Female Cook in her Kitchen, Virginia, early 1850s


Harper's New Monthly Magazine, vol. 12 (Jan. 1856), p. 177.


David Hunter Strother was a widely known and popular mid- 19th century American graphic artist and writer, originally from Virginia/West Virginia. Under the pen name Porte Crayon he wrote and illustrated Virginia Illustrated, Adventures of Porte Crayon and His Cousins, a narrative of the experiences of several travelers through central Virginia in late 1853 (see Cecil Eby, Porte Crayon: the life of David Hunter Strother [Chapel Hill, 1960]); the series appeared in five parts over 1854-56 in Harpers New Monthly Magazine. The illustration shown here is from this series. Stopping for a meal at a house in Amherst County, Central Virginia, Strother writes that the cook belongs to the type of a class whose skill is not of books or training, but a gift both rich and rare . . . who has grown sleek and fat on the steam of her own genius, whose children have the first dip in all gravies, the exclusive right to all livers and gizzards, not to mention breasts of fried chickens (p. 176). See also references HARP02, 03.

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