Elvira Henry’s Cookbook. 1830–1870. Collection of the Patrick Henry Memorial Foundation.

About the Book

This leather-bound cookbook contains the personal recipes of Elvira McClelland Henry (1808–1875). Elvira was the daughter-in-law of Patrick Henry. She lived with her husband, John, Patrick Henry’s youngest son, at Red Hill after their marriage in 1826 until her death.

Elvira compiled and used the cookbook during these years at Red Hill. Handwritten cookbooks by women are rare and valuable artifacts that highlight the critical role that women played in the preparation of meals for their families in the 19th century. During her time at Red Hill, Elvira oversaw the construction of a greenhouse near her home, and she passed down her knowledge of gardening and cooking to her children.

Elvira’s daughter, Elvira McClelland Jr, later inherited this book and added her recipes. It was donated to Red Hill by Elvira Henry’s descendants.


The Recipes

Over 235 recipes, handwritten by Elvira Henry, appear in this book. These range from desserts to bread to puddings and pickles! Some recipes have been transcribed and are available for purchase in our Museum Shop. Click here to purchase Elvira’s recipes.


Conservation Work

After nearly 175 years, and with constant use in a hot, busy kitchen, this book has suffered the effects of time and love. Preserving and protecting this irreplaceable piece of Red Hill’s history is vital. Conservators at the Northeast Document Conservation Center have examined the book and determined the following work must be completed:

  • Dis-bind by removing sewing and separate sections.
  • Surface clean pages to reduce surface dirt only as necessary to facilitate treatment.
  • Mend tears and guard folds as necessary using Japanese paper and starch paste.
  • Reassemble text and press to consolidate.
  • Add linen hinges and sew text block with linen thread.
  • Reinforce binding using airplane linen and/or Japanese paper toned with acrylic pigment and reattach to text block.
  • Reinforce board corners and re-adhere loose covering material.
  • Consolidate leather.
  • Construct a custom-fitted archival box to dimensions of volume. Title box.

Total cost of conservation is estimated to be $6,115.00.