All posts by Kate Collins

Tracing “Miss Violet”

Contributed by Amelia Verkerk, Graduate Intern, Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture

This past fall the Sallie Bingham Center received a reference question from Dr. Elizabeth Harmon, American Women’s History Initiative Digital Curator at the Smithsonian Institution Archives about Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge. Dr. Harmon wanted to know more about Dandridge’s involvement with the women’s suffrage movement since Dandridge was employed as a scientific illustrator at the Smithsonian Institution in the early 1900s. In her research, she had not come across many other women employed at the Smithsonian who had also been active in the campaign for women’s right to vote. Within the Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers which comprise 64 boxes of correspondence, journals, sketches, photographs, and poems spanning across generations are archival materials relating to Violet’s life and her experiences with the suffrage movement and as a patient at a psychiatric hospital in Maryland around the same time.

Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge was born March 15, 1878, at her family home of “Rosebrake” in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, to parents Danske Bedinger Dandridge and Adam Stephen Dandridge. Violet grew up at Rosebrake with two younger siblings, Stephen Hawks and Dorothea Spotswood, until moving to D.C. at the age of 18 in 1896 to begin studying art. She returned to Rosebrake in 1897 after her younger brother unexpectedly died while attending the University of Virginia. Dorothea Spotswood also died at a young age from an unspecified illness in 1907.

Portrait of Serena Katherine “Miss Violet" Dandridge. She is standing wearing a tweet suit.
Serena Katherine “Miss Violet” Dandridge

By 1903, Violet had moved back to Washington, D.C. and began drawing marine and fauna wildlife for publication at the National Museum in the Smithsonian Institution. In 1914, her parents committed her to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital, one of the nation’s oldest psychiatric hospitals in Maryland, for bouts of “nervousness” and possibly an eating disorder. The superintendent of the hospital stated that they resorted to force feeding Violet as she did not “retain food well” and her weight was a concern. However, in a letter to her family two weeks later, Violet noted that the staff were “kind and helpful” and the food was “delicious,” but she was just too anxious to finish her meals because she was worried about her mother, Danske, who also had a history of mental illness and particularly struggled after the deaths of Violet’s two younger siblings. Danske passed away from suicide during one of Violet’s stays at the hospital, but the nature of her death was concealed from Violet by doctors and family members out of concern for her well-being.

Violet was involved in the movement for women’s suffrage, and by 1915, she was regularly making donations, attending local meetings, and subscribing to suffragist newspapers and magazines. Violet most likely became involved in women’s suffrage before her time at the hospital, as the superintendent in February of 1914 claimed that Violet “wishe[d] to die on account of man’s injustice to woman.” Violet also had a deep love and appreciation for the environment, being arrested twice when she was 52 years old for interfering with a company’s plan to cut down local trees. She found inspiration for her poems and her art in nature, particularly trees. Sometime after being released from the hospital, Violet moved back to her family home to raise sheep and live with her cousin, Nina Mitchell, both never marrying.

During the 1940s, Mary Katharine Kern, a graduate student at Duke University, contacted Violet to learn more about Danske Dandridge for her thesis on poets of the Shenandoah Valley in West Virginia. The acknowledgments of her thesis and correspondence from the curator at the time indicate that the library acquired the Dandridge Family Papers from Violet as a purchase. The library also acquired Violet’s cousin Nina Mitchell’s papers, which also hold traces of Violet’s story.  Violet died on November 7, 1956, at age 78 after returning to Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital for further treatment related to mental illness.

In the fall semester of 2019, we shared the letters sent from Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital as primary evidence of early twentieth century treatment of women with mental illness with students in Seth LeJacq’s Writing 101 course on Women and Western Medicine. These letters provided a poignant complement to this course’s analysis of texts like Charlotte Perkins Gilman book The Yellow Wall-paper. Violet’s papers are a unique portrait of women’s involvement in science and politics as well as personal experiences with mental illness in the early 1900s.

Sources:
Bedinger and Dandridge Family Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

W. E. B. DuBois in the Charles N. Hunter Papers

Post contributed by Lucy Dong, T’20,  Middlesworth Social Media and Outreach Fellow (2019-2020)

Back in February, I was busy combing the archives for cool stories and important figures in black history to share on our social media (follow us on Instagram!) That’s when Dr. Trudi Abel,  Research Services Archivist, tipped me off to an interesting find in the Charles N. Hunter Papers, 1850s-1932 , a black educator, journalist, and reformer from Raleigh, North Carolina. The Hunter papers are all digitized, so you can check them out even while the Rubenstein is closed.

Dr. Abel has taught a course called Digital Durham for many years, and she’s found that the Charles N. Hunter Papers are especially underutilized for what it reveals about education of black students in Durham. For example, in some of his correspondence, we get insight into the beginning days of what was called the Durham Colored Graded School. Later named the Whitted School after their principal Rev. James A. Whitted (Durham’s first black principal), the Durham Colored Graded School was created in response to the earlier Durham Graded School which gave only white students access to the modern graded model of teaching by age group.

Among letters to other educators, the nation’s first black congressmen, and more personal family matters, there’s a letter from prominent black scholar W. E. B Du Bois.  Du Bois and Booker T. Washington happened to visit Durham in the same year, both commenting on the rich culture and entrepreneurial spirit of its black community during Reconstruction. One primary symbol of that prosperity was North Carolina Mutual Insurance, created by black entrepreneurs to serve their community, which established (white) insurance companies refused to service. NC Mutual paved the way for a flourishing, though segregated, black business district.

Washington saw Durham as a great example of black people helping themselves out of poverty and saw segregation as a reasonable means to achieve “racial self-help and uplift.” Du Bois celebrated the success of Durham’s black community, but generally pushed harder to demand full civil rights. In this letter, Du Bois is seeking recommendations for someone to help him do some sociological studies on social improvement in black communities, especially pertaining to the South.

Front and back of handwritten letter from DuBois to Hunter. On letterhead from Atlanta University.

Can you make out all the words here? Dr. Abel regularly has her students do transcription projects to become familiar with reading older documents. The handwriting is not the easiest thing to read, but thanks to contextual clues and some corrections by Dr. Abel, I came up with the following:

Dr. A.B. Hunter, Dean Sir:

You have perhaps heard of the sociological studies of the Negro people which we are making here; we have already made a little inquiry with Negro health and dwellings and we want this year if possible to conduct a short investigation into the organizational efforts of Negro for social improvement. I enclose blanks[survey forms] indicating the scope of the questions. Is there anyone in your school who would be disposed to take charge of the inquiry for the city of Raleigh? I desire very much to have some reliable person interested in the matter to take hold of it and report to the conference. Due credit will of course be given. If you recommend someone kindly turn the blanks over to him and ask him to write me as to the number of each kind he will need. Thanking you in advance for the favor, I am

Very Truly Yours,
W. E. B DuBois

But wait, I thought these were the records of Charles N. Hunter, not A. B. Hunter. Were they related? Why was this piece of correspondence included in Charles N. Hunter’s personal records? A separate letter provides our missing link:

Handwritten letter from A.B. Hunter to Charles Hunter, on letterhead for St. Augustines School in Raleigh, NC.

My dear Mr. Hunter,

I enclose Prof. DuBois’ letter and have written him that you were hopefully most familiar with the societies he indicated in his letter. I hope you will be able to undertake the work. I regard his investigation as of very great importance. Will you kindly write him.

Very truly yours,
A.B. Hunter

Rev A. B. Hunter, Dean of St. Augustine’s School – now St. Augustine’s University, a historically black college in Raleigh – recommended Charles N. Hunter to help with Du Bois’ study. Quick searches into ancestry records and census documents did not indicate a familial connection.

Thanks to Dr. Abel for this fun experience piecing together the context and the connections between these three black educators. It was exciting to first interpret the handwritten letter, then search for the reason it was included in this collection and learn a little more about Durham’s past. Such are the small thrills of doing work in the archives–turning over fragile pieces of history to uncover things I didn’t know I didn’t know.

So Many Dates! : Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen

Post contributed by Lucy VanderKamp, Stacks Manager (Library Associate for Research Services)

Cover of Foods from Suny Lands, feautring a man in the foreground wearing a head covering and carrying a large basket of dates, behind him are two camels, a palm tree, and a boat on a canal.
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I came across this 1925 cookbook – Foods from Sunny Lands – and it struck a chord: I had just made a date and nut bar to keep me eating healthy snacks. It seems we may not be the only household requiring gummy bears to fill some sort of stay-at-home-related need for sugary, fruity, chewy wads (out of stock on Amazon!). Dates could be a good alternative!

As may be expected from an American cookbook from 1925, this book depicts people of color one-dimensionally and seems to romanticize and exoticize Middle Eastern culture and foods.

The authors also make many grandiose claims about health and diet. There are a couple statements that seem imminently modern, though! This from page 12: “If we were to reduce our quota of white bread, cane sugar, candy and often too generous meat ration… substituting more green vegetables and sun-ripened fruits… we should pay the doctor and dentist a great deal less.” Same story 100 years later!Page opening from the cookbook, it is illustrated with images of Middle Eastern workers loading crates onto or off of a boat. .

On to the recipes! I tried the three below thinking I’d only have to “cut small” pieces of dates one time. I also felt the need for muffins and two types of cookies – don’t ask me why.

Rich Date Muffins

Recipe for Rich Date Muffins

For the muffins, I opted to not use 4 teaspoons of baking powder. I bake muffins often and none of my recipes call for anywhere near this amount. Maybe there was something different about baking powder 100 years ago? I went with 2 teaspoons. Also, I added one mashed banana for some additional sweetness (2 tablespoons of sugar isn’t very much!). These turned out fine, a little doughy, not what I would call “rich,” but fine.

Photo of the interior of one of the date muffins

Date Crisps

Recipe for Date Crisps

The crisps turned out tasty but definitely not “crisp.” I even tried letting a few get very dark to see if they’d crisp up. They didn’t.

The dough was super hard to work with, too. I tried chilling it for 20 minutes to see if it’d be less wet but that didn’t really help. I added a ton of flour to keep it from sticking during the rolling out but I wasn’t able to get it very thin. Maybe ¼ inch. They also needed to cook about twice as long as the recipe said. Maybe because they were too thick? Oh and also, it’s hard to cut out rounds when there are chunks of dates in the cookies! But I might recommend these. Very sweet and a nice soft texture.

Collage showing a not-so crispy crisp on the left and eight crisps from above on the right, they look a little like chocolate chip cookies

 

Date and Nut Meringue

Date and Nut Meringue Recipe

And the meringues… these turned out good! I used ½ cup chopped dates as I didn’t know what “½ package” would’ve been. Also, I’ve made meringues a couple times and had usually left them to cool in the oven so I did that. I took them out after about 20-30 minutes in the turned-off oven.

Cooked meringues on parchment paper

A few things I learned as a result of this cookbook:

    1. This Hills Brothers Company (think cans of terrible coffee) created Dromedary Food Products in the early 1900s.
    2. Dromedary is the word for Arabian Camel.
    3. One of the main factors in the success of Dromedary Food Products was an effort to alter the American consumer’s view of “packaged food.” Prior to this, when fresh food was wrapped up in a package it was because it was damaged, unattractive, or slightly old. The advertising campaigns for Dromedary focused on the usefulness of varying sizes of packages and the freshness they provided.
    4. Dates were touted as a good source of “lime” on page 4 of this cookbook by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg – famous corn flakes inventor also known for his pro-Eugenics views and for running a tuberculosis sanitarium. Lime starvation was noted as a harbinger to or result of tuberculosis.

Back cover of the cookbook with an illustrated ad for Dromedary products including figs, coconut, and dates.

Announcing our 2020-2021 Travel Grant Recipients

1946 magazine advertisement for american airlinesThe Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is pleased to announce the recipients of the 2020-2021 travel grants. Our research centers annually award travel grants to students, scholars, and independent researches through a competitive application process. We extend a warm congratulations to this year’s awardees. We look forward to meeting and working with you!

Please note that due to widespread travel restrictions, the dates for completing travel during this grant cycle have been extended through December 2021.

Sallie Bingham Center for Women’s History and Culture (Mary Lily Research Grants):

Dena Aufseeser, Faculty, Department of Geography and Environmental Systems, University of Maryland, “Family Labor, Care, and Deservingness in the US.”

Elvis Bakaitis, Adjunct Reference Librarian, The Graduate Center, CUNY, “The Queer Legacy of Dyke Zines.”

Emily Larned, Faculty, Art and Art History, University of Connecticut, “The Efemmera Reissue Project.”

Sarah Heying, Ph.D. candidate, University of Mississippi, “An Examination of the Relationship Between Reproductive Politics and Southern Lesbian Literature Since 1970.”

Susana Sepulveda, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Arizona, “Travesando Chicana Punk”, an examination of Chicana punk identity formations through the production of cultural texts.

Tiana Wilson, Ph.D. candidate, University of Texas at Austin, “No Freedom Without All of Us: Recovering the Lasting Legacy of the Third World Women’s Alliance.”

John Hope Franklin Center for African and African American History and Culture:

Brandon Render, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Color-Blind University: Race and Higher Education in the Twentieth Century.”

Erin Runions, Faculty, Department of Religious Studies, Pomona College, “Religious Instruction of Slaves on Fallen Angels and Hell in the Antebellum Period.”

Katherine Burns, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Edinburgh, “‘Keep this Unwritten History:’ Mapping African American Family Histories in ‘Information Wanted’ Advertisements, 1880-1902.”

Leonne Hudson, Faculty, Department of History, Kent State University, “Black American in Mourning: Their Reactions to the Assassination of Abraham Lincoln.”

Matthew Gordon, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Georgia, “American Memory and Martin Luther King, 1968-1983.”

Michael LeMahieu, Faculty, Department of English, “Post ‘54: The Reconstruction of Civil War Memory in American Literature after Brown v. Board.”

Harry H. Harkins T’73 Travel Grants for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History:

Amanda Stafford, Ph.D. candidate, School of History, University of Leeds, “The Radical Press and the New Left in Georgia, 1968-1976.”

Caitlyn Parker, Ph.D. candidate, American Studies Department, Purdue University, “Lesbians Politically Organizing Against the Carceral State from 1970-2000.”

John W. Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History:

Andrew Wasserman, Independent Scholar, “The Public Art of Public Relations: Creating the New American City.”

Austin Porter, Faculty, Department of Art History and American Studies, Kenyon College, “Bankrolling Bombs: How Advertisers Helped Finance World War II.”

Elizabeth Zanoni, Faculty, Department of History, Old Dominion University, “Flight Fuel: A History of Airline Cuisine, 1945-1990.”

Hossain Shahriar, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Business Administration, School of Economics & Management, Lund University, “Gender Transgressive Advertising: A Multi-Sited Exploration of Fluid Gender Constructions in Market-Mediated Representations.”

Jesse Ritner, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin, “Making Snow: Weather, Technology, and the Rise of the American Ski Industry, 1900-Present.”

