What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? Exhibit at National Constitution Center

If you’re into food and government, this new exhibit at the National Constitution Center will be right up your alley! I’m posting about it because I think it will be interesting and educational and I think you might find it interesting, too!

What's Cooking, Uncle Sam? Exhibit at National Constitution Center

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet Exhibit Opens on Friday, October 9th at The National Constitution Center

On Friday, October 9, 2015, the National Constitution Center opens a tasteful new exhibit, What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet. Visitors can travel from “farm to table” as they discover how world events, innovation, government regulations, research, and economics have shaped what we eat and why.

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet will remain on display at the National Constitution Center through January 3, 2016. This exhibition was created by the National Archives Museum, Washington, DC, with support from the Foundation of the National Archives. The national tour of What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? is made possible by Mars, Incorporated.

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? uncovers how the government’s efforts to influence what Americans eat has led to unexpected consequences, dismal failures, and life-saving successes. The exhibit takes a thematic approach, inviting visitors to “dig in” to four broad topic areas: Farm, Factory, Kitchen, and Table.


Government has had a profound effect on the way farms are run and what they produce. The Department of Agriculture scoured the globe for new plant varieties, researched hybrid crops, distributed seeds to farmers, and controlled the prices of farm commodities. Visitors can learn how programs and legislation transformed agriculture in America.

Section highlights include:

  • A musical program in support of the Office of Price Administration performed by Pete Seeger and others.
  • A hybrid corn crossing plot. Hybrid corn is considered by many to be one of the most important discoveries in the history of farming.


Government’s attempts to ensure the safety of an industrialized food supply have changed the nature of foods, production methods, labeling, and advertising. Public outcry over swill milk, rancid meat, and substandard tea led to the passing of the Pure Food and Drug Act and the creation of U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Food producers quickly capitalized on new regulations, touting their products as “pure,” “enriched,” and “unadulterated.” Visitors can see how the government embraced advances in food technologies, performed research on food production, and secured patents for some of their methods.

Section highlights include:

  • Upton Sinclair’s letter to Theodore Roosevelt on the hazards of the meatpacking industry.
  • Lab records and photographs of the “Poison Squad” research.


As scientists made discoveries about nutrition, the government sought to change the eating habits of Americans. Most efforts aimed to reform the homemaker through nutrition education and cooking classes.

Section highlights include:

  • Aunt Sammy’s (Uncle Sam’s wife’s) Radio Recipes.
  • 1931 “Signs of Good Nutrition” poster.


Although many of its overt attempts to change our diets were unsuccessful, the government did succeed in changing and homogenizing American tastes in other ways. Meals served to soldiers and school children instilled food habits and preferences that persist today. The diets and entertaining style of the Presidents and First Ladies were also influential, as many Americans wrote the White House for recipes and incorporated presidential favorites into their family meals.

Section highlights include:

  • Rosalyn Carter’s menus for State dinners.
  • President Johnson’s famous Pedernales River chili recipe.

What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam? The Government’s Effect on the American Diet is on loan from the National Archives Records Administration in Washington, D.C., until January 3, 2016.

The National Constitution Center is located at 525 Arch Street on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall.  The Center is open 9:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Sunday. General admission is $14.50 for adults, $13 for seniors, students with ID, and youth (ages 13-18), $8 for children (ages 4-12), and is free for active military. For more information, call 215-409-6700 or visit

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