Women’s History Month 2018

Women’s History Month is only a few days away and again this year, Special Collections and the University Libraries, in conjunction with some friends around campus, have some plans a-foot!

“Coeds: The History of Women Students at Virginia Tech” (sponsored by University Libraries and Virginia Tech Alumni Association). Virginia Tech first admitted women as students in 1921, but it was a long road to acceptance. Women had to create their own yearbook and unofficial sports teams in the beginning, and it took decades to achieve important student leadership positions in student organizations. Additional barriers prevented women students of color from reaching the same status as white women students for years and sometimes decades, as with the first Black women who didn’t matriculate until 1966, a full 45 years after the first white women and 13 years after the first Black man. This exhibit highlights the many women who overcame these obstacles in order to obtain a quality education and to open doors for others to join the Hokie Nation. Wednesday, February 14th through Friday, March 30th, Monday-Friday from 8am-5pm at the Alumni Museum in Holtzman Alumni Center.

“Courage, Resistance, and Leadership: Women in American History” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries).  Special Collections and Newman Library will be collaborating on two exhibits in two spaces on the first floor of Newman Library. Special Collections will have items from our collections on display in the Reading Room, along with a digital slideshow of additional materials, trivia, and fun facts. In a nearby location on the first floor of the library, there will be a display of posters highlighting women represented in Special Collections holdings, as well as from the Women’s History Month website, which contextualize their roles in American history. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Posters will be on display on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120; the Special Collections reading room is on the first floor near the cafe. 

“Together | We: Troubling the Field in 20th Century Architecture” (sponsored by Special Collections and University Libraries). The Special Collections Department at Newman Library will have an interactive digital exhibition on display focused on materials from the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA).  The exhibit will highlight a number of women working primarily in the 20th century who were practitioners and often pioneers in the field. In addition to their architectural work they often had to overcome significant barriers to entry into the field, including access to the resources and networks of professional organizations. Several of these women became avid organizers and advocates, highlighting the contributions of other women to the profession and working to rectify the disparities in representation across daily practice and professional associations. Open Thursday, March 1-Monday, April 2, during Newman Library Hours. Display will be on the first floor of Newman Library in the hallway across from classroom 120.

For the sixth year running, our What’s Cookin’ @Special Collections?! blog will continue its “Women’s History Month” series, highlighting the contributions of women to the culinary and agricultural fields! (You can view the posts to date online.)  New posts should also show up under this category as they are published. So far, we’re planning to look at Martha Lee Anderson (pamphlet author for Church & Dwight, aka Arm & Hammer), the legend of Betty Crocker, and a manuscript cookbook from an alumnae of Randolph Macon College from the 1920s.  And you may see some women’s history-themed posts on our Special Collections at Virginia Tech blog, as well as on our social media channels (@VT_SCUA on Twitter and through our contributions the University Libraries’ Instagram account, @vtlibraries).

We are also involved in a set of individual events in March:

  • Wikimedia Share-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Come help enhance the visual record ahead of the next two events in this Wikipedia intervention series (see below). The workshop will start with an introduction to Wikimedia Commons and then dive into sharing photos on the platform. As Wikimedia Commons only accepts freely licensed images, there will also be an overview of Creative Commons Licensing. Tuesday, March 20 from 2-3:30pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • “FlowGround Session Wikipedia Editing Workshop” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in for an informal session to chat with colleagues about intersections between fields that could generate a push to make Wikipedia articles a more complex—yet still accessible—resource for the general public. Set up an account, learn about editing, talk with people from a wide range of disciplines about intervening in social spaces, and just generally share ideas that transcend specific disciplines, technology, tools, and processes. Wednesday, March 21st from 11:30am-1pm in the Newman Library Athenaeum (room 124).
  • “Wikipedia Edit-A-Thon” (sponsored by University Libraries and the Women’s Center). Drop in any time to help edit Wikipedia—or just learn about the process and purpose. Tutorial sessions, online modules, assistance in setting up accounts, and other resources will be provided throughout the day for new editors or anyone who wants a refresher. Share ideas, update articles in your area of interest, work with others to enhance existing materials, and enjoy the experience of coming together to make a difference. Wednesday, March 28 from 11am-8pm in the Newman Library Multipurpose Room. 
  • 2018 International Archive of Women in Architecture Symposium(sponsored by College of Architecture and Urban Studies Diversity Committee and the International Archive of Women in Architecture (IAWA)).  For centuries, women in architecture have been involved in pushing the boundaries of architecture and architectural practice. Whether as registered architects, members and leaders of architectural firms, academics and scholars, or in any of the less conventional capacities, women have helped transform the discipline of architecture and the related design fields shaping the built environment. Wednesday, March 28th: 7pm; Thursday, March 29th and Friday, March 30th: 9:30am-4:30pm

