Skip to Content

Found 541 Resources

Premier Voyage Aërien

National Air and Space Museum
"Premier Voyage Aërien, 1783"; In spite of a color shift which has transformed the blue and gold balloon into yellow, this is an accurate depiction of the first free flight of human beings, November 21, 1783. The Montgolfier balloon carried Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, the marquis d'Arlandes, up and away from the garden of the Chateau de la Muette, seat of the Dauphin, on the Bois de Boulogne. The dome of Les Invalides and the towers of Notre dame are visible across the Seine. This print show the balloon as it would have been seen from the terrace of the Hotel de Valentinois, the rented home of Benjamin Franklin in Passy.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Les Merveilleux Physiciens

National Air and Space Museum
The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

The Grand Republican

National Air and Space Museum
Black and white woodcut print depicting a balloon.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Dover Castle

National Air and Space Museum
"Dover castle, with--- balloon to Calais in January 1785 1789"; aerp / balloon over English Channel, castle and crowd in foreground.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

A View of the Balloon of Mr. Sadler's Ascending

National Air and Space Museum
Colored engraving on paper. Balloon aloft, centered in top half of image--two persons in gondola; crowd below waving hats/hands, viewing thru telescopes.

The Birth of Flight: NASM Collections

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. Enormous crowds gathered in Paris to watch one balloon after another rise above the city rooftops, carrying the first human beings into the air in the closing months of 1783.The excitement quickly spread to other European cities where the first generation of aeronauts demonstrated the wonder of flight. Everywhere the reaction was the same. In an age when men and women could fly, what other wonders might they achieve.

"Among all our circle of friends," one observer noted, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky." Single sheet prints illustrating the great events and personalities in the early history of ballooning were produced and sold across Europe. The balloon sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs.

Thanks to the generosity of several generations of donors, the National Air and Space Museum maintains one of the world's great collections of objects and images documenting and celebrating the invention and early history of the balloon. Visitors to the NASM's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport can see several display cases filled with the riches of this collection. We are pleased to provide visitors to our web site with access to an even broader range of images and objects from this period. We invite you to share at least a small taste of the excitement experienced by those who witness the birth of the air age.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Present at Creation:

The NASM Collection of Objects Related to Early Ballooning

The invention of the balloon struck the men and women of the late 18th century like a thunderbolt. The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph-Michel (August 26, 1740-June 26, 1810) and Jacques Etienne (January 6, 1745 - August 2, 1799), launched the air age when they flew a hot air balloon from the town square of Annonay, France, on June 4, 1783. Members of a family that had been manufacturing paper in the Ardèche region of France for generations, the Montgolfiers were inspired by recent discoveries relating to the composition of the atmosphere. Joseph led the way, building and flying his first small hot air balloons late in 1782, before enlisting his brother in the enterprise.

Impatient for the Montgolfiers to demonstrate their balloon in Paris, Barthélemy Faujas de Saint-Fond, a pioneering geologist and member of the Académie Royale, sold tickets to a promised ascension and turned the money over to Jacques Alexandre-César Charles (1746-1823), a chemical experimenter whom he had selected to handle the design, construction and launch of a balloon. Charles flew the first small hydrogen balloon from the Champs de Mars, near the present site of the Eiffel Tower, on August 27, 1783. Not to be outdone, the Montgolfiers sent the first living creatures (a sheep, a duck and a rooster) aloft from Versailles on September 19.

Pilatre de Rozier, a scientific experimenter, and François Laurent, the marquis D'Arlandes, became the first human beings to make a free flight on November 21. Less than two weeks later, on December 1, 1783, J.A. C. Charles and M.N. Robert made the first free flight aboard a hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries.

A wave of excitement swept across Paris as the gaily decorated balloons rose, one after another, over the skyline of the city. Throughout the summer and fall of 1783 the crowds gathering to witness the ascents grew ever larger. As many as 400,000 people - literally half of the population of Paris -- gathered in the narrow streets around the Château des Tuileries to watch Charles and Robert disappear into the heavens.

The wealthy and fashionable set purchased tickets of admission to the circular enclosure surrounding the launch site. Guards had a difficult time restraining the crush of citizens swarming the nearby streets, and crowding the Place de Louis XV (now the Place de la Concorde) and the garden walkways leading toward the balloon. People climbed walls and clambered out of windows onto roofs in search of good vantage points.

"It is impossible to describe that moment:" wrote one observer of a balloon launch, "the women in tears, the common people raising their hands to the sky in deep silence; the passengers leaning out of the gallery, waving and crying out in joy… the feeling of fright gives way to wonder." One group of spectators greeted a party of returning aeronauts with the question: "Are you men or Gods?" In an age when human beings could fly, what other wonders might the future hold?

The balloons had an enormous social impact. The huge, seething crowds were something new under the sun. The spectators who gathered in such huge numbers were just becoming accustomed to the idea of change. The old certainties of their grandparent's world were giving way to an expectation that the twin enterprises of science and technology would provide the foundation for "progress."

The balloons sparked new fashion trends and inspired new fads and products. Hair and clothing styles, jewelry, snuffboxes, wallpaper, chandeliers, bird cages, fans, clocks, chairs, armoires, hats, and other items, were designed with balloon motifs. Party guests sipped Créme de l' Aérostatique liqueur and danced the Contredanse de Gonesse in honor of the Charles globe.

The Americans who were living in Paris to negotiate a successful conclusion to the American revolution were especially fascinated by the balloons. It seemed only fitting that, at a time when their countrymen were launching a new nation, human beings were throwing off the tyranny of gravity. The oldest and youngest members of the diplomatic community were the most seriously infected with "balloonamania."

"All conversation here at present turns upon the Balloons…and the means of managing them so as to give Men the Advantage of Flying," Benjamin Franklin informed an English friend, Richard Price. Baron Grimm, another Franklin acquaintance, concurred. "Among all our circle of friends," he wrote, "at all our meals, in the antechambers of our lovely women, as in the academic schools, all one hears is talk of experiments, atmospheric air, inflammable gas, flying cars, journeys in the sky."

Franklin noted that small balloons, made of scraped animal membranes, were sold "everyday in every quarter." He was invited to visit a friend's home for "tea and balloons," and attended a fête at which the duc de Chartres distributed "little phaloid balloonlets" to his guests. At another memorable entertainment staged by the duc de Crillon, Franklin witnessed the launch of a hydrogen balloon some five feet in diameter that kept a lantern aloft for over eleven hours.

The senior American diplomat in Paris purchased one of the small balloons as a present for his grandson and secretary, William Temple Franklin. Released in a bed chamber, "it went up to the ceiling and remained rolling around there for some time." Franklin emptied the membrane of hydrogen and forwarded it to Richard Price so that he and Sir Joseph Banks might repeat the experiment. The delightful little toy was thus not only the first balloon to be owned by an American but also the first to reach England. Both Franklins were soon supplying little balloons to friends across Europe.

Sixteen year old John Quincy Adams also took note of the small balloons offered for sale by street vendors. "The flying globes are still very much in vogue," he wrote on September 22. "They have advertised a small one of eight inches in diameter at 6 livres apiece without air [hydrogen] and 8 livres with it. .. Several accidents have happened to persons who have attempted to make inflammable air, which is a dangerous operation, so that the government has prohibited them."

There was a general sense that the colorful globes marked the beginning of a new age in which science and technology would effect startling change. The results and the implications of the revolution in physics and chemistry underway for over a century were largely unknown outside an elite circle of privileged cognoscenti. The balloon was unmistakable proof that a deeper understanding of nature could produce what looked very much like a miracle. What else was one to think of a contrivance that would carry people into the sky?

If human beings could break the age-old chains of gravity, what other restraints might they cast off? The invention of the balloon seemed perfectly calculated to celebrate the birth of a new nation dedicated, on paper at any rate, to the very idea of freedom for the individual. In the decade to come the balloons and the men and women who flew them came to symbolize the new political winds that were blowing through France. While some might question the utility of the "air globes," flight was already reshaping the way in which men and women regarded themselves and their world.

Of course most citizens of Europe and America were unable to travel to see a balloon. They had their first glimpse of the aerial craft through the medium of single sheet prints. In the late 18th century it was difficult and expensive to publish anything more than the roughest of woodcuts in newspapers or magazines. In an effort to share the excitement with those who could not attend an ascent, to let people know what a balloon looked like, and to introduce the brave men and women who were taking to the sky, artists, engravers and publishers flooded the market with scores of single sheet printed images. Ranging from the meticulously accurate to the wildly fanciful, these printed pictures were sold by the thousands in print shops across Europe.

The business of producing and marketing such images was nothing new. In Europe, block prints from woodcuts had been used to produce book illustrations and single sheet devotional or instructional religious images since the mid-15th century. In the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries, the technique was used to produce multi-sheet maps, bird's eye images of cities, and other products. In the early modern era, etching and engraving techniques enabled artists from Albrecht Dürer to Rembrandt van Rijn the opportunity to market copies of their paintings. .

In the 1730's. William Hogarth inaugurated a new era in the history of English printed pictures when he published his, "Harlot's Progress," a series of single sheet images charting the downfall of a young woman newly arrived in London. Other sets, including "Marriage à la Mode," appeared in the decade that followed. Other artists used the medium of the etching or engraving to reproduce portraits and offer examples of their work for sale.

By the late 18th century, Thomas Rowlandson, James Gillray and other English artists made considerable fortunes producing sporting prints and satirical images offering biting commentary on the shortcomings of the political and social leaders of the day. Rowlandson was said to have "etched as much copper as would sheathe the British navy." In order to publish his prints and caricatures while they were still newsworthy, Rowlandson worked rapidly. He would water color the first impression, then send it to refugee French artists employed by Rudolph Ackermann, one of his favored publishers, who would color each of the prints before they were hung up in the shop window. In the 1780's a typical print seems to have sold for a shilling, the price being sometimes included on the print itself.

The appearance of the balloon in 1783 provided artists, engravers and publishers in England, France, Germany and Italy a new subject for their efforts. As the wave of balloon enthusiasm swept across the continent, the production and sale of images depicting the great flights and daring aeronauts flourished. In addition to illustrating the birth of the air age, print makers made use of balloon motifs in comic images satirizing political events or social trends.

In the 19th century new lithographic techniques and the advent of improved presses and smooth paper, led to a revolution in the ability to mass produce images. Balloons remained a common subject of interest to readers, and ready material for satire in the talented hands of artists like Honorè-Victorine Daumier.

Today, the balloon prints produced by 18th and 19th century artists remain as a priceless window into the past. They enable us to share some sense of the excitement that gripped those watching their fellow beings rise into the sky for the first time. Engraved portraits tell us something of the appearance, and even the personality, of the first men and women to fly. Satirical prints utilizing balloon motifs help us to understand the impact that flight on the first generations to experience it.

The National Air and Space Museum owes its collection of balloon prints to the generosity of several leading 20th century collectors. The bulk of the prints in our collection come from Harry Frank Guggenheim (August 23, 1890 - January 22, 1971).. The son of industrialist and philanthropist Daniel Guggenheim and his wife Florence, Harry Guggenheim enjoyed multiple careers as a business leader, diplomat, publisher, philanthropist, and sportsman.

Aviation was the thread that tied his diverse activities together. A graduate of Yale and Pembroke College, Cambridge University, he learned to fly before the U.S. entered WW I and served as a Naval aviator during that conflict and as a Naval officer during WW II. In the mid- 1920's, he convinced his father to establish the Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics, which had an enormous impact on aeronautical engineering and aviation in the U.S.

A collector of everything from fine art to thoroughbred horses, Guggenheim began to acquire aeronautica during the 1920's, gradually focusing his attention of aeronautical prints. His collection had grown to be one of the most complete in the world by the 1940's, when he loaned his prints to the New York museum maintained by the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences. When the IAS dissolved its museum in the 1950's, Guggenheim donated his own collection to the National Air and Space Museum.

