Date of Award
Master of Science (MS)
While Charleston’s historic houses have long captivated visitors, scholars, and preservationists, the architecture of these properties’ kitchens and the ways people cooked in these historic spaces have long been overlooked, in part because their historic fabric has often been obscured by later alterations or demolition. While interpretation of these historic spaces in certain house museums, such as the Nathaniel Russell House or Heyward-Washington House, now include information on the lives of the enslaved who cooked in these kitchens, the understanding of cooking technology, specifically the transition from hearth cooking to cooking on cookstoves, in Charleston remains largely unstudied. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the manner in which Charlestonians prepared their meals underwent a significant transition with the adoption of the cookstove. This technology proved to be a cleaner, more efficient, and more affordable means of cooking and baking food. Scholarly literature has focused primarily on this technological introduction and dissemination in northern states. This narrative remains little studied in the South where slavery is hypothesized to have slowed its adoption. This thesis aims to document Charleston’s transition from hearth cooking to cookstove technology through period newspaper advertisements, supplemented by an inventory of several Charleston properties and the probable means of cooking at their time of construction.
These advertisements and field investigations locate the widespread adoption and use of cookstove technology in the last quarter of the nineteenth century in Charleston, specifically between 1875 and 1885. This process gradually displaced traditional hearth cooking that had been the work of enslaved men and women for so many generations until the disruptions of the Civil War and Reconstruction. This research underscores the need for further study into this daily activity essential to the lives of all of Charleston’s residents and how they prepared their food.
Short, Maria, ""A Beauty in the Kitchen": The Introduction of the Cookstove as a Mechanism of Change in Charleston's Historic Kitchens" (2022). All Theses. 3752.