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Friday, February 25, 2011

Food for Thought

This week, I’ve spent a large amount of time looking through the general laws of our state, and I came across a law from 1942 regulating the size of shrimp that may be caught.  Apparently, catching teeny tiny shrimp used to be against the law:

“Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Mississippi, that it shall be unlawful for any person, firm or corporation to take, catch, and have in their possession any sound, bay or sea shrimp of a size weighing in the raw state less than one pound to each forty shrimp.  The Mississippi sea food commission may, by ordinance or order spread upon its official minutes, permit the possession at any time not of not more than ten pounds of sound, bay or sea shrimp, of a size smaller than above fixed for use by fisherman as bait.”

I don’t know if I can imagine shrimp small enough that 40 of them wouldn’t even weigh a pound.  The penalty for breaking this law?

“Any person, firm or corporation violating any of the provisions of this act shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction to be fined not less than ten dollars, nor more than five hundred dollars for each offense.”

I’m not sure if this law was ever repealed, but I bet it sure made fishermen think twice about their shrimp bounties back then.  I can't help but think of popcorn shrimp (which I absolutely love) and wonder if forty of them meet the one-pound requirement.  My guess is that they do.  Either that or the law was repealed.  

But what if it wasn't?  It could mean that I, along with all the other popcorn-shrimp lovers of the world, have been eating black-market shrimp!  How about that for living dangerously?

Source: General Laws of Mississippi, 1942. Chapter 278, House Bill No. 517.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Should It Stay Or Should It Go Now

One of the ongoing jobs a librarian encounters is weeding. We systematically cull our collection so that can offer the best possible resources to our patrons. Crusty and out-of-date books, you're outta here! Last week while weeding, I pulled Treating Couples in Crisis: Fundamentals and Practice in Marital Therapy. This book isn't a bad book, or at least it wasn't back in 1984 when it was published. (I think that was the year I had a crush on Dwayne Dugger in elementary school...) Not only has no one been interested in checking out this sucker for over ten years, the cover art is boring and the content is, well, boring. (It's geared more towards those actually doing the therapy than the therapy participants.) Just to verify that I wasn't going to toss something important, I did a quick Internet search for the book. If you can picture me gleefully rubbing my hands together, do so now. I pulled up a blurb in the Weekly World News from June 16, 1992 about crazy cases the author had taken.
A jealous woman, convinced her husband was cheating on her, became so depressed that she jumped off the balcony of their high-rise apartment. By sheer coincidence her husband walked right underneath her--and she crashed down on top of him. Thanks to her husband breaking her fall, she lived--but he died.
Weekly World News, supermarket tabloid delight, how we miss thee sitting next to the candy bars in the checkout lane. On the recto page of this tiny article, I noticed Dear Dotti, the Weekly World News advice columnist for many years. Dotti's reply to someone who kept receiving unwanted calls from door-to-door evangelizers? Keep a small 666 decal near the front door. When someone knocks, apply decal to forehead, open the door, and graciously invite in the unwelcome guests. Emily Post, she is not.

I also considered weeding One for a Man, Two for a Horse: A Pictorial History, Grave and Comic, of Patent Medicines. At first glance the book's jacket is slightly tattered and has a cartoonish look, possible signs that a book might be ready to leave its home here. However, the contents are actually a solid history combined with excellent reference pictures of the quack medicine industry of years gone by. One of my favorite nuggets? No, I didn't find it in the chapter entitled Tapeworms; Or, What Have You? or Manhood: Lost and Found. (These are both fascinating, by the way.) I was heartily amused and fascinated by what I found in She Put it in her Papa's Coffee. It seems that back in the day, a popular "medication" was an odorless and tasteless substance that magically cured you of alcoholism. Family members were urged to try it for free and slip it into the offending drunkard's food or drink (unbeknownst to them, of course.) The ingredients in one such concoction? Milk sugar, starch, pepper, and a tiny bit of ipecac. That's right, Pa, you don't want to drink any more because you're too busy being ill. Other medications of this type even contained alcohol; I'm not sure feeding an alcoholic alcohol cures anything!

