Beans and Boats: Or, How the Virtual Card Catalog Helped Find Entries on Canning

His wife is a genius in canning fruits and vegetables. She told me how to can string beans so they would keep the whole year round. You take and string the beans same as if you were going to cook them for the table breaking them up then put them in mason jars, fill the jars as full as it can be packed then pour water on enough to cover the beans nicely. Then wipe the neck of the jar perfectly dry. Put on your rubber and screw down tight then put the jars into a vessel of water deep enough to cover the jar completely leaving no part exposed and let them come to a boil and boil for three hours. When they are cold tighten the lids as tight as they can be screwed and put them down in a cool cellar and when you want string beans in the winter they are to be and taste the same as fresh beans. I think it will pay you to keep this and try it next year. I suppose your string beans are all gone but here they have string beans all summer. We have string beans nearly every day for dinner. They are not as nice as our wax beans but are a long green bean that is like a kidney bean when ripe. This Mrs. Mead put up all kinds of fruit for winter use. They also make cider and wine for winter use so you see they have all the luxuries of the farm on the table.

BOS 138

"Thealka," a "Bat-Wing" boat, pictured at a lumber camp on the Tug River where our anonymous writer penned his letter. [BOS-138, Subject Photo Collection]

Penned by an anonymous writer while working on a boat on the Tug Fork of the Big Sandy River, this writer enlightened his wife and children on the art of canning. I was a little surprised to read of a late 19th century man explaining to his wife canning procedures but hey, three cheers for men bending the gender role. Or, something like that... I also can’t help but think Mr. Anonymous’s wife was a little irked at hearing just what a genius this Mrs. Mead was at canning but what do I know? Anyhow, back to the letter. I wanted to post something this month on canning and preserving, as I myself have been making attempts at canning. So far I have only succeeded at making and canning bread and butter pickles but this weekend I will try my hand at Golden Habanero Pepper Jelly--wish me luck!

You might have noticed when looking at the catalog card for this entry that “canning” only appears in the body of the card, not the subject heading. So how amongst our 50,000+ catalog card entries did I find this, you ask? Well, every week a small team of three (shout out to Jennie Cole and Jana Meyer) work on hand-editing catalog cards for upload to our Virtual Card Catalog (VCC). Yes, I said hand edit. The three of us look over many hundreds of spreadsheet lines to make sure that records are accurate and legible post-OCR (optical character recognition) and prior to upload for researcher access. To date we have edited and uploaded approximately 12,800 entries, or, cards A-C, which are now available for researcher use. When broken down, this accounts for about 64 spreadsheets at 200 lines per sheet.  As you can imagine, it’s a slow process but the result will be well worth the wait—and effort. Stay tuned (and patient!) as we whittle away at the remaining 40,000 entries...

Johna Ebling

Johna Ebling is an Associate Curator of Collections and Exhibits Manager. She studied Journalism and English at Ball State University and earned her master’s degree in Library and Information Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When she isn’t orchestrating an exhibit or engaging in public outreach, Johna is working with the Filson’s architectural holdings. When away from The Filson, Johna enjoys reading, cooking and spending time with her Chihuahua, husband and friends.

Leave Comment