Food Timeline FAQs: popular 20th century American foods.....Have questions? Ask!
...we make food history fun...
Need to plan a "decade" food event?
This is a very doable project. Once you figure out what you want to accomplish, the rest will fall in place.
Determine your focus
---1980s formal dinner? 1960s backyard barbecue? 1950s Vegas resort extraganza? 1940s teen party? 1920s Gatsby speakeasy evening? Victorian garden party?
Decide if you want to feature local fare
---1900s Texas chili parlors? 1930s Chicago soup kitchens? 1970s California cuisine? 1990s Seattle cafes?
- If you think it's best to stick with "signature" decade foods everyone will recognize, start here:
Fashionable Foods: Seven Decades of Food Fads, Sylvia Lovegren [McMillan:NewYork] 1999
---excellent for social context, commentary, & selected recipes: 1920s-1980s
Century in Food: America's Fads and Favorites, Beverly Bundy [Collector Press:Portland] 2002
---good for popular fads & brands
The Food Chronology, James L. Trager
---new food introductions, restaurant openings, cookbooks, technological advancements & company news
- Leite's Culinaria Dining Through the Decades
If you want to identify period recipes, menus, table settings & decorations
This is the fun part! It's also time-consuming and labor-intensive. You need primary resources. These are:
The librarians at your local public library can help you with this. Use the subject headings "menus" "meals" and "dining" to locate articles printed in popular magazines such as the Ladies Home Journal, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, American Home, Better Homes and Gardens, and Southern Living. Your librarian can help you obtain the articles you need. Even better? Find a library that owns these magazines for the decade you want. Browse them for recipes, food ads, table decorations, and party tips. Local newspapers Did your local newspaper run a food column that decade? If so? Perfect. Most included recipes. Restaurant menus Use the New York Public Library & Los Angeles Public Library's digital menu collections to identify what was served in all types of restaurants during the decade in question. If you need menus from a specific place and time (1900 Atlantic City? 1945 Nashville?) or menus for specific type of restaurant (Railroad dining car? Harvey House? Drive-in movie?) we can help you find dedicated books, museums and historic societies.
1900s: Victorian traditions startled by American technology
Food in the USA 1900-1910
During the early decades of the 20th century, Americans foods reflected the great diversity of people living in our country. What people ate depended primarily upon who they were (ethnic heritage, religious traditions), where they lived (regional food preferences: New Orleans Creole, New England founding father?) and how much money they had (wealthy railroad tycoon? immigrant street peddler?). Food manufacturers flooded our markets with new "covenience" foods, such as Jell-O.
Factors affecting Americans cuisine 1900-1910
Waves of immigrants introduced new foods and flavors. Most immigrants settled in urban areas, many opened restaurants and imported foods. The first Italian-style pizzeria opened in New York City 1905.
2. Science & Technology
Advances in transportation, food preservation, and home storage began to equalize local food availability and lessen dependence upon seasonal variations. Electricity was introduced to homes beginning with urban areas. Electric appliances (refrigerators, stoves) were introduced but not generally found in homes until the 1930s. About Domestic technology
3. Home Economics & Nutrition Science
The Home Economics movement of the late 19th century continued full-force in the 20th. College women studied the science of cookery and applied their knowledge to improving the nutrition and health of their families. Some of these women became social workers who advocated for the poor. They established soup kitchens and classes for new immigrants and low-income homemakers. Many visited tenement homes and worked one-on-one with families. Social workers/nutrition experts taught their students practical skills regarding cooking safety, sanitation, nutrition, and marketing. About Home Economics.
New products flooded the American markets. Corporate giants such as the National Biscuit Company (Nabisco), Campbells, Swift, General Mills, Quaker Oats, Kraft, Jell-O, and Hershey's provided products, "invented" recipes and created a steady demand for a wider variety of foods.
5. Government intervention
Food & Drug Act (1906),
Daily menus are served by month or season, reflecting historic pre-mass refrigeration techonolgy practices. Meal names reflect the shift from taking the main meal at midday to evening. Lunch replaces dinner. Dinner replaces supper.
