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Gemini-Rendezvous

National Air and Space Museum
Woodblock print with black ink on white translucent paper with long fibers. Gemini-rendevous, 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

Die Astronauten X Undy

National Air and Space Museum
Woodblock print with black ink on white translucent paper with long fibers. Die Astronauten X Undy, 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

Mensch Im All, Holzschnitte Von Wilhelm Geissler

National Air and Space Museum
Artists title page, associated with A19781318000 - A19781323000.

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
Manned Spacecraft Operations Building, 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

Geissler. Mensch Imall

National Air and Space Museum
Woodblock print with black ink on white translucent paper with long fibers. Geissler Mensch Im all, 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

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.

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. 

When It Comes To the Baby Boomers, It Is Still All About "Me"

Smithsonian Magazine

Before there were “selfies,” there was Me.

Although selfies flood the current visual landscape, this social media phenomenon did not invent obsession with the self. In fact, a spotlight on the personality of the self is a defining element of American culture. Every generation is guilty of putting the “Me” in its ME-dia, and with each generation of media technology, the “Me” gets bigger.

In the late 19th century, advertisers discovered that placing images of well-known personalities on products boosted sales; magazines flew off newsstands when popular Broadway stars peered from their covers. Personality quickly became the focal point of America’s rising consumer culture. In the 1930s and '40s, Hollywood’s studio system became a landmark in the glorification of “Me.”

In neighborhood movie theaters across the nation, silver screens projected celluloid icons that were larger-than-life. The glamour studio, MGM, proclaimed its acting stable included “more stars than there are in the heavens.” Ego was essential to the star personality, and the studios went to extraordinary lengths to nurture a grand scale of star narcissism. Between 1989 and 1994, I conducted a number of interviews with one of the biggest stars of that era, Katharine Hepburn. I remember how she wagged her finger at me and said: “I was a movie star from my first days in Hollywood!”  She called her 1991 memoir Me.  

With the break-up of the studio system after World War II, the “self” had to find a new starship. The population explosion that began in 1946 and, according to the United States Census, extended until 1964, produced a generation of “Baby Boomers” who merrily embraced their selfhood. Hollywood cinema had helped to shape the idea of “Me,” for adolescents of the great depression, who would grow up to became World War II’s “Greatest Generation.” But it was television that branded the coming-of-age for the Boomers. TV was an immediate communicator, broadcasting events instantly to living rooms across the nation. Boomers learned the transformative power of change from their sofas, and the immediacy of television instilled a lasting sense of personal connection to the techtonic cultural changes that were “Blowin’ in the Wind.”

Writing in 1976, journalist Tom Wolfe described Boomers as creating a “Me Generation” that was rooted in postwar prosperity. Good times created “the luxury of the self,” and Boomers happily involved themselves with “remaking, remodeling, elevating, and polishing one’s very self … and observing, studying, and doting on it (Me!)”  Their mantra was, “Let’s talk about Me!”

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time Magazine © Louis Glanzman. Neil Armstrong by Louis S. Glanzman, 1969 (original image)

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time Magazine. Joan Baez by Russell Hoban, 1962 (original image)

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time magazine. The Beatles by Gerald Scarfe, 1967 (original image)

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of an anonymous donor. Hippies by Group Image, 1967 (original image)

Image by National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution; gift of Time Magazine © Denise Bouche Fitch. John F. Kennedy by René Robert Bouché, 1961 (original image)

TIME Magazine has chronicled the attention-adoring Boomer Generation from the start, beginning with a February 1948 article that described the postwar population burst as a “Baby Boom.” Twenty years after the boom began, TIME’s “Man of the Year” featured the generation “25 and Under.” When the Boomers hit 40, TIME wrote about “Growing Pains at 40.”

Recently, the National Portrait Gallery opened an exhibition entitled “TIME Covers the Sixties,” showcasing how the publication spotlighted the Boomers in their defining decade. The issues that defined the Boomers gaze out from such TIME covers as the escalation of the war in Vietnam; Gerald Scarfe’s evocative sculpture of the Beatles in their Sgt. Pepper heyday; Bonnie and Clyde representing “The New Cinema;" Roy Lichtenstein’s deadly-aimed-depiction of “The Gun in America;" and finally, Neil Armstrong standing on the moon.

A broader generational swath is celebrated in Timothy Greenfield-Sanders' new exhibition, “The Boomer List,” now on view at the Newseum. The exhibition was organized when the American Association of Retired Persons, AARP, commissioned Greenfield-Sanders to document the Baby Boomers, the youngest of whom are turning 50 in 2014. Greenfield-Sanders has curated such well-received exhibitions as the 2012 show, “The Black List” at the Portrait Gallery, and he agreed that it would be fascinating to focus on the Boomer “legacy.” 

Subsequently, he selected 19 American figures (one born each year of the baby boom) to represent the issues that shaped that legacy, including environmental activist Erin Brokovitch, author Amy Tan, Vietnam Veteran Tim O’Brien, athlete Ronnie Lott, AIDS activist Peter Staley, Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak and IBM's CEO Virginia Rometty. Greenfield-Sanders told me in a phone interview that his Boomer selections were not always the most obvious characters, but that he “wanted to balance fame with sophistication” and to represent a wide range of diversity. Neither the exhibition of large format pigment prints, nor the accompanying PBS American Masters documentary “The Boomer List” follows a strict chronology from 1946 to 1964. Rather, the vast subject is organized by focusing on individual Boomers who tell stories embracing their entire generation.

In a panel discussion at the Newseum moderated by PBS Newshour journalist Jeffrey Brown, Greenfield-Sanders said it had been “a nightmare” to select his 19 Boomers. And yes, it is a lot to ask such a few to represent so many:  there is Billy Joel, for example, but where is Bruce Springsteen? Baryshnikov? Bill Murray? Arianna Huffington? Tina Brown? The Boomers’ social subset is so vast that a list of one-Boomer-per-year seemed preferable to organizational chaos.

The 90-minute American Masters documentary on the Boomers featured interviews with each of the chosen. All have been activists in their various fields, and all have had an impact. Some were surprised to consider their “legacy,” as if that were some far-off notion. This is a generation, after all, that thinks of itself as “forever young,” even as some near 70. Most of all, what came across onscreen as well as in Greenfield-Sanders’ portraits was an unapologetic affirmation of the essential Boomer mantra—yes, it is still all about ME.

According to the U.S. Census, the Boomer generation numbers 76.4 million people or 29 percent of the U.S. population. It is still the vast majority of the work force and, as Millennials are discovering, not in a rush to gallop off into the sunset.

"TIME Covers the Sixties" will be on view at the National Portrait Gallery through August 9, 2015. “The Boomer List” will be at the Newseum through July 5, 2015.

How the Heroes of Africa Triumphed Against All Odds

Smithsonian Magazine

He stands more than seven feet tall, with piercing eyes that seem almost alive, staring through the souls of entranced visitors into the future. The statue, Toussant Louverture et la vielle esclave (Toussant Louverture and the Elderly Slave), commands the room, sending out a powerful vibe that is tangible and tactile.

“This is one of the masterpieces of our contemporary collection,” explains curator Kevin Dumouchelle. “I sort of frame it as our own Statue of Liberty here in the middle of the exhibition.”

Dumouchelle built the exhibition, “Heroes: Principles of African Greatness,” now on view at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, around this powerful piece. The show features nearly 50 works by classical and contemporary artists from 15 African countries that weave a tale of heroic principles and people in Africa’s history. Visitors are meant to consider core values ranging from justice and pride to honor and piety. Each work is paired with an African historical hero—or heroine—whose lives embody battles for freedom and leadership. Every piece is given a label, such as honor, independent, or woke, to illustrate the values these leaders showed in their lives and accomplishments. The statue of Toussaint Louverture, by the late Senegalese sculptor Ousmane Sow, is Liberty.

Image by NMAfA, Emil Eisenberg, and Mr. and Mrs. Norman Robbins and Stuart Bohart and Barbara Portman. Toussaint Louverture et la vielle esclave by Ousmane Sow, 1989 (original image)

Image by NMAfA. Toussaint Louverture Chef des Noirs Insurgés de Saint Dominigue unidentified lithographer, c. 1800 (original image)

“Sow developed this very idiosyncratic, personal sort of sculptural style, building heroic, monumental, larger than life figures . . . out of a sort of iron sculpture covered in fiberglass and cotton that is fundamentally built by wrapping pieces of textile in earth and adhesives and pigments and a variety of other stuff,” Dumouchelle says. “Louverture was the leader who helped crystalize what became the Haitian Revolution, throwing off the French rule of the island then known as Saint-Domingue.”

For museum director Gus Casely-Hayford, one of the most compelling pieces in the show is a work by the legendary coffin sculptor Paa Joe of Ghana called Fort William-Anomabu.

“It is affecting in a variety of ways because it is a coffin, but it is also a depiction of one of the slave castles as well,” explains Casely-Hayford, who is focused on the message the heroes and artists deliver to visitors to the exhibition.

The fort, in Ghana, was among several European structures built on what was then known as the Gold Coast. But it was also one of the only ones to have a prison purposely built inside to hold enslaved people awaiting transport to the Americas. It was the center of the British slave market until 1807. Paa Joe’s piece, labeled as Witness in this exhibition, greets visitors as they enter, and Casely-Hayford calls it one of his most poignant works.

Image by NMAfA, gift of Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, in memory of Claude Simard. Fort William-Anomabu by Paa Joe, 2004-2005 (original image)

Image by National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Ignatius Sancho by Thomas Gainsborough, 1768 (original image)

“This is a coffin, but you think of its connections to lost histories as well as lost lives, but then, if you can, imagine this being about one particular person as well and one family as well as their loss,” the museum director says. “I just think the ways in which those sorts of layers of interpretation of loss stories is something that we can all relate to. This institution was created to try to address some of that—that we come from a place of sharing that loss as peoples of African descent. But there are places like this in which we are actually trying to find ways of navigating our way back.”

Curator Dumouchelle explains that the museum is tying the idea of the coffin as a witness and memorial to the lost history of the enslaved Africans imprisoned in the fort. The hero connected with it, is writer, composer and abolitionist Ignatius Sancho. He wrote a number of powerful letters that became one of the earliest records in the English language of the horrors of the slave trade.

“Sancho was born on a slave ship off the cost of the Caribbean and through a number of remarkable events, found his way to Britain as a young man,” Dumouchelle says. “He found his way to freedom, and eventually opened his own shop in Westminster and became famously the first person of color to vote for Parliament in the early 18th century.”

Image by NMAfA. Africa Dances by Benedict Enwonwu MBE, 1980 (original image)

Image by © binder/ullstein bild/Getty Images. Miriam Makeba, unidentified photographer, 1969 (original image)

An incredibly graceful statue, called Africa Dances depicts a woman caught in the midst of a powerful performance. Labeled Dignity, the piece by Nigerian artist Benedict Enwonwu is part of a series begun in 1949. The light flows like water off the cold-cast resin, predecessor to a 1982 bronze casting. It is believed to have been painted by the artist to see just how that would look.

“Enwonwu was a major pioneer in the development of modernism in 20th century Nigeria. . . . He looked to this idea of a beautiful young woman standing and rising on her own two feet and celebrating herself, celebrating her own dignity in life as an emblem in a way of the mid-century moment in Africa,” Dumouchelle says.

In this case, the museum connected the idea of dignity to South African singer Miriam Makeba, who became a global superstar and inspired activists around the world.

“In the mid-20th century, she became an icon, known as Mama Afrika, of Africa rising, of African independence movements,” Dumouchelle explains. “She actually sang at the independence celebrations of a number of difference sub-Saharan African countries in the 1960s and 70s, and moved throughout these countries in the 60s, 70s and 80s when she was banned from her native South Africa by the apartheid government of that time.”

Image by NMAfA, gift of Cary Frieze. The Quarry by Nelson Mandela, undated (original image)

Image by Courtesy Library of the London School of Economics. Nelson Mandela, unidentified photographer, 2000 (original image)

There are a number of striking works on display in this exhibition, including a painting by Nelson Mandela, labeled Revolutionary and created by the former South African President on a return to Robben Island where he was once imprisoned. Under the label Pride, is a mixed media painting called AMA #WCW. The gender nonconforming South African artist Dada Khanyisa created a portrait of six young woman enjoying cocktails, complete with hair extensions and jewelry on the surface, with smartphones embedded in the work.

But one of the most interesting things about Heroes is its attempt to focus on both the past and look towards the future, partly through a Smithsonian-developed, web-based Hi app. First developed for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the app doesn’t require downloading, and offers visitors an added layer of digital content including images and key facts connecting the artwork to their corresponding “heroes in history.” Museum director Casely-Hayford recorded some 40 videos for the app. There’s a music playlist as well on Spotify.

“I am so thrilled that we have these technologies. It will mean that we can create a whole new layer of interpretation on these really powerful objects,” says Casely-Hayford, who adds that not only can people come into the museum and read the traditional written interpretation, now they can go deeper in a way he thinks will thrill and engage younger people. “You can of course read the labels, but then you can choose to engage through these digital interfaces in new layers of reconsidering these works and giving them a wider, broader, deeper and I think more emotionally complex set of channels.”

