Tag Archives: dukehistory

Panel Discussion: J. B. Rhine: ESP at Duke

Date: Thursday, April 14, 2022
Time: 5:00 p.m.
Location: Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, Room 153, Rubenstein Library
Contact: Rachel Ingold (rachel.ingold@duke.edu or 919-684-8549)

The Rubenstein Library houses the Parapsychology Laboratory Records, a collection of 700 boxes of materials that reveal a comprehensive picture of the Laboratory during its existence at Duke. The collection includes personal papers of J. B. Rhine, J. G. Pratt, Louisa E. Rhine, and others, as well as professional correspondence, research records, legal and financial papers, clippings, and photographs.

Join us on Thursday, April 14, at 5 p.m. for a panel discussion on J. B. Rhine: ESP at Duke. Panelists will discuss J. B. Rhine’s pioneering research on telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition, and psychokinesis.

Panelists include:

  • Barbara Ensrud, Moderator
  • Sally Rhine Feather, Ph.D.,  Clinical Psychologist, co-editor of J. B. Rhine : Letters, 1923-1939 : ESP and the Foundations of Parapsychology
  • John G. Kruth, Executive Director of the Rhine Research Center
  • James Carpenter, Ph.D., Psychotherapist
  • Tom Robisheaux, Ph.D., Professor of History, Duke University

Our event coincides with an exhibit, “Early Studies in Parapsychology at Duke,” on display in the Josiah Charles Trent History of Medicine Room of the Rubenstein Library.

Finding Your Voice: Developing an Exhibit on the History of Duke’s Latina/o/e/x Students

Post contributed by Meg Brown, Head, Exhibition Services and E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Exhibits Librarian.

In the spring of his freshman year, Carlo-Alfonso Garza visited the library and saw an exhibition about the 1969 Allen Building Takeover, and decided to use his voice by writing and posting this note:

Carlo-Alfonso Garza's demand, handwritten on yellow paper. He wrote "How about making one of these exhibits for Latinos that Duke always seems to forget. Let's talk, President Price!," followed by his name and contact information.

The librarians read this note, and this small gesture put into motion a plan that eventually became the exhibition OUR HISTORY, OUR VOICE: LATINX AT DUKE // NUESTRA HISTORIA, NUESTRA VOZ: LATINAS/OS/ES/X EN DUKE. To learn more about how it all happened, view a clip of an oral history with Carlo-Alfonso and while you’re there, watch other histories created by students who interviewed a variety of members of Duke’s Latinx community.

Come celebrate the exhibit with the curators (including Carlo-Alfonso) in person on Monday, February 21, 2022  from 4-6:00 PM in the Chappell Gallery, Duke University Libraries. The faculty and student curators will be making remarks at 4:30 PM.

Exhibit Opening: “Our History, Our Voice: Latinx at Duke/Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz: Latinas/os/es/x en Duke”

Date: Monday, February 21, 2022
Time: 4:00-6:00 PM
Location: Chappell Family Gallery, Perkins Library
Contact: Meg Brown or Amy McDonald

Please join the student and faculty curators at the opening of their new exhibition, “Our History, Our Voice: Latinx at Duke/Nuestra Historia, Nuestra Voz: Latinas/os/es/x en Duke.”

Over the past year, Dr. Cecilia Márquez’s Latinx Social Movements courses and Professor Joan Munné’s Spanish for Heritage Learners courses canvassed the collections of the Duke University Archives and conducted oral histories to create this first-of-its-kind exhibition exploring the complex story of Duke’s Latinx community.

The exhibit curators will make brief remarks at 4:30 PM and offer guided tours of the exhibit afterwards.

We encourage you to register for this event. Registration is not required, but will help us to plan the event safely. Masks are required in the Duke University Libraries.

If you’re unable to join us for this event, please check out our online exhibit!

Photograph of the "Our History, Our Voice" exhibit. The exhibit's title appears on the far wall, which is also lined with colorful exhibit panels and exhibit cases. Two exhibit cases display materials in the center of the room.

Duke’s May Queen

Post contributed by Theodore D. Segal, guest contributor1

On September 26, 2020, Duke University announced that the Sociology-Psychology Building on its West Campus was renamed the Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke Building to recognize Reuben-Cooke’s role as one of the “First Five” Black undergraduates at Duke and her many contributions to the university. A fitting honor, this recognition recalls a different time at Duke, one when Reuben-Cooke’s election as the school’s first Black May Queen stirred controversy.