So, Treating Couples in Crisis: Fundamentals and Practice in Marital Therapy, you're outta here! One for a Man, Two for a Horse: A Pictorial History, Grave and Comic, of Patent Medicines, you're safe for another day. By the way, if you'd like to know a little more about weeding, check out one of Tracy's blog posts about MUSTY books.

Barker, Robert L. Treating Couples in Crisis: Fundamentals and Practice in Marital Therapy. New York: Macmillan, 1984.
Carson, Gerald. One for a Man, Two for a Horse: A Pictorial History, Grave and Comic, of Patent Medicines. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1961.
Weekly World News. June 16, 1992. Web. Feb. 14, 2011.

Monday, February 7, 2011


Last week I was looking for an item in the January 1950 Clarion-Ledger for a patron. While I didn't find it, I did discover that when I finally get my time machine working again, I am definitely going to skip January 1950!

Instead of finding what I was looking for--an item about a piece of legislation that was introduced during the legislative session--I learned about a horrible murder in Kosciusko. (Stokes McMillan's One Night of Madness tells the tale; our copy is checked out but when it comes back in, I'll fill you in!) There were several other tragedies, which stood out not just because of their awfulness ("Patient Says She Set Fire: Explains Arson Taking 41 Lives") but because of the differences in newspaper language then and now ("Duplex Blast Kills Mother and Tots: Terrific Concussion Mangles All Bodies"). There was also the photo of the gaunt gentleman who is wasting away due to an unresolved case of the hiccups. Because this was 1950, the headline doesn't play coy: "DYING FROM HICCUPS" it screams.

I was thoroughly depressed. I kept trudging downstairs from the microfilm area on the mezzanine to report the awful things I was learning about. My coworkers deserve various medals for humoring me and listening to me rant ("No, seriously, it really says "'terrific concussion mangles all bodies.'").

However, I was roused by a two-page advertising spread featuring ads from various companies. They were all welcoming the first baby to be born in Mississippi in 1950, little Baby Boy Tompkins! (I'd tell you his name, but I checked the phone book, and I'm pretty sure he still lives in the area.) I first even noticed the spread because of this ad:

My eye is naturally drawn to roasting children. As well as hilarious brand names: Pro-Tek-Tot! (Full disclosure: my great-grandfather invented an athlete's foot remedy called know, so your toe won't be so' no mo'.)

Other companies offered the Tompkins family actual deals (besides illustrations of their baby turning into a marshmallow). A beauty shop offered Mrs. Tompkins a free permanent! Florists sent the baby a bouquet! Other offers were free dinners, free shoes, an electric heating pad that is not recommended for babies today, and best of all, free ice cream.

Thank you, Baby Tompkins, for brightening what would otherwise be a terrible microfilm expedition!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Mississippi Digital Library

We all know how difficult it can be to find reliable information online. Just about anyone can post information that is misleading or outright false. For example, my posts are easily found online and I can barely dress myself. That’s why I encourage everyone to visit the Mississippi Digital Library the next time you need research material.

The Mississippi Digital Library is a collaborative effort between many Mississippi institutions. Each library offers digital documents that researchers can easily access from their home computers. Researchers can find pictures, interviews, cartoons, newspaper clippings, diaries, and many other historical documents. Some of my favorite items include: an interview with Mr. Jerry Clower from the USM Oral History Digital Collection, a picture of James “Son” Thomas from the Blues Photograph Collection at the University of Mississippi Digital Collection, and a handwritten letter from Annie Rankin to Frank Stewart at the Tougaloo College Digital Collection.

All of these documents are easily found online and free to access. So, the next time you need some help with research, try this wonderful service from the Mississippi Digital Library.
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