Madame Jule De Ryther—Early-20th-century American food writer

ArmourIt’s already November, and simply thinking about Thanksgiving and Christmas is enough to expand my waistline by several inches. Where did the year go? Blink your eyes and Christmas will be here. Yes, Christmas is coming; the goose is getting fat…

This past year, while perusing old newspapers, I frequently stumbled upon early-twentieth-century food columns written by the exotic- and mysterious-sounding Madame Jule De Ryther (1845-1915). Apart from conveying her opinions on all things culinary, she touched on attitudes and social mores of the day, often with blunt humor, and even covered such topics as bacteriology and the importance of clean dishes and properly washed milk bottles1.

The Concert Singer by Thomas Eakins, 1892. Depicted artist: Weda Cook (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Expired copyright)

The Concert Singer by Thomas Eakins, 1892. Depicted artist: Weda Cook (Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Expired copyright)

Over time, I quickly grew to admire Madame De Ryther, a ‘Martha Stewart’ of her time, and on further research, I found even more reason to place her on a mental pedestal: before her food career began, she had been a highly regarded soprano, performing in prestigious concerts around the United States. I assume that’s where the “Madame” came from, and while her first name may have been Jule, I suspect “De Ryther” was a stage name. I never found evidence of a marriage.

In her younger years and into middle age, Madame De Ryther was enjoying a busy musical career. She sang regularly at the Church of Divine Paternity and the Anthon Memorial Church (today known as All Souls Episcopal Church) in NYC.

Henryk Wieniawski, before 1870 (Wikimedia Commons)

Henryk Wieniawski, before 1870 (Wikimedia Commons)

She had been the celebrated soprano of the Wieniawski Troupe during its 1873 concerts in California. At that time, Henryk Wieniawski, a Polish violinist and composer, was recognized as being one of the world’s greatest violinists, having been the solo violinist of the Emperor of Russia2.

On August 23, 1874, she sang the Star Spangled Banner at a concert benefiting the Women’s Training School in Long Island, a school supported by Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant. President Grant was in attendance for the event3.

From The Letters of Sidney Lanier (Cambridge University Press, 1899)

From The Letters of Sidney Lanier (Cambridge University Press, 1899)

The 1899 book Letters of Sidney Lanier, which contains correspondence of the famous 19th-century American musician, poet, and author (d. 1881), includes a January 9, 1875, letter describing an upcoming concert in which Mme. De Ryther was to appear: “Our second concert comes off to night and we are to play such beautiful music as makes my heart tremble even to think of. First comes Beethoven’s Second Symphony, one written before the dreadful deafness had come upon his ears and pierced into his heart. […] Then Mme De Ryther, a lady in form and manner and stage appearance much like our dear departed G_______, is to sing with a glorious contralto voice a noble aria, Handel’s little known opera “Rinaldo.”

New York Dramatic Mirror (Credit: FultonHistory dot com)

New York Dramatic Mirror (Credit: FultonHistory dot com)

During its 1879-1880 run at the Fifth Avenue Theater in New York, Gilbert & Sullivan’s comic opera “Trial by Jury” included the talents of Mme De Ryther who took over the role of Little Buttercup, “a manifest improvement” over the previous performer, according to the New York Dramatic Mirror.

Scene in the Arctic by William Bradford, cir. 1880, De Young Museum, San Francisco (Wikimedia Commons-Public domain in US)

Scene in the Arctic by William Bradford, cir. 1880, De Young Museum, San Francisco (Wikimedia Commons-Public domain in US)

And, in 1886 she performed in a traveling lecture series presented by prominent painter, photographer, and explorer William Bradford (1823-1892) whose seven voyages to the Arctic in the 1860s, accompanied by other prominent photographers, resulted in dozens of images—“the only complete collection of views in existence of the Arctic Regions”4. These images, which provided the basis for many of Bradford’s subsequent paintings, were projected on a large screen. As the images unfolded during the lectures, Jule would sing Eskimo and old Norse songs and hymns “in the native tongue”; her “wonderfully sympathetic voice” was “heard to advantage in this weird music”5. (To view a gallery of Bradford’s paintings, click here.)

William Bradford, painter, explorer, photographer (Image from Wikimedia)

William Bradford, painter, explorer, photographer (Image from Wikimedia)

I’m not sure when Madame De Ryther’s singing career came to a close, but it was likely sometime in the 1890s. The last mention I found made of her musical talent was in The Printing World (pub. 1891, p. 298):

Here is a specimen of musical criticism in California. The San Jose Mercury, in an article on the Wienawski troupe, says of Madame De Ryther: “She is marvellous on the low notes, and she sings with a pathos calculated to lift a sensitive reporter right out of his boots.”

