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Archive for May, 2011

Friday Facial Hair: It’s Date Night!

Earlier today, I was searching for images with “bicycles” to create a Facebook album after being inspired by the commuters of DC, who took to the streets on their bikes to celebrate DC Bike to Work Day.

I was thrilled to see this image, which is not only a fine example of a nineteenth-century velocipede, but is also a tandem bicycle for double the old-timey fun. And not only that, but this gentleman has a fine moustache and sideburns, qualifying him to be featured in Facial Hair Friday.

But the burning question is this: Are these two on a date?

After all, what better way to spend time out in public with your sweetheart in a way that met the high moral standing of the day?

If they are, I am impressed. They are both have corsages to pinned to their coats and have on stylish hats. The woman is wearing gloves and a fitted corset with many, many tiny buttons. The man’s facial hair is neat and tidy, unlike the flowing beards and neards that we often see. They are impeccably groomed, a fact noted in the original caption to this photo which refers to them as a “smartly dressed couple.”

And despite operating a four-wheeled bicycle together using their feet and their hands, neither of them seems sweaty or flustered. If it is … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Congratulations to Jenny, who has won 15% off in our eStore! Out of 25 entries, your caption sounded right to guest judge and Supervisory Motion Picture Preservation Specialist Christina Kovac and her fellow staff in the Audio/Video Preservation Lab.

If you listen carefully to this photograph, you may still hear National Archives employees J. W. Roberts, Mrs. E. B. Haas, and Miss J. Cobb as they discuss the Memovox discs (ARC 3493216, 1949).

This week’s mystery photograph moves us forward in time but also features mysterious, oversized objects. Give us your best caption in the comments below!… [ Read all ]

Kuchem-Buchem just like Grandma used to make

Today on “What’s Cooking Wednesday,” we are excited to share a special guest post and recipe from food writer Joan Nathan, who will be speaking at the National Archives on May 25 with Chef Spike Mendelsohn about Jewish holiday traditions and cooking.

 In all the years I have been writing about food, I thought that I would have heard of every Jewish recipe known to mankind. To my delighted surprise, I have not—something that keeps this profession so very dynamic.

The United States is such a multicultural country that every ethnic group can find its culinary roots in one of the many immigrant communities throughout this amazing land. Jews are no different. Our food has gone mainstream in many areas: bagels, brisket, matzo balls, chopped liver, and challah. Who hasn’t heard of challah French toast?

Although the ancestors of three-quarters of America’s Jews came here in the Great Migration from Eastern Europe between the 1880s and early 1900s, today’s Jews are a mishmash of many backgrounds, Jewish and non-Jewish.

I just tasted, for example, one of the best bagels in America at Cincinnati’s Marx Hot Bagels; considered so American that it was featured at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1976. John Marx, who learned to make bagels from a Jewish bagel baker in the 60s, only learned recently that he had a Jewish great-grandfather.

In the … [ Read all ]

The Archivist and the Chef

Our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” opens on June 10 and has over 100 original records about food.

But what if you could do more than just look at the records? What if you could taste them—and taste history?

Chef Jose Andres—the 2011 Outstanding Chef at the James Beard Foundation Awards, host and executive producer of PBS series Made in Spain, and owner of several restaurants—had some good ideas of how he might cook up history.

This morning at a press event at the National Archives, the Archivist and Chef Andres announced a special partnership between the Foundation for the National Archives and ThinkFoodGroup inspired by “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”

On July 4, Chef Andres will open a pop-up restaurant called America Eats Tavern, which will be a culinary destination and an extension of the National Archives exhibit. The name comes from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) writers project of the 1930s.

What will American history taste like? Count on native ingredients and long-forgotten dishes and inspiration from generations of immigrants. Burgoo and Oysters Rockefeller are on the menu!

Chef Andres is also the Chief Culinary Advisor to the exhibit and wrote the introduction to the new recipe book Eating with Uncle Sam: Recipes and Historical Bites from the National Archives. He will also be speaking at the National Archives on June 10 about the … [ Read all ]

It’s a bird, it’s a beard, it’s Audubon!

If you are planning to attend our event next week on crowdsourcing, you will hear a presentation by Jessica Zelt from the U.S. Geological Survey’s North American Bird Phenology Program.

My colleague here in the office was editing the text for this event. She thought her husband, an avid bird watcher, might be interested in the “Bird Phrenology Program,” so she e-mailed him the description she was editing.

He e-mailed her back, saying “I think it’s phenology, not phrenology.”

Yes, phenology is the study of recurring life and plant cycles. Phrenology is the highly questionable Victorian practice of using the shape of skulls to intepret personality traits.

Editing for a living has many such dangerous pitfalls.

I like to look at this picture of John James Audubon, whose paintings made American birds into works of art, and imagine him feeling the skull of a woodpecker and then making pronouncements like “This bird suffers from melancholia, quickness of temper, and an overabundance of mirth.”

Perhaps there is a phrenology for beards that we could apply to Audubon?

Do the sideburns indicate standoffishness? Does the lack of mustache indicate a deficiency in calculation and therefore “an inability to understand the most simple numerical relations.” Perhaps his lack of chin covering betrays a lack of tunefulness?

In honor of crowdsourcing, I must pass on these deep questions to you, my phrenological … [ Read all ]