Food in the United States, 1890-1945

by Megan J. Elias


The modern frozen food industry was born in 1930, when Clarence Birdseye introduced a line of frozen foods. The line included vegetables and also 18 cuts of meat, fruits and berries, fish fillets, and Blue Point oysters. Like other food innovations, this introduction changed not just what we ate, but how we lived.

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Cover image for Food in the United States, 1890-1945

June 2009


Pages 157
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics American History/Culture
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No American history or food collection is complete without this lively insight into the radical changes in daily life from the Gilded Age to World War II, as reflected in foodways.

From the Gilded Age to the end of World War II, what, where, when, and how Americans ate all changed radically. Migration to urban areas took people away from their personal connection to food sources. Immigration, primarily from Europe, and political influence of the Caribbean, Latin America, and the Pacific brought us new ingredients, cuisines, and foodways. Technological breakthroughs engendered the widespread availability of refrigeration, as well as faster cooking times. The invention of the automobile augured the introduction of "road food," and the growth of commercial transportation meant that a wider assortment of foods was available year round. Major food crises occurred during the Depression and two world wars.

Food in the United States, 1890-1945 documents these changes, taking students and general readers through the period to explain what our foodways say about our society. This intriguing narrative is enlivened with numerous period anecdotes that bring America history alive through food history.


  • 25 period photos complement the text
  • Recipes allow students to sample dishes no longer common on American tables
  • A timeline makes clear the changes and new technologies that occurred during the period
  • A selected bibliography facilitates further research


  • Overviews the major trends that affected foodways in America
  • Discusses the new availability of foodstuffs, which helped to change tastes even as traditional flavors and preparations remained popular
  • Illuminates the innovations in cooking and preservation techniques made possible by new technology
  • Covers regular meals and eating habits, plus the new concepts of food away from home
Author Info

Megan J. Elias is assistant professor of history at Queensborough Community College, Bayside, NY. She is the author of Stir It Up: Home Economics in American Culture.



". . . fascinating bits of food, food industry, and domestic food preparations (and so much more!) are laid out by Megan J. Elias . . . in the pages of Food in the United States 1890-1945, the newest title in the outstanding Greenwood Press Food in American History series. After an informed and informative introduction, Food in the United States 1890-1945 is very nicely organized into four major sections (Food Stuffs; Food Preparation; Eating habits; Concepts of Diet and Nutrition and Food Crises). With the addition of an extensive bibliography and a comprehensive index, and a work of exceptionally impressive scholarship, Food in the United States 1890-1945 is enthusiastically recommended as a unique and seminal addition to academic and community library American History reference collections."The Midwest Book Review - Wisconsin Bookwatch

"Elias (history, Queensborough Community College) provides a history of food culture in the US from 1890 to 1945, a period influenced by new technology, advances in food preservation, new means of transportation, an interest in exotic tastes and imported foods, changes to farming and groceries, and food shortages. She discusses ingredients and preparation, eating habits, food for holidays and special occasions, and diet and nutrition. Some recipes are included." SciTech Book News

"This book should be in all libraries where food is a focus and also where history intermingles with our eating habits."ARBAonline

"Overall, this is a solid introduction to the history of food in the US. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All undergraduate, high school, and public libraries with strong food studies collections."Choice


Outstanding Academic Title, 2009 — Choice

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