Searching for Prairie Gems

Compiled cookbooks, filled with recipes contributed by local cooks, have long been printed

in Nebraska. These cookbooks present a fascinating look at what people cooked and ate.

Some of the collections even show us what earlier Nebraskans thought was funny.

One such cookbook, entitled “The Prairie Gem,” was published in Newman Grove. Although

no date was printed in the book, State Historical Society Librarian Cindy Drake believes the

recipes to be typical of the 1890s. But not all the recipes in “The Prairie Gem” are typical.

A Mrs. M. Bitney contributed a number of “legitimate” recipes to the collection, Mrs. Drake

said. But just for fun, she included a few “ringers.”

Here’s Mrs. Bitney’s recipe for “shirred eggs”:

“Carefully remove the shell from a fresh egg and hold the white and yolk firmly in the left

hand. Then with a fine needle and thread, gather the material in straight rows about half an

inch apart. Draw up to the required fullness and fasten neatly with the ends of the thread.”

Snow pudding was a popular dish at the turn of the century. But cooks seeking to recreate

this old favorite might find a real challenge in Mrs. Bitney’s recipe:

“Take about 4 quarts, say, 4 1/2 of fresh snow. Wash in several waters and put it to soak

overnight. In the morning knead it up and set by the fire to rise. Add some melted glue and

set aside to cool.”

This fascinating cookbook is just one of the many “prairie gems” in the State Historical

Society Library, according to Mrs. Drake. “But we know many more such ‘gems’ are out

there, and we’d like to add them to the library’s collection,” she said.

The library is searching for books directly related to Nebraska’s past. City directories, county

fair premium books, business, church, and county histories, scrapbooks, school and college

yearbooks, plat books, phone books, and of course, cookbooks are just some of the publications

the library is seeking. “We want to make the Historical Society Library the most

complete repository of information about Nebraska,” Mrs. Drake noted. “Since we have

limited resources for acquisitions, we’re dependent upon the generosity of Nebraskans to add

to our collections.”

Many printed items which would be valuable to the Society are thrown away or donated to

charity, Mrs. Drake said. “We’d like to encourage Nebraskans to consider the State Historical

Society when cleaning out the attic or disposing of family estates.” The Library Acquisitions

Committee will check offered items against titles currently on the library shelves. “We’d like

to have two of everything,” Mrs. Drake said.

Individuals with “prairie gems” to donate are urged to contact Cindy Drake at the Nebraska

State Historical Society, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln, NE, 68501, or call 402/471-4785.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
About History Nebraska
History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.