Post contributed by Rachel Ingold, Curator for the History of Medicine Collections.
The history of vaccine hesitancy is nothing new. Pamphlets, magazines, and newspapers from the eighteenth through twenty-first centuries feature opposing views of vaccination. Some profess personal liberty and abhor government intervention (i.e. instituting compulsory vaccination); or claim that potential side effects from vaccines are too risky. Others stress that public health and the well-being of communities against preventable, lethal diseases, should prevail through large-scale, or even mandatory, vaccinations.
Post contributed by Roger Pena, MLIS Student at UNC Greensboro and Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Intern
“There may come to me fresh blooming flowers, but I’ll love the faded bud best.
For it slept one night in the moonlight, on the sod upon his breast.”
– Winifred Cobb, widow of Benjamin. F. Cobb
I am a little over a month into my internship at the History of Medicine Collections at the Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library. In my short time working in the collection, I’ve been able to handle incunabula (books printed prior to 1501), surgical tools dating back to the 16th century, and a wide range of artifacts preserving the history of medicine, health issues, biomedical science, and disease in a global context.
A library science degree with a focus in special collections is a career change from my decade of experience working in K-12 education. Being a history teacher for most of my career I had always been interested in battlefield medicine, especially throughout American history and the Civil War(1861-1865).
For most people with an interest in Civil War history, the treatment of wounded and injured soldiers is of particular interest. A search of the History of Medicine artifacts collection will lead you to several surgical and amputation saws donated to the Rubenstein Library. As I mentioned previously, one of the surgical saws dates back to the 16th century and could require two people to operate while the collection also houses an amputation saw from the late 1890s.
Another surgical saw is titled: “Amputation set, early to mid-19th century”. The set is made up of at least 8 different pieces including a large surgical saw, a tourniquet with leather paddings to make the procedure more “comfortable” and four large knives that more resemble a modern set of kitchen knives than ones used to amputate a soldier’s limb. The set comes in a wooden box with a brass plate and an engraving with initials: B.F.C. Its contents were purchased through S. Maw and Son – a medical supply company operating out of London and featured prominently on the saw and knife handles. The wooden set was donated through the Alphonsus Cobb Collection, son of Benjamin Franklin Cobb.
The youngest son of Benjamin F. and Winifred Cobb, Alphonsus moved to the city of Durham around the turn of the 20th century. Throughout his time in Durham, Alphonsus would serve as a hotel manager and local businessman in real estate and insurance until his death in 1935. A look through collection control files revealed a folder with a detailed history of the Cobb family, historical columns written in local newspapers, and a poem written by Winifred, Benjamin’s widow, on the day of his burial. Not much survives of his record in the Confederate Army nor is there much information about Alphonsus, except for information about his business history in Durham.
Dr. Josiah C. Trent, whose original collection of medical books, manuscripts and artifacts helped to establish the History of Medicine Collections, hoped to create a collection that celebrated and studied the history of surgery. No doubt an artifact such as an amputation saw from the Civil War era would be a good fit for the collection.
The battlefields of the American Civil War saw nearly 60,000 amputations, roughly 75% of all surgeries performed in the conflict. Used as a method to prevent disease and infections such as gangrene, survival could depend on factors such as the location of the wound and when treatment was administered. Though rudimentary by today’s standards, amputations during the Civil War were “sophisticated” procedures conducted with patients under anesthesia (chloroform or ether) and “one of the quickest, most effective ways for surgeons to treat as many patients as possible.” Still, the harsh conditions of performing surgeries in the battlefield hospitals led to the reputation of surgeons and doctors acting more like “butchers” and soldiers fearing the short and long-term ramifications of an amputation.
Our saw’s owner, Benjamin F. Cobb was born into a slave owning family (1830 Census) in Wayne County, NC in January, 1826 and completed his medical training at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia in 1847. The 1850s would see Dr. B.F. Cobb in a general medical practice with a focus on obstetrics in Duplin Co., NC. In April of 1862, a year into the Civil War, Dr. Cobb was commissioned as a surgeon in the Provisional Confederate Army and would serve across the state of North Carolina until the end of the Civil War. Dr. Cobb was stationed as a Confederate Surgeon in Goldsboro, Fort Anderson, Smithville, Penders Hospital, and Fort Caswell until his capture in March 1865 and eventual loyalty oath in May of 1865. One can only wonder whether the “Amputation set” in the History of Medicine Collections was present as Dr. Cobb attended to wounded soldiers.
