Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack · The Vintage Bookshelf

Twenty Books Worth Reading… in 1921

The other day I stumbled upon an article called Twenty Books Worth Reading. It caught my eye, since I’m always looking for new vintage literature to read. I’m reproducing the list of twenty books worth reading here, along with links to online copies for each title.

As we close one year and start another (I write this at the end of December), it’s helpful to look forward to the new year. I don’t go as far as making a resolution, but I do think through the coming months. What do I want to accomplish? What do I want to learn? What new skill do I want to master this coming year?

One of those lists, of course, includes the list of books that I want to read. My To Be Read list is taller than I am, yet I can always find a new or old title worth delving into. With that in mind, I offer this list.

Twenty books worth reading

Some of these titles you will recognize. Most, however, you probably will not. I was unaware until writing this of a very popular Canadian author named Frederick Niven. He goes on my reading list for this year. I hope you will find at least one book to treasure from this list. Perhaps you will become reacquainted with an old friend.

The books include ten fiction books and ten nonfiction titles.

The fiction books

  • Miss Lulu Bett. Zona Gale. A story of a modern Cinderella, this book became a play during the winter of 1920. Zona Gale won a Pulitzer for the play version of her story. Read it at Project Gutenberg: Miss Lulu Bett.
  • Main Street. Sinclair Lewis. The story of Carol Kennicott and the town Gopher Prairie, Main Street became a best-selling commentary on small town life. You can Read Main Street at Google Books.
  • Alice Adams. Booth Tarkington. Perhaps best known for his novels Penrod and The Magnificent Ambersons, this new book received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1922. Not only did Alice Adams receive a Pulitzer, but it was made into a movie. Twice. Read Alice Adams at Project Gutenberg.
  • The Golden Answer. Sylvia Chatfield Bates. This started as a serial in the magazine Woman’s Home Companion. You can read The Golden Answer at Google Books.
  • The Brimming Cup. Dorothy Canfield Fisher. An older married woman falls in love with another man. Known in juvenile reading circles for her novel Understood Betsy, Fisher was named by Eleanor Roosevelt as one of the ten most influential women of her time in the United States. Read The Brimming Cup at Project Gutenberg.
  • Seed of the Sun. Wallace Irwin. This one is thinly veiled propaganda. You might want to read it with your blood pressure meds handy, if you have any. It seems to be a fictionalized tirade against Japanese immigrants on the West Coast of the United States. The original reviewer even used the term propaganda in his writeup. I couldn’t get through the first chapter. Read Seed of the Sun at your own risk, available at Google Books.
  • The Mysterious Rider. Zane Grey. Ah, now we are back in familiar territory. A Zane Grey western tale. Take a ride down the trail with The Mysterious Rider at Project Gutenberg.
  • Guns of the Gods. Talbot Mundy. This is a tale of India, the story of Princess Yasmini and her first love affair. Find Guns of the Gods at Project Gutenberg.
  • How Many Cards?. Isabel Ostrander. This is a detective story. Ostrander wrote many detective stories. If you like this one, you may like the others as well. Read How Many Cards? at Google Books.
  • A Tale That Is Told. Frederick Niven. This is a tale about the children of a Scottish minister, told by his son. Niven was a very popular Canadian writer, as I mentioned before. You can find A Tale That Is Told at the Internet Archive.

Nonfiction titles

  • Travels and Adventures of Raphael Pumpelly. Raphael Pumpelly, ed. by O.S. Rice. This is an abridged version of Pumpelly’s autobiography, reworked for teen and young adult readers. Pumpelly was a mining engineer, geologist, archaeologist, and explorer. Quite a bit to fit into one lifetime! Read it yourself at Google Books. Travels and Adventures of Raphael Pumpelly.
  • Roads to Childhood. Annie Carroll Moore. This book, written by a New York City children’s librarian, discusses good books for children. You can get a copy of Roads to Childhood from Google Books.
  • Health for the Growing Child. William R. P. Emerson, M.D. This is a book that discusses underweight and underfed children, a common enough problem in the early Twenties that Emerson wrote a book about it. Emerson was a pediatric specialist and faculty member of Dartmouth, and when he wrote this volume he was probably a faculty member at Tufts University. I could not find a copy of this book anywhere, but the next year Emerson published Nutrition and Growth in Children, which may be an expanded version of the earlier title. Find it at the Internet Archive. Nutrition and Growth in Children.
  • The Autobiography of Margot Asquith. Margot Asquith was a wit, a countess, a British socialite, and married to the (then) current British Prime Minister. According to the reviewer, “she writes often in questionable taste, but seldom if ever is she insincere.” This one goes on my to-read stack. You can find it at Project Gutenberg, in a two-volumes-in-one compilation. The Autobiography of Margot Asquith.
  • Margaret Fuller: A Psychological Biography. Katharine Anthony. Anthony was a college-level math teacher who was interested in both biography and psychology. She combined the two to write several “psychological biographies,” which were either celebrated or panned by the press. You can read Margaret Fuller: A Psychological Biography yourself at the Internet Archive.
  • The Famous Mrs. Fair, and Other Plays. James Forbes. The other two plays in this compilation are The Chorus Lady and The Show Shop. The Famous Mrs. Fair saw stage time as well as a movie adaptation in 1923. Obtain The Famous Mrs. Fair from Google Books.
  • The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism. Bertrand Russell. Russell was a British mathematician, philosopher, and pacifist. He wrote more than 60 books. In this one, he puts forth his thoughts about visiting Russia and seeing the beginning of Russian Communism. Read The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism at Project Gutenberg.
  • The Evolution of Sinn Fein. Robert Mitchell Henry. Henry was a professor at Queen’s University, Belfast. The year of 1921 brought Ireland’s struggle for independence to the newspapers of the United States. Sinn Fein was (and is) a political party within Ireland. This book would find interest in those who had read about Ireland’s cause. You can read The Evolution of Sinn Fein at Google Books.
  • San Cristóbal de la Habana. Joseph Hergesheimer. San Cristóbal de la Habana is the original name for Havana, Cuba. This book is a travelogue of Hergesheimer’s trip, filled with luscious descriptions of what he saw. Read San Cristóbal de la Habana from Project Gutenberg.
  • Scenario Writing Today. Grace Lytton. Want to know how movie scripts were written in the Twenties? Look no further than Scenario Writing Today, a book about how to write scripts. Retrieve your copy of Scenario Writing Today from Google Books.

