Monday, September 15, 2014

The Red Cross Canteen in Elmira: Fact and Fiction

by Erin Doane, Curator

During WWI, many women in the region did their part for the war effort by volunteering with the Red Cross.  Clara Barton founded the American Red Cross in Washington, D.C. on May 21, 1881.  One of the main purposes of the organization was, and still is, to provide support and relief to members of the military and their families.  When the First World War broke out, the Red Cross grew into a major, nationwide organization. Membership grew from 17,000 in 1914 to over 20 million adult and 11 million Junior Red Cross members in 1918.  That year the Elmira Chapter of the Red Cross had 12,302 members from throughout the county.

American Red Cross Identification Card, 1918
Members of the Elmira Chapter were active in many different way to help the troops and their families.  They raised money to offer financial help to military families at home and sent Christmas care packages to soldiers and sailors. During the last year of the war, local members manufactured and shipped 14,928 knitted articles overseas including 8,062 pairs of socks, 4,049 sweaters, and 1,948 pairs of wristlets. They shipped 16,154 hospital garments to the Atlantic Division and manufactured 617,986 surgical dressings. 

Volunteers in front of Canteen Headquarters in Elmira, 1918
The Red Cross Canteen service in Elmira was established in early June of 1918.  Canteen volunteers served sandwiches, coffee, lemonade, cookies, candy, and even ice cream to soldiers passing through the city on troop trains. They also offered medical assistance to any sick soldiers on the trains.  In four months, 126,798 soldiers received hospitality from Canteen workers.  In a letter dated August 6, 1918, Captain Charles Talbot of the 157th Infantry expresses his gratitude by writing, “…we are grateful indeed and never shall forget your city or the sweet ladies of the Elmira Canteen.  Such hospitality makes a soldier love his country more and sends him away with a warm and tender feeling in his breast for the splendid womanhood of our country.”

August 6, 1918 letter from Capt. Talbot to Mrs. Morrow of the Elmira Red Cross

Troops receiving ice cream from Elmira Canteen volunteers, 1918
And now for a bit of melodramatic historical fiction inspired by a Red Cross volunteer’s hat in the museum’s collection.

All the men were dressed in the same dull olive uniforms but somehow he looked different. He stood just a bit taller. His shoulders were just a bit straighter. Emmeline’s eyes kept finding him of their own accord as she served lemonade to the line soldiers. She unconsciously tucked a stray wisp of hair back up under her stiff-brimmed hat and offered a brilliant smile to the next man in line.  All the Red Cross Canteen volunteers had learned to smile even though the pall of death seemed to loom over every soldier they served.

Harrison had never been so nervous in all his life but he refused to show it. He was a soldier now. He could not let his outward show of confidence slip. Each stop along the train route made him more tense. They were going to war and every mile of track that passed brought them closer to the trenches of Europe.  He had been just as excited as every one of his young friends to fight when war was declared but now reality pressed down on him.

He took a deep breath and straightened his shoulders once more. As his eyes scanned over his fellows, they suddenly fell upon the most beautiful pair of blue eyes he had ever seen. His heart skipped a beat and his breath caught.  She stared back at him like a butterfly impaled by his gaze. Her pink, bow-shaped lips parted.

Emmeline felt the color rise in her cheeks but she could not look away. She felt an unlived future flash between them.  She saw their small house, the Christmas wreath cheerfully decorating the door.  She felt their baby soft and warm in her arms.  She heard him whisper her name and reach for her in the night when the war had come back to haunt him.  She blinked the sudden daydream from her eyes and he was standing before her.

The girl's hand trembled slightly as she offered him a cup of lemonade. As he reached to take it from her, his fingers covered hers. Her youthful vibrancy radiated through him like the heat of late summer’s sun.  He wanted nothing more than to take her into his arms and never let her go.

She lifted her head and tilted her chin slightly, ready for the kiss she did not realize she was requesting.  The figures around them, soldiers and volunteers, faded.  Their voices hushed to a faint buzz. There was nothing outside of the young couple as time hung in a frozen, unanswered eternity.

The train blew a sharp blast.  Soldiers sprang into motion at the barked orders from their officers.  Emmeline and Harrison gazed at each other for one more painful, longing-filled moment then he reluctantly let his fingers slip from hers.

They called it the war to end all wars. If only that had been true. 

