First comes the banana.
In 1870, Lorenzo Dow Baker brought the first bananas to America from Jamaica to Boston, selling them on the docks.
He captained the schooner “Telegraph”, registered in his hometown, Wellfleet, Massachussetts (seen below).
In 1876, Americans got to see a banana tree for the first time.
It was in the Horticultural Hall of the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, the very first World’s Fair.
At that time, they could buy bananas for just 10 cents a bushel.
Next comes the banana bread.
The First Banana Bread Recipe
The first mention in a cookbook was by Eleanor Parkinson author of the Complete Confectioner, published in 1846 in Philadelphia.
It’s still being printed today by Andrews McMeel Publishing for $5.
You can read the banana bread loaf recipe on the Wayback Machine.
Or, read an original version of the whole cookbook online from The University of Leeds Library via US Archives.
Banana bread is made of the fruit of the banana tree. This fruit is about four or five inches long, of the shape of a cucumber, and of a highly grateful flavour. They grow in bunches that weigh twelve pounds and upwards. The pulp of the banana tree is softer than that of the plantain tree, and of a more luscious taste. When ripe it is a very pleasant food, either undressed or fried in slices like fritters. All classes of people in the West Indies are very fond of it. When preparing for a voyage, they take the ripe fruit and squeeze it through a sieve; then form the mass into loaves, which are dried in the sun, or baked on hot ashes, having been previously wrapped up in leaves.”
Not the banana bread loaf we know and love.
Baking Powder, the Game Changer
It was the invention of baking powder that could be used to leaven bread instead of yeast that made the quick bread version we know possible.
(Read about the history of baking powder at Kudo Blends, makers of leavening agents.)
Now This Recipe is More Like It
They say necessity is the mother of invention. The access to baking powder coupled with the need to use over-ripe (very expensive) bananas during the Great Depression introduced the idea of baking bananas into a loaf of quick bread.
The first recipe of banana bread as we know it appeared in Pillsbury’s 1933 Balanced Recipes cookbook.
But it was Chiquita Banana’s Recipe Book in 1950 that really made it popular.
See the original recipe at their old website, thanks to the Wayback Machine.
Get the original recipe book, thanks to Amazon.
Interested in seeing how the classic Banana Bread recipe has changed over the decades? Read about it at the King Arthur Baking Company blog.
Want more? See our banana bread recipes.
Want more recipes?
Like this? See our new recipes in the weekly Merrymaker Magazine.
Sign up for our weekly magazine and never miss a recipe.
Prepare in advance for the week’s upcoming daily holidays with our tips & printables. Be inspired by ideas to celebrate upcoming seasonal holidays with printables, party plans, recipes and fun ideas.