Date: Wednesday February 22
Time: 3:30 to 4:30 PM
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Rubenstein Library 153 Optional Facebook RSVP
Dr. Judy Foster Davis of Eastern Michigan University’s College of Business will present on her research into the history of African-American women who have worked in the advertising industry. She has recently published a new book on this topic, Pioneering African-American Women in the Advertising Business, Biographies of MAD Black WOMEN. Her research focuses on marketing communications strategies and policies in corporate and entrepreneurial settings and historical and multicultural marketing topics. This event is part of the Hartman Center’s 25th Anniversary lecture series focusing on women in advertising and is co-sponsored by the Baldwin Scholars and African & African American Studies.
On January 6, we invited our colleagues across the Duke University Libraries to come to the Rubenstein Library and explore our collections. Of course they (and anyone else) are welcome to come do research at anytime, but sometimes it’s fun to bring some conviviality to our reading room. Check out what our colleagues looked at – they have such good taste!
Winston Atkins – Preservation Officer
I used the Frank Clyde Brown Papers, General Editors’ Papers Series. In the process of editing Brown’s massive collection of North Carolina folklore for publication, the two associate editors who focused on ballads and folk songs chose not to publish about 25 percent of the collection’s music. I’m curious about the characteristics that led them to exclude a song. Naturally, they would want to omit songs that were under copyright, but even so, ambiguity existed. In 1954, one of the associate editors, A. P. Hudson, sent the Duke University Press the first of five checks for $50 to reimburse them for a reprint fee paid to Shapiro, Bernstein, & Co., a music publishing house. Hudson’s recently-published volumes had included songs that had begun as folk songs but unhappily, versions of these songs were under copyright. “I simply did not believe that any one would object to our publishing, without music, the somewhat garbled traditional texts of a lot of pieces that began as all folk songs do.” No word on whether the Press accepted the check.
Amy McDonald – Assistant University Archivist
I spent a little of my research time browsing through a curious scrapbook in the papers of Braxton Craven (considered Duke’s second president, he led the institution from 1842 to 1863 and then from 1866 to 1882). It contains sentimental and moralizing love stories clipped from newspapers and magazines. Many of the stories are accompanied by handwritten summaries of their key lessons; you can see examples of these words to live by on the Rubenstein’s Tumblr.
I’m not entirely certain who kept the scrapbook (Braxton Craven himself? A family member?)—but lest you think that this guy doesn’t look susceptible to this sort of story, let me remind you that one of his claims to fame is as the author of “Naomi Wise: Or, The Wrongs of a Beautiful Girl,” the story of a Randolph County, NC murder that became the basis for the oldest known American murder ballad.
Research-a-palooza time was nearly up when I came to a story with a truly great title (photo at right). I didn’t get a chance to read it (saving something for the next research-a-palooza!), but I’m sure Amy’s revenge was suitably epic.
Hannah Rozear – Librarian for Instructional Services
During Rubenstein Library’s Research-a-Palooza I looked at 1930s issues of a student literary magazine called, The Archive. I chose this item because I knew that a student activist and leader of Duke’s American Student Union, Sheldon Harte ‘37, was an editor for The Archive and I was curious to see what kinds of essays he’d contributed. I did find a piece of his he wrote called, “Red is Symbolic of Kay,” – which was a really interesting find because it’s a short allegory that Sheldon wrote about communism. After graduating from Duke, Sheldon moved to Mexico City where he became a bodyguard for Trotsky and, tragically, was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by enemies of Trotsky in the summer of 1940 (see Duke magazine article for details).
Megan O’Connell – Research Services Assistant, Rubenstein Library
Having been around during the tail end of the Cold War amid national fears of nuclear attack, I was curious to see how these concerns had been addressed on college campuses such as Duke. Duke’s Fallout Preparedness Committee worked in the 1960s to evaluate the readiness of the University and community for a nuclear attack, assess existing infrastructure, build fallout-shelter infrastructure, and establish plans for emergency actions. From their reports, I learned that the Perkins library building is a superior shelter due to our sub-basements and thick stone walls; that early plans detailing which faculty and staff would shelter in the library neglected to include the Library staff (!); and that people sheltering for extended periods were to be offered sedatives and shuffleboard.
