Election Eve on November 4th, 1952, Urbana, Illinois.  My mom’s favorite meal is coming out of the Magic Chef oven – pork chops with dressing.  My mom wasn’t able to be here for this meal so Grandpa snapped a picture of Grandma to send to her.  My grandparents would have been happy with the results the following day as they voted for Eisenhower.

When I rented an old apartment in Denver, Colorado, there was an old Magic Chef stove in the tiny kitchen. The stove was electric and it wasn’t this old, but it reminded Mom of Grandma’s stove.  She gave me the picture (which I have had stuck on whatever refrigerator I have used since 1989) and her Magic Chef cookbook, copyright 1937.

The stove was purchased in 1941.  Grandma Hostetler was so excited to get this.  She cut out the ad from the Better Homes and Gardens magazine which featured her stove, the new 1941 Magic Chef Hit Parade Model. My mom recently gave the cut-out ad to me.

 Advertisement for Magic Chef stoves, “You’re invited to see a Hit Parade!,” Better Homes and Gardens, March or May, 1941, page 18.

This new stove had an easy-to-use swing-out broiler, a Red Wheel regulator, and a lifetime burner guarantee.  The Red Wheel regulator was something Magic Chef was proud of.  It is featured prominently on the cover of their cookbook. Directions for using the Lorain oven heat regulator (aka the “Red Wheel”) are in the preface.  The Red Wheel was labeled with temperature degrees and once you set the oven at say, 375°, the gas flow would automatically reduce when 375° degrees was reached.  You wouldn’t know except by experience how to tell when the oven was sufficiently preheated.

I take an oven knob for granted nowadays.  I have had stoves that didn’t ding when the oven was preheated, but they’ve all have knobs.  I became interested in the history of cooking after receiving my antique Magic Chef cookbook over 30 years ago and now my collection runs into the thousands.  This is the first vintage one in my collection and therefore my favorite.

Dorothy E. Shank, Director, Magic Chef Cooking (St. Louis: American Stove Company, 1937.
Shank, Magic Chef Cooking, fly leaf

Grandma penciled in some measurements at the beginning of this cookbook.  The section on “Pies” is well splattered and worn with a cryptic 3523420 written boldly across the header in that section.  A phone number?  That seemed too modern for the time, but I can’t actually date the note as she had this cookbook for more than 30 years.  A quick online search in city directories in Champaign, Illinois in the 50s showed Fleetwood (35) being one of the exchanges, although when my mom lived there, she only had to dial the last 5 numbers to call out.  She knows the phone number is not her grandparent’s number (which she still has memorized after all these years) and it probably dates from the 1960s.

I was inspired to write this post about “In the Kitchen” because I am participating in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge.

Does anyone else have pictures of their ancestors cooking something yummy?

Bon Appetit, and Search Smart,

Sara N. Martin

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