1920 Grocery List

In keeping with last week’s posting I bring you another food related item. Among the papers of Charles Young (1865-1942) is a receipt dated May 1, 1920 from James Mowen, Wholesale and Retail Dealer in Groceries, Hardware and Seeds, China, Glass and Queensware. Judging from this it seems to me that if you couldn’t find what you were looking for a James Mowen’s store it wasn’t to be had.

James Mowen’s store was located at 131 and 133 West Gay Street, and although the town is not listed I am assuming it is West Chester. This puts this store between Church and Darlington Streets. According to Google Maps – Stay Chic, The Brow Bar and Great Craft Works occupy this space today.

In 1920 the Young household  probably consisted of five people; Charles, his wife Maud and their three children, C. Earl, Emmett, and Delma. It is possible that Charles’ sister, the Aunt Kate of the Book of Receipts, also lived with them. What really stands out is the amount of sugar they bought -– 28 pounds in a little over a month. I’ve been wracking my brain to think what they could be preserving in May that would need so much sugar.  Were they just purchasing it in advance of preserving season?  If anyone has any thoughts on this I’d love to hear them.

Another item purchased each week was Butterine. Who remembers Butterine? butterineFor those who don’t, butterine was a butter substitute, or oleomargarine. A quick internet search revealed that it was invented in France in 1869. Emperor Napoleon III issued a challenge to French chemists to come up with a butter substitute that was cheap and would last longer than butter on the campaign trail. The first factory to produce this product was in Germany, “Benedict Klein Margarinewerke.” As you might imagine this was not a popular “invention” with the dairy industry. Legislation was set in place so that butterine would not be confused with butter. Butterine is white and was to be sold that way. A coloring agent was added to the packaging and you would then mix this in at home to make butterine more visually appealing and appetizing, i.e. it looked like butter. I’m sure my Mom is not the only one to remember squishing the dye around in the butterine bag till the dye was incorporated evenly during WWII.

Another receipt dated August 28, 1934 is for 15 head of cattle from S.M. Lorah Live Stock Commission Merchant from the Union Stock Yards in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

From stories my father used to tell I know that Charles had a Truck Farm, where the Donohue Funeral Home now stands on West Chester Pike. I don’t remember him ever mentioning anything about his grandfather raising cattle, although this receipts is before my father was born.  I do know that my father hated working on the farm – especially picking green beans, leading to a life long dislike of green beans. Yet what did my father eventually do but put in a big garden behind our house. I enjoyed working out there with him, he used to tell me I was


David Young (1936-2008)

born into the right family just the wrong generation.


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