Inside the OHA Collection: New Objects Arrive at OHA

Last Wednesday, a woman came into OHA and donated four army helmets from World War I and World War II. However, there is one we need to do more research on, as we have not determined which war it was used in or by whom.

(Photos: 1 – Unidentified, 2 – U.S WWI, 3 – WWII 1st Division, 4 – WWII (unknown division)

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After taking some photos and researching them a bit more, we happened to see recently accessioned World War II Ration Books. These books were an important part of the war effort, as supplies were sent to Europe during and after the war.


Photo 1 – Ration Book No. 3

The United States’ rationing program during World War II affected millions of people from 1943 until the war’s end in 1946 – about 130,000,000 people.[1] Created in April of 1941, the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply (later named the Office of Price Administration or OPA) was established to help quell the wartime inflation that Americans experienced during World War I due to the shipping of goods overseas.[2] In January 1942, with the passing of the Emergency Price Control Act, the OPA was given more authority over pricing, setting price ceilings on commodities.[3] Further, under the Second War Powers Act of 1942, products were given priority to the armed services,America’s allies, and finally to American civilians.[4]

There were five methods for rationing developed by the OPA, which included stamps, coupons, tokens (photo #3), certificates, and checks.[5] War Ration books were instituted and made available through an application to American families from May 1942 to the end of 1945 each containing a months worth of stamps. Stamps would only be redeemable for a specific amount of time to avoid hoarding, which newspapers would report daily.[6] Ration Book One

Photo 2 - Ration Book No. 4

Photo 2 – Ration Book No. 4

was distributed May 4th through May 7th of 1942 containing twenty-eight stamps and was a part of Uniform Coupon

Rationing.[7] This system offered equal amounts of a single commodity, in this case used for the purchase of sugar.[9] Upon retrieval of their book, applicants signed a form stating the amount of sugar previously purchased. Any amount over two pounds of sugar per person was measured and an equivalent amount of stamps were removed from the booklet.[10] Purchases of sugar were limited to one-half pound per week. The OPA eventually changed what these stamps could be used for during the course of the war, ultimately being used for the purchase of coffee and shoes.[11]

During this time, the OPA also implemented a point system, with more points placed on items that were scarce and that could be used for a combination of items.[12] First introduced in Ration Book One, the

Ration Tokens, WWII

Photo 3 – Ration Tokens, WWII

system slightly changed starting in January of 1943 with the introduction of War Ration Book Two (see figure 7 & 8). In the second book, stamps came in two colors, red and blue, and continued to use the point system.[13] Red stamps gave the owner of the book the ability to buy butter, oils, meat, and with some exceptions cheese.[14] Blue stamps allowed for the purchase of frozen, canned and bottled fruits, juices, vegetables, along with processed foods such as soups and baby food.[15] Each book came with four pages of blue stamps and four pages of red stamps.[16] As with the sugar, people who had what was considered an excess amount of these goods had stamps removed from their ration book, though goods that people canned themselves did not have to be reported.[17]

Ration Book Three (photo #1  above) was issued in September and October of 1943 followed by Ration Book Four (photo #2 above ) in late 1943, both of which were used through 1945.[18] Ration Book Three came with brown stamps, which replaced red ones on September 12th, 1943.[19] These stamps were used for butter, cheese, lards, and other fats.[20] Ration Book Four, printed in red, blue, and green, was used in along with blue and red cardboard tokens, which were used as change for retailers.[21]


[1] Kitty Pittman, “Rationing in World War II: An Introduction into a Collection,” Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2013,

[2] Tally D. Fugate, “Rationing,” Oklahoma Historical Society, 2013,

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Fugate, “Rationing.”

[6] Ibid.

[7] Pittman, Kitty, “Rationing

[8] Alan Spohnheimer and Casie Vance, “World War II Rationing on the U.S. Home front,” Ames

Historical Society, 2013,

[9] Pittman, “Rationing in World War II.”

[10] Ibid.

[11] Fugate, “Rationing.”

[12] Fugate, “Rationing.”

[13] Spohnheimer and Vance, “World War II Rationing.”

[14] Fugate, “Rationing.”

[15] Ibid.

[16] Pittman, “Rationing”

[17] Fugate,“Rationing.”

[18] Spohnheimer and Vance, “World War II Rationing.”

[19] “Brown Ration Stamps Will Replace Red Ones Sept 12.” St. Petersburg Times. August 17th 1943, 8.

[20] Pittman, “Rationing”

[21] Angela Goebel Bain ed. and Dr. Barbara Mathews ed. “World War II Ration Book Four,”




The Terror of the City

One cool November evening a man was walking down a quiet Syracuse city street when, suddenly, the terror of the city sidewalks caught him unaware!  It had him on the ground within seconds, fracturing his skull.  The man was quickly taken to his home by passersby and a doctor was called, but to no avail.  The man was dead 24 hours later.  What could create such terror and cause such tragedy?   It was none other than the banana peel.  As the Syracuse Standard stated on November 11, 1890, “Another death has been added to the already long list of casualties caused by that terror of the city sidewalks, the banana peel.”

The man was Thomas Hughes, a contractor and stone mason, living with his wife and five children on East Adams St. in the City of Syracuse.  He was born in Ireland, around 1848 and moved to Syracuse circa 1869 or 1870.   At the time of Mr. Hughes’ death at age 42, his children ranged in age from 11 to 20.  The fate of his widow, Mary Hughes, and family is uncertain but it seems she ultimately left Syracuse, as she is not listed in the Syracuse city directories after 1894.  

This article was discovered while doing family research for one of the patrons at the OHA Research Center.  Two things that were learned on reading this:  first, the inevitable slipping on the banana peel is not just for cartoons and clowns, and secondly, this was not an uncommon or unheard of occurrence.  It was not an isolated incident, as one might assume.  Upon further research into this banana peel phenomenon, it seems they were quite the nuisance for city pedestrians.  As one article put it “The guileless banana peel can down anything but the thermometer.”  (Syracuse Daily Standard, August 14, 1885).

Other headlines refer to the  “Deadly Banana Peel”, and  “The Invincible Banana Peel.”  Another tells the gruesome tale of a young man who slipped on a banana peel and fell under the wheels of the street car he was attempting to board.  Not only did newspapers announce tragic accidents related to troubles caused by banana peels, but I also found narratives, poems, and editorials.


One writer for The Post-Standard had these strong words to say about those who litter the streets with the dangerous banana peels:  “If the strains and sprains and broken bottoms occasioned by falls upon banana peels thrown carelessly about on the Syracuse sidewalks might be suffered by the fellows who throw the peels, there would be no fault found, but it is a case, like many another, wherein the innocent is made to suffer for the guilty.  The throwing of banana peel on the sidewalk is an exhibition of reckless brutality; and the man or woman caught doing it should be rated as a brute.”  (The Post-Standard, October 17, 1899).  It’s interesting that what is, today, used solely as a comedy gag was once a serious safety issue facing our city.


The best article by far that shows the gravity of this menace to walkers everywhere is actually an advertisement for shoes.  “The Banana Peel which at the beginning of the present century was the most dangerous enemy one could meet upon the public highway, is about to lose its Death-Dealing Qualities.  G. D. Wallace, 64 South Salina, has perfected a process by which all boots, shoes, rubbers, etc., sold at his establishment are rendered Peel Proof.  Purchase here, thereby Insuring yourself against accidents and perhaps an Early Grave.”  This advertisement appeared in the Evening Herald on September 20, 1883.    I wonder if those poor banana peel victims knew about Mr. Wallace’s revolutionary shoe design; perhaps if they had, tragedy could have been averted.

The insidious nature of a carelessly dropped banana peel was common knowledge to Syracusans of yesteryear and their contemporaries.  They knew that, despite the sometimes  comical aspects of slipping on a banana peel, it had the potential of bringing calamity and misfortune into people’s lives.  Although this banana peel trivia is slightly amusing, I will definitely steer clear of any thoughtlessly discarded banana peels in my path from now on.


By Sarah Kozma


The Origins of the “Salt City”

Syracuse earned the nickname of “Salt City” because of its salt mines.


Fact:  Syracuse never had salt mines; rather, Syracuse’s prosperous salt industry was due to its salt springs.  These salt springs were mainly located on the southern end of Onondaga Lake.  The salty brine was processed in two ways, solar evaporation and boiling.  In the solar evaporation method, the salt water was pumped into large, shallow vats and exposed to the sun for a few weeks, but they had to be covered whenever it rained.  As the water evaporated, salt was raked up and then packaged for shipping.  This process produced coarse salt.   The boiling method produced fine salt.  In this process, the salt water was pumped into a salt block and boiled in large cauldrons that were heated from beneath.  As the water boiled off, the remaining salt was scooped out and made ready for shipping.  Syracuse was a top salt producer in the country for much of the 19th century.

Learn more about the Syracuse salt industry in one of our newly produced Historic Onondaga Creekwalk videos below:

A Syracuse Connection: Slap Shot, Bob Costas, and the Real Olgi Ogilthrope

Syracuse has more of a connection to the cult hockey movie Slap Shot than just being filmed at the War Memorial Arena. NBC’s Bob Costas, Syracuse University alum and former Syracuse Blazers play by play announcer, recounts his time with the real Olgi Ogilthorpe, minor league tough guy Bill “Goldie” Goldthorpe for the Blazers, in a conversation with former NHL player, coach, and general manager Mike Milbury during the first Winter Classic in Buffalo, New York.

Legend has it, Bill Goldthorpe was cast to play the role of Ogilthrope in the movie, but due to an incident in the locker room he did not get the part.

(Skip to 3:06)

For those who haven’t seen Slap Shot, here’s Olgi Ogilthorpe’s introduction into the movie and the ensuing fight, typical in many “old time hockey” games at the minor league level.