Today, the amputation set owned by Benjamin F. Cobb and donated by Alphonsus to Duke University serves as a hands-on teaching tool for students at Duke University in learning the ways that surgery has evolved over the last few centuries. When opening the finished and well designed wooden box holding the amputation saw and accompanying instruments, it’s easy to step back in history and imagine a world where physicians grappled with decisions regarding the need for an amputation and the thousands of soldiers whose lives were forever changed by the war and surgical procedure.
Post contributed by Kaylee P. Alexander, Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern 2020-2021.
Bumper stickers, a MAGA hat, a Hillary Clinton nutcracker, ads for Dick Nixon jewelry, and a Barry Goldwater beer can are just some of the relics of past presidential campaigns to be found in the over thirty boxes of the Kenneth Hubbard Collection of Presidential Campaign Ephemera at the Rubenstein Library. Gimmicky, kitschy and teeming with bad puns, objects such as these have become somewhat ubiquitous in American campaign culture, and the Hubbard Collection covers nearly every presidential campaign that took place between 1828 and 2016. Representing Republicans and Democrats—both winners and losers—as well as candidates running with the U.S. Socialist and Prohibitionist parties, the Hubbard collection provides interesting material and visual cultural insights in the history of American elections by demonstrating a wide range of strategies for advertising and showing support for would-be U.S. presidents.
Going through these boxes over the past month, I was not shocked to find what seemed like an endless supply of buttons, pins and ribbons. Nor was I very surprised to find objects such as that Hillary nutcracker, or the Bill Clinton tie that was kept in the box alongside it; these ridiculous artifacts seemed somewhat logical to me, having seen the bizarre assortment of collectibles—from bobble heads and action figures to, most recently, facemasks—for candidates who have run in my lifetime. No matter how many objects or documents I came across in the collection, however, I couldn’t stop thinking about the first folder I had pulled: a folder containing just one postcard, with a donkey illustration and twine tail. “Pull for Your Candidate,” the postcard instructed, and, in an oddly amusing sort of way, a portrait of William Jennings Bryan (1860–1925) emerged above the donkey as you pulled on its tail. I couldn’t help but chuckle.
Printed by the Elite Post Card Company of Kansas City, Missouri, the verso provided space for you to compose your own message and address the card to whomever you wanted to send it to. Designed for the 1908 presidential election, in which Bryan faced off against Theodore Roosevelt’s Secretary of War, William H. Taft in a “battle of the Bills,” the postcard provided an attention-grabbing method of advocating for one’s presidential pick, not unlike today’s letter writing campaigns, or even contemporary social media activity urging folks to get out and vote.
A proponent of a progressive income tax and stronger antitrust laws, Bryan was hailed “The great Commoner.” 1908 would be the third and final time that Bryan, formerly Nebraska’s 1st District Representative, would run for president. Unfortunately, it would also be his biggest defeat, earning just 162 electoral votes to Taft’s 321. With Taft’s defeat after one term by New Jersey Governor Woodrow Wilson, Bryan would serve as Secretary of State from 1913 to 1915. Despite his presidential losses, however, Bryan is still considered to be one of the most influential, albeit somewhat controversial, politicians of the Progressive Era.
A bit of digging revealed that a Republican version of the 1908 postcard, featuring an elephant in place of the donkey, had also been produced for Taft, an example of which can be found in the Dr. Allen B. and Helen S. Shopmaker American Political Collection of the St. Louis Mercantile Library Art Museum at the University of Missouri-St. Louis. With both of these postcards available to potential voters, one would have been able to literally and figuratively pull for their candidate and motivate others to do so as well.
So, with a few days to go before Election Day, be sure to take a lesson from the Elite Postcard Company and pull for your candidate. Every vote matters.
Joseph Hick was a Yorkshire confectioner. In 1803, he had opened his first confectionery in partnership with Richard Kilner. In 1822, Kilner dissolved the partnership, leaving sole ownership to Hick, who relocated the business to 47 Coney Street. Hick operated his own confectionary until his death in 1860, when his estate and confectionery were left to his three children. Hick’s youngest daughter was Mary Ann Craven, the wife of Thomas Craven whose confectionery at 19 High Ousegate had been in operation since 1840. When Thomas died in 1862, Mary Ann was left in control of both confectioneries, which she merged and renamed M.A. Craven. In 1881, her son, Joseph William, joined the firm and the company was renamed M.A. Craven & Son.
