Tuesday, 5 September 2023

September Book Tuesday

 Well so much for Summer, sigh.

This Month's Book Tuesday comes courtesy of VSA member Marian Gibbard.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Motoring Costume
by  Andrew Lane

 Published in 1987 and covering the time period of 1900 to 1910, this short (32 pages) overview of what people wore while travelling in the increasingly popular motor cars of the early 20th century is fascinating.

The many photographs and illustrations provide excellent examples for those who wish to create their own, and the accompanying text provides sufficient detail and context to further understand the logic behind choosing such garments.

An quick and enjoyable read with plenty of material to spur further research if you are so inclined.

Monday, 4 September 2023

Happy 118th Alberta!


Saturday, September 2, we attended an event at the Badlands Historical Centre in Drumheller. 

There was a cake in celebration of Alberta's 118th birthday, barbecued burgers in the parking lot and a silent auction, proceeds going towards a new roof for the facility.
We had the use of a desk and display table to put out artifacts and books pertaining to life in Alberta from 1880-1914 as well as the coal mining history of the area. 
It was delightful to speak to the public and share our knowledge of history.
The Badlands Historical Centre is located conveniently in downtown Drumheller. The displays are varied and informative, focusing on Drumheller history with coal mining,  prehistoric history, plus a display about the RCMP, and one on local citizens who were very artistic. 
All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday to help celebrate our provinces 118th birthday!
If you'd like to visit the Badlands Historical Centre yourself, they can be found at 335, 1st St East in Drumheller Alberta
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday, 18 August 2023

August Fashion Friday

A question I am often asked is what colours are there in the photos? 

So for this month's Fashion Friday we present two images and a video to keep in mind when looking at historic photographs from our period.

Clothing, buildings, uniforms etc are all shades of grey of course.  However, unlike modern Black and White photos (using a system known as Panchromatic) the original photographic systems did not react to all colours the same way!

These two images give you a good idea of what colours look like in the original photos.
Note the comparison with normal Black and White in the center of the top image and the right of the bottom.

Also keep in mind that most early tintype and glass plate photos are mirror images so they are backwards from what one would expect.

A good example of how the colours don't always match up with what you would expect is this famous shot from the American Civil War of George Armstrong Custer and his friend who was a Confederate soldier.


Custer, on the right, has the typical dark jacket easily assumed to be Union Blue but, what colour are his uniform trousers?  

We know from colour lithographs of the time, and surviving examples, that they were fairly light blue. If we didn't already know that though it could easily be assumed to be grey like the Confederate's trousers.





Here is a video from VPS_Gettysburg found on Instagram, that shows some great examples.
There is a thriving Tintype photo scene for re-enactors in the States so lots of examples of the outfits in colour to compare with their tintype versions.

The Victorian Society of Alberta.


Wednesday, 9 August 2023

Days of Yore 2023

 Another fantastic weekend of history in Didsbury Alberta!

Held on Saturday and Sunday Aug 5 and 6, 2023 at Rosebud Park in Didsbury the ninth edition of Days of Yore was a great success.  We were there along with historical re-enactor groups stretching from Vikings to WWII.

Members of the Victorian Society at DOY 2023
Victorian Society of Alberta Members at DOY 2023


Here is an awesome little video produced by the Edmonton House Brigade that captures the feel of the event pretty well.

Our camp was one of the largest again this year.

In addition to your editor's "Victorian Internet" Telegraph display, our camp included a WWI "Casualty Clearing Station", a period under canvas School Room, complete with portrait of Her Majesty and school books from the time, a laundry display and an active Croquet field rounded out our busy camp.

Another fantastic weekend.

Already planning and scheming for next year!

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Tuesday, 1 August 2023

August Book Tuesday

 While everyone is getting ready for  Days of Yore, this months Book Tuesday is a cookbook from 1804.
A little early for our period but its 490 pages are filled with recipes that would still have been in use as "standard fare".
Available for download at the Internet Archive.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The housekeeper's instructor, or, Universal family cook : being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches ...

IN the primitive ages of the world, when the preservation of human existence was supported only by the simple and spontaneous productions of Nature, Mankind were totally unacquainted with every mode which has been since discovered and adopted for the gratification of sensual indulgence. As time advanced, the people became more dispersed, and nations were formed in different parts of the known world, so improvement took place as well in the Art of Cookery, as in the common transactions of life.

