A Winter Trip via the Railway

Now that it’s cold outside, this is the perfect time to think of warmer temperatures and perhaps a vacation. The Trade Literature Collection at the National Museum of American History Library includes a lot of railway-related catalogs but not all of them are about equipment and supplies. Some are directed towards the tourist, like this nineteenth century catalog by Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Indian River Railway.

The Candy Making Past

With Halloween just around the corner, this is the perfect time to flip through candy-related trade catalogs. Today, with the mass production of products, we might not think about how things were made in the past. To make candy, ingredients needed to be grated, peeled, granulated, and cut. What machines performed that work? And how long did it take?

The Concord Grape and American Wine Making

  Now that the season for harvesting grapes in New England is here, let’s raise a glass to Ephraim Bull, the originator of the all-time popular grape in America, the Concord. Readily associated with juice and jelly and long out of favor in viticulture, Concord grape is having a bit of resurgence with the interest in DIY home brewing and fermenting. If faced with an abundance of the easily grown grape on more »

A Salesman in 1917

While browsing the Trade Literature Collection, you never know what you might find. One search might lead you to discover something you never realized was even there. Recently, I was searching for catalogs related to food or ones that included recipes. That led me to this 1917 almanac from J. R. Watkins Medical Co.

Staying cool for a 19th Century picnic

Today, many of us are probably familiar with insulated bags that help keep food cold, or even warm, until you get to your destination. But did you know there was a picnic basket in the nineteenth century that did something similar?

Cool off with Soda Fountains from the Past

Summer has just arrived and the heat is starting to turn up, making it the perfect time for ice cream. Imagine yourself in 1904. You just met some friends for ice cream at a soda fountain. What would you have seen? Ice cream and drinks, of course. But what about the dishes, furniture, and even the tools to make some of those treats?

Celebrate the Rhubarb

Rhubarb, that harbinger of spring for many, is honored in the United States on January 23rd with National Rhubarb Day. Having let National Rhubarb Vodka Day (first Saturday in December) pass without note, I wanted to bake a pie in preparation. Thanks to the generosity of a neighbor and his bountiful garden last spring and summer, I had plenty set by. Rhubarb does freeze well. Inspired by the scholars transcribing, as well more »

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