The NASM collection of aeronautical prints also includes items donated by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and by a number of other private collectors, notably Constance Fiske in memory of her husband Gardiner Fiske, who served with the U.S. Army Air Service during WW I and with the USAAF in WWII; Thomas Knowles, a long-time executive with Goodyear Aircraft and Goodyear Aerospace; and Bella Clara Landauer, one of the great American collectors of aeronautica.

There can be little doubt that William Armistead Moale Burden was one of the most significant contributors to the NASM collection of furnishings, ceramics and other objects related to ballooning and the early history of flight. . Burden began collecting aeronautical literature and memorabilia during the 1920's, while still a Harvard undergraduate. Following graduation he rode the post-Lindbergh boom to prosperity as a financial analyst specializing in aviation securities. His business success was inextricably bound to his enthusiasm for the past, present and future of flight.

By 1939, Burden was reputed to have built a personal aeronautical library second only to that of the Library of Congress. He loaned that collection to the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, an organization that he served as president in 1949. In addition to his library of aeronautica, Burden built a world-class collection of historic objects dating to the late 18th century - desks, chairs, bureaus, sofas, mirrors, clocks, ceramics and other examples of material culture -- inspired by the first balloons and featuring balloon motifs. After a period on display in the IAS museum, William A.M. Burden's balloon-decorated furnishings and aeronautica went into insured off-site storage in 1959. A member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, Mr. Burden ultimately donated his treasures to the NASM, as well.

Thanks to the efforts of these and other donors, the NASM can share one of the world's finest collections of works of art and examples of material culture inspired b y the birth of flight with our visitors. We are pleased to extend the reach of our collections to those who visit our web site. Welcome, and enjoy.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

Museums With Their Own Niche

Smithsonian Magazine

I peered at the rows of lunchboxes and stopped with a smile in front of a gleaming Strawberry Shortcake, its pink and white figures recalling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, piles of crayons and an overnight party where at least one lucky girl unrolled a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag. I wondered if one of these lunchboxes was still hidden in the dusty recesses of my house. In an instant, a tall man with hair like gray steel wool was at my side.

“Ah, you’re of the metal lunchbox era!” said Tim Seewer, artist, cook and partner in Etta’s Lunchbox Café and Museum in New Plymouth, Ohio. “The Florida Board of Education decided in 1985 to ban metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. All across the United States, lunchboxes started to go plastic. Ironically, the last metal lunchbox was Rambo.”

Etta’s is a thoroughly charming bit of Americana. Lodged in an old blue-tiled general store, this free museum displays owner LaDora Ousley’s collection of 850 lunchboxes as well as the tobacco and lard tins that were the precursors to the lunchbox. The collection offers a unique lens into the popular culture of the last century—especially when accompanied by commentary from Seewer and Ousley, who do double time in the kitchen making pizza, sandwiches and salads. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection’s notable items. Also on display are lunchboxes featuring the many television icons that followed: Gunsmoke, Looney Tunes, a host of Disney characters, Popeye, Space Cadet, the Dukes of Hazzard, and more.

The collection both chronicles the stories and characters that shaped many a childhood and offers a perspective on larger social trends in America. As an example, Ousley points to her tobacco tins, which were produced beginning in 1860 with sentimental domestic scenes on them. “It was a clever cross-marketing ploy,” Ousley explains. “Women weren’t allowed to buy tobacco, but it was a sign of status to own one of these tins. It showed you knew a man wealthy enough to buy one and that you were special enough to receive it as a gift.”

Museums with a singular focus—whether on an object or a theme—offer visitors an intimate educational experience, often enhanced by the presence of an owner or curator with an unmatched passion for the subject. Here are seven more narrowly focused museums from around the country, some tiny and precariously funded, others more firmly established.

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Located in New Plymouth, Ohio, Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum displays owner LaDora Ousley's collection of 850 lunchboxes. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection's notable items. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. In 1985, the Florida Board of Education banned metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. Rambo was the last metal lunchbox made. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Lunchboxes on display at Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum include television icons such as Looney Tunes, Disney characters, Popeye and the Dukes of Hazzard. (original image)

Image by Richard Clement / Reuters / Corbis. At last count, Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating contains the largest collection of historical roller skates in the world. Some of their skates date back to 1819. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Roadchix. The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. Every year the museum and Britt host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. (original image)

Image by Newscom. The Bigfoot Discovery Museum was inspired by owner Michael Rugg's encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Vent Haven Museum. Located in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is the world's only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. The Vent Haven Museum features 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. (original image)

Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings in Portland, Oregon, has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings at last count. Eleven years ago, Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin were shopping in a thrift store, spied a black velvet painting of a naked woman emerging from a flower and had to have it. That impulse buy ultimately led to a vast collection, much of which is now displayed in an 1,800-square-foot museum. Co-authors of Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum, Anderson and Baldwin have a connoisseur’s eye for this neglected art form and an appreciation for its history. The paint-on-velvet form had its origins in ancient China and Japan, enjoyed some popularity in Victorian England, then had its modern heyday when American servicemen like Edgar Leeteg expressed the beauty they saw in the South Seas islands on black velvet. You can tour the museum for $5.00, but watch out for unexpected emotion. “A young couple got engaged in our black light room the other day,” says Anderson.

The National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska, boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. Included are a pair of the first skates ever made, which resemble modern inline skates, patent models from the history of roller skate design, costumes, trophies, photos and magazines on skating. Oddest items: a pair of skates powered by an engine worn on the back and a pair of skates made for a horse—with a photograph of the horse wearing them. This is the world’s only museum devoted to roller skating; admission is free.

The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. According to curator Linda Hughes, the town fathers of Britt tossed out a welcome mat for hoboes in 1899 after hearing that Chicago rolled up theirs when Tourist Union 63—the hobo union—wanted to come to town. A famous hobo named Onion Cotton came to Britt in 1900, and hoboes have been gathering there ever since. The museum is currently housed in an old movie theater, but has so much material it plans to expand into a larger space. The collection includes contents of famous hobo satchels, a hat adorned with clothespins and feathers from Pennsylvania Kid, tramp art, hobo walking sticks, and an exhibit of the character language hoboes use to leave each other messages. Every year, Britt and the museum host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Hughes says.

The Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology Museum is located above a bike store in Statesville, North Carolina, with a 5,000 square-foot showroom displaying the evolution of mountain bikes. The collection includes “boneshakers”—bikes from 1869 with wooden spoke wheels—as well as bikes with interchangeable parts from the turn of the century. Among this free museum’s 250 bikes are several from the mountain bike boom beginning in the 1970s, when the energy crisis pushed people to make tougher bikes. Many of these are highly designed with great craftsmanship. “Even if you have no interest in bikes, you’d hang one on the wall because they’re so pretty,” says owner Jeff Archer. The museum holds an annual mountain-bike festival that attracts many of the sport’s pioneers.

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California, was inspired by owner Michael Rugg’s encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. The museum offers local history tied to Bigfoot; plaster casts of foot and hand prints; hair, scat and tooth samples; displays that discuss hypotheses to explain Bigfoot sightings and Bigfoot in popular culture; and a research library. In the audio-visual section, the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film purporting to show a Bigfoot spied in the wild runs on a continuous loop. “I’ve got everything I’ve found dealing with Bigfoot or mystery primates here,” Hughes says.

Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, is the world’s only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. A Cincinnati businessman named William Shakespeare Berger and later president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists began the collection in the early 1900s; ventriloquists—“vents”—still donate materials. There are 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. Unusual creations include a head carved by a German prisoner in a Soviet POW camp from World War II—the vent performed for fellow prisoners as well as for the cook to get extra food—and a family of figures used by a blind Vaudeville-era vent. Photographs and drawings of vents abound, including one from the late 1700s, when ventriloquism was more often a trick to con people out of money instead of a form of entertainment. The museum also has a library with 1,000 volumes and voluminous correspondence for scholars. Admission is by appointment only, and curator Jennifer Dawson leads hour-and-a-half tours for $5.00. A yearly convention is held nearby.

The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum in Atlanta originated with a collection by Dard Hunter, an artist from America’s Arts and Crafts Movement who traveled the world to record the ways that people made paper and collect artifacts. In the museum, visitors can examine precursors to modern paper, including many tapa cloths made from pounded bark in Sumatra and Tunisia with inscriptions from special occasions; a vat used by Chinese papermakers in 200 B.C.; and one of the one million prayers printed on paper and enshrined in wooden pagodas that were commissioned by the Empress Shotuku after Japan’s smallpox epidemic of 735. In all, there are over 100,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines and manuscripts. Admission for individuals is free; guided tours are $5 per person or $8.50 for a tour and paper-making exercise.

Synchronized Swimming Has a History That Dates Back to Ancient Rome

Smithsonian Magazine

Most people think of synchronized swimming, which gained Olympic status in 1984, as a newcomer sport that dates back only as far as Esther Williams' midcentury movies. But the aquatic precursors of synchronized swimming are nearly as old as the Olympics themselves.

Ancient Rome’s gladiatorial contests are well known for their excessive and gruesome displays, but their aquatic spectacles may have been even more over the top. Rulers as early as Julius Caesar commandeered lakes (or dug them) and flooded amphitheaters to stage reenactments of large naval battles— called naumachiae—in which prisoners were forced to fight one another to the death, or drown trying. The naumachiae were such elaborate productions that they were only performed at the command of the emperor, but there is evidence that other—less macabre—types of aquatic performances took place during the Roman era, including an ancient forerunner to modern synchronized swimming.

Naumachia (Public Domain via Wikicommons)

The first-century A.D. poet Martial wrote a series of epigrams about the early spectacles in the Colosseum, in which he described a group of women who played the role of Nereids, or water nymphs, during an aquatic performance in the flooded amphitheater. They dove, swam and created elaborate formations and nautical shapes in the water, such as the outline or form of a trident, an anchor and a ship with billowing sails. Since the women were portraying water nymphs, they probably performed nude, says Kathleen Coleman, James Loeb Professor of the Classics at Harvard University, who has translated and written commentaries on Martial’s work. Yet, she says, “There was a stigma attached to displaying one’s body in public, so the women performing in these games were likely to have been of lowly status, probably slaves.”

Regardless of their social rank, Martial was clearly impressed with the performance. “Who designed such amazing tricks in the limpid waves?” he asks near the end of the epigram. He concludes that it must have been Thetis herself—the mythological leader of the nymphs—who taught “these feats” to her fellow-Nereids.

Fast forward to the 19th century and naval battle re-enactments appear again, this time at the Sadler’s Wells Theater in England, which featured a 90-by-45 foot tank of water for staging “aqua dramas.” Productions included a dramatization of the late-18th-century Siege of Gibraltar, complete with gunboats and floating batteries, and a play about the sea-god Neptune, who actually rode his seahorse-drawn chariot through a waterfall cascading over the back of the stage. Over the course of the 1800s, a number of circuses in Europe, such as the Nouveau Cirque in Paris and Blackpool Tower Circus in England, added aquatic acts to their programs. These were not tent shows, but elegant, permanent structures, sometimes called the “people’s palaces,” with sinking stages or center rings that could be lined with rubber and filled with enough water to accommodate small boats or a group of swimmers.

Royal Aquarium, Westminster. Agnes Beckwith, c. 1885 (© The British Library Board)

In England, these Victorian swimmers were often part of a performing circuit of professional "natationists" who demonstrated "ornamental" swimming, which involved displays of aquatic stunts, such as somersaults, sculling, treading water and swimming with arms and legs bound. They waltzed and swam in glass tanks at music halls and aquariums, and often opened their acts with underwater parlor tricks like smoking or eating while submerged. Though these acts were first performed by men, female swimmers soon came to be favored by audiences. Manchester (U.K.) Metropolitan University's sports and leisure historian, Dave Day, who has written extensively on the subject, points out that swimming, "packaged as entertainment," gave a small group of young, working-class women the opportunity to make a living, not only as performers, but also as swimming instructors for other women. But as more women in England learned to swim, the novelty of their acts wore off.

Image by hippodrome memories. Water circus at Blackpool (original image)

Image by Public Domain via Wikicommons. A performance at Sadler's Wells Theatre: This engraving was published as Plate 69 of Microcosm of London (1810) (original image)

In the United States, however, the idea of a female aquatic performer still seemed quite avant-garde when Australian champion swimmer Annette Kellerman launched her vaudeville career in New York in 1908. Billed as the "Diving Venus" and often considered the mother of synchronized swimming, Kellerman wove together displays of diving, swimming and dancing, which The New York Times called "art in the making." Kellerman's career—which included starring roles in mermaid and aquatic-themed silent films and lecturing to female audiences about the importance of getting fit and wearing sensible clothing—reached its pinnacle when she, and a supporting cast of 200 mermaids, replaced prima-ballerina Pavlova as the headline act at the New York Hippodrome in 1917.

While Kellerman was promoting swimming as a way to maintain health and beauty, the American Red Cross, which had grown concerned about high drowning rates across the country, turned to water pageants as an innovative way to increase public interest in swimming and water safety. These events, which featured swimming, acting, music, life-saving demonstrations or some combination of these, became increasingly popular during the 1920s. Clubs for water pageantry, water ballet and "rhythmic" swimming—along with clubs for competitive diving and swimming—started popping up in every pocket of America. 

Annette Kellerman (1887-1975), Australian professional swimmer, vaudeville and film star in her famous custom swimsuit (Library of Congress via Wikicommons)

One such group, the University of Chicago Tarpon Club, under the direction of Katharine Curtis, had begun experimenting with using music not just as background, but as a way to synchronize swimmers with a beat and with one another. In 1934, the club, under the name Modern Mermaids, performed to the accompaniment of a 12-piece band at the Century of Progress World's Fair in Chicago. It was here that "synchronized swimming" got its name when announcer Norman Ross used the phrase to describe the performance of the 60 swimmers.  By the end of the decade, Curtis had overseen the first competition between teams doing this type of swimming and written its first rulebook, effectively turning water ballet into the sport of synchronized swimming.

While Curtis, a physical education instructor, was busy moving aquatic performance in the direction of competitive sport, American impresario Billy Rose saw a golden opportunity to link the already popular Ziegfeld-esque “girl show” with the rising interest in water-based entertainment. In 1937, he produced the Great Lakes Aquacade on the Cleveland waterfront, featuring—according to the souvenir program—"the glamour of diving and swimming mermaids in water ballets of breath-taking beauty and rhythm."

The show was such a success that Rose produced two additional Aquacades in New York and San Francisco, where Esther Williams was his star mermaid. Following the show, Williams became an international swimming sensation through her starring roles in MGM's aquamusicals, featuring water ballets elaborately choreographed by Busby Berkeley.

Though competitive synchronized swimming—which gained momentum during the middle of the century—began to look less and less like Williams' water ballets, her movies did help spread interest in the sport. Since its 1984 Olympic induction, synchronized swimming has moved farther from its entertainment past, becoming ever "faster, higher, and stronger," and has proven itself to be a serious athletic event.

But regardless of its roots, and regardless of how it has evolved, the fact that synchronized swimming remains a spectator favorite—it was one of the first sporting events to sell out in Rio—just goes to show that audiences still haven't lost that ancient appetite for aquatic spectacle.

How to watch synchronized swimming

If synchronized swimming looks easy, the athletes are doing their jobs. Though it is a grueling sport that requires tremendous strength, flexibility, and endurance—all delivered with absolute precision while upside down and in the deep end—synchronized swimmers are expected to maintain "an illusion of ease," according to the rulebook issued by FINA, the governing body of swimming, diving, water polo, synchronized swimming and open water swimming.

Olympic synchronized swimming includes both duet and team events, with scores from technical and free routines combined to calculate a final rank. Routines are scored for execution, difficulty and artistic impression, with judges watching not only for perfect synchronization and execution, both above and below the surface, but also for swimmers' bodies to be high above the water, for constant movement across the pool, for teams to swim in sharp but quickly changing formations, and for the choreography to express the mood of the music.   

The United States and Canada were the sport's early leaders, but Russia—with its rich traditions in dance and acrobatics, combined with its stringent athletic discipline—has risen to dominance in recent years, winning every gold Olympic medal of the 21st century and contributing to the ever-changing look of the sport. Russia, followed by China, remains the team to watch in Rio this year, while the U.S. is hoping for a win from American duet pair Mariya Koroleva and Anita Alvarez.

Don’t Miss These 11 New Museum Exhibitions This Winter

Smithsonian Magazine

As the days grow shorter and colder, museums across the country are pushing out a slew of winter exhibits to entertain and educate just about everyone throughout the season. From the timeline of Charlie Brown to history of food sculptures, spectacularly colored frogs to a gender-fluid art installation, there will be plenty of diversions available to help banish the cold-weather doldrums this year. These 11 new winter exhibits are just a few can’t-miss events to help get you through the winter.

Charles M. Schulz Museum—You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown
(Santa Rosa, CA; February 23, 2017 – July 16, 2017)

(Courtesy of the Charles M. Schulz Museum and Research Center, Santa Rosa, California. )

The musical theater show You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown first debuted in New York on March 7, 1967, and is one of the most frequently performed in the history of American theater. In fact, during the four years spanning its off-Broadway debut through the end of its original run in 1971, the show clocked 1,597 performances. To celebrate the production's 50th anniversary in 2017, the Charles M. Schulz Museum—dedicated to the works of the cartoonist Schulz—will open an exhibit of the same name

Visitors to the exhibit will find rare items relating to the show’s performances, including original scripts with handwritten notes and drawings, original music scores, cast photos, playbills and more.

Detroit Institute of Arts—The Edible Monument: The Art of Food for Festivals
(Detroit, MI; December 16, 2016 to April 16, 2017)

“Cuccagna Arch of Bread, Cheese, and Suckling Pigs on the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, Anonymous, woodcut. (Los Angeles, Getty Research Institute)

Between the 16th and 19th centuries in Europe, nearly every public celebration, street parade, and court banquet featured towering edible sculptures. Comprised of bread, cheese, meat, sugar, flowers, and fruit, these sweet and savory confections took center stage at each public event. The Edible Monument looks at these historical food creations through 140 prints, rare books, and serving manuals.

The exhibit comes with its own edible monument, as well; sculptor and culinary historian Ivan Day will display a sugar sculpture named “Palace of Circe,” based on an 18th-century print that famously depicts the ancient Greek hero, Ulysses. It will include a sugar temple with sugar statues and sugar-sand gardens.

Mütter Museum—Tracing the Remains
(Philadelphia, PA; January 13, 2017 – July 6, 2017)

Fiber art by Sabrina Small. (Courtesy of the Mütter Museum)

Tracing the Remains touches on the Mütter Museum’s mission in a unique way: through the intricate construction of fiber arts. Using beautiful artwork throughout the exhibit, local artists Sabrina Small and Caitlin McCormack employ their experience with beadwork, embroidery, and crochet to illustrate the effects of chronic illness. The pieces transform the museum’s collections into personal narrative, exploring the timelines of life, death, and decay.

Newseum—Louder Than Words: Rock, Power and Politics
(Washington, D.C.; January 13, 2017 – July 31, 2017)

John Lennon originally acquired this guitar in 1964 to replace an identical one that was stolen. He used it extensively throughout his career. It was prominently seen in the film Help! In 1967, the guitar was painted psychedelic blue and red by the Fool, the Dutch art cooperative that also painted Lennon’s Rolls-Royce. In 1968, Lennon had the guitar’s finish stripped to the natural wood finish. Lennon and Yoko Ono held two “bed-ins” for peace in March and May of 1969, which Lennon commemorated by drawing caricatures of Yoko and himself on the guitar. It was during the second bed-in, held at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal, that the single “Give Peace a Chance” was recorded, using this guitar. (Collection of the Estate of John Lennon)

In partnership with the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, this winter the Newseum will explore how rock music can potentially change attitudes about patriotism, equality, freedom, and peace. And it's not just the music—Louder Than Words also focuses on the artists themselves, examining how they have exercised their First Amendment rights to challenge beliefs and affect change.

One of the most exciting pieces in the exhibit is the guitar John Lennon debuted when he introduced the song “Give Peace a Chance” with Yoko Ono. Other parts of the display explore Bob Dylan, U2, Rage Against the Machine, and more.

Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University—In Search of Noble Marbles: The Earliest Travelers to Greece
(Atlanta, GA; January 14, 2017 – April 9, 2017)

Engraving of the destruction of the Parthenon by the bombardment of the Venetian general Francesco Morosini in 1678. From Francesco Fanelli, Atene Attica descritta (Venice 1707). (Courtesy of the Michael C. Carlos Museum of Emory University)

From 1453 to the 1820s, Greece was ruled by a brutal political regime, making it nearly inaccessible to the Western world. A select few intrepid explorers were able to venture into the country, documenting what they saw in exacting detail. Noble Marbles investigates these explorations.

Separated into three parts, the exhibit first tracks early travelers up to the point of Greece’s movement toward independence. Here, visitors can see the first printed image of Athens dating to 1493. The second part of the exhibit focuses on explorers of the Ionian Islands, and the third part highlights monuments as works of art.

Florida Museum of Natural History—Frogs! A Chorus of Colors
(Gainesville, FL; January 28, 2017 – September 4, 2017)

A green and black poison frog. (Reptiland)

Nature’s colorful display will be hopping into the Florida Museum of Natural History this winter with an exhibit that's, well...all about frogs. Guests will have the chance to visually experience stunning live anurans—the common frog and toad—and learn how each has adapted to survival in the wild. It’s a hands-on exhibit, too; visitors can take part in a hidden frog scavenger hunt, activate frog calls, and even perform a virtual dissection. 

The museum will also host a 5K race on February 11 to celebrate the opening of the exhibit. Interested? You can sign up here.

International Museum of Surgical Science—Kjell Theory
(Chicago, IL; January 20, 2017 – February 26, 2017)

Part of the Kjell Theory exhibit. (Courtesy of the International Museum of Surgical Science)

In a surrealistic shout-out to Alan Turing—a gay computing pioneer frequently credited as "the father of the computer," and later a biologist—and to Guillaume Apollinaire’s 1917 opéra bouffe, Les Mamelles de Tirésias, Kjell Theory is a juxtoposition. The resulting exhibit straddles the boundaries between the physical and virtual worlds—the past and future, male and female genders, and human life and machine.

The exhibit is named for Turing’s theory of morphogenesis—the autonomous generation of natural forms—that itself is named after a love interest, Kjell, whom Turing met in Norway.

The National Museum of American History—Puppets & Muppets
(Washington, D.C.; November 23, 2016 – January 8, 2017)

The Cookie Monster. (Courtesy of The National Museum of American History)

Celebrate the country’s historical pastime of puppet-based entertainment at Puppets and Muppets this winter. The exhibit showcases puppets and marionettes from the National Museum of American History’s collection, and investigates the evolution of puppetry as an art form.

Among the standout pieces in the exhibit are a marionette from the 1963 World’s Fair, a royal marionette duo from 1900, Mr. Moose and Bunny Rabbit from Captain Kangaroo, and some of Jim Henson’s beloved creations: Elmo, Cookie Monster, and the first Kermit ever created.

Whitney Museum of American Art—Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s
(New York, NY; throughout the winter season – check with the museum for dates)

Kenny Scharf (b. 1958). When the Worlds Collide, 1984. Oil and acrylic spray paint on canvas, 122 5/16 × 209 5/16in. (310.7 × 531.7 cm). Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from Edward R. Downe, Jr. and Eric Fischl 84.44. (2016 Kenny Scharf/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York )

It's true, the decade known for its oversized shoulder pads and neon colors actually offered another unique aspect: its art. Fast Forward looks specifically at paint-based creations and how artists used the medium throughout the 1980s, investigating expressive figuration, conceptual practices, and painterly abstraction. There is a particular focus on the politically and socially charged artwork of the time.

Well-known artists Jean-Michel Basquiat, Ross Bleckner, Eric Fischl, Elizabeth Murray, David Salle, and Terry Winters are represented in the exhibit, as are more obscure painters who round out the aesthetic and commentary on display.

Kennedy Space Center—U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame
(Titusville, FL; November 10, 2016 – ongoing)

Opening day at Heroes and Legends, and the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. (Courtesy of the Kennedy Space Center)

Get to know nearly 100 world-famous astronauts at the newly opened U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame. Plaques and portraits line the walls of a tech-enhanced rotunda, providing an interactive way to “meet” the astronauts who are honored within. As a bonus, guests can virtually pose with one of the Mercury Seven astronauts in a special photo opportunity.

The Hall of Fame is tucked inside the new Heroes and Legends exhibit at the Kennedy Space Center, a multisensory experience that transports visitors into the inner workings of NASA’s space program and introduces the astronauts who make it all possible. Heroes and Legends uses cutting-edge technology to fully immerse guests—from a 4D theater to holograms to augmented reality.

The Franklin Institute—Jurassic World: The Exhibition
(Philadelphia, PA; November 25, 2016 – April 23, 2017)

Fans of the Jurassic Park franchise have a chance to step into the ultimate theme park—Jurassic World—at this new exhibit. With elements inspired by scenes from the film, visitors will be immersed in the prehistoric world. Animatronic dinosaurs like the brachiosaurus, velociraptor, and tyrannosaurus rex tower up to 24 feet tall. And the information in the exhibit is backed by science; it was created in collaboration with paleontologist Jack Horner, who worked on the original films.

For a great photo op, snap a selfie walking through the iconic Jurassic World Gates. From there, you can visit a petting zoo and the Hammond Creation Lab, plus get a sneak peek at the amusement park’s top-secret project.

Decoding the Lost Diary of David Livingstone

Smithsonian Magazine

The last decade of David Livingstone’s life did not go well for the famed Scottish missionary and explorer. In 1862, his long-neglected wife, Mary, came to join him in Mozambique, but she quickly contracted malaria and died. Nevertheless, he continued on his mission to find a navigable route through the River Zambezi. But in 1864, seven years before his famous run-in with Henry Morgan Stanley, Livingstone was forced to give up and return to Britain after most of his men abandoned him or succumbed to disease. He quickly fell from public grace as word got out about his failure to navigate the river. Eager to redeem his reputation, he returned to Africa two years later, this time in search of the source of the Nile River. But yet again, his assistants soon began deserting him, and added insult to injury by taking all of his food and medicine with them.

Starving and crippled by pneumonia, cholera and cutaneous leishmaniasis, Livingstone had no other choice but to turn to Arab traders for help. But this posed a moral dilemma for the staunch abolitionist: his saviors were the types of men he had been criticizing throughout his professional career for their involvement in the lucrative slave trade in India and the Arab peninsula.

From here, the account of what happens next differs depending on whether you read the official version issued by Livingstone’s publisher in 1874, or whether you consult Livingstone’s diary, whose brief entries detailing the period from 1871 to 1873 are, scholars think, a much more honest representation of Livingstone’s true thoughts and experiences. But until very recently, the diary was completely illegible. Having run out of paper and ink, Livingstone used the juice from a local berry to write on an 1869 edition of The Standard newspaper that a friend had sent him (he didn’t receive it until 1871). In 1873, Livingstone died in a small village in Zambia, having succumbed to malaria and dysentery. His diary was shipped back to England along with Livingstone’s body, but as early as 1874, the juice had faded to the point of near-invisibility, and the newspaper’s dark type further obscured efforts to decipher it. So for nearly150 years, Livingstone’s secrets remained firmly locked away on those faded sheets.

Adrian Wisnicki, an English professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a faculty fellow in the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, first heard about the diary in 2000. Wisnicki trained in the humanities, but his quest to find and decode the diary eventually led him to his true calling, a relatively new field called digital humanities.

Digital humanities scholars use computers, technology and social media to address questions in disciplines ranging from literature to history to art. One of the earliest projects to demonstrate the usefulness of this approach was the attempt to decipher the Archimedes Palimpsest, a 10th-century parchment that contained an unknown work by Archimedes. In the 13th century, however, a Christian monk erased the original Archimedes text and reused the paper for transcribing religious text.

As the project progressed, however, Archimedes’ lost words were slowly revealed. A team of imaging scientists, information technology consultants and library managers began working on separating the two layers of writing using advanced spectral imaging, a technique that uses separate wavelengths of light to enhance or tone down different chemical signatures—in this case, the ink the original Byzantine scribe used versus that of the monk. This teases those tangled words apart, allowing scholars to read or see what is otherwise invisible to the human eye. The project was a success, revealing not only Archimedes’ “The Method of Mechanical Theorems”—a work originally thought to be lost—but also a formerly lost commentary on Aristotle’s Categories by Alexander of Aphrodisias, and the only known existing manuscript by Hyperides, a 4th century Athenian politician. “Spectral imaging technology is a real game-changer,” says Mike Toth, president of R.B. Toth Associates, the technology company that decoded the Archimedes Palimpsest, along with many other historic documents. “Without it, it’s like trying to read what’s been erased on a white board and then written over. All of that heritage would be lost.”

In the years following the Archimedes Palimpset, other methodologies joined the digital humanities’ tool kit, and projects ranged from investigating Thomas Jefferson’s edits on the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence to creating multi-spectral images of the papyrus-based Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.

Wisnicki, however, had not yet caught the digital humanities bug. When he went in search of the diary, he was a traditional scholar, trained in the art of research and critical thought, not spectral imaging and metadata collection. In the early 2000s, he was pursuing an interest in 19th century British incursions into Africa, especially the way that British explorers’ rough, honest field diaries were later converted into polished tales of adventure, heroism, danger and discovery that became best-selling books. “The books that came to represent 19th century Africa were often very detached from the actual experiences of individuals in the field,” Wisnicki says. “To some degree, they were as much fiction as they were nonfiction.”

For this reason, Wisnicki explains, scholars consider the “original, unbridled, uncensored, written-in-the-heat-of-the-moment notes” as much more trustworthy documentations of what actually took place.

The hunt for 19th-century British explorers led him to Livingstone, one of the most famous of that cohort of men—and to rumors about Livingstone’s lost diary. But when Wisnicki finally managed to track down its scattered pages, which were tucked away in several forgotten boxes in the David Livingstone Centre just outside of Glasgow, he found that they were completely unreadable.

On a whim, several years after beginning his search, he contacted a friend involved in digital humanities, who directed him to a listserv. Within a day, he had received 30 responses, half of which advised him to reach out to the team behind the Archimedes Palimpsest. On the second day, however, Roger Easton, an imaging scientist from the Institute of Technology who worked on that famous project, contacted Wisnicki himself. “He said, ‘You have a manuscript that might interest us,’” Wisnicki recalls.

As it turned out, digital humanities was indeed the solution for transcribing the diary. And more importantly for Wisnicki, his own scholarship would never be the same. Once he embarked down that technologically enriched path, he was hooked. “I started out as a very traditional humanities scholar, looking at archives and books and forming arguments and writing, mostly on my own,” he says.

Toth soon got involved, too, and began scanning the pages of the diary, looking for the precise wavelengths that would reveal the writing underneath, and several other experts based in locations ranging from Baltimore to Scotland helped with the post-imaging processing and metadata cataloguing. The project, Toth says, was unique. “We always think in terms of undertext, or that which has been erased or scraped off, but this was a case overtext,” he explains. “Plus, there was this unknown berry ink that posed an interesting challenge.”

After subjecting the diary to spectral imaging, the team was left with more than 3,000 raw images, totaling 750 gigabytes of data. All of this needed to be processed by imaging scientists so that the text could actually be read. Easton handled the first phase of processing, which involved a technique called principal component analysis. PCA uses statistics to find the greatest variances between an original text and the spectral images of it. When those images are combined—from most to least variance—they can reveal details lost to the human eye.

Easton then handed off nine different PCA images to Keith Knox, an imaging consultant in Hawaii. With those images in hand, Knox was able to crack the legibility puzzle by adding a false color to the pages—light blue, the color that turned out to best mute the printed newspaper text—so that the darker written text stood out. Wisnicki opened up his email one morning to find those pages, an experience that he describes as extraordinary. “It was like history was being made on the screen while I’m sitting there in my pajamas,” he says.

At top, the original Livingstone diary written on an old newspaper. Below, the blue-tinted copy that allowed researchers to finally read the text. (David Livingstone Centre. CC BY-NC 3.0. )

In the end, Wisnicki and his colleagues were able to transcribe about 99 percent of Livingstone’s diary. Those words reveal a much more nuanced story than Livingstone’s publisher ever put forth.  “The nice thing about Livingstone is that, compared to some other 19th century writers, his writing is fairly easy to read,” Wisnicki says.

The diary begins on March 23, 1871. Forced to team up with the Arab slave traders due to his deteriorating health, Livingstone found—to his dismay—that he was actually beginning to like these men. “The Arabs are very kind to me, sending cooked food every day,” he wrote in April. He told them about the Bible, taught them how to make mosquito nets and drank fermented banana juice with them, which he swore off in the next day’s entry.  

“They nurse him into health, they become friends,” Wisnicki says. “It’s a very complex relationship.”

On the other hand, he soon began to look down on and resent the local people he encountered. Whereas Livingstone had generally had good experiences interacting with locals in the past, this time, he was lumped in with the traders and treated with distrust. He found it impossible to get the help and cooperation he needed to set out on a separate expedition to find the source of the Nile.  “The Manyema are not trustworthy and they bring evil on themselves often,” he complained of the local Bantu tribe.

Days turned into the weeks. By June—still lacking a canoe and having declared himself a “victim of falsehood”— Livingstone went so far as to follow the Arabs’ advice and use force to either get his money back from a local chief or to finally get the canoe he was promised. “He’s been out in the field for a long time, and he’s losing contact with reality and becoming more and more desperate to travel,” Wisnicki says. “He starts to take on some of the methods the slave traders use to control the local population.”

So Livingstone sent some men to the nearby village with the instructions to “bind and give him a flogging” if the chief still did not cooperate. “On the scale of existing violence in that region at that time, it’s not that significant,” Wisnicki says. “But the fact that Livingstone has taken a step down that path is a big deal.”

On July 15, however, Livingstone was abruptly woken from his stupor. The traders—his friends—went into a busy nearby market and began randomly firing guns into the crowd and burning down surrounding villages, killing at least 300 people, many of them women and children. Livingstone had never witnessed such an atrocity before, and he was “crushed, devastated and spiritually broken,” Wisnicki says. In Livingstone’s own words: “I was so ashamed of the bloody Moslem company in which I found myself that I was unable to look at the Manyema. . . This massacre was the most terrible scene I ever saw.”

“It’s a wakeup call,” Wisnicki says. “He realizes that he’s started to go the wrong way himself.”

Livingstone immediately left the traders and decided to retrace his steps east, bringing him to a village called Ujiji. “He might have been flawed and human, but he was guided by big ideal,” Wisnicki says. “He had a vision.”

There, he heard rumors of an Englishman spotted nearby. The diary ends there.

