In an effort to help struggling farm women supplement their farm income, Home Demonstration Agents encouraged women to not only grow gardens for their own sustenance but to grow more than what the family needed. The excess could then be marketed in a new way. It would be brought to a designated place in town, put on display, and sold directly to consumers. These Women’s Club Markets, the equivalent to Farmer’s Markets of today, began popping up everywhere on a regular basis. One woman recalls the work involved in preparing for a farmer’s market in Minnesota when she was a youth:
“Vegetables had to be cut, pulled, picked, or dug. Then they had to be loaded and carried to the yard where they were trimmed, bunched, washed, and arranged to be taken to market the following day – until the 1920s by horse and wagon; later by truck. The trip to either Minneapolis or St. Paul market was several miles. This meant getting up at 4:00 am.”
–Edna Greenberg Reasoner
The Nineteenth Women’s Club Market
The Councils of Farm Women in South Carolina, together with their Home Demonstration Agents established nineteen women’s club markets in the state. The newest market is in Bennettsville, the county seat of Marlboro County. Last spring the County Council of Farm Women was organized under the leadership of Home Demonstration Agent, Miss Edna Earle. Because of the financial crisis that the county (as with all rural areas) was facing, the council decided that the first thing to do was to organize a market that would take care of the surplus produced on the farms of the county and at the same time provide fresh produce to the people of the town.
A marketing committee was appointed which then had a conference with the superintendent of public schools and the mayor of the town. These men agreed to put the matter before the town council, composed of progressive men, and it was decided to build a market house on the Court House Square. The building is now a most attractive reality. It is substantially built, neatly screened, and conveniently equipped with shelves and counters.
While this house was being built, the club women of the county were not idle, as the enterprising home demonstration agent was putting on a perennial garden campaign in order that the market might be supplied with fresh vegetables all year round. Fruits and vegetables were being canned and other preparations were underway to make the Home Demonstration Club Market a permanent institution of Marlboro County.
The opening of the market was a gala day in Bennettsville, being ushered into existence under most auspicious circumstances, enthusiastically supported by both the town and country people. Mrs. Frances Y. Kline, State Marketing Specialist, was present to assist in making the occasion a successful one. S.E. Evans, County Farm Agent, was also there materially promoting the enterprise. A number of prominent club women, including the president of the county council, were in attendance. The market house was beautifully decorated with flowers and ferns. Fresh vegetables, fruit, chickens, eggs, meats, and other country products were temptingly displayed. Although the market did not open till ten o’clock, by noon everything was disposed of, and the money was being checked out to the producers by the secretary.
As the cost of living rose in the 1920s it was public opinion that the increase was the fault of the farmers. Today’s post comes from an article published in The Farmer’s Wife in which The U.S. Secretary of Agriculture speaks to the National League of Women Voters in the spring of 1922 debunking the logic of this perception and pointing out the plight of U.S. farmers. The paragraph below is a brief outline of the circumstances that led to the Agricultural Crisis of the 1920s:
As WWI raged, war-torn Europe was desperate for commodities from the United State to feed its people. This demand was a boon for American farmers. To meet Europe’s needs the U.S. government encouraged farmers to plow more land and grow more food. About the time the U.S. actively joined the war in Europe, Congress had passed the Federal Farm Loan Act of 1916 by which farmers could acquire long-term farm expansion loans. And borrow they did! Farmers borrowed to buy land, tractors, and other labor-saving equipment, riding the wave of prosperity through the war years expecting that the prices and demand would stay steady. However, as Europe recovered, the need for U.S. exports diminished, surpluses grew and prices plummeted, beginning what would come to be referred to as the Agricultural Crisis of the 1920s.
The Cost of Living For Farmers–1920s
The fact is becoming generally recognized that the cost of living, so far as food products are concerned, is due to the expense of distribution and the cost of service; the farmer is absolved from blame as a profiteer.
