It is a popular tradition to toast the newly wedded bride and groom at the reception that follows the wedding ceremony. Usually, the couple is gifted with a set of two champagne flutes to cherish for the duration of their lives together. There are several styles and shapes of flutes that couples customize to the theme of their wedding. Do you ever wonder why or how this tradition started? 

The Greeks and the Romans were the first to establish the act of toasting during drinking events. The Greeks and Romans known to offer wine and food to the ancient gods in request of good health. There are examples of toasting to good health in the ancient manuscripts The Odyssey and The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Toasting accompanies large group of people that drink excessively at an event; usually it would involve the royal or elite class.[1] Countless glasses of wine were raised to the king, to each and every guest, and to lists of absent friends. The term toast itself originated in the 16th century, because people would put pieces of spiced or charred toast in the wine as a “form of hors d’oeuvre” or to make the wine taste better by soaking up the acidity to improve the flavor.[2] From the 18th century onwards the word toast took on the meaning of “drinking to someone’s health” or “drinking to honor someone.”[3] It became poplar during this time for people at celebrations to provide several speeches on the celebration topic. Now, it is customary to raise your glass, clink it with others’, and take a sip of your drink after a toast has been made. This establish the power of tradition because people felt compelled to honor something or someone at special events with a drink that is reserved for these occasions. 

So why is champagne most commonly used for toasting, especially during weddings?Champagne is considered a symbol of class and wealth, which often linked to power. The wine originated in the 1500s within the Valley of Marne about 150 kilometers from Paris.[4] For centuries, champagne was the beverage of the French kings and members of the Royal Court at Versailles.[5] In the 19th century, “Laurent-Perrier ran ads in Britain that name-dropped the members of European nobility who drank its product.”[6] When the commoners were able to get their hands on a bottle they were able to indulge in a tiny bit of luxury and drink what the royals did. Champagne is reserved for an important occasion like a wedding because it is expensive and treated as a delicacy. Champagne is the traditional drink to toast the bride and groom.

Lastly, why is champagne commonly served in a flute? Traditionally in France, champagne was served in a glass called a coupe. The coupe was popular from the early 1700’s until the 1970’s. It is rumored that the coupe is molded after the breast of a Madame de Pompadour (mistress if King Louis XV) or Marie Antoinette (wife of King Louis XVI).[7] Coupe glasses are shallow and have a wide brim. Some say the shape of the glass tends to spill more than typical a wine glass. The flute replaced the coupe because of its beneficial and elegant features. A flute is a tall, slender glass with a deep, tapered bowl. This particular shape is most effective at preserving champagne’s bubbles because of its restrictive opening.[8] Some glass makers “create a rough spot at the very bottom of the glass to collect the bubbles and feed them up to the surface in one pinpointed stream.”[9]  The long stem of the flute encourages the drinker to hold it by the stem, allowing the champagne to remain cold.[10] Wedding toast reflect the power of tradition because it is honoring someone at an event, an alcoholic drink that has been sought out as special, and a drinking vessel that illuminate the special quality of the champagne and the guest of honor. 


[1] Rebecca Rupp, “Cheers: Celebration Drinking is an Ancient Tradition,” National Geographic, published on December 26, 2014, 

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] “The History of Champagne.” In Uncorked: The Science of Champagne Revised Edition. (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press), 2013: 9.

[5] Regan Hofmann, “Coupe d’État: The Rise and Fall of the Champagne Flute,” Punch, published on May 22, 2014,

[6] Ibid.

[7] “The History of Champagne.” In Uncorked: The Science of Champagne Revised Edition (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press), 2013: 31-32.

[8] Ibid, 33.

[9] Regan Hofmann, “Coupe d’État: The Rise and Fall of the Champagne Flute,” Punch, published on May 22, 2014,

[10] Ibid.


By Alexandra M. Dwyer


Wedding Champaign Flute, 1988, Glass and Paint, 8 1/4in x 2 1/4in x 5in. Buffalo, New York, No Accession Number. Photographed by Alexandra Dwyer.


Wedding Champaign Flute, 1988, Glass and Paint, 8 1/4in x 2 1/4in x 5in. Buffalo, New York, No Accession Number. Photographed by Alexandra Dwyer.


