Parkinson, Eleanor

Titles by this author
The complete confectioner, pastry-cook, and baker : plain and practical directions for making confectionary and pastry, and for baking with upwards...

In 1818, Eleanor Parkinson opened a confectionery shop at 180 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, next-door to the Pennsylvania Arms, a tavern her husband George bought that same year. Eleanor Parkinson's shop did so well that soon her husband joined her, and together they created a renowned business with an outstanding reputation, particularly for ice cream. When Eleanor compiled The Complete Confectioner in 1843 (first published in Philadelphia in 1844), she wrote in the Preface, "Having for many years been connected with the oldest, most extensive and successful confectionery establishment in the country, we have been enabled to make from our own experience many important modifications . . ." She also added recipes incorporating American ingredients. Her basis for the cookbook, chosen after studying both French and English sources, was Read's Confectioner, a London publication.

Eleanor Parkinson had a son, James Parkinson, who likely assisted Eleanor with The Complete Confectioner and successfully expanded the Parkinson confectionary business to include a sophisticated café-restaurant and catering facility. James was known in Philadelphia for his culinary feats: In 1850 he invented a celebrated champagne frappe a la glace, and in 1851 he defeated the famous Delmonico's restaurant of New York City in a cookery challenge. His thousand dollar champion dinner had seventeen innovative courses, each with its own menu, accompanied by rare wines. True to the family reputation, he topped off the affair with a sorbet made from the rare, costly wine, Hungarian Tokaj. In 1874, James published a pamphlet in defense of American cookery, entitled American Dishes at the Centennial. Culinary historian William Weaver notes that this thirty-two page leaflet formulated objectives for American cooks which would hold sway for the following one hundred years, and calls it a "fundamental manifesto . . . of American culinary arts." That same year, James Parkinson and Edward Heinz founded the first professional culinary journal in the United States, the Confectioners' Journal, which, according to Weaver, is "the most important single source for research on American foods in the second half of the nineteenth century." Serving as editor until his death in 1895, Parkinson published in its pages rare recipes from his own collection, his mother's manuscripts, and from other professional chefs and bakers. He wrote a column for the journal, giving answers to readers' questions on techniques and history, and European chefs Urbain Dubois and Johann Rottenhoffer contributed articles as well. Parkinson also published a magazine, The Caterer and Household Magazine (1882) which lasted two years.


  • Hines, Mary Anne, Gordon Marshall, William Woys Weaver, The Larder Invaded: Reflections on Three Centuries of Philadelphia Food and Drink. Philadelphia: The Winchell Company of Philadelphia, 1987.
  • Longone, Jan, American Cookery, The Bicentennial, 1796 - 1996. Ann Arbor, MI: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan, 1996.
  • Lowenstein, Eleanor, Bibliography of American Cookery Books, 1741-1860. Worcester, MA: American Antiquarian Society, 1972.
  • Parkinson, Eleanor, The Complete Confectioner, Pastry-Cook, and Baker: Plain and Practical Directions for Making Confectionary and Pastry, and for Baking; With Upwards of Five Hundred Receipts . . .Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1864, c. 1849 W.A. Leary.

Written by Anne-Marie Rachman