Elmira Red Cross Canteen volunteer’s hat, 1918

Monday, September 8, 2014

Chemung County at the World's Fairs

by Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

I had initially planned for this post to just discuss Elmirans at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876.  A lot of locals made contributions as presenters or architects and its a good story.  However, as I was researching, I realized how much great stuff we have from other World's Fairs as well.  So I thought, "Ok, so I guess I'll expand out to look at the Columbian and Pan-American exhibitions, too."  And then I found even more great items, so now this blog will cover seven World's Fairs and exhibitions up to New York in 1964 (read: this will have a ton of cool pictures!).
Centennial Exhibition, Philadelphia, May 10-November 10, 1876
The Centennial Exhibition was the first American-hosted World's Fair.  Planned to celebrate the United States' 100th birthday, the fair was a huge production featuring exhibitors from around the world.  Approximately 10 million people attended, or about 20% of the United States' population at that time.  Among those millions were quite a few Elmirans.  John Murdock represented Chemung County on the state Board of Centennial Managers.  Since the exhibition catalogs have been digitized, we can easily see who had a space at the fair to show off their wares.  Many of the city's premier manufacturers and inventors were represented including: Elmira Nobles' Company (carpenters and shipwrights tools); Palmer and Decker (Union back sole leather); Thomas Extract Co. (clarified extract of hemlock bark); S.W. Hall (fencing machine, machine made worm-fence, bracket and wire fences); Henry Clum (aellograph); Reid and Cooper (cooking stove, direct draft six-hole cooking stoves and ranges); Newcomb and Walker (shoes); and La France (rotary pumps and engine, rotary steam fire engine). 
Certificate awarded to Thomas Extract Co. for their extract of Hemlock bark
Elmiran architects Hayes and McIvor even designed the Tea and Coffee Press Extract Building, "a 100ft x 45ft, two story frame building composed of four observatories connected by verandas.  Located opposite the southeast corner of the agricultural building and devoted tot the exhibitions of the process of making coffee, tea, and other extracts by the means of pressure caused by the expansion of the materials used."

It is likely that Chemung County residents also attended the Centennial.  We have several souvenirs in our collections.
Ticket to the Centennial Exhibition
Souvenir coin from Centennial
Page from a souvenir book from the Centennial

Columbian Exposition, Chicago, May-October 1893
The World's Columbian Exposition was planned to honor the 400th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the New World.  The fair was held on 600 acres in Chicago and attracted over 27,000,000 visitors.  It was called the "White City" for all 0f the neoclassical buildings created to house displays from around the world.  Although I can find no records of Chemung Countians exhibiting anything at the exposition, we do know that some attended.
Railroad ticket from Van Etten to Chicago for the World's Fair

Tickets for the Expostion

Souvenir crock from the Exposition

Souvenir coin from the exposition
Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, May 1- November 2, 1891
The Pan-American Exposition attracted 8,000,000 visitors.  The fair used Niagara Falls to generate electricity, which resulted in spectacular night time views of the exposition. 
Fair images from Turner glass plate negative collection at CCHS

However, the Pan-American Exposition is also connected with a tragedy: the assassination of President William McKinley.  McKinley was shot at the fair on September 6, 1891 by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.  The president died days later from his injuries. 
McKinley memorial scarf with image of the exposition (bottom left) from CCHS collection
Since the exposition was practically in our backyard, it is likely that many Chemung County residents attended.  Elmiran A.D. Symonds displayed his sandstone and blue stones in the Mines Building.
Ticket from the exposition
Souvenir paperweight from Pan-American Exposition
Souvenir tumbler from the exposition

Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Mo., 1904
The Louisiana Purchase Exposition, honoring the centennial of the Louisiana Purchase, took place on 1,200 acres and attracted nearly 20,000,000 visitors.  There is little information about Chemung County's participation in this fair, but we do have a ticket in our collection.
Chicago World's Fair, Chicago, 1933
In 1933, Chicago hosted another World's Fair.  The Century of Progress International Exposition honored Chicago's centennial.  The fair attracted over 48,000,000 people to Chicago to see the "Rainbow City" (unlike the White City of the Columbian Expo).  The main focus of the fair was science, so many new inventions were demonstrated at the fair.  The Lehigh Valley Railroad ran special fair promotions that would have helped Chemung County residents get to Chicago.

Iszard's promotional postcard featuring the Dairy Building at the fair
New York World's Fair, New York City, 1939-1940
The first New York World's Fair attracted over 51,000,000 visitors to over 1,200 acres in Flushing Meadows.  This fair was open for two seasons, from April-October in both 1939 and 1940.  Among the Elmirans who attended the fair was the Collins family, who posed for a picture now in our collection.
The Collins Family at the 1939 World's Fair
Souvenir pin from the World's Fair

New York World's Fair, New York City, 1964-1965
Held again in Flushing Meadows, the second New York World's fair was held for two seasons in 1964 and 1965.  Over 51,000,000 people attended the 650 acre event.  This fair is remembered for its emphasis on mid-20th century scientific advancements, like early space exploration.  Did any of our readers attend this Fair and have memories to share?


