whites of the eggs, which have been beaten until stiff and dry, folded carefully into the cake batter last of all. Or in some instances, the whole eggs, yolk and whites together, are beaten with the sugar. The first method gives a cake that is lighter than that made by the second but the cake will dry out more quickly.

An egg-beater of the whisk type is preferable to one of rotary or Dover style due to the fact that with the whisk more air is incorporated into the mixture, making it lighter and fluffier in texture. A large bowl should be used in the making of the sponge cake to allow plenty of room for long sweeping strokes of the beater. A very delicious and firm smooth sponge cake is sometimes made by cooking the sugar with a little water until it threads—230 degrees F.—then pouring this over the thoroughly beaten yolks and eggs, adding the flour and the whites of eggs beaten until stiff.”

Preparing the Cake Pans

“Ordinary layer-cake pans should be oiled, a brush being used for this purpose, every crevice and corner receiving its share of the oil. If this is thoroughly done there should be no difficulty in removing the cake after baking. A smooth surface texture is secured by dusting the pan thickly with flour after oiling, then tapping it sharply on the table to remove any loose particles of flour, or fine granulated sugar may be used instead of the flour, the loose particles being removed in the same manner.

Cakes containing a large amount of sugar or molasses will burn more readily than the less sweet varieties. To avoid this, line the pan with waxed or oiled paper.”

Filling the Pans

“Have the cake pans less than two-thirds filled with batter. For layer and loaf cakes spread evenly over the surface of the pan, pressing it well into the corners, and have the batter a little thicker around the sides of the pan than in the center. As the tendency of cake batter is to rise more in the center than at the sides this procedure will ensure a smooth, even surface after baking.”

Baking a Cake

“The first rule to be remembered in cake baking, as indeed in all other baking, is that infinitely more food is spoiled by the use of too much heat than by too little. Large cakes require a slower oven than small ones. Gentle slow baking results in lighter cake, a delicately browned surface, and smooth fine grain. Always place cakes in the lower part of the oven at first so that the under-heat may help them to rise to their fullest height before browning. If put on the upper shelf the heat thrown down forms a crust that prevents proper rising.

The time of baking may be divided into three periods of equal length. During the first the oven should be only moderately hot to allow the cake to rise, during the second the heat may be increased to form a crust and brown the surface and during the third and last it should again be reduced to thoroughly cook the cake to the center.

To find out whether a cake is done, insert a metal or straw tester gently in the center of the cake, leave it a second, then withdraw. If it comes away perfectly clean the cake is sufficiently baked, but if it is at all sticky continue the baking for a few minutes longer.

When done, the cake shrinks from the sides of the pan and springs back if lightly touched. It gives forth no steaming or crackling sound.”

Cake Baking Hints

  1. “Cake should never be moved in the oven until it has reached its fullest height.
  2. If cake appears to be browning too rapidly reduce the heat and cover the cake with a sheet of paper.
  3. If cake habitually bakes too quickly on the bottom, set the pan containing it in another pan, which may, if desired, be partly filled with sand, the being a non-conductor of heat.
  4. The oven may be cooled quickly, if necessary, by putting a pan of cold water into it.
  5. The cake which cracks open during the baking indicates either that too much flour has been used in it or that it has been baked in too quick an oven and is therefore browned before it rises to its fullest height.
  6. A coarse-textured cake denotes the use of too much baking powder or of insufficient beating.
  7. A cake which falls after baking indicates too little flour, too much shortening, or that it was removed from the oven before being thoroughly cooked.
  8. A wire cooling rack or tray will be found very useful for cooling cakes, cookies, and biscuits, and indeed all baked products. Being slightly raised on wire feet it allows a current of air to pass all around whatever is placed on it, so that there is no soggy under-surface caused by collected moisture. A very good substitute is a wire oven shelf rested on four cups or muffin pans.”

Cake Frosting

“The terms “icing” and “frosting” are practically synonymous and may be used interchangeably. Frostings or icings may be either cooked or uncooked, made with water, milk, or fruit juice as the liquid, but always have either sugar, syrup, or honey as the main sweet ingredient.”

~FWM

The above article was originally published in Cooking Menus Service 1924 by Ida Bailey Allen, Doubleday, Duran & Company, Inc., Garden City, N.Y. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

The Two Pictures I Would Like Best To Own Series–Part 5

Hello, again History Lovers,

Today a farmwife from Kansas shares her two “best-loved” paintings. While in high school, she spotted the first painting through the window of a furniture store on her way to school. Thirty years later she finally acquired a print and is preparing to have it framed to hang in her home. Her second choice is as humble and as lovely.

Enjoy!