Casely-Hayford says this exhibition gives people a chance to get close to histories that have been obscured for all sorts of terrible reasons. He thinks the National Museum of African Art is here for both the celebration of great art, but also for the celebration of those African stories that have been neglected for far too long.

“These stories are against all odds,” Casely-Hayford says. “They’re about people who manage to somehow triumph against what seems like an impossible situation. They’ve done incredible things, and they are things that have changed the way in which we see Africa.”

Heroes: Principles of African Greatness” remains on view indefinitely at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art.

Inside the Alluring Power of Public Opinion Polls From Elections Past

Smithsonian Magazine

Under a pair of bushy eyebrows and a receding salt-and-pepper hairline, George H. Gallup, the father of public opinion, peers out with a neutral expression on the 1948 cover of TIME magazine. Today, the illustration is also seen online in a new context—as the fitting avatar for the Twitter account @HistOpinion. Run by Peter A. Shulman, an associate history professor at Case Western Reserve University, @HistOpinion does exactly what its handle’s name suggests: it tweets out public opinion polls from the past.

Shulman has tweeted nearly 1,500 times from the account. The surveys he curates range from silly to serious. One from a 1997 National Pasta Association survey asked, “Which of the following kinds of pasta best describes your personality?” The responses could be: spaghetti, elbow macaroni, rotini or corkscrew shape, none of the above, don't know or refuse.

“I should probably refuse,” Shulman says when asked which he’d pick. “But I don't know who refuses pasta. I'll go with none of the above. I really love fettuccine.”

Another poll, from a 1969 Gallup survey, asked, “If your party nominated a woman for President, would you vote for her if she qualified for the job?” Fifty-four percent of responders replied in the affirmative. “I was surprised [it] was as high as it was,” Shulman says. He has posted a few versions of that question, which dates back to at least the 1940s. The responses were all higher than he expected.

Before scientific polling, there was straw polling, usually conducted by news reporters who went out and gathered a large but unrepresentative sample of the population. Straw polls, which many say gets it name from people throwing stalks of straws in the air to see which way they blew, had been around in United States politics since the first presidential poll was published in 1824. The result, which ran in the Harrisburg Pennsylvanian, picked Andrew Jackson over John Quincy Adams. The poll may have called it right that time (Jackson won the popular vote, and Adams won the electoral vote and the presidency), but that was just luck.  Like any straw poll, the Pennsylvanian’s methodology was flawed as it only counted respondents that were accessible, leaving out sections of the population, usually poor or working class, who were harder to track down.

By the turn of the 20th century, polling methodology had started evolving. In 1896, W. E. B. Du Bois famously created one of the first empirical social scientific studies when he surveyed 5,000 residents for his groundbreaking work, the Philadelphia Negro. By Gallup’s time, the 1930s, he and other social scientists were starting to argue the merits for surveying a smaller but more representative sample of a population as opposed to gathering a large, homogenous pull.

Gallup along with other early polling pioneers like Elmo Roper and Hadley Cantril were key not just starting up the field of research, but for drawing public attention toward it. (Pollster wasn’t coined until 1949, and it was initially used by in a derogatory way by a critic of the practice.)

Gallup and Roper came from marketing backgrounds and started doing public polls in a bid to increase publicity for their private businesses. Their public opinion polls were first done by people (mostly women) going out with a stack of forms to find a quota of people who seemed working class or middle class or upper class. This, of course, was a flawed methodology. So much, Shulman says, that MIT recently went back and re-weighed the earliest public opinion polls based on the national demographics of the day.

But for the time, their surveys were revolutionary—and popular. Both Gallup and Roper became syndicated columnists, and while they used their fame to help their personal businesses, they also used it for public benefit. Though Gallup was content to reflect where public opinion was in his columns and let the readers draw their own conclusions, Roper actively looked to shape public opinion through polls, commenting on surveys in his columns.

Straw polling was still king when they began conducting their surveys though. The most popular straw poll was published in The Literary Digest, which had been predicting the presidential race for years.

Gallup faced off against the magazine in the 1936 election. The Digest, which had mailed out 10 million ballots to take the temperature of the 1936 election, had predicted Kansas Republican Alf Landon would prevail with 57 percent of the vote. But Gallup, polling a much smaller, but more representative sample size, predicted President Franklin Delano Roosevelt would win his reelection bid. Though Gallup’s margin turned out to be several points off, he had correctly called the winner. That shifted the way presidential polling was done, and scientific polling has continuously evolved since.

In 1948, all major polls predicted that New York Governor Thomas Dewey would defeat President Harry Truman. The polling pioneers learned from their mistakes and began to extend polling deadlines until election day. (National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution)

Shulman’s first experience digging up an old poll came about when he was looking up a reference to a book by historian David Kennedy something about public opinion related to World War II. He ended up on the JSTOR database, which has a collection of the early polls via the Public Opinion Quarterly. Shulman started flipping through them, reading questions like: How long until you think the war is going to be over? What should be done with the leaders? Should we capture Hitler and Mussolini?

The responses weren’t what he expected. In the post-Pearl Harbor haze, the general public couldn’t have known that the war would end in the summer of 1945. People were predicting the war would end in six months or a year to two years or three years to more than 10 years. “That was really jarring to see the variation in thinking about what was their future,” says Shulman. It wasn’t just their uncertainty, but their points of view that surprised him, like the strong sentiment that existed calling for Germany to be greatly punished following the war, essentially repeating World War I’s mistake.

Shulman read The Averaged American, Sarah E. Igo’s quintessential book on the subject, which goes into the creation of the field of study. He also acquired a copy of the reference book Public Opinion, 1935-1946 by Cantril. But it, and his interest, mostly sat on his desk as he worked through his first book, Coal and Empire: The Birth of Energy Security in Industrial America.

When he finished his manuscript, though, he suddenly found himself needing something to fill the time again. He had been using Twitter a lot, mostly reading other’s posts. Though he had first logged on in 2011, he didn’t start using the medium in earnest until after the night of the 2012 election. Like many that evening, he kept reloading The New York Times’ homepage, impatient for updates. He had his Twitter feed queued up as well. He watched, hooked, as information on the feed came in faster than it was reported on at The Times.

He began to give some thought as to what he could do on the medium himself. He noticed accounts tweeting out historical images and photographs. He wondered if there was some kind of public history he could tweet. That was when he literally just looked at the Cantril book, and thought, maybe polls?

When he opened the Cantril book, as he puts it, “I was just drawn right back into the weirdness of public opinion in the ’30s and ’40s. I just started really opening a page and seeing what's interesting there that I could fit into 140 characters.”

He became part of the #twitterstorians web—the term which has been around since historian and blogger Katrina Gulliver began compiling a list of historians on Twitter in 2007. Kevin Kruse, a professor of history at Princeton University and active twitterstorian, himself was a reluctant adopter of the platform but has since embraced it. “The strength for academics on Twitter is not that just so many of them are there, but so many active people engaged in public policy and politics and reporting are there,” he says.

As long as history continues to repeat itself, comparing past opinion with contemporary opinion has value. Yet Shulman’s historic pulls find their audience especially because it’s so rare to see such polls contextualized today. This void isn’t because of a lack of data. As Michael Traugott, a Gallup senior scientist who served as George Gallup’s personal research assistant during the 1964 election, points out, extensive data archives and the way polling organizations keep track of information makes historical takes available. “Data resources are there to support that kind of writing,” says Traugott. “It's just not commonly done.”

At first, Shulman’s selection of polls to run on @HistOpinion was more random. There was a whole period where he tweeted out different questions from a 1971 poll that asked college graduates about their expectations for life, career, social issues of the day. It’s the only time, he says with a chuckle, that he noticed a steady decrease in his number of followers. But he was totally mesmerized by the information coming from the poll because it was given the exact year his parents graduated college.

Going through old polls has its challenges. Because scientific polling data began in 1935, there’s a limited scope of historic data available. (“I would love to know public opinion on the Spanish-American War—'Should American troops be doing the equivalent waterboarding in the Philippines?'” Shulman says.)  Most historic polls also skew to white interests, and in the case of the Jim Crow South, because African Americans couldn’t vote, Gallup simply didn’t poll them, excluding their opinions all together.

Shulman used to tweet out three polls a day from the account, but he’s since scaled back. When he does tweet, he often pegs polls to the news of the day. Now, with the election in full swing, he says one prescient poll he’s come across came from August 1942. It asked, “If the question of national prohibition should come up again, would you vote wet or dry?”

The question itself was a moot point. The 21st Amendment had officially repealed federal Prohibition almost 10 years earlier. What Shulman found interesting about the poll’s result was that it showed a surprisingly large minority—38 percent—said they’d still vote for a Prohibition amendment.

“That goes against what we usually think, that Americans didn’t want Prohibition, it was a huge mistake and they got rid of it,” says Shulman. “Maybe the majority of the country did, but a substantial minority really had a different vision of the direction that the country should be taking in the 1930s.”

It reveals how a significant percent of the country might have a very different view of the nation’s status that differs from where the country should be heading from the perspective recorded by  history books or newspapers. In a way, it helps explains Donald Trump’s rise this election season. “It’s easy to forget that you can have sizable minorities who share a view and can coalesce around a particular candidate and party that might be unexpected,” Shulman says.

Shulman’s account is best known for a series of tweets he did last year, which touched on American attitudes toward Jewish refugees during World War II. One of them, which he has pinned to the top of his account, is a pull from Gallup’s American Institute of Public Opinion in January 1939. It asked, “Should the US government permit 10,000 mostly Jewish refugee children to come in from Germany?”

The response from the American public was, overwhelmingly, no. Only 30 percent of respondents were in favor of admitting the child refugees, just two months after Kristallnacht.

The tweet—on the nose for an American public that continues to push back against providing asylum to fleeing Syrian refugees today—went viral. Politico ran a piece contextualizing the poll, writing: “Yes, It’s Fair to Compare the Plight of the Syrians to the Plight of the Jews. Here’s Why.” The New York Times even weighed in, and Shulman himself made a case for its relevance in Fortune, writing, “Unquestionably, the two situations have their differences. Yet perhaps the biggest difference is simply that most Jews seeking safety from Nazis could not escape, while today, it is not too late to help those most desperate for security.”

The impact of the tweet, and the conversation Shulman continues on in his account today. One of his latest tweets from a Gallup poll in 1945, asks, “Should we permit more persons from Europe to come to this country each year than we did before the war, should we keep the number about the same, or should we reduce the number?”

The results, with only five percent calling for more, should seem less surprising now.

Ask Smithsonian: Is the World Due for Another Massive Plague Outbreak?

Smithsonian Magazine

The specter of another plague like the one that affected Eurasia in the middle of the 14th century has hung like a ghastly pallor over the intervening centuries. But the likelihood of a naturally occurring outbreak happening on that massive a scale is extremely unlikely in modern times.

The Black Death of the 1300s has been noted as one of the worst pandemics in recorded history, killing 25 to 30 percent of the inhabitants of Europe, North Africa and the Near East and possibly affecting as many in China, India and the Far East as well. Some 50 million people died.

Unsanitary living conditions and a complete ignorance of what caused the disease or how it was transmitted fueled the spread of the plague across continents. As the world has developed, plague has become less of a threat. The World Health Organization estimates that in 2013, for instance, there were just 783 cases of plague across the globe, resulting in 126 deaths.

Modern sanitation and scientific and medical advances have had a big impact. Humans in the 21st century are also a lot different than the ones who walked the Earth 700 years ago; they’re better-nourished and have stronger immunity, says Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Center for Health Security.  “It’s the effect of civilization overall that has made plague less likely,” says Adalja.

Adalja says he “highly doubts that a massive plague outbreak” could occur again—at least on its own. But an epidemic fueled by a plague-based bioterror weapon is another issue.

The Black Death was due to the naturally occurring bubonic form of plague. Rats infested with fleas carrying the Yersinia pestis bacterium were sharing close quarters with humans. Now, as it was then, people bitten by infected fleas will develop flu-like symptoms within days, with a sudden onset of fever, chills, aches, nausea and vomiting.

If left to its own devices, the bacteria quickly replicate in lymph nodes; the nodes spread the agent throughout the bloodstream, leading to hemorrhaging and eventually septicemia (blood poisoning) and death. Often, if the victim lives long enough, the buboes burst, becoming open sores that ooze bacteria. The infection tends to kill within days or a week. Even after death, cadavers can still be infectious.

Fourteenth century humans didn’t understand infectivity, but when the Black Death began ravaging the Crimean peninsula, the Tartars—who had been engaged in a multi-year war in the area—began catapulting the suppurating bodies of plague victims over the walls of Kaffa, today’s Feodosia in Ukraine. The plague likely spread inside the city as people tried to move the mangled, odiferous cadavers. Many researchers cite the attack as the first known episode of biowarfare, says Adalja.

