Sunday, June 6, 2010

Finding the Queen

Saturday morning I was up early and out the door with a couple friends to an estate sale in Montgomery. Since it was the second day of the sale, everything was 50% off and the anticipation of finding a nifty item was unnaturally high.

No one would consider me an 'estate sale junkie', but I do enjoy them and pride myself on being able to search out a piece of treasure among the years of collected fluff one often has to sift through when a loved one passes or decides that it's time to sell out and see the world(it happens more than you think... check out "Living Estate Sales" sometime). Yard sales, antique stores(especially the junked up ones) and the like have always been fun. It's an interesting type of event and the people that attend are always unique.

One of my counterparts exited our vehicle and produced a reusable bag for carrying wares and such. I was caught a bit off guard thinking, 'Today's shopping will be serious business.' Quickly I notice that I'm virtually the only person there without a bag. Oh well, guess an arm full is all I can get.

The house is in an older neighborhood outside of downtown Montgomery. It reminds me of neighborhoods in other cities that have two kinds of residents, the people who have been there since the houses were built and those young families who are scooping up a house in need of some TLC. Immediately the glass block tile that runs half the length of the front porch, catches my eye. This could be good or bad... someone that put glass block in a house from this era might have been the type to have some crazy good stuff, or crazy bad. The glass block was in the dining room- Not where I expected.

We enter the single car garage and I spot a box and flip through. Sometimes it's sad to see such personal items for sale, but material things can't be taken with you. Pictures, cards, a high school diploma from 1942 litter the box. I choose a thin book that is about canning and preserving. Food preservation has become a hobby and since we have a large garden this year it's something I could always use more tips for, particularly from an era when it was a necessity. The pamphlet was part of a quarterly subscription series and this issue is from November of 1895. It was particularly interesting that you could subscribe for just 50 cents!

Also stumbled upon a book that was published by the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service at the Auburn University. There was no date that I could find, but the texture of the cover and cover art just screen 1960's to me. If I use this book correctly, I'll be able to make nearly every jam and jelly known to man.

The house was full of unique things and the homeowner was obviously a discerning homemaker. I sat on a sofa in one of the back rooms in front of a stack of books in the floor. Spotting the word "cookbook" on an older, faded cover was easy and I knew I had to have it. The book was in a quart-sized plastic resealable bag so I didn't open it there and figured that it may or may not be something I would enjoy. Took the plunge!

The Queen Cookbook: A Careful Compilation of Recipes and Practical Information for Cooking and Other Household Requirements was written by Mrs. William Hart Boyd. I've done about all the research I know how to do and found that this is indeed a First Edition published in 1895. As you can see in the picture, it has been used. There are handwritten recipes and items clipped from other publications all through the book. While the book may be worth a lot less than those in perfect condition, I feel like I struck gold. First editions of this book are very rare and have become quite expensive, though I'm not sure I can part with this one.
This is inside the front cover- I really like how the original owner left the poem on the bottom of the recipe and carefully pinned them in the cover.

Mrs. Boyd, the author doesn't mind telling it how it is and passes out information for every type of homemaker. I particularly like the section on what to do in a thunderstorm and how soft beds must always be used for children. If you'd like to read some of it, it can be read on Google Books here.

The book is really a literary gold-mine. This is perhaps my favorite passage so far, at the beginning of the chapter on Cakes and cake mixing.

"There is a best way of doing everything, even to boil an egg, to cook it so as to be palatable and nourishing. So there must be a best way to go to work to make a cake. How very difficult it seems to a beginner, while to one of experience it is very simple and a delight. Knowledge gives us power in all things."

Love it.

Thanks for letting me share my exciting estate sale day with you guys...



  1. Thanks for the story and the photos. I'm always drawn to old books. Seems like a day well spent.

  2. I used to be an estate sale junkie. My house is too full now with 10,000+vintage books and I am planning a move to smaller digs more buying. :( Love old, old cookbooks - food encrusted with many notes! My favs are the index boxes of handwritten recipes. Want to publish a book of them - revamped for today's cooking.


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