Posted by & filed under Local Doings, Special Days.

"The Constitution," mural by Barry Faulkner

During the hot, muggy summer of 1787, a Grand Convention was called together at the Pennsylvania State House (now called Independence Hall) in Philadelphia for the purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation, which had proved a highly unsatisfactory document for holding the United States together during the first 13 years of the young nation’s existence. While waiting for enough delegates to arrive to make a quorum, James Madison took the initiative of drawing up an initial proposal to get the discussion going: the so-called Virginia Plan.

Benjamin Fraklin in a local pub

The delegates had a complex, delicate task ahead, and precautions were taken to insure secrecy so that everyone would be able to speak his mind honestly and change his mind freely as discussions progressed. Heavy curtains were drawn, and windows were nailed shut. The notoriously bibulous and garrulous Benjamin Franklin was accompanied during public excursions by chaperones charged with making sure he wouldn’t inadvertently reveal too much. James Madison took extensive notes of the debates. Over the next four months the delegates sweated, argued, and struggled with the task of devising a system of government adequate to meet the needs of a new nation. They didn’t just revise the Articles of Confederation; rather, they produced an entirely new document from scratch, perhaps overstepping the bounds of their original mandate.

James Madision, Father of the Constitution

On September 17, 1787 the final draft of the Constitution of the United States was signed by 39 of the 55 delegates. The document was then sent to the states for ratification while James Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay campaigned for acceptance of the new constitution in a series of articles and essays that were eventually compiled and published under the title The Federalist. Their arguments—plus the promise of a Bill of Rights enumerating certain personal freedoms not explicitly provided for in the Constitution—proved persuasive, and the new Constitution went into effect on June 21, 1788, after New Hampshire had become the ninth state to ratify it.

First page of the Constitution of the United States

In commemoration of these momentous events, Congress has designated September 17 as Constitution Day. All schools that receive federal funds have been charged with providing educational programming related to the Constitution on or near September 17.

Constitution Day 2020 at UNT

Join us for Constitution Day 2020, 100 years after the passage of the 19th amendment, for an informative remembrance of the 1920 amendment to the Constitution granting women the right to vote. Tune in, virtually, as our three guest speakers discuss the suffrage movement, consider the impact of the women’s vote in U.S. politics, and reflect on the future of women in politics.

Guest Speakers:

Pre-registration is required, so reserve your seat in the live-stream at

Article by Bobby Griffith.

Photos of the U.S. Constitution and Barry Faulkner mural from National Archives and Records Administration.

Benjamin Franklin cartoon from NT Daily (September 17, 1987).

Photo of James Madison quote from the Library of Congress James Madison Memorial Building in Washington, DC.

Posted by & filed under Special Days.

19th Amendment exhibit at the Eagle Commons Library.

One hundred years ago today, at 8:00 a.m. on August 26, 1920, without fanfare, in the privacy of his own home and unseen by the press or the public, Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby formally certified Tennessee’s ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, bringing to a culmination a 72-year, non-violent campaign to extend the right to vote to women.

The language was simple:

The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.  Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Earlier Attempts at Woman Suffrage

Today it is difficult to comprehend a world where it’s considered perfectly normal for people to own other people, while the concept of women voting is considered the height of absurdity, but for decades even the staunchest advocates for women’s rights often disagreed on whether it was appropriate for women to demand the right to vote.

On March 31, 1776, as her husband John was in Philadelphia arguing the cause of American independence from Great Britain, Abigail Adams sent him the following forward-thinking suggestion:

“…and by the way in the new Code of Laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make I desire you would Remember the Ladies, and be more generous and favourable to them than your ancestors.… If perticuliar care and attention is not paid to the Laidies we are determined to foment a Rebelion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any Laws in which we have no voice, or Representation.”

Although John Adams often depended on his wife’s wise counsel, this time his response was shortsighted and frivolous:

“As to your extraordinary Code of Laws, I cannot but laugh.… Depend upon it, We know better than to repeal our Masculine systems. Altho they are in full Force, you know they are little more than Theory…, and in Practice you know We are the subjects. We have only the Name of Masters, and rather than give up this, which would compleatly subject Us to the Despotism of the Peticoat, I hope General Washington, and all our brave Heroes would fight.”

American women continued to have no right to vote even after African-Americans were emancipated from slavery by the Thirteenth Amendment and guaranteed full citizenship and equal protection by the Fourteenth Amendment, which in 1868 introduced the word “male” into the Constitution—for the first time, and in connection with voting rights—arousing the ire of Susan B. Anthony, among others.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony

In 1869, Anthony and her long-time friend and collaborator Elizabeth Cady Stanton split from the American Equal Rights Association over support of the Fifteenth Amendment, which would prohibit denial of suffrage based on race, and co-founded the National Woman Suffrage Association (NWSA), which worked for women’s suffrage, divorce reform, and equal pay for women. Although they both supported universal suffrage, and Stanton had in fact included it in her Declaration of Sentiments introduced at the 1948 Seneca Falls Convention, which is often held to be the place where the women’s rights and women’s suffrage movements officially began in the United States, both opposed ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment because it failed to recognize women as citizens with voting rights.

In 1871, the iconoclastic Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to address a congressional committee, arguing before the House Judiciary Committee that women already had the right to vote because that right was guaranteed to all citizens by the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. The chairman objected, “Madam, you are no citizen—you are a woman!” and the committee tabled her request. Still, her speech attracted so many suffragists and reporters that, in one reporter’s words, “Washington became one grand conversational salon.”

Victoria Woodhull

In 1872, after ratification of the Fifteenth amendment, Anthony was arrested for voting illegally. She fought the charges unsuccessfully and was fined $100—a debt she refused to pay. Because the judge declined to sentence her to prison time, she lost her right to file an appeal, which would have allowed the suffrage movement to take the question of women’s voting rights to the Supreme Court.

From 1892 to 1900, Susan B. Anthony served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (created by a merger of the NWSA with the competing American Woman Suffrage Association). In this role she canvassed the county giving speeches, gathering petition signatures, and lobbying Congress in support of women’s suffrage.

Sadly, neither Anthony nor Stanton saw the culmination of all their hard work, although they never lost faith that their vision would eventually come to pass. In 1902 the now elderly Susan B. made these remarks about the matter:

“If I could live another century! I do so want to see the fruition of the work for women in the past century. There is so much yet to be done, I see so many things I would like to do and say, but I must leave it for the younger generation. We old fighters have prepared the way, and it is easier than it was fifty years ago when I first got into the harness. The young blood, fresh with enthusiasm and with all the enlightenment of the twentieth century, must carry on the work.”

A New Generation

Carrie Chapman Catt was one of the members of that “younger generation.” A schoolteacher and newspaper editor, Catt took over leadership of the NWSA after Susan B. Anthony retired in 1900. Catt developed the NWSA’s “Winning Plan,” a conservative, incremental approach to women’s suffrage that focused on winning voting rights in at least 36 states, the number needed to ratify a federal amendment.

Carrie Chapman Catt   Alice Paul

Alice Paul represented a more militant approach. After earning her master’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania, Paul had moved to London to continue her studies and there joined the Women’s Social and Political Union (WPSU), a militant British suffrage organization led by Emmeline Pankhurst and her daughter Christabel. From them Paul learned tactics and techniques of direct action such as organizing huge marches, staging extravagant, theatrical demonstrations, and using acts of disruption and civil disobedience to draw attention to her cause. This unbridled approach worked brilliantly at drawing attention to the movement, but it did not please the more conservative Catt, and the two leaders often clashed. Alice Paul and her co-suffragists also often clashed with the police.

Inez Milholland

On March 3, 1913—one day before Woodrow Wilson’s inauguration—the Women’s Suffrage Parade, organized by Alice Paul, took place in Washington, D.C. Inez Milholland—a suffragist, labor lawyer, and socialist who worked for prison reform, peace, and equality for African-Americans—led the parade wearing a white cape and seated on a white horse. Milholland campaigned unceasingly despite deteriorating health, and at the age of 30 collapsed in public uttering the words “Mr. President, how long must women wait for liberty?” then died in a hospital shortly thereafter. She was convinced that women’s unique traits qualified them to become “housecleaners for the nation” whose votes could help alleviate social evils such as crowded tenements, sweatshops, poverty, hunger, prostitution, and child mortality. Today many of these conditions still exist, as do voter suppression, unequal pay, and many other violations of the most basic human rights.

In January 1917 a group of women organized by Alice Paul became the first group to ever protest outside the White House. Known as the Silent Sentinels, they picketed several hours a day, six days a week, for almost two and a half years, never speaking a word, but silently urging President Wilson with their signs to support a suffrage amendment. Many of them were beaten, arrested, and jailed. They would continue their protests in jail by staging hunger strikes, which often resulted in more beatings and being force fed through a tube stuck up the nose. The resulting public outrage and outcry over their treatment is often credited with turning the tide toward support of women’s suffrage, and on June 4, 1919, Congress passed a joint resolution proposing a Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

Silent Sentinels

By the middle of 1920, 35 of the required 36 states had voted to ratify the amendment, four other states (Connecticut, Vermont, North Carolina and Florida) declined to put it to a vote, and all the other states except Tennessee had rejected it outright. The deciding vote therefore came down to the Tennessee state legislature, and that vote now stood at a tie, with a single vote remaining.

Harry T. Burn

At the tender age of 24, Tennessee state representative Harry T. Burn from the McMinn County district suddenly found himself facing the responsibility of casting the deciding vote to ratify or reject the Nineteenth Amendment at the Tennessee General Assembly in 1920. The red rose on his lapel, as well as his past “nay” votes on the issue, confirmed his anti-suffragist position. He had already voted in favor of tabling the amendment, but that vote had also ended in a tie and did not carry. What the public did not see, however, as he stood up to declare his vote was a seven-page handwritten letter from his mother, Phoebe Ensminger Burn (known to her friends and family as “Febb”), urging him to “be a good boy” and “help Mrs. ‘Thomas Catt’ with her ‘Rats.’” (“Is she the one that put rat in ratification,” she further teased.) Along with the letter, Burn had hidden a yellow suffragist rose inside his jacket pocket. It was a history-making change of heart as Burn’s “aye” unexpectedly reverberated in the Senate chamber.

Letter from Febb Burn

Fourteen years after Susan B. Anthony’s death, the act named after her was ratified as the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Though she did not live to see the results of her life’s work, Susan B. had played a crucial role in securing female suffrage at the national level.

On February 15, 1921 (Susan B. Anthony’s birthday), sculptor Adelaide Johnson’s monumental statue “The Women’s Movement” was unveiled in the Capitol Rotunda. The monument contains portraits of Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott, and Elisabeth Cady Stanton, copied from busts the artist had sculpted earlier when the subjects were still alive. In this monument, they arise out of a block of rough-hewn Carrara marble—a symbol of the unfinished struggle for women’s rights—and a vague, abstract shape rises behind the three women to represent all the other women who might continue their fight.

Portrait Monument

In 1979, the U.S. Treasury minted the Susan B. Anthony dollar, making her the first female to be represented on U.S. currency.

Susan B. Anthony silver dollar

Unfinished Business

Passage of the Nineteenth Amendment did not automatically secure the right to vote for all American women:

  • Native American women were not considered U.S. citizens—except under certain special circumstances, such as being married to a white man—and therefore could not vote.
  • African-Americans were prevented from voting by poll taxes, literacy tests, threats of violence, and other tools of voter suppression.
  • Discriminatory immigration laws prevented many Chinese women (the Page Act) or Chinese men and women (the Chinese Exclusion Act) from becoming U.S. citizens, and in 1924 the Johnson-Reed Act excluded all Asians from immigrating to the U.S.
  • The 1907 Expatriation Act declared that female U.S. citizens who married non-citizens were no longer Americans.

  • Pioneers such as Mabel Ping-Hua Lee and Zitkala-Ša help pave the way for many of these women to win the right to vote years—sometimes decades—after the Nineteen Amendment was passed, and some still fight today against laws that discriminate against women and minorities, such as felony disenfranchisement laws and voter I.D. laws.

    Mabel Ping-Hua Lee   Zitkala-Ša

    On Valentine’s Day 1920, six months before the Nineteenth Amendment was ratified, Carrie Chapman Catt founded the League of Women Voters, a non-partisan, non-sectarian organization aimed at educating voters on political issues.

    After helping to secure women’s suffrage, Alice Paul penned the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) with Crystal Eastman in 1923. While middle-class women were largely supportive of this amendment, working-class women pointed out that passage could result in losing certain protections regarding working conditions and hours of employment. Like the Nineteenth Amendment, this one was short and succinct. (It was also misspelled.)

    Equal Rights Amendment

    The ERA was reintroduced in the early 1970s, but as of 2020—nearly a century after it was introduced—it has not been ratified.

    One hundred years after women won the right to vote, the battle for equality is still not over. We hope you have been inspired by this story and will consider how you can continue the fight for the rights of women and other oppressed people in your own neighborhood and throughout the world. What part will you play? As you join the fight for liberty, justice, and equality, let these words from Henry Alford’s hymn “Forward Be Our Watchword”—carried on a banner by Inez Milholland at her first suffrage parade, then later displayed during her memorial—serve as inspiration:

    Forward, out of error,
    Leave behind the night;
    Forward through the darkness,
    Forward into light!

    Woman holding banner at Inez Milholland memorial.

    Author: Bobby Griffith

    Image credits:

    Photo of Eagle Commons Library Woman Suffrage exhibit by Bobby Griffith.

    Portrait of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, c.1880, from 19C American Women in a New Nation.

    Photo of Victoria Woodhull courtesy of Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives.

    Susan B. Anthony silver dollar, Heritage Auctions Lot 1449, 29 April 2010.

    Photo of Carrie Chapman Catt, courtesy of Library of Congress Manuscript Division, available under the digital ID mnwp.149004.

    Photo of Alice Paul courtesy of Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

    Photo of Silent Sentinels courtesy of Library of Congress American Memory Collection.

    Photo of Inez Milholland courtesy of George Grantham Bain Collection, Libary of Congress, Reproduction Number: LC-DIG-ppmsc-00031.

    Photo of Harry T. Burn courtesy of Tennessee Virtual Archive.

    Photo of letter from Febb Burn courtesy of Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection, Knox County Public Library.

    Portrait of Mabel Ping-Hua Lee (1896–1966). New-York Endowment Tribune, April 13, 1912. Chronicling America, National for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.

    Photo of Zitkala-Ša by Gertrude Kasebier, courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution.

    Photo of woman holding banner in memory of Inez Milholland, uploaded from, a photo-blog site specializing in vintage photography. Source url: 5414.

    Posted by & filed under Special Days.


    There is no doubt that 2020 has been a bumpy year. Current conditions, including the ongoing pandemic and an election looming on the horizon, ensure the year will go out with a bang. It is an opportune moment to pause and observe August 25th as National Kiss and Make Up Day.

    When relationships hit a rough patch, it can be difficult to know how to work past our differences. Even famous advice columnists and sisters Dear Abby and Ann Landers struggled to along. Yet today seems as good a day as any to put fourth the effort to mend a relationship worth having. Send flowers, make a phone call, write a text, agree to disagree, or whatever feels appropriate to make amends. 2020 needs all the help it can get, and hopefully we all escape with healthier and stronger relationships despite our social or physical distances.

    However, don’t feel bad if all your relationships aren’t perfect. There are endless examples in history of people who really needed to kiss and make up. Here is just one example:

    Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams

    Like many new relationships, Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams initially held good opinions of one another. However, that all changed after a tight presidential election in 1824. Jackson and his crowd determined that President Adams must have made an underhand deal with Henry Clay that allowed Adams to win the presidency. Many felt that Adams had made a “corrupt bargain” and ill-will leaked into the 1828 presidential race between Adams and Jackson, which played out fully in the court of public opinion.

    Both sides were not above slinging mud onto the other candidate. Coffin Handbills were circulated to illustrate alleged misdeeds of Jackson and included allegations of being a murdering adulterous cannibal.


    Supplemental account of some of the bloody deeds of General Jackson, being a supplement to the “Coffin handbill.”

    Library of Congress. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Printed and Ephemera Collection.

    Jacksonian newspapers continued to support the idea of a “corrupt bargain’ between Adams and Clay and alleged that President Adams was a pimp for the Czar of Russia while serving as a diplomat there.


    Akin, J. (1828) The pedlar and his pack or the Desperate effort, an over balance, United States, 1828. [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress.

    Bad relations between Adams and Jackson continued after the elections. Jackson believed the treatment of his wife during the elections played a part in her death prior to Jackson taking office and thus did not make the traditional visit to outgoing President Adams. In return, President Adams did not attend President Jackson’s inauguration.

    Despite efforts from friends on both sides, the two presidents never kissed and made up. Each man continued to carry a poor opinion of the other for the rest of their days. President Adams was a diplomat, fluent in several languages, and a sometimes poet, but despite his skill he never found the way or the words to make amends with President Jackson.

    Hopefully on this day your quarrels a little easier and you can find the words to smooth out hurt feelings or clear up a misunderstanding. If you need inspiration, the Library of Congress has the sheet music for “Kiss and make it up” and we hope it helps!


    Kiss and make it up

    Sheet Music. print | 1 score | From: Music Copyright Deposits, 1870-1885 (Microfilm M 3500) Also available through the Library of Congress Web Site as facsimile page images.

    This post was authored by Erica Kaufman.

    Posted by & filed under Get Help.



    Drastic times call for drastic research support.


    My name is Brea Henson. I’m the Political Science Librarian at the UNT Libraries. This fall I will be working remotely, but I aim to continue to provide excellent research services to you. Students and faculty can request Zoom research appointments with me to address their research needs.


    To schedule an appointment, email me at or use the LibCal scheduling option on my profile at You can also pop into my virtual office hours:

    • Mondays, starting Aug 24, 2020 02:00 PM. Meeting ID: 988 3215 1902 | email me for passcode.

    No matter if campus is open or we are issued another stay-at-home order, I am here to answer your Political Science questions and direct you to our Government Information Connection specialists and resources (at the Eagle Commons Library) as needed.


    Stay safe. Stay well.


    Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Is That a Document?, Toys R US.

    Marlon Preuss illustration for Fish and Wildlife Service "Find Your Way" coloring book

    For over a hundred years, coloring books have been a popular form of entertainment for children of all ages. Today we’d like to introduce you to the hundreds of coloring books and coloring pages produced by our federal and state governments and made available to the public for free, both in your local depository library and online.

    A Little History

    Coloring books have been around since around 1879, when illustrator Kate Greenaway teamed up with the McLoughlin Brothers—publishers of children’s books, board games, paper dolls, and other amusements—to produce The Little Folks’ Painting Book.

    Little Folks' Painting Book cover

    Later children’s coloring books were enhanced with a variety of other activities, including crossword puzzles, connect-the-dots games, word searches, and other brainteasers. Today these two genres have become so inseparable that it’s sometimes hard to find coloring books that are not also activity books, or vice versa.

    Some parents, psychologists, and educators have warned that coloring books stifle creativity and encourage mindless conformity. Others have praised their purported benefits, such as improving hand-eye coordination; teaching artistic concepts such as shape, color, and design; and providing a relaxing, therapeutic activity. In spite of the controversy, coloring books have proved immensely popular, and are most likely here to stay.

    Government Coloring Books

    Departments and agencies in every branch of the government have used coloring books for decades to capture children’s attention while teaching them all sorts of facts and concepts ranging from science, to nutrition, to history and how the justice system works. And, of course, dinosaurs!

    Dan and Sue Meet the Meat Family coloring book

    Get Excited about the Brain: A Colring and Activity Book

    Paper copies of many of these coloring books are in the government documents collection at the Eagle Commons Library. They are not currently available to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but plenty of online coloring books are also linked in our online catalog. To search for our coloring books, go to the library catalog on the UNT Libraries homepage, select “Books & More” to search the catalog, then select “Genre” as your type of search, “Government Documents” as the collection, and “coloring books” as the name of the genre:

    Genre search in UNT Libraries catalog

    You can do the same search and substitute “activity books” for “coloring books” to find our many fun and educational activity books published by government agencies.

    Dusty the Asthma Goldfish and his Asthma Triggers Funbook

    Don’t forget that there are hundreds of government coloring books online that may not be listed in our catalog. To find these, go to the website of an agency such as NASA, the EPA, or the National Institutes of Health and search the phrase “coloring book” or the phrase “activity book.” You can search the same phrases at the website to find coloring books publshed by all agencies of the federal government as well as those published by state and local governments.

    Perseverance coloring page

    Kin meets some friends in the playroom (NIH coloring book).

    Not Just for Children

    They have traditionally been seen as a children’s toy, but in recent years adults have been getting in on the action, and there are even coloring books marketed specifically to adults, who often find them both beautiful and relaxing.

    A couple of years ago, Smithsonian magazine published a profile of Johanna Basford, the pioneer of adult coloring books. Even her publisher was surprised when Basford’s debut coloring book, Secret Garden, became a bestseller. She has produced several popular works since then.

    The Smithsonian Institution also has in its Archives of American Art The Marcel Breuer Coloring Book—a whimsical, homemade coloring book discovered in the files of the Bauhaus-trained modernist architect and designer Marcel Breuer. No one knows who made this coloring book, or why, but it may have been distributed among the employees of his architectural office in New York. (The original drawings from which the book was made are also held by the Smithsonian.)

    Government agency comic books are typically intended for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t enjoy them also, and maybe learn something new while coloring!

    The Accidental Coloring Books

    Many images available from government agencies are not actually intended as coloring pages, but are line drawings that look beautiful when colored in. Think of them as “accidental,” or “hidden” coloring books.

    For example, the weird and wonderful illustrations in patent applications can be great fun to color. The National Archives and Records Administration has even published a Coloring Book of Patents that you can download for free.

    Coloring Book of Patents

    Historical engravings and etchings such as this illustration of Victoria Woodhull testifying before a congressional committee also make lovely coloring pages:

    Victoria Woodhull testifying before a congressional committee

    Architectural drawings such as this picture of the U.S. Capitol also make excellent coloring pages:

    U.S. Capitol

    The PDF edition of the Texas Register is always interspersed with illustrations by Texas schoolchildren. Many of these are suitable for coloring.

    Drawing of Texas symbols published in Texas Register.

    Since 2016, through the annual #ColorOurCollections festival sponsored by the New York Academy of Medicine Library, libraries, archives, museums, art galleries, and other cultural institutions around the world have shared a plethora of free coloring pages based on images from their collections.

    Lin-Manuel Miranda coloring page

    Show Us Your Colors

    We hope this article has inspired you to create some of your own art out of some of the many government agency coloring books and coloring pages they have made available. Please share any coloring projects you have done, and we will put them on display!

    Article by Bobby Griffith.
    Click on each image to see the hosting agency’s website.

    Posted by & filed under Is That a Document?, Recipes, Special Days, Uncategorized.

    An African American father, mother, and young daughter barbecuing in the backyard.

    June is national Soul Food month, so before we all fry our way into July, we thought we’d highlight a government document soul food source.

    The term soul food was apparently coined in the 1960s to describe an African American cuisine born in the rural areas of southern states. The distinction between soul food and the broader umbrella of southern cooking seems to stem from soul food having more heat, more seasoning, and somewhat more thorough use of meat products. Black home chefs took humble ingredients and turned them into delicious and satisfying menus.

    Today we occasionally take old favorite recipes and convert them to adjust for busy schedules and modern diet needs. Our US Departments have also tried to help inform us and improve our health, and soul food hasn’t been overlooked. The National Cancer Institute created a series of documents called Down Home Healthy Cooking to help address the issue of higher mortality and disease rates in U.S. black populations.

    Down Home Healthy Cooking: Recipes and Tips for Healthy Cooking

    The New Orleans Red Beans recipe we profile comes from the 2006 edition of that document.

    New Orleans Red Beans recipe

    Diet consciousness isn’t purely a modern effort. President Johnson’s chef, Zephyr Wright, wrote the president letters for each meal that he termed her “love letters.” She would break down the nutritional information in his meal so he was aware of what he was consuming.

    White House Chef Zephyr Wright and nutrition information for the Red Beans recipe.

    The National Cancer Institute has written us a “love letter” also, so we are aware of the nutritional content if the recipe is prepared as written. The Institute’s red bean recipe is vegan, so it appropriate for a variety of diets, and although listed as a side dish, it is hearty enough to be a main meal. If you compare this health conscious recipe to a more traditional red beans recipe, the main alterations seem to be the absence of pork products or pork bones, and they suggest serving with brown rice instead of white rice. We suspect the sodium levels in the modified recipe are also much lower than in a more traditional recipe.

    This dish is made up of affordable and healthy ingredients. It makes a generous amount, so we had some to consume, some to share, and some to put away for a quick meal on a future day. We pretty much followed the recipe as written, except that since we had a smoked sea salt, we would use it to make up for some of the smoke flavor that would otherwise be represented by pork products. We also added a jalapeño in place of some of the sweet pepper and added a dash or two of cayenne pepper to spice things up a little bit.

    Red beans cooking in the pan.

    The beans smell great simmering on the stove. The recipe states that the beans should be done after adding the last set of ingredients and cooking on low for 30 minutes, but we found it took significantly longer to help the beans go from watery to a creamier stage.

    A plate of New Orleans Red Beans

    Served over a simple brown rice, the dish tastes healthy but also soul satisfying.

    More Resources to Explore

    There are several government sources for healthy cooking recipes. SNAP Recipes are healthy, with a short list of affordable ingredients.

    The ethnology of food is vast and thought-provoking. The UNT Libraries has several online sources for further reading about the history of African American cooking, and the history and influence of soul foods.

    Here are a few of these sources:

    Article by Erica Kaufman

    Photo of Zephyr Wright by Donald Stoder, courtesy of LBJ Presidential Library/National Archives.

    Image of family barbecue from the National Cancer Institute publication Down Home Healthy Cooking.

    Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Special Days.

    A toad admires the greenery near the front steps of Sycamore Hall


    As the weather warms up and the days become longer, many of us look forward to spending time outdoors in our gardens. Gardening provides opportunities to enjoy nature, sunshine, and exercise as we dig in the dirt. And there’s something so satisfying about caring for plants and watching them grow to reward us with beautiful flowers or fresh produce.


      A helpful pamphlet for city dwellers, 1938


    Farmers have always grown vegetable gardens; but in the early 20th century, with the advents of two World Wars and the Great Depression, urban and suburban gardens surged in popularity. In 1942, the United States government launched a Victory Garden Program that sparked Americans to plant millions of gardens to support the war effort. By 1944, Victory Gardens were producing 40 percent of the vegetables in the United States.

    Grow Your Own Victory Garden  


    Victory Gardens weren’t solely about food security, however. Among the stated goals of the Program were the provision of healthful exercise and stress relief through gardening. Throughout the war and Depression years, American gardeners also enjoyed the benefits of community building, as many of the gardens were planted on public lands and overseen by local organizations.


