Collins, A. Maria (Anna Maria)
Angelina Maria Collins nee Lorain or Lorraine was born near Cumberland Gap, Virginia. In 1830 she married James Collins Jr. (1802 - 1869), and the couple lived for three years in Paoli, Indiana, before moving to New Albany, where James Collins became a prominent attorney and politician. The local newspaper described Angelina Collins as one of the "pioneers" of New Albany who wrote for the press, and was "a woman of rare and mental culture" as well as an accomplished and brilliant society figure. Her husband, who was born in Virginia but grew up in Kentucky and Indiana, served one term in the state House of Representatives and four terms in the state Senate before becoming mayor of New Albany in 1844 and a state agent from 1848 to 1857.
In 1851, Angelina Collins wrote the first cookbook published in Indiana, entitled Mrs. Collins' Table Receipts; Adapted to Western Housewifery. Though a native Virginian, Collins praises her "Land of the West," writing in the Preface: "Our generous and prolific clime affords a bountiful supply of nutritious fruits and vegetables, and our forests and hill sides abound in excellent Game." Her recipe for peach salad - just a mix of peaches, sugar, and brandy - and her simple tomato salad of sliced tomatoes, salted, with pepper, vinegar and a teaspoon sugar, must have been delicious prepared with local produce. One of the most remarkable recipes, California Soup, is a step-by-step process for making homemade boullion cubes, named for the destination of those trekking to the western limit of the continent during the Gold Rush. As a quiet assertion of her roots, Collins includes a recipe for Corn Pone, which bears the epigram "Carry Me Back to Old Virginny." Collins' first publisher, John R. Nunemacher, operated the city bookstore in New Albany. The Nunemacher and Collins families were very close; Collins was called "Aunt Collins" by the Nunemacher children, and she would often visit the Virginia home of a married Nunemacher daughter, making the trip by horseback.
Collins also wrote a novel, published in Cincinnati in 1853, entitled Mrs. Ben Darby: or the Weal and Woe of Social Life. A typical temperance tale demonstrating the dangers of alcohol, it went through a least three editions during its first year. One modern-day commentator said in 1962, "This is a terrible- and, in a sense, a rather absurdly exaggerated -- novel . . . It is difficult to enumerate the habitual drunkards who reel and rage their way through the pages of this novel, leaving numberless innocent victims along the way." Assuming the author personally favored temperance, she apparently did not advocate total abstinence, given the alcohol called for in some of her cookbook recipes (including the peach salad above.)
After the Civil War, the Collins moved to their farm in Pekin, Indiana, and when James Collins died in 1869, Angelina Collins moved to Salem to live with her son, Thomas L. Collins (1833 --?). Thomas was a lawyer like his father, and served as a circuit court judge in Salem, Indiana. Another son, Alfred Bruce Collins (1835 - 1889), was a lawyer and prosecutor who served in the state House of Representatives. Angelina Collins lived in Salem until her death in 1885, at the age of eighty.
Much gratitude and thanks to David V. Lewis and Martha Wright of the Indiana State Library for providing the following sources:
- Biographical and Historical Souvenir for the Counties of Clark, Crawford, Harrison, Floyd, Jefferson, Jennings, Scott and Washington. Indiana. [Part 1]. Compiled and published by John M. Gresham & Company. Chicago: Chicago Printing Company, 1889.
- Biographical Directory of the Indiana General Assembly. Vol. 1. 1816 - 1899. Compiled and edited by Rebecca A. Shepherd et al. Indianapolis: The Select Committee on the Centennial History of the Indiana General Assembly, 1980.
- Briscoe, Orah Cole, The Hoosier School of Fiction. Part I, Indiana Fiction Before 1870. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Arts Degree in the Department of English. Indiana University, May 1934.
- Byrd, Cecil K., "Indiana's First Cookbook, Sumptuous Beginnings." Indiana Alumni Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1984.
- "Deaths at Salem," New Albany Ledger, Tuesday, September 29, 1885, page 2.
- Indiana Authors and their Books, 1816 - 1916. R.E. Banta, compiler. Crawfordsville, Indiana, Wabash College, 1949.
- Shumaker, Arthur W., A History of Indiana Literature. Indiana Historical Bureau, 1962.
- Collins, Angelina Maria, The Great Western Cook Book, or Table Receipts, Adapted to Western Housewifery. New York: A.S. Barnes & Company, 1857.
Written by Anne-Marie Rachman