Joseph Larnerd, Faculty, Department of Art History, Drexel University, “Undercut: Rich Cut Glass in Working-Class Life in the Gilded Age.”

Katherine Parkin, Faculty, Department of History and Anthropology, Monmouth University, “Asian Automakers in the United States, 1970-1990.”

Meg Jones, Faculty, Communication, Culture & Technology, Georgetown University, “Cookies: The Story of Digital Consent, Consumer Privacy, and Transatlantic Computing.”

Ricardo Neuner, Ph.D. candidate, University of Konstanz, “Inside the American Consumer: The Psychology of Buying in Behavioral Research, 1950-1980.”

Stanley Fonseca, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Southern California, “Cruising: Capitalism, Sexuality, and Environment in Cruise Ship Tourism, 1930-2000.”

History of Medicine Collections:

Jackson Davidow, Theory and History of Art and Design, Rhode Island School of Design, “Picturing a Pandemic: South African AIDS Cultural Activism in a Global Context.”

Lisa Pruitt, Faculty, Department of History, Middle Tennessee State University, “Crippled: A History of Childhood Disability in America, 1860-1980.”

Morgan McCullough, Ph.D. candidate, Lyon G. Tyler Department of History, William and Mary, “Material Bodies: Race, Gender, and Women in the Early American South.”

Human Rights Archive:

Andrew Seber, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Chicago, “Neither Factory nor Farm: The Fallout of Late-Industrial Animal Agriculture in America, 1970-2000.”

Eugene (Charlie) Fanning, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History, University of Maryland, College Park, “Empire of The Everglades: A Global History of Agribusiness, Labor, and the Land in 20th Century South Florida.”

Jennifer Leigh, Ph.D. candidate, Department of Sociology, New York University, “Public Health vs. Pro-gun Politics: The Role of Racism in the Silencing of Research on Gun Violence, 1970-1996.”

Richard Branscomb, Ph.D. candidate, Department of English, Carnegie Mellon University, “Defending the Self, Preserving Community: Gun Rights, Paramilitarization, and the Radical Right, 1990-2005.”

You’re Invited to a Woman Suffrage Party!

Would you like to help us commemorate the 100th anniversary of the 19th amendment? As we are working from home to prepare for the upcoming suffrage exhibit, that will hopefully be installed this summer in the Rubenstein Library, we would love for you to help us in your sewing rooms, craft rooms, or dining room tables. Although the RL holds various tapestries, banners, sashes, and other art objects created during the suffrage movement, these original items are very susceptible to light damage. In order to publicize the exhibition in the cases outside the Biddle Rare Book Room, we would love to incorporate YOUR versions – faithful reproductions or your own take – of suffrage banners, pins, sashes, or any kind of suffrage memorabilia! Items can reference the American women’s suffrage movement or other suffrage and voting rights struggles.

Enter your items in our friendly competition. Prizes will be awarded, and winning items will be on display with recognition in the Sperling exhibition case (and returned to creators when the exhibit is finished).

Due date: June 15, 2020

How to submit: Please send images along with a brief description of your completed item to Bingham Center-Exhibitions intern, Jess Epsten (jess.epsten@duke.edu).

Judging: Submissions will be considered by jury consisting of members of the suffrage exhibit group, Meg Brown, Yoon Kim, Laura Micham, Jess Epsten, and Genna Miller (faculty member).

Prizes: A variety of prizes to be determined.

black and white photograph showing a white woman with a large swath of fabric with stars on it drapped over her lap.
Alice Paul sewing stars on Suffrage Flag (ca. 1912-1920).

Be a part of History! Artistic expression of political ideals, such as sewing banners, pennants, sashes and other items and incorporating phrases like “Votes for Women,” was a widespread and powerful strategy for suffragists and part of the long tradition of artistic expression in social justice movements. Equal suffrage leagues even held competitions for poster designs to support the movement. There are great sources of historical objects on the internet for inspiration-feel free to copy one, or create your own!

About the exhibit: Commemorating the ratification of the 19th amendment, “Beyond Supply & Demand: Duke Economics Students Present 100 Years of American Women’s Suffrage” will highlight a range of materials from the Rubenstein Library selected by the 38 undergraduate students in the Fall, 2019 course Women in the Economy. Students in the course were tasked with going beyond simple tools of “supply and demand” to examine original, archival materials from the past one hundred years to curate an exhibit examining the complexities and strategies of the American suffrage movement.

Links for Inspiration!

Some online exhibits:

Some project ideas and supplies:

Array of buttons promoting women's suffrageQuestions?  Please contact
Meg Brown (meg.brown@duke.edu)
Jess Epsten (jess.epsten@duke.edu)
or
Laura Micham (laura.m@duke.edu)

 

Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: The Joys of Jell-O (1962)

Post contributed by Lucy Dong, Middlesworth Social Media and Outreach Fellow

The Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks is a frequent source of test kitchen projects, featuring members of the Rubenstein staff documenting their attempts to create delicious and sometimes very odd recipes. We were inspired by the popularity of Buzzfeed Tasty and Bon Appetit cooking videos, however, to show a test kitchen that was fast and digestible. With their simple captions, overhead angle, sped up chopping, and quirky music, the cooking videos trending on social media are made to grab your short attention. And what better attention grabber than a triple tiered Jell-O cake and a Jell-O salad?

Chart showing chilling times for different Jell-o consistency
Guide to chilling times

Lucky for us, many people have abandoned their fish molds of kitchens past, and my cooking partner, Sonia Fillipow, was able to find one easily at the Durham Scrap Exchange. The triple tiered molds were harder to find so we settled on a recipe that could look colorful and exciting in one layer. Old recipes often use unfamiliar jargon or lack specifics, and test kitcheners have sometimes had to do some educated guesswork or extra research. The recipe book we referenced, “Joys of Jell-O Gelatin Dessert” (1962) includes a very helpful graphic for how long you should chill your Jello to achieve your desired consistency. Our molds held much more Jell-O than the recipe created, so we had to do some math. Getting the Jell-O out of the molds was a whole other ordeal that we were not prepared for–we decided to save you from our failed attempts in the final cut.

Vintage Jell-o advertisement, showing a woman with an old-timey telephone. The text reads "Yes, Jell-o, please, all seven-flavors."
Cover of an early 20th-century Jell-O promotional book.

Along the way, we got to learn some of the history of Jell-O. The Nicole Di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks spans the years 1851-2005 and covers promotional materials addressed to cooking and kitchen arts. Materials in the collection were used to educate consumers and promote the use of a variety of foods. “Joys of Jell-O Gelatin Dessert” (1962) was one such educational recipe book that served marketing purposes.  As seen in this early 20th-century when the owner of Jell-O, Otto Frank Woodward, invested in advertising that proclaimed it to be ‘America’s Most Famous Dessert’, marketing was crucial to getting the gelatin product into American kitchens. Woodward published recipe books, handed out Jell-O molds to immigrants, and aired a jingle on the radio. The brand’s messaging towards women has changed over the years, but perhaps the one thing that hasn’t changed its aesthetic potential. As the New York Times reports, “queer and female artists are now revisiting Jell-O as both subject matter and material, creating work that challenges society’s fixations on traditionally feminine realms and behaviors.”

We lack the artistic talent to make stunning Jell-O art worthy of fashion campaigns, but thanks to a lot of patience, and some YouTube tutorials on removing Jell-O from Jell-O molds, we ended up with a ‘cake’ and a ‘salad’ that looked great (and the Crown Jewel cake even tasted okay).

Recipes:

Crown Jewel Dessert / “Broken Window Glass Cake”

“A spectacular dessert that fits busy schedules–the gelatin for cubes may be made on day, remainder of dessert can wait until the next day.”

1 package (3 oz.) EACH of 3 different flavored (and different colored) Jell-O
3 cups boiling water
2 cups cold water
1 cup pineapple juice
¼ cup sugar
1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O Lemon Gelatin
2 envelopes Dream Whip Dessert Topping Mix or 2 cups whipping cream

  1. Prepare the three flavors of gelatin separately, using 1 cup of boiling water and ½ cup cold water for each. Pour each flavor into an 8-inch square pan or tupperware. Chill until firm, or overnight.
  2. Mix pineapple juice and sugar; heat until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and dissolve lemon gelatin in the hot juice; then add ½ cup cold water. Chill until slightly thickened.
  3. Prepare dessert topping mix as directed on package and blend with slightly thickened lemon gelatin.
  4. Cut firm gelatins into ½ – inch cubes. Layer cubes in Jell-O mold with cream/gelatin mixture so that the cubes are relatively dispersed throughout. Chill at least 5 hours or overnight.
  5. When removing dessert from mold, submerge the bottom of the mold in a bowl of hot tap water for 5-10 sec. Separate the gelatin from the edges of the mold either by running a knife/spatula between the dessert and the mold or gently pulling at the edge with the flat part of the fingers. Place a plate (or a clean cutting board) on top of the mold and invert. Other tips from the book pictured below. You can also use this video for reference.

Vegetable Salad

“Your favorite vegetable can be used in this very versatile salad”

1 package (3 oz.) Jell-O; any citrus flavored gelatin like lemon or lime
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons grated onion
1 dash of pepper
1-2 cups of any 3 vegetables, chopped finely

  1. Dissolve Jell-O Gelatin and salt in boiling water. Add cold water, vinegar, grated onion, and pepper. Pour into fish mold and chill until very thick.
  2. Chop vegetables into matchsticks or florets.
  3. Fold chopped vegetables into thickened gelatin and chill overnight.
  4. Unmold

Houdini: Magician, Escape Artist, Collector

Post contributed by Steph Crowell, Trent History of Medicine Intern

While searching through Duke’s Parapsychology Lab materials, I uncovered some evidence that Houdini himself had at one point contacted J.B. Rhine. As an amateur magician and great fan of the folks over at the Rhine Research Center, I had to know more.

After doing some digging, I found this photo in the Rubenstein’s Picture File:

On the left a photograph of Houdini, wearing a suit, sitting with what appears to be the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. On the right, the back side of the photo with a handwritten note that reads "J.B. Rhine. Best Wishes, Houdini"
Houdini, Harry, 1900s, Picture File, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University. Front and back.

The writing on the back of the photo may be difficult to read, but it says, “J.B. Rhine Best wishes, Houdini.” Armed with proof, I scoured the guide to the Parapsychology Lab Records for the letter that I was sure accompanied this photo.

I soon found this to be much more difficult than anticipated. Although the correspondence folders have been kindly indexed, I saw no entry under Harry Houdini or under his other names (Erik Weisz, Ehrich Weiss, or Harry Weiss). It seemed that The Handcuff King had found his way out of our records.

This is an item that I immediately wanted to share, but I wanted to share it with some context so I expanded my search. As it turns out, Houdini was a great admirer of President Lincoln (you can read more about the quirks of his personality here) and the Harry Ransom Center in Texas has some proof of this in their collection of Houdini’s personal papers. Wondering if perhaps staff had some answers to my question of how this photo came to be at Duke, I sent an email to what I thought was the reference librarian for this collection.

That email address was no longer operational. I then tried to email someone in an admin position in the center to ask them to refer me to the right person, and I await a response.

Even though I didn’t find exactly what I was looking for in time to write this post, I think the things I found during my search are just as valuable. As a long-time fan of Houdini, I had heard stories of his passion for debunking fraudulent soothsayers and mystics but I didn’t realize just how deep his fascination went.

In addition to the collection of personal papers at the Ransom Center, I discovered that throughout his life, Houdini had also been an avid collector of books- to the point that his collection is considered to be one of the largest in the world on the topics of magic, witchcraft, demonology, psychic phenomena, and spiritualism (this post has some great links to see what some of those are).

It’s the biggest collection I’ve never heard of, and it’s remarkable to think that someone who lived on the road like Houdini did had the time, space, and motivation to hunt all of these down- I can only imagine the shock on librarians’ faces when, after his death, the collection was delivered to the Library of Congress.

While I was digging through the Library of Congress’ holdings, I found a digital copy of the photo that started this whole adventure: Houdini and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. As it turns out, the photo was a result of one of Houdini’s many efforts to debunk a mystical fraud. As the Library of Congress describes, the photograph was created to illustrate “how a photographer could produce fraudulent ‘spirit photographs’ that purportedly documented the apparition and social interaction of figures from beyond. Demonstrating the company he could keep if the right technique were employed, Houdini had himself photographed with the ghost of Abraham Lincoln.”

To tie this back to J.B. Rhine, Houdini’s efforts with the Lincoln photo were published in the read Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research, a publication that later declined to publish one of J.B. Rhine’s own papers debunking a medium named Mina Crandon.

Thank you for reading this long post about the beginning of my journey down this rabbit hole, and I hope you’ve found something in it that piques your interest. Houdini and J.B. Rhine were pioneers in the study of psychic phenomena and we’re very fortunate in the Rubenstein to have a wealth of materials on the topic because of the Rhine Center- who knows what might still be waiting to be found in one of those boxes?

Correction: An earlier version of this post had the incorrect name for the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Reserach. Thanks to an astute reader for alerting us.

Rubenstein Library Test Kitchen: Cooking with Duke Power

Post contributed by Ashton Merck, Graduate Intern for the Hartman Center for Sales, Advertising, and Marketing History

In the mid-twentieth century, the Duke Power Company Home Service wished its customers a “Merry Christmas” and a “Happy New Year” with an annual collection of holiday recipes.

Covers of two Duke Power cookbooks. Both feature their mascot, a stick figure made of lightning bolts.
“Merry Christmas,” circa 1950s (Item 1950s-0499); “Recipes,” circa 1950s (Item 1950s-0504)

The John W. Hartman Center has at least two of these pamphlets in the Nicole di Bona Peterson Collection of Advertising Cookbooks. These cookbooks focused almost exclusively on holiday baking. One cookbook included separate sections for cakes, pies, candy, cookies, and desserts, while “salads, sandwiches, and breads” were combined into one category.

In the spirit of the holiday season, I decided that I would give one of these recipes a try. Quite a few of them looked recognizable as something my great-grandmothers used to make, like “Cheery Cherry Cake” or “Skillet Cookies.” Others, like a “Chocolate Yule Log” – which involved an unholy combination of mashed potatoes, confectioner’s sugar, and shredded coconut – sounded completely inedible. But one recipe, for “Spiced Cherry Bells,” caught my eye. Somewhat inexplicably, the recipe called for ginger and instant coffee, in lieu of the usual holiday spices like cinnamon, allspice, or nutmeg. It also required more advanced assembly than the other cookies or cakes, through the creation of the “bell” shape. It seemed like something that was unusual enough to be worth trying.

