Another Vintage Pamphlet Post

I picked up five more items for the collection at the Brimfield Antique Show yesterday.  I was particularly taken with this one, which I think is from some time in the 1920s:

may_items001 may_items002It’s one of many recipe/advertising booklets produced by the Lydia E. Pinkham Medicine Company of Lynn, MA (producer of Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound, amongst other patent nostrums).

I was going to write a thing about it, but in searching for info I determined that I can’t do better than what Meg Favreau has said.  Go on, click through and read her piece.  No, wait – are you eating anything?  Don’t be eating anything.

Back?  Sorry about that, but I did warn you.  I’m thinking of trying the “Potato Candy,” or possibly the “Carrot Fudge” that’s on the same page.  That recipe goes:

Put 1 cup each of corn syrup, grated carrots, milk and light brown sugar into a deep saucepan.  Add 2 tablespoons butter and any flavoring you like.  Cook carefully until it hardens in cold water. Pour into buttered plates and cut into squares.  This fudge may have cocoa or chocolate added and may be beaten until creamy.

Because the carrots make it healthy!  Right?  Right.

Okay, the next pamphlet isn’t anything like Mrs. Pinkham’s company’s, honest.  Even though it sort of looks like it might be “interesting.”  And is also pink.

may_items011 may_items012

Alas, the author – Irene Garfield Abbott (identified in a 1930 newspaper from Southington, CT as a “world famous dietician and food expert”) – was interested in spicing up the menu only with things like adding color and texture contrasts to standard meals.  So let’s take a look at her proposed menus for Thursday and see what she thought was, well, not exactly “kinky” in American foodways.

Sliced Oranges
Unusual Poached Egg*
Thin Buttered Toast
Grape Jelly
Milk or IGA Coffee

Fig & Orange Salad*
Fluffy Omelet
Ginger Bread with Whipped Cream

Melon Ball Cocktail
Baked Ham
Scalloped Potatoes
Fruit Salad
Five Threes*

So what’s “unusual” about the poached egg?  It goes like this:

Unusual Poached Eggs
6 slices buttered toast
Anchovy paste
6 eggs
2 tea sps. IGA prepared mustard
2 ta. sps. butter
2 ta. sps. flour
2 cups milk
1/2 tea sp. salt

Spread toast with anchovy paste generously.  top with a poached egg and cover all with the butter, flour, salt and milk made into a cream sauce, to which has been added the mustard.  Garnish with parsley.

Yes, it would definitely be “unusual” if I were to make a cream sauce for a breakfast dish and then garnish it with parsley.  And even more unusual if I included anchovy paste.

The “Fig and Orange Salad” is much as advertised – “Shred the green outside leaves of lettuce.  Place orange slices on top.  And on the sliced orange place a canned fig, which is stuffed with cottage cheese.  Children like this salad for luncheon.” Figs are not very large, you know.  How could one possibly stuff one with cottage cheese?

But what you really want to know is what “Five Threes” is, I’m sure.  And it is … a frozen dessert!  Ah, the days of family dinners with two desserts … but I digress.  The recipe:

Five Threes
3 bananas
3 oranges
3 lemons
3 cups water
3 cups sugar

Use only the juice of the oranges and lemons.  Add bananas after mashing them thoroughly.  Make a syrup of the sugar and water by boiling together 3 minutes.  Add to fruit and freeze.

So basically a fruit juice ice with banana in it.  It could work.  It might be really nice during the middle of summer.

Maybe I’ll even give it a try to find out.

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Research is not always fun (civil commitment)

Sometimes you just run across a tidbit, and you know the whole story is probably lost somewhere in that distant past, but you also know that whatever the details are, it’s a sad story.

Like this:

At a Court of Probate holden at Danbury in and for the District of Danbury on the 2nd day of December A.D. 1890.