Our Best Loves

The Angelus 1857 by French Painter, Jean-Francois Millet

Well do I remember my childhood days and perhaps that is why I hunger for some of the best things in life and appreciate them more. We were poor and had plenty of privations and real art was not thought of so there were no pictures in our home. How well I remember one winter morning on my way to high school, passing a large furniture store in Kansas City and seeing a copy of The Angelus by Millet in the window. Instantly I fell in love with that picture and it fascinates me as much now as it did thirty years ago. As I gazed upon it, I could almost hear the bells ring. I could not analyze the picture then but now I know that the artist knew and loved the peasants he portrayed and admired their spirit of reverence and thanksgiving, their patient performance of wearisome labor, the beauty of character in people of lowly station, and the power and influence of custom and high ideals. I have The Gleaners by the same artist but I was not satisfied until I owned a copy of The Angelus which is waiting to be framed.

Song of the Lark 1884 by French Painter, Jules Breton

Another picture that gives me a thrill of delight is Song of the Lark by Breton. It makes prominent the simple beauty of youth and health, and labor dignified by the ennobling qualities of character and that there is something beautiful to be found wherever we are if we can only see or hear it and that ability, like happiness, comes from within us.

What great satisfaction and ennobling power in our lives are our “best loves” whether they be for pictures, song, instrumental music, poem, or prose. –Mrs. J. F. M., Kan.

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 359; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

How I Teach My Children To Enjoy Work

Hello, again History Lovers,

In March of 1923, The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women published a letter from Mrs. Haring who enthusiastically shares her tips on how to teach children to work and to enjoy doing it. She starts when the children are young and always adds an “element of fun” to the tasks assigned. Her home sounds like a happy one in contrast with the home of her friend.

Enjoy!

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Combining Work With Play

“Dishwashing is usually one of the first tasks delegated to the young daughter of the family and this common duty often is done by her with reluctance and under protest. In our family we have helped to solve this difficulty, however, for Jane, my little eight-year-old daughter and I, combine our work with play.

Eleanor Smith’s Music Primer furnishes us with a variety of simple childlike songs. We select songs that Jane will probably sing at school and then proceed to learn them together. With the book propped up on a shelf over the kitchen sink, Jane and I can easily refer to it while the silver is finding its way into the rinsing pan or while the glassware is being polished. The rhythm of the music unconsciously produces an activity that Jane enjoys as well as I and which helps to convert an otherwise tedious task into a joyful half hour.

When we have memorized the words and music, we have a game. Jane and I are both to sing the song. If one of us makes a mistake, a forfeit must be paid to the other. What joy Jane experiences when Mother fails to strike the right note or forgets a word and has to pay her a penny.

Bed making, too, has its charms. Sometimes we imagine the coverings to be Indian blankets of wonderous colorings; at other times we are building a nest for a tree swallow and lining his home of grass with downy feathers. This performance leads to all sorts of questions and enables me to arouse Jane’s interest in the work which she will have at school at the same time as we are accomplishing a necessary task.

Jane has had her own room for over a year. The whole responsibility of the care of it is left to her and each morning finds her conscientiously putting it in order before she leaves for school. We worked out together the furnishings for her room and their arrangement. Her interest is kept keen in it by the constant addition of new and simple things and her ideas are always respected in regard to any changes which she may wish to make. She is unconsciously learning color schemes and household arrangements at this early age and her sense of responsibility, order, and neatness is being cultivated through her sense of ownership.

Dusting was an arduous task and many times had to be done over because Jane so disliked doing it. Choice victrola records are now being kept for this particular piece of work and are played at no other time. Since they are ones which Jane loves, she forgets the fact that she is having to work and hums the tune to the music of the record, while the dust disappears from tables, chair rounds, and window ledges.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

Cake making, table setting, and the preparation of meals have been accomplished by her through the thought of pride in doing work that “grownups” can do.

My little son, an active youngster of five, is also learning how to work joyously. When Mother needs wood, she calls on the wood fairy who alone knows the secret places in the woodshed where the best pieces are kept. He has already learned the names of the trees from which the wood comes and knows that the kinds which will make the hottest fires will furnish heat to bake a tiny pie, animal cookies, or a gingerbread man. These may be made with little trouble when larger pies, cakes, and cookies are being baked and reward the fairy in a way that interests him to bring more wood.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

He brings vegetables and fruits from the cellar and garden with an interest and enthusiasm that indicated to me that he is already realizing his responsibility in the development of our family life.

Jessie Willcox Smith, American Illustrator, 1863–1935

A playroom equipped with a table, cupboard, blackboard, desk, and small chairs always suggests work. Through this channel is an opportunity for teaching many lessons in arrangement and order and also in providing entertainment for them for an hour or so at a time. The finding of some old toy gives a new interest bringing with it happiness which seems only to come through activity.

The country store is but a few rods from our house and occasionally there is a need for some article to be procured quickly. The children are, of course, the natural ones to do the errand. As with all children a fat ice cream cone, a lollipop or a stick of gum is their first thought and a request is made to use some of their money for the purchase of one of these articles. Of course, they may if they like but they must consider that once in a while we have a shopping trip or go to see some interesting moving picture and if no money is saved, these wonderful trips cannot be. They finally decide to spend one penny each and as they have been taught not to linger along the way and to bring their purchases home to enjoy them, the errand is soon joyfully finished.