Although this teapot is made from glazed earthenware, the mottled green and brown glaze mimics a tortoiseshell pattern. This pattern was popular in mid-18th century Britain, at which time the most notable factory was that of Thomas Whieldon. Due to the popularity of Whieldon’s work, tortoiseshell pattern earthenware has come to be referred to as Whieldon-type ware.
This teapot exemplifies one of the main driving forces of British colonialism: the desire for tea in the 18th and 19th centuries. The acquisition of this commodity came at great costs, mostly incurred not by the British, but by those they colonized. Tea plants are not native to Britain, nor can they be grown there due to the climate. In order to supply the British people with their drink of choice, they had to rely on colonizing and exploiting other places.
In the 18th century, tea had surpassed textiles as the British East India Company’s most valuable commodity.[1] Tea was primarily produced in China at this time. Unfortunately, Britain could not afford to continue paying for the tea in the silver that China wanted, and the island country itself did not produce anything valuable enough to continue trading for tea with China in the quantities it needed. However, the British realized that opium could be the solution to their problems, and so they looked to India.
Following their victory over Indian forces at the Battle of Plassey in 1756, the British began taking over  large areas of India.[2] By 1773, the British East India Company had established a monopoly on “the production and sale of opium in Bengal.”[3]The company would provide interest free cash advances to farmers to pay for their rent, seeds, fertilizer, and other necessities.[4] However, it was difficult for the farmers to actually profit from their sales. The price that the company paid farmers for the opium, about 5 rupees per 5 ounces, “did not even cover the cost of growing it.”[5] If their crop did not cover the sum of their loans, they had to pay the balance themselves, which kept farmers in a cycle of borrowing more money to try to cover their debts.[6] Additionally, only a small portion of the 93.5 million rupees that the opium grown in the Bengal region generated in the 1880s was “reinvested in the Bengali economy.”[7] Most of the profits went to the company and its administrators and collectors in India.
Despite the Emperor of China banning all exports of silver and imports of opium in 1796, the British continued smuggling Indian opium into China to keep up with the increasing demand for tea. Between the mid 17th and 18th centuries, the amount of tea consumed per head in Britain had risen fifteenfold. Whether it was poured from a porcelain, Whieldon-type, or Brown Betty style vessel, tea consumed in 18th century Britain was acquired by the “British Empire using its power and resources to seize the market,” and to manipulate it to suit their needs.[8]

Teapot, glazed earthenware, H: 10in. x W: 13in. x D: 6in. The Farmer’s Museum, Cooperstown, New York, N0002.2009 (24) a-b. Photograph by Emily Leger.

[1]  Collingham, Lizzie. The Taste of Empire: How Britain’s Quest for Food Shaped the Modern World. New York: Basic Books, 2017, 148.

[2] Szczepanski, Kallie. “How British Rule of India Came About-and How It Ended.” ThoughtCo. ThoughtCo, November 26, 2019.

[3]  Collingham, The Taste of Empire, 149.

[4]  Collingham, The Taste of Empire, 149.

[5] Biswas, Soutik. “How Britain’s Opium Trade Impoverished Indians.” BBC News. BBC, September 5, 2019.

[6] Collingham, The Taste of Empire, 150.

[7] Collingham, The Taste of Empire, 152.

[8] Logan, Jim. “How the British Empire Seized and Sold Tea.” Futurity. UC Santa Barbara, September 8, 2017.


Smoking can have a powerful effect on people: the addiction it creates will often rule a person’s life. The 1960s saw the rise of public awareness of the dangers cigarettes presented to all people and, eventually, despite intense lobbying by tobacco companies, the Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1970 was passed. This law banned cigarette advertising on radio and television and required tobacco companies to include the now normal message stating that the Surgeon General has determined smoking to be hazardous to your health.[1] These concerns also led to more awareness of the risks smoking in public posed to nonsmokers, through what is commonly known as secondhand smoke. Even while awareness and concern were growing, smoking culture saw no signs of slowing until the 1990s. Globally, more adult men than adult women smoke at 16.7 percent compared to 13.6 percent in 2015, respectively. Statistically it is harder for women to quit smoking than it is for men, even though there is no difference in motivation or attempts to quit, women are 31 percent less likely to quit successfully.[2] Due to this, it is common for tobacco companies to target women, especially in the 1970s by advertising that cigarettes can help with weight loss.

