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Weird and Wonderful Government Publications: Fun

There are some odd and interesting materials published by various government agencies. This is a place to share those strange and the stunning materials.




Safety Sadie and Other Mascots

Mascots and Safety

There is a trend to use mascots and spokespeople (real or created) when developing public relations (PR) campaigns. I'm sure many of us can name several right off the top of our heads, thinking of commercial campaigns. Government agencies also use mascots and spokespeople in PR campaigns - think Smokey Bear and McGruff. My favorite being Sprocket Man. Here are a few of the lesser known ones.

Safety Sadie search result had several federal documents with Safety Sadie - yet she doesn't seem well known.

Looks like Sadie didn't get her picture on this poster.

El Gato the Cat

Woodsy Owl

U.S. Department of Agriculture's Forest Service had Woodsy Owl teaching about ecology from mid 1960s through mid 1980s (and later too). Woodsy Owl commercials often played during TV programs geared toward children and families.

Freddie Food Stamp

This is an example of a PR effort with lower production value.

Sprocket Man

I couldn't leave out my favorite.


Not all mascots/spokespeople are in cartoon form, but many are.

Here are links to guides about comics and government information.

Prepare with Pedro: disaster preparedness activity book.

Call Number: HS 5.102:D 63/26

Publication Date: 2018

This activity book is designed to teach young children and their
families about how to stay safe during disasters and emergencies.


It October - and time for spooky documents!

Real Life Creatures

Deep Sea Creature Chart - with cartoon-style drawing of deep sea creaturesOctonauts deep sea creature chart

What lurks in the deep? Could it be a Vampire Squid? A Spookfish? A Yeti Crab? Check out the very cool Octonauts corner for some fun resources.

Ghosts and Spirits

Haunting Histories of Salem, MA Podcast

“If there is one city where you would expect to find stories of witches and ghosts, it would be Salem, Massachusetts. Are you hoping to experience Salem's spooky side? Join us as we explore histories that inspire some of Salem's most haunting tales!”

Sometimes a document can actually ghost you. Here is one item we've had a heck of a time finding.
Update: We located a copy thanks to Richard M. Mikulski at Portland State University Library!
Ghostbusters logoWho you gonna call?

And sometimes, you wind up in court.

Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991), also known as the Ghostbusters ruling, was decided July 18, 1991. It is often used in law school courses.

Helen Ackley had claimed her Nyack, NY house was haunted - in local and national news and magazines, over several years. Jeff Stambovsky signed a contract to purchase the house. And Ackley didn't sign until her real estate agent disclosed the the haunting to Stambovsky. After the contracts were signed, Stambovsky met with Ackely and heard her discription of the hauntings. He filed an action requesting rescission of the contract of sale and for damages for fraudulent misrepresentation by Ackley and Ellis Realty - which was dismissed by New York trial court. Stambovsky appealed and lower court decision was reversed. The opinion of the court explained that the value-reducing defect was not physically visible, therefore undetectable with standard inspections - but the part often quoted is "as a matter of law, the house is haunted."

As Wikipedia summarizes:

"Stambovsky v. Ackley, 169 A.D.2d 254 (N.Y. App. Div. 1991), commonly known as the Ghostbusters ruling, is a case in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, that held that a house, which the owner had previously advertised to the public as haunted by ghosts, legally was haunted for the purpose of an action for rescission brought by a subsequent purchaser of the house. Because of its unique holding, the case has been frequently printed in textbooks on contracts and property law and widely taught in U.S. law school classes, and is often cited by other courts."


Zombie Preparedness Graphic Novel

”CDC has a fun way of teaching about emergency preparedness. Our graphic novel, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic” demonstrates the importance of being prepared in an entertaining way that people of all ages will enjoy.”

The Dead


Image of a cube with information about the metric system.

The Metric System in the U.S.A.

According to The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST): "The United States is now the only industrialized country in the world that does not use the metric system as its predominant system of measurement." And yet, the United States has a history of using the metric system going back to the 1800s. In 1875, the U.S.A. was one of the original seventeen nations to sign The Treaty of the Meter.[1]

In 1960, the metric system was updated by the governing body, General Conference of Weights and Measures, and named Le Système International d'Unités or the International System of Units, abbreviated SI. In 1968, a three year study was authorized by Congress and conducted by the Commerce Department. This resulted in the report A Metric America A Decision Whose Time Has Come.[2] Congress passed the Metric Conversion Act of 1975[3]. While the act encouraged the use of the metric system, it did not mandate it. U.S. adoption of the metric system slowed down. The Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988 (Public Law 100-418)[4] mandated federal agencies to use the metric system when conducting business, by 1992.[1]

So, during the 1970s there was a push to teach and encourage use of the metric system. School curricula stressed the metric system in math and science. (The author of this entry remembers pages and pages of worksheets converting measurements to the metric system and tests where students were required to memorize the formulas). The Metric Cube was one of the many ways of encouraging use of the metric system.