My children are enthusiastic egg hunters. Not many are missed because one egg from each dozen belongs to them—not one-twelfth of the egg income—oh no! Those particular eggs are put in a separate basket and counted about six times each night. Jane puts her fourth-grade arithmetic into practice and knows the exact amount of egg money coming to them each week.

A few days ago, a friend remarked at the happy way in which the children were doing a piece of work. She said, “I don’t see how you do it! I can’t get Martha to do a single thing without grumbling. She is actually lazy.”

Well, if I thought my children were lazy, I should not admit it. I should simply get to work to correct the fault and be sure it was my fault too. I do not believe that a happy, normal child is ever lazy. Perhaps the work has been made so unattractive, that interest has been lost. Anyway, I am sure that loving tact and a sympathetic understanding of the child is sufficient to win out, whatever the problem along this line may be.

Sometimes when there is a murmur over a task which they are asked to do, I simply look at them in wonder and they shamefacedly go quickly about it. Sometimes Son asks, “Mother, are you mad to me?” and I say, “No, Son, I am only surprised.” I am not a superior elder with a threatening attitude but a pal who is ever interested in their work and their play.

Each child has his daily work to do and enjoys it as a privilege because there is always something of interest connected with it. There are many ways of solving this problem; I have outlined the way that has seemed best in my experience. Perhaps because children are naturally observing, the best example we can set them is through our own right living. If we complain over difficult pieces of work, we must expect the same expression from our children over the things which seem difficult to them. It might, then, be the reasonable thing for us to learn to enjoy all sorts of work which we need to do before we can intelligently teach the same to our children.

Through the realization of what service is, these little folks are learning to combine their work with play and are happy while they are learning lessons which are fundamental principles on which the larger lessons of life are built.

I realize, too that I am doing more for my children than it appears when I instill the principle of enjoyment in work. All success in life depends upon whether the light of joy—zest—enthusiasm—permeates the mind of the worker. The old saying about “all work and no play” covers a deep truth. The more one’s work is play, the happier one will be.”–Laura T. Haring

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 379′; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Clubs and Organizations–Dog Tax Supports Libraries

Hello, again History Lovers,

The Bradford M. Field Memorial Library in Leverett, Massachusetts was established in 1916 by his daughter Elizabeth Judson Field to honor his legacy. Mr. Field had been postmaster and a prominent farmer in the area. The building served as the town’s library until 2003 when a new library was built. The original building still stands and is now The Leverett Family Museum maintained by the Leverett Historical Society. It is open to the public and features local artifacts, photographs, and documents. Other than the article below, I could find no other information regarding the financial support for the library derived from the “dog tax”. To read more about the Leverett Family Museum follow the link.

Enjoy!

Turning Barks into Books

“Massachusetts is perhaps the only state in the Union that has a public library in every township or “town” as this political division is still called in New England. A portion of the dog tax (annual dog license fee) goes to the support of these libraries. One of the most charming of these libraries is at Leverett, erected in memory of a revered citizen, Bradford Field.

The library is housed in a beautiful little building of the colonial type of architecture. Opposite the main entrance is a fireplace with colonial settles (high-backed wooden benches) on either side. Above the shelves of books that line the walls are high windows with antique panes. Upstairs is a large room used for meetings, for a reading room, for storytelling to groups of children, and so forth. This upstairs room has a cabinet on one side in which are placed pieces of old china and other historic relics which have been donated to the library.

The library is open two afternoons and evenings of every week. It serves the whole “town” and as many as seventy books have been given out in one afternoon in this rural community. It would seem as though it might pay every state to levy a dog tax and turn “barks” into “books.”

~FWM

The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, March 1923, Page 367; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

Cooking With Ida–Making Yeast Bread 1920s


The Whole Loaf
Once upon a time
There was a woman
Who loved
Beauty.
She longed to paint, to make fine music.
But her life was cast in other lines.
Disappointment embittered her soul.
“Shall I live forever in a dream of what I cannot be?” she said.
“Because my time must be given to homely tasks and the care of children, shall I never express beauty?”
She visited a gallery.
She saw a picture—a perfect thing.
Fruit arranged in a basket, and some garden flowers.
And nearby another—a quaint bowl of milk—a loaf of bread and a blue-eyed child.
“I have fruit, and a basket covered with dust,” she said.

It was time to feed the Littlest Child.
He was blue-eyed.
There was a handsome loaf.
On the top shelf was a quaint bowl.
She put it before him—filled with milk.
The scales fell from her eyes—
She had the Whole Loaf.
~Unknown

Hello, again History Lovers!

