Subject Guide

Food: Production & Consumption

The study of food, approached from many disciplines and fields and using many methodologies, is rapidly expanding. Food is intrinsic to human civilization; as our society industrialized, food industries formed a leading edge of the development of modern America. While food is consumed in social settings, its production and distribution are the province of business. The Hagley Library, America's premier business-history library has much to offer food researchers.

View PDF version of the guide with images from our collections

The Hagley Library's Center for the History of Business, Technology, and Society regularly holds conferences and seminars that include food-related topics and has published collections of essays pertinent to food scholars. We invite researchers to explore our collections for materials pertinent to their interests and to apply for our research grants, which can be used to defray the costs of travel to use our materials.

BUSINESS AND TECHNOLOGY

Hagley's manuscript collections, printed sources, and visual materials contain information on a wide range of food industries and especially on their business practices and processing methods. Our library holds more than 40,000 trade catalogs and many trade journals that contain pertinent information on a very wide range of topics. The collection includes industry publications such as Supermarket Business, National Food Distributor's Journal, Quick Frozen Foods, Industrial Refrigeration, Food Engineering, Food Service Magazine, and Food Industries that document a wide range of practices by firms, as well as some annual reports of food companies such as Food Fair Stores, Beatrice Foods, Chock Full O'Nuts, Dean Foods, and General Mills.

Equipment catalogs such as McArthur, Wirth & Co. Butchers' and Packers' Tools and Machinery (1900) and Secrets of Meat Curing and Sausage Making (1913) contain illustrations, machinery, guidelines on food manufacturing methods, and a wealth of other information. Handbooks directed to businesses like The Market Assistant (1867), The Grocer's Encyclopedia (1911), and The Hotel Butcher (1935) discuss products available in a particular time period, how they should be handled, and other valuable subjects. Textbooks such as those published by the International Correspondence Schools in the early twentieth century contain technical information on the processing methods of virtually every kind of food.

Among our manuscript holdings, the Seagram Company, Ltd., archive documents the global operations of one of the world's largest beverage alcohol firms, especially after 1935. Distilling technology, marketing methods, and market share are among the topics detailed in these records. The Pennsylvania Railroad records include information on the transportation of livestock (mostly 1860s-1880s) and Florida citrus products (1920s). The Keystone Mushroom Farm archive documents the development of southern Pennsylvania's mushroom industry. The records of Wilmington, Delaware, caterer Edith McConnell illustrate the growing popularity of commercial food service in the mid-twentieth century.

Visual materials augment Hagley's manuscript and print collections. In 1953 the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) launched its "Industry on Parade" television series, which featured different types of industries—for example, avocado production in California. Films from the DuPont Company promote agricultural uses for herbicides and pesticides in the 1970s. Still photographs document the meat, poultry, and mushroom industries and include images of bars, restaurants, liquor stores, and retail food stores such as those operated by the Wawa Dairy Farms.

ADVERTISING

Hagley's twentieth-century archival collections include advertisements for food products as well as internal company information that can be used to ascertain the objectives of particular advertising campaigns. The Seagram collection is a particularly rich source, with clear links between market research, company planning, and resultant advertising campaigns. Our international collection of Seagram advertisements includes television commercials. DuPont's advertisements for Cellophane also can be traced to specific firm objectives.

Before widespread use of magazine advertising, firms relied heavily on trade cards to promote their products. Hagley owns more than 3,500 trade cards published from the late 1800s through the early years of the twentieth century. The collection includes many food-related items, such as coffee, tea, root beer, baking powder, cornstarch, condensed milk, flour, spices, confectionery, and ice cream. It also contains numerous trade cards on kitchens and cooking utensils, including illustrations of stoves and ranges, cutlery, and enameled ironware as well as more unusual items like coffee and spice mills and an ice cream freezer.

PACKAGING

Packaging became an essential part of food production and marketing in the twentieth century. Packages functioned as a means both to curtail deterioration and to sell food to consumers. DuPont's materials relating to Cellophane offer remarkable insight into food production and marketing between 1925 and 1965. The company promoted Cellophane to firms producing a wide range of foods, especially bakery items and meat, and in doing so collected extensive information on those industries. Materials include detailed sales information, pricing, technology (different types of Cellophane were adapted to different types of food), reports on firms and industries interested in using Cellophane, and studies of consumer behavior that emphasize Cellophane's value in self-serve stores. The collection includes a fine selection of Cellophane food advertisements from the 1920s to the 1950s.

Hagley's industrial design collections also offer insights into packaging. Raymond Loewy's company worked for food companies such as the Armour meatpacking firm, and New Jersey-based designer Irv Koons created bottles for many Seagram products. The Society of the Plastics Industry collection includes printed and visual materials on the use of plastic, including Tupperware, for food storage. Publications in the Imprints Department, such as Good Packaging Magazine, New Potentials in Consumer Packaging (1955), and Tupperware, by Tupperware Home Parties (1968), complement archival materials.

FOODWAYS

Food consumption practices are well documented in Hagley's collections. Detailed data are available beginning with the U.S. government's studies of food prices (1840-1900) and consumption (1903) and continuing through The Post-War Food Dollar (1945) and What's Happening to Mealtime? (1979). Complementing these stand-alone studies are the extensive surveys in the Seagram collection that explore consumer preferences for food and other items, especially after 1950.

