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Michigan Historical Review, Fall 2006 | Go to article overview

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Let me start with a small confession: In searching for a cover illustration I wanted something reasonably eye-catching. The result is a small adventure in inauthenticity, as there is no known portrait of Pontiac and to my eye everything in the 1921 illustration we chose looks suspiciously neat and tidy for a scene in a frontier fort. The image, from the Detroit Publishing Company Collection at the Library of Congress, offers an orderly reimagining of history with everything in its place. Richard Middleton's article on Pontiac, in contrast, is a fascinating reconstruction of a complex series of military and diplomatic engagements, conventionally called Pontiac's Rebellion, that explores an ambiguity at the heart of these events. What was Pontiac's role? Was he a pan-Indian leader with commanding power, an inspirer and instigator with powers only of persuasion, a renowned local warrior with some wider fame, or something else? As readers will see, a surprisingly rich body of evidence has survived nearly two and a half centuries. This article is part of a book-length study to be published soon.

Although a food issue might have been fun, I can hardly claim that a pair of articles qualifies. Frank Boles's survey of Michigan cookbooks is somewhere between an archival report and a regular article. The Clarke Historical Library has a large exhibit that runs through December 21 to celebrate its hugely expanded cookbook collection. We have yielded to the temptation to publicize this collection further--not with a formal bibliography but with an essay that sketches what we already know about cooking and what researchers might learn by using cookbooks. Recipes are included to illustrate tendencies in cookbooks. We have committed the cardinal sin of reprinting them without taste-testing any, although Frank is threatening to recreate the pork cake for an upcoming reception.

I suspect that Amy Bentley has not tried many of the recipes for adults based on baby foods either. As she demonstrates, baby-food manufacturers were more successful in extending their market downward in age to very young babies. Given that current research finds dangers in extremely early feeding of nonmilk foods, Bentley's article is an important case study in questionable pronouncements by practicing physicians. Commercial pressures combined with entrepreneurial pediatricians' willingness to peddle advice based on their own unevaluated clinical practice rather than controlled studies. Unsurprisingly, baby-food makers were happy to go along with the doctors. Gerber, the industry leader, was one of Michigan's great business successes, an entrepreneurial triumph based on a deceptively simple new line of products.

The same, unfortunately, was not true of Detroit's bicentennial efforts to market itself as the Renaissance city in 1976. …

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