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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.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Chimariko/Hupa, 1921-1930

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 2, reels 20-24. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington's study of Chimariko began when he spent between four and five months working with Sally Noble at her ranch on New River in Trinity County, California. Noble, a speaker of the "Trinity River" dialect of Chimariko, had previously worked with C. Hart Merriam, and joint work with her had been planned by the two anthropologists for the summer of 1921. Due to confusion concerning Harrington's whereabouts at the time the trip was scheduled, Merriam went to northern California alone in the summer. In early September, after Merriam had completed his own field work and had departed, Harrington arrived at the region, arranged to take meals with the neighboring Dailey family, and proceeded to work regularly with Noble. After amassing several thousand pages of notes, Harrington left Burnt Ranch in mid-to-Iate January 1922, intending to continue the work with Noble in May. He later learned that she had died some twenty days after his departure.

The data he gained from Noble were supplemented by a little linguistic information given by her half sister, Martha Ziegler. Nonlinguistic information was provided by Noble's son, Frank; the Daileys; Mr. and Mrs. Zack Bussell; and Mr. and Mrs. Jim Chesbro.

In the spring of 1926, during or just following his work on Wiyot and Karok, Harrington scheduled an initial interview with another Chimariko woman, Lucy Montgomery. A cousin of Sally Noble, Montgomery was then residing on the coast at Stone Lagoon. Although, by her own admission, she had stopped speaking Chimariko at age eleven, she did attempt to assist Harrington in compiling a basic vocabulary list.

Harrington's interest in Chimariko was renewed in April 1927 when he learned of Edward Sapir's efforts to locate native speakers for that language. In August and September of the same year he employed his long-time friend George W. Bayley to collect plant specimens and ethnobotanical data from Lucy Montgomery. Contact with her having been reestablished, Harrington joined Bayley in 1928 to pursue further linguistic work with her. It was on this occasion that they reheard the notes which he had obtained earlier from Noble. Montgomery's data are not highly reliable as she basically had only a passive knowledge of the language. A small section of ethnographic notes also appears to have been collected at this time.

Mrs. Zack Bussell evidently took Harrington to interview Saxy Kidd, who, according to reports, was said to speak quite a bit of Chimariko. Harrington had heard of Kidd from Sally Noble during his work in 1921-1922 and again from Edward Sapir in 1927. Sapir had discovered that what little Chimariko Kidd knew was "distorted by his Hupa phonetics." Harrington likewise obtained only a few Chimariko terms from him.

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 2, A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Northern and Central California, edited by Elaine L. Mills (1985). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%202.pdf

This subseries of the Northern and Central California series contains Harrington's research on Chimariko and Hupa.

A large portion of the subseries consists of field notes on Chimariko vocabulary and sentences provided by Sally Noble. Much of the information was elicited from a reading of Roland Dixon's "The Chimarika Indians and Language," (1910) and includes anatomical terms, names for plants and animals, material culture vocabulary, tribenames, and placenames. A small number of Hupa lexical terms were also obtained, evidently with reference to the work of Pliny Earle Goddard "Athapascan (Hupa)" (1911). There is a mixture of ethnographic and biographical data provided by Noble and several nonlinguistic sources.

The subseries also contains Harrington's grammatical analysis of Chimariko. Many of these notes feature examples excerpted from the linguistic notes; the page numbers in brackets refer to numbered pages of the section of "original" field notes. There are also summaries of various grammatical principles in the form of charts. These sketches are followed by a short "general dictionary" of vocabulary and phrases.

As a supplement to his linguistic and grammatical notes, Harrington collected extensive textual material from Noble. Noble provided mythological texts; accounts of historical events, such as the Indian wars and encounters with whites; descriptions of an ethnological nature on various subjects, such as doctoring, tattooing, and hairdressing; and personal reminiscences. The texts were recorded in Chimariko and some have fairly detailed interlinear translations. In several instances, a synopsis in English has been filed with the text. Some notes from Martha Ziegler appear in this section.

There are also notes obtained by Harrington during his first meeting with Lucy Montgomery. Chimariko and some Hupa lexical terms were recorded for plant and animal names, age, sex, and relationship terms, material culture vocabulary, and numbers. At least a portion of the information was elicited through a rehearing of a word list furnished by C. Hart Merriam and another published by Roland B. Dixon. An unidentified publication (possibly by Parmenter) was utilized to prompt responses on bird names. Montgomery also commented on the names of several native objects that Harrington had recently collected in Karok territory.

The section on Chimariko vocabulary consists of notes presumably collected during Harrington's second stint of work with Montgomery. Harrington made frequent notes on the phonetics of Chimariko and included several Wintu equivalences, as well as scattered references of ethnographic, historical, or biographical interest.

Another section of notes obtained from Montgomery represent a fairly systematic rehearing of the linguistic data Harrington had collected from Sally Noble in 1921-1922.

The block of ethnographic notes were also obtained from Montgomery. The notes cover a wide variety of subjects: food preparation, the collection of firewood, doctoring, the medicinal use of plants, menstruation, child care, clothing, hairdressing, burial, and the manufacture and use of tools, implements, and baskets. A few pages also concern songs and vocabulary. In addition, information is provided on the Montgomery's relatives, the Round Valley Removal, and gold mining. Some data were obtained from Mrs. Ramazzena and I. N. Hamilton. A little ethnographic information pertinent to Coast Yurok was collected from Mrs. Frye.

There are also notes from an interview with Saxy Kidd. The notes consist in large part of ethnographic data from the New River and Trinity River areas. In addition, there is some plant and animal vocabulary. Most Hupa terms are given, with selected Chimariko equivalents.

Meissen tea caddy

National Museum of American History
TITLE: Meissen tea caddy

MAKER: Meissen Manufactory

PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: ceramic, porcelain (overall material)

MEASUREMENTS: H. 4¼" 10.8cm

OBJECT NAME: Tea caddy

PLACE MADE: Meissen, Saxony, Germany

DATE MADE: 1740-1750

SUBJECT: The Hans Syz Collection

Art

Domestic Furnishing

Industry and Manufacturing

CREDIT LINE:

ID NUMBER: 1987.0896.17

COLLECTOR/ DONOR: 1164

ACCESSION NUMBER:

(DATA SOURCE: National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center)

MARKS: None

PURCHASED FROM: The Art Exchange, New York, 1961.

This tea caddy is from the Smithsonian’s Hans Syz Collection of Meissen Porcelain. Dr. Syz (1894-1991) began his collection in the early years of World War II, when he purchased eighteenth-century Meissen table wares from the Art Exchange run by the New York dealer Adolf Beckhardt (1889-1962). Dr. Syz, a Swiss immigrant to the United States, collected Meissen porcelain while engaged in a professional career in psychiatry and the research of human behavior. He believed that cultural artifacts have an important role to play in enhancing our awareness and understanding of human creativity and its communication among peoples. His collection grew to represent this conviction.

The invention of Meissen porcelain, declared over three hundred years ago early in 1709, was a collective achievement that represents an early modern precursor to industrial chemistry and materials science. The porcelains we see in our museum collections, made in the small town of Meissen in the German States, were the result of an intense period of empirical research. Generally associated with artistic achievement of a high order, Meissen porcelain was also a technological achievement in the development of inorganic, non-metallic materials.

This rectangular tea caddy appears very similar to a milk pot (ID number 71.204) but the cartouches, with their elaborate foliage scrolls and drapery are not identical and the caddy belongs to another service. The cartouches frame waterside scenes on the front and back with similar subjects on the sides all painted in overglaze purple enamel with some gold highlights. Insects are depicted on the shoulders of the caddy, but the cover is missing.

Sources for enamel painted harbor scenes and landscapes came from the vast number of prints after paintings by Italian, Dutch, and Flemish masters of the seventeenth century that formed a major part of Meissen’s output from the mid - 1720s until the 1750s. The Meissen manufactory accumulated folios of prints, about six to twelve in a set, as well as illustrated books and individual prints after the work of many European artists, especially the work of Jan van Goyen (1596-1656), Jan van de Velde (1593-1641), and Johann Wilhelm Baur (d. 1640).

The enduring popularity of landscape and waterside subjects, especially the tranquil rural scenes depicted in prints by artists like Jan van de Velde, held particular appeal for city dwellers and for the nobility fulfilling court duties. Long before Meissen began production Dutch artists realized the potential for a market in prints that led viewers into pleasant places real and imagined. In seventeenth-century Amsterdam there was a flourishing publishing industry to support the production of illustrated books and print series for buyers to view at their leisure. The production of luxury goods in the eighteenth century opened up further opportunities for adapting these subjects onto the surfaces two and three-dimensional objects.

The Meissen manufactory operated under a system of division of labor. Enamel painters specializing in landscapes, harbor, and river scenes with staffage (figures and animals) were paid more than those who painted flowers, fruits and underglaze blue patterns. Most painters received pay by the piece rather than a regular wage or salary. Ornamental gold painting was the work of another specialist in the painting division.

On graphic sources for Meissen’s painters see Möller, K. A., “’…fine copper pieces for the factory…’ Meissen Pieces Based on graphic originals” in Pietsch, U., Banz, C., 2010, Triumph of the Blue Swords: Meissen Porcelain for Aristocracy and Bourgoisie 1710-1815, pp. 84-93.

On seventeenth-century Dutch art see Gibson, W.S., 2000, Pleasant Places: the rustic landscape from Bruegel to Ruisdael; Goddard, S.H., 1984, Sets and Series: prints from the Low Countries, exhibition catalog, Yale University Art Gallery.

On the painting division at Meissen see Rückert, R., 1990, Biographische Daten der Meissener Manufakturisten des 18. Jahrhunderts, pp. 134-136.

Hans Syz, J. Jefferson Miller II, Rainer Rückert, 1979, Catalogue of the Hans Syz Collection: Meissen Porcelain and Hausmalerei, pp. 314-315.

Clarence H. Mackay Trophy

National Air and Space Museum
Gold lined silver cup 4 angels arms extended holding Wright military flyers; cup sitting on mahogany base with engraved silver plaques.

The Mackay Trophy was established in 1911 by Clarence H. Mackay, who was head of the Postal Telegraph-Commercial Cable Companies. It is administered by the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A. and is awarded yearly by the U.S. Air Force for the most meritorious flight of the year by an Air Force person, persons, or organization.

Gift of the National Aeronautic Association of the U.S.A.

Recipients

1912 Lt. Henry H. Arnold

1913 2nd Lt. Joseph E. Carberry

2nd Lt. Fred Seydel

1914 Capt. Townsend F. Dodd

Lt. S. W. Fitzgerald

1915 Lt. B. Q. Jones

1916-17 No award

1918 Capt. Edward V. Rickenbacker

1919 Lt. Belvin W. Maynard

Lt. Alexander Pearson Jr.

Lt. R. S. Northington

Capt. John O. Donaldson

Capt. Lowell H. Smith

Lt. Col. Harold E. Hartney

Lt. E. M. Manzelman

Lt. B. G. Bagby

Lt. D. B. Gish

Capt. F. Steinle

1920 Capt. St. Clair Streett

1st Lt. Clifford C. Nutt

2nd Lt. Eric H. Nelson

2nd Lt. C. H. Crumrine

2nd Lt. Ross C. Kirkpatrick

Sgt. Edmond Henriques

Sgt. Albert T. Vierra

Sgt. Joe E. English

1921 Lt. J. A. Macready

1922 Lt. J. A. Macready

Lt. O. G. Kelly

1923 Lt. J. A. Macready

Lt. O. G. Kelly

1924 Capt. Lowell H. Smith

1st Lt. Leslie P. Arnold

2nd Lt. John Harding Jr.

1st Lt. Leigh Wade

1st Lt. Eric H. Nelson

2nd Lt. Henry H. Ogden

1925 Lt. James H. Doolittle

Lt. Cyrus K. Bettis

1926 Pan American Good Will Flyers

1927 Lt. Albert F. Hegenberger

Lt. Lester J. Maitland

1928 Lt. Harry A. Sutton

1929 Capt. A. W. Stevens

1930 Maj. Ralph Royce

1931 Brig. Gen. Benjamin D. Foulois

1932 11th Bombardment Squadron, March Field, Calif., 1st Lt. Charles H. Howard,

Commanding Officer

1933 Capt. Westside T. Larson

1934 Brig. Gen. Henry H. Arnold

1935 Capt. A. W. Stevens

Capt. O. A. Anderson

1936 Capt. Richard E. Nugent

1st Lt. Joseph A. Miller

1st Lt. Edwin G. Simenson

2nd Lt. William P. Ragsdale Jr.

2nd Lt. Burton W. Armstrong

2nd Lt. Herbert Morgan Jr.

Tech. Sgt. Gilbert W. Olson

Staff Sgt. Howard M. Miller

Cpl. Air Mechanic 2/c Frank B. Connor

1937 Capt. Carl J. Crane

Capt. George V. Holloman

1938 Lt. Col. Robert Olds, 2nd Bombardment Group

1939 Maj. Caleb V. Haynes

Maj. William D. Old

Capt. John A. Samford

1st Lt. Richard S. Freeman

1st Lt. Torgils G. Wold

Tech. Sgt. William J. Heldt

Tech. Sgt. Henry L. Hines

Tech. Sgt. David L. Spicer

Staff Sgt. Russell E. Junior

Staff Sgt. James E. Sands

M/Sgt. Adolph Cattarius

1940-46 No award

1947 Capt. Charles E. Yeager

1948 Lt. Col. Emil Beaudry

1949 Capt. James G. Gallagher and the fight crew of Lucky Lady II

1950 27th Fighter Wing

1951 Col. Fred J. Ascani

1952 Maj. Louis H. Carrington Jr.

Maj. Frederick W. Shook

Capt. Wallace D. Yancey

1953 40th Air Division, Strategic Air Command

1954 308th Bombardment Wing (M), 38th Air Division, Strategic Air Command

1955 Col. Horace A. Hanes

1956 Capt. Iven C. Kincheloe Jr.

1957 93rd Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command

1958 Tactical Air Command's Air Strike Force, X-Ray Tango

1959 U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds

1960 6593rd Test Squadron, Hickham AFB, Hawaii

1961 Lt. Col. William R. Payne

Maj. William L. Polhemus

Maj. Raymond R. Wagener

1962 Maj. Robert. G. Sowers

Capt. Robert MacDonald

Capt. John T. Walton

1963 Capt. Warren P. Tomsett

Capt. John R. Ordemann

Capt. Donald R. Mack

Tech. Sgt. Edsol P. Inlow

Staff Sgt. Jack E. Morgan

Staff Sgt. Frank C. Barrett

1964 464th Troop Carrier Wing, Tactical Air Command

1965 YF-12A/SR-71 Test Force, Edwards AFB, Calif.

1966 Lt. Col. Albert R. Howarth

1967 Maj. John H. Casteel

Capt. Dean L. Hoar

Capt. Richard L. Trail

M/Sgt. Nathan C. Campbell

1968 Lt. Col. Daryl D. Cole

1969 49th Tactical Fighter Wing, Holloman AFB, N.Mex.

1970 Capt. Alan D. Milacek and his nine-man crew

1971 Lt. Col. Thomas B. Estes

Maj. Dewain C. Vick

1972 Capt. Richard S. Ritchie

Capt. Charles B. DeBellevue

Capt. Jeffrey S. Feinstein

1973 Operation Homecoming, Military Airlift Command Aircrews

1974 Maj. Roger J. Smith

Maj. David W. Peterson

Maj. Willard R. Macfarlane

1975 Maj. Robert W. Undorf

1976 Capt. James A. Yule

1977 Capt. David M. Sprinkel and his C-5 aircrew

1978 Lt. Col. Robert F. Schultz, Capt. Todd H. Hohberger, and their crews from the 436th Military Airlift Wing, Military Airlift Command

1979 Maj. James E. McArdle Jr.

1980 Crews S-21 and S-31, 644th Bombardment Squadron, Strategic Air Command

1981 Capt. John J. Walters

1982 B-52 Crew E-21, 19th Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command

1983 Capt. Robert J. Goodman and his KC-135 crew, 42nd Bombardment Wing, Strategic Air Command

1984 Lt. Col. James L. Hobson Jr.

1985 Lt. Col. David E. Faught

1986 Capt. Marc D. Felman

Capt. Thomas M. Ferguson

M/Sgt. Clarence Bridges Jr.

M/Sgt. Patrick S. Kennedy

M/Sgt. Gerald G. Treadwell

Tech. Sgt. Lester G. Bouler

Tech. Sgt. Gerald M. Lewis

Staff Sgt. Samuel S. Flores

Staff Sgt. Scott A. Helms

Staff Sgt. Gary L. Smith

1987 Detachment 15, Air Force Plant Representative Office and B-1B System

Program Office, Air Force Systems Command

1988 Military Airlift Wing C-5 Crew, Military Airlift Command

1989 98th Bombardment Wing B-1B Crew, Strategic Air Command

1990 AC-130H Crew, 16th Special Operations Squadron, Air Force Special

Operations Command

1991 MH-53J Pave Low Crew, 20th Special Operations Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Fla., Air Force Special Operations Command

1992 C-130 Aircrew, 310th Airlift Squadron, Howard AFB, Panama, Air Combat

Command

1993 B-52 Aircrew, 668th Bomb Squadron, Griffiss AFB, N.Y.

1994 HH-60G Aircrews 206 and 208, 56th Rescue Squadron, Keflavik NAS, Iceland,

Air Combat Command

1995 B-1B, BAT-01 Flight, 9th Bombardment Squadron, Dyess AFB, Tex., Air Combat

Command

1996 B-52H, Duke 01 Flight, Combat Air Command

1997 MC-130H, 7th Special Operations Squadron, Crew of Whisk 05

1998 Air Force Rescue 470, 210th Rescue Squadron, Kulis ANGB, Anchorage, Alaska

1999 Capt. Jeffrey G. J. Hwang

2000 AIREVAC E10E1 and E10E2 Missions, 75th Airlift Squadron, 86th Aeromedical

Evac Squadron

2001 20th Special Operations Squadron KNIFE 04

2002 GRIM 31, 16th SOS

2003 VIJAY 10, 7th Airlift Squadron

2004 41st Rescue Squadron and 38th Rescue Squadron, Jolly 11 and Jolly 12

2005 Train 60

2006 Capt. Scott L. Markle

2007 Panther One One

Col. Charles L. Moore

Lt. Col. Stephen C. Williams

Capt. Lawrence T. Sullivan

Capt. Kristopher W. Struve

2008 The Crew of BONE 23

2009 The Crew of PEDRO 16

2010 DUDE Flight (DUDE 01 and DUDE 02)

2011 The Crews of PEDRO 83 Flight

2012 The Crews of PEDRO 83 Flgiht

2013 The Crews of ROOSTER 73 Flight

2014 The Crew of IRONHAND 41 Flight

2015 The Crews of WEASEL 41 and WEASEL 51 Flight

2016 The Crew of SPOOKY 43 Flight

2017 The Crew of BOAR 51 Flight

2018 The Crew of DRACO 42 Flight

Delta Wing Phoenix Mariah M-9

National Air and Space Museum
Early in 1977, Bennett asked Boone to design a new high performance Phoenix variant intended for experienced pilots. They named it the Mariah, and it introduced several radical features. The most significant change was yet another increase in aspect ratio. Wingspan increased and wing chord fell as the leading edge convergence angle grew to 120 degrees. Boone also incorporated wires supported by short posts along the wing leading edges. By applying tension to the wires, the pilot could deflect the wing to improve flying and stall characteristics. The wing was more responsive to pilot control inputs, but it was not as stable as previous gliders in the Phoenix line. Bennett and Boone believed that competent, experienced pilots could handle the high-performance wing with no trouble.

Bill Bennett was a trendsetter in hang glider design throughout the 1970's. He founded Delta Wing Kites and Gliders in 1969 to build and market boat-towed kites, such as the Delta Wing Model 162 (see NASM collection) piloted by water skiers. These kites used a wing design invented by Francis Rogallo. They contributed to the rapid growth of hang gliding around the world because they performed reasonably well, cost little to build, and they were easy to transport. By the late 1970s, Bennett's standard Rogallo designs became obsolete and modified Rogallo wings began to appear. These hang gliders were relatively safe, high-performance aircraft capable of performing loops and wingovers. The Phoenix Mariah represents an interim step in this transition from standard to modified Rogallo wing aircraft.

The most troublesome flaw in the standard Rogallo was the fabric covering, or 'sail,' that formed the airfoil. Designers only attached the sail at the leading edges and along the central keel. In stable flight, air passing beneath the sail generated vortices that kept the sail taut. In turbulence or slow-speed flight, the vortices diminished, loosening the sail and causing it to 'luff.' Without correction, this condition often led to an uncontrollable dive. This was particularly dangerous when foot-launching the glider from high terrain. Bennett and other designers soon discovered that by reducing the angle of the leading edges, and shortening the length of the keel, they could create a safer glider with better stability and higher performance.

In 1973 and 1974, Bennett and his designers experimented with numerous variations of the standard Rogallo wing. Bennett then incorporated the results into a new line of hang gliders he named the Phoenix series. On these gliders, Bennett increased the leading edge convergence angle from 80 to more than 95 degrees. The first Phoenix hang gliders flew with a long fantail, a device thought to improve stability. Total wing surface area was slightly less than standard Rogallo models but the aspect ratio (wingspan to wing chord ratio) increased substantially. As Bennett continued to develop the Phoenix series, he increased the leading edge convergence angle even further, and removed the fantail after flight experience showed that it did not increase stability.

By January 1975, Bennett, and his chief designer, Richard Boone, had completed the Phoenix IV. This variant used truncated wing tips to provide stability to the glider by enhancing the wing's tip vortices. This modification also moved the center of lift point nearer to the wingtips but away from the center of gravity, making the glider more difficult to turn and reducing stability in turbulent air. Bennett and Boone solved this problem when they introduced the Phoenix VI (see NASM collection). They incorporated metal tubes called battens into the tips to add rigidity without reducing stability. The battens curved up slightly near the tips, adding washout and reducing the wings Angle of Attack. This reduced stall speed and helped reduce the chance that one wing tip would stall completely, a condition known to result in a flat spin. Batten tips also kept the center of lift point closer to the center of gravity, making the glider easier to control.

Early in 1977, Bennett asked Boone to design a new high performance Phoenix variant intended for experienced pilots. They named it the Mariah and it introduced several radical features. The most significant change was yet another increase in aspect ratio. Wingspan increased and wing chord fell as the leading edge convergence angle grew to 120 degrees. Boone also incorporated wires supported by short posts along the wing leading edges. By applying tension to the wires, the pilot could deflect the wing to improve flying and stall characteristics. The wing was more responsive to pilot control inputs but it was not as stable as previous gliders in the Phoenix line. Bennett and Boone believed that competent, experienced pilots could handle the high-performance wing with no trouble. They made another revolutionary change to the wing's lower surface when they covered 45 percent of it with Dacron. The wing now had two surfaces and it was beginning to strongly resemble the wing of more conventional powered aircraft. A wing spar nestled between the two surfaces, reducing the drag generated in previous designs by the exposed aluminum cross tube. The spar was not connected directly to the keel but 'floated,' allowing the wing to flex and be more efficient with various changes in load, speed, and angle of attack. Boone returned to truncated wing tips, but avoided the earlier problems by using drooped tips. By early 1978, the Mariah was certified and selling for $1,395. Bennett built the Mariah in three sizes, the 150, 170, and 190. The number refers to the square footage of the upper wing surface. The pilot's weight dictated which version he flew. Heavier pilots used the 190.

Boone's Mariah was not popular. Pilot's disliked the stiff handling characteristics but the droop tips seemed to be the primary culprit, and this feature was dropped in later models. Other manufactures introduced high-performance gliders similar to the Mariah at about the same time. As soon as pilots began to fly these advanced designs near the limits of their performance envelope, a serious problem emerged. Experienced pilots began reporting that their gliders (including several Mariahs) had tumbled end-over-end under low-G conditions, fortunately with few injuries. This problem also limited the popularity and success of the Mariah and similar high-performance hang-gliders. In later models, designers focused more on improving longitudinal stability. By the end of 1978, Bennett had ceased marketing the Mariah in favor of new designs with more stable pitch characteristics in low-G situations. Before if disappeared from the hang gliding community, Mariah pilots did set several records including an altitude gain of 3,109 m (10,200 ft).

The Mariah's stability problems led to a short commercial life but most of the technical innovations introduced on this aircraft continued to influence hang glider design for many years. Bill Bennett donated a Mariah and several other Delta Wing models to the National Air and Space Museum in 1984. The operational flight history of this specific Mariah is unknown.

When Concorde First Flew, It Was a Supersonic Sight to Behold

Smithsonian Magazine

On January 21, 1976, two of what many aviation enthusiasts consider the most beautiful man-made object ever to fly—took off simultaneously from Heathrow Airport near London and Orly Airport near Paris with their first paying passengers. Those two airplanes, called Concorde, would fly faster than the speed of sound from London to Bahrain and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro, elegant harbingers of a brave new era in commercial air travel.

One of the three Concordes on public view in the United States stands regally in the hangar of Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Chantilly, Virginia, the red, white, and blue colors of Air France emblazoned on its vertical stabilizer. (The other two are at the Intrepid Museum in New York City and the Museum of Flight in Seattle.)

The performance of Concorde—airline pilot and author Patrick Smith tells me that one does not put a “the” in front of the plane’s name—was spectacular. Able to cruise at a near-stratospheric altitude of 60,000 feet at 1350 miles per hour, the plane cut travel times on its routes in half. But speed and altitude were not the only factors that made Concorde so remarkable. The plane was a beauty.

Since back when flight was only a dream, there has been an aesthetic element in imagined flying machines. It’s easy to imagine Daedalus fixing feathers onto the arms of his doomed son Icarus in a visually appealing, bird-like pattern. Leonardo da Vinci envisioned the symmetrical shape of a bat wing in his drawings of possible airplanes. Some of this aesthetic is still carried over (ironically perhaps) in military fighter jets, but in commercial aviation, where profit demands more and more passengers, aircraft designers have swapped beauty for capacity.

The workhorse 747, for instance, looks like a plane sculpted by Botero. At a time when airliners are called buses, Concorde, designed by Bill Strang and Lucien Servanty, was the dream of Daedalus come true. It seemed to embody the miracle of flight, long after that miracle was taken for granted. In my book on elegant industrial designs, the graceful creature occupies a two-page spread.

Concorde was one competitor in a three-team international race. In the U.S., Boeing won a design face-off with Lockheed for a supersonic airliner, but, according to Bob van der Linden, curator of air transportation and special purpose aircraft at the Air and Space Museum, Wall Street never invested in the U.S. version, and Congress turned down the funding necessary to build the plane for a combination of budget and environmental reasons.

Russia also entered the foray and produced the TU-144, a plane that looked somewhat similar to Concorde, and beat the Anglo-French plane into the air by a few months in December of 1968. The ill-fated Russian SST crashed during a demonstration flight at the Paris Air Show in 1973, and never flew again.

Concorde began test flights early in 1969 and—with pilots and crews specially trained and engineering honed—began carrying paying passengers in 1976. (And pay they did, with a first class ticket costing around $12,000.)

Smith, author of the blog “Ask the Pilot” and of the book Cockpit Confidential, told me that the sleek supersonic transport (SST) was “a difficult plane to engineer, and just as difficult to fly.” But, he continued, Concorde was an engineering triumph, a formidably complex machine “all done with slide rules.” Despite the cost of tickets, the plane was not luxurious inside, seating only about 144, with a single aisle in constant use by the aircrew needing to serve meals in half the usual time. A story, possibly apocryphal, tells of a passenger who was asked by the captain on debarkation how she liked Concorde: “It’s so ordinary,” she complained. An SST engineer, hearing this, responded: “That was the hardest part.”

Between 14 and 16 of the French and British Concordes made an average of two flights a day for several years. Smith says the plane’s stellar safety record was “more the work of probability than engineering. It’s possible that with a significantly larger number of Concordes on the roster of the world’s carriers, there would have been an altogether different safety record.”

British Airways advertising poster, c. 1996 (National Air and Space Museum)

That safety record came to a terrible end on July 25, 2000. On takeoff from Paris, a flaming tail of fire followed Flight 4590 into the air, and seconds later the Air France Concorde crashed, killing all aboard, 109 passengers and crew members and four people on the ground. Initial reports blamed a piece of metal that had fallen off a Continental DC-10 taking off just ahead of Concorde and caused pieces of a blown tire to pierce the fuel tank.

Later investigations told a more complicated story, one that involved a cascade of human errors. The plane was over its recommended takeoff weight, and a last minute addition of baggage shifted the center of gravity farther back than normal, both of which changed the takeoff characteristics.

Many experts speculate that if it hadn’t been for the additional weight, Flight 4590 would have been in the air before reaching the damaging metal debris. After the tire was damaged, the plane skidded toward the edge of the runway, and the pilot, wanting to avoid losing control on the ground, lifted off at too slow a speed.

There is also a prevailing opinion that the engine fire that looks so disastrous in photos taken from an airliner next to the runway would have blown out once the plane was in the air. But apparently the flight engineer shut down another engine in an unnecessary abundance of caution, making the plane unflyable.

Perhaps because an unlikely coincidence of factors caused the crash, Concorde continued in service after modifications to the fuel tanks. But both countries permanently grounded the fleet in 2003.

In the end, the problem was not mechanical but financial. Concorde was a gorgeous glutton, burning twice as much fuel as other airliners, and was expensive to maintain.

According to curator Van der Linden, for a trans-Atlantic flight, the plane used one ton of fuel for each passenger seat. He also points out that many of the plane’s passengers didn’t pay in full for their seats, instead using mileage upgrades. Just as Wall Street had failed to invest in the plane, other airlines never ordered more Concordes, meaning that the governments of Britain and France were footing all the bills, and losing money despite the burnishing of national pride.

“The plane was a technological masterpiece,” says the curator, “but an economic black hole.”

In 1989, on the bicentennial of the French Revolution, when French officials came to the States to present the U.S. with a copy of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, an agreement was struck with the Smithsonian to present the Institution with one of the Concordes when the planes were finally phased out.

“We figured that wouldn’t be for many years,” says Van der Linden, who has edited a soon-to-be-released book called Milestones of Flight. “But in April of 2003, we got a call that our airplane would be coming. Luckily, it was just when the Udvar-Hazy Center was opening, and we managed to find room on the hangar floor. There was some initial worry that such a long aircraft would block access to other exhibits, but the plane stands so high that we could drive a truck under the nose.”

On June 12, 2003, the Smithsonian Concorde left Paris for Washington, D.C. Van der Linden happened to be in Paris on other business at the time, and was invited to fly gratis along with 50 VIPs. “We flew at between 55,000 and 60,000 feet, and at that altitude the sky, seen through the hand-size window, was a wonderful dark purple. One other great thing about the flight was that U.S. taxpayers didn’t have to pay for my trip home.”

Two months later, with the help of Boeing crews, the extraordinary plane was towed into place, and now commands the southern end of the building. Though first built more than four decades ago, Concorde still looks like the future. As Patrick Smith told me, “Concorde evoked a lot of things—a bird, a woman’s body, an origami mantis—but it never looked old. And had it remained in service that would still be true today.

‘Timeless’ is such an overused word, but very few things in the world of industrial design can still appear modern 50 years after their blueprints were first drawn up.”

In what is perhaps an inevitable post-script to the commercial SST era, a group that calls itself Club Concorde has come up with the nostalgic dream of buying one of the mothballed SSTs and putting it into service again for those who consider time money, and have plenty of money to spare.

According to newspaper reports in England, the club has so far raised $200 million to restore former glory aloft, and has approached current owner Airbus to buy one of that company’s planes.

The suggestion has met with a “talk to the hand” response. French officials have compared Concorde to the Mona Lisa (an apt da Vinci reference) as a national treasure, not to be sold off. And the expense and difficulty of resurrecting the plane, even if it could be purchased, are formidable obstacles.

David Kaminsky-Morrow, the air transport editor of Flightglobal.com, points out that “Concorde is an immensely complex supersonic aircraft and [civil aviation authorities] will not entrust the safe upkeep of its airframe to a group of enthusiasts without this technical support in place.”

So all those who missed the boat (or rather, the bird) when Concordes were still flying can still go to the Udvar-Hazy Center to exercise their right to gawk admiringly at a true milestone of flight.