Present J. Howard Taylor, Judge

Upon the hearing of the complaint of George W. Hamilton of the town of Danbury setting forth and showing that one Laura K. Hamilton of the town of Danbury in said District is insane and Indigent and praying that said Laura K. Hamilton may be taken to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane at Middletown this Court after a full hearing of all the evidence adduced finds that the condition of said Laura K. Hamilton renders it not necessary to personally examine her: and this Court doth further find that the certificate of J. H. Benedict and S. Penfield Physicians and the report of Henry Bernd, a Selectman of the town of Danbury are true and that said Laura K. Hamilton is insane and indigent and a fit subject for treatment in an asylum. And it is therefore ordered that Laura K. Hamilton be taken by the said George R. Hamilton or some other fit person and conveyed to the Connecticut Hospital for the Insane at Middletown and that this order, with an attested copy of said Physicians certificate be delivered to the superintendent of said Hospital.

Attest J. Howard Taylor, Judge

(Danbury Probate Records, Volume 44, Page 151).

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Reading notes: “mainstream academic professionalism”

“The concept of ‘mainstream academic professionalism’ is fairly straightforward.  It involves a suspicion of grand theory and of epistemological quibbling, a preference for concrete and clearly manageable projects, a penchant for technical methodological refinements, and, above all, attention to aspects of the social sciences and humanities least likely to be mistaken for political advocacy, cultural criticism, or journalism.”

This is describing the late 1950s/early 1960s, but conservatism sure hasn’t changed, has it?  Which is as it should be, I suppose.

(Quote from David A. Hollinger, “Academic Culture at the University of Michigan, 1938-1988,” Ch. 7 in Science, Jews, and Secular Culture: Studies in Mid-Twentieth Century American Intellectual History, pp. 121-154 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 133.)

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Census 1860 : State Prison : Details of the Women’s Cases

I was able to find mentions in The Hartford Courant (which is available online) of five of the twelve female inmates. Most of these were brief and sometimes tantalizing mentions.

I was interested to notice that Jane M. Brown, the woman imprisoned in 1859 for adultery, was described by the paper on July 20, 1859 as being a colored woman from New Britain, who pleaded not guilty. Her U.S. census entry when she was in prison in 1860, in contrast, said she was white (it also gives her age, 41). The newspaper’s next item on the case, on July 23, reported that “[t]he jury could not agree in the case of Peter Thompson, charged with adultery with Jane M. Brown, and the case was continued to the next term.” This is, however, the last mention of the case that I could find. But: Peter Thompson was not in prison in 1860, while Jane was.

Of Hellen Hays, a 22-year-old white woman in the 1860 Census, the newspaper reported that one Ellen Hayes was arrested in Bridgeport for passing counterfeit money, and sentenced to two years in the state prison (April 4 and 15, 1859).

The case I really want to find out more about, after the tidbits I did find, was that of Nancy M. Pinto. Imprisoned in 1858 for manslaughter, she was aged 31, and a black native of Connecticut. According to the Courant issue of September 30, 1858,

Tuesday morning John Pinto and Nancy Mary Pinto were brought before the Police Court of New London, charged with the murder of Manuel Antone, on Friday morning last. After hearing considerable testimony, Nancy Mary Pinto was bound over to take her trial at the next term of the Superior Court. John Pinto was discharged.

On November 22, the paper reported that Nancy was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 8 years in the state prison. Antone was a Portuguese sailor, according to the short paragraph, and the crime occurred “at a dance-house in New London.” I wanted more lurid details, but I haven’t been able to find any New London papers for the right year online, and apparently the Courant didn’t think it interesting enough to report more. (On June 30, 1864, though, the paper reported that her petition to the legislature for release from state prison, which would have been two years early, was denied.)

Then there is the sad case of Rebecca Smith, imprisoned in 1859 for manslaughter; she was a white woman aged 25. According to the newspaper, she was the wife of Joseph E. Smith and was charged with infanticide in Darien (and jailed in Bridgeport); she pleaded guilty to manslaughter and was sentenced to five years (October 23, 1858 and February 12, 1859).

I was surprised to find nothing about the woman imprisoned for abandoning a child, and nothing about the two imprisoned for second-degree murder. The rest were all theft cases – most of them wouldn’t be very interesting even if they were in the paper, I expect.