In today’s post, we are once again Cooking With Ida. The information below comes from two of Ida’s books Woman’s World Calendar Cook Book 1922 and Cooking Menus Service 1924 in which she walks the home baker through the required steps in making yeast bread. The yeast that our foremothers would have used in their baking was either compressed cakes of yeast or the granulated version called Active Dry Yeast (ADY). The granulated variety is available today and our mothers and grandmothers may still be using it however, modern home bakers generally opt for a newer faster rising version of ADY–Instant or Rapid-Rise. (King Author Flour recommends Rapid-Rise Yeast for use in bread machines and SAF Instant Yeast for hand-made bread and baked goods).

By the way, the charming poem The Whole Loaf at the top of this post was printed at the beginning of the chapter on Yeast Breads in Cooking Menus Service. Sadly there is no credit given to the poet. Although there are a number of poems included in this cookbook I am quite certain that Ida was not the poet as none of her other cookbooks include poetry.

By the sponge method, a thick batter is made, using all the required liquid, yeast salt and enough flour to give the batter the desired consistency--it should be about the thickness of a muffin mixture.

Yeast Bread Making 1920s

“The exact science of bread making is a chemical one, consisting of the proper blending of flour, liquid, salt, and yeast into a dough which is raised by the growth in it of the yeast fungi. During that raising the action of the yeast converts part of the starch into a form of sugar and the yeast cells, feeding on this, activates fermentation; and as the dough is fermented and raised, thousands of little cells or pockets are formed in it. During the baking, however, the fermentation is stopped by the heat, the result being the light, porous bread with which we are familiar.”

Proper Kind of Ingredients

“What are the necessary ingredients for making bread? Flour, salt, liquid, and yeast. These four we must have; some variations are possible. The flour may be of more than one variety, but some wheat flour we must have for good bread. The liquid may be plain water, the water in which potatoes have been cooked, or milk, or two of these in combination. The yeast may be compressed or dry yeast according to convenience. Other ingredients may be potatoes, shortening, and a little sugar or syrup.”

Methods for Making Bread

“There are two methods of bread making—(a) the sponge method, and (b) the straight dough method.”

The Sponge Method

At first glance, one might mistake the Sponge Method for the “proofing” process in which the viability of yeast is tested by mixing yeast with a little water and a pinch of sugar and allowing it to “proof” for several minutes to see if the mixture becomes active. A 1920s home cook may well have proofed her yeast before beginning to mix her bread sponge if she had concerns about the freshness of the yeast. The preparation of the sponge required mixing yeast, salt, sugar, and some of the flour into the liquid resulting in a thick batter. The batter was then set away in a warm draft-free place to rise for an hour or longer. At that point, the remaining flour was kneaded into the sponge and the dough was set away again to rise. The advantage of this method was that it required less yeast thereby making a less yeasty-tasting loaf as well as making a fluffier loaf of bread. The drawback was that the dough required two rises before shaping and a third after shaping and prior to baking resulting in a longer bread-making process. Ida continues:

“By the sponge method, a thick batter is made, using all the required liquid, yeast, salt, and enough flour to give the batter the desired consistency—it should be about the thickness of a muffin mixture. A very little sugar or sugar solution may be added to hasten the process of rising. A smaller amount of yeast may be used in bread made by the sponge method than when the straight dough is employed, as yeast rises more rapidly in a semi-liquid mixture than in one which is firm.

After the sponge has become light, that is, after the yeast has become thoroughly “active” and the mixture is filled with consequent gaseous bubbles, the remainder of the flour is added and the mixture kneaded to an elastic dough, either by hand or in a bread mixer, from which point it is treated the same as for a straight dough.”

The recipe below is an example of a bread recipe using the Sponge Method. Interestingly White Bread recipes took precedence in Ida’s book Cooking Menus Service 1924 probably due to the fact that white bakery bread was all the rage so home bakers desired white bread as well.

Cooking Menus Service Cookbook, Ida Bailey Allen, 1924

Straight Dough

“A straight dough is one in which the ingredients are all blended at one time, kneaded, and the dough set aside to rise. By using a larger amount of yeast, bread may be quickly made by the straight-dough method, or it may be allowed to rise for a longer period and less yeast is used. The ingredients after blending must be kneaded until smooth and elastic, then set aside to rise as in the case of bread made by the sponge method.

Whereas the methods of making bread by both dry and compressed yeast are practically identical, the process when making it with dry yeast is facilitated if a soft sponge is first made, so that the little yeast plants may have all possible assistance in their growth. It is also advisable to make such a sponge when preparing coffee cake or rolls, or whenever a fine-textured result is desired, or when rich ingredients are being used, no matter what kind of yeast is chosen (Be aware that this is outdated information and is no longer necessary with the ADY we use today). Success in bread making consists of the use of a reliable recipe; care in keeping the rising dough at a temperature of not less the 70 degrees F., nor more than 95 degrees F.; shielding the dough from draughts and the proper baking”.

The Necessary Equipment

In all of her cookbooks, Ida was a proponent for anything that would help make a housewife’s work easier and more efficient so it was no surprise that she would promote the acquisition and use of a piece of equipment called a bread mixer (photos below). I’m not sure cranking a handle was any better than kneading bread by hand. It would certainly not have been as therapeutic. More from Ida:

The use of a bread mixer facilitates bread making, obviating kneading by hand and actually saving a fourth of the flour. As these mixers may be obtained in both small and large sizes, they are practical for use in every family.”