    The collective joy of gardening continues today at UNT’s own campus Community Garden. Membership is free to the UNT community, and tools are provided. (Alas, all the plots are currently spoken for. Check back with them in the fall!)



    In the meantime, consider starting your own garden on a kitchen windowsill, a front porch, or whatever space you have available at home.

    June is National Gardening Month, so don’t forget to celebrate your garden too, no matter how big or small! Social distancing may rule out in-person garden celebrations, but you can still take pictures and share them with your friends.

    In celebration of National Gardening Month, here are some pictures of our library staff members’ own gardens:


    Happy gardening to all!

    More Fun Links to Explore

    How to Grow Vegetables (Texas Agrilife Extension) 

    Small Agriculture – A historical exhibit about school gardens, homesteads, and Victory Gardens. (National Agricultural Library)

    Posted by & filed under Recipes, Special Days.

    Saturday was National Doughnut Day, and while the day has passed it’s never too late to break out the baking gear, knead some dough, and make some tasty homemade treats. I’ve been craving doughnuts for a while now, and having a day set aside for them was just the excuse I needed to dig up a recipe and try my hand at something a little more involved than biscuit doughnuts.

    National Doughnut day comes from the Salvation Army. In 1938 they invented the day as a way to raise money to help those in need during the Great Depression and to honor the “Doughnut Lassies”. These women fried doughnuts in the helmets of soldiers during WWI while they were there helping the men fighting. This earned them the nickname “Doughnut Lassies” as well as helped popularize doughnuts in the US. It is celebrated on the first Friday in June, and has become quite the tradition across the US, with doughnut shops participating in all kinds of ways.

    You can participate yourself this year by making your own doughnuts! I tried the recipe for Yeast-raised doughnuts as provided by King Arthur Flour, who have not only frying instructions, but baking as well in case you want to somehow make these doughnuts a little healthier (but let’s be honest, frying is the way to go). They didn’t include a recipe for icing, but don’t worry, we’ll add one for a sugar glaze and chocolate as well.

    • 3 cups (361g) All-Purpose Flour
    • 1/4 cup (50g) sugar
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons instant yeast or active dry yeast
    • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
    • 1 large egg
    • 1 cup (227g) milk
    • 2 tablespoons (28g) melted butter
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 6 cups (907g) peanut oil or shortening for frying (I used vegetable oil)

    The doughnuts on the left were fried, while the doughnuts on the right were baked


    To make the dough: In a large bowl or the bucket of your bread machine set on the dough cycle, whisk together the dry ingredients. In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter, and vanilla. Add all at once to the dry ingredients. If you’re using a bread machine, press Start. If you’re preparing by hand or mixer, mix and knead to make a soft dough. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes.

    If preparing by hand or mixer, knead the dough after its rest for 6 to 8 minutes, until it’s smooth and soft. Place the dough in a greased bowl, turn it over to coat the top, cover, and let it rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in bulk.

    To shape the doughnuts: Deflate the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Gently roll it 1/4″ thick, and cut out doughnuts with a 2 1/2″ to 3″ round cutter. Cover loosely with greased plastic wrap and let the doughnuts rise for 30 minutes to an hour, until doubled.

    To fry: Heat the oil or shortening in a heavy frying pan or skillet to 350°F. Carefully place the doughnuts in the oil, 2 or 3 at a time, and fry until golden brown. Turn over and cook the second side; each side should take no more than a minute. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. Fill or frost doughnuts as desired, using your choice of sugar topping or glaze.

    To bake: Follow the recipe through step 3, letting the doughnuts rise for 45 to 60 minutes. Bake them in a preheated 350°F oven for about 14 minutes, or until they’re a light golden brown. Remove a doughnut from the oven, make a small knife cut, and peek inside: if it’s baked all the way through, with no raw dough at the center, they’re done. If not, give the doughnuts a few more minutes. Cool, fill, and top as desired.

    Sugar Glaze:

    • 1/4 cup whole milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar


    Combine milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and heat over low heat until warm. Sift confectioners’ sugar into milk mixture. Whisk slowly, until well combined. Remove the glaze from the heat and set over a bowl of warm water. Dip doughnuts into the glaze, 1 at a time, and set on a draining rack placed in a half sheet pan for 5 minutes before serving.

    Chocolate Glaze:

    • 1 1/2 cups (150 grams) confectioners’ sugar
    • 4 tablespoons (27 grams) cocoa powder
    • 2 tablespoons milk or water
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla


    Sift together the sugar and cocoa powder in a medium bowl. Slowly stir in the milk and vanilla, a little at a time, to make a smooth, pourable glaze.

    Tips and Tricks I learned:
    • If you don’t have a cutter for your doughnuts, just use the rim of a glass. Flour it before you slice into the dough, and then go to town.
    • The top from a bottle of water is the perfect size to cut nice little round doughnut holes.
    • Much like with pancakes, your first doughnut will probably be a flop, don’t give up and try again!
    • When glazing try setting them on a cookie rack with some foil/wax paper underneath it, the glaze will drip down as they dry and then you can toss the foil/paper for easy clean up.
    • When making the glaze it’s okay to add more powdered sugar to thicken the glaze depending on what you prefer. Play with the measurements and taste until you get something you like.

    I hope you all have fun trying out this recipe yourselves, and enjoy some doughnuts!

    Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Recipes.

    Suggested serving of spoon bread in a bowl.

    Lady Bird Johnson was known for the delicious dinners she served, typically prepared by their family cook, Zephyr Wright, who came with them from Texas when they moved to Washington, and continued to serve in the White House as the First Family’s personal chef while LBJ was president.

