Post contributed by Amanda Lazarus, Ph.D. Candidate and Eleonore Jantz Reference Intern for the Rubenstein Library.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, our love of archives, and busy/forgetful people the world over, here are three very last minute gift ideas for your Valentine, straight from the Rubenstein Archives!
Vintage Cake Recipe
If you’re a bit (or very) obsessed with GBBO and your Valentine loves sweets but isn’t into chocolate, this one’s for you!
Marian Jane Parker’s Selected Recipes and Menus for Parties, Holidays, and Special Occasions (1920s) offers readers three different menus for Valentine Parties and a shortlist of recipes that vary considerably in complexity. Among these is a simple recipe for a heart-shaped cake made with pantry staples, which makes it ideal for hasty baking. Don’t have a heart-shaped cake pan? Neither did I! Just use what you have on hand and adjust the recipe quantities and baking time as needed. Since my cake was destined to feed no less than nine RL librarians, I doubled the recipe and made the sponge in two 9” round cake tins.
After 35 minutes in a 350F oven, everything was perfectly baked. I left the cake rounds to cool and moved on to the icing. Since MJP advises you to cover your cake with “white icing” without specifying any ingredients, feel free to choose your own recipe (vanilla buttercream and whipped cream are classic options), or keep things easy and use a prepared icing product. As for decorations, these can be as simple or elaborate as you like. MJP recommends you adorn your cake with small hearts, while the photograph shows her heart-shaped cake a bit more gussied-up with red and pink piping. I added a pink marzipan cover to my cake since I had some almond paste hanging around, and added strawberries—inside and out—both for the bright flavor and Valentine’s Day color. As a final touch, I cut the strawberry toppers into little hearts.
Easy, scalable, and will fly off your needles in no time!
I know what you’re thinking, “Winter’s over, it may not have even happened at all.” While that may be true-ish, here’s what I know for certain: summer is coming, which means we only have 2.5 months before Perkins undergoes its annual transformation into an ice cube. So, this Valentine’s Day, show your friends and SOs how much you care, and give them the gift of bespoke forethought and coziness. Give them the gift of handmade mittens.
This pattern for adult mittens comes from the Sarah E. Goodwin Needlework Patterns Collection, and is one of many charming designs and printed instructions for the creation of tapestries, collars, edging, capes, mittens, afghans, hoods, curtains, infant shoes, slippers that Miss Goodwin both collected and created during her life. In the 19th century, it was common for women to submit and collect needle work patterns from their local papers and women’s journals. Here, Miss Goodwin appears to have copied out one such pattern:
Rule for Knitting Mittens Mrs. M[ose?]/ Washington 1866.
22 stitches on each needle, knit an inch or more seamed, make a seam stitch each side of one of the two stiches and widen one new stitch between, knit 5 rows and widen twice just inside the two seams and so continue until long enough to commence to close the thumb. When there are 23 stitches between the two seams, take them off with a darning needle on a piece of yarn. Continue your knitting by making 8 stitches when you made the thumb knit around once. The second time slip and bind at the beginning of the 8 stitches and narrow at the end of them. Knit once plain again and narrow again as before then continue to knit to the end of the little finger these narrow once in 5 stitches and knit 5 rows, once in 4 and knit 4 rows until you finish. Take up the 8 new stitches one needle the rest on the other two, knit around and narrow twice as before. Knit plain until as high as the nail then narrow twice in each needle every other time.
After working this pattern myself, here are a few additional notes to help you get started:
220 yard of DK weight yarn
US 5 / 3.75mm DPNs (double sided needles)
Stitch markers (paperclips work, too!)
After you’ve cast on all your stitches (44 in total), evenly redistribute your stitches across two other needles (11 stitches over 4 needles), before joining in the round.
