Hey, Wanna Trade? (Cards): Oysters, Baking Powder, Beef Tea, and More!

As our unofficial “Ephemera Month” comes to a close, I, as usual, over did it. I planned to scan a few trade cards (other than some of the one we’ve featured previously here and here and here). The next thing I knew, I was scanning almost an entire folder of trade cards in the Culinary Ephemera Collection, with visions of uploading them to our digital platform in the near future. So, there went the morning. There were only a few in the folder, but many, many more waiting to be added to the collection from some recent acquisitions–and I didn’t have time to start on the cache of Arm & Hammer/Dwight & Church birds! Here are a few examples:

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Clearly, trade cards are used to sell anything and everything! These examples include food products and (patent) medicines, but others in our collection are from Metropolitan Life Insurance Company,  baby food companies, stove companies, and we even have a series from a Chicago-based canned meat company that feature quotes and illustrations from Shakespeare (more those another day). Many, like the Quaker Oats, came in collectible series–we have two of the twelve. A number of the ones we recently discovered here were signed or contain notes indicating something of their provenance, like the Craighill’s Compound Syrup of Sarsaparilla one, which reads “Pearl Burks from her Teacher 1897.” Like books and manuscripts, even these little ephemeral pieces of paper can have a story and raise questions. Did a teacher reward students with these or was this particular student a collector and the teacher knew that?

It’s hard to pick a favorite from the few above, let alone the whole folder, and trade cards will stand out to people for different reasons. There’s something that will catch your attention with most, whether it’s the illustration, the product, the testimonials, or the advertising techniques. However, certainly ONE of my favorites is the tiny, folding piece from the Liebig Company, with its elegant cover image, convenient calendar, and well-placed add for extract (good for “beef tea soups and gravies”).

I’ll post an update when I get all the cards into Special Collections Online. But, in the meantime, you’re always welcome to come and flip through our trade cards and ephemera in person! No doubt you’ll find something to make you smile or wonder.

Women’s History Month Profile, Part 6: Lily Haxworth Wallace

Our second profile for Women’s History Month is Lily Haxworth Wallace. Unfortunately, biographical information on Wallace is limited. (A bit surprising, considering both how prolific she was and her connection to at least one major company, but some people remain a mystery!) We know she was born in England and that she trained at the National Training School of Cookery in London, before moving to the United States around 1900. She quickly became connected to the Rumford Company and over the course of her career, authored, edited, and compiled pamphlets and cookbooks sponsored by and featuring Rumford products, as well as a number of general cookbooks.

We have nearly 30 of her publications in our collection here at Virginia Tech, published between 1908 and 1950. Along with the many editions of The Rumford Cook BookThe Rumford Complete Cook Book, and The Revised Rumford Cook Book, we also have:

  • The Modern Cook Book and Household Recipes, 1912, edited and revised by Wallace
  • Rumford Home Recipes, 1913 with Fannie Farmer and Mildred Maddocks
  • Recipes for Biscuits, Muffins, Rolls, etc., between 1920 and 1940
  • Rumford Fruit Recipes, 1927
  • Rumford Common Sense Cook Book, c.1930s
  • The Women’s World Cook Book, c.1931
  • The Lily Wallace New American Cook Book, c.1943
  • The American Family Cook Book, 1950
  • Our Culinary Pamphlet Collection (Ms2011-022) also contains a number of items by Wallace relating to the Rumford Company

Five editions of The Rumford Cook Book (1908, 1918, 1925, 1926, and 1927) are available online through Virginia Tech. You can find other editions of Wallace’s books and pamphlets online through a variety of resources, too. As you can see from some of our examples above, some of them contain wonderful full color covers and illustrations. Wallace successfully aligned herself with a company in a way that both helped her make a name for herself, while not allowing it to limit her to publishing certain kinds of books and recipes.