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The White House Cook Book – An Antique Cookbook

I love antiques, I love cooking and I love books — so what could be better than an antique cookbook!

I have around 200 cookbooks in my collection but I think the oldest is one I received as a gift from my Youngest Sister a few years ago. The original copyright was in 1887; my copy of “The White House Cook Book” was published by The Saalfield Publishing Company in 1907, made by The Werner Company in Akron, Ohio. It was written by Hugo Zieman, Steward of the White House, and Mrs. F. L. Gillette.

I don’t know who owned it, but it is very yellowed and obviously used. There are a number of handwritten notes on the pages as well as inserted between the pages, along with newspaper clippings of recipes and a few Champion Dog Series collector cards – #9 Mastiff and #17 Great Dane.

It contains 590 pages of fascinating information including:

Page iv – Note from the Publisher (last paragraph) — Convenience has been studied in the make-up of the book. The type is large and plain; it is sewed by patent flexible process, so that when opened it will not close of itself, and it is bound in enameled cloth adapted for use in the kitchen.

Page 37 – Recipe for Squirrel Soup.

Page 147 – To Cure Ham and Bacon with a notation in parentheses (A Prize Recipe).

Newspaper clipping for Lady Baltimore Cake by Mrs. Janet McKenzie Hill, Editor of the Boston Cooking School Magazine.

Page 158 – How to prepare Herbs for Winter.

Beginning on Page 168 – An entire section on how to make Catsup — tomato, walnut, oyster, mushroom, gooseberry, cucumber, currant, apple, celery and spiced vinegar.

How to make all variety of Pickles.

A handwritten recipe on a piece of note paper for Molasses Candy.

Page 208 – How to make Butter.

A hand-drawn design for a Card Case (for calling cards?).

Page 226 – General directions for making Bread.

Page 229 – How to make Unrivaled Yeast.

Page 240 – Parker House Rolls. Oven temperature is “Bake in a rather quick oven.”

Page 259 – How to make Crackers.

There are pages of photos throughout the book that include the Presidents’ Wives (previous photo) as well as demonstrative photos like “Icing the Cakes” on Page 270.

Page 271 – Plain Chocolate Icing was an obvious favorite with a penciled X by it.

Handwritten recipe for Cucumber Pickles by Mary Roll.

Page 281 – Recipe for Snow Cake (Delicious.) “This is a genuine Scotch recipe.”

Page 296 – Sponge Drops in the Cake Section. Measurements are by Teacup and Coffee Cup and instructions read to”Bake instantly in a very quick oven.”

An old Sears, Roebuck envelope advertisement to order a Free Sample Book. It reads “Don’t pay retail prices for clothing” and takes a 2-cent stamp.

Many recipes called for “Butter the size of a walnut” or “Butter the size of an egg.”

Page 423 – Deep Red Coloring for Fruit, etc. [Take twenty grains of cochineal and fifteen grains of cream of tartar finely powdered; add to them a piece of alum the size of a cherry stone and boil them with a gill of soft water in an earthen vessel, slowly, for half an hour. Then strain it through muslin, and keep it tightly corked in a phial. If a little alcohol is added it will keep any length of time.]

Page 437 – The Healing Properties of Tea and Coffee. [The medical properties of these two beverages are considerable. Tea is used advantageously in inflammatory diseases and as a cure for the headache. Coffee is supposed to act as a preventive of gravel and gout, and to its influence is ascribed the rarity of those diseases in France and Turkey. Both tea and coffee powerfully counteract the effects of opium and intoxicating liquors; though, when taken in excess, and without nourishing food, they themselves produce, temporarily at least, some of the more disagreeable consequences incident to the use of ardent spirits. In general, however, none but persons possessing great mobility of the nervous system, or enfeebled or effeminate constitutions, are injuriously affected by the moderate use of tea and coffee in connection with food.]

How to make Wine and Beer.

Weekly Menus for each month of the year including holidays and special days like Washington’s Birthday.

Special Menus including a State Dinner at the White House; Mrs. Cleveland’s Wedding Lunch – June 4, 1888; General Grant’s Birthday Dinner; and a Buffet for 1,000 People.

Remedies and Cures for the Sick including Beefsteak and mutton chops if he is very sick; Draughts for the feet; and Cure for ringworm.

Health Suggestions including How Colds are Caught; for Toothache; and Asthma.

Miscellaneous recipes To clean kid gloves; Paper-hangers’ paste; Postage stamp mucilage.

Facts Worth Knowing such as To clean marble busts and To freshen gilt frames.

Toilet Recipes, Items including Lavender water; Hair invigorator, Phalon’s instantaneous hair dye; Pearl smelling salts; and antidote for poisons.

How to make dyes in all colors for a variety of fabrics.

Table Etiquette including Dinner giving [We gather around our board agreeable persons, and they pay us and our dinner the courtesy of dressing for the occasion, and this reunion should be a time of profit as well as pleasure.] ; and A family dinner [This sensible meal, well cooked and neatly served, is pleasing to almost any one, and is within the means of any housekeeper in ordinary circumstances.]

Handwritten recipes and notes in the book include Burnt Carmel Cake; Horse colic; Washing fluid; Throat gargle; Little Sage Tea [A pinch of Borax and a little honey is good for Baby’s sore mouth]; Cod oil and vinegar is good to take rust from cloth; and Black Chocolate Cake (requested).

This beautiful cookbook is an absolute treasure in my collection. I doubt if I’ll be doing much actual cooking from it, but it is fascinating to read! Thanks again to my Baby Sister!


8 Responses

  1. I’m so thrilled this book is such a treasure for you! It’s such a great way to time travel and get a glimpse into how people used to live. One of the things I remember most about it (I did flip through it before I sent it to you) was dying clothing for mourning (and the squirrel soup of course).

    • Dying clothing for mourning was probably a frequently referenced recipe! I love reading this book and just trying to imagine how they lived back then.

  2. Wow – some of that is just scary. We read a book in homeschool about old medical “remedies” – leeches, heads of dead chickens, etc. It said that George Washington’s final deathbed words were, “Leave me alone.” Wonder what they would think of our cook books.

  3. I have the same book .Pages are very delicate in mine.
    The date inside is 1907..and someone put straight pins with other old recipes in the front of the book .It is really a great book…

    • The pages are fragile in mine as well — a few are torn. I just try to turn the pages gently. Isn’t it amazing to read? Where did you get yours?

  4. I am working for a local library. In preparation for a book sale am looking at this book (the white house cook book from 1908) and cannot find a value for it. Can you tell me what this book is worth. poor condition

    • This book was a gift to me years ago by my sister. I have no idea what its true value would be, but I would guess — considering the content of the book, the photos, the construction — it should be priced, at the very least, at $100. Especially if you are fundraising for the library. Just my opinion, but hope it helps.

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