New and Elegant Valentines for the Present Year
Back in the mid-19th century, folks did their Valentines by the book, and this book in particular:
Typically written in a series of rhyming couplets, some of Richardson’s Valentines are sweet, while others are sour. The best, in my humble opinion, are those dedicated to a person of a particular demeanor or profession:
*Did you know you can purchase all of these supplies at the Scrap Exchange**?
**Not a sponsored post.
Post contributed by Laurin Penland, Library Assistant for Technical Services
Warning: Some of the language in this blog post is outdated and considered offensive today. There are also descriptions of violence against African Americans in the South during Reconstruction.
The way in which archivists think about Reconstruction (1865-1877) in the United States can sometimes determine how we describe and interpret materials produced during that period. For example, if you believe that Reconstruction was an ill-fated, corrupt takeover of the South by Northern Republicans—a brief episode doomed to fail—then it makes sense that you would describe a Republican politician in Georgia as self-interested. The particular politician that I have in mind is John Emory Bryant (1836-1900), who was born in Maine, fought for the Union, and pursued a Republican political career in Georgia after the Civil War. Bryant was also an abolitionist, teacher, agent of the Freedmen’s Bureau, newspaper editor and publisher, and lawyer. The Rubenstein Library holds his papers, the bulk of which were acquired in 1968 (a later addition arrived in 2002). His papers came up recently as a candidate for re-processing due to their popularity among researchers, the aging folders and worn-out boxes housing the collection, and the fact that there were many voices within the collection that could benefit from updated description in the online collection guide. Also, when we investigated further, it became clear that there was a large discrepancy between what was described in the old paper catalog and the online collection guide. The original card catalog entry included 50 cards of description! And the online collection guide included only two small paragraphs. Sometimes this discrepancy happens because of the way the library managed the mass migration of our collection guides online; description was simplified. And sometimes this happens when the description was viewed as problematic for some reason. For the JEB papers, the discrepancy in descriptions could have been for multiple reasons. My task was to assess the description that was available to me and to do my best to improve the collection guide, a process which inspired me to think about how archivists and researchers interpret and describe materials from the Reconstruction Era. This process ultimately led me to edit descriptions of JEB and to make sure that the voices of people of color where discoverable in the collection.
To get an idea of how JEB papers were originally described, here is an unflattering snippet about Bryant from the old card catalog:
On January 1, 1862, Bryant made a significant statement to Emma [his future wife]. He refers to his “enemies,” who are again conspiring against him. He has been under arrest for stealing from a Negro, a charge which was dismissed later. He says he will come out on top, as he always looks out for ‘no. 1.’ This glimpse of his personality is prophetic for the career he later entered.
The description portrays Bryant (JEB) as contentious, selfish, and possibly corrupt; the description also gives weighty significance to this episode in JEB’s life by suggesting that it illustrates an important aspect of his personality and the foundation for his political career. I think it’s also important to note that JEB was accused of stealing from a black person, which, if true, would do significant harm to any claims of integrity he might have had in fighting for the civil and political rights of African Americans.
Why did the previous cataloger of this collection choose to highlight this episode in Bryant’s life? One reason could be because of popular notions about Reconstruction during the 1960s—for example, the cataloger, expecting to find a corrupt carpetbagger, could have been drawn to troublesome moments in JEB’s life and career. After all, JEB was no stranger to conflict and controversy in both public and private affairs. In her book, Carpetbagger of Conscience: A Biography of John Emory Bryant, Ruth Currie-McDaniel probes JEB’s life and career, wading through many of his successes, failures, flaws, and contradictions in order to try to discern what kind of Republican he really was. Currie-McDaniel comes down on the side that JEB was a staunch supporter and fighter for civil rights for African Americans; he was also “a complicated mixture of idealistic reform zeal on the one hand and a certain selfish realism on the other,” as well as being a neglectful husband. To say the least, JEB was a complicated person, and the letters that he left behind tell of a controversial personality.