The books as a whole

I was surprised I located every one of these titles without much effort. If you would prefer a printed copy, I noticed that almost every one of them appeared available in reprints from Amazon or your favorite reprint seller. Some of them, though, may only be worth one read to you.

Of course, these are all books of their time. They may contain material we find offensive today. They may also have factual information which later proved incorrect. Such is the hazard of reading 100 year old books. Much of the content, however, should be excellent. After all, several of these books became movies, and two received Pulitzer prizes.

Overall, they give a good look at the literature and nonfiction scene of 1921. This not only tells you what people were reading in the early Twenties, but also how they thought about things.

If you would like to add a twenty-first book to your list of twenty books worth reading, I suggest Daddy Long-legs, by Jean Webster. Although it dates a bit earlier than 1921, readers were definitely reading this book in the early Twenties as well.

I wish you happy reading.

Parties and Visits · Vintage Entertainment

Party Gifts in the Depression

1920s photo of four cookies for a bridge party: a black spade, red heart, black club, and red diamond. Each sugar cookie has a layer of colored icing on top. Text: Bridge cookies have their frosting tinted with chocolate or red color paste.
Even the most frugal bridge hostess could manage bridge cookies, iced or not.

We know about the Depression. It’s that time from the end of the Twenties through the early Forties that tried the souls of citizens around the world. We hear about sparse meals, clothing budgets, and jobs. But sometimes we miss the details of what it was like to survive the Thirties. For instance, gathering together for a night of bridge or other game qualifies as cheap entertainment. But what to give as party gifts in the Depression?

Bridge and club parties meant gifts for participants

Immensely popular during the Thirties and Forties, bridge allowed groups of four to twelve people to gather once a month. Every month brought a predictable card game, a small prize for the winner, and simple refreshments at the end. Usually these clubs met in the afternoons, in between morning work and dinner preparation. (Of course, a bridge club can have as many members as it likes, but as a child of the Sixties I never saw more than four card tables set up inside a home at one time.) During the Twenties through the Fifties, clubs that met in homes kept their membership low so everyone could fit inside at once.

So card game parties with coffee and a few cookies at the end provide an inexpensive evening or afternoon of fun. However, what does one do for the day’s winner when money is tight? Prior to the Depression, Twenties card clubs gave all kinds of gifts. A club might arrange a shower where everyone brought a gift to the new homeowner, bride, or mother –– the member of honor for the month.

Or the winner might go home with a travel book to record vacation wanderings. It came complete with a leather cover and helpful maps. Maybe the winner scored enough to snag a nice leather address book. Perhaps she took home a new set of bridge cards or an at-home book that visitors filled out like a guest register when they called upon her. These gifts ranged from $3.00 to $7.50 in 1928. These gifts were worth $48 to $120 in today’s dollars.

What’s a hostess to do?

All this stopped when the Depression hit. Imagine being able to afford a $75 gift when you host a card party during a recession or depressed economy. You can’t. There’s no way.

However, club members found ingenious ways to save their meetings. Party gifts in the Depression would continue. They required some creativity, however.

Raid the flower garden

The town master gardener could always turn to her flowers when she hosted. Many flowers planted in vintage gardens were perennials. They came up every year. Not only that, but they spread every year, too. Everybody in the community might have spearmint outside the back door for use in recipes, but not everyone had lilies, gladiolus, cosmos, or coneflowers. One of the easiest and least expensive gifts from the gardener is a beautiful planter of starts that the winner could take home and transfer to her own garden.

Periodical pleaser

Anything new was unique to many during the Depression. One thoughtful hostess purchased a handful of current magazines from the news shop. A club hostess knew the general reading tastes of her club, so she could choose unusual titles with interesting reading. Five current magazines from the shop cost about fifty cents, a far cry from the $3.00 price tag of earlier times. These might even be read by the winner and passed among club members for a good many months afterward.

Bake the best

If you baked the best angel food cake in town, and had eggs to spare from a backyard coop, a beautiful angel cake might elicit delight and envious looks. A nice tall cake covered with fluffy white frosting and decorated with candy rosebuds available at local stores –– what a nice gift! For the winner of the day, dessert is solved. This solution worked well for the groups whose members already had everything.

Eggs-actly the thing

One hostess was the wife of a poultry farmer. She dressed an eight pound hen (this had to be a duck or small turkey!) and gave it along with a dozen eggs to the winner of her bridge party. Her second-place winner received a chicken fryer, cut up and ready to cook, and she also sent half a dozen eggs home as a booby prize! While unconventional, she said the gifts went over well. It would be hard to top that the next month, to be sure.