Breakfast Melons, sago, vegetable hash, broiled veal cutlets, fried tomatoes, coffee. Dinner Broiled prairie chicken, baked sweet potatoes, green corn, cauliflower, plum sauce, cabbage salad, peach pyramid, ice cream, coffee. Lunch Sliced ham, biscuit, baked pears, cake, tea.
Breakfast Cream toast and fruit, prairie chicken stewed, fried potatoes sliced tomatoes, coffee. Dinner Roast beef, potaotes, green corn, egg plant, succotash, watermelon, cake, cheese, wafers, and coffee. Supper Cold sliced beef, French potatoes baked apples, cake and tea.
Breakfast Fruit, hominy, buttered toast with hash, corn fritters, cookies, and coffee. Dinner Soup, vegetable, chicken pie potatoes, Lima beans, onions, slaw, baked custard, cake, oranges, nuts and coffee. Supper Rolls, dried beef, sliced tomatoes, peaches and cream, cake and tea.
Breakfast Fruit, rice, Sally Lunn, broiled chickens, cucumbers, coffee. Dinner Boiled beef with potatoes, turnips, geeen corn, pickled beets, apple pie, fresh fruits, cake, nuts, coffee. Supper Biscuit, sliced beef, sliced toamtoes, grapes and peaches, cake, tea.
Breakfast Fruit, sago, hot muffins, fried chicken and fried cabbage, jelly, tea. Dinner pea soup, veal pot pie, Lima beans, carrots, corn, peach meringue, cake, fresh fruits, coffee. Supper Vienna rolls, pressed chicken, currant jelly, baked apples, cake, tea.
Breakfast Fruit and oatmeal, broiled ham, poached eggs on toast, cucumbers, coffee. Dinner Baked fish, boiled potatoes, baked onions, egg plant, cabbage salad, ice cream, peaches, grapes, nuts, coffee. Supper Cold tongue, soda biscuit and hominy, sliced tomatoes, fruit cake and tea.
Breakfast Nutmeg melons, sago, broiled mutton chops, fried potatoes, crurant jelly, coffee. Dinner Soup, roast pork, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, creamed cabbage, stewed corn, beet pickles, peach cake with whipped cream, cheese, wafers, coffee. Supper Sliced pork, tea rolls, banana fritters, fruit cake and tea."
---Woman's Exchange Cook Book, Mrs. Minnie Palmer [W.B. Conkey:Chicago] 1901 (p. 505-506)
[What is sago?]
"Menus for a Week in in the Spring
Breakfast Grape Fruit, Cereal, French Omelet, Rice Cakes, Maple Syrup, Coffee. Dinner Oysters on the Half Shell, Olives, Radishes, Roast Veal with Dressing, Mashed Potatoes, Fried Egg Plant, Edive Salad, Rhubarb Pie, Cheese, Black Coffee. Supper Baked Bean Salad, Devilled Eggs, Whole Wheat Bread and Butter, Lady Baltimore Cake, Custard, Tea.
Breakfast Cereal Cooked with Dates, Scrambled Eggs with Parsley, Creamed Potatoes, Toast, Coffee. Luncheon Potato Cakes, Cold Veal, Corn Bread, Cookies, Orange Marmalade, Tea. Dinner Cream of Potato Soup, Broiled Steak with Parsley Butter, Baked Potatoes, Asparagus on Toast, Young Beets and Beet Green Salad, Poor Man's Pudding.
Breakfast Oranges, Cereal, Finnan Haddie, Watercress, Popovers, Coffee. Luncheon Veal Olives, Baked Potaotes, Boiled Rice, Maple Syrup, Tea. Dinner Tomato Soup, Olives, Gherkins, Braised Veal Cutlets with Currant Jelly, Parsnip Fritters, Sweet Potatoes, Asparagus Salad, Sliced Pineapple, Cake, Coffee.
Breakfast Evaporated Apple Sauce, Cereal, French Olive, Wheat Muffins, Coffee. Luncheon Clam Chowder, Brown Bread and Butter, Pickles, Gingerbread, Tea. Dinner Cream of Asparagus Soup, Filet of Flounder, New Potatoes with Parsley Butter, Stewed Tomaotes, Lettuce Salad, Cottage Pudding, Coffee.
