“Good Morning Housewives” - Milk

Promotional milk brochure, 1939. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Visitors to the Municipal Archives’ new exhibit: Feeding the City: The Unpublished WPA Federal Writers’ Project Manuscript, 1935-1942, will have the opportunity to view rare vintage recipes and photographs, bold and colorful advertising brochures, and excerpts from the manuscript. It’s all about food and New York City’s role in the global food marketplace, with fascinating materials drawn from the Archives’ collection of the NYC Unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Federal Writers’ Project.

The blog this week highlights another of the City’s food-related initiatives that got its start in the depths of the Great Depression. Beginning on March 26, 1934, at 8:25 a.m. every weekday morning, WNYC radio listeners could hear Frances Foley Gannon’s five-minute program about food—what was available in the markets that day at a good price, recipes, and advice on healthy food choices. Appointed by Mayor LaGuardia as the Deputy Commissioner of the Department of Markets, Bureau of Consumers’ Services, in 1934, Gannon hosted her ‘food talk’ program for almost thirty years until she retired in 1963. Transcribed here is her radio program about milk, from June 28, 1940:

GOOD MORNING HOUSEWIVES:

            Our milk supply usually reaches its peak in the month of June when the cows are put out to pasture, where they can eat plenty of green grass. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, milk production this year is a little above any previous record.

Promotional milk brochure, 1939. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

            Much of this extra milk is made into cheese and butter. Some of it is evaporated, condensed or dried, and by using it in these forms, it is possible to get the food values of milk in concentrated form.

The food values contained in milk are really something to talk about. You know, milk is classed as the “almost perfect food” because it is rich in so many nutritional elements.

            Its fat content can be observed when the cream rises to the top of the bottle of milk. You can also see the protein in the form of curd when the milk sours, and the slightly sweet taste is evidence enough of the sugar content.

            Milk is especially valuable for its calcium and phosphorus, so important for sound bones and teeth. In addition, scientists tell us that milk is particularly rich in vitamin A and G, and that it also has some vitamin D, and small amounts of B1 and C.

            So, it is easily understandable why the nutritionists recommend a quart of milk a day for growing children and a pint a day for adults. Some of this quota can be in the form of cheese or evaporated milk.

            In fact, in 5 ounces of American cheese, there is the same amount of calcium, phosphorus and protein as you would obtain in a quart of milk. In manufacturing evaporated milk, about one-half the water is removed from fresh fluid milk. So, when you use the evaporated milk, you can mix it with water- measure for measure. This “reconstructed” milk will have about the same food value as an equal amount of fresh milk. You can dink it, or you can eat in in cream soup, scalloped dishes, muffins, bread, cake, custard and any number of other dishes.

            Milk is an ideal hot weather drink for both children and adults. It is not only cooling but it is also nourishing and safe. Many find a glass of cold, sweet milk delightful. Buttermilk is a summer favorite of others who enjoy the tang of its slightly acid flavor. With most of its butterfat removed, it offers a splendid choice to any who may be watching a waist line.

Woman posing with milk relief posters, ca. 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

            Children are especially fond of flavored milk drinks and if they have difficulty consuming their quart per day allowance of milk, this is an excellent method of getting them to drink their quota.

            A wide variety of inexpensive, mixed milk drinks can be made at home. Chocolate milk shakes, fruit juice and fruit syrups of all kinds are other good suggestions.

            Now a word or two on the care of milk. Producers and distributors must take every precaution to protect the quality and wholesomeness of their milk. This should serve as an example to the housewife caring for milk after it is placed outside the door.

            Have the milk delivered where it will not be exposed to the sun, and take it into the house as soon as possible, especially in hot weather. Then place it in the refrigerator at once and allow it to remain there when you are not using it. Keep the milk in the original container until needed for immediate consumption; do not put it into a bowl or pitcher for storage. Carefully wipe the containers before pouring any milk from it, because of its exposure to contamination while left standing on the doorstep and finally, when storing in the refrigerator, keep milk away from foods with strong odors as they are readily absorbed.