Baskets of deliciousness

Another hostess found herself with an overflowing vegetable garden. She decided to put this to good use while she served as club party hostess. She gave the first prize winner a large basket filled with golden peaches and purple grapes. The second prize winner took home a golden squash surrounded by red apples. Her third prize winner took home a bouquet of autumn flowers. And finally, as a consolation prize the last place “winner” received a bouquet of carrots tied to look like a bunch of flowers. The carrot leaves surrounded the vegetables to frame them. These items would be cherished party gifts in the Depression.

Creativity in times of lack

These show just a few examples of hostess ingenuity as they searched for party gifts in the Depression. These women had very little during the Depression, yet they still managed to create a fun and memorable party out of almost nothing but what they had lying around.

What might today’s guests appreciate from a limited-budget host? Here are some ideas:

  • Homemade Chex Mix in a jar or container
  • A cookie platter of family favorites, with or without the recipes
  • Flowers from your garden is an eternal pleaser
  • A start or two from your prized plants, whether they be pothos or cactus
  • Knitted or crocheted pot holders or dish cloth from cotton yarn you have stashed away
  • A silly chick flick from the $2 bin at your local store, along with a package or 1/2 cup popcorn
  • A few unusual colored pencils from the art store, sold separately, if your group contains artsy members

When money is tight, make it useful; make it edible; or make it beautiful. You can’t go wrong following these criteria.

Find out more

If you want to read about parties in an earlier time, see this short series on Halloween parties in the Twenties. And if the idea of hosting a bridge club party interests you, the American Contract Bridge League was formed in 1937, during the Depression… exactly the same year that offers these gift suggestions above..

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

A Christmas Dinner from 1924

Large metal bowl filled with unshelled and half-shelled walnuts. A metal nutcracker sticks out of the nuts at an angle. In the background we see part of a large Victorian style window and a small portion of a huge blazing fireplace.

Traditional meals look really big to us today. For those raised on hamburgers and french fries, or pizza and a soda, the multi-course meal seems huge. To give you an idea, here’s a Christmas dinner from 1924 along with a few recipes. Here you’ll find recipes to make Oyster Cocktail, Chestnut Stuffing, and Frozen Maraschino Pudding.

Why were these meals so lavish? Why did they contain so many courses? Well, for one thing, these big meals hearken from a time when they were cooked by servants and served by servants. Therefore, the person in charge of the meal only cooked. He or she wasn’t engaged in working full time outside the home. Actually, the cook also needed to complete no other housework or errands. The food could be delivered to the house. As a result, the cook could focus completely on turning out dinners like this one, night after night.

Given all that, why do we put forth all this effort? If you want to emulate the habits of the wealthy of old, what better time to go all out than the holidays? Plus, feeding a houseful of people really does take more food. One way to stretch the turkey, or whatever you plan to serve, is to include extra sides and an extra dessert. Even though this creates more work, in the long run it’s easier than making a second turkey or a second main dish.

This Christmas dinner from 1924 was designed to be carried out by one young cook in her early twenties. The magazine touted it as the “new bride’s Christmas dinner.” Can you imagine? This would take a lot of advance planning to pull off well as a solo cook.

Christmas dinner men

Oyster Cocktail
Tomato Bouillon, Whipped Cream
Toasted Saltines
Roast Turkey, Chestnut Stuffing
Giblet Gravy
Mashed Potatoes
Baked Onions Squash Soufflé
Jellied Cranberries
Endive French Dressing
Cheese Sticks
Frozen Maraschino Pudding
Sponge Cake
Nuts Bonbons

The courses

This dinner would be served in five or six different courses, one after another. No normal Twenties dining table contained the space for such a repast if served all at once. So, to give you an idea what this looks like, here’s a possible breakdown of the meal:

Course 1: Oyster Cocktail. This is the appetizer.

Course 2: Tomato Bouillon with Whipped Cream. This is the soup course. The whipped cream is unsweetened. It’s just cream, whipped. The saltines accompany the soup.

Course 3: Roast Turkey, Chestnut Stuffing, Giblet Gravy. Accompanied by the vegetables, which are Mashed Potatoes, Baked Onions, Squash Soufflé, and Jellied Cranberries. This is the main course.

Course 4: Endive with French Dressing. This is the salad course, and it appears at the end of the meal. The Cheese Sticks listed under it accompany the salad.

Course 5: Frozen Maraschino Pudding, Sponge Cake, and Coffee. This is the dessert course.

After dinner: Not really considered a course, nuts and candy or mints sit in bowls on the table for nibbling after the completion of dinner. Perhaps guests enjoy them with a second cup of coffee.

If you want to undertake this or a meal like it, most of the items above are easy enough to replicate. Perhaps you already have recipes in your file. Maybe some of them you’ve committed to memory, like Mashed Potatoes. Really, you only need to roast a turkey once to know how it’s done. The next time, and after that, you only need to check to make sure the oven is set, look on the wrapper for hours to cook, and you’ve got it.

If you’d like it vegetarian

Or maybe you’d prefer to replace the turkey with a great nut roast, and make the meal vegetarian. If so, the best nut roast recipe I’ve ever made is the Cheese and Nut Loaf from the Greens cookbook. While this recipe isn’t vintage, it is really good! To help you find your own copy, I’ve linked to a slightly modified recipe from Epicurious in case you don’t have the cookbook on your shelf.

Oyster Cocktail


  • 3/4 cup tomato catsup
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery salt
  • few drops Tabasco sauce, optional
  • 3 dozen oysters
  • 1 stalk celery, for garnish
  • 1/2 green pepper, for garnish

To the catsup add the lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, and celery salt. If you want to add a few drops of Tabasco sauce, do it now.

