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Nov. 10, 2004


Food for thought: American culinary history center opens


Jell-O, America's Most Famous Dessert, Genesee Pure Food Co., Leroy, N.Y., 1916

ANN ARBOR, Mich.—A large slice of Americana has found a new home at the University of Michigan's William Clements Library.

The donation of thousands of items relating to American culinary history comes from Daniel and Janice Longone of Ann Arbor, the result of a lifetime of collecting artifacts and literature on gastronomy.

The items form the centerpiece of the Longone Center for American Culinary Research at the Clements, a rich collection of primary source materials in all formats relating to the history of food in America prior to the mid-20th century. These complement the legendary Americana holdings of the Clements Library and make a coherent collection available to scholars and others interested not only in culinary history, but a myriad of related topics. In a companion effort, the Clements is examining and cataloging the remainder of its manuscript holdings for their culinary content.

The Longone Center comprises the Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive and relevant holdings of the Clements.

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Jan Longone outlines what will be in the Center's archives. >

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"In 1876, foreign visitors to the American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia asked 'Have you no national dishes?'" Jan Longone said. "That same question was asked of us 100 years later. We knew the answer was a resounding yes! Thus, we built this collection."

The archive includes items from the 16th to 20th centuries—books, pamphlets, magazines, graphics, menus, maps, manuscripts, diaries, letters, catalogues, reference works, advertisements and other ephemera. The archive contains more than 100 manuscript cookbooks dating from 1698 as well as hundreds of classic European books dating from 1514, which are seminal to the creation of an American cuisine. They include works by Villanova, Scappi, Apicius, Athenaeus, Platina, La Varenne, Hannah Glasse, Eliza Smith, Susannah Carter, Careme, Soyer and Mrs. Beeton.

The Longone work represents an exhaustive collection of American imprints on all aspects of culinary history, including the first and second editions of the first American cookbook, Amelia Simmons' "American Cookery" 1796. The major and minor figures of the 19th and early 20th century American food and beverage scene are represented. Among the major female authors are Lydia Maria Child, Sarah Josepha Hale, Catherine Beecher, Eliza Leslie, Maria Parloa, Juliet Corson, Sarah Rorer (more than 100 titles), Marion Harland, Mary Lincoln and Fannie Farmer.

Professional chefs are represented by, among others, Ranhofer of Delmonico's, Oscar of the Waldorf, T.J. Murray and publications of the Hotel Monthly Press. Works on the wine industry begin with first editions of Adlum and Dufour and include many volumes by pioneers such as Husmann, Fuller, Munch and Prince. There are also numerous works on other beverages including beer, cider, distilled spirits, soft drinks, coffee, tea, cocoa and water.

The Archive contains many items on the history of hotels, inns, taverns, restaurants, grocers and groceries and diners.

Most of the ephemera in the Archive are product advertisements and promotional literature, catalogued by a corps of Clements Library volunteers. These materials are classified so researchers can locate individual items by company, product, date of issue, etc. The ephemera include newsletters of culinary and gastronomic groups, and hundreds of bookseller and auction catalogs. Thousands of original menus from restaurants, private dinners, banquets, etc. span two centuries, and the collection is especially replete with menus relating to the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Lithographs and photographs add yet another vibrant dimension to the Archive.

Regional and ethnic contributions abound. The center has first editions of, among others, "The New England Cookery"(1808); the first Black-authored household manual in America, "The House-Servant's Directory" (1827); "Everybody's Cook and Receipt Book: But Particularly Designed for Buckeyes, Hoosiers, Wolverines, Corncrackers, Suckers …" (1842); "The Southern Farmer" (1842); "The Carolina Housewife" (1847); and the first known Jewish cookbook in America, "Jewish Cookery Book" (1871).

The center has several thousand "charity" cookbooks, beginning with the first (1864), with more than one thousand being pre-1920. All manner of children's cookbooks, including the 19th century American classics, are available. Vegetarianism can be studied in books, magazines, manuscripts, letters and ephemera, including Sylvester Graham's "A Treatise on Bread and Bread-Making" (1837) and numerous items by the Kellogg family. The history of baking in America is found in books and magazines as well as promotional literature.

Among the other major topics covered are service and servants, markets, etiquette, food industries, biographies of culinary personages, culinary bibliographies, food and the arts, food and the media, gastronomy, dictionaries, encyclopedias and other reference works.

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Dan Longone says many of the early American-published books on wine reveal the personalities and fervor of their authors. >

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Captured by items in the collection are war, recessions, the Depression, changing roles of women and children, the westward expansion, immigration, increasing industrialization and the production of food, and the introduction of new foods, techniques and equipment. Add to this list the role of advertising in food consumption, the change of American society from the farm to the city, Prohibition, protest movements, charitable and welfare policy, etiquette and manners, dining customs, hotel and restaurant menus and practices and holiday celebrations, and you have just a part of the story that culinary history reveals about America and its people.

Named Curator of American Culinary History by the Clements in 2000, Jan Longone has been systematically moving her private collection to the library and plans the completion of this transfer in May 2005 to be celebrated with the center's symposium on American Culinary History May 13-15, 2005.

Symposium topics by some of the country's noted American culinary history experts will range from "European Books Seminal to American Cuisine," "Traditional American Foods at the Start of the 21st Century," "How to Set a Table in the Gilded Age," and "Early American Wine Making: The 19th Century Experience," to "Defining an American Cuisine," "What is American About American Food and Drink" and "Historic American Culinary Music" featuring William Bolcom, Joan Morris and the Michigan State University Children's Choir.

For more information about the Longone Center for American Culinary Research, visit

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Contact: Joanne Nesbit
Phone: (734) 647-4418