~FWM

Rural Community’s Friendsgiving–1922

Hello Friends!

The hard economic times and food shortages brought about by World War I were the impetus for a small Kansas community to launch what would become a years-long tradition — a Community Thankfeast. Demonstrations of industry, generosity, reverence, patriotism, compassion, and hospitality accompanied the overarching sentiment of gratitude as folks, young and old, gathered for not only a Thanksgiving banquet but also for a patriotic program put on by the school children. Supper (Yes! an additional meal of the overabundance) followed by music and dancing through the evening wrapped up the day. Guests from out of town were welcome and in some years the attendance swelled to twice the population. Donations of 35 cents per person–for those who could pay–were collected and donated to the community church and school.

I hope you enjoy this heartwarming story.

Elaine

Kansas Folk Get Together

Dinner

In our rural town of about 220 inhabitants, we host what we call Our Annual Thankfeast. About two weeks before Thanksgiving, the women of the community, meet and elect a captain who appoints important committees and has charge of the affair. A soliciting committee composed of several groups, canvases the town and surrounding country for edibles of all kinds, to be served at the community feast on Thanksgiving Day. These are donated. Things are prepared as far as possible at home although the dinner is served in a large hall, where fully a dozen efficient cooks are busy warming up meats, cooking potatoes, dumplings, gravy, coffee. These cooks, decorators, and table arrangers meet in the afternoon preceding the dinner, stoves are arranged, tables spread, vegetables prepared, decorations completed and everything made ready for a glorious morrow.

Come rain, come shine the town is full of guests throughout the following day. There is also a large church attendance. Before the dinner is served, thanks are offered up to the Bountiful Giver of all things. The charge for the dinner is 35 cents.

No amount of expense or culinary art in the individual homes could provide the variety of choice foods which in this way are served to the public. Then there is the delightful companionship, the intermingling of old and young, the gaiety and reverence for the occasion.

Entertainment

After dinner, while clearing away and washing the dishes, groups have a social good time visiting; others go out-of-doors where contests are put on for small prizes.

About three in the afternoon the children, who have been well trained by the teachers put on a creditable, patriotic program. They are equipped with caps and streamers of red, white and blue, and march through the street. When they reach the flag pole, the flag is hoisted with appropriate honors, while the crowd listens to a brief oration and joins with the children in singing The Star Spangled Banner. Supper is then served on the long tables arranged to seat as high as 250 guests. Sometimes five or six hundred are fed during the day.

Later, there is dancing for those who wish. Others listen to the music and visit.

The entertainment is sometimes free; sometimes ten cents is charged. Funds not used to pay expenses, go to either church or school. Poor and rich fare alike. Those whom it is known cannot pay are served free of any charge and engage in the festivities of the day with their neighbors. It is a democratic gathering, where superiority and wealth go entirely unnoticed and true worth is extolled. It is a gala day of thanks, joy, solicitous endeavor, pleasure, and happy contentment for this rural community. The happy custom originated during the war when foods were scarce and prices high and has been successfully carried out since, making a joyful community day for all.

Happy Thanksgiving to You and Yours!

The article above was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine for Farm Women November 1922, Webb Publishing Company, St Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.

A Wagon Train Vacation

I love the adventuresome can-do spirit of the mother who submitted a letter to THE FARMER’S WIFE in October 1921 reporting her family’s wildly successful vacation in a covered wagon. With three children in tow, the family traversed three hundred miles to experience the adventures of their pioneering ancestors. The author even took along a “small” camera to document their journey. Those photos would have been a great treasure for her descendants.

Happy Reading!

Elaine

Vacations

DEAR FARMER’S WIFE: I have had the misfortune to lose my list of subjects and am not sure that vacations was one of the subjects but believe it was. If it was not, it should have been for vacations are rare and wonderful things on the farm. So, I am going to tell about the most wonderful vacation we ever had.

To begin with, I received as a present for Christmas last year, The Covered Wagon by Emerson Hough. The children were so interested in it that I told them how their own great-grandparents came from back east, hundreds of miles in covered wagons.

I remember so many tales of their pioneer days that one day I had a happy idea and suggested to the children that we take a trip in a covered wagon ourselves. They hailed the idea with delight. It was harder to get their father in the notion but finally, he agreed to try it. We decided to go to see my parents who live about three hundred miles west. We got a man to do the chores while we were away and then we prepared for our trip.

We covered the wagon with heavy duck that would keep out wind or rain. We took bed springs, mattress, and bedclothes. My husband slept on a small mattress and covers on the floor of the wagon. In the daytime, this was rolled up and put under the big bed out of the way. Under the bed, I also kept the suitcases and a covered box of provisions.

