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Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy birthday, Mr. Kossuth!

My dad is in the market for a new dog. A Vizsla puppy, to be exact. Because Vizslas are a Hungarian dog breed, he's been brainstorming on traditional, Hungarian names for his pet. During a recent conversation about his pet name ideas I learned that the town where my dad grew up is named after a very famous Hungarian. That town is Kossuth, MS and today is their namesake's birthday!

Kossuth, Mississippi is a small town located in Alcorn County right outside of Corinth. The community was first established in 1847 and was called New Hope. In 1852 the name was officially changed to Kossuth in honor of Louis (or Lajos) Kossuth. Here's a little about Louis from The History of Alcorn County by the Alcorn County Historical Association: "Kossuth was a Hungarian patriot who was exiled for the stand he took in regard to Vienna's intervention in Hungary. Mr. Kossuth, a man of inestimateable [sic] character, visited Mississippi and was much admired by the community. Colonel Polk and Major Wallace, the postmaster, wrote to the United States Post Office Department requesting that the name be changed. The change was made April 23, 1853."

The town didn't forget about Kossuth even 100 years after the name change! According to The History of Alcorn County, a stamp was released in Kossuth's honor on his birthday in 1958 and the official release was held in Kossuth! "In 1958, a Mr. Dunch from Milltown, New Jersey, along with a Mr. Gayer, a Hungarian refugee, came to visit the town of Kossuth. Their visit was in connection with a new stamp commemorating the Hungarian patriot Louis Kossuth, for whom the town was named. This stamp was released in the town of Kossuth on September 19, 1958. To promote relations between the two countries, Mr. Gayer's sister, postmaster of a small town in Hungary behind the Iron Curtain, sent a miniature flag of Hungary and a book on the life Louis Kossuth. She also sent many pictures of the buildings and homes as well as street scenes of Hungary to Kossuth."

Kossuth, MS isn't the only place named for the great Hungarian. There's a Kossuth County in Iowa. There's also bust of Kossuth in the United States Capitol. According to the American Hungarian Foundation, Kossuth's bust is one of the only two busts in the Capitol honoring non-Americans! You can read more about the bust here

Happy Birthday, Louis!

Alcorn County Historical Association (1983). The History of Alcorn County Mississippi. p. 91-92
Original photo here. Birthday rendering by me, the blogger.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Cures, Maybe?

Did you know? Eating five almonds before partying hard will guard against total inebriation and hangovers. Sounds pretty nifty, right? As scientific and medical research have progressed over the years, we  have come to dismiss such bold claims. Back in the 1400s and 1500s, however, people believed such professions, and they were held widely as fact. I've been exploring a book I found in the Mississippi Library Commission's collection called Folklore and Odysseys of Food and Medicinal Plants and having a wonderful time. Wouldn't it be delightful if some of the herbs and plants covered actually did what people thought they did, way back when?

  • Caraway seeds were the early Renaissance's precursor to Rogaine. Pop some of these babies, and hello luxurious head of hair a la Fabio. Nowadays, you'll find caraway seeds flavoring some Havarti cheeses and rye breads.
    Fabio, with a healthy mane
  • If caraway seeds were the Rogaine of the 15th century, then pepper was surely thought of as a wonder drug like penicillin. People thought pepper could cure toothaches and prevent the Bubonic Plague, among many other maladies and diseases. In modern times, many people like using it to flavor eggs. What an embarrassing descent.
    Would you like some eggs with your pepper?
  • If you use your imagination, nutmeg sort of looks like mini-brains. Naturally, people of the Renaissance used them to cure a variety of brain problems. And poor eyesight. I suppose because of the brain and eyes close proximity to each other, it's a semi-logical jump. I like to use nutmeg as a substitute for cinnamon because I have a slight cinnamon sensitivity. It's definitely tasty on French Toast! I don't think my eyesight is improving, though.
Nutmeg posing as brains

If you, too, have a penchant for the medicinal practices of yesteryear, stop by the Mississippi Library Commission and check out this book!

Lehner, Ernst and Johanna Lehner. Folklore and Odysseys of Food and Medicinal Plants. New York, New York: Tudor Publishing Company, 1962. Print.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Cats and Books and Libraries and Books and Cats
Library cards from Mississippi public libraries
The month of September marks the celebration of two of my favorite things. It's both Library Card Sign-up Month and Happy Cat Month.