–The Editors, Farmer’s Wife Magazine
The Secretary of Agriculture, Henry C. Wallace, in an address before the National League of Women Voters in Baltimore, presented some interesting facts from the farmer’s side of the cost-of-living problem. According to the most careful estimates, for such necessities as food, shelter, clothing, fuel, and light, the family budget of the average wage earner is distributed as follows:
43.1 percent for food
13.2 percent for clothing
17.7 percent for shelter
5.6 percent for fuel and light
20.6 percent for sundries
Comparing the cost of these commodities in March 1922 with July 1914, it was found that food, the largest item in the family budget cost 42 percent more than in 1914, shelter about 65 percent more, clothing 54 percent, fuel and light 77 percent, sundries 74 percent. The only conclusion from these statistics is that the farmer suffers from but is not the cause of the cost of living. Transportation, wages, distribution, and service—these are the sore spots that need treatment.
In the words of the Secretary of Agriculture, “city consumers have gotten into the habit of insisting that it is the farmer’s sacred duty to produce. The corollary to this is that it is the distributors and consumer’s sacred duty to distribute efficiently and use most intelligently what the farm produces.” The farmer is looking at the cost-of-living problem just now from a position where he is receiving less than pre-war prices for the commodities, he has to sell but is paying 50 to 75 percent more than pre-war prices for the things he has to buy. The cost of living should come down but there is no possibility of starting with the farmer. Cheapening the farm-selling price of food products harms the farmer and helps no one except the middleman, the organized workman, and the profiteer who simply pockets the toll taken from the farmer.
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women 1922, Page 3; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Today we celebrate the accomplishments of hardworking farmwives from Valley County, Montana in 1920. Members of the local farm bureau focused on four areas of development for the year– sewing, gardening and canning, cheese-making, and establishing clubs in which the boys and girls learned gardening and poultry raising. The amount of meat, chicken, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and cheese preserved by these busy women was phenomenal. They even produced over 1,500 pounds of homemade soap; all while keeping up with daily meals, dishes, laundry, and housework.
Hardworking Montana Farm Women
Long distances, a dry season, and the fact that they must share their Home Demonstration Agent “fifty-fifty” with another county have not discouraged the Farm Bureau women in Valley County, Montana, nor kept them from accomplishing splendid results through organized effort.
In 1920 the women of this county started four definite lines of work: Clothing, gardening and canning, cheese-making, and boys’ and girls’ club work. There are 250 women members in the 25 communities of the County Farm Bureau and the work of the year has been carried on through county and community project leaders, with the help of Miss Gertrude Erickson, Home Demonstration Agent.
The gardening-canning work did not assume such large proportions as was expected because the extremely dry season made it difficult to raise good gardens but even so, the work done, was most worthwhile. In one group of twelve homes in the county, the families are having a more varied and healthful diet because of the 1,278 quarts of vegetables canned by the farm bureau women who entered the county garden contest.
Four clothing schools and one millinery school were held during the year. One woman was so ambitious and so eager for the work that she drove miles to attend the millinery school in one community and then later in the week drove 15 miles to attend a dress form demonstration being held in another community.
Six poultry culling demonstrations were held. In one community the members of the boys’ and girls’ poultry flocks club went out in relays and culled the poultry flocks throughout the neighborhood. So successful were they, that the women in that community report that they have not killed a single laying hen since the flocks were culled.
Altogether the Farm Bureau women in the county report:
6,702 quarts of vegetables canned
4,488 quarts wild and other fruit canned
884 quarts of chicken canned
1,488 quarts of other meat canned
632 pounds of cheese made
10,092 pounds of meat cured
39 dress forms made
1,075 dozen eggs preserved
1,608 pounds of homemade soap
24 schools serving hot lunches
This remarkable group of women, with the help of a Home Demonstration Agent for halftime, reported organized work amounting to $15,171. This is, of course, a minor part of the total value, for the big result of such work is in community service, better health, getting acquainted with each other—all those things that go to make the best homes and the best communities.
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, May 1921; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Today’s post includes two paintings that were so popular in the 1920s that they have already been featured in previous posts in this series. However, the story of the acquisition of the first painting, Morning by Jean-Baptist-Camille Corot by farm wife Mrs. C.H.B from Iowa demonstrates her love and appreciation for this piece of art. Sadly the available images of this prolific French artist’s paintings are of such poor quality that it is difficult to see the true beauty of his work. We will have to trust in Mrs. B’s lovely critique.
