Friday, July 22, 2011

Pass (on) the Corned Beef

A member of the Hunt family recorded her distinct preference for desserts in a ledger book from the mid 1800s. Her recipe book has survived among the papers of five generations of the Hunt Family of Northampton, Massachusetts. Among dozens of newspaper clippings and handwritten notations are recipes for coconut macaroons, orange cake, cream pie, and ice cream. In addition to recipes, the book’s owner pasted in a number of practical household tips and popular remedies, including advice on silver polishing, pest prevention, freckle removal, and even goldfish husbandry. Dishes like Nottingham pudding, potted shad, and rice snow may be strange to today’s cooks, but familiar favorites like chicken salad, corned beef, and chocolate cake are also included.

One member of the cook’s family would not have approved of the corned beef. In addition to being a noted abolitionist and station master on the Underground Railroad, Seth Hunt (1814-1893) was a vocal vegetarian. He wrote a number of newspaper opinion articles on the benefits of a meat-free diet, proclaiming in one case: "Nature, in unmistakable language written on the anatomical structure of man, declares that his natural diet is derived from the vegetable kingdom, embracing the wonderful varieties of delicious fruits, glowing with rainbow hues and heavy with ambrosial juices; thus at once delighting the eye and regaling the taste." Hunt published vociferously on a variety of topics, and Rauner has clippings from many of his articles. It's documents like the recipe book, though, which give us a fuller picture of the quotidian life of a 19th-century New England family.

Both the recipe book and Seth Hunt’s newspaper clippings are part of the Hunt Family Collection at Rauner, which encompasses materials spanning nearly two hundred years of New England history. Ask for MS-1173.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Chime the Hour

Baker Library is one of the signature sights in Hanover.  Modeled after Independence Hall, the library stands high above the rest of the campus.  Housed in the tower, which was specially designed for them, is a set of sixteen bells, the largest of which weighs almost three tons.  The bell tones span an octave and a half (with a missing E flat) and carry on a tradition of marking the hours and class times.

Raising the bells to the tower, 1928
The bells were originally controlled by a mechanism similar to that used in a player piano.  A set of paper rolls (over 1,000 at one point) were created with holes punched in them.  As the rolls were fed through the controller, air was forced through the holes, which in turn made or broke electrical connections to the bell strikers.  The pattern encoded on the paper translated into the tune played on the bells.  Though the bells are controlled by a computer these days, the process is essentially the same pattern based method.

A view of the control room from 1980.
Tune selection has always been a matter of interest and the bells have been known to peal out everything from the Alma Mater to the Beatle's Yellow Submarine to the theme from Raiders of the Lost Ark.  The main limitation to what music can be successfully played is a physical one - immediate repeats of a particular note are not possible.  This made some requested songs, such as the Rolling Stones' You Can't Always Get What You Want, sound less than ideal.

To learn more about the bells, ask for the vertical file "Library - Tower (Bells, Weather Vane, Clock)."  More images can be found in the photo file "Library - Baker - Bells."