Original recipe 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.
Step 1: Ingredients
1/2 c milk (minus 1/2 T for the vinegar)
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c shortening (butter or lard will also work)
1 c molasses
4 c flour (approximate upper limit; see instructions below)
2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Step 2: Mixture #1: Shortening, sugar, molasses, and egg
Cream the shortening and sugar in a large bowl. As you can see, an electric mixer isn't necessary, but it sure would be easier.
To this creamy white mixture add the molasses and egg. Combine thoroughly.