Kelly Wooten – Research Services and Collection Development Librarian, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History & Culture
I requested the Sarah Bowdich Lee manuscript on African history and geography from the 1830s to take a look since I had come across it in the catalog by chance. We have a collection of digitized women’s travel diaries, so I was curious about whether it might be a fit for that. In reviewing it, I felt empathy for undergraduates and other researchers who struggle with cursive writing—it was legible but difficult to skim. Though it is intended as scientific and based on observations, the colonialist tone towards the people and cultures she encountered in Africa were apparent from page one.
After setting the Lee manuscript aside, I poached a box of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazines from the shelf on hold for my colleague Kate Collins who will be leading a class on Mystery Fiction. I am a huge fan of shows like Murder, She Wrote and book series like the Dublin Murder Squad by Tana French, so I couldn’t resist. The covers were all pulp style illustrations, so I ended up browsing through the entire box rather than settling on a Dashiell Hammett short story to read.
Aaron Welborn – Director of Communications If Research-a-Palooza was a contest, Aaron definitely would have won. He and his wife looked at more than 10 books and archival collections. Here some of highlights from what they saw:
I had just finished reading Ryszard Kapuściński’s Travels with Herodotus, a beautiful, meditative book about his many decades as a foreign correspondent for the Polish Press Agency. Throughout his travels, Kapuściński took along a copy of Herodotus’s Histories, and he interweaves his own stories of covering political coups, civil wars, and repressive regimes with interludes from the 5th-century BC historian. The stories in that ancient text become a kind of lens through which to see the ongoing, seemingly eternal struggle of East vs. West, as well as the craft of writing history. The history of the ancient world has been passed down to us in bits and fragments, and it’s amazing that any of it survived. So I wanted to lay my eyes on one of those fragments and see it up close and in person. It was really cool.
Andrew Jackson Papers from the Harry L. and Mary K. Dalton Collection
There have been a lot of comparisons in the press lately between Andrew Jackson and Donald Trump. Some people have this romantic vision of Jackson as an “American lion” who had an almost mystical connection with the masses and who bent the arc of history to his will. But it’s also worth remembering that Jackson was a genocidal demagogue with an unwavering commitment to slavery. The papers in this collection contain interesting glimpses of relations between the U.S. government and the Creeks, Cherokee, and Seminoles, who Jackson ultimately expelled from their own lands in one of the most shameful episodes of American history. Plus ça change…
Various Whitmaniana, including his corrected versions of “Songs of Myself” and two locks of his hair.
I’ve always heard about our Whitman stuff, but I’ve never actually taken the time to look at any of it. There is SO MUCH to peruse! His handwritten corrections to “Song of Myself” are fascinating in particular and reveal a messy, restless mind that was always revising, always trying out new turns of phrase. On one page, you can see where a drop of blood stained the paper, and Whitman has pointed to it and written “Inspiration!” As for the hair, I just wanted to see it because I could.
This is the first post in a series entitled Dreamers & Dissenters, in which we will highlight Rubenstein Library collections that document the work of activists and social justice organizations. In this series we hope to lend our voices, and those of the people whose collections we preserve, to the reinvigorated spirit of activism across the United States and beyond.
