Mrs. Hale’s Receipts for the Million

I’ve decided to add something to this blog.  Every year for the past thirteen years, I have gone to English Camp on San Juan Island and have demonstrated mid- 19th century folkways.  There’s a lot of butter making and biscuit cutting going on — as well as spinning and candle dipping.

Mrs Hale's receipts cover

Leading my understanding of what a housewife put up with is my great-grandmother’s receipt book, MRS.HALE’s RECEIPT’S FOR THE MILLION.  This delightful book is both charming and informative, filled with 4545 “receipts” that range from cleaning leather and churns, caring for the invalid and making coffee. Published in Philadelphia in 1857, my great grandmother surely found use for it as she made her way from Western Pennsylvania to Kansas to craft a life with her surgeon/lawyer husband.

I think we should all get a daily dose or least every time I post. So here’s what’s in MRS. HALE’s RECEIPTS for today:

COFFEE: The infusion of or decoction of the roasted seeds of the coffee-berry, when not too strong, is a wholesome, exhilarating, and strengthening beverage; and when mixed with a large proportion of milk, is a proper article of diet for literary and sedentary people. It is especially suited to persons advanced in age.

I think I’ll go get some.

Hot off the Press, 1851, that is.

For the past few months I’ve been up to my eyeballs with the Daily Alta California, a newspaper started in San Francisco in 1849 and the state’s first daily.  Using microfilm on loan from the state library down in California, it has been both a monotonous and rewarding experience as I search for the bark Ann Parry in her new digs on the West Coast after an illustrious (and not so) life as a merchant ship and whaler. (See earlier post).

Reading this newspaper from the Gold Rush’s first pangs to the downright dangerous and tumultuous times of San Francisco streets, I not only see the history of the city and state unfold, but that of Puget Sound in Washington State as well. Two terrible fires in May and June of 1851 pretty much sent ships north into Puget Sound to get lumber and pilings to rebuild the Gold Rush town.

The dangers of the bar at the Columbia River were well known.  Local settlements such as Olympia and at Penn’s Cove in present day Washington encouraged ships to go further up the coast and into the sound.  Their successful return to San Francisco helped to create Seattle, Port Washington, Steilacoom, Fire of May 3 1851 headlinePort Washington, Port Madison, Duwamps Bay and New York, some names now gone.

Further checking the timeline of this event, I discovered that only three days before a strong earthquake also hit the town.  Fires and earthquakes seem to be the stuff of San Francisco history from its beginnings, but these fires stirred up the drive to develop resources in the region that would soon become Washington Territory.