Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

Food Will Win the War: A World War I Culinary Experiment

August 28th, 2018

By the time the United States joined World War I in 1917, many were thinking ahead to the possibility of food shortages. In order to avoid mandating food rationing, the United States created a massive patriotic advertisement campaign urging individuals to substitute wheat, sugar, meat, and dairy so that these items could be sent to the troops on the front lines. Catchy headlines like “Save the Wheat, and Help the Fleet” were employed to persuade Americans to win the war by conserving much-needed food resources. It was considered to be part of your patriotic duty.

Thus, Americans buckled down and rationed food. Some of the more common substitutions included corn, rye, oats, and barley in lieu of wheat. For protein, they ate chicken, eggs, cottage cheese, fish, nuts, peas, and beans instead of bacon, beef, mutton, and pork. Table sugar, fats, and eggs were also restricted.

But, what did these modified dishes taste like? What were people on the home-front eating during a time of war?

To find out, Spencer Research Library staff organized a potluck to try some innovative recipes from World War I. Using the Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (RH C1550), published in 1918 with recipes pertaining to suggested food conservation and substitutions, we chose dishes to prepare for a party commemorating the centennial anniversary of World War I.

Lynn and Fisher researching in the reading room of the Kenneth Spencer Research Library

Above: Lynn (left) and Fisher (right) found a great resource for recipes
used on the home front during World War I. If you’re interested in exploring this book,
create an account or log into Aeon and request the item RH C1550.
The reference staff will retrieve it when you arrive at the reference room.)

What did we bring to the potluck?

We each picked recipes that: 1) we thought we could cook/bake, 2) the ingredients were readily available, and 3) we thought we would enjoy eating. On August 10, 2018, we gathered together in the Spencer Research Library breakroom to unveil our dishes.

Dishes made at potluck cooking with Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (RH C1550)

From bottom left corner in the image above, clockwise: Bran cookies by Stacey Wiens, Reference Specialist; fresh garden salsa salad by Meredith Huff, Operations Manager; carrot salad by Lynn Ward, Processing Archivist; aat crackers and goat cheese by Karen Cook, Special Collections Librarian; Spanish rice by Becky Schulte, University Archivist; cheese and rice croquettes by Letha Johnson, Assistant Archivist; popcorn balls by Elspeth Healey, Special Collections Librarian; oatmeal muffins by Marcella Huggard, Manuscripts Processing Coordinator; lentil casserole and cold turkey salad by Lynn Ward, Processing Archivist; lemonade by Fisher Adwell, Library Assistant.

Meredith Huff with her garden-made salsa

Meredith Huff made good use of fresh vegetables from her garden in a
delicious salsa that complemented several of the dishes.

WWI-style Bran Cookies with sign that reads "not very sweet"

Stacey Wiens had a warning sign with her bran cookies that read “not very sweet.”

bran cookies recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (RH C1550)

Marcella Huggard with her oatmeal muffins

Marcella Huggard added raisins to her muffins to make them just a little bit sweeter.
The recipe only calls for two tablespoons of sugar.

Oatmeal muffins recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (1918)

Letha Johnson (left) with her rice and cheese croquettes

Letha Johnson, left, discloses an unexpected ingredient in her
rice and cheese croquettes: peanut butter. Who could have guessed peanut butter
and cheese would be a winning combination?

Rice and cheese croquettes recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (1918)

Elspeth Healey with popcorn balls

Elspeth Healey’s popcorn balls were a sticky success.

Pop corn balls recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (1918)

Becky Schulte with Spanish rice

 Becky Schulte’s Spanish rice was filling, tasty, and nutritious.
She used half of the beef that the recipe called for, all in the spirit of rationing.

Spanish rice recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook (1918)

Karen Severud Cook with her oat crackers with goat cheese

Karen Cook’s oat crackers paired nicely with goat cheese.
Her recipe was similar to the one in the book.

