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Archive for June, 2011

What’s Cooking Wednesday–Exploding Ketchup!

Contaminated Ketchup, 1909 (ARC 5710028)

These records are featured in our new “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit which opens this Friday! To celebrate the opening, the Foundation for the National Archives is giving away a free copy of the exhibit catalog. Leave a comment below telling us what food you like to put ketchup on, and the Foundation will randomly choose a winner next Wednesday!

Long before the 1981 congressional debate over whether ketchup was a vegetable or before my grandfather was using it to help make his WWII military rations palatable, ketchup was dangerous.

Ketchup could explode.

Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added a preservative.

However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, meant that ketchup—and its rotting, explosive tomato ingredients—was now regulated. In the image above 1909, the company making “Squire Tomato Catsup” was prosecuted and fined $50 for making ketchup from “Decomposed Material.”

In another case (image below), “Elk Pride Tomato Catsup” was found to have yeasts, bacteria, and mold filaments in samples of its products when tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The shipment was condemned for destruction when it was found to be “adulturated in violation of the Food and Drugs Act . … [ Read all ]

Mapping Out A Mystery

In this photograph of the Preuss map, you can see Mount St. Helens in the middle of the top half of the map.

In this guest blog post, Dr. Mark Stegmaier, Professor of History at Cameron University in Oklahoma, discovers that sometimes even professional researchers find answers to questions when—and where—they aren’t looking for them!

In the Winter 2009 issue of Prologue magazine, Dr. Richard McCulley of the National Archives and I published an article titled “Cartography, Politics, and Mischief” describing and analyzing the features on a map of the United States drawn in late 1848 by Ephraim Gilman of the U.S. General Land Office as a document to accompany President James K. Polk’s last annual message of December 1848.

Dr. McCulley and I realized that Gilman had used other maps as sources for information for his own map. However, the map from which Gilman copied place names and terrain features for the section of his map depicting the northwestern part of the country—the recently organized Oregon Territory—eluded our efforts to locate it in several prominent collections of maps.

But sometimes historical investigators experience strange and serendipitous events in their research efforts.

I was doing research on an entirely different topic at the St. Louis Mercantile Library. This institution is now located on the campus of the University of Missouri at St. Louis … [ Read all ]

Treating D-Day’s Wounded

Private First Class Warren Capers, 08/18/1944 (ARC 531501; 112-SGA-44(11664))

D-day conjures up all kinds of images: the thousands of boats making their way across the English Channel, the men leaping off the landing craft and wading ashore under heavy fire, and the dangers once they got onto the beach and headed for the cliffs.

It must have been terrifying to be part of the assault. In looking at images and video about D-day in the holdings of National Archives, I was not sure what choose for the today’s post. There is Eisenhower’s Order of the Day—and his handwritten note taking full responsibility in case the operation failed.

And the logistics of D-day are amazing and overwhelming as well. Over 160,000 Allied troops with 5,000 ships and 13,000 aircraft had to be coordinated and maneuvered across the English Channel to land on 50 miles of beach that was seeded with thousands of mines and other underwater obstacles and occupied by German soldiers in concrete bunkers on high cliffs.

In the end, I decided to highlight one photograph. The image above doesn’t have any guns or smoke, but it does show one person whose act of bravery was in assisting others during that long day.

The image above is from Record Group 112, Records of the Office of the Surgeon General (Army). The original caption reads … [ Read all ]

What a beard! What a name!

Bezaleel W. Armstrong. Graduated U.S. Military Academy and Brevet 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Dragoons, 1845; copy of daguerreotype, circa 1846. (ARC 530873; 111-SC-83420)

If this Friday’s facial hair star lived in present times, he would be so very easy to Google.

Yes, “Bezaleel Armstrong” would be pretty easy to find on Facebook and the Internet. In fact, even now a quick name-check in the Google search box pulls up plenty of hits on his unique name.

He would also be pretty easy to spot in a crowd, with his chin-strap beard and long curled hair.

Belazeel was one of eight children, whose names were just as noteworthy: James, John Milton, Margaret King, Albert, George Washington, Eliza Jane, and William Wallace.

The Armstrong family papers are in the Minnesota Historical Library.

Today’s post is not Bezaleel’s only brush with fame. This daguerreotype (a precursor to today’s photography) is also in the Digital Vaults of the National Archives Experience.

Bezaleel was also a veteran of the Mexican War, serving at Vera Cruz and Mexico City in 1847–48. He died in 1849, aged 26.

(Thank you to Laura B. and Kathleen L. of the Foundation for the National Archives for suggesting Bezaleel as a candidate for today’s post!)… [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

"It was an ordinary day, just like any other, until one of them started to talk."

Congratulations to John W, who has won 15% off at our eStore! It was a tough choice between Stepford babies, “a head” puns, Hamlet, and Oprah references.  But our guest judge Diane LeBlanc, Regional Adminstrator for NARA’s Northeast Region, thought that your caption captured a curious moment between man and and doll.

Our guest judge is based at our facility in Massachusetts and so is this photograph, taken around 1936–37 at the Paragon Rubber Co. and American Character Doll in Mount Holyoke, MA. A factory worker is setting eyes in “sleeping” dolls. (Two decades later, the company was manufacturing the famous “Tiny Tears” dolls, which could drink, wet their doll diapers, and cry.)

Today’s photograph shouldn’t bring a tear to your eye, unless you are afraid of heights. Or trees. Give us your best caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]