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Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
A loose sketch of a white room used for spacecraft preparation. A conical structure is in the foreground, stairs up to a platform are on the left, and there is a rectangular patch of dark shading above the stairs. Lines in the upper left suggest a deep perspective of the room.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Tilt Table

National Air and Space Museum
Tilt Table. A rough sketch of an astronaut on a tilt table surrounded by four men. The man on the right is wearing glasses and appears to be taking the astronaut's blood pressure. The man on the left immediately next to the astronaut appears to be looking down at his wristwatch and the man on the far left is wearing a hat and standing with his arms crossed. Another man is seated on a stool in the left foreground with his back to the viewer.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Doctor Checking Astronaut

National Air and Space Museum
Doctor Checking Astronaut. A rough sketch of three men leaning over a reclining astronaut. The astronaut's bare feet look very large from the perspective of the viewer's vantage point. Large lights hang overhead. None of the figures have very much definition.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Felt Tip Pen on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Lunar module on the moon.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Photographers - Roadblock 31

National Air and Space Museum
Pen and ink drawing on acetate. Photographers-roadblock 31. Men and cameras on top of platform forrming a horizontal band of interconnecting linear elements. A launch pad in the distance with a amn standing in front of the platform. The sky is clear and open.

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

CBS Cameraman and His Camera

National Air and Space Museum
CBS Cameraman and his Camera, December 5, 1972. A cameraman is blocked from view by his color TV camera as he adjusts it towards the helicopter's opening on the right. He is seen from the perspective of looking down from above the camera. The cameraman is dressed in a pink shirt and yellow baseball cap. The equipment and interior of the helicopter are in neutral browns and blues. The camera is labeled "CBS Color." Writing in the upper left reads: "Sam Drummy / Jim Lynch Pro Surfer / Jack Kelley." Writing in the upper center says "Apollo 17."

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Recovery Engine Run-Up

National Air and Space Museum
Recovery helicopter engine run-up, December 11, 1972. Apollo 17 recovery. USS Ticonderoga

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Felt Tip Pen and Wash on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Felt tip pen and wash drawing on paper. Two astronauts.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Drawing, Felt Tip Pen on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
A Man's Back. The back of a man from the waist up is sketched in the lower left of the page. A few straight lines extend outside him, suggesting he is sitting at or leaning on a surface. Upside-down words on top describe the image on the reverse side of the paper.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

AM/MDA

National Air and Space Museum
AM/MDA. A spacecraft on a loading vehicle is at the center of the scene. The body is predominantly white but it is accented with strong touches of black and orange amid other softer colors; unfinished edges. Groups of technicians in white clothing are in the lower left and right, giving the scene a triangular composition.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Cape Kennedy: Transporter

National Air and Space Museum
Cape Kennedy: Transporter, April 1968. The pictorial space is split horizontally by two views of a transporter, one above the other. The top view is from a slightly further perspective and includes other lightly drawn equipment on the right. The bottom view includes simplified figures of people to suggest the grandness of the transporter.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Houston MSC Centrifuge

National Air and Space Museum
Houston MSC Centrifuge. The scene is divided by contrasting levels of detail. In the foreground extending from the left side is a detailed and drawn-out spherical machine. Its support network recedes to the background and attaches to the area between two large cylinders at the right. The cylinders and the overall detail of the room are only simply outlined.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Alabama Landscape

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper. Alabama Landscape, 1964. A rolling landscape spreads out to the horizon. In the center is an industrial plant with several large structures and other smaller ones. Roadways and fences cut across the valley and seem to converge at the plant. The sky is light blue with large white clouds.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Receiver, Western Wireless, Type 7, Earhart, 1935 Pacific Flight

National Air and Space Museum
Western Wireless Receiver, Type 7, Ser. No. 141

Amelia Earhart used this Western Wireless Type 7 radio receiver on her 1935 solo, nonstop flight from Hawaii to Oakland in her Lockheed 5C Vega. It was donated to the museum by Paul Mantz, a well-known movie and racing pilot and a personal friend of Earhart. Mantz served as Earhart's technical advisor for her Honolulu to Oakland and Mexico City to Newark flights, and for early preparations for her 1937 world flight.

Amelia Earhart is probably the most famous female pilot in aviation history, an accolade due both to her aviation career and to her mysterious disappearance. On May 20-21, 1932, Earhart became the first woman, and the second person after Charles Lindbergh, to fly nonstop and solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Flying a red Lockheed Vega 5B, she left Harbor Grace, Newfoundland, Canada, and landed about 15 hours later near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. The feat made Earhart an instant worldwide sensation and proved she was a courageous and able pilot. Then, on August 24-25, she made the first solo, nonstop flight by a woman across the United States, from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey, establishing a women's record of 19 hours and 5 minutes and setting a women's distance record of 2,447 miles.

Born in Atchison, Kansas, on July 24, 1897, Amelia Earhart displayed an independent style from childhood, including keeping a scrapbook on accomplished women, taking an auto repair course, and attending college (but never graduating). She attended her first flying exhibition in 1918 while serving as a Red Cross nurse's aide in Toronto, Canada. She took her first flight in California in December 1920, with veteran flyer Frank Hawks, and declared, "As soon as I left the ground, I knew I myself had to fly." Her first instructor was Anita "Neta" Snook who gave her lessons in a Curtiss Jenny. To pay for flight lessons, Earhart worked as a telephone company clerk and photographer. Earhart soloed in 1921, bought her first airplane, a Kinner Airster, in 1922 and wasted no time in setting a women's altitude record of 14,000 feet. In 1923, Earhart became the 16th woman to receive an official Fédération Aéronautique Internationale pilot license.

Earhart moved to east to be near her sister and mother, and, after a second year at Columbia University in New York City, began working in Boston at the Denison Settlement House as a social worker with immigrant families. In the spring of 1928, she was flying at Dennison Airport, and had joined the local National Aeronautic Association, when she was offered the opportunity of a lifetime: to become the first woman to fly across the Atlantic as a passenger.

Amy Phipps Guest owned the Fokker F.VII Friendship and wanted to make the flight but when her family objected, she asked aviator Richard Byrd and publisher/publicist George Putnam to find "the right sort of girl" for the trip. On June 17, 1928, Earhart and pilots Wilmer Stultz and Lou Gordon departed Trepassey, Newfoundland and, though promised time at the controls of the tri-motor, she was never given the opportunity to fly the aircraft during the 20-hour 40-minute flight to Burry Point, Wales. She did get in the pilot's seat for a time on the final hop to Southampton, England.

The dramatic 1928 flight brought her international attention and the opportunity to earn a living in aviation. Putnam became her manager and she began lecturing and writing on aviation around the country. In August of 1929, she placed third in the All-Women's Air Derby, behind Louise Thaden and Gladys O'Donnell, which was the first transcontinental air race for women (from Santa Monica, California to Cleveland, Ohio) and a race she helped organize. This race, closely followed by the press and by the public who flocked to the stops along the way, proved that women could fly in rugged and competitive conditions.

A few months after the Derby, a group of women pilots decided to form an organization for social, recruitment, and business purposes. Ninety-nine women, out of 285 licensed U.S. female pilots, became charter members, inspiring the organization's name, The Ninety-Nines (99s); Earhart became their first president. Female pilots were keenly aware of the lack of social and economic independence for all women and were determined to help one another.

In 1930, after only 15 minutes of instruction, Earhart became the first woman to fly an autogiro, made by Pitcairn and featuring rotating blades to increase lift and allow short takeoffs and landings. Earhart set the first autogiro altitude record and made two autogiro cross-country tours, which were marked by three public "crack-ups," as she called them. Though Earhart was the most famous woman pilot, she was not the most skilled.

Determined to prove herself, Earhart decided to fly the Atlantic Ocean again, but this time alone. She thought a transatlantic flight would bring her respect, something other women sought, too - Ruth Nichols made an attempt in 1931, crashing in Canada, but she was planning another attempt when Earhart succeeded. During her 2,026-mile nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic on May 20-21, 1932, Earhart fought fatigue, a leaky fuel tank, and a cracked manifold that spewed flames out the side of the engine cowling. Ice formed on the Vega's wings and caused an unstoppable 3,000-foot descent to just above the waves. Realizing she was on a course far north of France, she landed in a farmer's field in Culmore, near Londonderry, Northern Ireland. Acclaimed in London, Paris, and Rome, she returned home to a ticker tape parade in New York City and honors in Washington, D.C. By July and August she was back in the Vega for her transcontinental flight.

On January 11-12, 1935, Amelia Earhart became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, this time in a Lockheed 5C Vega. Although some called it a publicity stunt for Earhart and Hawaiian sugar plantation promoters, it was a dangerous 2,408-mile flight that had already claimed several lives. Of that flight she remarked: "I wanted the flight just to contribute. I could only hope one more passage across that part of the Pacific would mark a little more clearly the pathway over which an air service of the future will inevitably ply." Later that year, Earhart made record flights from Los Angeles to Mexico City and from Mexico City to Newark, New Jersey. She also placed fifth in the 1935 Bendix Race. Earhart was a two-time Harmon Trophy winner and was also the recipient of the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross.

Earhart became the first woman vice president of the National Aeronautic Association, which authorized official records and races. She persuaded the organization to establish separate female records because women did not have the money or planes - and thus the experience - to fairly compete against men for "world" titles. Earhart served as a partner in the Transcontinental Air Transport and Ludington Airlines and lobbied Congress for aviation legislation. She promoted the safety and efficiency of air travel to women, on the premise that they would influence men. She tirelessly lectured across the country on the subjects of aviation and women's issues and wrote for Cosmopolitan and various magazines. She wrote about her flights and career in 20 Hours and 40 Minutes, The Fun of It, and Last Flight, which was published after her disappearance.

Earhart married George Putnam in 1931 - hesitantly - on the condition that they would separate in a year if unhappy. Though some called it a marriage of convenience, they remained together.

Earhart designed a line of "functional" women's clothing, including dresses, blouses, pants, suits, and hats, initially using her own sewing machine, dress form, and seamstress. Though "tousle-haired" and rather thin, she photographed well and modeled her own designs for promotional spreads.

Earhart also designed a line of lightweight, canvas-covered plywood luggage sold by Orenstein Trunk of Newark, New Jersey. Earhart luggage was sold into the 1990s and featured an Amelia Earhart luggage key, prompting some people to believe they possessed her "personal" aircraft or suitcase key.

In 1935, Earhart became a visiting professor at Purdue University at the invitation of Purdue president Edward Elliott, an advocate of higher education for women, especially in engineering and science. Earhart, a former premedical student, served as a counselor for women and a lecturer in aeronautics. Elliott was also interested in supporting Earhart's flying career and convinced Purdue benefactors to purchase a twin-engine Lockheed 10-E Electra for her. Many companies contributed their latest aviation technology to her Flying Laboratory.

Earhart decided to make a world flight and she planned a route as close to the equator as possible, which meant flying several long overwater legs to islands in the Pacific Ocean. On March 20, 1937, Earhart crashed on takeoff at Luke Field, Honolulu, Hawaii, ending her westbound world flight that had begun at Oakland, California. The Electra was returned to Lockheed Aircraft Company in Burbank, California, for extensive repairs. On June 1, 1937, Earhart began an eastbound around-the-world flight from Oakland, via Miami, Florida, in the Electra with Fred Noonan as her navigator. They reached Lae, New Guinea on June 29, having flown 22,000 miles with 7,000 more to go to Oakland. They then departed Lae on July 2 for the 2,556-mile flight to their next refueling stop, Howland Island, a two-mile long and less-than-a-mile wide dot in the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately, due to various circumstances, Earhart and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Itasca, anchored off shore of Howland, could not complete any direct two-way radio communication and neither Earhart nor Noonan were competent at Morse Code. However, the Itasca did receive several strong voice transmissions from Earhart as she approached the area, the last at 8:43 am stating: "We are on the line of position 156-137. Will repeat message. We will repeat this message on 6210 kilocycles. Wait. Listening on 6210 kilocycles. We are running north and south." Earhart and Noonan never found Howland and they were declared lost at sea on July 19, 1937 following a massive sea and air search.

Earhart's disappearance spawned countless theories involving radio problems, poor communication, navigation or pilot skills, other landing sites, spy missions and imprisonment, and even living quietly in New Jersey or on a rubber plantation in the Philippines. The most reasonable explanation, based on the known facts of her flight, is that they were unable to locate Howland Island, ran out of fuel, and ditched into the Pacific Ocean.

Earhart's disappearance remains one of the great unsolved mysteries of the 20th century, and it often overshadows her true legacies as a courageous and dedicated aviator and as an enduring inspiration to women.

Beechcraft D18S Twin Beech

National Air and Space Museum
N522B. Twin-engine business, feeder airline, and military transport monoplane. Two Pratt & Whitney Wasp, Jr. engines. Six passengers, two crew members. Low-wing, tailwheel design.

The Beechcraft Model 18 made its first demonstration flight in 1937 and production continued for an impressive thirty-two years, with move than 9,000 aircraft built. The low-wing, all-metal, twin-engine monoplane was originally intended as a six-to-eight passenger executive or feeder airline transport, but eventually thirty-two versions were built. The highly adaptable design became a mail plane, a utility aircraft, and a distance and speed record breaker. Military versions included personnel transport, photo reconnaissance, and trainers for navigators and bombardiers.

The success of the Beech 18 ensured the success of Beech Aircraft Corporation throughout the 1940s. Beech introduced the D-18S model in October 1945, with structural modifications for increased payload and new engines and landing gear. Mike Mitchell operated N522B as an air ambulance for fifteen years, flying it a million and one-quarter miles and transporting nearly fifteen thousand patients.

On January 15, 1937, the Beechcraft Model 18 made its first demonstration flight at the factory in Wichita, Kansas, and it continued in production for thirty-two years. This low-wing, all-metal, twin-engine monoplane was originally intended as a six-to-eight-passenger executive or feeder airline transport. As the years passed, however, the Model 18 was adapted to many uses and, in all, thirty-two different versions were produced.

When production began on the Model 18 in 1937, there was virtually no market for this airplane in the United States. At the time, air transportation in the United States was a trunkline operation, and few feeder lines existed. Acceptance of the Model 18 by foreign and charter lines was immediate, however. The Model 18A, which also operated on interchangeable ski- or float-landing gear, was an ideal adaptation for snowbound areas and for lake and inter-island service. Prairie Airlines of Alberta, Canada, for example, ordered several of these airplanes for use in delivering air mail over a route that extended from Prince Albert to North Battleford, south to Saskatoon and Moose Jaw, finally joining up with the main route of Trans Canada Airlines at Regina. Also, businessmen were favorably impressed with the performance of the Model 18 as an executive transport, with orders coming from Alaska, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

On January 13, 1939, Beech began negotiations with the U.S. government on a contract for a photo reconnaissance version of the 18. Fourteen of these aircraft, designated Type F-2, were ordered as part of the Emergency Procurement Program. This order was followed by a contract for eleven C-45 personnel transports. Later that year, Beech began negotiations with the Chinese government for a bomber trainer. This version had a clear plastic nose, a single gun turret on the upper fuselage, and a machine gun in a tunnel in the rear floor. It also had internal bomb racks, which carried up to twenty 25-pound bombs.

