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John Peabody Harrington papers: Tlingit/Eyak, 1939-circa 1957

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 1, reels 10-12. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington's work on Tlingit began in December 1939 while visiting Melville and Elizabeth Langdon Jacobs in Seattle. At the U.S. Marine Hospital he located Thomas Skeek (referred to as Skeek), a native of Kake, Alaska, and Sheldon James (James). He worked with these two speakers until at least mid-January of 1940.

From James he learned of George Johnson (GJ), a bilingual speaker of Tlingit and Eyak residing at Yakutat, Alaska. Harrington hoped to bring Johnson to Seattle immediately to work; however, it was not until April that he was authorized to begin the work. He spent 32 days--from approximately May 12 to June 14--at Yakutat, working regularly eight hours a day with George Johnson and his wife Annie. In the evenings Harrington put in time with other speakers such as Maggie Adams (Mag., M.) and Peter Lawrence. In May he and Johnson made day trips to Situk River and Fort Ankau and joined Jack Ellis (JE) and his son John on a three day trip to the head of Yakutat Bay in their gas-powered boat.

In nonlinguistic matters Harrington received the assistance of the Reverend and Mrs. E. M. Axelson, with whom he had corresponded during his attempts to contact George Johnson. For biological data on plant and animal specimens collected, he consulted his assistant George M. Grasty and various botanists in Juneau and Washington, D.C.

Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. Also see "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 1: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Alaska/Northwest Coast," edited by Elaine L. Mills (1981). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%201.pdf

This subseries of the Alaska/Northwest Coast series contains Harrington's Tlingit and Eyak research. The materials consist of vocabulary, grammar, texts, notes on natural history and other related materials, and writings.

Harrington collected an early vocabulary list from Thomas Skeek. He also recorded rehearings with Skeek, and possibly Sheldon James, of vocabulary from Franz Boas' (1917) "Grammatical Notes on the Language of the Tlingit Indians" [former B.A.E. MS 4103 pt.]. George Johnson provided forms in Yakutat Tlingit (the "Juneau language"), which are marked by "Y." "C." Harrington also copied and reheard a manuscript by Elizabeth Langdon Jacobs titled "Alaskan Tlingit and its Athabaskan Relatives," a paper based in part on her Oregon Athapascan fieldwork around 1935. New data are unmarked, although presumably from Skeek, as suggested by the dates Jan. 18 and 19, 1940. A third basis for elicitation was H. V. Velten's (1939) "Two Southern Tlingit Tales." Only a few lexical items from this article were reheard with Skeek. The remaining vocabulary consists mainly of nouns arranged by Harrington's semantic categories. [Parts formerly cataloged as B.A.E. MS 4100 pt.] Forms from Skeek (Tl.) are followed by those from Johnson (Y. and C.). Skeek is mentioned by name only when his forms are corrected by Johnson. Nonlinguistic data from these speakers and others are interspersed. References are made to specimens collected by Grasty.

The section of field notes Harrington labeled "Grammar" consists in part of notes on phonetics. It also includes a rehearing by Skeek and Johnson of a portion of a comparative Athapascan vocabulary divided into such categories as verbs, greetings, colors, and numbers. Compiled by Harrington and Robert W. Young in the fall and early winter of 1939, the Athapascan questionnaire was alternately referred to as the "Navaho lists" or the "Tlats[kanai] Voc[abulary]." The latter name alluded to the fact that it was organized to follow numbered entries from Boas and Goddard's "Vocabulary of an Athapascan Dialect of the State of Washington" (1924).

Texts are in English with scattered vocabulary items in Tlingit and ethnological and historical references. Stories from George Johnson concern Raven, King Salmon, and Fort Ankau. Myths told by Maggie Adams are about Raven. Tales from this last group were written down first by George Grasty and later copied and rechecked by Harrington.

Harrington's notes on the natural history of the Yakutat area [former B.A.E. MS 4103 pt.] are, in a sense, a diary of the boat trip made to the Head of the Bay. His descriptions of glaciers and the local flora and fauna are particularly detailed and related placenames and native terms are also provided. Scientific observations by Grasty alternate with historical and biographical information volunteered by Ellis and Johnson during the course of the trip.

Harrington's writings on Tlingit and Eyak are undated and could have been prepared as much as several years after his fieldwork was completed. They include works in various stages of preparation, only one of which was published. Dealing with phonetics are an outline titled "Lhiinkit Paper," a rough and final draft of a manuscript "Tlingit Sounds," and two versions of the paper which was eventually published as "Phonematic Daylight in Lhiinkit, Navajo of the North" (1945). "Salmon Write-up" [former B.A.E. MS 4100 pt.] consists of handwritten notes on salmon species with ethnographic details in fishing, storage, and modern-day canning techniques. The typescript "Southern Peripheral Athapaskawan in Alaska and Canada" [former B.A.E. MS 4100 pt.] was probably intended for publication as a B.A.E. bulletin with Robert W. Young as coauthor. Harrington completed only the sections on plant and animal parts and names. Species designations are given with native terms in Tlingit (Lh.) and Eyak (Atch.) and notes on appearances and uses.

Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Untitled drawing. Page from a bound sketchbook. Depicts an element of the V.I.C. (Visitor Information Center), which looks like a large propeller or satellite. The sketch divides the page in half on the diagonal. A large amount of text at the bottom of the page reads: "When I was drawing this little item I was talking to an elderly man from Michigan about his camera. We were inside the V.I.C. looking for Apollo 16 patches. At this point in history Bob McCall with his crewcut even good looks turns the corner and walks up to me and this elderly gentleman. The gentleman see the crewcut good look and NASA Badge with the equally good looks photo of McCall on it. He takes Bob for an astronaut and I introduce him as such. The man ends up banging his head on the above item. Bob denies this introduction. He has a sense of humor like most astronauts."

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

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.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Chimakum/Clallam/Makah/Quileute, 1942

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 1, reel 16. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington conducted fieldwork in April 1942 in Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties in northwestern Washington. His main linguistic sources were Louise Adams Butler Webster Buttner (Louise, Lou.); her daughter-in-law, Emily Webster (Emily, Eml., or rarely Em.); Louise's grandson, Cy Webster (Cy); Joe Sly (Sly); and Mrs. Washington Howeattle.

Louise Buttner, a long-time resident of the Little Boston Reservation near Port Gamble, spoke Chimakum, Clallam, some Makah, and Chinook jargon. She and her brother, George Adams, were probably the same people Boas worked with to elicit Chimakum in 1890.

Emily Webster was married to Louise's son, James Webster, Jr. Her native language was Clallam, but she also spoke Chimakum and Makah.

Cy was the son of James Webster, Jr., although it is not clear if Emily was his mother. His grandmother, Louise, raised him and is probably the main source of his knowledge of Chimakum. In addition to this language, he spoke Clallam and had some knowledge of Makah and Quileute.

Joe Sly was the son of a Clallam father and a Makah mother. In 1942 he lived at Neah Bay and was ninety years old. Another speaker of Makah was Mrs. Washington Howeattle of Tahola. She also knew Quileute.

Emma Luscier (Em.) was the main source of Lower Chehalis data, she also commented on the more northerly Salishan languages. Her first husband was a Quileute, from whom she probably gained her knowledge of Quinault and possibly Quileute.

Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. Also see "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 1: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Alaska/Northwest Coast," edited by Elaine L. Mills (1981). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%201.pdf

This subseries of the Alaska/Northwest Coast series contains Harrington's research on Chimakum, Clallam, Makah, and Quileute. The bulk of the notes consist of a comparative vocabulary for the four languages. A minimal number of equivalences in Quinault and Snohomish also appear. Other kinds of vocabulary were recorded, but the emphasis was placed on obtaining placenames. There are also notes containing observations by Harrington on the phonetics of the languages, as well as charts of morphemes he devised for Clallam, Makah, and Quileute. These are supplemented by notes on the relationships of the languages and on Edward Sapir and Morris Swadesh's (1939) Nootka Texts. In addition, Harrington collected biographical data on those he worked with in the field and James G. Swan. Swan was a collaborator for the Smithsonian Institution and a collector for the United States National Museum who lived at Shoalwater Bay and Port Townsend. Of ethnographic interest are comments on excerpts from T. T. Waterman's (1920) "The Whaling Equipment of the Makah Indians." A flood legend, historical figures, and events of significance to Washington tribes are mentioned. Other materials in these files include a miscellany of notes Harrington made to himself during his work in northwestern Washington and annotated extracts from Manuel J. Andrade's (1931) "Quileute Texts" and E. S. Curtis' (1911, 1913) The North American Indian.