Meanwhile, the bubonic plague spread throughout Eurasia along shipping routes, thanks to rats that stole aboard the vessels. Eventually that outbreak died down, but there have been others throughout the centuries. No one truly understood what caused plague or how it spread until Swiss scientist Alexandre Yersin discovered a bacterium—isolated from buboes­­—while investigating an outbreak in China in 1894. The microbe was later named Yersinia in his honor.

Meanwhile, the plague continues to surface periodically, particularly in Africa, Asia and South America.

The disease did not get to the United States until 1900, arriving in San Francisco, via China, carried by infected rats riding on steamships. More than 100 people died within the decade. The plague then spread south to Los Angeles causing a short epidemic in 1924. Harbored by rats and other small animals, the plague made its way out to the desert east of Los Angeles and then kept going.

Most of the American cases—anywhere from one to 17 a year—occur in northern New Mexico, northern Arizona, southern Colorado, California, southern Oregon and western Nevada.

This year, a Colorado teenager died from the bubonic plague in June, and an adult from the state died in August. A Michigan woman was diagnosed in September, after traveling to Colorado.

Plague isn’t always transmitted by fleas. It can also be spread when someone expels the bacteria through coughing or sneezing. The aerosolized droplets can be inhaled, leading to pneumonic plague.

In May, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on a 2014 outbreak in Colorado, in which a dog got plague and then transmitted it to its owner by coughing. Two veterinary employees also were infected by the dog, and another worker may have been infected by the owner. All had the pneumonic form, and all survived, except the dog.

Left untreated, the plague kills 90 percent of those infected. But it can be cured with common antibiotics, and with treatment, only about 16 percent of those infected with any plague will die.

A vaccine, however, has been more elusive. Researchers have tried to improve on a vaccine that was used beginning in the late 1800s to no avail. Even though the U.S. has few cases, a vaccine would be useful in developing countries, says Adalja. And, he adds, “plague is a national security threat, and that has fostered a lot of investment in developing countermeasures.”

The Japanese Imperial Army developed and used plague as a weapon of war, launching at least one attack against the Chinese in 1940, and was preparing to use it in the U.S.

The former Soviet Union had a large bioweapons program, including plague-based weapons, as did Iraq, and both North Korea and Syria are rumored to have bioweapons, Adalja says.

The U.S. had an offensive bioweapons program until 1969, he says. Now, “we have some of these pathogens to develop defensive measures,” including vaccines and treatments, Adalja adds.

The plague—especially the pneumonic form—could be an effective weapon, in part because it might not be immediately diagnosed. And that’s probably about the only way a new Black Death pandemic could occur.

It's your turn to Ask Smithsonian.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Yucatec, circa 1920-1960

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 7, reels 14-25. Only original documents created by Harrington, his coworkers and field assistants, or field notes given to him by others were microfilmed.

John P. Harrington's study of the Yucatec language of Mexico was undertaken in at least five distinct phases. Both in correspondence and in a draft of a Quiche grammar, Harrington claimed that his first study of the Maya stock was conducted with Eduardo Caceres, a fluent speaker of Maya proper from Merida in the state of Yucatan. They evidently worked together in National City and San Diego, California, around 1914.

In the Sixty-fifth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology for 1947-1948, Harrington reported that he had recently completed a grammar of the Maya language as well as an article comparing the ideographic writing systems of the Maya, Egyptians, and Chinese. In the following year he continued his revision of these two works and studied the etymology of the word "Maya." His work on the grammar was evidently made possible through studies undertaken with two Yucatec speakers residing in New York City.

Notes indicate that Harrington was in contact with Arthuro Medina (abbreviated "Med.") by at least September 1948. Medina was from Tikul, near the ruins of Uxmal, a few miles south of Merida, and his wife was also from the Yucatan. Through them Harrington learned of a second Maya speaker, Castulo Ucan. Evidently beginning in mid-November 1949, Harrington made a number of trips of several days duration to New York to work with Ucan. Letters which he wrote to bureau chief Matthew W. Stirling in November and December describe Ucan (abbreviated "U.") as a good informant and make mention of the "Motul dictionary" which he used as a questionnaire during their work together.

Although he felt that his work with these informants had been satisfactory, Harrington still wished to travel to Merida to conduct fieldwork with additional informants. He arrived in Merida on Saturday, February 11 and returned to Washington, D.C., on April 11 "bringing a large quantity of linguistic material" as well as "ten half-hour recordings of stories in the Maya language" which he had recorded on tape.

Harrington's first Mexican informant was Isaias Uc whom he described to Stirling as "a treasure," someone who spoke Spanish as a professor, with "a wonderful vocabulary for grammatical terms." Their work included a review of the grammar by Daniel Lopez Otero. He also worked with David Arceo H. (evidently abbreviated "A."), whom he described as "an unsurpassed teacher of Maya," with a knowledge of proverbs and traditional Maya history. From Arceo he was able to obtain a handwritten translation of the Treaty of Mani, from Maya to Spanish, as well as tape recordings of the same.

Other informants with whom Harrington evidently worked during this same period include Pascual Ayora Taliaferro (also spelled "Talavera" and abbreviated "P.") and Geronimo Pacheco. He also received nonlinguistic information from Dr. Solis, Mr. Romero M., Mr. Nichols, Willey (possibly Gordon R. Willey), and Harry, among others.

On March 9, 1951, Harrington had the opportunity to return to Mexico to pursue studies of the classical Aztec, or Nahuatl, language. During the approximately six months he spent there he also worked with another Yucatec speaker, Domingo Canton Aguilar (abbreviated "Ag.") and his wife, who were from Xochimilco in the Distrito Federal. Harrington referred to the latter as Maria Pura Aguilar de C.

Aguilar accompanied Harrington back to Washington, D.C., to assist in the preparation of a grammar and a dictionary of the Maya language. In the same fiscal year (1951 -1952) Harrington completed a monograph on the numeration system of the Valladolid Maya Indians of Yucatan.

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

This subseries of the Mexico/Central America/South America series contains Harrington's Yucatec research. The materials consist of vocabulary, grammar, texts, writings, and miscellaneous notes.

The Yucatec vocabulary falls into three distinct subsections. The first consists of wordlists from an unidentified informant, supplemented by a little ethnographic and anecdotal material. A second set of vocabulary was recorded from Domingo Canton Aguilar and his wife (abbreviated "Ag. Y Sra."). They contain references to the dialects of Nahuatl spoken by Alfonso Hernandez Catarina (Alf.) and Arcadio Sagahon (Arc.). The third and most extensive section is a file of semantically arranged lexical items. The notes include a mixture of excerpts from secondary sources and original data recorded by Harrington. There are some notes in unidentified handwriting scattered throughout. A number of large subject categories--corporeal, animals, and material culture--are subdivided.

The grammar files consist of extensive notes and a rough draft for a grammar of the Yucatec language. The material is somewhat repetitious due to the presence of variant drafts. The notes contain a mixture of general observations on various points of grammar, extracts from published sources, and original field data. The rough draft and accompanying notes are filed under two headings "Maya Grammar and Lists" and "Maya Language and Semantic Lists." The introduction includes a bibliography of other dictionaries and grammers, a description of the physical features of the Yucatan peninsula, and a discussion of the Maya linguistic stock. The body of the material is divided into categories on phonetics, morphology, verbs, adverbs, particles, nouns, pronouns, conjunctions, interjections, and unsorted topics. The sections dealing with phonetics and verbs (the latter is labeled "Uc. on Lop.") are particularly extensive. A typed manuscript of 308 pages (former B.A.E. ms. 4782) titled "Maya Grammar and Lists" was submitted by Harrington in 1952 for publication as a Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin. The language presented is the ''standard dialect of the states of Yucatan and Campeche." The grammar contains a detailed table of contents, furnishes details on the geographical background and history of the Yucatan peninsula, and discusses Maya grammars and dictionaries.

Yucatec textual material is of three types. The first set consists of myths, the second of records relating to the ''Treaty of Mani," and the third of notes on a Yucatec religious newspaper dating from 1949. Thirty pages of native myth texts contain interlinear translations in a mixture of Spanish and English. The stories include "El Milpero, el Cascabel, el Perro, el Tigre" and "El Zorro y la Esposa del Milpero." The four-page text "Le Ocb Yetel Can" is in the hand of David Arceo H. The "Story of the Blind Hammockmaker" was recorded from Arceo with English and Spanish translation. There is also a summary of the story of venado and tortuga. Material relating to the "Treaty of Mani" includes a word-by-word translation of the treaty, a typed version with free translation and notes, and correspondence with Arthuro Medina and David Arceo H. dating from July 1948 and March 1950. There is also a copy of one issue of the newspaper U Tajil T'au dated November-December 1949. There are a few pages of related notes.

Harrington's writings on Yucatec begins with notes and a rough draft for the article "Original Form and Application of Maya." The paper, which is concerned with the etymology of the name "Maya," discusses the six names by which the Yucatan peninsula is known. There are also notes and drafts for two related articles titled "Egyptian, Chinese and Mayoid Ideographic Writing" and "Reading the Maya Ideograms." This material is followed by a partial rough draft titled "Maya Ideograms Being Read"; it is not clear whether the handwriting, which is not Harrington's, is that of a copyist or a "ghost writer." Dating from June 28, 1950, are extensive notes on the Maya system of counting, arranged behind heading sheets which are labeled "How the Maya Count," "Maya Enumeration," and "V[alladolid] Maya Counting." It appears that Harrington originally worked on several drafts of an article with these different titles; the material is now inextricably mixed. The subtopics covered are arithmetical processes, systems of measures, and time reckoning (including discussion of the twenty-day month). Also filed here is a rough draft labeled "Draft for the Ag. typewritten paper on May[a] Numeration" and a typed draft titled "The Maya Count." "The Maya Count" discusses the system of counting used in the northern part of the Yucatan peninsula by speakers whose language was probably a direct descendent of the language in which the Maya hieroglyphics and codices were written. There are also notes and drafts of reviews which he drafted from 1948 through 1960. The file of writings ends with rough notes for proposed papers on "Maya Hieroglyphic Writing," "Maya Linguistic Stock," and "Influence of Maya and Yucatan Spanish on Each Other."

The section of miscellaneous notes on Yucatec includes a small file of correspondence. There is a letter from Isaias Uc C., Campeche, Mexico, in 1950; a carbon copy of a letter to Jesse Shaw dated April 14, 1952, regarding arrangements for Domingo Aguilar's travel to the United States; handwritten drafts of two letters to John Linkins; and a typed copy of a lengthy letter to Dr. Tozzer from an unidentified writer. Also included is a section labeled "Persons & Addresses," as well as some notes on the sound recordings which Harrington made during fieldwork in Mexico in 1950. The file concludes with what appear to be drafts of annual reports. There is the first page only of a typed statement titled "Maya Language Studies." This is followed by ten handwritten pages of notes which refer to three papers on Maya ideograms and numerals.

Digital Attic

Smithsonian Magazine

What can people expect to find at the Computer History Museum?

The Computer History Museum is home to the world's largest collection of computers and computing related artifacts. So you can find everything from an Abacast to a ChRate super computer; an original Apple One to thousands of original advertisements. For example, advertisements from the '50s and '60s on computers and mainframes to audio recordings and video recordings of TV commercials and computer pioneers talking about their inventions.

We currently have about 15 million pages of technical information, terabytes of historical software and tens of thousands of individual artifacts. We're America's attic, but for computers.

How did it come about?

It started in '79 when two people, Gordon Bell and Ken Olsen, who is the co-founder of Digital Equipment Corporation, or DEC as its known, heard of the WorldWin computer from MIT being loaded onto a truck and carried to a dump in Boston. The MIT WorldWin computer is a one of a kind machine. It was done in the early 1950s and had an enormous impact on computer design in the United States, and it was about to be scrapped, basically. Just melted down. They literally turned the truck around. They told the drivers to turn around, unload everything and told them, "We'll take it." Even then, Ken Olsen was very influential and Bell and Olsen were both MIT alumni, and they made it happen. I don't even think there was any money involved. So that was the start of the museum, the first artifact really.

What's the appeal of these things?

One thing is nostalgia. You should never underestimate the power of that. A lot of the people, not just from the industry, come here and you can instantly tell how old they are, even if they were in a suit or something with only their eyes exposed, because they light up when they come to their first computer. So if it's a mainframe from the '50s then they are probably in their 70s or 80s, and if it's a Commodore 64 then they're probably 30-something and so on. It's very generational, the nostalgia, because computers are changing and have always changed so fast. There's just a huge variety, and of course they shrink with each generation—the computers, not the people.

What do visitors find most surprising?

Some of them are sort of dismayed that computers that they've used are in a museum, because it makes them feel like they should be in a museum. Literally, they've said that to me. Even people who are young, in their 20s, are quite shocked that it's already in a museum. Another thing they say that I hear a lot is, "Wow, look how huge these things are!" as they go back and look at the mainframes. Another thing you hear is "I had no idea," and that can be in reference to almost anything. For example, "I had no idea how expensive memory was in the '50s," or about the amount of power things took, and the complexity of everything.

What is the most popular attraction?

A really popular one is this thing called the Kitchen Computer, which is actually a machine by Honeywell, but one that was marketed by Neiman Marcus on the cover of their 1969 Christmas catalogue. It cost $10,000 and was a woman in a long, flowing apron, and she's sort of seductively leaning against this computer, using it to store her recipes, which is really funny because it had no interface device so she would have had to basically been a computer scientist to use it.

We also have a super computer, which is very interesting. It's round and has a bench around it so you can sit on it. We have one in our study collection and one in our lobby. The one in the lobby was $10 million when it came out in 1970. It was called the world's most expensive love seat.

Computers are advancing at a very fast pace. What makes it into the museum and what doesn't? Are there any criteria for donations?

Yeah, there are. The first is anything by inventors—so if it was Steve Wozniak's baby shoes (that's sort of a silly example), that's what we would want. The second thing we look for are unique items, one-of-a-kinds. Thirdly, things that were produced in enormous quantities, like the IBM PC, for example. Failed products is the fourth category. There are tons of those in the market and they're really interesting to collect, because one of the first things companies do is try and erase all trace of their history of any failed products. And it's important to remember the past.

How closely is the museum working with the computer industry today?

We have a few really kind donors, in the sense of having some kind of corporate commitment beyond money. Money is always nice, but there is a way to go beyond that which is to kind of say, "We actually really believe in what you're doing and we're going to help you," instead of saying, "Here's $10,000." So HP and IBM are two examples. We work really closely with them. It's extremely cordial. We always clear things with them to make sure it's cool from an intellectual property point of view to display their items. It almost always is because it's so old it has almost no commercial value.

Where do you see the future of computers going?

In some sense, computers have hit a plateau architecturally, which may sound like a strange thing to say from a curator. But from my perspective the action is really in medicine. However, it's medicine as defined by computers. Every significant advance in the last five years, and probably for the next 20, will result from the application of computers and medicine.

There are new genes found almost weekly for human ailments, and in the last 18 months or so that has absolutely turned into a flood, and it's all driven by computers that are controlling immense databases. You simply could not do this work by hand. I mean, even to do a fraction of it could take you years where a computer could do it in seconds. It's that huge—years versus seconds.

So what about from a more computerized products point of view? Robots, maybe?

Absolutely, yes! In fact the Roomba, the little automatic vacuum cleaner, is selling by the tens of hundreds of thousands [on the market]. It's intelligent; you can turn it on and just let it go.

Our museum has lots of robots that seemed like a good idea at the time, but there was just no way. For example, a lot of them in the '70s, they were basically like a car stereo with an eight-track player and two speakers, in some kind of plastic shell to make it look like a person or a robot—and a couple of flashlights for eyes. They're a joke. You would never use them. They would probably just fall down the stairs and break into a million pieces or set your house on fire. So it'll be a while I think before we get real robots.

But you don't really need robots. We are building intelligence into much simpler things, like light switches and your car. Those are all really useful things.

A Life Less Ordinary

Smithsonian Magazine

She photographed Gandhi minutes before his assassination, covered the war that followed the partition of India, was with U.S. troops when they liberated Germany's Buchenwald concentration camp, was torpedoed off the African Coast, had the first cover of Life magazine and was the first Western journalist allowed in the Soviet Union.

Margaret Bourke-White, the iconic photographer, didn't just raise the glass ceiling; she shattered it and threw away the pieces.

At a time when women were defined by their husbands and judged by the quality of their housework, she set the standard for photojournalism and expanded the possibilities of being female.

"She was a trailblazer," says Stephen Bennett Phillips, curator at The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C., who recently mounted a major touring exhibition of Bourke-White's photos. "She showed women that you didn't have to settle for the traditional role."

Bourke-White was fearless, doggedly determined, stylish and so flamboyantly unconventional that "her lifestyle has sometimes overshadowed her photography," Phillips laments.

She lived life her way, living openly with a married man, having affairs with others, putting career above husband and children. But 36 years after her death from Parkinson's, the titillation of her private life pales in comparison to her work.

"She was a photojournalist par excellence," says Phillips, "capturing the human drama, the human condition, in a way that few journalists had been able to capture."

Bourke-White was born in 1904 in New York City—16 years before the 19th Amendment gave American women the right to vote in national elections. Her mother, Minnie Bourke, was a homemaker who had trained as a stenographer; her father, Joseph White, an inventor-engineer-naturalist-amateur photographer who sometimes took his precocious daughter on visits to industrial sites. She would later write in her autobiography, Portrait of Myself: "To me at that age, the foundry represented the beginning and end of all beauty."

She started taking pictures in college (she attended several) using a second-hand camera with a broken lens that her mother bought for her for $20. "After I found a camera," she explained, "I never really felt a whole person again unless I was planning pictures or taking them."

In 1927, after shedding a short-lived marriage and graduating from Cornell University with a degree in biology, she moved to Cleveland, Ohio, an emerging industrial powerhouse, to photograph the new gods of the machine age: factories, steel mills, dams, buildings. She signaled her uniqueness by adding her mother's maiden name to her own.

Soon, her perfectly composed, highly contrasted and dynamic photographs had giant corporate clients clamoring for her services.

"When she began courting corporations, she was one of the few women who were actively competing in a man's world and a lot of the men photographers were very jealous of her," says Phillips. "The rumor got around that it wasn't a woman who was taking the photographs—that it wasn't really her."

Image by Margaret Bourke-White. At a time when women were defined by their husbands and judged by the quality of their housework, Margaret Bourke-White set the standard for photojournalism and expanded the possibilities of being female. (Self-Portrait, 1943, Margaret Bourke-White, 19 1/8" x 15 1/4" Vintage gelatin silver print from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection) (original image)

Image by Margaret Bourke-White. Margaret Bourke-White's image of Gandhi at the spinning wheel is one of the best-known photographs in the world. She was the last journalist to see him alive; he was assassinated in 1948, minutes after she had interviewed him. (Gandhi Spinning, India, 1946, Margaret Bourke-White, 19 1/4" x 14 1/2" Vintage gelatin silver print from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection) (original image)

Image by Margaret Bourke-White. To the Life staff, Margaret Bourke-White was known as "Maggie the Indestructible." (Airship Akron, Winner Goodyear Zeppelin Race, 1931, Margaret Bourke- White, 17 1/2" x 23" Vintage gelatin silver print from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection) (original image)

Image by Margaret Bourke-White. "Mine is a life into which marriage doesn't fit very well," Margaret Bourke-White once said. (Bar Scene, ca. 1936, Margaret Bourke-White, 9 5/8" x 13 5/8" Vintage gelatin silver print from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection) (original image)

Image by Margaret Bourke-White. The advent of the Second World War gave Margaret Bourke-White a chance to show her bravery as well as her skill. (Italy-Detail Ponte Reale Bridge, 1943-1944, Margaret Bourke-White, 13 1/16" x 10 1/2" Vintage gelatin silver print from the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Collection) (original image)

Neither her gender nor her age posed a problem for Henry Luce, publisher of Time. In what became a lasting partnership, he hired the 25-year-old Bourke-White for his new magazine, Fortune and gave her almost a free hand. She went to Germany, made three trips to the Soviet Union—the first Western photojournalist to be given access—and traveled all around the United States, including the Midwest, which was experiencing the severest drought in the country's history.

When Luce decided to start a new magazine, he again turned to Bourke-White. One of Life's original four photographers, her picture of Fort Peck Dam in Montana made the first cover on November 23, 1936, when she was 32. Her accompanying cover story is regarded as the first photo essay—a genre, says Phillips, "that would become an integral part of the magazine for the next 20 years."

With the United States in the grips of the Great Depression, Bourke-White undertook a trip through the South with Erskine Caldwell, the famed author of Tobacco Road and God's Little Acre. Their collaboration resulted in a book on Southern poverty, You Have Seen Their Faces. The haggard images staring back at the camera confirmed her "increasing understanding of the human condition," says Phillips. "She became skilled at capturing the human experience."

She and Caldwell moved in together (even though he was married at the time), wed, collaborated on three more books and, although both were passionate advocates of social justice, divorced in 1942. "Mine is a life into which marriage doesn't fit very well," she said.

The advent of the Second World War gave her a chance to show her bravery as well as her skill. The first woman accredited as a war correspondent, she crossed into Germany with General Patton, was in Moscow when the Germans attacked, accompanied an Air Force crew on a bombing raid and traveled with the armed forces in North Africa and Italy. To the Life staff she became "Maggie the Indestructible."

But there was grumbling that she was "imperious, calculating and insensitive" and used her unquestionable charm to gain an advantage over her male competitors. Unlike other photographers who had converted to the much lighter 35mm, she lugged around large-format cameras, which, along with wooden tripods, lighting equipment and a developing tank, could weigh 600 pounds. "Generals rushed to carry her cameras and even Stalin insisted on carrying her bags," reported fellow photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.

After the war ended, she continued to use her lenses as the eyes of the world, documenting Gandhi's non-violent campaign in India and apartheid in South Africa. Her image of Gandhi at the spinning wheel is one of the best-known photographs in the world. She was the last journalist to see him alive; he was assassinated in 1948, minutes after she had interviewed him.

In 1952, while covering the Korean conflict, she suffered a fall. While seeking a cause for the accident she was diagnosed with Parkinson's, which she fought with the courage she had shown all her life. But two brain surgeries made no difference to her deteriorating condition. With Parkinson's tightening its hold, she wrote Portrait of Myself, an instant bestseller, each word a struggle, according to her neighbors in Darien, Connecticut, who remembered her as a vital younger woman dressed in designer clothes, promenading with a walking stick in the company of her two Afghan dogs.

Life published her last story in 1957, but kept her on the masthead until 1969. A year later, the magazine sent Sean Callahan, then a junior editor, to Darien to help her go through her photos for a future book. She had more and more difficulty communicating, and the last time he saw her, in August 1972, two days before her death, all she could do was blink.

"Fittingly for the heroic, larger than life Margaret Bourke-White," Callahan later wrote, "the eyes were the last to go."

Dina Modianot-Fox, a freelance writer in Washington, D.C. who has worked for NBC News and Greenwich magazine, is a frequent Smithsonian.com contributor

Will the Real Juan Valdez Please Stand Up?

Smithsonian Magazine

Strolling past the colorful shops in the colonial town of Salento, in the heart of Colombia’s eje cafetero, or Coffee Triangle—the country’s main coffee-growing region—I’m struck by its intrinsic beauty. Both sides of the narrow street are lined with one- and two-story whitewashed structures, some with balconies and most with doors and window sills saturated in deep red, oranges and blues. A young mother and baby occupy a bench in front of one of the local trinket shops. Across the road, a teenage couple walks arm in arm by a café selling potato-stuffed rellenas and chorizo.

But there is one person I spot that really gets my heart pumping. Leaning in the doorway of Bar Quindio is a familiar mustachioed face, his hands tucked into his pockets and a wide-brimmed hat shielding his eyes. He smiles upon seeing us, and then continues gazing off into the distance. Is it him? Can it really be? Before I get the chance to speak, our tour guide Alex confirms my suspicions. “Look!,” he says. “It’s Juan Valdez!”

For more than 50 years, the fictional Juan Valdez has been the brand symbol of the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia (Fedecafé), representing the coffee beans of more than 500,000 cafeteros, or coffee farmers, who grow and harvest their beans entirely within the country. He’s also a national folk hero, and along with international music star Shakira, one of the most recognizable figures worldwide to come out of the developing country. Valdez, who’s been appearing in print and TV advertisements for decades, wears the traditional dress of an arriero, or mule driver, a way of life that remains common throughout Colombia’s Coffee Triangle. Along with a straw hat and a striped poncho tossed over his shoulder, his ensemble includes sandals made of fique, a natural plant fiber, and a leather apron called a tapapinche tied around his waist. His mule, Conchita, is always by his side, carrying sacks of harvested coffee slung over his back. In television commercials over the years, Valdez has been seen hand-picking coffee cherries, appearing in kitchen pantries and walking around supermarkets with Conchita in tow. Today, there’s even a chain of Juan Valdez coffeehouses throughout Colombia and elsewhere, including Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and the United States.

“There’s very little difference between Juan Valdez and Elvis, as both have transcended coffee and music to become cultural icons of their respective countries,” says Doug Towne, editor at the Society of Commercial Archeology (SCA), an organization that helps preserve, document and celebrate the 20th-century commercial landscape. But Valdez is dissimilar to say, the Jolly Green Giant or the Cracker Jack Sailor. More than a marketing tool, he represents a very real and vital percentage of Colombian society. “Juan Valdez has become the embodiment of Colombia,” says Towne. “Kind of like if the American flag, baseball and apple pie could be personified in a single U.S. citizen.”

