Sunday, May 17, 2009

Thanks Mr. Edison!

Thomas Edison was first experimenting with film and the "moving picture" in the early 1900's. In 1903 he made at least two (very) short films made - one of a fish market on the Lower East Side and one of the pushcart vendors.

How amazing to be able to see into a world that existed over a hundred years ago! [I wonder if anyone will be that interested about us is one hundred years....]

Monday, April 20, 2009

Those Lobster Palaces!

In Marie Ganz's memoir she recounts a curbside speech where she beseeches the crowd to go "up to those lobster palaces you hear so much about, walk in, order a meal and tell them to send the bill to the mayor!"

Here is a great article on just what those lobster palaces were - "gaudy" and "extravagant" restaurants catering to the theatre crowd, incorporating intimate seating with fine dining and live entertainment! There are some really fun anecdotes shared here too.

Thanks Edwardian Promenade!

Saturday, March 7, 2009


The past few weeks have been rife with landmarks for the 1917 food riots, so I thought I would post a rough timeline that I have been working off of.

Sunday 2/18
  • Protest in Claremont Park (Bronx)
Monday 2/19
  • Williamsburg: 2,000 women pledge to enforce boycott
  • Five women place announcement in the Forward for the next morning (1,000 gather at Rutger's Square the next morning)
Tues 2/20
  • Altercation on Orchard Street (woman vs. onion peddler); spreads to Rivington
  • 50 women congregate at the Forward building; they later move to Rutgers Sq. to make speeches
  • The crowd grows to 1,000 women; someone suggest marching to City Hall; the women are led by Mrs. Ida Harris & Marie Ganz.
  • 300 to 400 women arrive at City Hall, shouting “We want food! Give us bread! Feed our children!” in Yiddish and English
  • Marie Ganz is arrested for shouting and inciting the crowd to “Stay here until you’re heard!”; 200 women storm the police station and secure her release
  • Mrs. Harris holds mass meeting at P.S. 62 (across from Seward Park)
  • 2,000 to 5,000 people (mostly female) crowd into the Forward’s Hall at ameeting called by the Socialist party; by 7PM, room is packed, 2 hrs. pass before individual speeches can be heard.
  • Jacob Panken, Socialist lawyer, allowed to speak; asks that violence not be used, that food not be destroyed since there are low levels of it, calls for mass demonstration of half a million women and children the following Saturday.
  • Mother’s Anti-High Price League (MAHPL) is formed
Wed 2/21
  • Women ban sale of all vegetables
Thurs 2/22
  • Chicken & fish added to boycott; newspapers report no customers for vendors
Sat 2/24
  • Midafternoon, approx. 5,000 march to Madison Square; crowd is approx. 90% foreign-born and 80% female with many children & baby carriages
  • Socialist speaker Bella Zilberman asks rhetorically how many listeners would march to the Waldof-Astoria where Gov. Whitman was rumored to be to “show them that you are hungry,” more than 1,000 women and children go to the hotel, causing a riot.
  • Committee of MAHPL Socialist separately go to where Governor actually is, the St. Regis Hotel
  • Reports also of 5,000 to 10,000 people joining here in mass meeting
Sun 2/25
  • MAHPL holds mass coalition meeting in P.S. 62 off Rutgers Sq.
Mon 2/26
  • Wholesalers cut prices, retail prices plummet for next two weeks
  • Mayor’s Food Supply Committe distributes copies of a circular extolling the nutrutional virtues of rice to 800,000 schoolchildren; women respond with anti-rice protest, “We American Can Not Live on Rice”
Tues 2/27
  • MAHPL sends delegates to Albany to request relief measures; bombard officials with letters demanding state-managed food sales; they also go to NYC’s aldermen.
Wed 3/1
  • 100 women arrested in the Bronx
  • Shipments of 20,000 lbs. of Pacific Coast smelts arrived in city by emergencyorder to be sold at “minimal cost”
Tues 3/7
  • Potatoes and other vegetables reappear on pushcarts
Wed 3/8
  • Brazilian beans and hominy are also sold; pamphlets distributed about their value (in reality, these are rare foods being used to avoid direct competition with trade)
Sat 3/11
  • Potatoes return to pre-boycott price ($0.06/lb)
Mon 3/13
  • MAHPL again sends delegates to Albany
Second week in March
  • Onions go from $0.18/lb to $0.11 & $0.12/lb.; potatoes from $0.10 to $0.07
  • Chickens go from $0.32 to $0.22
  • Eventually prices rose again, sharp climb again in 1918

Monday, March 2, 2009

A Christmas Dinner

Thank you to The Food Timeline and their page of Historic American Christmas Dinner Menus.

This is from 1917, just a few months before the food riots started. Perhaps some people living in the (now Lower) East Side might have read this menu as posted in the NYTimes.

