Peacock-Harper Culinary History 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.

  • Collection Contents
  • Searching the Collection
  • Dora Greenlaw Peacock & Laura Jane Harper
  • Donations & Gifts

The collection today

The Peacock-Harper Culinary History Collection includes

  • Four titles from the 1700s
  • More than 160 pre-1900 imprints
  • 153 works published before 1923
  • 330 pre-1950 imprints
  • More than 4,500 volumes
  • More than 100 manuscript collections

The majority of the books are in Special Collections and University Archives' Rare Book Room, but about 1,400 are available for the public to browse on the shelves of Newman Library.

Some notable items

  • 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...
    By Thomas Tryon
    Printed for George Conyers
    1693, London
  • Virginia Housewife, or Methodical Cook
    By Mary Randolph
    First Edition

The original collection

In 1999 when the collections of Dora Greenlaw Peacock and Laura Jane Harper came to University Libraries, the collection included

  • 600 titles
  • 11 pre-1900 imprints
  • 40 pre-1950 imprints

Some notable items from the original collection

  • Seventy-five receipts for pastry, cakes, and sweetmeats by a lady of Philadelphia
    Eliza Leslie
  • Experimental Foods Laboratory Manual
    Margaret McWilliams

Books are cataloged in the library's online catalog.

You can find all books in this collection by doing a keyword search for "culinary collection" or specialize with a search such 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 "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.

portrait of Laura Jane Harper
Portrait of Laura Jane Harper

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.]

A collection of books by Laura Jane Harper

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).

"Receipt books" (the old name for recipe books) that are part of the Peacock-Harper Culinary History 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 see our Gifts & Donations Policy.

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 and University Archives; Daryl Robinson, Cataloging.

Peacock-Harper Culinary Friends Advisory Committee

For more information on the Peacock-Harper Culinary Friends Advisory Committee, see their Facebook page.