1939 also saw a standard Beech 18S set a new flight record while on a demonstration tour, flying from Bogota to Barranquilla, Colombia, a distance of 450 miles, in 1 hour, 54 minutes. Later the same airplane made a 1,350-mile flight from Maracay, Venezuela, to Miami, Florida, in 6 hours, the first known nonstop flight between those two cities. To further demonstrate the capable performance of the Beech Model 18, Walter Beech entered a D18S in the 1940 Macfadden Race from St. Louis to Miami. With "Ding" Rankin as his pilot, Beech crossed the finish line in Miami in 4 hours, 37 minutes to win first place. Their average speed for the flight was 234 mph.

World War II brought more orders for military versions of the Beech 18S from the United States and foreign governments for a wide range of uses. About 90 percent of the U.S. Air Force's navigators and bombardiers received their training on AT-7s and AT-11s respectively. The U.S. Navy SNB-1 was similar to the AT-11, the SNB-2 to the AT-7. The JRB-1 was a radio-control airplane for target or drone aircraft. The Navy's personnel transports similar to the C-45 were known as JRB2, JRB-3, and JRB-4.

With the end of the war came the end of military production, although many of these aircraft remained in service for years. By October 1945 Beech was back into full commercial aircraft production. The first aircraft off the line was the newest model, the D18S, which incorporated a number of improvements. Structural modifications allowed for an increase in maximum weight and new landing gear, brakes, and tires were installed. Two 450-hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp, Jr., engines with Hamilton Standard constant speed propellers powered the D18S. It was the premier executive transport among businessmen and it was also used by the new local service airlines that emerged after the end of World War II.

On December 10, 1953, the prototype of the Super 18, the last version of the Beech 18, made its first flight. The last three production aircraft were delivered in November 1969. More than 9,000 Model 18s were produced since 1937, and, in 1970, more than 2,000 were still being flown in the United States alone.

In 1958, Mike Mitchell bought a D18S from the F.H. Hogue Produce Company that was already ten years old, but still in good condition. He modified the aircraft as an air ambulance aircraft and operated it at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix, Arizona. It could accommodate up to ten ambulatory patients and stretcher patients could be placed on a lounge running fore and aft. Over fifteen years, Mitchell flew his N522B a total of a million and a quarter miles, transporting nearly fifteen thousand patients. He donated it to the Smithsonian in 1976.

The Thorny Road to the 19th Amendment

Smithsonian Magazine

When the 19th Amendment became law in August 1920, it constituted the largest simultaneous enfranchisement in American history—women nationwide had finally obtained, at least on paper, the right to vote. But it’s the struggle for suffrage, which stretched more than 75 years prior, and not just the movement’s eventual victory that UCLA historian Ellen Carol DuBois recounts in her new book, aptly titled Suffrage: Women’s Long Battle for the Vote.

Suffrage history is thistly and complicated. The movement got its start in abolitionist circles during the mid-19th century when most married women lacked basic property rights. Even among the progressive-minded women and men gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848, the notion that “it is the duty of the women of this country to secure to themselves their sacred right to the elective franchise” proved radical. “One of my intentions,” DuBois told Smithsonian, “is to integrate the history of the women’s suffrage movement into American history…At every stage, the larger political atmosphere, the reform energies of the 1840s and ’50s, the Civil War and Reconstruction, the period of Jim Crow, the Progressive Era and then World War I, each of those periods creates the environment in which suffragists have to work.” To that end, DuBois traces the ways in which Reconstruction fueled calls for “universal suffrage” as well as a racial schism among suffragists. We learn how the women’s rights advocates became (sometimes uneasy) allies with different political parties, Temperance advocates and the labor movement and how outside political turmoil, like World War I, complicated their quest for the vote. Centuries before social media and the internet, reformers turned to newspapers, speaking tours, and eventually advocacy that ranged from signature-gathering to hunger strikes to convince voters and legislators alike how imperative it was that women gain the franchise.

DuBois’ richly detailed account also doesn’t shy from examining the bitter divides that fissured the suffrage movement over methods, race and class as it struggled to piece together a coalition that would vote to let women vote too. In the 1870s, after a schism between prominent suffrage leaders over supporting the 15th Amendment, the movement split into several camps, one with more moderate tactics and Republican Party allegiance than the other; in the 1910s, a similar split emerged between the more militant NWP and conciliatory NAWSA. And despite the contributions of women of color like Ida B. Wells-Barnett and Mary Church Terrell to their cause, NAWSA adopted an “explicitly racist policy” to appeal to Southern states around the turn of the 20th century, DuBois writes.

Intermixed in all this political history are the miniature profiles of the remarkable, determined women (and choice male allies) who propelled the suffragist movement. Susan B. Anthony ranks among the best known, but DuBois also adds the lesser-known facets like that Anthony was formally tried and found guilty of casting a ballot “without having the lawful right” to do so in New York? DuBois also highlights the stories of suffragists with less name recognition, like the firebrand and Equal Rights party presidential candidate Victoria Woodhull, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union leader Frances Willard and millionaire benefactress Alva Belmont. DuBois spoke by phone with Smithsonian about her book:

This book covers a long history, and I'm curious about the evolution of the movement. What are some of the twists and turns the fight for suffrage took that were not part of the original vision?

First, what really makes the suffrage movement the foremost demand of the women's rights movement are the consequences of the Civil War. The U.S. Constitution has almost nothing to say about who votes until the 15th Amendment, [which enfranchised African American men]. In the early postwar years, the assumption was that, like economic rights, voting rights would have to be won state by state.

Then with the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which virtually rewrite the U.S. Constitution [to abolish slavery and give formerly enslaved people legal and civil rights], the suffrage movement focuses on getting the right for women to vote acknowledged in the Constitution. When efforts to get women included in the 15th Amendment failed, suffragists actually returned to the state level for the next many decades.

The suffragists go back to the states, almost all of them west of the Mississippi, and convince male voters to amend their state constitution to either remove the word “male” or put the right of women to vote in those constitutions. Here is the crucial thing to acknowledge: When that happened, first in Colorado, then in California and ultimately crossing the Mississippi to New York in 1917, those women who were enfranchised by actions of the state constitution had comprehensive voting rights, including for president. So for instance, the women of Colorado gained the right to vote in 1893; they voted for president five times before the 19th Amendment is passed. By the time that the suffrage movement moves into high gear, in the midst of the first World War and then immediately afterwards, four million American women have the right to vote for president.

The way that the right to vote moves back and forth from the state to the federal level is something that could not have been anticipated. Especially since those first suffragists really thought that in the sort of revolutionary change of emancipation and black male enfranchisement, surely women would also be included. The failure of the 15th Amendment to extend the franchise to women so enraged a wing of the women's suffrage movement that it broke open the alliance between black rights and women's rights groups with serious and negative consequences for the next half century.

The second thing I'd say is that when women's suffrage started, the political parties were quite infant. Indeed, the women's suffrage movement begins before the Republican Party comes into being. I don't think that suffragist reformers really anticipated how powerful the major political parties would be over American politics. One of the things I discovered in my work was how determined the controlling forces in the major parties, first the Republican and then the Democratic Party, were to keep women from gaining the right to vote.

Why was that?

When the Republican Party enfranchised African-American, formerly enslaved men, almost all of whom lived in the South, they anticipated correctly that those men would vote for their party. The enfranchisement of women was so much greater in magnitude, so there was no way to predict how women would vote. Really up almost till the end of the suffrage movement, American women had a reputation, gained or not, for being above partisan concerns and sort of concerned with the character of the candidate or the nature of the policies, which meant that they could not be corralled into supporting a partisan force. So the only parties that really ever supported women's suffrage were these sort of insurgent third parties who had nothing to lose and everything to gain by attaching themselves to a new electorate. The most important of these was what was called the People's, or Populist, Party of the 1890s. Those first victories in the West can be credited to the dramatic rise of the People's Party.

Suffragists wearing the names of some of the Western states that had already granted women the right to vote process down Fifth Avenue during a 1915 march. (Bettmann via Getty Images)

How did the women's suffrage movement move from being very closely tied to abolitionism to largely excluding women of color?

So there were a couple things. First, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, one of the dominating figures in the first half century of the movement, when she’s really enraged not just that women are excluded from the right to vote but women like herself are excluded from the right to vote, she expresses herself in ways that are...she's charged with being racist. I think it's more accurate to say she's an elitist, because she's as dismissive of European immigrants as she is of the formerly enslaved.

Stanton made really, really terrible comments about people a generation removed from slavery—she called them the sons and daughters of “bootblacks” or sometimes she called them “Sambo.” Sometimes that charge of racism flows over to her partner Susan B. Anthony. That's not really fair. Anthony's abolitionism was much deeper and more consistent. When you follow her career, until the day she died, she was always, wherever she went, she would make sure that she went to black churches, black universities, black societies.

Second, by the turn of century we're moving into a whole different generation of leaders, none of whom have any roots in the abolition movement, who come of age during the period in which Reconstruction is portrayed as a terrible disaster for the nation and who are part and parcel of the white supremacist atmosphere of the early 20th century.

In those final eight years, 1912 to 1920, when the suffrage movement breaks through for a variety of reasons, to a real chance to win a constitutional amendment, the U.S. government is controlled by the Democratic Party. The president is a Southern Democrat. Washington, D.C., the home of the federal government, is a southern city. So the political atmosphere is radically hostile, at the national level, to anything that will help to return the African American vote.


In all the research you did for this book, was there anything that surprised you?

I was incredibly impressed by the congressional lobbying. I don't think I appreciated, until I wrote this book, the quiet importance of Frances Willard and the WCTU, which doesn't really fit into our normal story of suffrage radicalism. This sort of conventional women's organization was important in bringing mainstream women, and not just the kind of radicals who had fought for the abolition of slavery, to recognize the importance of votes for women to achieve their goals, not just because these were high principles of equal rights, but because they couldn't get what they wanted done. Whether it was the prohibition on alcohol or the end of child labor, they couldn't do those things without the vote.

One of the lessons of the book is that the notion that women's suffrage was a single-issue movement is just wrong. All of them had other goals. Carrie Chapman Catt was interested in world peace. Alice Paul was interested in equal rights for women beyond the right to vote. Anthony was interested in women's right to earn a living. Stanton was interested in what we would call reproductive rights for women. Each of them had a larger vision of social change in which women's suffrage was fundamental as a tool.

“This Is a D.C. Thing!” Head-Roc on Social Issues in Music

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

He has been called the “Mayor of D.C. Hip-Hop.” Vance Levy, known to many as Head-Roc, has made a name for himself across the region through his commitment to making and supporting music that matters. On the scene since 1993—as a founding member of Infinite Loop and a member of Three Levels of Genius (3LG), which won the Washington Area Music Association’s hip-hop award four times—his musical talents and fearless outspokenness have distinguished him as a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage.

With his initiative Chocolate City Rocks, Levy works to bring public awareness and support to socially conscious D.C. artists by organizing performances and other events held around the city. As a writer, he has commented on local issues for the Washington City Paper and Huffington Post DC. As the education director for Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts, he also contributes to ensuring that artists have access to legal resources.

Levy grew up near Seventh and Kennedy streets NW, an area he refers to as “Uptown.” Though his family later moved to Maryland, he has spent much of his adult life working and living in the district. From this vantage point, he can testify to how music in the city has impacted both him and the broader culture of Washington, D.C.

Here’s what he had to say in an interview from September 2019.

How did you get the name Head-Roc?

My first name, attribute, was G-Clef. It stands for Giving Civilized Lessons Educating Forever. I went by that in the hip-hop collective I’m a member of, the Infinite Loop. One day we were doing a show with KRS-ONE in a place called the Zulu Cave, which was near Bladensburg Road and New York Avenue—where the train tracks are—at a place called De Zulu Cave. This was a place that catered to sounds from Jamaica, reggae music, dance hall. At this show, I was handling the business for the Infinite Loop, and there were some negotiations that needed to happen last minute.

So, I was talking to the promoter, and there was a Rasta nearby, who, apparently, witnessed everything that went down between me and the promoter. When that situation ended, he stopped us and he said, “Man, where I’m from, we call you Heady!” And they started laughing, and they started calling me Heady, and they wouldn’t call me G-Clef no more.

So to put the “hip-hopinization” on it, if you will: Head. Dash. Roc. You got Vin Rock (Naughty By Nature), Chubb Rock. You got a lot of “Rocks,” you know, so: Head-Roc. That’s how that came about.

How has D.C. music influenced you?

Fourth or fifth grade, sixth grade, middle school, high school—that’s when I really began to identify D.C. music. Like understanding about go-go, “Oh, this is a D.C. thing!” You know, you heard it, but I began to understand it as something unique to D.C. in my middle school years, in the 1980s. Once we identified that this is from D.C., we all wanted to play it. So, we would have go-go bands in the garage, practicing in the garage at my parents’ house or at my friends’ parents’ houses.

How did you know you wanted to be a musician?

In elementary school, I used to make comic books with a group of friends. It was called the “Cosmic Comics Group.” We would have our own comic book characters. We had our own universe. That was my first artistic expression.

It wasn’t until high school when a brother named Sir Johnson and his family moved into my neighborhood. They were from New Jersey. Sir was a barber. He used to cut hair for Busta Rhymes. He’s actually quite a figure in hip-hop. I don’t like to say he’s a “background” figure, but, you know, he was a less recognized figure in hip-hop.

But let me be clear about this: I attribute meeting him to be the origins of my wanting to be a musician. One thousand percent! His family had two turntables in the basement and all these records. I had never seen a setup like that before. And they would be in there practicing, DJing and all that. There was a brother, who goes by the name DJ Infinite, used to live with the Johnson family. He and I, together with Sir, formed a group we called Last Resort.

I credit Infinite and Sir and the Johnson family with being the reasons why I eventually decided that I could earn a living as an artist in the discipline of music.

What do you find most powerful and unique about D.C. music?

For me as a black artist, D.C. music is very bluesy. It’s very soulful. It’s very funky. We are laid back! We some laid back cats here. So I have a D.C. understanding of rhythm, and that gave me an advantage in hip-hop because our rhythm is laid back. It’s very funk, heavily funk-based. And what’s more, the standards for funk here are very high. Extremely high. There are a lot of D.C. musicians that play all over the world, in funk bands, in different types of outfits that require a funky understanding of rhythm, if you will.

I find this to be true of D.C. music, whether it’s go-go, hip-hop, punk: a lot of us are talking about the social conditions in this town because this is the nation’s capital. If there’s one place in the country where the Constitution and the amendments—where like things are supposed to run by the book, it’s supposed to be here. But it doesn’t run like that! So that’s what artists are talking about.

Even in go-go music, I mean very powerful music. The Junkyard Band’s song “The Word,” talking about Reagan and the Pentagon. It’s a go-go song talking about Reagan in the early eighties! They’re talking about what’s going on in this town. Hip-hop music does the same thing, and so does the punk community. The punk community’s famous for talking about what’s going on in this town. And then there’s the music of other cultures and communities here as well, who are expressing themselves as they carve out their way to hold their ground to survive in this city.