For all my fellow library-loving ailurophiles, here are some of my all-time favorite cat books found at the Mississippi Library Commission:,0,10,0,2,bks,1/1021/0

Jean Craighead George nails cat behavior for the younger set in How to Talk to Your Cat. Your cat still won't be able to talk back, but you'll have much better insight as to what your fuzzy feline is thinking.,0,10,0,1,bks,1/1022/0
What is it about certain animal books that always makes me tear up? Two Bobbies by Kirby Larson and Mary Nethery is a tale of true friendship between a dog named Bobbi and a cat named Bob during and after Hurricane Katrina. Their survival story is a completely satisfying read for young and old.,0,10,0,3,bks,1/1024/0
Gary Soto's Chato's Kitchen features a trip to the barrio. The mouthwatering descriptions of food and the vibrant pictures will pull you in, but you and your kids will be captivated by the adventures of Chato the cat. Will he be able to lure his new mice neighbors to his home for a feast where they feature as the main course?,0,10,0,1,bks,1/1041/0

The Sophisticated Cat is a cat-lovers smorgasbord, with offerings of cat poetry and cat stories both new and old. Want to know what Faulkner had to say about cats? How about Balzac? This is definitely the book for you.,0,10,0,1,bks,1/1042/0
My Cat Spit McGee is Willie Morris' memoir of the first cat he ever loved, and what a wonderful tribute it is. Fall in love for the first time all over again.,0,10,0,1,bks,1/1044/0Vicki Myron's spirited tale of library cat Dewey is enough to enchant the most stout-hearted ailurophobe. Dewey is also, in my reckoning, the perfect book for Happy Cat Month and Library Card Sign-up Month--it's the best of both worlds.
I invite you to drop by the Mississippi Library Commission or your local public library to pick up your own library card... and a book about your favorite cat!

Friday, August 29, 2014

August is National Catfish Month!

 “The catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anybody”

-Mark Twain

When you think of Southern food, what comes to mind?  Would it be deep fried catfish?  Catfish has been a Southern dish for centuries, and remains one of the most recognized Southern cuisines.  “Catting,” a term referring to fishing for catfish, was considered a sport as well as a means of obtaining food.  Catfish are known for their tempers and putting up a fight before being pulled to shore.  When a Southerner calls someone “real catfish” or “mean as a catfish” they are comparing their temper to that of a catfish.  

Picture from Mississippi Catfish on Parade  
So, why are catfish so popular in the South?  In 1995, MLC even had a catfish mascot that would visit Mississippi public libraries, parades, and school programs.  If y'all find any pictures of the Catfish mascot from MLC feel free to share it with us.  Catfish farming became a livelihood for many farmers that no longer wanted to grow cotton.  According to The Catfish Institute, “ninety-four percent of all U.S. Farm-Raised Catfish is raised in Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Mississippi.”  Catfish thrive in the hot summers that occur in Mississippi and other southern states.

However, catfish are not only found in the South.  There are over 2,000 species of catfish around the world.  The largest recorded catfish came from Thailand measuring 8 feet in length and weighting 646 pounds.  This type of catfish is known as the Mekong giant catfish, and is native to Southeast Asia.

Picture by Marshall Ramsey from Mississippi Catfish on Parade

If you would like to know more about catfish and catfish farming, stop by the Mississippi Library Commission to check out our resources.

Culberson, Linda Crawford. The Catfish Book. Jackson: U of Mississippi, 1991. Print
 Ford, Gil. Mississippi Catfish on Parade, Jackson, Mississippi : A Project of the Mississippi Commission for International Cultural Exchange, Inc. Brandon, MS: Quail Ridge, 2003. Print
 Schweid, Richard. Catfish and the Delta: Confederate Fish Farming in the Mississippi Delta. Berkeley, Calif.: Ten Speed, 1992. Print.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Ms. Rosa Lee

We are constantly analyzing our collection, getting new things, getting rid of obsolete things, and repairing titles that are an important part of our state history. A staff member recently made an interesting and (we think) humorous find while they were working to preserve our 1893 edition of the State Agencies Biennial Reports.

