USC Chronicle Features Stowe’s Housekeeper’s Manual

Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) on 03/01/10

The USC Chronicle recently highlighted a rare 1873 first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe's The New Housekeeper's Manual from the USC Libraries' Special Collections. As Dan Knapp describes, Stowe offers advice about everything from making indelible ink and frizzled beef to purifying wells and cleaning chimneys.

Here's Dan's article:


FROM THE USC LIBRARIES –A Housekeeper's Manual for the 19th Century

By Dan Knapp

Need a recipe for indelible ink or frizzled beef? Want to know how to purify a well, make strawberry vinegar, or build and clean stoves, chimneys and furnaces? The answers all are waiting at the USC Libraries.

In 1873, The New Housekeeper’s Manual: Embracing a New Revised Edition of the American Woman’s Home—coauthored by Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe and her older sister Catharine Beecher—was published.

Heavily referencing Biblical scriptures, the sisters’ “how-to” manual on excelling at domesticity uses science, religion, architecture, and nutrition—as well as the author’s own feminist philosophies—to emphasize the physical and spiritual health of a family. The second half of the book includes simple recipes for everything from potato soup and roast beef to such delicacies as veal cheese, souse, and tripe.

The authors explained: “It is the aim of this volume to elevate both the honor and the remuneration of all the employments that sustain the many difficult and sacred duties of the family state, and thus to render each department of woman’s true profession as much desired and respected as are the most honored professions of men.”

Whether recommending a cat as the best way to rid a home of vermin or espousing the benefits of proper kitchen ventilation by explaining that “every pair of lungs vititates [sic] one hogshead of air every hour,” the 591-page book demonstrates a woman’s familial responsibilities at the end of the 19th century.

And that recipe for indelible ink? “Put six cents’ worth of lunar caustic in a small vial, and fill with rain-water. To prepare the cloth, put a great-spoonful of gum-arabic into a larger bottle, with a drachm of salt of tartar, fill with water, and when dissolved, wet the cloth, and press it smooth with a warm (not hot) iron.”

The New Housekeeper’s Manual: Embracing a New Revised Edition of the American Woman’s Home is available in the USC Libraries’ Special Collections housed within Doheny Memorial Library. E-mail specol@usc.edu to make arrangements to view the libraries’ rare first edition.

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