In 1800 there were only 4.4 million free men and women (almost half the population of NYC today), and almost 900,000 slaves living in the United States. Most of the citizens were of English nationality, having just won independence from England one generation earlier. Families worked together on their farms and offered surplus or additional products for trade or cash sales. They carved their livelihoods mostly from the earth and sea. By 1860 the U. S. had 23 million more free citizens, and 3 million more slaves.

Between 1800 and 1860, hearth or fireplace cooking was replaced with the iron-cook stove; canals and trains facilitated trade, bringing more variety into the kitchen; and an influx of new immigrants confounded the relationship between household help and housewife.

The following articles contain details of this time period:


WAS there ever a good cook who hadn’t some prominent fault that completely overshadowed her professional good qualities? If my experience is to answer the question, the reply will be—no.

I had been married several years before I was fortunate enough to obtain a cook that could be trusted to boil a potato, or broil a steak. I felt as if completely made up when Margaret served her first dinner. The roast was just right, and all the vegetables were cooked and flavored as well as if I had done it myself—in fact, a little better. My husband eat with a relish not often exhibited, and praised almost every thing on the table.

For a week, one good meal followed another in daily succession. We had hot cakes, light and fine-flavored, every morning for breakfast, with coffee not to be beaten—and chops or steaks steaming from the gridiron, that would have gladdened the heart of an epicure. Dinner was served, during the time, with a punctuality that was rarely a minute at fault, while every article of food brought upon the table, fairly tempted the appetite. Light rolls, rice cakes, or “Sally Luns,” made without suggestion on my part usually met us at tea time. In fact, the very delight of Margaret’s life appeared to be in cooking. She was born for a cook…. Full story –>

Photos of candlelit historic kitchens are now on Facebook at Old Sturbridge Village. Every winter in Sturbridge, Massachusetts the living museum hosts the adult program Dinner in a Country Village where you can sign up to help prepare an authentic mid-1800s meal.

Chip Leis is the director of the hands-on cooking programs at Old Sturbridge Village.

Sturbridge Village Thanksgiving recipes

  • Marlborough Pudding
  • Cranberry Sauce
  • Dried Apple and Cranberry Pie
  • Gourd Soup
  • Lemon Pudding
  • Mince Pies
  • Potted Cheese
  • Pounded Cheese
  • Raspberry Charlotte
  • Roasted Cheese
  • The Pioneer kitchen at the museum in Watertown New York is the scene for hands-on pioneer kitchen work for children during the Pioneer Times program. On the other side of the room you can see over 50 years in the future to a Victorian kitchen — a good way to compare historic kitchens side-by-side!

    Genesee Country Village & Museum is conveniently located South of Rt 90 in Le Roy / Mumford, New York. They offer historic cooking and cheese-making classes. Video by Merrymeeting Archives LLC.

  • The Pioneer Farmstead, c. 1820s
  • The Jones Farm, c. mid-1850s
  • The Livingston-Backus House, mid-1850s
  • Hosmer’s Inn, 1830s
  • You can help in the kitchen…
    and make cheese…

    The Farmer’s Museum, also in upstate New York, holds workshops including A Morning at Lippitt Farmstead where you will collect eggs and other morning farm chores before helping to cook and then eat a farm breakfast of traditional foods such as sausage, eggs, Indian Cake, toast, and boiled coffee.

    More Classes
    Jourdan Bachman Pioneer Farm in Austin, Texas has a fun class catalog. And more often would be good! Like

    Climb down the stairs to the Evansville Historical Foundation’s pioneer root cellar in Evansville, Minnesota to see refrigeration before the electric refrigerator, and before the icebox!

    A journey to Ohio in 1810: as recorded in the journal of Margaret Van Horn

    East of Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

    “At last we stopt at Mansfield at an Inn kept by Philip fits ( a little f). We found it kept by 2 young women, whom I thought amazoons— for they swore & flew about “like witches” they talk & laugh’d about their sparks &c &c till it made us laugh so as almost to affront them– There was a young woman visiting them who reminded me of Lady Ki Spanker–for spring from the ground to her horse with as much agility as that Lady could have done– They all took their pipes before tea…Their manners soften’d down after a while & the appear to be obliging & good natur’d…”

    West of Fannettsburg, Pennsylvania:

    “…about 60 rods near the top [of the mountain] was excessively steep– We found a house at the foot of the steepest part–A woman & her 2 sons live there & keep cakes & beer…”

    “Saturday morn…We have nothing to eat & can get nothing but some slapjacks at a baker’s some distance off, & so stormy we cannot get there…”

    I have learn’d…to eat raw pork & drink whisky…

    “I have such an enormous appetite the whole time, that I have been in some fear of starving…”

    Between Laurel Hill and Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

    “The landlord & his wife…gave us a great many apples & some cherry bounce…”

    [Bold text is not in original]

    Map shows modern approximation (google directions via walking) of 1810 journey:

    View A journey to Ohio in 1810 in a larger map

    –A journey to Ohio in 1810: as recorded in the journal of Margaret Van Horn, by Margaret Van Horn Dwight, pp. 14-15, 34, 39.

    The Albert House in Madawaska, Maine property stayed in the Albert family from when it was granted to them by the King in 1786 until 1970. Now it is a museum and contains this later-1800s country kitchen.