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Archive for the 'American History' Category

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Thomas Doherty and the Debate over Hollywood and Hitler

“I’m always leery of history that allows the present to feel smugly superior to the past.”—Thomas Doherty

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and HitlerThomas Doherty, author of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 has recently been involved in a well-covered and somewhat contentious scholarly debate. As reported in The Chronicle Review, the New York Times, The Guardian, and elsewhere, Doherty has taken issue with some of the conclusions made by Ben Urwand in his forthcoming book from Harvard University Press, The Collaboration: Hollywood’s Pact with Hitler. *(Thomas Doherty will also be appearing on WFMU’s Too Much Information today at 6:00 pm)

Specifically, Doherty counters Urwand’s contention that Hollywood executives collaborated with Nazi officials over the content of Hollywood films. As Doherty argues in Hollywood and Hitler, Hollywood executives, particularly in the 1930s were acutely aware of the German market and did alter films but their motivation was profits and did not rise to the level of collaboration. In the article in The Chronicle, Doherty explains, “You use [collaboration] to describe the Vichy government. Louis B. Mayer was a greedhead, but he is not the moral equivalent of Vidkun Quisling.”

While Doherty praises Urwand’s archival research, he cautions against making moral claims about the actions of historical figures without understanding the contexts surrounding their decisions. Hollywood executives were grappling with a range of moral and practical issues when confronting how to depict Nazism and how to appeal to the German market. Doherty explains:

I’m always leery of history that allows the present to feel smugly superior to the past. I would have been so much more farsighted … scrupulous … I would have seen what was on the horizon…. We filter the 30s through the vision of what the Nazis were in the Second World War.”

(more…)

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

Thomas Doherty Helps to Rediscover a Lost Anti-Nazi Film

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and HitlerA recent post from the New Yorker‘s blog, Culture Desk tells the remarkable story of the rediscovery of the first American Anti-Nazi film. The long-lost film’s location was tracked down by Thomas Doherty, author of the recently published Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, while he was researching the book.

The New Yorker post tells the remarkable story of how Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr.trip to Germany in 1933 shortly after Hitler became Chancellor led to the film’s creation. The film, Hitler’s Reign on Terror, includes footage of Nazi rallies, book burnings, street scenes in Vienna and Berlin, and anti-Nazi protests in Madison Square Garden. The film premièred at the independent Mayfair theatre on Broadway on April 30, 1934, and garnered the biggest single opening day in the house’s history.

However, as the article writes, “George Canty, the Berlin-based trade commissioner for the U.S. Department of Commerce, got wind of protests against the film by the German Ambassador in Washington, and concluded that ‘the film serves no good purpose. Across the country, censors took Canty’s view, and the film was denied a license, banned, and cut by New York City and State censor boards.”

The film then seemingly disappeared only to be recovered by Thomas Doherty. Here’s the description from the New Yorker article:

This April, Thomas Doherty, a Brandeis University professor, published “Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939,” a lively study of Hollywood’s relationship to Nazism. Researching the book, Doherty hunted down a number of American films from the period to provide a “Nazi-centric view of the American motion picture industry,” but had proved unable to find “Hitler’s Reign of Terror.” “Given the profile of the film in 1934,” Doherty wrote, “its total absence really stumped me. Curiouser still was its seeming disappearance from places it really should have been at least mentioned—such as the Cornelius Vanderbilt Jr. papers at Vanderbilt University, where it was not referenced at all. It appeared to be an authentically ‘lost’ film.” Then, a few years into his research on the book, Doherty received an email from Roel Vande Winkel at the University of Antwerp in Belgium. Vande Winkel had been contacted by Nicola Mazzanti, of the Royal Belgium Film Archive in Brussels, to report that the archive had come across a copy of the film in a back shelf in cold storage; he assumed it had been there since around 1945.