Colombia is the world’s third-largest coffee producer and the biggest producer of Arabica coffee, considered a high-quality bean for its intense flavor. In 2009, the country produced 8.1 million 132-pound sacks of coffee, and nearly 30 percent of all rural areas in Colombia depend on the crop to survive. Ninety-five percent of all coffee growers in the country are small producers and most all of them belong to Fedecafé, founded in 1927 in part to help protect the local interests. With so much of Colombian culture invested in the coffee bean, it only makes sense that Valdez and his impersonator draw so much attention.

Image by Larry Luxner. Salento is the heart of Colombia’s eje cafetero, or Coffee Triangle—the country’s main coffee-growing region. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. Marco Fidel Torres has been portraying Juan Valdez in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle for nearly a decade. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. In 2009, the country produced 8.1 million 132-pound sacks of coffee, and nearly 30 percent of all rural areas in Colombia depend on the crop to survive. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. In Salento, both sides of the narrow street are lined with one- and two-story whitewashed structures, some with balconies and most with doors and window sills saturated in deep red, oranges and blues. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. With so much of Colombian culture invested in the coffee bean, it only makes sense that Juan Valdez and his impersonator draw so much attention. (original image)

Image by Larry Luxner. There’s even a chain of Juan Valdez coffeehouses throughout Colombia and elsewhere, including Mexico, Spain, Costa Rica and the United States. (original image)

Back in Salento, however, Alex lets my travel companions and me in on a little secret: That’s not really Juan Valdez—the real-life farmer whom Fedecafé has chosen to represent the fictional character—standing before us, but a man posing as him. An impersonator’s impersonator, if you will. According to Alex, Marco Fidel Torres has been portraying Juan Valdez in Colombia’s Coffee Triangle for nearly a decade. He and Torres first met about six years ago at Quindio’s Parque Nacional del Café, a national coffee theme park devoted to the history of Colombia’s coffee culture and production. The park employed Torres, an arriero by trade, to demonstrate how to pack, wrangle and travel with mules. But rather than expressing interest in Torres’ work, many of Alex’s clients (then a free-agent tour guide, Alex now works solely for a specialized tour company) were more eager to have their pictures taken with him, a real-life “Juan Valdez.”

And they weren’t the first. “Fidel has always been an arriero,” says Alex. “It’s a family tradition passed down for generations. And in Salento, where he lives, tourists were always asking for photos with him because of his dress and his similarities to Valdez. He eventually realized he could make some money playing the role.” Today, Torres earns a good portion of his income posing for photos as Juan Valdez in and around Salento. On weekends he continues demonstrating his arriero skills, now at the region’s Los Nevados National Natural Park.

But not every mule driver or coffee farmer can be Juan Valdez—in this case, the man who’s been interviewed, evaluated, tested, vetted and eventually hired to represent Colombia’s coffee culture and product throughout Colombia and at markets and events worldwide. New York City-based ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (also known for coming up with Quaker Oats’ Little Mikey) first created Juan Valdez for Fedecafé in 1959, designing an image to accurately represent the bulk of small coffee farmers who make up the federation.

Strangely it was a Cuban-American actor, José F. Duval, who initially portrayed him. Duval held the position until 1969, when Carlos Sánchez, a coffee farmer and artist from Colombia’s northwestern department of Antioquia, took over the reins. It’s Sánchez’s bright eyes and jovial smile that most westerners are familiar with, though not his voice; that belonged to Norman Rose, a Pennsylvania-born actor who passed away in 2004. Sánchez kept the title of Juan Valdez title until 2006, when he retired to Medellín. Anticipating his departure, Fedecafé began looking for a new Juan Valdez in 2004, embarking on an intensive two-year search for the right Colombian man. From an initial pool of more than 380,000 applicants (including Torres, who didn’t make it past the in-person interview because of his age, which Rodriguez estimates to be somewhere near 70), they selected 30 finalists, who were then put through a grueling series of advertising sessions, psychological exams, behavior and personality tests and interviews with journalists.

In the end, the honor went to Carlos Castañeda, a 44-year-old coffee grower and married father of three from the town of Andes, Antioquia, about 80 miles outside of Medellín. With his family values and rugged good looks, Castañeda is the ideal Valdez, young enough to appeal to a new generation of coffee drinkers and to provide longevity to the role. Appearing on his official website, Castañeda sports the same white hat, dark moustache and button-down shirt as his predecessors, though with one big difference: he carries a cell phone in his leather satchel.

While Castañeda is busy making the international rounds as both a coffee spokesman and national representative, arrieros like Torres are holding down the fort back home. And being a local Juan Valdez does have its perks. Along with all the makings of Colombia’s cult hero—a genuine smile and a distinctive air, not to mention a mule companion—Torres can come and go as he pleases. The day after meeting Torres in Salento, Alex accompanies my companions and me to the El Edén International Airport in La Tebaida for our flight into Bogotá. A couple hours early, we sit down together for a beer in the terminal’s small food court. There, leaning against a wall is a mounted, poster-sized photo of Torres. “I told you,” says Alex, beaming. “My friend is famous around here.”

Women love him. Children adore him. And he’s a legend from Salento to at least San Francisco, where his framed photo occupies a prominent spot on my mantle.

How Dog Parks Took Over the Urban Landscape

Smithsonian Magazine

A Friday afternoon at Ohlone Dog Park in Berkeley, California, is a riot of canine joy. A collie chases a ball with thrilled abandon; a boxer puppy learns to run on his still-new legs; a heap of paws and snouts tangles in a friendly wrestling match. Nearby, in the corner, stands an unlikely sight: a blue-painted mock fire hydrant dedicated to Doris Richards. “Donated By Friends,” the plaque next to it reads.

Richards (who died a decade ago) reportedly laughed when she heard about her hydrant. She saw it as a particularly fitting tribute to her work in creating what is widely believed to be the world’s first municipal dog park.

In the late 1960s, Berkeley was a hotbed of revolutionary ideas of all kinds. Perhaps most notably, the Bay Area community produced the free speech movement, which fueled activism against the Vietnam War and shaped American ideas about freedom of expression. That movement spawned the notorious People’s Park—a place designed for humans to be humans, saying and doing what they wanted. But less well known is another, related cultural byproduct: the idea that dogs needed a place to do what they wanted, too.

In 1979, with that idea in mind, activists from People’s Park began bringing their dogs to play at an empty lot that had been cleared for San Francisco's new subway system. The “dog park” went viral as only an idea whose time has come can. Richards spent the rest of her life corresponding with municipalities around the world, advising them on how to build dog parks of their own. Forty years on, Ohlone Dog Park, has birthed some 2000 offspring and has left an indelible mark on the American city.

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The 1960s and ’70s were a time of great change for American cities. Expanding urban areas swallowed up rings of newly established suburbs and outlying small towns, eating up their green spaces in favor of what became known as “urban sprawl.”. The open space that remained was hotly contested, resulting in the spread of strict leash laws rooted in fear and “anti-canine sentiment,” as writer Candace Crane put it in a 1990 Animals magazine article on dog parks. In San Francisco, for example, the city’s health code still requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than eight feet whenever they are off their owners’ property.

Berkeley hosted its share of conflict as it implemented leash laws. This was in addition to frequent clashes between activists and the police at People’s Park—including “Bloody Thursday,” which left one student dead and sent 128 people to the hospital. Even years after the Vietnam War had ended, the Park’s activists engaged with the authorities on other matters, in particular the creation of public parks and green space as the Bay Area urbanized. In 1979, activists from People’s Park pushed through fencing and took over an area that had been razed for subway tunnel construction, christening it People’s Park Annex. (The moniker “Ohlone Park,” named for the indigenous people who have lived in the Bay for millennia, came later.)

Tom Nigman was a student at nearby University of California, Berkeley at the time, and a self-described hippie. Nigman, who still lives near the park with his 15-year-old Labrador, Harvey, had participated in the People’s Park riots and enthusiastically joined the takeover of the Annex. He remembered dogs having the run of his neighborhood when he was younger, but times were changing. He was happy to see that, along with the demonstrations and bail fund drives for arrested protesters common at People’s Park, the new space was frequently full of dogs playing and socializing—especially during a period when they were increasingly hemmed in.

Eventually, the denizens of People’s Park Annex drew up a petition, Nigman says, hoping to receive explicit permission from the city to break the leash laws and let their dogs play freely within the Annex. Without a word to express what they wanted, they made one up.

“No one had heard the term before,” his colleague, Richards, wrote in an essay years later. “They kept saying: ‘A run?’

“‘No,’ we’d say, ‘a park. For dogs.’”

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Richards—who over years of media coverage has been referred to as “Ohlone Dog Park Founder and Spiritual Guide Doris Richards,” “mother of the free dog movement,” and “the sort of woman who doesn’t go away, tail between her legs”—arrived on the scene not long after Nigman. She was a Bay Area native who worked stints at local hospitals and the university over the course of her lifetime, though persistent back problems and accompanying surgery often kept her at home.

Richards was in her 40s when she joined the group at the Annex. She used her unconventional post-surgery schedule to jump quickly into the fray, leading a years-long fight with the city over the logistics and complexities of the first-of-its-kind park.

“In the beginning there were only a handful of us, but we grew,” Nigman says. “We were in the hundreds by the time we were going to city council meetings. And it was people of all walks of life. Not just hippies or students or married couples with kids, the whole gamut.”

With a mix of determination, humor and persuasiveness, Richards helped organize first the petition, then letter writing and demonstrations at City Council meetings, many of which featured at least a hundred attendees in matching turquoise t-shirts. Eventually, through passionate debate and by bringing city staff to the park, Richards got the heads of the Berkeley Parks Department and Animal Control on her side, followed by the rest of the city administration.

In 1983, Berkeley agreed to establish an “experimental” dog park over the long-completed subway tunnel. Shortly after, Richards became the longest-serving president of the Ohlone Dog Park Association (ODPA), her husky, Killik, by her side. During her 17-year tenure, Richards led ODPA through fights with neighbors over noise pollution and zoning, presided over much beloved potluck barbecues and disseminated news through her often irreverent newsletter, Scoops, which ran with the tagline: “All the hot poop.”

During those initial years, ODPA fielded so many requests for advice on starting a dog park from other communities that it published a popular informational brochure including step-by-step instructions (Step 1: Form a park users’ association from a core group of dedicated people. “Some of them should know how to work the system, and if possible one of them should be an attorney.”)

A 1990 article in the San Francisco Chronicle noted that, within a few years, “the movement has hopscotched across Northern California.” By then, at least 25 dog parks had sprung up in the San Francisco area. Los Angeles and New York soon established their own—plus Austin, Texas; Toledo, Ohio; and Alexandria, Virginia. Richards even corresponded for a time with a town in Finland looking for canine help.

“God bless Berkeley,” Cathy Doyle, the head of the influential Los Angeles dog owner group Parkwatch, told the Chronicle. “Progressive Berkeley, of course, they’d be the first and show us the way.”

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Urban planning, metropolitan identity, gentrification. “When you start unpacking what a dog park means, you really open a Pandora’s box,” says Julie Urbanik, who studies how animals interact with the man-made landscape as part of her work at the Coordinates Society in Missouri. The widespread adoption of dog parks grew out of the changing role of dogs in American society, Urbanik says, and they continue to drive that change, “reconfiguring” our ideas about and our relationships with dogs.

A generation ago, dogs worked and lived outside; their job was to be protectors or to help with farm work. “We didn’t give them birthday parties,” says Urbanik. “We didn’t take them to the groomer every week.” Dog parks appeared as the rapid urbanization of the late 20th century made access to “outside” increasingly limited and contentious. “That’s the heart of it,” Urbanik says. “It’s about how we look at public space; who gets to be in public space.”

DePaul University professor Heidi Nast sees the changing role of dogs in the city’s public square as part of a larger evolution. As we’ve moved away from agriculture and manufacturing, and as we’ve brought dogs inside our homes and our cities, she argues, we’ve recast them as parts of our family. Today, instead of a protector, families have what Nast calls a “little doggy baby,” sometimes literally bathed, dressed and pushed in a stroller. “That wouldn’t happen if you’re on a farm and you have lots of real babies,” she says.

In envisioning and creating public space for dogs, Urbanik adds, dog park proponents and designers are building on this private idea of a more-than-human family to envision a new kind of public city. A family with children believes they deserve a playground; a family with dogs believes the same.

“Dogs are for the first time being formally and regularly accommodated in doggie beaches, parks, high-class hotels, cafes and restaurants,” Nast writes in a series of influential articles on pet culture—included, essentially, in all the trappings of upper-class life.

She notes that it’s people with political power, disposable income and extra time who decide where dog parks go. Recent surveys in Calgary, Alberta; Texas; and Florida found some 80 percent of dog park users were white. All but one of Chicago’s 11 dog parks (at the time of Nast’s articles) were located on the city’s majority-white North Side, leading some to call the city’s South Side a “dog park desert.”

Although “technically any person can visit and enjoy the public spaces discussed here,” Nast argues, “their racialized location and privileged creation cannot be overlooked.” Wealthy families with pets often choose a neighborhood expressly because of its dog facilities; a recent poll by SunTrust Mortgage found that among American homebuyers aged 18 to 36, one-third listed better space for their dog as a top-three motivator. The dynamic, she notes, is often a driver of gentrification.