The second painting is by one of the immortal Italian High Renaissance artists, Raphael. I have also included two high-quality photos showing some of the minute detail in the painting Madonna and Child. I particularly appreciate the intricacy of Madonna’s hair. Although Mrs. B only owned a postcard size copy of this painting at the time of her writing, she reports that it engenders in her the spiritual inspiration to “carry on”. I hope that at some point in her life she was able to acquire a sizeable copy to hang on her wall.
An Inspiration To Carry On
The picture which has the place of honor in my farm home is a reproduction of Corot’s landscape often called Morning. It is full of the calm tranquility found in all the artist’s pictures, a lovely scene most attractive for the delicacy of foliage and the transparency of air and water. The figures who I suppose to be a mother and child intent upon gathering blossoms and leaves seem to have a unity of purpose, to be in perfect harmony with each other, and certainly, are in harmony with the rest of the picture. Although I have lived seven years with this picture over my mantel, I have never grown the least tired of it as I have several others I own and I always find new satisfaction and pleasure in looking upon it. I hope that old age will be kind enough to allow me a seat in my own inglenook with his picture still hanging above the fireplace.
Incidentally, I prize my particular copy of Morning all the more because I carried it home from London in my hands through a stormy, perilous voyage in September 1914. Because I loved the picture so much, I wanted to make sure to have a good reproduction of it. So, I brought it home wrapped carefully in a steamer-rug and shawl strap and would entrust it to no one else’s keeping but my own.
The other picture of my choice I own only a postcard form but should be most happy to have on my walls for I know that my children could not help but love it—Raphael’s La Belle Jardiniere. Who can resist the darling babies of this picture? And what mother but would wish to be a better mother after a study of the gentle features of Mary, the mother of the Christ Child, who looks up at her in perfect confidence? It seems to be a lesson in divine love and patience—something which a good many farm mothers with several babies and much to do, sadly need. (This is not meant for a sermon—I was merely referring to myself!) I love the naturalness of this little group—the Madonna looking fondly down on the Beloved Child and little Saint John regarding him adoringly. To me, the pictures offer an inspiration that I should like to share with my family and with all who come into my home.
These pictures give me something which a busy, workaday life does not always afford, a restful satisfaction and spiritual inspiration to “carry on” to the best of one’s ability. Such I should think is the chief mission of pictures on our walls—to give us something we should be loath to miss and to remind us of wonders that we might otherwise forget. –Mrs. C.H.B., Iowa
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.
After falling head over heels in love with the automobile, Americans began road-tripping. And it wasn’t long before rural entrepreneurs found a way to market farm products to passersby. Farmers built stands and started selling homegrown produce from roadside markets, very much like farmer’s markets of today. Some were small with just a few products for sale and others were cooperatives supplied by a number of local farmers offering many different farm products, and of course, all were seasonal.
Mrs. Bess M. Rowe, a journalist for The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women contributed an article in February 1922 on the thriving roadside market industry in Massachusetts. Orchards in the Mt. Nobscot area supplied peaches, apples, and pears for local markets. Area farmers produced strawberries, vegetables, eggs, honey, and dairy products. Some handmade home goods were also available.
Farmer’s market season in my area begins in June and goes through September. After reading this article I will better appreciate the “living history” aspect of today’s farmer’s markets.
Massachusetts has ideal conditions for the development of roadside markets. Its numerous towns and cities are connected by splendid state roads which make transportation of products easy and also summon a steady stream of automobiles over these roads.
An astonishing variety of products is disposed of by the owners of these roadside markets, anything and everything from strawberry preserves to roastin’ ears, from maple sugar to braided rugs; passing directly from producer to consumer.
Massachusetts road markets are, naturally, concentrated in a few districts where the conditions are especially favorable. One group is located on the historic road from Concord to Lexington, where a constant procession of automobiles follows the route taken by Paul Revere on his famous ride; another group extends along the coast, south of Quincy.
Good Location and Great Produce
In planning to open a roadside market, certain points in location must be considered if the enterprise is to be a success. As the main dependence is on automobile trade, the market must be located on a road where automobile traffic is heavy and at a point where automobiles can easily park.
