Published in Hamilton, Ontario by G.C. Briggs and Sons in 1881, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard offers the reader many recipes and ideas for meal preparation and beverages, as well as general tips for running a household. The title is likely a reference to the popular nineteenth-century English nursery rhyme, where Old Mother Hubbard goes to her cupboard to give her “poor dog a bone,” but “the cupboard was bare, and so the poor dog had none.” The Mother Hubbard reference may suggest the importance of frugality, while the book’s list of business advertisements helped the housewife to keep her cupboard full. A well-stocked pantry was a sign of a good late-nineteenth century housekeeper.
The fact that so many businesses were thriving in Hamilton, Guelph, and other small cities in southern Ontario, alludes to the growing capitalist and consumer culture of late-nineteenth century Canada. Industrialization and urbanization both prompted major changes in Canadian food and culture, including the growth of the food processing industry and the move towards purchasing mass-produced household goods rather than relying on self-sufficiency.
Mother Hubbard's Cupboard: or, Canadian Cook Book. Hamilton, Ont.: G. C. Briggs & Sons, 1881. Gift of Una Abrahamson, Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library