Americans have refined their taste in sandwiches over time, and I for one am so grateful about that. At one time, not too long ago, the most inventive Americans got with two pieces of bread was adding yellow mustard and sliced ham to their daily white bread. At least that was my experience growing up.

This sampling of 19th century American sandwich recipes illustrates the sandwiches evolution from practical fare to complicated cuisine.

[1824] To Make Oyster Loaves [some say this the precursor to the New Orleans Po'Boy]
"Take little round loaves, cut off the top, scrape out all the crumbs, then out the oysters into a stew pan with the crumbs that came out of the loaves, a little water, and a good lump of butter; stew them together ten or fifteen minutes, then put in a spoonful of good cream, fill your loaves, lay the bit of crust carefully on again, set them in the oven to crisp. Three are enough for a side dish." ---The Virginia House-Wife, Mary Randolph

[1840] Ham sandwich, By Eliza Leslie

[1844] 707. Sandwiches
"Cut, and spread neatly with butter, slices of biscuit, placing between every two pieces, a very thin slice of tongue. Lean ham, or the white meat of fowl may be substituted for the tongue."
---The Improved Housewife, Mrs. A.L. Webster

[1866] Sandwiches
Cold biscuit sliced thin and buttered, and a very thin slice of boiled ham or tongue, or beef, between each two slices. Home-made bread cuts better for sandwiches than baker's bread; a loaf baked for this purpose is best; take the size of a quart bowl, of risen dough, mould it in a roll, about three inches in diameter, and bake it half an hour in a quick oven.

For bread and butter sandwich cut the bread in slices, not thicker than a dollar piece, spread it evenly with sweet butter before cutting it; let the butter be very thin, lay two slices, the buttered sides together, for each sandwich; when you have enough, arrange them on flat dishes, make them in a circle around the middle of the plate as a common centre, one lapping nearly over the other; put a sprig of parsley in the centre.

Sandwiches may be made with cheese, sliced very thin between each two slices of buttered bread, also cold boiled eggs sliced, for luncheon; stewed fruit of jelly or preserve spread thin over buttered bread, makes a fine sandwich for lunch. Any cold meat sliced thin may be made a sandwich; it is generally spread with made mustard; tho most delectable are those made with boiled smoked tongue or ham." ---Mrs. Crowen's American Lady's Cookery Book, Mrs. T. J. Crowen

[1869] Plain sandwiches
Cut ham or tongue very thin, trim off the fat, and cut the bread thin; spread it with very nice butter; lay meat on very smoothly. Press the other slice on very hard; trim the edges off neatly.

A dressing for sandwiches
Take a half pound of nice butter, three tablespoonfuls of mixed mustard, three spoonfuls of nice sweet oil, a little white or red pepper, a little salt, the yolk of one egg; braid this all together very smoothly, and set it on the ice to cool. Chop very fine some tongue and ham; a little cold chicken is very nice added. Cut the bread very thin; spread it with the dressing. Then spread over the meat, then the bread, and press it together very hard. Trim off the edges, that the sandwiches may be all one size." ---Mrs. Putnam's Receipt Book and Young Housekeeper's Assistant, Mrs. E. Putnam



  1. Hi
    Very interesting.

  2. Every time I come over to your beautiful site I am amazed! I love this information...we were wondering about the popularity of a bologne sandwich, do you know the history?

  3. Great post about vintage sandwiches. I couldn't imagine putting butter and tongue on a sandwich! LOL

  4. First time here... will be back. Love everything.

    My favorite movie sandwich is in Jimmy Stewart's Harvey

  5. I have a good friend who believes that bologna and American cheese on white bread with a little lettuce is absolute heaven.

    I love her and all, but this definitely puts a strain on our friendship, as I'm sure you could imagine.

  6. I love these little history tidbits! Those sandwiches sounded a lot more elaborate than what we have these days but maybe that's just my imagination too!

  7. Interesting vintage sandwiches! I grew up on tongue sammies...although they were never my favorite. In fact, my mom brought a tongue on her last visit. It's still sitting in my freezer...

  8. I always thought they were eating corned beef on rye in my all-time favorite movie! (When Harry met Sally).


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