    Spoon bread was a family favorite of the Johnsons, and one of Ms. Wright’s specialties. This versatile Southern side dish has a texture somewhat like a savory corn pudding or polenta. The history of spoon bread is obscure, but it may date back to the era of the American Revolution, and possibly has an origin in Native American cuisine. The first spoon bread recipe to appear in print was in the 1847 cookbook The Carolina Housewife, or House and Home, by “a Lady of Charleston.” (The Lady is now known to be Sarah Rutledge, daughter of Edward Rutledge, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and singer of the showstopper “Molasses to Rum” in the musical 1776. But we digress.) Here is that early recipe:

    Earliest recipe for spoon bread

    The Johnson family’s spoon bread recipe had been shared with Lady Bird by LBJ’s mother. The First Lady enjoyed having it for breakfast with Ms. Wright’s home-made deer meat sausage. Later it became one of several of Lady Bird Johnson’s recipes that were printed on recipe cards and mailed out in response to requests. Here is the Johnson family recipe:

    Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson's Recipe for Spoon Bread

    This is a very simple, easy-to-make dish that requires very few ingredients. You may even already have them in your kitchen. (The reference to “sweet milk” might be confusing if you are younger or not from the South. It simply means milk that is not sour milk or buttermilk; it does not have sweetener added to it. In this case, I used almond milk.)

    Spoon bread ingredients: sweet milk, corn meal, butter, eggs, baking powder, salt

    The first step in preparing this dish is to bring two cups of sweet milk to a boil over medium heat in a medium-size saucepan, then stir in a cup of corn meal and keep stirring until it turns into a mush. Take it off the heat as soon as it gets fairly thick, but don’t let it get too solid. Pour the mush into a large bowl when it is ready and let it cool while you prepare the other ingredients.

    Now you can turn on the oven and start pre-heating it to 350°F. Beat three eggs in a medium-sized bowl with a whisk until they are thoroughly blended together, and melt the butter for about one minute in the microwave. (The recipe calls for “butter the size of a walnut.” I used about three ounces. The recipe doesn’t say whether the butter should be salted or not. The vegan butter I used had salt in it, and the end result was very salty, so I would suggest using unsalted butter if you have it, but salted is okay, too.) Pour the melted butter into the eggs, add another cup of milk, three level teaspoons of baking powder, and one teaspoon of salt, then stir everything together.

    The next step is to dump the egg mixture into the corn meal mush and stir everything thoroughly together with a whisk or a wooden spoon. The mixture will be very thick, and I never did get all the lumps out, but that didn’t seem to make any difference in the final product. It’s really very difficult to mess this dish up! Spoon bread is delicious plain, but you might want to experiment by adding some ingredients such as onions, jalapeños, cheese, or corn kernels. Once everything is mixed, pour it into a greased baking pan. A 9″ x 6″ pan is just the right size, but an 8″ x 8″ pan would probably work also.

    Spoon bread batter about to go into the oven.

    The oven should be heated up by now, so put the pan in and relax for about half an hour. When you take it out, it will smell so good that you’ll probably want to eat it right away, but let it cool for a few minutes. It seems very liquid when you take it out of the oven, almost as if it were not done, but when it cools it will congeal to just the right texture.

    Spoon bread fresh out of the oven

    When you’re ready to serve your spoon bread, get out a big serving spoon and scoop it into a bowl or onto a plate. According to Mrs. Johnson’s comments, “with a salad (fruit or green) and meat, it makes a perfect lunch.” (Beans make a good substitute for the meat for vegans and vegetarians.) This dish is delicious as is, but adding a drizzle of real maple syrup or some locally-made Texas honey brings it to a whole new level of deliciousness.

    A serving of spoon bread drizzled with honey.

    Spoon bread is best served warm out of the oven, but it is also good the next day, whether served cold or reheated. Either way, scoop it out, stick a spoon in it, and enjoy!

    Article by Bobby Griffith.

    Posted by & filed under Boredom Busters, Recommendations.

    Over the past few weeks a lot has happened, and many people are spending most of their time at home. Some people have transferred to working at home, some are taking care of their families, and some have more free time than they know what to do with. My free time has been mostly spent taking long walks, cooking more, and playing a rather embarrassing amount of Animal Crossing. The thing that has tied all of this together has been my love of listening to podcasts and audiobooks. I’ve gone through quite a few books as well as hours and hours of podcasts. I’ve even got a podcast playing in the background as I edit this post, a familiar one with familiar voices and fascinating topics.

    While listening to these things started as a way to help me learn more or read those books I never can seem to find time to sit down and enjoy, it’s become a part of my daily routine now that I spend so much time in my apartment. Call them boredom busters, or excellent distractions audiobooks, podcasts, and all kinds of music are great ways to fill your day.

    To that end, we wanted to share a list of recommendations from the students and staff at ECL to introduce you to some new content, and –if you go through podcasts as fast as I do– help boost what might be a dwindling supply of things to listen to. This isn’t going to be a one time recommendation either, as we collect more suggestions from staff we’ll post more lists of recommendations to keep you going, and help you discover new favorites.

    Additionally, we’d love to hear from you! Drop your own recommendations for what you’ve been listening to lately (or even just an old favorite or two suggestions) and we’ll add those recommendations to our next post so everyone can see them.

    Alright! On to the recommendations, these were submitted by staff and students this time. Each suggestion has a little tidbit written by the person who suggested it, as well as a link (or links) to author/podcast/creators websites so you can find more information on it:


    The Partially Examined Life

    A philosophy podcast that tackles works both big and small. It’s a great place to get an introduction on a philosophical book you may have been curious about reading but were unsure.