With its thick black border, Hick’s advertisement mimics the design of early obituaries while inclusion of the elegy, “Prepare to Die,” hints towards the tradition of funeral cards. It is most likely, however, that the advertisement was intended to provide the reader with a sample design of what they might expect to encounter on the paper wrapper of Hick’s funeral biscuits.
In nineteenth-century England—particularly in Yorkshire and Lancashire—it was customary to send funeral biscuits to the family and friends of the recently deceased. These confections would often be served with wine to funeral guests, and the wrappers, which frequently bore the name of the deceased, became souvenirs for those who had been in attendance. While the collecting of funeral tokens, from gloves to spoons, was commonplace well before the nineteenth century, the distribution and collection of funeral biscuit wrappers seems to most closely anticipate—in design, materials, and text—contemporary practices surrounding funeral cards.
The custom has typically been seen as a relic of Antique practices in which funerary banquets and offerings of wine and cakes for the dead were standard commemorative practices. The English tradition has also been likened to the Welsh practice of sin-eating, in which a designated sin-eater would consume a ritual meal, passed to him over the coffin, in order to absorb the sins of the deceased.
An 1896 text on English customs describes the use of funeral biscuits as follows:
At a funeral near Market Drayton in 1893, the body was brought downstairs, a short service was performed, and then glasses of wine and funeral biscuits were handed to each bearer across the coffin. The clergyman, who had lately come from Pembrokeshire, remarked that he was sorry to see that pagan custom still observed, and that he had put an end to it in his former cure. […] At Padiham wine and funeral biscuits are always given before the funeral, and the clergyman is always expected to go to the house, and hold a service before the funeral party goes to church. Arval bread is eat at funerals at Accrington, and there the guests are expected to put one shilling on the plate used for handing round the funeral biscuits. (Ditchfield, 202-203)
This tradition was not limited to the British Isles. Variants could also be found in other countries of Northern Europe, and was carried to the American colonies in the seventeenth century by the English and Dutch settlers. Here, the life of the funeral cookie lasted through the nineteenth century, before crumbling in the twentieth. The tradition lives one, however, in the passing out of funeral cards that, like the packing of the funeral biscuit, function as mementos of the deceased.
Though the original recipe(s) for funeral biscuits seem to have been lost to time, some have suggested that ginger or molasses cookies would have been the go-to flavors in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So, if you’re, like me, interested in resurrecting this uncanny confection, check out these historical and contemporary recipes!
Paul Chrystal, Confectionery in Yorkshire Through Time (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2009).
Margaret Coffin, Death in Early America: The History and Folklore of Customs and Superstitions of Early Medicine, Funerals, Burials, and Mourning (New York: Elsevier/Nelson Books, 1976).
H. Ditchfield. Old English Customs Extant at the Present Time: An Account of Local Observances, Festival Customs, and Ancient Ceremonies yet Surviving in Great Britain (London: George Redway, 1896).
Robin M. Jensen, “Dining with the Dead: From the Mensa to the Altar in Christian Late Antiquity,” in Commemorating the Dead: Texts and Artifacts in Context, Studies of Roman, Jewish, and Christian Burials, eds. Laurie Brink and Deborah Green (New York: Walter de Gruyter, 2008)
Summer Strevens, The Birth of The Chocolate City: Life in Georgian York (Gloucestershire: Amberley Publishing, 2014).
Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian
There’s no denying it: artifacts are more fun when they come with sharp blades! And, in the History of Medicine Collections, we have a lot of sharp things! From giant amputation saws (for your less precise cutting needs) to more modern surgical kits, it’s a wonder we still have all of our fingers!
Not all of our blades are for such extreme procedures as amputations. We have many examples of smaller (but no less sharp) cutting tools intended for the once-popular procedure of bloodletting. Intended to balance the body’s humors and restore a patient to health, bloodletting was a standard medical procedure for centuries. Used to cure a range of ailments, bloodletting could involve draining a patient of large quantities of blood. Benjamin Rush, prominent physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, recommended bloodletting as a treatment during the 1793 yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia. [The Benjamin and Julia Stockton Rush papers, which document Rush’s medical work, have been digitized and are available online.]