Oat crackers recipe from Kansas City Food Conservation Cookbook

Lynn Ward with WWI recipe book.

Lynn Ward made turkey salad, carrot salad, and lentil casserole out of a
book she had at home (Official Recipe Book… 1918).

How did it go?

The recipes all turned out with a high degree of success. Of course, we were particular about which recipes to try. Everyone strayed away from some of the more adventurous dishes, including ones that called for fresh pigeon or canned whale. Nor did anyone bring “chicken pudding,” a recipe that calls for putting the inferior parts of a bird through a meat chopper, adding an egg or gravy to bind it together, packing it into a greased pudding bowl, and then steaming it for one and a half hours.

 Chris Bañuelos examines WWI dishes

But still, we all enjoyed sampling the dishes. Chris Bañuelos, Audiovisual Preservation Specialist and pictured above, came to the potluck to try out the food. He remarked, “I was happily surprised at how tasty the dishes actually were. Even the bland ones helped me understand how folks did the best they could during war time.” All of our student workers were invited, and they gravitated toward the popcorn balls – which were a huge hit.

If you’re interested in doing a potluck of your own, here’s some recommendations to follow.

  1. Try finding a cookbook from 1918. Many cookbooks during this time were published to encourage individuals to conserve and substitute food for the war effort.
  2. Look for recipes published in newspapers from 1918. Newspapers were an important resource and recipes would often be cut out and pasted in scrapbooks or on cards for later use.
  3. Utilize some of your favorite modern recipes but modify them based on outlined food restrictions. For instance, cook with flours other than wheat, restrict meats like beef or pork, replace eggs with faux substitutes, and stick to alternative fats. The recipes may not have been used during the time period, but you’ll get an idea of how foods tasted during World War I.
  4. If you don’t feel like cooking or baking, you can always bring local fruits or vegetables from your own garden or purchased at the farmer’s market.

At the end of the day, experimenting with what people ate during World War I provided us with a greater understanding of the gastronomical difficulties of the time. Eating these restrictive foods and sharing stories also gave us a greater appreciation for the diversity of food available today. Although these may not be recipes we throw into our regular culinary rotation, it’s always fun to experiment and take risks in the kitchen.

Lynn Ward
Processing Archivist


Fisher Adwell
Library Assistant

Making Collections Accessible for Researchers

May 30th, 2018

When manuscript collections – the papers, letters, documents, photographs, and/or diaries of an individual or organization – are acquired by the Spencer Research Library, they need to undergo processing in order for them to be ready for researchers to use them. Some collections need more processing than others in order to make them accessible. While we process the collection, we create a finding aid so researchers know what is in the collection.

This blog post will use the Jane Wofford Malin Collection (Call Number: RH MS 1444) to illustrate what processing entails.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The “before” picture of an unprocessed donation to Spencer Research Library.
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018 Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

Sometimes collections are pretty large. Even a small box can contain hundreds of letters!
Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

Correspondence is unfolded and put into acid-free folders so researchers can
access them easily. The folders will be put into acid-free boxes. Notice the pencils
in the photo above? We use those to label the folder. We never use ink pens
around archival items. Researchers are also required to leave their ink pens behind
when they enter the research room here. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

This donated box contained hundreds of photographs. In order to protect the photographs and
make them useful for researchers, we put them into acid-free folders and
note the content so we can enter it into the finding aid. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The photos from the box shown above were sorted into like-groups and by year.
On the far right corner of the work table, you can see the purple nitrile gloves worn
when handling the photos. We always wear cotton or nitrile gloves when handling photographs
so that our finger-prints don’t ruin the image. Researchers also have to wear gloves
when using photographs here at Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

Photograph of the Jane Wofford Malin Collection being processed, 2018

The “after” picture of a processed collection at
Spencer Research Library. Click image to enlarge.

Here is what the collection looked like after it was all arranged and organized. The larger boxes on top hold oversize documents, such as certificates and artwork, and an oversize scrapbook. Everything is ready to go to the stacks and wait for a researcher to call them into the Reading Room!

With the collection all organized, we put the finishing touches on the finding aid and publish it to our website. Try searching the finding aids for yourself and see what you can discover in the Spencer Research Library. If you need help, please don’t hesitate to ask the staff. We work hard to preserve history and to make sure that it can be used and accessed by you!

Lynn Ward

Meet the KSRL Staff: Lynn Ward

February 20th, 2018

This is the thirteenth (lucky number thirteen!) installment in a recurring series of posts introducing readers to the staff of Kenneth Spencer Research Library. Today’s profile features Lynn Ward, who joined the Spencer Research Library processing unit in late October as a processing archivist. 

Where are you from?
Since most of my adult life has been spent in Lawrence, I like to say that’s where I’m from. I grew up in Missouri but attended the University of Kansas for my bachelor’s degree (anthropology) and masters (museum studies). I have moved from Lawrence a few times, but I keep coming back!

What does your job at Spencer entail?
How do researchers know what’s on the shelves in the archives? That’s my job. I work on making all the amazing information that is here in the library—in documents, letters, maps, photographs, diaries, drawings, scrapbooks, and records—accessible. I do that by processing donations and collections and then making finding aids for them online. Then the information contained in the donations and collections can be searched, found, and utilized.

Lynn Ward in the Kansas Collection Stacks

Making Spencer’s collections accessible:
Lynn Ward in the Kansas Collection stacks.

How did you come to work at Spencer Research Library?
This isn’t the first time I have worked at Spencer Research Library. When I was a graduate student in the Museum Studies program here at KU, I worked in the University Archives up on the 4th floor. That was my first archives position. Since then, I have had a long career working in a variety of museums, archives, and libraries. At each one, I have learned new skills, experienced many situations, and gained lots of knowledge! I’m happy to bring all this to Spencer Research Library where I can use all these skills and knowledge, plus learn even more from the excellent staff here. In a way, I’ve come full circle and now I’m back home.

What is one of the most interesting items you’ve come across in Spencer’s collections?
It’s hard to narrow down one, because I find it all so interesting! I have worked on some great collections since starting here in late October. But, I would have to say that I am most interested in the territorial Kansas and also the early KU history material. In the lobby of the Spencer Research Library there is a map of Lawrence from 1854 that I love to look at—especially since “Kansas” is spelled with a “z”—“Kanzas.” I also like to walk in the North Gallery and see a cross-section of all the fascinating collections that are in the library. I love looking at all of the books and exhibits in that beautiful space.

Picture of the 1854 SearleMap of Lawrence housed in the Spencer Research Library Lobby

Map of “Lawrence City, Kanzas Territory, Surveyed Oct. 1854 by A. D. Searl.”
This map hangs in the Spencer Research Library lobby. Click image to enlarge.

What part of your job do you like best?
I like the feeling of being part of a team. We are all working to make the collections accessible so that everyone—the public, historians, students, genealogists—can benefit from them.

What are some of your favorite pastimes outside of work?
I love, love, love to travel and explore. I’m happy going anyplace and doing anything. For example, a few weeks ago, I went with a friend on a fun daytrip exploring territorial history in Big Springs, Kansas. And last summer, my daughter and I found a cool shark’s tooth near Hays, Kansas. (I’m a huge dinosaur and prehistoric life fan.) I enjoy little adventures like that! I’ve got two teenage kids, so my husband and I spend a lot of our time involved in their activities. I also read a lot—mostly books about Kansas history—but I do enjoy a good historical fiction or a Michael Creighton novel, too!

What piece of advice would you offer a researcher walking into Spencer Research Library for the first time?
I would tell them to take the time to talk to the reference room staff. If the staff know about your research project, they can help you think of resources here at Spencer Research Library.

Lynn Ward
Processing Archivist