Every age contributed, by additional invention. enjoyment, till at length those, were simply used in their natural hate, became refined, and were rendered, by art, not only pleasing, but deliciously grateful to the palate. The means of acquiring such indulgence for the subject of this work, which the writer has, for a great number of years made it his study to obtain, and which, he flatters himself, will be found so accurate, clear, and concise, as to render every person, who follows the directions given, so professed a Cook, as to produce reputation to themselves, by giving the most ample satisfaction to those for whom they provide.

In the execution of this performance, we shall proceed in regular gradation to describe the method of properly dressing every kind of provision, as Fish, Flesh, Fowl, &c. to all of which we shall subjoin the, manner of providing their respective Sauces, as also the proper mode of Carving each Joint, Bird, or Fish, with Neatness and Dexterity ; so that the Housewife will not only be complete Mistress of The Whole Art of Cookery, but may also acquit herself at the Table with Honour and Reputation.

We shall only farther observe, that this very ample Cohesion (which, exclusive of the common Course of Provisions) will contain every thing yet invented for the gratification of the Appetite, is presented to the public as the most complete in its Nature ever yet formed, the whole being the produce of Time, Study, and Experience. As such we lay it before our Readers, not doubting but our labours will be rewarded by the advantages they will receive from being perfectly acquainted with a complete knowledge of the Culinary Art in all its respective Branches. The Receipts for each Article are formed on so easy and cheap a Plan as to be within the Purchase of all Ranks of People.

N.B. A Copious Index also is added, whereby the Reader may, with Ease, immediately refer to any Article in this valuable Collection.

Friday, 21 July 2023

July Fashion Friday

 While everyone is working on getting our Days of Yore camp ready to go an often asked question is how did Victorians dress during the heat of Summer.  Days of Yore is usually very hot indeed so we have to keep it in mind.

Gentlemen were allowed to dispense with coat and waistcoat when working. Although they usually kept those items close to hand in case the boss came by and when travelling back and forth to work. Ladies, however had more constraints due to "propriety" but also simply fashion. To get the correct fashionable silhouette requires many layers so how did they handle the heat?

This fashion business was less of an issue out here in the West of course, but the propriety element was certainly still there. The result was the "Little House on the Prairie" effect. The main anachronism in the TV style is that the mother is not wearing a corset, she almost certainly would have been as there was still a need for support.

The promo pic is also missing the needed bonnets that would have always been worn when outside.

Most photographs of the period show people "dressed up" for business,  travel, and simply being in public, not necessarily for everyday work around the house, yard or fields. So it is tougher to find what people generally wore in the heat of Summer.

However the reenactor community has re-discovered how to handle it and  here are several links to interesting discussions on that very subject.  


Victorian Clothing Through the Seasons

"During the Victorian era many layers of clothing were required to achieve a fashionable silhouette and women wore dresses all year round. These facts have helped to feed misconceptions about Victorian clothing and often overshadow the logical solutions Victorian women used to regulate their body temperature and stay comfortable regardless of the weather."

Lots of photos here.

Victorian Clothing and the Heat of Summer

Our ancestors didn’t know about air conditioning, and wearing only a camisole (aka t-shirt) and men’s trousers (aka pants or shorts) would have been beyond scandalous. They couldn’t even imagine NOT being dressed in a proper chemise, drawers and petticoats then the dress (usually skirt and bodice) on top.

That’s simply how clothing was worn in the 19th century.

PLUS…. and people forget this…. the fabric used was natural – cotton and linen. Thin fabrics that breathe and keep you cool in the heat.

The comments below this post have lots of insight to the practicality of Victorian styles to today's reenactors.

And finally a fun video on the "Old West".

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday, 14 July 2023

Days of Yore Info

We are working steadily to get ready for Days of Yore Aug 5 and 6 in Didsbury Alberta.
Come and join in the fun!

 If you are looking for links on all of the awesome Days of Yore info here they are:
Days of Yore Website & Tickets - https://www.daysofyore.ca
Days of Yore Facebook page - https://www.facebook.com/daysofyorefestival
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Wednesday, 12 July 2023

Trench Warfare on the Plains

A fascinating bit of History here.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Dubbed Manitoba's "Rorkes Drift".