A Belgian film distributor, Doherty explained, must have ordered a print of the film from abroad—likely London—after the war broke out but before the Nazis invaded Belgium. Due to its foreign origins, it had to clear customs, but once the Nazis took control, the postulated distributor probably didn’t want to be holding an anti-Nazi film (or couldn’t afford the tax), and so never picked it up from customs. Somehow, some years later, it wound up with other unclaimed film-related customs inventory at the Royal Belgium Film Archive.

Monday, April 8th, 2013

The History of U.S. Capitalism

Yesterday’s New York Times article In History Departments, It’s Up With Capitalism by Jennifer Schuessler explores “the specter of capitalism” in history departments.

As Schuessler explains:

After decades of “history from below,” focusing on women, minorities and other marginalized people seizing their destiny, a new generation of scholars is increasingly turning to what, strangely, risked becoming the most marginalized group of all: the bosses, bankers and brokers who run the economy.

Schuessler discusses the leading scholars working in the history of capitalism as well as the new books in the area. The article also mentioned our recently launched series, Columbia Studies in the History of U.S. Capitalism, edited by Louis Hyman, Bethany Moreton, and Julia Ott, all of whom are featured in the article.

(more…)

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

The Films of Hollywood and Hitler

Throughout the week Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, has been discussing a variety of books associated with the politics of the time.

Here are some clips and trailers from the films. All the quotes are taken from Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939:

Blockade(1938)
Starring Henry Fonda and directed by Walter Wanger, the film depicted the Spanish Civil War. “Blockade was received by friend and foe alike as a brief in defense of the Soviet-backed loyalists. On that Catholics and the communists agreed.”

Olympia (1938)
“Riefensthahl was Nazism’s second most photogenic face. More than that though, she was a brilliant motion picture artist in thrall to a ruthless dictator, a match that inspired a special measure of loathing from the artists in the Popular Front….Being the one Nazi filmmaker who was not a second-rater, who was as good, or better, than the Jews purged from Ufa, she intrigued, tantalized, and unnerved. ‘The gal has charm to burn,’ gushed gossip monger Hedda Hopper, who was smitten with the lady. ‘As pretty as a swastika, snarled syndicated columnist Walter Winchell, who was not.”


Confessions of a Nazi Spy (1939)
“For the typical moviegoer in 1939, more eye-and-ear opening than the plot or the politics of Confessions of a Nazi Spy was the visual drapery and sonic atmosphere. The insignia, salutes, and catchphrases of Nazism—huge swastikas, giant portraits of Hitler, and throngs of rabid Americans in Nazi garb shouting ‘Sieg heil!’…the free-wheeling operation of Nazi military men and espionage agents in New York conjured an elaborate fifth column crisscrossing America, a cancer eating away at the body politic.”

The Mortal Storm (1940)
The Mortal Storm reviewed the history of the period between 1933 and 1939 that had been overlooked by the Hollywood cinema produced between 1933 and 1939….The word that is still unspoken in The Mortal Storm is ‘Jew,’ but by 1940 only the dimmest moviegoer would have failed to read the signs….Professor Roth identifies himself as ‘non-Arayan’ and what kind of non-Aryan is made clear when his wife visits him in a concentration camp and a ‘J’ adorns his sleeve.”

Inglourious Basterds (2009)
“Set in a counterfactual fantasy world removed from history but not from the fascination with cinematic legacy of Nazism, it is a Nazi-obsessed movie about other Nazi-obsessed movies, an affectionate homage to the many hours of cinematic pleasures the Nazis have given moviegoers. The intoxication with the iconography of the the Third Reich is unblushing and obsessive.”

Thursday, April 4th, 2013

Thomas Doherty — The Anti-Fascism of the 1930s and the Backstory to the Hollywood Blacklist

In the following essay, Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, examines how the ant-fascist movement in 1930s Hollywood shaped the blacklist in 1950s Hollywood:

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939Last November, the Hollywood Reporter deviated from its normal beat and published and in-depth investigation of itself. Part historical reclamation, part act of contrition, the lengthy article by Gary Naum and Daniel Miller dredged up the paper’s complicity in facilitating the Hollywood blacklist, specifically the animating role of its founding editor, W. R. “Billy” Wilkerson.