On Saturday, January 21st, 2017 massive demonstrations took place in over 670 cities in the United States and throughout the world in one of the largest displays of global protest in modern history. A tweet by Kera Lovell about a week before the Marches caught the attention of the Bingham Center. Lovell, an American Studies scholar at Purdue University, drew a connection between a Huffington Post article about the posters being created for the upcoming Women’s March on Washington and the imagery of the women’s movement of the 1960s and 1970s captured in the Sallie Bingham Center’s digital collection, Women’s Liberation Movement Print Culture. The collection includes documentation of the protest of the 1968 Miss America Pageant, the first major U.S. women’s movement protest to attract national media attention. The protest was also the beginning of the woman symbol-with-fist image, which was drawn by co-organizer Robin Morgan for the occasion. Morgan was inspired in part by the Black Power movement’s clenched black fist that emerged in the late 1960s—as well as the Columbia University demonstrations at the same time—suggesting synergies between the movements.
Lovell’s comparison took on even greater significance when Saturday, January 21st arrived, as demonstrations unfolded in every U.S. state and on every continent. A striking pattern emerged in both handmade and professionally printed signs across the globe. The woman symbol-with-fist popped up on signs, shirts, buttons, and more in far-flung marches from Raleigh, NC to Washington, DC to Los Angeles, CA and beyond. Organizations and websites such as CBC/Radio-Canada even offered DIY sign templates featuring glittering variations of the symbol to take to the marches. A symbol that debuted for around 400 women in 1968 was now being seen and shared by millions of women, men, and children in what might be the single largest day of demonstration in United States history, according to Erica Chenoweth, professor of international relations at the University of Denver.
What inspired these protesters? The organizers of the 2017 Women’s March on Washington declared that its mission was to “stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families – recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.” Their website offers the list of “Unity Principles” that guided the March, including ending violence and upholding reproductive rights, LGBTQIA rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, disability rights, immigrant rights, and environmental justice. More than 500 organizations and groups from all over the country joined the March.
Institutions across the country have rushed to document and analyze the marches, from preserving abandoned protest signs to creating programs exploring the movements emerging from the marches. The Sallie Bingham Center, home of the Robin Morgan Papers and the now-even-more iconic woman symbol-with-fist, remains dedicated to documenting and providing access to women throughout history, from those who marched for women’s rights in Atlantic City in 1968 to those who marched throughout the world on January 21, 2107.
On Monday, February 6th at 11:45 a.m., the Forum for Scholars and Publics at Duke will host “Women’s March: The Long View,” a wide-ranging panel discussion with Duke University scholars Laura Micham, Jocelyn Olcott, Deondra Rose, and Ara Wilson. The panel will discuss the place of the event within longer histories of feminist organizing, the cultural and symbolic politics at play in the march, its broader political and policy implications, and the possible futures of the movement. Optional Facebook RSVP.
In March 2017, the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library will welcome Carlos Sandoval as the fourth Barbaralee Diamonstein-Spielvogel Visiting Filmmaker. Named in honor of Dr. Diamonstein-Spielvogel, a prolific author, interviewer, curator, and champion of the arts, this program provides an opportunity for internationally recognized filmmakers to interact with students and the public through a variety of programming including lectures, conversations, screenings.
Carlos Sandoval’s films include The State of Arizona (with Catherine Tambini, Independent Lens 2014, Emmy Nomination, CINE Golden Eagle), A Class Apart (with Peter Miller, American Experience 2009, Imagen Award, optioned by Eva Longoria) and Farmingville (with Catherine Tambini, P.O.V. 2004, Sundance Special Jury Prize).
A writer and sometime lawyer, Sandoval’s essays have appeared in several publications, including The New York Times. Sandoval worked on immigration and refugee affairs as a member of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, and as a program officer for The Century Foundation. He is a Sundance and MacArthur Fellow and an advisor for Firelight Media. Sandoval is currently Co-Executive Director of Next Generation Leadership, a professional development diversity fellowship funded by The Corporation for Public Broadcasting and produced by WGBH and The Partnership, Inc. Of Mexican American and Puerto Rican descent, Sandoval grew up in Southern California and is a graduate of Harvard College and of the University of Chicago School of Law.
Sandoval will be in residence at Duke March 2 & 3. During this time, Sandoval will meet with scholars, students and staff.