"In July of 1851, the Metis and the Dakota of the Council of the Seven Fires met at the battle of Grand Coteau. This would be the first step towards statehood for the Metis and the beginning of the hardest period of history for the Seven Fires Council."



Sunday, 9 July 2023

Getting started on the Prairies in 1890

 A fascinating video from the National Film Board collection.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday, 4 July 2023

July Book Tuesday

 Summer has arrived and for this month's Book Tuesday we have a delightful pamphlet/book produced by the CPR in 1912, and available at the Internet Archive as a PDF.

Entitled "Eastern Tours Through the Canadian Rockies" it is a delightful little guide to enjoying a Summer trip across Canada, but concentrating on the Rockies. I am curious why the title is "Eastern Tours" since most people would consider the Rockies to be in the West, but marketers then and now tended to be obscure in their creativity ☺ However the tour does start in Victoria and goes East so that might be it although the text does not follow a direct route.

Worth checking out for a look at train travel in the Edwardian times.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Eastern Tours Through the Canadian Rockies.

From the Introduction:

THE discovery of a route across the Rockies 
for the Canadian Pacific Railway took 
twelve years, but never was labor be:ter 
rewarded. The last spike connecting East and 
West was driven thirty years ago, on Novem- 
ber 7, 1885, and the millions who have since 
traveled along this wonderful highway, cut out 
of the precipitous cliffs of the Fraser Canyon, 
winding under the snow-capped peaks of three 
vast ranges, crossing and recrossing foaming 
torrents deep down below — these millions have 
one unanimous thought that for sheer grandeur 
the Canadian Pacific Railway is without rival. 
It takes twenty-four consecutive hours on an 
express train to cross the Canadian Rockies. 
The wise man breaks his journey so that he can 
see it all by daylight, and to assist this praise- 
worthy intention, the Canadian Pacific was
constructed mountain hotels at convenient 
points along the line, where one may rest and 
perhaps spend some time exploring among the 
glaciers, riding on sure-footed ponies on the 
mountain trails, or climbing with experienced 
Swiss guides the peaks which prick the sky in 
such profusion. Sicamous is a half-way house 
between Vancouver and Calgary, and those 
who have no time to stop off elsewhere, but 
still wish to make an all-daylight trip through 
the mountains will find here a comfortable hotel. 

Lots of illustrations in this dense little book:


Thursday, 29 June 2023

Friday, 16 June 2023

June Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we have a video concerning protective clothes, outer garments that protected the regular clothes when working or travelling.
These garments were common in all places during Victorian times not just the "Wild West".

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday, 6 June 2023

June Book Tuesday and Recipe test

For June's post the ever resourceful Marian Gibbard has prepared a wonderful combination Book  Tuesday and Recipe test!

Combining a tasty Picnic for One with links to lots of resources at the Internet Archive to get us inspired for our Summer.

The Victoria Society of Alberta


An Early Summer Picnic Lunch

A Google search for ‘Victorian picnics’ will soon overwhelm the curious explorer with extensive menus, numerous recipes and complex social etiquette instructions. I scaled the affair down to a simple outdoor lunch for one, and put together a basket of tasty late Victorian and Edwardian style food to enjoy on a beautiful May afternoon in my backyard.

The menu:

  • Cucumber sandwich
  • Ham sandwich
  • Rhubarb cake
  • Gingersnaps
  • Blackberries (purchased)
  • Roasted and salted almonds (purchased)
  • Raspberry vinegar
  • Lemonade

Picnic for One

The recipes:

Cucumber Sandwich

From the "North End Club Cook Book".


Ham Sandwich

Based on instructions for similar sandwiches, but using modern conveniences: store bought light rye bread spread with a grainy mustard, lettuce leaves, and thin sliced deli ham.

Rhubarb Cake

A simple cake, similar to some Victorian era recipes I have seen, but using a modern recipe.  Rhubarb is often of the first fruits or vegetables available in this area, and the first picking had arrived in my kitchen the day before this picnic, making for an unexpected but welcome addition to the menu.

The recipe came from the Western Producer, a farm/agricultural newspaper, May 26, 2022 edition. You’ll find article with the Old-fashioned Rhubarb Crunch Cake and three other rhubarb recipes on their website here:



Made from a vintage family recipe, which is very similar to this one found in the "North End Club Cook Book".  