* * * * * * * * *

Although by 1967 a number of longstanding traditions at Duke had been set aside, the annual practice of crowning a “May Queen” endured. Selection of the “Queen” was a centerpiece of popular “May Day” celebrations, a holiday whose origins date back to the ancient world. Villagers throughout Europe would collect flowers and participate in games, pageants, and dances throughout the day. It became customary to crown a young woman “May Queen” to oversee the festivities. During the early 20th century, selection of a May Queen became common at women’s colleges in the United States and had acquired a special meaning in the South. “The crowning of the May Queen as the ritual incantation of Southern society’s ideal of femininity,” historian Christie Anne Farnham wrote, “was a traditional event at Southern female schools. . . . The queen was usually elected by the students on the basis of ‘sweetness’ and beauty,” Farnham explained, although the father’s status often played a role.

May Queen traditions at Duke dated back to 1921 when the school was still known as Trinity College. The Trinity Chronicle reported that 2000 spectators attended May Day festivities that first year, and that the two-day celebration was spent “in gaiety and amusement.” Undergraduate Martha Wiggins was crowned Queen of May that year. The school newspaper wrote that she, “wore a lovely costume of shimmering white, bearing a corsage of white roses with her golden hair cascading in waves down her back, making a charming picture of perfect grace and absolute loveliness.”

Wilhelmina Reuben-Cooke poses at the Anderson Street entrance to the Sarah P. Duke Gardens in 1967. She wears a cardigan and skirt, and the Duke Chapel is visible in the distance behind her.Given this context, it was newsworthy when Wilhelmina Reuben, a member of Duke’s first class of Black undergraduates, was selected as the Woman’s College May Queen in spring 1967. As runners up in the voting, white coeds Mary Earle and Jo Humphreys were designated to serve as Reuben’s “court.” The Associated Press picked up the news, reporting that “Mimi, as she is known to her friends, is a Negro—the first of her race to receive the honor at the women’s[sic] college of the university.” Chosen for her character, leadership, campus service, and beauty, Reuben had been selected May Queen by a vote of students in the woman’s college. A fact sheet on Reuben prepared by Mary Grace Wilson, dean of women, described her as “warm, friendly, perceptive and sensitive to the feelings of others.” Wilson called her “one of the most admired and highly respected students on the campus.” Reuben was a member of the freshman honor society and was elected to Phi Beta Kappa as a junior. A student intern at the State Department, she was listed in “Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges. For her part, Reuben was pleased by her selection. “I’m still trying to adjust to it,” she told the Associated Press. “I’ve been walking around in a delightful haze of disbelief and excitement.”

Many at Duke were pleased with the news. Randolph C. Harrison, Jr., an alumnus from Richmond, Virginia, wrote to Douglas Knight, Duke’s president, that the “undergraduates’ choice of Miss Reuben as May Queen attests once more to Duke’s greatness. What a step towards inter-racial accord.”

If Reuben’s election represented progress to some, however, the prospect of a Black May Queen flanked by two white members of her “court” felt like a violation of the established social order to others. Jonathan Kinney, president of the Duke student government, saw the reaction when he had the responsibility of “crowning” the queen and her court. “I kissed all the rest of the panel,” he recalled, “so I kissed [Wilhelmina Reuben]. There were a lot of boos in that stadium at that time.” An anonymous alumnus sent the Duke president pictures of the “pretty May Queens chosen at Peace, St. Mary’s, and Meredith Colleges,” all of whom were white, along with a picture of Reuben, “a colored girl who was chosen May Queen at our Dear Ole Duke University.” The alumnus noted the “deplorable contrast between the May Queens of other colleges and the stunning representative from Duke.” He told Knight “Duke Alumni everywhere were stunned and several in South Carolina had strokes.” One correspondent, identified as a “lifelong, respected citizen of Wilmington, North Carolina,” outlined with exasperation the problems that Reuben’s election was creating at the city’s annual Azalea Festival where May Queens from throughout North Carolina were invited to attend:

The Sprunt’s annual garden party at Orton [Plantation] for the college queens (held for the past 20 years) has been cancelled; the Coastguard Academy, which was supposed to furnish her escort, says they don’t have a colored boy available; the private home in which she was supposed to stay is not now available; and there are all sorts of complications.

“The crowd who elected her has done a disservice to her,” the writer opined, “and placed a no doubt nice girl in an embarrassing situation.”

Finally, two trustees weighed in. C. B. Houck told Knight that he liked and respected “the colored people” and wanted them to have “every opportunity that the white people have.” Still, he thought Reuben’s election was in “bad taste” and that the “East Campus girls were leaning over backwards to be nice.” For Houck, the symbolism was deeply troubling. “To select a colored person for May Queen and have white maids of honor flanking her on either side,” he concluded, “makes for poor and critical relationship [sic] among many people, particularly in the South.” Trustee George Ivey was also deeply concerned. Writing from Bangkok, Thailand, he called Reuben’s selection “very upsetting to me.” Even if the selection was by Duke’s coeds, Ivey regretted “that the University has attracted the type of students that would vote for a Negro girl as a ‘beauty’ to represent the student body. It is nauseating to contemplate.”

By spring 1967, Duke had eliminated most of the school’s de jure discriminatory policies and practices. Reuben’s election as May Queen could be seen as another positive sign of racial progress. But the episode also shined a spotlight on the depth of attachment some still had to traditional racist ideas. These attitudes would become even more pronounced in the months to come as Black student activism accelerated on campus.

1Ted Segal is a Duke graduate (A.B. 1977), retired lawyer, and a board member of the Center for Documentary Studies at the school.  His book, POINT OF RECKONING: The Fight for Racial Justice at Duke University, will be published by Duke University Press in February 2021. Special thanks to the Duke University Archives for preserving the historical records quoted in this piece and for making them readily accessible.

Make 2020 (Duke) History!

We’re at home, in our houses, apartments, and dorm rooms. Or, when we venture onto campus, we learn, work, and relax while masked and six feet apart. But in spite of the (social) distance between us, we can still find ways to join together and be creative! 

The Duke University Archives invites our fellow Dukies, wherever you are, to recreate and reinterpret one of our historical Duke photographs. Recreated photos will be displayed online and in the library outside the Gothic Reading Room. You can also choose to add your photo to our growing Share Your COVID-19 Story collection!

How to participate:

  1. Choose from one of the #make2020dukehistory photos from our Flickr site and recreate it. (See guidelines below.)
  2. Send it to us via this submission form by Friday, October 23th at 11:59 PM.
Two side-by-side photos: At left: a ca. 1977 photo of caretaker Suzanne Lassiter holding a lemur at the Duke Primate Center, ca. 1977. At right: University Archivist Val Gillispie recreates the same photo with her cat, Barbecue Sauce.
At left: a ca. 1977 photo of caretaker Suzanne Lassiter holding a lemur at the Duke Primate Center, ca. 1977. At right: University Archivist Val Gillispie recreates the same photo with her cat, Barbecue Sauce.

Starting on Monday, November 2nd, all reinterpreted photos will be available for view on our Flickr site, on University Archives and Rubenstein Library social media, and in a slideshow outside the Gothic Reading Room at the Rubenstein Library. Duke Arts will also share the photos in its Duke Arts Weekly newsletter (sign up here!). And we’ll plan additional ways to share the photos across campus during the Spring 2021 semester.

One more thing: we want everyone in the Duke community to have comfortable and safe homes, particularly during this pandemic. Please also consider making a donation to Duke Mutual Aid or the Graduate & Professional Student Council Food Pantry to support those in our community who need it right now. (Donations are not required in order to submit a reinterpreted photo.) 

Participation Guidelines:

  • Give your interpretive powers full rein by matching your recreation to your current experiences and sentiments or aim for faithfulness to the original–bring your creativity to this in any way you choose!
  • Remember that the photos you submit will be publicly displayed. Here’s the Duke Community Standard for quick reference.
  • Submitted photos must adhere to masking, social distancing, and other safety requirements outlined in the Duke Compact.
  • Don’t like any of the photos in the #make2020dukehistory photo pool? No problem! Choose any photo from our Flickr site—but your photo recreation must still abide by social distancing and masking requirements.
  • Have fun and ask the University Archives if you have any questions about the historical photos you’re working with!

OUCH! : Over a Century of Getting Vaccinated at Duke

Post contributed by Brooke Guthrie, Research Services Librarian.