Through its business and family collections, Hagley has extensive narrative information on American foodways from the early nineteenth century to the present. Cooking and "receipt" books include detailed information on dining practices and food preparation methods, as well as menus. Commencing with American Domestic Cookery (1823 ) and encompassing many manufacturers' recipe booklets and World's Fair publications (such as the 1982 Official World's Fair Cookbook), these materials span the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Valuable information can also be gleaned from Hagley's holdings of company magazines directed to employees. These publications generally have a "women's" or "family" section devoted to domestic matters, including homemaking hints and recipes, as well as descriptions of company events involving food.

Corporate archives routinely include menus of banquets and convention dinners, from the seven-course meals enjoyed by captains of industry in the Edwardian Age to more prosaic annual-meeting lunches, occasionally documented by photographs. The Pierre S. du Pont papers include information about hospitality, including what food was served at his home, Longwood, as well as food service at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware. The Pennsylvania Railroad records contain some dining-car menus and a report by Raymond Loewy on developing "prefab" meals.

Photographic collections from corporations including DuPont, Westinghouse, and Lukens Steel depict food-related scenes of employees eating at company picnics and banquets and in cafeterias. Other images of "food events" can be found throughout the pictorial collection.

Hagley itself was a site with particular foodways. The DuPont company made gunpowder between 1802 and 1921 on the grounds now occupied by Hagley's museum and library. Our collections document the foodways of the workers, managers, and owners who lived on Hagley's grounds or nearby. The personal papers of du Pont family members, especially those of E. I. du Pont's daughters Sophie, Victorine, Evelina, and Eleuthera, contain information on family dining and traditional family recipes. Oral interviews with the last generation of powder workers and their children include detailed information on foodways of the Irish and Italian workers in the Hagley yards, especially for the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The interviews describe what people grew, what they obtained from merchants, what they ate, and how they prepared it. Louise du Pont Crowninshield lived at Hagley after gunpowder production ceased. Her personal papers detail the sociability customary among the very wealthy in the early and mid-twentieth century. An accurate reconstruction of her kitchen from the 1920s is on view for museum visitors.

FOOD PREPERATION

American's eating practices have been heavily influenced by the technology with which we have cooked, served, eaten, and preserved food. Hagley's holdings on the technology of domestic and commercial food preparation and kitchen layout are particularly strong.

The Imprints Department holds numerous trade catalogs on home appliances like iceboxes, refrigerators, and stoves, such as Cooking With Gas (ca. 1900) and the Frigidaire Electric Refrigerating Systems for Residential Apartments (1927).

Our DuPont materials document the introduction of Freon for home refrigeration and include company films from the 1960s and 1970s that show the production and uses of Teflon kitchenware.

The papers of three industrial designers, Thomas Lamb (Cutco cutlery), Marc Harrison (Cuisinart, Universal Kitchen), and Marshall Johnson (Wearever, Proctor-Silex), contain design documents, catalogs and advertising for modern kitchenware and appliances such as slow cookers, food processors, and coffee machines, including the Chemex coffeemaker, created by Peter Schulmbohm.

The records of the International Housewares Association describe trade fairs showcasing the latest designs. Hagley's general trade-catalog collection and materials from the Soo Hardware Company and Mohonk Mountain House collections document the evolution of domestic and institutional kitchens, appliances, and housewares over the entire span of the twentieth century. Other trade catalogs describe commercial food-processing equipment such as sausage makers and scrapple kettles.

RELATED RESEARCH MATERIALS AT WINTERTHUR LIBRARY

The Winterthur Library, less than five miles from Hagley, holds significant resources on food history. The following is a brief summary of relevant holdings there.

Advertising

Advertising ephemera for food and groceries boomed in the late 1800s. Many advertisements included recipes for dishes and directions for using products, and colorful trade cards and labels advertised a dizzying array of products.

Food preparation

Food preparation is extensively covered in Winterthur's collections. Drawings of kitchens, cooking implements, and food-laden tables and assembled pages in scrapbooks offer views of domestic interiors and utensils. Many printed cookbooks include images of the kitchen and food service. Domestic-advice literature from the middle of the nineteenth century on features images of the young wife overwhelmed by her first kitchen, juxtaposed with pictures of order restored. These images give insight into the spaces in which food was stored, prepared, and served. Trade catalogs for products used to store and prepare food provide insight into the food trade and trends. For instance, the history of home refrigeration may be traced though these catalogs.

Foodways

Foodways are especially well documented in Winterthur's holdings. Printed cookery books provide advice as well as recipes, giving suggestions on everything from how a new bride might stretch a dollar to dealing with domestic servants. Etiquette manuals give directions on the proper foods to be served at entertainments. Some cookery books, such as La Chapelle's The Modern Cook, provide diagrams of table settings for up to a hundred diners, while baroque books of ornament contain elaborate designs for centerpieces. Manuscript cookery books include numerous recipes for pickling and preserving foods and for making homemade wines and spirits. Printed menus from hotels, restaurants, and special occasions list courses and spirits for lunches and dinners. Menus of Henry Francis du Pont's dinners at Winterthur in the middle decades of the twentieth century also note china services and floral arrangements.

The Winterthur Library Catalog, including finding aids to manuscript and ephemera collections, is available online.

CONTACT

For general questions about using any of these materials, please use our Ask Hagley online form or call 302-658-2400 ext 227.

The Hagley Center for the History of Business, Technology and Society awards travel grants for visiting scholars. Some housing is available on the property. The Center also organizes conferences, research seminars, and academic programs. For more information email clockman@Hagley.org.