We took an oil stove to cook on when we could not make a campfire. We dressed the children in coveralls and barefoot sandals.

Many were the beautiful scenes we viewed and many the fine people we met.

I took a small camera and snapped some of the most beautiful and interesting places and jotted down in a notebook the names and some facts about each place. The children learned more about their state, its cities, occupations, and so on than they ever would have learned from studying the history of South Dakota. When we got to the western side of the state where there is free government land, thousands of range cattle, and no mail routes, we all were surprised.

Many were the pretended attacks made on our camp by “hostile Indians” and the valiant battles put up by the three small members of our party. When we came to the country where sure-enough Indians lived, they still had more to learn. Remembering the Indians of The Covered Wagon, they were rather surprised after arriving at their grandfather’s house when a real Mr. and Mrs. Flying Horse and their three children came driving in one day and stayed for dinner. We enjoyed their visit too. They were the Indian neighbors of my parents.

We greatly enjoyed living in the open. How soundly we slept and how we ate. Our youngest child had always been delicate but at the end of that trip she had gained in weight and has kept on growing ever since. That trip cost little but was worth much. I hope for another like it some time. – Gypsy, South Dakota.

How To Be a Good House Guest — 1926

Visiting family or friends for the holidays in the 1920s required advanced planning and preparation for the would-be travelers as well as the hostess. Overnight stays were often necessary due to long slow travel times. Being a good house guest (in any decade) includes politeness, courtesy, good manners, and a general thoughtfulness for the hostess – are they having a nice visit as well? Below is a submission published in the Letters From Our Farm Women section of THE FARMER’S WIFE MAGAZINE addressing this issue. The readers of the magazine voted it “letter-of-the-month” and its author, Mrs. K, received a ten-dollar ($150 today) cash prize demonstrating that the information was very pertinent. Although Americans are much more casual when visiting and entertaining now than we once were, it behooves us to give some thought to this “mighty good counsel.” Happy Reading!

~Elaine

 Mighty Good Counsel

DEAR Farm Mothers:

I want to tell you about some of the courtesies I feel I must teach my children.

When visiting my friends and relatives, I am nearly always treated with politeness and courtesy, but when they visit me, they often fail in this respect.

I have often wondered why this is so and at last, have come to the conclusion that we parents are neglecting to teach our children these things. They learn to be polite hosts or hostess by precept and example at home but, as the faults I have in mind are not very noticeable in childhood and are committed most frequently away from home, the parents are not there to see and correct.

When our children go visiting, we say, “Now be good; don’t eat too much; don’t take large mouthfuls; be sure to say ‘thank you’ and ‘If you please.’ Thus, we teach them to look after themselves and show their good breeding rather than to be thoughtful of the people they visit.

Here are some rules I am teaching my children:

  1. Stay no longer than invited unless urged very much—as if the urge was meant.
  2. Answer all invitations promptly. It may save people work and help in their plans.
  3. State, at start, how long you can stay. Many visits are spoiled by worry as to whether the visit will be a week or month.
  4. Leave before welcome is worn out.
  5. Write if there is a change in plans.
  6. Avoid surprises, except in short calls. Many a woman has worked all through a visit, who otherwise could have been ready and enjoyed it.
  7. Retire at a reasonable hour.
  8. Ask about time of rising and never appear until family has been up a while. Where there is no furnace or bathroom, it is sometimes impossible for a family to get baths because the company is up first, last to bed and around all day.
  9. Do not sit or stand in people’s way.
  10. Do not snoop around, listen at doors, nor enter private rooms uninvited.
  11. Help at work but do not say you “hate” to do the kind you are doing. Learn to use tact. Do not say, “This floor is so dirty; let me sweep it,” or “The flies are so thick; shall I kill them?”
  12. Do not offer to do every little thing you see undone. If the hostess sees you are unhappy unless everything is in order, she will continue to work instead of visit.
  13. Do not visit with others while hostess works, then read when she is ready to visit.
  14. Do not order the family to get any article needed about the home, nor buy meat or such after two or three meals unless you are very close relative. Then that may be your duty and privilege—not otherwise.
  15. Do not talk strange religious doctrines before children.
  16. Give others a chance to talk and don’t be forever giving advice about their affairs.
  17. Don’t stand around dining room or kitchen, as if in a hurry for a meal.
  18. If one of the family needs to eat before the rest, do not sit down with them to eat unless the hostess suggests it.
  19. Do not count cakes or other food to see if there are enough for all, and do not take the worst piece. Your hostess wants you to have the best.
  20. Do not rise before the hostess and begin to clear the table. She may wish to rest and visit.
  21. Try to eat a reasonable amount of what is set before you. If you do not, your hostess will be made considerable trouble trying to get something you do like.

