Cleaning out library leftovers from the Cold War

Civil Defense survival rations

The 18-pound tins of biscuits were packed in 1962. Photo: S.K. Vemmer/UIC News

Some Cold War leftovers were discovered in the Daley Library basement recently — but they’re not the kind you’d want to eat.

The 18-pound tins of Civil Defense Survival Ration Biscuits, packed in 1962, are what’s left of a cache of Civil Defense supplies uncovered in 1994.

“They’ve been here since the building was built, as they were in most large government buildings,” said university archivist Scott Pitol. “The thought being, if something were to happen like nuclear war, people would be able to go to these places and have provisions.”

Library staff member Pia Hunter grabbed two tins before they were put in the dumpster.

“They were coming out of the basement in droves and we just couldn’t resist,” said Hunter, library operations associate. “I don’t have any plans to do anything with the tins right now — I’m just holding onto them.”

“We opened one and they looked perfect,” she added.

And how did they taste?

“No one took a taste — because you could smell it,” she said.

The biscuits were made locally at a bakery that still exists, the Schulze and Burch Biscuit Co. But without a specific connection to UIC, there wasn’t a reason for the library to keep the old food, Pitol said.

But there are UIC-related items that should be preserved, he said.

He asks campus units and department to pass along old reports, administrative files, course syllabi, flyers and other items to the University Archives. For more information, email

“There are tons of things out there across campus that we should be keeping,” he said.


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