Breakfast Oranges, Cereal, Eggs a la Caracus, Rice Cakes, Coffee. Luncheon Hamburger Stead, Baked Potatoes, Lettuce with French Dressing, Raisin Cake, Baked Rhubarb, Tea. Dinner Vermicelli Soup, Radishes, Pickles, Pork and Parsnip Stew, Pineapple Shortcake with whipped Cream, Black Coffee.
Breakfast Evaoprated Apricots, Stewed, Cereal, Broiled Mackerel, Watercress, Wheat Muffins, Coffee. Luncheon Creamed Codfish, Boiled Potatoes, Pickles, Apple Sauce, Cake, Tea. Dinner Cream of Celery Soup, Broiled Shad, Creamed Potatoes, Oyster Plant, Endive Salad, tapiocal Pudding with Meringue, Coffee.
Breakfast Bananas and Oranges, Cereal, Ham and Eggs, Graham Gemn, Coffee. Luncheon Frizzled Beef, Cream Toast, Currant Tarts, tea. Dinner Split Pea Soup with Croutons, Pickles, Pot Roast of beef, Browned Potatoes, Creamed Turnips and Peas, Lettuce with French Dressing, Cabinet Pudding, Black Coffee."
---New York Evening Telegram Cook Book, Emma Paddock Telford [Cupples & Leon:New York] 1908 (p. 207-209)
Use the digital menu collection uploaded by the Los Angeles Public Library to identify period menus [Search date 190]. Recommended reading: Repast: Dining Out at the Dawn of the New American Century, 1900-1910/ Michael Lesy and Lis Stoffer.
Worth noting: Horn & Hardart automats launched in Philly 1902 & the first American pizzeria opens in NYC. It won't however, be until after World War II decades that mainstream Americans embrace this ethnic specialty. NYC Wall Street restaurants cater to businessmen.
- 1901 Pan American Fair, Buffalo NY
1904 Louisiana Purchase Exhibition, St. Louis
Americans are fascinated with fair food, especially the items attributed to the 1904 St. Louis Exposition. The truth? Most of the foods attributed to this fair existed long before 1904. What these foods have in common is that they were mass marketed at the St. Louis fair. That is why 1904 holds a special place in the American gastronomic chronology. Foods commonly associated with the this fair are: ice cream cones, hamburgers, puffed rice, Dr. Pepper, iced tea, Texas-style chili, & peanut butter. Recommended reading: Beyond the Ice Cream Cone: The Whole Scoop on Food at the 1904 World's Fair/Pamela J. Vaccaro.
New food USA introductions
1900 Wesson Oil, Hershey bars, Hills Bros coffee
1901 Cliquot Club Ginger Ale, White Rose Ceylon Tea, NECCO Wafers (candy)
1902 Barnum's Animal Crackers, Presto self-rising cake flour, Salada Tea, Karo Corn Syrup, NECCO Conversation Hearts
1903 Canned tuna
1904 Banana Splits, Swans Down Cake Flour, Campbell's Pork & Beans, Frnech's Cream Salad Mustard, Dr. Pepper
1905 Heinz Baked Beans, Hebrew National frankfurters, Royal Crown Cola, Ovomaltine (renamed Ovaltine)
1906 Planters Nuts, Hot dogs (name, not the actual food), Post Toasties, A-1 Sauce, hot fudge sundaes, Kellogg's Corn Flakes
1907 LeSeur peas, Hershey Kisses, Canada Dry Pale Dry Ginger Ale
1908 Tea bags, French Dip sandwich, Hershey bars with almonds
1909 Melitta drip coffeemaker, Idaho Spud Bar (candy)
SOURCES: The Food Chronology/James L. Trager [Holt:New York] 1995, The Century in Food: America's Fads and Favorites/Beverly Bundy [Collectors Press:Portland OR] 2002 & Candy: The Sweet History/Beth Kimmerle [Collector's Press:Portland OR] 2003
Popular USA brands
...primary evidence confirms national brand advertising was not yet a standard practice
Advertised in the Washington Post, January 7, 1900:
Pillsbury's Best Flour, Atmore's Plum Pudding, Mrs. Well's Tomato Ketchup, Eagle Brand Condensed Milk, Uneeda Biscuits (National Biscuit Company), Campbell's soup, White House coffee, Colman's English Mustard (genuine)
Advertised in Sears Roebuck & Company Catalog,1902: mail order groceries
Advertised in the Washington Post, July 2, 1905:
Borden's Evaporated Cream, Armour's Potted Ham and Tongue, Quaker Oats, Armour's Corned Beef
Advertised in the Washington Post, December 26, 1909:
Jello, Marshall's Kippered Herring, Senate Brand Coffee, Swift's Premium Hams, Eagle Milk (can), Royal Baking Powder, Rumford Baking Powder, Davis' Baking Powder, Lowney's Cocoa, A & P Jams, Fig Newtons (National Biscuit Company), Minute Tapioca, Campbell's soups, Nonesuch Mincemeat, Heinz's Best Quality Mincemeat, Hecker's Buckwheat, Hornby's (H-O) Buckwheat B&O Molasses
Need to make something for class? Fantastic!!! We recommend...
1910s: Opulent dining, Melting pot possibilities, & Great War rationing
About the 1910s in America:
What people eat in all times and places depends upon who they are (ethnic, religious heritage), where they live (urban centers, rural outposts) and how much money they have (rich have more choices than poor). Which means? In the USA during the 1910s newly immigrated Italian families ate very different food from South Carolina plantation owners, West Virginia coal miners, Chicago businessmen and San Francisco Chinese.
World War I had an interesting affect on American food. Some major points for consideration.
- During the World War I the country was in a severe economic depression which affected food availability. So did the need to feed soldiers. Most folks are familiar with rationing during WWII. It also happened during the first World War.
- While immigrants and returning soldiers introduced new foods to America, they were not celebrated/accepted like they were after WWII. The 1910s was a period of social homogenization (aka melting pot). Social workers and domestic scientists worked hard to Americanize the "foreign-born."
- Commercial food manufacturers flourished. Products were promoted to American housewives as modern, sanitary and economical. Most middle class Americans bought into this idea, and distanced themselves from "grandma's" ways. Self-serve supermarkets were introduced.
- Effect on world cuisine might be the influence of American food companies/products and new technology. Advances in transportation & technology permitted a greater number of foodstuffs (fruits, vegetables, meats &c.) to be shared.
Home cooking & family entertaining
Typical upwardly-aspiring Anglo-American middle class families in the 1910s took cues from meals suggested by period cook books. Technology was moving quickly; foods were readily available, in and out of season. World War I imposed unexpected challenges. Here we catch early glimpses of American discomfit reconciling traditional Old World dishes (read: heritage) with newly formed alliances (read: opportunity). Most American print sources proclaim culinary nationalism (aka the 'melting pot') was summarily celebrated and embraced. For the unity of the country. How else to explain Lasagne with American cheese and Chop suey with American hamburger? Despite the fact mainstream print sources opted against reporting what was really being stoically served by the matriarchs of our immigrant families, the famliar table remained.
World War I: civilian fare
(rationing & "making do" was NOT a new concept in the 1940s)
Notes from U.S. Army archives: I & II. Army bread baking. Doughboy Cook Book, Great War Society (modernized recipes with historical commentary) Compare with British & German ration.
Planning a 1913 celebration?
These selections work perfectly for every taste & budget. Portable & delicious too! We're also serving authentic 1913 luncheon menus
Tea sandwiches: white or wheat bread, thin slice, no crust, cut in fancy shapes or rolled sandwiches.
Fillings: meat salads (ham, chicken, tuna), jam/jelly, flavored butters, cream cheese.