Her first newspaper job was as a society reporter with the New York Recorder. Later she worked for other papers, including the New York Herald and the New York Times. Her food columns started to appear in the New York Evening Mail and the New York Press in the early 1900s6.

Jule was born in Little Falls, New York. Her father Albert W. Churchill was the proprietor of the Benton House (later known as Garvan House) in Little Falls. He managed a number of hotels in Rome NY from 1858-1870: the American Hotel, Stanwix Hall, the Railroad House, and Curry’s Eating House7. Her mother was Susan E. Churchill. Jule’s early education was in Little Falls; she later moved to NYC to study vocal music under Madame Seguin8. Jule had four siblings: Fred B. Churchill; Emma Churchill Belden; Frances Churchill Waters; and Cornelia Churchill Russ. She died of pneumonia at age 69 on March 14, 1915, at the Hotel Vanderbilt in NYC9. Funeral services were held two days later at the Church of the Transfiguration in NYC, and she was buried in the Churchill family plot in Little Falls10. When I discovered that last bit of information, I created an entry for her on Find a Grave, and did my best to link the Churchill family together.

Besse,_BesseI have accumulated many of Madame De Ryther’s columns, many of which were likely read by our ancestors who lived at that time, so, in her memory, between now and Christmas, I am going to publish “Madame De Ryther Monday” posts (on Mondays, of course!), with or without commentary on my part. I may actually attempt some of her creations, and if I do, I will surely tell you about it. Perhaps, by Christmas you will have as much admiration as I do for this wonder woman of yesteryear!

Here is the first article, from October 11, 1903: “Madame De Ryther’s Receipts for Two Excellent One-Dish Dinners”

Oct 11, 1903 - Part 1

Oct 11, 1903, Part 2

Oct 11, 1903 - Part 3

Oct 11, 1903 - Part 4

**************************************************************************************
END NOTES:
1. “The Subject of Clean Dishes”, The Springfield Union, November 20, 1913
2. Reported in the Sacramento Daily Union, July 1, 1873
3. Reported in the New York Herald, August 24, 1873
4., 5. “The Bradford Recitals,” Elkhart, Indiana, Daily Review, October 19, 1886
6. Jule de Ryther Obituary, Utica Herald Dispatch, March 15, 1915
7. William Churchill obituary, Rome Citizen (NY), January 23, 1885
8. Jule de Ryther Obituary, Utica Herald Dispatch, March 15, 1915
9. Jule de Ryther New York Times Obituary, March 15, 1915
10. Jule de Ryther funeral announcement, Rome NY Daily Sentinel, March 16, 1915

Advertisements
Categories: Bradford Wm. artist explorer, Food: Family Recipes & Favorites, Grant, Holidays & Festivities, Little Falls, Madame Jule de Ryther | Tags: , | 9 Comments

Post navigation

9 thoughts on “Madame Jule De Ryther—Early-20th-century American food writer

  1. This is so interesting to me, my great grandfather and his father were both Cooks, mainly in Inns and Hotels, from about 1840 – 1905 and I am so keen to know what they cooked and what people ate in those days. They, like me, lived and worked in Brighton on the south coast of England, and I wonder if they would have cooked the same things contained in your post?

    Like

    • Thank you, Jackie, for your comment, and thank you for the reblog! I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I’ve been to Brighton a few times and always enjoyed being there. Have you ever looked up old Brighton newspapers from that era? Perhaps, they had their own ‘Madam de Ryther’. Let me know if you ever discover one!

      Like

  2. Reblogged this on Meeting my family and commented:
    I saw this post today on the blog ‘Chips off the old block’ and really loved the detail in the ingredients listed in the article. John Dinnis (my gg grandfather) and his son George Dinnis (my g grandfather) were professional cooks in the latter half of the 19th century and I am always looking out to find what they cooked and what ingredients were popular back then.

    Like

  3. I love how this post describes one-dish meals. It’s clear that the ubiquitous casseroles of the mid-20th century were on the horizon.

    It’s fun to learn about this food writer from the same era that I write about. I’m going to have to pay attention to authors when I go through old magazines and newspapers, and see if Madame Jule de Ryther wrote any of those food columns.