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Decades after it introduced the world to dog parks, Berkeley is now not just a leader in human-dog relations. It also is among the most expensive places to live in the United States, and of late its canine obsession has taken on a new meaning.

“In very practical ways, pets are easier to love and more suitable to transient lives than are children,” Nast says, noting the balance many millennials struggle to strike between skyrocketing living costs and a precarious gig economy. She goes so far as to argue that, in some circles, dogs have “replaced” children. (Bay Area conventional wisdom does hold that San Francisco is home to more dogs than children—a statistic that local NPR affiliate KQED recently confirmed, finding that 115,000 children and at least 120,000 dogs lived in San Francisco in 2016. And a related 2017 story by The New York Times included a quote from venture capitalist Peter Thiel describing the city as “structurally hostile to families.”)

After 40 years, Ohlone Park hosts plenty of millennial owners, who, yes, bring their dogs in strollers but also on leashes; in sweaters but also ready to roll in the mud. The play areas were subdivided for small and large dogs several years back. At some point, ODPA installed a new water fountain.

But much remains the same. Nigman and other old-timers still meet regularly in the afternoons at one of the picnic tables. Dogs—big, little, curly, fluffy—still romp around them with sheer joy that borders on mania. They don’t care that theirs is the first dog park, nor about complexities and tensions behind their parks’ spread through the Bay Area and beyond. For them, inside this canine world, very little has changed.

Step Inside a Famous Submarine

Smithsonian Magazine

The idea of a ship that can travel underwater has been around far longer than the technology to make it possible. Famed inventor Leonardo da Vinci, who died in 1519, had an idea for a submersible vessel but kept his sketches a secret. He wouldn’t share them, he said, “because of the evil nature of men who practice assassination at the bottom of the sea.”

Da Vinci never constructed his machine, as far as we know, and it wasn’t until about 1723 that a submersible came to life. This craft worked 15 feet below the surface of the Thames River, and according to Tom Parrish, author of The Submarine, even King James I visited onboard, despite the risk of drowning. Other inventors continued to make rudimentary submersibles until finally, in 1775, a man named David Bushnell created a machine that fits Parrish’s definition of a submarine: a vessel that can propel itself on water but also underneath it, and that can sink and rise again at will. Still, only one person could squeeze into Bushnell’s ship, which Parrish writes looked like two bathtubs clamped together, or like the shell of a strange oyster.

Today, submarines can be hulking—such as the 574-foot-long Soviet Typhoon—or sleek and miniature, like this two-person sub that looks and moves remarkably like a killer whale. According to the company that sells it, the orca-styled submersible can be yours for $90,000.

For those who don’t want to join the Navy—or don’t have $90,000 lying around—there’s still hope for adventure. A host of famous submarines are on display around the world, ready for visitors to explore. And if you want to ride in one yourself, there are even some tourist submersibles that can take you underwater.

H. L. Hunley, North Charleston, South Carolina

Image by RANDALL HILL/Reuters/Corbis. A member of the <I>Hunley</I> conservation crew walks beside the submarine, which was found several miles off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina, and is the only ship that a recovery team has raised from the ocean in its entirety. (original image)

Image by RANDALL HILL/Reuters/Corbis. A closer look at part of the <I>Hunley</I>, which became covered in silt after sinking underwater. Conservators say that the silt ended up protecting the submarine from saltwater corrosion as it lay buried under the ocean for almost 150 years. (original image)

Image by Image via Wikimedia. A drawing of the <I>Hunley</I>, showing its tightly packed crew members. (original image)

To see the first combat submarine ever to sink an enemy ship—a big milestone in the history of warfare—visit the H. L. Hunley in North Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley earned that inaugural honor during the Civil War, when it was built by the Confederate side and used in 1864 to attack the USS Housatonic with a 135-pound torpedo. The Hunley itself sank a little while later, under mysterious circumstances. For years afterward, explorers and treasure-seekers tried to locate the boat, and P.T. Barnum even offered a reward of $100,000. Still, no dice. Finally, on May 3, 1995—20 years ago this month—a team of archeologists funded by adventure novelist Clive Cussler finally found it. But to actually raise the sub from the ocean required a whole new kind of effort. 

“Nobody has raised an entire ship before, so they had to go about figuring out how to do it,” Sherry Hambrick, who works for the nonprofit that now displays and preserves the Hunley, told Smithsonian.com. Luckily, the sub was in remarkable shape, Hambrick explained, because it had been buried relatively quickly in a layer of silt that protected it from salt erosion. In August 2000, the team dredged up the Hunley and found a much more impressive machine than they’d imagined rotting beneath the sea. The vessel included technology they had not expected to find, such as a flywheel designed to act as a break for the propeller—an advanced feature for its time. 

The sub eventually went on display in North Charleston, where those who visit can learn not only about the vessel itself and the stories of its crew but about the technology used to recover it. Because the Hunley is so old and still being studied, however, visitors can’t enter inside.

USS Nautilus, Groton, Connecticut

Image by Yogi, Inc./CORBIS. The <I>Nautilus</I> on display in Groton, Connecticut, where President Harry Truman laid the ship's keel in 1952, when construction began. (original image)

Image by Bettmann/CORBIS. Crew members aboard the <I>Nautilus</I> in 1956. The U.S. Navy allowed 12 reporters, the ship's first nonofficial passengers, to ride along for a demonstration as the ship navigated between Connecticut and New York. (original image)

Image by CORBIS. The <I>Nautilus</I> during its launch in January 1954. (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Flickr user Douglas Muth. Inside the mess hall on the <I>Nautilus</I>, one of the rooms that visitors can explore—creepy mannequins and all. (original image)

Image by Image courtesy of Flickr user Andrew Kalat. The sonar room, which visitors can pop into, with displays that helped the crew detect contacts, avoid collision and follow objects. (original image)

The world's first nuclear-powered submarine marked another important milestone in underwater technology. During the Cold War, the United States aimed to build a more advanced sub than had ever been seen before, and found success with the USS Nautilus. Until 1954, as The New York Times explains, “submarines were basically surface ships that could submerge at slow speed for a few hours.” When the Nautilus joined the fleet on September 30 that year, it had the unprecedented ability to produce its own power and fresh water—allowing it to stay underwater for weeks instead of hours. The boat also shattered previous records of submarine speed and distance, and in 1958 completed Operation Sunshine, a secret voyage that made it the first sub to go to the North Pole.

To explore the Nautilus, head to the Submarine Force Library and Museum in Groton, Connecticut, and take a tour inside. Unlike the Hunley, which is older and more fragile, visitors can walk through the various chambers. The Nautilus still has two torpedoes on display, and visitors can also step into the Attack Center to see the buttons, keyholes and other instruments used to launch the weapons. (According to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy, every submarine must shoot its weapons at least once as a demonstration. However, Navy archivists who searched through records for Smithsonian.com didn’t find evidence of the Nautilus ever firing on an actual target.) To get a feel for what it was like to live every day in this undersea vessel, visitors can tour some of the bunk beds and witness what little privacy the 11 officers and 105 enlisted men experienced each night and day. Pin-up photos of women still hang throughout the boat.

USS Cod, Cleveland, Ohio

Image by Image via Wikimedia. The USS <I>Cod</I> in 1951. (original image)

Image by Courtesy Flickr user Grimm Pics. A close-up of the USS <I>Cod</I> shows a martini glass above the name of the Dutch ship that the <I>Cod</I> crew helped rescue. (original image)

The USS Cod is the only submarine ever to have rescued the crew from another country’s sub, and this July the USS Cod Submarine Memorial in Cleveland will host a live reenactment for the 70th anniversary of the event. After fighting in several battles during World War II and destroying Japanese warships, the Cod made history in July 1945, after a Dutch sub named O-19 floundered on a coral reef in the South China Sea while heading toward the Philippines. The crew sent out a distress call, and the Cod arrived the next day to help. After spending two days trying to pull the O-19 free, both captains agreed it was hopeless. Instead, the Cod brought the 56 stranded Dutch sailors on board, then destroyed the coral-lodged sub with “two scuttling charges, two torpedoes, and 16 rounds from Cod's 5-inch deck gun.” After the historic assistance, Dutch sailors threw their rescuers a party, during which they got word that Japan had surrendered.

Take a Ride in a Modern Sub

Image by Image via Wikimedia. A tourist sub named <I>Sindbad</I> off the coast of Egypt. (original image)

Image by Philip Gould/Corbis. Tourists sit at the portholes of the <I>Mobilis</I> submersible to view undersea wreckage off the coast of Martinique. (original image)

Image by Courtesy Flickr user Matt McGee. A view of the <I>Carthaginian</I>, one of the shipwrecks you can see on the <I>Atlantis</I> tourist submarine ride off Maui. (original image)

Other submarines-turned-museums are scattered as far as India, Russia, Peru and Japan, each with their own story. (The one in India, for instance, named the INS Kursura, was built in Riga, in the former Soviet Union, and inducted into the Indian navy in 1969. After 31 years of use, it was decommissioned and put on display in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh.) 

Museum submarines tend to stay stationary, but there are plenty of options for riding inside more modern submersibles as a tourist. One company, U.S. Submarines, supplies vessels for visitors to plunge underwater in places such as Hawaii, Egypt, Bora-Bora and Taiwan. These tours often focus on the creatures you can see through the portholes, but on subs in places like the Cayman Islands, you can sometimes spy the vestiges of shipwrecks.

There are also much smaller, more adventurous options, such as a three-person submersible that offers a week-long tour of sunken ships off the coast of Sicily, and that even sometimes picks up artifacts from the sea floor. If that’s too much action, more leisurely tourist subs offer adults on board a drink. Though we can’t say what da Vinci might have made of all this, we’ve certainly come a long way since his drawings.

Which Great American Should Be Immortalized With the Next Big Broadway Musical?

Smithsonian Magazine

The story of Hamilton has been told, and re-told, its legacy firmly planted in the history of Broadway. After winning the Grammy, Pulitzer and Tony for his exceptional work (not to mention the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award), Lin-Manuel Miranda departs the cast of the hit show this weekend, along with co-stars Leslie Odom Jr., and Phillipa Soo. The show will continue to thrive and sell out for months, both in the Richard Rodgers Theater in New York and in Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles and the cities on its nationwide tour, but in many ways it begins its second chapter next week with its new leads.

So what’s next for Miranda? Most immediately, it’s some electioneering, a long overdue haircut, and then back to work on a Disney movie musical, a highly anticipated “Hamilton mixtape”, and a starring role in next year’s Mary Poppins sequel. Much to the chagrin of Slate’s L.V. Anderson (who admonished those who would try and project their own dream musical ideas onto Miranda), we here at Smithsonian.com decided to go ahead and present our ideas on the characters from American history who deserve the next spotlight.

While luminaries like Josh Gad and Amy Schumer have proffered (terrible) ideas of their own, our writers, editors and museum staff have made suggestions below. Perhaps speaking to the preponderance of XX chromosomes on staff, our list below skews largely female. But considering the centuries of men largely getting to have their stories told, we’ll leave it at #sorrynotsorry.

Some of these figures have already had musicals written about them, but none of have catapulted to theater’s biggest stage in New York nor have had the star-power of a genius like Miranda behind them. This is also not to say that Miranda needs to write these future Tony-winning musicals. In his #Ham4Ham shows and sidegigs, Miranda has shown a clear love and support for his colleagues on the Great White Way. Wannabe songwriters and dramaturgs, take one of these ideas (or give us one of your own in the comments below)—and don’t throw away your shot!

Naomi Shavin, editorial assistant, Smithsonian magazine

Part of Hamilton’s pedigree has been its source material, Ron Chernow’s best-selling biography of the lead character. Journalist Nathalia Holt’s new book, Rise of the Rocket Girls, has a cast of strong female characters that would rival any of the Founding Fathers for their guts and glory, but of all of Holt’s “girls,” Helen Yee Chow steals the show. Raised in China and a survivor of the Japanese bombing of Hong Kong, Helen immigrated to the United States to attend college. At the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, she developed a reputation as the fastest “computer” (proven during rowdy computing contests) and paved the way for female engineers to be brought into JPL. She made it a point to hire women—and to rehire former colleagues if they’d left to start families. Over time, the female computers of JPL began to call themselves “Helen’s Girls.”

Her career spanned major Civil Rights and feminist milestones and rapidly shifting social norms. Her story even has a great meet-cute: an old crush she’d left behind in China ended up in the States too, and was dazzled by her intelligence and success at JPL. The next Hamilton will need its own Lin-Manuel Miranda, a wildly talented and charismatic lead who is not only passionate about bringing history to life, but also about bringing diversity to the stage. Imagine Helen Ling played by Constance Wu (of television's “Fresh Off The Boat”), an actress who has spoken out repeatedly on the lack of diversity in Hollywood, and who has been singing and dancing in plays since childhood, very likely because her parents love Broadway show tunes.