Chill the dough overnight in the fridge before slicing and baking. Leave plenty of room between  the cookies to allow for spreading when they bake, and then let them cool for a few seconds on the cookie sheet before removing them.


Raspberry Vinegar

Sweetened vinegar based syrups are an excellent way to preserve strongly flavoured berries beyond their regrettably short season as fresh fruit. This was made last summer using an old family recipe which is very similar to the instructions found in multiple period cook books.

Raspberry Vinegar

  • 3 quarts raspberries
  • 1 quart vinegar (white)
  • Let stand in crock for 2 or 3 days, mashing raspberries thoroughly. Strain.
  • To 1 pint syrup add 1 pound white sugar. Let set in cool place, stirring frequently.
  • When sugar is dissolved, strain and bottle.

To make a drink, dilute the vinegar syrup to taste - usually a spoonful or two to a glass of cold water. Stir well, and enjoy.


Made using this Lemon Syrup recipe from the "White House Cook Book".  Originally published in 1886, the "White House Cook Book" went through numerous editions; this one is from 1908.

I had made the syrup last year, and put it up in pint canning jars. A dilution of 1part lemon syrup to 6 parts water seems to work well for this batch. Preferred dilution ratios will vary with personal taste and may vary between batches of syrup.


The sources:

The "North End Club Cook Book": a collection of choice and tested recipes. 1905. North End Club, Chicago, Illinois. https://archive.org/details/northendclubcook00nort/mode/2up

The "White House Cook Book": a comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home, containing cooking, toilet and household recipes, menus, dinner-giving, table etiquette, care of the sick, health suggestions, facts worth knowing, etc.. Fanny L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann, editors. 1908 edition.  https://archive.org/details/whitehousecookbo00gill_2/mode/2up

The Western Producer. ‘Rhubarb among Mother Nature’s first garden offerings’. May 26 2022. https://www.producer.com/farmliving/rhubarb-among-mother-natures-first-garden-offerings/

Personal collection of family recipes.

It was a fine repast indeed!

Monday, 22 May 2023

Happy Victoria Day!

We hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday, 19 May 2023

May Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we present a very interesting discussion about how Victorians created the illusion of having such tiny waists.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday, 2 May 2023

May Book Tuesday

This month we feature a review by VSA member Marian Gibbard

Thanks Marian

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Title:         Thunderstruck
Author:     Erik Larson
Published:     2006
The late Victorian and Edwardian era was a time of great change, both scientifically and socially.  Transportation and communication technology were advancing rapidly. Increased access to wealth and consumer goods was causing rapid shifts in established social structures. Against this background, Erik Larson paints the seemingly unconnected stories of two men. One, Guglielmo Marconi, a scientist and inventor grappling with natural forces he barely understands; the other,  Hawley Crippen, a struggling business man and devoted husband and lover.  Both are ambitious, daring, and facing long odds of achieving their dreams.  One of them will go on to become one of the great names in wireless communication, the other will go on to be executed as a murderer.

Extensively researched and with numerous footnotes, this book reads more like an adventure novel than a non-fiction selection.  More than just a dry recitation of facts and events, considerable effort has been put into describing for the reader the small details of scene, atmosphere, and personality that brings the characters and their settings to life.  The sights and sounds of the first, primitive wireless broadcast stations are brought to life without burying the reader in excessive technical details.

This was an entirely enjoyable read, and held my attention throughout.  I would recommend it to readers who want to know more (but not too much) about the development of intercontinental wireless communication, and also those who enjoy a good ‘true Victorian crime’ story.

“Snow began to fall and soon covered the clifftop. At night sparks from the transmitter lit the descending flakes. With each concussion a pale blue aura burst across the landscape, as if the transmission house were a factory stamping out ghosts for dispersal into the ether. Three-foot daggers of ice draped wires.”

    Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, p 233

Thursday, 20 April 2023

Recipe Test Simnel Cake

 Here is another Victorian Recipe Test by VSA member Marian Gibbard.


