Ervin Edgar Ewell.

Exhibit of the Bureau of chemistry at the Pan-American exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901 online

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Washington, D. C., July 1, 1901.

SIR: I have the honor to transmit to you herewith the manuscript
of a description of the exhibit of the Bureau of Chemistry at the
Pan-American Exposition, Buffalo, N. Y., 1901, with the request that
it be published as Bulletin No. 63 of the Bureau of Chemistry.

H. W. WILEY, Chemist.

Secretary of Agriculture.



Introduction 7

Exhibit of pure and adulterated foods. By W. D. Bigelow 7

Beet-sugar industry. By E. E. Ewell 14

Exhibit of road-material laboratory. By Logan Waller Page 25


PLATE I. Diagram of the floor plan of the north wing of the United States

Government building, Pan-American Exposition _ Frontispiece.

II. Fig. 1, abrasion machine; fig. 2, ball mill ___ 24

III. Briquette machine 26

IV. Impact machine 26




The exhibit of the Bureau of Chemistry will be found in the central
part of the north wing of the Government building. It has been so
planned as to illustrate three of the important features of the work of
the Bureau, namely, the study of pure and adulterated foods, the
beet-sugar industry, and the testing of road-making materials. It
was impracticable to include in the exhibit a number of lines of
investigation which are now in process or which have been completed
during recent years. The results of many of these have been pub-
lished, and are shown in a collection of publications which forms a
prominent feature of the exhibit. These will be found on the table
marked " 1." (See PI. I, frontispiece.) Since 1883, 62 bulletins and 7
small pamphlets, designated as circulars, have been issued, contain-
ing in all 7,989 pages. Numerous contributions have been made by
members of the Bureau to the Yearbook of the Department of Agri-
culture. The reports of sugar-beet investigations since 1897 have
been published as a part of the special report to Congress on this
subject. The results of the food investigations hitherto published are
contained in the nine parts of Bulletin 13 (1,374 pages). In addition
to the work reported in the regular publications of the Bureau, a con-
siderable amount of research work has been done which has been
reported from time to time in various scientific periodicals.

Much of the time of the working force of the Bureau is required
for cooperative work carried on with or at the request of other
branches of the Department of Agriculture and the other Executive
Departments of the Government.



In this exhibit it is desired to illustrate principles and not to call
attention to individual frauds. Interest would have been added had
it seemed best to display all the samples under their original labels.
It is apparent, however, that such a policy would have been unjust
to all manufacturers of pure foods whose goods were not exhibited,



and would have discriminated against adulterated foods exhibited in
favor of those omitted. It seemed essential, therefore, to transfer all
samples to uniform glass bottles, and thus avoid discrimination with
its consequent injustice. On 'approaching the exhibit its most con-
spicuous feature is the series of silk fabrics, dyed with the aniline
coloring matter contained in a large assortment of foods and food
adjuncts. The method by which these fabrics were dyed precludes
the possibility of the presence of any vegetable coloring matter. The
color of the fabric is due in every case to aniline color added to the
food as an adulterant.

CASE 2. 1

The top shelf contains samples of substances which are used to
adulterate alcoholic liquors and vinegar. The three samples of vine-
gar flavor, though given different names, are identical in composi-
tion. It is intended that this article shall be added to dilute acetic
acid, which is then artificially colored and the product sold as cider
vinegar or wine vinegar. Although the mixture thus formed does
not closely resemble pure vinegar, it is sold in large quantities in
localities where food laws are not enforced.

It is well known that alcoholic liquors soften with age, and various
devices are employed to give new liquors the flavor of old. Among
other methods may be mentioned the addition of various chemicals,
of which the aging oil on this shelf is an illustration.

The alcoholic liquors on the market are sometimes artificially pre-
pared by flavoring and coloring diluted alcohol. The peach-brandy
essence shown on the same shelf is sold for the manufacture of peach
brandy. It is directed to mix together 40 gallons of proof spirit, one-
half pound of this essence, 1 quart of sugar sirup, and a sufficient
amount of coloring matter advertised by this same firm to give the
desired color.

The bead oil which is exhibited on the same shelf is a solution of
soap which is sometimes added to distilled liquors to produce a
"bead," and thus give the article the appearance of age.

Hop extract, a sample of which is shown, is often obtained by
extracting inferior hops, and the exhausted residue is then sometimes
placed on the market as untreated hops.

Flavoring extracts and soda-water sirups. The second and third
shelves of this case are devoted to an exhibit of flavoring extracts,
soda-water sirups, etc. The labels are, for the most part, a sufficient
explanation of the samples on these shelves, but especial attention may
be called to the practice of substituting tonka beans for vanilla beans
in the preparation of this extract. The use of artificial flavoring
material or mixtures of cheaper substances in place of vanilla is also
commonly practiced. Certainly the most reprehensible practice in

1 See PI. I, frontispiece.


connection with the manufacture of flavoring extracts is the use of
methyl alcohol, or wood spirits, as a solvent in place of ordinary
alcohol. Cases of death resulting from the use of lemon extract con-
taining wood spirits are of common occurrence, and although such
results follow the use of extracts as a beverage instead of the use for
which they are intended, it is still true that an article of such toxic
properties should never be added to food or food adjuncts. In this
connection it should be stated that the poisonous properties of wood
spirits are not due solely to the methyl alcohol they contain, but to
impurities that always occur in the commercial article.

Sweetening materials and saccharine foods. On the fourth shelf of
this case are exhibited samples illustrating the most prevalent forms
of adulteration used in connection with sugar and sweetening mate-
rials. One sample each of granulated sugar and "A" sugar is shown.
These substances are rarely adulterated. The prevalent notions of
admixture of sand and clay are entirely without foundation.

Adulterations do occur in some cases, however, and the sugars
adulterated with glucose and saccharin exhibited 011 this shelf are
now sold to a limited extent in various parts of the country. ,

Saccharin is placed on the market in several degrees of purity, the
highest of which is about five hundred times as sweet as sugar. It is
an artificial preparation manufactured from coal tar and possessing an
intensely sweet taste. Saccharin passes through the body unchanged.
It is therefore of value for sweetening foods for patients who are not
allowed to receive sugar, but it has no food value whatever.

Five samples of glucose and grape sugar, illustrating the principal
grades on the market, are shown on the same shelf. The liquid or
sirupy preparations are commercially known as glucose, while those
that are prepared in the solid state, though obtained from the same
source, are known as grape sugar or glucose sugar. This product
is used extensively with all varieties of sweetened foods.

A large percentage of the various table sirups on the market and
many strained honeys are sweetened partly or entirely with glucose.
Several samples of these articles containing glucose are exhibited on
the same shelf.

Glucose is used in the manufacture of jellies, jams, and marmalades.
The claim is commonly made that its use in such products is due not
so much to its cheapness as to the fact that preparations containing
it have less tendency to crystallize or ' ' candy " than those prepared
entirely with cane sugar.

Cacao and cacao preparations. On the fifth shelf of this case two
cacao or cocoa pods are exhibited, from one of which a segment has
been removed, showing the cacao seed or cocoa bean in place. Five
samples of these seeds grown in different localities are also exhibited.
Chocolate is prepared by grinding the shelled cacao seed or cocoa
bean, mixing the ground product to a pulp, and molding. It may be


either sweetened or unsweetened. The same product is used in the
preparation of cacao, or cocoa, as it is commonly called, after the
extraction of a portion of the fat. Both cacao and chocolate are
largely adulterated, cacao shells, wheat flour, sago flour, and other
materials of like nature being used for this purpose. Two samples
of adulterated cacao are shown on this shelf.