Christopher Wilson, director of the History Film Forum, Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

“Who the hell is Diane Nash?”

Through the phone after midnight Attorney General Robert Kennedy’s voice lashed, and his drowsy assistant John Seigenthaler was instructed to find this woman Nash and call her. In 1961, she had just resurrected the Freedom Rides where blacks and whites rode side-by-side on buses through the Deep South, into the mouth of Jim Crow, to force the Federal government to change the status quo. Then 22 years old, with a mind much older, she proved there’s not a bolder or more deserving heroine to become the subject of the next Hamilton. The story of the student at Fisk University who resolved to, if necessary, lay down her life to set others free has it all: intrigue, love, violence, tragedy, inner struggles, war and rivals, and a movement with a rich musical legacy that became the American revolution of the 20th century.

John Hanc, Smithsonian.com contributing writer who covered Hamilton for this site and for Newsday

Brave and resourceful, Benedict Arnold was the best general we had in the Revolution’s early years. As the late Bill Stanley, a Connecticut historian and Arnold defender used to point out, before Arnold betrayed his country, he saved it—most notably at Saratoga. What turned him into a turncoat—the slights, real and imagined; the schemes; the involvement of his beautiful wife Peggy Shippen—makes for spicy drama, as the producers of AMC’s “Turn” recognize: The “turning” of Arnold by John Andre (with Shippen’s eyelash-fluttering help) is one of the show’s plotlines. And who wouldn’t have wanted to be in the room where it happened, when Benedict and Peggy realized the jig was up and conspired to buy him time to escape from West Point? Washington and his aides found her hysterical and half-dressed, feigning insanity—and bought the whole act. Why, Peggy could’ve won a Tony!

Rachel E. Gross, science editor, Smithsonian.com

Silent Spring came out in 1962, the same year Watson and Crick were awarded the Nobel Prize for describing the structure of DNA. Unlike their discovery, Rachel Carson’s message—that the Earth had reached the limits of its ecological balance, and that it was up to us to protect it—was met not with acclaim but with scorn from the chemical industry, other scientists, and even the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, who determined that Carson, because she was attractive yet unmarried, was “probably a Communist.”

Carson’s personal life was burdened; she became the sole caretaker to her ailing mother and her niece’s orphaned son. But that weight was lightened by one relationship: the deeply profound friendship she shared with Dorothy Freeman, which sustained her through the storms she would encounter. After meeting one summer in Maine, the two women became a core presence in each other’s lives, exchanging over 1,000 letters throughout the 12 years they knew each other.

When Carson was battling the cancer that would ultimately kill her at 56, the pair burned the majority of their correspondence, fueling speculation that their relationship was of a romantic nature. Whether platonic or romantic, their bond formed an anchor that supported Carson’s work. “All I am certain of is this; that it is quite necessary for me to know that there is someone who is deeply devoted to me as a person,” Carson wrote in one letter, “and who also has the capacity and depth of understanding to share, vicariously, the sometimes crushing burden of creative effort."

The missing letters provide a jumping-off point for a musical told in epistolary form, chronicling the story of scientific discovery grounded in a deep passion for the natural world. Freeman’s devotion to her friend reflected and reinforced Carson’s devotion to the natural world—a devotion that ultimately led to a nationwide ban of DDTs, the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the impetus for a generation of young environmentalists. “Immortality through memory is real,” Carson wrote. As the specter of manmade climate change looms before us, her immortal prophecy bears repeating.

Brian Wolly, editor, Smithsonian.com

The one thing that 19th-century Chicagoan Catherine O’Leary has going for her is that she already has a hit song about her:

 Late one night, when we were all in bed,

Mrs. O’Leary lit a lantern in the shed.

Her cow kicked it over, then winked her eye and said,

It’ll be a hot time in the old town, tonight!

But as with many folk tales, there’s little truth to it. The Great Chicago Fire of 1871, during which 300 lives were lost, $200 million worth in property was destroyed, and 100,000 were left homeless, did not start because an Irish immigrant’s cow booted a lantern. It was a tale spawned while the embers still burned, grounded in fears of a city bursting at the seams with new immigrants arriving daily. An easy scapegoat (scapecow?), the abstract Catharine O’Leary, the one in newspapers and folk songs, was a cautionary tale about what happens when urban growth goes unimpeded.

In reality, her story was typical: a mother of five, married to a serial abuser, eking out a life in the great Midwestern metropolis. She’s a cipher, a vessel for engaging with the story of immigrants like her and the Fire itself. We don’t even know what she looked like; no photographs of O’Leary exist.

The true spark that ignited the conflagration may never be known, but the mystery of this woman holds much drama of a family, a community and a city on the brink of disaster.

Cassandra Good, contributing writer for Smithsonian.com, associate editor of the Papers of James Monroe, and author of Founding Friendships: Friendships between Men and Women in the Early American Republic.

She was the great celebrity of America’s founding era. In 1803, Elizabeth Patterson Bonaparte, the wealthy, young, and beautiful Marylander, created a scandal by marrying Napoleon’s brother Jerome and then, on their honeymoon, attending a party in Washington in a transparent Parisian gown. When the pregnant Elizabeth tried to return to France with Jerome, Napoleon blocked her from entering and annulled the marriage against their wishes. He married Jerome off to a German princess, leaving Elizabeth to return to America to fight for recognition—and funds—for herself and her son. She socialized with the elite in Washington, London, Paris and Rome; made a fortune off the annuity she received from Napoleon through shrewd business acumen; and lived like a European aristocrat. With her boundless ambition and independence, she was an exceptional woman whose life story was made for the stage.

M.G. Keehan, art director, Smithsonian magazine

"If they don't give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair."

Shirley Chisholm brought her own chair, and along with it came her guts, her tenacity and her many successes in fighting for equality, all the while fighting her own battles with the systematic, long-entrenched discrimination of the times, many of which continue today. I imagine Chisholm being alternately appalled and intrigued by the progress—or lack thereof—in today's society.

Chisholm was the first African-American woman elected to Congress in 1968, and the first major-party African-American to run for president in 1972. She represents many firsts, but she took no pleasure in that and had no time for labels. What mattered to Chisholm was humanity and equality. Some considered her impertinent, but she was effective. She introduced and saw through legislation that created actual change, such as expanded childcare, school lunches, expanded food stamps, domestic-worker benefits and consumer protection and product safety. She was and is a hero.

I imagine Chisholm's story set to Nina Simone and Al Green—music of the 1960s and 70s, of the inner city—and some Lauryn Hill to bring it around to today and Chisholm’s present-day relevance.

T.A. Frailsenior editor, Smithsonian magazine

Sojourner Truth was taller than Hamilton (5-foot-11), and her origins were humbler: Born into slavery, sold for $100 with a flock of sheep at age 9, abused by various owners for 20 years. God told her to walk away from bondage, and she did. She sued an owner who had illegally sold her son out of New York State, and won. She championed abolition and, after emancipation in 1865, women’s rights. She gave “freedom” a meaning Hamilton never intended and could never sustain. 

Carrie Heflin, educator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

Mary Edwards Walker graduated from Syracuse Medical College in 1855, making her one of the few female medical doctors of the time. She eschewed conventions of female dress and preferred to wear pants—resulting in one arrest for impersonating a man. She fought constant discrimination to become a commissioned assistant surgeon in the Union army during the Civil War. She became a Union spy and was captured and held by the Confederate army as collateral in a hostage exchange. Then, finally, she received a little recognition for all of her hard work and was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Andrew Johnson in 1865—only to have it revoked by Congress in 1917. She refused to give it back and wore it proudly to her dying day. She is still the only woman to have ever been awarded a Medal of Honor.

Jackie Mansky, assistant editor, Smithsonian.com

At the height of her fame, Nellie Bly set sail to best the fictional Phileas Fogg’s 80-day odyssey in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. The daring journalist captured the nation’s attention as she circumnavigated the globe in just 72 days. When she stepped off a train platform in New Jersey, her journey complete, a mob of thousands greeted her with thunderous applause. A brand-new musical (not a revival of the short-lived 1940s flop) would surely garner just as wild a reception.

Born Elizabeth Jane Cochran in 1864, Bly got her pen name from a Stephen Foster song (a clear front-runner for the musical’s opening number). Her writing highlighted societal wrongs, with her earliest series of investigative pieces focused on the conditions faced by women factory workers. Bly would go on to tackle stories that called for political reform, exposed corrupt politicians and brought attention to the injustices of poverty.

Despite her talent and work ethic, Bly’s reporting was constantly relegated to the women’s sections of the newspaper. But she refused to be outgunned and outmanned. After she was assigned arts and entertainment reporting at The Pittsburgh Dispatch, she left for New York to take a job with Joseph Pulitzer at the New York World. There she would go undercover to report the story that would define her legacy, a burning exposé on the conditions that women faced in a New York insane asylum.

At a time when a women’s place was considered to be in the domestic sphere, Bly broke barriers, and refused to be boxed into her gender-assigned space. She pioneered a new kind of undercover investigative reporting, and lead a generation of daredevil “girl reporters” to pick up a pen and write.

Jessica Carbone, curatorial associate for food history, Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

One of the things that makes Hamilton work so well is that Hamilton documented himself so well, with volumes of personal and political writing, and in doing so documented a particular kind of early American philosophy. Phyllis Wheatley would be an ideal subject for a musical for the same reason—not only did she express herself through her poetry, but writing as an enslaved woman in the 18th century gave her a unique perspective on American life, ambition and ingenuity. One of the most well-trod tropes of musical theatre is the idea of the “I Want” song (in Hamilton, it’s “My Shot”). What could be a better template for that than Wheatley’s “On Virtue”? In striving for knowledge, she says that “goodness” is how we reach a “higher appellation…a better strain, a nobler lay.” Could “On Virtue” the next “Defying Gravity”? (Plus, imagine staging Wheatley’s 1776 introduction to General George Washington as a third-act showstopper—he was also a slave owner, so it was an unusual meeting fraught with lots of meaning for them both.)

Erin Blakemore, contributing editor and writer, Smithsonian.com

A father and daughter stand at the deathbed of a beloved son and brother. As he dies, the father begins an infuriating lament: “Oh my daughter, I wish you were a boy!” Extraordinary fodder for a musical's opening number, but in reality, it was just another day in the life of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the suffrage warrior who deserves her day on stage.

The notorious ECS had a depressed mom, a slaveholding, sexist father, a husband who grudgingly allowed her to strike the “obey” part from her wedding vows. And oh, her friends—Lucretia Mott, who became a close ally when they were both denied seats at a prominent antislavery conference; Susan B. Anthony, who told her that “no power in heaven, hell, or earth can separate us, for our hearts are eternally wedded together”; Frederick Douglass, who sprung up and defended women’s suffrage at the Seneca Falls Convention organized by Stanton…and whom Stanton wounded when she refused to support suffrage for black men before black women, opposing the 14th and 15th amendment and almost tearing the suffrage movement in two. 

No one could throw shade like Elizabeth Cady Stanton. (“Confer on me, great angel, the glory of White manhood, so that henceforth I may feel unlimited freedom.”) No one could bring people together or tear them apart like she could. And much like Alexander Hamilton, she’s been ignored in favor of her more famous friends for way too long. Besides, who could resist a musical that includes struggles over seating, a swirling, hell-raising women’s rights convention, and a love/hate story with the likes of Susan B. Anthony? It’s a match made in musical heaven. 

Maya Wei-Haas, assistant web editor, Smithsonian.com

If Lin-Manuel Miranda was able to make audiences tap their fingers to beats about the U.S. financial system, then it’s not too far a cognitive leap to imagine a musical that highlights another complicated subject: billions of years of evolutionary history.

In the 1960s, biologist Lynn Margulis set out to change how the world thought about microbiology with a six-syllable word: endosymbiosis. Her relentless pursuit of this idea incited arguments, ended relationships (including a short-lived marriage to Carl Sagan) and burned academic bridges. Even when faced with rejection after rejection (some 15 in total) from academic journals, “Your research is crap, do not bother to apply again” read one, Margulis persevered.

A child genius, Margulis had bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Chicago by the age of 22. Her idea was groundbreaking, but was strikingly simple. Before around 2.1 billion years ago, all cells existed as prokaryotes, lacking the internal complexities of their eukaryotic cousins that are the main building blocks of you, me and all animals and plants alike. But Margulis hypothesized that cells made the enormous leap from simple to complex by swallowing other cells that could toil away inside, providing its host with the energy to thrive.

This union changed the course of history billions of years ago, and remains at the core of studying how microbes interact with all creatures, from insects to humans—even the formation of new animal species.

For the past few years, scientists have been “dancing their Ph.Ds,” a contest that taps their creative sides. Interpretive dance has been an integral part of musical theater, from Oklahoma’s dream ballet sequence choreographed by Agnes de Mille to the Billy Joel-scored ballet/jukebox musical Movin’ Out. Margulis’ research holds the promise of disentangling the complexities of microbiology in a way only musical theater can, through dance.