Strong People: SNCC and the Southwest Georgia Movement
Saturday, February 4, 2017
Great Hall, North Carolina Central University School of Law
Please join us for a conversation with five veterans of the Civil Rights Movement in Southwest Georgia. In 1961, field secretaries from the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Commitee (SNCC) came to Albany, GA to begin orgainzing around voting rights. Born in Southwest, Georgia, Janie Cuthbert Rambeau, Annette Jones White and Shirley Sherrod joined SNCC’s work and helped build what became an ongoing and locally-sustained movement for justice. Together with northern SNCC staff, Faith Holseart and Larry Rubin, these young activist played a critical role in SNCC’s organizing efforts in the Southwest Georgia region. Participants in this panel will discuss each of their experiences in the Movement and reflect on what made the movemnt in Southwest Georgia so strong. Charlie Cobb, a fellow SNCC organizer, will facilitate the conversation.
Post contributed by Thomas Gillan, the Josiah Charles Trent Intern in the History of Medicine Collections.
Given its designation as the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, you might assume, correctly, that the library’s History of Medicine Collections consist primarily of books and manuscripts, but did you know that they also boast a large collection of historical medical instruments and artifacts? Some of these objects are reassuringly familiar. Others, however, can seem somewhat more baffling.
Take, for instance, the objects identified in the collection guide as “Perkins’s tractors.” At first glance, they are often mistaken for horseshoe nails. Historian James Delbourgo, who has written extensively about these so-called tractors, notes that they “were disarmingly simple things. A set consisted of two three-inch metallic rods made of brass and iron, and they sold for twenty-five continental dollars in North America, five guineas in Britain.” According to Delbourgo, their very simplicity was what made the tractors so appealing. At a time when doctors regularly resorted to such “heroic” measures as bleeding, blistering, vomiting, and purging, Perkins’s tractors offered a painless alternative, one that was less invasive but no less controversial.
The man behind these seemingly strange instruments was one Elisha Perkins of Connecticut. Born in 1741, Perkins received his medical training from his father, a physician in Norwich, before establishing his own practice in Plainfield. There, in the course of his practice, Perkins “discovered that, by drawing over the parts [of the body] affected in particular directions certain instruments which he formed from metallic substances into certain shapes, he could remove . . . most kinds of painful topical affections, which came under his care and observation.”
Perkins, it turns out, was quite the salesman. In 1796, he patented his tractors. Thereafter, Perkins and his son took to promoting them. Together, they published a series of pamphlets touting the tractors’ efficacy. These pamphlets invariably included testimonials from satisfied clients. Prominent among them were Jedidiah Morse, a Congregational minister; John Marshall, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court; and Josiah Meigs, professor of natural philosophy at Yale. Even George Washington himself is reputed to have owned a set.
Like other novel medical therapies, such as Galvanism and Mesmerism, Perkins’s were the subject of much popular attention, not all of it positive. Most regular physicians were skeptical of Perkins’s claims, so much so that in May of 1797, the Connecticut Medical Society expelled Perkins on grounds of quackery. Still other physicians sought to make sense of the tractors’ mysterious workings.
One such account can be found among the Benjamin Waterhouse papers. In a letter dated February 1, 1802, Abijah Richardson, a physician in Medway, Massachusetts, wrote to Benjamin Waterhouse, then a professor of medicine at Harvard, relating “an account of a Young Lady’s Case, who was relieved of a painful disorder by the use of a Metelic tractor.” In 1796, Richardson explained, he had been “called in to see Miss P.T. about eighteen years of age” who for several years “had been subjected to fits of the head-ach.” Having heard of Perkins’s tractors “being efficacious in relieving painful disorders,” Richardson decided to put the tractors to the test.
