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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.
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