Bar in Hotel Scribe

National Portrait Gallery
After the Allies drove the German army out of Paris in August 1944, the bar at the city's Hotel Scribe became a favorite haunt for journalists. As one observer put it, an outgoing stream of "spruce correspondents" was always leaving the bar's comforts for the front lines and an incoming flow of "disheveled correspondents" just back from the front was eager to fill their seats. Among the Scribe's patrons was war illustrator Floyd Davis, who painted this picture for Life magazine, showing the bar filled with reporters who gathered there to talk over their news stories and complain about army press censorship. Among the individuals featured are New Yorker reporter Janet Flanner and CBS newscaster William Shirer seated at a table (lower center) with Ernest Hemingway. The unshaven, helmeted figure in the left rear is the famed war photographer Robert Capa.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Cuna, 1914, 1924-circa 1931

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 7, reel 26. Only original documents created by Harrington, his coworkers and field assistants, or field notes given to him by others were microfilmed.

See Manuscript 4490 for the map of San Blas drawn by Igwa Nigdibippi for Harrington. The NAA also holds the papers of Richard Marsh.

From October through December of 1924, John P. Harrington worked with a party of Cuna--the "White Indians" as they were called by the press. The group was brought to the United States in July by an engineer, Richard O. Marsh, who earlier in 1924 had led the "Marsh Darien" expedition to eastern Panama, with representatives from the Smithsonian and other institutions. After a well-publicized short visit to New York City (during which Harrington probably reported on the Indians for a New Orleans newspaper) and longer stays in upstate New York and Canada, the party travelled in October to Washington, D.C. While in the capital, Marsh lobbied on behalf of the Cuna against the Panamanian government and the party was studied by various Smithsonian scientists--among them Frances Densmore, Herbert Krieger, and Ales Hrdlicka. Harrington and his colleague Paul Vogenitz of the Post Office Department undertook linguistic work with members of the group both at the Smithsonian and at the house where they were staying in nearby Chevy Chase, Maryland.

The party of eight Cuna consisted of three young albinos and five non-albino adults; two of the latter served as chaperones for the young people. The other three were delegates on a secret political mission to the United States. These individuals and their communities of origin are inconsistently identified in the documents. This is due to mistakes and simplifications by Harrington and others and because in this era, Cuna often had multiple and variously spelled names. The chaperones were a couple from the island of Nargana (also referred to as San Jose, Yantuppu and Rio Diablo in the notes): Jim, James, or Santiago Perry (also Berry, Beri, or Campos) and his wife Inez or Alice. The albinos were their adolescent daughter Margarita or Marguerite, and two unrelated boys who were sometimes passed off as their sons. The younger was called Tcippu (the Cuna word for "white," often given to albinos) from the island of Ustupu or Portogandi. The older boy was Olo Piniginya or Olo from Ailigandi.

The three political delegates were Igwa Nigdibippi, a subchief of the island of Ailigandi and personal emissary of the high chief Cimral Coleman; Alfred Robinson or Kantule, son of the high chief Nele Kantule of Portogandi; and Phillip (Phillip, Felipe) Thompson, also called Niga ("nephew") of Tikantikki or Niatupu. Alfred and Phillip spoke English and Spanish, and Phillip had attended primary school in Washington some years earlier.

Harrington and Vogenitz worked with Jim Perry and his daughter Margarita, Phillip Thompson (abbreviated "Ph." or "Fe!."), Alfred Robinson ("Alf."), and Igwa Nigdibippi ("Chief"). The group was first brought to the museum on October 18, 1924, and Harrington began recording information from them the next day. His field notes mention dates in October through December; during some of this period Vogenitz worked more intensively with the Indians while Harrington attended to other work at the Smithsonian. A vocabulary slip dated January 12 [1925] was probably written out after the fact. Frances Densmore began her musical studies with the Cuna on November 25th and worked intensively with them from November 30 to December 6.

The Cuna party left the United States at the beginning of January. Later in the month Marsh returned to San BIas, the coastal territory of the Cuna, and at the end of February helped to lead an uprising against the Panamanian government.

Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. For a comprehensive description of these materials, see "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 7: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Mexico/Central America/South America," edited by Elaine L. Mills (1988). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%207.pdf

This subseries of the Mexico/Central America/South America series contains Harrington's Cuna research, consisting of linguistic and ethnographic notes, reports and clippings, and miscellaneous notes.

There is a small section of "S[an] Blas" vocabulary which was recorded from Enrique Tule in Los Angeles in 1914. Most of his linguistic and ethnographic notes were obtained from the Cuna group that visited Washington, D.C., in 1924. He recorded vocabulary for animals, especially fishes; relationships; months; placenames; and tribenames. He also collected ethnographic information for cataloged artifacts from the Marsh Expedition, such as paddles, necklaces, and baskets. Some notes were elicited while examining the contents of a mannequin case in the U. S. National Museum. Interspersed with the linguistic and ethnographic data are information on members of the Cuna group, references to photographs, and quotes regarding the Marsh Expedition from one of its members, Major H. B. Johnson. Also filed here are a set of texts. Song texts, including the Canoe Song, Flower Song, and Headache Song, appear to have been written down from dictation or during a performance; there are virtually no translations. A few pages are in the hand of Paul Vogenitz. There is also a three-page typescript of Cuna text with a partial interlinear translation. It was dictated by Igwa Nigdibippi on December 9, 1924, as a discussion of the chief's activities in Washington, D.C., and was transcribed by Vogenitz on the following day. The second text, which takes the form of a letter addressed from "Pablo" [Paul] to "Kwan" Uohn], was prepared by Vogenitz as a writing exercise in the Cuna language. The subject is evolution, a topic of public interest at the time in light of the on-going trial of John Thomas Scopes. There are also typed data on note slips with handwritten annotations on plants and material culture. Original catalog numbers and Smithsonian catalog numbers are provided for some of the artifacts discussed. In addition, a few items collected by the Marsh Expedition are illustrated in sketches. There are also references to Dr. Walter Hough, Mr. Marsh, and Dr. Henry B. Collins. A second set of slips deals with terms for parts of the body and for various animal species. The slips were handwritten by both Harrington and Vogenitz. There are corresponding typed copies for many of the slips. Each entry consists of a single word and commentary on the phonetics.

This subseries also contains a series of reports on the Cuna Indians. Included are drafts of a paper titled "Ethnological and Linguistic Study of the Tule Indians of Panama" and a similar untitled typescript of two pages. This statement by Harrington includes discussion of estimated population, geographical area, tribal names and divisions, and language of the Cuna and lists the names of his informants. It also contains references to his study of Tule placenames of the coast and mountains and to the map drawn by Chief Igwa Nigdibippi (see MS 4490). The extensive "8000-word vocabulary" mentioned in the paper has not been located. There is also material relating to the reports Frances Densmore prepared regarding her study of the Cuna. Included are a typed copy of "Music and Customs of the Tule Indians of Panama" and handwritten and typed copies by Harrington of "Songs and Instrumental Music of the Tule Indians of Panama." These are followed by notes for an unfavorable review Harrington was writing of the papers by Densmore. Also filed here are newspaper clippings discussing Richard O. Marsh's explorations and Harrington's linguistic work with the Tule Indians.

Harrington retained a number of files of miscellany relating to his study of Cuna. Included are reading notes from Lionel Wafer's book, A New Voyage and Description of the Isthmus of America, concerning observations of the Tule in 1699. They contain a few annotations regarding vocabulary items and phrases. There are also notes on Baron Erland Nordenskiold, a Swedish anthropologist who traveled among the Cuna in 1927, and Karl Gustav Izikowitz, who worked with a Tule informant named Ruben Perez Kantule in Goteborg, Sweden, in 1931. These are accompanied by two lists of vocabulary which were evidently prepared by Vogenitz with the intention of demonstrating the affinity of Cuna with the Scandinavian and Germanic languages. This claim was based on mistranslations or comparisons of inappropriate forms of a given word. A few additional pages, labeled "Tule miscellaneous," include a note from H. B. Johnson to Harrington. There are also random notes on bibliography and the names of contact persons.

Combat Photographer: Vietnam through the lens of Marine Corporal William T. Perkins, Jr.

