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World War I food conservation: “Pan de la libertad”

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?,” our current special exhibition in Washington, DC, examines the Government’s effect on what Americans eat. Government influence was especially visible during wartime, when many food products were reserved for feeding the troops and our Allies.

During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover, urged the American people to voluntarily conserve food, especially wheat, meat, fats, and sugar. Recognizing that a successful program had to reach out to all Americans, the agency distributed printed materials in several languages, including Italian pamphlets in New York City, Chinese food conservation notices in Hawaii, and Spanish recipes in California.

The featured recipes for “pan de la libertad” (liberty bread), using corn, oat, and barley flour instead of wheat, were found in the files of the California State Food Administration, housed at the National Archives at San Francisco. According to a note at the bottom, recipes were translated into Spanish for counties with significant Spanish-speaking populations.

An all-out publicity campaign was waged to educate the citizenry about the need for food conservation and how to accomplish it in one’s own home. Posters and newspaper notices exhorted readers to combat waste. Homemakers and restaurant operators signed pledges to observe “meatless Mondays” and “wheatless Wednesdays.”

The American Protective League also received and passed on reports of citizens suspected of food hoarding.

In a … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Crimes against butter

The Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, has housed some famous and infamous inmates, such as “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud and Machine Gun Kelly. In the early 20th century, the prison took in some less likely felons—violators of the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.

How did trafficking in this popular butter substitute become a Federal offense? Well, almost immediately after New York’s U.S. Dairy Company began production of “artificial butter” in 1871, regulation began. Dairy interests pushed Congress to pass the 1886 act, which imposed a two-cent tax (per pound) on margarine and also required manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of margarine to obtain margarine licenses.

By 1902, 32 states had bans on coloring margarine yellow to make it look more like butter. That same year, Congress increased the tax to 10 cents a pound for colored margarine but imposed a lesser tax of a quarter of one cent per pound on the uncolored stuff.

The exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” includes the story of felons convicted of violating sections of the Oleomargarine Act and sent to the Federal prison at Leavenworth. Some tried to pass the margarine off as butter; others tried to evade the tax by reusing tax stamps again and again.

Consumers colored their own margarine with yellow food coloring into the 1940s. The federal margarine tax system came to an end in 1951. … [ Read all ]

Thursday caption contest

Congratulations, Teresa Martin Klaiber, for bringing a smile to the face of Gwen Granados, our guest judge from the National Archives at Riverside. She shared this photograph with us, and we all agreed it was eminently caption-worthy. (Teresa, if you send an e-mail to prologue@nara.gov, I can send you your 15% discount code to use at the National Archives eStore.)

The photograph is in a file on “Porpoises, 1965–1967,” among the records of the  11th Naval District in Record Group 181, Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments. Its original caption reads, “Sam the Sea Lion and his trainer Walley Ross.”

OK, captioners, get your thinking caps on for this week’s challenge. This Sunday is Mother’s Day, so maybe these ladies are celebrating their day! Write your own caption in the comments section at the bottom of this page.

 … [ Read all ]

“Panda”monium at the National Zoo

Springtime in Washington, DC, makes people think of cherry blossoms—and pandas. While keepers and panda fans anxiously wait for signs that the National Zoo’s Mei Xiang may be expecting a cub, we remember the first pandas to live at the zoo.

President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China in February 1972 opened diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries and was one of the most successful achievements of his administration. The result that sticks most keenly in the popular memory, though, is the arrival of two chubby black and white furry goodwill ambassadors—Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing.

When pandas’ arrival date was set, President Nixon asked  First Lady Pat Nixon to head up the delegation to welcome the pandas to the National Zoo. [Listen to his telephone call to her. It's the last item in the list.] Mrs. Nixon had been captivated by the pandas at the zoo in Beijing and was delighted to officially accept the nation’s own pair.

On April 16, 1972, she officially accepted the gift of the People’s Republic of China and declared, “I think ‘panda-monium’ is going to break out at the zoo.” She was right. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were the top attractions at the zoo until their deaths in in the 1990s.

The video clip below is excerpted from film shot at the zoo ceremony. After Mrs. Nixon … [ Read all ]

Roosting in the records

Someone who read my post on Squirrel Appreciation Day alerted me to World Sparrow Day, which was Sunday, March 20. This inspired me to dive back into Online Public Access (OPA) on the National Archives web site. I typed in “sparrow,” and amid many references to the U.S. Marines, missiles, and Sparrows Point shipyard were a couple of photographs of the tiny bird and some quite interesting Indian School Journals from the early 20th century.

The Journal came from the National Archives at Fort Worth, among Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The magazine was published by students at the Chilocco Indian School and was printed in the school’s print shop. It contained articles about the Indian service and various tribes, stories, poems and inspirational paragraphs, and advertisements. There are also a number of photographs of students, faculty, school buildings, Indian houses, and artifacts.

I’m featuring a page from the February 1907 issue of the Indian School Journal that was featured in a  section called “Educational Department—Lesson For Teachers from The Office.” The suggested Q&A taught students about “Birds as Weed Destroyers.”

The Journal authors were not sympathetic to the English (house) sparrow, which is the bird celebrated on World Sparrow Day. Because house sparrows are not native to North America, they were long considered a pest. While the house sparrow still seems to be one of the most … [ Read all ]