Tag Archives: Virginia Campbell

Celebrate National Donut Day with Virginia Campbell’s Recipe!

What better time to share Virginia Campbell’s delicious recipe for homemade “Dough Nuts” and promo our upcoming publication of The Gilded Table Campbell cookbook and food history than on this most auspicious day of celebration – National Donut Day! Mrs. Campbell’s dough nuts look and taste a little different than the donuts you might pick up at the corner gas station (they look more like donut holes than donuts, actually), but they’re still a tasty way to start your day!


Virginia Campbell’s handwritten recipe for Dough Nuts. Don’t worry, we’ve got an updated recipe for you to go off of below.

Here’s her updated recipe, pulled from her ca. 1840 handwritten recipe book and revamped for modern kitchens by our cookbook author and food historian extraordinaire, Suzanne Corbett.

Dough Nuts: Ingredients

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 cups whole milk, warmed to 125 degrees

1 cup sugar

2 tablespoons dry yeast

5 cups flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

zest of an orange

1 teaspoon vanilla or 1 tablespoon rosewater

1 quart oil or lard for frying

1: Combine butter, milk and sugar.


Virginia Campbell’s Dough Nuts (pictured center). Also pictured are VC’s gingerbread and soft muffins recipes, all pulled directly from her handwritten recipe book and featured in Campbell House Museum’s upcoming publication of “The Gilded Table”.

2: Sprinkle in yeast and 1 cup of the flour.

3: Stir in salt, spices, vanilla and orange zest.

4: Stir in enough of the remaining flour a stiff dough.

5: Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface.

6: Knead dough until smooth or about five minutes, adding more flour as needed to prevent it from sticking to work surface.

7:   Place dough in back into the mixing bowl. Cover and allow to rise until doubled.

8: Once dough has doubled punch the dough down and place back on a floured work surface.

9: Roll dough out to a about an inch thick; then cut into rounds.

10: Heat oil in a large saucepan to 400 degrees. Fry rounds in hot oil until golden brown on each side. Drain on paper towels.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen 3-inch donuts.

*  Doughnuts, donuts or do nuts – as the spelling of these crisp fried pastries evolved so did their signature hole in the middle, which appeared in the mid-1800s. The hole was pinched in the center of the dough rounds to help eliminated the undercooked centers.  Like most 19th century doughnuts/donuts receipts instructions weren’t given to deep fry. Instead, one was instructed to “boil them in oil”.

The beautiful photo you see above was taken by Mr. Jim Corbett. Jim did all of the photography for our upcoming publication and we can’t wait to show off some of the other incredible images he captured!

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The View from Hazlett’s Room

The balcony as it appears today, sans enclosure.

Master bedroom balcony at the Campbell House Museum

April showers bring May flowers and May flowers bring a beautiful garden along with… a lot of gunk on our roof and in our gutters. Once or twice a year we get up on top of the roofs of the Campbell House’s various built-out bays to clear out debris and do some spring cleaning. This was much easier when the Campbells were living here because their servants could have opened the windows and climbed right out onto the roof. However, as part of the Museum’s restoration in the early 2000s, all of the windows in the house were sealed tightly shut – making a relatively straightforward job a little more interesting (think really tall ladders, lots of climbing and steep roof slopes).


Hazlett Kyle Campbell lived in his family’s downtown St. Louis home for his entire life, from 1858 to 1938.

Today we climbed up to the balcony off of the master bedroom used by Robert and Virginia Campbell and, later, their son Hazlett. During Robert and Virginia’s lifetimes, full length windows opened directly onto the copper surface of the open air balcony, which was surrounded by a detailed wrought iron railing. Some time after the deaths of Robert and Virginia, their sons  enclosed the balcony with an elaborate copper roof and trellised wooden walls. While we can’t be entirely sure of why or even when (our guess is circa 1910) this was put onto the house, our best guess was that it was to provide some privacy to Hazlett Campbell, who became increasingly reclusive and mentally unstable as he grew older. Accounts from servants working at the house recall that Hazlett spent much of his time in the master bedroom, rarely venturing outdoors. By enclosing the balcony, Hazlett would have been afforded some privacy in an era when the houses of the neighborhood were being torn down and replaced by large hotels and commercial buildings. As part of Campbell House Museum’s extensive restoration in the early 2000s, this enclosure was removed to return the east side of the house to its 1880s appearance. Check out the gallery below to see how the use of the balcony has evolved over the past 160+ years.

