Corn Palaces and Butter Queens

Corn Palaces and Butter Queens: A History of Crop Art and Dairy Sculpture

Pamela H. Simpson
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt9p0
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  • Book Info
    Corn Palaces and Butter Queens
    Book Description:

    Between 1870 and 1930, from state fairs to the world’s fairs, large exhibition buildings were covered with grains, fruits, and vegetables to declare the United States’ rich agricultural abundance. From Teddy Roosevelt’s head sculpted from butter to the Liberty Bell replicated in oranges, Corn Palaces and Butter Queens is a history of one of America’s most beguiling Midwestern art forms.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8143-3
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. INTRODUCTION CORN PALACES, CROP ART, and BUTTER SCULPTURE
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    The Sioux City Corn Palace celebration in 1891 opened with a grand parade. Mounted police units, carriages full of city and county officials, and three marching bands accompanied King Corn and Queen Cerea as they made their triumphal way to the palace. James E. Booge, a local businessman who was president of the organizing committee, played the role of monarch, and Mrs. J. H. Farnsworth, coordinator of the ladies’ groups who had decorated the palace interior, was his consort. Both wore red robes and crowns of corn. The bands played “Hail Columbia” to announce their arrival, and Captain George Kingsnorth,...

  6. 1 BANQUET TABLES to TROPHY DISPLAYS
    (pp. 1-16)

    Written long before corn palaces were built on the Great Plains, Hans Sachs’s description of mythical houses made of cake is a reminder that people have been shaping food into fanciful forms for centuries, both through the imagination of folktales and in literal food-art constructions.¹ In order to understand the history of turn-of-the-century corn palaces, crop art, and butter sculptures, it is necessary to first consider the history of food art. Eating may be a biological necessity, but how one does it involves cultural ritual. This chapter recounts the history of using food for sculptural and architectural constructions and then...

  7. 2 CEREAL ARCHITECTURE
    (pp. 17-52)

    In 1876, Caroline Dall, a correspondent for a Boston newspaper, wrote a series of articles about the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Among the many exhibits she saw, she singled out the Kansas display as the “finest State show on the grounds.” She described the extraordinary nature of the decorations: “You go in under a great Liberty Bell of cereals, eight feet in diameter. Opposite you, on an end wall, the arms of Kansas make the center of an agricultural scene whose beams radiate cotton and cereals.” Edward King, writing for another Boston newspaper, called the display an “admirable temple to...

  8. 3 BUTTER COWS and BUTTER LADIES
    (pp. 53-84)

    Visitors to the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia saw much to amaze them, but one item that drew their attention was a bas-relief portrait,Dreaming Iolanthe(Figure 3.1). The head-and-shoulders rendering of the heroine of a popular nineteenth-century lyric drama was repeatedly praised as “the most beautiful and unique exhibit” at the fair.¹ Unique it was. A farmwife from Helena, Arkansas, Caroline S. Brooks (1840–1913), had sculpted the bust in butter. Using one milk pan to hold and frame the sculpture and a second filled with ice to keep the butter cool, she managed to preserve the delicate, perishable...

  9. 4 AMERICA’S WORLD’S FAIRS, 1893–1915
    (pp. 85-112)

    In October 1893, theWorld’s Columbian Exposition Illustrated, one of the newspapers devoted to the Chicago World’s Fair, reported on the exhibits in the Palace of Agriculture, saying that “never before at an exhibition in this or any other country has there been such a widespread [use of the ornamental] work done in grains and grasses.” The writer found it “something really wonderful to those not familiar with the possibilities of such ingredients for decorative purposes” and concluded, “The possibilities of the grains and grasses as materials for decorative purposes seem to be infinite in number. . . . The...

  10. 5 BOOSTERS, SARACENS, and INDIANS
    (pp. 113-138)

    Ignatius Donnelly’s 1864 speech before the U.S. House of Representatives in support of an immigration bill incorporates many of the ideas fundamental to the period’s western expansion: that America had plenty of unsettled land available (a belief Native Americans would contest); that immigration from Europe was necessary for the development of the country; and that there was a hand of Providence that had “chosen” both this land and this people for a special role in the development of civilization.¹ It is easy today to condemn this view and the attitudes of manifest destiny it represents, yet there is no doubt...

  11. 6 MRS. BROOKS and PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT
    (pp. 139-160)

    Butter sculpture is a medium strongly associated with women. Traditionally, women were in charge of butter making, and they were predominant among the early butter sculptors. Even the nineteenth-century language used to describe butter and butter sculpture evoked feminine ideals. Connections between women, domesticity, and butter were also reflected in the subjects of butter sculpture: milkmaids, cows, children, and flowers. But there was another side to butter sculpture, and that was a masculinized image that emerged in a series of butter portraits of Theodore Roosevelt created between 1898 and 1910. This chapter explores both aspects of this gendered identification and...

  12. 7 AN ONGOING TRADITION
    (pp. 161-180)

    This study primarily focuses on the period between 1870 and 1930, but the traditions of cereal architecture, crop art, and butter sculpture persisted into the second half of the twentieth century. Oscar Howe made important contributions to the iconography of the origins of corn at the Mitchell Corn Palace, and a range of professional and amateur artists continued to practice modern versions of crop art and butter sculpture at the Minnesota and Iowa State Fairs. To explore this legacy, the story first goes back to Mitchell to consider the role that the modern palace played in helping to shape new...

  13. CONCLUSION ICONS of ABUNDANCE
    (pp. 181-196)

    What lessons are there in this history? This study of corn palaces, crop art, and butter sculpture has addressed questions about the origin of food constructions, the development of butter and crop art in the 1870–1930 period, their meaning in the context of midwestern expansion, and their survival in the latter twentieth century. It has also explored the gendered images associated with butter-art products. This Conclusion explores the underlying values represented in food-art constructions. Three themes seem to recur. First, food art may have begun on the tables of the wealthy and powerful, but its audiences democratically expanded at...

  14. NOTES
    (pp. 197-228)
  15. PUBLICATION HISTORY
    (pp. 229-230)
  16. INDEX
    (pp. 231-248)
  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-250)
  18. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)