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Mrs. E. A. Patterson’s French Dressing

We are not able to write a more complete recounting of the life and accomplishment of Myrtle Patterson than the one that appeared on front page of The Saginaw News on May 23, 1948.

Beloved Choir Leader, Mrs. Patterson Dies

The guiding hand of Saginaw High School’s widely known a cappella choir is missing today.

Mrs. Myrtle Harrington Patterson, 71, who built the choir tradition into one of the finest in the city, died suddenly Monday night of a heart attack at her home, 828 Hoyt.

Her death came as a shock to her many friends. She was at school Monday and on Sunday was in her usual place as choir director at First Congregational Church, where she had served for 31 years.

Mrs. Patterson was one of Saginaw’s recognized music leaders for years. She had directed Saginaw High School’s voice groups since 1917. She was a talented organist and played the First Congregational Church pipe organ until Feb. 22, 1944, when she suffered a leg fracture in a fall.

Although the injury prevented her playing the pipe organ, it did not prevent her from continuing her school and church work.

Her contribution to Saginaw’s musical advancement will be felt for many years to come.

She was not easily satisfied, demanding the best from any choral group she directed. Although a strict disciplinarian, she was fair. Those who worked with her respected for her ability and her knowledge.

She organized the SHS a cappella choir 18 years ago with five students, and soon expanded it to 50 voices, a number she considered ideal. Her choir sang the music of Palestrina, Bach, Tschiakowski and many other composers, including numerous eight-part compositions.

Besides her work with voice groups, she started the Saginaw High School band, and for several years directed the school orchestra.

She also taught several chorus classes of 15 members each, giving fundamental training in musical forms and voice production. She worked herself as hard as she worked her choirs. Each summer since 1935 she attended Dr. F.M. Christiansen’s Master Choral School to improve herself.

Myrtle Harrington was born May 13, 1876, at Westfield, N.Y. She was graduated from Westfield High School in 1894 and from the State Normal School at Fredonia, N.Y., in 1895.

In 1899 she was graduated from Oberlin Conservatory, Oberlin, O. From 1932 to 1935 she attended the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, to study organ.

After graduating from Oberlin, she accepted a teaching position at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, N.C. She remained there until 1902, when she moved to Bay City to give private music lessons and serve as organist and choir director at First Presbyterian Church.

She was married to Ernest A. Patterson on June 30, 1914. In 1917 they moved to Saginaw and Mrs. Patterson began her career at Saginaw High School.

The same year she became choir director of First Congregational Church. Her church choir now is considered one of the best in Michigan. Mr. Patterson, for many years manager of the Western Union offices here, died Feb. 12, 1944.

She was a member of Tuesday Musicale and board member of Saginaw Community Concert Association, In January, 1947, she was made an honorary member of the Saginaw, Quota Club.

The Funeral will take place at 4 p.m. Thursday at the Frazee Funeral Home, Dr. Carl Martenson will officiate. Entombment will be in Oakwood. Mausoleum. Mrs. Patterson may be seen at the funeral home from 4 p.m. Wednesday until the time of the service.

-The Saginaw News, March 23, 1948

French Dressing

As it appears in the 1929 edition of the Saginaw Cookbook:

Put in a pint fruit jar 2-3 olive oil, 1-3 vinegar, 3 teaspoons paprika, 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar. Shake it well before using. -Mrs. E. A. Patterson.

Castle Museum Test Kitchen Interpretation:

1 1/3 cups olive oil

2/3 cup distilled white vinegar

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

Place all ingredients in a container with a tightly sealed cover and shake well before using.


History of French Dressing:

If you are expecting this recipe to make a viscous, reddish-colored salad dressing, you will be surprised. However, we don’t think you will be disappointed.

We found an engaging exploration of the story of French dressing in the United States on the Food Historian blog:

“What's that? The original definition of French Dressing, according to the FDA, was essentially a vinaigrette? What could be more French than that? 

In fact, that is, indeed, how ‘French dressing’ was defined for decades. Look at any cookbook published before 1960 and nearly every reference to "French dressing" will mean vinaigrette. Many a vintage food enthusiast has been tripped up by this confusion, but it's our use of the term that has changed, not the dressing.

Take, for instance, our old friend Fannie Farmer. In her 1896 Boston Cooking School Cookbook (the first and original Fannie Farmer Cookbook), the section on Salad Dressings begins with French Dressing, which calls for simply oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.” From “When French Dressing was Actually French,” from the Food Historian blog.

The link below will take you to the entire article


We made the assumption that the original recipe, given in a confusing combination of proportions and teaspoon measurements, was for one pint of dressing. With that in mind, we have converted it to cups and teaspoons and trust we have preserved the original balance of seasonings, oil and vinegar. Which then leads us to question of vinegar. Most early vinegarette recipes call for either cider or distilled white vinegar. Although today, we would be quite likely to choose a more complex vinegar, we used distilled white vinegar. We were reminded that there are reasons for using more interesting vinegars.

Remember, the emulsification of the oil and vinegar in this dressing is only temporary. It will need to be shaken prior to use.


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