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Thanksgiving… on Christmas?

Harpers Thanksgiving cropped

“Who said anything about Thanksgiving Dinner?” Harper’s Weekly: November 26, 1881 (click to enlarge).

Last week we posted about the bizarre timing of early American Thanksgiving celebrations (i.e. sitting down to a turkey feast in June or July) and how, even into the 19th and early 20th centuries, there was no standard date to celebrate the holiday in the United States.

Until Lincoln issued his national proclamation in 1863, it was the responsibility of governors to determine the date of Thanksgiving in their respective states. We did some combing back through Missouri’s history and matched up MO’s Thanksgiving dates with significant dates in the lives of the Campbells. Here’s what we came up with – the date of that year’s Thanksgiving day is listed, followed by a note about what the Campbells had going on that week.

November 29, 1844 (Last Thursday in November): Robert Campbell Jr. died two days earlier on November 27 of the measles. He was two years and eight months old.

December 25, 1845 (yep. They had Thanksgiving on Christmas): The Campbells were living in their first St. Louis home by this point, an attached row house downtown. Today Ballpark Village sits in its place.

December 3, 1846 (First Thursday in December): Well, at least it wasn’t on Christmas day this year.

November 25, 1847 (Last Thursday in November): Virginia gave birth to Hugh Campbell, the third child to be given the name after the deaths of his two older brothers, ten days earlier on November 15. Hugh would be one of just three of the family’s children to see adulthood, managing the family estate after his parents’ deaths and dying at age 84 in 1931.


“The Great Fire of 1849”

1849 (Missouri records show no Thanksgiving proclamation issued this year, so either the Governor or the state archivists dropped the ball. Our best guess is that it was observed on the last Thursday of the month): The Campbells weren’t even in St. Louis that November. 1849 was a bad year to be in the city, there was a enormous fire that wiped out most of downtown (Robert and Virginia’s home escaped, but his office near the riverfront did not) as well as a terrible cholera epidemic (caused by unsanitary drinking water) that killed their eldest son James. The Campbells packed up and headed to Philadelphia for several months to escape, and Virginia gave birth to their daughter Mary in September of that year.

November 20, 1853 (Last Thursday in November): Hazlett Campbell was born three days later on November 23.


Hazlett Campbell (1853-1856). Another son named Hazlett would be born in 1858 and lived until 1938.

November 20, 1856 (Third Thursday in November): The same Hazlett Campbell dies on  his third birthday, three days after Thanksgiving on November 23.

December 31, 1857 (New Year’s Eve, Last Thursday in December): Grab your party hats and noisemakers, smooch that special someone, and shovel in a couple forkfulls of turkey and dressing to ring in the New Year.

November 26, 1863 (Last Thursday in November): Abraham Lincoln’s national Thanksgiving proclamation. Following his lead, Presidents would annually proclaim Thanksgiving dates until Congress passed a law in 1941. (read more about that in last week’s post)

As you can see, Thanksgivings were a mix of happy and sad times at the Campbell House (and often at wildly different times of the year). The family was rejoicing over births and concurrently celebrating other holidays like Christmas and the New Year. But they were also dealing with the deaths of their children, disease, and the dangerous conditions of city living in the 19th century. Count clean water, safe conditions and healthy children among your list of “things I’m thankful for” when you sit down to Thanksgiving dinner this year!


“Thanksgiving Dinner” Harper’s Weekly: December 5, 1857 (click to enlarge). Thanksgiving was on New Year’s Eve in Missouri this year.


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