So, earlier this week I finally sat down and updated the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002). Over the last several months, I had been collecting new additions and since the 0.5 cu. ft. box in my office where I store items had reached capacity, it seemed a good time. I added 19 new folders for food or appliance companies and added items to about 30 existing folders–it was quite a haul! Here are a few highlights:
“The Presto Recipe Book for Little Girls and Their Mothers” comes from the Heckler Products Corporation and is dated 1937. It’s primarily baking recipes like the cakes below.
“Recipes that Pep-Up Meals with Wise Potato Chips” put chips in and on everything. Seriously…everything. Published in 1957, it features chips with dips, in meatloaf, on coffee cake, in candies like fudge, and even under creamed seafood!
This unique little advertisement from Libby, McNeill, & Libby is actually also a scissor-sharpener! The front side talk about available products and the back has directions for use of the sharpener. Functional advertising is useful–and creative–approach to “getting your product out there!”
Last up (for now), here are a few pages from a fold out pamphlet by the William G. Bell Company, maker of Bell’s Seasonings. (We’ve talked about Bell’s once before, in a Thanksgiving post during the first year of the blog.) For only 8 small pages (4 shown below), this item is packed full of company history, recipes, and suggestions.
In addition the Culinary Pamphlet Collection, I also updated the Cocktail Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-027) last week, adding new pamphlets (for wine, spirits AND temperance!), bottle labels, and some neat artifacts. I’ll save that for another post, since we just received three MORE new artifacts I need to add and these items are prime “feature” content. Next up, I hope to add the small folder of ephemera I have waiting to go into the Culinary Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-028), which includes a series of collectible trade cards, among other things.
In other words, there are PLENTY of great new items and publications coming into the collection and you’re always welcome to stop by! The blog barely scratches the surface of our shelves.
I know–that sounds vaguely like the start of a joke. And, after reading a little further, you might continue to think that’s the case. I promise, it’s not! This week, we’re featuring a newly-acquired piece of advertising ephemera. It’s a bit difficult to introduce. So, for the moment, I’ll let it speak for itself: The Garfield Tea counter-top advertisement…
This 3-d piece has a flap that folds out in the back, so it would have most likely sat on counters to advertise. Judging by what we know of the company (see below), the product wasn’t sold until some years after the assassination of James A. Garfield. At the earliest, it probably dates to 1885, four years after his death. Which of course raises the question of why? (Or, as some of my colleagues and I said when we saw it, “Whaaaaa?”) There’s no obvious connection between the man or the man as President and a laxative tea, but that didn’t stop Stillman Remedies Co. We know the product came as a loose tea, a bagged tea, and in syrup form. Oh, and while there probably wasn’t actually a “Dr. Stillman,” there does appear to have been a medical man behind things.
Most of what I was able to glean of the Stillman Remedies Co. comes from now-digitized New York State documents, labor reports, and periodicals of the time. They were in business by at least 1888 (possibly sooner) and still around at least as late as 1910. For example, in 1897, from Documents of the Assembly of the State of New York, Volume 18, we can tell how many male and female employees they had (2 male, 25 female) and that maybe manufactured a variety of medicines (patent or otherwise), but it’s hard to say for sure. Garfield Tea was the name that come up in conjunction with the business and the owners in the historical record. The periodical, The Medical World, Volume 16 offers us the best explanation of what was actually IN Garfield Tea: “Our examination showed it to contain chiefly senna leaves and crushed couch-grass. There are perhaps small amounts of other drugs present; but if so, they are relatively of little importance.” Hmm, not exactly inspiring, that last part. But, therein lies the danger of patent medicines of the time in the days before the Pure Food and Drug Act–no one was obligated to tell you what was in the box or the bottle. Most descriptions that exist in the modern age come from the small print on the advertisement itself or from one single contemporary description that was published word-for-word in multiple sources. There are some great images of other packaging through The Herb Museum’s website, though.