Another important point is such arrangement of products and signs or placards to attract the favorable attention of passersby. The most successful stands in Massachusetts have done this by means of attractive signs placed far enough away from the purchasing place so that cars can slow down before reaching the stand. These are often supplemented by signs at the stand itself. Many of these signs are most ingenious and attractive. What honey lover could resist an appeal like this:
Direct selling of farm produce in Massachusetts has been a great success, in many cases, and the plans followed by these marketers can be adapted with equal success in thousands of other places. The main requirements are: to find the right location and furnish what the people want, with due regard for honesty of purpose and for the other fellow’s rights as well as one’s own.
Roadside markets differ as widely as individual stores. Some offer only early or fancy stock. Some maintain an average standard and sell at an average price. As a matter of fact, each one must be adapted to its own locality, giving its own “public” what its own public demands. If the woman of the farm offering goods for sale has the time, she is the best one to deal with women buyers. Her woman’s imagination will stand her in good stead as to ways to make her wares attractive and ways to reach her customers’ minds. There are no set rules to be laid down. Given the good location and sufficient good produce, wits, and industry, tact and patience must do the rest.
Nobscot Mountain Orchard and Roadside Market
This summer the writer had the pleasure of visiting one of the most interesting, as well as one of the most successful roadside markets in Massachusetts, the one connected with the famous Nobscot Mountain Orchards, twenty-three miles from Boston. This fruit farm of eighty acres has 3,000 peach trees, 4,000 apple trees, 1,200 pear trees, and 2,500 quince trees. In 1915, 1916, and 1917, the market specialized in peaches and in these three years took in respectively $1,700, $1,300, and $ 3,400. In 1918 apples, preserves and jellies were added to the list and now in addition to all these, a charming tearoom caters to the comfort of guests the year around.
Mt. Nobscot Tea Room
The Mt. Nobscot Tea Room itself is worthy of a whole story. It is in the Hagar House, a historic residence built about 1730. The atmosphere of “the good, old days” has been wonderfully preserved in the old house. The tired motorist who has been attracted by the well-arranged market stand on one side of the road is now tempted to cross over to the tearoom and enjoy tea and a salad, or one of the more substantial dishes which are fast gaining fame for this happily located business.
The front door opens directly into the tearoom, a large colonial room with an enormous four-sided fireplace set diagonally so that each grate faces a corner. On one side there is a Dutch oven. The mantels and cupboards above the grates proclaim their many years of usage.
The back of the house itself is an old porch with a brick floor. Vines grow over it and here the tearoom guest who prefers a garden setting rather than in the house is served.
For the last two years, Mrs. Smerage has had charge of the tearoom. She cans and preserves a portion of the products that are shown in the roadside market stand across the way. During the War, Mrs. Smerage had charge of a community canning kitchen in Topsfield Massachusetts. The exceptionally high standard maintained in this particular kitchen, where they had less than 1% spoilage, won fame for her and after the war work closed, she started work for herself. Two years ago, she had to choose between putting her capital into her business or using it for her son’s education. She chose the latter and came to the Mt. Nobscot fruit farm to take charge of the canning work there and act as manager of the tearoom.
Mrs. Smerage says that the success that has come to her in all her work is due to the high quality she insists on maintaining. At the Mt. Nobscot Orchards, they do not try to sell the first-class fruit and then make quality canned and preserved products from culls. They reverse this order and make all of their canned and preserved stock from first-class products, and this method enables them to sell the products for a fancy price. They know that people will pay a high price for food products if they feel that they are getting their money’s worth. In 1920, Mrs. Smerage supervised the canning and preserving of $1,050 worth of strawberries alone. In 1921, in spite of a bad season, the amount of their strawberry products went up to about $1,400.
The tearoom enables the proprietors to keep business going the year around. The market stand, of course, is open only during the summer months. Although their farm produces only fruit for the market, they show a good variety of vegetables and other products at the stand. These are secured from the neighboring farmers, thus offering them a market for their products and at the same time giving a greater variety and better appearance to the stand. Altogether there is on this farm a well-rounded business that last year sold products amounting to over $12,500. — Bess M. Rowe
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 709; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Planning a kitchen garden to grow enough for a family’s immediate needs as well as plenty to be preserved against the scarcity of winter and early spring is the advice offered by The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women in February 1922. Self-reliance was essential for farm families in order to feed themselves throughout the year. Every ounce of the garden produce was eaten fresh, stored in a root cellar, canned, dried, or pickled. Any scraps were fed to the chickens. Nothing was wasted.