Concorde is on display in the Boeing Aviation Hangar at the Smithsonian's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, Chantilly, Virginia.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Aleut, 1941-1949

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 1, reels 1-9. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

Although very few of John P. Harrington's Aleut field notes are dated, his annual reports and correspondence, particularly that with Fredericka Martin Berenberg, indicate that he worked on St. Paul Island, Alaska, from October through December of 1941, writing up the material at later periods in Washington, D.C. (probably 1943 and again 1947 to 1949). Ivan Alexis Yatchmeneff (abbreviated ", Yach., Yatch.), a speaker of the Unalaska dialect, was the primary source of linguistic information. A number of nonnatives traveling or living in the Aleutians provided him with cultural and botanical information.

Harrington had several collaborators throughout his work. John Paul Marr (Jackie, Jacq.), his field assistant during the late 1930s and early 1940s, accompanied him to the Aleutians to aid with the collection of plant and animal specimens, the review of secondary source materials, and the preparation of sound recordings. Makary A. Baranoff (Baranov, Fr. B.), a Russian priest on St. Paul Island, collaborated in the translation of Ivan Veniaminov's (1846) Opyt grammatiki and commented upon much of the linguistic data reelicited from Ivan Yatchmeneff. Fredericka Martin Berenberg (Mrs. Ber., Mrs. B., Freddie), who later edited The Aleut Language by Richard H. Geoghegan, shared her knowledge of the inhabitants, local history, and geography during Harrington's stay. After leaving the island, she continued to correspond with him, and in the late 1940s brought Alexandra Gromoff (Alex., Alec., Alice, A.), to live with her and attend college in New York State. Harrington managed to work briefly with Gromoff during several weekends in August and September 1948, although most of his work was done through Berenberg.

Harrington's study of Aleut relied heavily upon the work of the Russians Ivan Veniaminov (Ven.) and Waldemar I. Jochelson (Joch.). He also elaborated upon the historical and placename information obtained from a number of publications pertaining to the islands.

Harrington's only publication on Aleut is a review (1947) of The Aleut Language.

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 Aleut research. The materials primarily consist of vocabulary, texts, and grammar.

Harrington used the dictionary portion of Veniaminov (1846) as the basis for compiling his Aleut vocabulary. Photostatted entries were pasted up, one to a page, and reheard with native speakers. Ivan Yatchmeneff provided retranscriptions in Russian characters and retranslations in English, doing much of the writing himself. Excerpts from Jochelson (1919) and a number of nonlinguistic publications were frequently interspersed with the field data.

A portion of the rechecked vocabulary was arranged numerically by Veniaminov's Aleut entry. The remaining entries were organized semantically and supplemented by original notes. The categories dealing with ethnobotany, ethnozoology, and placenames are particularly extensive and include rough sketches, maps, and references to several collections of specimens.

Most of the texts are native stories in Aleut and English, obtained from Ivan Yatchmeneff and several others on St. Paul Island. The remainder were obtained from Alexandra Gromoff during her stay in New York. She frequently translated English texts written by Fredericka Martin Berenberg, who added marginalia and interlinear notes and forwarded the material on to Harrington.

Harrington began his work on grammar by translating and rehearing Veniaminov (1846) with the aid of Father Baranoff and Ivan Yatchmeneff. Later, in the summer of 1947, he asked Berenberg to work with Alexandra Gromoff in order to clarify certain grammatical points. Because Gromoff was undergoing an operation at the time, he referred to the completed inventory as the "Hosp[ital] Questionnaire. "

Harrington's own grammatical write-up was left in outline form. It consists of handwritten drafts of an introduction and notes for each chapter, many of which cite the published works or manuscripts of other linguists. In 1948 he submitted a typescript titled "Unalaska Aleutian Grammar" [former B.A.E. ms. 4783] for review as a potential publication of the B.A.E. Although it contains an introduction and a detailed table of contents and is supplemented by semantic word lists, this later draft is also far from complete.

Kurt Vonnegut’s Unpublished World War II Scrapbook Reveals Origins of ‘Slaughterhouse-Five’

Smithsonian Magazine

When he was an American prisoner of war in Nazi Germany, Kurt Vonnegut famously survived the 1945 aerial bombing of Dresden by hiding in the meat locker of a slaughterhouse—a harrowing experience that closely informed the plot of his masterful 1969 novel, Slaughterhouse-Five. During his lifetime, Vonnegut commented extensively on this wartime episode, cataloguing the destruction of “possibly the world’s most beautiful city” and describing the burial duties undertaken by him and his fellow POWs: most significantly, the retrieval of 130,000 corpses trapped underground, a task that the writer, in typically blunt fashion, later termed “a terribly elaborate Easter egg hunt.”

But until now, Lauren Christensen reports for the New York Times, a trove of photographs, newspaper clippings and correspondence compiled by Vonnegut and his family between 1944 and 1945 had remained unseen by the public, carefully hidden in the safekeeping of the author’s sister and his father.

The 84-page volume, which sold for $187,500 in Christie’s Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts auction earlier this month, includes 22 letters from Vonnegut to his family, photographs the young soldier took of the razed city of Dresden and a January 1945 telegram stating that “Private First Class Kurt Vonnegut Jr Has been reported Missing in Action.”

According to Christie’s, the notes reflect Vonnegut’s “trademark satire and dry humor” under even the most dire of circumstances. In a January 3, 1945, letter composed around two weeks after his capture, he offers a gross understatement: “It’s been one helluva holiday season for all of us.” And, in a message written two days after his liberation, he declares, “It is a source of great delight to be able to announce that you will shortly receive a splendid relic of World War II with which you may decorate your hearth—namely, me in an excellent state of preservation.”

Other letters underscore traumas the author couldn’t bear to mask with light-hearted jests. As he says in a May 21 note, “This letter started as a huge joke. … [But] there's nothing funny in watching friends starve to death or in carrying body after body out of inadequate air-raid shelters to mass kerosene funeral pyres—and that is what I've done these past six months."

Vonnegut was captured by the Germans at the Battle of the Bulge in December 1944 (Public domain)

Justin L. Mack of the Indianapolis Star explains that Vonnegut, an Indianapolis native, enlisted in the United States Army in January 1943, when he was enrolled as a chemistry major at Cornell University. Following short stints at the Carnegie Institute of Technology and the University of Tennessee (where he was assigned to study mechanical engineering), he was deployed to Europe with the 106th Infantry Division. Soon after arrival, he was taken prisoner by the Nazis, who were mounting their last great offensive of the war at the Battle of the Bulge, and sent to Dresden alongside fellow POWs.

Writing for Mental Floss, Suzanne Raga notes that Vonnegut spent his days working long hours in a malt-syrup factory. At night, he slept in the subterranean slaughterhouse that ultimately saved his life.

Only one of the letters included in the newly publicized scrapbook had been previously published. Dated May 29, 1945, the retrospective missive—written from a repatriation camp in Le Havre, France—describes the “sadistic and fanatical guards” responsible for watching over the prisoners during their time in Dresden. As the only American with some knowledge of German, Vonnegut became the group’s de facto leader, a position he lost after telling the guards “just what I was going to do to them when the Russians came.”

Around Valentine’s Day 1945, the Americans launched an unprecedented firebombing campaign against Dresden, killing anywhere from 35,000 to 135,000 people—“but not,” the author noted, “me.” In Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, an ill-suited soldier similarly escapes death and eventually describes the aftermath of the scene as a desolate landscape “like the moon.”

Following his release in mid-1945, Vonnegut returned to Indianapolis. He debuted his first novel, Player Piano, in 1952, but it was his sixth novel, Slaughterhouse-Five, that made him a household name. The main conceit of the novel—that protagonist Billy Pilgrim has become “unstuck in time,” leaving him to float through the entirety of his past—makes a somber point: As Jonathan Creasy of the Los Angeles Review of Books lays out, it's that “massacres such as Dresden happened; they always have happened and they always will happen.”

Vonnegut himself once darkly stated that the Dresden bombings were so meaningless that he may have been the only individual to have gotten something out of them. “One way or another, I got two or three dollars for every person killed,” he once said. “Some business I’m in.”

Larger philosophical questions raised by Vonnegut’s work aside, the wartime scrapbook offers a glimpse into the burgeoning mind of the author. Many of the characteristics apparent in his later writings are evident in nascent form, but other qualities are wholly singular, affording the volume a unique place in Vonnegut lore.

It remains to be seen whether the scrapbook’s new owner will publish the letters and assorted ephemera in full, but if not, fans can at least draw on the excerpts provided by Christie’s.

As the author famously concluded, “And so it goes.”

Ceremonies in Dark Old Men

National Museum of African American History and Culture
A galley proof titled, Ceremonies in Dark Old Men, written and owned by Lonne Elder, III. The proof has a light green cover and a plastic, spiral binding. Stamped diagonally at the top of the front cover in black ink is “UNCORRECTED PROOF.” Printed in black ink at the center of the cover is “LONNE ELDER III” and “CEREMONIES / IN / DARK OLD MEN.” Printed at the bottom center of the cover is the publisher's logo of three geometric fish with "FARRAR, STRAUS AND GIROUX / NEW YORK." The proof contains 118 double-sided pages with black printed text. The inside of the cover has a label from the publisher with [A SET OF GALLEYS] printed at the top. The label has been completed with typed black text and gives the publication date as "9/69" and the price as "4.95 / 1.95." The first page contains a message about the creation of the galley proof from the printer, "CRANE DUPLICATING SERVICE, INC." with an addresss on Cape Cod in Barnstable, Massachusetts.

Inlaid Teapot And Stand "Kanam Rup Kabok"

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM CARD: "OF THIN SILVER METAL STAMPED WITH FLORAL DESIGNS INLAID OUTSIDE WITH GOLD AND BLACK ENAMEL. CYLINDRICAL BODY, ALMOST FLAT SHOULDER, SHORT CYLINDRICAL NECK OVER WHICH FITS A COVER WITH A SMALL FINIAL, FROM WHICH EXTENDS A LONG CHAIN TO WHICH IS ATTACHED THE SMALL COVER FOR THE SPOUT WHICH COVERS OFF THE BODY IN A CURVE. DOUBLE LOOP HANDLE AND THREE VERTICALLY RIBBED FEET. *MAY 1969 STAND NOT FOUND. SAME AS NO. 65. 59 LOANED TO C-H MUSE."

A stand numbered E4014 was found also to have the number 59 written on it. In 1997, Lisa McQuail identified the stand as belonging with the water pot E59, therefore its number has been changed. Reference: Fig. 36 and 38 on pp. 60-61 of Smithsonian Institution, and Lisa McQuail. 1997. Treasures of Two Nations: Thai Royal Gifts to the United States of America. Washington, DC: Asian Cultural History Program, Smithsonian Institution.

The U.S. Military Has Been in Space From the Beginning

Smithsonian Magazine

The words "Space Force" conjure up images of plastoid-alloy-clad soldiers firing ray guns at aliens, but military activities in space aren't just science fiction. The U.S. military has been involved with space since the beginning, just, perhaps, not under that name.