"Christmas Dinner, Park Avenue Hotel:
Blue Points, Cenery, Olives, Cream of Tomato, Roast Vermont Turkey, Cranberry Sauce, Celery Dressing, Hashed Cream Potatoes, Mashed Turnips, Romaine Salad, Plum Pudding, Brandy Sauce or Ice Cream Cake, Demi-tasse."
---"No Meat Christmas in the Big Hotels," The New York Times, December 16, 1917 (p. XX8)

I also like this menu from a few years prior. Very exotic!

"Christmas Dinner
: Oysters, Mangoes, Celery, Stuffed Olives, Tomato Soup, Roast Turkey, Cranberry Jelly, Roast Sweet Potatoes, Mashed Turnips, Brussels Sprouts, Orange and Celery Salad, Vanilla Blanc-mange, English Plum Pudding, Fruit, Coffee."
---A Calendar of Dinners with 615 Recipes, Marion Harris Neil [Procter & Gamble:Cincinnati] 1913 (p. 229)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Thanks Flickr!

I was researching a meeting turned riot mentioned in Marie Ganz's memoir, Rebels: Into Anarchy and Out Again, that occurred in 1914. This isn't directly associated with the food riots but gives a nice glimpse into the political temperature of the time.

A google of some of the name mentioned by Marie garnered this article from the NYTimes:
I.W.W. ARMY RIOTS IN COOPER ONION; Host of 300 Invades Socialist Symposium on Problem of the Unemployed. Then, thanks to the magic of Flickr, I stumbled upon some great photos. I was searching because Marie talks about the lights going out at the meeting, followed by bright flashes that illuminated the room. She thought it was a bomb, but realized that it was reporters taking photos.

I was hoping for those actual photos but found these again. A date is not attached to the photos, but the clothing indicates that it's the right time period. Here is a group of people gathered for a strike vote. In 1914 there were numerous strikes in the garment industry.

Here is a photo of a strike vote. I love seeing these women vote! If this photo is indeed from 1914, it must have been so exciting since women did not gain the right to vote until 1919!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Mighty Potato

I love potatoes.

I have an unnatural obsession with them.

On a personal note, this all started two years ago when I had to write a short play based on a recipe for french fries which became a multi-country/multi-era riff on the history of the potato - The Potato Play: A Brief & Innacurate History - and just about every project I've worked on since has been connected in some way to the potato. In fact, The Potato Play was produced this past September at a potato-themed fundraiser in England (the U.N. named 2008 the Year of the Potato) and I just received an apron with potatoes on it as a thank-you for the rights to the play.

But I digress. I am back with Mabel and am looking at her recipes. She opens her chapter on vegetables with, naturally, the potato.

She writes:

Why is potato so valuable a food?
1. It is easy to cultivate.
2. It can be kept through the winter.
3. It is easy to prepare as a food.
4. Potatoes give us the needed bulk rather than any large amount of nutritive value. Because potatoes lack protein they should be used with meat or fish or eggs in combination with milk and cheese. Potatoes are cheaper when bought by the quantity, and as they keep well, should not be purchased in small amounts unless necessary.

Even in 1917 they were advocating for potato skins!
"...if we peel a potato before boiling it we lose a great deal of this good mineral matter with the peeling."

There are a number of recipes for potatoes along with tips on how to rejuvinate old potatoes. Recipes include:
Baked Potato
Browned Potatoes
Baked Creamed Potatoes (use leftover potatoes!)
Mashed Potatoes
Rivc Potatoes (using a potato-ricer)
Creamed Potatoes with Cheese
Fried Potatoes
Another Creamed Potatoes with Cheese
Potato Pancake

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Note From Mabel

Thanks once again to the power of google, I stumbled upon a blog which had a link to a home-keeping guide from 1917: "The Home and Its Management: A Handbook in Homemaking, With 300 Inexpensive Cooking Receipts" by Mabel Hyde Kittredge. As you might imagine, it is a treasure trove of information, advice and insight into the life of an early 20th century housewife, so I'll provide the link to the full document (with illustrations!) here. But read on for a few gems I've culled:

On hiring staff:
[Having a servant or staff] does not mean that the work connected with homes are tasks for which any woman is too fine and so hires a person to do the work for her. It means (or should mean) that in many homes there are too many things for one woman to do, especially in homes where children are to be cared for.
On the rights of servants:
A servant is less protected by law than any other business woman. Thirty-nine states have laws limiting the working hours of women in factories and stores. In only nineteen are women workers in hotels and restaurants included; in only five are public institution servants protected; and in no State are the servants in our homes protected by law. They are obliged to work as many hours as the head of the house directs, or give up the place.
On how to treat servants:
Do not ask any woman to perform for you any labor that hurts her dignity or any act that each individual should do for herself. Never address a servant with anger or as if she belonged to you. Show all employees the same courtesy you expect from them. Remember that you make them just as angry as they make you; you probably seem unreasonable and at times stupid.
Her chapter on the dining room is filled with etiquette lessons, both for the servants (meal preparation, table setting, cleaning) and household member. She closes her chapter with a quote by Booker T. Washington:
See to it that a certain ceremony, a certain importance, be attached to the partaking of food.
Words for us to all live by!

More on Mabel soon.....