The Victorian Society of Alberta

Recipe Test:    Mrs.Crocombe’s Simnel Cake 

From:    English Heritage - The Victorian Way YouTube channel
Link:    English Heritage. (2023, April 4). How to Make Simnel Cake - The Victorian Way

When the link to this video was posted to the VSA Facebook page just before Easter, I thought it would be the perfect dessert for my holiday dinner. But then someone mentioned cheesecake and lemons and raspberries, and suddenly Simnel Cake turned into a ‘next weekend’ project.  And now, here we are at next weekend already.

Mrs Crocombe as depicted by Kathy Hipperson on English Heritage’s The Victorian Way YouTube channel is absolutely my favourite Victorian cook.  The humour is subtle, the educational details extensive without being oppressive, the attention to detail exceptional, and the recipes tantalising. I’d definitely recommend the channel to anyone interested in Victorian food or life ‘below the stairs’ on a Victorian estate.

I had most of the ingredients for the Simnel Cake in my kitchen already, other than the candied citron peel and candied lemon peel.  Since I wasn’t able to find either of them in any of the stores I visited while doing my last minute shopping, I substituted some fruitcake fruit that I had leftover from making Christmas cakes a few years ago. By carefully picking out only the paler coloured bits from the mixed fruit, I think I succeeded in getting mostly lemon peel and citron for my cake.  Mrs Crocombe tells us that we can use currants or sultanas and milk rather than brandy if we prefer,  so I used sultanas since my currant jar was empty, and milk since there was no brandy in the cupboard. Only having large eggs in the fridge, I used only 2 instead of Mrs C’s 3 small ones.

The instructions provided are straightforward, and easy to follow.  Mrs Crocombe doesn’t actually tell us what size of pan she uses, but thanks to technology and instant replays I guessed that my largest fruitcake pan (8” diameter x 3” deep) would be about the right size - a springform and would probably also work well.

The cake smelled wonderful as it was baking.  Everyone passing through the kitchen commented on it. Just the smell was enough to make me feel that this would be a successful trial. About 1 hr 20 min into the baking time, I noticed that the top of the cake was already fairly brown, so I laid a square of parchment paper over top to hopefully help control it.  I think it helped, but the cake was still quite dark by the time it was done.  At 2.5 hrs the cake tested done, smelled delightful, but was just beginning to blacken a bit around the edges. Hoping for the best, I turned it out to cool.




The almond paste I was using for the top of the cake was softer than it should have been - it was leftover from another baking experiment and had a bit of orange juice added to it, which made for a lovely flavour, but a softer and stickier paste which was difficult to roll out and shape nicely. Fortunately, the cake wasn’t being judged on its artistic merits, so I just pressed the almond paste into place and sprinkled it liberally with icing sugar.





The finished cake is quite dense, and mine had quite a heavy crust, so a sharp knife is definitely needed for cutting.  Its a rich cake, somewhat reminiscent of a good fruit cake (or Christmas cake, or wedding cake) but a less intense flavour.  I definitely prefer the Simnel cake to the others. I’d recommend that you keep the pieces on the smallish side, and as Mrs Crocombe says, it is rather good with a cup of tea.

This is definitely on the list of things that will be made again.



Notes for next time:

Pan size: 8” diameter x 3” deep seems to work well.

Consider how best to reduce excess browning -

    - line the pan with paper, like you do for Christmas cake,

    - check about 1 hr into cooking time for colour - cover if necessary,

    - possibly reduce cooking temperature to 325 F from 350 F

Friday, 14 April 2023

April Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we present an incredible collection of sewing patterns and information.

Cosplayer Artemisia Moltabocca has done us all a service by pulling together a fantastic set of free resources for sewing your own costume, from an Italian Renaissance ball gown to petticoats from the 1950s.

Moltabocca, who also has a great set of sewing tutorials on her site, has gathered free patterns from across the internet, as well as pattern making sites that help you generate the perfect pattern for a custom corset. And if you aren't sure how to take the pattern images and enlarge them properly, Moltabocca also shows how to quickly and effectively enlarge a pattern using Powerpoint.

For a $3 USD Paypal donation you can download a bookmark file with hundreds of links!

Worth every penny!

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Download Link 


A collection of 1,000+ links to hundreds of free sewing patterns for women, men, and children from 3000BCE to 1960 with a focus on 1800 - 1920.

Also includes:

  • Monthly issues of Godey's Ladies Magazine in date order.

