A cake sale for the benefit of the soldiers

Archival Moment

November 27, 1914

Newfoundland women made cakes that they posted to their son's in the trenches of France.

Newfoundland women made cakes that they posted to their son’s in the trenches of France.

It was for many Newfoundlanders living in the United States disappointing that their ‘new’ country remained neutral during the first couple of years of the First World War, 1914 -1918. It was particularly difficult for the Anglophile Newfoundlanders that supported the notion of ‘King and Country’ and their British heritage.

A number of women, born in Newfoundland but in 1914 were newly minted American citizens wanted to do some small part to support the old country. The local St. John’s newspaper The Evening Telegram wrote: “Although being American citizens their sympathies are still with Old England and they express the earnest wish that success will soon crown the efforts of the allied forces.”

In Everett, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, a number of women originally from Newfoundland decided that they wanted to do something constructive; they decided to hold “a sale of pies and cake”   at a local convenience store Booth’s Cash Market. The proprietor, Mr. Boot, an Englishman, was very accommodating.

It was announced that “the proceeds of the sale, will be devoted, to the European War Suffers Fund.”

The choice of the phrase “European War Suffers Fund” was quite interesting. From 1914 – 1917 America as part of its neutrality propaganda used the phrase ‘European War”   the rest of the World was using the phrase “Great War.”

The ladies who were all making the cakes and pies for sale were all originally from Harbour Grace;  among their lot were Mrs. A. W Parsons, Mrs. Edward Tuolls, Mrs. J. Sheppard and Mrs. A. Sheppard.

The Newfoundland ladies of Everett, Massachusetts, “carried on the affair most successfully”, doing brisk business, declaring at the end of the day “a very successful sale.”

The success of the sale was almost guaranteed, the Harbour Grace ladies would have likely been supported by the many other Newfoundlanders that were living in Everett, Massachusetts and the general Boston area. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts census for 1915 reports that there were 13, 269 Newfoundlanders in the Boston area.

The United States’ entry into World War I came in April 1917, after two and a half years of efforts by President Woodrow Wilson to keep the United States neutral during World War I.

The sentiment for neutrality was gradually abandoned, driven in some small part by these Newfoundland born women who were very aware of the great effort that the people of their home country, Newfoundland,  were giving to the effort.

The American people were eventually swayed to join the fight after news of atrocities in Belgium in 1914, and the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915 in defiance of international law began to prick the conscience of America.

Newfoundland War Cake Recipe 1914-1918

During the First World War women in Newfoundland would bake and post their “War Cake” to loved ones on the front lines. Some traditional cake ingredients were hard to come by. The “War Cake” recipe that was encouraged by the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) of Newfoundland and approved by the Food Control Board including the following:



1 cup of sugar

1 ½ tablespoons of salt

1 teaspoon of cloves

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of mace

2 cups of boiling water

Boil five minutes and cool

Add 1 ¾ cups of flour

I teaspoon of soda

Add I cup of seeded raisins

Bake in a moderate oven.

Give the recipe a try !!

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

This site contains the military files of over 2200 soldiers from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served in the First World War. These files are searchable by name or by community and will therefore provide invaluable information for all viewers, but will be of particular interest to those who are conducting either family or community research.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: Level 2 Museum Vitrine: A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in the collective memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, The Rooms staff explore the significant role these flowers played across the last century

Recipe Books: Do you have any Recipe Books and or recipes that have some connection to the Newfoundland Regiment and the First World War?