National Museum of American History

The Vietnam War was the nation's first televised war. Within hours, combat footage of young Americans in uniform in the jungles of South Vietnam could be seen in living rooms across the country. Among those capturing the footage was Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., a 20-year-old Marine deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer.

Armed with a Bell and Howell 16mm motion picture camera and his personal 35mm still camera, Perkins documented the actions of his fellow Marines as they supported and defended the South Vietnamese people against the communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. For his heroism in protecting those Marines, Perkins became the only combat photographer ever honored as a recipient of the Medal of Honor.

On a boat with waves in the background, a young man with blonde hair holds a video camera to his face. He wears a military vest and pants with bare arms. In front of him--the subject he is filming--is a gun or other military equipment on the boat. An operator's forearm is visible holding/manipulating the gun or equipment.

Born on August 10, 1947, Perkins grew up hearing rich stories of his family's military service in the Civil War and World War II. After Perkins expressed an interest in photography, his father bought him a Kodak camera that he used to learn about the hobby while a member of his high school photography club. After graduation, in 1965, Perkins enrolled at Los Angeles Pierce College to study photography. Restless and patriotic, the following year Perkins enlisted in the Marine Corps.

Black and white portrait of a young man wearing a military uniform with a white hat. He has a smile, square chin, young face, and attractive eyes.

During boot camp, Perkins expressed a desire to be a Marine photographer. After receiving this assignment, to his chagrin, he found the work as a still photographer at Marine Corps Supply Center, Barstow, California, dull and unfulfilling. "All I do is take photos of the general in parades," he told his family, as his father recalled years later.

That fall, Perkins requested assignment to the U.S. Army Signal Center at Fort Monmouth, New Jersey, to receive training in motion picture photography. His headquarters agreed, but with a caveat: Perkins could attend the school, but his follow-on assignment would likely include service in the Republic of Vietnam. Undeterred, Perkins headed east and eagerly immersed himself in the art. "I can't believe how lucky I am to be doing exactly what [I want] to be doing," he wrote home to his family.

Two photos. A young man with short blonde hair is indoors operating a film video camera. He wears a uniform. He looks into the viewfinder in one image and adjusts a setting in the second image.

On July 17, 1967, Perkins arrived in the Republic of Vietnam. The following day in Phu Bai, the Marines assigned Perkins as a photographer with Service Company, Headquarters Battalion, 3d Marine Division (Reinforced), and issued him a Bell and Howell 16mm Filmo motion picture camera and a .45 automatic pistol. The Bell and Howell proved Perkins's primary weapon in the field, supplemented with his personal 35mm still camera. Almost weekly, Perkins mailed his family rolls of his film, taken throughout the Marine bases in the northern provinces of South Vietnam.

Below are examples of photographs Perkins took during his travels in and around the northern provinces of the Republic of Vietnam in August and September 1967, paired with words he wrote home in letters to his family.

Two photographs of military equipment. The first has a background with trees and mountains. The second has a background seen from a helicopter--a rocky, green, mountainous landscape.

Three children (probably boys), who are barefoot, stand in front of a building with a hut-style thatched roof. The entry way in front of them is made of wood. A garden on both sides of the boys.

Photo taken on the water, a calm river. Thre small canoe-style boats in the water around one much larger boat with wide netting around it held up by wooden poles. About 12 people total in the boats.

On October 11, Perkins joined the men of Charlie Company, First Battalion, First Marine Regiment, for Operation Medina. The operation intended to find, fix, and destroy enemy North Vietnamese Army (NVA) bases in the Hai Lang National Forest. The following day, NVA forces ambushed the Marines in a shower of grenades and bullets. As the ambush intensified, other Marines established a defensive perimeter where they cleared fields of fire and prepared a landing zone to fly out the 11 wounded and one killed and bring in reinforcements. Medevac helicopters arrived that afternoon and Perkins filmed the entire operation.

Just as the last helicopter flew off from the clearing in the dusk's fading light, all hell broke loose. Three NVA companies assaulted Charlie Company on two sides. Enemy blast and fragmentation grenades rained down upon the Marines from NVA soldiers who tied themselves high up in the trees on the perimeter edge. Green tracers of the enemy weapons slashed across the American lines as friendly red tracers answered back, the roar of battle punctuated by screams of the wounded. Enveloped by darkness, Perkins took up a position by a log on the edge of the landing zone perimeter together with Marine Corporal Fred Boxill and Lance Corporals Michael Cole and Dennis Antal.

Black and white photo taken from a low position on the plant-covered ground. Military personnel huddle around the opening of a helicopter with blades spinning, loading someone in. Behind them, a young man in uniform is filming or photographing the scene.

Enemy fire was relentless. Suddenly, an enemy grenade appeared in the air, silhouetted against the flash of another explosion. Antal saw the grenade falling, as did Perkins. Propping himself up on his arms, his Bell and Howell still strapped to his chest, Perkins cried out "incoming grenade" as the explosive landed behind the log, three feet from the huddled Marines. Perkins dove at the grenade, kicking Antal in the process, and tucked it securely beneath his chest. The grenade exploded, the blast lifting Antal in the air as shrapnel wounded both him and Boxill.

As a fellow Marine treated the two wounded men, a navy corpsman arrived to check on Perkins. When Antal asked, "Is he all right?" the corpsman shook his head. As dawn broke on October 13, 1967, eight Marines—including Perkins—lay dead, 39 men were wounded, and 40 enemy lay dead scattered in and around the landing zone perimeter.

Photograph of a film camera. Viewfinder and film reel are visible. It appears to be worn and hard-used, perhaps slightly destroyed in some areas.

In a private ceremony at the White House on June 20, 1969, President Richard M. Nixon presented Corporal Perkins's posthumously awarded Medal of Honor to his parents, William and Marilane Perkins. The citation accompanying the decoration proclaimed how Perkins,

in a valiant act of heroism, hurled himself upon the grenade absorbing the impact of the explosion with his own body, thereby saving the lives of his comrades at the cost of his own. Through his exceptional courage and inspiring valor in the face of certain death, Corporal Perkins reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country. 

Black and white posed photo taken outside the White House. A woman holds a Medal of Honor in a frame. She wears white and stands beside a man in a suit. Around then, President Nixon and others.

Citation for Medal of Honor. Gold text, blue ribbon image. Text: "...in a valiant act of heroism, hurled himself upon the grenade absorbing the impact of the explosion with his own body, thereby saving the lives of his comrades at the cost of his own. Through his exceptional courage and inspiring valor in the face of certain death, Corporal Perkins reflected great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country."

Fifty years after his heroic deed, Perkins's actions are not forgotten. In the Medal of Honor section of the museum's exhibition The Price of Freedom: Americans at War, visitors will be able to view Perkins's posthumously awarded Medal of Honor and Purple Heart beginning in early November 2017. These decorations accompany Perkins's Bell and Howell camera, bearing the scars of an enemy grenade and dirt from the Hai Lang Forest. The camera is on loan to us from the National Museum of the Marine Corps; this display is the first time the camera and Medal of Honor have ever been presented together. They'll be on display here for at least a year. Perkins's films from his time in Vietnam remain preserved for viewing at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. His footage captures the faces and actions of his fellow Marines, images preserved by a selfless young man whose love of country and photography made him a national hero.

Young man with no shirt on military boat on a river or ocean. He holds a pop can. Two plates of food in front of him.

Frank Blazich Jr. is a curator in the Division of Armed Forces History.

Posted Date: 
Thursday, October 12, 2017 - 07:00
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How Chuck Taylor Taught America How to Play Basketball

Smithsonian Magazine

It was 1936, and the United States men’s basketball team stepped onto the rain-soaked outdoor courts sporting bright white Converse shoes—patriotic blue and red pinstripes wrapping around each sole. The Americans were taking on the Canadians in the Olympic finals, and the conditions were miserable. As it poured, water inundated the courts, turning them into a “sea of mud,” according to the New York Times. But, in a painfully low-scoring game, the U.S. ultimately won 19-8.

This was basketball’s inaugural year in the games and the first of seven consecutive Olympic gold medals for the U.S. men’s team. But it also marked the first appearance of the iconic “Olympic white” Chuck Taylor shoes—a design still around to this day.

The history of the shoe is nearly as old as the game of basketball itself, and in a way both matured together. In 1891, YMCA physical educator James Naismith invented the indoor game, played with a soccer ball and two peach baskets, to keep his students fit during the frigid Massachusetts winters. Seventeen years later, Marquis Converse founded his Converse Rubber Shoe Company, also in Massachusetts, to produce rubber galoshes, a far cry from the canvas kicks the company is known for today.

The company churned out these protective boots for the wet spring, winter and fall, but sales inevitably dropped during the dry summer months. After two years of Converse firing his employees at the beginning of the slump and rehiring when the rains returned in autumn, the entrepreneur made a bid to keep his most skilled workers year-round. He started making a non-skid, canvas-topped shoe.

Image by Converse. Marquis Converse founded his Converse Rubber Show Company to produce rubber galoshes. (original image)

Image by Converse. All Star, circa early 1920s (original image)

Image by Converse. All Star, 1928 (original image)

Image by Converse. Leather Chuck Taylor All Star, circa 1934 (original image)

Image by Converse. Chuck Taylor All Star, circa 1957 (original image)

Image by Converse. Chuck Taylor All Star Oxford, circa 1960 (original image)

Image by Converse. Chuck Taylor All Star, 1971 (original image)

The first version was a low-top oxford kind of shoe, says Sam Smallidge, the head archivist at Converse. But these dressy sneaks quickly became associated with sports, specifically the rapidly spreading basketball craze. In 1922, the Converse Rubber Company hired a charismatic athlete named Charles “Chuck” Taylor as part salesman, part player-coach for the shoe’s club team, the Converse All Stars.

“It was all about promotion,” says Abraham Aamidor, author of the book Chuck Taylor, All Star. “The team was not in a league, but would travel through small Midwestern towns and challenge the local hot shots to a game.”

By Aamidor’s count, the All Stars played about 30 games a year. In addition to these games, Taylor hosted clinics to teach people the relatively new sport. Sporting goods stores sent representatives to the clinics to sell Converse All Star shoes to the captive audience—touting the kicks as the best basketball shoes around.

“What Converse was doing was teaching America to play basketball,” says Smallidge. But in addition to this, these clinics “allowed Converse to cement this relationship with basketball itself as being the premiere basketball shoe.”

The clinics would often include a basketball game and a sideshow featuring Chuck and free-throw fiend Harold “Bunny” Levitt, according to Aamidor. “Chuck did his trick shots and Bunny Levitt never missed a free throw,” he says. The duo would then pass out pocket-sized instruction books on how to play the game.

Image by Courtesy of Abe Aamidor. Taylor was on the road year round teaching Americans to play basketball and promoting the Converse brand. This is Taylor in the 1950s, giving one of his clinics to a team and local fans. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Abe Aamidor. Taylor preps for a game in 1927 as the player and coach of the Converse All Stars team. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Diana Eddleman Lenzi. Chuck Taylor (left) at the Wright Field Army Air Corps base where he coached the nation’s top military team at the time. Dwight Eddleman stands in the middle and pro basketball player Ed Sadowski stands to the right. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Abe Aamidor. For his contributions to the sport, Taylor was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969. (original image)

Taylor traveled all over the country hosting clinics and promoting the shoes. Shoe sales were booming, but all was not well with the company. In the mid-1910s, competing rubber companies ventured into the production of rubber galoshes, which were still a Converse classic. So Marquis Converse tried to edge in on the competition’s money-maker: rubber tires.

At the time, tires were a rapidly changing technology, and Converse couldn’t keep pace. The Great Depression only added to the company’s troubles, says Smallidge. “He sunk so much of his money into this tire business, so when the tire business collapsed, it kind of dragged the rest of the company down with it,” he says. In 1929 Marquis Converse lost the company.

The business changed hands several times. Hodgman Company had a brief stint, but its president died in a freak hunting accident soon after the merge, says Smallidge. Businessmen Joseph, Harry and Dewey Stone bought the floundering company in 1932.

“The Converse name had lost its glitter,” says Aamidor. "The company was in trouble.”

Image by Converse. "The sole reason," 1954 advertisement (original image)

Image by Converse. "In basketball, it's All Stars first!" 1954 advertisement (original image)

Image by Converse. "Now 2 great Converse 'Chuck' Taylor All Stars," 1957 advertisement (original image)

Image by Converse. "Now basketball's more colorful than ever," 1971 advertisement (original image)

Image by Converse. "The Converse All Star," 1982 advertisement (original image)

Taylor, then the company’s sales manager, decided to market himself as a great basketball player and add his name to the shoe, Aamidor explains.

“He neither was a great player, nor did he play on some of the great teams that he said he played on,” says Aamidor. But he did have moderate abilities with basketball and the connections in the field to make an impact. Though many—if not all—basketball coaches knew “it was a bunch of hooey,” he says, they accepted the act and moved on.

Taylor signed a contract with Converse to add his name in 1933, and the change went into effect the following year, says Smallidge. The All Star became the Chuck Taylor All Star.

As Taylor’s popularity and infamy as a big-shot basketball player grew, he continued to work the road selling shoes. It was his personal touches as a salesman that made all the difference, says Aamidor. For big college tournaments, Taylor often attended himself to support the teams and care for the shoes. If there were problems with stitching, fit or damages, Taylor was on hand to make the repair.

“This would be like buying a basketball that has a Lebron James signature on it,” says Aamidor, “and when you want to get it inflated to the right pressure, there's Lebron James doing it for you.”

Similar to today, what people wore in large part came down to marketing. “Chucks weren't the only canvas shoes with rubber bottoms,” says Aamidor. Other shoe manufacturers at the time, such as Spalding and BF Goodrich, had similar options. "But they [Chucks] were the most expensive ones and the most elite ones,” he adds.

The tread pattern used in Chuck Taylor All Stars is a patented design. (U.S. Patent and Trademark Office)

Converse’s ultimate goal was to make shoes with the grippiest soles around. The tread pattern became fixed in the mid-1930s, and the patented design is still used in today’s Chucks.

When the first Olympic team formed in 1936, and needed team sneaks, the company was a shoe-in. Converse debuted the “Olympic White All Stars” that year—a departure from the traditional black high tops.

The U.S. men’s basketball team took the gold medal at the 1936 Olympics while sporting their Olympic white Chuck Taylor All Stars. (USA Basketball)

The shoe remained the Olympic shoe of choice for decades, but its popularity in sports began to peter out in the 1970s when players started expecting lucrative endorsement contracts. Converse didn’t pay athletes to wear their products until 1975, when they gave Julius “Dr. J” Erving an endorsement deal. But even then, the company just couldn’t keep pace with the massive deals and clothing lines that other companies began offering their players.

The 1984 games was Converse’s Olympic swan song. The company was the official footwear sponsor of the games, and the U.S. men’s basketball team won gold sporting Converse’s latest leather sneaks.

Even so, paralleling the company’s popularity decline in the professional sports world was a growing following in rock culture. The introduction of seven colors of the shoe in 1971 bolstered this movement, and shoe sales pivoted from the courts to the streets.

“Really it's the only clothing that you'll ever see old men, young girls, hipsters in New York, [all wearing],” says Aamidor, of Converse’s now broad appeal. “Anybody is likely to be wearing those shoes.”

These days, Chuck Taylor—the man—has been lost somewhere in history. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1969, and died later that year. He is no longer remembered in his invented persona of a basketball star or as a spectacular salesman. Many people even assume the name is like Betty Crocker, says Aamidor—a brand name only.

But Taylor was indeed flesh and blood. His love of basketball and Converse shoes helped build the sport into a classic American game.

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

Drawing, Pen and Ink on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
A sketch of a press conference for the Skylab. The attention is focused on three men sitting at a table on the left that has a round NASA insignia on it. The text in the empty space above this group are phrases that read: "The flight will be scrubed [sic] until we find the reason and whether there are any more…the thrust reaction trunion…reinstall the…stress and corrosion integrity." A camera on a tripod that is focused on the three men is at the center of picture, and it is labeled "KSC Television." Five other men are positioned around the scene. A bald man is seated in the lower left and is holding a long skinny microphone to the outline of a man's face behind the camera leg. Two other men with glasses are seated on the right side facing the men at the table. One man wearing a headset is standing looking into the camera. To his right are the head and shoulders of another man presumed to be standing.

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

Apollo 16 EVA II

National Air and Space Museum
Ink and pencil drawing on paper. Apollo 16 EVA II, 22 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. Scenes of the extravehicular activity (EVA) of Apollo 16 overlap in a collage of three parts. The larger, top element is of two astronauts in their gold-visor helmets facing away from each other. The lower left is a rectangle with a black band across the top and a yellow shape, presumably the lunar module, against a blue background. The lower right element is a rear view of two astronauts against a reddish-orange background. The text in the upper right corner reads: "Apollo 16: EVA II 22 April 72 at the Goddard Spaceflight Center: Views of Young and Duke and "Orion" on the moon…from the large projected TV image inside the Network Operations Control Center…the color distortion is beautiful…unreal."

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

Red Carpet

National Air and Space Museum
Red Carpet. The red carpet is rolled out on the deck of a recovery ship to welcome the newly arrived astronauts. A sign on the deck at the top of the carpet reads: "Welcome Aboard USS Wasp." Two astronauts still in their spacesuits are walking in the center of the red carpet, flanked by Navy personnel in uniform. A group of media with cameras are to the right of the carpet. Large groups of sailors in white uniforms stand along the left and at the top of the scene, while others are up on a deck, closer to the perspective of the viewer and looking down on the scene. One helicopter is parked on the deck in the upper right. The dark blue ocean frames the scene at the top.

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

Rocket Rollout

National Air and Space Museum
Rocket Rollout, also titled Moon, Horizon, and Flowers. An abstract representation of moving the Saturn rocket from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the launch pad. The piece is divided into three horizontal bands. The top band is half of the image, which includes a blue background with a large yellow circle of a moon on the right and the lacelike arming tower silhouetted against it on the left. The middle band is demarcated by dark yellow edges and is decorated by multicolored shapes and designs against a dark background. The bottom band is full of similar multicolored pieces, but with overlapping flowers drawn in black on top of the colors.

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
Site: Space Hall of Fame. A drawn proposal for a look-out tower with four wings. The main structure, drawn in green, is a central column with two crossing arches. A yellow torch is drawn at the very top of the column. The space between the arches is occupied by fountains. The margins around the main drawing are filled with handwritten text. Beginning in the upper left and moving clockwise the text reads: "Site: Space Hall of Fame John Glenn Pad Area Height 600' Materials Optional." Referring to the top portion of the column, the text reads: "Could hold lighted torch for night lighting. Upraised arms gold statue of man as space traveler. Lookout windows. Walk up to lookout windows - also a lift. Space Hall of Fame - 1 Level." Referring to the green cross at the bottom of the page, the text reads: "Elevator column Square glass enclosed landings & stairway. Four areas of cross to be 1 level at top of arches. Shops-displays-food, etc. Space Hall of Fame to be main floor of cross comprising all 4 wings of cross. 1 level." Referring to the empty space between the arches, the text reads: "Plaza area beneath arches."

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

Network Control Operations Display

National Air and Space Museum
Network Control Operations Display, 25 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. A representation of the Goddard Space Flight Center's network control operations display during the flight of Apollo 16. A row of three rectangular screens crosses the middle of the piece and a map of the world is in the top right. The left screen appears to be a map of the earth against a bright blue ocean. The middle screen is the live TV coverage of astronaut Ken Mattingly walking on the moon. The wider right screen is a graphic presentation of the command module Casper's flight between the earth and the moon. Text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16, 25 April 72, 15:30 hours / Ken Mattingly "walks" in deep space to retreive (sic) the mapping camara (sic) film cassettes from the service module bay - As seen on the Goddard Space Flight Center's Network Control Operations Display. Live TV on the Left…A graphic representation of "Casper's" flight path on the right." The text in the center of the bottom margin reads: "-small white "dishes" on the map of earth indicate tracking-stations in use." The text in the lower right corner reads: "-small white circle next to the moon indicates position of sub-satellite released into lunar orbit by Orion yesterday."

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

A View From a Console

National Air and Space Museum
Ink drawing on paper. A View From a Console, 22 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. Two rectangles against a dark blue and black background depict screens at the Network Operations Control Center. The TV screen on the left shows two astronauts, one in the foreground and one in the background. The rectangle on the right is a green map of the moon with details drawn in brown. Text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16 / EVA II / 22 April 72 / Goddard Spaceflight Center / TV of the moon on the left and graphic display of the path of the command module orbiting above…on the right. Former landing sites are noted…and the white star marks "Orion's" position on the lunar surface." Text in the lower right reads: "A view from a console inside the Network Operations Control Center."

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

One View of the LM Orion

National Air and Space Museum
Ink and pencil painting on paper. One View of the LM "Orion," 23 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. Three horizontal layers comprise this image. In the top left is the lunar module (LM) Orion against a dark blue background. The middle section is much larger and spans the width of the page. It is a predominantly green moonscape with two astronauts on the left and some details of the moon's surface on the right. In the lower right are two astronauts standing at the base of the lunar module against a vivid blue background. The text below the lower left corner of the middle image reads: "Composition of two live TV sequences from the moon and the graphic display of the path of the command module shown on a map of the moon." Text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16 EVA II and preparations for "Orion's" liftoff from the moon's surface. 23 April 72 Goddard Spaceflight Center." Text in the lower right corner reads: "Stowing away the rocks and pictures before positioning the rover for the LM take-off."

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

Apollo 16-EVA II

National Air and Space Museum
Apollo 16-EVA II, 22 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook. The many screens of the Network Operations Control Center are depicted against a black background and the blue-green wall with yellow lights above. The first screen in the top left is a green map of the world with a vertical row of four clock faces on each side and a heading of "Goddard Network" above. To the right is an angled rectangular screen with four columns of bright horizontal bars, perhaps suggesting textual data. On the lower left is a screen showing an astronaut with his gold-visor helmet. In the center is a green map of the moon. On the right is a rectangular area with a graph, round insignia, and several brightly colored blocks. The text in the lower left corner reads: "Apollo 16 - EVA II - Goddard Spaceflight Center Display - 22 April 72." The text in the lower right corner reads: "The spectacular view of the Network Operations Control Center display…from the visitors viewing area."

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

Complex 19 Gemini Launch Pad 13

National Air and Space Museum
Complex 19 Gemini Launch Pad, 13 April 1972. Page from a bound sketchbook. The sketch is a jumble of pipes and hardware that fill the page. Three wheels are identifiable near the top center, and another at the center of the scene. Stencil-like labeling in the center reads "SV 56" and another label lower in the center reads "36 INCH".

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

Press Site

National Air and Space Museum
Press Site, April 16, 1972. Page from a bound sketchbook. Depicts a cameraman on a platform with a large CBS camera. Other press people and cameras are on the ground below the platform. The scene is dominated by the linear structure of the platform supports and the camera tripods. Text in the upper right hand corner reads: "-2:15:47 and counting. Press Site, April 16, 1972, Alan E. Cober. As I am drawing this the astronauts drove by in a van on the way to the launch site. All the cameramen are focused on them. Well a few are, the rest of the cameramen are hiding from the sun under the press stand. Paul Calle is yelling, "Alan, there go the astronauts." Answer - "very nice."

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

Service Tower Roll Back

National Air and Space Museum
Watercolor painting on paper. Service Tower Roll Back, 15 April 1972. A page from a spiral-bound sketchbook that contains other accessioned artworks. On the left side of the scene Apollo 16 is supported by a red gantry at the Pad 39A complex and the dark blue service tower is to the left. The sky is a brilliant blend of pastel pink and orange on the left and it blends into a deeper blue on the right. The grass beneath is green and a rounded white structure is on the right side. Text in the lower right corner reads: "Apollo 16 Service Tower Rollback Pad 39A Complex KSC 15:50 15 April 72." Text in the upper margin across the page reads: "The event takes on the air of a circus…with hundreds of VIP tour buses driving up to empty their loads on the beach sand…not to mention the photographers."

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

Lockheed 1049F-55-96, "Constellation"

National Air and Space Museum
123ft. span, 116ft. 2in. long, 24ft. 9in. high; 72,815lbs. empty weight.

In June 1938, Lockheed began design work on an airliner to satisfy a Transcontinental Western & Air (later Trans-World Airlines) (TWA), requirement for a non-stop transcontinental airliner with a 3,500-mile range and 6,000 lb. payload capability. Construction of a prototype began in 1940. The U.S. was soon involved in the Second World War and all transport production was directed to military needs and consequently the prototype first flew on January 9, 1943, as a military aircraft. Hydraulic-powered controls were used, full feathering and reversing propellers were also installed. First known by its civil designator as Model 049, it soon became better known during wartime by its military designation, the C-69 Constellation. Improvements were steadily made, beginning with the L-649, which was the first Constellation built as a commercial type and the L-749 which was the long-range version of the 649.

The next stage in development led to the L-1049 Super Constellation. The first prototype Super Constellation was a "stretched" version of the original Model 049 (C-69), modified by lengthening the fuselage from 95’ 2" to 113’ 7", adding more fuel capacity, more powerful engines, higher gross weight, and increasing its tourist-class seating from 69 to 92. These L-1049 aircraft were powered by four 2700 hp Wright engines. The prototype aircraft was first flown on October 13, 1950. The production version of the Model L-1049, of which fourteen were built for Eastern Airlines, and ten for TWA, ended up with a strengthened fuselage, stiffened outer wing panels and rectangular windows instead of the Constellation’s round ones. This production version was first flown on July 14, 1951, and the type entered service on December 7, 1951, with Eastern Airlines (EAL). The last Model 1049 produced was delivered in September 1952. Passenger accommodations on the 1049 varied - 88 for Eastern; 65 over water or 75 domestic for TWA, with adaptation to 102 in high density configuration. The flight crew consisted of three, with two cabin attendants.

The Model 1049 was followed by an A version (military WV-2, WV-3, and RC-121D) the B version (USN R7V-1, USAF RC-121C, the presidential VC-121E), and the C version, the first commercial transport certificated with turbo-compound engines. These Double Cyclone Wright engines had three "blow-down" turbines, which converted the heat energy of exhaust gases into additional power, with a 20% reduction in fuel consumption.

The engine produced 3,250 h.p. for take-off for which the aircraft weight had been increased to 133,000 lb. The Model 1049C, Turbo-Cyclone-powered Super Constellation began flight trials on February 17, 1953. A convertible model, the 1049D was built for Seaboard and Western Airlines in 1954. They were fitted with reinforced flooring and they had main deck cargo loading doors on the part side of the fuselage, fore and aft of the wings. They could carry either 18 tons of freight or up to 104 passengers. Maximum take—off weight was 135,400 lb. A Model 1049E was delivered between May 1954 and April 1955 which was identical to the 1049C but with the increased take-off and landing weight of the 1049D. Next on the model list was the Model 1049F, which was Lockheed’s designation for 33 C-121C cargo/personnel transports built for the USAF and fitted with stronger landing gear. The F was followed by a "G" model which was determined to be the most successful version of the Super Constellation. It was powered by 3,400 h.p. engines, it had longer range than the E, and the maximum take-off weight was increased to 137,500 lb. with some models modified to 140,000 lb. Often known as Super Gs, 42 of these aircraft were delivered to domestic carriers (20 to TWA, 10 to EAL, and 4 to NW), and 50 to foreign carriers. The final version to the Super Constellation was the Model 1049H, a combination of Model 1049D, and the convertible and improved Model 1049G.

The Super Constellation and its derivatives represent, along with the Douglas DC-7, the ultimate step in the development of longer range, more capacity and more powerful piston-engined aircraft to meet the needs of both commercial and military aviation. Eastern Air Lines, the first airline to order Super Constellations, introduced the type on its New York-Miami route on December 15, 1951. It was able to take advantage of the 1049s additional capacity to absorb an increased holiday seasonal demand. A decade later on April 30, 1961, Eastern inaugurated its revolutionary air shuttle, no-reservation service, Washington-New York-Boston with Super Constellations. Incidentally, as it turns out, the last use of the Super Constellations by a major U.S. domestic airline was a backup for the shuttle until February 1968.

TWA, a co-sponsor with EAL on the design of the Super Constellation, first used the Model 1049 on its domestic network in September 1952, and when it received the higher performance "C" version, it began scheduled non-stop transcontinental service on October 19, 1953, a first for the industry. On its trans-Atlantic routes, TWA made use of its early Super Constellation models, but on November 1, 1955, it could offer improved service, using its newer Model l049Gs which enabled it to operate non-stop most of the time, at least in the eastbound direction.

Over the Atlantic and other long distance routes, the Super Constellation was also operated by several former Constellation operators, until Lockheed was again challenged by Douglas and its DC-7C, the first aircraft capable of flying non-stop in both directions over the North Atlantic. To compete, Lockheed responded by mating the Super Constellation’s fuselage and tail surfaces with an entirely new wing, resulting in a major redesign. The outcome, the Model 1649A Starliner, which entered service on June 1, 1957, it was the most attractive of the Constellation series, but its success was short lived for in six months it was overtaken in 1958 by the faster, turbine-powered (Bristol Britannia) and jet aircraft (the Boeing 707-120) which finally made all propeller-driven aircraft obsolescent in October 1958. A total of 44 Lockheed L-1649As were built, 29 went to TWA, 10 to Air France, 4 to Lufthansa.

When the age of piston-powered passenger transport aircraft was coming to a close, Lockheed offered to carriers a convertible Model 1049H, suggesting that when they were no longer competitive in the passenger market they could convert to carrying cargo. This second hand market did materialize briefly with the H model but the market for 1049s soon dried up as they were becoming too expensive to operate and maintain. The engines were giving problems not only in the Lockheed Super Connies, but also in the Douglas DC-7s, and the aircraft were becoming known as the "world’s best trimotors." A total of 579 Super Constellations were built but by the end of 1980 only four Super Constellations remained in airline service..

The Museum’s Lockheed C-121C (1049F-55-96), with former Air Force serial number 54-177, and now registered N-1104W, is one of the thirty-three C-l2lCs delivered to the USAF and the Atlantic Division of the Military Air Transport Service at Charleston AFB, South Carolina. This airplane arrived there in March 1956 and was assigned to the 1608th Air Transport Wing. Its original configuration was that of an over-water cargo/passenger transport, having eight crew members and accommodations for up to 80 passengers.

While with the 1608th ATW, the "Super Connies" flew throughout the Caribbean, made crossings of the North and South Atlantic to Europe, the Mediterranean, the Middle East and as far east as India. They participated in the Hungarian airlift during 1956-57, carrying refugees from Eastern Europe to the U.S. and flew troops to Lebanon during the crisis there in 1958. In general, this "Connie" and others of the unit flew a variety of transport missions including cargo, passenger, medical evacuation, and humanitarian support.

On October 30, 1962, the Museum’s C-121C left the regular USAF and was transferred to the 183rd Air Transport Squadron of the Mississippi Air National Guard. This unit was re-designated the 183rd Military Airlift Squadron as of January 1, 1966. While with the 183rd, it flew transport, evacuation, and support missions across the North Atlantic. It remained with the Guard unit until April 19, 1967, at which time it was transferred to the West Virginia ANG and the 167th Military Airlift Squadron. This and other C-l2lCs of this unit flew across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the Caribbean, and to South America, taking part in operation "Creek Guardlift" in Europe from June 1971 to March 1972.

This Super Constellation served with the 167th until 1972 and was again transferred, this time to the 193rd Tactical Electronic Warfare (TEW) Squadron, Pennsylvania ANG, at Olmstead AFB, Middletown, Pennsylvania. This squadron had one other C-121, an electronic countermeasure configured aircraft. Together they took part in many exercises and training missions such as "Reforger VI," "Flintlock" and "Northern Merger" in 1974. While operating out of Ramey AFB in Puerto Rico, they took part in "Gallant Shield" and "Solid Shield," both in 1975.

This "Connie" remained with the 193rd and operations with the ANG until November 1977, when it was retired after 21½ years of military service, thousands of flying hours, and countless ocean crossings, which for propeller driven aircraft were long endurance flights often exceeding 12 or 14 hours. When taken out of service, it was transferred to the Military Aircraft Storage and Disposition Center (MASDC), at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona, for storage. It remained there until August 1981, at which time it was sold at auction to Ascher Ward of Classic Air Inc., and flown to Van Nuys Airport, California, where the new company was forming. As a civil aircraft in a hoped-for new career, it was assigned FAA registration number Nll04W. It retained its 193rd TEW paint scheme of a royal blue cheat-line outlined in gold, with a white cabin roof and empennage, and pale blue under surfaces. It carried its small serial number on the left side under the stabilizer and a U.S. flag on the center fin.

The newly formed company Classic Air Inc., which intended to operate two or three passenger—carrying "Connies" between Los Angeles and Reno, Nevada, failed to receive FAA approval and the airplanes remained dormant. At this time the National Air and Space Museum was seeking a Super Constellation. Mr. Darryl Greenameyer soon became a party to this transaction as he had acquired two of the Constellations from Air Classics. He negotiated a trade with NASM a C-121C, NllO4W in exchange for two Grumman HU-16 Albatrosses drawn from the remaining holdings of spare Albatross belonging to the Smithsonian, and which had been used in support of one Albatross that was operated by the Museum of Natural History.