You may have noticed (and we really hope that you have) that campus life is a bit different in Fall 2020. We’re all wearing masks, washing our hands, and obsessively monitoring our symptoms. We’ve also spent at least a few minutes speculating on the many unknowns—including the possibility of a coronavirus vaccine and how it might be distributed to the Duke community. The Duke Compact asks students, staff, and faculty to pledge to “Get the flu shot and other required vaccinations by designated deadlines.” And that made us wonder about the history of vaccinations at Duke.

You can learn a lot about Duke history from the Duke Chronicle and its predecessor, the Trinity Chronicle. Luckily for us, issues of the newspaper from 1905 to 2000 have been digitized by Duke University Libraries and can be fairly easily searched. Searching the newspaper reveals that campus-wide vaccination efforts are nothing new to Duke. Here are a few of the examples we found.

We’ll start by going way, way back to a time before Duke was called Duke. In 1914, during the Trinity College days, a vaccine against typhoid fever was offered to students, faculty, and their families. In addition to announcing the availability of the vaccine, the Trinity Chronicle published information on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccine as well as the number of deaths caused by typhoid in the state (about 1,200 each year). The article ends by noting that the administration “is anxious to see a large number of students avail themselves of the opportunity to obtain immunity from typhoid.”

The front page of the October 7, 1914 Trinity College. The headline to the relevant article reads "Typhoid Vaccine is Offered Trinity Men."
October 7, 1914 front page of the Trinity Chronicle with article discussing typhoid vaccine. Read article.

A little over a decade later, in 1928, students were asked to get a smallpox vaccine. The very short announcement suggests that vaccination is no big deal: “the nurse will give the vaccines in a few minutes, and it will all be over.” Although noting that there were no serious cases on campus, the article says that six students were confined and lists their names. (Reporting campus illnesses and including the names of the ill was a fairly common practice back then.)

Polio was perhaps one of the most troubling diseases in the mid-twentieth century and the widespread concern was justified. In 1948, the worst year for polio in North Carolina, 2,516 cases and 143 deaths were reported in the state. In October of 1950, a Duke undergraduate named Daniel Rathbun died after contracting polio and spending two weeks in an iron lung at Duke Hospital. When a polio vaccine became available in 1955, vaccination campaigns were held throughout the country. In October of 1956, the Duke Chronicle announced that student health would offer the vaccine to all under 45 years old. For students, the vaccine cost $3.00. The article discusses what is known about the relatively new vaccine, emphasizes the importance of getting vaccinated, and notes that previously most college students were required to get vaccinated for typhoid fever (as if to say “why should this be any different?”).

October 12, 1956 Duke Chronicle article announcing polio vaccinations on campus. The headline reads "For All Under 45: Student Health Will Offer Polio Vaccine."
October 12, 1956 Duke Chronicle article announcing polio vaccinations on campus. Read article.

Efforts to vaccinate campus continued through the rest of the 20th century. In the mid-1970s, an outbreak of swine flu in the United States led to a nationwide vaccination drive. In November of 1976, Duke announced that it had 5,000 shots available to students and staff. In the 1980s, measles was a cause for concern on campus. In March 1985, the Chronicle published a large notice to let unvaccinated students know that “YOU NEED TO BE VACCINATED NOW.” A few years later in January 1989, a statewide outbreak spread to campus and Duke quickly “issued more stringent vaccination requirements” for both students and staff. Soon after Duke issued the new requirements, all unvaccinated students and staff were excluded from campus for two weeks. Staff were told to stay home. Students were barred from campus housing and had their Duke cards deactivated.

Notice published in the March 15, 1985 Duke Chronicle directing students to get the measles vaccine. The ad begins: "Attention Upperclassmen and Graduate Students: Help Keep Measles Off Duke Campus."
Notice published in the March 15, 1985 Duke Chronicle directing students to get the measles vaccine.

Concerns around meningitis in 1987 brought similar calls for large scale vaccination after a small number of students were infected. The Chronicle reported that mandatory vaccination was possible and, in March of 1987, thousands of students received a vaccine in a single day as part of the administration’s goal to distribute 6,000 doses.

Article on the front page of the March 6, 1987 Chronicle. The headline reads "Thousands receive shots to stop meningitis threat." A black-and-white photo of students waiting in line for the vaccinations accompanies the article.
Coverage of the 1987 meningitis vaccine effort of campus. Read article.

