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Guide to the Ruth Lamb Atkinson Papers, 1781-1970 (bulk 1928-1947)

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Collection Summary

Repository: Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries
Creator: Atkinson, Ruth Lamb, 1896-1978
Title: Ruth Lamb Atkinson Papers
Inclusive Dates: 1781-1970
Bulk Dates: 1928-1947
Quantity: 10 linear ft (18 boxes and a scrapbook)
Abstract: Correspondence, clippings, reports, speeches, articles, pamphlets, and government documents relating to Atkinson's work in advertising and with the Food and Drug Administration.

Biographical Note

Ruth de Forest Lamb was born in Hallstead, PA. She graduated from Vassar College in 1918 and worked as a copywriter for various advertising agencies from 1918 to 1926. After some years as a consultant on food, drug, and cosmetic advertising, she joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1933 as Chief Educational Officer. During this period she wrote American Chamber of Horrors (1936) and The Devil's Candle (1937). After leaving the FDA in 1942, she became the Washington lobbyist for the National Congress of Parents and Teachers and other consumer groups (1942-45) and a director of Food for Freedom, Ind. (1943-46). She married Henry R. Atkinson in 1942 and went with him to India for several years after World War II. Subsequently, she was active in consumer groups in Massachusetts. Mrs. Atkinson died on June 17, 1978.

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Scope and Content Note

Correspondence, clippings, reports, speeches, articles, pamphlets, and government documents pertaining to food and drug legislation, the drug "krebiozen," the seafood industry, ergot, consumer groups, Food for Freedom, Ralph Nader, and drug industry propaganda, 1928-1970. Major correspondents are Rachel Lynn Palmer and William Allen White. Notes, articles, pamphlets, and clippings used in writing her books; drafts and galley proofs; correspondence with her publisher Farrar & Rinehart; and reviews and letters received about The American Chamber of Horrors, 1934-1937, and The Devil's Candle. Other items include clippings and government reports concerning India's independence, 1945-1947; scrapbook of the drug and cosmetic advertisements she wrote in the 1920's; and miscellaneous Americana she collected including 1781 military communication of Gen. William Heath, 1830 sheet music, and Lossing prints of the Hudson River. This box list may be incomplete. The Revolutionary War Fife listed under Miscellaneous Americana is missing as of 13 November 2006.

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Access and Use


This collection is open for research according to the regulations of the Vassar College Archives and Special Collections Library without any additional restrictions.

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Subject Headings


  • Heath, William, 1737-1814.
  • Palmer, Rachel Lynn.
  • Lossing, Benson John, 1813-1891.
  • Nader, Ralph.
  • White, William Allen, 1868-1944.


  • Farrar and Rinehart
  • Food for Freedom, Inc.
  • National Congress of Parents and Teachers.
  • United States. Food and Drug Administration.


  • Advertising--Cosmetics.
  • Advertising--Drugs.
  • Consumer education.
  • Consumers--Societies, etc.
  • Drugs--Law and legislation.
  • Ergot.
  • Fishery processing.
  • Food law and legislation.
  • Krebiozen.
  • Seafood.
  • Women in politics.


  • Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)--Pictorial works.
  • India--History--British occupation, 1765-1947.
  • United States--Politics and government.
  • India--History -1947-

Document Types:

  • Advertisements.
  • Prints.
  • Scrapbooks.
  • Sheet music.

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Encoding Information

Encoded by Laura Finkel and Elizabeth Clarke, November 2006.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Ruth Lamb Atkinson Papers, Archives and Special Collections Library, Vassar College Libraries.

Processing Information

Original processing date unknown.

Guide updated by Dean Rogers, September 2006.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Ruth Lamb Atkinson.