    Like

    • Pretty involved one-dish meals by today’s standards to be sure, but homemakers back then had time for that. The era of fish sticks and frozen pot pies was still quite far off! (Madame would probably have been simultaneously horrified & intrigued by those developments.) Glad you enjoyed the post, Sheryl, and let me know if you discover Jule in your travels!

      Like

  4. Reblogged this on Janet’s thread.

    Like

  5. I was looking at those menus and thinking “not so simple.” 🙂 I did grow up with casseroles, though. My mother was the master of the one dish dinners. Fun blog. –Curt

    Like

    • Thanks, Curt. That was my reaction—definitely not so simple. Sounds like your mom was a smart lady. My dad did most of the cooking but he rarely made casseroles, but I’ve been to many a church potluck dinner where casseroles were always on parade. The variety was seemingly endless!

      Like

Leave a reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Powered by WordPress.com.

Nothing Gilded, Nothing Gained-Period Drama on Paper at Middlemay Farm

Fiction Books, History, Memoir by Adrienne Morris

Jane Austen's World

This Jane Austen blog brings Jane Austen, her novels, and the Regency Period alive through food, dress, social customs, and other 19th C. historical details related to this topic.

Travels with Janet

Just another WordPress.com weblog

Do Svidanya Dad

Exploring Dad's Unusual Story From NJ to the USSR

La Audacia de Aquiles

"El Mundo Visible es Sólo un Pretexto" / "The Visible World is Just a Pretext".-

Spared & Shared 2

-- rescuing history from old letters one page at a time

Parrotfish Journey

I travel , YOU should too...

TOWER AND FLIGHTS

In The Beginning Man Tried Ascending To Heaven via The Tower Of Babel. Now He Tries To Elevate His Existence Using Hallucinogenic Drugs. And, Since The 20th Century, He Continually Voyages Into Outer Space Using Spacecrafts. Prayer Thru Christ Is The Only Way To Reach Heaven.

London, Hollywood

I'm Dominic Wells, an ex-Time Out Editor. I used to write about films. Now I write them.

Uma Familia Portuguesa

A história da nossa família

Trkingmomoe's Blog

Low Budget Meals for the New Normal

The Good, the Bad and the Italian

food/films/families and more

dvn ms kmz time travel

This is all about my travels to the past... my reflections and musings about yesteryear, as I find the stories of a people passed away and learn how to tell them.

newarkpoems

350 years of Newark in verse 1666-2016

Russian Universe

Understanding Russia with a Russian

Bulldog Travels

Everything and Nothing Plus Some Pretty Photos

Dances with Wools

knitting, spinning, dyeing, and related fiber arts

Life After Caregiving

On caregivers, faith, family, and writing...

Why'd You Eat That?

Food Folklore for the everyday scholar. These are the stories behind the foods we eat.

Cooking without Limits

Food Photography & Recipes

The Pioneer Woman

Plowing through Life in the Country...One Calf Nut at a Time

Almost Home

Genealogy Research and Consulting

Old Bones Genealogy of New England

Genealogy and Family History Research

ferrebeekeeper

Reflections Concerning Art, Nature, and the Affairs of Humankind (also some gardening anecdotes)

Map of Time | A Trip Into the Past

Navigating Through Someplace Called History

Out Here Studying Stones

Cemeteries & Genealogy

WeGoBack

family research ... discover your ancestry

the Victorian era

Did I misplace my pince-nez again? Light reading on the 19th century.

"Greatest Generation" Life Lessons

This is the story of an ordinary family, trying to live an ordinary life during an extraordinary time frame, and the lessons they learn through experience.

Moore Genealogy

Fun With Genealogy

Meeting my family

RESEARCHING MY FAMILY TREE

Shaking the tree

musings on the journey towards knowing and sharing my family's stories

A Hundred Years Ago

Food and More

Scots Roots

Helping you dig up your Scots roots.

Root To Tip

Not just a list of names and dates

Food Perestroika

Adventures in Eastern Bloc Cuisine

My Aunt the WAC

Marian Solomon's midlife transition from the farm to the Women's Army Corps (WACs)

Being Em | From Busan to America

this journey is my own, but i'm happy to share.

Eastman's Online Genealogy Newsletter

The Daily Online Genealogy Newsletter

Irish in the American Civil War

Exploring Irish Emigration & Irish Involvement in the American Civil War

TWISTED LIMBS & CROOKED BRANCHES

Genealogy: Looking For "Dead People"!

Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine

To live in the hearts we leave behind, is not to die. ~ Thomas Campbell

%d bloggers like this: