Automobile Picnics

Chalmers Light Six Car
Source: Kimball’s Dairy Farmer Magazine (June 1, 1914)

The weather is delightful. It’s time for a picnic. Here are some hundred-year-old tips for an automobile picnic.

For picnics the beverages and hot dishes may be prepared at home and carried in thermos food jars. The cold dishes may be packed in a small portable refrigerator. The biscuits, sandwiches, cakes, and cookies should be carefully wrapped in wax paper and packed in boxes. Ice creams may be taken in the freezer. Hot sandwiches and bacon may be cooked over the coals or on a portable oil or alcohol stove. In some menus it may be desirable to omit or modify a few of the dishes, if the food is to be carried several miles.

For Luncheon and Supper Guests (1922) by Alice Bradley

14 thoughts on “Automobile Picnics

  1. I wondered if I could find our family’s picnic basket from the 1950s, and sure enough: here it is. The only difference is that our plates and such were red, yellow, and blue. We had it forever. I should have kept it!

    1. The Hamilton Advertiser from Scotland reported a patent for a portable refrigerator July 18, 1914. The Pedder family of California made a cross country trip to NY City in a Hudson Six and carried a portable refrigerator (El Paso Times, Jan. 18, 1914). Miller Manufacturing Company was the “largest manufacturer in the United States of portable refrigerators (The St. Louis Star and Times, June 30, 1914). Apparently they existed, but I did not find anything to describe what they were!

    2. As I first thought (“Ice chest”), I finally found a news item in 1915 that described a new portable refrigerator “somewhat resembling a suitcase” which held a chamber for cracked ice above the compartment for holding perishables. They also described how to make your own portable refrigerator by placing a smaller pail inside a larger pail, filling the gap with sawdust, and then packing your perishables in ice. But it was likely a new idea in 1914?

  2. Delightful! This brings to mind when picnics were frequent and they were enjoyed thoroughly as a time to take a break from the day-to-day. Today most people’s idea of a picnic is pulling through the fast food window on their way to the park.

    1. I actually found an item in the newspaper archives that described a portable ice box invented in 1900 that would keep ice cream frozen! I love these items from early years!

  3. The portable refrigerator makes me chuckle – it was just a “cooler” but I think I’ll be referring to our cooler as a portable refrigerator from now on!!

  4. I’m you all explained what a portable refrigerator was because I was picturing that only the well off could go on that kind of picnic. We just put our sandwiches made at home in the picnic basket and there was no ice or little stove, unless it was going to be a cookout.

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