The Michigan Reports: Cases Decided in the Supreme Court of Michigan, Volume 76 suggest that people behind Stillman Remedies Co. were actually Emmet and Helen Densmore, which opened up a new pathway for research. (This case was a battle between the Densmores and a former employee who had been authorized to distribute the product in certain locations. The Michigan Reports include an opinion that reversed the first decision, in favor of the defendant, but it is unknown how the new trial turned out. There was at least one other case later on, too, in New York.) Dr. Emmet Densmore (1837-1911) was a physician and author, as well as owner of Stillman Remedies Co. (which is occasionally also referenced as the “Garfield Tea Company”). He had originally been involved in oil in his home state of Pennsylvania and later worked with his brothers on early typewriter designs. His books related largely to food, diet (favoring raw foods and limiting starches), and hygiene. His last work, in 1907, however, dealt with the question of the equality of the sexes.
At which point, it seemed wise to quit digging. After all, what I had intended to be simple post about a strange advertisement turned into an even stranger exploration with way more information than anyone could want. Yet, despite all that, Stillmore Remedies Co. and the Densmore still have some secrets we can’t divine (at least not in a couple hours’ worth of research). “Why Garfield?” and “Why a laxative tea as your prime product?” and “Why use Garfield to sell a laxative several years after he was assassinated?” (I kept expecting to find a lawsuit on the use of his image!) While we all ponder those questions and more, the advertisement is destined to become a part of our Culinary Ephemera Collection’s series on patent medicines. And you’re welcome to see it in person. We’ll be here, right along with the late President Garfield.
Part of our staff, (archivist/blogger Kira included) are at the big annual archives conference most of this week. While we’re taking in the food scene of Cleveland, networking with colleagues, and discussing the finer points of preserving and serving up access to materials (even archival work can be talked about in food terms!), this week’s post will be a new acquisitions round-up. We’ve been VERY busy acquiring new items for the History of Food and Drink Collection in first half of this year, so this is a sort of sneak preview. Who knows which of these items might get their own blog post one day!
We’ll see you again next week with another feature item from the History of Food and Drink Collection!
If it isn’t clear by now, there’s a lot I love about the History of Food and Drink Collection. In the last year, however, I’ve been especially excited about some emerging instruction opportunities. During the 2013-2014 academic year, I taught sessions that were both an introduction to Special Collections and an introduction to the History of Food and Drink Collection. One was a course on Food and Literature (we had two sections come to visit us, one in the fall and one in the spring). The other was a history seminar for undergraduates taught by Mark Barrow, Food in American History. It’s the latter I want to talk about today, because the work of students in that course led to a new acquisition for the collection.
Each student in the course wrote a paper on a topic of interest to them (relating to food in America, of course!). Over the spring semester, I was lucky enough to work with many of these students, whether it was helping them find an item for a blog post or helping with research for their paper. Each student kept a blog and all the blogs were consolidated into a single source. You can read that “mother blog” here: http://blogs.lt.vt.edu/foodhistory.
I’ve opted not to scan and share the essays themselves for a variety of reasons. I didn’t want to do so without permission, and several of the students have graduated already, making them tricky to track down. Also, I don’t think there’s an easy way to pick any one or two above the others. As you’ll see from the table of contents below, these students covered a variety of food topics relating to business, history, technology, legislation, and health. Their creativity and ideas were eye-0pening for me. As always, it was a great experience, too, because it meant I discovered new resources to help answer new questions.
Table of contents, page 1
Table of contents, page 2
There will be two cataloged copies of this publication soon, one in Special Collections and one in the circulating collection. So, whether you come here and visit us, or check out the other copy, I hope you find something to suit your taste. I know I did. 🙂
Some of our readers may know (and some of you may not) that Special Collections has a second blog. Launched in January 2014, it highlights materials from all of our collecting areas and features contributions from all our staff. Last week, our university archivist wrote a post about a handwritten cookbook we acquired last year. It was kept by Cora Bolton McBryde, the wife of Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College president (from 1891-1907), John McLaren McBryde. It’s a very interesting piece of university history AND food history. So this week, our feature comes from our other blog. You can read about the cookbook, its preservation, and a little about the McBrydes here: http://vtspecialcollections.wordpress.com/2014/07/17/cooking-for-the-president-cora-bolton-mcbrydes-cookbook/. Enjoy!
