Christmas Ginger Cookies

And National Raisin Day ginger cookies. Sort of.

A recipe with slightly different proportions appeared in the September 26, 1891 edition of The Ohio Democrat (borrowed from the Boston Budget):

— Ginger Cookies. — One cup molasses, one cup sugar. Put four tablespoonfuls boiling water into a cup and fill the cup with melted butter, one teaspoonful ginger, one of salt and one of soda. Mix as soft as can be rolled; roll thin as a knife-blade. — Boston Budget.

But a recipe with similar proportions of sugar and molasses appeared in the October 27, 1912 edition of The San Francisco Call, attributed to Miss Gladys Robertson of 1408 West Street, Oakland:

Ginger Cookies — Two cups of molasses, one cup of sugar, one cup of lard, one pint of buttermilk, two teaspoons of soda, one tablespoon of ginger and the same of other spices, flour enough to mix stiff, salt.

Hmm. Only two Gladys Robertsons show up in the census anywhere near Oakland, and for one of those two, Robertson was her married name. The closest candidate for a Miss Gladys Robertson shows up at her family’s residence in Fresno in 1910:

There’s an interesting quirk about Gladys’ cookie recipe being from 1912 and showing up with a residence in Fresno–that’s the year in which The Music Man is set. Remember the guy waiting for his raisins from Fresno?

William Robertson representing fruit growers from the August 10, 1907 edition of The San Francisco Call.

Gladys Robertson’s father, William, would go on to be the Secretary for the Fresno Chamber of Commerce, but he did some good for cooking prior to that as an advocate of raisins.

No, really. He was an advocate for Fresno fruit growers–that picture to the left is from him meeting with the president in 1907. In 1909, he was the Secretary of the first Fresno Raisin Day Committee, as reported in the April 23, 1909 edition of the Los Angeles Herald:

Mayor Alexander Names April 30 Raisin Day


Expects Every Resident of Los Angeles to Eat Three Square Meals of Raisins


Mayor Alexander has proclaimed April 30 raisin day, and calls on all loyal sons and daughters of California living in Los Angeles to make three square meals that day on raisins. He notified the secretary of the raisin day committee of Fresno yesterday of his action by the following letter:

“Mr. William Robertson, Secretary, Fresno Raisin Day Committee, Fresno, Cal.: Dear Sir–Agreeably to the request of former Mayor Lyon of your city, I have officially declared Friday, April 30, 1909, raisin day in our city. The merchants of Los Angeles appreciate the business with which they are favored by merchants in the San Joaquin valley. you may rest assured of the hearty co-operation of every one in Southern California looking toward the success of raisin day.

W. Parker Lyon, former mayor of Fresno, was a visitor at the city hall yesterday and spent most of the afternoon waiting for Mayor Alexander to return from the funeral of Justice Austin.

Mr. Lyon admits he is out of politics, but has taken a deep interest in raisin day. He asked the mayor to follow the action of other mayors in California and proclaim April 30 raisin day.

The Fresno Raisin Day Committee succeeded in making April 30, 1909 the first National Raisin Day, and the festivals continue to this day.

Sort of odd that Gladys Robertson didn’t have raisins in her ginger cookies, then, isn’t it? I mean, I think they would go rather nicely with ginger and molasses.

Not to fret, Gladys, I’ll help redeem this recipe in your father’s eyes with this version from the April 25, 1932 edition of the San Jose News, just in time for National Raisin Day:

Raisin Tibbits For Cookie Jar

The kiddies, and the grown-ups, as well, will like these ginger raisin cookies. The recipe will make four dozen cookies.

The ingredients for ginger raisin cookies are:

One cup shortening (part butter, if possible), 2 cups light brown sugar, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup molasses, 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 4 tablespoons milk, 1 cup raisins, 4-1/2 cups flour, 1 teaspoon soda.

Cream the shortening and blend with the sugar. Work until the mixture is soft and creamy. Add the eggs, beaten, and the molasses, also the milk. Mix and sift the dry ingredients and add them to the mixture.

Drop from the end of a spoon onto greased baking sheets, allowing a generous amount of space between them for spreading. Bake for 12 minutes in a moderate oven.

From the box of A.D. from Lutz, Florida, by way of Pennsylvania in the 1940s, and originating in Ohio in the 1920s.

Christmas Ginger Cookies

1 c. shortening
4-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. soda
1 c. molasses
3 Tbsp. sour milk
1/2 c. sugar
2-1/2 tsp. ginger
teaspoon salt

Cream shortening. Add sugar, molasses, salt, ginger and milk.

Sift soda and flour and add to mixture.

Roll and cut in squares 1/8 inch thick.

Bake 10 minutes in hot oven.

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