  1. National Institute of Standards and Technology (U.S.). 2002. Technology services, metric information and conversions. The United States and the metric system (LC 1136). [Place of publication not identified]: [publisher not identified]. Accessed 2 June 2021. WorldCat Record
  2. De Simone, Daniel V. 1971. A metric America a decision whose time has come. Washington: National Bureau of Standards; for sale by the Supt. of Docs., U.S. Govt. Print. Off. WorldCat record
  3. Metric Conversion Act, 1975 : P.L. 94-168 : 89 Stat. 1007 : December 23, 1975.
  4. H.R.4848 - Omnibus Trade and Competitiveness Act of 1988. 100th Congress (1987-1988) (Public Law 100-418) Bill History, U.S. Congress.

Pool Safety

Pool safety

Pool safety is a concern that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) has addressed over the years, going back at least to 1915. With recent research showing that children learn through play, the CPSC  interactive games to teach children about pool and spa safety.

CD-rom of The adventures of Splish and Splash  

The Adventures of Splish and Splash : child-friendly interactive games to teach children about pool and spa safety. By, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, 2016.

SuDoc Call No: Y 3.C 76/3:29/AD 9/DVD

Available for download on Apple and Android devices from the App Store or Google Play. There are also Kids Activity Worksheets in PDF format that can be downloaded.


Additional resources:

This site has sections for kids, parents, and grandparents. Splish and Splash, along with Laurie Berkner's Pool Safely Song, are featured in the Kids' Corner.

Older Items

Included for historic perspective. Safety information is most likely outdated.

Fun With Food

Get Ready for Holiday Entertaining with Government Publications

Many different government agencies have published recipe books. Here are a few recipes.

NOTE: Many of these recipes and methods are old and outdated. They may NOT be safe by modern health and safety standards. 

Throughout the years, food safety has always been a concern (even if some of these older recipes don't reflect current standards). 



Food Safety often highlights safe handling of ingredients.

Many government publications address ingredients for reasons other than food safety - such as war time rationing.

Instructions & Recipes

Diplomacy and Food - Hey 2021-2022 History Day Students!

State Dinners is a suggested topic for the 2021-2022 History Day theme of Debate & Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences. Check History Day web guides for more resources.

Connecticut State Library

Cover of CT Library Echo newsletter, 1928 DecemberThis recipe was shared at a potluck of Connecticut State Library staff a few years ago. It was found in a 1928 newsletter for the Connecticut State Library staff. Several old recipes were passed around for staff amusement and most agreed this dish sounded awful. Thank goodness it was not served! Raw eggs are not safe to eat.

Snow on the Mountain

1 cup of nuts, 2 cups of pineapple,
two cups of white grapes, 3 cups of
marshmallows. Peel grapes, and seed.
Cut pineapple, marshmallows and nuts
in small pieces. The dressing:
Yolks of four eggs, juice of 4 lemons,
1/2 teaspoon mustard, 1/2 cup of whip
cream. Do not add whipped dream [sic] until
dressing is cold. Then mix together
with the salad. Place in ice box and
let stand overnight. Serve on lettuce
leaves with a tablespoon of whipped
cream on top of each and sprinkle with
Tested and approved:
Minerva Norris

"Come Into The Kitchen", State Library Echo, Vol. V, no.2, December 1928, page 11.

Library of Congress (LOC)

The Library of Congress is one of the best digital collections in USA - in my opinion.

They have many blogs for the different divisions - and these blog posts usually highlight great resources in LOC.

Other Libraries

Rather than reinvent the wheel, here are links to other libraries' guides on food and nutrition. Just know, that these are not necessarily Weird or Wonderful. They just might be useful!


March Winds and Kites

March Winds and
April Showers
Bring forth
May flowers  

- English Nursery Rhyme

Often this Mother Goose nursery rhyme is recited with "March Wind"

The north wind doth blow,
And we shall have snow,
And what will poor Robin do then?
Poor thing!
He'll sit in a barn,
And to keep himself warm,
Will hide his head under his wing,
Poor thing!
March is often illustrated on US calendars with kites. So why not look at some government publications featuring kites!