If, for some reason, you needed to bleed someone, you could choose from a number of tools in our collection like three-bladed fleams, lancets with tortoiseshell handles, and scarificators with as many as sixteen blades. We even have bleeding bowls to keep all of that blood from dripping onto your carpet. [Disclaimer: As appealing as it may sound, the Rubenstein Library does not recommend bloodletting. We recommend getting your medical advice from a medical professional and not a library blog.]
The many-bladed scarificator is an interesting device and we have several examples in our collection. Designed to create multiple cuts simultaneously, the narrow and quickly-delivered punctures produced by the scarificator made it a (supposedly) less painful bloodletting technique.
To use the scarificator, a doctor would retract the blades and cock them into position using the lever seen in the images above. The device would then be placed blade-side down on a patient’s arm and the button used to release the blades into the skin. [For an excellent demonstration, see this video from the Mütter Museum.]
The frustrating thing about the scarificator is that the inner workings are hidden. What’s going on in that little brass box? As you might imagine, we prefer that people not pry apart our artifacts to find out. Luckily, other items in the History of Medicine Collections can fill in details about the design of medical instruments as well as the thought process behind the design.
A patent is one way to learn more and we hold a patent granted to George Tiemann in 1834 for a scarificator. The patent is an impressive document: it is signed by President Andrew Jackson and includes several hand drawn images of Tiemann’s device along with Tiemann’s very detailed description of how the device works and is constructed.
This is only a quick look at George Tiemann’s patent and we encourage further research into scarificators and other medical instruments (we have over 800 and many have been described and photographed). Maybe, if you are handy type of person, you could try to recreate Tiemann’s design!
Post contributed by Leah Tams, Pan Am CLIR Grant Intern
With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent implementation of travel restrictions, social distancing, and quarantines, one of the industries being significantly affected is the airline industry. How airlines and the larger travel industry will recover from current events remains to be seen, but we can look back at the history of Pan American Airways (Pan Am) to see how they introduced innovations in order to overcome contemporary challenges and appeal to American travelers.
A couple of Pan Am’s earlier innovations (late 1940s to early 1950s) in passenger service between the continental U.S. and other places—predominantly Hawaii, the Caribbean, and Europe—was the introduction of “Sleeperette Service” and “Club Lounges” on Boeing 377 flights (more popularly known as Pan Am’s Stratocruisers, specifically “The President” or “El Presidente” service). Pan Am’s Sleeperette Service featured large, comfortable armchair seats during the daylight portion of a flight, and at night the seats converted to bed-length compartments, complete with curtains for passenger privacy. Also available on Boeing 377 flights was Pan Am’s “Club Lounge,” which was located on the lower deck of the airplane. The Club Lounge was an informal place where passengers could congregate, socialize, and order “anything from a demi-tasse to a tall cold one.” In an era where airline travel still remained far more time-consuming and uncomfortable than it is today, these innovations from Pan Am were instrumental in creating comfortable environments and positive experiences for its passengers.
Before and after the flight, Pan Am endeavored to make flying as convenient as possible for its customers. One way in which they tried to accomplish this was with the construction of the Pan Am Terminal, later renamed the Worldport, at JFK Airport. The terminal had a large, saucer-like roof that extended far beyond the building and allowed aircraft to be parked underneath it. The impetus behind this design was to bring the plane to the passenger, thus creating proximity and convenience for Pan Am’s travelers.
Another innovation that Pan Am introduced to make travel more convenient was its helicopter flights. In 1965 they partnered with New York Airways to provide helicopter service between the Pan Am Building (now the MetLife Building) in Manhattan and JFK Airport in Queens. Later, Newark Airport was also added to this rotation. Despite the convenience that the helicopter service added for some passengers, Pan Am stopped these flights in the late 1970s after a series of fatal crashes on the route.
In the 1980s, Pan Am debuted its WorldExpress program, which allowed their passengers to bypass the hassles that came with connecting flights. Pan Am advertised WorldExpress as “One Ticket. One Check-In. One Baggage Claim. To The World,” and they made sure that connecting flights for their passengers were “just steps away, not terminals away.” Pan Am’s WorldExpress program thus strove to make airline travel as easy and convenient as possible for its passengers by eliminating some of the logistical barriers that continue to make travel difficult today.