In an interview with Mike Ortiz of the Fansided network a little more than three years ago, Costas explains how he got his job as the Syracuse Blazers announcer:

Mike Ortiz: How did you get a job as the Syracuse Blazers announcer?

Bob Costas: Well I was a Senior at Syracuse University and there announcer that went to school with me that was older than me got a job in Cincinnati just before the season was going to begin and he recommended me as his successor and they didn’t have that much time to be choosey; A they only had a week and B they were only paying 30 dollars a game so they were going to be looking for a young guy and a local guy and I kind of finessed my way into the job and I really didn’t have much experience broadcasting hockey but I kind of faked it in the early stages until I got the hang of it.”

Today in History: A “Giant” Fraud

cardiff-giant---removalijpg-cac0ed07aabb2ce7145 Years Ago: On October 16th 1869, a 10-foot tall, 3000 pound “petrified giant” was discovered on the farm of William Newell in Cardiff, New York, just south of Syracuse by some men hired to dig a well on the farm. Newell covered the giant with a tent and charged people to view it. The giant attracted large crowds paying as much as 50 cents each and drew national attention. A substantial offer by Entertainer P.T. Barnum for the giant was turned down so he made one of his own. Both were declared frauds shortly after. The original Cardiff Giant is now on display at the New York Historical Society’s Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, NY.

Today in History: Gretzky Breaks Howe’s Scoring Record

Wayne_Gretzky_1997Today in hockey history, Wayne Gretzky, also known as “The Great One,” broke Gordie Howe’s record of 1,850 career points by recording 3 points (2 goals, 1 assist), including the game winning goal. It took Gretzky only 10 years to break Howe’s record.

It took Howe 26.

Gretzky’s first assist tied the record and later in the the game, his first goal of the game broke the record and pushed the game into overtime. The Great One later scored the game winning goal to give the Los Angeles Kings a 5-4 victory over the Edmonton Oilers, the team he started his career with in 1979-1980.

Gretzky retired in 1999 as a member of the New York Rangers with a total of 2,857 career points (894 goals and 1,963 assists) in 20 regular seasons. Gretzky has more assists than the next person on the all-time list (his longtime teammate in Edmonton Mark Messier) has points (1,887).

But, did you know Phil Esposito, who is 10th all time in the NHL in points, started his professional career with the Syracuse Braves? In Esposito’s one season with the Syracuse Braves, he manged 90 points (36 goals, 54 assists) in 71 games. That was good enough to get him a 27 game stint in the NHL with the Chicago Blackhawks.

From 1963 to 1981, Esposito amassed 1,590 points (717 goals, 873 assists) in the NHL, winning two Stanley Cups with the Boston Bruins in 1970 and 1972 and named to the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1984.

Inside the OHA Collection: Egyptian Artifacts in Syracuse

IMG_4416This mummified hand is from an Egyptian girl, the daughter of a priest who died in the 13th century B.C.. Dr. John Van Duyn of Syracuse visited Thebes in 1907 and while observing an archaeological excavation, bought this hand. Duyn donated the hand to the OHA collection in 1908.

During the 19th century, and into the early 20th century, Americans were fascinated with Egyptian cultural items. Similar to Renaissance and Gothic revivals, the Egyptian revival sparked a new wave of decorative arts in homes across the United States, though it was mainly for those that could afford such eccentric items.

The Richardson-Bates house, located in Oswego, New York, is a great example of Egyptian revival, mixing in a bit of northern Italian architecture and 19th century artwork, too. Learn more about Egyptain revival, here.


More on Dr. John Van Duyn courtesy of the Syracuse Herald, January 15th, 1934:

“Grand old man” of medical profession succumbs after 60 years’ service in Syracuse; served in two wars

Dr. John Van Duyn, “the Grand Old Man” of the medical profession in Syracuse and Onondaga county, with a record of service in theCcivil War and the World War (I) and nearly 60 years in practice as a physician and surgeon here, died at 1:30 o’clock this morning at his home, 466 James Street.

Duyn was 90 years of age July 21, 1933, and until the end of his life retained noteworthy power over the faculties which gained distinction for him during his active career. He was the oldest living alumnus of Princeton University, where he was graduated in the class of 1862. In service as a United States medical cadet in the Civil War, he gained his first experience as a surgeon at the front.

Past 73 years of age in 1918, he accompanied his son, Dr. Edward S. Van Duyn overseas, in connection with the establishment of Base Hosptiat 31 at Contrexieville, by what was known as the Van Duyn unit, chiefly comprising of Syracusans.

“Dr. John” as he was known among thousands of families in Syracuse, began his medical service in Syracuse as assistant superintendent of the Syracuse State School, where his grandson, Dr. John Van Duyn is now following in his footsteps, the third generation of the family in the healing profession. Dr. Van Duyn is survived by his son, Dr. Edward S. Van Duyn, his daughter Mrs. E. F. Southworth, nine grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Mrs. Sarah Faulks Van Duyn died in 1916 and a son, Wilbur Van Duyn died in 1930.”