But then there’s Abby Jane Wade. Stay tuned for more about her next week!

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Census 1860: Wethersfield State Prison: Crimes

The last piece on the inmates of the Connecticut state prison at Wethersfield in 1860 discussed their gender and race; this piece discusses the crimes for which they were convicted. To repeat from before, there were 179 inmates, 12 of them female.

The Census marshal also, in accordance with his instructions, reported the crimes for which they were imprisoned and the year in which they were convicted. Note that they also did this for people not residing in prison, thought for that category it was only those convicted in the past year (those who were in the prison had often been there for much longer than one year). The instructions also thoughtfully noted that for convicts living in families,

as the interrogatory might give offense, the assistants had better refer to the county record for information on this head, and not make the inquiry of any family. With the county record and his own knowledge he can seldom err.

One of the women in the Wethersfield state prison was jailed for adultery (still a crime in 1860, but she was the only person in prison for it); another for “Abandoning child” (also the only instance of that crime). One had passed counterfeit money, and four had committed theft. Two were imprisoned for murder in the second degree, and two for manslaughter. (That doesn’t add up to twelve because I failed to make a note on one of them.)


Overall, the actual crimes were overwhelmingly related to property. There were four categories that included the term “burglary,” and 61 prisoners held for them; 37 were convicted of theft alone, 3 for “Stealing” (which is different from theft in what way, I wonder?), and two for “Robbing U.S. Mail.” And another 3 for horse-stealing. That’s 59.2% of the total, if you’re wondering. (And if you’re still reading this, perhaps you are!)

5.6% of the crimes (a total of 10) were arguably sex offenses. There was the one adultress mentioned above. One man was imprisoned for “Abusing Female Child,” which is a little ambiguous. Another was in for “Buggery,” that is to say, sex with another man (very illegal until quite recently), and a startling 3 for “Incest” – especially considering the nearly identical 4 charged with rape or attempted rape (2 each).

Stepping back from the really depressing, there was apparently a difference between “Arson” (2) and “Burning barn” (6) – perhaps the latter was sometimes accidental? One man was in for an extremely vague “Felony.” Another 10 were imprisoned for forgery – 8 for unspecified forgeries, one for forging a land warrant (that is, a government grant of land), and one for forging some kind of pension document (again, this probably was a government pension). There were a total of 6 people locked up for passing counterfeit money. And I don’t know what “High Crimes and Misdemeanors” meant at the time – but 2 men were imprisoned for that. Another 3 had committed perjury, and one had obstructed a railroad (a very serious crime then and now).

Back to the violent crimes, then. 24 people (13.4%, four of them women) had killed someone. 5 had been convicted of murder, 9 of second-degree murder, and 10 of manslaughter. Another 7 were imprisoned for assaults or attempts to kill.

I have not been able to find comparable statistics for Connecticut’s current population. It does seem to me that I’ve read that most prisoners are currently in for nonviolent offenses – overwhelmingly drug offenses, which were not an item in 1860 at all (not counting the people locked in the county jails for drunkenness). For now, these 1860 numbers will have to stand on their own.


Incidentally, the quote from the census instructions is taken from Twenty Censuses: Population and Housing questions 1790-1980 (Bureau of the Census, 1979). And if you like, you can read the whole thing yourself!

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Census 1860: Census Marshals are People Too

I’ve been skimming a lot of 1860 census pages lately, and one thing I’ve noticed is that despite the detailed instructions, the census marshals still have to exercise judgment in a number of areas.  Since I’m focusing on African-Americans, I’ve noticed that some marshals didn’t identify any mixed-race people (known as “mulattoes” to the Census).  Some of them also classified people as “Indian” (meaning Native American) even though that isn’t one of the three accepted “color” designations (which were Black, Mulatto, and White).  In one case, the marshal identified several members of a family as “Ind” (for Indian) but did not count them as “colored” in the tally at the bottom of the sheet (making him different from others who did consider Indians colored).