Citing chapter and verse from Wilkerson’s front-page column, a must-read fixture of the trade press from 1930 to 1960, the piece traced an ideological vendetta by a mean SOB who, if he did not singlehandedly launch the blacklist era, worked tirelessly to sustain it. Along with the anguished self examination, a sidebar article by Willie Wilkerson, editor Wilkerson’s son, apologized for the sins of his father.

Like a lot of commentators on-line, I was put off by Wilkerson Jr.’s posthumous hit on his father—a gesture that struck me as an odd sort of oedipal payback— but Naum and Miller’s article was a solid job of history, backed up by exhaustive research in the paper’s back pages and sobering reflections from the dwindling number of alumnae of the blacklist era. It was also more temperate in tone than most inquiry into what jas become the bitterest slice of Hollywood history. I am always amazed at how raw and close to the bone the subject of the blacklist is, how ferocious the passions remain even after half a century, despite the fact that the battles are mostly vicarious now, fought by descendents, literal and spiritual, a generation or two removed from the main action.

The last major venting of authentic bile from actual participants was during the controversy that arose over the honorary Oscar awarded to director Elia Kazan in 1999. In 1952, in a closed session before the House Committee on Un-American Activities, Kazan “named names”—informed on his former comrades in arms—and, worse, refused to apologize for doing so. Worse yet, he used his free pass to make indisputably great movies. Like the old joke about Irish Alzheimer’s disease, where the afflicted forget everything except the grudges, the surviving octo-and-nanogenarians went at each other once again, but mainly it was an ex post facto donnybrook. During the tense ceremony, younger members of the Academy audience showed their colors by (variously) sitting on their hands, standing up to cheer, or tepidly applauding.

Like Baum and Miller, I’ve spend a good deal of time scrolling through back issues of the Hollywood Reporter over the years, lately for a study how the motion picture industry responded to the rise of fascism in the 1930s. (The short answer: pretty well, on average, especially compared to the rest of America.) My own sense was that the sackcloth and ashes routine was a bit overdone: the piece didn’t unjustly malign editor Wilkerson but it left a lot unsaid and brushed over some of the historical complexities. As befits its masthead, the Hollywood Reporter‘s role during the blacklist was mainly reportorial not prosecutorial. In general, it reflected mainstream industry attitudes when it insisted that the Hollywood Ten be called the Unfriendly Ten, so as not to sully the industry as a whole with the antics of the witnesses called before the original HUAC hearings in October 1947. (These are the iconic hearings that are invariably unspooled in archival documentaries of the era: the testimony from HUAC’s other Hollywood-centric hearings was denied newsreel coverage).

(more…)

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2013

Interview with Thomas Doherty, Author of Hollywood and Hitler (part 2)

“The pictures of Nazism first projected by Hollywood between 1933 and 1939 will always be before our eyes.”—Thomas Doherty

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939In the second half of our interview, Thomas Doherty, author of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, discusses the role of newsreels in depicting Nazism to American audiences, Mussolini’s son’s trip to Hollywood, and films of the era. (For part one of the interview and to read an excerpt from the book):

Question: Another component of American awareness of Nazi Germany came through film newsreels. What balances or compromises did newsreel producers make? Did they provide a forthcoming, honest picture of Hitler?

Thomas Doherty: The newsreels are actually one of the most interesting and untold stories of the era. Our focus on Hollywood feature films sometimes makes us forget that the most powerful images of the Nazis came from the motion picture journalism of the day. The problem for the newsreels was that it was virtually impossible to obtain uncensored film of the Nazis in action. Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels controlled all outgoing motion picture imagery, which meant that when the newsreels showed the Nazis on screen, it was in Nazi—shot and—approved footage. As a result—and because unruly moviegoers would sometimes hiss and jeer at the Nazis on screen—the commercial newsreel companies often refrained from featuring the Nazis in the newsreels. Even when the newsreel editors did include pictures of Hitler and the Nazis in the newsreel issues, local exhibitors were known to cut out the clips so as not to disturb patrons out for an enjoyable night at the movies. The full motion picture record of the rise of Nazism—so vivid to us today—was not before the eyes of Americans in the 1930s.