After creating good airline experiences, of course, came the actual vacation or occasion for travel. While we would probably all agree that the post-flight experience is completely out of airlines’ hands, in the 1970s Pan Am decided to team up with an insurance agency and guarantee its passengers a pleasant post-flight experience. In 1971 Pan Am introduced the “Weatherproof Vacation,” which it accomplished through a partnership with the American Home Insurance Company. For an “attractive” premium, Pan Am’s passengers could purchase Vacation Weather Insurance. This insurance plan ensured that if Pan Am’s passengers experienced rain or otherwise adverse weather on their vacations, they could receive a portion of their expenditures back. With its global reach well established by the 1970s, the assurance of a pleasant vacation was an innovative way for Pan Am to ensure that its passengers’ positive experience extended beyond that of the flight.
Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian and Rachel Ingold, Curator, History of Medicine Collections.
Philadelphia in 1793. New York in 1795. Gloucestershire in 1798. London in 1854. Crimean Peninsula in 1855.
This may seem like an unrelated list of places and dates, but each represents a particular moment in the history of our fight against infectious disease. From the earliest days of epidemiology to the experiments that launched our vaccinated world, these moments continue to resonate today. While most of us have more immediate concerns – from job security to our own physical and mental health – it is worth considering the roots of now-common disease maps or the idea of “social distancing” to slow infection rates.
The Rubenstein Library’s History of Medicine Collections has material related to the history of epidemics, pandemics, and infectious disease. Below you’ll find a sample of sources from us as well as resources from other institutions.
Yellow Fever, 1790s
When yellow fever struck Philadelphia in 1793, nearly a tenth of the city’s population perished during the outbreak. Physicians struggled to understand how the disease spread and struggled to effectively treat the growing number of ill Philadelphians. One physician, Benjamin Rush, wrote to his wife throughout the outbreak and their letters offer a look at life during an epidemic.
Other American cities were not immune to yellow fever and New York City saw an outbreak in 1795. Local physician Valentine Seamen, trying to locate the source of the disease, collected information about each case and created an early disease map using this data.
Seaman, despite his efforts, did not correctly identify the cause of yellow fever. He did note the presence of mosquitoes, but concluded that the accumulated filth near the city’s docks were to blame. Seaman’s case data, maps, and his analysis were published in The Medical Repository. The Rubenstein Library has a copy and a digitized version can be accessed through HathiTrust.
Cholera, London, 1854
A later attempt to trace the source of a contagion through mapping was more successful. John Snow suspected that contaminated water was to blame for a cholera outbreak in London. Snow investigated each case and noted which water pump the infected individual used. He marked the cases on a map published in the 1855 edition of On the mode of communication of cholera.
Fortunately, Snow was right about the source of cholera. His data was convincing enough to have the water pump at the center of the outbreak disabled. The Rubenstein Library holds a rare copy of On the mode of communication of cholera (shown above).
Decades before John Snow’s map, Edward Jenner investigated smallpox, a widespread and dangerous disease in the eighteenth century. Jenner created an early vaccine using material taken from a fresh cowpox lesion after observing that cowpox infection prevented subsequent smallpox infection. Jenner shared his discovery in An Inquiry into the causes and effects of the variolae vaccinae (1798). The library holds a copy of this book containing surprisingly lovely illustrations of infected arms. The library also holds a small collection of Edward Jenner’s papers that include letters discussing vaccination and a diary containing vaccination records.
Camp Diseases, Crimean Peninsula, 1854-1855
As a nurse during the Crimean War, Florence Nightingale saw large numbers of soldiers die from diseases like cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, and typhus. Linking these deaths to poor sanitation, Nightingale worked to clean up military camps while also collecting data about the impact of disease on British soldiers.
In Mortality of the British Army (1858), Nightingale’s data is used to create visualizations that illustrate the poor camp conditions and make the case for sanitation reform. One visualization stands out as we practice “social distancing.” The image below compares the population densities in various locations and notes the amount of space per person. Densities in military camps, where disease was widespread, were noticeably higher than even places like urban London where people had more distance from their neighbors.
From our colleagues at other institutions, you can find other excellent resources on this topic:
Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics is a digital collection of sources from Harvard libraries. As their site explains, the goal is to provide historical context to current epidemiology and contribute to the understanding of the global, social-history, and public policy implications of disease. Materials include digitized books, manuscripts, pamphlets, and more. The site is organized around momentous historical outbreaks such as the 1793 Yellow Fever epidemic in Philadelphia and the 1918 Influenza outbreak in North America.