And then there’s this example of opinion about the race of a family in Willington:

cen1860_halfbreedThat additional text along the side reads “halfbreed Indians.”  The marshal was very confused about what to put down because the reality of this family, with an Indian father and a white mother, wasn’t fitting into the supposedly nice, tidy categories of race.  What’s a poor census-taker to do?  Punt, apparently, and let somebody else make the final decision.

Opinion creeps in more directly with respect to things like “Occupation,” which the instructions didn’t even try to list out in detail – it was up to the marshal to inquire and figure out what the person’s principal occupation was.  And interaction with people apparently sometimes led to results like this description of a guy in Essex:

cen1860_loaferYes, Mr. Dickinson’s occupation was listed as “Loafer.”  It’s not the only one I’ve seen, either.  And yet, other non-working men get to be called “Gentleman.”  That’s what we call a class distinction – if you’re rich and don’t work, you’re a gentleman (or lady).  Of course it’s also a somewhat practical distinction, since a rich enough man doesn’t have to work – just collect rents, or rake in profits from the businesses he’s invested in.

I’m not sure I want to know how a different census-taker in a different town reached a decision to identify one woman’s occupation as “Whore.”  (This same guy kept listing other women’s occupations as “Public Servant,” which none of the others I’ve looked at have used – it makes me wonder if he meant … something else.)

And then there’s odd items like this one from East Hartford:

cen1860_flowrA bit of quick web-searching yielded the information that “the flower of Dumblane” is in fact a reference to this poem by Robert Tannahill.  Apparently the child made quite an impression on the marshal, or maybe he’d just been reading Longfellow’s anthology.

Overall, these things remind me that when we use these documents, to a great extent we’re relying on the judgment of human beings – not all of whose judgment is completely reliable, whether for personal or cultural reasons.

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Census 1860: Wethersfield State Prison: Gender and Race

So I’m developing a new database from the 1860 U.S. Census for Connecticut, and last week I ran across the pages for the state prison, which was in Wethersfield at the time. Some of these data are interesting – at least to me – so here’s a post about them! Oh, and this is also an excuse to mention the current exhibit at the Wethersfield Historical Society about the prison (there is a picture of it at the website).

There were 179 prisoners, of whom a total of 12 (6.7%) were female – far less than the roughly 50% of the total population, obviously.  The following two charts show the racial makeup of the prison population:


cen1860race_pctAs one would expect of a New England state, the vast majority of the prisoners were white. What is less obvious is that nonwhites (30 out of 179) are very much overrepresented. I don’t have complete numbers for the number nonwhites in Connecticut in 1860, but I do have them for 1850, and in that year they were 2.1% of the population. Unless the nonwhite population shot up by over 14% in ten years (wildly unlikely), that’s a 16.7% overrepresentation overall. Which isn’t even mentioning the disparity for Indians – less than 1% of the total population, I’m sure, but 6.7% of the imprisoned population. (I should note here that all these numbers omit the county jails, which don’t exist anymore, but I don’t think including them would change the statistics much.)

Since then, though, it’s been a lot worse. According to a 2013 article by Grace Merritt, at the start of that year there were 12,494 black and white prisoners in Connecticut; 56.7% of them (7,078) were black, and 43.3% (5,416) were white. Add in the Hispanics (another 4,419, or 26.1% of the overall total – I’m dealing with them separately because there was no significant Hispanic population in Connecticut in 1860) and the white prison population falls to 32.0%.

And what, you may well ask, was the percentage of white, black, and Hispanic people in Connecticut in the 2010 Census? According to American FactFinder, 77.6%, 10.1%, 13.4%. Suddenly the disparity of 1860 looks almost rosy, eh? But it’s also a telling fact, suggesting that decisions about who to prosecute and imprison, and what to prosecute people for, have been skewed for a very long time indeed.

Tune in next week for a post about the crimes all these people were convicted of!

Posted in Census 1860, Connecticut, research miscellanea, state prison 1860 | 1 Comment