Blueberry Muffins and the St. Louis World’s Fair

Verna Essler, Verna Jones, Charley E. Jones

My Great Grandparents, Charley and Verna (Essler) Jones, about 1915

When I was a little girl, portraits of my dad’s grandparents and great grandparents hung on the wall outside my bedroom. These are from the early 20th century and earlier … a time when it wasn’t appropriate to smile in photographs like it is today.  These portraits scared the crap out of me! Especially the one of my dad’s grandfather, Charles E. Jones (1885-1938). It was like one of those scary movies where the eyes in the portraits follow you around the room. Grandpa Charlie had eyes like that! They stared at me all night long. Creepy!

It wasn’t until years later when I found pictures of Charley actually smiling that those old portraits didn’t bother me anymore.  Then, when I found out that we share the same birthday 90 years apart, I decided I liked him a little more. 

There’s another branch to this family history story. Charley and I share a love of pressed pennies.  I’m sure that my collection is far greater, as the opportunities for us to buy these little souvenirs on our travels is far more prevalent. Charley only had one … from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Discovering that one of my ancestors had traveled the journey from Kentucky to St. Louis, MO for the Fair led me on a path of finding out more about the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. 

Blueberry muffin recipe

I can’t hardly imagine how long it would take to travel that distance 109 years ago, even by automobile. Although it’s more likely they traveled by riverboat … maybe I should look into that! Regardless, I fell in love with the Fair and all it represented to our world at the time … especially the food.  Oh, the food … and the food myths.  Hot dogs, chewing gum, iced tea, ice cream cones and hamburgers were all popularized at the 1904 Fair! Not invented, mind you. 

I was fanatic enough to visit St. Louis during the 2004 anniversary events … and I picked up a reprint of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair Souvenir Cookbook. I only wish I had a first edition! I’ve called on this book several times for a quick food and cooking lesson.  I love old cookbooks because they give us a sense of how we lived during that time.  In the “Breads” section of the cookbook is a muffin recipe … it’s more like a dinner roll muffin and less like the sweet muffins we know today.  It’s a little time consuming and the muffins don’t rise as much as the modern-day counterpart, but they are so moist and yummy that it’s worth it.  

I actually adapted this recipe to make blueberry muffins.  So good!

Original Plain Muffin Recipe St. Louis 1904 World’s Fair Souvenir Cook Book 

“Separate three eggs, beat the yolks, add to them one pint of milk, a teaspoon of salt, two and a half cups of sifted flour, beat well, add two ounces of melted butter, the whites of the eggs beaten to a stiff froth and two teaspoonfuls of baking powder, mix, and bake in greased gem pans or muffin rings in a quick oven for about twenty-five minutes.” pg 69

Adapted Blueberry Muffin Recipe

Blueberry muffin recipe

Blueberry Muffins
Yields 24
One of the moistest muffins I've ever eaten!
Write a review
Cook Time
25 min
Cook Time
25 min
  1. 3 eggs, separated
  2. 3/4 cup sugar
  3. 2 cups milk
  4. 1 teaspoon salt
  5. 2 1/2 cups plus 1 tablespoon all purpose flour
  6. 2 teaspoon baking powder
  7. 1/4 cup melted butter
  8. 1 cup blueberries
  1. In a mixing bowl, mix egg yolks with sugar until creamy.
  2. Add milk, continue mixing.
  3. Sift 2 1/2 cups flour into a separate mixing bowl, mix in salt and baking powder. Combine with wet ingredients until smooth.
  4. Mix in melted butter.
  5. Fold in stiff egg whites.
  6. Toss blueberries in 1 tablespoon flour to coat. This prevents them from sinking to the bottom of the batter. Gently fold into batter.
  7. Pour into greased muffin pans. Each muffin well should be nearly full. These will not rise a lot.
  8. Bake in 350° oven for approximately 25 minutes or until golden brown.
  9. Remove and brush with melted butter if desired. Let cool and serve with more butter! Or softened cream cheese!
  1. I whip the egg whites with my mixer while I am prepping the rest of the ingredients. It saves times.
  2. This is a thinner batter than muffins we make today, but produces a very moist muffin.
Adapted from St. Louis 1904 World's Fair Souvenir Cook Book
Adapted from St. Louis 1904 World's Fair Souvenir Cook Book
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