Food History Resources

Last year, as a project for one of my library science classes, I created a Food History LibGuide that brought together a collection of online resources for food history. I have since found myself referring back to it many times as I search for recipes for this blog. However, since my LibGuide was a student project, it is hosted on the school’s server and is not viewable by the public. I decided to recreate parts of it here, with a list of helpful resources from around the web. I will come back to this page to update it as I find more.

Better Homes & Gardens Online Archive

Provides issues of Better Homes & Gardens magazine going back to 1922, many of which include recipes or articles and advertisements related to cooking and food. You have to create an account to view them, but it is free.

Cookbooks and Home Economics Collection

This is a collection of over 10,000 digitized cookbooks hosted by the Internet Archive. It includes collections from UCLA, UC Berkeley, and the Prelinger Library, ranging from the 16th century to the present day.

Cookery and Culture Digital Collection

A digital collection of cookbooks from Utah State University, ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries.

Early American Cookbooks

A collection of 1,450 cookbooks published in the United States between 1800 and 1920.

Early English Books Online

A partnership between Proquest and dozens of academic libraries with over 70,000 transcribed texts from the 15th to 18th centuries. A subject search for “cookery” will retrieve all cookbook results.

Elizabeth Robins Pennell Collection

A special collection at the Library of Congress, containing hundreds of volumes of European cookbooks from the 16th to 19th centuries. Some of the materials have been digitized and are available online.

Emergence of Advertising in America: 1850-1920

A digital collection of over 3,300 advertising items and publications from Duke University Libraries. Within this collection, the Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks contains 82 cookbooks from 1877-1929.

EUVS Digital Collection

An online collection of bartending books from the 1820s through the 1940s.

Google Books Advanced Search

This is by far the resource that I use the most. Google Books has thousands of digitized cookbooks available for free. Since you can search the full text, it is an incredibly useful tool for finding recipes for specific dishes. I generally enter the subject “cooking” in my searches to narrow the results to cookbooks, but it can also be interesting to leave it out and see what other sources mention particular types of food. You can also narrow the search to specific years if you’re looking for a certain time period.

Hearth: Home Economics Archive

This is a digital collection of books and journals in Home Economics and related disciplines from Cornell University, ranging in date from 1850 to 1950. I’ve mostly used this to browse Good Housekeeping magazines – they have every issue from 1885 to 1950. Nearly every issue contains recipes, as well as lots of fun vintage housekeeping advice.

History of Food and Drink Collection Rare Books & Publications

This collection from Virginia Tech contains 182 cookbooks ranging from the 1910s-1930s.

Katherine Golden Bitting Collection

A special collection at the Library of Congress, containing thousands of publications and manuscripts on gastronomy from the 15th through 20th centuries. Some of the materials have been digitized and are available online.

Lackawanna Valley Digital Archives – Community and Church Cookbooks from Northeastern PA

A small collection of digitized community cookbooks ranging from the 1960s to the 2000s.

Library of Congress Research Guide – Community Cookbooks

This collection includes digitized community cookbooks ranging from 1864 to 1922.

Manuscript Cookbooks Survey

An ongoing project, this site is a database of pre-1865 manuscript cookbooks held in U.S. public institutions.

Michigan State University – Feeding America

A digital archive of 76 of the most important and influential American cookbooks from Michigan State University’s collection, ranging from the late 18th to early 20th century. Although some of these cookbooks are available elsewhere, the Feeding America archive is useful because it allows full text searching and includes introductory essays for each book.

Michigan State University – Feeding Michigan

A digital archive of 68 cookbooks from the MSU Libraries’ collection, which were published in Michigan or produced by Michigan communities, organizations, churches, or individuals dating back to the late nineteenth century.

Michigan State University – Little Cookbooks (Sliker Collection)

A collection of thousands of food and cookery related publications from the late nineteenth century up to the present. Many have been digitized already, and the digitization process is ongoing.

Michigan State University – What America Ate

Another online archive from Michigan State University, this is an absolutely fantastic resource for food history of the 1920s and 1930s. It includes original source materials from the WPA America Eats project, over 200 community cookbooks, and a collection of rare advertisements, pamphlets, recipe leaflets, and food packaging materials. It also has advanced search capabilities and allows full-text searching.

Milwaukee Public Library’s Historic Recipe File

A digital collection of recipes that were clipped from newspapers by librarians at Milwaukee Public Library from the 1960s to the 1980s.

National Library of Scotland Manuscript Recipe Books Collection

This collection includes 42 manuscript recipe books (handwritten cookbooks) ranging in date from 1600 to the present day. Although the handwriting can sometimes be difficult to read, manuscript cookbooks offer insight into the lives of ordinary people and cooks.

New York Public Library – Jewish Cookbook Collection

The New York Public Library has one of the largest and most diverse Jewish cookbook collections in the world. Although most are only available onsite, a few cookbooks dating from the 1900s – 1930s are digitized and available online.

Nova Scotia Archives – Digitized Cookbooks

A small collection of 17 digitized cookbooks from the Nova Scotia Archives Library and the Nova Scotia Museum Library, ranging from 1820 to 1943.

Service through Sponge Cake

This digital collection of cookbooks is a collaborative effort between the Indiana University Library and the Indianapolis Public Library and focuses on Indiana cookbooks dating from the turn-of-the-century, with a special emphasis on fundraising cookbooks published by churches, synagogues and other community organizations. Cookbooks range from the 1850s up to the 2000s.

Stony Brook University – Chinese Culinary History

A guide to Chinese culinary history with links to online full-text cookbooks ranging from the 1900s to 1970s.

Szathmary Recipe Pamphlets

A digitized collection of recipe pamphlets from the University of Iowa, ranging from the late 19th century to the present day with a particular focus on the period 1910-1940.

Texas Tech University Libraries – Historical Cookbooks

This online collection contains 137 cookbooks ranging in date from 1910 to 1984.

Texas Woman’s University – Culinary History and Cookbook Digital Archive

The digital archive includes selected cookbooks and recipe leaflets dating back to the 1880s. Some of the cookbooks are fully digitized; others only have cover images available.

University of Minnesota – Kirschner Collection

A collection of 150 digitized cookbooks ranging from 1812 to 1932. The bulk of the collection is from 1910-1920.

University of North Carolina Greensboro – Home Economics Pamphlet Collection

A collection of approximately 700 pamphlets and books ranging from 1820 to the present day. The bulk of the collection is from the 1910s through 1980s.

University of Wisconsin-Madison – Recipe for Victory: Food and Cooking in Wartime

A collection of materials relating to food and cooking during World War I.

Wartime Canada

A collaboration between the University of Western Ontario and other Canadian institutions, this online archive contains cookbooks, menus, and other information about food and eating in Canada during World War I and World War II.

Wellcome Library Collection

The Wellcome Library’s collection contains hundreds of cookbooks, many of them digitized (most are publicly available, but some require a Wellcome Collection log-in to view). Search the catalogue with the subject “cooking” and set the location filter to “online” to find digitized results.