Monday, December 12, 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: Please check back to see the forthcoming episodes.

Linda August

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

Friday, December 9, 2016

285th Annual Dinner

2016 LCP Annual Dinner

On November 10, 2016, 150 Library Company shareholders and donors gathered for the opening of the WWI exhibition and our 285th Annual Dinner featuring  Lafayette Professor Donald L. Miller, the best-selling author, expert historian, and documentarian. Highlights from the evening included: performances by the Philadelphia Voices of Pride singing WWI music from the Library Company collection, a presentation by Councilman Mark Squilla recognizing the historical importance of the Library Company, and a special video greeting from internationally-renowned actor and producer Tom Hanks. Thanks to your support, it was a wonderful evening and an amazing opportunity to celebrate our Shareholders. Thank you to all of the sponsors who made the evening a financial success raising almost $30,000 for the Library Company.

Raechel Hammer

Chief Development Officer

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