Cooking Schools

Emma Wilson's cooking class, c. 1907.

Born five years before the Civil War as the daughter of an enslaved cook, little Emma Wilson wanted to go to school with her white friends. She was told she couldn’t because of her race, and after the Civil War she was told she couldn’t because she was a girl. Through her determination, she kept pace with the class outside of school. When the time finally came that she could attend school, she was placed within her grade.

Emma Wilson, c. 1900.

Emma Wilson, founder and principal of the Maysville Industrial and Educational Institute

Wilson’s commitment to education and her great desire to assist others of her locale and race made her change her plans from ministering in Africa to building a local school in her hometown of Maysville, South Carolina. The school began in the kitchen of her mother’s cabin in 1885. It quickly grew and was incorporated as the Maysville Industrial and Educational Institute. After a few years Wilson became committed to teaching not only liberal arts, but also skills such as blacksmithing, sewing, and cooking.

The first cookbook known to be authored by an African-American woman is the 1866 book, A Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen by Malinda Russell.

Fannie Farmer taught plain cooking, richer cooking, and fancy cooking at the Boston Cooking School from circa 1896 to 1902. She then branched out and started her own school, Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery on August 23, 1902. the school continued after her death in 1915, managed by Alice Bradley until Miss Farmer’s School closed in the mid-1940s.

Plain Cooking

Cooking Fuels
Mashed and Boiled Potatoes
Soup Stock
Boiled Eggs
Beef Stew
Fried Fish & Potatoes
Apple Pie
Roast Beef
Plain Lobster

As part of their culinary program, George Brown College in Toronto offers an Applied Food History class with the open-hearth cooking sessions held at the Campbell House Museum. created by Pat Reber — An extensive reference guide to locate museum cooking classes and demonstrations, historic recipes and more.

Also buy tickets for a four-hour hearth cooking class at Park Slope, Brooklyn, New York’s Old Stone House.

Ivan Day of Penrith, Cumbria county, England opened his historic cooking classes to the general public at his 1600s farmhouse. Classes include :


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

    I‘m giving credit to Juliet Corson, founder of the New York Cooking School in 1876, as being the inspiration that began the craze for cooking schools and cooking classes in the United States. Her book, Cooking School Text Book and Housekeepers’ Guide, published in 1879 by Orange Judd Company, laid out the directions for others to open schools, with explanations on furnishings, teacher requirements, and course content.

  • 1876: New York Cooking School, St Mark’s Place — director/teacher Juliet Corson
  • Maria Parloa taught cooking in Boston circa 1877, Mandarin, Florida c. 1878, and New York City in 1881.
  • 1879-1903: The Boston Cooking School — preceded by Women’s Education Association; directors/teachers Joanna Sweeney, Mary Lincoln, and then Fannie Farmer, and guest lecturer, Maria Parloa — Boston, Mass.
  • c. 1879: The New Century Club Cooking School –Philadelphia
  • 1883: The Philadelphia Cooking School — director/teacher Sarah Tyson Rorer
  • 1892: Drexel’s School of Home Economics –Home Economics Program is now Goodwin College of Professional Studies
  • 1895: Le Cordon Bleu — Paris, France
  • By 1900 there were cooking schools and/or public school cooking classes in most major cities
  • c. 1900: Simmons College’s School of Household Economics — no longer available
  • 1902-1944: Miss Farmer’s School of Cookery — directors/teachers Fannie Meritt Farmer until 1915, then Alice Bradley; Boston, Mass.
  • 1907: Cornell’s College of Home Economics — now called New York State College of Human Ecology
  • 1948: The Culinary Institute of America — main campus, Hyde Park, New York
  • 1971: The Elite Cooking School Newton Centre, Massachusetts — founded by Madeleine Kamman, now The School for American Chefs in Beringer Vineyards, Napa Valley, California, meeting 2-weeks per year
  • 1973: Johnson & Wales University’s College of Culinary Arts — they also have a great culinary museum.

    Click here for a list of Cooking Schools, or Domestic Science departments, in the United States in 1905. The article begins on page 174. Included are notes such as the Boston Cooking School, with the writer, Fannie Farmer as principal, cost $125 per 6 months, the same as Simmons College in Boston. Another Massachusetts school, The State Normal School in Framingham, had one of the largest Domestic Science departments in the country. The Philadelphia Cooking School, is listed with Mrs. Rorer as principal, another famous cook book writer.