This blog post was written by Graduate Assistant Emily MacDonald, master’s student in Museum Studies.
The Poage Legislative Library holds the collection of many former Texas Congressmen. In our archives you can find everything from papers, to awards, to campaign materials, even family photographs and memorabilia. One of my favorite parts of our collection is the Congressional Club Cookbooks.
The Congressional Club was chartered by Congress in 1908 and served to be a non-partisan organization for current and former spouses of Members of Congress, The US Supreme Court, and the President’s Cabinet. When the club was founded it served as a social space for spouses of both parties. Over time the Congressional Club has expanded. Now members participate in a wide variety of volunteer efforts and work with non-profit partners. Today the Congressional Club operates a museum and foundation out of their historic Clubhouse.
One function of the Congressional Club has not changed over time though, their cookbooks. Beginning in 1927 the Congressional Club published their first cookbook and it ran for 14 editions.
During those years The Congressional Club published a cookbook that contained a variety of recipes from the families of members. You can flip through one of the cookbooks and find recipes from the homes of Members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet Secretaries, and Ambassadors. It is a great way to learn a little bit more about the lives of these public figures.
At the Poage Library, we have 11 Congressional Cookbooks in our collection, one from as early as 1961, one as recent as 2005, and many in between. With this wide sample of Congressional Cookbooks, we can see how these books developed over time, both in style and content. The earliest cookbooks (seen below) are bold in color and feature illustrations of an elephant and a donkey cooking together. These illustrations harken back to the original intentions for the club, to be a non-partisan gathering place.
Two of our largest collections here at the Poage are from former Congressman Chet Edwards, and W. R. Poage himself. Mrs. Edwards and Mrs. Poage were members of the Congressional Club and thus had recipes in these cookbooks. The cookbooks from 1961 and 1965 feature Mrs. Poage’s recipes for “Old Fashioned Butterscotch Candy” and “Tomato Aspic” (seen below).
The Congressional Club Cookbook continued to be published for 14 editions and there is a clear change in style over time. As you can see, the earlier editions were smaller and more colorful, a clear representation of the 60’s style. The later editions tended to be larger and leather bound, with gold foil on the front.
The recipes inside the books changed as well to reflect the change of the times. In our copy of the Congressional Club Cookbook from 2005, there is a recipe from Mrs. Chet Edwards for Mango Salad and many other more modern recipes.
These cookbooks are a wonderful part of our collection here at the Poage Legislative Library. They not only feature information about the history of the Congressional Club, but they are a good physical representation of style and taste throughout the ages. Since the cookbooks also feature recipes from spouses of Representatives from all over the country, they are also a good way to learn about regional cuisine and style.
If you would like to view these recipes, or others, our reading room is available for research Monday-Friday from 10-5.
 “Mission & Staff.” The Congressional Club. https://www.thecongressionalclub.com/mission-and-staff/.