In the report submitted by State Librarian Rosa Lee Tucker, we get a peek into what budgeting looked like for the 1892-1893 fiscal year. This is our favorite excerpt:
"The appropriation of one hundred dollars per year for reference books, given by the last Legislature, has been judiciously expended. Encyclopedia Britannica, twenty-five volumes; Century Dictionary, six volumes, and Webster's International, all expensive books, were purchased. Double the amount could have been spent with advantage. It is to be hoped the Legislature of 1894 will give a generous appropriation for this department to the Library."

$100! Can you imagine? Well, according to the inflation calculator found here, $100 in 1892 would be worth about $2631.58 today.

We did a little digging to see how much her reference items would cost today. While the Encyclopedia Britannica is no longer being updated in the print format, you can get a year-long membership to their online edition for $69.35 a year. The Century Dictionary is no longer in print, but you can view older editions online at the California Digital Library through the University of California. Finally, The Webster's International Dictionary can be purchased for $129. That totals $198.35 today, or approximately $7.54 in 1892. Sorry, Ms. Lee!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Long-Ago Literature Games

We came across a delightful book called The Wonderful World of Toys, Games & Dolls, 1860-1930 and found a few old literary games that we thought we'd share with you!

From the Butler Brothers, or City Products Corp., catalog from 1914. "F2423--12 styles. Authors, Old Maid, Little Red Men, Mother Goose, Lotto, etc. box 4 x 5, gold and colored labels. Asstd. 1 doz. in pkg.....Doz. 32c" (Schroeder 189).

From the Butler Brothers, or City Products Corp., catalog from 1914. "F2421--56 finely enameled flexible cards, modern authors -- Jack London, Booth Tarkington, Winston Churchill, James Barrie, etc., litho box 7 x 5 1/2. 1/2 doz. in pkg. Doz. $1.80" (189).

From the Butler Brothers, or City Products Corp., catalog from 1914. "F2420--32 high grade cards, tinted backs, fine photo fronts, litho box, 4 1/4 x 5 3/4. 1 doz. in pkg.....Doz. 68c" (189).

 From the Marshall Field & Co. catalog from 1892. "No. 518. The Literary Game of Quotations. This is a splendid high-class game, abounding in the celebrated quotations which have made authors famous. Consists of sixty finely finished round-cornered cards with fancy assorted backs, each devoted to a certain author or on of his works. A most enjoyable entertainment.....per doz., $4.00" (76).

We have plenty of other neat collectible toys, dolls, and games books in our collection. Let us know if you have a unique collectible item that you'd like for us to research for you!

Schroeder, Joseph, ed. The Wonderful World of Toys, Games & Dolls, 1860-1930. Follett Publishing Company, 1971. Print

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cures and Cooper

Many of the questions we receive at the Mississippi Library Commission involve local history and happenings. Luckily, we have a Mississippi collection devoted to just this type of thing. When it happens that I have to hit the stacks for a little research, it's always a bit of a thrill. I'm never sure what I'll find! Recently, I had a question about Meridian, and turned to Paths to the Past: An Overview History of Lauderdale County, Mississippi.  It's been a while since we've tickled your superstitious bone (That's a real thing, directly beside the funny bone, right?) and I found a few doozies.

  • "To cure an earache, take a beetle, remove its head, split it in two, squeeze the fluid in the ear and put cotton in the ear to keep the fluid from running out." I have one comment, and one comment only: Beetlejuice.
  • "To prevent a baby's having colic, roll the baby over on the floor several times, then sweep some dust over it." It seems to me that rolling your baby over your dirty floor would startle him so much that he would stop crying, at least for a little while, cured of colic or no.
  • "To prevent headaches, wear a match in your hair." This is something I could get behind. I would think everyone back in the day would've walked around with a match in his or her hair. They're small and inconspicuous and rid you of all headaches.
From folklore to folks, this book skipped directly to famous Mississippians from Lauderdale County. I couldn't resist sharing one last item:
It's writer Wyatt Cooper, his wife Gloria Vanderbilt, and their sons Carter and Anderson Cooper. Yes, THAT Anderson Cooper. Didn't you know he has Mississippi ties?!

Do you have a question about your Mississippi town or county? Give us a call and we'll start digging. I can't wait to see what we'll find next!

Dawson, James T. and Laura Nan Fairley. Paths to the Past: An Overview History of Lauderdale County, Mississippi. Meridian, Mississippi: Lauderdale County Department of Archives and History, 1988. Print.