Chickens, Cattle, and Cultivation

A while back, I hinted to the fact that we here at Special Collections were working on another collection of ephemera, constructed from  various purchases made and donations received since last year. I didn’t want to actually create a finding aid for the collection until I had at least a few items to go on, so I kept stock-piling pieces in my office. Last week, though, the Agricultural Ephemera Collection (Ms2015-053) became a reality! You can read the guide for the collection online. This collection came about for a couple of reasons. First, we were acquiring small pieces relating to aspects of farming, agriculture, livestock that weren’t necessarily connected to each other directly. Second, we are making a conscious effort to gather materials relating to food technology and production, which we’re thinking about as the agricultural, commercial, and scientific lives of foods and how these processes have evolved over time, and the system in which we as humans interact with those processes.

For now, this collection is organized around four main subject areas: agriculture, farming, livestock, and poultry & fowl. As we add new materials, these major topics may expand, or we may add new sub-topics to the existing ones. Below are examples from each, just to give you an idea of what we’re starting to collect for researchers and scholars!

First up, there’s color advertisement for Springfield Buckeye rakes. This is a small folded pamphlet (which is shown unfolded here) with both pictures and a short description of the products.

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Springfield Buckeye Rake advertisement (front)
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Springfield Buckeye Rake advertisement (back)

Next, we have one page (of two) from a blank order sheet. Created by and representing the Pomona Hill Nurseries in Greensboro, NC, this was a way for farmers to order plants, trees, and other items.

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Blank order form for Pomona Hill Nurseries, Greensboro, NC

The Mason Produce Co.’s name may be a bit misleading, or at least limited–they sold a whole lot more than grocery goods (which are only a small part of what’s on this Thanksgiving flyer). They even sold bear, terrapin, and animal furs!

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Mason Produce Co. advertisement and price list for poultry and poultry products, game, and more (1911)!

Last up is a piece with a local collection: a small cardboard advertisement for Dickinson Dairy Feed. The product itself came from elsewhere, but this particular advertising card promotes a place in Marion that sold it.

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Dickinson Dairy Feed advertisement from Marion, Virginia

Right now, the collection is small, but like some of our other ephemera-full collections, I expect it will grow quickly! At any rate, you’re always welcome to visit and see what we have relating to agriculture, culinary history, and food culture!

Gelatin, Seeds, and Advertising History

A couple of weeks ago, one of my colleagues in the library showed up on my doorstep with an old advertisement. She picked it up, thinking I would want it for the culinary collection–as, of course, I did. After all, it featured one of my favorite obsessions and frequent blog topic: gelatin.  Today, however, I won’t be subjecting you, dear Readers, to a list of terrifying recipes or a series of taunts at this wiggly food I just can’t bring myself to eat. Rather, I thought I would take an opportunity to write a post about following a trail and where it could lead someone. But first, Jell-O!

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This ad comes from 1921. Jell-O had, at that time, already been a commercially made product for 22 years (since it’s developer sold it to the Genesee Pure Foods Company). The original four flavors (strawberry, raspberry, lemon, and orange) were joined by cherry and peach, rounding out the six flavors advertised. Interestingly, during the 1910s and 1920s, Genesee Pure Foods Company flirted with a chocolate flavored gelatin (not a pudding or mousse mix), but it didn’t seem to have the popularity of fruit flavors and it was gone by 1927. By 1921, though, Jell-O was a household name in convenience, efficiency, and eating. For over 20 years, the company had been advertising in innovative ways, like giving away free little recipe booklets to tempt shoppers to try something new at home.

Anyway, back to our meandering: This ad came to me in a plastic sleeve of sorts, nestled against a piece of cardboard for support. After taking in the full-color image itself, a perfect Jell-O dessert set against a vase of flowers, I found myself, as usual, overly elated about a piece of ephemera. It wasn’t until later I noticed that the dessert is even shown in a ray of sunlight! We have lots of Jell-O booklets starting as early as the 1900s, but we didn’t yet have a large size (8″ x 11.75″) like this one. It was a bit of an odd size: not quite right for a magazine, too large and lacking in fold lines to have been in a package, and not a standard paper sheet. “Is there anything on the back?” I asked my colleague-turned-donor. She didn’t know, but we were going to find out. It turns out, there was–and one that explained a bit more:

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As it turns out, this Jell-O ad had been neatly cut away from the back of a seed catalog, apparently as a collectible item. While the booklets are common collectibles and while the idea of cutting items out of other items isn’t new, I hadn’t quite seen it in action in this way. At times in our history, for example, people would excise pages from illuminated manuscripts to sell off piecemeal–but Jell-O ads?