Label for Borden’s “irradiated” evaporated milk, ca. 1938. WPA Federal Writers’ Project Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

When Frances Foley Gannon broadcast her milk talk in 1940, New York City was the largest market for milk in the country with 3,200,000 quarts of milk consumed daily at homes, schools, restaurants, hotels and hospitals. Gannon’s radio broadcast may have been prompted by a relief program launched in 1940 by Mayor LaGuardia and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture that aimed to increase the consumption of fluid mild and strengthening child health.  Children were told to drink a quart of milk every day; adults two full cups. In the decades since then, milk consumption has decreased dramatically, in favor of other beverages. 

Feeding the City: The Unpublished WPA Federal Writers’ Project Manuscript, 1935-1943, will be on view in the NYC Municipal Archives 1st Floor Gallery, 31 Chambers Street, Manhattan, through March 2019. Visit our website for opening hours and upcoming programs.

NYC: WORK AND WORKING - WPA PHOTOGRAPHS at PHOTOVILLE

 Subway excavation workers. Date: 1941. Photographer: Andrew Herman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Subway excavation workers. Date: 1941. Photographer: Andrew Herman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

This week’s blog features images from the Municipal Archives’ installation at the 2018 Photoville exposition at Brooklyn Bridge Park.  The photographs in the exhibit were selected from the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP) photograph collection.  The FWP was one of the innovative Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs devised to alleviate mass unemployment caused by the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Historian William E. Leuchtenberg described the Depression as a “knife that cut down impartially through the entire population cleaving open lives and hopes of rich as well as poor.” For the millions who found themselves without work and unable to feed their families, there seemed no place to turn.  The funds provided by private charities and by state and local governments were soon exhausted.

 South Street Seaport. Date: January 13, 1937. Photographer unknown. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

South Street Seaport. Date: January 13, 1937. Photographer unknown. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

In the presidential campaign of 1932, Franklin Delano Roosevelt promised a “New Deal” and was elected by a landslide.  His first priority was to put people back to work, preferably in jobs that would preserve their skills.  One result was the WPA, which ended up employing over 8.5 million people from 1935 to 1943; 700,000 in New York City alone.

 WPA Activities, Sewing Project (Ironers), Date: 1937. Photographer: Andrew Herman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

WPA Activities, Sewing Project (Ironers), Date: 1937. Photographer: Andrew Herman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The WPA did not just improve parks and build roadways—a portion of the money was set aside for unemployed professionals in the “arts.” As director Harry Hopkins explained, “they have to eat like other people.” It was called Federal Project Number One, and consisted of Art, Music, Theatre and Writers’ Projects. The Federal Writers' Project (FWP) was the only one to operate in all 48 states and the territories of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, as well as New York City.  At its peak, in April of 1936, there were 6,686 on the payroll nationwide; approximately 40% were women.

The New York City housed the largest FWP Unit, employing, nearly 300 people.  The writers produced the New York City Guide, New York Panorama, Almanac for New Yorkers, a number of ethnic studies, Who's Who in the Zoo—a total of 64 proposed books. The New York City Guide proved so durable and popular that it was re-published in 1966, 1982 and again in 1992. To illustrate the books, the NYC unit acquired photographs from trade organizations, other branches of Federal Project One, and sent staff photographers to document many aspects of New York City.

 Charlie Wagner tattooing a woman at his world-famous Bowery studio, 11 Chatham Square. Date: 1938. Photographer: Daniel Triestman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Charlie Wagner tattooing a woman at his world-famous Bowery studio, 11 Chatham Square. Date: 1938. Photographer: Daniel Triestman. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The tour-guide nature of the books explains the curious absence in the photographs of the sordid Depression-era realities. (In addition, in 1938, the House Committee on Un-American Activities, under Chairman Martin Dies, (D-Texas), used photographs from the NYC Unit of the FWP to target alleged Communist Party members on the staff. Photographs that depicted social “unrest,” such as strikes or breadlines, were removed from the Project files.)  The NYC FWP photographers adhered to a documentary approach; there was no attempt to glamorize.  The result is an unsentimental portrait of bartenders and carny barkers, wrestlers and garment workers, blacksmiths and tattoo artists, fishmongers and pretzel vendors—the gritty reality of 1930s New York.  

In 1943, after controversies over funding and mismanagement, the necessities of World War II brought the WPA to a close.  The NYC Unit of the FWP transferred its files, including the photographs, to Rebecca Rankin, Chief Librarian at the NYC Municipal Reference Library; the collection was later transferred to the Municipal Archives.

 Counter of the Unique Lunch, 195 West 135th Street. Date: December 14, 1937. Photographer: Aubrey Pollard. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Counter of the Unique Lunch, 195 West 135th Street. Date: December 14, 1937. Photographer: Aubrey Pollard. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

The photographs in this exhibit include the work of well-known photographers Dorothea Lange and Berenice Abbott alongside others of equal talent including Sam Brody, Ralph DeSola, Charles Eiseman, Andrew Herman, Sol Horn, Sol Libsohn, Aubrey Pollard, David Robbins, Clifford Sutcliffe, James Suydam, Daniel Treistman, and Jack Rosenzweig. 

The Photoville display was inspired by an exhibit at the Municipal Archives curated by Barbara H. Millstein in 1980.  It highlights many images from the more than 5,000 prints in the collection that previously had been overlooked or were from negatives not yet available in 1980.  In 1993, the National Endowment for the Humanities provided generous support to the Municipal Archives to preserve and microfilm the collection. 

 Worker on the New York tower of the George Washington Bridge. Date: December 22, 1936. Photographer: Jack Rosenzwieg. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Worker on the New York tower of the George Washington Bridge. Date: December 22, 1936. Photographer: Jack Rosenzwieg. WPA-FWP Collection, NYC Municipal Archives.

Photoville is open to the public over two long weekends, Thursday–Sunday, 9/13–9/16 and 9/20–9/24.

New Accession: Department of Sanitation Photographs

This week’s blog will show a few sample images from a recently acquired series of Department of Sanitation (DOS) photographs. The collection of approximately 32 cubic feet spanning 1900-2007, is comprised of glass plate and acetate negatives as well as prints. This series will is a great addition to the Municipal Archives’ comprehensive photographic documentation of New York City.

Street Scene, Lower East Side Manhattan, Department of Sanitation, glass neg. no. 693, ca. 1900

Like many City agencies, the Department of Sanitation began using photography to document its facilities and operations around the turn of the 20th century. The earliest images in this series are 5x7 inch glass-plate negatives. Although the glass format does present challenges (heavy and fragile), the plates are usually very stable and their large size enabled the photographer to capture sharp clear images.

Snow Removal, Department of Sanitation glass negative no. 600, ca. 1900

Sanitation Equipment at Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, Department of Sanitation glass negative no. 363, n.d

Demonstrating Sanitation Equipment at Earth Day event, ca. 1970, DOS negative no. 31438-2

The collection includes a subject inventory of the more recent pictures (1960s and later). This list provides a tantalizing preview of what the collection will reveal when it is processed and digitized. The inventory lists subjects related to sanitation, as you would expect, e.g. graffiti, Fresh Kills, containerization, recycling, storm damage, lot cleaning, etc., as well as big events such as Hurricane Hugo and the Blizzards of 1983 and 1996. There are many pictures of DOS-related campaigns and initiatives including Adopt-a-Basket, Operation Smile, Team Up to Clean Up, and Chinatown Beautification. Other listings are somewhat obscure—“Sanitation Truck in Aluminum Foil,” and “Senior Citizens Vegetable Presentation,” are two that raise curiosity. And of course Sanitation played a key role in every major civic gathering—including all the parades—Pulaski Day, Steuben Day, Columbus Day, St. Patrick’s Day, and the big ticker-tape celebrations for the Vietnam Veterans in 1985, and the Desert Storm troops in 1991. The photographs DOS took at a Nuclear Disarmament gathering and the Democratic National Convention might prove unique and interesting. It’s not just equipment, crowds, and trash—there are lots of people named in the inventory—all the mayors and agency commissioners, as well as other politicians and personalities. But we’ll have to wait until the collection is processed to find out why Lauren Hutton is listed in this DOS photograph inventory.

