Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection
Five centuries of culinary arts are documented in the Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection at Virginia Tech. From this initial donation, a collecting area focused on the history of food and drink emerged. The Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection includes more than 160 pre-1900 imprints, another 153 works published before 1923, and an additional 330 pre-1950 imprints. The large collection contains more than 4,200 volumes and more than 50 manuscript collections. The majority of the books are in Special Collections' Rare Book Room, but about 1,400 are available for the public to browse on the shelves of Newman Library.
The oldest publication is the 1693 George Conyers's London imprint: A pocket-companion, containing things necessary to be known by all that values their health and happiness : being a plain way of nature's own prescribing, to cure most diseases in men, women and children, by kitchen-physick only. To which is added, an account how a man may live well and plentifully for two-pence a day... Four titles are available from the 1700s and the collection has the first edition (1820) of Mary Randolph's Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook, among many outstanding publications.
In 1999 when the collections of Dora Greenlaw Peacock and Laura Jane Harper came to University Libraries, the collection of 600 titles ranged from 1829, Eliza Leslie's Seventy-five receipts for pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats by a lady of Philadelphia, to 1994, Margaret McWilliams' Experimental Foods Laboratory Manual. It had 11 pre-1900 imprints and 40 pre-1950 imprints. Through the generosity of a multitude of donors, the collection has flourished. Dr. Markham Peacock, Dora's husband, for example, enabled the purchase of Jules Gouffe's 1868 The royal cookery book : (le livre de cuisine).
Books are cataloged in Addison, the library's online catalog. You can find them all by doing a keyword search for "culinary collection" or specialize with the keyword search as "Peacock Harper Culinary" to retrieve 643 titles. In addition you can find over 340 titles in the endowed Ann Hertzler Children's Cookbook and Nutrition Literature Archive, by doing the keyword search in Addison, "Hertzler children's cookbook".
Dora Greenlaw Peacock
Born in New Orelans in 1903, Dora Greenlaw spent some of her youth in Blacksburg, attended Hollins College, and graduated from Sophie Newcomb College. She taught at the Episcopal School in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and was named Dean-Elect. In 1928 she married Dr. Markham Peacock, chair of the English Department at Virginia Polytechinic Institute, 1960-66. They traveled widely and enjoyed entertaining VPI students in their Blacksburg home on Draper Road. Dora Greenlaw Peacock's extensive collection of cookbooks was donated to the Department of Human Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise by her husband, following her death in 1983.Laura Jane Harper
The first woman to be an academic dean at VPI, Dr. Laura Jane Harper served the College of Home Economics from 1960 to 1980. Harper joined the Home Economics faculty at VPI in 1948, but took an educational leave in 1951 to pursue her doctorate at Michigan State University. In January 1956 she returned to VPI as a full professor, resumed teaching, and completed her dissertation. During her career she taught graduate and undergraduate nutrition courses. In addition to teaching, Harper also conducted research for the Virginia Agricultural Experimental Station as director of home economics research. Her research focused on food habits, food and culture, nutrition in international development, and nutrient metabolism. In 1958 Harper began her administrative career at VPI when she agreed to be the interim department head for Home Economics. She was known for her leadership in academia and professional associations (e.g. American Dietetic Association, American Home Economics Association, International Federation of Home Economics). [For more about her, see the online thesis A Fighter To The End: The Remarkable Life and Career Of Laura Jane Harper.]
- "Receipt books" (the old name for recipe books) that are also part of the Peacock-Harper Culinary Collection have also been donated by many generous people, including
- Amelia Brown
- Martha B. Harder, Dean of Women, 1966-1969
- Dr. Janet Johnson, Prof. Emerita in HNFE, past Dean of the College of Human Resources and Education
- Dr. Jean Phillips, a former faculty member in HNF
- Dr. Maryellen Spencer, a doctoral student of Dean Harper
- Mrs. Ralph G. Roop
If you have materials that may be appropriate for the library's collection or you would like to financially support the collection, please contact Special Collections at 540-231-6308 or via email. You may also write to:
Special Collections, University Libraries (0434)
560 Drillfield Drive
Newman Library, Virginia Tech
Blacksburg, VA 24061
In addition to all donors, thanks especially to Dr. Ann Hertzler, Professor Emerita (Food and Nutrition Extension Specialist); and Sharon Kast, Human Nutrition; and Ginger Young, College Librarian; who were responsible for the initial Peacock and Harper collections coming to the library in 1999. Since then, many people have helped the collection grow, including Caryl Gray, College Librarian Emerita; Sandy Bosworth, retired Manager, Green Garden Café; College of Human Resources and Education, Gail McMillan, Director, Digital Library and Archives; Joyce Nester, Special Collections; Daryl Robinson, Cataloging.
For more information on the Peacock-Harper Culinary Friends Advisory Committee, see their Facebook page.
Aaron Purcell, Director, Special Collections
Kira A. Dietz, Acquisitions and Processing Archivist