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Douglas Book of Recipes (Douglas & Company, 1918)
"Douglas Oil for Best Salads and Better Cooking"

We offer this *scarce* 1918 advertising cookbook, with a fascinating history!

Douglas & Company founded the Douglas Starch Works in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in 1903. The sale of refined corn products rose dramatically in the early 1900s, as homemakers used corn starch and oil as ingredients in puddings, pie fillings, sauces, salads and baked goods. Rationing during World War I further increased the demand for corn as a substitute for wheat and corn oil as an alternative to butter and lard. Douglas & Company prospered in this new market, becoming the world's largest producer of corn starch. The plant underwent a major expansion during the height of its production in 1918, the year this cookbook was published. The firm of Douglas and Company came to an abrupt and tragic end the following year.

At 6:00 p.m. on May 22, 1919, the night shift had just begun, as 109 men replaced the 327 day-shift workers. At 6:30 p.m., an explosion rocked the "dry starch" works, shooting a pillar of grain dust and flame one mile into the sky. The force of the explosion shattered hundreds of windows across Cedar Rapids and ruptured the water mains, rendering fire hydrants useless against the flames. The starch works were completely leveled, and pieces of rubble from the buildings were found up to two miles from the site. Forty-three night shift workers died.

The destruction attracted family and friends of the missing, as well as thousands of curious onlookers. A private security force was hired to control the crowds, and local restaurants ran out of food for the waves of people who'd come to bear witness to the destruction. The search for survivors lasted for days, the Red Cross collecting shoes to replace the ones that became scorched while rescuers searched the smoldering rubble.

Damage to Douglas & Company buildings totaled nearly $3 million, and stockholders pulled their money out of the company. George Douglas managed to sell what remained of the business to Penick & Ford, Ltd., in December of 1919. The cause of the fire that ignited the starch explosion was never determined.

In 1918, just one year before its tragic demise, Douglas and Company ran full-page advertisements in Good Housekeeping, The Ladies’ Home Journal, and The Saturday Evening Post. The ads touted Douglas corn starch and corn oil products, as well as this cookbook:

"The Douglas Recipe Book, compiled by food experts and published to sell for 50 cents, is offered FREE for a limited time to users of Douglas Oil. Beautifully illustrated in colors. Send your name, address and dealer's name."

This beautiful cookbook features 47 pages of recipes, with lush color lithographs of selected dishes gracing elegant tabletops - check out the gorgeous full-page 'still life' opposite the title page!

Condition is Near Mint, noting a couple of tiny spots to front cover and slight damage to rear cover where something sticky was pulled off. Inside, the pages are super crisp and clean, and this looks largely unused. A stunning example of an early advertising cookbook, this is definitely one for the serious collector!

Antique Cookbook DOUGLAS OIL Recipe Book Vintage Advertising Ephemera 1918

Overview