Add the oysters to the mixture and chill. Serve in cocktail glasses, garnished with finely chopped celery and strips of green pepper.

If you like, you can replace the oysters with clams, lobster, crabmeat, or shrimp.

Recipe makes six servings.

Chestnut Stuffing


  • 3 cups chestnut puree
  • 1 cup soft bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon grated onion
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup cream

To prepare the chestnut purée, boil a quart of large French chestnuts until tender. Let cool until you can touch them safely. Remove the shells and skins and rub through a sieve. (A food processor would probably also work.)

To the puree add the bread crumbs, butter, and seasonings. Moisten with the cream and mix lightly.

Use this to stuff the turkey, or bake in a casserole dish. To bake in the oven separately, turn the mixture into a buttered or oiled baking dish. Cover the dish with foil. Bake the dressing at 400ºF for 30 minutes. Then, if you want a crispy topping, remove the foil and continue baking for 15 minutes or so until the top is golden brown.

Frozen Maraschino Pudding


  • 1/2 cup candied pineapple
  • 1/2 cup maraschino cherries
  • 1/4 cup juice from cherries
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 2 egg whites
  • pinch salt
  • 1 cup cream, whipped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Cut the pineapple into small pieces and halve the cherries. Add the cherry juice and let stand several hours.

Beat the egg whites until they are stiff.

Boil the sugar and water together until the syrup spins a thread (238ºF). Pour the hot sugar slowly onto the stiff egg whites. Add salt and beat until cool. (This will cook the egg whites. If you are concerned, you can use pasteurized egg whites in this dish.)

Fold in the cream, which has been whipped until stiff. Add the vanilla, lemon juice, and fruit mixture.

Freeze for three hours before serving.

Recipe makes six servings.

An alternate fluffy dessert

If you like the idea of the whipped cream and fruit dessert but the egg whites give you pause, here’s an alternative. This recipe for Fruited Cream Dessert contains many of the same ingredients, minus the egg. You can substitute candied pineapple and cherries for the fruit in this recipe, if you like. Be sure to soak the pineapple in the cherry juice before using. The soaking softens the pineapple.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Sunday Sandwiches

Twenties recipes are known for their common, everyday ingredients. Most cooks created meals by the season. Unless it was canned from the home garden or available on a grocer’s shelf, all foods appeared within their season of freshness. You would not see asparagus, for instance, outside of spring meals. Even given all that, these Sunday sandwiches appeared a bit odd.

I found them within the pages of The American Needlewoman, an inexpensive magazine (some reports say subscriptions were 25¢ per year). These sandwiches are touted for Sunday evenings, after-theatre snacks, and hurried lunches. I’ll leave you to decide.

These recipes aren’t long enough to warrant their own recipe cards. They are ingredients assembled from the refrigerator and leftovers, placed on bread to form sandwiches.

An odd note

One strange thing about these sandwiches is that they seemed to be topped with a layer of mayonnaise or a slice of cheese. Normally we would put those things inside the sandwich itself. No notes describe whether these were supposed to be eaten by hand, or with utensils.

Creamed Egg Sandwich

You will need:

  • large baking powder biscuits, one per serving
  • butter
  • hard boiled eggs, one per serving, made earlier and chilled
  • white sauce (2 Tb butter, 2 Tb flour combined with 1 cup milk and 1/4 tsp salt to make a sauce)
  • bacon, cooked, probably in 1/2 or 1/3 slices

Split large baking powder biscuits. Brown the cut sides in butter. Spread one side with fresh butter.

Make your white sauce, “well seasoned.” In addition to the 1/4 tsp salt you might add the same amount of pepper. Slice the hard boiled eggs into the white sauce and warm them in the sauce. (If they are cold they will retain their shape better than if freshly boiled.)

Cover the bottom biscuit half with the warm creamed eggs. Set the top on, and cover generously with more of the sauce. Place two thin slices of bacon on top for added flavor.

Rye Sandwich

You will need:

  • rye bread, sliced thin
  • butter
  • cooked ham
  • onion slices
  • cooked bacon slices, 2-3 per sandwich
  • firm ripe tomato
  • mayonnaise
  • whole small dill pickle

Each sandwich requires 3 slices of thin rye. Spread all three sliced with butter.

Mince the ham and onion together. Spread that on the first slice.

Place enough slices of cooked bacon to cover the bread on the second slice. Two to three half slices should do it. Top the bacon with two slices of tomato, and spread mayonnaise over the tomato.

Top with the third slice of bread, butter side down. Slice almost all the way through the small dill, and lay it on top the sandwich as garnish, with the slices fanning out across the top of the bread.

Club Extraordinary

You will need:

  • three slices of toast per sandwich
  • sliced chicken
  • cooked bacon slices
  • sliced tomato
  • melted cheese, cheddar, American, or colby
  • canned lobster, 1 small can
  • mayonnaise

Spread a slice of toast with melted cheese.

Lay one slice of chicken, 2 slices bacon, and a tomato slice or two on the first slice. Cover with mayonnaise and another piece of toast.

On this second toast, spread with melted cheese again, and top with chopped canned lobster. Spread with a layer of mayonnaise, and top with the remaining slice of toast.

Combination Sandwich

You will need:

  • rye, wheat, and white bread slices, one of each per sandwich
  • chopped pickle, dill
  • cold sliced pork
  • minced ham
  • cheese slices, either cheddar, colby or American
  • butter

Take one slice of each kind of bread. Butter one side of all.