Coffee. A large part of the space on shelves 5 and 6 is occupied by
samples of coffee and coffee substitutes. A number of samples of
standard varieties of coffee are shown, both in the green and roasted
condition. A striking similarity will be noticed in many cases
between high-priced and low-priced samples of green coffee, while
with roasted coffees this similarity is so great that eyen experts are
frequently unable to distinguish them by their physical appearance.
As illustrations of this may be noted the Java Peaberry, which sold
at wholesale at the time this exhibit was collected at 20 cents a pound,
and the Mexican and Santos Peaberry, which were sold at 13| and 12
cents, respectively.

Again, the Bourbon Santos, which is grown in the province of San-
tos, Brazil, from the seed of the Arabian Mocha, closely resembles,
as might be expected, the Arabian Mocha coffee. Its flavor is very
different, however, and it commands a lower price in the market.
These illustrations are sufficient to illustrate the principle involved,
though they might be multiplied at will.

A large part of the alleged high-grade coffee sold by the trade
belongs certainly to a much cheaper class of coffee than that for
which it is sold. At the same time good coffee can always be
obtained from reliable grocers.

On shelf 6 of this case a large number of roasted coffees are shown
which illustrate even more strongly than green coffees the similarity
of the high and low grades. Several mixtures of cereals, pea hulls,
etc., which are sold as coffee, are also exhibited on this shelf, as well
as one sample of artificial coffee beans which is composed entirely of

Flour. Owing to the firm attitude taken by American millers, the
adulteration of staple brands of flour is practically unknown; still
the samples of flour exhibited on shelf 6 are of considerable interest.
The milling industry was seriously threatened several years ago by
the extensive adulteration of wheat flour with a finely ground indian
corn preparation which was sold as " flourine." The influence of this
fraud in the price of flour was so disastrous that an organized fight
was inaugurated by the millers and resulted in the passage of a reve-
nue act which taxed and required the proper branding of mixtures of
this nature. The result of this law was most wholesome, and the
practice of adulterating wheat flour with indian corn products was
quickly and effectually checked.

The ground soapstone, of which a sample is exhibited on this shelf,


was quite extensively advertised as a flour adulterant, but appears to
have found but little or no sale for that purpose. It is interesting to
note that the originator of this swindle is now serving a prison sen-
tence for fraudulent use of the United States mails. One form of
flour adulteration which is still extensively practised is the substitu-
tion of ordinary flour for gluten flour. It is unfortunate, but this
substitution is commonly practiced. If gluten flour is of value in the
diet of invalids, it is highly important that a patient should be able
to obtain the article prescribed by his physician.

CASE 3. !

Spices. Spices probably afford a more fruitful field for adultera-
tion than any other class of foods or food adjuncts. Some of the
leading spice grinders make a practice of furnishing spices at almost
any price that is desired, and the amount of foreign matter, which
ordinarily consists of such materials as ground cereals, cocoanut
shells, olive stones, sandal wood, mustard hulls, clove stems, linseed
meal, and similar substances, is regulated according to the price of
the goods sold. At the same time there are many grinders who prac-
tice no form of adulteration, and who do not handle any substance
whatever, for the sophistication of their wares. It is unfortunately
true, however, that a large percentage of the ground spices on the
market is adulterated. Mixtures are even sold which are prepared
for the express purpose of adulterating spices. Their color and physi-
cal appearance are practically identical with the spices they are
intended to replace, but they contain no spicy flavor whatever. A
full set of these fillers (marked "P. I).") is exhibited on the first and
second shelves of this case.

The adulteration of spices, however, is not confined to the ground
article. Unground pepper often receives an addition of stems, sticks,
and pepper shells, which are removed in a preparation of white pep-
per. Cloves are often mixed with broken clove stems and pimento.
Several varieties of spices are sometimes distilled w r ith steam for the
preparation of volatile oil, and the exhausted residue sold as pure
spices. Examples of these various forms of adulteration are shown
on the first three shelves of this case.

Even in pure, unground spices there is a great difference in grade
and consequently in price. It is manifestly impossible to form a cor-
rect estimate of the wares of two grocers by comparing the prices for
which they sell.

