"Joe Froggers” are molasses cookies that are a specialty of Marblehead, Massachusetts. According to the legend, a Revolutionary War patriot named Joseph Brown (called “Uncle Joe” or “Black Joe") lived near a frog pound and baked the cookies that locals called “Joe Froggers,” after Joe and the dark and fat frogs in his pond that resembled his cookies. The cookies stayed fresh longer than other foods, so they were a favorite food of sailors. Children bought the large cookies for one penny each.
“Joe Froggers” has been cited in print since 1948, but earlier citations are lacking.
Marblehead (MA) Magazine
THE ORIGINAL “Lily Pad-Shaped”
JOE FROGGER Cookie
HISTORICAL NOTE: Named for Revolutionary War patriot, Joseph Brown, these large cookies were said to be the size of the frogs in “Black Joe’s” Pond. Marblehead’s early fishermen used to take the cookies with them on long voyages to the Grand Banks as a standard part of the ship’s provisions. The ingredients of rum and seawater acted as preservatives. They are now a cherished Marblehead tradition with “original recipes” circulating rapidly for historic authentication by native Marbleheaders. The cookies were first made in the 1800’s by Lucretia Brown, Joseph’s wife. While today the cookies are mostly round, in the beginning they were described as “lily pad” shaped.
19 December 1948, The Advocate (Baton Rouge, LA), “Write Historical Novel to Learn History, Author Says” by Cynthia Lowry (AP Newsfeatures Writer), pg. 13-A, col. 4:
At this moment Miss Seton is quite an authority on cod splits, shoe manufacture at the turn of the century, the day-to-day trip to America of Gov. Winthrop in Puritan days, the preparation and consumption of “Joe Froggers,” which seem to be gingerbread cookies, king-size.
(Anya Seton’s The Hearth and Eagle, a novel about Marblehead.—ed.)
4 August 1952, Morning World-Herald (Nebraska, NE), “Inn Features Yankee Meal” by Gaynor Maddox, pg. 5, col. 2:
A “Joe Frogger” is a soft molasses cookie, six inches in diameter, about as thick as a lady’s finger.
Originated around Marblehead, Mass., many years ago, they were very popular with the children who could then buy them for a penny each. But that was long ago.
1/2 pound shortening
14 ounces brown sugar
1 pint molasses
1/2 pint salt sea water or tap water and salt
1 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon cloves
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 1/2 pounds baking flour
Cream shortening and brown sugar together. Add molasses, salt water, ginger, cloves and baking soda.
Mix slightly and add pastry flour. Grease and flour sheet tin. Roll out dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Cut about 4 inches in diameter.
Place on sheet tin and bake at 400 degrees for approximately 15 minutes.
2 May 1954, Richmond (VA) Times-Dispatch, “Spice Wheels” by Clementine Paddleford, This Week magazine, pg. 27, col. 2:
Sift 7 cups sifted all-purpose flour with 1 tablespoon slat and 1 tablespoon ginger, 1 tablespoon cloves, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1/2 teaspoon allspice. Combine 3/4 cup water with 1/4 cup rum. Combine 2 teaspoons baking soda with 2 cups dark molasses. Cream 1 cup shortening and 2 cups sugar. Add sifted dry ingredients, water mixture and molasses mixture in 2 sections to creamed mixture, blending well after each addition. Chill dough, preferably overnight. Roll to 1/4-inch thickness on floured board. Cut with 4-inch cutter. Place on greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees F. for 10 to 12 minutes. Yield: 2 dozen 5-inch cookies. Let stand on sheet a few minutes before removing to prevent breaking. Store in a covered cookie jar.
A Guided Tour of Places of Interest with Historical Descriptions and Chronological List of Events to 1950, Including Yachting
By Thurlow Stanley Widger
Wellesley, MA: Thurlow S. Widger
Near the pond on what then was known as GINGERBREAD LANE, lived Black Joe, half negro and half Gay Head Indian and his wife Aunt Crese. This amiable couple ran an inn (Pg. 30—ed.) which was noted for its hospitality and its “lecshon” cake and buns. Here, and at “Aunty” Bowen’s penny shop across the lane, children came to buy candy and goodies and older people to pitch coins and make merry, especially at election time. It is possible that the famous Marblehead cookie recipe for “Joe Froggers” originated here.
13 December 1962, The Town Crier (Westport, CT), “...And Also The Legend Of ‘Joe Froggers’ Cookies,” pg. 11, col. 4:
One of the features of the Westport Historical Society’s meeting at the YMCA last week was the serving of a molasses-type cookie called “Joe Froggers.” The dark cookies are best described as “a meal in themselves.”
According to Eleanor Early, author of the “New England Cookbook,” this is how they came about:
“A long time ago there was an old Negro who lived in Marblehead. His name was Uncle Joe and he lived on the edge of a frog pond, and the pond was called Uncle Joe’s Frog Pond.
“Uncle Joe made the best molasses cookies of anyone in town, and people called them Joe Froggers because they were as plump and dark as the fat little frogs that lived in the pond.
“Marblehead fishermen would give the old man a jug of rum and he would make them a batch of Froggers. The fishermen liked them because they never got hard, and women packed them in sea chests for the men to take to sea.
“Uncle Joe said what kept them soft was rum and sea water. But he wouldn’t tell how to make them. And when he died, people said, ‘That’s the end of Joe Froggers.”
“But there was a woman named Mammy Cressy, who said she was Uncle Joe’s daughter, and Mammy Cressy gave the secret recipe to a fisherman;s wife. Then half the women in Marblehead began making Joe Froggers. With a pitcher of milk, Froggers became the town’s favorite Sunday night supper. They were sold in a local bake shop. Children bought them, instead of candy, for a penny apiece, and they remained popular for several generations.”