Just before the holiday break here at Virginia Tech, I received a large book donation from one person, an inquiry about another sizeable donation, and an email about a short list of four items. When I returned to my office early last week, there was a cart waiting for me with a box, a bag, and two more books. ALL of it was culinary related. I’m working my way through the large donation that was delivered in December (8 boxes of books!) and it’s reminded me to write post about acquisitions (though I promise to keep it short).
Here’s what the two carts outside my office currently look like (don’t even ask about the table in my office!), as I’m sorting and organizing:
There two main ways we acquire materials for the History of Food and Drink Collection (and, indeed all of our collecting areas): purchase and donation. (There’s a bit of transferring that goes on with university materials, but that’s a topic for another blog.) Our department receives an acquisitions budget from the library each year to spend on new materials. We also have a number of endowments, most of which are restricted to purchasing certain types of publications and collections. For example, you may not know that we have an endowment to support the acquisition of children’s cookbook and nutrition literature, established by Ann Hertzler in 2001. With it, we’ve been able to add more than 30 titles to the several hundred books donated by Ann Hertzler herself.
Which brings me to my point for today–donations are what we rely on, when it comes to new acquisitions! A budget only goes so far. In the last two years, we’ve done a bit of refocusing and I’ve talked about that in various ways before on the blog. But the main idea is that we’re moving away from thinking about types of materials and toward considering things thematically. We’re interested in a number of themes for the History of Food and Drink Collection: early American cookery; local/community cookery from Virginia and southern Appalachia; social, domestic and economic history; gender roles and relationships; household management; food preservation/technology; history of cocktails and entertaining; children’s cookbooks and nutrition; and materials that help document how people did and do interact with food (i.e., advertising pamphlets, ephemera, handwritten recipe books, and compiled recipe collections).
If you have something you might like to donate to the History of Food and Drink Collection (or one of our other collecting areas), I encourage you to contact Special Collections. We’d love to know what you have and see if it’s right for our collections. We do our best to add relevant books and manuscripts. However, space is always at a premium, so we try not to add second copies of publications we already have on our shelves. Some items may not quite fit in with our collecting policies. But that’s okay! We can also help you to find an institution that may be the better home, if that’s what you need.
I’ve written more generally about acquisition for Special Collections on our other blog, “In Special Collections @ Virginia Tech.” So, if you’re curious, you might want to check here. Or, post your query in the comments and I’ll reply. It’s what I’m here for!
Some of you culinary fanatics may already know about Modernist Cuisine, the amazing six-volume set of books from Nathan Myhrvold and the Cooking Lab that came out in 2011. And some of you may recall my (archivist/blogger Kira here!) enthusiastic post last year when we finally acquired the set. On Wednesday, as I was writing the post on finding materials in Special Collections, Modernist Cuisine at Home appeared on my desk. And I was like a kid in a proverbial candy store all over again!
Modernist Cuisine at Home is a two-volume set that’s a little more practical for the home cook. It contains lots of new content. From the website, “[t]he authors have collected in this 456-page volume all the essential information that any cook needs to stock a modern kitchen, to master Modernist techniques, and to make hundreds of stunning recipes.” (You can see more photos on the book’s website here.)
Yes, this is a cookbook. Yes, it is a modern cookbook that forces us to think about food in creative and , if you ask me, exciting new ways. But it is also a book that turns food and cooking into a home art. The time and effort that the Cooking Lab put into photographing and capturing kitchen processes will force any home cook to pause. Because, let’s face it, haven’t you wondered what your microwave, blender, pressure cooker, or siphon might look like if you sliced the back of it off and exposed its inner workings? (Or is that just me?)
Oh, and for those of you who are worried about keeping a book this nice in the kitchen, the creators have thought of that, too. Volume two of this set is a waterproof kitchen manual with complete instructions for all the recipes. So feel free to make a mess. I know I will.
If you’re interested and can manage to pry Modernist Cuisine at Home from my hands, I encourage you to come by and see it, as well as the 2011 set. There will certainly be something to surprise you…