Home to Thanksgiving

I’m still preoccupied with non-Clark House matters, and new posts continue to be delayed. But in the spirit of our upcoming national holiday, I thought I’d help your preparations by sharing a few vintage recipes and a nice Currier & Ives lithograph from the period.1

Thanksgiving, 1867

Durrie, George H. and John Schutler, Home to Thanksgiving, ca. 1867, New York, Currier & Ives. National Gallery of Art, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Paul Mellon. Public Domain. Click to to open larger image in a new window.

By 1867, when this sentimental lithograph was first published, the Clark family had been living in Milwaukee for about six years. Family patriarch Jonathan M. Clark had died a decade earlier, and his only son, Henry M. Clark, had been dead for about a year and a half. Family matriarch Mary (Turck) Clark was living in a Milwaukee house with her unmarried daughters, Libbie, Persie, Theresa, Laura and Josie.

The Clark’s eldest child, Caroline, had married William W. Woodward in 1861. In 1867 the Woodwards were still living and farming in Granville, Milwaukee County, about nine miles south of the old Clark farm in Mequon.

So in 1867, Mary (Turck) Clark and her daughters would not have celebrated Thanksgiving at the old family farm in Mequon. But a picture like this Currier & Ives lithograph might have stirred fond memories of family and friends gathering for earlier Thanksgiving celebrations at the old Clark place.

And, you might wonder, what did the Clarks and their neighbors eat for Thanksgiving in Wisconsin in the mid-1800s? Glad you asked…

Typical Thanksgiving dishes, 1845

Here are some suggestions for your Thanksgiving dinner, as found on page 72 of Mrs. Esther Allen Howland’s invaluable New England Economical Housekeeper and Family Receipt [Recipe] Book, published in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1845:

Click to open larger image in new window.

Mrs. Howland’s book is available as a free GoogleBook (read it online or as a downloadable pdf), and is highly recommended for its insights into the world of “women’s work” in the 19th century. For more information about the author and her popular book, this is a good place to start.

But if you just need help preparing our traditional Thanksgiving main dish, let’s go to the original source:

To stuff and roast a Turkey, or Fowl, 1796 style

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress)

These fine2 recipes for turkey or other fowl are found on page 18 of this book:

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress).

The first American cook book

Yes, that’s American cookery, or, The art of dressing viands, fish, poultry, and vegetables : and the best modes of making pastes, puffs, pies, tarts, puddings, custards, and preserves : and all kinds of cakes, from the imperial plumb to plain cake, adapted to this country, and all grades of life, written by Amelia Simmons, “an American Orphan,” and published in Hartford by Hudson & Goodwin, for the author, in 1796.

American cookery was the first cook book known to be written by an American, and

[…] used terms known to Americans, and ingredients that were readily available to American cooks. It was the first cookbook to include New England specialties such as Indian puddingjohnnycake, and what is now called pumpkin pie. The cookbook was the first to suggest serving cranberry with turkey, and the first to use the Hudson River Valley Dutch word cookey. It introduced the use of pearlash, a precursor of baking soda, as a chemical leavener, starting a revolution in the making of American cakes.

Wikipedia “American Cookery”

It was a popular book, “printed, reprinted and pirated for 30 years after its first appearance.” American Cookery is considered by the Library of Congress to be “one of the books that shaped America.”3

Also, don’t forget that this book uses both the “long S” and “short S” forms of the letter.4 So when you see something like this:

Click to open large image in new window. (Library of Congress).

You’ll need to Boil and mash 3 pints potatoes, wet them with butter, add sweet herbs, pepper, salt, fill and roast as above,5 and so on.

For more on Amelia Simmons and her influential book, the Wikipedia article is quite comprehensive and has links to additional sources. And you can view and download a pdf of one of only four extant copies of the whole book at this Library of Congress link.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

I may take the rest of the week off from blogging. See you soon.


  1. Regular readers will note that parts of this post appeared last year, as How to stuff and roast a turkey – 1796 style.

  2. Actually, I have not tested these recipes and really don’t know whether they are delicious or healthy. They look tasty, but whenever you cook a big bird with stuffing inside, proceed with caution

  3. For the complete list of the Library of Congress’s Books that Shaped America, click here. Amelia is in some fine company.

  4. For more on the Long-S, see the paragraphs on Spelling in the 19th-century: long-S, in this earlier post.

  5. By the way, roasting the turkey by hanging “down over a steady fire” still works nicely, but be sure you hang the bird above the fire with a stout enough cord or chain that will not burn through from the flames as it cooks, causing the bird to fall into the ashes. (Don’t ask me how I know this, but I do…)

5 thoughts on “Home to Thanksgiving

  1. Thanks for the comments, y’all. I hope everyone had a fine Thanksgiving.

    I also wonder how many guests Mrs. Howland was cooking for. Perhaps she had a large family like the Clarks did.

    When president Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of Thanksgiving on the last Thursday of November, 1863, widow Mary Clark was living in Milwaukee with her seven unmarried children (or six, if Henry was away serving in the Civil War). Married daughter Caroline might have come to town with her husband William Woodward and joined the Clarks for supper. And Mary’s twice-widowed father Peter Turck probably was there, as was Mary’s youngest brother Benjamin Turck. So that’s 12 Clarks, Turcks and Woodwards for a start, and we’re not even counting Mary’s brother James B. Turck and his wife and 3 children that also lived nearby in Milwaukee.

    Anyway, thanks for reading and commenting. I’ll be back sometime next week.



  2. Pingback: Stuff happens | Clark House Historian

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