Since 1869, no one had received any sort of communication from Livingstone. So James Gordon Bennet, Jr., who published the New York Herald, decided his paper would “find” Livingstone. The story, he knew, would be a hit among readers. So he hired Stanley, a Welsh journalist and explorer, to track down Livingstone. The mission wound up taking two years, but it was a success. A week or two after Livingstone’s diary ends, history tells us that Stanley famously greeted the elusive doctor with the line “Dr. Livingstone, I presume?”

“From there, everything changes,” Wisnicki says. Livingstone again becomes the steadfast abolitionist and hero, his flirtation with moral corruption recorded only in the fading pages of his patchwork diary. Additionally, Stanley supplied Livingstone with new notebooks, so he gave up the newspaper and wrote several more diaries before he died two years later. Though none of those diaries pose the same legibility challenges as the newspaper one, Wisnicki is currently transcribing them so that those interested can have a complete picture of Livingstone’s last journey to Africa

As for Livingstone, some critics wonder what he would have thought about having his deepest secrets and feelings exposed for all to read, years after his death. “Part of his vision was informing the world about what was happening in Africa with the slave trade,” Wisnicki says. “So I think he would have approved.”

The election of 1864 as seen through the Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Collection

National Museum of American History

As we near Election Day, political cartoons are inescapable. Satirical cartoons continue a tradition of political printmaking that has been part of American political life since pre-Revolutionary times. Political prints and comics experienced a golden age in the late 19th century, during the era of the famed pens of Thomas Nast of Harpers Weekly and Joseph Keppler of Puck. Known for their symbolism, exaggerated caricatures, and satirical commentary, historical prints can provide the modern American with a rich glimpse into the nation's polarized past. This election season, it can be easy to overlook the fact that past presidential contests have been just as partisan and divided, and cartoons and caricatures can help to shed light on public opinion during these past contests.

A political cartoon showing a group of men in a race with men in the background. Several men have bubble quotes and one man is racing on an emu-looking creature with a human head. There is a wooden platform on which an highly racist caricature of a black man stands. There is a deer with a mans head crashed against it, apparently resulting in Deer Man's death. Babies holding flags try to climb on angry soldiers.

The Election of 1864

One contentious election of the 19th century that produced a significant output of political prints was the 1864 wartime contest between Republican incumbent Abraham Lincoln and his Northern Democratic opponent, George B. McClellan. Because of Lincoln's iconic status today, it is sometimes easy to forget that he had to run for re-election in the midst of the Civil War. In the North, the war was increasingly unpopular, as was Lincoln himself. "Old Abe" feared that he would lose his re-election—and lose badly.

An illustration that calls itself "The Army of the Potomac." It depicts streams of men with horses and covered wagons riding and descending into a valley. There is movement of men all around the work, which is set somewhere with a plain and tall trees. What appear to be Union soldiers sit or lie around the foreground and officers sit astride horses.

McClellan had been removed from command in November 1862, after refusing to pursue Lee's army following the Union victory at Antietam. In 1864 he was selected as the Democratic candidate for president. The Northern Democratic Party was controlled by a movement within the party known as the Peace Democrats—nicknamed "Copperheads" by Republicans, who compared them to traitorous serpents. These anti-war Democrats favored a cease of hostilities with the Confederacy. McClellan himself identified with the War Democrats, who wished to continue the conflict in order to restore the Union, although without the abolition of slavery. Political images were employed by both Republicans and Democrats to weaken their opponent's positions on the war and abolition.

The Cartoons of 1864

Editorial cartoons became extremely popular in the months leading up to the 1864 election. Included in weekly periodicals and distributed by political activists, these ephemeral prints were intended to be glanced at and shared, but ultimately discarded. Artists and publishers capitalized on the viciousness of the presidential race, choosing to portray candidates in a negative light. Some printers, in an effort to attract as many buyers as possible, would play both sides of the field, producing scathing images of both Lincoln and McClellan.

To draw voters away from Lincoln, Democratic promoters played up contemporary racist fears of Northern whites, arguing that the abolition of Southern slaves would result in nationwide social upheaval. They pushed groundless arguments that Lincoln was a supporter of "miscegenation"—the derogatory term at the time used to describe interracial mixing—believing that such rumors would isolate Lincoln from biased Northerners. The World, a Democratic newspaper in New York, had openly attacked Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In 1864 The World published a series of political prints depicting interracial couples and families, arguing that the re-election of Lincoln and the feared racial mixing would go hand-in-hand.

A cartoon showing a large hall with white men and black women dancing. The women are wearing white or brightly-colored ball gowns and in several cases are openly canoodling with the white men who accompany them. A number of the couples seem to be dancing quite spiritedly. Many of the party-goers are smiling and.

Anti-Copperhead cartoons viciously attacked McClellan, or "Little Mac," criticizing his war record and blaming the prolonged length of the conflict on his overly-cautious military decisions. They also tried to instill a patriotic fervor within viewers, advocating for the need of the reservation of the Union and condemning the prospect that the thousands of perished Union soldiers would die in vain.

A print showing a group of men by the ballot box. One man is holding some papers in his hands while the man across from him had his arm raised, appearing to be on the verge of hitting something. The men wear top hats and there is text at the bottom that explains a conflict between voters about who they would want to vote for.

A print that juxtaposes the artist's idea of democracy in 1832 and 1864. In 1832, a man called Calhoun bows to Andrew Jackson, who has his fist balled in the air. On the right side, Jefferson Davis (with busted shows and looking worse for wear), looks down upon two men pleading before him. All of the major figures of the piece have small labels and there is dialogue throughout signified by speech bubbles.

The Outcome

Of course, Lincoln did win his bid for re-election in 1864, running on the ticket of the National Union Party, which attracted votes from both Republicans and pro-Union Democrats. General William T. Sherman's capture of Atlanta in July 1864 and sharp divisions between the War and Peace Democrats helped ensure the incumbent's victory. Lincoln's second inauguration took place on March 4, 1865. A month later, Lee surrendered his Army of Virginia to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, Virginia, on April 9. Lincoln was assassinated five days later. While Lincoln was from then on imagined as a martyr for the nation, McClellan's wartime reputation shadowed him for the rest of his life and even after his death.

This final, unattributed anti-McClellan cartoon depicts the disgraced general attempting to dig his way into the White House—a reference to his cautious demeanor and predisposition to construct trenches rather than engage in necessary offensives. He is blocked by a ghostly apparition of Liberty and a legion of skeletal Union soldiers who had fallen in battle. Liberty admonishes him for allowing "these my Children to die in the swamp and on the Battlefield." For this misdeed, she instructs him to instead dig his own grave and be forgotten.

A print in which a man in soldier's clothes called "Little Mac" is stepped back from a shovel, his hand on his forehead in shock as he looks upon a woman in classical flowing robes, holding a shield of stars and stripes, a diadem reading "Liberty" on her brow. She has a speech in the upper left hand in a speech bubble as she brandishes a sword in his direction. She admonishes him and threatens him for his transgressions. On eof the porticoes to the White House and faintly be seen behind her and she floats in front of a cloud in which some skeletons are visible, watching him raptly.

The lithographic prints featured in this blog all belong to the Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Collection.

Jacob Kowall is currently an undergraduate student at the College of Wooster in Wooster, Ohio. He completed an internship in the Department of Home and Community Life under curator Debbie Schaefer-Jacobs and is assisting in the online publication of the Harry T. Peters "America on Stone" Civil War prints.

Author(s): 
Jacob Kowall
Posted Date: 
Monday, November 7, 2016 - 10:30
OSayCanYouSee?d=qj6IDK7rITs OSayCanYouSee?d=7Q72WNTAKBA OSayCanYouSee?i=PQOYHXtPWp4:WS2tm2X2Jwo:V_sGLiPBpWU OSayCanYouSee?i=PQOYHXtPWp4:WS2tm2X2Jwo:gIN9vFwOqvQ OSayCanYouSee?d=yIl2AUoC8zA

Meet the Iconic Japanese-American Artist Whose Work Hasn't Been Exhibited in Decades

Smithsonian Magazine

Born in 1899, Yasuo Kuniyoshi first came to the United States from Japan in 1906 at the age of 16. He had no intention of either staying nor becoming an artist. But after taking classes at New York’s Independent School and the Art Students League, where he later taught, he found he had a knack for painting.

In his lifetime his sometime enigmatic work became as well known as contemporary modernists Georgia O’Keeffe and Edward Hopper, with prestigious shows and even earning a memorable presidential review—"If that's art, I’m a Hottentot, " Harry S Truman once said of his work.

But after his death in 1953, he became less well known. A rising interest in Japan meant a lot of his work ended up overseas. The retrospective “The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.,  is the artist's first comprehensive exhibit in the United States in more than 65 years. (The exhibition is also available online.)

For many, it will be an introduction to a singular, innovative painter who blended the bleak ethos of American modernism with symbols of Japanese subjects, and flirtations with an European surrealist sensibility in his portraits of circus figures, wide-bodied nudes and vivid nightmares.

“It’s high time to review his work and take a look at it with fresh eyes,” says Joanne Moser, the museum's deputy chief curator, who co-organized the exhibition with Kuniyoshi scholar Tom Wolf

“He’s better known today in Japan than the United States,” Moser says, “though he considered himself an American artist.”

Image by Fukutake Collection, Okayama, Japan. Self-Portrait, 1918, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, as a young art student (original image)

Image by The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC, Acquired 1940. Kuniyoshi spent summers in the early 1920s at an artists' colony in Ogunquit, Maine. Maine Family, 1922-1923, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by The University of Iowa Museum of Art, Iowa City, Museum purchase. Eggplant, 1921, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Denver Art Museum, Bequest of Marion Hendrie. Image courtesy Denver Art Museum. Upstream, 1922, by Yasua Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Private collection. Photo by Carlos Silva. Adam and Eve (The Fall of Man), 1922, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio, Gift of Ferdinand Howald, 1931.194 . © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi /Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Boy Stealing Fruit, 1923, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi recalls early American folk art (original image)

Image by Columbus Museum of Art, Ohio: Gift of Ferdinand Howald, 1931.196. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. The Swimmer, 1924, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bequest of Scofield Thayer, 1982. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Self-Portrait as a Photographer, 1924, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University; Advancing American Art Collection. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Circus Girl Resting, 1925, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi was strongly influenced by a visit to Paris (original image)

Image by Collection of Gallery Nii, Osaka, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Image courtesy of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Waiting,1938, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, (original image)

Image by Fukutake Collection, Okayama, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Upside Down Table and Mask, 1940, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Collection of Gallery Nii, Osaka, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY . I mage courtesy of the National Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo. Between Two Worlds, 1939, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Collection of John Cassara. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Torture, 1943, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi, intended for a poster, depicts wartime atrocities (original image)

Image by Okayama Prefectural Museum of Art, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Festivities Ended, 1947, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Fukutake Collection, Okayama, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. I Wear a Mask Today, 1946-1947, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi painted after the war, depicts the artist behind a clown mask to cover his true expression. (original image)

Image by Fukutake Collection, Okayama, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. This Is My Playground, 1947, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Fukutake Collection, Okayama, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Fish Kite, 1950, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi depicts an iconic image of Japanese culture (original image)

Image by Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Sara Roby Foundation, © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Fakirs, 1951, by Yasuo Kuniyoshi (original image)

Image by Fuku take Collection, Okayama, Japan. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. A postwar theme of circus performers depicted as grotesque clowns includes Mr. Ace, 1952 (original image)

Image by Delaware Art Museum, Special Purchase Fund, 1953. © Estate of Yasuo Kuniyoshi/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. A series of black-and-white drawings, including Old Tree, 1953, concluded the artist's career (original image)

He was never an official citizen, though, and when he married an American woman in 1919, she lost her citizenship too (and her family disowned her).

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Kuniyoshi was not forced into an internment camp, as were many Japanese Americans on the West Coast, but he was nonetheless branded an enemy alien, his bank account impounded, his freedoms clipped.