Original recipe
“Spiced Cherry Bells,” from “Merry Christmas” cookbook

As soon as I mixed the dry ingredients, it was clear that there was not enough of either the ginger or the instant coffee to overcome the 3 ½ cups of flour called for in the recipe. I took note of that fact, but did not adjust the recipe for my taste, resisting the temptation to add copious amounts of cinnamon and nutmeg. I next realized that the ingredients as mixed was simply too crumbly to form a stable dough that I could roll out, even with the use of a stand mixer. I had to add about another 1/8 cup of heavy cream to get the dough to come together. Even still, it called for so much shortening that it was tricky to roll out to the thickness specified. I eventually managed to get the cookies onto the (mercifully, ungreased) cookie sheet, where I shaped them into something that, if you squint your eyes, could be imagined as “bells.” I then baked them for the allotted time of 15 minutes.

I considered what the small quantity of the “spices” might indicate about the time and place in which this recipe was created, and imagined several possible hypotheses: Perhaps instant coffee or ginger were expensive or hard to come by; or, the far more likely scenario, they were so ubiquitous that they might already be in the pantry anyway. That got me thinking – when was instant coffee invented? Could it have been a new or trendy product at the time?

For an initial answer to these questions, I requested a box from the J. Walter Thompson “Competitive Advertisements” collection. The ads in the folders depicted instant coffee drinkers as married couples engaged in energetic outdoor activities or home improvement projects, like this campaign from 1956:

Vintage advertisement for instant coffee. Illustrated with a picture of a woman pouring coffee for a man. The headline reads "Richer Coffee Instantly!"
“When the Moment Calls for Coffee,” Hot Beverages – Coffee (1 of 2), 1956, Box 1956-15, Competitive Advertisements 1955-1997, J. Walter Thompson Company, Rubenstein Library, Duke University.

Advertisment Martinsons Instant Coffe, featuring "Swedish Beef Puffs"

From looking at these ads, it seemed like instant coffee was one of many “convenience foods” that became tastier and more widely available in the post-WWII era, along with TV dinners and canned foods. I then requested another box from the Alvin Achenbaum collection, which contained several market research studies on coffee. The studies further emphasized that consumers valued instant coffee primarily for its convenience and low cost.

I also noticed that a few ads included recipes that contained small amounts of instant coffee, like this one for Swedish Beef Puffs at right.

But these ads were few and far between. As I perused the market research, I looked to see if the consultants recommended promotion of alternate uses of instant coffee in recipes, or baking, but they did not. Instead, the market researchers were far more interested in carefully segmenting the coffee buying market by their tastes and preferences, rather than by inventing new and creative uses for the product.

So, after this investigation – using Rubenstein collections, of course – it seems that instant coffee was already cheap and ubiquitous by the time it made it into the “Spiced Cherry Bells,” but the choice to use it in a recipe might have seemed as unusual then as it does now.

The Verdict: The cookies were … okay. The flavor of the baked, slightly caramelized maraschino cherry was delicious, and the “filling” mixture which called for pecans, brown sugar, and butter was something of a foolproof combination. But, as I expected, neither the instant coffee nor the ginger came through at all in the final bake.

Ten sort of bell shaped cookies on a baking sheet. They look dry and not particularly attractive.
Unfortunately, they taste as good as they look.

Described by taste-testers as “aggressively neutral” and “a bit dry,” the dough was definitely the weak point in these cookies. “You almost get bored with it halfway through,” one observed. Yet the cookies also had a confusingly familiar flavor to them; there was plenty of room for the individual housewife to give the recipe her own spin enough to call it her own. As another taste tester noted, the recipe is “very much of the era.”

In Search of Their Anti-Racist Lineage

Contributed by Amanda Mixon, PhD Candidate, Comparative Literature, University of California, Irvine. Read more in their recent article: Amanda Mixon (2019): “Not in my name”: the anti-racist praxis of Mab Segrest & Minnie Bruce Pratt, Journal of Lesbian Studies, DOI: 10.1080/10894160.2019.1678964

With the assistance of a Mary Lily Travel Grant, I visited the Sallie Bingham Center in the summer of 2018 to carry out research for my dissertation, which analyzes how a group of white southern lesbian writers theorize whiteness and practice anti-racist activism. The project is as much invested in tracing friendships and influences as it is in elaborating a single individual’s political thought. Therefore, when perusing the papers of Dorothy Allison (1949-), Minnie Bruce Pratt (1946-), and Mab Segrest (1949-), I was especially interested in how the holdings might give voice to these women’s relationships with each other and the two other figures in my study, Rita Mae Brown (1944-) and Lillian Smith (1897-1966).[i]

Conference brochure featuring a portrait of Lillian Smith on the cover.
“‘Listening to Sounds Larger Than Our Own Heartbeat’: A Conference on Lillian Smith” brochure listing talks by both Mab Segrest and Minnie Bruce Pratt, held at Georgetown University, October 7-9, 1994. From the Mab Segrest Papers, Box 63.