Spread one slice with chopped pickle, one with sliced pork, and one with minced ham. Put them together (presumably with the pickle and one of the meats facing. Or not.)

Top the sandwich with a slice of cheese.

Olive Sandwich

You will need:

  • two slices bread per sandwich
  • cold lamb
  • cold pork
  • olives
  • mayonnaise
  • butter

Make a filling by chopping together the lamb, pork, and olives. You might use 1 cup lamb, 1 cup pork, 1/2 cup olives, or a similar combination. Blend the chopped ingredients with mayonnaise until it holds together.

Spread the white bread with butter on one side. Top the bottom piece generally with the mixture.

Set the top slice on the sandwich, butter side down. Spread a layer of mayonnaise on top of the bread.

Final notes

See? These Sunday sandwiches are… unusual. They would be great for an off-beat picnic luncheon, with sandwiches safely packed in a cooler. These contain a lot of eggs and mayo. If you have the ingredients on hand, or can easily get ahold of them, they also might make an interesting after-holiday supper. After the turkey or ham is devoured and we’re all a wee bit hungry, bring out these sandwiches for a complete change of pace. Who knows? One of them might become a family favorite.

If you’re looking for something a bit more standard, but still unusual, this Tea Sandwiches article might be the thing.

Recipe Collections · The Vintage Kitchen

Homemade Christmas Candies

1920s illustration. Blue bowl sits on a table surrounded by red and green holly. The bowl is piled high with candy of all different shapes and colors. Pink, green, white, and brown squares and rounds fill the bowl.

The candy counter was a popular destination for shoppers. Chocolate Hershey bars, Teaberry gum, and a host of other sweets kept everyone’s sugar-loving tooth happy. For a nickel you could take home a small candy bar, if you made it that far without devouring it. Even so, one of the most popular Christmas gifts continued to be homemade Christmas candies.

Friends and far-flung family alike anticipated the arrival of the yearly candy box. Special homemade Christmas candies such as taffy, fudge, hard peppermints, and even gumdrops nestled happily against one another in the small tin. Some looked forward to the arrival of the tin all year. Homemade Christmas candies were a gift to treasure, and few turned up their noses at such an offering.

This worked to the candy maker’s advantage as well. For the price of a little sugar, chocolate or cocoa, and flavorings (some of which lasted for years on the pantry shelf) a home cook turned out enough candy for the family at home as well as friends and family local and far. A candy recipe makes a huge amount of sugar-laden food for one or two people. Fitting two or three of each kind of candy into a box made a beautiful presentation, and enough filled boxes left the candy maker with just enough of the sweets for home use.

Today I offer some of the old recipes so you can get a start on your home homemade Christmas candies box. Or platter. Or however you want to serve it, send it, or eat it. These recipes for Persian Sweets, Christmas Fudge, Boston Cream, and Frosted Gum Drops are only a few of the candy recipes available.

Note: If you are making candy, and boiling sugar of any kind, you will need a large, deep saucepan. A three to four-and-a-half quart pan should work well. Sugar will boil up and over the top of a pan, creating a burn hazard. The large pan helps to safeguard against this. Please be careful.

Persian Sweets

This recipe is uncooked and easy to throw together if you have the ingredients and a few holes in your candy box. Why this is called Persian Sweets, I have no idea. Other variations of this, with different fruits added, are known as Fruit Rolls. You will need:

  • One cup chopped raisins
  • 3/4 cup chopped dates
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1-2 cups powdered sugar, or enough to cover the candy
  • waxed paper

Mix the raisins, dates, and nuts together. This will be sticky. Knead on a board that you’ve covered with powdered sugar. Knead it until the mass sticks together well.

Roll the candy with a rolling pin, also coated with powdered sugar so it doesn’t stick. Roll until the candy is 1/2-inch thick.

Cut into small squares, no more than 1-inch square. One-half inch squares would make nice cubes, somewhat like Kraft caramels.

Roll the cut squares in powdered sugar until well covered. Wrap each square in waxed paper.

This will keep quite a while if packed in a tin or airtight container. It would be a good candy to send long distances.

Christmas Fudge

This is a chocolate-flavored fudge with a little molasses. It also contains no cream. You will need:

  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 2 rounded Tablespoons butter (each Tbsp would be about 1 1/3 Tbsp, so 2 2/3 Tbsp total)
  • 2 oz unsweetened chocolate, bar form, grated (Lindt and Ghiradelli both offer baking chocolate)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • pans for holding the fudge: 8 x 8 baking pan, loaf pans, etc.

Melt the butter in a saucepan, but do not let it brown.

Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the sugars, molasses, and water.

Boil the mixture 2 minutes. Add grated chocolate and boil for 5 minutes. Always count the time from the point that bubbling begins.

Remove from the heat and add the vanilla. Cool. Then beat vigorously and spread into pans.

Mark into squares. When the mixture is cold, cut the pieces apart with a sharp knife.

Boston Cream

This is reminiscent of the Boston Cream Pie, without the cake.

You will need:

  • 3 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup white syrup (Karo or another brand corn syrup)
  • 1 cup sweet cream (whipping cream, whole cream)
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
  • 3 oz unsweetened chocolate (Lindt or Ghiradelli baking chocolate)
  • Large, deep saucepan
  • Buttered pans for cooling the candy. A loaf pan would work well, or even several miniature loaf pans.

Boil the sugar, syrup, and cream to a soft ball. In other words, you bring the mixture to a boil. Take a tiny bit on the tip of a spoon and drop it into a glass of ice cold water. The mixture should form a ball in the water but squish when you bring it out of the water. That is a soft ball. It is also 238ºF on a candy thermometer.