    Pretty Much Pop

    A more laid back podcast than the former that covers topics in pop-culture with a variety of opinions on them. This podcast covers everything from escape rooms to musicals.

    BBC In Our Time

    This is an educational podcast that gets experts on a topic together to give an introduction to it.

    99% Invisible

    One of my current favorite podcasts is 99% Invisible, or 99pi. One of the things I love most about 99pi is the breadth of topics covered. Just in the last month, I’ve learned the history of the song Who let the dogs out?; gained a better understanding of why we are experiencing a toilet paper shortage as part of the Coronavirus pandemic; and learned how map making has shaped our past and present, for the good and the not-so-good. I also love 99pi because it serves as a gateway to other amazing podcasts. The team at Radiotopia, the producer of 99pi, offers a slew of other amazing podcasts, some I’ve had opportunity to explore and some are on my list to explore. These include Articles of Interest, which documents the history of articles of clothing; Over the Road tells the stories of long-haul truckers; and This Day in Esoteric Political History, a new short-form podcast which explores that day’s political events and how they shaped history. Oh, and I have a voice-crush on Roman Mars (99pi host) and especially love it when he cracks up – in a very mellow, radio kind of way.

    Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend

    I’ve wanted Conan O’Brien to be my friend since 1993 and though this podcast doesn’t get me any closer to that reality it does allow me to look a little like a mad woman on my socially distanced walks, which I think he would appreciate. Many a passerby in my neighborhood might attest to me walking the park paths and streets, earbuds in, giggling to myself or nearly collapsing with laughter. In this podcast, Conan, along with his assistant and podcast producer, chat with celebrities, comedians, authors, and former first ladies. The podcasts sometimes dip in the absurd, are sometimes revealing and heartfelt, and always, at least for me, lead to full belly laughs. If you find yourself needing to laugh your way through the pandemic, I suggest you give Conan a listen.

    Side Door

    Side Door explores all of the SI museums and offers a thread between how seemingly disconnected artifacts are actually connected.

    Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery

    Portraits from the National Portrait Gallery explores portraiture and the histories of faces and voices featured in the museums collections.

    Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi

    Lost at the Smithsonian with Aasif Mandvi offers a comedic exploration of some of the most iconic pop culture artifacts in the collections of the National Museum of American History. I love this one especially because Aasif, as he’s given a behind the scenes look into the SI collections, often seems like a kid in a candy store. Also, Aasif and I are of a similar age so I can easily relate to his fanboy attitude to artifacts like Fonzie’s jacket and the Bee Gees’ suits.


    Anything by Ann Patchett

    Sadly, the UNT Libraries only offers a few of Ann Patchett’s titles in print, which are accessible for those that venture our to the Willis Library. I’m hopeful you all have public library cards and will be able to access her works via Overdrive or another audio or eBook service. Admittedly, I haven’t made my way through the whole of Ann Patchett’s catalog, but I am trying. My preferred method of consumption is through audiobook. My most recent listen was her most recent release, The Dutch House, which read by Tom Hanks and tells the story of young man, his sister, and the house that has a hold over them both. My other recommended reads or listens include Bel Canto and The Patron Saint of Liars. Whichever of her titles you might choose, I hope you enjoy and would welcome a note on what you think.

    Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek

    This covers various stories of the author’s time in the military that he highlighted were filled with power, leadership, and faithful guidance to help him become a great leader, and that helps the military be as successful as it is.

    The Sherlockian by Graham Moore

    I had a lot of fun listening to this book. It’s told by alternating between the story of Harold White as he investigates a mysterious death at a Sherlockian meeting that has to do with a missing diary, and the story of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in the days after he’s killed off Sherlock Holmes and is suddenly swept up in his own real life mystery. The two stories parallel each other well, and both mysteries were engrossing and fascinating. This book is a stand alone novel, so no worries about diving into a long series with this one. If you enjoy stories that explore missing parts of history, and feature fascinating characters this story is for you.

    City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett

    City of Stairs has a little bit of everything. It’s got fantasy, a tiny bit Science Fiction, political intrigue, once dead gods showing back up, and of course all of that is wrapped in the bow of a murder mystery. I really wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into with this one, but the book fascinated me almost from the very start. The world building is clear and vast, the magic system is fascinating, and the main character, Shara Thivani, is interesting to follow. You’ll find yourself endeared to her quickly if you too are Tired of Everything but passionate about history and magic. This is the first in a trilogy of books, but works well as a stand alone since the other books follow different characters.

    The Last Wish Andrzej Sapkowski

    If you’ve been on Netflix lately I’m sure it’s recommended The Witcher to you. The Last Wish is one of the many books that series is based on. It introduces readers to the Witcher through a series of short stories featuring Geralt of Rivia. The world of The Witcher is a somewhat medieval one, featuring magic, monsters, and just about every fantasy creature you can think of– plus some. One of my favorite things about the book is how it weaves traditional fantasy, fairy tales, and it’s own mythology together to create a world I wanted to explore long after finishing the first book (so much so that I immediately bought book 2 and started listening to it). I’m generally not a fan of books of stories, but each of these are so well done I didn’t mind the format at all. This is part of a series containing 6 books, with 2 short story collections to introduce it, so if you really need something to take up time this is a good one to jump into. As in most adaptations, the books here are heads and tails better than the tv series/


    Charlie Burg

    Chet Baker

    That’s it for this set of Sycamore Listens: Audio Adventures with ECL. If you have any recommendations or end up listening to any of these please drop it in a comment below!