Without access, however, to a real set of tractors—he apparently did not have a set of his own—Richardson offered up “an artificial magnet which I supposed was of similar efficacy with the points.” After obtaining his patient’s consent, Richardson proceeded to draw “light parallel strokes from the temple & forehead above the right eye down to her neck & top of her shoulder.” Richardson here followed the method laid out by Perkins himself of “drawing the Points of the Tractors over the Parts affected, and continuing them along on the Skin to a considerable Distance from the Complaint, usually towards the Extremities.” Richardson went on to recount how, in the course of her treatment, his patient’s pain, following the strokes of the tractors, “gradually abated & left her.” From this, Richardson “was led to suppose that the tractors relieved pain by attracting & conveying heat from the pained part.”
In 1800, John Haygarth, a physician in Bath, England, published the results of an experiment that cast doubt on the tractors’ efficacy. In 1799, having “contrived two wooden Tractors of nearly the same shape as the metallick, and paints to resemble them in colour,” Haygarth set out to test whether these “fictitious tractors” could produce the same effect as “the true metalliack Tractors of Perkins.”
Much to his surprise, both sets of tractors “were employed exactly in like manner, and with similar effects,” leading Haygarth to conclude that the “whole effect undoubtedly depends upon the impression which can be made upon the patient’s Imagination.” Haygarth’s experiment was one of the first documented demonstrations of what later came to be known as the placebo effect.
Despite their critics, Perkins’s tractors continued to be commercially successful, even after the death of their inventor in 1799. They even went on to become the subject of a poem satirizing the medical profession.
To explore these and other items from the History of Medicine Artifacts Collection, check out the collection guide, which contains descriptions and images for many of the items. Also, stop by the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room at the Rubenstein Library to see a rotating selection of items from the collection on permanent exhibit.
 James Delbourgo, A Most Amazing Scene of Wonders: Electricity and Enlightenment in Early America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2006), 240.
Post contributed by Liz Adams, Special Collections Cataloger.
At the end of 2016, we bid a fond farewell to a long-gestating project at the Rubenstein: the Aldine Press metadata project, a deep dive into our holdings printed by the famous Aldine Press during the Hand-Press Era.
Started by Aldo Manuzio (also known as Aldus Manutius) during the dawn of the printing press and continued by his relatives for over 100 years, the Aldine Press is renowned for its editions of Greek and Latin classics and dictionaries; its dolphin and anchor printer’s device; and its creation of italic font, allowing us to appropriately emphasize our language for 500+ years. Today, we celebrate the 500th anniversary of Aldo’s death and attend sessions at conferences highlighting the continued relevance of a press that has long ceased production.1
It’s thus not entirely hyperbolic to describe the Aldine Press as one of themost significant, the most studied presses of all time. (How’s that for italics?) And prior to mid-2016, we didn’t know the exact number of Aldine Press books the Rubenstein held. Moreover, our catalog records often didn’t have more granular information about which Manuzio worked on which text and where additional resources about a specific title could be found.
Our Aldine Press metadata project therefore sought to 1) collocate all of our Aldine Press records through our catalog and 2) supplement our existing records, providing additional access points for specific Manuzio family members and citing published descriptions of the works we hold.
All this took a bit of finessing over the course of several months. My colleague Andy Armacost first created a truly magnificent Boolean search, which allowed us to search our back-end database to get the exact number we owned:
Held by: Special Collections
Publishing Date: 1450-1600
Keywords = Aldine OR Alde OR Aldi OR Aldus OR Aldo OR Aldvs OR Aldum OR Aldvm OR Aldina OR Manutius OR Manuzio OR Manvtivm OR Manuties OR Manvtio OR Manutianis OR Manvtii
Using these bibliographies, Mike added citation numbers and authorized access points for individual printers when known, including the elder and younger Aldo Manuzios, and Paulo Manuzio, to my original spreadsheet.
Finally, we were ready to create an artificial collection name for our 165 Aldine Press titles and to add a lot of metadata to our existing records in batches:
All 165 titles can now be found by searching Aldine Press Collection (David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library) in our catalog.