There will be about 45 events going on during March all over campus to celebrate women’s history month and we encourage you to check out the calendar (which will be posted online this week) and get involved where you can!

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title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

How the Sausage Gets Made (Or at least, the tools you need to do it)

This week, I thought we’d take a look at something that relates to culinary history in a way that we haven’t talked about much before: food production and technology. More specifically, part of the process of how the literal sausage is made.

title page for McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900
McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers’ and Packers’ Tools and Machinery catalog, 1900

Our collection of culinary materials contains more than a few catalogs for companies whose products support the creation, growth, transportation, packing, and consumption of food! This one comes from McArthur, Wirth & Co., who, at least in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, manufactured butchering supplies. “What kind?” you may ask. A wide variety.

The process of butchering animals involves a lot of steps and as even a few pages from this catalog suggest, there are a range of tools, supplies, and parts. It’s interesting to see how the company markets their product. They include a cabbage cutter with meat cutters, suggesting a butcher who also sells sauerkraut might make additional money. Personally, I’m intrigued by the addition of the “banana knife” and how it fits into the same category of food processing as butchery (there may be some application I don’t know about?). And a catalog like this can give us insight into things like the technology of transportation. The last page above includes different kinds of trucks and transport devices on wheels, but also offers skids. Anyone who is acquainted with parts of upstate New York, including the Syracuse area, can tell you what those winters are like. In February 1900, for example, wheels would not be the best way to move product.

One of the last pages of the catalog is actual recipes for sausages and meat products. (See, I said we were going to learn about how it gets made–all the way to a finished product!) It’s pretty detailed, so don’t say I didn’t warn you if you read on…

We have catalogs from other butcher suppliers, as well as confectionery, dairy, farm, and bakery suppliers, just to name a few. We’ll look at some more in the future, since these tools place such an important role in how raw materials (animals, vegetables, and minerals) become the foods we know and love.

Vegetables…in Your Pocket

This week I went perusing the shelves for a feature item. Some bindings, colors, book shapes, spines, or titles can jump out at a person. The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book popped this morning for it’s size/shape and partial alliteration. Also, for it’s concept.

front cover of The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book
In the past, we’ve talked about at least one “vest pocket” type book: John Goins’ The American Waiter. Like that one, this item is tall, thin, and short in length, designed to fit in a vest or apron pocket for reference. (Though WHY why might need to carry a pocket guide to vegetables is something we’ll come back to shortly.) Anyway, it’s just over 6.5 inches tall, 3.5 inches wide, and at 134 pages, about .75 inches thick.

Not surprisingly, this book talks about vegetables and also supplies recipes for some, but not all, ingredients. The author uses “vegetable” in the broadest sense, as you’ll find fruits, herbs, spices, and even some grains throughout.

On the title page, the author, Charles Moore, informs would-be readers that:

The Vest Pocket Vegetable Book is not, as its title might infer, an advocate of the vegetarian theory, but rather, is an earnest plea for a more general recognition of the vegetable kingdom, as a prolific source of supply of appetizing, wholesome and nutritious foods for mankind.

Although the concept that vegetables are “wholesome and nutritious” certainly isn’t new (we have LOTS of volumes of nutrition and dietetics history to prove that), it’s interesting to see Moore defend his position so quickly and on the first page. It gives us (and any possible readers) what its intention is–and is not. If we jump back to the idea of the “vest pocket” guide, we get a sense of intended audience, too. It is not the housewife or home cook–it’s more commercial.

The object of this book is to popularize vegetables in hotels and catering establishments….The writer is of the opinion that the vegetable kingdom compares favorably with the animal kingdom in food value, and affords equal scope for preparing epicurean dishes for the table. The writer is also of the belief that where close attention is given to the vegetables the per capita cost may be reduced without detracting from the quality of the menu.

