(Mainly) Southern Cooking. An 1827–c.1870s manuscript recipe Book owned by a New York woman. Image credit: Ian Brabner, Rare Americana

Angel Cake & Gold Loaf

Kept between 1829–1870, Harriet Kilby’s handwritten recipes. Rice meringue pie anyone?


The wife of U.S. Army Colonel Francis Smith Belton (c. 1791–1861) of Detroit, Michigan, Harriet Kirby (1798–1873) was on the move as her husband’s military career took the family across the country.

Here is Harriet’s manuscript recipe book, almost 200 years later from its first original entry back in 1827. You’ll find many of Harriet Belton’s recipes are datelined in the American South and include several Southern specialties.

Harriet’s husband served as a Quartermaster during the Mexican American War for Third Regiment of the 4th Artillery. Were any of these recipes garnered during his service in either America or Mexico during this time?

“Angel Cake” and “Gold Loaf” — some of the recipes within this handwritten recipe book notebook that spanned before, during, and after the Civil War period. (Ian Brabner, Rare Americana)

Harriet Belton’s handwritten manuscript of recipes contains cooking, household, and botanic medicine receipts. The earliest handwritten recipes, approximately 20 manuscript pages, are dated from 1827 to 1833.

Belton’s recipes are datelined from many locations: New York; Fort Monroe, Old Point Comfort, Virginia; Charleston, South Carolina; and New Orleans, Louisiana. These recipes appear to have been collected in these locales during Harriet Belton’s husband’s military service.

Other recipes have been added in her handwriting, but these and some other recipes written by another person are undated and appear to be from the mid-19th century.

Recipes include “To Preserve Peaches” (“New York”), “Apple Pudding” (“Old Point C”), “Dough Nuts” (“‘Miss Julia’s’ N. York”), “Frosting for Cake” (“Mrs. Tomkins Fortress Monroe”), “Wash for the Linen” (“Charleston S. C.”), and “Pain in the Face Wormwood” and “Medicinal virtues of Okra” (“N Orleans”).

Other handwritten recipes with a Southern bent include “Polenta,” “St. Charles Cornbread” (Missouri?), “Buckwheat Cakes,” “Rice Meringue Pudding,” and “Sallie (Sally Lund) Cake.”

Some newspaper clippings, a leaf of manuscript recipes for preserving pears and quinces and making Chow Chow, and a printed recipe for baking quinces have been laid or tipped into Belton’s manuscript recipe book.

These latter two join Belton’s manuscript recipe for “Quince Sweetmeats” labeled “Madam de Sculles–West Indian receipt.”

Three gallons of rum, 5 quarts of sour orange juice and 12 lbs of sugar — My God, that makes a Monster Energy Drink seem tame, doesn’t it? (Ian Brabner, Rare Americana)

All in all, Harriet’s manuscript is a substantial collection from the 1820s–c. 1870s gathering cooking, household, and botanic medicine receipts, many from the American South, likely per the association of her husband serving as a quartermaster during the Mexican-American War.


Originally published via RareAmericana.com

Follow Ian Brabner, antiquarian bookseller and rare Americana specialist, on Twitter.

Join my free newsletter if you are interested in rare books, historical manuscripts, ephemera, visual culture of early American origin or context.

I acquire, research, catalog, interpret, exhibit and sell: printed, manuscript, and visual artifacts from 18th–early 20th century American History.

Enjoyed reading this article? Please click “Recommend” below. This will share the story with others.

© 2015 Ian Brabner, Rare Americana. All Rights Reserved.

One clap, two clap, three clap, forty?

By clapping more or less, you can signal to us which stories really stand out.