Now tobacco companies are targeting young people. One way is by donating money to nonprofits like the Girl Scouts of America. Philip Morris in particular has donated large sums with few strings attached, making their money very tempting to nonprofits. Tobacco companies are constantly trying to expand their clientele, and by hooking young people they can ensure longer term profits. As part of a publicity stunt for the 1969 movie “Cold Turkey,” the citizens of Greenfield, Iowa attempted to quit smoking ‘cold turkey’. They were surveyed by Philip Morris several months later, which employed local Girl Scouts to hand out questionnaires to everyone who was at least 14 on Cold Turkey Day, showing that even then there was some connection with tobacco companies and the youth.[3]


Ashtray, before 1973, Girl Scouts of America, Glass, Felt, Paper, 5/8” x 3 1/2” x 3 ½” Gift of Doreen DeNicola, Cooperstown Graduate Program Teaching Collection, Cooperstown, New York, T2008.02. Photograph by Zac Greenfield.

Smoking, and thus ashtrays, were everywhere in the 1970s. The ashtray can be a symbol of the power tobacco held over the American public. A Girl Scout presented this to her mother, a Girl Scout Leader, at the 1973 awards luncheon. The square glass body with indentations for cigarettes in every corner for encapsulates the smoking culture of the time—perfect for meetings of multiple users at the same time. Even the idea of an ashtray as a commemorative award speaks volumes about the pervasiveness of the tobacco industry in the lives of everyone, not just women. Ashtrays were everywhere and this gift would not be out of place even among the Girl Scouts.

-Zac Greenfield

[1] Judy Brumage, “The Public Health Cigarette Smoking Act of 1970,” Robert C. Byrd Center for Congressional History and Education, July 25, 2017,

[2] “Are There Gender Differences in Tobacco Smoking?,” National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2019,

[3] Anne Landman, “A Look Back: Philip Morris and the 1969 Movie ‘Cold Turkey,’” AnneLandmanBlog.Com (blog), May 5, 2015,

Spain and Portugal sit side by side on the Iberian Peninsula, sharing languages that are hard to distinguish from each other for those with an untrained ear. These languages share a common root in Latin, making them both “Romance Languages,” along with Romanian, Italian, and French. This connection through language is a powerful thing. It creates a bond between the two countries. Words are similar and make it easier for members of both populations to communicate (while it still isn’t easy). Language is a powerful tool to connect people and keep people together. But it can also keep people separated, because when languages are similar there is confusion. Confusion is another powerful feeling between people and can cause anger. When it comes to Spain and Portugal one version of this word confusion can be summarized through one very simple aspect of everyday life: Sausage.

Chorizo is a spiced Spanish pork sausage commonly made with large amounts of paprika and cured to be enjoyed at any time1. It is a common bar food, or as part of a meat tray/tapas assortment. Most Americans know what chorizo is from the multitude of Spanish to “Tex-Mex” restaurants that seem to appear overnight. In parallel there is the Portuguese chourico, a very similar to it’s Spanish cousin but has two major identifiable differences. Chourico is made with less paprika and more garlic, and it’s Portuguese. Below is a Portuguese object called an “Assador de chourico,” or a chourico roaster. The power of regional differences is shown in this object. This is a way of heating up the cured chourico before eating. The sausage is laid across the bars on top, the basin is filled with a high alcohol content liquor and then set ablaze. This is another popular tapas food, and a good spectacle to impress tourists (or your sister-in-law, in the case of this object)2.


Assador de chourico, c. late 1940s, Maker Unknown. H: 2 in. x W: 5 in. x L: 10 in. Kitchen Collection of Ash Duarte. Photographed by Kathryn Dragan

The words are near identical. Their pronunciations are near identical. The differences between language and culture overpower the similarities in language and culture. The power of national pride and how proud people are of their culture and their language have their way of making people defensive in a way to protect their upbringing. Chourico is eaten in Portugal while not too far away chorizo is eaten in Spain. They are different, and the same. And they are both delicious.