  • Singer service manuals 600, 603, 604, 600e, 603e, 604e, 560.

  • Singer 600 and 600e series chainstitch manual from my personal collection.

Don't be confused by copycat sites - we are the OG! OpenCulture | ArtOfIt | MentalFloss | MyModernMet | LifeHacker | ArtFido | ColoradoVirtualLibrary. 
List is a bookmarks.html file. Use as-is, or import into your own browser. Download on desktop or laptop. Your $3 donation will buy me a coffee as I maintain and expand this list. Immediate download.

Tuesday, 4 April 2023

April Book Tuesday

 Happy Spring!

I hope the weather where you are is starting to moderate a bit.

For this month's Book Tuesday we have a real treat.

Asher & Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry 1876

Reprinted in 1976.

This very large volume 11" x 16" was created to celebrate the Industrial achievements of the US at the end of its first 100 years. 

From the Amazon listing:

"Asher & Adams' Pictorial Album of American Industry is a rare and beautiful window on the America of a Hundred years ago, a volume visually rich and uniquely authentic in its portrayal of nineteenth-century American life. Here are depicted in faithful and elaborate detail, mines and railway cars: farm machines and factories: hotels, carriages, colleges, and elegantly appointed Victorian showrooms. The more than 1,000 fascinating engravings reprinted here were made for the original edition of the album, first published in 1876 at the time of the national Centennial. A great contrast from our present harried times."

The engravings in this large folio book are sharp and clear and cover hundreds of machines and buildings and examples of the Industrial wonders found daily in post Civil War America.

While American based these were the background of the industrial equipment available in the West once the railroad was running.


Definitely worth checking out.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday, 24 March 2023

March Fashion Friday

For this month's Fashion Friday we have a link to a fabulous website with an index of Edwardian to WWI Sewing Books.

Well worth the perusal!

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books

This blog post is meant to be an index for helping you to access free sewing books on Archive.org from the 1900-1910s. These sewing manuals would originally have been used in conjunction with paper sewing patterns of this period.

Why Sewing Books? Can’t I Just Read the Pattern?

Well, you can… kind of. If you have sewn with original sewing patterns, or reproductions of them, you know that they can be very vague. Sewing instructions of this period, if they existed at all, would have been a few short, written paragraphs with no illustrations. Butterick had the patent on the illustrated instructions, and patterns from about the mid-1910s on have a few simple illustrations but can still be quite vague. Short version: Don’t expect any patterns of this period to have in-depth instructions! They were mostly a suggestion rather than a walk-through. I always suggest in my patterns that readers reference the free period sewing books available online. There is a plethora of them!

Using these sewing books in conjunction with the antique patterns is how our predecessors would have approached their sewing projects. Sewing was also a technical skill that would have been passed down through the generations, or part of a home economics program. Since most students no longer have access to home economics, we are lucky to have a written record of techniques. Pre-20th century books would loosely explain technique, but not always illustrate. As printing technology advanced, so, too, did the practical sharing of knowledge. You may find books reaching towards the 1920s have more in-depth instruction, though I have not previewed each link.

Special note: don’t discount books that were addressed towards children. They have valuable information regardless of age, and sewing would have been a skill taught to girls as part of their education during this period. If you’re learning to sew from scratch, starting with the lessons in a girls’ sewing book could help walk you through the basics (and I say girl’s simply because that’s how the period addressed them- I obviously think sewing is open to anyone!)

Please keep in mind that I haven’t previewed all these books and the information and beliefs expressed within are indicative of the period in which they originated (true when viewing any historical primary source documents). Even sewing books can sneak in some cringeworthy content, so don’t be surprised…

Here are a selection of some sewing books available on Archive.org.

1901: Home and School Sewing

1901: Longman’s Complete Course of Knitting, Needlework, and Cutting Out

1903: The Art of Dressmaking at Home and in the Workroom

1904: Manual of Exercises in Hand Sewing

1904: Margaret J Blair’s System of Sewing and Garment Drafting

1905: Hand Sewing Lessons; a Graded Course for Schools and For the Home

1905: Dressmaking Up to Date


And lots and lots more at this wonderful site!
Check it out.

Free Edwardian-WWI Era Sewing Books


Thursday, 16 March 2023

New Feature! Recipe Tests

Today we are starting a new monthly feature by VSA member Marian Gibbard.