Now, my readers, don’t say, “There haint no sech animal; no one does such things these days.” They do, for all these “don’ts” are built from my own trying experiences. The city and town people break these rules as much and perhaps more than the country people, and the well-educated as much as those who have less education. –Mrs. K., Michigan FWM

The above article was originally published in THE FARMER’S WIFE – A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN, October 1926, Page 481; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota

The Ideal Farm Home III

In the third and final installment of the Ideal Farm Home Contest, emphasis is placed on the size and functionality of a farm kitchen. As more and more men and women moved to the cities for employment during the 1920s apartments with small kitchenettes were being built. Wise farm women knew that that style of kitchen would never do for them. Important farm improvements were also listed such as good fences and neatly painted outbuildings. These ladies definitely understood what an ideal farm home was whether they had one or not. There is also a shout-out to the top eight prize winners of the competition. Happy Reading!

~Elaine

Part III

As the living room is considered to be the heart of the home, the kitchen is the farm woman’s workshop and greater stress was laid by our friends upon having the kitchen well planned than upon any other one feature, as it is through efficiency here that the farm woman saves time and strength for the greater task of homemaking. Our readers say that the kitchenette of the city apartment is not practical for the farm home. The farm kitchen must be roomy enough to prepare food for more than the immediate family circle but not be so large that there is great lost motion in daily meals-getting. The kitchen must be sufficiently compact so that one person can do the work most of the time in these days when help is so hard to find and large enough so that more than one can work there in comfort when there’s a “gang” to feed. And they say – these sensible, wide-awake women – that their kitchens must be attractive, pleasant, cozy, comfortable, cheery. The walls must be finished in harmonious colors; the woodwork must be so finished that it will be easy to keep clean; the floors must be easy to clean and comfortable to stand on (good linoleum is in favor). The working space must be planned to fit the particular need and sink, tables, shelves, stoves of a height to fit the woman who works. The work units must be grouped to save steps. There must be windows over sink and work table so that the workers can see the beauty of sky and grove, garden and orchard, distant hills, while her hands are employed.

Yes! They know what they need, farm women do, and, as the years go by, their fine, sturdy idealism and practical common sense are bringing better conditions about, not only in farm homes but in farm communities.

  • PLENTY of lights and lights where they are needed – in the kitchen over sink and stove and worktable; in the living room at the places where people want to read; in the closets and at the heads of the beds.
  • A dumb waiter from the kitchen to the basement; a dumb waiter to be enclosed in screen and lowered with its load of food to save many trips up and down the basement steps. Stairs that are wide and with low “risers”; also, wide stairways.
  • Running water – hard and soft; hot and cold.
  • Houses mouse and rat proof.
  • Good chimneys, for fire protection.
  • Plenty of reading matter.
  • Good pictures; music.
  • Plenty of closets, rods for hangers, shelves for hats and shoes.
  • Window seats, with drawers, chests or cupboards beneath for toys, magazines, sewing materials.
  • Good fences in good condition for “good fences make good neighbors.”
  • Buildings well painted and the painting kept up, for both economy and appearance.
  • Electricity, from power line or individual farm plant.
  • Built-in ironing board, in good light.
  • Power for washing machine, separator, vacuum cleaner, iron and so forth.
  • Clothes chute.
  • Lift to attic for taking up seed corn, trunks and so forth.
  • Place indoors to dry clothes in bad weather.
  • Closet for brooms, dust mops and so forth, some want such a cleaning closet on each floor.
  • Cross ventilation in bedrooms.
  • Porch upstairs for airing bedding.
  • Good outbuildings, kept in good repair.
  • Good water supply inside and out.
  • Rocker in kitchen with something to read nearby.
  • A location chosen with reference to good school, church, roads, community and marketing facilities.
  • Workbench or workroom for the men folks.
  • Full length mirrors in bedroom or sewing room.
  • Shower in washroom where men can take a quick shower when they come from fields.
  • Storage space for canned fruits and vegetables and also for root vegetables, apples and so forth.
  • Wood box and icebox that can be filled from outside.
  • Central heating plant.
  • Fireplace.
  • Radio both for business and pleasure.
  • Cupboard between kitchen and dining room, with door or slide that can be used at mealtimes and with long drawer that slides both ways.
  • The house wired for electricity even when service cannot be installed immediately.
  • Medicine cabinet in bathroom; if bathroom is on second floor, a second cabinet in washroom or kitchen for emergency and first-aid supplies.
  • Work table on castors in the middle of the kitchen.
  • Fire extinguishers.
  • Bathtub built in because easier to clean around it.
  • Playroom for children – several mentioned gymnasium in basement.
  • Smooth woodwork – no crevices nor grooves to be cleaned.
  • House that can grow with family.
  • House located and planned with reference to prevailing wind – either for protection from them or to take advantage of them in summer.
  • House planned for hospitality, not only to individuals but to community.
  • Orchard for home use if not for sale of fruit.
  • Garage under same roof as house.
  • Storage room for supplies bought in large quantities and for farm products.
  • Kitchen built so that windows give good view of farm lot and farm buildings and at least one window looking toward road. FWM

PRIZES AWARDED

The cash prizes were awarded to the following women:

