Mrs. Ellis's Pumpkin Pie: A 19th Century Thanksgiving Recipe

Home To Thanksgiving, published by Currier and Ives, 1867.
Home To Thanksgiving, published by Currier and Ives, 1867.

Thursday November 26th is Thanksgiving here in the United States.  Originally a commemoration of the First Thanksgiving (a 17th century feast between the Pilgrims and the Native Americans), it is now one of the major holidays and, for many of us, the official start of the Christmas season.  There was no Black Friday or Cyber Monday during the 19th century.  Instead, the Thanksgiving holidays were a time for family to gather together from near and far and share a holiday meal.  This usually involved the women of the family cooking a Thanksgiving dinner with roast turkey and all the fixings.  Amongst these fixings was one of the most traditional Thanksgiving desserts: pumpkin pie.

Naturally, a British lady like Mrs. Beeton did not include a recipe for pumpkin pie in her famous Book of Household Management.  Here in America, however, we had plenty of cookery guides which offered up their version of the holiday classic.  Below is an 1843 recipe for pumpkin pie from Mrs. Ellis’s Housekeeping Made Easy.  You will note that, unlike Mrs. Beeton, this recipe does not start with the measurements and the suggested cooking times.  Nevertheless, if you would like to add some authentic 19th century cooking to your Thanksgiving feast, I encourage you to give it a try.

Mrs. Ellis's Housekeeping, Pumpkin Pie Recipe, 1843.
Mrs. Ellis’s Housekeeping, Pumpkin Pie Recipe, 1843.

I will be taking off a few days to spend the holiday with my family and, as a result there will be no Animals in Literature and History post this week.  I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving holiday with your own families and anyone else you hold dear (human or animal!).

Mimi Matthews is the author of The Pug Who Bit Napoleon: Animal Tales of the 18th and 19th Centuries (to be released by Pen and Sword Books in November 2017).  She researches and writes on all aspects of nineteenth century history—from animals, art, and etiquette to fashion, beauty, feminism, and law. 


Ellis, Sarah Stickney.  Mrs. Ellis’s Housekeeping Made Easy.  New York: Burgess and Stringer, 1843.

© 2015-2017 Mimi Matthews

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Sarah Waldock

Being interested in words I note that it has become pumpkin by 1843, whereas the old English designation of it was punkin, also known as melon.
I’ve never had pumpkin pie, but may I wish all my American friends a happy Thanksgiving; we’ll be popping corn over the fire tomorrow and thinking of you all

Mimi Matthews

Thanks Sarah :) That is interesting, especially because some people, as an endearment, will call their loved one or pet “punkin.” Nice to know it has some history behind it!


A blog post to put you in the mood for the Holiday!

Mimi Matthews

Glad you liked it, Angelyn :)


Two quarts of milk and a dozen eggs for a pumpkin pie in the 19th century? That must have been one massive pie :-D.


Mimi Matthews

Ha! Seriously though, considering how much hassle went into baking back then, I can only imagine that once you had the ingredients all together, you would make several pies. Based on that recipe, I’m guessing about 6.