Almost fifty-four years ago, in September 1964, workers at the Educator Biscuit Company in Lowell, Massachusetts carefully packed thousands of crackers in this airtight container to be stored underground as a desperate last measure against starvation in case of a nuclear attack.
Of course, the nuclear attack never came, and this case of survival crackers disappeared into a storage space at the Baltimore Community Museum. Recently unearthed during an extensive and ongoing
inventory of the museum’s collection, the crackers will be opened for the first time since Lyndon Johnson was president at the 2018 Baltimore Festival.
To give some historical background, these crackers were created less than a year after John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas on November 22nd, 1963. In September, the same month these crackers were entombed, the findings of the Warren Commission finally concluded that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.
In January 1964, the Surgeon General released the first official report on smoking and health, connecting smoking to both lung cancer and chronic bronchitis. That same year the Tonkin Gulf Resolution began the United States’ formal involvement in Vietnam. By 1965, over 200,000 U.S troops were involved in the war and Operation Rolling Thunder had begun and would continue for three more years. The war itself wouldn’t end until 1975.
Within the United States, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law on July 2nd, making it illegal to discriminate against someone based on their race, religion, sex, national origin, or the color of their skin; ending segregation in public places, enforcing the desegregation of schools, and addressing unequal access to voting. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech only occurred the year before, on August 28, 1963.
On a lighter note, the cost of gas in 1964 was 30 cents per gallon. Beatle Mania had just hit the United States, with the Beatles making their first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, holding 13 singles on the Billboard’s Hot 100 at the same time, and holding the top five positions in the Billboard Top 40 singles in America. Within the Baltimore Community, the Liberty Union High School Baseball Team won the State Championship that year, having previously been the state runners-up in 1962.
Since 1964, the United States sent a man to the moon, officially ending the space race in 1969 with Neil Armstrong’s famous words. Sealed underground at the height of the Cold War, these crackers would not have witnessed the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 or the collapse of the Soviet Union on December 26, 1991, the same year that the World Wide Web was invented.
In just fifty years, the world has changed drastically, with each new generation beginning a new chapter of history. At the Baltimore Community Museum, we are dedicated to the preservation and exploration of local historical artifacts, like these survival crackers. One of the cases will be kept and safely stored inside the museum while the other will be opened at the festival. We hope that this event will help draw disparate generations together, engaging and uniting our community.
"Historical Events in September 1964." On This Day. Accessed July 15, 2018. https://www.onthisday.com/events/date/1964/september.
“History of the Surgeon General's Reports on Smoking and Health.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Office on Smoking and Health in the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Dec. 2006.
Monmaney, Terence. "Top Five U.S. Events of the Last 40 Years." Smithsonian Magazine, May 2010. Accessed July 17, 2018.
"The Top Historic Moments Of The Past 50 Years." November 25, 2013. HuffPost. Accessed July 17, 2018.
"What Happened in 1964: Important News and Events, Key Technology and Popular Culture." The People History. Accessed July 15, 2018. http://www.thepeoplehistory.com/1964.html.