There are many other examples of vaccination efforts in Duke’s history—the campus-wide distribution of the annual flu vaccine is one we’re all familiar with and, in 1999, students were encouraged to get a hepatitis B vaccine with a hip Chronicle advertisement that said “Hepatitis B is a very uncool thing” and the vaccine will keep you from “turning an embarrassing shade of yellow.”

If you’re interested in exploring this history more, try searching digitized issues of the Duke Chronicle or get in touch with our helpful staff. And, while we have your attention, make sure to get your flu vaccine this year!

Share Your COVID-19 Story!

COVID-19 has changed and disrupted our lives, at Duke and around the world. On campus, most students have returned home, classes are online, and all events are cancelled. Many staff are working from home; others that are deemed essential continue to work on campus. The hospital is preparing for an influx of people infected with COVID-19. Duke researchers are trying to find ways to fight the disease, from identifying treatments to creating better protective equipment.

And we all live with the fear of the impact of the virus, both for ourselves and our loved ones.

The Duke University Archives and the Duke University Medical Center Archives have been hard at work to document this unique time in history. We have been capturing all of the news alerts, email updates, Duke COVID-19 websites, and online research symposiums. As much as we are able to gather online, these materials only tell a part of the story.

We would like to hear from students, staff, faculty, and other people who live, work, or study at Duke. You may tell your story through writing, photographs, film, or other means. (Durham community members, connect with the Museum of Durham History to share your stories!)

  • Interested? If you are interested in sharing your story at some point in the future, please fill out this online form. Signing up won’t obligate you to submit anything; it simply permits Archives staff to reach out to you periodically to let you know about options for submission. You can opt out of receiving these notices at any time.
  • Ready to share? If you would like to share your story now, you can send it to us using this submission form. Your story will be submitted to the University Archives or the Medical Center Archives, where it will be permanently preserved and made available for research. NB: School of Medicine, School of Nursing and Duke Health community members should use this submission form from the Medical Center Archives.

We recognize that you may want time to reflect on your experiences and will continue to collect stories on an ongoing basis. The submission process will include options for keeping your name anonymous; in that case, your contact information would be known only to the staff of the University Archives and Medical Center Archives.

Most importantly, please know that your story matters. We want to hear yours. Please contact us with any questions or take a look at our FAQ page for more detailed information.

Searching for Records (Management)

Post contributed by Hillary Gatlin, Records Manager.

When one of my Duke University Archives’ colleagues alerted me to the presence of an Academic Council memo from 1982 requesting information on the management of faculty records, I was intrigued. Though often critical to an organization’s well-being, issues of records management rarely make headlines, and an administrative body like Academic Council taking an interest in records management was a big deal. I sought out the Academic Council records and unearthed the story behind the memo.

An opened Hollinger box showing folders from the Academic Council records.
Box 4 of Academic Council Records

Academic Council first indicated their interest in faculty files and records management with an announcement at the January 21, 1982 meeting, declaring that “the Executive Committee will shortly appoint a three-person ad hoc committee to ascertain what university files are kept on faculty members and who has access to them.” The Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Files was established the following month at the February 18, 1982 meeting and consisted of committee chair Professor Paletz (Political Science), Professor Weistart (Law), and Professor Dearlove (English). The focus of the committee was on identifying university files that contained information on the faculty, including whom had access to those files.

As part of their work, the Committee drafted and sent out the aforementioned memo to university departments, seeking data to report back to Academic Council. Some of the questions asked in the survey are still asked by records managers today including: Who has access to the files and under what conditions? What is the content of the files? Who purges or expunges files? When are they purged?

This survey was sent to campus administrators in 1982, asking for information on records management.
This survey was sent to campus administrators in 1982, asking for information on records management.

While an initial report from the Ad Hoc Committee on Faculty Files was expected in March 1982, it was not filed with Academic Council until May 25, 1982.  Sadly, the actual report, including the results of the records survey, appears to have been lost to time. The Executive Committee of Academic Council provided a brief update on the report at the September 16, 1982 meeting, with the promise that further discussion would take place once the report had been more closely reviewed. This update did clarify the reason for Academic Council’s interest in faculty files: “the concern is with faculty rights to access of their personnel files, the ability to correct factual or other errors contained in those files,” and the absence of a clear University policy on faculty files.

