These are close copies of Archway molasses cookies. They're chewy, gooey, and a perfect addition to any holiday feast. The Pilgrims would have been a happier bunch if they'd had these laying around.
includes this folk lore:
The known history of this recipe starts from eavesdropping on a party-line telephone during the early 1900s. The age of this recipe appears to explain many odd features. At the time, baking powder did not exist. Thus this recipe uses baking soda, with sour milk (now created via vinegar, so don't panic) as the acid. Ginger would have been expensive. The recipe originally called for an undefined amount of flour that turned out to be around 8 cups (1/2 gallon), which would feed a family of a dozen or so. The recipe has been cut in half for the benefit of less-productive parents.