Mayor John V. Lindsay at a DOS facility, ca. 1970.

This series of photographs will join the Archives earlier accession of Department of Sanitation photographs. In 1987, the Archives acquired 35 cubic feet of photographic materials, including the original photographer’s logbooks. Part of the challenge the processing archivists will face is determining the relationship of this series to the earlier materials, if any.

Readers can anticipate reading about more finds from this collection as it is processed and digitized.

Find of the Week

Billboard Regulations, New York Leads the Way, 1914


An unsuccessful search in former Mayor John Pulroy Mitchel’s papers for documentation of World Pineapple Day (August 15, 1914) yielded an interesting folder titled the “Mayor’s Bill Board Advertising Commission.” And that folder of departmental correspondence provided a glimpse into City government circa 1914. 

 Typical Conditions, from "A Report on An Investigation on Billboard Advertising in the City of New York, Office of The Commissioner of Accounts," Raymond Fosdick, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel.

Typical Conditions, from "A Report on An Investigation on Billboard Advertising in the City of New York, Office of The Commissioner of Accounts," Raymond Fosdick, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel.

A reformer elected Mayor in 1913, Mitchel previously had served as the President of the Board of Alderman and temporarily as Mayor in 1910 when Mayor Gaynor was incapacitated due to a gunshot wound. Gaynor had established the Bill Board Advertising Commission and a letter from the Commission’s secretary to the new Mayor acknowledged the “rush of important matters” at the outset of the administration, reported that 2,000 copies of the Commission’s report already had been distributed throughout the country and suggested printing another 1,000. The letter further stated that the printing company “had the type standing to cover the contingency of an exhaustion of the first edition and an order to reprint.” So, in all likelihood, the type had been handset in galleys, not set using the newfangled Linotype machines, and the report printed on a letterpress.

Memorandum for the Mayor.jpg

"The Best Thing Ever Printed," Memorandum for the Mayor from Secretary Arthur Woods, undated. Mayor Mitchel Departmental Correspondence, 1914.

In any case, the letter was forwarded to the Chamberlain of the City, one Henry Bruere, Esq. for a recommendation. Bruere, a Progressive reformer who previously headed the Municipal Research Bureau was considered to be among Mitchel’s closest confidantes.  He went on to serve for a dollar a year providing guidance on fiscal policy to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, among other positions.  True to form, Bruere, who zealously searched and eliminated corruption and mismanagement, wanted to review the report prior to recommending a reprint. But, he had to locate one first.

 Olmsted Brothers letter to Mayor Mitchel requesting a copy of the Billboard Report, March 16, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel.

Olmsted Brothers letter to Mayor Mitchel requesting a copy of the Billboard Report, March 16, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel.

He was not alone.  Letters requesting copies poured in from the City of Boston Law Department, the Olmsted Brothers Landscape Architect firm in Brookline MA, the Denver Public Library, and the American City Bureau. These requests triggered a back and forth correspondence between David Ferguson, the Supervisor of the City Record, Arthur Woods, Secretary to the Mayor and the M.B. Brown Printing and Binding Company—holders of the typeset master. The Chair of the Aldermanic Committee on Finance, Henry Curran also urged a reprinting because he had introduced a bill to implement the recommendations, which was “now being so thoroughly discussed throughout the City, that there is a constant demand for copies of the report.” He too noted that the printer “held the type and concluded that the expense should be small.”

But the printer disagreed!  In response to Ferguson’s request the company claimed that it lost more than $100 on the original job and would not budge from a price of $320 for 1,000 copies, or $270 for 500 copies. The cost to reprint included the cost of “holding” the type, which amounted to more than $100, and other incidentals. Secretary Woods responded that the price was too high and that “the fact that we discovered a few more in the cellar the other day” made it possible to do without the reprint.