Q: Your book also includes the odd but telling stories of Mussolini’s son and Leni Riefensthal’s sojourns to Hollywood. What do their stories tell us about Hollywood’s evolving attitudes toward fascism and its growing political awareness.

TD: Yes—the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League used the visits of Vittorio Mussolini in 1937 (in town to work out a a co-production deal with producer Hal Roach) and Leni Riefensthal in 1938 (she hoped to arrange a stateside distribution deal for Olympia [1938], her epic documentary of the 1936 Berlin Olympics) to discourage Hollywood from doing any business with the Nazis. The efforts of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League made Mussolini and Riefenstahl social pariahs around town—and intimidating anyone else in the film industry from associating with them. The animus towards Riefenstahl— “Hitler’s honey,” they called her—was especially intense because she was perceived as a genius of the cinema who had turned her talents to a demonic cause.

Q: Which anti-Nazi movies do you find most compelling? Do they feel dated or do they still have resonance today?

I find MGM’s The Mortal Storm (1940) oddly affecting—ironically enough, because MGM was the Hollywood studio that had no qualms about doing business with the Nazis throughout the 1930s. Director Frank Borzage shows how the Nazis destroy a culture through the disintegration of a once-happy family, with the warm conviviality of the opening scenes turning to emptiness and death in the end reel. Ernest Lubitsch’s To Be or Not to Be (1942) is go-for-the-jugular satire at its best, though I can see why American audiences in 1942 were not amused. Of course, Casablanca (1942) still packs an anti-Nazi punch, especially during the scene where everybody in Rick’s Cafe sings “La Marseilles” and drowns out the Germans.

Q: What is the continuing legacy of Nazism and Hitler on Hollywood either thematically or visually?

TD: Check out Quentin Tarantino’s Inglouriuos Basterds. Hitler, Goebbels, the SS, the Nuremberg rallies, swastikas, and all the other images of the twelve year Reich remain the most visually striking manifestations of political evil in motion picture history. The pictures of Nazism first projected by Hollywood between 1933 and 1939 will always be before our eyes.

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Interview with Thomas Doherty, Author of “Hollywood & Hitler, 1933-1939″ (part 1)

“Up until 1938-1939, there were really no anti-Nazi films from the major Hollywood studios….For most of the 1930s, the major studios were missing in action.”—Thomas Doherty

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and HitlerOur featured book this week is Hollywood in Hitler, 1933-1939, by Thomas Doherty. In the following interview (we will post the second half tomorrow), Doherty discusses Hollywood’s reaction to Nazism:

Question: Hollywood celebrities today are associated with a variety of different social and political causes. How was the situation different then and how did it curtail film stars’ anti-Nazi activism?

Thomas Doherty: In the 1930s, motion picture stars were typically very timorous about expressing their political opinions in public, especially if the sentiments were in any way controversial or left of mainstream opinion. Why alienate a potential customer at the ticket window? For their part, the studio heads considered the stars their own personal property, not unlike the costumes and props in the studio warehouses. They didn’t want anything to deplete the value of their investments. At first, only the most stalwart and secure actors and actresses defied convention and broke ranks.

Q: What effect if any did their activism have on shaping American attitudes towards Hitler?

TD: It’s hard to say, but the anti-Nazi activism of popular stars like James Cagney, Melvyn Douglas, John Garfield, Bette Davis, and Joan Crawford not only brought publicity to the cause but served to normalize the sentiments. The mere fact that movie stars—who more typically sold their faces for commercial endorsements—were now speaking out against Nazism, for free, made at least some people think about the reasons for the transition.

(more…)

Monday, April 1st, 2013

Book Giveaway! Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939

Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939

This week our featured book is Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939, by Thomas Doherty.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page.