You can also search by authors, including Paulo Manuzio and Manuzio family.
In the “Details” section of a title, you will find citations for bibliographies referencing that specific title.
We’re all very excited about these changes, as they allow us to help our researchers locate material much more efficiently!
Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.
You might be surprised to learn that advertising agencies have a long history of recruiting female employees. Compared to other corporate fields, ad agencies developed fairly progressive attitudes towards women’s employment as early as the late nineteenth century. At that time, women wrote advice manuals for those seeking to build professional careers. One such book, Occupations for Women (1897), contains an entire chapter on advertising. That chapter notes: “A business field which women are exploring with success is that of advertising […] So clever have women proven themselves in this special line, that hardly a manufacturer having goods toward which he wishes to attract attention, fails to avail himself of their availability.” Encouraged by the descriptions in these manuals, women entered into clerical work at ad agencies. Some of them earned promotions, becoming copywriters or market researchers, among other advanced positions. Irene Sickel Sims was one such pioneering woman who we’ve already profiled in The Devil’s Tale. She worked as an assistant advertising manager and chief of copy for the retail advertising bureau of Marshall Field’s Department Store in Chicago in the 1910s and 1920s.
Agencies understood that female advertisers and diverse perspectives were key for successfully marketing to women consumers who made the vast majority of household purchases. According to a 1917 “house ad” created by the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT), the company had recently “developed a staff of women” to target the large demographic of female buyers. The ad goes on to note that “over a period of years, this staff has illustrated that women, thoroughly trained in advertising, working with men, can establish facts which cannot be even approximated by men working alone.” Those women recruits, hailing from some of the most prestigious universities in the country, created highly successful advertising campaigns for JWT clients. Although some women were able to enter into the field of advertising in roles beyond that of a typist or executive assistant, the majority of employees in executive roles remained white men. It was not until the post-WWII period that significant numbers of women and people of color began taking on positions as ad executives.
In the post-WWII period, women published fictionalized works encouraging girls to consider advertising as a potential career. E. Evalyn Grumbine, for example, wrote two novels that tell the story of a young woman who achieves career success in the field: Patsy Succeeds in Advertising (1944) and Patsy Breaks into Advertising (1946). In writing Patsy’s character, Grumbine drew upon her own professional experiences as the advertising director and assistant publisher of Child Life Magazine.
Grumbine’s aim was to provide young women with a realistic portrayal of the professional and personal life of a career woman. In Patsy Breaks into Advertising, for example, the main character’s professional journey is marred by setbacks. Over the course of her burgeoning career, she deals with missed job opportunities, personality conflicts with work colleagues, and an inability to meet deadlines. Yet, she shows resilience and learns key skills like how to handle copy and cuts for production that enable her to eventually earn a position as an advertising manager. Patsy Breaks into Advertising, therefore, is much more than a career guide, it is also a commentary on the American work ethic at that time.
Advertising was one of many professional fields that juvenile literature highlighted in order to encourage industriousness in young women. Other fictional characters included librarians, realtors, nurses, doctors, and stewardesses. The Rubenstein has numerous books in our collections that illuminate societal views on career advancement for young women in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
You can learn more about JWT, career books, and the role of women in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Date: Thursday, January 12, 2017 Time: 2:00-4:00 PM Location: Gothic Reading Room, Rubenstein Library, Duke West Campus (map) Contact: Valerie Gillispie, firstname.lastname@example.org
The Duke University Archives and the Facilities Management Department invite you to visit the Gothic Reading Room on Thursday, January 12th and see some of the original drawings, blueprints, and plans of Duke’s campus.
Chief designer Julian Abele of the Horace Trumbauer firm has recently been recognized at Duke with the naming of the main quad, and the open house will allow visitors to examine the details of the plans and admire the vision that Abele brought to his work.