Anyway, following the trail: The seed catalog, as you can see, was for one Stark Bro’s. nursery. Stark Bro’s, like Jell-O, is a company not unheard of here in Special Collections. In fact, they are responsible for one of my favorite items on our shelves, which I’ve written about before. Although this particular page shows mostly flowers and a couple of tomatoes, Stark Bro’s were equally well-known for fruit trees–making this catalog a great venue for a product in which people were experimenting with, well, embedding fruit. This brings us to an important consideration for advertising: knowing your product(s) and knowing your audience. You don’t always see advertisements for non-seed catalog products in seed catalogs. But, if you’re going to bring in outsiders, make it something that matches up!

So, the point of all this is that individual items, even a single advertisement from the back of a long-gone seed catalog, can be of use and can lead us somewhere. In this case, it might be interesting to pursue how long the advertising relationship existed between these two companies, how fruitful (pun intended) it might have been, and how direct the link between the development of fruit-filled gelatin recipes and these kinds of advertising relationships. Or one could pursue a more-single sided topic, like how the Jell-O advertising changed over time (the artwork, the methods, the partners. etc.)

This particular advertisement will be joining the Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-002) along with the myriad of other Jell-O and other gelatin booklets. Just in case it piques your interest…

Preserving the Ephemeral (The Tasty, Odd, Ephemeral)

I seem to have inadvertently turned April into “Food Ephemera Month” on the blog, so why mess with a good thing? We have an entire box of culinary ephemera, another of cocktail ephemera, and we’re starting a collection of agricultural ephemera. You can’t say we don’t have folders to choose from! So, this week, it’s a mini round-up of some small, unique, even quirky pieces of advertising history that have survived well beyond their years and purpose. These are all newer pieces, on their way to being added into the Culinary Ephemera Collection (Ms2013-028)

We’ll start with dessert, because who doesn’t want dessert first!

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This is a 1946 bag from a drumstick ice cream cone (which is still a classic today). (It’s clean, I promise–we’re not inviting bugs into the archives!) The packaging may have changed over time, but the contents are still the same: a cone of vanilla ice cream with chocolate and peanuts. Mmmm!

Next up, a little something Virginia-based!

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…And no, I’m not really sure what “bacon squares” are, but I’m open to the possibilities.

Baby food advertisements are common in the late 19th and early 20th century. They often featured happy-looking babies (shocking!) and testimonials. The front of this 1891 trade card from Mellin’s Food includes a color image. The back is a bit simple, but it does give us a little hint.

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This other baby food ad comes from Wells Richardson & Co. It does have a back side, but before we acquired it, it appears to have been mounted on cardboard or some other heavy paper. When it was removed, most of the paper to which is was glued came with it, so although there’s a great deal of text, the majority of it is obscured. But, that is one happy child in a giant food tin!

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We talk a lot about baking and baking products on the blog, so this small oval advertisement from the Royal Baking Powder Company seems like a fun item to share. It’s only a little over 3 inches in length and contains just a single recipe on the back. How anyone managed to save this without losing it is a mystery!

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Last up is something particularly odd. Although the majority of the ephemera that’s been featured on the blog before is paper-based and 2-D, that isn’t always the case. (We have some great new cocktail ephemera which are really more like artifacts on the horizon!). Some of them have, well, a little something extra, like this item from Town Talk bread.

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Yes, that does say “Lipstick tissues.” Here’s what the inside looks like:

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So every time you blot your lipstick, ladies, think of Town Talk bread!

I should also note that about 3 months ago, we discovered a treasure trove of trade cards in a drawer as we were moving some collections and many are food related! I’m still working through them and figuring out which collections they might join, but at some point in the future, there will be a post about the series with bird illustrations and probably more advertisements featuring angelic images of children. Until then, though, remember: While I’m not advocating for hoarding, sometimes even the things you think aren’t valuable can give you an interesting glimpse into culinary history!