Food preservatives. Among the most objectionable forms of food
adulteration may be mentioned the use of chemical food preserva-
tives. The compounds usually used for this purpose are salicylic,
benzoic, and boric acids, and their sodium compounds, formaldehyde

1 See PI. I, frontispiece.


and sulphites. Several others, such as ammonium fluorid, pyrolig-
iieous acid, beta naphthol, and abrastol, are used to a limited extent.
These substances may be divided into two classes, those which are
undoubtedly injurious, such as formaldehyde, salicylic acid, and sul-
phites, and those whose toxic action is disputed, like borax and ben-
zoic acid. The addition to foods of substances belonging to the first
class should be prohibited. The others should be used only with food
that is so marked as to inform the purchaser of their presence. Alleged
new discoveries, which are claimed to be entirely wholesome, are now
extensively sold for the preservation of food. Without exception,
these products consist of chemicals (often mixtures of two or more)
which are well known to the scientific world, and many of which are
familiar to the general public. A number of commercial preserva-
tives, and of the chemical substances of which they are composed,
are exhibited on the fourth shelf of this case.

It is claimed by those interested in their use that the amount of
preservatives added to foods is so small as to be unimportant. It is
certainly true, however, that the amount added sometimes greatly
exceeds that which is believed to be necessary by those who favor the
use of chemical preservatives. On shelf 3 of the fourth case are
exhibited a series of samples of preservative chemicals which were
actually recovered from foods.

Canned vegetables. Among the most important abuses which are
practiced in the preparation of canned vegetables is the use of an
excessive amount of water, and of mature vegetables which are
soaked before canning and placed on the market as green vegetables.
Many States require that cans containing soaked goods shall have
the word "soaked" printed in conspicuous type on the label. The
tendency of some firms to evade pure-food legislation was illus-
trated on the original labels of some of the samples exhibited on the
shelves 4 and 5 of this case. These labels attempted to comply with
the letter of the law above mentioned by publishing the following
sentence: "These goods are carefully prepared from selected stock
and soaked in artesian well water." The practice of preserving in
leguminous vegetables a bright green color by the use of copper sul-
phate (blue vitriol) is illustrated by samples on the same shelves. In
this connection it may be stated that some State laws require that
vegetables containing copper salts shall be labeled with, or bear a
paster stating, the amount of copper in each can.

Baking powder and baking powder chemicals. Several illustrations
of the frauds in this class of food adjuncts are given on the fifth
shelf of this case. Whatever standards may be adopted for baking
powders; the sale of an article whose composition is markedly differ-
ent from that represented by the label must always be regarded as
fraudulent. Insoluble matter, such as gypsum and talc, should not
enter into the composition of substances of this nature.

Salad oils. Olive, peanut, sunflower, and cotton-seed oils are all
used extensively under their own names as foods, and no less than 15
oils are used as salad oil or to adulterate olive oil. The sale' of a
cheaper for a more expensive oil must be regarded as fraudulent


One of the important questions in connection with the preparation
of foods is the extent to which foreign coloring matters may be legiti-
mately employed. In most European countries it is forbidden to color
artificially any substance which has a distinct color of its own; for
instance, wine and fruit products must be sold without the addition
of any foreign coloring matter. At the same time all countries per-
mit the addition of some harmless colors, often specified by name, to
foods and especially confections which are themselves colorless, but
are ordinarily artificially colored. In some cases colors whose use
with foods is permitted are not only specified by name, but the method
by which such colors may be manufactured is given. This is done to
exclude the use of coloring matters in whose preparation poisonous
substances, such as arsenic, are employed. The fact that some of our
common articles of food are often artificially colored at the present
time is shown by the dyed fabrics displayed in the top of the three

Heavy metals. The use of tin cans as hermetically sealed recep-
tacles for food has been of incalculable benefit in cheapening almost
every article of food and prolonging the season of consumption for
those which otherwise could be had only a comparatively short time.
At the same time it must not be forgotten that an appreciable amount
of heavy metals is often dissolved by the more acid varieties of food.
The amount that is so dissolved depends on the age of the sample, the
grade of tin plate employed, and the method by which the can was
manufactured. Tin plate containing a large amount of lead is much
more readily attacked than plate which is nearly free from lead. The
plate which is manufactured by the oil process is more resistant to
acids than that made by the acid process. Cans in whose manufac-
ture zinc chlorid is used, often retain that salt between the seams, to
be given up to the contents of the can. It is fortunate that the method
of soldering with oil and resin is now usually employed.