So there’s a lot going on. There’s pop culture and the mainstream and what you would call the “underground.” I’d like to give it a little more prestige than that: “independent”! Let’s say it like that. There’s the community that is independent of the opinions of the mainstream and pop gatekeepers and tastemakers, and so at that independent level, aw man, everybody knows D.C. music is awesome! Some of the best musicians in the country, in the world, come out of here!

Find more from Head-Roc on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

Flyer for “Make Me Wanna Holler!” event on April 20, 2019
Design by Emmaline Nelson, National Postal Museum

Perspectives on D.C.’s Music Legacy

Music is embedded into every nook and cranny of D.C. It begs the question: what is D.C. music? Can it be defined?

On April 20, 2019, the Smithsonian collaborated with Chocolate City Rocks and the Charles Sumner School Museum and Archives to present Make Me Wanna Holler!, a series of activities celebrating the U.S. Postal Service’s new stamp honoring D.C. native son Marvin Gaye. Levy organized a discussion in which artists working in different social spaces dug deep into their thoughts and feelings about D.C.

The panel included Elise Bryant (DC Labor Chorus and the Labor Heritage Foundation), Anthony Fields (hip-hop musician, BKA Dimensions of The Package, A.R.K., Infinite Loop), Raj Lidj (funk/go-go musician and creator of Reg’go), and Katy Otto (punk musician and activist, Trophy Wife). Read transcripts of audio excerpts.

Vance “Head-Roc” Levy: What Is D.C. Music?

Levy begins the panel discussion by sharing his thoughts on the meaning of “D.C. music.” He calls attention to the significance of go-go and its components, addressing why it’s so significant to D.C.’s culture.

Katy Otto: The D.C. Punk Scene

Otto talks about her introduction to punk music in high school and how it resonated with her, inspiring her to play the drums.

Ras Lidj: The Reg-go Sound

Creator of the “reg-go” sound, Ras Lidj recites lyrics from two songs, beginning with “Tour Bus,” which was inspired by his experience working at Tower Records in Northwest D.C. during the day and not being able to find cabs that were willing to take him home at night.

Katy Otto, Infinite, Elise Bryant, and Ras Lidj take part in a discussion panel moderated by Vance Levy
Katy Otto, Infinite, Elise Bryant, and Ras Lidj take part in a discussion panel moderated by Vance Levy.
Photo by Nichole Procopenko, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
A chalkboard at the panel discussion asks, “What does D.C. music mean to you?” Visitors responded on Post-It notes.
Photo by Nichole Procopenko, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives
A chalkboard at the panel discussion asks, “What does D.C. music mean to you?” One visitor responded, “Go-go, hand dancing, marching bands...everything!!”
Photo by Sojin Kim, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives

Gissel Bonilla is a senior at School Without Walls, a magnet school in Northwest D.C. She volunteered at the 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival and began interning at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage in 2019 through the Center for Inspired Teaching’s afterschool program, Real World History.

Special thanks to Takoma Radio WOWD FM for the audio recording of the discussion session.

Beyond Bollywood: Immigration, Culture, and the Indian American Experience

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
The Sharma family in San Francisco, 1983. Photograph by Prithvi Sharma
The Sharma family in San Francisco, 1983.
Photograph by Prithvi Sharma

Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation opens at the National Museum of Natural History on February 27, 2014, and runs through August 16, 2015. The exhibition is the first major national exhibit to focus on the experiences of Indians in America and features an in-depth exploration of the heritage, daily experience, and numerous, diverse contributions that Indian immigrants and Indian Americans have made to shaping the United States.

We sat down with Masum Momaya, of the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center and curator of Beyond Bollywood, to discuss immigration, culture, and the diversity of the Indian American experience.

Let’s start with immigration, which is in many ways where this story begins. Why did Indians initially come to the United States?

In the 1800s, as India struggled to survive under British colonial rule, the first wave of Indian immigrants came to the U.S. in search of political and personal freedom. Specifically, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, farmers from Punjab, oppressed by British taxation and restrictions on land ownership, settled along the American West Coast. They worked alongside Chinese immigrants in lumber mills and iron factories and on railroads to support the nation’s industrial boom. Meanwhile, peddlers from West Bengal, capitalizing on the American desire for “Oriental” goods such as silk and spices, set up shop along the Eastern seaboard. Indian seamen, eager to escape the boiling engine rooms of British steamers, began jumping ship in New York and Baltimore. Generations later, Indians have come and are coming to U.S. for higher education, business opportunities, and to pursue a better life for themselves and their families.

Beyond Bollywood entrance. Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Beyond Bollywood entrance.
Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

How were Indian American communities involved in creating the exhibition?

Beginning in 2008, Indian American individuals, families, and communities all over the country generously shared stories, photos, documents, and artifacts with us. Indian American academic and community-based advisors also provided input throughout the project. When the Smithsonian began this effort there was really nothing in the national collection that represented the experiences of Indians in America. We hope this exhibition changes that.

While putting the exhibition together, what are some surprising continuities you found in terms of cultural traditions across generations?

We found that Indian Americans across generations have been working to sustain traditions in food, music, dance, fashion, literature, poetry, and religious rituals—all while adapting to the context of living in the United States. This is true not just for the generations who immigrated but also their children. In fact, there are many instances of Indian Americans who have lived here most of their lives but gone back to India to immerse themselves in a tradition and come back to the United States to share it with Indian American and broader American audiences. This is true for cookbook author Anupy Singla and her book The Indian Slow Cooker, dancer Parijat Desai, musician DJ Rekha, visual artist Sita Bhaumik, and designer Naeem Khan.

How is the incredible diversity of experiences, traditions, and cultural practices within the Indian American community reflected in Beyond Bollywood?

Deciding what to include and figuring out how to reflect the diversity of the community was the most challenging aspect of the exhibition as we encountered so many meaningful stories, wonderful photographs, telling documents, and resonant artifacts. We selected artifacts, art, objects, and images that exemplified the contributions that Indian immigrants and Indian Americans have made to the U.S. and that that tell a larger story in and of themselves. In this way, curating is as much an art as a science, adding and taking out things and stepping back to see the larger whole. Also, it’s my belief that an exhibition isn’t finished when it opens to the public but rather just the beginning of an expanding and extended sharing that lives in the gallery, in social media, in classrooms, and at dining tables through conversations. We also see this exhibition as a first step rather than a definitive account and aimed to be evocative and resonant rather than exhaustive and comprehensive.

Is there a special object in the exhibition that you think has a particularly compelling story?

We spent more than a year pursuingand eventually were able to borrowa dress designed by Indian American designer Naeem Khan and worn by First Lady Michelle Obama at the 2012 Governors Dinner. Aside from the Inaugural Ball gowns that are shown in the National Museum of American History, it’s rare to be able to exhibit a Frist Lady’s dress, let alone one from a sitting First Lady. The office of the First Lady at The White House and the National Archives, which stores presidential artifacts, were very generous in working with us to get the dress for the exhibit. Khan comes from a long line of embroiderers and designers, stretching back to the Mughal Courts in India, and this particular gown incorporates embroidery techniques passed down to him on a classic American silhouette. It is literally an example of Indian Americanness being woven into the fabric of the garment.

We’ve spoken a fair amount about material culture. Let’s talk about the role of intangible cultural heritage in Beyond Bollywood. How do music and sound factor into the exhibition?

The entryway to the exhibition features two old Bollywood songs, “Pyar Kiya to Darna Kya” from the film Mughal-e-Azam (1960), composed by Naushad and sung by Lata Mangeshkar, and “Jeena Yahan Marna Yahan” from the film Mera Naam Joker (1970), composed by Shankar-Jaikishan and sung by Mukesh. These were two iconic songs for the generation that emigrated from India to the U.S. in the 1960s and 1970s. And since we are taking “Bollywood” as an emotional, conceptual, and visual point of departure in the exhibition, we included these two songs to set a nostalgic tone.

Also, the exhibition includes a listening station with ten tracks featuring Indian musicians who’ve influenced the American musical landscape. Among them is “Rag Ahir Bhairav,” by Pandit Hariprasad Chaurasia on bansuri (flute) and Zakir Hussain on tabla (drum), from the album Venu in the Smithsonian Folkways collection.

What kind of events will be associated with the exhibition?

We will offer docent tours of the exhibition led by Indian American community members from around the area. We hope to host programs featuring instrumental and vocal musicians, dancers, magicians, writers, actors, and chefs in the coming year or so. Keep an eye on the Beyond Bollywood website for upcoming programming related to Beyond Bollywood.

We’ve spent some time discussing the exhibition. Let’s talk about the curatorial process and your presence in the exhibit. How did curating this exhibition change or impact your identity as an Indian American (if you self-identify)?

Masum Momaya speaking. Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
Masum Momaya speaking.
Photo by Sameen Piracha, Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center

I identify as many things: a South Asian American, an Indian American, a daughter of immigrants, a feminist, a person living with a disability, and a person who feels strongly about injustice associated with class privilege in the United States and globally. These identities are intersectional for me, rather than a laundry list that I can separate in my daily experience.

Working on this exhibition affirmed that some of my identity has been shaped through living as an Indian American person, but much of it has been shaped by other factors. It has also strongly affirmed a quote from the exhibition for me, “Indian Americans are as diverse as America itself.”

What do you hope Indian Americans take away from the exhibition?

For my parents’ generation who came here in the 1960s and 1970s, I’m hoping that there is emotional resonance in having their experience reflected, in seeing their stories at the Smithsonian. We collected items and stories from Indian American families, but we hope that there will be resonance beyond those specific families that will spark emotions for many visitors who are part of that generation. I also hope that they feel that everything they experienced and struggled through was not for naught and that we’ve honored and respected their experiences.

For those of us who are children of immigrants, the first generation born in this country, like me, we have needed the deftness to navigate being Indian and American. It’s our common experience, and we know that for those who immigrated here, it was not for nothing. We think of the possibilities it opened up for us and for future generations. I want my generation to feel a sense of belonging, that we don’t have to leave their roots behind or “choose” between any aspects of our identities in order to belong.

For children born to those in my generation, I want them to walk away with a sense of the depth and nuance of their roots in the United States. Perhaps they and future generations will no longer need to explain their hyphenated identities?

What about non-Indian Americans? The immigrant experience is in many ways one that all Americans can identify with, as we explore through Our American Journey: The Smithsonian Immigration/Migration Initiative.

Non-Indian Americans know Indian Americans as their friends, neighbors, co-workers, and classmates. I want non-Indian Americans and Indian Americans to walk away with an understanding of the vast and deep cultural, political, and professional contributions Indian immigrants and IndianAmericans have made in shaping U.S. history. I’d like them to have a sense of Indian American beyond stereotypes found in media and popular culture. And I’d like all visitors to walk away asking questions like: Who is American and who is a foreigner? What is American history? Whose stories should be told as part of the history of the United States?

The first major national exhibit to focus on the experiences of Indians in America, Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation opens February 27 at the National Museum of Natural History and runs through August 16, 2015.

Masum Momaya is a museum curator at the Asian Pacific American Center and an expert on women’s and human rights, race and social justice. Momaya developed all content for Beyond Bollywood: Indian Americans Shape the Nation, the largest exhibition designed by the Center to date.

James Mayer serves as the assistant to the director and assists with public affairs at the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.

A Corrido of Struggle: Remembering Roberto Martínez and the Black Berets

Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage

Inspired by the Black Panthers and Latin American revolutionary Ernesto “Che” Guevara, and formed in 1969, Las Gorras Negras (The Black Berets) were a multi-ethnic group that fought for social transformation amidst Civil Rights movements in New Mexico. In 1972, after two of its members, Antonio Córdova and Rito Canales, were mysteriously murdered on the West Mesa of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Roberto Martínez, leader of Nuevo Mexicano mariachi Los Reyes de Alburquerque (The Kings of Albuquerque)[1] and corridista (ballad composer), composed “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” in order to revise seemingly contrived reports of the incident and to honor the slain Black Berets.

The story of “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales,” however, extends beyond any urgency to counter Albuquerque’s official media coverage of the murders. Around the time of the incident, “El Corrido de Cordova y Canales” became a rallying cry against police brutality. New Mexican musicians began to perform Martínez’s corrido, which took on a life of its own. Martínez also lost the corrido’s text and never recorded the song. Martínez recalls, “I heard it one time at a gallery on South Broadway and I was planning to ask the young lady that sang it to give me the words, but she left and I never got them.” Over twenty years passed and University of New Mexico (UNM) Professor Enrique Lamadrid recovered the lyrics of “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales,” which he returned to his dear friend Roberto Martínez. Like any song that is diffused through the oral tradition, the corrido came back with slight lyrical alterations. Martínez did his best to restore the lyrics to their original form.

In the early 2000s, Professor Lamadrid worked with the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage (CFCH) to interview Martínez in regard to his musical family, which spans several generations, and about the story behind “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales.” The interview includes the only recording of “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” by Roberto Martínez and his family. A few years later, Martínez passed away, leaving a tremendous legacy of New Mexican musical traditions through homegrown mariachi, corridos of struggle, and Nuevo Mexicano violin music, among many other genres.

On the CFCH recording of “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales,” Martínez is accompanied by his sons Roberto Jr. and Lorenzo, and he sings in a hoarse voice due to his ailing health. His corrido beckons a classic borderland sound featuring stringed instruments used on both sides of the U.S.-México border: the mariachi vihuela (small five-string guitar), violin, and steel string acoustic guitar. “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” recalls the style of the historic recording “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez” by Los Trovadores Regionales,[2] an approach that highlights the vocal depiction of struggle over musical accompaniment.

The corrido is an emblematic musical, poetic, and oral tradition of struggle in Mexican and Chicana/o communities. With the exception of feminist narratives by artists such as the late Jenni Rivera, corridos historically portray male triumphs, trials, and tragedies within the circumstances of social conflict. Corridos of struggle stand in stark contrast to the depiction of glorified violence, wealth, and misogyny found in hyper-commercialized narcocorridos (drug trafficking ballads). Violence certainly enters the storyline in corridos of struggle, but they function as counter-narratives of “official history” in mainstream media and records. The corridos composed by Roberto Martínez portray the stories of New Mexican activists and their fight for social transformation.

Historically aggrieved communities in New Mexico are no strangers to economic, social, and educational injustice. The corridos composed by Martínez, read as local histories of resistance, documenting social conflict in New Mexico, such as the Tierra Amarilla standoff in “El Corrido de Río Arriba” and police brutality in “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales.” In Albuquerque in the 1960s and 1970s, Hispanos,[3] Native Americans, and Black communities faced a considerable amount of harsh discrimination, especially at the hands of local authorities. Professor David Correia of University of New Mexico (UNM) states, “Police killings in Albuquerque are three times what is found in comparably-sized cities and is similar to New York, which has fourteen times the population and a police force thirty-four times larger than APD.”[4] Therefore, the Black Berets, a militant-progressive group of social justice activists monitored the police, specifically for aggression against poor and working-class people.