Sponge cake (orange, lemon), chocolate cake, oatmeal cookies & brownies
Fudge, caramels, taffy (salt-water or regular ok), popcorn balls, jelly beans
Coca cola (bottles), coffee, tea, iced tea, lemonade, fruit punch (ginger ale based)
Popular American snacks: Oreos, Lorna Doons, Animal Crackers, Fig Newtons, & Cracker Jack. Peppermint Life Savers were introduced in 1913.
Lunch, 1913 style
The following recipes were published in The Economy Administration Cook Book, edited by Susie Root Rhodes and Grace Porter Hopkins [W.B. Conkey Co.:Hammond IN] 1913. This special book compiles recipes contributed from the wives and daughters of US Congressmen, foreign ambassadors and well as suffragettes, home economists and women college professors. Recipes for all menu items area included. Happy to scan/send pages if you like!
"Luncheon No. 1: Beef Bouillon, Fillet of Beef, Squabs, Artichoke, Potato Balls, Grape Fruit Salad with Pimentos, Lettuce, Mayonnaise, Roquefort Cheese, Fresh Strawberry Ice Cream, Angel Cake." (p. 264)
"Luncheon No. 2: Tomato Boulioon, Broiled Beef Balls, Tomato Sauce, Carrots, Creamed Potatoes, Cabbage Salad, Tea Biscuits, Eggless Cake, Jelly, Whipped Cream." (p. 264)
"Harmony Luncheon: Chilled Fruit, Clam Boullion with Whipped Cream, Cheesed Crab Flakes en Coquilles, Chicken a la maryland with String Beans, Haricot Vert au Buerre and Asparagus Tips, Salad, Whole Apples stuffed with nuts and Celery with Mayonnaise, Prune Whip, Coffee." (p. 345)
"Luncheon: Clam Bisque in Cups, Chicken Souffle, Potatoes au Gratin, Tomatoes and Lettuce Salad Cream Cheese Balls, French Dressing, Lemon Sherbet, Chocolate with Whipped Cream, Popovers, Ripe Olives." (p. 268)
"Cheese Menu No. 2: Cheese Fondue, Toast, Zweiback, or Thin Crisp Baking Powder Biscuits, Celery, Potatoes, Baked or or Fried in Deep Fat, Peas, or some other Fresh Vegetable, Coffee, Fruit Salad with Crisp Cookies or Meringues." (p. 472)
"Luncheon: Consomme, Chicken Patties, Cold Sliced Ham, Creamed Potatoes, Endive Salad, Chocolate Pudding, Lady Fingers, Tea." (p. 289)
"Luncheon: Creamed Chicken and Mushrooms, Baked Potatoes, Cream Slaw, Parker House Rolls, Coffee or Tea, Raspberry Jam, Radishes." (p. 60)
"Spring Luncheon: Clear Soup, Lobster Salad, Breaded Lamb Chops, Green Peas, Frozen Punch or Fruit." (p. 65)
"Buffet Luncheon: Grape Fruit Cocktail, Creamed Brains, Mushrooms in Timbales, Green Peas, Aspic with Mayonnaise, Ham Roll and Pickled Gherkins, Finger Rolls, Chicken Salad on Lettuce Leaf, Wafers, Angel Parfait, Fruit Cake, Coffee." (p. 136)
"February Luncheon: Fruit Cup, Bouillon, with Cheese Straws, Stuffed Squabs, Currant Jelly, Tomato and Rice en Coquilles, Hot Rolls, Celery Hearts, Watermelon Preserves, Salad with Cheese Crackers, Meringue Glaces (Individual), Coffee, Apricot Liquor, Candy Ginger." (p. 97)
Lunch: Cream Celery Soup, Cold Sliced Beef or Lamb, Lettuce, Corn on Cob, Baked Irish Potatoes, Fruit Salad, Cold Beaten Biscuits, Pudding, Milk or Tea." (p. 128)
Luncheon: Fish Croquettes, Creamed Potatoes, Water Cress, Cold Bread, Steamed Apples, Tea or Cocoa." (p. 175)
"Positively the newest stunt in society is the giving of 'cocktail parties.' The cocktail party is a Sunday matinee affair which originated in St. Louis. Mr. Julius S. Walsh, Jr., a leader in social activities there, is responsible for the innovation. Mrs. Walsh introduced it recently, with the first cocktail party in society's history. Invitations were issued to fifty. The guests were divided into two classes, those who went to church in the forenoon and those who devoted their time to a motor promenade of the boulevards. Then at high noon they gathered at the Walsh home on Lindell boulevard for the hour's 'interregnum preceding 1 o'clock dinner.' The party scored an instant hit. Mrs. Walsh's