Letter from Mayor's Secretary, Arthur Woods, to David Ferguson, Supervisor of the City Records, March 26, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel, 1914.

A search of the Municipal Library produced  a copy of the 1913 report. In addition, The American City, a compendium of reports and advertisements on matters related to cities (and whose editors, as documented in the departmental correspondence, requested two copies) summarized the report and publicized its availability at the Mayor’s Office for the sum of 10 cents. Further, this publication reported that the lots on which billboards stand frequently become a dumping place for refuse.  One billboard company posted notices warning that dumpers would be prosecuted, at the suggestion of one Mrs. Flora Spiegelberg “during the spring clean-up campaign in New York.”

The National Municipal Review, published by the venerable National Civic League in 1914 reported on “The New York Billboard Situation” called the Commission’s report admirable and repeated it’s statistics of “approximately 3,700 billboards in the city, of which fully 25 per cent are double-deckers, making about 46,000 facings for advertisements and including approximately 3,800,000 square feet of billboard ‘beauty’ in New York.” 

It turns out that billboards were problematic throughout the country—hence the large demand for the Commission’s report. The American City lamented the motion filed by billboard companies to withdraw their appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court of decision by Missouri’s highest court upholding the right of St. Louis to regulate billboards. Termed a “keen disappointment” because there would not be a definitive ruling on the right to regulate billboards for some time to come.

 Typical Conditions.  Illustration from "A Report on An Investigation of Billboard Advertising in the City of New York,"  Office of the Commissioner of Accounts, Raymond Fosdick, page 37, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel, 1914. 

Typical Conditions.  Illustration from "A Report on An Investigation of Billboard Advertising in the City of New York,"  Office of the Commissioner of Accounts, Raymond Fosdick, page 37, 1914.  Departmental Correspondence of Mayor Mitchel, 1914. 

Back in NYC, the Board of Aldermen had considered Mr. Curran’s proposal to regulate billboards for three months. During that time the lawmakers gathered input from the Real Estate Board, billboard industry and several civic bodies. On May 26, 1914, by a unanimous vote of the 55 members present an amended version of the ordinance was passed. Thereafter billboards fell under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Buildings and were limited in size and placement. 

Find of the Week

Called  the “Pallet Project,” it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my career at the Municipal Archives.  The project originated about 30 years when the Archives was asked to take “old” records—mostly in the form of ledger books—that had been stored by City agencies in the basement of the Municipal Building.   At the time, the Archives did not have the resources to go through all of the material to select which ledgers had historical value—they just piled everything on pallets and moved them into storage.

Finally, two years ago, the director of the Archives decided it was time to appraise these thousands of ledgers and accession those worth keeping.  Every day was like a birthday—you never knew what would be found when opening the presents, or in this case, disassembling a pallet of records.  One day, my present turned out to be a series of journals created by the District Attorney’s Homicide Bureau from 1918 through 1927.  Each journal consisted of post-bound typed transcripts of telephone calls received by the Bureau from the Police Department reporting homicides, or alleged homicides.  I will not say this was the most important of my discoveries, but it is certainly a unique record and will be of great use to historians.  Each entry is titled with the date and time of the telephone call, precinct location and a succinct description the homicide, including the names of the police officer at the crime scene, the victim and assailant, if known, and witnesses.  Here’s a typical entry:

Don’t you just want to know more?  How did he get his nick name?  Who found him and put him in the taxi to the hospital?   This entry raises questions that could beguile a researcher into diving deeply into this 1920 murder mystery.

Summer in the City

During August, 2018, we will be publishing briefer blogs—sharing cool items from the Municipal Archives and Library in a briefer format. These blogs primarily will describe interesting finds located in the course of other research or processing projects.  The long form will return, come September. 

August 11, 1927, Far Rockaway, Borough President Queens Collection