One hundred years later my husband and I have tried to live a self-reliant lifestyle. He is an avid gardener and I am an avid canner. We made a good team especially when our children were growing up. What he didn’t grow, we bought from local orchards and farmers to can, freeze (an option that was only available during the winter months a century ago), and dehydrate. Since it is just the two of us now, we are trying to cut back on what we produce and preserve. My husband has a smallish garden spot tilled and is anxious to start planting.Too bad it snowed again last night.
A Cook’s Lament
“I can’t find anything to cook!” “I don’t know what to plan for meals at this time of year!” These are mutual complaints during this season wherever two or three farm housewives are gathered together. Now, while there is still time to plan for a kitchen garden is time to prevent this food famine from recurring next year.
Lay Out Your Garden
After the long winter months, we all crave crisp green food and these are the first seeds we sow—lettuce, radishes, onions. Then we plant for summer days. But all too often we do not, in laying out gardens, think in terms of the late winter and early spring weeks that inevitably come when “it is so hard to find anything to cook.”
Can, Dry and Brine Vegetables
In forecasting our gardens, we must keep three very definite things in mind: (1) we must plant for the summer season when we can practically live from the garden; (2) for the early winter when it is possible to have a pleasing variety from the root vegetables that have been stored in the cellar; (3) lastly, for the late winter months when stored vegetables have lost their crispness and flavor and it is still too early to have the fresh things. The easiest way to meet this third provision is to plant a surplus of summer vegetables which are to be canned or dried or brined for winter use. The women whose shelves are thus stocked are not among those who lift their voices in the wail, “I can’t find anything to cook!”
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1922, Page 745; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Today’s post gives us a glimpse of just how popular the game of basketball had become by the 1920s. The game was the brainchild of James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts in 1891. Needing a game that could be played indoors during fierce New England winters, Dr. Naismith researched other sports that were popular at the time and configured a game that could be played in a relatively small indoor space. With safety in mind, Naismith wanted a game with less physical contact than football yet active enough to help athletes get in shape for the spring track season. The prototype equipment for the game were peach baskets and a soccer ball. Originally the game had only thirteen rules. By the 1910s gymnasiums were being built to accommodate high school and college games. In more rural areas that could not afford to build a new facility, community teams used whatever venue was available.
Playing Basketball in the Blue Grass Community House 1922
A signboard with the words Blue Grass Community House, greet approaching visitors, and sitting back in its surrounding of trees is the house which invites community activities from five townships in Vanderburgh County, Indiana. Most interesting perhaps of all the attractions are the basketball games. Blue Grass Community has ten teams that meet in competitive games or bring in other teams from outside.
The Community Center
The building is a substantial frame structure. The basement is given into a large assembly hall with a cement floor. This is used for serving suppers, large gatherings, and for community fairs. The first floor is the auditorium with a stage and settings, two dressing rooms, and camp chairs to seat two hundred people. This auditorium also acts as a gymnasium and is the scene of many heated contests. A fireplace room on the second floor is both a library and committee room and for small meetings saves the labor and expense of firing the furnace, as well as making an ideal meeting place.
The women look for leadership from Mrs. John S. Riggs, who lives just across the field within calling distance of the building. Dr. C.A. Shake, Rector of the community church, is the leading spirit in all activities and is especially popular with the young folks who keep him busy indeed.
Activities and Programs
Four committees represent Agriculture, Social and Literary Work, Educational Programs, and Recreation, with a chairman for each. Everyone works together and all activities are carried to the Community House: Parent-Teachers Association, Health Talks, Sewing Clubs for girls, all day dress form demonstrations, all day millinery schools, township fairs, fall, and spring club round-up, musicals, home talent plays, the most popular program proving to be the one in which the greatest number of the people themselves take part.
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, February 1920, Page 716; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
Today we continue our series of favorite works of art submitted to The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women by subscribers in 1923. Wishing you a happy Sunday.
Christianity and Patriotism
Pictures have practical value. When our son was but a boy his father would show him the pictures and talk about them instilling in him a love for the beautiful that has grown with the years.
One Valentine’s Day, when our son was in his teens, we framed and presented him with a 20X24” picture of Hofmann’s The Boy Christ. Many times, when questions of conduct arose, his eyes would turn to the picture and its silent influence helped him win on the right side. When he went to college, he asked to take the picture with him and it graced the walls of his room for four years. One day a fellow student in the same house said, “I wish you’d cover that picture up. It seems to penetrate my very soul.” A heart-talk followed which revealed the fact that the young man was not living true to the promise he had made to his mother.
During my teaching career, I placed this picture in the assembly room of a high school. Some weeks later, I said to a young man. “I am pleased with the progress you are making in your studies but more with your better conduct.” Hesitating a moment, he said,
“How can I act as I did when the eyes of that picture are ever following me?”
Another picture I choose is The Ideal American, Abraham Lincoln. Patriotism is taught first in the home. The story of Lincoln, boy, and man, should challenge our boys and girls. “We become like those with whom we associate.”
These two pictures will influence the home circle, guests, and strangers along the lines of Christianity and Patriotism, fundamentals in social life. –Mrs. C.W.C., Iowa
FYI: The painting referred to as “The Boy Christ” (at the beginning of this post) is a detail taken from Heinrich Hofmann’s painting “The Boy Christ Disputing with the Temple Elders” (above). This painting is referred to by a number of nicknames such as “Jesus In the Temple.” The detail artwork is often referred to as “The Boy Jesus” as well as several other nicknames and has enjoyed a life of its own.
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.
The Greatest Twelve concerning which Doctor Holland writes from month to month, although numbered, are not meant to be presented in any order suggesting the importance of one over another. Each lead in its own place—Love, Struggle, Money, Play, Toil, and the seven yet to come.
–The Editors of The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women
Hello, again History Lovers,
I would like to dedicate today’s post on Toil to one of the hardest working women in my life, my maternal grandmother. She not only instilled in me the desire to work hard but also to do the very best job possible.
Man once believed that I came into the world as a curse upon him for their sin; now he knows that the Garden was given to him for his home, his task was to dress and care for it.
Though called by many names, Toil is the one I prefer. Did not an earth’s great poet sing of me,
“Toil makes the soul of man to shine
And makes rest fragrant and benign.”
I am the fulfiller of every noble ambition and hold in my hands the key to every palace that men would enter. I point the way to every path where Hope beckons. If youths will only follow me, I will give to them every excellence and teach them to conquer everywhere.
The earth is full of foolish people, foolish enough to think that they may succeed without toil. All such die no better than they were born. Their last cry is more worthless than their first.
I will put a crown of honor upon the brow of everyone who works, for God has put no distinctions between tasks. The blacksmith and the senator are equally my favorites the artist and the artisan I equally love. I give no man who does not toil any chance of being a real man or of blessing the race. My beatitude is, “Blessed is he who loves his work.”
I am one of the chief solacers of those who have sorrows to forget. The broken-hearted turn ever to me for relief. When bereft mothers wring their hands, I fill them with tasks and make their slumber sweet. Millions of tears I have prevented by putting new burdens upon tired backs. This is a secret of help I have from the Creator.
I am set as one of the joy makers of the heart. I sweeten the bread in the mouth of the toiler. I hide gold in the mountains and pearls in the depths of the sea and make men happy while they toil for their treasures.
The idles, the lazy, the gourmands, the sensualist seek me not. With folded hands and withered dreams, they pass in nothingness to the grave.
Blessed are all who toil: the lover for his beloved; the lady for her liege; parents for their little ones; the artist for his dreams; the scholar for his knowledge, the sinner for his goodness; the farmer for his grain; the shepherd for his flock.
The stars in their courses work on the side of those who are alive with work.
The above article was originally published in The Farmer’s Wife–A Magazine For Farm Women, May 1926, Page 275; Webb Publishing Company, St. Paul, Minnesota. Articles may be edited for length and clarity.
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.
COOKING MENUS SERVICE–Cakes 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:
Read the recipe carefully.
Prepare the pans.
Assemble the ingredients.
Assemble the utensils.
Prepare the oven.
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
“Cake should never be moved in the oven until it has reached its fullest height.
If cake appears to be browning too rapidly reduce the heat and cover the cake with a sheet of paper.
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.
The oven may be cooled quickly, if necessary, by putting a pan of cold water into it.
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.
A coarse-textured cake denotes the use of too much baking powder or of insufficient beating.
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.
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.”
“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.”
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.