Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Food Will Win the War!

Eat local, meatless Mondays, go wheatless, more fruits and vegetables, less white sugar— many of the things we hear a lot about today Americans did during World War I.  The Library Company’s exhibition Together We Win: The Philadelphia Homefront During the First World War explores activities on the homefront, which included food conservation and the ways in which every American could “do their part” to help win the war through their food choices. On display in the exhibit are cookbooks, magazines, colorful posters, and photographs.

John Sheridan, Food is Ammunition (New York: United States Food Administration, 1918). Color lithograph.  

The war caused a severe food crisis in Europe, and the United States also had over four million servicemen to feed.  America needed to provide a large quantity of food. The United States Food Administration, created in 1917 and headed by Herbert Hoover, campaigned to convince Americans to voluntarily change their eating habits in order to have enough food. This included conserving wheat, meat, sugar, and fats so those items could be sent overseas. The Food Administration advocated using alternatives like honey or molasses for sugar and corn or barley for wheat.  They educated with memorable slogans, such as “when in doubt, eat potatoes” and “help us observe the Gospel of the clean plate” and invented “Meatless Mondays” and “Wheatless Wednesdays.” To free up transportation for war supplies, they encouraged buying locally produced food, or better still, growing liberty gardens.  They campaigned with vibrant posters and published recipes and sample menus in pamphlets, newspapers, and magazines.

Apple Brown Betty recipe from: Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company, War-Time: Cook and Health Book (Lynn, MA, 1917). Gift of William H. Helfand.

Linda August, Curator of Arts and Artifacts and co-curator of Together We Win, along with Digital Outreach Librarians, Concetta Barbera and Arielle Middleman, created the World War I Test Kitchen to gain better understanding of this topic. They selected four food conservation recipes and filmed the cooking of them. The first dish, Apple Brown Betty, may be the quintessential war time recipe. It uses fruit (locally grown is even better) and substitutes molasses for sugar, while also using leftover bread in the crumb topping. Additionally, they made a “wheatless” [i.e. gluten-free] sweet potato gingerbread and two savory, meatless meals, bean loaf with tomato sauce and cottage cheese sausage. Library Company staff served as the taste testers and surprisingly everything turned out to be delicious. The first video is posted on our website here: http://togetherwewin.librarycompany.org/apple-brown-betty/Please check back to see the forthcoming episodes.

Linda August
Curator of Art and Artifacts and Reference Librarian
Co-Curator of Together We Win

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Building a Historical Shareholder Database

In 1731, Ben Franklin and a group of fifty of his fellow Junto members agreed to pay a yearly subscription fee to form the Library we all know and love.  These were our first shareholders.  Originally, only shareholders in the Library could take books out of collections, and their yearly subscriptions helped to buy the many texts that we still own today.  In the present, shareholding is still an honored tradition.  However, we do not issue new share numbers anymore; instead, our members own shares going back as far as our 1731 origins, with impressive provenance attached to the names that came before.

In an effort to make information about our shareholders available to all, we are in the process of creating an indexed, searchable database of all 9,717 shareholders to date!  During this project, we have had to overcome some major hurdles.  First, we had to combine information collected over many years in all different formats into one standardized document.  Including both paper and digital files, we found many biographies of past shareholders already written.  We also had to check, and often correct, every name and date of each shareholder in our register book with what we had in our spreadsheet.  This spreadsheet was made by digitizing our register book, and so some transcription issues were inevitable.  We have also had to do a lot of “de-duping;” sometime in the 1930’s, the Library Company reissued previous shares under new numbers, and then in the 1980’s put the original shares back into circulation.  This meant that two people could theoretically hold the same share!  In order to get rid of duplicates, we had to trace back each number to its original entry and make notes of what shares belonged where.



