For our second post in the month of October, the IDHH would like to feature the audio recordings of the Dorothy Vann Collection of Oral Histories. Created by amateur historian Dorothy Vann in the 1970s and 1980s, these recordings document the history of the North Park neighborhood in Chicago and the Swedish immigrants who called the area home beginning in the late nineteenth century. Topics include family and community history in the North Park neighborhood, campus life at North Park University, and the influence of the Evangelical Covenant Church in the area. The recordings highlight a range of members from the community such as a former North Park University librarian, an individual associated with the Manhattan Project, and two sisters who were ballet dancers with the Chicago Civic Opera Company.
Dorothy Vann’s oral histories are part of the Evangelical Covenant Church and North Park University Archives Repository located at North Park University in Chicago. Founded by the Swedish Evangelical Covenant Church in 1891, North Park University quickly became an educational and religious hub for Swedish immigrants on Chicago’s North Side, offering theological education and boasting a location close to the nearby Swedish Covenant Hospital. Vann’s recordings provide a distinctive lens on this historical period, as the project lead and most of the interview subjects are women.
“As American as apple pie.” While the first recorded recipe for apple pie was written in England in 1381, this quotation has become synonymous with Americana and speaks to a country’s love of the versatile baked dish. Centuries before this catchy phrase was featured in advertisements of the Roaring Twenties, colonists of the fledgling United States found their wheat from England unsuited to North American soil and instead channeled their small amount of grain for use in pies rather than bread. With their flourishing New England apple orchards, this environment sowed the seeds for a nation’s embrace of the pie as a culinary favorite and cultural signifier.
From springtime fairs to end-of-the-year holidays and festivals, it’s difficult to think of an event or season in which some kind of pie would not be welcome. The dessert is so ubiquitous that ten U.S. states claim a pie as their “official” state dessert, state treat, or state pie. Maine even lists two iconic pies for the state, claiming blueberry pie as the state dessert and whoopie pie as the state treat (though the whoopie pie is not quite a pie and more a type of soft cookie). The IDHH’s own state of Illinois proudly lists the pumpkin pie as the state pie and today produces the most pumpkins used for processed pie filling.
While eating pies may be the more traditional way to enjoy the classic American dessert, some of our favorite items from the collection below show more inventive uses of the dish, from thrown projectile to animal treat: