Giving thanks for… historic magazines

In anticipation of the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday (or, as Abraham Lincoln declared it in 1863, a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”), we pulled two November issues of American Cookery Magazine, one from 1914 and one from 1944.


The 1914 edition has several sample menus for Thanksgiving dinners, including the familiar–“individual pumpkin pies”–and the historically mysterious–“Kornlet, Mexican style, in ramekins”. (For the record, I learned today that Kornlet was a canned green corn pulp that was widely available at the time.)


If you decide to skip the “hot ham mousse” and instead opt for the “roasted chicken, sausage cakes”, you can follow this seasonally-appropriate recipe from the same issue:


I’m not 100% sure which part is the sausage and which parts are the fritters, but I am sure that those chickens seem to be awkwardly swan-diving into the surface of their elegant tray.

Fast-forwarding 30 years to the 1944 issue, we have a recipe for these holiday favorites, porcupine puddings, suggested as an accompaniment to a Thanksgiving “porkchop with peanut stuffing”:


The 1944 advertisements may prove helpful for the Thanksgiving cook, as well. For instance, they guide you toward a possible solution for your Pie Problems:


And finally, apropos of nothing besides that it’s in the same magazine, look at this delicious recipe for pea soup with floating frankfurter slices:


Don’t miss the caption: “Split pea soup warms the cockles of your heart.”

Bad Children of History #20: The Twin Terrors

The only thing worse than a Bad Child of History is TWO Bad Children of History. Behold: Bobby and Dotty, the twin stars of Ellis Parker Butler’s “The Lady Across the Aisle”.


Butler’s story was published in the December 1905 issue of McClure’s Magazine, and the delightful illustrations are by Phillips Ward.

As for Bobby and Dotty, they were left in the care of their bachelor uncle while their parents were in Florida.

Uncle Jack said they were ‘peaches,’ and the older folks said they were ‘terrors.’ … In cases of necessity they were indivisible allies; in all other cases they were sworn enemies, even to having a code of warfare.

The story has an overarching narrative about Uncle Jack and a pretty single woman on the train, as well as the twins’ efforts to keep Uncle Jack from wanting to marry said “Lady Across the Aisle”, but really, it’s about the twins fighting.

The story’s 9 pages are littered with images of the twins quarreling, punching, teasing, pinching, and insulting each other. Bobby solemnly tells Dotty that her nose is “too uppish for anything”, Dotty accuses Bobby of being “all blue legs”, and Bobby retorts that Dotty is a monkey. You get the point.

They’re so bad, and so historical. Look out for these two.

Magician of the Week #39: Sgt. Phil Jay and his Magical Skunk


Interesting: Phil Jay, NCOIC of the Airmen’s Service Club, Harlingen, TX Air Force Base, was also a member of the International Brotherhood of Magicians, according to this feature in The Linking Ring (Vol. 32, No. 12).

More interesting: Sgt. Phil Jay was, as of February 1953, training a skunk named Henry, hoping to include him as part of his magic act.

Most interesting: Henry the skunk apparently had had his mercaptan-emitting scent glands removed, and was purchased from an animal dealer in South Carolina. While still shy around humans, Henry was sufficiently domesticated to have developed “a taste for tidbits like sweet rolls and candy”.

I, for one, could happily watch an act that consisted almost entirely of a skunk eating candy on stage. (As for the advisability of feeding candy to a skunk – may I recommend the “Diet” section of the Wikipedia article on “Skunks as pets”? Within a few short paragraphs it includes references to all manner of skunk-centric wonders, including a food mix called Skunkie Delight, a skunk rescue organization called Skunk Haven, and a group called Florida Skunks as Pets.)

Bad Children of History #19: Troublesome Tom

The protagonist of today’s featured book was practically made to be a bad child of history. Yes, I’m talking about Troublesome Tom, the resident scamp in The Mischievous Boy; a Tale of Tricks and Troubles (New Haven: S. Babcock, 1844).

The book opens with a fantastic letter to the reader from author Thomas Teller (a pseudonym for George Tuttle), who wrote an entire series of “amusing instructive and entertaining tales” called Teller’s Tales:

My dear little friends: This tale of a “Mischievous Boy” was written to show you the trouble which you may occasion yourselves and friends by indulging in acts of disobedience and mischief. You all know that what is often called FUN, sometimes turns out to be a bad scrape; perhaps some of you have learned this by experience. Now, whenever any of you are tempted to seek amusement in any thing which you are not sure is wholly innocent, turn from it at once, however great the temptation may be, and my word for it, you will enjoy more real pleasure than if you suffer yourselves to be enticed into any wrong doing.

The book then proceeds to relate a very, very extensive series of “bad scrapes” on the part of Troublesome Tom, including but not limited to: busting into a neighbor’s garden and accidentally letting in a sow and piglets who trample the flowers, bringing the genteel Miss Betsy near a beehive and then shaking the hive and running away, giving bad directions to a woman driving a cow, throwing a “large wooden peg” at a barking dog, and fishing in a forbidden location “nearby a resort for a gang of smugglers”.

Below is an engraving showing Tom with the rogue swine, right before he starts hitting them with a stick in an attempt to drive them out of the neighbor’s garden:


Here’s a truly classic bad-kid move (and one that I vividly remember my older neighbors pulling on me many decades ago):


Tom determined to have what he called a little fun, by putting the boy in the saddle, and then rocking the horse furiously, while he laughed at the fears of poor John, and cried out, “whoop! whoop! gallop! gallop! gee! whoa!” The little boy in vain cried, “Oh stop! Oh stop! pray stop!”– but Tom did not choose to hear him, nor to stop his fun; he kept on rocking still more furiously, and the wooden horse was at length thrown forward with such violence, that  little John pitched over its head, and striking his face upon the hard ground, was most cruelly bruised.

You may wonder why Tom himself is nowhere to be seen in the above engraving– it’s because he proceeds to pull the most classic bad kid move, by running away from the scene of the crime, only to return at dinner time to report that “he had left the hall just before John had fallen”.


So far these escapades have been highly entertaining, but not entirely instructive. Is Tom going to learn his lesson? (Hint: of course!)

Yes, Tom is, in quick succession, scolded by Short Sam’s father, chased by a pack of boys whose sport he had spoiled, and whisked downstream on a stolen escape boat that quickly approaches the sea. After a daring landing on a far-away river bank, Tom attempts to walk home through the rapidly darkening forest, where he has his bad child moment of reckoning.

“Weeping piteously”, he hears a rumbling and rustling sound that he fears is a bear. He runs about madly, slipping on loose stones, “stumbling over sand-heaps”, and losing the trail entirely. Caught in a terrible storm as midnight approaches,

then came the wish that he was a better boy, that God would give him a new heart, and make him his own child; and the poor boy wept and sobbed bitterly, for he was now fully conscious of what a bad boy he had been… he knelt down on the wet ground and prayed for safety and relief.

His prayers answered in due time, Tom falls asleep on a pile of hay in a tool shed, where he is discovered by his fretful father the next morning. Relieved, Tom’s father carries the reformed scamp home to his family’s loving embrace.

Acting Black: Exhibition, Opening, and Press

Our newest exhibition, “Acting Black: Black Performing Arts in RI since the 1700s”, guest curated by Robb Dimmick, explores the roles played by Black musicians, actors and actresses, models, writers, storytellers, poets, and dancers.

This past weekend the Providence Journal published an article about the exhibit, including a series of beautiful photos.

An opening reception will be held at the library tonight, October 19th, 2015, from 5 – 6:30 p.m. Please join us if you are in the area!

Visitors from the Alliance of Artists Communities

Yesterday we had a great visit from a group of artists, arts professionals, and directors of artists’ residencies, all of whom are participating in the 2015 Alliance of Artists Communities conference.

Visitors got a tour of the library’s grand architecture and secret corners, interacted with Special Collections materials and historic magazines, went on a scavenger hunt through the nonfiction stacks, and used reproductions of collections materials to make magnets and buttons.

Here you can see some folks using an adhesive magnetic sheet and color photocopies to make refrigerator magnets:

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And here you can see our button-maker in action:


We’re so excited to bring more artists, designers, and creative professionals in to the library to interact with our collections and use them in new ways!

Updike Prize 2016

This is just a quick note to help you plan your calendar for the upcoming year, especially if you’re someone who plans way ahead. We just crowned our first Updike Prize winner this past February (congrats, Sandra!), and it was a great event, with a terrific lecture by Tobias Frere-Jones. But one thing we learned in the process is that February in New England is a month best left to hunkering down with warm beverages and hoping for spring.

That’s why we’re moving the Updike celebration to October from now on. Not this October, though: October 2016 will be our next date. That also means that students working on their typefaces have a bit of extra time to do their work. The new deadline is now September 16th.

And there’s one more change: We’re now doubling the size of first prize to $500! So get to work and plan your visits to use the collection. (As a reminder, we have open hours, no appointment needed, on Tuesdays from 10-1pm and Wednesdays from 3-7pm.)

And now, for no particular reason, here’s a picture of some folks from an 1886 German type specimen book: