Little is known of Susannah Carter, the author of The Frugal Housewife, which was first published as early as 1765 in London and Dublin, and was first reprinted in America in 1772. Susannah Carter was from Clerkenwell, a locale in London, England - this much is known from the title page of the earliest editions. One of the earliest American-printed cookbooks, The Frugal Housewife made no mention of colonial cooking or common American ingredients. It wasn't until 1803 that "an appendix containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking" was added. This probably was not the work of Susannah Carter, but the result of an editing job by the American publisher in order to attract American readers, and to respond to the best seller of the day, Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (1796), also in this collection. Historian Karen Hess writes that the identical appendix appeared two years later in the first American edition of The Art of Cookery by Hannah Glasse (Alexandria, 1805), a cookbook very popular in its native England. The appendix, evidently, had been taken from some third source and used to fill out both British cookbooks for sale in America.
Carter's first publisher in England was Francis Newbery, nephew of the famous printer and bookseller, John Newbery, whose name lives on through the Newbery Medal, the most prestigious honor given each year to an outstanding children's book. John Newbery pioneered a new type of children's book, one that amused as well as instructed its young readers; his books were extremely popular, and his business flourished. His nephew Francis opened a publishing business of his own during his uncle's lifetime, "at the corner of St. Paul's Churchyard," as the title page of the 1772 edition of The Frugal Housewife describes. Early editions of the cookbook are assigned to the printer "F. Newbery" (for Francis the nephew and not Francis the son, who also published with his step-brother under the name "Newbery and Carnan") and in later editions, "E. Newbery", for Elizabeth, Francis' widowed wife who continued the business from Francis' death in 1780 until her own retirement in 1802.
The 1772 edition was re-printed in America by Benjamin Edes and John Gil, well-known Boston printers, journalists, and booksellers, famous for publishing the works of many Revolutionary writers, and for their role in instigating the Boston Tea Party. The patriotic duo was aided by Paul Revere, who made the plates used to illustrate this edition. It is of note that colonial booksellers were in a weak bargaining position with English booksellers at the time, having little to trade in exchange for the top selling British books, and little control over the terms of sale. It is possible that Francis Newbery found it financially expedient to insist that the colonial printers reprint Carter's cookbook in exchange for receiving other more literary materials from his stock. Indeed, as in other fields of commerce prior to the Revolutionary War, English booksellers were flooding the colonial market with books, including English cookbooks - a burgeoning field in England at the time.
The Frugal Housewife was one of several English cookbooks that sold well in America. It strongly influenced the aforementioned Amelia Simmons' American Cookery (1796), the first cookbook authored by an American, and containing not just English fare, but dishes based on American ingredients and common to the early country. Much of Simmons' work is original, but much is copied, verbatim or near verbatim, from The Frugal Housewife - a customary and acceptable practice at the time, according to historian Mary Tolford Wilson. Simmons' work was an immediate success, spurring reprints, piracy and plagiarism, and influencing every American cookbook to come for decades. Susannah Carter's book eventually saw six American editions; many of her British recipes became American standards via Amelia Simmons, even as the success of American Cookery inspired the Americanization of The Frugal Housewife.
- Botein, Stephen. "The Anglo-American Book Trade before 1776: Personnel and Strategies," Printing and Society in Early America. Edited by William L. Joyce et al. Worcester: American Antiquarian Society, 1983.
- Carter, Susannah. The Frugal Housewife, or, Complete woman cook. London: F. Newbery and Boston: Reprinted by Edes and Gill, 1772.
- ---------- The Frugal Housewife . . . To which is added an appendix, containing several new receipts adapted to the American mode of cooking. New York: G. & R. Waite, 1803.
- ----------The Frugal Housewife . . . New York: Dolphin, Doubleday, 1976. Facsimile of 1772 edition, with introduction, glossary and illustrations by Jean McKibbin.
- Franklin V, Benjamin, Editor. Boston Printers, Publishers, and Booksellers: 1640 - 1800. Boston: G.K. Hall & Co., 1980.
- Lowenstein, Eleanor. Bibliography of American Cookery Books 1742-1860. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1972.
- Maclean, Virginia. A Short-title Catalogue of Household and Cookery Books Published in the English Tongue 1701-1800. London: Prospect Books, 1981.
- Randolph, Mary. The Virginia Housewife: or Methodical Cook. Columbia, South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 1985. Facsimile of the 1824 edition, with Historical Notes and Commentaries by Karen Hess.
- Simmons, Amelia. American Cookery. New York: Oxford University Press, 1958. Facsimile of the 1796 edition, with an introduction by Mary Tolford Wilson.
- Townsend, John Rowe. John Newbery and His Books. Metuchen, N.J.: The Scarecrow Press, 1994.
- Welsh, Charles. A Bookseller of the Last Century, Being Some Account of the Life of John Newbery and of the Books He Published with a Notice of the later Newberys. Clifton, N.J.: Augustus M. Kelley, 1972. Reprint of the first edition, London: Griffith, Farran, Okeden & Welsh, 1885.
Written by Anne-Marie Rachman