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Tag: formaldehyde

Need a Halloween costume? Four food frights from our holdings

This postcard (ARC 2657925) was enclosed with several others as part of a letter from Acting Secretary of State Robert Bacon to U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom Whitelaw Reid regarding postcards that were circulating in South Africa regarding the meatpacking industry.

Do you like to be scared? If you do, forget about watching Halloween or The Ring or even the Treehouse of Horror episode on The Simpsons.

If you really like to be scared, you should come to the National Archives’ “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit and see the records that document why the Government became involved in food safety. Before Federal regulation in 1906 with the Pure Food and Drug Act and the Meat Inspection Act, American citizens were chowing down on food flavored or preserved with sulfuric acid, formaldehyde, and borax.

Perhaps you could even craft some Halloween costumes from them. Here are four terrifying costumes inspired by our holdings:

Poison squad member
In 1902, these 12 Federal employees were true guinea pigs in the name of food safety. For five years, they sat down to delicious meals at the Bureau of Chemistry’s basement kitchen and ate a poisonous substance. They were not told what it was, or where in the food it was disguised. Then Chief Chemist Harvey Wiley recorded their symptoms, which were unpleasant but apparently not fatal. The “Poison … [ Read all ]