“He had to give up his camera and his binoculars,” Moser says. “His travel was restricted.” And though these hardships were not explicitly dealt with in his work, they are strongly suggested in the exhibition.

A description accompanying the 1924 oil Child Frightened by the Water suggests it’s not the water actually creating the fear. The label asks: “Could Kuniyoshi also have felt anxious as the U.S. government enacted the Asian Exclusion Act of 1924, which made it illegal for people from Asia to immigrate to the United States?”

A circular background behind the pen and ink nude in Sleeping Beauty “suggests that his marriage was an island of happiness and security in an otherwise difficult environment, at a time when anti-immigrant feelings in the country were strong.” 

Moser says a lot of these suggestions are speculation. Because of its enigmatic nature “there’s a lot of room for explanations in Kuniyoshi’s work,” she says. 

What was enigmatic, fraught with unclear symbolism or even humorous in his earlier paintings became stark rendering during World War II when, to show his patriotism for his adopted country, he drew proposals for posters showing the brutality of Japanese forces, depicting torture, a hanging and waterboarding. It was as unusual a turn for his work as would be a later group of paintings in the early 1950s that used a riot of garish, almost acrid, colors. His dark, brooding black and white pen drawings just before his death in 1953 returned to the fish imagery that had been part of his work for years and a staple of traditional Japanese art.

The work of the preeminent Japanese-American artist Yasuo Kuniyoshi has not been exhibited for six decades. (Smithsonian Archives of American Art)

Kuniyoshi’s innovative genius came in his blending of Japanese idioms with American folk art influences as well as that of European modernism. ""His work is a distinctive expression of many strands of early twentieth-century American art flavored with his sly humor, idiosyncratic imagination, personal experience, and subtle references to his Japanese heritage," writes Moser in an essay.

It was during early visits to an artists colony in Ogonquit, Maine, sponsored by his friend and patron Hamilton Easter Field, that led Kuniyoshi to the kind of flattened spaces, squat figures and diminishing of single point perspective that marked his work, says Wolf, a professor of art at Bard College. 

A visit to Europe in 1925 gave a more provocative tone to Kuniyoshi's work, as well as an interest in circuses. His 1925 Circus Girl Resting gained wide renown when it was chosen as part of a 1947 U.S. State Department funded exhibition “Advancing American Art,” a sort of traveling show of cultural diplomacy that also featured work by Hopper, O’Keeffe, Stuart Davis and Marsden Hartley. 

But the press decried the modernist choices, with Look magazine howling in a headline, “Your Money Bought These Pictures.” Truman, referring to Kuniyoshi’s piece in particular, said “the artist must have stood off from the canvas and thrown paint at it," adding his garrulous commentary, "If that’s art, I’m a Hottentot.” The traveling show was canceled and the art sold at a loss.

Still, Kuniyoshi remained one of the most highly celebrated artists of his day. He was the first living artist chosen to have a retrospective at the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1948.

“He was collected in his lifetime,” Moser says. Indeed, the 66 pieces in the 65-year retrospective comes from such renowned institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Museum of Modern Art and the Phillips Collection as well as a number of Japanese public and private collections.

But even with fame, Kuniyoshi eventually ran into the dominance of then-rising abstract expressionism, Moser adds. “The art world had moved on.”

As tortured as his life is interpreted to be in the retrospective, the artifacts in an accompanying exhibit, “Artist Teacher Organizer: Yasuo Kuniyoshi in the Archives of American Art” down the hall at the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery through July 10 show him to be a well adjusted member of his artistic community, pictured at social gatherings and costume galas (including, at one, where many artists friends dressed like him).

Kuniyoshi wrote, in a letter to fellow painter George Biddle shortly after Pearl Harbor, “A few short days has changed my status in this country, although I myself have not changed at all.” Letters of support for Kuniyoshi after he was declared an enemy alien are on display as are his applications for domestic travel for professional reasons. 

Whatever the analysis of Kuniyoshi’s enigmatic work, the artist may have given a hint at his intent in unpublished autobiographical notes from 1944: “If a man feels deeply about the war or any sorrow or gladness, his feeling should be symbolized in his expression, no matter what medium he chooses.”

"The Artistic Journey of Yasuo Kuniyoshi" is on view through August 30, 2015 at the Smithsonian American Art Museum at 8th and F Streets in Washington, D.C.Adjacent to the Kuniyoshi show in the Lawrence A. Fleischman Gallery through July 30, 2015 is the archival show entitled "Artist Teacher Organizer: Yasuo Kuniyoshi in the Archives of American Art.”

The World After Oil

Smithsonian Magazine

On a calm, chilly morning in late March, the four challengers pulled up to the first leg of the 3,500-mile pilgrimage that would, at best, rally awareness for alternative fuels between Washington, D.C. and Costa Rica and, at worst, leave them stranded somewhere in between. Already they were an hour behind schedule. Emily Horgan, the leader of this renewable rat pack, this carbon-neutral crew, inspected her entry: a 1976 mustard-colored Mercedes Benz, splotched with equal parts rust and bumper stickers, that had not been running days earlier. Another Benz, a cargo van and a Volkswagen Rabbit—each flashing bumper stickers of the same quality and quantity—parked behind Horgan. (There was supposed to be a biofuel bus, but it broke down.) A line of elementary school students, dressed uniformly in blue fleece, don't-lose-me fashion and waiting to tour Ford's Theatre, read the stickers' drive-by literature: "This car is powered by fast food grease."

For this pilot run of the Greaseball Challenge, the energetic, dark-eyed Horgan, originally from Reading, England, had gathered some biofuel experts, a Norwegian film crew and a few general adventurers. "There's a lot of awareness about biofuel, but not a lot of knowledge," Horgan, an environmental consultant for the International Finance Corporation, told me that morning. "We want to get a sense of good local projects." This itinerant quest for knowledge will bring the teams to Guatemala to meet biofuel developers running the company Combustibles Ecologicos, or Ecological Fuels; Costa Rica to learn about fuel made from banana waste; Willie Neslon's ranch in Austin, Texas, to fill up at Nelson's onsite biodiesel pump (and listen to his upcoming album); and possibly any number of auto-shops along the way.

Someone had handed the school students additional bumper stickers, and they began placing them on the white 1984 Mercedes with haphazard abandon. "How many are we putting on there?" Ben Shaw, the car's driver, asked the children. "Not too many, I hope. Let's keep it down to five or six." Horgan later explained how the grease cars worked: A simple black switch on the center console allows the driver to toggle between biodiesel, which must be used to start the car, and grease, which powers it. "Flip it to this side, you get biodiesel," she said. "Flip it here, veggie power." A button off to the side purges the grease right before parking the car, a task that also requires diesel. The change doesn't affect the car's performance or how many miles it gets per gallon.

In the larger scheme, grease isn't a very practical alternative fuel. These crews are using it because it will be easier to acquire and store. (Just the afternoon before, someone had whipped up for Horgan an emergency batch of papadum and samosa grease.) Biofuel, which refers to fuel made mostly from plants, is practical, however, and a lot closer to mainstream than the average person might believe.

"Biofuel could be produced in substantial quantities," Suzanne Hunt, director of research on the subject for the World Watch Institute in Washington, D.C. and driver of the Rabbit, told me. Alternative fuels have shown early promise that they can reduce harmful carbon emissions on a global scale, but creating a large enough supply and getting the world to accept life after oil remain tasks-in-progress. Scientists, policy makers and fuel producers "are working on the next generation," Hunt says. "The challenge is to make it sustainable."

Entering the Ethanol Era
A month before, President George W. Bush had convened some of these experts to discuss the future of alternative fuel, a few blocks away from where Horgan's biofuel brigade stocked up for its grassroots reconnaissance. "He started by saying he knew the country needed to reduce its dependence on petroleum, and he didn't know if that was technically feasible," one of the scientists in attendance, Bruce Dale of Michigan State University, told me recently. "The answer is, yes, it is technically feasible."

Lately, the White House has been holding its own biofuel challenge: a two-track race driven by the desire to depend less on the Middle East for petroleum and by the need to reduce carbon emissions in response to global warming. In his 2007 State of the Union address, Bush called for the country to use 35 billion gallons of biofuel by the end of the next decade—about 7 times what's being used right now. By 2030, the Department of Energy would like 30 percent of transportation fuels to come from biomass. Achieving these goals will require producing renewable and alternative fuels more efficiently, and stockpiling loads of them.

Given global political tensions, it's clear why the United States would prefer not to rely on Middle Eastern nations for its transportation fuel supply. What might be less clear is the role alternative fuels play in global warming. "The driver for all biofuel is climate change," says Chris Somerville, a Stanford University biochemist and director of plant biology at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, D.C. "We wouldn't be bothering with biofuel if there wasn't this problem with climate change."

If people wish to control the greenhouse gases that harm the environment they must reduce the amount of carbon they release when producing energy. Biofuel does just that. As plants grow, they collect energy from the sun. Sugars from these plants can then be converted into heat energy. Burning this energy as fuel releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, but the gas is soaked up by plants at the beginning of the growing cycle. This give-and-take cancels out harmful carbon emissions, which is why biofuel is often referred to as a "carbon neutral" form of energy.

Right now, the most widely used biofuel is ethanol produced from corn—a process that involves breaking down sugars in the plant's grain and fermenting them into ethanol. Nearly all five or six billion gallons of the fuel made in 2006 were made this way. Perhaps unknown to the East Coast urbanites paying $3 a gallon for petroleum, some 150 corn-to-ethanol factories are already in operation in the United States, mostly in the Midwest.

Image by iStockphoto. President Bush recently gathered some of the country's leading biofuel experts to find out whether the United States could reduce its dependence on petroleum. "The answer is, yes," says one of the scientists in attendance, Bruce Dale. "It is technically feasible." (original image)

Image by Eric Jaffe. Four challengers, driving cars fueled by grease and biodiesel, set off on a 3,500-mile pilgrimage to rally awareness for alternative fuels between Washington, D.C. and Costa Rica. (original image)

Image by iStockphoto. The amount of jobs and money funneling into the American Midwest could be an economic boon, says Chris Somerville. "We've gone from a couple to 150 corn-grain ethanol plants in 3 years." (original image)

Image by Corbis. Only 2 or 3 percent of the whole automotive fleet can take the high amount of ethanol needed to make a major difference, estimates David Sandalow. "It's critical to have vehicles on the road that will take ethanol." (original image)

Still, experts almost unanimously see corn-based ethanol as the beta version of biofuel—an early phase of alternative fuel use that, while necessary, must be improved before realizing success. For starters, making biofuel from corn isn't entirely eco-friendly. Because corn is an annual crop—meaning its life cycle is a single season—farming it can release nitrous oxide, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide, Dale's research has shown.

Done correctly, though, corn can be grown in a way that won't release a damaging amount of nitrous oxide. The bigger problem with corn has to do with meeting the presidential benchmarks: it takes a lot of energy to produce fuel from the grain of corn. A prohibitive amount, some feel. "We can't make enough ethanol from corn to change our liquid fuel dependence," says Dale. If you were to add up all the energy it takes to create a bushel of corn—from making the farm machinery to tilling the land—you get only about 1.3 times more energy out of the resulting biofuel, says Somerville. A good energy return would be around 10 times that figure.

However flawed, corn-based biofuel's initial promise—it has resurrected the country's agricultural industry—might have paved the way for a more efficient alternative to enter the market. Experts call this next-generation fuel "cellulosic ethanol." The term is intimidating, but the idea is relatively simple: biofuel producers can convert more sugar into energy if they use the whole plant instead of simply the grain.

In addition to diminishing reliance on petroleum, cellulosic ethanol will neutralize more greenhouse gases than corn. "There's a limit on corn-based biofuel," says energy and environmental scholar David Sandalow of the Brookings Institution in Washington. "But if we can break through technical barriers on cellulosic forces, then the potential is much, much higher."