This event will be an open house, and visitors are welcome to drop in any time. This event is being held in collaboration with the Duke University Dr. Martin L. King, Jr. Commemoration Committee.
Post contributed by Valerie Gillispie, University Archivist.
Post contributed by Ashley Rose Young, a Ph.D. candidate in History at Duke University and the Business History Graduate Intern at the Hartman Center.
One of the Duke Libraries’ most popular blog series is the Rubenstein Test Kitchen. For this series, we invite library staff and affiliated scholars to recreate historic recipes, some of which delight and some of which cause fright (wiggly meat jell-o, believe it or not, isn’t as appealing as it once was to the American consumer). Our contributors exercise a fair amount of creativity and patience as they replicate decades- or even centuries-old recipes. Their trials and tribulations at the stovetop are indicative of the culinary skills and know-how that can belost in translation. For example, many historic gumbo recipes begin with the phrase, “First you make a roux,” but do not provide instructions for how to actually make the roux. The creators of those recipes assumed that readers would have mastered the challenging technique of slowly toasting flour in fat, which, in the 1800s was common knowledge. Many Americans today, however, would not know how to start a roux or even know that it is a traditional base for sauces and soups. Recipe writing and replication are no easy tasks.
Reflecting on our popular posts, a question came to mind: where did test kitchens originate? After co-curating our most recent exhibit, “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue, I learned that the early history of test kitchens is actually tied to advertising agencies.
In 1919, the J. Walter Thompson Company (JWT) was the first advertising agency to invest in an on-site home economics service and test kitchen. The initial purpose of the kitchen, according to the JWT News Bulletin, was simple: “to invent and test recipes” in order to instruct women “how to get the best results with the greatest economy.” The kitchen was located in the Chicago office, which catered to important clients in the food industry, including Libby, Kraft, and Quaker.
As the test kitchen matured, its goals diversified to fit the demands of JWT clients. Researchers in the test kitchen, for example, worked to discover new uses for client products so as to increase sales opportunities in new fields. The test kitchen also had an important relationship with the art department at JWT. Researchers prepared dishes and brought them to the art team to be photographed for print advertisements. Those early experiments regularly failed because the food quickly lost its luster and thus looked unappetizing in photos. After an hour or so, for example, flaky biscuits and airy souffle no longer looked fresh. In order to remedy this issue, JWT employed home economics experts and renovated the test kitchen space, turning it into an “art gallery” for prepared foods. JWT understood the importance of the adage, “we eat with our eyes first.” The efforts of JWT paid off. As recounted in the News Bulletin, “The piping hot biscuits of the copy were made ten times as attractive by the delicate flakiness of the samples in the illustration.”
In this laboratory, test kitchen staff also created recipes to include in print advertisements. For example, they would have tested Libby’s products like Hawaiian Sliced Pineapple and Pineapple Juice before the agency designed advertisements for publication in magazines like The Ladies’ Home Journal.
In time, the test kitchens of JWT not only functioned as places to present foods more effectively in advertising, but also as places that defined the trajectory of American cooking. As reported in the September 1958 JWT newsletter, the Home Economics Center was “an endless source of food ideas of all kinds.” As a promotion for their client, French’s mustard, JWT created a new recipe for meatloaf that featured a tangy mustard meringue on top of a mustard-laced loaf. The researchers also created a recipe for a heartier pizza crust made with French’s mustard. These innovative uses for ordinary products helped boost sales for many of JWT’s clients, bolstering the company’s reputation as one of the most dynamic and influential advertising agencies in the world.
As we ready ourselves for the next round of Rubenstein Test Kitchen posts, I hope that our contributors think back on the paramount role that test kitchen researchers played in the making of the modern American palate, including the fascinating recipes preserved in our archives.
You can learn more about the JWT test kitchen researchers and their contemporaries in advertising via the “Agencies Prefer Men!” The Women of Madison Avenue exhibit, open through March 17, 2017 in the Mary Duke Biddle Room at the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University