Kitchen Life 200 YEARS AGO

by | Books, Lifestyle

200-Year Old Handwritten Memoirs I Found In A Shoebox. Memoirs Adelaide Hall Intended To Publish

KITCHEN LIFE 200 YEARS AGO! Wow, imagine how a meal was prepared. No refrigeration, no stove just yet, no electricity so candle making was just as vital as making dinner.

Kitchen Life 200 Years
Candles Light

Allow me to share a fascinating ‘find’ with you. Handwritten memoirs, 200 years ago, of Adelaide Hall, sister to Asaph Hall (the astronomer who first discovered the two moons around Mars).

She clearly intended her memoirs for publication, but they never made it into the book she intended. Instead, 200 years later they ended up in my hands. A shoebox in my grandparents attic, and yet there is no relation to her.

Intrigued? I certainly was, and wow… what I discovered in these pages needed to be shared with America. And so… I have.

200 Year Old Handwritten Memoirs

Nearly midway from the first Thanksgiving until now, I found the pages of what appeared to be a book in the making. But somehow, they were never compiled, or published. Women, in the late 1800’s, were not a priority in book publishing.

My grandfather was a war historian for the White House and an avid reader about the Civil War. I believe these letters were given to him to transcribe and put into a manuscript, simply because there are two letters written from the battlefield in the mix of this woman’s memoirs.

Vintage Finds

In the shoebox I found the original writings, written in quill and ink, on onion skin paper in near perfect condition and beautifully written but not legible enough to account for word by word transcription. The script, back then was so fancy and words often spelled differently than we do today.

The writer (Adelaide), quoted entire writings from the 1600’s, in dialect we don’t use anymore. It was clear why my grandfather was unable to do it justice and finish the transcribing, though his attempts were also in the box, on paper from the 1930’s, that had begun to fall apart, and a ‘pencil’, no less!.

The Magic Of Google

I felt duty bound to transcribe them from their original state, compile the story as it was intended, and then published it. Fortunately I had Google! I needed only to type in a few words I could understand, from the poetry quoted from the 1600’s, and the entire writing appeared!

Too bad my grandfather was not around today. Technology in the 1930’s was limited to a typewriter… his typewriter of which I still have!

Kitchen Life 200 Years
My Grandfather’s Typewriter

Kitchen Life In The 1800’s

Once I finished the transcribing, which took me an entire winter, working long hours everyday, I was mesmerized by the stories Adelaide told about life from a little girl and woman’s perspective.

She gave accounts for daily chores and activities. She gave recipes, not quite as we see them written today but she spoke of what went into the recipe and how it was made. Nearly everything except for sugar was produced by her family or nearby farmers.

200 Years Ago

The hillside in Goshen Connecticut, Adelaide speaks of, where her family and a small community lived at that time, is no longer inhabitable. Apparently it sat high in an open, wind gusty area overlooking the towns below. Winds and treacherous freezing conditions were spoken of in her writings.

How on earth a stagecoach was able to make it all the way to the top of this treacherous area, just to deliver the mail once a week, is beyond me. Nothing is built there now, so one can only imagine how they ever managed to grow crops or raise livestock there.

Amazon Brings This Book To You

I would encourage you to pick up a copy, share with young families, or enjoy the read yourself.

This book should be ‘required reading’ in Middle Schools across America. If you are reading this now and know how to go about getting it into the classrooms of our Middle Schoolers, please contact me.

Never Judge A Book By Its Cover!

I will explain the unattractive cover I chose for the book. This book is not my writings, not my work, not my story to tell. I was simply entrusted the responsibility by the universe, to be handed the 200-year old writings in a shoebox.

I felt no liberties to decide a cover for her book, and so I chose a notebook paper-looking cover, which is how I found the papers in the first place, written on note or letter paper and held together with string.

Now on Amazon: The 19th Century Memoirs of Adelaide Hall. 1839.

A Must Read About Life In America 200 Years Ago – From This Woman’s Perspective

Kitchen School and Gardening in 1800’s

This fascinating book of life in Goshen Connecticut, where it is bitter cold in the winter, was written by a women in the early 1800’s. The account of life in her home, and her small town. It gives us a window of life far different than we know it now.

Apple Paring Bees, boasts of the way in which apples were prepared, dried, and saved for the cold winter months. With no refrigeration it was the only way to plan to make pies, and applesauce. In this account for an apple day in the kitchen, she speaks of sugar, something I also found fascinating.

Kitchen Life Without Electricity

Please remember there was no fridge. No stove, though she speaks of the first one they eventually obtained. No supermarket with apples in December, as well as many other stories. A lifestyle we would find near impossible to live now.

Here is a short synopsis from her kitchen on Apple Paring Bees Day:

“A barrel of fine dried applesauce, more delectable than any other kind of fruit. It was sweetened with maple molasses, and a few oranges thrown in. For those days, white sugar was so expensive that it was not commonly used.” There were many in the kitchen, both girls and young men. There was singing, and flirtations, one with the other.

Apple Peels
Apples Were The Only Fruit For Winter In The 1800’s

Education For A Woman Was Not Easily Attainable

Adelaide Hall was one of several children in a family in which only the boys, if fortunate enough, received an advanced education.

The brother of Adelaide was Asaph Hall, who later became known as the astronomer who discovered the moons of Mars. Oddly enough, he died in 1907 right here in my hometown of Annapolis MD, as he taught at the Naval Academy in his later years and was friends with President Lincoln during his years at the Naval Observatory in Washington DC.

How Did A 200 Year Old Parcel End Up In My Hands?

My grandfather was a war historian for the army in Washington DC. I found the pages of this ‘would be book’ in a shoe box in his attic long after he died.

Kitchen Life 200 Years
Robert S Thomas Pearl Thomas Me David Daumit S.

An attempt to transcribe Adelaide’s story was clearly made by him, but difficult to make out the writing for poems and songs from the 1600’s, of which she quoted often and in great detail.

Fortunately, with the help of the internet, in 2010 when I finally pulled this box out to have a look at it, after having obtained it nearly 10-years prior, I was able to compile the entire book.

I hope you will find this story as fascinating an account for a life we no longer have to live, as I did, and take a moment to experience gratitude for the conveniences of our life now!

19th Century Memoirs
Beautiful Stories of 19th Century Kitchen Life – Adelaide Hall written in 1839 – Robin Daumit transcribed in 2010

My Muffin Madness


In my family, I’ve always been known as the ‘Muffin Queen’. Out of necessity, I created muffins for breakfast, lunch, on the go snacks, sometimes dinner and a sweet yet healthyish treat for dessert!

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Elizabeth Williams
8 months ago

Robin, this is Liz Williams, founder of the Southern Food & Beverage Museum in New Orleans and the host of the Tip of the Tongue podcast. FIrst, congratulations on doing something so wonderful. I can only imagine the work that was involved. I would love to do a podcast interview with you regarding this project. Would you be open to a zoom interview that is recorded to become a podcast? It would be about 30 minutes. Please email me if you are interested. Congratulations on a very special gift that you have given us.


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