A Tea, a Counter-top Ad, and a Dead President

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…

Garfield Tea table topper, Stillman Remedies Co., likely c. 1885.
Garfield Tea counter-top advertisement, Stillman Remedies Co., likely late 1880s (maybe 1885?).

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.

 

Burdock Blood Bitters

Burdock Blood Bitters! You try saying that three times fast while we work on introducing it. This week, we’re back to bitters. Not the ale and not the cocktail kind (though we’ve talked about how THIS kind of bitters led to the latter before), but the wondrous, magical, spectacular, patent medicine kind! (Have we sold you yet? No? Then read on…we have testimonials!)

So, the Burdock Blood Bitters Almanac and Key to Health isn’t conveniently numbered or given editions. But, given the holdings of other institutions and the existence of other copies, it appears to have been published by a company in the United States (Foster, Milburn & Co. of Buffalo, NY) and a company in Canada (T. Milburn & Co. of Toronto, Ont.). Publication dates vary, and it may have been issued in Canada first, where the earliest one appears in 1866. The earliest date I could find for a U.S. edition was 1882 for the 1883 calendar year. And the almanac was still going strong in 1934! Whatever was in Burdock Blood Bitters, it was doing something (or at least convincing people it was)! We don’t get a nice clean list of ingredients (this was well before the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906), but we are told that “B. B. B.” is a vegetable compound (pg. 2) and on page 10 (not pictured) that it “does not contain a particle of Mineral or hurtful drugs.” Vegetable compounds were not uncommon, made in the home or commercially, and we have talked about at one other producer of them before, Lydia Pinkham. Then there’s Charlie White-Moon, whose concoction was made of “roots & herbs.”

Despite the fact that patent medicines like this suggest they cure a lot of problems (hence the nickname “cure-alls”–though they often cured nothing), some companies might have admitted to limits, whether overtly or subtlety. Burdock Blood Bitters Almanac and Key to Health, for example, is loaded with testimonials and advertisements for not only itself, but other products, too. If you’ve been following us for a long time, you might recall our first post about patent medicines, back in 2012–“The Cure for What Ails You.” It featured a trade card for a product called Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil.

woman with fandescription of ailments cured

Although we still don’t know exactly how long “Dr. Thomas” (probably just a moniker and not a real person, as was sometimes the case) was in business, we know the product was sold from at least the late 19th century (and we can now confirm 1888) into the 1910s. So, imagine the exciting surprise of finding Burdock’s almanac advertising it, too!

Burdock Blood Bitters: Almanac and Key to Health, 1888. Dr. Thomas' Eclectric Oil advertisement.
Burdock Blood Bitters: Almanac and Key to Health, 1888. Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil advertisement.

And there are a few other full page ads for other products, including this one:

Burdock Blood Bitters: Almanac and Key to Health, 1888. Hanson's Magic Corn Salve advertisement.
Burdock Blood Bitters: Almanac and Key to Health, 1888. Hanson’s Magic Corn Salve advertisement.

While there may be a little bit of overlap between what Burdock Blood Bitter and Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil claim to cure, it isn’t much. And Hanson’s Magic Corn Salve is right out of both their wheelhouses. So, it’s fair to guess, if someone will buy one product to fix a laundry list of problems, they might be willing to buy some others. It’s good advertising…and good business.

Interested in other Burdock advertisements? At least one other edition of Burdock Blood Bitters Almanac and Key to Health, from the Canadian publisher in 1913, is available online through the Internet Archive. East Carolina University has one of Burdock’s trade cards in their digital collection from about the same time as our almanac. I’ll try to get the entirety of our 1887 scanned and posted  in our digital platform, Special Collections Online. In the meantime, you can check out the nearly 200 publications and 6 manuscript collections in the History of Food & Drink Collection represented there.

February is Black History Month and I hope to have one or two posts this month on that theme, starting next week. Until then, remember to avoid all those B. B. B. imitators!