  1. Mrs. Foster Tyler, Licking County, Ohio                                        $50.00
  2. Mrs. J.H. Studley, Kankakee County, Illinois                                $25.00
  3. Mrs. Vera M Elliott, Medina County, Ohio                                     $10.00
  4. Mrs. George H. Sommers, Rice County, Minnesota                    $10.00
  5. Mrs. S.V. Barnes, Nobles County, Minnesota                                $10.00
  6. Mrs. George Leahy, Roberts County, South Dakota                      $5.00
  7. Mrs. Earl Frost, Wayne County, New York                                     $5.00
  8. Mrs. Clifford P. Lawrence, McLean County, Illinois                      $5.00

The Ideal Farm Home II

This post is the second installment in a three-part series on the Ideal Farm Home competition sponsored by THE FARMER’S WIFE MAGAZINE October 1926. Farm women were asked to describe what would make a farmhouse perfect. Running water was at the top of the list, along with a special washroom for the men, a well-lighted sewing room, a “living porch” and a sizeable dining area. The living room was considered the “heart of the house” at that time, and to be considered ideal it must have easy access to good books and music. As I have transcribed these articles, I have felt especially thankful for all the modern conveniences that I usually take for granted. Happy Reading!

Elaine

Part II

OUR readers, of course, practically are unanimous in demanding running water as the greatest single labor-saver – lifesaver indeed! – for the farmhouse.

An almost unanimous demand is for a special washroom for the men as they come in from their outside work. Usually, they suggest that this washroom be in connection with the laundry and so arranged that the men can go straight from it to the dining room or living room without having to go through the kitchen. It also provides a place for outside wraps, overshoes, mittens where they will be dry and warm and – out of the kitchen.

If farm women have pet peeves, the chief seems to be concerning the decoration of the kitchen walls with wraps and having men tramping the kitchen at mealtime.

A well-lighted sewing room is considered an essential and on the first floor so that the work can easily be picked up in odd minutes between other jobs.

Several women suggested a regular sewing cabinet built in the wall, with drawers below for supplies, a drop-leaf door which can be used for a cutting table, drawers and pigeonholes for small sewing supplies in the upper part. Of course, they say, the sewing room must have a good light.

Porches were discussed from all angles. Some farm women think their real living porch should be at the side of the house with only a small entry to the house in the front; others, wish the front porch for their summer living room. A back porch, fairly large and well-screened, is considered a real necessity. Many suggest that it be glassed in for winter use.

The living room was spoken of over and over as “the heart of the house” and farm women insist that it must be exactly what that name indicates, though they differ as to just how this shall be brought about. Nearly all of them do mention two things toward this end – books and music without which family life, farm women, are not complete. The value of good pictures is distinctly recognized. Farm women, almost without exception, do not consider home complete unless there are flowers, winter, and summer. So, they say they must have a glassed-in porch or fernery in front of the window in the living room, or give them wide window sills, even in the kitchen, for their beloved flower pots.

The dining alcove or the separate dining room – this subject was discussed thoroughly. More than 81% of the women who entered the contest say that the farm home needs a separate dining room large enough so that the table can be spread to accommodate guests and extra hands such as threshers and silo fillers. And they say the dining room should be big enough so that children need not wait until the second table or eat in the kitchen when the friends and relatives gather in for holiday celebrations. Some of them solve this problem by having an opening between the dining and living rooms sufficiently large so that the table can be extended into both rooms.

But while nearly all the women wish a separate dining room, they say it is handy to eat in the kitchen at times and opinion is about equally divided between the dining alcove and a kitchen arranged to accommodate a meal table. Some say the alcove interferes less with the routine kitchen work and makes less “mess” in the kitchen and that it is most convenient to have it fitted up so that it is partially set off from the main part of the kitchen and still a part of the room. It is used for the breakfast of those who have to rise very early and then for the breakfast of the little folks who sleep later; for men who come in late to meals or for the occasional guest who is served a lunch between meals. Several spoke of using the alcove as a play nook for the children, where they can cut, paste, sew and carry on their other small affairs and be “out from underfoot.” Several suggest that the seats in this alcove be built as chests or boxes to accommodate playthings.

The farm dining room is used as the informal sitting room of the family, so, our readers suggest that it should have plenty of room not only for the usual dining-room furniture but also for a couch where Father and Mother can stretch out when they have a minute and where Baby can have his afternoon nap. A number speak of a built-in desk here; of this room’s use as a study room in the evening.

Farm women are practically one in realizing that the farm home is – must be – the business center of the farm. Many of the contributors to this contest suggest a small office for the farm man so that he can transact the business end of things in a business-like way and further suggest that it should be possible for him to take his business guests straight to this room or office from either the front or back hall, without taking them through the kitchen or the living quarters of the family.

TO BE CONTINUED

The above article was originally published in THE FARMER’S WIFE — A MAGAZINE FOR FARM WOMEN, October 1926, Page 472; Webb Publishing Company, Saint Paul, Minnesota