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Tag: american history

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Crimes against butter

Charles Wille was sent to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth in 1915 for crimes against butter. (ARC 596115)

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.

Joseph Wirth (along with his

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Roosting in the records

Young Sparrow in grass at V.T. Ranch. Markings not distinctive., 06/28/1929 (79-ZBC-BC115)

Young Sparrow in grass at V.T. Ranch, Utah. Markings not distinctive, June 28, 1929 (ARC 520329; 79-ZBC-BC115)

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, … [ Read all ]

Thursday’s Caption Contest

Your caption here!

"Having learned lessons on motivation from the British Royal Navy, the U.S. Department of Education experimented with dispensing rum rations to bolster test scores."

Congratulations to Dave M! Our guest judge Lynn Bassanese of the Roosevelt Presidential Library chose your caption, as FDR “was a real Navy man and enjoyed an occasional cocktail so we think he would approve of our choice.”

It’s unlikely President Roosevelt would have enjoyed the wartime cocktail being ladled out, though. The original caption declares: “Saturday’s a holiday for most of the nation’s small fry, but to these youngsters of Roanoke, Va., it’s fat-collection day” (NLR-PHOCO-A-65701 [31]).

Since today is St. Patrick’s Day, some of our readers may have plans for a green beer tonight. This week’s caption is about drinking, too—use your gift o’gab and give us your best caption!

541905-cat

Your caption here, my laddie!

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Hats off to Bess Truman!

Bess Truman's hat, 1906. (Truman Library)

Bess in a feathered hat, 1906. (Truman Library)

Here at Prologue: Pieces of History, we have Facial Hair Friday. On the Harry S. Truman Library’s Facebook page, they celebrate Millinery Monday! When I was very little, I loved poking through my mother’s old hatboxes stored in the basement. Alas, the era of wearing hats for every occasion had passed, but she had saved her favorites.

Bess Truman apparently did the same thing. The Truman Library has several of her hats and many more photographs of her in hats at various stages of her life. Scrolling through the Truman Library’s page is a good substitute for exploring my mother’s hatboxes. Not only do you get to see some remarkable chapeaux, but you also get to see the very stylish young Bess Wallace (and others) wearing the hats.

 Bess (left) with her best friend, Mary Paxton, ca. 1901. (Truman Library)

Bess Wallace (left) with her best friend, Mary Paxton, ca. 1901. (Truman Library)

Because Millinery Monday covers the span of Bess Truman’s life, we get to see how hat styles changed from the start of the 20th century through its late decades. We also get to see a part of the library’s collection that is not usually seen by the public. On the National Archives Facebook page, click through our list of “Favorite Pages” to find out more about the Presidential libraries, regional archives, and other units that are all … [ Read all ]

Aloha treatment for a 1954 Hawaii petition

Petition signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood, presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954.

This petition, rolled onto a wooden spool, was signed by 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood and presented to the U.S. Senate on February 26, 1954. (RG 46, Records of the U.S. Senate)

The work the National Archives Preservation staff does every day is hardly “everyday.” A recent post about Hawaii’s petition for statehood on the Preservation Program’s Facebook page demonstrated this fact. This preservation project stemmed from a request from our Center for Legislative Archives. Each archival unit creates annual and long-term preservation plans, and the Center’s list named several petitions to Congress. One of these presented a challenge—a massive wooden spool 68 inches wide containing a roll of paper 16 inches in diameter.

This mammoth petition contains the names of 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood. Hawaii had been annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a U.S. Territory in 1900. Attempts at statehood over the next 60 years met opposition from both native Hawaiians and Congress. In the 1950s, the statehood movement gained momentum, and Hawaii became our 50th state on August 21, 1959.

This giant scroll came to the National Archives by way of the U.S. Senate. The Governor of Hawaii had presented the petition to the Vice President of the United States, who then (as President of the Senate) brought it before the Senate on February 26, 1954.

As … [ Read all ]