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Archive for the ‘commerce’ Category

To the chronically tired,

While I may be lazy in my scholarship, let it never be said I’m a stranger to physical labor. On Monday, I started volunteering one morning a week at a local farm here in Northampton. As promised, the work was not glamorous—weeding, weeding, and more weeding—but it was surprisingly satisfying. As an academic, I’ve spent hours and hours revising the same paragraph, only to rework it again the following day. So imagine the joy in releasing a bushel of parsley from the strangling grasp of an encroaching weed, shaking off the soil, and moving on to the next plant. When I came home that afternoon, I still had dirt smeared across my brow—proof! It’s not so easy when your regular work consists of sipping  iced coffee while staring at a computer screen, trying not to cry. I know I’m getting ahead of myself for someone whose farming experience only amounts to four hours. But indulge me, dear reader. Do you know what it’s like to write a dissertation?

I’ve been fascinated for a long time with the sustainable farming movement, and the longer history of environmentalism in the U.S. Much of the current organic/local/natural food movement has its roots in the counterculture of the 1960s and 70s, though those hippies probably never suspected their work would yield Whole Foods markets in 39 states (for better or worse).

Their spirit, however, lives on, thanks to Whole Earth Catalog Archive. The Whole Earth Catalog was launched in 1968 by Stewart Brand, described at the time by Tom Wolfe as “a thin blond guy… No shirt, however, just an Indian bead necktie on bare skin and a white butcher’s coat with medals from the King of Sweden on it.” The goal of the catalog, as the first installment explained, was to market tools that enabled the “individual to conduct his own education, find his own inspiration, shape his own environment, and share his adventure with whoever is interested.” The products themselves range kind of wildly–a glass blowing guide, buckskin, hunting boots, self-hypnosis manuals. Though my favorite ad is for Anthony Greenback’s Book of Survival, which beat out The Worst Case Scenario Survival Handbook by several decades. As the catalog assures, you may laugh, but “next time you’re running from an enraged bull, you remember about flinging down your jacket.”

By 1971, the catalog ballooned from 66 pages to 452, with a well-expanded section on land-use, from gardening to goat husbandry (Beekman Boys, here is your heritage!).

The catalog also yielded the CoEvolution Quarterly, later renamed The Whole Earth Review, also viewable online. They’re worth browsing for the trippy illustrations alone, including this cover from 1977 by Robert Crumb, which lightly parodies the utopian ethos of the back-to-the-land movement. The issue includes Crumb’s comic treatment of a “Modern Dance Workshop,” plus the results of a Stanford study on “Voluntary Simplicity,” lessons on retrofitting tract housing with solar panels, a story by J.G. Ballard, and thoughts on death from Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. 70s counterculture was anything but narrow.

Those less eager to flip pages online (or pay for the PDF) can also view some articles in HTML format.

I’ll leave it to readers to reflect on why we’re still fighting the battles the Whole Earth Catalog started forty years ago. For more on the catalog’s afterlife, you can check out Fred Turner’s well-received study From Counterculture to Cyberculture: Stewart Brand, the Whole Earth Network, and the Rise of Digital Utopianism, or Brand’s latest Whole Earth Discipline: An Ecopragmatist Manifesto. And for a decidedly contemporary take, check out Adbusters latest issue, titled the “Whole Brain Catalog: Access to Therapies.”

On that note, back to my mental gardening.

Yours holistically,

Stephen

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To the spring-attired,

I never imagined myself an auto enthusiast. In fact, for years, I had nightmares about losing control of my car on the parkway, and wasn’t sure if I should interpret them as a Final Destination-ish prophecy of my own demise or a mere anxiety dream. Yet after driving 3000 miles through Southwestern mountains, deserts, and valleys last month, I think I feel a little bit more of the sense of possibility and freedom Americans must have experienced when automobiles were new. Every couple of hours, it seemed, we stopped and stepped out of our car, only to gaze back on what looked like a Hyundai commercial. Case in point:

To judge by the images in the New York Public Library’s Taking the Wheel Collection, even the earliest car drivers expected their vehicles to cross any terrain. The Franklin car company, for one, went out of business during the Great Depression, but not before taking its owners into the woods and to the horse race!

Alas, the auto catalog below from the now-gone Haynes company  seems less interested in showing how well their cars navigated water, than suggesting how poorly women steered not only cars, but, to judge by their suffragette style, the country.

But, you ask, were these exciting images just a promoter’s fantasy? Thankfully, The Making of Modern Michigan’s Automotive Collection holds hundreds of photographs, which come closer to the catalogs than one might expect. Yes, now women could travel to political conventions in style: cramped in an open-air car, in multiple layers of clothes.

The nascent AAA also sponsored what became known as the Glidden tours, where cars were sent across the country to see the types of roads they would encounter. The results were sometimes disastrous.

If all this auto-arousal is too much for you, then you might prefer to check out a new book by Brian Ladd titled, Autophobia. Also, a shout-out to the Journal of American History whose excellent reviews of web archives pointed me to Taking the Wheel.

Until next time, I remain yours on the passenger side,

Stephen

P.S. You can now follow the Lazy Scholar on Facebook. Become my fan here!

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To the seasonally-affective disordered,

The spring semester is officially under way, and I’ve started TFing a new class: Joyce Chaplin’s wonderful lecture on American food history. We’re still strolling around the colonial period, though for today’s post, I’m going to fast-forward to the twentieth century to point you towards the rewarding Szathmary Recipe Pamphlet Collection from the University of Iowa Digital Archives.