1-Moncel, Bethany. “What is Chorizo?” The Spruce Eats. Accessed Dec. 7,, 2019.

2-“Chouriço Assado.” Eat Your World: Lisbon. Accessed Dec. 7,, 2019.


Flask, 1840, Mount Vernon Glass Company, glass, H: 5 3/8 in, W: 1 1/8 in, L: 3 ¾. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown, New York, F0584.1955. Photograph by Emma Bresnan.

By Emma Bresnan

During the election of 1840, William Henry Harrison became the first US President to actively campaign for the office. With his slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler Too” and log cabin motifs, he presented himself as a folksy American hero, despite his wealthy upbringing. Harrison was best known as the hero of the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe,

where he put down a coalition of Indigenous people who opposed westward expansion. Thirty years later, when Harrison ran for president and his opponents mocked him for being too old for office, saying that he would be better off sitting in his log cabin with a barrel of cider than being president, Harrison spun that around in his favor and ran as the “log cabin and hard cider candidate.” The Mount Vernon Glass Company of Vernon, New York, manufactured a bottle in the shape of a log cabin, with a cider barrel outside, and the words “Old Bend” emblazoned on one side and “Tippecanoe” on the other. By using the imagery of the frontier, Harrison played into American’s thirst for power over the continent. What was meant to come across as folksy and heroic was also a reference to the genocide of Indigenous people.

The battle of Tippecanoe was fought against a confederacy of tribes led by Shawnee chief Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa, also known as “The Prophet,” which aimed to protect their livelihoods from America’s westward expansion. Harrison led troops to the confederacy’s capitol of Prophetstown, in present-day Indiana. At night, the Native forces attacked the American camp. After two hours of fighting and a surprise American counterattack, the Americans forced the Shawnee to disperse. The Americans burned the town and destroyed its crops.[1] Some of Harrison’s soldiers even desecrated the Prophetstown graveyard by digging up and scalping bodies.[2] The Battle of Tippecanoe was a bloody fight that severely weakened Tecumseh’s confederacy and the Native resistance to American imperialism.

Thirty years after the battle of Tippecanoe, when its “hero” ran for president, he used the name of the bloody battle to remind Americans that he defeated the Shawnee forces. On the bottle, the name Tippecanoe is coupled with the image of the kind of house that white settlers could now build in Indiana. This bottle speaks to the power that the United States government took at the expense of Indigenous people, as well as the power of politicians to control the meaning of words related to imperialism and violence.

Ironically, Harrison died only 31 days after he was inaugurated. The popular story is that he fell ill after refusing to wear a coat during his long inauguration speech. He has become something of a joke in American history. There is even an episode of the sitcom Parks and Recreation that spoofs his legacy. When we laugh about Harrison’s timing or how silly his slogan sounds to modern ears, we ignore the ways in which American politicians have used the oppression of Indigenous peoples to further their own political power.

[1] Raymond K. Bluhm, “Battle of Tippecanoe,” Encyclopedia Britannica, last updated October 31, 2019,

[2] “Battle of Tippecanoe,” Wikipedia, accessed December 8, 2019,

Peanuts originated in South America, originally used for food, offerings or ground up and put into drinks. Pottery in the shape of peanuts or with peanut motifs have been found in South America dating to 3,500 years ago. Peanuts played a prominent role in those societies as they were important enough to be used as offerings and put into tombs.1

IMG_20191126_103959 (1)

Planters Peanut Jar, 1936, glass, H: 9.5 x W: 8 x D: 8 in. Lien Household, Rochester, Minnesota, Photographed by Alex Lien

Created as a decorative/storage piece, this glass peanut jar was made in 1936 using a mold to make its unique hexagonal shape.2 The jar was probably used in a general store using its large size to hold a lot of peanuts, which were sold in bulk by the pound. Since it was used as a display/storage piece, it had to be clear to show off the peanuts inside while also displaying the brand, hence the yellow painted Planters name and mascot.
Peanuts’ value swayed throughout the centuries, falling from delicacies in South America, to trading resources when the Spanish found and traded them to Asia, to a livestock/poor person’s crop in America, due to their shell and difficulty to grow. However, during the Civil War, peanuts were favored by soldiers as a great source of protein and flavor. Eventually PT Barnum’s circus wagon started selling roasted peanuts all over the country, and this sparked the raise of the peanut as a commercial crop and present day food anchor.3

