April 29, 2009

For the Foodies

Elizabeth J.J. Brown's cook book (ca. 1860) has come into the lab for repairs. And what a sweet little thing it is, especially the title page:
The Historical Society also owns Martha Washington's Cook Book. Last June we had a Solstice Potluck with staff and interns using the recipes from Mrs. Washington's book. It was quite successful and we've been anticipating the second annual potluck all winter. But perhaps the format will need to change in honor of the Chews the year?
The cookbooks are interesting to compare. Both are written by one writer and were started at both ends. Each has interesting instructions and measurements. For example, Elizabeth has a recipe for Morning Rolls, which calls for "a piece of butter the size of an egg and a 1/2." However, Mrs. Washington's book was clearly written before foods of the new world became part of the diet. There is no mention of tomatoes, potatoes, or squash. Her book is also organized into two sections; one of "cookery" and one of "sweetmeats." Elizabeth's book is full of food from the new world including recipes for catsup of tomatoes and of mushrooms, and references for straining things "as you would for squash." There does not seem to be a logical organization of Elizabeth's book.
Some of the more fun recipes include the "Kisses" above, and the Plumb Gingerbread. Although we have yet to find the plumbs in the gingerbread.
There are interesting recipes for Pickled Walnuts, and sevreal recipes for oysters, (boiled, fried, baked, or as a pie). A few of the eyebrow-raising items include: "Oily Mixture" and one "To Turtle Calves Head."
Along with recipes written down, there are a few dozen given to her by others, hastily written on scraps of paper or cut from the newspaper. She has several for Summer Complaint; this one sounds the yummiest - while others call for Gum Arabic and Laudanum.
And finally, one of the more interesting recipes to compare directly with Mrs. Washington's book is for Tomato Tart.
Without a doubt, the favorite surprise success recipe at last year's potluck was Mrs. Washington's Lettuce Pie. While the recipe sounded easy none of us trusted it to be any good. But Annie put it together it was the hit of the day. I suspect this one could be quite tasty with homegrown tomatoes completely ripened. I also suspect that it could inspire a very nice savory tart as well.

April 24, 2009

Fashion Tips from the Collection

These photographs from Elizabeth Brown Chew's scrapbook are perfect for a Friday afternoon chuckle. Enjoy!

April 16, 2009

David Sands Brown and Camden County

I finished processing the David Sands Brown and Company series and found it to be a good example of the entrepreneurial spirit associated with the economic development of the United States, especially if looked at from a micro-history-based point of view. After taking American History classes that only covered the major aspects and events of the United States past, looking at the papers in this part of the Chew collection gave me a new perspective on how just one individual took a neglected town and propelled it to progress through sheer will power and financial savvy.

Between the 1840’s and his death in 1877, David Sands Brown was a determining figure in the development and industrialization of Camden County in New Jersey, particularly Gloucester City. After working at his brother’s firm, he established his own dry goods enterprise and went on to become a successful and influential textile merchant in the South Jersey-Philadelphia area. He also served as Director of Girard Bank from 1840 to 1843 and founded, among others, the Washington Manufacturing, Washington Mills and the Gloucester Manufacturing companies.

According to Jeffery M. Dorwart, author of Camden County, New Jersey: the making of a metropolitan community, 1626-2000, Brown contributed to the development of urban neighborhoods through two other corporations he initiated: Gloucester Land Company (which provided housing to workers employed at his factories), and the Gloucester Saving Fund and Building Association that assisted workers in buying their own houses. He also bought Gloucester Iron Works and played a key role in planning and building the Camden, Gloucester, and Mt. Ephraim Railroad.

The papers that I processed are rich in details and descriptions of the daily operations of Brown’s enterprises and show different aspects of the development of Gloucester City. They are also rich in their variety. Besides business correspondence, accounts, financial reports and deeds, this part of the Chew collection features fabric samples, maps, broadsides and business cards, and even printed texts of songs about his companies. These songs are interesting in that they show a differing perspective on David Sands Brown so-called good business intentions. There is also a large group of maps, blueprints, and ground plans offering a visual description of the industrial and urban development of Camden County.

In these papers we can also see a chronicle of David Sands Brown relationship with the Chew family. His daughter Mary Johnson Brown married Samuel Chew (1832-1887), who became Brown’s business associate and treasurer and took charge of his estate after his death in 1877. Papers that document both the personal and professional relationships of the Chews and the Browns can be reviewed in Series X-Samuel Chew (1832-1887), Series XI-Brown and Johnson Families, and the papers pertaining to Mary Johnson Brown in Series XVI-Cliveden.

Papers related to all the companies Brown established can be found in this series of the Chew Family Papers and in the Historical Society of Pennsylvania’s Manuscript Collection 1586, David S. Brown & Co. Records, 1828-1910.