There you can read lots of promotional recipe books, like this one for custard mix, deceptively titled “A Dozen New Ways to Use Milk.” (Hint: All 12 involve “Junket,” a rennet-based thickener, because we all know, “Eating milk is even better for you than drinking it.”) Or how about 10 mustard-inspired ways “to use a whole ham.”

I also love the covers of this series, even if all of the recipes call for Armour and Company’s meat products. Canned pigs’ feet, anyone? Never again will you be out of luck when friends drop by for a chafing dish supper!

Here’s a short lament for the dilemma of the “emergency” dinner.

Click the page to read more!
Losing his appetite rapidly,

Stephen

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To students seldom awake before ten,

Like many scholars, I’ve relied on coffee as a lifeline for most of my academic career. By senior year of high school, I was already bringing a plastic mug full of instant Maxwell House (terrible, I know) to class. In college, I even considered footnoting the local convenience store in a freshman year philosophy paper, since I owed their machine-made vanilla lattes at least as much as Kant.

My thoughts turned to coffee this week after reading a great paper-in-progress by a fellow graduate student here at Harvard. Still I wondered, where was the history of coffee on the web? Look no further than the Victorian trade card collection at Miami University in Ohio . Trade cards became popular in nineteenth century America, as a way of advertising products from soap to lawnmowers (to learn more, check out the Baker Library’s online exhibit). In the example below, Uncle Sam himself endorses one brand. The back of the card features these inspiring verses, “Take this from me my people dear / If you’d keep war away/and fill the land with peace and cheer / Do just what I shall say: / I know a beverage full of charm, / there’s magic in the cup. / To cure all ills, to keep from harm, / Drink when you dine or sup.” Sorry, Anglophiles, your Earl Grey tea won’t help you escape the traumas of sickness and strife!Other cards, while produced by coffee companies, didn’t bother to picture the product itself. Arbuckle Brothers, for instance, came up with a number of collectible series, including “sports and pastimes of all nations.”  Check out the gentlemen athletes in the image below, and the coffee instructions on the reverse.

For more coffee-related trade cards, click here. And for yet more cards of all types, check out the collections at the Brooklyn Public Library and University of Iowa.

To see where coffee advertising would go a few decades later, surf over to the always remarkable Prelinger Archives. You’ll quickly discover the theme in these Folgers ads from the 1960s: make a better cup of coffee for your husband, or he’ll be back “at the office” faster than Mad Men‘s debonair Don Draper.  Click on the images below to watch.

Yours perkily,

Stephen

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Dear lethargic readers,

It’s one of the regrets of my life thus far that I’ve never been to a county or state fair—to my knowledge, there weren’t many (or any) on Long Island where I grew up. Thanks to the Digital Library of Georgia, however, I can at least enjoy the “idea” of the state fair from my home computer. Their wonderful State Fair collection includes a short history of the annual Macon event along with dozens of photographs, like the one on the left from 1955 of a young boy at a chicken show, and the one on the right from 1935 of the ominously named Buddy Bloodworth Chicken Grill (click on images for more details).

Only one thing absent from all these photos: African Americans, who couldn’t take part in the fair until the end of segregation.

The Georgia website also includes some great links to more digital State Fair archives, including the Wisconsin State Fair Gallery from the Wisconsin Historical Society. I particularly love the photographs from the annual “Alice in Dairyland” competition. Check out, on the left, a photograph of 1962’s Alice with Miss Wisconsin and a milk-loving gentleman, and on the right, Alice of Dairyland 1951 buttering the kernels of Miss Sweet Corn Queen. Make of that what you will.

Suggestively yours,

Stephen

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Dear snooze-button specialists,

Eating may be one of the more delightful ways to delay work. People who don’t spend their lives in libraries and classrooms for a living might, in fact, be surprised at how many lunches, teatimes, coffee breaks, iced coffee breaks, brownie breaks, suppers, dinners, desserts, and happy hours you can fit into a single day—not to mention those golden moments when you discover free leftovers from a talk or workshop you didn’t attend.

SupergoopOf course, eating well requires work all its own. Thankfully, the A.V. Geeks have posted countless classic (and by classic, I mean truly awful) educational films on their website, including several specifically related to food. Like the Prelinger Archive, the A.V. Geeks specialize in ephemeral films, though their collection weighs a little more heavily towards the 1960s and 1970s (Duke has them to thank for digitizing their Ad Views archive). Many of their films are also available for purchase on DVD, which may explain why the site is so poorly indexed.

Nonetheless, for the devoted delinquent like myself, a quick scan for films of the 1970s reveals such gems as “Soopergoop,” where an animated cat reveals the manipulative techniques of advertising execs looking to sell a new cereal. Or there’s “Munchers: A Fable,” a claymation pic about tooth decay with a psychedelic soundtrack and a black devil named “Jack Sweet.”

BarbecueSpeaking of psychedelic, don’t miss the kids getting down in “Story of a Peanut Butter Sandwich.” And last but not least, there’s a public service announcement about “National Barbecue Month,” where a bunch of teens in cowboy hats learn the joys of a well-cooked steak.

Onto the day! Isn’t it lunchtime yet?

Hungrily yours,

Stephen

P.S. I couldn’t resist highlighting one more video: Believe it or not, my health teacher in eighth grade actually showed us this frightening 1979 film about male puberty, “Am I Normal?“—poorly timed erections and carefully coiffed hair included.

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