Eric Foner, who is one of the most well-known Reconstruction scholars and who is heavily inspired by W. E. B. Du Bois (Du Bois wrote “Black Reconstruction in America: An Essay Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880,” published in 1935), lays out an understanding of Reconstruction in which
the [Republican] Radicals in Congress were acquitted of both vindictive motives and the charge of serving as the stalking-horses of Northern capitalism. They emerged instead as idealists in the best nineteenth-century reform tradition…. Their Reconstruction policies were based on principle, not petty political advantage, for the central issue dividing [President] Johnson and these Radical Republicans was the civil rights of freedmen.
Foner writes that a key element of this understanding of Reconstruction, which is very different than the one depicted by previous historians such as William Dunning and films like Birth of a Nation and Gone With the Wind, is the “testimony of the central participant in the drama of Reconstruction—the black freedman.” While John Emory Bryant was an important player in Republican politics during Reconstruction in the South, I took Foner’s depiction to heart and shifted my gaze beyond JEB’s voice and actions alone. Who were these black freedmen that Foner mentions, and what is their testimony from the Reconstruction Era? This blog post is an exploration of the African-American voices found within the JEB papers.
Daniel Broomfield: School Teacher in Warrenton, Georgia
Scattered throughout the JEB papers, there are myriad portrayals of black people fighting for a better life (and sometimes fighting just to live) by participating in civic, educational, religious, and political organizations. In 1866, one school teacher, who recently built a small schoolhouse, writes to report being shot at:
William John Spence came to the school house last Monday evening just after I had turned out and shot two balls through the house, he then shot three times at me as I run. I only built a small house, I was not able to build a very large one, I done the best I could. I had a good many scholars spelling and reading. I reported to the Bureau here but to very little effect did it take.
This kind of terroristic violence is documented throughout the John Emory Bryant collection, perhaps most strikingly in a deposition describing KKK activity in Alabama, Florida, and Georgia in the 1870s. The African-American victims listed in the document are: Edward Thompson and his wife in Florida; Boss Fullard, Gamble Wright, and John Askie in Dublin, Georgia; and George Daymond in Montgomery County, Georgia. The atrocities recounted in the deposition paint a picture of white-supremacist terror. We do not know the author of the deposition, but for those who are interested in this account and the efforts to hold the perpetrators of terror and violence responsible, we have another collection at the library that has more information. The Williams Woods Holden Papers, 1834-1929, document the life of a “journalist and Republican governor of North Carolina…. He was elected governor as a Republican in 1868, but was impeached by the Democratic state legislature in 1870 for his efforts to combat the Ku Klux Klan.”
Henry McNeal Turner: Republican Leader, Preacher, Post Master General, and Bishop
In the midst of violence, terror, and constant, ever-present racism (including both hate-filled and less incendiary paternalistic propaganda), black freedmen (formerly enslaved people) and black people who were born free pushed full-steam ahead. The same year that the school teacher, Broomfield, writes to report the assault against him, Henry McNeal Turner (1834-1915) writes a series of letters to JEB. Turner was a chaplain during the Civil War and went on to become a black Republican leader, legislator, preacher, Post Master of Georgia, and bishop in the African Methodist Church. He writes his letters to Bryant while enduring loss and illness in his family; one of Turner’s children had just died and his wife was gravely ill, yet Turner pushed on for Republican causes. He writes to JEB about political news, updates him on his efforts to get subscribers to their Republican newspaper, tells of his hopes for the Georgia legislature, and strategizes ways to inform black citizens about new laws: “Major General Howard at my suggestion is going to print copies of the Emancipation Proclamation, Civil Rights Bill etc. for general distribution through the South for the colored people. I told him there should be thousands of copies distributed like tracts.” When Turner tries to get Democrats to subscribe to his Republican newspaper, he says, “The few democrats that are here, with whom I have come in contact, treat me very scornfully. They say I aught not to speak of those outrages. But the Republicans have assured me, that Mr. Johnson shall execute that civil rights bill or leave his seat. They also say there is more on hand, when they get ready to enforce it, and they will do it.” The Civil Rights Act about which Turner is writing was passed on April 9, 1866 (three days before Turner’s letter). This act provided:
that all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States; and such citizens, of every race and color, without regard to any previous condition of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall have the same right, in every State and Territory in the United States, to make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, and give evidence, to inherit, purchase, lease, sell, hold, and convey real and personal property, and to full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of person and property, as is enjoyed by white citizens, and shall be subject to like punishment, pains, and penalties, and to none other, any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, or custom, to the contrary notwithstanding.