Overcoming these technical barriers won't require a miracle, just a few research advances and lots of money. In the meantime, scientists and producers continue searching for plants that naturally yield more energy than crops like corn and soybeans do. Most of this focus has been on perennial crops such as switchgrass. Because perennials last several seasons, they don't allow nitrous oxide to escape from the soil into the atmosphere; they are both carbon and nitrous neutral. More importantly, the energy return on these crops is some 15 to 20 times what's used to produce them. The star of this group is Miscanthus giganteus, a wild plant native to tropical regions in Africa and Asia. In addition to its high energy output, Miscanthus requires less water than typical crops and stores more carbon in the soil, says Somerville. The trick for biofuel developers will be domesticating this species and sustaining it over long periods of time.

"I think the industry's going to happen more quickly than most people realize," says Dale. "Once we recognize that we can make ethanol from grass grown to purpose, for something in the neighborhood of $1.50 or $1.20 a gallon, then it's going to explode." This recognition might happen more quickly than even Dale would have imagined. Just five days after his meeting with Bush, the Department of Energy announced that over the next several years it will invest nearly $400 million in six cellulosic ethanol plants across the country.

A Bumpy Road
The technological wheels that will carry us into this post-oil world are in full motion, and no brakemen need apply. Farmers, however, might want to have their resumes handy. More biofuel production first requires more plant and crop biomass, and the agricultural industry is in the midst of such a spike. On March 30, the day Horgan and her crew split for the south, the Department of Agriculture predicted that farmers would grow more than 90 million acres of corn in 2007—the highest total since World War II.

The amount of jobs and money funneling into the American Midwest could be an economic boon, the ripple effects of which might be felt by every taxpayer, says Somerville. "We've gone from a couple to 150 corn-grain ethanol plants in 3 years," he says. He describes the tale of one farmer and his neighbor, who raised $50 million for such a plant in nine hours. "There's a fascinating re-adjustment of the agricultural economy going on right now." This agricultural renaissance could diminish the government subsidies that have supported the industry since the Depression.

Some critics have wondered whether enough land exists for this growing crop load, though most experts dismiss this concern, particularly once plants like Miscanthus gain wider use. (The crop is so efficient at harnessing energy, writes Somerville in a recent issue of Current Biology, that, in the right conditions, covering about 3 percent of the world's surface with it could satisfy all human energy needs.) If and when Miscanthus and other high-yield crops displace corn, farmers should have no problem switching to energy crops, Somerville says. "I personally think this is good socially."

For Iowa farmers, that might be true. But abroad, Miscanthus, switchgrass and similar plants might create as many problems as they solve, says Daniel Kammen of the University of California, Berkeley, which in February received a $500 million grant from British Petroleum to open an alternative fuel research facility, the Energy Biosciences Institute. Kammen, already director of Berkeley's Renewable and Appropriate Energy Lab, will direct the social impact side of biofuels when the new institute begins operation this summer. Crops like Miscanthus aren't edible, so if farmers—particularly those in poor countries—find themselves without a biofuel buyer they can't go and sell the plants to food suppliers, Kammen says. Unless those directing the biofuel market require certain amount of crops that are less efficient energy resources but can also be sold as food, we could see a repeat of the green revolution of the 1960s. At that time, an increase in food production drove up the cost of things like irrigation and fertilizer so much that rich farmers prospered at the expense of the poor.

"We can find ways to make poor people have to choose between food and fuel, and that would be a disaster," Kammen says. "We have to be better than we've been in the past."

Watch this video in the original article

Buying in to Biofuel
The barriers to a bio-based fuel supply start way before cellulosic ethanol plants are built and global policy is crafted. They begin in the average garage. All cars can run on fuel that contains up to 10 percent ethanol. But only 2 or 3 percent of the whole automotive fleet can take the high amount of ethanol needed to make a major difference, estimates Sandalow. "It's critical to have vehicles on the road that will take ethanol," he says. These "flex-fuel" cars can take up to 85 percent ethanol, dubbed E85. Even as major motor companies produce such cars in greater numbers—it's quite possible you have one without knowing it—only about 900 stations across the country offer E85, and the majority of them are in the Midwest (one third are in Minnesota alone).

Before people will buy flex, however, they will have to buy in to the importance of biofuel. That's why, just a week after the Greaseball Challengers headed into Central America to learn about on-the-ground biofuel programs, President Bush set course a bit further south to visit Brazil—a country with perhaps the strongest background in biofuel, and one that provides a working model for stirring national pride in the alternative fuel revolution.

The Brazilian government began promoting ethanol use in the mid 1970s to avoid rising oil prices and to create a new market for sugar, the price of which had entered a period of global decline. Almost immediately, the state loaded the country with reasons to use ethanol. They offered low-interest loans on refinery construction, signed agreements with manufacturers to build ethanol-friendly cars, even gave taxi drivers incentives to convert their fleet.

Despite some bumps along the ethanol road, the Brazilian model is considered a success. Today about 40 percent of the country's transportation fuel is ethanol; in the United States, that figure is 3 percent. "The one lesson I take from this is, consistency counts," says Sandalow.

Consistency, and maybe a whole lot of coercion. Atmospheric change has grown so bad, says Kammen, that we no longer have the luxury of waiting until alternative fuels suit our lifestyle. The world must cut its carbon emissions from 7 billion tons to 2 billion in the next 40 years. If some monumental natural disaster occurs before that time—say, a massive chunk of Antarctic ice falls into the ocean—our window will shrink even more. We have to change, or be compelled to change, now. "We're going to need the next big step, that horrible tax word," he says. "We're going to have to tax that which we don't want, and what we don't want is carbon."

Kammen's plan, which he laid out in a recent Los Angeles Times op-ed and described to me later, reflects a person mindful of a reward-seeking society in which people are willing to charge thousands of dollars on their credit card to earn a plane ticket that, purchased alone, would have run a few hundred. In Kammen's proposal, when a person uses fossil fuel instead of carbon-neutral energy, he or she would have to pay a tax. "So," he writes, "the owner of a gasoline-powered Hummer who drives it 10,000 miles a year would pay $200 a year, and a Prius driver would pay $50." But instead of plumping Uncle Sam's pockets, this money—estimated at $555 a year for an average person—would be available for spending on eco-friendly products like solar panels or fast-growing trees. If you wished, he writes, "you could pool your 'cooling tax' money with your neighbors and build a windmill to supply your town with electricity."

As oddly enjoyable as this plan sounds, the situation likely won't reach this point. In early April, the Supreme Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Environmental Protection Agency, which has refused to acknowledge that greenhouse gases contribute to climate change, has the authority to regulate these gases. This decision, the first by the Court to address global warming, means that the agency must take one of two actions: deny that greenhouse gases damage the environment—a stance that would conflict with their internal documents, says Kammen—or develop strategies to reduce harmful emissions. Whatever it decides, inaction is no longer an option.

The Future Today
Decades from now, when alternative fuels have become everyday fill-ups, emissions might not even be a consideration. The car of 2050, says Kammen, will be a "plug-in hybrid," running off the electricity of batteries lodged in the doors. (They can double as side air bags, he says.) The back-up fuel supply will be biodiesel. "That's pretty close to no emissions," he says. "That legitimately gets 350 miles to the gallon."

For now, though, electricity remains too difficult to harness economically, so some of us are stuck pumping grease into the refitted trunk of a Mercedes recently covered with a fresh coat of bumper sticker. Still behind schedule, the challengers waited outside for the staff of Hard Rock Café to bring out fresh fuel from the deep fryers. The line of field-trippers now curled around the block, and the bored bystanders filled the time with commentary. "It makes your car smell like French Fries," explained one woman who appeared to be a chaperone.

Horgan, Ben Shaw, the Norwegian film crew and a garbage collector who had parked his truck in the middle of the street to watch the proceedings stuck their heads in the trunk of the white Mercedes. Shaw glanced up at the onlookers. "How many people can you fit in Ford's Theatre?" he asked. "It doesn't look that big." Inside the trunk, right where a spare tire should be, an elaborate ensemble of tubes and filters and pumps seemed as daunting as the task ahead. No one knew how long the mustard Mercedes would hold up, and the van's reliability was untested; it had just been purchased a day earlier. Only Suzanne Hunt's VW Rabbit seemed fit for the journey.

But if any of the challengers had reservations, none expressed them. "Some people are worried about our safety on the trip," said Hunt. "But most of the response is, I want to come with you." Soon, someone plopped down a black bucket of grease. Without pause, without a moment of hesitation despite the unpredictable road ahead, the biofuel brigade dove right in. A bit behind schedule, but gripping everyone in eyeshot, the challenge had officially begun.

Posted April 20, 2007

Twelve Anniversaries and Events Worth Traveling For in 2019

Smithsonian Magazine

For those feeling a bit of of wanderlust, it’s hard to winnow down the options when faced with a whole world as your oyster. Between all 50 states, let alone the seven continents, how can any traveler (the naturalist, the bookworm, the foodie, the film buff, or really anyone) seeking to broaden their horizons pick where to go? In 2019, a chock-full of anniversaries offer an opportunity to narrow your focus and visit standout exhibitions, festivals or rare natural wonders. Here are ten destinations for where this particular year has particular significance:

The Grand Canyon

(Patrick Gorski / NurPhoto via Getty Images)

In 1919, the Grand Canyon, a 277-mile-long, one-mile-deep crevice snaking through the Arizona desert, finally became a National Park more than 30 years after the matter had been introduced in the Senate. In its first year, 44,173 people visited the site. In 2017, it was the second-most-visited national park, with over 6 million visitors. They have good reason: The park is as stunning as it is ancient. Parts of the Grand Canyon appear to be almost 70 million years old (and even the “newer” sections of rock eroded by the Colorado River are around 6 million years old). An ancestral Puebloan settlement, Tusayan, dates back to 1185 A.D. and is open to tourists wishing to learn about the indigenous peoples who’ve lived in the canyon for over 10,000 years. There are more modern architectural feats to see, too, like the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which the Hualapai tribe operates, as well as hiking and camping opportunities.

A variety of events are in store for the park’s centennial, starting with a day of celebration that will involve demonstrations from artisans from the park’s 11 associated tribes, an oral history booth, a Teddy Roosevelt impersonator recounting his involvement with preserving the area and, of course, cake. Also on the 2019 roster are the Grand Canyon History Symposium; a performance of the “Grand Canyon Suite” and other Arizona-related works in Tucson; the Centennial Summerfest, where amateur astronomers set up telescopes and offer lessons; and the annual Celebration of Art, which brings artists to paint en plein air and then display their work.

Saint Lucia

The Petit and Gros Pitons in Saint Lucia (Philippe Giraud / Corbis via Getty Images)

Technically, the 40th celebration of the island’s independence began on December 13 with the Festival of Lights, a fireworks-and-lantern-filled night dedicated to the country’s namesake. But more festivities are in store year-round. The month of February, when the country celebrates Independence Day on the 22nd, is especially jam-packed, with an events schedule that includes a play revisiting St. Lucia’s origin story (did you know it’s the only country named after a real-life woman?), a color run 5K, a national parade and an open-air concert with creole, soca and calypso tunes. Plus, with almost 100 miles of coastline for a 233-square-mile country, pristine beaches abound.

Near Soufrière, which was the island’s capital in French colonial times, travelers can hire a guide to help them summit Gros Piton in an around-four-hour round trip that offers Instagram-envy-inspiring views. (Truly intrepid hikers can tackle the more rugged Petit Piton.) The Soufrière region also markets the “world’s only drive-in volcano,” Sulphur Springs Park, where visitors can get up close and personal with the steaming craters on a guided tour, try out a mud bath and check out a nearby warm waterfall, Piton Falls. In the island’s central rainforest, you can go ziplining and try to catch a glimpse of one of the 500 iridescent-blue-and-green St. Lucia Parrots. Summer travelers will be able to catch events centered around arts and culture, including the Saint Lucia Carnival, a jazz week and a weekend devoted to food and rum.