The National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health also have a number of resources, such as health information guides from past pandemics. The National Library of Medicine hosts the Global Health Events web archive, a resource that has archived selected websites from 2014 around major global health events such as Ebola and Zika. The collection includes both websites and social media with the goal of offering a diverse and global perspective ranging from government and NGOs to healthcare workers and journalists.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of resources related to infectious disease and the attempts to stop its spread. If you want to explore more of these materials in the Rubenstein or find additional online resources, our “Guide to Researching Epidemics in the Rubenstein” is a good place to get started.
We encourage you to visit us when we reopen to the public! In the meantime, get in touch and let us know if you have questions!
Post contributed by Josh Larkin Rowley, Reference Archivist for the John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History
If—like myself—you’re unaffiliated with the Communist Party, you’re no doubt mourning the absence of America’s Pastime today: baseball. Today, March 26th, would have been Opening Day of the Major League Baseball season, replete with a slate of coast-to-coast televised games lasting nearly twelve hours. To satiate some of the angst that I’m feeling, I decided to honor today by taking a tour through some baseball-related material in our incredible digital collections repository. It’s not the same as hearing the crack of a bat, the slap of a ball hitting leather, or a wiener with a cold beer. But in these difficult times, it will have to suffice.
I love this artist’s rendering of a painted sign advertising the new Astrodome and the very commanding copy that accompanies it. Completed in 1965 and home to the Houston Astros until 1999, the Astrodome was considered an architectural marvel and the “eighth wonder of the world.” One major design flaw, though: how does one keep grass alive in a domed structure?
I’ve never wanted to be with an imaginary family more than this one right now, sitting in front of a 12-inch staticky, black-and-white television. And when the ballgame’s over, Pops can put on some Time Life Swing Era compilation records and fire up the grill.
And I can almost smell the Cracker Jack when I look at these old photographs of Connie Mack Stadium in Philadelphia, home to the Philadelphia Phillies until 1970. I can also smell the cigarette smoke from 25,000 men in trench coats and fedoras with newspapers tucked beneath their arms. Those were the days…
Finally, this post wouldn’t be complete without a photograph of two members of the Women’s Athletic Association, a group of Duke Woman’s College students that planned, organized, and hosted sporting events on campus such as tennis tournaments, bowling leagues, and ping-pong. And yes, they played baseball too!
If you’re interested in checking out more baseball stuff in our outstanding digital collections—broadsides, tobacco cards, billboards, photos of Duke players and more, just click here to peruse.
Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian.
A few days ago, I went searching (in the catalog) for the perfect Thanksgiving-related item and came across a folder titled “Turkey Test, 1951-1952” in the papers of Theodore “Ted” Minah. What kind of test could Minah, the Director of Duke University Dining Halls from 1946 to 1974, be conducting on turkeys? Was it a taste test or some sort of “mystery meat” challenge? Was he investigating the sleep-inducing properties of turkey meat? Was he out to prove that turkeys really are as dumb as they are rumored to be?
Sadly (for us), Minah was a practical fellow and it was none of those things. Minah, who worked hard to provide quality food at the lowest price to the university, wanted to know if turkey could be a cost effective meat option for campus dining halls. The test was part of an effort by the National Turkey Federation (NTF), an organization representing turkey farmers and processors, to better market the turkey and get more turkey on more American tables. (The NTF is also the organization that provides turkeys for the annual White House turkey pardon.)
Duke, along with dining offices at other schools, participated in a 1951 study to determine how much edible meat a cooked turkey yielded and how much a single serving of turkey would cost. Led by Food Production Manager Majorie Knapp, Duke cooked several whole turkeys and took detailed measurements before and after cooking. Duke’s test used Broad Breasted Bronze turkeys from Sampson County, North Carolina which, according to Minah, “is a delicious eating turkey.”
According to the results of the Duke test, turkey would cost around $1.50 per pound of cooked meat and around $0.20 per serving. In her summary, Knapp noted that the price for chicken was cheaper at $1.37 per pound. A serving of chicken would be a few cents cheaper than turkey.