Cheating Their Way to Fame: The Top 9 Adventure Travel Hoaxes

Smithsonian Magazine

This grainy image, taken in 1909, shows two of Frederick Cook’s expedition members somewhere on the frozen Arctic Sea. Though Cook claimed to have reached the North Pole, few historians believe he did. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons/U.S. Library of Congress.

Traveling may be thrilling, exhausting, dangerous, mind-opening and, occasionally, boring. But more than anything else, going to faraway places is easier talked about than done. Thus, we find history riddled with quiet rumors and full-fledged scandals surrounding claims of heroic journeys that turned out to be tales woven with lies. Other adventurers’ claims, while not known hoaxes, have dwelt in the limbo of critical doubt for years or decades. Following is a listing of some of the best and least known of the world’s travel hoaxes.

Donald Crowhurst and the Solo Sailing Race Fraud.

In the late ’60s, Donald Crowhurst had the world believing that he was sailing around the world at a record-smashing pace—but skeptics today believe that Donald Crowhurst fictionalized nearly every mile of his 1968-69 solo voyage. The British amateur was racing against seven others in the Sunday Times Golden Globe Race, a round-the-world race that began and ended in southern England. Crowhurst was vying for the large cash prize while also hoping to generate publicity for his marine navigational hardware company.

But Crowhurst, an inexperienced sailor, had barely begun when he began to doubt he had any chance of winning—or perhaps even surviving—the global voyage. His boat began to leak, and he was falling far behind the competition. So he gave up—without telling anyone. While his competitors sailed southward to the Southern Ocean and then eastward, Crowhurst never left the Atlantic, all the while sending falsified radio reports to listeners of his progress. Perhaps by accident, Crowhurst put himself far in the lead—and, what’s more, on a course to break the world’s record for the same route. As the competition dropped out of the race one by one for various reasons, more and more eyes turned to the horizon, awaiting the appearance of Crowhurst, the heroic underdog. But Crowhurst never showed. While Robin Knox-Johnston returned to England as the race’s only finisher, Crowhurst seems to have panicked, doubtful he could pull off the fraud and terrified of the shame he would face. His boat was found adrift on July 10, 1969, in the Caribbean. Of Crowhurst himself there was not a sign. Many believe he committed suicide. His boat was towed ashore and today remains a rotting tourist attraction on the beach, on the island of Cayman Brac.

This image shows the respective positions of contestants in the Golden Globe sailing race in January of 1969. Donald Crowhurst’s actual and falsified locations are thousands of miles apart. Due to confusions at the time, race monitors actually believed Crowhurst to be farther ahead than he falsely reported. Photo from Wikmedia Commons.

Christian Stangl and K2.

After three summers spent on K2 and not once looking down from the coveted summit, Austrian climber Christian Stangl returned to lower altitudes in August 2010 and told the world he had done it—climbed the world’s second-highest mountain in what would have been a phenomenal time of four days round-trip from the base camp. No one else reached the peak that year, and one climber died trying—but quickly, climbing experts began asking if Stangl had, either. Stangl, after all, was never seen above Camp 3, and he produced no GPS signals from the summit. He also had just one summit photo to prove his achievement—and something was funny about it; Stangl’s photo, it appeared, was taken from lower on the mountain than other existing summit shots.

Eventually, Stangl came clean, admitting his deception but explaining that he had begun to hallucinate on the mountain due to the thin air. He says he descended (after a bizarre face-off with what may have been a snow leopard) truly believing he had stood on K2′s summit. To his genuine credit, Stangl climbed K2 in a confirmed summit attempt in 2012. He sent out his coordinates signal 21 times and took a 360-panorama video sequence to prove his claim, and for this stubborn and accomplished Austrian alpinist, redemption arrived.

Frederick Cook and the Mount McKinley Hoax.

Frederick Cook almost certainly set foot in many places where previously no person had before—but the New York-born explorer is also seen as one of modern exploration’s most notorious fraudsters. He participated in three significant expeditions between 1891 and 1903, two of them into the Arctic and the latter a circumnavigation of Alaska’s Mount McKinley, also known as Denali. In 1906, he set forth on another McKinley outing, this time returning home to report that he had summited the 20,320-foot peak, which had never been climbed before. The claim stood the test of time for only three years, when the true story came spilling out: Cook had taken his summit photo on a tiny mountain 19 miles from McKinley’s peak.

Cook’s claims have since been thoroughly dissected and discredited; the descriptions he made in his journal of the landscape near the summit were found to bear little resemblance to the real mountain, and modern-day climber Bradford Washburn took it upon himself to identify every place on and around the slopes of Denali where Cook took his expedition shots. It has been determined that Cook and his small group of men never approached closer than 12 miles to the summit of Denali. So who first climbed the highest mountain in North America? Hudson Stuck, in June 1913.

Cook and the North Pole Debate. After his Mount McKinley expedition, Frederick Cook ventured farther north, into the Arctic—though just how far he went became the subject of argument, accusation and scandal. In 1909, Cook staggered home from the ice, having almost starved to death en route. He claimed he had been to the North Pole and back, which would now give him claim to two magnificent feats of exploration. Then, doubts arose about his polar voyage—for Cook could not produce evidence that he had reached the North Pole on April 22, 1908, as he had claimed.

Moreover, his two Inuit guides, Ahwelah and Etukishook, who traveled with Cook across the Arctic sea ice, later reported that, all traveling together, they had only gone several days from land across the frozen sea—not far enough to have brought them to 90 degrees north latitude. Eventually Robert Peary, who claimed to have reached the pole on April 6, 1909, was widely credited as the first explorer to reach the North Pole—though some historians today aren’t convinced Peary actually got there. It was while reviewing Cook’s account of reaching the North Pole that skeptics looked back several years, to Cook’s claimed McKinley conquest. It was eventually discredited entirely as rubbish, and Cook’s reputation as an explorer crumbled.

Eric Ryback and the Pacific Crest Trail.

Eric Ryback was just 17 when he first hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1969—and in the next three years he would walk both the Continental Divide and the Pacific Crest trails, making him the first person to complete all three of America’s great long-distance hiking trails. But when rumors emerged that the young trekker had hitchhiked and thereby circumvented parts of the Pacific Crest Trail, his claim to fame began to wilt. Ryback, who by this time had written a book—The High Adventure of Eric Ryback —about his walks, fought back. When the guidebook publisher, Wilderness Press, stated in print that Ryback had used motor transport in places along the PCT, Ryback sued for $3 million—but he withdrew the suit after Wilderness Press revealed statements from the very people who had supposedly picked up the young hiker along highways parallel to the 2,600-mile trail. The claims that Ryback “cheated” are still doubted by some—although the term “yellowblazing,” used to describe hitchhiking near trails that one had intended to be walking, has been reportedly replaced at times by a new verb: rybacking.

South Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun claimed in 2009 that she reached the summit of Kangchenjunga, the world’s third- highest mountain, but she could not prove she had been there. Photo courtesy of Flickr user A. Ostrovsky.

Oh Eun-Sun and Her Questioned Climb of Kangchenjunga.

In 2010, South Korean climber Oh Eun-Sun trudged to the top of Annapurna, thereby becoming the first woman to summit all 14 of the world’s 8,000-meter peaks—but many wonder if she really did. The question hinges on Oh’s 2009 ascent of the world’s third-highest peak, Kangchenjunga, in the Himalayas. Oh’s photographic documentation of her achievement didn’t prove she had reached the top. One image, initially portrayed as her summit shot, was unconvincing, showing the woman in mountain climbing gear surrounded by a blinding, overexposed and ambiguous landscape. Another supposed summit photo showed Oh standing on a rocky surface, whereas Kangchenjunga’s 28,169-foot summit is known to have been covered in snow at about that time. There is even evidence that some of Oh’s summit shots had been digitally doctored.

Oh’s sponsor, Black Yak mountaineering gear, assures skeptics that Oh rightly reached the summit. One of Oh’s Sherpas said the same thing—though another of the three who climbed with Oh reportedly said that the group stopped climbing more than 400 feet below the mountaintop. The Korean Alpine Federation eventually decided that not enough evidence exists to prove Oh really reached Kangchenjunga’s summit, while Elizabeth Hawley, the most respected keeper and chronicler of Himalayan records, deemed Oh’s 14-peak claim to climber’s fame as “disputed.”

