The Golden Lamb’s Shaker Sugar Pie

Now there’s an interesting name.

I’m guessing this is The Golden Lamb, the oldest continuously operating business in Ohio. Partially, that’s because this box has some other pieces that suggest an Ohio history.

Partially, that’s because they still serve this pie. From their dessert menu:

From the dessert menu for The Golden Lamb, Lebanon, Ohio.

We’ve talked about the history of sugar pie in the post for the recipe from Lutz, Florida, so let’s talk about marketing before public education.

The name The Golden Lamb represents the continuation of a tradition that goes back at least to the 13th century and perhaps even longer: distinctive names for pubs. While pub has come to be synonymous with tavern, the term it abbreviates — public house — simply means a building held open to public trade, as opposed to a private house. The fact that a public house was distinguished from a private house only in function was precisely why names and signage had to evolve for them.

Some pubs were named after the patrons who funded them, or a description of their noble patron’s heraldry. Others took names based on proximity to landmarks. But of course, the poor have to have somewhere to drink, too, and more urgently even than their wealthy counterparts. But naming a pub for the common man in the 13th century posed a number of problems, primarily centered around the fact that the common man couldn’t read.

Sign for The Bear at Swan’s Nest Hotel, Banbury Road, Stratford-upon-Avon, England. Taken January 6, 2013 by Elliott Brown, on Flickr (CC license).

Early pub “signage” consisted of found objects hung outside: a pot, a hat, or a feather, for example. “Meet me down at The Rusty Bucket” was a good enough set of directions, if there was only one house with a rusty bucket hanging outside. When painted signs were introduced, though (probably sometime around the late 17th or early 18th century, when patents were issued for machines to finely grind pigments for lead-based oil paint), it opened new opportunities in naming.

After all, hanging a bear outside of your pub presented certain logistical obstacles, not the least of which was obtaining the cooperation of the bear. But hanging a sign with a painting of a bear was substantially easier, and the image was well-enough known that the illiterate could find you just as easily as they could the Rusty Bucket.

But as towns grew into cities, you’d sometimes find two publicans who wanted to use the bear. At this point, the cheapest solution was to come up with a more specific form of bear. Like, say, a bear plus an object, or a bear of another color.

Sign for The Bear & Staff in London, England. Taken October 16, 2009 by Elliott Brown, on Flickr (CC license) (cropped).
Sign for The Old White Bear in Hampstead, London, England. Taken July 3, 2010 by Ewan Munro, on Flickr (CC license) (cropped).

When I was in college in NYC, my local bar was The Shandon Star. (One day I went to find it and I was horrified to discover it became a Wendy’s and nobody warned me. That was the saddest, sober-est baked potato ever.) Shandon is a district in Cork, Ireland, best remembered for the song The Bells of Shandon, describing the sound of the bells from the Church of St. Anne. The Church, originally built in 1722, had its bells added in 1752; today, visitors can come and ring them.

So what’s the star in The Shandon Star? Well, Shandon Star was the name of a racehorse in the 1980s, but I like to think there’s a simpler explanation.

Finally, another way in which pubs could come to take their name was by merger; if the Bear and the Rusty Bucket decided to merge into one larger establishment, well, you’d probably be drinking at the Bear & Bucket. There’s a story related to that ampersand that says there were two inns in Stony Stratford, England, the Cock and the Bull, that developed a rivalry for travelers. As the travelers boasted back and forth about how much nicer their experience had been–so the story goes–the phrase cock and bull story came into being.

There’s no particular reason to think that’s even remotely true, and a far better explanation is that it’s a reference to a forgotten fable, where talking animals used to be common. But there’s something to be said for the fact that the often-repeated origin of the phrase cock and bull story is itself a cock and bull story.

So when Jonas Seaman came to Lebanon, Ohio in 1803 with the idea to start a pub, he wanted to name it something that the common (illiterate) man would understand. I’d say he chose pretty well, wouldn’t you?

From a box sold in Adams, Minnesota, with ephemera from Ohio.

Golden Lamb’s Shaker Sugar Pie

1/2 c. soft butter
1 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. flour
2 c. light cream
1/2 tsp. vanilla
9″ unbaked pie shell

Mix flour and sugar. Place in bottom of pie shell. Add cream, vanilla, and soft butter in small pieces. Sprinkle cinnamon over top.

Bake 350 deg. — 40 to 45 minutes until firm.


  1. Jayson in Oklahoma

    I made this pie the other day and it is delish! I used nutmeg in place of cinnamon. I mixed the pie a little different, because I wasn’t sure if you were supposed to mix again in the pie plate once you added the cream. I creamed the butter with the sugar and flour. Then I added the cream and it was a total lumpy mess! So then I grabbed my whisk and tried to fix it, and that didn’t do the trick , so then I stuck my fingers in trying to break up the sugar lumps. There were still lumps of sugar and butter. So I gave in and just poured it into the pie plate, baked it and hoped for the best! After 45 minutes it was bubbling huge bubbles and looked done. So I cooled it on a rack. It was absolutely delicious! I was amazed. The interesting thing it that, when I sliced the pie, there were 3 distinct layers. I don’t know if that happens if you mix it the right way, or if it was from the way I mixed it. Either way, this is a keeper, will definitely make again. Thanks for the post.

    I love the fact that you are saving and preserving these handwritten recipes. I think that it’s sad the those people didn’t have anyone in their life who would treasure them the way I do my grandmother’s handwritten recipes. Those are worth more than money to me. So many memories attached to our food memories. They transport us back in time to meals shared with loved ones who may no longer be with us.

  2. Terri

    If you can get this recipe to work, it is really good. However, the recipe as it reads does not work. I had to make this 3-4 times to get it to set The first time I made it, I followed the above directions to the letter and the pie would not solidify. The second time I made it, I gently mixed the ingredients in the shell and baked as recommended. The pie faired a little better but still was not solid. The third time I changed things up after reading different recipes. I baked my thawed pie shell for 5 minutes at 450. I then gently mixed the ingredients in the shell and placed in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes, I then lowered the temp to 350 for 55 minutes. Pie cooled on wire rack before I put in the fridge overnight. That pie did well. My final pie was similar to the third pie, but instead of 1/4 cup of flour I used a 1/2 cup and all ingredients were mixed in a bowl first and whisked. Before baking in the oven, i added a bit of brown sugar to the nutmeg topping. This pie was my favorite and also looked the best.

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