Once it reaches soft ball stage, remove the pan from the heat. Beat until the candy is white and smooth. This is going to take a while if you do it by hand.

Beat in the nuts and the flavoring. Turn into deep buttered pans to cool.

When cold, melt the chocolate and pour the chocolate over the top of the candy. Let it stand for several days to ripen.

Cut into slices to serve.

Frosted Gum Drops

These red and green jewels will brighten any candy plate.

You will need:

  • 4 level tablespoons gelatin
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 4 cups granulated sugar
  • red, yellow, and green food coloring
  • wintergreen or peppermint flavoring oil
  • clover flavoring oil
  • lemon flavoring oil
  • rose oil or flavoring extract
  • granulated sugar for rolling
  • Large deep saucepan for candy making

Soak the gelatin in the cold water for five minutes. Stir in the boiling water until completely dissolved.

Add the sugar and boil for 25 minutes from the time boiling begins, stirring constantly. If you don’t keep it moving it will stick and burn.

Pour the syrup into 4 heatproof containers. When it cools, flavor and color them. Use a drop or two of lemon oil for the first container. Do not color it. For container 2, use a drop or two of green and flavor with wintergreen. For container 3, use yellow coloring and rose flavor. If you use extract rather than oil, you will need a bit more than a drop. For container 4, use red and flavor with clove.

Pour each candy into a small pan that has been dipped into cold water. Loaf pans or other small pans would work.

Refrigerate overnight. Cut into cubes with a knife dipped in boiling water. Roll each piece in granulated sugar until well coated.

Set aside for two days to crystallize.

Note: These flavor and color suggestions are very vintage. If you’d rather use blue food coloring and blackberry flavoring, do so.

More options

Once you get started, candy making can become an obsession. It’s fun to do and generally popular. Taffy pulls bring people together. For that matter, so does a big plate of fudge surrounded by fresh cups of coffee!

Every candy box has a hole where you can tuck just one more thing. If you find yourself in that position, take a look at this no-cook recipe for Easy Fondant Cream Mints. They were a huge hit at my house.


The American Needlewoman’s December Calendar

A toddler in one-piece pajamas touches a low hanging glass ball on a Christmas tree while his older sister sits in front of him, her hands raised in delight at the sight of a new doll. The girl is dressed in a white nightgown and a red flowered house robe. From 1924, The American Needlewoman magazine.
December dreams in 1924.

The American Needlewoman started its life as The American Woman. This magazine came from Augusta, Maine. The Maine magazines publishers produced magazines primarily so they could sell a product. Many of these magazines cost nothing, or next to nothing. Their point was advertising. The American Needlewoman only lasted from 1923 to 1927. Today I introduce one of this magazine’s unique features: The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar.

First, a little more about the magazine. This magazine was cheap. Its paper is so bad that it makes old newsprint look good. The cover is made from paper the publisher used for the interior pages of its more expensive and popular magazine. If not the same paper grade, it is very close. The covers of this magazine show rather plain illustrations. A large portion of the December 1924 cover appears as the photo for this post. I couldn’t include the entire thing because the copy I received has a badly water stained cover.

A rural magazine

The American Needlewoman was designed to sell to rural housewives. It contained some needlework, not a lot. Readers found several stories and a few regular departments as well. Although the stated subscription price was $0.50 per year, subscription “deals” brought the price closer to $0.25. For the last half of the magazine, advertisements fill at least half of every page.

This gives you a bit of background into the magazine. While paging through I found a section called the December Calendar. The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar was not really a horoscope. Sometimes those appeared in magazine pages. Other magazine monthly calendars specified a particular meal or food to serve each day. This served as a meal planning calendar. It was designed to help the busy home manager.

The American Needlewoman‘s December Calendar did neither of these. It was more like a calendar of encouragement. Sometimes they appeared in poetry, other times prose. Here are some excerpts.

December 1, Monday

There’ll be plenty of good things to see to-day,
Plenty of chances to smile and be gay;
Let us all keep so busy these blessings to spy
That the glooms and the grouches will all pass us by.

December 4, Thursday

Thought is creative. I do not mean to say that
what you wish for timidly and doubtingly you will
always get; but what you will, what you strive for,
what you aim at, will certainly lead to the goal as
surely as a rifle-bullet seeks the target it is aimed

December 5, Friday

A blot upon the paper
Is surely out of place,
But it isn’t half so ugly
As a frown upon the face.

December 8, Monday

Keep busy; there is always something that
needs you. No matter though it does seem
insignificant and “not worth the powder” ––
do it, and to the very best of your ability. Then
take the next thing in line; you will find every
duty a stepping-stone if you put love into
your work.

December 11, Thursday

It matters not though you plod along
And cannot keep abreast
Of those who lead––if you sing a song,
And sincerely do your best.

December 18, Thursday

Bear in mind that you draw to yourself the conditions
that you persist in talking about, and that you have
the power to make your conversation what you will.
You can talk about prosperity or poverty, health or
sickness, happiness or sorrow. The choice is yours.

December 24, Wednesday

The very best gift you can bestow upon your friend
is the resolution that henceforth you will see only the
good qualities in him, closing your mental vision to
all others. For thus you bring the good more and more
into expression, and that which is not good falls away.

December 25, Friday

All trees are Christmas-trees that bear
The care of love and love of care.
To cultivate a Christmas-tree
Plant it in love and let it be.
Gold for misfortune it will keep,
Light in the darkness it will give:
Its truth will blossom while you sleep,
Its happy kindness while you live.

