Son donates mother's extensive cookbook collection to USM

Son donates mother's extensive cookbook collection to USM

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - A Carthage, Miss. native honored his late mother by donating an extensive cookbook collection to the University of Southern Mississippi for culinary research.

Anderson Orr, of Norfolk, Virginia, recently donated more than 2,500 cookbooks to the McCain Library and Archives at USM as a tribute to his mother, the late Lessie Katherine Amsler, who graduated from the university in 1920, according to a USM press release.

Jennifer Brannock, curator of Rare Books and Mississippiana for USM University Libraries Special Collections, has been working with associate professor of history Dr. Andrew Haley to collect and preserve cookbooks that reflect the culinary, social and cultural history of Mississippi. According to the release, Haley uses cookbooks to research food, communities and the creators of the cookbooks, and he is the director of the Mississippi Community Cookbook Project.

"This donation from Anderson Orr expands the Mississippi Community Cookbook Project by looking at regional, national, and international cookbooks that influence local cooking," Brannock said. "We're extremely fortunate to receive this collection, and proud to bring the cookbooks of Anderson and his mother back to Mississippi."

Orr is a retired faculty member of Virginia Wesleyan University and learned about Haley's research project through a mutual friend. The donation will expand the collection at McCain Library and Archives, which is the largest collection of regional cookbooks in Mississippi.

"There are first editions of major works (in the Orr donation) by James Beard, Julia Child, and Richard Olney, canonical works on French and American cuisine, especially Southern cooking, and a nearly complete collection of cookbooks on bread," Haley said. "Historians of cooking will, of course, want to use this collection but so will chefs, nutritionists, and, honestly, anyone who loves to eat."

Cooking has always been a passion for Orr, but it was not until he was pursuing his doctorate at the University of Virginia that he began collecting cookbooks.

"It makes me very happy to give this collection in memory of my mother, who would be very happy for it to be going to Mississippi, for which she had a great and unwavering love," Orr said. "Although she spent her last years in Virginia, she never thought it really measured up."

For more information about Dr. Halley's research and the Mississippi Community Cookbook Project, visit; or contact Brannock at or Dr. Haley at