The test results were submitted and later included in NTF marketing materials designed to get turkey on the menu at places like schools, hotels, and hospitals. In addition to the study results and Ted Minah’s correspondence about the study, the “Turkey Test” folder also includes a few of these industry publications.
The booklets and brochures, with catchy titles like “Carving the Turkey for Portion Control and Greater Profit” and “Pre-Cut Turkeys for Institutional Use,” mostly contain recipes and instructions for properly cooking a turkey. The recipes were certainly creative. Creamed Turkey in Pastry Tart, Turkey Salad Roll, and Turkey Chow Mein on Chinese Noodles (to name just a few) were suggested as “profit-making turkey dishes.”
If you are desperately seeking things to do with all of those turkey leftovers, the NTF has your back. You could make a Jellied Turkey Salad, put some gibblets on toast, or impress your guests with jellied turkey feet. They even provide tips on what to do with the carcass!
The Ted Minah materials include one more turkey item worth mentioning. He was sent a booklet of photos showing turkeys frolicking on a farm. It includes a photo of a turkey that doesn’t seem particularly pleased to have his photo taken for the purposes of marketing his own deliciousness as food.
If your uncle brings up politics at Thanksgiving dinner, just turn the conversation toward the fun facts you learned in this blog post and then you can all bond over your love of jellied turkey feet.
Post contributed by [Matthew] Farrell, Digital Records Archivist.
I last wrote about harvesting Twitter for the archives way back in April 2016. Toward the end of that post I expressed our ambivalence toward access, essentially being caught between what Twitter allows us to do, what is technologically possible, and (most importantly) our ethical obligations to the creators of the content. Projects like Documenting the Now were just starting their work to develop community ethical and technological best practices in social media harvesting. For these reasons, we halted work on the collecting we had done for the University Archives, monitoring the technological and community landscape for further development.
February 2019 saw the 50th Anniversary of the Allen Building Takeover, when a number of Duke students occupied the Allen Building to bring attention to the needs of African-American students and workers on campus (here is a much better primer on the takeover). There were a number of events on campus to commemorate the takeover on campus, both in the Rubenstein Library and elsewhere. As is de rigueur for academic events these days, organizers decided on an official hashtag, which users could use to tweet comments and reactions. Like we did in 2016, we harvested the tweets associated with the hashtag. Unlike 2016, community practice has evolved enough to point to a path forward to contextualizing and providing access to the harvested tweets. We also took the time to update the collection we harvested in 2016 in order to have the Twitter data consistent.
In terms of technology, we use twarc a tool and Python library created by DocNow, to harvest and process Twitter content. Twarc interacts with the Twitter API and produces output files in JSON format. The image here is an example of JSON, which is clearly not human readable, but is perfect for machine processing as a data set.
But twarc also allows the user to work with the JSON in different ways. Some of these are obviously useful–e.g., you can create a basic HTML version of the data set.
Those funky characters are because twarc has a hard time encoding emoji. These web comics (here and here) are not full explanations, but point to some of the issues present. If you take nothing else from this, observe that you can somewhat effectively obscure the archival record if you communicate solely in emoji.
Finally, for our ability to offer access in a way that both satisfies Twitter’s Terms of Service and Developer Agreement, twarc allows us deyhdrate a data set and respect the wishes of the creator of a given tweet. “Dehydration” refers to creating a copy of the data set that removes all of the content except for Twitter’s unique identifier for a tweet. This results in a list of Tweet IDs that an end user may rehydrate into a complete data set later. Importantly, any attempt to rehydrate the data set (using twarc or another tool), queries Twitter and only returns results of tweets that are still public. If a user tweeted something and subsequently deleted it, or made their account private, that tweet would be removed from rehydrated data set even if the tweet was originally collected.
What does this all mean for our collections in the University Archives? First, we can make a dehydrated set of Twitter data available online. Second, we can make a hydrated set of Twitter data available in our reading room, with the caveat that we will filter out deleted or private content from the set before a patron accesses it. Offering access in this way is something of a compromise: we are unable to gain proactive consent from every Twitter user whose tweets may end up in our collections nor is it possible to fully anonymize a data set. Instead we remove material that was subsequently deleted or made private, thereby only offering access to what is currently publicly available. That ability, coupled with our narrow scope (we’re harvesting content on selected topics related to the Duke community in observance of Twitter’s API guidelines), allows us to collect materials relevant to Duke while observing community best practices.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University