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Eliza Baylies Wheaton @ElizaBTweetin

Posted on March 18, 2013

Welcome to the pocket diaries of Wheaton Female Seminary founder Eliza Baylies Wheaton, via @ElizaBTweetin!  Here you will find occasional explanatory and biographical notes, links regarding events described by Mrs. Wheaton, and more about transcribing and digitizing her diaries. Our plan is to provide such background at least once each week.

The project’s entries begin in 1872 because the dates happen to coincide with the days and dates in 2013.  Six of Eliza Baylies Wheaton’s diaries have survived (or have been discovered), and Wheaton College students transcribed all of them, as well as a travel journal. The goal of this project is to tweet all six diaries, ending in 2018. We hope the experience will be memorable for you!

If you choose to follow Mrs. Wheaton, we encourage you to check the Wheaton College Library and Information Services twitter feed @wallacelibrary.  Here you will find LIS announcements and links to informative resources.

"21d Chilly— I kept house We had roast Turkey for dinner— Henry Hunt came in P.M. to work on spackling Kitchen. Misses Mellus + Carter called- A letter from Bro. Austin dated or mailed 9th. David Fitzgerald died last night at 12-"


On Monday, March 18, Mrs. Wheaton mentioned having roast turkey for dinner, the mid-day meal,  because she seldom mentioned meals or entrées, this is significant.  By 1872, roast turkey (rather than boiled, stewed, or fricasseed) was already considered an entrée worthy of holidays, weddings, and other special occasions. Juliet Corson’s, 1886, Miss Corson’s Practical American Cookery describes roasting a “Turkey Poult”. The poult, a smaller, young, spring or early summer turkey, roasted in half the time needed for birds that would be ready in the fall.  This may be the sort of turkey Mrs. Wheaton enjoyed for dinner in mid-March.

Most likely Mrs. Wheaton was entertaining members of the Board of Trustees during her mid-day meal prior to the Public Examination and Trustees' Meeting on March 19, which marked the end of the second of three annual terms.  At this meeting, the Trustees established the by-law that no pupil could receive her diploma without having cleared her account with the Treasurer, and asked Principal Caroline Cutler Metcalf "to use her influence and authority to secure plainness in dress on the part of the graduating class."  While the first item might have been suggested by the Treasurer, the second bears the flavor of Eliza Wheaton, who never wore extravagant clothing.

If you are not faint of heart, and wish to learn the techniques likely used by Mrs. Wheaton and many nineteenth century cooks for preparing a roast bird check Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book: What To Do and What Not To Do in Cooking (1884) by Wheaton Female Seminary’s own Mary Bailey Lincoln, Class of 1864. Mary Bailey’s connection to Wheaton was quiet strong, her  mother ran the boarding house for male employees of both the Seminary and the Wheaton family. Mary Bailey and her daughter also became Mrs. Wheaton’s life-long friends and visitors.

Within her cookbook, Mrs. Lincoln provides instructions regarding carving poultry. We know that Mrs. Wheaton was far more adept at carving than her husband Laban Morey Wheaton. Perhaps Mrs. Lincoln received a few tips from Eliza, whose biography describes a dinner at which

    a roast of beef was placed before Mrs. Wheaton, which she proceeded at once to carve, Mr. Wheaton meanwhile making ineffectual efforts to separate the joints in the boiled fowl at his end of the table. Presently Mrs. Wheaton said in a low tone to the waiter, "You may take this beef to Mr. Wheaton and bring the fowl to me," and on receiving it, she raised her glasses,—you will all recall that characteristic gesture, — applied her knife at once to the vital point, and the joints were quickly severed; and at the same time she kept up her lively interest in our conversation. (p. 172)

In 1896, Fanny Merritt Farmer remarketed, revised, and reprinted Mrs. Lincoln’s Boston Cook Book under the, title The Boston Cooking-School Cookbook by Fanny Merritt Farmer, now famously known as The Fanny Farmer Cookbook (still in print.)

“Feeding America: The Historic American Cookbook Project”, sponsored by Michigan State University, includes links to a growing number of cookbooks, and we encourage browsing on the site. Mrs. Lincoln’s thorough instructions range from cleaning and trussing poultry to roasting turkey.  We like to believe that Mary Bailey Lincoln learned the scientific approach evidenced in her cookbook while at Wheaton Seminary.

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