Opening the Vaults: 1920s and 1930s Campfires and Cookbooks

Every so often we find cookbooks included in a donation to the archives. Today we have decided to share a few of the earliest cookbooks and illustrations from our collection. Many of these recipes and cooking styles would no doubt be popular at a camp with a historic or retro theme or with rustic hipster campers. 😉

One of our earliest cookbooks is really a booklet, Camp Fires and Camp Cookery, by E. Lawrence Palmer, Professor of Nature Study, Cornell University, 1925. It came into out collection as part of a Guider’s personal notebook that also included handwritten notes on songs and games.  The booklet includes instructions for many camp fire cooking methods, including the log cabin formation, the hunters’ and trappers’ fire and the open-trench fire lay.

We are especially fond of this diagram illustrating frying bacon and eggs on a stone.

Sept15_bookNext is one of the only cookbooks that we have that was published in Canada.

The note on the inside cover of this cookbook reads, “Compiled and Arranged by the Guides of Greater Vancouver of Canadian Girl Guides who present this book of tested recipes to their many friends.” It was published in the 1930s and priced at fifty cents, with the proceeds to be used for camp purposes. A section on “Camp Expedients” includes instructions for making a cake without an oven and making a homemade grater.


Another great publication in our collection is Practical Camp Cookery for Guides and Guiders, by E.M. Anderson, a 1936 publication from Great Britain.


This book has great recipes and diagrams, like this one for a cooking in a Hay-Hole.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the cookbooks in our collection are the notes added by the Guiders and girls who used them. The inside cover of our copy of Practical Camp Cookery is covered with recipes for cooking at camp–Corn Chowder to serve 25 people and Cocoa to serve 100!


What is your favorite meal to cook with your unit? How much have things changed or stayed the same? Does your campfire look like one of the ones pictured in these books from 80 years ago?

Do you have a treasure trove of Guiding history you’ve collected? We’d love to hear about it! Send your blog pitch to ggcblog(at)

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