We are also offering a FREE copy of Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail lf2413@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on April 5 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

And, for more on the book, read the chapter Hollywood-Berlin-Hollywood.

Friday, February 8th, 2013

Mike Wallace interviews Erich Fromm

The Lives of Erich Fromm

This week our featured book is The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman. Today, we have an interview from 1958, in which Fromm talks to Mike Wallace about his views on materialism and society. We hope you’ve enjoyed our Erich Fromm-themed content this week, and we hope you remember to enter our Book Giveaway for a chance to win a FREE copy of The Lives of Erich Fromm.

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013

Lawrence J. Friedman on Annis Freeman, Erich Fromm, and The Art of Loving

The Lives of Erich Fromm

This week our featured book is The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman. Today, we have an excerpt from The Lives of Erich Fromm in which Friedman discusses Annis Freeman and Fromm’s The Art of Loving. Stay tuned for more great content on Erich Fromm coming up this week, and remember to enter our Book Giveaway to win a FREE copy of The Lives of Erich Fromm.

The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love's Prophet — Lawrence J. Friedman by Columbia University Press

Monday, February 4th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Win a FREE copy of The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet, by Lawrence J. Friedman

The Lives of Erich Fromm

This week our featured book is The Lives of Erich Fromm: Love’s Prophet by Lawrence J. Friedman.

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of The Lives of Erich Fromm here on our blog, on our Twitter feed, and on our Facebook page. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to the winner of our Book Giveaway.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail lf2413@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, February 1st, 2013

Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City — Jonathan Soffer and the Legacy of Ed Koch

In his book Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City, Jonathan Soffer offers a critique of Ed Koch’s complicated legacy for New York City. Soffer argues Ed Koch was instrument in leading New York City’s recovery from bankruptcy. Businesses and financial confidence returned to the city and Koch also brought new housing to thousands of low-income housing. At the same time, racial animosity was seemingly a constant in the city during his administrations and many social services were cut back.

In this video from the 92nd Street Y , Ed Koch discusses Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City with Jonathan Soffer. (While not an “authorized” biography, Koch did participate in interviews for it, and, not surprisingly, helped to promote it.)

For more on the book, there is an interview with Jonathan Soffer and here is a video trailer for Ed Koch and the Rebuilding of New York City:

Wednesday, January 16th, 2013

VIDEO: Andrew Smith Discusses American Drinking History

Last month, Andrew F. Smith, author of Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages, discussed what makes American drinks “American” at the Los Angeles Public Library in an event sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Southern California (CHSC).

From the CHSC site: What is American Drink? Is it warmed-over traditional British beverages, such as tea, ale, hard cider, syllabubs, toddies? Or is it versions of ethnic beverages brought by successive waves of immigrants – lager and pilsner, sangria, tequila, bubble tea? Or is it the fiercely marketed creations of America’s beverage industry – Kentucky Bourbon, Kool-Aid, Snapple, Coors, Coca-Cola? Why do Americans drink the beverages that we do?

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Andrew F. Smith on the Future of Drinking in America

Andrew Smith, Drinking History

In the epilogue to Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages, Andrew Smith points to some of the more recent trends in American’s consumption of beverages namely, the popularity of bottled water and coffee.

Looking back at the history as well as pointing to recent trends, Smith also speculates on what the future might look like:

* Lacking a dominant beverage tradition, Americans have developed a taste for diversity and experimentation.

* Experimentation has led to a large number of small beverage producers, but the past century has seen consolidation of some industries, such as soft drinks, brewing, coffee roasting, water bottling, winemaking, and distilling. In each of these fields, just a few corporations now control most of the market.

* At the opposite end of the spectrum, a backlash against food industry giants has spawned a large number of smaller, often artisanal, competitors. Microbreweries, local wineries, and small coffee roasters, for instance, offer a wide variety of alternatives.

