During my senior year of college, I lived across the street from the William L. Clements Library on South University Avenue at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. Little did I know then that my career work evaluating art, antiques and collectibles would bring me back there to survey their fine yet unusual collection of cook books and materials relating to the history of the American culinary arts.
The Janice Longone Culinary Archive housed at the Clements Library at UM is broad in scope. It focuses on “everything that influenced and influences America and everything that America influenced and influences in culinary matters.”
That is a tall order for any collection. The material on deposit at UM highlights various areas of culinary history and American domestic and commercial life from the late 1700s to the early 1900s. While antique and vintage cookbooks make up the crux of the collection, there are also diaries, letters from chefs, catalogues, menus (like those used by celebrities of the day), advertisements, maps (relating to the spice trade routes and other materials) and manuscripts about food and food service.
The archive is the result of a lifetime of collecting by Janice and Daniel Longone, who donated the collection to the university. Some of the objects in the collection include titles that would spark interest and intrigue with even the most inexperienced foodies.
For instance, the collection includes cookbooks dating back to the 18th Century and objects that discuss the history of maize in American Indian society. There is a pamphlet cookbook from the model kitchen erected at the World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago in 1893 entitled “Recipes used in Illinois Corn Exhibit,” by Sara T. Rorer. Mrs. Rorer was an entrepreneur, the founder of the Philadelphia Cooking School, an author and editor of the Ladies Home Journal.
Other interesting handwritten recipes in the library archive date back to the 1770s. There are prints of high-style restaurants from the roaring ’20s and a 1796 publication called “American Cookery,” by Amelia Simmons. Simmons was an orphan who focused on the dressing of meats and the making of cakes in her groundbreaking book.
The Longone collection includes an unexpected object or two, such as printed materials that discuss the connection between political satirical cartoons and culinary colloquialisms like “Going Whole Hog.” Other points of interest that may be gleaned from the books and documents in the collection are texts that discuss running a household, staying on budget and butchering meat at home.
All this talk about food is making me hungry.