This guide is meant to inform and education owners, cooks, and staff of places that serve food. In that context, it’s actually quite helpful. While there are recipes, but the emphasis is on information about vegetables and the book does include some unique items like cardoons, truffles, even uses for oats. That doesn’t mean the home cook can’t also learn from this handy little volume. You might just have to wear a vest to carry it. 🙂

Tea Room Recipes for Hot Tea Month

During the fall, I wrote a series of posts about processing the Education Cookery Collection (#1, #2, and #3). That collection also includes a bunch of associated books and publications. Although those titles haven’t been cataloged yet, I pulled one of them to write about today. January is National Hot Tea Month and while it’s actually supposed to be around 60 degrees in Blacksburg today, that doesn’t mean we can’t talk tea-related food!

Tea-Room Recipes: A Book for Home Makers and Tea-Room Managers was written in by Lenore Richards and Nola Treat in 1925.  As the subtitle suggests, its purpose was two-fold: recipes for the home and recipes for food-serving businesses. Richards and Treat, it seems, ran a cafeteria, and in their previous lives, were on the faculty of the College of Agriculture, University of Minnesota. So, they probably both had an extension service background.

From the preface:

This book contains what the authors have come to call tea-room recipes. These recipes are richer, more expensive and designed to server fewer people that those in “Quantity Cookery.” [more on that in a moment] They are especially for the use of home makers entertaining at luncheon, tea and dinner, and for the use of managers of tea rooms, clubs and similar institutions.

Tea-Room Recipes is about half desserts, so we can see the distinct emphasis on the “entertaining” element. There are a sea of pies, cakes (with icings and fillings), cookies, ice creams, puddings, torts, and gelatins. But before you get to those treats (unless you’re hosting an event that goes straight for the good stuff), there are several chapters on the more savory side. These sections cover soups, some surprisingly hefty entrees (lamb chops, nut loafs, macaroni bakes), a few quick-and-easy to prepare vegetables sides, salads (with dressings and garnishes like cheese balls), and one of my favorite topics, sandwiches. The sandwich chapter begins with something called the “Tombeche,” which took a moment to decipher, but makes sense when you see the ingredient list: tomato, dried beef, and cheese. Plus, there are some strange ground/melted chocolate or orange fillings, lots of cream cheese/nut combinations, and a hefty dose of olives. A bread chapter covers the savory (including a bacon bread!) and the sweet (muffins and other breakfast sweets).

In addition to this book, Richards and Treat also wrote Quantity Cookery, which seems like a logical companion piece to this one. Tea-Room Recipes can be used to feed a family of, say 4-6, but it can also be used to feed a restaurant full of people. A book like Quantity Cookery takes that to the next level (though it has a more specific, commercial audience).

Oh, and in case you’re curious, since I started this post talking about Hot Tea Month? Tea-Room Recipes does not contain any recipes for tea. I guess the assumption is you can handle that part on your own…

Military Menus for the Holiday

Our Military & Wartime Cookery Collection (Ms2017-029) includes a wide variety of military/food related ephemera, as well as a collection of associated cataloged publications. Among the materials, we found a 1935 menu from the Christmas Dinner aboard the United States Ship Nevada. The cover includes a color illustration of a decorated ship and a lighthouse, both of which are producing lights that create a Christmas Tree pattern on the water.


The inside includes information about the officers, the date, and the menu itself, which tells us some interesting things about the time. It’s always interesting to see cigarettes, for example, as part of a menu.

We also have a small collection of menus from American forces in Iceland during World War II. Two are for Thanksgiving and the third, below, is from Christmas 1943. The 824th Engineers Aviation Battalion was stationed in Iceland and worked to build airdromes and airfields, as well as provide improvements to the port at Reykjavik.


This menu is actually eight pages long, and contains five pages with a complete list of soldiers in the battalion. In addition, it has the “signatures” page and, at the very end, the menu itself.

Although they are eight years apart, the menus have a fair amount in common: fruit cake, mince pie, candy, nuts, cigarettes, rolls & butter, turkey & gravy, potatoes of one or more kinds, and cranberry sauce. And, in the 21st century, these are things we still associate with the holidays this time of year. The latter menu’s emphasis on “fresh” as a word, though, is a reminder about how special some food items would have been in Iceland in December 1943, as well as a reminder of how rare they might have been at home during rationing of the time.