The law was passed, vetoed by President Andrew Johnson, and then passed again with a two-thirds majority. In another letter, Turner offers aid to JEB, who, he has heard, has been arrested and whose paper was suppressed. He writes, “If you are in great need, write to Oliver Sanders of Columbus, Ga. I helped them to organize a society there, and they have some money, which they will send you as quick as lighting if you need it.” Turner’s letters show someone who was deeply engaged in the issues of the time, made personal sacrifices to fight for what he believed in, and cared for his friend and colleague, JEB.
Charles R. Edwardes: Preacher and Labor Organizer
One of the common threads that connects several of the people in the Bryant papers is the importance of newspapers. JEB, along with Turner and William Anderson Pledger (who I’ll mention later), published Republican newspapers, which allowed them to share their ideas more widely and broaden their connections throughout Georgia. One African-American minister, Charles R. Edwardes, writes to JEB in 1869 to tell him about his efforts to get more subscribers for Bryant’s newspaper, and to inform Bryant of a meeting—of the Colored Men of the Mechanics and Laboring Men Association—that he would like to be mentioned in the newspaper. Edwardes reports that there are 87 members of the Association and that he hopes they will have many more members soon. At the meeting, the men counted how much land they had purchased, how many crops they had produced, and how much money they had made as tradesmen. Edwardes explains, “We wants to buy land as soon as we can to give homes to our poor peoples for many don’t [have] homes and land to work and cheated out what money works for. I have some promise to take your paper. I will do all I can to have this paper among my people. Do what you can for us.” 
William Anderson Pledger: Teacher, Republican, Lawyer, Newspaper Publisher
My Dear Sir: The schools of this county being in the hands of the Democrats and they having such an avowed hatred to me till it has become impossible for me to obtain employment. Their hatred is because of my Republican principles, or because that I speak them freely—yet moderately. Consequently I must have recourse to my Republican friends to obtain a livelihood: to you I look as a very dear friend, because you know the privations an active Republican is subjected….
This letter is written by William Anderson Pledger, who was a prominent black Republican in Georgia. He was also an editor, teacher, and friend of JEB. Pledger’s letter press copybook (dated 1875-1879) includes faint copies of letters written to various Georgian politicians and Republicans, including John Emory Bryant, Henry McNeal Turner, E.R. Belcher, Benjamin Conly, Henry Farrow, M.T. Ackerman, and others. Many of the letters show his urgent attempts to attain employment and describe the discrimination that he faced due to his Republican political activities. In a different letter, he writes, “The Democrats have offered me if I would only leave off indoctrinating ‘radicalism’ into the negros’ [sic] heads that they would put at my disposal any position I wanted. You know I can not go back on Republicanism though I perish from this uncivilized conduct.”
