This section is from the book "Philadelphia Cook Book: A Manual Of Home Economies", by Sarah Tyson Heston Rorer. Also available from Amazon: Philadelphia Cook Book.
In some markets poultry is bought ready dressed from the poulterer; in others, picked but not drawn; in others, again, alive. In case you should meet with the latter, the best and quickest way of killing is by cutting the throat or tongue. Some cut the head entirely off. In either way they should be hung up by the feet without delay, as they then die much sooner, and bleed more freely. Begin at once to pick them, taking a few feathers at a time, and giving them a quick jerk toward the tail. If you pull backward, it is apt to tear the skin. Do not scald them, as young chickens are completely spoiled by being thus blanched. It does not injure older ones so much if they are to be used immediately. After you have picked them, singe, by taking hold of the head and feet and passing them over the gas or blazing paper, backward and forward, turning them on both sides, being careful not to burn the skin.
Cut off the head and feet at the first joint, split the skin on the back of the neck, then detach the skin from the neck and draw it down over the breast, and take out the crop without breaking it. Now, cut the neck off close to the body. The skin is then left to cover the place where the neck was cut off. Turn the chicken around, make a vent under the rump large enough to draw the chicken easily. Take out all the internal organs - the heart, liver, gizzard, lungs, entrails, and eggs, if there are any, being very careful not to break the gall-bag or entrails, as the contents of either would render the fowl uneatable unless thoroughly washed. And I will say, right here, never wash or soak poultry or game unless you have broken something; then do it as quickly as possible, and wipe dry immediately. I cannot speak too strongly against this abominable practice. It may be, however, thoroughly washed before it is drawn, and if this operation be done as directed, will not require another bath. I was often puzzled to know why our so-called good cook books should recommend, "soak to draw out the blood" (and, of course, the flavor and nourishment at the same time), "and throw this water away," and perhaps on the next page will be found a recipe for beef tea, which will read: "Soak in cold water to draw out the nourishment, throw away the meat and save the water." This rule applies equally well to all meats. I wonder no longer after seeing the usual way of drawing poultry. In going from one house to another, giving private lessons to ladies in their own kitchens, I have more than once been shocked and almost sickened at the way in which this operation was performed. They first made a gash in the fowl large enough to insert the whole hand, at the same time cutting the intestines and - dragging them one piece at a time - had the whole chicken, their hand and arm covered with filth. Washing can never restore to a chicken thus drawn, its flavor. I would recommend it being thrown away at once, saving your digestive organs the trouble of digesting that from which you do not receive full nourishment.
After drawing properly, wipe inside and out with a damp towel, remove the oil-sack from the top of the rump, and it is ready to use.
Cut the liver away from the gall-bag, being careful not to break it. Cut the heart open, and remove the clotted blood. Cut the outer coat of the gizzard, and draw it off, leaving the inner lining, containing the sand, unbroken. Wash thoroughly, and they are ready to use.
The giblets consist of the liver, heart, gizzard, and neck.
Buy a chicken with firm flesh, yellow skin and legs. If young, the cock will have small spurs, and both cock and hen will have soft, smooth legs and tender skin; the lower part of the breast bone will be cartilage, soft and pliable. If old, the opposites.
Poultry full grown have the best flavor, and are good for roasting, fricassees, and stewing. Older ones make good soup or may be served boiled. Spring chickens should only be broiled or fried. Be sure that they are fresh, and free from any unpleasant odor. They should be drawn as soon as possible after they are killed, and hung away in a cool, dry place for at least twenty-four hours before cooking. If cooked as soon as killed, they are hard and tough. If frozen, they should be placed in a warm room to thaw several hours before they are wanted.