It’s All in the Cards…Trade Cards, That Is

Often, food (and other) companies, produced trade cards in sets. The idea was that they combined advertising (“Hey, here’s how you can use our product!”) and collecting (“Hey, get all the cards!”). Of course, it didn’t mean that everyone collected a full set or that a full set survived through time–hence the reason trade cards can be considered ephemera. This week, we’re lucky enough to have a full set of this particular group of trade cards to share with you, from Armour Packing Co., c.1900.

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First, there’s the obvious: what do a monkey and a parrot getting into a brawl have to do with canned meat? That sounds like the start of a joke, but sadly, I don’t actually see a connection myself. Still, it’s a memorable set of cards.

Second, there’s Armour Packing Co. of Kansas City, Missouri. If you spend too much time around culinary ephemera, certain names start to ring a bell. When I first saw this, I thought, “Oh, Armour & Company, purveyors of canned (and other) meat products!” As a matter of fact, Armour Packing Co., maker of our trade card set, is a different company.Armour and Company has a long history that’s well-documented. Armour Packing Co., on the other hand, is a bit more mysterious in this modern age. But that hasn’t stopped us before!

In 1862, Philip Danforth Armour was one of the founders of a company called Plankinton, Armour & Company. As you might guess his partner’s name was John Plankinton. After the Civil War, Plankinton, Armour & Company was able to expand beyond its Wisconsin origins and into other markets, including places like Kansas City, Missouri. In 1867, Philip and his two brothers would found Armour and Company, based in Chicago, which started out exclusively in the meat packing business. Several years later, in 1870, the Armour Packing Co. opened in Kansas City (and was open until at least the late 1930s). So, despite the fact that Plankinton, Armour & Company has business in the Kansas City area prior to 1867 and Armour & Company had business there after 1867, the two companies don’t appear to be directly related…

Still with me?

What that does suggest is that the two companies were in direct competition with each other. They shared a region of the country and railroad transportation was reaching new levels. So, the national market would have been open to both. There is a photograph of a train car decorated with the Armour Packing Co. logo and one from Armour & Company online, both from the first 15 years of the 20th century. The similar name could have been a benefit or a disadvantage, depending on how they used it. And, it could have caused some brand confusion, but there don’t appear to have been any lawsuits between them. If the two companies had started around the same time today, we might imagine a more litigious setting. Still, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, there was plenty of work in the meat packing, transporting, and selling business for everyone. Seriously. We’ll look at more of that history in the future. 🙂 Until then, may all your hotels, yachts, schools, and home pantries be full…of something other than canned meat.

Oh, and if you’d like to come in for a closer look, you’re always welcome. The Armor Packing Co. trade cards are located in our Culinary Ephemera Collection, which is chock full of surprises.

Producing Profits from Produce

In case it wasn’t obvious from the fact that last week’s post appeared in so timely a manner on a Wednesday as planned, this week should tip you off. Archivist/blogger Kira was and still is out of the office, but I planned two weeks ahead this time! (On a side note, while you’re reading this, I’m at a week-long academic seminar called “The Politics of American Foodways, 1765-1900,” sponsored by the American Antiquarian Society. You can assume I’m thoroughly enjoying being a food history geek this week.) Through the magic of the ability to schedule blog posts, our feature today is a fun publication from 1948:

HD9005M471948_FCTo be honest, there isn’t much to say on the particular history of this publication. Rather, it’s one of those instances where it’s just really neat to look at and get a sense of what merchandising was like in the mid-20th century.

This book is full of technicolor images, colorful displays, and lots of helpful advice for A&P store managers and employees. One page even has an illustrated check list, “Eight Checks to Help You Please Customers” concluding with a friendly reminder that “Smiles mean sales.”

The second half of the book covers the wide range of fruits and vegetables. Each page consists of a picture (most are in color, but a few more “exotic” items aren’t), background information on the origins of the produce, and how it should be stored, handled, and displayed. Some items have additional information, like how something is graded, what varieties it comes in, or how it can be used.

We hope you’re enjoying your summer and finding some great recipes and ingredient to accompany it. And remember, even if you’re on vacation, we’re not! You can always pay Special Collections a visit, whether you’re doing research, or just want to find that perfect picnic snack.