* The American beverage titans, including the Coca-Cola Company, PepsiCo, and Starbucks, have gone global; simultaneously, foreign firms have acquired large segments of some traditional American industries, such as beer. Even some “all-American” beverages, such as orange juice, now originate in other countries (in the case of orange juice, in Brazil). Other beverages, such as sake from Japan and wine from Australia, are now available in the United States, and the availability of beverages from other countries will continue to proliferate.

* For the past decade, per-capita soda consumption has been decreasing as other beverages have emerged. With health authorities campaigning against sugar-sweetened sodas as a major factor in America’s obesity epidemic, it is likely that soda consumption will continue to decrease.

* It is unlikely that Prohibition will ever return; nevertheless, Americans have cut down on alcohol consumption during the past three decades, largely due to stricter enforcement of drunk-driving laws. Alcohol consumption may not drop further, but neither is it likely to rise.

* And what of the long-term future for American beverages? With our well-known national thirst for the new and the novel, it is likely that the future will be as full of surprises as the past.

Thursday, December 20th, 2012

Andrew Smith on How Beverages Have Changed American History (He Also Talks About Tuna)

Earlier this fall, Andrew Smith talked about his book Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages at a special event sponsored by the Culinary Historians of Chicago.

In the talk, Smith considers why Americans drink what we drink, how beverages — alcoholic and non-alcoholic — have changed American history and how Americans have invented, adopted, modified, and commercialized tens of thousands of beverages. Additionally, Smith also discusses his other new book American Tuna—the Rise and Fall of an Improbable Food.

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

Beer — Another Turning Point from “Drinking History”

Andrew Smith, Beer

Yesterday, we posted on the history of youth drinks from Andrew Smith’s Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages. Today, we turn to the more adult beer, which skyrocketed in popularity in the 1840s thanks in large part to German immigrants. You can read the full chapter on beer, The Most Popular Drink of the Day and below is an excerpt from that chapter in which Smith discusses saloons and the role of breweries in promoting their growth:

Beer’s rise to stardom was closely associated with the rise of the saloon. The American saloon emerged from English tavern and public house traditions. The name derived from salon, a French term meaning an ornate spacious hall that was often used for large public gatherings. The first American saloons were established in swank hotels in approximately 1840; they catered mainly to the upper class. Saloons provided various entertainment and usually contained a bar, which served whatever alcoholic beverages were in vogue at the time. To cash in on the upper-class cachet, grog shops, taverns, public houses, and lower-class dives renamed themselves as saloons. The upper class then launched private clubs where they could socialize with their own kind and drink their own beverages.

In popular mythology, the classic American saloon is the western establishment popularized in Hollywood cowboy movies, complete with swinging doors, rampant fighting, gambling, gunfights, and prostitution. As George Ade, an American writer and newspaperman, wrote in 1931:

The truth is that the average or typical saloon was not a savory resort. . . . Nine-tenths of all the places in which intoxicants were dished out affected a splendor which was palpably spurious and made a total failure of any attempt to seem respectable. The saloon business was furtive and ashamed of itself, hiding behind curtains, blinds and screens and providing alley entrances for those who wished to slip in without being observed.

As immigrants flooded into American cities beginning in the late 1840s, saloons catered to their needs. Ethnic saloonkeepers were magnets for the newly arrived. Many saloons were closely connected with political power in cities and towns. This upset temperance advocates, who concluded that saloons fostered “an un-American spirit among the foreign-born population of our country.”

(more…)

Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo Selected as Best Book of 2012

Writing for The Atlantic, Andrew Cohen named The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo: The D.C. Sniper , by Carmeta Albarus and Jonathan H. Mack, as one of The Best 2012 Books About Justice.

Here’s what Andrew Cohen wrote about the book:

I read and wrote about this book in early October, around the same time that Malvo gave a series of well-publicized media interviews on the 10th anniversary of the Beltway shootings. There are young people everywhere in the world who endured worse from their parents than Malvo did, but who did not become the killer he did. But if you want a sense of the damage a broken life can create for innocent victims decades later, read this book.