Mr. Peanut is proudly displayed on multiple sides of the jar. Mr. Peanut is well dressed, with a top hat, monocle and cane. This displays the prestige that Planters wanted to portray to their customers. They wanted people to feel like they are living well, like Mr. Peanut, if they eat Planters Peanuts. From the honor of being a burial offering to fueling soldiers during the civil war, to making people feel well off, peanuts have been used to influenced societies in different ways. Quite a bit of power for one nut.

-Alex Lien
Emerging Museum Professional
Museum Studies Graduate Student

1 “History of Peanuts ,” History of Peanuts and Peanut Butter (National Peanut Board), accessed December 8, 2019,
2 “Planters Peanuts Jar,” Kovels Antique & Collectibles Price Guide, accessed December 8, 2019,
3 “History of Peanuts ,” History of Peanuts and Peanut Butter (National Peanut Board), accessed December 8, 2019,

Beginning under the Yuan Dynasty in the 13th century, the mass production of blue and white porcelain would lead to China’s cornering of the porcelain market, which would eventually expand into the control of other products.[1] During the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), Jiangxi Province became the largest producer of porcelain and would export these products to countries as far as Turkey.[2] European companies would eventually send ships to China to begin importing pottery, especially porcelain, for the European market. The Dutch began trading with China for luxury goods in the 17th century, though this trade ended due to political unrest in China leading to the increased production of Chinese imitation pottery by the Dutch.[3]

Fast forward to the mid 20th century when China’s export rates are very low, keeping China from becoming a producer on the world stage.[4] The economic policy under Mao Zedong (r.1949-1976) was centrally planned, which set production goals, prices, and resources throughout the country.[5] In 1979, there was a series of economic changes made in China, including the decentralization of economic policy making, which allowed producers to trade.[6] China’s trade and the annual GDP exploded during the subsequent decades. From 1979 to 2018, China has essentially doubled its economy every eight years.[7]

The porcelain cat pictured below is not an object from the 13th century, but instead likely from the 20th century, demonstrating the power China has on the consumer market, especially in terms of porcelain. Many people around the world rely on China for their porcelain, even if there are other methods of obtaining the fine ceramic. The blue and white cat is a symbol for the power China has over the porcelain market, even into the 20th and 21st century.

According to figures from 2018, China is the United States’ “largest supplier of goods imports,” which totaled $539.5 billion.[8] From agriculture to luxury goods, China has largely cornered many trade markets, making purchasing non-Chinese products both difficult and expensive. Some estimates say there are over 200,000 Chinese businesses on Amazon, which covers many markets and needs around the world.[9] This number is projected to increase over the years due to the rise of online shopping.[10] China’s power over trade today is not unlike the control over the porcelain market starting in the 13th century, which largely has not ended today. China is still a top creator of many porcelains and ceramics, proving that China has not lost its power over the free market.

-Emma Dambek, Cooperstown Graduate Program


Blue and White Cat, 20th Century, porcelain, 10″ x 4″ x 5″. Whitfield House, Milford, New York, owned by June Parry, photographed by Emma Dambek.


[1]           “Chinese Ceramics,” China Online Museum, China Online Museum, 2019,

[2]           Ibid.

[3]           “A Brief History of Dutch Delftware,” Aronson Delftware: Antiquairs Sinds 1881, Aonson Asntiquairs of Amsterdam,

[4]           “China’s Economic Rise: History, Trends, Challenges, and Implications for the United States,” Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, updated June 25, 2019, 2,

[5]           Ibid.

[6]           Ibid, 4.

[7]           Ibid.

[8]           “The People’s Republic of China: U.S.-China Trade Facts,” Office of the United States Trade Representative, accessed December 8, 2019,

[9]           “How Chinese Sellers are Manipulating Amazon in 2019, EcomCrew, EcomCrew Inc., June 2019,

[10]         Ibid.

porcelain cat