Midcentury Cooking


Apron, 1929. MCHS object 1983-086-0022. Helen Bircher, born in Highland, received this apron as a wedding shower gift when she married Edwardsville attorney Donald Warnock in 1929.

Home canning

Fruit parer

Peach and apple parer, ca. 1890-1950. MCHS object 1991-031-0360.

People started canning food at home in the 1880s. Home canning preserved food grown on the family farm for use throughout the year. The popularity of home canning peaked in 1943. After that, home freezers provided an alternative way to preserve food.

Step 1: Pare and slice your summer peaches or fall apples.

Step 2: Pre-cook the fruit, put it into glass jars, and process in a hot water bath.

Step 3: Bake a pie in the middle of winter.


Glass canning funnel, ca. 1920s-1930s. MCHS object 2007-059-0001.

Pie pan

NESCO graniteware pie pan, ca. 1918. MCHS 2010-100-0005.


NESCO red diamond logo

German brothers Frederick and William Niedringhaus immigrated to St. Louis in the 1850s and opened a tinware shop. In 1865, they formed the St. Louis Stamping Company (later the National Enameling & Stamping Company (NESCO)) and opened a factory. The company began producing enameled metal cookware with a speckled surface, known as graniteware, in 1874. The brothers eventually founded the community of Granite City, where they built a stamping and steel works for graniteware production.

Dinner pail

NESCO graniteware dinner pail, 1927. MCHS 2010-100-0001. The dinner pail includes a removable inner tray The lid also serves as a thermos, fitted with a metal cup.

Packed lunch menus

Suggested packed lunch menus for industrial workers and school children. In: Lynch, Eleanor M. editor. The Modern Hostess Cookbook. Dell Publishing Company, 1942. MCHS document. How do these lunches compare to lunches we pack today?

Graniteware was a low-cost, lightweight, easy-to-clean cookware option. Its popularity persisted into the 1940s. The down side to all enamelware is that the coating can crack. When that happens, the thin metal underneath sometimes rusts completely through. A company called Mendets sold aluminum plugs expressly for patching holes in enamelware from 1920 through the 1940s.


Enamelware ladle. MCHS object 2014-057-0014. This ladle was on its way to being a candidate for a Mendet repair.

Mendets cookware plug

Mendets cookware plug, ca. 1940s. MCHS object 2014-057-0018.