No matter how much of a foodie one may be, there is always something appealing about home-made cookies shaped using a cookie cutter. The most popular flavors are sugar and gingerbread, as those doughs are the easiest to roll out for cutting. I use the recipes in my old, red-and-white checked copy of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, although I am sure every family has their personal favorite versions of these. Both cookie flavors date back to well before the American Civil War—maybe even before the English Civil War. Nevertheless, cookie cutters have changed, and today if one googles up #civilwarcookiecuttersone is apt to get Captain America’s shield. (I always put “American” before Civil War—that helps a lot!).
So, what did cut cookies look like in the 1860s? The simplest ones were squares or rectangles cut with a knife, or rounds cut with the rim of a drinking glass. A set of cookie cutters usually belonged to a family and were a cherished part of the holiday tradition, but what might they have looked like? Usually the first shape that comes to mind is a gingerbread man, and there were certainly ginger stars and ginger horses, but the war influenced tin makers to create some military-themed cutters as well.
The ones pictured here have been posted on https://civilwartalk.com/threads/cookie-cutter-week.106688/page-1-2, and I have picked a few to share. They are all antiques, and I am not sure if they are usable or not.
What does one do, however, if there isn’t a drawer full of these beauties at the ready? Check out Etsy for companies that will create cookie cutters from your own design, that’s what. My first foray into this was many years ago when I decided that I would make gingerbread men shaped like Napoleon. He is old and rusty now, but every so often I get the urge to create a majestic tribute to my favorite general in history and create gingerbread Bonapartes with dark blue and white icing, and some gold dragées on his bicorn. I got him long before Etsy. Someone at a random Renaissance Faire had a cookie cutter-making booth and . . ..
I have had excellent luck with anything Etsy, and plan on ordering a few of the shapes above after the holidays. That way I will be prepared for the 2019 Christmas campaign in advance. If you do not want to bother with mail order, there are certainly shapes like Corps badges available—circles, diamonds, trefoils, crosses, crescents, acorns, shields, hearts . . . once in a while you can even find a bugle or a standing soldier in a holiday collection.
If you do nothing more than admire the images on this page, I will have met my goal of enriching your historical holidays. If you decide to go further, let me know how it all worked out. Huzzah–and Merry Christmas.