We at Special Collections hope you have a good holiday season and don’t worry: We’ve got plenty of blog posts planned for 2018!*


*(Your usual archivist/blogger Kira may even get back on a weekly schedule!)

‘Tis the Season…For a Number of Holidays!

It’s the holiday time of year, isn’t it? We get a little break after Thanksgiving here in the U.S., but Hanukkah has begun. Christmas and Kwanzaa are a little over a week away. So, this week, we’re looking at a few recipes from all of those traditions. (We’ll even get into New Year’s Eve/New Year’s Day!)

We’re starting with a more recent publication: Southern Holidays (2014) from the Savor the South series. It’s a more modern book and while many of the recipes are modernized, as you’ll see, they have roots that are far deeper. In addition, one of the things about this book is its perspective. Earlier holiday-themed cookbooks in our collection tend to have a specific focus, usually around Christmas (though not always). As we know, there are many other holidays this time of year, and it’s exciting to see them represented here. (I believe we have more titles, but I have to save some for next year!)

The second book with our feature recipes for today is The Holiday Cookbook from 1957. It’s arranged chronologically, so it starts with New Year’s, but we’re going the other way around and starting with the closer holiday. 🙂

No matter what you may be celebrating, chances are you have a holiday food tradition of some sort and we hope you have the opportunity to indulge in it this year! There will a short post going up next week (after your archivist/blogger has headed off to visit family and friends) featuring some military holiday menus, but we want to take this opportunity to say, from Special Collections to you:

Happy Holidays!

New Pamphlet Round Up #7!

It’s about that time we look at some new pamphlets! As usual, they’ve been making their way into my office and piling up for addition to the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002). This batch haven’t made their way into the finding aid just yet, but I hope to get these, and some others, added next week. I picked out six, including three that fit in with materials we already have from the parent companies, and three that represent companies for which we don’t already have items.

First up, our existing companies:

The collection already includes La Rosa & Sons, Inc.’s 1949 pamphlet, “101 Ways to Prepare Macaroni.” This pamphlet focuses entirely on tiny pastina shapes (though there’s an ad in the center for some of other shapes the company made). About half the recipes are labeled as “recipes for children.” While one might expect a lot of soup recipes, one 1/3 are for soups. Another 1/3 are for entrees or “pastina as a vegetable.” The last 1/3 are all–you guessed it–desserts. Apparently, you can fill your puddings, custards, and even cake with tiny pasta!
“Good Things to Eat from Out of the Air” comes from Proctor & Gamble. So far, most of our pamphlets from this company are related to Crisco and some other baking staples. Rather than a single product, this pamphlet, published in 1932, includes a wide range of recipes from radio cooking shows. Essentially, these would be the precursor to modern food-based TV networks, and such programs were quite popular in the 1930s.
The Worcester Salt Company is what we now know of as the Morton Salt Company. To date, we have a handful of pamphlets from the company that, of course, talk about cooking with salt, but also it’s history. “The Worcester Cook Book” was written by Janet McKenzie Hill (a name common on our blog!). It contains recipes, information on the new “free-running salt” that didn’t clump, and the interestingly title section, “The Romance of Salt.” This latter turns out to be a combination of facts about salt, as well as lore and legend surrounding it. For example: “Love-sick maidens at one time, depended on salt to restore to them their straying lovers.” Romantic, huh?

In addition, some of the items waiting to be added to the collection represent new companies!

“Coldspot: Modern Menu Magic Recipes” comes from Sears, Roebuck and Company. About 1/3 of it is about how to use and care for your “coldspot” refrigerator and the other 2/3 is recipes, mostly of things you would store or make using your refrigerator, of course.
This 1975 Tupperware catalog features some of the new products that year, how to use it (yes, there are directions for proper opening and closing of items), and a list of products and potential uses around the home. This catalog may be over 40 years old, but the company is still around. You might recognize some of the pieces, old or new, in your kitchen today!
Premier-Pabst Corporation from Milwaukee might sound familiar. What are advertising here, though, isn’t beer. It’s cheese! (The spreadable, pasteurized kind–sort of like a spreadable velveeta?) This little booklet uses the cheese baked on fish, in a frozen salad with prunes, and perhaps slightly more traditionally, in a sauce for rarebit.