Friday, August 29, 2014

Look for the Union Label

by Rachel Dworkin, archivist

       It’s Labor Day and for many of us, that means a day off for shopping or the last barbeque of summer (unless you work retail, in which case it means frenzied sales).  The first Labor Day parade was organized by the Central Labor Union and Knights of Labor in New York City on May 1, 1882.  It was first celebrated as a national holiday on the first Monday of September in 1887.  Whatever it has become today, it was initially intended to celebrate organized labor and the working class.
          The organized labor movement began in the 19th century as a way for workers to protect themselves against powerful business interests.  In the days before minimum wage, OSHA and a whole host of other government regulations, workers had no one looking out for them other than themselves.  Organized labor became a way to fight for things like better pay, shorter workdays and safer conditions. Over the years, unions have used tools like striking, picketing, collective bargaining and, since 1933, appeals to the National Labor Relations Board to accomplish their goals. 
The strike is one of organized labor’s best known tools.  There have been a number of successful strikes in Elmira over the years.  For example, the St. Joseph’s Hospital nurses strike ended on July 12, 1983 with the nurses negotiating a contract for a 4% across the board raise.  That same year, striking workers at Hilliard were also able to negotiate a new contract. 
St. Joseph's Hospital nurses strike, July 1983
Other times strikes backfired spectacularly.  In 1888, workers at the Elmira Rolling Mills went on strike demanding higher wages and the owner, Henry Rathbone, responded by simply shutting down the company.  In 1969, Remington Rand closed their Elmira plant during a labor dispute.  A strike by guards at the Elmira Reformatory in 1979 not only failed to achieve their goals, the union was fined over $2.5 million dollars and each striking guard was docked $1,550 in pay. 
Reformatory guard's strike, March 1979

Of course, unions do a lot more than just strike.  They negotiate contracts; provide individual workers with protection from management; and lobby for better labor policy.  All of that is important, but strikes just make for better pictures.  If you are interested the activities of local unions, we have records of the Elmira Central Trades & Labor Assembly (1899-1924) and the Communications Workers of America Local No. 1111(1970s-2000s), so come and check it out. 
CWA booklet, 1977

Monday, August 25, 2014

Liqui-cal…the dairy bottle that holds the answer to effective, pleasant weight reduction for you!

by Erin Doane, curator

We have a large collection of milk bottles (nearly 100) in the Museum’s collection.  Dairying was big business in Chemung County and many of the bottles were made by Thatcher Glass in Elmira. Back in the spring when we were planning our farming exhibit, I got to look through a lot of these bottles.  One in particular caught my eye.  The text on the brown glass milk bottle read: “Liqui-Cal A New 900 Calorie Food for Weight Control.”  I was intrigued.

Liqui-cal came onto the market in 1960. It was a food in liquid form consisting principally of milk solids, sugar, cocoa, cream and added vitamins and minerals for use in a weight reducing diet.  A quart of Liqui-cal cost 89 cents.  One bottle was a full day’s supply for dieters on a full liquid diet or a two or three day supply for those on a modified diet that included other foods.  It could be found in the dairy case at grocery stores and was also available for home delivery through local dairy routemen.  In 1961, chocolate, vanilla, and coffee flavored frozen Liqui-cal “ice cream” was introduced for people who wanted a change from the all-liquid diet.

One typical diet plan included 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for breakfast, 8 ounces of Liqui-cal for lunch, and a low-calorie evening meal consisting of fruit or fruit juice, a medium portion of lean meat, green vegetables and dark or black coffee.  That sounds, to me, a lot like “a shake for breakfast, a shake for lunch, then a sensible dinner” that was proposed by Slim-Fast when it was introduced in 1977.

Another diet plan recommended that 8 ounces of Liqui-cal should be taken four times a day, for breakfast, lunch, supper and in the evening.  Three cups of dark or black coffee may also be ingested during the 24 hour period. This diet should be followed for 48 hours, then should be alternated with 2 days of solid low-calorie food such as lean meats, fish, green vegetables, and citrus fruits and juices.  

Liqui-cal advertisement from the

Yonkers Herald Statesman, 1961
How effective was the Liqui-cal diet?  According to the company’s advertising, the supervising physician in their medical test of patients on a diet of dairy-fresh Liqui-cal declared the results excellent and effective.  During the three week test period, participants lost an average of 7.5 pounds. Individuals considered markedly obese in the study lost an average of 19 pounds in three weeks.  It was also noted that all participants remained physical fit during the test period, showing that they were still receiving all the vitamins and nutrients that they needed.

Liqui-cal was “scientifically prepared to supply your body with all the vitamins, minerals and proteins that it needs for buoyant, normal health in a sound program of dietary control” according to the bottle.  In 1963, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven release a report on various food and drug products.  One product they tested was Vanilla flavored Liqui-cal.  After running “rather extensive proximate analyses and vitamin assays” they found that there was a significant shortage of vitamin A – only 54% of the claimed amount.  The sample also contained excesses over guaranty ranging from 64% to 153% of thiamine, riboflavin, and calcium pantothenate.  They, therefore, declared the sample to be misbranded.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Costumer Matt Lockwood and His "Museum" of Curiosities

by Kelli Huggins, Education Coordinator

In my last blog I told the story of Henry Clum, the early meteorologist and "weather prophet."  Well, this week I'm going to continue our examination of Elmira's more eccentric figures by discussing Matt Lockwood, Clum's best friend.  Matt Lockwood stole the aellograph out of Binghamton after Clum's death and then donated it to the museum, but there is so much more to his story than that.  Lockwood was best known as the costumer for the Lyceum Theatre in the late 19th and early 20th century.
Matt Lockwood
Lockwood letterhead from 1897
Matt's parents, John and Electa Lockwood came to Elmira by ox cart from Vermont in 1850.  The Lockwoods had six children, three of whom died as young children (daughter Mary died in infancy, son Hollis drowned in the Chemung River at age 3, and Robert drowned in the Chemung Canal as a small boy).  James Matthew Lockwood, known as Matt, was the eldest child.  His two surviving sisters were Jane and Abbie. 

John Lockwood
Electa Lockwood

Jane Lockwood
Abbie Lockwood
 After the Civil War, young Matt Lockwood and his cousin George Roberts joined the Byron Christy Minstrels, a blackface group.  He later also was affiliated with a local minstrel troupe, the Queen City Minstrels in the 1870s.  While we now recognize how offensive and racist blackface performances are, during the 19th century they were very popular.
Matt Lockwood in blackface during a minstrel performance

Lockwood maintained an affinity for minstrel performances throughout his life and had a large collection of items used by minstrel performers.  Many of these items were donated to the Chemung County Historical Society after Lockwood's death.

Blackface mask used in a minstrel performance, from the Matt Lockwood collection
Large shoe used by George Christy, son of the founder of Christy's Minstrels

Slapsticks used in a minstrel show

After his minstrel days, Lockwood became the costumer and prop manager for the Lyceum Theater.  This is the role for which he was best known.  In this capacity, Lockwood fabricated any props that traveling show groups would need, created costumes, and did set design.  He was also frequently employed by other theater groups in Elmira and surrounding, the Rorick's Glen theater, and Elmira College. 
Interior of the Lyceum Theater
Through all of his work and the personal connections he made with actors (he must have known DeHollis and Valora), Lockwood amassed a large collection of theater objects and ephemera.  His famous costume, prop, and studio rooms were filled from floor to ceiling with theater history.  Among his collection were items like a playbill and cape from Ford's Theater on the night of Abraham Lincoln's assassination.  He also had large collections of firearms, clothing, and handbills. 
Cloak from the Lockwood costume collection
In fact, in the 1890s his expertise and collection of handbills and theater programs once helped the Buffalo police in a criminal investigation.  When a suspect claimed that he was at the theater in Elmira on the night of his alleged crime, Lockwood provided the playbill that proved the show did happen on that night.  The police summoned him to Buffalo, where Lockwood was able to grill the suspect on the details of the plot and stage design.  The suspect provided answers that matched Lockwood's knowledge and was released.
Lockwood's work shop curios at the Lyceum

Lockwood's costume and prop room

Lockwood at work in his studio

Lockwood never married and lived and worked with his sisters for the duration of his life.  He was known for his generosity and had many friends (Henry Clum being one of them).  He served as a volunteer fireman for over 30 years.  At the end of his life, he went mostly blind from cataracts.  Still, his sisters helped him continue his work at the theater.

In 1924, Lockwood fell ill with uremic poisoning and heart trouble.  Even in his final days, he joked with nurses and visitors.  He died on September 11, 1924 at age 76.  Lockwood was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery.  The community mourned the loss of their beloved "old costumer."  Dan Quinlan, a friend of Lockwood and well-known local performer, wrote a beautiful tribute that was printed in the Elmira Telegram.  Perhaps my favorite line is, "Matt always believed that a laugh at any time was better than a groan."