That might change if President Donald Trump has his way. Monday, during a meeting of the National Space Council at the White House, Trump directed the Pentagon to create a Space Force, a sixth branch of the United States military. “My administration is reclaiming America's heritage as the world's greatest space-faring nation. The essence of the American character is to explore new horizons and to tame new frontiers. But our destiny, beyond the Earth, is not only a matter of national identity, but a matter of national security,” he announced. “[I]t is not enough to merely have an American presence in space. We must have American dominance in space."

Yet if the idea is to ensure the military is involved in space, a dedicated space force may not be needed; the military has been in space since space was a place you could be in. As early as 1915, the newly established National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) was dominated by military personnel and industry executives. NACA laboratories helped develop many technologies that ended up in military aircraft during World War II. After that, NACA worked with the Air Force to develop planes capable of supersonic flight. It then moved on to working on ballistic missile designs and in the 1950s began developing plans for manned flight. In 1958, a year after the U.S.S.R’s launch of the first ballistic missile and Sputnik satellite kickstarted the Space Race, NACA was rolled into the newly created NASA, a civilian agency which had a broader mandate, more power and more resources.

Clinton Parks at Space.com reports that the civilian nature of NASA was never a given. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson wanted to establish a space agency to make sure the United States controlled space militarily. President Eisenhower didn’t want a space agency at all, believing it was a waste of money. Eventually, the two compromised, creating a civilian agency after Johnson was convinced space wasn’t just a potential battlefield, but that a platform for scientific and technological advancement that would be a huge boon for the U.S. and commercial interests.

The establishment of NASA did not mean an end for the U.S. military in space, though many of its projects among the stars were and still are classified. In fact, during the 1960s, the U.S. Air Force ran a parallel manned space program to the one run by NASA, even designing an orbiting “laboratory” and selecting a class of 17 astronauts. Though it ran for six years, the program was cancelled in 1969 and no Air Force astronauts were launched (that we know of).

In 1982, the Air Force Space Command was officially established, and today employs 35,000 people. The agency works on cybersecurity, launches satellites and other payloads for the military and other government agencies, monitors ballistic missile launches and orbiting satellites and runs a military GPS system. And of course there’s plenty of things they do that we don't know about. For instance, it’s well documented that the Air Force has two X-37B space planes, including one that returned to Earth last year after two years in orbit, though what it was doing is unknown.

And NASA and the military also maintain a strong relationship. Over the decades, the vast majority of NASA astronauts have been military service members. During the heyday of the space shuttle, NASA would routinely ferry classified payloads into orbit for the Department of Defense among other projects the agencies have collaborated on.

As for the President's directive to create a new space force, Alex Ward at Vox reports that it may not be valid. Constitutionally, only Congress has the authority to “raise and support armies.” The last branch to be created, the Air Force, was created by an act of Congress in 1947. Todd Harrison, director of the aerospace security project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies tells Patrick Kelley at Roll Call that “[t]he President can’t create a new military service on his own. There’s going to have to be legislation.”

What’s more, the military seems resistant to the idea of separating out a Space Force from the Air Force. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, for one, has gone on the record opposing the creation of a space force. Last summer, when a Space Corps proposal was floated in Congress, Mattis wrote in a letter that it would add an “additional organizational and administrative tail” and excess layers of bureaucracy to military operations. At the that time, the White House also called the establishment of a space branch “premature.” Officials from the Air Force also went on record saying the move would add costs and unnecessary layers of bureaucracy to current space operations and that they would rather space operations become more integrated into the Air Force’s mission.

That’s not to say the U.S. military isn’t focusing on potential threats in space. Military analyst Lt. Col. Rick Francona tells Euan McKirdy at CNN that military leaders definitely have an eye on the sky. “I hate the term ‘the final frontier’ but (space) is the ultimate high ground. Space doesn’t dominate one small geographic area--it dominates continents, oceans,” he says. “Most military thinkers know this is the battle space of the future.”

Deborah Lee James, Air Force secretary during the Obama administration, agrees, pointing out that many critical satellites and communications devices necessary for modern warfare are located in space, and that other nations, China and Russia in particular, are making moves to control the region around Earth. “Space is no longer a peaceful domain,” she told Ward last July. “There is a real possibility that a conflict on Earth could bleed into space.”

Longtime Conservationist George Schaller Is Still Fighting to Preserve the Last Frontier

Smithsonian Magazine

When George Schaller was 23, he volunteered to help some naturalists survey part of northern Alaska’s Brooks Range, a historic expedition that contributed to the federal government’s decision to set aside 30,000 square miles of wilderness as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Home to a staggering array of flora and fauna reflecting all major habitats, the area is a rare example of a natural environment free of human development. Reached recently at his Connecticut home, Schaller, now vice president of the wild-cat-conservation organization Panthera and senior conservationist at the Wildlife Conservation Society, discussed the “precious, intangible values” he fought to protect in the 1950s and cautioned that the battle to preserve the coastal plain isn’t over.

Schaller was interviewed by Smithsonian Journeys associate editor Sasha Ingber. An excerpt was published in the Fall 2016 issue of Smithsonian Journeys magazine.

Of all the places in the world, why did you volunteer to visit the upper Sheenjek River of Alaska’s Brooks Range in 1956? What were you expecting, and what did you find there that was unique?

I attended the University of Alaska from 1951 to 1955. And in 1952 a friend and I took a canoe down the Colville River to the Arctic Ocean. We passed an oil exploration camp. So I had been wandering all over the state during those years, and seeing an oil exploration camp in a huge, beautiful wilderness startled me.

When I heard that Olaus Murie, one of the great field naturalists of the last century, was going to go up to into the Brooks Range to do a wildlife survey to set aside what first became the Arctic National Wildlife Range, I wrote to him and said, ‘Hey, I’d come along. I don’t need a salary. I just want to come up there, enjoy it, and learn from you.’ [The Wildlife Conservation Society sponsored Schaller’s trip.]

How did that trip influence what came after?

We had a marvelous summer, and we talked to the local Gwich’in Indians there in a village called Arctic Village. And they talked of the caribou, how their life depends on them, and the Arctic Slope they called the “Sacred Land Where Life Begins.” And all that stuck with me.

When I came back, I thought about it. There was this discussion about the Arctic Refuge—people had since the 1930s suggested the place be set aside. So I wrote Secretary of the Interior Fred Seaton in 1957 and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got to protect that area.’ And thinking about the oil exploration camp I had already seen on the Arctic Slope, I said, ‘That area may well in future years resemble one of the former Texas oil fields.’ The Eisenhower Administration established the Arctic Refuge in 1960. This happened just in time, because a major oil discovery was made at Prudhoe Bay in 1968. I couldn’t believe the horrendous environmental damage there when I visited in 2006. It’s 800 square miles of buildings and roads and pipelines and drilling pads and oil spills. It’s a dreadful place. It will never, ever be fixed up. So now is the time to protect the coastal plain. It has been a horrendous battle since Secretary Seaton established the Arctic Wildlife Range [now the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] in 1960.

What did you find in the range that was unique or untouched that made you fight for its preservation?

We had two aims in the Sheenjek Valley. One was to learn about the natural history. And so Brina Kessel, who was an ornithology professor at the University of Alaska, and I did bird lists. We saw 85 species of birds there. I collected spiders, insects, mice for the University of Alaska Museum. It is a highly diverse and beautiful area, ecologically very diverse. There was spruce forest, alpine meadows, glaciers. There were three kinds of mosquitoes, which were very noticeable. It was a huge variety.

But then, you know, the Alaska delegation to Congress has been against anything that protects. The lies and distortions by congressional members from Alaska as well as the oil companies! This well-known senator, Ted Stevens, he said, “It is a barren desert, a frozen wasteland.” And he knew better.

Some people support tapping into petroleum reserves to strengthen the economy. Why not?

Well, it’s more than that. In 1960, after the Wildlife Range was declared, they stopped any payment for that area to manage it, to protect it, from 1960 to 1969. Now if there is anything more undemocratic, it is that. Because most people want that range. And it’s wholly unpatriotic. Unpatriotic. Because it deprives America of a future wilderness. [Alaska] is not called the Last Great Wilderness for nothing.

The House of Representatives in February took a historic vote to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge’s coastal plain as wilderness, but they lacked a majority. How seriously is the area threatened by outside interests?

Anything in Congress these days is a battle, because you’ve got too many petro-politicians. Why do we still have this battle? You had two Bush presidents that were all for drilling and promoted it. The Alaska delegation is against [protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge], and you don’t know who is being bought off, so to speak. What I’m afraid of is a filibuster. Then it’ll get stopped again, and the fight will continue forever. I don’t know how many years.

But the important point is the caribou and the grizzlies—they are all still there. Just as they were years ago. People spend millions of dollars to go to Yellowstone to see wolves; they used to come up near us just to see who we were, up in the Arctic Refuge. The last time I was there, in 2006, you could climb up on top of a mountain and as far as you could see, there were only the mountains and the valleys. There were no roads, no buildings—the only roads were those made by Dall sheep and caribou. And that’s tremendous.

It was managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service, and they did a fine job. You’re not supposed to build fires. You’re supposed to carry out all your garbage, even carry out your feces. They did a great job of managing it. Where else can you go back after 50 years and see no changes, step into America’s past?

How has the refuge changed over the decades?

Well the fact is, in 50 years the glaciers have retreated, the brush and trees are moving up slopes, the tundra permafrost is melting. We talked to the Gwich’in Indians, and they said ‘Yes, it’s much warmer.’ And even a bluebird had shown up at their village, which had never been seen before. So there are real changes. And it’s wonderful to have a place where you can measure such changes without outside influence.

We measure how far glaciers have retreated in national parks, for instance. How is this region different?

What other place do you have that is undeveloped, that is simply a national treasure, that is not for exploitation? Yes, you can have some camping trips, people go up there and enjoy it, run the rivers and so forth. But you don’t need big development, roads, big tourist accommodations, and so forth. Let’s leave something for people to escape all this. That’s the perfect place and the last place in the United States. 

Can you share a powerful or inspiring moment you had when you were there in 1956, 2006, or some other time?

There are so many uplifting ones. I remember one time in 1956: I went off for a week, just carrying my food and a sleeping bag. I was sleeping at night on a gravel bar, and I heard water rushing near me, and I sat up. It was a big herd of caribou migrating. I lay back down, and they passed my sleeping bag, within 50 feet or so. This big herd had moved on. Now where else can you get an experience like that?

You’ve called it America’s last great wilderness. What is still to be discovered or uncovered there? 

Olaus was a naturalist. He wanted the science, but he also talked of the “precious, intangible values of this area.” And it was still untouched. Yes, the local Gwich’in Indians hunted caribou, they shot some wolves. But there were no roads. There was just one village at the edge of the area, Arctic Village. You can see the natural environment before people chopped it up, plowed it out, shot it down, and so forth.

Do you destroy something eternal for a couple hundred days? It’s a problem in every single country where I work. You have the battle, the dream, those that just want to make quick money, those that are concerned about their country. Oil companies have been trying to get into the Arctic to drill. But natural resources are finite and gone quickly. Unless you plan intelligently, you lose in the end.