For more on The Making of Lee Boyd Malvo, here is a recent interview with the authors on Due Process:

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

The History of Youth Drinks from Kool-Aid to Red Bull — A Turning Point in America’s Drinking History

Kool Aid

For much of American history kids drank what their parents did, including alcohol, which was sometimes diluted and sometimes not. Beginning in the 1920s beverage-makers began producing and marketing drinks to kids. In the chapter “Youth Beverages” from his new book Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages, Andrew F. Smith traces the history of youth drinks from Kool-Aid to Red Bull. Here are a couple of excerpts that explore the genesis of these two products and their popularity:

In 1920, Edwin Perkins—head of the Perkins Products Company of Hastings, Nebraska—marketed a new drink mix called Fruit Smack—a bottled syrup to be combined with water and sugar. The product did fairly well, but the heavy bottles were expensive to mail and they often broke in transit, dismaying customers and costing Perkins money to replace. In 1927, he came up with the ideal alternative: inspired by the tremendous success of Jell-O dessert powder, Perkins devised a powdered concentrate to be sold in paper packets. Customers still just had to add water and sugar, but with paper packets instead of bottles, they were much less likely to receive a soggy, drippy package when they ordered the product by mail. Perkins created six flavors—cherry, grape, lemon-lime, orange, raspberry, and strawberry—and sold the packets by mail for 10 cents apiece. He called the product Kool-Ade, which he trademarked in February 1928.

Not content to sell his product by mail, Perkins soon began a campaign to distribute Kool-Ade through grocery stores. It was promoted in newspapers, magazines, and on the radio—a very novel way to promote products at the time. The campaign brought Kool-Ade to the attention of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which claimed that “-ade” meant “a drink made from.” Because most Kool-Ades were named after fruit, such as oranges, grapes, and lemons, this implied (according to the FDA) that it should be composed of fruit juice; however, Kool-Ade was artificially flavored and colored. The company renamed its product to Kool-Aid in 1934.

During the Depression, Perkins lowered the price of Kool-Aid to a nickel per packet and launched a national advertising campaign aimed at children. The company placed advertisements in children’s magazines; like promotions for other children’s products, Kool-Aid ads promised readers a gift, such as a pilot’s cap, in exchange for empty Kool-Aid packages.

(more…)

Monday, December 17th, 2012

Book Giveaway: Drinking History by Andrew Smith

Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages

This week our featured book and giveaway is: Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages by Andrew F. Smith

Throughout the week we will highlight aspects of Drinking History: Fifteen Turning Points in the Making of American Beverages on our blog, our Twitter feed, and Facebook page. We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to one winner.

To enter our book giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and address. We will randomly select one winner on Friday at 1:00 pm. Good luck and spread the word!

For more: Read the chapter on beer The Most Popular Drink of the Day, listen to Andrew Smith discuss the book on NPR, read the table of contents and reviews Drinking History.

Friday, December 14th, 2012

Key Moments in Peanut Butter History via Jon Krampner’s “Creamy and Crunchy”

Creamy and Crunch, Jon Krampner

In the appendix to Creamy and Crunchy: An Informal History of Peanut Butter, the All-American Food, Jon Krampner offers a timeline of the history of peanut butter. Here are some key moments from that timeline:

1894: George Bayle allegedly begins to manufacture peanut butter in St. Louis.

1895: John Harvey Kellogg files the first patent on a peanut butter-like substance.

1904: C. H. Summer sells peanut butter from a booth at the St. Louis World’s Fair, where many Americans taste it for the first time.

1904: Beech-Nut becomes the first national brand to sell peanut butter.

1923: Heinz becomes the first major brand of peanut butter to be stabilized by hydrogenation, using the Frank Stockton patent for full hydrogenation.

1933: Joseph Rosenfield begins to produce Skippy peanut butter at the Rosenfield Packing Company in Alameda, California.

1942-1945: Peanut Butter is included in the rations of American soldiers fighting overseas during World War II. GIs acquire a taste for it, return home and feed it to their baby-boom children.

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