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Mechanics Institute Cookery Class composition notebooks

 Collection — Box: 1
Identifier: RITArc-0654

Scope and Contents

The Mechanics Institute Cookery Class composition notebooks are two notebooks that contain portions of early instructional materials from the Domestic Science Deparment of the Mechanics Institute. One composition notebook titled "Cooking School Recipes" includes abbreviations and conversions for cooking measurements. It also contains lessons and instructions about various cooking methods for food. There are also typed recipes and blank paper. Within this book, there is a title page that states these are popular lessons in practical, sanitary, and economic cookery from 1897-1898. These classes were offered in the public schools of Rochester under the direction of the Domestic Science Board of the Mechanics Institute. For this particular course, Miss Nellie Talbot Forbes was the instructor. The title page states that Miss Forbes had especially arranged and adapted the recipes from other leading cookery instructors for this particular course. The untitled composition book includes typed and handwritten recipes as well as clippings of recipes. Both composition books covers say "The Owl", which is presumably the brand of the composition books.


  • Creation: 1897-1898

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open to researchers.

Biographical / Historical

Henry Lomb, President of the Board of Directors and one of the founders of the Institute, and other directors wanted to expand the Institute's focus upon the merging of Rochester Athenaeum and the Mechanics Institute to become Rochester Athenaeum and Mechanics Institute (RAMI). They had the resources to do as such as RAMI. Henry Lomb proposed that a Domestic Science Department that offered cooking, sewing, and domestic work had a place at the Institute. He formed a committee of women, including Mrs. Betsy Andrews, to assess the feasibility of adding cooking instruction to RAMI's offerings.

The committee invited a renowned cook, Mrs. Emma P. Ewing, to host a series of lectures for the Institute. After this went well, they held "a free lecture at Central Presbyterian Church entitled 'Our Kitchen Interests' to attract attention to the [Institute's] new program" (Gordon, p. 57). To help fundraise money for building repairs at RAMI to start a cooking school, another series of cooking classes was held at the Rochester Chamber of Commerce. Each individual class cost $0.50 and the series of eight lessons for $2.00, netting $452 overall (p. 57). The proceeds helped the cooking committee renovate the Gilman Perkins home on Washington steet to become the location of RAMI's Domestic Science Department, which hosted its first class in March 1893 (p. 57). Miss Grace W. Braggins became the first teacher in 1893 and RAMI appointed a director of the Domestic Science Department, Miss Mary Bliss, in 1897 (p. 57). Between 1893-1899, "attendance in the Domestic Science Department grew almost four times, from 367 to 1319 [pupils]; instructors, from three to twenty-one (p. 57).

Another initiative started by Lomb was creating cooking classes in various public high schools in Rochester, at ten cents for each lesson. The classes were taught by instructors from the Domestic Science Department. Lomb hoped that these lessons in secondary education institutions would inspire New York's "Board of Education [to] make cooking and sewing part of the school curriculum"(p. 58). While this was a contested issue, a majority of parents welcomed the introduction of domestic science into their children's curriculum.

While Domestic Science Department courses offered subjects such as cooking, dressmaking, and home science, they also offered two-year programs called "the normal course". The normal course included programs in chemistry, physics, physiology, and hygeine, which served as the beginning of the College of Science.

Gordon, Dane. Rochester Institute of Technology: Industrial Development and Educational Innovation in an American City, 1829-2006. Rochester, NY: RIT Press (2007).


0.88 Linear Feet (1 flat box)




The Mechanics Institute Cooking School Lessons and Recipes composition books are two notebooks that contain portions of early instructional materials from the Domestic Science Department of the Mechanics Institute. Both composition books are from the 1897-1898 school year. The collection includes various recipes, cooking instructions for certain foods, cooking lessons, and measurement abbreviations and conversions. The materials were donated by Carol J. Saylor in May 2016.


The collection consists of two items.

Physical Location

C.S. South, Shelf 164

Other Finding Aids

In addition to this finding aid, an inventory is available below. For more information, please contact the RIT Archive Collections.

Mechanics Institute Cookery Class composition notebooks

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Mechanics Institute Cookery Class composition notebooks were donated to the RIT Archive Collections by Carol J. Saylor in May 2016.

Accession number(s): 2016:015

Processing Information

Finding aid created by Jenna Bossert in May 2016.

Mechanics Institute Cookery Class composition notebooks
RIT Archives
Jenna Bossert
04 May 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the RIT Archives Repository

Rochester NY 14623 USA