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Friday, June 28, 2013

The Arts of Beauty; or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, by Madame Lola Montez

Cataloged under the subject heading “Beauty, Personal” is this gem of nineteenth-century cosmetology: Madame Lola Montez’s The Arts of Beauty; or, Secrets of a Lady’s Toilet, published by Dick & Fitzgerald of New York in 1858.

The Irish entertainer’s advice ranges from the impractical to the outrageous, begging the question: did this famous beauty really intend to divulge the secrets of her charms, or does this book have another, hidden purpose? Is The Arts of Beauty an ironic feminist treatise, or did Madame Montez simply wish to poison the competition?

For those of us who suffer from premature graying, Madame Montez recommends an intoxicating blend of oxide of bismuth, spermaceti, and pure hog’s lard: “The lard and spermaceti should be melted together and when they begin to cool stir in the bismuth. It may be perfumed to your liking.”

Another chapter is devoted to “A Beautiful Bosom.” The subject is delicate, yes, but “why should not a woman be suitably instructed in the right management of such extraordinary charms?” Various preparations are recommended to promote the desired growth or reduction of the area; ladies are discouraged, however, from the dangerous practice of self-medicating with internal doses of iodine!

And, lest the woman so spackled with layers of animal grease, ambergris, and ammonia be accused of vanity, Madame Montez asks us to consider: “Preach to the contrary as you may, there still stands the eternal fact, that the world has yet allowed no higher ‘mission’ to woman, than to be beautiful.” The quotation marks round “mission” say all.

Marie Silva
Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

Friday, June 21, 2013

Traveling in Style

These colorful vacation guides inspired 1940’s travelers to explore California in style. Use them to inspire your own California summer plans!

There is plenty more travel ephemera to inspire you – visit the California Historical Society’s North Baker Research Library to view ephemera from our California Ephemera Collection.

To view the travel guides ask for:

Robert Spiers Benjamin, The Vacation Guide. New York: Whittlesey House, 1940.
Blair Tavenner, Seeing California. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1948.

Jaime Henderson

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

National Dairy Month

June celebrates National Dairy Month! Originally started in 1937 as National Milk Month the tradition grew to celebrate all the contributions of the dairy industry including butter, cheese, yogurt, and ice cream in addition to milk.

Early dairying in California was rare. Cattle were prevalent but mostly used for beef, leather and tallow. Mission Indian women did make a soft cheese and butter that sustained missionaries in times of need but primarily the diets of the Dominican and Franciscan missionaries and the native population did not have the same great taste for milk, butter or cheese that came with the arrival of early pioneers from the Eastern states. Many families arriving in California from their overland journeys from the East brought along their family cow. In their new California home they continued the tradition of supplementing meals with milk, butter and cheese provided by their favored bovine.

In the 1850s Clara Steele settled with her family near San Francisco. She missed the delicious cheddar cheese she enjoyed back in Ohio made from a family recipe, so she hired an Indian man to help her wrangle the cattle grazing near her home. With the milk from these cattle she replicated the cheddar cheese she so loved. The results were so delicious that when she introduced the cheese to the San Francisco market it was an immediate hit! Clara, her husband Rensselaer and cousins Isaac, Edgar and George begin making and selling high quality cheese and butter and start one of the first commercial dairies in the United States, known as Steele Brothers. By 1857 the Steele Brothers were so successful they relocated to a 6,000 acre farm in Point Reyes to expand their dairy operation. In 1861 they purchased 15,000 acres in Santa Cruz County. Here is a tax receipt for the Steele Brothers Santa Cruz County property. Note the 7000 lbs. of cheese at a value of $280.00.

Throughout the 1880s and 1890s dairying becomes less of a rustic enterprise and begins to rely on modernization to allow the booming industry to supply its customers with safe, quality products. Improved farming techniques such as extensive planting and irrigation of alfalfa nourished cows and improved production to meet the needs of the market. In the rapidly growing cities, dairy products could be delivered straight to the customers home or business.

 Modern dairying equipment such as cream separators, refrigerators, milking machines and even butter wrapping machines industrialized the dairying industry.

From the dairy industry’s early beginnings, in which a pioneer woman had to wrestle wild cattle just to get a good piece of cheddar, to California’s current status as the nation’s leading dairy producer, dairying has made a significant impact on the economy, landscape and tastes of Californians.

California Milk Advisory Board. Two Centuries of Prominence and Personalities. (Available:, accessed June 2011).
California State Parks. Guide to the California Dairy Industry History Collection. (Available:, accessed June 2011).

Jaime Henderson, Archivist
California Historical Society

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Motorist’s Luncheon

Slow Food, 1923

The Motorist’s Luncheon Book, May E. Southworth’s delightful little volume, harkens to an age before fast food chains edged the highways. Preparation for a road trip required more than assembling a few water bottles and gassing up the SUV.  She presents page after page of menus to ease the hunger pangs of weary road warriors.

As Ms. Southworth says on page 1,

“In assembling your outfit it is necessary that you have a wary eye on the ‘mess kit’ or you may find yourself, like the Peri, perishing just outside the gates of some woodsy paradise. These ‘eats’ of the motorist are a life-saving necessity and have grown to be too important a part of he equipment to be left to the hit-or-miss style of picking up any old thing that happens to be in the house.

The design of this little book is not recipes, but only an endeavor to lighten the burden of the one whose task it is to cater to these joy hampers and fill them full, for who ever knew a motorist to arrive except in a starving condition?”

Don’t leave home without … gherkins?
In concluding her introduction, she lists emergency supplies. Coffee, chocolate, cheese and crackers all seem good to me—but canned pineapple, gherkins, and pancake flour? She must have been quite the road-trip hostess!

Roadtrip Menus

There are menus to be prepared on the campfire, and cold picnics accompanied by hot beverages stored in a thermos, as well as cold picnics with cold beverages. The “chafing dish” section offers menus that would challenge this writer on the home stove, including, for example, chop suey with rice, buttered rolls, pickled broccoli, hot Ceylon tea and eclairs. And then there’s the chafing dish menu of Waldorf chicken, Dixie biscuits, sweet butter, shredded halibut and slivers of red button radishes served on lettuce leaves with mayonnaise, mocha cake, saline snowflakes, canned sliced peaches, scotch short cakes, loganberry juice combined with Napa Soda, praline almonds and salted pecan meats. 

No-Meat Fridays

For each section – campfire, thermos, cold, and chafing dish – there is also a Friday section, featuring fish but no meat.

Girth Control

Finally, from the nothing-new-under-the-sun department, the back jacket cover includes an advertisement for another book also published by Harper & Brothers:   

To see the book itself, visit the California Historical Society’s North Baker Research Library and ask for: May E. Southworth, The Motorists’s Luncheon Book. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1923.

Eileen Keremitsis
Reference Staff