Pledger’s letters and scrapbook also show his engagement with social and political organizations, such as the Grand Fountain of Georgia (also referred to as the “colored Good Templars”), a black temperance organization. Pledger was the Grand Worthy Master of the State in Georgia in 1876 and was credited with increasing the membership from 2000 to 8000. These types of fraternal organizations were often at the heart of segregation battles that would go on to define the Jim Crow South. In a newspaper clipping, Pledger writes to the editor about a dispute within the Grand Fountain between the white and “colored” lodges, and he explains how the matter has been settled in his favor by the organization’s supreme court in England. Another clipping from 1878 describes “Emancipation Day,” which “was held in the First Congregational Church on Collins Street on Tuesday night, January 1st to celebrate the anniversary of Emancipation.” There, the Emancipation Proclamation was read aloud and speeches were given, including one by Pledger. It is clear that Pledger was highly active in the public sphere. In The Way It Was in the South: The Black Experience in Georgia, author Donald Grant describes Pledger as being at the center of Republican politics: “he was a delegate to every Republican national convention from 1876 to 1900 and remained on the state Republican committee until his death in 1904.” In 1879, “smoldering black resentment against the white leadership of the Republican party resulted in a revolt by the blacks, who elected a new state committee of twenty-four blacks and eight whites. Black leader William A. Pledger led the revolt and replaced John E. Bryant as party chairman.” During this period of Reconstruction, there was an internal struggle in the Republican Party against the lily-whites (those who wanted all-white leadership) and the black-and-tans (a coalition of blacks and whites). Three years after Pledger was elected chairman, he was “ousted” and “replaced by a white, Alfred E. Buck.” Another important shift during this time was African-American disenfranchisement. During this moment in Reconstruction, black voting and participation were at their height: “In 1876, 53 percent of the eligible black males voted. The white vote was only slightly higher.” However, due to poll taxes, the Populist defeat, the lack of secrecy of ballots, the barring of black voters from primaries (called the “white primary”), intimidation and violence, and other disenfranchising efforts, black voting hit its nadir in Georgia in 1904 at 4 percent.
Pledger was also a journalist and newspaper publisher. He founded The Athens Blade in 1879 “with the credo: ‘The Arm of justice Cannot—Will not Sleep,’” and he was very engaged in the debates of the time, such as the plan for African Americans to emigrate to Liberia. Pledger also helped organize the Afro-American League (which later became the Afro-American Council) in 1890 in Chicago, and he was known for fighting against lynching. He “once led armed blacks to the Athens jail and successfully defied a mob bent on lynching two prisoners.”
Altogether, Pledger’s papers show someone who seized upon the political momentum of the time to fight for a Republican platform that was built on equal rights for African Americans.
As archivists, when we preserve, organize, and describe manuscript collections, sometimes it is tempting to try to decide whether someone like John Emory Bryant did more good in the world than harm. To complicate matters, it is unclear how much significance to attribute to the correspondence, ephemera, and artifacts left behind by historical figures (e.g., we wonder whether these papers represent the whole person). In this case, widening my gaze beyond John Emory Bryant to his broader context and networks helped me address the issues at the center of this collection of papers, such as the Republican social and political fabric during Reconstruction, and, in particular, it illuminated the testimony of those fighting for equal rights, especially people of color. To give credit where credit is due, much of the work to describe this collection had been done by previous catalogers and researchers. My work benefited from the detailed description in the old card catalog, which highlighted contributions by Pledger, Turner, and others. In my revised collection guide, I built on the work that came before me, updated the language, and edited out descriptions that may have tried to pigeon hole Bryant as a self-interested Carpetbagger. Most importantly, widening my view helped me to make choices in my description of the collection, ultimately placing less focus on Bryant’s eccentricities and more focus on making a variety of voices discoverable. For instance, previously, the KKK disposition had been relegated to a “Miscellaneous” folder and was not described. Now, it has its own folder and is discoverable in the collection guide. This is not to say that now—fifty years after we acquired this collection—the description is finally complete. It can always be improved; and perhaps fifty years from now, archivists and researchers will take a new approach to this collection.
As an addendum, I would like to address the fact that all of the people mentioned in this blog post are men. John Emory Bryant, while being a supporter of equal rights for men of color, did not support women’s suffrage or equal rights for women. However, there is copious correspondence in the collection between Bryant and his wife, Emma Spaulding Bryant, which is deserving of a blog post of its own. Emma Bryant often pushed back against ideas of male dominance and superiority. We have digitized a small portion of her correspondence that documents a particularly passionate response to John, who apparently objected to Emma seeing a male doctor about “uterine difficulties” without John’s permission or presence. Thanks to historian Ruth Currie-McDaniel, you can find a published collection of Emma Spaulding Bryant’s correspondence in Duke Libraries’ general collection: Emma Spaulding Bryant: Civil War Bride, Carpetbagger’s Wife, Ardent Feminist.
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?
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.
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).
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
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.
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.
Prepare dessert topping mix as directed on package and blend with slightly thickened lemon gelatin.
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.
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.
“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
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.
Chop vegetables into matchsticks or florets.
Fold chopped vegetables into thickened gelatin and chill overnight.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.”
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]
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?
[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.
Blog post contributed by Liz Adams, Rare Materials Cataloger
Way back in 2018, back when the new decade was but a glint in our eyes, we received something very big (literally and metaphorically) here at the Rubenstein: a single volume of 83 prints associated with William Hogarth. The creation dates for these prints span from 1732 (Midnight modern conversation) to 1781 (Mr. Walpole). Some of them are sincere, like a portrait of the actor David Garrick as Richard III. Others chart corruption and vice, notably in the series A rake’s progress and A harlot’s progress. Still others are pointed rejoinders to Hogarth’s nemeses, which included people like the satirist Charles Churchill (The bruiser, C. Churchill), alcoholic beverages (Gin Lane), and the French military. The themes are varied; the production methods evolve; and even Hogarth’s role in the creation of these prints oscillates between publisher, printer, artist of original work, and artistic supervisor. The prints are thus unified by their differences.
In 2019, I learned these differences were not just between prints but also within them. Hogarth was a tinkerer: He would return to the same copper plate, darkening and expanding shadows, adding crosshatching, changing clothing and facial features, and even excising text. He would do this work multiple times, releasing subsequent editions, or “states” of each print. There are at least ten different versions of some of Hogarth’s most famous prints, all subtly different and requiring the viewer to have excellent “I spy” skills. Luckily (for me and you, but mostly me), Hogarth is a very famous and well-studied artist. Dr. Ronald Paulson’s Hogarth’s graphic works tracks every change, making it possible to differentiate between moderate cross-hatching and slightly deeper cross-hatching. Thanks, Dr. Paulson!
I want to point out just one more wrinkle: After Hogarth’s death in 1764, his copper plates first went to his family, who then sold them to the publisher John Boydell. In 1790, Boydell published a volume of Hogarth’s works using the unaltered copper plates. Thus, a print that might be physically dated 1732 might really have been printed in 1790, long after Hogarth’s death. Furthermore, Boydell printed the plates on laid paper given to him by Hogarth’s wife Jane, as well as on a newer type of paper known as wove (Donihue). This can make dating quite complicated, as the use of laid paper might still mean that Boydell printed it, and not Hogarth. Some of our prints are also trimmed and mounted, making it hard to distinguish paper at all. In situations like that, caveats in catalog records really do work wonders.
This all leads me to 2020. The future that seemed far away is our present. Our once uncataloged volume of 83 Hogarth prints is now very much cataloged. You too can see what comes of industry and idleness (spoiler: basically what you’d expect) and what wigs looked like in the 18th century (elaborate and itchy). Happy new year, new decade, and new researching to you all!
These prints were a gift acquired as part of the Frank Baker Collection of Wesleyana and British Methodism.
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).
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.
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.
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.
The David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library is now accepting applications for our 2020-2021 travel grants. If you are a researcher, artist, or activist who would like to use sources from the Rubenstein Library’s research centers for your work, this means you!
The grants are open to undergraduate and graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, artists, and activists who live more than 100 miles from Durham, North Carolina, and whose research projects would benefit from access to collections held by one of the centers listed above.
More details—and the grant application—may be found on our grants website. Applications must be submitted no later than 5:00 PM EST on January 31, 2020. Recipients will be announced in March 2020.
Dispatches from the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Duke University