home is equipped with a private bar. Around this the guests gathered and gave their orders to a white-coated professional drink mixer who presided behind the polished mahogany. If a woman guest who had been driving all forenoon in her limousine, and was a little chilled in consequence, felt the need of a drink with an extra kick in it, she ordered a Sazarac cocktail. Others, of course, preferred a Bronx or Clover Leaf, and a few who had been to church where old fashioned enough to order a Martini or a Manhattan. And as long as the professional drink mixer was there to fill all orders other beverages than cocktails were in demand. Highballs, some with Scotch and some with rye or Bourbon whisky, gin fizzes--ordered because the spring morning hinted of coming summer--and at least one mint julep for a former gentleman of Virginia were handed out over the private bar. That the cocktail party is already a St. Louis institution, filling a long-felt Sunday want in society circles there, and that the party at which Mrs Walsh was hostess was so merry and so jolly as to approach in hilarity the famous early morning eggnogg parties popular in the same city a decade ago, is vouched for by the St. Louis newspapers. In the meantime Mrs. Walsh, because of the innovation, has become more of a social celebrity in St. Louis than ever."
---"Sunday Inspiration: Cocktail Parties Latest St. Louis Society Diversion," (from the St. Paul Pioneer Press), published by the Washington Post, May 19, 1917 (p. 6)
Authentic period mixology text, published in St. Louis, 1917 contains most of the cocktails served by Mrs. Walsh. Coincidence? Ideal Bartender/Thomas Bullock
Popular American brands
Grocery/food ads in city papers sometimes included brands. Many foods were still sold in bulk; company connection was not advertised. The concept of "nationally branding" was a rarity in these days. Only the largest companies (willing to spend big bucks for advertising) went that route. Among the national leaders were the National Biscuit Company (now Nabisco), Campbell's, Armour, Coca Cola, Jell-O, Royal, Dole, and Baker's (chocolate, coconut). Most grocery store food ads promoted the product, not the company or brand. Fresh produce ads in the 1910s highlighted point of origin (California figs, Florida oranges, Jersey tomatoes, Baltimore beans, Maine Sugar Corn, Celyon Tea). Same as today!
 groceries advertised by Simpson Crawford Co., in the New York Times, January 2, 1910: New Pack California White Asparagus (cans), Royal Stuart (canned: orange marmelade, pereserved whole fruit, strained honey, salmon steaks, sardines, tomato catsup, small green tender beans, apricots, red raspberries, peaches, pineapple, asparagus, pickles), Cameron Fancy Fruit (cans, in heavy sugar syrup: peaches, apricots, macaroni, coffee,), Del Monte (green gage, egg plums), Bevan's (table raisins), Dunbar's Okra (cans), Pinard's (canned spinach, carrots, asparagus), Waverly coffee, Quaker (oats & corn flakes).
 Grocer's Encyclopedia/Artemas Ward (food varieties, packaging &c., no brand names)
 groceries advertised by Macy's (department store) in the New York Times, August 22, 1915: Red Star Lunch Chocolate, Lily White gelatine & grape juice, Wesson's Oil, Holbrook's Malt Vinegar, Tiger brand white wax cherries, Crosse & Blackwell's Scotch Oatmeal, Red Star Hams, Duffy's Sparkling Apple Juice.
 popular USA brands still available today (perfect for a birthday/anniversary celebration basket!): Oreos , Coca Cola (bottles), Campbell's soups (tomato, chicken noodle, NOT cream of mushroom), Underwood Deviled Ham, Junket, Jell-O, Kellogg's Corn Flakes, Nabisco's Animal Crackers (in the fancy little box decorated with zoo animals), Hershey Bars, Fig Newtons, Heinz
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