Montana Culinary History During the Great Depression

Emily O'Brien, Mary Murphy, Department of History and Philosophy, Montana State University Bozeman, Culbertson Hall, 100, Bozeman MT 59717

The “America Eats” project of the Federal Writers’ Project provides a window into American foodways during the Great Depression. My project seeks to explore how the Depression affected foodways in Montana, how food traditions persisted and what economic hardships changed. Additionally, this research paper is my senior Capstone project, prior to my graduation with degrees in History and English from MSU. This paper combines Montana history and literary analysis of how writers told the stories of Montana food. My oral presentation is based on extensive research in primary source documents from the Montana State University archives, the digital archives at the Library of Congress and the “What America Ate” website run by Michigan State University. The goal of this government project was to publish a book on American foodways (as designated by five distinct regions) but due to the outbreak of WWII, the project was cancelled. The documents at MSU are a record and history of foodways in the Far West region, which included Montana. Unemployed writers wrote in a story-telling format, including recipes collected throughout the region. I also draw upon secondary literature of the Federal Writers’ Project and the Great Depression. At this time, there is no published writing on the Montana “America Eats” project, so my work makes an original contribution to this subject. The data and information in my research, including that of the archival records suggest that Montana had a rich culinary history that contributed to the region’s palate. These stories also highlight Montana writers, whose background often came from writing local literature and history and who (in the context of this project) became pioneers of the food writing genre. This substantive research paper will offer a detailed look into Montana food history during the Great Depression era. 

Additional Abstract Information

Presenter: Emily O'Brien

Institution: Montana State University Bozeman

Type: Oral

Subject: History

Status: Approved

Time and Location

Session: Oral 7
Date/Time: Tue 3:30pm-4:30pm
Session Number: 729
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