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Container List

Folder 1.1 "Personal Miscellany" - degree, awards, Food and Drug Act, childhood writings, ca. 1939
Folder 1.2 Farrar & Rinehart - correspondence with publisher regarding American Chamber of Horrors, 1934-1937
Folder 1.3 Copies of speeches: "What Educators Should Know about...the Food and Drug Administration," and others,
Folder 1.4 "Magic Oyster," manuscript of an unpublished novel, 1928
Folder 1.5 Typescripts of articles and speeches - early history of food and drug legislation.
Folder 1.6 Publications containing articles by Mrs. Atkinson, 1928-1940
Box 1 52 publications and publishers' brochures (primarily 1936) containing articles by or about Ruth Lamb Atkinson, the FDA, reviews and comments on American Chamber of Horrors, and testimony before Congressional committees.
Box 1 Large green box of reviews and letters about American Chamber of Horrors, ca. 1936
Box 2 Notes, photostats of articles, pamphlets etc., used in writing American Chamber of Horrors. Also typescript of chapter 7, (11 folders)
Box 3 Typescript of The Devil's Candle: An Informal History of the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act and Its Operation in Our Social Economy. 23 folders of materials used in writing this book, as well as some clippings, etc., on drug and food legislation, 1960-1963
Folders 4.1-4.3 Historical and other materials on food and drug legislation and regulation.
Folder 4.4 Krebiozen" - clippings, reports, etc., on rejection of this drug, by Mrs. Atkinson, 1961-1966
Folder 4.5 Seafood - clippings, reports, etc., on regulation of this industry.
Folder 4.6 "Consumers" - clippings on Ralph Nader, ca. 1970
Folder 4.7-4.9 Material, including bibliography, on food and drug legislation.
Box 4 Envelope of Chamber of Horrors photographs: exhibition, Food and Drug Administration.
Box 4 Photostats of articles on ergot, food, and whiskey adulteration, (22 items)
Box 4 Copies of bills before Congress on regulation of food, drugs, and cosmetics, 1933-1939 (32 items)
Boxes 5 and 6 Subject files which include material on food and drug regulation (folders 5, 11, 20, 36, 37, 44)
Boxes 5 and 6 Subject files which include material on the fight to get a strong food and drug bill through Congress, 1933-1938 (folders 4, 12, 16-19, 25, 31, 32, 34, 35, 43, 47, 48)
Boxes 5 and 6 Subject files which include material onRuth Lamb Atkinson's work with Massachusetts and other consumer groups (folders 15, 23, 27, 29)
Boxes 5 and 6 Subject files which include material on Food for Freedom, Inc. (folder 26)
Box 5 16 pamphlets on food and drug regulation, and a copy of "The Chemical Feast" by James Turner (folder 51; see also folders 18-19).
Box 7 Contents moved to boxes 5 and 5A Materials relating to drug industry's propaganda.
Boxes 8a and 8b Carbon copies of letters, 1934-1939
Box 9 Galley proof of American Chamber of Horrors.
Boxes 10-12 Government documents relating to food and drug laws.
Box 12 Copies of Advertising & Selling. 5 issues, 1933-34.
Box 12 Copies of Tide. 6 issues, 1935-39.
Box 12 Copy of Trained Nurse and Hospital Review, February, 1938.
Box 13 Indian Miscellany - Indian government document: Report of the Health Survey and Development Committee. (Vol. I Survey; Vol. II Recommendations; Vol. III Appendices; Vol. IV Summary)
Box 13 Indian Miscellany -10 miscellaneous publications (mostly about art)
Box 13 Indian Miscellany - Portfolio of Persian and Indian manuscript pages, drawings and paintings, (13 leaves)
Box 13 Indian Miscellany - Portfolio of 12 illustrations of individual Indians. Chips from the poet's tomb - Chene-ka-Ranja (?) on the approach to Agra. (Few pieces in small plastic bag).
Box 14 Indian Miscellany - Press clippings relating to Indian independence. 1945-1947
Box 16 Miscellaneous Americana - Communication of General William Hearth to Governor Clinton from Head Quarters Continental Village, October 28, 1781, mounted on cardboard
Box 16 Miscellaneous Americana - Portfolio of 6 Lossing prints of the Hudson.
Box 16 Miscellaneous Americana - Facsimile of Washington's communication on the defense of Boston.
Box 16 Miscellaneous Americana - 3 pieces sheet music published in Boston. Includes "Grand Centennial March," 1830.
Realia? Miscellaneous Americana - Revolutionary War fife. [MISSING as of 13 November 2006]
Box 16 Large scrapbook of drug and cosmetic advertisements, etc., written by Ruth Lamb Atkinson - "Madame X Reducing Girdle," etc. ca. 1920-1929

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