July 29, 2020


One of our fun new acquisitions is this two volume set on the science and economics of eggs, co-authored by one of America's first female bacteriologists. It was published for the Institute of American Poultry Industries to distribute at the 1933 Chicago World's Fair as a way to promote the rapidly industrialising American poultry industry.

The text opens with the question, "What is an egg" and is pitched at both general and specialised readerships, with content of use to homemakers and cooks as well as agriculturists, grocers, agribusiness investors, and politicians.

Included are chapters on egg biology:

poultry husbandry:

and domestic and industrial agriculture (here we see both an early American model of incubator and a massive industrial incubator):

grading and processing eggs for industrial-scale food production:

research, including a display of eggs at a poultry show and a method of measuring yolk strength:

and the development and future of the poultry industry:

Volume two focuses on the place of eggs in the modern diet and it concludes with a large selection of recipes. Some of the recipes are familiar to us, like scrambled eggs and the "American favorite" ham and eggs:

Others are a little more unusual, like "maple fluff," "egg lemonade," "egg orangeade," "egg lemon fizz," the "artiste," "egg cocktail," and "honey egg milk shake".

There are even historic recipes:

Aside from the wide-ranging contents, this book is particularly interesting because the lead author was Mary Engle Pennington (1872-1952), a pioneer of modern commercial bacteriology and food handling standards. In 1898, shortly after obtaining her doctoral degree, she established her own business performing bacteriological analyses for Philadelphia physicians and later became head of the Philadelphia Health Department’s bacteriological laboratory, “where she developed methods of preserving dairy products and standards for milk inspection that came to be employed throughout the country” (Ogilvie, Biographical Dictionary of Women in Science, p. 1003).

Mary Engle Pennington - Smithsonian Institution
In 1908 Pennington was appointed chief of the Food Research Laboratory of the Department of Agriculture, supervising its research on food handling and storage. “During World War I, she devised standards for railroad refrigerator cars; her war work on perishable foods earned her the Notable Service Medal.”

Later she entered the private sector and “established her own consulting office in New York City, advising packing houses, shippers, and warehouses on food handling, storage, and transportation, as well as doing original research on frozen foods. Pennington’s early work in devising methods of preventing spoilage of eggs, poultry, and fish, as well as her later research on the freezing of various foods, resulted in many practical techniques for the preparation, packaging, storage, and distribution of perishables. She published her conclusions in technical journals, government bulletins, and magazines” (Ogilvie, p. 1003).