Cesare Maestri and the Summit of Cerro Torre.

The peaks of the world’s mountains are so tangled with lies and controversy that one must wonder if it’s the love of climbing or the lust for glory that lures so many people into the high country. In 1959, an Italian named Cesare Maestri went to Argentina, teamed up with an Austrian named Toni Egger and attempted what had been characterized one year prior as an unclimbable mountain. They supposedly reached the top of the icy 10,262-foot pinnacle on February 3. But Egger died in an avalanche on the way down, and Maestri, upon reaching civilization and making his claim, had no evidence at all to back it up.

Almost immediately, the climb was labeled a hoax. Above a certain point on the mountain, no trace of Maestri or Egger has been found, even though Maestri claimed to have bolted parts of the route, and for decades no other climbers managed to reach the top of Cerro Torre. In 1970, Maestri returned to climb it again and, hopefully, clear the air of doubt. He used a controversial gasoline-powered bolt gun—and still he failed to reach the spire’s peak. Worst of all, perhaps, Maestri let slip a shocking trip of the tongue several years ago, when he angrily told a reporter, “What I did was the most important endeavor in the world. I did it single-handedly. But this doesn’t mean that I . . . that I reached the top, do you understand?” Did he just—? Yes, I think he did.

The wicked Patagonian spire of Cerro Torre: Did Cesare Maestri really get there in 1959? Photo courtesy of Flickr user Geoff Livingston.

The Atlantic Swim That Could Not Be. The Associated Press reported in early February 2009 that American Jennifer Figge had just completed a 2,100-mile swim across the Atlantic. The story reported that Figge had begun at Cape Verde, in western Africa—on January 12. It took little time for sharp-eyed readers to flinch, do a double take and read that again: January 12 to early February. Not even 30 days. That would have been 80 miles daily—three miles per hour nonstop for a month—to complete the journey. It would turn out that Figge, who was accompanied by a boat, never even intended to swim across the width of the ocean and that poor reporting had invented the swim that couldn’t possibly be.

Rosie Ruiz, the Champion Cheater of Marathons. She finished the 1979 New York Marathon in two hours 56 minutes, a time to qualify her for an even bigger race—and in 1980, Rosie Ruiz crossed the finish line with the women’s record for the Boston Marathon. But the 23-year-old was barely sweating as she accepted the crowds’ praise. Moreover, no other competitors in the 26.2-mile run could remember seeing her in the past 150 minutes. Nor could Ruiz, when questioned, recall the details of the route. It would turn out in a shocking flood of humiliation that Ruiz had started the race, left the route, taken the subway and jumped back in for the last half-mile. Jacqueline Gareau was recognized belatedly as the real winner. Scrutiny of Ruiz’s running history led investigators to suspect that Ruiz had also used subway support in the New York Marathon.

To learn more about the deceptions of historical adventurers, read Great Exploration Hoaxes, by David Roberts, in which the author discusses the controversial explorations of ten men, including Father Louis Hennepin, who fictionalized his travels on the Mississippi, and Capt. Samuel Adams, whose scramblings in the Colorado River basin appeared later to be made up.

The Painter Who Earned His Stripes

Smithsonian Magazine

Gene Davis spent his career in newsrooms from the Washington Daily News to United Press International to the Fredericksburg Freelance Star, and even served a stint as a New York Times copy boy.

And while he took up abstract painting in the 1940s as a hobby, and was featured in a few local shows, he was never successful enough to devote his full time to art until, after 35 years in journalism, he finally turned to it 1968.

“The idea of my ever making a livelihood out of painting was the farthest thing from my mind,” he said in a 1981 interview. 

But he hit on something—a parade of brightly-colored, edge-to-edge stripes—that not only made his name and changed his career, it put him at the forefront at the only major art movement to emanate from the nation’s capital, the Washington Color School

The Smithsonian Institution, which benefitted from a generous amount of his work donated to the museum after his death in 1985 at 64, may have missed the 50th anniversary of the landmark “Washington Color Painters” exhibition last year, but is making up for it with the newly opened “Gene Davis: Hot Beat” at its Smithsonian American Art Museum.

In a gallery with walls that have been painted as bright as the brightest yellow Davis may have chosen for his works, 15 of his large canvases from the 1960s are on display, some of which have not been seen publicly in decades.

Gene Davis at work on his painting Franklin's Footpath, created on the street outside of the Philadelphia Museum of Art in 1972. (Getty Images/Henry Groskinsky)

The result is an array of wall-sized canvases, whose stripes of an inch or so (usually the width of masking tape that greatly aided their making) fairly undulate with rhythm and unexpected pattern.

While some artworks stretch more than 18 feet across, other works surprise by their unusual size, such as some that are a foot and a half wide but seven and half feet tall.

Three sets of striped canvass that are 9 inches high and 91 inches across look more like bandwidth we recognize from this century. 

And while his stripe paintings were different from anything else in the abstract art world, just as people expected more of them, he went a completely different way, producing dozens of “micro paintings” in 1966 that were an inch square and transported in Sucrets tins. These were placed randomly on the walls ceilings and floorboards of galleries, but never with a price tag because he was too embarrassed to charge for them.

Davis’ fanciful names for his paintings—Dr. PeppercornGothic Jab and Raspberry Icicle among them—were inspired by the whimsy of Paul Klee titles and came after the paintings were complete.

And while his vivid arrangement of color seems to have surely come from careful planning, Davis wrote in 1972, “I never plan my color more than five stripes ahead and often change my mind before I reach the third stripe.”

Indeed, on occasion the color was due to whatever was at hand in his D.C. studio. “Sometimes I simply use the color I have most of and worry about getting out of trouble later,” he said

It all seemed to work out. 

Davis had an early mentor in Jacob Kainen, then curator of graphic arts at the Smithsonian and an artist himself. Kainen would take Davis to the Phillips Collection and Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington to discuss modern art and give encouragement. 

Gene Davis, ca. 1982 (Archives of American Art)

Though an initial show at a Dupont Circle theatre gallery in 1961 drew scoffs from some viewers who compared his paintings to awnings or slipcovers, Davis eventually sold his first artwork of five horizontal planks in 1962.

A similar work is among the earlier pieces featured in “Gene Davis: Hot Beat,” which spans just eight years. And, according to consulting curator for the show and Davis friend Jean Lawlor Cohen, the planks may have influenced minimalist sculptor Donald Judd who reviewed them favorably in an 1963 New York show. 

But Wall Stripes No. 3, as it is titled, is the only one of the larger works with horizontal rather than the vertical stripes that would become his trademark. They were, Cohen says, more aspirational in their upward jutting and would never be mistaken for a landscape.

There was something aspirational about the vertical stripes as well, and their frequently bright colors reflected the whole of the hopeful era. “There was something, a common denominator that went through the '60s,” he told an interviewer in 1981. “It was an exciting period. The Kennedy era, optimism was in the air, excitement, campus rebellion . . . you can't isolate any of it.”

Influential art critic Clement Greenberg selected Davis along for a show that also featured Frank Stella, Ellsworth Kelly and Kenneth Noland for the influential “Post-Painterly Abstraction” show at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1964. All eschewed thick or visible paint strokes and celebrated vivid color. And suddenly there was a movement and a career change. 

Though he had been gaining attention and gallery shows from his work, it wasn’t until he received a $40,000 commission for a 60-foot painting for the Empire State Plaza art collection in Albany that he quit his last regular job, as editor of the AAA Magazine, to concentrate on painting full-time. 

Though renowned in the art world, some of his largest work has disappeared altogether. He painted the rotunda twice at the Corcoran Gallery of Art, which gave him one of his first shows and where he later taught. 

He also painted a blocks-long Franklin’s Footpath on the street leading to the Philadelphia Art Museum in 1972 and an even bigger piece, Niagara on a parking lot in Lewiston, New York in 1979 that was 43,680 square feet, the largest painting ever made at the time.

The occasion of the new show at the Smithsonian meant restretching some of the canvases and some touching up. With the vivid yellow walls, the show furthers the intent Davis once said he sought: “an intensity of color that almost hurt.” 

The riot of color is so vivid that the show’s opening reception was billed a “Hot Beat Dance Party.” 

“Gene Davis: Hot Beat” continues at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., through April 2, 2017.

In 2007, The Washington, D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities paid homage to artist Gene Davis. Mokha Laget, a studio assistant to Davis, designed a painting of giant stripes on 8th Street N.W. (Wikimedia Commons/dbking)
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