Thankfully, we have made significant progress. To date, we have 1,578 shareholders that have some biographical history attached to them. (16% of our total shareholders!) We have also added searchable subject terms to all of our shareholders to help us find shares for prospective shareholders.  For example, we now know that at least 22 of our shareholders were abolitionists, 87 served in the armed forces, 19 were Jewish, and 2,423 were women (almost a quarter of our total).  This sort of information helps us link new shareholders with our historic shareholders in meaningful ways; a doctor can own the share of other doctors, a Penn graduate can own the share of another Penn graduate, and so forth.  As this project progresses, we will be making this information accessible, and searchable, to everyone online.  We also hope to continue adding biographical information to our shareholders.  When buying a share today, our members can see exactly who owned this share in the past, and learn a little about those who came before them as well.  We are very excited to be bringing this information to the public.  Stay tuned in future E-News for samples from our database!


Emma Ricciardi

Project Cataloger 

LCP Digital Humanities News


The Library Company of Philadelphia is always looking for opportunities to promote the creation of compelling and ramifying digital content. A particular collection near and dear to my heart is the Library’s holdings of knitting and crochet books, trade cards, prints, and photographs. Many of these were featured in my 2001 exhibition “The Hook and the Book.” In an effort to make these collections and ones like them available to a wider audience I became a founding board member of the Center for Knit and Crochet .

The Center for Knit and Crochet, (“CKC”), was established in 2012 to “preserve and promote the art, craft, and scholarship of knitting, crochet, and related arts.” To achieve these goals, CKC plans to establish an online museum, study center, and social networking environment enhanced by exhibitions, access to current scholarship, and educational programs. To reach these aspiring goals it became evident that an international collection survey of holdings is necessary for planning, outreach, partnerships, and data retrieval to drive the online database for the digital museum.

The CKC online museum will be an international clearing house of data and images aggregated from partner GLAM (Galleries Libraries Archives Museums) institutions' online repositories identified in the collections survey. It will also provide the opportunity to standardize and expand collection data. Ultimately this resource will expand to allow for the CKC community to share personal collections and histories creating a complete view of our knitting and crochet cultural heritage.

This summer the Library Company and CKC joined forces to offer a digital humanities internship opportunity to begin the enormous task of building a comprehensive survey of knitting and crochet collections around the world. While CKC provided the internship stipend, the Library Company provided the office space and technology. This survey required particular focus on the availability or potential for digitized material and its corresponding metadata. The call for applicants resulted in nearly thirty interested students and recent graduates eager to contribute their time and expertise. We were thrilled to offer the position to Kelly Helm who had recently earned her MLS from the Palmer School of Library and Information Science, Manhattan NYU. She was very enthusiastic to begin and in her own words: ”My friends all know that I’m an avid knitter and crocheter, and so as soon as they saw this post, it was forwarded on to me with subject lines like, “Look! It’s Summer Camp for You!” and “Kelly’s Dream Job!”. I knew right away that this was the position for me, and I couldn’t wait to get started.”
Kelly was asked to survey collections using qualitative and quantitative measures to rank each collection’s research value as well as the state of the collection’s intellectual access, physical access, housing, and physical condition.
“Over the course of my internship, I looked at websites for over 3500 repositories worldwide, hoping to find knit or crochet materials in their collections. I e-mailed, filled out contact forms, searched databases, ran websites through Google Translate—and came up with a wide assortment of items. For me, the most interesting part was sending off emails to small town historical societies, then going and exploring the databases for some of the world’s most prestigious collections.  I found personal inspiration in the intricacies of Victorian lacework, the tiny stitches in stockings, and seeing woolen caps from the 16th century. I was able to immerse myself in the history of a craft I love, and at the same time be involved at the ground level with a project working to preserve the future of knitting and crochet. Having the opportunity to work with the CKC at LCP gave me the chance to grow my skills as a metadata librarian, and I am so grateful to have had this internship.” ~ Kelly Helm
We are thrilled that Kelly will continue to volunteer with CKC to continue this great work beyond her the short time at the Library Company.

Nicole H. Scalessa
IT Manager and Digital Humanities Coordinator& CKC Vice President