Germany

The Bauhaus building in Dessau, designed by Walter Gropius. The art school's students lived in this dormitory. (Pley / iStock)

In 1919, the Bauhaus school of arts, design, architecture and crafts opened in Weimar, Germany. Founded by architect Walter Gropius, Bauhaus aimed to meld fine art with design, marry form with function. Fourteen years and 1,250 students later, as World War II loomed, it shuttered. But Bauhaus’ legacy far exceeds its brief lifespan. The immensely influential school became a greenhouse for modernism and its left sleek, functional fingerprints throughout Germany and abroad. (Several Bauhaus affiliates fled to the United States and founded institutions like Black Mountain College and the Chicago Institute of Design.) Ten German states have joined together to celebrate the school’s centennial, starting with a week-long celebration (January 16 to 24) of boundary-pushing art in Berlin that includes a 360-degree music video, an all-female hip-hop dance performance and a theatrical world premiere. Arts and design aficionados can visit the clusters of Unesco World Heritage-recognized sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau, spend the night in a former Bauhaus studio and see the art of Bauhaus’ famous teachers and students at two brand-new museums. Visitors with more time can take a “Grand Tour of Modernism,” visiting dozens of other sites through Germany.

Tourists walk along the East Side Gallery, one of the longest remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. (benstevens / iStock)

November 9, 2019 also marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin for 28 years. Berlin museums will commemorate the Cold War détente through a slew of exhibitions.

Part of the 2018 i Light Singapore festival (Suhaimi Abdullah / Getty Images)

Singapore

The Singaporean street-food montage in Crazy Rich Asians was practically enough to prompt food-lovers to buy tickets as soon as they exited the theater, but if that wasn’t reason enough to visit the metropolis, Singapore is celebrating its bicentennial in 2019. In 1819, Sir Stamford Raffles, a representative of the British East India Company, landed in the port settlement. While it’s that date—not Singapore’s 1959 independence from Britain—that’s being celebrated, Singaporean authorities have emphasized that the bicentennial is an opportunity to reflect on the history preceding Raffles’ course-altering, colonialist arrival. A recently unveiled alteration to a classic statue evinces that goal: the polymarble statue of Raffles has been temporarily painted to blend in with the skyscraper behind it, rendering Raffles nearly invisible

The white polymarble Stamford Raffles statue, as altered by artist Teng Kai Wei for the Singaporean bicentennial (Roslan Rahman / AFP / Getty Images)

The bicentennial events are set to roll out throughout the year, from a special version of i Light Singapore, a “sustainable light art festival” with 30 different installations in late January and February, the Singapore Heritage Festival in March and a cinematic historical exhibit at Fort Canning, a military-hub-turned-public-space.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

People on bikes stop to watch a documentary film shown at an open, outdoor screening during the 2017 Panafrican Film and Television Festival (FESPACO) in Ouagadougou. (ISSOUF SANOGO / Staff / Getty Images)

Think Sundance or Cannes, but held biannually in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso. That’s FESPACO (the Panafrican Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou), the largest film festival in Africa, which turns 50 this year and celebrates African filmmaking. In 1969, it attracted 24 films from seven countries, but now, it draws industry professionals from Africa and beyond to view some 200 films across 350 screenings held in three cities. The decision to open the 2017 festival to digital films also boosted submissions to a record-setting 1,000. For its anniversary, the festival will host screenings of iconic African movies; a retrospective of the films that have snagged the festival’s top prize, the Golden Stallion of Yennega (the award depicts a warrior princess considered the mother of the Mossi people), in the past; and as usual, an opening ceremony in a 25,000-seat stadium.

London, England

Athletes representing Australia and Afghanistan play in the most recent ICC Cricket World Cup, which took place in 2015. (Paul Kane / Getty Images)

Wicket. Pitch. Popping crease. These terms might sound alien, unless you count yourself a cricket aficionado, but the sport used to be popular in the United States before baseball came along. One-hundred-seventy-five years ago, the first international sporting competition of modern times (cricket dates back to the 13th-century) was a 1844 matchup between the United States and Canada. Canada won by 23 runs. Since then, the matchups have grown in scale, and in 2019, England and Wales will host the 12th Cricket World Cup this summer. Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and the West Indies will be competing in the May 30-July 14 tournament, beginning and ending at pitches in London.

A statue of Queen Victoria outside of London's Kensington Palace (Oli Scarff / Getty Images)

For those who prefer royal history to cricket, 2019 also marks the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth. London’s Kensington Palace—perhaps better known now as the official residence of William and Catherine, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge—is debuting a new exhibit on May 24, Victoria’s birthday. The longest-reigning British monarch before Elizabeth II, Victoria grew up in the palace, and visitors can tour her reimagined quarters, see items from her closet and learn how, long before social media, Victoria harnessed the power of royal photographs.

Loire Valley, France

(ClickAlps / REDA&CO / UIG via Getty Images)

France is celebrating the lives and legacies of two famous Italians, Leonardo da Vinci and Catherine de’ Medici, in 2019. The quintessential “Renaissance man” moved to what’s now known as the Château du Clos Lucé in 1516 at the behest of King Francis, who made him the “first painter, engineer and architect to the King.” Three years later, Leonardo died at the age of 67. Among the variety of Leonardo-themed offerings in the Loire Valley are recreations of the workshops where the engineer and artist drafted plans for a piping system that would span France, the first exhibition of a tapestry replica of Leonardo's "Last Supper" outside of the Vatican since the 1500s, a Renaissance music festival, his alleged second tomb and contemporary artwork riffing off da Vinci’s legacy. Leonardo’s death year doubles as the year that Catherine de’ Medici, the Florentine noblewoman who’d become queen of France and mother to three kings, was born, and accordingly, her personal belongings and tapestries will be display. Beyond the quincentenary, the Loire Valley teems with chateaus and wineries to explore.

Normandy, France

A memorial at Juno Beach, on of the landing sites on D-Day (Peter Macdiarmid / Getty Images)

Seventy-five years ago, on June 6, 1944, Allied troops landed on five beaches in the largest seaborne invasion in history. That maritime operation, D-Day, marked the start of the liberation of Western Europe from the Nazis. The Normandy region in northern France will commemorate the momentous military anniversary throughout early June, from nearly 300 people clad in World War II replica uniforms parachuting into historic drop spots from vintage DC-3 and C-47 Dakota aircraft. The beaches and surrounding towns will also host firework displays, historic vehicle parades, camp reenactments, “Liberty Balls” with era-appropriate swing music and Lindy Hop dancing, a book fair, a commemoration of the contributions of the Comanche tribe to WWII, an exhibit on D-Day’s influence on Marvel Comics mastermind Jack Kirby, and chances to visit the press room from which American war reporters worked. (See this guide to events for more specifics.) American visitors may also want to pay their respects at the Normandy American Cemetery, where nearly 10,000 fallen service members, including many who lost their lives during D-Day, are buried, and the Pointe du Hoc Ranger Monument, the spot where Rangers scaled a cliff face near Omaha Beach to neutralize critically positioned German artillery.

Vintage WWII-era aircraft (Michael Prophet, courtesy Daks Over Normandy)

Chile and Argentina

A rendering of the eclipse as seen from La Silla Observatory in Chile. (M. Druckmüller, P. Aniol, K. Delcourte, P. Horálek, L. Calçada / ESO)

Caught the eclipse bug last summer? 2019 sees another eclipse, this time passing from the Pitcairn Islands to the Atlantic coast of Argentina on the evening of July 2. The path of totality stripes through Chile and Argentina, including La Serena, Chile’s second-oldest city; Argentina’s arid Cuyo and Pampas regions; and the suburbs of Buenos Aires. According to Eclipsophile, a site run by a Canadian meteorologist and astronomer duo, the Elqui Valley, renowned for stargazing, is a particularly ideal spot to watch the moon overtake the sun. The total eclipse will only be visible overhead for about two glorious minutes (plus two-odd hours of a partial eclipse), but there are plenty of other offerings for tourists, such as the observatories—like La Silla and Mamalluca—dotting Chile’s Coquimbo region to the Atacama Desert, the wine-and-paleontology allure of Argentina’s San Juan province and eating picadas amidst the bustle of Buenos Aires.

Cape Canaveral, Florida

(Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex)

It’s been 50 years since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon with a transfixed nation watching. The Kennedy Space Center, less than an hour outside of Orlando, is the site where the Saturn V rocket that launched Apollo 11 took off. Yes, there’ll be a pricey gala to commemorate the landmark achievement, but there are also more family-friendly options year-round. The Kennedy Space Center will be debuting a new exhibit, Touch the Moon, which uses augmented reality to let visitors recreate those iconic first steps on the moon. Space enthusiasts can also walk below a real, 363-foot-long Saturn V rocket (one of only three in the world) with projections of moon-landing footage playing out on its sides, spend time in replicated 1969 living room with the channel tuned to the historic moment, see the Astrovan depicted in First Man and even learn about what astronaut life is really like from one of NASA’s own over lunch. Cool off at the nearby Canaveral National Seashore or Cocoa Beach, where thousands gathered in the sand to watch the launch.

Watch this video in the original article

Liechtenstein

(Magone / iStock)

The 62-square-mile country, so small that it does not have an airport, celebrates its 300th birthday this year. It’s too late for travelers to catch the sold-out first celebrations, when, on January 23, two parades march from different sides of the country and meet up to reenact the unification of Vaduz and Schellenberg into Liechtenstein, but it’ll be live-streaming on the tricentennial website. Fortunately, Liechtenstein’s National Day isn’t until August 15. On that day, residents are invited to the rose garden of the Princely Family’s usually inaccessible residence, Vaduz Castle. Visitors without a royal invite can still enjoy themselves in Vaduz, however—the city puts on free concerts capped by a fireworks display, and all public transit and museum tickets are free throughout the country, so you can see a stamp museum, the “Treasure Chamber” museum’s moon rocks and Fabergé Eggs, and a special exhibition about 18th-century Liechtenstein at the national museum. The country is also launching an app that highlights historical spots along a 47-mile trail that travels through all 11 municipalities and bringing art from several private and state collections together for an end-of-year exhibit. Beyond museums and storybook castles, hikers can venture on the three-day Liechtenstein Panoramaweg/Route 66 trail, which starts from the mountain village of Malbun, and oenophiles can sample the Princely Winery’s offerings.

New York State

The pavilion of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts (Photo courtesy of Bethel Woods Center for the Arts)

Woodstock, the storied hippie-bliss music festival that drew a crowd of 400,000 to farmland in Bethel, New York, to see rock legends like Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, happened on an August weekend a half-century ago. The Bethel Woods Music and Culture Festival is set to celebrate Woodstock’s golden anniversary and will feature performances spanning multiple artistic disciplines (the lineup has yet to be announced), “TED-style talks from leading futurists and retro-tech experts” and a new exhibit about Woodstock.

One weekend prior, from August 9 to 11, the Walt Whitman International Festival will celebrate the American wordsmith’s 200th birthday in his hometown of Long Island, which Whitman described in verse:

“On the sands of Paumanok’s [the name given to area by its original inhabitants] shore gray and rustling,
The yellow half-moon enlarged, sagging down, dropping, the face of the sea almost touching,
The boy ecstatic, with his bare feet the waves, with his hair the atmosphere dallying”

The festival’s roster includes academic presentations, theatrical performances and poetry readings, including a “marathon reading” of Whitman’s most well-known work, Leaves of Grass. While in the vicinity of New York City, it’s also worth a visit to two marquee-name museums celebrating major anniversaries, the Museum of Modern Art (its 90th) and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (60th, which it’s commemorating by expanding its opening hours).

529-541 of 541 Resources