The Washington Football Team Can Legally Keep Its Racist Name. But It Shouldn’t

Smithsonian Magazine

The United States has long enjoyed global leadership through its broad freedoms—freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and freedom of speech.

Those rights, among others, are central to the exchange of beliefs and ideas underpinning America’s great experiment in democracy over the past 241 years. These rights have been ardently, and rightly, defended since the country’s founding.

But freedoms come with responsibilities, and, on occasion, some judicious self-restraint.

As director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation, I bring this up because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling that has exposed the ugly side of the liberty we are fortunate to have.

The decision concerns the National Football League franchise for Washington, D.C.: the Washington Redskins. The team is a business and sporting institution that, through decades of legal battles over the use of their name and logos, has claimed and litigated for the freedom to continue using that racially disparaging term. But now, thanks to this decision, the Court has implicitly confirmed that freedom and more.

According to the Court, trademarks, as regulated by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), are protected free speech, even when they disparage a race of people. The decision came in a matter wholly unconnected to the football franchise, one involving an Oregon-based, Asian-American band that calls itself The Slants. The band had been denied a federally protected trademark for their chosen moniker because it was considered demeaning to Asian-Americans under the 1946 Lanham Act, which forbids the registration of trademarks that “may disparage” other peoples or their cultures

The band’s lawyers argued that, without a trademark on their name and the band’s logo, their money-making abilities in sales of merchandise would be reduced. They further argued that the band’s intended use of the name was to reclaim the racial slur through the open-minded, high-energy fun the band promoted with their music. The high court decided in favor of The Slants; they could receive their trademark, but that left the football team able to keep theirs too.

The team’s current owner, Daniel Snyder, was “thrilled.” The Native American groups fighting the NFL franchise withdrew their case days later; the decades-long legal struggle was over.

But for many in Native American communities around this country, the word “redskin” has long been, and remains, derogatory.

Here are a few observations about the team’s name and its mascot and logos:

  • In most every English-language dictionary, the word “redskin” is labeled as “pejorative” or “offensive;”
  • No other racial slur could be used by a professional sports team for its mascot and name and logo without a devastating public outcry.
  • Dozens of sporting mascots and teams using the name “Redskins” or Indian mascots at high school and college levels have already re-named their teams. They have taken a leadership role that the NFL franchise will not.
  • And, finally, just because any American has the right to use the word doesn’t mean they should. As I said at the outset, freedoms come attached to corresponding civil responsibilities.

A look into the history of the Washington Redskins should lead one to wonder if their backstory is something Washingtonians, football fans and Americans should be proud of.

In 1932, a Washington, D.C.-based commercial-laundry magnate named George Preston Marshall bought the Boston Braves football team. Wanting to rebrand it, he changed their name to the more dramatic “Redskins.” By 1937, he had moved the team to D.C. An avowed segregationist, Marshall once said he would sign blacks to the team only if the Harlem Globetrotters would sign whites.

Of course, his dramatic mix of pro-Confederate beliefs and sub-terra racism had been on display for some time by then. He proposed to his wife, for example, after hiring a chorus of black performers to sing “Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginny” as he asked for her betrothal, a song which includes such lines as “Massa and Missus have long since gone before me. . . .”

But racism inside the team runs much deeper than that. Marshall was a supporter of, and perhaps the instigator of a ban on African-American athletes in the NFL. Despite the ban being lifted in the late 1940s, Marshall’s team held firm.

The Secretary of the Interior, Stewart Udall, famously warned the team that its 30-year lease on the year-old D.C. Stadium (eventually rechristened Robert F. Kennedy Stadium) would be revoked unless Marshall put black players on his team. The stadium had been built with federal money, and was on land owned by the District, providing Udall with the leverage to make that demand.

Marshall complied, and in 1962, the Redskins drafted All-American running back Ernie Davis and fullback Ron Hatcher. Allegedly, Davis wouldn’t play for Marshall, calling him an “SOB;” he was traded to Cleveland, leaving Hatcher to be the first African-American player to sign with the team. But the dam had finally been breached, and more racial integration would follow.

Still, to cement his status as a racist, when Marshall died in 1969, he directed much of his estate to set up a foundation, bearing his name. One of the stipulations was that no money was to be spent toward “any purpose, which supports or employs the principle of racial integration in any form.”

After Marshall had gone, a series of other, more open-minded owners controlled the team, and the overt racism toward African-Americans faded.

In 1972, a delegation of Native Americans met with the team’s president, Edward Bennett Williams, to lobby not only for a name change, but also to register objections to some of the team’s other racist Native American representations. Among other things, they asked that lyrics in the team’s fight be changed and that the cheerleading squad stop wearing black braided wigs.

Williams changed the team lyrics—“They had some good points against the lyrics of our fight song,” he said. “The swamp ‘ems, scalp ‘ems and heap ‘ems is a mocking of dialect. We won’t use those lyrics anymore.” But while the cheerleader headgear was abandoned, the team’s name and logos survived.

Twenty years later, seven native Americans—led by Suzan Shown Harjo and Vine Deloria, Jr., both founding trustees of the National Museum of the American Indian—petitioned the USPTO to revoke six of the team’s most-egregiously racist trademark registrations. Seven years after that, in 1999, the federal agency ruled in Harjo’s favor.  This decision was later reversed on procedural grounds.

That was the same year the team came under new ownership, with Snyder taking over. There would be more court cases, striking away the trademark to the team name, but the owner remained steadfast.

He went so far, in 2013, as to tell USA Today that he would keep the name “Redskins” at every cost, chaining himself to Marshall’s racist anchor with an oath to uphold team’s name, never changing it.

“It’s that simple,” Snyder said of the notion to change the Redskins’ name. “NEVER—and you can put that in all caps.”

The sports team tried mightily to convince federal agencies and judges that the word “Redskins” is not a disparaging racial slur. The franchise failed time and again in this endeavor. Even if the Indian challengers had succeeded in cancelling the trademark, the team could have, and probably would have, continued to be the “Redskins.”

As an American and an American Indian, I believe in the United States and its freedoms and rights.

In the case of the Washington football team and the newly Supreme-Court-approved commercial protection of its racist name, please be advised, Mr. Snyder: your backdoor-victory doesn’t mean the battle is over. The law says the word “redskin” remains, without question, a derogatory and racist term. The law also says you have the right to use it.  But you should not. And many people, Indian and otherwise, will continue to fight until your team name sits in the rubbish heap where it belongs.

To Bear Witness to Japanese Internment, One Artist Self-Deported Himself to the WWII Camps

Smithsonian Magazine

For many, Isamu Noguchi is the guy who invented the classic mid-century coffee table— the one with the heavy glass and elegantly curved wood base that’s part of the Museum of Modern Art’s permanent collection and coveted by design addicts around world. Noguchi is indeed a design icon and is also considered one of the most influential artists in the United States. What’s lesser known is that during World War II, Noguchi voluntarily interned himself to try to improve conditions for his fellow Japanese-Americans, despite being personally exempt because he lived on the East Coast.

This February marks 75 years since President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcing those of Japanese ethnicity on the West Coast to inland relocation centers for the duration of the war. Two-thirds of people sent to these camps were American citizens. They were given only a few days to settle affairs— close their businesses, sell their homes— and gather the personal items they could carry.

Signed nearly two months after Pearl Harbor, Executive Order 9066 is a painful blight on America’s democracy, the epitome of a dark period of xenophobia and racism. Deemed a threat to national security, nearly 110,000 Japanese-Americans — including infants and children— were evacuated from their homes, confined by barbed wire and guarded at gun point in one of ten internment camps, across seven states.

Later that year, Noguchi, at the time an established artist who had already built the iconic News sculpture on the façade of 50 Rockefeller Center, then “the Associated Press building,” met with John Collier, the head of the National Office of Indian Affairs, and ended up admitting himself to the Poston War Relocation Center in southwestern Arizona. (With over 18,000 inhabitants, Poston was situated on a Colorado Tribe Indian reservation under Collier’s jurisdiction.) Noguchi was hoping to contribute meaningfully to the plight of Japanese-Americans through the social power of art and design— in his own words, to “willfully become part of humanity uprooted.” He proposed teaching traditional Japanese craft, and suggested designs for several parks, gardens and cemeteries in the camps. After all, nobody knew how long the war or the camps would last.

At first, writes biographer Hayden Herrara in Listening To Stone: The Art and Life of Isamu Noguchi, the artist was “enthralled with Poston’s vast barren landscape” and “became a leader of forays into the desert to find ironwood roots for sculpting.”

But as the weeks went on, the broader social purpose of his internment did not go as planned. Art materials for his ceramics, clay and wood working classes never arrived; he wasn’t able to execute any of the public spaces he designed.  And when Noguchi applied to leave (since he had volunteered to enter), camp officials initially denied his request due to “suspicious activities.” 

This week, to coincide with the anniversary of EO 9066, the museum devoted to Noguchi’s career is opening Self-Interned, exploring the artist’s complex decision to enter Poston, where he lived from May to November of 1942.

“We don’t want to give the impression that Noguchi’s story is representative of the Japanese-American experience during internment,” says Dakin Hart, a senior curator at the Noguchi Museum.  After all, he chose his internment. According to Herrera’s biography, the other prisoners didn’t feel they had much in common with him, a famous Manhattan artist. “But his experience is prismatic,” Hart adds. “And of course, things changed for Noguchi once he was there and he couldn’t easily leave.”

“Noguchi was an intense patriot,” Hart says. “But a patriot of humanity first, of the planet and the global community.” In many ways, his personal story is one of profoundly typical “Americanness” that crisscrosses cultures and the country’s physical landscape. Born in Los Angeles to a Brooklynite mother and a father who was an itinerant, Japanese poet, Noguchi attended middle and high school in La Porte, Indiana, and is, in Hart’s description, “a true Hoosier,” in the old-fashioned sense of being “self-reliant and inclined toward efficiencies.” At that time, he went by the “Americanized” name “Sam” Gilmour (after his mother’s family). Biographies describe Noguchi’s middle-class teen years as fairly typical, complete with the requisite all-American, paper route. In these ways, World War II, Hart explains, was emotionally shattering because it pitted the two halves of his identity against each other as they committed the most “inhumane conceivable things to one another”

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Doorway, Isamu Noguchi, 1964, stainless steel (original image)

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Mother and Child, Isamu Noguchi, 1944–47, Onyx (original image)

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Double Red Mountain, Isamu Noguchi, 1969, Persian red travertine on Japanese pine (original image)

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Poston Park and Recreation Areas at Poston, Isamu Noguchi, Arizona, 1942, blueprint (original image)

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Untitled, Isamu Noguchi, 1943, wood, string (original image)

Image by ©The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York/ARS. Photograph by Kevin Noble. Lily Zietz, Isamu Noguchi, 1941, plaster (original image)

In addition to sculptural work, Self-Interned presents documents from mailing lists and activist groups that Noguchi collected, explains Hart. “From these written materials, what you realize is the fundamental presumption [by government authorities] that someone of Japanese heritage was not part of the American community,” he says.  It was this built-in assumption of guilt or “pernicious otherness” that struck Noguchi from 3,000 miles away in New York. (The Smithsonian American Art Museum is currently exhibiting a retrospective of Noguchi's career.)