Recipe Tests
Trying out period recipes and seeing what they are like.
For this inaugural post Marian is giving us a look at a recipe for Apple Lemon Pie from 1905.

Mmmmmm... 😋

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Recipe Test: Apple Lemon Pie

From: The North End Club Cookbook: A collection of choice and tested recipes.
Compiled and arranged by the Ladies of the Club. Chicago, Illinois, 1905.

Link: https://archive.org/details/northendclubcook01nort/page/78/mode/2up

In celebration of Pi Day (March 14), I decided to combine a couple of interests - cooking from old recipes and pie.  Not having a suitable cookbook already in my collection, I turned to the internet, and discovered the North End Club Cookbook, published in 1905 in Chicago, Illinois.


 At 166 pages long, the book covers Appetizers, Soups, Bread (includes biscuits, waffles, muffins, etc.), Sandwiches, Vegetables, Eggs and Cheese, Fish, Meats (includes poultry), Salads, Pastry, Puddings, Pudding Sauces, Cake, Small Cakes (includes cookies and doughnuts), Ices and Ice Cream, Preserves, Pickles, Candy, Things Worth Knowing, Chafing Dish, and Beverages. The final section  - twenty or so pages - consists of advertisements for the local businesses whose purchased ad space would have financed the publication of the book.  The foreword of the book makes it clear that these are practical, well-tested recipes. 

The precision and clarity of instructions for preparation of the recipes varies somewhat - clearly there is an assumption of underlying cooking knowledge. This may present a few small stumbling blocks for modern cooks, but for the most part Google is a capable stand in for an experienced cook of an older generation.


 Knowing there were some substandard apples languishing in the back of the produce drawer, and wishing to celebrate Pi Day, I immediately focused on the ‘Pastry’ section. Midway through the section, on page 78, the recipe for ‘Apple Lemon Pie’ submitted by Mrs. Almet Powell caught my eye:

Apple Lemon Pie

Grate the yellow rind of 1 lemon, add the juice, 1 egg, 1 cup of sugar. Beat well together, then stir in 2 medium sized apples grated. Bake between two crusts.


 A simple and straightforward recipe, this went together quickly. I quickly removed the zest from a medium sized lemon using a modern Microplane zester (a fantastic tool that I’d highly recommend)and juiced it with and old fashioned wooden reamer (make sure to strain out the seeds). I then used a fork to combine the zest and juice with a scant 3/4 cup of white sugar (less sugar than Mrs Powell called for, but we like things on the less sweet side)  and then beat in an extra large egg (because that is what I had, but a medium egg would probably be more like the size Mrs. Powell used).  The Ambrosia apples (a modern variety, and these were past their prime) were peeled, quartered, cored, coarsely grated and mixed into the egg mixture. I used 3 apples rather than two to fill my 9’ pie plate. Because I was in a hurry I used store-bought pastry rather than making my own.  I then baked the pie at 375F for about 40 minutes, until the pastry was nicely golden and the juices bubbling up around the edges. It smelled marvellously lemon-y.

That evening, the pie was served at room temperature. Initial reactions were slight puzzlement - the pie neither smelled nor looked quite like conventional apple pie due to the apples being grated rather than chopped, and the lemon zest lending it a bright and sunny yellow colour.  Overall tasting reaction was favourable. The first bite was somewhat suggestive of pineapple - perhaps due to the texture and slight acidity - but the final verdict that it was ‘almost like lemon pie except for the texture’. 

This is definitely a recipe that I would make again, and I would recommend it as great way to use up apples that have lost their crisp texture or are rather flat tasting.


Final conclusions:

Use zest from half a lemon, rather than the whole lemon.

Adjust sugar to taste - 3/4 cup was about right for us, but may be too tart for others.

Experiment with apple varieties to find the texture you like best.

If you want a more apple-y tasting pie, add typical apple pie spices like cinnamon or nutmeg, and use only half a lemon’s worth of juice.

This would likely make a great tart filling - leave off the top crust and top with some whipped cream or maybe even a bit of merengue.



More early 1900’s community cookbook links from the Library of Congress here: https://guides.loc.gov/community-cookbooks/chronological/1900-1909

More next month.