The Black Berets ran many social service programs for underserved communities in Albuquerque. Their services included a free breakfast program for low-income children, active before the Albuquerque Public Schools had one; distribution of clothing to the poor; a wood cooperative; a “liberation school” for pre-school age children; a dental clinic; and health care at the Bobby García Memorial Clinic, named after the young Chicano activist, UNM student and Beret affiliate who was found murdered outside Albuquerque in 1969.[5] García’s murder was the first of many shootings of activists in New Mexico during the 1960s and 1970s.

Roberto Martínez first read about the homicide of Antonio Córdova and Rito Canales through a local newspaper headline that criminalized the two Black Berets. Further investigation by Martínez revealed a different story; Córdova and Canales were targets of a well-devised assassination plan. Martínez wrote “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” to set the record straight on the story of the slain activists. He recalls, “The news fabricated that they [Córdova and Canales] were caught breaking into a dynamite shed.” According to Martínez, his corrido portrays a more accurate report of the incident:

El veintinueve de enero
Sábado en la madrugada
Al ritmo de quince balas
Su sangre fue derramada.

On the twenty-ninth of January
Early Saturday morning
To the rhythm of fifteen bullets
His blood was spilt.

Córdova cayó primero
Canales salió corriendo
Reclaman los oficiales
Aunque ya estaban muriendo.

Córdova was killed first
Canales took off running
That’s what officials reported
Even though they were already dying.

The Albuquerque Police Department, New Mexico State Police, and the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office alleged that Córdova and Canales were attempting to steal dynamite from a roadside construction bunker and resisted arrest.[6] In actuality, the two Black Berets were led into a trap. According to Professor Lamadrid, Córdova and Canales were kidnapped by authorities and taken to a mesa outside Albuquerque. Córdova was shot instantly while Canales attempted to escape and desperately jumped off a cliff, breaking his legs in the process. Even at the sight of Canales’ bleak condition, the armed officials shot him nine times to end his life.

After the incident, local newspapers persisted to dehumanize the murdered Black Berets. One journalist harshly reported that no one would care to remember Córdova and Canales. Martínez recalls, “There was an editorial by a journalist or Tribune reporter and he really slammed Córdova and Canales. He said that they were trouble makers and they were criminals and he said that nobody would miss them.” Incensed by such an insensitive claim during a time of mourning, the Albuquerque Hispano community protested to show they were indeed grieving. Martínez depicts this scene of communal resilience in his corrido:

Sus amigos y parientes
Recuerdan con gran tristeza
Los dejaron por nueve horas
Tirados allá en la mesa.

Their friends and relatives
Remember with great sadness
They were left for nine hours
Splayed out in the mesa.

Escribe un periodista
En lucido editorial,
“Al cabo eran Gorras Negras.
¿Quién los va a lamentar”?

One journalist writes
In a lucid editorial,
“They were only Black Berets.
Who’s going to mourn them?”

Un grupo de nuestra raza
Les fueron a contestar,
“¡Aquí tienes, desdichado,
quién por ellos van a llorar”!

A group of our people
Went to answer him,
“Here we are, you good-for-nothing,
we are the ones who will cry for them!”

Recognizing the complexities of social justice work, Martínez states, “Córdova y Canales, también dos muy especiales personas, aunque agraviaron a mucha gente, también ayudaron a mucha gente” (Córdova and Canales were two very special people. Even though they aggravated many people, they also helped many). The Córdova and Canales incident coincides with killings of activists purportedly spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). Infiltrators facilitated the assassination of leaders in grassroots efforts for social justice. “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” re-humanizes the two Black Berets by honoring their lives as activists for social transformation:

Toquen, toquen mis guitarras
Lloren, lloren mis violines
Y recuerden la tragedia
De Córdova y Canales.

Play, play my guitars
Cry, cry my violins
And remember the tragedy
Of Córdova and Canales.

Over forty years later, the Córdova and Canales case remains open. In 1996, a video released by Tim Chapa revealed himself as an informant who set up the two Black Berets for murder. In 1999, a lawsuit filed by the families of Córdova and Canales against former Albuquerque police officers and governmental entities was unsuccessful.[7] The effort of justice for Antonio Córdova, Rito Canales, and their families continues to be a long battle due to the continuous dismissals of the case by the U.S. District Court in New Mexico.

However, “El Corrido de Córdova y Canales” remains a people’s perspective on police brutality. Ironically, the commercial success of violent narcocorridos and the urgency to reveal indignities experienced by international migrants overshadow corridos of struggle that tell Chicano/Mexican American stories. In particular, the corridos composed by Roberto Martínez serve as important musical memories of Chicano-Latino conflicts in the United States.

Roberto Martínez passed away on January 3, 2013. He was the founder and owner of Minority Owned Record Enterprises (M.O.R.E.), [8] a record label inspired by his efforts for Latino Civil Rights since the 1960s. In 1999, he received the New Mexico Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts. In 2002, Martínez was inducted into the “Corridista Hall of Fame” section for the Smithsonian touring exhibition Corridos sin fronteras / Ballads Without Borders.[9] Along with his son Lorenzo, Martínez was a recipient of the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship in 2003.

Listen to the musical legacy of Roberto Martínez and Los Reyes de Albuquerque through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings

[1] According to Lamadrid, “Founded in 1706 and named in honor of the Viceroy of New Spain, Alburquerque (original spelling) is New Mexico’s largest city. After the American Invasion of 1846, its first “r” disappeared from maps and signs. In 1992 Rudolfo Anaya’s famous novel, Alburquerque recovered the missing letter. After 1992, Los Reyes proudly added the “r” as a demonstration of cultural pride and recovery. New Mexican is an adjective that translated into the Spanish Nuevo Mexicano, refers more specifically to the state’s Hispano/Latino/Mexicano/Chicano people and their culture.” Lamadrid, Enrique. 2010. El Rey de Alburquerque: Roberto Martínez and his New Mexican Mariachi: A Transnational Legacy”

[2] A recording of “El Corrido de Gregorio Cortez” is available on the Smithsonian Folkways compilation Borderlands: From Conjunto to Chicken Scratch (SFW 40418).

[3] “Hispano” is the common term of identity for Mexican Americans in New Mexico.

[6] Correia, David. “Police War on the Poor”; Patterson, Kent. 2012. “Remembering the Black Berets”

[7] Patterson, Kent, “Remembering the Black Berets”

[8] Acquired by the Smithsonian Institution on September 7, 2007.

[9] Lamadrid, Enrique, “El Rey de Alburquerque

Alexandro D. Hernández is a doctoral candidate in ethnomusicology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is currently a predoctoral fellow at the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. Hernández is also a social justice activist-musician who works on original music via rock band ¡Aparato!, film, and theater and is highly dedicated to the son jarocho.

Hawaii’s Last Outlaw Hippies

Smithsonian Magazine

The Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose.
—J. M. Barrie, Peter Pan

The first person I meet in the Kalalau Valley is a shoeless veteran from the Iraq War with a sun-faded REI backpack slung over his tattooed shoulders like a trophy. Barca, as he calls himself, heard that a kayaker had abandoned the pack in a beach cave and made a beeline out to the bluffs to claim it.

Visitors are always just throwing stuff away in this place. Over here, a folding chair with a broken arm rest. Over there, a half-empty fuel canister. Now, the backpack—that’s a rare find. “Do you know how much these are worth?” Barca asks me.

In, like, dollars? Ten, tops.

“A lot!” he says without waiting for my answer.

Barca, who is 34, subsists as a scavenger deep inside the Nāpali Coast State Park on Kaua‘i’s west coast. The centerpiece of this 2,500-hectare park—the Kalalau Valley—forms a natural amphitheater that opens to the ocean and the ocean alone. The valley’s steep, green walls rise up on three sides like curtains, sealing it off from the island’s interior. Glassy threads of water are tucked into every crease of these walls, cascading down from a height greater than Yosemite Falls. First farmed by Polynesian settlers centuries ago, this remote paradise is nothing short of a feral garden, a breadbasket bursting with nearly everything a crafty human specimen needs to survive. “This is the closest that mankind has come to making Eden,” Barca says. “When the avos are in season, we eat avos. When the mangoes are in season, we eat mangoes.”

Barca is one of the squatters who lives in the Kalalau Valley, in the Nāpali Coast State Park on Kaua‘i’s west coast. (Brendan Borrell)

If you’re wondering whether he’s allowed to be living off the land here, the answer is no. Barca is a squatter in the eyes of the Hawaiian state government; he’s an eco-villain, a rule-breaker who needs to be eradicated. Barca, naturally, calls this slander. “If you don’t love this place with all of your heart, you couldn’t live here,” he says. Though he has only been a resident for eight months, which by valley standards makes him a relative newcomer, he’s already well on his way to becoming an expert in what he calls “Kalalau-ology.” He’s not only a trash recycler, he’s also a defender of the land, a gardener, a botanist, a cultural interpreter, and an anarchist-theorist. His tendency to grin and stroke his goatee when he’s talking gives him a puckish air, which underscores his antiestablishment streak. Spotting a group of tourists clambering across a stream in their pristine Gore-Tex boots, he is contemptuous. “Most of the people who come out here don’t know how to live in the woods,” he says. “They don’t even bury their shit!”

His rapid-fire diatribe is a lot to take in during my first five minutes in the valley, particularly since I’d woken up before dawn to hike the 18-kilometer trail to get here. At the moment, what I want more than a feast of mangoes or a discourse on backcountry sanitation is a place to drop my own pack, which I paid US $200 for and filled with a week’s worth of freeze-dried provisions (the horror). But where to sleep? Camping permits are hard to come by in Eden, and I hadn’t been able to get one before my last-minute trip, so, like it or not, I, too, would have to be an outlaw. I ask Barca if he knows any low-key spots to pitch my tent.

“Follow me,” he says, wrapping a kaffiyeh around his head to shield it from the sun. He needs to pick up an old cooking grate from another campsite and knows of the perfect hideaway for me. The next thing I know, he is off, bounding from rock to rock in his bare feet. To my right, I look down and dizzily watch the waves crashing over rounded stones more than 30 meters below. Next, we hug a boulder and Barca points toward a tunnel in the vegetation that leads to a campsite invisible to the rangers hunting squatters from helicopters.

After dropping off my things, Barca and I head down to the white sand beach and he unspools his life story. After a tour of duty in Iraq a decade ago, he struggled to make sense of the fact that he had killed people and had been nearly killed himself. “I had my issues when I got out,” he says.

Kalalau Valley (iStock / MartinM303)

He worked as an archaeologist in Northern California but realized that he was ill-suited to modern society. He felt as if his brain, rattled from his war years, needed a respite. He was repelled by the idea of walling himself off from his neighbors in a house in the suburbs or paying taxes in support of a system he no longer believed in. Even the idea of ordering a coffee each morning—from that multinational corporation with a mermaid logo—was too much. “It was hard to come back to the real world and take the minutiae of the day seriously,” he says. He’d get angry. He’d get drunk and fight. A friend told him about this dreamlike valley in Hawaii where you could live in the eternal present. Kalalau. He came. He stayed. “I don’t know if any place has felt this much like home to me,” he says, shortly before dropping his camouflage cargo shorts and diving into the surf.

Barca is not the only one who has felt such a bond with this place. Since at least the 1960s, the Kalalau Valley has been a magnet for long-haired hippies, crystal-stroking New Agers, deodorant-free backpackers, and others seeking a spiritual awakening—or at least a good place to skinny dip. During the Vietnam War, a group of draft dodgers and disillusioned veterans living in tree houses at the end of the paved road on the north coast realized that it would be the perfect place to grow marijuana in the summers.

It was the peak of counterculture activity, but as the years wore on idealism smacked into the messiness of society. This haven transformed from an idyllic retreat to a millennial party zone and an occasional pirate’s lair, and right now tolerance is wearing thin. After a local woman was killed when her car was hit by a fugitive named Cody Safadago who had spent some time in Kalalau last spring, the state launched a crackdown to clean out the squatters. They ticketed a total of 34 people last year and took at least one man out in handcuffs. Barca escaped unscathed. “I fucking live here and I know which way to run,” he says. “It’s my house and you’re not going to get somewhere in my house faster than I am.”

Sympathy for the squatters’ plight was scarce around Kaua‘i, however. Photos from the raids showed town folk just how elaborate the valley camps had become. One camp was outfitted with an earthen pizza oven and a queen-sized bed on a bamboo frame and contained what the state referred to, somewhat hyperbolically, as a “marijuana growing operation” complete with solar- and battery-powered lights. The valley also featured a secret movie theater and a library—a musty old tent filled with vintage treasures like The Joy of Partner Yoga and a book of Cat Stevens songs. All told, the state hauled out 2.5 tonnes of trash. “There’s a sense of entitlement,” Curt Cottrell, head of Hawaii’s state parks, told me. “People were crapping on archaeological sites and digging in the beach sand like cats.”

The squatters have made themselves comfortable in the valley, building beds, furniture, and a pizza oven. (Brendan Borrell)

The uproar brought to the fore deep questions about race, sovereignty, and the future of the natural world in commodified, modern Hawaii. How can society benefit the most from a place like Kalalau with its complicated history? Do we give it over to the well-heeled tourists who book hiking permits six months in advance or pay $200 a person for 60-minute helicopter tours? Or does it still belong to the native Hawaiians who rarely visit, but whose ancestors were the first to shape the landscape? And what do you do about the haole (white) outlaws like Barca who, in their ragamuffin way, carry on the countercultural project of the 1960s and maintain some kind of order in a place with only an occasional government presence.

The one thing that is undeniable is that the valley is one of the most desirable places in the world for people who have practically nothing to take a break from the rules and rituals of modern life and eke out a simpler existence. Barca calls it a “Disney forest,” a tropical refuge devoid of venomous snakes or man-eating tigers, where almost everyone speaks English and looks pretty much like everyone else. Living here is like popping a Prozac each morning but without all the bad juju. A fruit smoothie for your soul—or something like that. All I know is I want to experience it before it’s gone.

There’s no easy way into Kalalau. The ring road that wraps around Kaua‘i has a 30-kilometer gap that is the Nāpali coast. For most of the year, the ocean is too rough to bring in a kayak. Motorized boats are forbidden, and the state has cracked down on locals offering an illegal water taxi service. Your best bet is to lug in supplies on the Kalalau Trail, which crosses five steep valleys and has been called “the most incredible hike in America.”

The cliff-side path also happens to be one of the world’s most dangerous. One wrong step at Crawler’s Ledge could send you careening into the sea. The many stream crossings are prone to flash flooding. At the three-kilometer mark on Hanakāpīʻai Beach, a white cross stands in honor of Janet Ballesteros, a 53-year-old woman who drowned there in 2016—the 83rd victim of its treacherous waters, according to a somewhat dubious tally on a sign there. Along with nature, you also have to contend with the people. In 2013, for instance, an Oregon man on a bad acid trip shoved his Japanese lover off a cliff.

Before my trip in July, it was hard to find information on how effective the raids really were and how risky it would be for me to head there. Mango, a former resident who had fled for greener pastures in Oregon, told me he was still getting text messages from a satellite communicator that the valley residents had at their disposal. I was surprised to learn that some of the most die-hard Kalalau outlaws were actually supportive of the rangers. “They are the predators culling the herd,” another regular visitor told me. “They are keeping the people in there strong and vigilant.”

My best bet for sneaking in undetected is to leave before sunrise one Saturday morning. As the first light breaks through the forest canopy, I pad my way down the trail and try to envision what this place was like before the squatters or anyone else set foot here. For one, I would have found little relief from the sun’s rays. The six-meter-high guava trees that now make up most of the forest were only introduced in 1825, and they quickly outgrew the native Hawaiian flora that featured a more open canopy.

In the late 1700s, when George Dixon, a British fur trader who once served under Captain James Cook, sailed along this coast, he concluded that it was barren of civilization. “The shore down to the water’s edge is, in general, mountainous, and difficult to access,” he wrote. “I could not see any level ground, or the least sign of this part of the island being inhabited.”

Dixon was, of course, mistaken. Thatched huts blend in well with the vegetation. In Kalalau, which offers about 80 hectares of agricultural terrain, the population likely numbered in the hundreds, according to subsequent missionary censuses. The oldest known human settlement on Kaua‘i, which dates to the 10th century, was situated at Kēʻē Beach—the starting point of the Kalalau Trail.

While the Nāpali coast is often described as a “wilderness,” the truth is it’s more like an abandoned supermarket surrounded by some epic scenery. The place is crisscrossed by stone walls, remnants of the terraced gardens, or lo‘i, Hawaiians constructed hundreds of years ago to cultivate taro, the principal “canoe plant” that Polynesians moved across the Pacific. These settlers gradually replaced the native forest shrub lands with kukui nuts and ginger, along with pili for their thatch roofs.

Kalalau Valley (iStock / MartinM303)

Later residents and white ranchers brought in livestock, including goats, pigs, and cattle, and planted the guava and Java plum trees that form most of the forest. “As in many lowland areas in Hawaii, introduced plants now form entire communities, dominating major portions of the park,” reads a 1990 report from Hawaii’s Division of State Parks. The Kalalau Valley, the largest valley in the park, is one of the few places on Kaua‘i where you won’t hear roosters crowing each morning. Instead, the forests are filled with another immigrant, Erckel’s francolin—a ground bird from Africa.

As the valley’s hodgepodge ecosystem took shape, it also began to develop its outlaw reputation. In 1893, after a group of American businessmen overthrew the queen of what was then the Kingdom of Hawaii, they decided to round up native Hawaiians under the auspices of a leprosy quarantine.

Sheriff Louis Stolz and two policemen headed out to Kalalau to remove one rogue band of lepers. There, a cowboy named Kaluaikoolau, or Ko’olau, shot the sheriff twice with a rifle, killing him, and became a hero of the native resistance. A bungled manhunt ended with more casualties and Ko’olau remained in the valley, unpunished, until his natural death two years later. “Free he had lived, and free he was dying,” the author Jack London eulogized in a short story about Ko’olau’s life.

Kameaoloha Hanohano-Smith, whose great-grandfather was part of the last generation to grow up in Kalalau, says it took a while for the Hawaiian people to understand what was happening to their culture. “One day we were a kingdom, and the next thing we knew we were part of the US,” he says.

In December 1959, Ebony magazine profiled the only permanent resident in Kalalau: a black physician named Bernard Wheatley (“a crank, a holy man, a schizophrenic and a genius”) who spent a decade living in a cave there until hippies started crowding him out. “Longhairs seek a place in the sun on Kaua‘i,” reads one headline from the time. The Hawaiian state government bought the property in 1974, and tried to evict the squatters before establishing the park in 1979, but they came back. They always come back.

“We were free-minded people looking for a better place to live without the restrictions of society,” says Billy Guy, who first visited Kalalau after serving as an army medic during the Vietnam War and has returned for long stretches over the decades. “I’m fulfilling a dream.” By the mid-1990s, there were as many as 50 or 60 haole frolicking in a paradise that the kanakanative Hawaiianshad created.

Freedom means different things to different people. While the hippies and latter-day outlaws may chafe under the norms of mainstream society, they still have to create their own rules for living together peacefully. The most that even the most hopeful can hope for is not a society without rules, but a tolerant one. And a tolerant place is bound to attract its share of misfits.

From the beginning, something seemed a little off about Cody Safadago. He had washed up in Kalalau last April with almost no possessions and had taken over a communal camp down by the beach. He was a rough-looking fellow in his early 40s with a buzz cut and two fleshy lips that hung on his face in a permanent scowl. Safadago had spent time in prison for beating his wife back in Washington State and, in 2014, was arrested in Belize after absconding from his parole officer and fleeing the country. He had been bumming around Kaua‘i since January at least, and had been arrested for disorderly conduct and assaulting an officer.

Billy Guy first visited the valley after his service in the Vietnam War. (Photo by Brendan Borrell)

The people of Kalalau were wary of Safadago. He insisted, incessantly in almost every conversation he had, that he was God and everyone should bow down before him. “I talked to him for literally two hours,” says 30-year-old Carlton Forrest from Phoenix. “He was crazy, iced out beyond belief.” In the valley, it’s not easy to get help in the event of an emergency. The ranger station is usually empty, and cellphones don’t work here. The “family,” as the squatters sometimes call themselves, knew they needed to boot Safadago before something terrible happened.

A rangy outlaw in his 30s, who asked me to call him Sticky Jesus, began dismantling Safadago’s camp one morning. Befitting at least one part of his name, Sticky has long brown hair and a prophet’s beard. “You need to leave,” he ordered Safadago, who was sprawled out in a lawn chair.

Safadago opened his mouth to protest, making wild accusations about other residents. Sticky spun around and kicked him in the chest, knocking him out of the chair, according to an account described by Sticky and confirmed by other valley residents. “Can I just get my things?” Sticky remembers Safadago begging.

Sticky tossed a few of Safadago’s possessions his way and then pulled a flaming stick from the cooking fire and hit him with it as he retreated from camp. Safadago kept a low profile for a few days until he was ordered onto the back of a jet ski making an illegal drop-off and banished from the valley.

He wasn’t their problem anymore. At least that’s what they thought.

Safadago landed in the town of Kapa‘a, on the developed east side of Kaua‘i, where he got drunk and stole a Nissan pickup. He was driving over 140 kilometers per hour—three times the speed limit—when he crossed the centerline of the highway and struck a Mazda sedan head on. The young woman in the car, Kayla Huddy-Lemn, was pronounced dead at the hospital. Safadago stumbled out of the pickup—face covered in blood—and wandered up to a shopping mall, where he was arrested.

When a person dies like that, the whole island hears about it. About 50 kilometers in diameter, Kaua‘i is about the size of London and has a population of just over 72,000. As the news came out that Safadago had spent time in Kalalau, locals discovered a Facebook group called “Kalalau!” that appeared to show squatters moving stones from an ancient Hawaiian temple, known as a heiau, to divert water for farming projects. A hillbilly hippie named Ryan North (alias: Krazy Red), who spends a few weeks there every year, posted trippy videos of himself saluting the camera while bare-chested white women danced in hula skirts.

Squatters have built furniture and created homes for themselves in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

“Bitches, this has nothing to do with race. It just so happens all of you fucked up, selfish Kalalau hippies are white,” one angry Hawaiian vented in a social media post.

Some observers complained that the squatters were collecting food stamps, known as electronic benefit transfers, to support their hedonistic lifestyle (true). Others argued that the place had become a breeding ground for sketchballs (sorta true). “You just don’t know who could be hiding out in Kalalau,” a woman named Kristi Sasachika told a local reporter. The vitriol was so worrisome that the Garden Island newspaper published an editorial warning locals against a “vigilante mindset.”

Long-term residents say that it’s not fair to lump them in with the careless partiers who often get dropped off by boat with a case of beer and a pile of Walmart camping gear they’ll probably leave behind. As in any society, there are good actors and bad ones. Kamealoha Hanohano-Smith, one of the locals with a genuine tie to the land, also takes a more measured tack. “I have a lot of aloha for people whether they are haole or whatever,” he told me over the phone. “I understand why they want to be there. They would love to believe they are appropriate stewards of the area, but the better thing would be for them to work with Hawaiian families.”

**********

On my second morning in Kalalau, I decide to go looking for the community garden. Starting at the beach, there’s an official trail that heads about three kilometers up the valley before hitting the steep back wall. It’s possible to walk up and down that trail a few times before you notice an unmarked spur off to one side.

Follow it for a hundred meters and the forest canopy opens up and you can hear a trickling at your feet. A dozen rectangular ponds glisten in the sun, meter-high taro plants sprouting from their waters. Paths leading around the ponds are lined with papaya, banana, jackfruit, soursop, and chestnut trees—all free for the taking. Squatters were once expected to do some work if they wanted to gather some fruit. But things are different now. “There aren’t any rules anymore,” says a resident named Mowgli, who offers to give me the tour.

Slender and muscular with his long brown hair pulled back into a ponytail, Mowgli helped restore these flooded terraces, and is one of the hardest workers in Kalalau. His former camp, which sits on a plateau nearby, gives off a Lord of the Flies vibedecorated with dozens of skulls from the goats and pigs he has slaughtered. The raids broke him. “It’s hard to focus on something when they want to take it apart,” he says. “This is one of the big tourist attractions in the valley,” he says of the garden.

Women rarely stay long in the valley, and their absence leads to a society heavy on testosterone. At the time of his visit, the author met 10 long-term residents, eight of them men. (Brendan Borrell)

“People want to come and see us and have Kalalau pizza,” says Mowgli’s female companion, whose only article of clothing is a baseball cap. She calls herself Joules. “Like the energy unit,” she explains.

I had given myself five days to explore the valley and immerse myself in the hippie-sphere. With a few notable exceptions, I learn that women like Joules rarely stay more than a few weeks in the valley, and, for whatever reason, they had become particularly scarce in the aftermath of the raids. At least during the time I was there, the testosterone surplus made the place feel less like a utopian kibbutz and more like a secret tree fort in your buddy’s backyard where girls are little understood or respected. Except these guys are adults. One offensive song I heard performed one evening referred to the “drainbow bitches” who “don’t do the dishes” after stopping in for a free meal. The men, nevertheless, longed for female company. “A woman who does stay has 10 guys trying to find her every day,” a 68-year-old bachelor named Stevie told me, drawing from his 35 years’ experience in the valley.

One evening, I sit with six other guys under the enormous mango trees at a camp maintained by a guy named Quentin. A bearded, genial host with a self-effacing manner, Quentin landed in Kalalau after his dream of making marijuana chocolates fizzled. “It was overwhelming,” he says of his failed attempt at capitalism. He tried to live out here with his girlfriend, but she couldn’t deal with the mosquitoes. “I started building things to make it more comfortable for her, like the cabinet by my bed,” he says, gesturing toward a bamboo console. “But really, she just didn’t like me.” She ended up hooking up with another guy in the valley—Sticky Jesus—when they were both back in town. “I really wanted to punch him in the face, and I even flicked him off once,” he says.

A handmade cabinet is a little luxury for squatters in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

There was one tense evening when I thought a physical fight really might break out between two of the guys. I watched the only woman present slip away and head back to her tent. When I asked her about it later, she said it wasn’t the kind of experience she was looking for in Kalalau. The boys, she said, were lost in “never-never land.”

It’s remarkable that even in a place like Kalalau, people still get wrapped up in the same petty dramas they face living within four walls and with roofs over their heads. Paradise is never lost because it can never be found. People are jealous. They’re selfish. Thoughtless. Humans create societies for a reason. They create rules for a reason. A limited kind of social contract may exist in a place like Kalalau when few people are visiting and living there, but it easily frays in times of stress.

And as much as Kalalau—or the idea of Kalalau—means to the squatters, they are far from the only people who have a stake in its future.

Sabra Kauka, an educator in Hawaiian culture and past president of the Nā Pali Coast ‘Ohana, a nonprofit that works with the state to protect the valley’s natural and cultural heritage, says people like Quentin and Barca and Mowgli should not be living in Kalalau. It’s against the law and it’s an insult to the Hawaiian people. In the late 1980s, Kauka took part in early efforts to clean up the valley. She and a group of volunteers would haul rubbish down to the beach and load it into slings that helicopters would carry away. “It stunned me that people who wanted a wilderness experience would be so insensitive,” she says. At a certain point, she simply gave up. “You do not want to do volunteer work that makes you angry.”

A state parks archaeologist, Alan Carpenter, told her about a 14th-century village site along the shoreline, Nualolo Kai, accessible only by boat and fringed by the largest reef on the Nāpali coast. For the past 25 years, Nā Pali Coast ‘Ohana has focused almost all of its work at that site. They built fences to keep out goats and established a small native garden to preserve some of the region’s biodiversity. Under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, they have even brought back the remains of ancestors who were housed at the Bishop Museum in Honolulu and other repositories.

Image by Brendan Borrell. A library tent features all sorts of books to borrow. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Image by Brendan Borrell. (original image)

Now, under the auspices of Randy Wichman, a historian and the organization’s current president, they are finally making plans to bring their work back to Kalalau. Whether they can succeed in a place where they failed in the past remains to be seen. Wichman expresses some grudging admiration for the squatters’ ingenuity in terms of the work they’ve done on the lo‘i’s, but he says that some of them have done more harm than good. “Their intentions are good, but you obliterate history by not knowing exactly what you have,” he told me. “The valley would be stunning if it were in working order.”

**********

In 100 years, when their tarps have rotted away and their footpaths have been lost to the forest, I wonder what place the outlaws will occupy in the grand story of Kalalau. Though reviled in some quarters, their ethics questionable at times, the outlaws’ reign demonstrated to the modern world the power of place to the collective psyche. The vulnerable, confused, damaged often end up here, to heal and to grow before they rejoin the world. It’s kind of wonderful. “We’re tool-using monkeys,” Barca told me when I first met him. Being part of an interdependent community like Kalalau feeds a deep primate urge. “Biologically necessary,” is how he put it. More necessary for some than others.

The head of state parks, Curt Cottrell, told me that when he first moved to Hawaii in 1983 as a “bearded hippie guy,” hiking the Kalalau Trail was one of two goals. (The other was hiking to the summit of Mauna Loa.) When his permit expired, he evaded the rangers by swimming a few hundred meters south to Honopū, the next cove over, for a day. When I ask him if one day the park will find a way to commemorate the hippie occupation, he offers a careful response. “We have no desire to erase that history,” he says, “but at this point in time, we don’t feel like celebrating it until we get the place cleaned up.”

Few women choose to live in the valley. (Brendan Borrell)

That may not be so easy. The agency has 117 staff members spread out over Hawaii’s 50 state parks. Kalalau is a priority, but there are so many places for squatters to hide that it’s impossible to kick them all out. The agency had asked the legislature for enough money to have two full-time staff members inside the park. Their request was denied.

Kalalau is already a very different place than it was just a few years ago. It’s undoubtedly the cleanest it has ever been. And apart from the intimate gatherings I’d witnessed up valley, the place had the feel of a ghost town. I spend my days exploring overgrown footpaths from one clearing to another, looking for abandoned campfire rings and other traces of recent human habitation. Even the official campsites were largely empty, hosting no more than 20 or 30 tourists each night while the state allows 60. Though native Hawaiians do visit and hunt inside the park, I met only outlaws during my visit.

Hanohano-Smith, who can trace his family back to the valley, says that he’d like to see regular Hawaiians—not just the state—playing a larger role in the future of Kalalau. He believes that his family should have free access to visit the land without vying for scarce permits and that Hawaiians should be able to benefit from it through jobs, possibly as teachers or guides. “It’s not just an issue of sustainability,” he says. “It’s the pride associated with being connected to the resources that provided for my family 1,000 years ago.”

On one of my last mornings in Kalalau, I see Sticky Jesus and Stevie loading their things onto a kayak on the beach. Stevie, the oldest resident out here, hasn’t been staying in the valley as often as he used to. Five years ago, he qualified for low-income housing and has a small home down in Kekaha. He loves Kalalau but at some point he knows he’ll be too weak to hike in or to take care of himself.

For Sticky, the story is a little more complicated. He is going to live in a van with Quentin’s ex-girlfriend and try to make a little money. I’m not sure if he’s going to come back, and I say as much. “I’ve got a house here still,” Sticky replies. “Most of it got taken a couple weeks ago, but I’ve got a good feeling about it.” He likes being free of his possessions.

A squatter named Stevie prepares to take off, leaving the valley where the outlaw hippies are increasingly unwelcome. (Brendan Borrell)

“You didn’t take it as hard as Mowgli?” I ask.

“I don’t take anything as hard as Mowgli,” he says.

The two squatters hop into the kayak and Carlton gives them one last shove into the knee-deep water. We stand there for a few minutes, watching them disappear around the red bluffs to the south, and then I head back up the trail into the valley. I’m not ready to hike out just yet. I’m not looking forward to pulling out my wallet and paying for a piece of produce with a sticker on it when the fruit out here will drop to the forest floor and rot away without someone here to harvest it. I just need one more day living as an outlaw in the Kalalau Valley. Maybe two.

Related Stories from Hakai Magazine:

Photographic History Collection: Henry Horenstein

National Museum of American History
Henry Horenstein (1948-) trained in history in the late 1960s at the University of Chicago and with the British historian EP Thompson. Coming of age at time when the new social history focused attention upon anonymous people, the working class and the role of culture, Horenstein took those lessons and applied them to his photography. He earned an MFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) in 1973. While at RISD Horenstein studied with noted photographers Harry Callahan and Aaron Siskind. It was actually Callahan who encouraged Horenstein to pursue his passions for photography and country music. Since then, Horenstein has made a career of chronicling a series of subcultures including horse-racing and gambling, baseball stadiums, and burlesque performers, as well as being noted for his photographs of animals.

Horenstein is currently a professor at RISD. In addition to teaching classes, he is an active photographer always working on photographic and publishing projects. Horenstein is well-published, with over 25 books that either feature his photography or are widely used photography text books. He wrote the first darkroom textbooks, Basic Phtography and Beyond Basic Photgraphy. In Fall 2003, his book Honky-Tonk was published, containing an afterword written by NMAH curator Charlie McGovern. In 2006, NMAH featured the exhibition, Honky-Tonk: Country Music Photographs by Henry Horenstein, 1972-1981.

The collection consists of subjects such as fans and performers at outdoor music parks, in the parking lot, and performers on stage. Print sizes vary between 8 X 10 and 11X 14. The two 16 X 20 prints are a view of a crowd seen from backstage with JD Crowe & The South in sillouette, and “Bartender,” Wanda Lohnman leaning on the bar at Tootsies Orchid Lounge.

List of Performers and Venues Depicted in the Collection:

Venues:

Fred’s Lounge in Mamou, LA

The Lonestar Ranch, Reed’s Ferry, NH

Hillbilly Ranch, Boston, MA

Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, TN;

The Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Theater, Nashville, TN.

Performers:

Abshire Nathan

Acuff, Roy

Akeman, David “Stringbean”

Bailey, Deford

Bare, Bobby

Bird, Billy

Blake, Norman

Blue Sky Boys

Brown, Clarence "Gatemouth"

Burns, Jethro

Butler, Carl and Pearl

Carter, Anita

Carter, Mother Maybelle and Helen Carter

Cash, Tommy

Clements, Vassar

Cline, Curly Ray

Cooper, Carol Lee

Cooper, Stoney and Wilma Lee

Crook Brothers

Curless, Dick

Dickens, Little Jimmy

Flatt, Lester

Floyd, Hamonica Frank

Harkreader, Fiddlin' Sid

Harris, Emmy Lou

Holcomb, Roscoe

Holy Modal Rounders

Hughes Family Show

Jackson, Stonewall

JD Crowe & the New South

Jennings, Waylon

Johnson Mountain Boys

Jones, George

Jones, Grandpa and Ramona

Kirby, Brother Oswald

Lewis, Jerry Lee

Lilly Brothers

Lilly Family

Lynn, Loretta

Magaha, Mac

Martin, Jimmy

McCoury, Del

Monroe, Bill

Monroe, Bill and Lester Flatt

Monroe, Bill and Roland White

Monroe, Bill and the Bluegrass Boys

Monroe, Charlie

Moody, Clyde

Nixon, Charlie

Osborne Brothers

Parton, Dolly

Parton, Dolly and Porter Wagoner

Pearl, Minnie (Sarah Ophelia Colley) and Peewee King

Riley, Jeannie C.

Ritter, Woodward Maurice “Tex”

Seeger, Pete

Shepherd, Jean

Skaggs, Ricky

Smith, Connie

Snow, Hank

Snow, Rev. Jimmy Rodgers

Stanley, Ralph

Tubb, Ernest

Tubb, Justin

Turner, Grant

Turner, Spyder

Val, Joe

Wagoner, Porter

Warren, Paul

Watson, Arthel Lane “Doc”

Watson, Merle

Wells, Muriel Deason “Kitty”

Whitley, Keith

Williams, Hank Jr.

Wright, Johnny

World War I Cemeteries & Memorials Around the World

Smithsonian Magazine

From 1914 to 1918, the wealthy and powerful Western nations and empires that had come to dominate the globe wrecked themselves in a paroxysm of destruction unmatched in any previous era. Empires toppled, millions died and the world changed forever. In the wake of the First World War, nations sought appropriate forms of public mourning and commemoration to grieve and honor their dead. Among allies and foes, there was an overwhelming desire that such a war never be repeated. “Anything rather than war! Anything! …  No trial, no servitude can be compared to war,” wrote French novelist and pacifist Roger Martin du Gard in 1936. 

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World War I: The Definitive Visual History

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Today, memorials, monuments and museums dedicated to WWI can be found in all of the combatant countries. From a rose garden in Ireland to vast war cemeteries built on or near the major battlefields, these sites ensure that the memory of the war and the sacrifices of those who lost their lives will never fade.

AUSTRALIA

ANZAC Memorial

The Memorial, as seen across the "Lake Of Reflections", by night (Leonid Andronov/iStock)

Set in Sydney’s Hyde Park, this is New South Wales’s principal war monument. Designed in an art deco style by C. Bruce Dellit, it is made of granite, with statuary and bas-reliefs created by the artist Raynor Hoff. The buttresses on the outside of the building are each topped by a mournful figure, while the bas-reliefs depict scenes from Australian campaigns at Gallipoli and the Western Front. Ceremonies are held at the memorial on Remembrance Sunday (11 November) and Anzac Day (25 April).

Hyde Park, Sydney

Australian War Memorial

Australian War Memorial in Canberra (ijeweb/iStock)

The national monument to Australia’s war dead was built in the aftermath of World War I, though it serves to commemorate Australian service personnel killed in all conflicts. The main parts of the memorial are the Commemorative area (which includes the Hall of Memory), Anzac Parade, and the Sculpture Garden. In the museum on the ground floor of the main building, the Anzac Hall, a recently added high-tech exhibition space, includes “Over the front, the Great War in the air”, a permanent display telling the story of aerial combat in World War I. It includes five original aircraft from the war, memorabilia, personal testaments, and a sound and light show.

Remembrance Park, Canberra

Shrine of Remembrance

Poppies planted before the Shrine of Remembrance, as part of Remembrance Day (Kokkai Ng / iStock)

Built to remember Victoria’s war dead of 1914–18, this is one of Australia’s great memorials. Inspired by the mausoleum to Mausolus, King of Caria, at Halicarnassus in Turkey, the shrine was inaugurated in November 1934. The sanctuary contains the Stone of Remembrance inscribed with the words “Greater Love Hath No Man”, designed so that a shaft of sunlight (or artificial light) falls on the word “Love” held at 11am on 11 November each year. More than 120 ceremonies are held at the shrine each year.

St Kilda Road, Melbourne

BELGIUM

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial (Havana1234/iStock)

The only American Battle Monuments Commission cemetery in Belgium, this commemorates the American contribution to the war on the Western Front. Smaller and more intimate than most of the war cemeteries in Belgium, it consists of 368 burials, with the headstones arranged around a central chapel. Many of the casualties interred here came from the US 91st Division, killed in fighting in this area in October and November 1918. The chapel itself includes 43 names on the Walls of the Missing – rosettes mark the names of soldiers whose remains have been subsequently recovered and identified.

Southeast of Waregem, along the Lille-Gent autoroute E-17

In Flanders Field Museum

Flanders Field Museum (Steve Taylor via Flickr)

The Cloth Hall on the Market Square in the center of Ieper (Ypres), site of three of the war’s most significant battles, has been turned into a museum housing major collections of World War I artifacts and documents. The exhibitions and interactive audio-visual displays cover the invasion of Belgium in 1914 and the first few months of the war, with particular emphasis on the war around Ypres and how war affected the town. A documentation center includes extensive original trench maps, a photographic library and postcard collection, and contemporary newspaper reports.

Visitors can also climb up to the belfry for views over the town and the sites of the surrounding battlefields. Access to the center is free, although some collections can be viewed only by appointment.

Lakenhallen Grote Markt 34, Ieper

Langemark German War Cemetery

Langemark German War Cemetery (vau902 / iStock)

An official German War Graves Commission site, the Langemark Cemetery contains more than 40,000 burials of soldiers recovered between 1915 and the 1930s. The cemetery was officially designated German Military Cemetery 123 in 1930, and was inaugurated two years later. Of the soldiers buried in the cemetery 24,917 lie in mass graves. The German Students’ Memorial annex lists the names of 3,000 students killed in the Battle of Langemarck (part of the First Battle of Ypres) in 1914. Known as the Kindermord (Massacre of the Children), in Germany, First Ypres included many young German volunteers, most of whom had only received two months’ military training. In the cemetery stands a sculpture of mourning soldiers by Emil Krieger. Also of note is a basalt-lava cross on a small mound, marking one of the three original battlefield bunkers.

North of Langemark village, 6km (4 miles) northeast of Ieper

Menin Gate

Menin Gate (lucentius / iStock)

One of the most visited sights on the Western Front, the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres was designed by Reginald Blomfield and unveiled in 1927. It marks the point where most British soldiers marched out of the town to the battlefields of the Ypres salient. The walls of the Hall of Memory are inscribed with the names of 54,896 British and Commonwealth soldiers killed in the Ypres salient before 16 August 1917. Each night at 8pm, the traffic is stopped and the Last Post is played under the arches of the memorial.

Meensestraat, Ieper

Messines Battlefield and Memorials

Messines Battlefield and Memorials (Wikimedia Commons)

Around the village of Wystchaete, the St Eloi, Peckham Farm, St Yvon, Kruisstraat, and Spanbroekmolen craters bear testimony to the 19 enormous mines detonated beneath the German trenches at Messines. An information board in the village gives directions to the craters, and there are more than 1,000 burials in the Wytschaete Military Cemetery, a short walk from the main square. A smaller cemetery, the Lone Tree Cemetery, near Spanbroekmolen contains 88 burials, mainly of soldiers from the Royal Irish Rifles.

Memorials of the battle include one to the London Scottish regiment on the N365 between Wytschaete and Messines, marking the spot where they first went into action. In Mesen (Messines) itself, which was completely destroyed in the battle, there are the New Zealand Memorial Park and the Messines Ridge Military cemetery. It was in Mesen’s church (rebuilt) that Adolf Hitler reputedly received treatment for combat injuries in 1914. To the south of Mesen is the modern Island of Ireland Peace Park, opened in 1998, to commemorate Irish soldiers killed during World War 1

Around Mesen (Messines)

Passchendaele Battlefield

Passchendaele New British Cemetery (Michael Day via Flickr)

Few battlefield areas evoke the tragedy of the Ypres salient more than Passchendaele, around the modern village of Passendale. The area is littered with memorials to individual battles and regiments, including the Canadian Memorial at Crest Farm, the 85th (Nova Scotia Highlanders) Battalion Memorial, and memorials to French soldiers and the British Seventh Division, both at Broodseinde.

Cemeteries in the area include the Passchendaele New British Cemetery, containing 2,101 British and Commonwealth burials, and the vast Tyne Cot cemetery to the southwest of Passendale. In Zonnebeke, the Passchendaele Memorial 1917 Museum contains a large display of military artifacts.

Various Locations in and around Zonnebeke and Passendale

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History

Royal Museum of the Armed Forces and of Military History (Wikimedia Commons)

This museum houses collections relating to the whole of Belgian military history, not just World War I, but it includes a large collection of World War I artifacts, documents and memorabilia in a permanent 1914–18 exhibition. Exhibits include fi rearms, artillery pieces, uniforms, armored vehicles, and even a Fokker triplane.

Jubelpark 3, 1000 Brussels

St Julien Memorial

St Julien Memorial (Floor_/iStock)

This granite memorial, designed by the Anglo-Canadian architect Frederick Chapman Clemesha, stands 11 m (36 ft) tall. Known as the Brooding Soldier, it features at its summit the head and shoulders of a Canadian infantryman, his head bowed in mourning. The memorial remembers the Canadian troops killed around St Julien during the Second Battle of Ypres. Many of the dead were killed by the first use of poison gas (chlorine) on the Western Front, as the memorial inscription attests: “This column marks the battlefield where 18,000 Canadians on the British left withstood the first German gas attacks on the 22–24 April 1915. 2,000 fell and here lie buried.”

7 km (4.3 miles) northeast of Ieper, off the N313 towards Roulers

Sanctuary Wood Cemetery and Museum Hill 62

Hill 62 Sanctuary Wood Museum, preserved trench systems (Michael Day via Flickr)

In 1914, Sanctuary Wood acted as a protective barrier between British and Commonwealth troops and the front line. During 1915–16, however, it was also swamped with heavy fighting, principally between Canadian and German forces.

Three Allied cemeteries were established in the area at the time. The remains of one of them formed the foundations for the present cemetery, designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens just after the war. During the 1920s and 1930s, the cemetery expanded with additions from the wider Western Front. Today, it contains 1,989 burials (spread over five plots), of which only 637 are identified.

Within a short distance of the cemetery is the Sanctuary Wood Museum Hill 62, a privately run institution. An extensive series of preserved trench lines, all open to walk through, can be seen outside the museum. Another feature of the Sanctuary Wood area is the Canadian Memorial at Hill 62, remembering the thousands of Canadians killed in futile battles to retake Hill 62 in June 1916.

5km (3 miles) east of Ieper town, off the N8

St George's Memorial Church

St George's Memorial Church (Wikimedia Commons)

Field Marshal Lord Plumer, commander of the British Second Army in Flanders during the war, laid the foundation stone of St George’s Church in Ieper in 1927. The building opened for services two years later and is still an active place of worship today. Though the church was built primarily to remember the British and Commonwealth dead of Ypres – its stained glass, wall plaques, banners, and kneelers reflect individual British regiments – it is now the memorial church for all those who died in battle in Flanders during both world wars.

Elverdingsestraat 1, 8900 Ieper

Tyne Cot Cemetery

Tyne Cot Cemetery (Havana1234 / iStock)

The largest British war cemetery in the world, Tyne Cot contains a total of 11,953 burials, mostly of British and Commonwealth troops but also including four German soldiers. The majority of the men buried here were killed during the Third Battle of Ypres in 1917. The name Tyne Cot is thought to have British origins. According to a local story, the Northumberland Fusiliers thought a barn on the ridgeline here looked like their cottages on the River Tyne, back home in Britain. Landmarks of the cemetery include the Cross of Sacrifice Monument and the curved Memorial to the Missing, listing the names of 35,000 soldiers with no known grave.

Southwest of Passendale, signposted off the N332 after passing east through Zonnebeke

Vladslo German War Cemetery

Vladslo German War Cemetery, The Grieving Parents (Wikimedia Commons)

This German cemetery is the burial place for 25,644 soldiers, most of whom were moved here from other locations in the 1950s (the site was used as a combat cemetery from 1914). Although some headstones date from the time of the war, most were inscribed afterwards. Each of the flat granite slabs bears 20 names, with name, rank, and date of death. The Grieving Parents, a pair of statues made by the German sculptor Käthe Kollwitz stand in the cemetery. Kollwitz’s son died at First Ypres in October 1914.

3km (1.8 miles) northeast of Vladslo, signposted from N363 from Beerst

Ypres Salient Battlefield

Battle Remains in the Ypres Salient (Andrew Nash via Flickr)

After the Somme, the area around the Ypres salient, centering on the modern town of Ieper, is the most frequented destination for battlefield visitors. Within the town itself are the Menin Gate and St George’s Memorial Church, both moving memorials to those lost around Ypres, and the In Flanders Field Museum. Outside the town are many other sites of interest, including more than 140 military cemeteries and military burial grounds. British cemeteries alone contain 40,000 unidentified graves. The cemeteries are tended by the British, Belgian, French, and Italian war graves commissions.

Among a number of interesting museums around Ieper are the Sanctuary Wood Museum Hill 62, the Hooge Crater Museum, the Memorial Museum Passchendaele (at Zonnebeke), and the Messines Historical Museum (Mesen). Poperinge, 13 km (8 miles) to the west of Ieper was a center for British troops heading to the front. The town’s Talbot House Museum served as a club house for British Army troops. Opened by army Chaplain Philip Clayton as an alternative place of relaxation to the more debauched places in town, it was open to all ranks. Officers going on leave could also spend the night here before catching their train back to Britain.

Neuville-St-Vaast exit from A26 autoroute, follow D49

Douaumont Ossuary and Verdun Memorial

Douaumont Ossuary and Verdun Memorial (Nine LaMaitre via Flickr)

This is arguably one of the most powerful memorials on the Western Front. Work on a provisional ossuary – a building where bones of the dead are kept – began in 1920 to provide a sanctuary for the hundreds of thousands of bones that were scattered throughout the Verdun battlefield site. Work on a permanent ossuary began in 1920, and bones were transferred here from the battlefield from 1927. The ossuary cloister contains the bones of 130,000 unidentified soldiers, arranged according to the area of the Verdun battlefield in which they were found.

Douaumont

Étaples Military Cemetery

Étaples Military Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons)

The many British military camps and hospitals around Étaples meant that the area required a large British and Commonwealth cemetery. In use from May 1915, it contains 10,733 burials from World War I, including those of 35 unknown soldiers, as well as burials from World War II.

Between Boulogne and Etaples

Fricourt German War Cemetery

Fricourt German War Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons)

Although not the largest German war cemetery in the Somme area – Vermandovillers has 26,000 burials – Fricourt contains 17,027 German soldiers, about 10,000 of whom were killed during the Somme battles of 1916 (the burials date from 1914 to 1918). Only 5,057 of the burials have individual graves; the other 11,970 are contained in four mass graves.

Near Fricourt, the Somme

Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial

Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery and Memorial (carterdayne / iStock)

This is the largest US military cemetery in Europe, with a total of 14,246 servicemen buried over 52 hectares (130 acres) of grounds. In the memorial chapel, panels are inscribed with the names of 954 soldiers missing in action (the bodies of those with rosettes against their names were eventually discovered and identified). Staff members at the visitor center provide guidance on navigating the cemetery and locating particular graves.

Romagne-Sous Montfacuon

Musée De L’Armée

Musée De L’Armée (Wikimedia Commons)

One of the world’s largest military museums, the Musée de l’Armée in Paris contains more than 500,000 artifacts from every period of French military history. Its World War I section contains large collections of uniforms and weaponry.

Les Invalides, Paris

Neuville-St-Vaast German War Cemetery

Neuville-St-Vaast German War Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons)

Established by the French in 1919 to hold German war dead, this German War Graves Commission cemetery, also known as La Maison Blanche, is the largest in France. A sea of metal crosses, laid out during the 1970s to replace earlier wooden versions, it contains 44,533 burials, with four soldiers in each grave. There is also a mass grave containing the remains of more than 8,000 soldiers.

Near Arras

Notre Dame De Lorette

Notre Dame De Lorette (Wikimedia Commons)

Religious buildings have occupied this ridge to the northwest of Arras since the 18th century, but the basilica and ossuary currently on the site were built in 1921 as memorials to the French soldiers who died in the Artois area

during the battles of 1914, 1915, and 1917. The cemetery later became a national necropolis, and the ossuary contains the remains of some 23,000 unidentified soldiers from both world wars as well as French conflicts in Algeria and Indochina. The basilica, designed by Louis-Marie Cordonnier, is adorned with colorful mosaics. Surrounding the basilica and ossuary, the cemetery covers 13 hectares (32 acres) and contains 45,000 burials, the bulk of them from World War I. Behind the cemetery is a military museum, with dioramas, uniforms, artillery pieces, photographs, and a reconstructed trench and bunker system. Outside the museum, original trenches have been redug.

Ablain-Saint-Nazaire, near Arras

Somme Battlefield

Somme Battlefield (Havana1234 / iStock)

The site of one of the greatest and most costly battles in human history, the Somme region is one of the main centres of military tourism. To get the most out of a visit, it is advisable to buy a guidebook to the battlefield sites or join a tour run by one of the specialist companies operating in the area. The officially recommended “Tour of Remembrance” takes in the town of Albert (including the Somme 1916 Trench Museum and the CWGC-maintained Albert Communal Cemetery), Beaumont-Hamel, Thiepval, Ovillers-la-Boiselle (site of the Lochnagar crater), Longueval (including the New Zealand Memorial and Pipers Memorial), and Peronne. All these places are packed with places of interest, including cemeteries, military relics, museums, and memorials. Munitions and artifacts are regularly dug up in the Somme countryside (remember not to touch any munitions you might find). The best way to get around the battlefield privately is by car, as many of the sites are easily accessible from the A29 or A1 motorways.

The Somme

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing

Thiepval Memorial to the Missing (JonathanNicholls / iStock)

This huge memorial in Thiepval was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and opened by Edward, Prince of Wales in 1932. Inscribed on its surfaces are the names of 73,357 Allied soldiers who died in the Somme area between 1916 and 1918 but have no grave. A commemorative ceremony is held here on 1 July every year. Thiepval, the Somme

INDIA

India Gate

India Gate (PG-1973 / iStock)

Designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and built between 1921 and 1931, the India Gate in Delhi commemorates all Indian soldiers who died in World War I and the Third Afghan War of 1919. Originally called the All India War Memorial, the arch is 42 m (137 ft) tall and inscribed with the names of more than 70,000 men. Beneath the arch is the Amar Jawan Jyoti (The Flame of the Immortal Warrior) and also the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The cenotaph is surrounded by four flaming torches that are kept constantly lit.

Located on Rajpath, Delhi

IRELAND

Irish National War Memorial Gardens

Irish National War Memorial Gardens (Wikimedia Commons)

Built to remember the 49,400 Irish soldiers who died in World War I, these gardens were designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens in the 1930s. The park covers 8 hectares (20 acres) and includes a sunken rose garden and two book rooms, containing the Rolls of Honour listing the names of the dead. The site also features the Ginchy Cross, a wooden monument built by soldiers of the Irish 16th Division and originally erected on the Somme battlefield. Inscribed on the floor of the domed temple on the bank of the River Liffey, at the northern end of the garden, is an extract of “War Sonnet II: Safety” by Rupert Brooke.

Islandbridge, Dublin

ISRAEL

Ramleh CWGC Cemetery

Ramleh CWGC Cemetery (Archives New Zealand Follow via Flickr)

Established in December 1917 to serve the field hospitals set up in the area, the cemetery in Ramleh (now Ramla) was later augmented by graves moved here from other cemeteries in Palestine and Israel. Ramleh was occupied by the First Australian Light Horse Brigade from November 1917. The cemetery contains 3,300 Commonwealth burials from World War I, plus nearly 1,200 burials from World War II and a number of other burials of non-Commonwealth and non-combat personnel. There is also a memorial to Commonwealth, German, and Turkish servicemen buried elsewhere in Palestine and Israel, in cemeteries that are no longer maintained. The memorial was built in 1961.

Near Ramla

ITALY

Sacrario Militare Di Redipuglia

Sacrario Militare Di Redipuglia (Hect / iStock)

Built under Mussolini and opened in 1938, the Sacrario Militare Di Redipuglia is a military shrine in the north of Italy, on the slopes of Monte sei Busi, at the eastern end of the Isonzo front. It holds the remains of more than 100,000 Italian soldiers killed during World War I – the 22 steps to the top of the shrine alone contain the remains of 40,000 soldiers. The shrine also contains the tombs of five generals and the Duke of Aosta, the commander of the Third Army. The site includes a chapel and a museum containing a poignant collection of artifacts from the Italian front and some original trench fortifications.

Monte Sei Busi

ITALY/SLOVENIA

Isonzo Front Battlefields

Isonzo Front Battlefields, Remains of Kluže (Wikimedia Commons)

In terms of battlefield tourism, the Isonzo front is often overlooked in preference for battlefields in France and Belgium, but it is just as rich in heritage and places of interest. The challenges for touring the Isonzo front are the distances involved and the arduous terrain. A typical route might run from Kranjska Gora in northwest Slovenia down to Duino on the Adriatic coast in northeastern Italy, although there are many other options. Highlights include the Soca Valley, containing numerous positions and gun emplacements in the rockface; the Vrsic pass, built by Russian prisoners in 1916; and Kluze fortress with its military tunnels. At Kobarid (Caporetto during World War I) in Slovenia, it is possible to walk along former trench lines. The town also has an excellent museum devoted to the ferocious battles along the Isonzo front, with large-scale maps, models of the terrain, artifacts, and photographs. A

long the Slovenian/Italian border

NEW ZEALAND

Auckland War Memorial Museum

Auckland War Memorial Museum (Onfokus / iStock)

Built in the 1850s, and more generally known as the Auckland Museum, this houses extensive general collections on the whole of New Zealand’s history, not just military history. The modern annexe, which opened in 1929, was built in memory of Auckland province’s many war dead from World War I. The walls of the World War I Sanctuary are inscribed with the names of fallen soldiers with no known grave. Under the central stained-glass skylight are the badges of their units and regiments.

The War Memorial Galleries and Armoury information Centre present extensive collections and research facilities relating to the war, and frequent events, lectures, and exhibitions are held in the museum, particularly around commemorative days. The database contains bibliographic records of the 35,000 New Zealanders killed in wars since the late 19th century.

Auckland

ROMANIA

Mausoleum of Marasesti

Mausoleum of Marasesti (Wikimedia Commons)

Built between 1923 and 1938, the Mausoleum for the Heroes from the National Unity War, to give it its full title, is an imposing monument to the Romanians killed in World War I. The Battle of Marasesti in 1917 was the last major battle on the Romanian front before the country was occupied. The mausoleum stands some 30 m (100 ft) tall and the remains of 6,000 Romanian soldiers are contained within the crypts. The mausoleum also includes the sarcophagus of General Eremia Grigorescu, who died in 1919, and a rotunda containing the flags of the Romanian units who fought at Marasesti. The main edifice is topped by the “Dome of Glory”. A great bas-relief on the dome depicts scenes from the battle at Marasesti.

Between Focsani and Adjud, Vrancea County.

TURKEY

Gallipoli Battlefield

Gallipoli Battlefield (Clay Gilliland via Flickr)

The Gallipoli Peninsula Historical National Park is one of the most rewarding sites for military history tourists and researchers. Covering around 33,000 hectares (81,500 acres), it includes 31 CWGC cemeteries, containing 22,000 graves, most of them easily accessible, and numerous memorials.

There are three main areas of interest: Cape Helles (V-Beach Cemetery, Helles Memorial, and Redoubt Cemetery); Pine Ridge (the Beach Cemetery, No. 2 Outpost Cemetery, Courtney’s and Steel’s Post Cemetery, Chunuk Bair Cemetery and Memorial, Fourth Battalion Parade Ground Cemetery, and Lone Pine Cemetery and Memorial); and Suvla (Green Hill Cemetery and Anzac Cemetery). The main sites can be covered in a day, but two to three days are recommended for a more thorough exploration. Also worth seeing on Cape Helles is the Canakale Martyrs Memorial, the principal memorial to the Turkish dead of Gallipoli.

Special services are held at Gallipoli on Anzac Day on 25 April, commemorating the first day of the Gallipoli Campaign in 1915 when Australian and New Zealand troops landed at Anzac Cove.

Gallipoli peninsula

THE UNITED KINGDOM

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Brookwood Military Cemetery (Wikimedia Commons)

This cemetery predates World War I, but land for war burials was granted in 1917, mainly to accommodate the graves of service personnel who had died of battle wounds in the London district. It is now the largest Commonwealth military cemetery in Britain. Although most of the burials are from 1939–1945, there are 1,601 graves dating from World War I. The Brookwood 1914–18 Memorial commemorates more than 200 Commonwealth casualties who died during World War I but for whom no graves could be found. In the grounds of Brookwood, the World War One American Military Cemetery has 468 graves and commemorates 563 US servicemen with no known grave.

Brookwood, Surrey

T-6 Hours, 50 Minutes for Apollo 16

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper. T-6 Hours 50 Minutes for Apollo 16, 16 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook that contains other accessioned artworks. A dark blue square with brownish-red tints in the center of the page is defined by a thin blue border. Bright white and blue beams radiate from the middle of the image, illuminating a small white rocket standing in the very center. Text in the lower right corner of the entire page reads: "The view from the steps of the NASA briefing stand at the press site…The barge canal reflects the waiting rocket at six o'clock on the morning it will come to life." Text in the upper left margin reads: "-A giant cathedral of light…and tonight it will be gone."

In March 1962, James Webb, Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, suggested that artists be enlisted to document the historic effort to send the first human beings to the moon. John Walker, director of the National Gallery of Art, was among those who applauded the idea, urging that artists be encouraged "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race."

Working together, James Dean, a young artist employed by the NASA Public Affairs office, and Dr. H. Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art, created a program that dispatched artists to NASA facilities with an invitation to paint whatever interested them. The result was an extraordinary collection of works of art proving, as one observer noted, "that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company." Transferred to the National Air and Space Museum in 1975, the NASA art collection remains one of the most important elements of what has become perhaps the world's finest collection of aerospace themed art.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Pitcairn-Cierva PCA-1A

National Air and Space Museum
1929; pca-1a (x95n); 3 seat open cockpit; single fixed wing with regulator wing plan form; upturned rounded tips; wooden ribs with dual leading and trailing edge; spars. single 4 blade rotor dual construction.

Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of America PCA-1A

In the late 1920's, Harold Pitcairn had established a sterling reputation as a builder of rugged biplanes used by airmail services. He had also founded what would eventually become Eastern Airlines. Yet by 1930, Pitcairn had begun dismantling these enterprises to support the highly speculative venture of developing and producing an American version of Juan de la Cierva's experimental Autogiros. Although, the Autogiro would prove to be a minor player in twentieth century aviation, Pitcairn nonetheless was able to succeed, at least temporarily, in his enterprise and, by 1940, had sold scores of the groundbreaking aircraft. The PCA-1 was Pitcairn's first Autogiro project and successfully demonstrated that he and his engineering staff not only understood Cierva's innovation, but also that they were capable of improving upon it.

The word "Autogiro" is actually a proprietary name coined by Juan de la Cierva. His designs were the first aircraft to fall in the gyroplane category. Nonetheless, nearly all gyroplanes built from the 1920s through the end of World War Two became commonly known as "autogiros" (or the more generic "autogyros"), regardless of the manufacturer. A gyroplane is an aircraft that derives most, if not all, of its lift from the unpowered autorotation of a horizontally mounted rotor or rotors. Unlike a helicopter, an engine does not drive the rotor blades while the aircraft is in flight. Instead, the resultant of the lift and drag forces acts to pull the blade forward in rotation while also creating lift - the same effect that turns the sails on windmills. This state of autorotation is only possible with a sustained airflow through the rotor disc, with the air moving from below and in front of the rotor to above and behind it. The gyroplane requires some propulsive force to maintain sufficient speed to sustain autorotation and hold altitude. In the Cierva and Pitcairn Autogiros, an engine driving a tractor propeller supplied the necessary force. If the pilot reduced throttle while flying, the rotors would begin to slow and the autogiro would descend. The increased airflow of the descent allowed the rotors to continue in autorotation and maintain the blades in an unstalled condition - even without the forward pull of the propeller. Although the pilot still had to keep some forward motion for a landing flare-out, and to maintain airflow over the control surfaces, it allowed for unpowered and near vertical descents ending in a very short landing rollout. This was an excellent safety feature in case of engine failure. Nonetheless, until the advent of direct control gyroplanes, the diminished control effectiveness in slow speed flight required a highly experienced Autogiro pilot to perform minimal rollout landings.

Most of the early gyroplanes were nearly identical to single-engine low-wing monoplanes, with the exception of the rotor mounted on a pylon in front of the cockpit that provided the primary source of lift during slow-speed flight. They employed standard airplane-type control surfaces (elevator, aileron, and rudder) and fixed pitch rotor blades. The stubby monoplane wing did not serve primarily for the generation of lift. Rather, it was a convenient means of mounting the ailerons and providing stability. It also had the unintended benefit of making the aircraft appear more conventional to skeptical airplane operators who were doubtful about flying without fixed wings.

Cierva constructed his first Autogiro, the coaxial rotor C.1, in 1920. As the rotors on the C.1 autorotated at different speeds, rendering the aircraft incapable of controlled flight, he decided to switch to a single rotor design. However, the abortive first flight of the new aircraft revealed a problem that he had not considered. As the Autogiro began to gain speed during its takeoff roll, the rotor blade that was turning towards the front of the aircraft received the benefit of additional airspeed because of the forward motion of the Autogiro. However, the blade retreating towards the rear of the autogiro suffered a loss in its airspeed relative to the oncoming air for the same reason. The net effect was a difference in airspeeds of the two blades that naturally caused dissymmetry of lift between the two sides of the rotor disc (as lift is a function of airspeed). In turn, this resulted in the Autogiro to rolling into the retreating blade side. A subsequent Cierva Autogiro also suffered the same problem and failed to take off successfully.

In 1922, Cierva conceived an inspired solution to his problem. By incorporating a hinge that allowed each blade to "flap" independently at its root, he developed a rotor that equalized lift amongst all of the blades, regardless of whether the Autogiro was flying fast or slow. When the advancing blade generated additional lift because of its higher velocity, the flapping hinge allowed it to rise, which effectively reduced the angle of attack of the blade, thus reducing its lift. On the other side of the rotor, the flapping hinge allow the retreating blade to descend with its reduced lift, which effectively increased its angle of attack, thus generating more lift. This breakthrough was not only an essential component for the Autogiro - it was also necessary for the development of the practical helicopter.

By the late 1920s, Cierva was close to achieving production of the Autogiro. Harold Pitcairn had been fascinated with the possibilities of rotary-wing flight since his youth and had avidly followed Cierva's progress. He had already established himself as a successful manufacturer of rugged airmail aircraft, such as the PA-5 Mailwing (see NASM collection), and as owner of an airmail service that would eventually become Eastern Airlines. Still unable to shake the desire to experiment with helicopters, which had little success up to that time, Pitcairn made two trips abroad to evaluate the licensing the Cierva technology as the basis for his own line of helicopters. By 1928, Pitcairn had decided to risk everything, phase out his fixed-wing production and airmail operations, and produce license-built versions of Cierva Autogiros. He returned to Cierva's facility in England and bought a C.8 equipped with a Wright Whirlwind J-5, designated C.8W (see NASM collection), and had it shipped to his Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania airfield. On December 18, 1928, one day after the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight, the C.8W became the first successful rotary-wing aircraft to fly in America.

Pitcairn's first step in building his own Autogiros was to acquire the American patent rights to Cierva's innovations and to manage and license them under the direction of the Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro Company of America. This enterprise, later renamed the Autogiro Company of America, would remain separate from the production side of Pitcairn Aircraft, which would become the Pitcairn Autogiro Company, Inc. in 1933. Cierva, when he had sold the patent rights to Pitcairn, had yet to place any aircraft into production, and was naturally elated at the potential American market for his products.

Pitcairn began flying the C.8W around the Northeast and successfully generated a wave of enthusiasm for the aircraft. Meanwhile, his senior engineer, Agnew Larsen, was hard at work evaluating improvements for Pitcairn's own line of Autogiros, designated the PCA-1 (Pitcairn-Cierva Autogiro). In July 1929, Larsen was ready to begin construction on the first three prototypes.

Originally, Pitcairn and Larsen had intended to use the rugged Pitcairn PA-5 Mailwing (see NASM collection) for the tandem open cockpit fuselage and then mate it with Cierva's latest rotor design. However, the biplane fuselage structure clearly carried weight in places that were not necessary for the monoplane, and Larsen designed a new fuselage that was similar in form to the PA-5's, but differed substantially in the structural details. The front cockpit contained room enough to seat two adult passengers side-by-side, while the pilot occupied the rear cockpit.

One area that required special attention was the landing gear that needed to take the punishment of hard landings and the heavy side loads imposed by near-vertical, minimal rollout landings. Larsen thus settled on a wide-track conventional configuration with high-travel struts. This arrangement would also help to eliminate the ground resonance problems encountered by some of the late Autogiros.

The PCA-1 was a larger, more rugged aircraft than the earlier Cierva designs with a more powerful engine, though its gross weight was similar. The welded square steel tube fuselage that Pitcairn perfected on his Mailwings undoubtedly accounts for much of this accomplishment. The design of the rotorhead resulted in further weight savings, though the RB-55 rotor blades came directly from Cierva and were the same ones used on the C.19, his first production model and consisted of two layers of mahogany. The rotorhead attached to the fuselage with a four-strut pylon, centered over the front cockpit windscreen.

Many Autogiro and helicopter designs utilized fully-articulated rotorheads that incorporated a lead-lag or drag hinge that allowed the blades to pivot slightly fore and aft during rotation to relieve stresses. The PCA-1 and concurrent Cierva designs employed rudimentary drag hinge designs that, in combination with clunky, dynamically unbalanced rotor blades, led to excessive structural loadings in the rotor. The variations in centrifugal forces had to be borne by the blades themselves, which would have resulted in frequent structural failures had an external bracing system not been adopted. Rubber shock-cord bracing wires connected each of the blades and attached to a point almost halfway out along their length. Additional bracing wires, running from a mast on top of the rotorhead, acted as stops to keep the blades from drooping too low and striking the fuselage. As blade and drag hinge design improved in the latter part of the 1930s, along with Pitcairn's discovery of hydraulic dampers, Autogiro manufacturers dispensed with external bracing.

Pitcairn had hoped to enter the PCA-1 in the National Air Tour and the Guggenheim Safe Aircraft Competition, both showcases of the latest advances in light aircraft design, but the Autogiro was not ready for its first flight until October 1929 - too late for entry. Amazingly, Cierva himself performed the first flight of the PCA-1. However, he was only able to fly the aircraft for less than a week before he suffered a substantial crash. A second setback followed, when a devastating fire in the Pitcairn factory destroyed the airframe. Fortunately, the second of the PCA-1 airframes, designated PCA-1A, was nearly ready for flight and indeed took to the air with Cierva at the controls less than a month after the first PCA-1. Cierva had brought a C.19 prototype with him to the United States and used it to drum up enthusiasm for Pitcairn's forthcoming products. The C.19 was similar to the PCA-1 in design, but smaller and considerably lighter.

The PCA-1A was cosmetically similar to its forerunner, but contained some notable structural differences. It was considerably lighter, as duralumin tubing replaced the heavier steel construction and fabric covered the wings instead of plywood. The landing gear underwent further refinement and employed larger "balloon" tires to further ease the jolt received when performing minimum ground-roll landings.

The PCA-1 and PCA-1A incorporated an unusual "box" tail design that deflected propwash into the aft section of the rotor disc to bring the rotor rpm up without the need for excessive high-speed taxiing by bringing the blades into autorotation before takeoff. After Pitcairn realized that the solution to the rotor spin-up problem was a power-takeoff controlled by a clutch, he modified the PCA-1A to incorporate a much lighter tail structure with a single vertical stabilizer to replace the original design.

The PCA-1A could carry a respectable payload of 318 kg (700 lb). Its maximum speed was a relatively slow 169 kph (105 mph), but it could maintain altitude at an airspeed of only 32 kph (20 mph). The third of the Pitcairn prototypes, the PCA-1B, was ready for flight a month after the PCA-1A. It was even more advanced than the PCA-1A and illustrated the rapid pace of innovation at Pitcairn's facility, which, in addition to its own talent, benefited considerably from the close oversight of Cierva who observed the experimentation with enthusiasm. The PCA-1B incorporated the revised tail design from the outset. The close association between Cierva and his licensee paid significant dividends for both parties, as their collaboration increased the pace of Autogiro development in both countries. Cierva's C.19 incorporated many of the innovations pioneered on the PCA-1 and entered production concurrently with Pitcairn's initial models.

The PCA-1A and its surviving sibling, rapidly fulfilled their mission and confirmed that the Pitcairn modifications to the Cierva design were sound. Pitcairn began to gear up for production of the PCA-2 - the first Autogiro sold commercially in the Western Hemisphere. In 1930, the National Aeronautic Association awarded Pitcairn the prestigious Collier Trophy because of his pioneering flights in the C.8W and the successful Americanization of the Autogiro in the form of the PCA-1.

The PCA-2 would prove to be a popular aircraft in spite of the fact that the Great Depression was just reaching its stride. While conventional barnstorming had lost its popularity, air races and airshows remained significant draws for a population desperate for distraction and the uniqueness of the Autogiro guaranteed that it would draw crowds wherever it appeared. While the $15,000 price tag was an enormous sum in those troubled times, Pitcairn still sold twenty-one PCA-2s in a two-year period. Many of the operators were pilots who financed their purchase by selling advertising space to corporate sponsors looking for new ways to advertise their products.

Unfortunately, the appeal of the Autogiro as a novelty act did not extend far into the commercial or general aviation fields. While Pitcairn marketed the Autogiro as the ideal personal vehicle for the wealthy, very few went for this purpose. Outside of advertising and exhibitions, some Autogiros performed limited crop-dusting and airmail duties. However, the short takeoff and landing abilities of the type did not compensate for its slower speeds, more limited payloads, and higher acquisition and operating costs relative to conventional aircraft. Despite new innovations, civil sales of the Autogiro had fallen off steeply by the beginning of World War Two. During the war, the introduction of helicopters with true vertical takeoff and landing capabilities and the ability to hover rendered the Autogiro redundant and obsolete. However, the increasing complexity and cost of true helicopters caused a resurgence in gyroplane research in the latter part of the twentieth century.

Pitcairn would die an embittered man, as the patent rights he had owned were usurped by a number of helicopter manufacturers, who, with the exception of Sikorsky, did not pay him any royalties. The helicopter companies had gotten away with this during World War Two because the U.S. Army Air Force had convinced Congress that unless they suspended patent issues relating to helicopter technology, the wartime development of the helicopter would be severely handicapped. After the war, Pitcairn tried to recover his royalties, but the government refused to get involved. Pitcairn filed suit, but the proceedings would came to a conclusion in his favor almost three decades later and several years after his death.

For a brief period, the PCA-1A and PCA-1B continued to serve with Pitcairn as trainers for purchasers of PCA-2s. Pitcairn then donated the PCA-1A to the Franklin institute. In 1955, the Smithsonian Institution acquired the aircraft. In 1997, the National Air and Space Museum loaned the aircraft to Harold Pitcairn's son, Stephen, who fully restored the aircraft to its initial configuration, including the box deflector-tail. In 2000, the aircraft went on temporary display at the American Helicopter Museum in West Chester, Pennsylvania, not far from its original testing ground.

Rotor Diameter:13.11 m (43 ft)

Wingspan:10.05 m (33 ft)

Length:6.60 m (21 ft 8 in)

Height:3.89 m (12 ft 9 in)

Weight:Empty, 998 kg (2,200 lb)

Gross, 1,317 kg (2,900 lb)

Engine, Initial Configuration:Wright R-760-E Whirlwind J-6-7, 225 hp

Engine, Final Configuration:Wright R-975-EG Whirlwind J-6-9, 300 hp

Crew:1 pilot, 2 passengers

References and Further Reading:

Brooks, Peter W. Cierva Autogiros: The Development of Rotary-Wing Flight.

Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1988.

Smith, Frank Kingston. Legacy of Wings: The Harold F. Pitcairn Story. Lafayette Hill,

Pa: T.D. Associates, 1981.

Townson, George. Autogiro: The Story of "the Windmill Plane." Destin, Fl: Aviation

Heritage, Inc., 1985.

Cierva C.8W curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum

R. Connor
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