Monday, April 25, 2011

The Clabber Girl Museum

The Clabber Girl Museum in Terre Haute, Indiana, is a delight for anyone interested in American material culture. Clabber Girl: as in baking powder, a product of Hulman & Company, which began as a grocery wholesaler in the mid-nineteenth century. The 1893 Hulman Building houses the museum, whose contents are, well, varied: advertising signage, a hansom cab, a massive generator wheel, old telephones, pneumatic tubes for interoffice memos, a 1912 Burroughs adding machine, a Remington manual typewriter, ledgers, a walk-in safe, WWII ration books, S&H Green Stamps, a Western Union clock (“Official Time,” it says), and recreations of a Victorian parlor and a 1940s kitchen. Now-defunct Hulman brands stand in boxed and canned majesty on shelves and in vitrines: Dauntless Butter Beans, Farmers Pride Chopped Turnip Greens, Presto Cleanser. My favorite thing: a program from a 1937 Clabber Girl Baking Powder Salesmen’s Dinner Dance. The vegetables of course were canned.

Elaine and I made a second discovery this weekend: driving home, we took an exit we’d never taken and ended up on the charming Lost Bearings Road.

[Clabber: “milk that has naturally clotted on souring” (Oxford New American Dictionary). It was mixed with potash to make a leaven. Clabber Girl Double Acting Baking Powder contains cornstarch, sodium bicarbonate, anhydrous sodium aluminum sulfate and monocalcium phosphate.]

comments: 10

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

Yes, but why the second hyphen (is that the right word?) in "mid-nineteenth-century"? I have a feeling I'm going to get it in the neck now!

Michael Leddy said...

No, that’s my mistake. I’m going to fix it right now.

stefan said...

Barnaby, "get it in the neck" is a wonderful expression!

Michael Leddy said...

Thanks for not giving it to me in the neck, Barnaby and Stefan.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

Michael and Stefan: What do you Americans say in place of "get it in the neck", I wonder?
Incidentally, am I right in thinking that in the US you follow a colon with a capital letter? We don't in England.

Michael Leddy said...

I’d suggest “catch hell.”

I follow Bryan Garner’s Modern American Usage on the colon — no capital unless the colon introduces a series of sentences.

Barnaby Capel-Dunn said...

Thank you, Michael.

Elaine said...

I favor Clabber Girl, but Calumet is also a good baking powder. Baking powder expires, and I never use but about half of it before I have to toss the rest. Know any other uses (aside from baking?)

Michael Leddy said...

Here are some non-baking uses.

Elaine said...

Interesting--but I definitely think they have it mixed up with baking soda (odors, tooth-brushing, etc.) I like the 'test' bit-- I have had some yeast biscuit failures due to older BP. Tsk.