The Library of Congress publication Folklife Today has and article on the origins of kites: "Kites Rise on the Wind: The Origin of Kites" by Stephanie Hall, March 16, 2017

Kites have a long history that cross mythology, fishing, weather, military, physics and just plain fun. The Folklife Today article gives a good overview of early history of kites.

With military and weather use, some balloons were considered kites, and some kites were in same groupings as balloons. Search the National Archives (NARA) and the National Weather Service to find information about this (especially the included link on the history of upper-air observations). With advancements in aircraft and satellites, use of kites for observations declined significantly.

We often think of kite flying as an recreational activity - not a protest movement. 

1892 District Code prohibited kite flying in Washington, D.C. and Georgetown. In 1970 people protested the law by flying kites at the Washington Monument. Eventually the law was changed.

  • Permitting Flying of  Kites in District of Columbia. Report from Committee on District of Columbia to Accompany H.R. 16476. May 7, 1970  House Report 91-1062 
  • "Perspective | Until 1970, it was illegal to fly a kite in Washington. Hippies got the law changed." By John Kelly. Washington Post, April 4, 2020



The Folklife Today article discusses some of the older examples of kites used for fishing.


There are many examples of kites being used in the study of weather. Nature has an article on the start of the program (see link below). Kites were to be used to record atmospheric conditions by automatic devices at set altitude. Plans to create synchronous daily charts of observations were adjusted early in the project - as variations in wind conditions impacted the various sites. And yet, the data gathered increased knowledge in this field of study.

Check out NOAA's photo gallery of historic images.

There are so many articles on kites published in early volumes of Monthly Weather Review, that we can only highlight a few and include a link to NOAA Central Library's online archive. 


Go Fly a Kite!

There are several lesson plans that involve kites. Here are a few - some with instructions to build your own kite.

Diagram of Sled Kite Proportions

Stuck in an Airport?

January 4, 2022 adapted from Best.Titles.Ever  by Jenny Groome

Stuck in an Airport? Highway Shut Down?

Here is a gem from the U.S. Army that was on Best.Titles.Ever. If it's good enough for the soldiers...

Informal Games for Soldiers: Technical Manual 21-221, US Department of Defense, Department of the Army, 1943
SuDoc Call No: D 101.11:21-221

Updated and Reissued as: War, Recreation and Morale, Informal Games for Soldiers, US Department of the Army, 1976

How to Keep From Getting Bored

If you are one of the many people caught in the December 2021 - January 2022 holiday air travel debacle - you might need a little distraction.

Why not spread good cheer with others stuck in airports across the U.S.A.?

Chapter I opens with:

"The principal factor in successful game leadership is an energetic, dynamic, enthusiastic leader. Games, if they are to be successful, must be carried on in a continuously snappy, vigorous manner. Whether or not the activities are conducted in this way is dependent upon the leader. The play group will invariably reflect his attitude whether it be enthusiastic or apathetic. Enthusiasm is contagious but the players cannot catch it unless it is present. A hustling, energetic, aggressive spirit on the part of the leader is the first requirement for effective game leadership. Confidence is another essential of successful game leadership. The lack of confidence on the part of the play leader creates indecision and hesitation which are fatal."

Be a good game leader - to avoid fatalities.

Best.Titles.Ever. highlights one of the BEST games to try. So here are a few more.

Punchball: diagram and instructions for softball-like game with no batsPunch Ball

No bats required - so TSA won't confiscate your equipment bag.
Rather than use a volleyball, try crumpled paper - perhaps your travel itinerary?
Just be careful what gets punched.


Goal Hi

Sometimes you need to improvise - especially when equipment is lacking.
Try stacking everyone's luggage up to 10 feet. Then place an empty suitcase on top.

Goal Hi game diagram and instructions pt.1 Goal Hi game instructions pt.2


These might be acceptable in an airport. Should keep you warm while waiting for highway to open.
Although TSA might not appreciate:

Snatch the Bomb Snatch the Bomb game diagram and instructions












Weak Horse   Weak Horse game diagram and instructions

NASA Jigsaw Puzzles

NASA has several jigsaw puzzles in the FDLP. Here is one example.

This puzzle is slightly harder than it looks - unlike most circular puzzles, it has a grid layout for the pieces.

Puzzle in process

This library numbered the pieces on the back.

Back of pieces, showing they were numbered.


Finished puzzle with container

Tails from the Rails

FEMA Fire Truck

cover for this publication

Kids Firetruck Foldup Activity Sheet

This downloadable activity sheet contains a fire safety word game and mazes that children can navigate to practice a home fire escape plan. The activity sheet folds into a firetruck. Recommended ages: 3-7. Available in English and Spanish.