December 29, Monday

The little tasks that throw their shade across each working day
Are like the darning we must do before our hands can lay
The gentle stitches in a bit of fragile, whisplike lace––
For each task has its bit of life––each fragment has its place!


While these seem to be encouraging, many of them contain the positive platitudes common in the Twenties. The you can do it attitude stood in stark contrast to actual happenings in the cities and villages of the nation.

  • Don’t worry about the rising prices of everything! — If you simply think about peace, there will be peace.
  • Be not concerned that you can’t sell your wheat and make ends meet! — Think of yourself as a world-creator.
  • Losing the farm because you can’t make this year’s payment? — Believe in joy until it comes.

The italicized comments are drawn from this month’s inspirational calendar.

Not a new invention, the magazine’s calendar carried over from its time as The American Woman. Issues from the early Twenties show the same type of upbeat, inspirational, get-it-done type of daily readings. I can imagine a farm wife turning to these writings day after day, and wondering why she feels depressed.

I think these were designed to truly bring inspiration to readers. And maybe they did. However, I wonder if the publishers Vickery and Hill took their knowledge of Maine farms and tried to apply it to others. Like farmers who lived through the Dust Bowl experience.

The American Needlewoman was renamed once again in 1927, to Modern Homemaking. The editors reduced needlework to two articles and filled the pages with stories, fashions, and miscellaneous articles. The monthly calendar survived the name change once again.

See it for yourself

If you would like to see a copy for yourself, The April, 1926 issue of The American Needlewoman lives at The Internet Archive. Download it and see what you think.

The Creative Corner · Vintage Needlework

Lazy Daisy Stitch Projects

Today I have two small Lazy Daisy stitch projects for you. These are suitable for a small frame. Or they would look wonderful decorating one end of two scarves, at the top or pocket of an apron, or even embellishing the back of a jacket. Do you need a small decorated pillow? They would rock that as well. If you need a stitch review, you can find it in Part 1 and Part 2.

Flowers in flowerpot

You can see the first project above. This design measures about 5.5 inches square. You can print out the image above at about 90% of its full size. Or simply sketch it from the picture inside a 5.5 inch box. This design is 100 years old and somebody drew it freehand to begin with. Who’s going to know if your dimensions are a tiny bit off?

Once you get the design transferred to your fabric, you will need to grab your colors. The original was embroidered in fine embroidery yarns like 1 or two strands of tapestry yarn. (It comes with four strands together.) You could use one strand of pearl cotton or four strands of embroidery floss instead.

Colors you will need

You will need:

  • pale jade green for leaves
  • orchid
  • old rose
  • heliotrope
  • yellow
  • delft blue

How to embroider the flowers and flowerpot

  • Begin with the leaves in tree stitch. Start at the tip. Use the green.
  • Use chain stitch for the stems. Also in green.
  • The tendrils use the green in back stitch. (This is the curly line coming off the stem.)

The large flower is worked in chain stitch from the outside in. Starting with the outer row:

  • The outer row is lazy daisy stitch in orchid.
  • Work the row inside that with lazy daisy stitches in old rose.
  • Complete a row of chain stitch in the rose.
  • Inside the chain stitch, a row of lazy daisy stitches in heliotrope. The tips of the daisies will go into the chain of the previous row.
  • Make the center in a yellow tree stitch. Start at one end and work to the other.

The circular flowers

Circular flower 1

Complete the two circular flowers by making eight long lazy daisy stitches. For the lower flower, make the daisy stitches in orchid. Then with rose, weave over and under the stitch arms like you see in the illustration above. Complete the flower with a yellow center of tiny lazy daisy stitches or French knots.

Circular flower 2A

For the upper flower, make the spokes in heliotrope and complete the flower in the same color. Instead of weaving over and under, this time you will loop around and around the two threads that make each lazy daisy stitch as you see above.

Circular flower 2B

After the first row or two you will loop around each individual thread of the daisy stitch, as above. This makes a nice, tightly woven flower. Make the weaving as large or as small as you like. Again, make a yellow center.

The bowl

The upper edge of the bowl is in separated lazy daisy stitches. They march in a line across the rim. Keep the loops a bit loose so that the line of stitches and their spaces appear even. This row is in delft blue. Then:

  • Hanging from the top border of the bowl, seven woven drops dangle.
  • Work a row of back stitch in rose just above the blue chain stitch.
  • Also use back stitch for the two lines coming down from the sides of the bowl, but work these in blue.
  • Use jade in regular chain stitch for the sides of the bowl.
  • Also use jade for the bottom of bowl, but work closely-spaced separated chain stitches.
  • Above this line, work four points in tree stitch, as you see in the illustration below.
Use four different colors for this tree stitch.

Use four different shades of thread or yarn for these stitches. The first, or inner, stitch is yellow. Follow that with heliotrope, then orchid, and finally rose for the largest outside stitch.

Circular Medallion

Circular medallion, six inches in diameter

I liked this design a lot. For some reason this one really appealed to me, and I’ll try to find something to embroider it onto.

This would be a great decoration for a vintage style handbag or small pillow. It measures six inches in diameter.

The colors

To work the second of the lazy daisy stitch projects you will need one or two strands of tapestry yarn, pearl cotton, or four strands of embroidery floss. The original instructions even suggested four-fold Germantown, which was worsted knitting wool. The worker would then separate the four strands and use one at a time. The color list:

  • medium dull blue, like DMC 793
  • dark dull blue, like DMC 792524
  • light/medium blue green, like DMC 518
  • dark blue green, like DMC 3760
  • gray-green, like DMC 524
  • heliotrope, like DMC 33
  • flame, like DMC 347 or any red/red-orange that you like

Usually I don’t match DMC colors to vintage patterns, but the suggestions for this particular design were very vague. It suggested two shades of dull blue. What in the world is that? I had to consult a DMC color chart so I could figure it out for myself. While I was there, I decided to jot down the numbers that I found. If you have a selection of threads in this color range that you think works better, by all means use them.

The flower

Detail of flower center

This illustration shows how the flower center is worked.

  • The very center horizontal satin stitches are in flame/red/red-orange.
  • To the right and left of the flame stitch, work tree stitch. Begin at the center and work out to the edges. Use the lighter blue-green thread.
  • Surround the oval with back stitch in heliotrope.
  • The first lazy daisy row, closest to the flower center, is in dark blue.
  • Use gray to complete a second row of daisy stitches, about half the size, at the ends of the first daisy row.
  • Extending from the flower center, work the large petals in light blue tree stitch.
  • Connect the petals close to their tips with buttonhole stitch done in heliotrope.

The rest of the embroidery

Here’s how to complete the embroidery.

  • Work the central flower stem in dark blue-green tree stitch.
  • The two leaves closest to the flower are the lighter blue-green. Use tree stitch for this as well.
  • Work the small tendrils (curly lines) coming from the top two leaves in lighter blue-green, using back stitch.
  • The large dark tendrils coming from the base of the flower stem are back stitched in dark blue-green.
  • All other leaves and tendrils are in gray-green.

Next Lesson

And this concludes Lazy Daisy Stitch Projects. The next embroidery lesson series focuses on appliqué. If you enjoy the look of Twenties and Thirties appliqué quilts and needlework, you won’t want to miss it.

The Vintage Bookshelf · Vintage Entertainment

A Dickens Ghost Story

Wikimedia Commons image of the frontispiece from The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain by Charles Dickens. A man sits in front of a fire while a ghost stands behind him, leaning forward. A wide border of demons and angels surrounds the image.
Frontispiece from The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain by Charles Dickens. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Not that ghost story. Not A Christmas Carol, which we love dearly but have heard, and seen, and read over and over again. No, this is a Dickens ghost story different from that one.

Charles Dickens, you see, wrote many ghost stories. Not just one. And he wrote five tales specifically for Christmas. In today’s tale the two intersect. For The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain, by Charles Dickens, is both a Christmas tale and a ghost story. What could be better?

Mr. Redlaw is a chemist and renowned instructor. Well loved and much respected, he lives with secret sorrows he cannot dispel. Painful memories of the past accost him constantly.

A spirit visits him and offers to remove the sorrows and memories which plague him. No more shall he find himself weighed down by the past that he cannot change.

Redlaw agrees to the transaction. For it is a transaction: he will pass the same forgetting to all he meets. Of course, it comes with some very unintended consequences for both Redlaw and those in his community circle.

Beyond the story

This is a story about the importance of community. About the importance of memory. And it’s a story about the incredible influence we have, good or ill, on the people around us.

It’s also a story about Christmas. A story about the joy and closeness that Christmastime should bring. And it’s a story about redemption.

Dickens does a beautiful job, as always of bringing to life the world that is 1850 London. This story includes four different social classes, perhaps more. Chemist Redlaw shows us the educated, intellectual Londoner. Milly and her husband William introduce us to the Victorian servant class. They work for their living attending to the chemist, but they appear a different class than the failed newspaperman on the corner or the street waif that Milly feeds and shelters from compassion.

Read it yourself

The Haunted Man and the Ghost’s Bargain would be a great tale to tell around the Christmas fire. This Dickens ghost story brings home the importance of family and connection, even more than A Christmas Carol.

You can find it as a free read on Google Books and Amazon’s Kindle. If you want a hard copy for your book shelves, you can locate several different editions at Barnes and Noble, Amazon, or your favorite bookseller.

Poems from the Pages · The Magazine Rack

Poem: By Loving and Giving We Live

This is not your everyday Christmas poem for December. We read lots of poems about Santas and sleighs, about snowfalls and heavily-laden tables. This month’s poem, By Loving and Giving We Live, presents another perspective to the Christmas getting and giving.

This poem’s author is Clara Haven King. I can find no references to her or to her poetry. A periodical search, newspaper search, and book search turn up nothing. Of course, the possibility exists that the magazine got her name wrong. It wouldn’t be the first time I saw that.

This Christmas poem appeared in the December edition of Needlecraft Magazine in 1922. In the interest of keeping Clara Haven King’s poetry alive, I bring you By Loving and Giving We Live.

By Loving and Giving We Live

by Clara Haven King

“Oh, Christmas is coming again!” you say,
And you long for the time he is bringing;
But the costliest gifts may not gladden the day,
Nor help on the merry bells’ ringing.
Some getting is losing, you understand,
Some hoarding is far from saving;
What you hold in your hand may slip from the band,
There is something better than having.
We are richer for what we give,
And only by giving we live.

Your last year’s presents are scattered and gone;
You have almost forgotten who gave them;
But the loving thoughts you bestow live on
As long as you choose to have them.
Love, love is your riches, though ever so poor;
No money can buy that treasure;
Yours always, from robber and rust secure,
Your own without stint or measure.
It is only love that can give;
It is only by loving we live.

Do you know this poet?

If you have heard of Clara Haven King, or know of a place where her poetry was published, please drop a note in the comments and let me know. I’d like to read more of her work.

If you’d rather read about autumn than Christmas, Belle Bush’s October offers another look at life and humanity.