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Gertrude Sunderlin papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSF 493

Scope and Contents

The Gertrude Sunderlin papers (1939-1954; 2.2 cubic feet) document the life and career of Gertrude Sunderlin, an early foods and nutrition professor at Purdue University.  Much of the collection is comprised of theses written by Sunderlin’s students over the years that were based on experimental foods work.  Many of the recipes developed from these experiments were subsequently published in magazines or extension publications and reflect Sunderlin’s larger impact on the development of convenience foods in the twentieth century.  This influence is evidenced by Sunderlin’s correspondence with the various publishers.  Also included in the collection is a selection of Sunderlin’s publications, ranging from papers developed from her thesis to works written over the course of her career.  This collection would be particularly useful for researchers interested in food culture of the mid twentieth century, the development of convenience foods, and the influence of both Sunderlin and the early foods and nutrition program at Purdue.  Although the collection does include some of Sunderlin’s publications and correspondence, the bulk of the collection focuses on her role as a mentor and educator, rather than her personal life.  Researchers interested in other aspects of her life will find limited information in the collection.  Types of materials include: correspondence, recipes, clippings, theses, etc.  The papers are organized into two series.


  • 1939 - 1954
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/05/1987


Conditions Governing Access

Collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

All copyrights belong to Purdue University per deed of gift.

Biographical Information

Gertrude Sunderlin was born in 1894 in Iowa, where she lived for much of her early life and after her retirement from Purdue.  She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Home Economics (with honors) from Iowa State University in 1919; this degree took some time to complete because she took alternate years off to teach.  After teaching for several years, she earned her Master’s degree in Household Bacteriology from Iowa State in 1926 and gained the attention of the Ball Jar Company who offered support for her PhD work.  Her PhD in Bacteriology and Foods and Nutrition was completed in 1928 with her dissertation titled: Studies in Home Canning: I, Some Factors Affecting the Keeping Qualities of Vegetables and Meats Canned by the Hot Water Bath Method. II, Indices of Spoilage in Home-Canned Foods.  Sunderlin holds the distinction of being the first woman to receive a PhD from Iowa State University. Before beginning her tenure at Purdue, Sunderlin was sponsored by the Purnell Research Foundation for post-doc work at Louisiana State University from 1928-1931.  She began at Purdue in 1931 in the College of Home Economics Experimental Foods Department, where she remained until her retirement in 1954.  While at Purdue, she oversaw the development of the Master Mix, a basic starting mix for baked goods that was made in the home and could be used for cakes, cookies, muffins, etc.  This mix was a precursor for several more specific “master” mixes as well as modern commercially available baking mixes.  Also developed under her mentorship were formulas for freezing jams and dough, and many other time-saving techniques or methods in the kitchen.  One student, Ruth Siems, is credited with the invention of Stove Top stuffing.  Her work as well as the work she supervised at Purdue seems to have been instrumental in the development of what we today call convenience foods, making Sunderlin instrumental in the development of modern food culture.  Dr. Sunderlin died in Iowa in 1990 at the age of 96.  


1.998 Cubic Feet (Five letter-size full-width manuscript boxes and one letter-size half-width manuscript box)

Language of Materials


Arrangement Note

1.  Recipes and Correspondence, 1940-1955 (0.6 cubic feet).  This series includes recipes devised by Sunderlin’s students, typically as a result of the experimental work they did in their individual theses.  Also included with the recipes is correspondence between Sunderlin and various editors on her students’ behalf in an attempt to get the work published.  These attempts were frequently successful as indicated in the correspondence and by the included clippings.  Also included is a folder of Sunderlin’s work and a folder of miscellaneous articles written about or collected by her.  This series includes work done by Ruth Siems, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing, and the various women who worked on the Master Mix.  A selection of Sunderlin’s original folders have been retained for display purposes.  Materials in the series are arranged alphabetically. 2.  Theses, 1939-1954 (1.4 cubic feet).  This series includes theses written by Sunderlin’s students for her foods and nutrition courses.  The majority of the papers are from the undergraduate 135 course, but there are a few from the graduate level 495 course.  The theses were written based upon individual experimental problems devised by the students and frequently led to the creation and publication of recipes as evidenced by the other series in the collection.  Included in the series are papers by Ruth Siems, the inventor of Stove Top stuffing, as well as papers by the various women involved in the creation of the Master mixes.  Materials in this series are arranged alphabetically.

Source of Acquisition

Edith Sunderlin

Method of Acquisition


Related Materials

Gertrude L. Sunderlin Papers, RS 21/7/35, Special Collections Department, Iowa State University Library.

Processing Information

Whenever possible, original order of the materials has been retained.  Folder titles have been transcribed from originals except where otherwise noted in the detailed description below.  All materials have been placed in archival housing.  All newsprint has been photocopied and in most cases original newspaper clippings have been discarded. Some clippings containing images of people or color graphics, or front pages of newspapers, have been preserved for display purposes.  Metal clips and fasteners have been removed when possible for preservation purposes and attached photographs or prints have been interleaved with archival paper.  Original folders have been replaced with archival quality folders, with a selection of the originals kept for display purposes.
Gertrude Sunderlin papers
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First edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Purdue University Archives and Special Collections Repository

504 Mitch Daniels Boulevard
West Lafayette Indiana 47907 United States