Noguchi is certainly the most famous Japanese-American to create art under these bleak conditions. But there is a wider body of work salvaged from internment camps— a testament to the power of art’s transcendence and dignity in times of extreme hardships. For example, a 2011 Smithsonian America Art Museum exhibition at the Renwick gallery, guest-curated by Delphine Hirasuna and based on her book, The Art of Gaman, displayed more than 120 objects—teapots, furniture, toys, pendants and musical instruments— made by Japanese-Americans, from 1942 to 1946, out of scraps and materials they found in captivity. And in 2015, The Art of Gaman traveled to Houston’s Holocaust Museum. Remarkably, Jews under some of history’s most inhumane conditions were still secretly painting and drawing in the ghettos and in concentration camps. Last winter, the German Historical Museum exhibited 100 pieces of art created by Jews amidst the Holocaust from the collection of Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Jerusalem. Many of the mages evoke an alternative world, evidence of unimaginable strength and spirit in the face death and torture.

While at Poston, Noguchi was also helping to organize a retrospective of his work with the San Francisco Museum of Art (the predecessor of today’s SFMOMA). The exhibit opened in July 1942, with the artist still confined to an internment camp and San Francisco, as Hart explains, in the grips of “widespread racist paranoia that sanctioned such abominations as the sale of ‘Jap hunting’ licenses.” After Pearl Harbor, some of the museum debated whether to continue with the exhibit. Perhaps most moving, in a letter to the museum’s board of trustees, museum director Grace McCann Morley wrote, “The cultural and racial mixture which is personified by Noguchi is the natural antithesis of all the tenants of the axis of power.”

“The new arrivals keep coming in,” wrote Noguchi in an unpublished Poston essay. “Out of the teeming buses stumble men, women, children, the strong, the sick, the rich, the poor…They are fingerprinted, declare their loyalty, enlist in the war Relocation Work Corps…and are introduced to their new home, 20 x 25 feet of tar paper shack, in which they must live for the duration five to a room.”

In the 21st century, art is too often thought ancillary or supplementary—a by-product of society’s comfort and safety. And thus, art objects lose their rightful consequence. Paintings become pretty pictures; sculptures are merely decorative or ornamental. But Self-Interned reminds viewers that art is about survival. Artists always create, even when the rules of civil society are suspended and things fall apart around them (perhaps then, only more so). They do it to bear witness, as Holocaust archivists describe, and to give their communities hope and nobility with creativity and aesthetic beauty, no matter how much their government or neighbors have betrayed them. Decades later, sculptures like Noguchi’s from this period especially, show us humanity’s common threads, which history shows inevitably slip from our collective memory.

Ultimately, this is the power of Self-Interned. It is successful as both an ambitious art exhibition and a cautionary tale amidst modern-day discussions of a registry of Muslim immigrants. There may always be hatred and fear of ‘the other,’ but there will also be artists who manage to create things of beauty— to elevate us from our surroundings and remind us of our sameness— when we need it most.     

John Peabody Harrington papers: Yokuts, 1914-circa 1957

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 2, reels 89-101. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington worked on the Yokuts language a number of times during his forty years of fieldwork in California. This study certainly matches the breadth of the data for Karok and Salinan and is surpassed in volume only by his output for Costanoan and Chumash.

Harrington's first contact with the so-called "Tulareno" people occurred in late September to early October 1914 on a two-week trip to the San Joaquin Valley. At that time he made short visits to the Santa Rosa rancheria near Lemoore, to the Tule Indian Reservation near Porterville, and to Bakersfield as part of a dialect survey. A limited amount of additional data was obtained in 1914 and 1915 during the course of his work on Salinan and Chumash. Migueleno speaker Pacifico Archuleta, whose wife, Suncion, was Yokuts, gave a limited Tachi vocabulary, and Rosario Cooper, an Obispeno speaker, also provided several words.

In November 1916 Harrington traveled to the Tejon region, ostensibly to work with Jose Juan Olivas, an inland Chumash speaker. It appears, in addition, that for a virtually uninterrupted period from that time until September 1917, Harrington (assisted by his wife, Carobeth) made an in-depth study of a number of Southern Valley and Foothills Yokuts dialects, obtaining extensive vocabularies and texts, as well as a considerable amount of ethnographic and historical data. This work took them to the valley near the Santa Rosa rancheria and to the Tule River Reservation. Harrington also made trips with informants to obtain placename data and to collect, identify, and describe botanical specimens. The observance of ceremonial rituals during that winter afforded him the opportunity of recording on wax cylinders and in writing a significant number of songs.

The flare-up of the Tejon Ranch case, which threatened to disinherit many Indians of their tribal lands, brought Harrington back to the area in February 1922. As a special temporary appointee to the Department of the Interior, he was responsible for obtaining depositions from the elderly residents of the Tejon. He simultaneously elicited additional biographical, historical, and linguistic data for his own work. The case was argued before the Supreme Court on February 28, 1924. In June of that year the court held that the Indians had abandoned the land. The decision was based on the Indians' failure to present their claim to the commission appointed under the act of March 1851 to ascertain and adjust private land claims in territory ceded by Mexico to the United States.

In the fall of 1923, he took a number of Yokuts to the Ventura County Fair to perform dances, to demonstrate house and boat building techniques, and to exhibit their crafts. He also made trips to Yokuts territory in the early 1930s and again in January 1942. These were possibly side trips made during the course of other work to follow upon the Tejon Ranch case.

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 2, A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Northern and Central California, edited by Elaine L. Mills (1985). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%202.pdf

This subseries of the Northern and Central California series contains Harrington's research on the Yokuts.

Notes from his fieldwork in 1914 include references to residents who he thought might be able to assist him in his research, detailed descriptions of house construction and the fabrication of sleeping mats, and small sketches of pictographs which Harrington had seen in the region. Amidst the miscellaneous notes are lists of baskets which he purchased, notes on photographs he took and bibliographic references from C. Hart Merriam. Harrington also copied extracts of his field notes onto slipfiles, which he filed under a variety of subject headings. The Tachi file contains ethnographic notes from Roberto Bautista and Agnes Light as well as a few Tachi lexical items. The file labeled "Tule" consists of mixed linguistic and ethnographic data from Jim Alto and Mr. Edmundson at the Tule River Reservation and notes on the Tachi dialect recorded from Pacifico Archuleta.

The section of linguistic, ethnographic, historical, and biographical notes consists of raw field data collected by Harrington and Carobeth from twenty residents of Yokuts territory during the period 1916-1917. Topics include vocabulary, placenames, tribenames, myths, ceremonial regalia and dances, songs, and religion. The notes from Josefa Damian, marked "Jos. Mar.," feature extensive data on relationship terms, age and sex terms, and moieties in Chunut, Tachi, Tejonefio, and Wowol. The most extensive notes were recorded from Francisca Lola. The notes contain voluminous amounts of linguistic data (vocabulary and paradigms) in Koyeti, Yawdanchi, Choynok, and Tachi as well as equivalent forms in "R. C." (Rio Chiquito). The material is also rich in ethnographic detail, providing information on uses of plants (Tejon ranch specimens), ceremonies, fiestas, dances, and material culture accompanied by diagrams and sketches. In addition, there are biographical notes on informants, myths, and texts of songs.

A year after collecting his field data on Yokuts, Harrington made copies of his notes and arranged them into several sizable slipfiles. One major file was created for the Chunut and Tachi languages, and another for the Yawelmani, Koyeti, Yawdanchi, and Wikchamni languages. There are also small slipfiles for Choynok and Palewyami. The slipfiles are organized semantically; headings included are cosmography, plants, animals, "artifacts" (material culture), sociology, religion, tribenames, and placenames. They include information regarding plant speciments collected by Harrington at the Tejon Ranch.

An additional step that Harrington took in the analysis of his Yokuts field data was the development of an outline grammar of the Yawelmani dialect. He extracted vocabulary and linguistic notes from the semantically arranged slipfiles, marking the slips which he copied with a check mark or the notation "gr." The data which he extracted are largely Yawelmani, although vocabulary and sentences from Koyeti, Yawdanchi, Chunut, and Tachi are included for comparative purposes. Harrington also submitted multiple manuscripts of his Yawelmani grammar to the Bureau of American Ethnology (former B.A.E. Mss. 2973, 3041, 3047, 3048, and 3054).

Harrington's files relating to the Tejon Ranch Case contain correspondence dating from 1921 to 1924, legal documents, a copy of a census taken at the ranch, and documentary evidence from a variety of secondary sources including military records, newspaper accounts, and Senate documents. The major portion of the records consists of notes from interviews with about twenty Tejon residents. The content is primarily biographical, with placename references. In many cases the notes were taken down in the form of depositions. Harrington simultaneously recorded lengthy Yokuts myth texts as well as stories in English and Spanish. Information from a number of the informants was formerly cataloged as B. A. E. ms. 3046. There is also a carbon copy of a "Report on Tejon Indians, Kern County, California" submitted by Herbert V. Clotts, Acting Superintendent of Irrigation, to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs on January 15, 1918.

Records relating to sound recordings pertain to songs performed by five Yokuts speakers and two Kitanemuks. The songs were recorded on wax by Harrington in Yokuts territory during the periods 1916-1917. The cylinders were sent to ethnomusicologist Helen H. Roberts in 1921 to review. The bulk of this section contains her lengthy notes on the texts of songs, accompanied by musical transcriptions.

The final section of this subseries consists of miscellaneous notes. There are notes from interviews and correspondence with information on boat construction, a sketch map received in a 1925 letter, notes relative to a conversation with J.N.B. Hewitt in 1926, notes from an interview with Angel Sanchez and Bill Skinner, and information from Roberts on song text. There are also copies of Harrington's own field notes and notes on secondary sources.

Exploring New York City’s Abandoned Island, Where Nature Has Taken Over

Smithsonian Magazine

In the heart of New York City lies an abandoned island. Although it is clearly visible to commuters on the Bronx’s I-278 or passengers flying into La Guardia airport, few people are even aware of its existence. If anything, they have only heard that the infamous Typhoid Mary spent her final years confined to a mysterious island, situated somewhere within view of the city skyline. But even that sometimes seems the stuff of rumor.

Until 1885, the 20-acre spot of land—called North Brother Island—was uninhabited, just as it is today. That year saw the construction of the Riverside Hospital, a facility designed to quarantine smallpox patients. Workers and patients traveled there by ferry from 138th Street in the Bronx (for many of the latter, it was a one-way trip), and the facility eventually expanded to serve as a quarantine center for people suffering from a variety of communicable diseases. By the 1930s, however, other hospitals had sprouted up in New York, and public health advances lessened the need to quarantine large numbers of individuals. In the 1940s, North Brother Island was transformed into a housing center for war veterans and their families. But by 1951, most of them—fed up with the need to take a ferry to and from home—had chosen to live elsewhere. For the last decade of its brief period of human habitation, the island became a drug rehabilitation center for heroin addicts.

