The Great IDHH Baking Blog: Pies

“As American as apple pie.” While the first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in England in 1381, this quotation has become synonymous with Americana and speaks to a country’s love of the versatile baked dish. Centuries before this catchy phrase was featured in advertisements of the Roaring Twenties, colonists of the fledgling United States found their wheat from England unsuited to North American soil and instead channeled their small amount of grain for use in pies rather than bread. With their flourishing New England apple orchards, this environment sowed the seeds for a nation’s embrace of the pie as a culinary favorite and cultural signifier. 

From springtime fairs to end-of-the-year holidays and festivals, it’s difficult to think of an event or season in which some kind of pie would not be welcome. The dessert is so ubiquitous that ten U.S. states claim a pie as their “official” state dessert, state treat, or state pie. Maine even lists two iconic pies for the state, claiming blueberry pie as the state dessert and whoopie pie as the state treat (though the whoopie pie is not quite a pie and more a type of soft cookie). The IDHH’s own state of Illinois proudly lists the pumpkin pie as the state pie and today produces the most pumpkins used for processed pie filling.  

While eating pies may be the more traditional way to enjoy the classic American dessert, some of our favorite items from the collection below show more inventive uses of the dish, from thrown projectile to animal treat:

Campus Photograph Collection: Campus Life. circa 1972-1976. University of Illinois Springfield. Campus Archival Documents. Courtesy of the University of Illinois Springfield.
Student Life. 1978. Illinois Wesleyan University. IWU Historical Collections. Courtesy of Illinois Wesleyan University.
Hog gets pie, 1947. January 22, 1947. Photograph by Frank Bill. McLean County Museum of History. Pantagraph Negative Collection, 1946 – 1949. Courtesy of the McLean County Museum of History.
Eureka Pumpkin Festival Queen Serves Pie to Attendants, 1955. September 15, 1955. Eureka Public Library District. Pumpkins, Parades and Pies- Eureka’s Pumpkin Festival Past, 1939-1961. Courtesy of the Eureka Public Library District.
Flunk Day pie. circa 1980’s. Knox College. The Way to Knox. Courtesy of Knox College.

Want to see more? 

View more items related to pies on the IDHH.  

View Illinois Highlights blog posts published in 2019 and 2017 featuring the Eureka Pumpkin Festival items from the Eureka Public Library district.