I knew that Smith, arguably the most outspoken white southern critic of Jim Crow segregation, had a profound impact on Pratt and Segrest. Her lifelong partnership with Paula Snelling (1899-1985) and searing critiques of white supremacy offered Pratt and Segrest a foundation from which to learn and build. However, when scanning Pratt’s papers, I was surprised to find an unpublished stage play that Segrest wrote about the couple in the late eighties. There, Segrest prioritizes Snelling’s experience, allowing her to criticize Smith for closeting their same-sex relationship. As Segrest told me in person, this centering is an ode to the significant amount of unrecognized work that Snelling contributed to Smith’s career and their collaborative projects. But what I found most compelling was Segrest’s creative license with the couple’s relationship: that is, no primary or secondary sources confirm the dynamic that Segrest depicts. As such, the untitled play is not only an example of how we represent historical figures in order to do them justice, but also an account of what those figures emotionally do for us. In their published nonfiction, both Segrest and Pratt express a yearning for a Smith not bound by the closet’s silence. In the play, Snelling becomes the voice of that desire. She asks: what would it have meant—for Smith’s own career and life, for Snelling, and for the countless women inspired by their work—if Smith had claimed a lesbian identity?

“Scenes from play about Lillian Smith” by Mab Segrest, original pictured here from the Mab Segrest Papers, Box 63. Another copy is located in the Minnie Bruce Pratt Papers, Box 57.

[i] Rita Mae Brown is author of the 1973 lesbian coming of age novel Rubyfruit Jungle. Lillian Smith was a white civil rights activist, known for her 1944 novel Strange Fruit, which featured an interracial couple.

The Disappeared and Their Editor: the Robert J. Cox Papers

Post contributed by Michelle Runyon, Marshall T. Meyer Intern for the Human Rights Archive.

This semester I have had the pleasure of processing the Robert J. Cox papers, the collection guide for which is now available.

Although he wouldn’t know it at the time, 1979 would become the most eventful year of Robert Cox’s life. A British journalist who spent most of his adulthood up to this point in Argentina, Cox found out that his son Peter had received a highly detailed anonymous death threat. The threat came as a result of Cox’s work covering the Dirty War as the editor of the English-language newspaper the Buenos Aires Herald. Cox and his family decided to flee from Argentina. His wife Maud Cox and their five children all came to England and then the United States with him at Harvard where Cox held a Nieman Fellowship. They later came to Charleston, South Carolina where Cox became the assistant editor for the Post & Courier.

A strong theme throughout Cox’s papers is the disappearances of political activists and dissidents, especially those of Jewish descent, throughout the country. Cox himself wrote about the desaparecidos (disappeared) and advocated for the Buenos Aires Herald to cover the violence enacted against them. Articles within the collection that cover the kidnappings range from brief passages to notices created by family members of the “disappeared.” However, one format that stands out above others in the collection never made their way into being published in an official formats – pamphlets created by the family members of the disappeared.

These pamphlets, almost zine-like, were created by Xeroxing official documents, photographs, newspaper clippings, and passages written by the creators alongside one another to create a narrative about what was known about the disappearance of this individual or group of individuals.

We know that at least one of these pamphlets was mailed to Robert Cox himself, as evidenced by Robert Cox’s mailing address on the back of the pamphlet. Working with the ERP (the People’s Revolutionary Army), Jorge Marcelo Dyszel Lewin and his wife Mirtha Nelida Schwalb de Dyszel were disappeared May 18, 1978. They were 22 and 21 years old respectively. Jorge was from a Polish Jewish immigrant family. This pamphlet was likely created by Jorge’s mother, Beatriz Lewin, who was very active in Las Madres de la Plaza de Mayo (the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo).

First page has "Habeas Corpus a Dios!" in large text at the top, plus additional typewritten text, including a quotation attributed to Albert Einstein. The second page of the pamphlet has additional text, as well as a photographed of a man and a woman, presumably orge Marcelo Dyszel Lewin and Mirtha Nelida Schwalb de Dysze, in the back of the car on what looks like their wedding day.
Pages from pamphlet of the disappearance of Jorge Marcelo Dyszel Lewin and Mirtha Nelida Schwalb de Dyszel

Another pamphlet tells the story of the disappearances of Graciela Antonia Rutilo Artes and her daughter Carla Graciela Rutilo Artes. Graciela’s mother Matilde Artes Company created the pamphlet and became active with Las Abuelas de la Plaza de Mayo.

Black and white pamphlet that reads at the top "Quiero a mi hija y a mi nieta." The rest of the page includes columns of text and photographs.
Pamphlet on the disappearance of Graciela Antonia Rutilo Artes and Carla Graciela Rutilo Artes.

The Grandmothers and the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo continue to work to hold  accountable those who disappeared their grandchildren and children.

Cox did not return to Argentina for over a decade. However, from afar, Cox wrote about Argentina with continued urgency and commitment. His personal papers reflect this engagement, consisting of his own personal writings and those collected by him written by colleagues or other interested parties about Argentina. When democracy was restored to Argentina with the election of Raúl Alfonsín, Cox reported on this and outlined the challenges that lay ahead of the new president as he grappled with the aftermath of the Dirty War. His reporting continues shape how Argentines and the outside world view Argentina and its recent history.

His story is also told through two books written by his wife Maude, Salvados del Infierno: A 25 años de la dictadura Argentina, and his son David, Dirty Secrets, Dirty War: The Exile of Robert J. Cox.

If you are interested in learning more, a documentary film about Cox’s life and work called A Messenger on a White Horse is available from the Lilly Library.  A shortened version of the film is also available on Amazon Prime.