Mere decades ago, North Brother Island was a well-manicured urban development like any other. Judging from aerial photos taken in the 1950s, the wildest things there were a few shade trees. In those years, North Brother Island was covered by ordinary roads, lawns and buildings, including the towering Tuberculosis Pavilion built in the Art Moderne style.

Eventually, however, the city decided it was impractical to continue operations there. The official word was that it was just too expensive, and plenty of cheaper real estate was available on the mainland. When the last inhabitants (drug patients, doctors and staff) pulled out in 1963, civilization’s tidy grasp on that speck of land began coming undone.

Nature quickly got to work. Sprouting trees broke through sidewalks; thick sheets of vines tugged at building facades and spilled forth from windows like leaking entrails; and piles of detritus turned parking lots into forest floors. The East River insistently lapped at the island’s fringes, eventually wearing down barriers and swallowing a road that once circled its outer edge, leaving only a manhole cover and a bit of brick where veterans and nurses once strolled.

The island has remained free from human influence in part because the city forbids any visitors from going there, citing safety concerns. Now, however, New Yorkers and out-of-towners alike have the opportunity to explore North Brother Island. Not by boat and foot, that is, but through a meticulous photographic study of the place, published this month by photographer Christopher Payne

Like many New Yorkers, for most of his life Payne was unaware of North Brother Island. He first heard of it in 2004, while he was working on a project about shuttered mental hospitals. North Brother Island seemed like a natural progression in his artistic exploration of abandonment and decay. In 2008, Payne finally secured permission from the Parks and Recreation Department to visit and photograph the island. From that first trip, he was hooked. “It was an incredible feeling,” he says. “You’re seeing the city, you’re hearing it, and yet you’re completely alone in this space.”

For the next five years, Payne paid the island some 30 visits, ferried out by a friend with a boat, and often joined by city workers. He photographed it in every season, every slant of light and every angle he could find. “I think it’s great that there’s a place out there that’s not developed by the city—one spot that’s not overtaken by humanity and is just sort of left to be as it is,” he says, adding that the city recently declared North Brother Island a protected nature area.

Few relics of the former residents exist, but Payne did manage to uncover some ghosts, including a 1930 English grammar book; graffiti from various hospital residents; a 1961 Bronx phone book; and an X-ray from the Tuberculosis Pavilion. Mostly, though, traces of the individuals who once lived in the dorms, doctors’ mansions and medical quarters have been absorbed into the landscape—including those of the island’s most famous resident, Mary Mallon. “There really isn’t much left of the Typhoid Mary phase,” Payne says.

In some cases, the carpet of vegetation has grown so thick that the buildings hiding underneath are completed obscured from view, especially in summer. “There was one time when I actually got stuck and just couldn’t go any further without a machete or something,” Payne says. “In September, it’s like a jungle.”

Eventually, Payne came to see the island as a Petri dish of what would happen to New York (or to any place) if humans were no longer around—a poignant thought in light of growing evidence that many of the world’s coastal cities are likely doomed to abandonment within the next century or so.

“Most people view ruins as if they were looking into the past, but these buildings show what New York could be years from now,” Payne says. “I see these photographs like windows into the future.” 

“If we all left,” he says, “the entire city would look like North Brother Island in 50 years.”

North Brother Island: The Last Unknown Place in New York City is available new on Amazon for $28.93. For those based in New York City, author Christopher Payne will be hosting a lecture and book signing on Friday, May 16, at 6:30 pm at the General Society of Mechanical Tradesmen of New York. Rumor has it, Payne notes, that a former North Brother Island resident or two might turn out for the event. 

John Peabody Harrington papers: Yana/Achomawi/Wintu/Chimariko, 1928-1932

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 2, reels 27-35. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington's involvement in the area of north-central California began in September 1921 when he undertook five months of fieldwork on Chimariko with Sally Noble, who was then residing in Denny on New River. The emphasis of his work at that time was recording the phonetics and grammatical structure of the language. Shortly afterwards he worked with a number of Achomawi, Atsugewi, Wintu, and Yana speakers, recording brief vocabularies, extensive placename notes, and some myths.

Through correspondence with Edward Sapir in the fall of 1927, Harrington learned of Billy George (alias Hayfork Bill), a Wintu and Chimariko speaker. Harrington had occasion to conduct a lengthy interview with him at Hayfork during the summer of 1928. Harrington also had the opportunity to work briefly with Ann McKay, an elderly Wintu speaker, and with Abe Bush, who had previously provided linguistic information to C. Hart Merriam and Edward Sapir. Some of Harrington's time in 1928 was also spent at Stone Lagoon reviewing with Lucy Montgomery the notes he had compiled with Sally Noble.

In mid-May 1931 Harrington returned to Hayfork and Hyampom to resume his field studies with George and Bush. For a virtually uninterrupted period from then until January 1932, he worked with these consultants and with numerous other speakers of Wintu, as well as with members of the neighboring Yana and Achomawi tribes. As this was a linguistically complex region, many of those he worked with were bi-or multilingual. Harrington evidently arranged his elicitation sessions to include speakers of different languages.

Harrington had multiple aims in conducting fieldwork in the region. Initially he wished to add to the already existing files of linguistic data which he had accumulated some ten years before. (See subseries "Chimariko/Hupa" and "Achomawi/Atsugewi/Wintu/Yana.") He was also interested in pursuing his botanical studies of the area, which had begun in 1928 and 1930 when his field assistant George W. Bayley had made collections of spring plants with Montgomery. The primary focus of his work, however, was the ethnogeography of the region. He was keenly interested in collecting a network of placenames throughout Shasta and Trinity counties and in determining the location of borders between the tribal territories.

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 2, A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Northern and Central California," edited by Elaine L. Mills (1985). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%202.pdf

The bulk of this subseries of the Northern and Central California series consists of Harrington's research on Yana, Achomawi, Wintu, and Chimariko in 1931-1932 in Hayfork and Hyampom Valley. Materials include comparative vocabularies; notes from rehearings of secondary sources by Edward Sapir, T.T. Waterman, and Alfred Kroeber; placename data; brief texts; and ethnographic, historical, and biographical notes.

There are two sections of vocabulary in the subseries. The Yana, Achomawi, and Wintu section begins with two short Yana word lists from Grapevine Tom. Much of the earlier data from Tom was incorrect-probably because he was being evasive or uncooperative. Thus, in succeeding sessions, Harrington worked with him in the presence of a second or third Yana speaker. In this later work, the abbreviation "Grt." was adopted for Tom. His earlier data was labeled "Grpt." The major portion of the section is arranged semantically. The sections on plants and animals are particularly extensive. Names of plants were elicited for the most part from specimens collected on numerous trips. There are occasional references to cultural practices and myths throughout the notes. The Wintu-Chimariko vocabulary section is arranged for the most part by terms in the Hayfork dialect of Wintu. Equivalents are provided in the McCloud dialect and, in some cases, in Chimariko. The section on plant names includes data obtained by Harrington as early as 1928. There are numerous references to botanical specimens collected for him by his field assistant George W. Bayley.

The rehearings are mostly of Yana papers by Edward Sapir and T.T. Waterman as well as Roland Dixon's "The Chimariko Indians and Language." As part of a continuing effort to determine the relationship of Esselen to other California languages, Harrington also reheard Esselen vocabulary in Alfred Kroeber's "The Languages of the Coast of California South of San Francisco.

His records relating to Yana, Achomawi, Wintu, and Chimariko placenames are extensive. There are two types of notes: those recorded during "armchair interviews" with informants and those made during trips with them. Usually individual names were recorded one to a page and were accompanied by data regarding the translation of the Indian name, the location, and the cultural or historical significance of the site. To elaborate upon the data gathered in these initial interviews, Harrington frequently made automobile and walking trips with his consultants, asking them to name the places they encountered. These notes were recorded in journals or logs, which contain, in addition to the above-described data, mileage from starting points, hand-drawn maps, and descriptions of neighboring topographical features.

The subseries also contains textual data Harrington collected. Several texts were recorded in Wintu, including one with a translation from Jim Feder. English summaries of the Flood Myth and the story of Coyote's Daughter were obtained from Billy George and Grapevine Tom. Joe Charles contributed a Redding myth. Miscellaneous notes on storytelling and on song texts were recorded from Billy Wright, Tom, and Rosa and Joe Charles.

There are also notes on the history and culture of the northern California tribes. Information was recorded throughout the summer and fall of 1931 from virtually all of his major linguistic consultants. Subjects covered in the notes include battles, baskets, games, clothing, customs, and herbal cures. Also filed here is a copy of a speech given to young men.

Additional materials include biographical notes as well as notes on vocabulary, placenames, and tribenames from Sarah Kloochoo, Billy Stone, and Mr. Radcliffe.

Apollo 17 at Night

National Air and Space Museum
Apollo 17 at Night '73. A well-lit red gantry and blue launch tower flank a white rocket in the center of the scene. Beams of white light shine up on the structures from a diagonal, contrasting with the dark night sky. A body of water in the middleground shines silvery-grey as it reflects the light and structures. In the foreground, a figure and a camera on a tripod are silhouetted against the brightest part of the water. To the left is a bright yellow sign that reads: "CAUTION: DO NOT ENTER ROUGHT AREA INFESTED WITH POISONOUS SNAKES." Writing in the lower left reads: "Eve of launch Apollo 17 on pad."

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

Print, Etching on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Print (etching) on paper. Multicolored etched print on paper. Spazio E Pensiero Pa. Red and green linear and geometric design on light yellow background with red face in lower corner. Image similar to A19781315000 and A19781316000.

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

Kosmische Fahrt

National Air and Space Museum
Woodblock print with black ink on white translucent paper with long fibers. Kosmische Fahrt, 1966.

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

Print, Etching on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Print (etching) on paper. Spazio E Pensurro Pa. Red and green linear and geometric design on light yellow background with green face in lower corner. Image similar to A19781314000 and A19781315000.

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
Pen and ink drawing on paper. Jack Schmitt suits up, December 1, 1972.

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

Print, Etching on Paper

National Air and Space Museum
Print (etching) on paper. Spazio E Pensurro Pa. Yellow-green linear and geometric design on dark blue background with yellow-green face in lower corner. Image similar to A19781314000 and A19781316000.

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

Le Meraviglie dell'Universo (The Marvels of the Universe)

National Air and Space Museum
The Marvels of the Universe (le meraviglie dell'universo). A non-representational piece depicting impressions of the universe through fluid areas of color. Many colors are used, but especially red, yellow, pink and blue. Small drips of yellow and white are scattered across the surface. A label on the back of the piece includes this explanation by the artist: "I tried to consider Space with two precise purposes: I tried to illustrate through it the awe inspiring immensity of the universe and of God. I tried too to express my admiration for all the scientists and for all the heroes who contributed to the greatest conquest which is so important now but which will be even more important in the future."

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
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