The development of this policy stayed on Academic Council’s radar, and at the May 5, 1983 meeting, they reviewed a proposed policy draft. This review resulted in over five pages of documented discussion on faculty records issues. Major issues touched on during the discussion included the number of files to be maintained by the administration, who within the administration should be responsible for maintaining files, and whether information should ever be removed from files, and if so, under what conditions. There was also an in-depth discussion of confidentiality, particularly as it relates to faculty recommendations and the university’s procedures for appointment, promotion, and tenure.

After this substantial discussion, Academic Council agreed that a clearer policy was needed and decided to resume talks again in the next academic year. As far as the Academic Council records show, the policy discussion never resumed at this level.

Duke University has since developed guidelines regarding records management and retention of university records, including personnel files. Please review the Human Resources records retention guidelines for more information on managing personnel files.

The Records Management program is happy to assist University departments and offices with managing their university records and preserving their university history. To schedule a consultation with the Records Manager, please contact hillary.gatlin@duke.edu.

Nixon, Bradway, and a Friendship that Outlasted an Impeachment

Post contributed by Leah Kerr, Technical Services Processing Archivist for the Duke University Archives.

At Smith Warehouse, the Technical Services archival processing area of Bay 11 is quiet. But not because the librarians working there have shushed everyone. Rather, the archivists, catalogers, interns and student workers perform many tasks by themselves. And most of us are wearing headphones or earbuds. Undoubtedly we are listening to music, podcasts, sports events, and whatever else we can stream. As a self-proclaimed news junkie, I often listen to live broadcasts.

As an archivist of University Archives records, my worlds collided in a “deja vu all over again” manner. At the end of January and beginning of February I was listening to the impeachment hearings and trial of President Donald J. Trump as I was processing the John S. Bradway Correspondence with Richard M. Nixon records. The collection is comprised of letters written between the Duke law professor, and his former student from 1959-1978. Nixon graduated from Duke Law in 1937, and the two men stayed in touch. These letters were recently gifted to Duke from a historical society in New Jersey.

Invitations to Mr. and Mrs. Bradway to White House events, ca. 1972.

The correspondence covers the time periods that Nixon worked as an attorney at a law firm, a United States Vice President, a newly-elected United States President, an embattled impeachment defendant, and finally, a former President looking back at his legacy. But the bulk of the letters fall between 1973 and 1974, when President Nixon was first tied to, then accused of, and later resigned due to the Watergate break-in and scandal and subsequent White House cover-up.

A December 16, 1964 letter from Richard Nixon to John Bradway with the letterhead of Nixon's law firm, Nixon, Mudge, Rose, Guthrie, & Alexander. Nixon writes "The problem of the TV and radio commentators is a terribly difficult one. It just seems that those who choose that profession generally have a strongly liberal bent."

Bradway and Nixon’s correspondence show the respect each had for the other. They often mention their spouses, Mary Bradway and Pat Nixon, offering their greetings to them in each letter. The men also write glowingly of each other, and Bradway offered his suggestions to “stay with it” and his view that neither the Republican party nor the country would have anything to gain by Nixon resigning. When Nixon finally did resign and leave Washington, the correspondence continued, and Bradway urged him to write “a book or a series of articles” giving his side of the Watergate story.

A two-page letter on White House stationery from May 10, 1972. Nixon writes "You can be sure that during these days of rather difficult problems I will follow your advice to STAY WITH IT."

Processing this collection with impeachment trial streaming through my earbuds led to an unusual echo chamber. The same phrases that I saw in the documents were being repeated on the floors of the House and the Senate. For example, liberal media was mentioned in both the recent impeachment hearings and the correspondence. The phrase “Impeachment is a political process” and concerns about the health and future of the Republican party were discussed in the letters I read, and in the very recent commentaries I heard. For me it was a startling reminder of how primary source documents very clearly connect to our present-day lives and current affairs.

Testing, Testing, Turkey

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.)

Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.
Chart showing the results of the Duke turkey test.

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.

Marjorie Knapp’s turkey test report.

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.

Turkey marketing materials from the Ted Minah papers.

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.”

 

 

list of turkey recipes
“Profit-making” recipe ideas from the National Turkey Federation.

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!

Turkey recipes including jellied turkey and turkey feet.
More turkey recipes including 33 ways to serve turkey and how to best use that turkey 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.

Turkey snapshot featuring turkey that’s not having a good time.

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.

Happy Thanksgiving!