Fruit products. On the fourth shelf of this case is given an inter-
esting collection of jelly and jam samples. The forms of adultera-
tion to which this class of foods is subject are well indicated on the
labels. This exhibit includes pure fruit preparations and products
thickened with starch, sweetened with glucose and saccharin, pre-
served with salicylic acid, benzoic acid, etc. , and artificially colored.
A favorite practice is the preparation of jam from the refuse pulp of
jelly manufacture. A sample of raspberry seeds found in "currant
jam " is shown on the shelf above. The prices paid for these samples


are worthy of note. In this class of goods, as in others, adulteration
is caused largely by the demand for cheap articles. A purchaser
who pays no more for jelly than the glass which holds it and the sugar
it is supposed to contain are worth should not expect a first-class

Little comment is necessary on the canned goods shown on shelf 5
of this case. The differences in value which attend the use of differ-
ent sirups are not apparent to the eye. Even the quality of fruit
employed can not always be determined by appearance alone. The
branding of one variety with the name of another and labeling the
goods of one locality as coming from another are always reprehen-
sible. In this connection the recent court decisions forbidding cer-
tain Baltimore canners to label their goods as California products
are of interest.



The Department of Agriculture, through the Division of Chemistry,
which July 1 was raised to the rank of a bureau, has been endeavor-
ing to develop our domestic sugar industry for more than two decades.
During the last ten years its efforts have been devoted principally to
the development of the beet-sugar industry. Since 1897 this industry
has grown rapidly and may now be considered to be on a permanent
footing, as approximately $25,000,000 are invested in the manufac-
ture of beet sugar in this country. This does not include the large
amount of capital invested in the growing of sugar beets.

The development and present condition of the industry in the
United States is shown by a collection of statistical tables and photo-
graphs (pis. 1 to 40, referred to below), mounted in "wing frames"
and designated as No. 5 on the diagram. (See frontispiece.) An
effort was made in preparing the collection of photographs to illus-
trate as fully as possible all phases of the sugar industry from the
production of the seed from which the beets are grown to the market-
ing of the sugar.

The modern sugar beet of high sugar content has been developed
and its present high quality has been maintained by careful selection
of the mother beets, from which seed is produced. At the beginning
of the century the sugar beet contained only 5 to 6 per cent of sugar.
The beets delivered to American factories in 1899 contained an aver-
age of 14.5 per cent of sugar, while the average of those grown in
California was 15.9. Many single beets have been produced which
contained more than 20 per cent of sugar, and the product of some
entire fields has been found to contain nearly that amount. Until
recently the seeds used for sugar-beet growing in the United States
have been imported from the seed farms of Europe. The production
of high-grade beet seed has now commenced in this country, and a


sample of seeds grown by the Utah Sugar Company, of Lehi, Utah,
is exhibited in the case No. 6. (See PL I, frontispiece.) The produc-
tion of sugar-beet seed has also been undertaken by the Spreckels
Sugar Company, Spreckels, Cal., the Peninsular Sugar Refining Com-
pany, at Caro, Mich., and perhaps elsewhere.

Plates 5 to 13 of the exhibit illustrate the appearance of typical
sugar beets and the methods used in this country for their cultivation,
including the preparation of the land, the sowing of the seed, and

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Online LibraryErvin Edgar EwellExhibit of the Bureau of chemistry at the Pan-American exposition, Buffalo, New York, 1901 → online text (page 1 of 3)