Margulis’ courageous quest to make her voice heard is a compelling backbone for the musical, a story that not just goes back eons but is strikingly relevant now, as Margulis’ successors study the microbes that affect everything about our lives today.

Ann Shumard, senior curator of photography at the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery

“Let Soldiers in War be Citizens in Peace,” wrote Octavius V. Catto in 1865. Even before emancipation, as a free black man living in Philadelphia, Catto devoted his life to securing civil rights for African-Americans, founding organizations like the Banneker Literary Institute and the Equal Rights League. He was a renaissance man, studying the classics and becoming a member of the city’s Franklin Institute, a scientific organization.

During the war itself, he worked alongside Frederick Douglass to recruit African-Americans into the Union army. (He also happened to be an accomplished baseball and cricket player.) A vigorous advocate for the civil rights amendments of the Reconstruction Era, Catto was shot to death by a Democratic Party operative, Frank Kelly, on October 10, 1871, as African-Americans voted in Philadelphia’s first election held after ratification of the 15th Amendment. An all-white jury acquitted Kelly, despite there being multiple witnesses.

Freedom's tally: An African American business in the Jim Crow South

National Museum of American History

Photograph of Harold Cotton in his Greensboro, North Carolina shop. Cotton cleans a fedora with a brush. A group of hat blocks sit in the foreground, and Cotton's diploma hangs on the wall behind him.

At 15 years old, Harold Cotton tucked his shoe shine box under his arm and walked to Jefferson Square in downtown Greensboro, North Carolina. The year was 1937 and the Depression had thrown most of the black men in town out of work. Those lucky enough to find employment would toil all day and might earn a dollar.  If business was good that day, Cotton might shine 40 pairs of shoes at a nickel a pair and clear two dollars or more including tips.
  
At 6 p.m. that day, after the downtown crowds had gone home, Cotton stopped in at the recently opened Bob’s Hat Shop at 108 McGee Street, hoping to meet his cousin.  However, Cotton met Robert Taylor instead. In jest, Cotton asked Taylor for a job. The older man asked, “Well, can you shine shoes?” As Taylor sat in a chair at the back of the store, Cotton proved his skill with rag and brush. Taylor offered him a job that same night.

Photograph of three metal tokens using in Cotton's shop, 1950s–1990s. The token have diveted edges and are stamped with the text, "Kelly's Lynn Boot Polish Opener."

Bob’s Hat Shop offered shoe shines along with hat cleaning and repair and was the only black-owned business allowed to operate downtown. To survive on this side of the city’s color line in the 1930s meant that Taylor had to keep his own store segregated. While black customers could get their shoes shined at Bob’s, they had to sit on a chair in the back of the shop. Only white patrons could sit on the chairs in the front of the store.
  
For the next decade, Cotton worked part time shining shoes at Bob’s Hat Shop while also holding down jobs at the El Moro Cigar factory and the Cone Mills, as well as driving a delivery truck. Even after returning from World War II and attending North Carolina Agricultural & Technical College, Cotton continued to work at the store until Taylor’s death in 1948.
 
Photograph of Cotton's framed diploma from the Chicago School of Shoe Rebuilding, 1950.

With Taylor gone, Cotton joined the Great Migration of millions of African Americans leaving the South after World War II for better opportunities in the North. With an eye toward opening his own store in Chicago, he enrolled in the Chicago School of Shoe Rebuilding in 1950, earning his degree in hat cleaning and repair. Soon afterwards, Cotton received a long-distance phone call from North Carolina. The man who had bought Bob’s Hat Shop was gravely ill and his sister needed someone familiar with the business who could also clean and repair hats. Eventually, the sister let Cotton take over the payments, and by 1953, Cotton had taken possession of the business free and clear.

ollage of photographs of three wooden implements used in Cotton's shop: a hat block, flange and stand, 1950s. The hat block has distinctive grooves indicating it was used to block fedoras.

The 1950s were a good decade for Cotton’s business. Throughout the decade, Cotton had a steady stream of customers who brought in hats that had to be kept in good condition and shoes that needed shining. As Cotton related in a 1996 interview, his hat shop enjoyed a “lot of traffic,” as well as a reliable clientele of businessmen visiting from out of town, whose “proper dress wear” required a “hat, shirt, and tie.”
 
However, the 1960s signaled a dramatic shift in men’s fashion. Though apocryphal, the widespread story that President John F. Kennedy delivered his inaugural address bareheaded nonetheless signaled the beginning of the end for the dress hat. Then, as Cotton remembered, “the hippies came along,” and “stop[ped] wearing hats and started wearing long hair ... and then everyone started going bareheaded.” Though business was never again as good as it had been in the 1950s, Bob’s Hat Shop would remain a fixture in downtown Greensboro for the rest of the century.
 
Photograph of off-white, straw fedora worn in the summer months by Harold Cotton.
The 1960s also saw profound challenges to the system of Jim Crow that had placed hard limits on the freedoms and ambitions of African Americans across the South. On February 1, 1960, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University staged a sit-in protest at the segregated Woolworth’s lunch counter less than half a mile away from Bob’s Hat Shop on South Elm Street. The protesters' refusal to obey an unjust law created a disruption so massive that it compelled Woolworth’s to desegregate its southern stores. By the end of 1960 more than 70,000 brave young men and women sat in, faced arrest, and endured violence in their campaign to desegregate hotels, libraries, parks, and lunch counters across the South.
 
Photograph of the the "Greensboro four" on the second day of their sit-in protest at the Woolworth’s store in Greensboro, North Carolina.

While the protests targeting the Woolworth’s down the street were escalating, an African American Marine walked into Bob’s Hat Shop and asked for a shine. In that moment, with history being made up the street, Cotton made the decision to desegregate his store. He told the soldier to have a seatin one of the chairs reserved for white customers only. After his customer paid the bill and left, Cotton turned to an understandably stunned friend and announced that “from now on anybody that comes in here can get on the stand. I don’t care whether they close us up or not.” To desegregate his store in 1960, when the successes of the civil rights movement were still uncertain, took considerable courage. The landscape of the past is studded with the graves of men and women who had similarly challenged Jim Crow.

Photograph of the section of the Greensboro Woolworth's lunch counter that is part of the museum's collection and is currently on display on the museum floo

Not all of Cotton’s contributions to the cause of African American civil rights were as dramatic as his decision to desegregate his shop. In the era of Jim Crow, segregation often meant that African Americans were taxed to build parks they could not play in, pools they could not swim in, and schools their children could not attend. Though there were segregated schools black students could attend across the South, these were underfunded, overcrowded, and would be closed as needed in the event of a shortfall in the annual budget. If African Americans wanted any of these things for their own communities, they had to pay for it themselves. That is, after paying taxes for all the amenities that white people enjoyed but they themselves were barred from using, black communities taxed themselves again. They used these “second taxes” to build their own schools, their own parks, their own playgrounds.  
 
Over the course of the next half century, Cotton also paid his “second taxes.” The profits from Bob’s Hat Shop helped sustain many of the the institutions of the local black community: St. Stephen's United Church of Christ, the local black Boy Scout troop, the Dudley High School Alumni Association, and the Greensboro branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Contributions like these from thousands of black business owners paid for textbooks, teachers’ salaries, even the coal used to heat schoolrooms in winter. Their contribution meant the difference between literacy and illiteracy for millions of African Americans.
 
Scanned image of the James B. Dudley High School's 60th Anniversary Jubilee program, with a historical photo of the school on the program's front and a photograph of Harold Cotton, as well as his message of congratulations, on the program's interior.

The bedrock of the local economy of African American communities in towns like Greensboro comprised of small business owners and entrepreneurs like Robert Taylor and Harold Cotton. The overlooked and unseen labor of the black proprietors of hat shops, beauty salons, funeral parlors, photography studios, barbershops, and other businesses performed the yeoman’s work of sustaining the African American community through the decades of Jim Crow.

Harold Cotton's story is one of two biographies featured in Black Main Street: Funding Civil Rights in Jim Crow America, a temporary display within the American Enterprise exhibition's "New Perspectives" case, on view from September 16, 2016 through March 8, 2017.

Jay Driskell is a historian of the urbanizing, segregating South. He is the author of Schooling Jim Crow: the Fight for Atlanta’s Booker T. Washington High School and the Roots of Black Protest Politics. 

Author(s): 
Jay Driskell
Posted Date: 
Tuesday, October 18, 2016 - 02:30
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Visit Kennedy Space Center, the Closest Thing to Space on Earth

Smithsonian Magazine

The story of American space travel is ever-expanding, and Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex℠  in Cape Canaveral, Florida, is at the center of it all. On May 5, 1961, Alan Shepard launched into sub-orbital flight from Cape Canaveral and paved the way for a dramatic space race with the Soviet Union. In the coming years, astronauts will venture into deep space from the very same location. With roots dating back to the beginning of the American space program, Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is the closest you can get to experiencing space here on Earth. From visiting historic launch pads to meeting astronauts and interacting with space artifacts, here are eight can't-miss space experiences at the heart of Florida's Space Coast:

Visit the Restricted Areas of America's Spaceport

From the comfort of an air-conditioned motor coach, visitors to Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex can access restricted areas of the working spaceflight facility. On the tour, you'll look both back and forward in time. See where the Apollo program launched its missions to the moon and marvel at the multi-story Vehicle Assembly Building where rockets take their shape. You'll also see where NASA plans to launch astronauts into deep space and learn where its Commercial Crew and Cargo partners, including SpaceX, Boeing and United Launch Alliance, operate.

Experience Space in Virtual Reality Through the Lens of a Custom-Designed Space Visor

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's brand new Space Visor mobile virtual reality headsets immerse guests in a one-of-a-kind space experience that brings artifacts to life. With purchase of a Visor, visitors can download three unique programs—KSC 360 Expedition, Space Dreams and Edge of Home—on their mobile phones free of charge to use with the headset. The KSC 360 Expedition incorporates all parts of Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, featuring facts about each rocket in the Rocket Garden, video of the space shuttle Atlantis as she floats in orbit and the opportunity to look through the eyes of Wally Schirra, Gene Cernan and Alan Shepard from the commander seats of the Mercury-Atlas 8, Gemini 9 and Apollo 14 spacecrafts. In Space Dreams, enter the room of a space-inspired child and soak up facts and figures about their galactic-themed décor, including each planet, a Mars rover and a Mercury spacesuit. In Edge of Home, travel to the International Space Station and experience the thrill of an extravehicular activity walk while learning about each module. The best part? You can take the experiences home with you.

Launch Into Orbit

Veteran astronauts say the Shuttle Launch Experience® is the next best thing to space travel. In this simulation, travel from four hours before launch to the final seconds in a matter of minutes. Following a prelaunch briefing by veteran Space Shuttle Commander Charlie Bolden, your seat shifts back into a vertical position to prepare for takeoff. The final countdown commences, engines rev up and suddenly you’re flying at simulated speeds of 17,500 miles per hour. You'll forget that you're not barreling toward the outer edges of the earth. Eight-and-a-half minutes later, a feeling of weightlessness settles over you. The payload bay doors open to reveal Earth—a shifting mass of vivid greens and blues, set against a starry sky only astronauts can recount. “Shuttle Launch Experience is an amazingly realistic simulation of the space shuttle’s eight and a half-minute ascent into orbit," says Jon McBride, former NASA astronaut. "From the custom-designed crew cabins with unprecedented vertical range, high-definition audiovisual effects and advanced seating effects—the sense of realism is maximized. You can literally feel the power that the space shuttle used to propel astronauts into space.”

Hold the History of Space in the Palm of Your Hand

Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex's handheld digital SmartGuide brings the past, present and future of space to your fingertips. Historic and current space photographs, video and detailed maps customized to each attraction enrich and personalize guest experiences. Watch historic footage of rocket launches, like Mercury-Redstone, and examine photographs of space artifacts, or locate the closest restrooms and dining facilities. It's like having your own personal tour guide.

See Footage Shot by Astronauts in 3D IMAX®

The world’s only twin IMAX® screens, each a jaw-dropping five stories tall, bring footage shot by astronauts to life in two motion pictures. Journey to Space, narrated by Sir Patrick Stewart, explores groundbreaking plans to land astronauts on Mars and introduces the team selected for the task. Interviews with commander of the final shuttle mission Chris Ferguson and Serena Aunon, an astronaut selected for future flight, emphasize how these future plans would not be possible without the contributions made by the Space Shuttle Program. A Beautiful Planet, narrated by Jennifer Lawrence, casts Earth in a new light from the perspective of the International Space Station. Using Canon 4K cameras, International Space Station astronauts captured all manner of breathtaking natural phenomena, from lightning storms to volcanoes, coral reefs and even the Northern Lights. At night, they documented city lights, a gripping visualization of how humans have shaped the planet.  

Relive the Daring Feats of Early Space Pioneers

Just three years after NASA began work on Project Mercury in Cape Canaveral, Alan Shepard became the first American in space. Now, thanks to state-of-the-art technology, Shepard’s heroism and the daring feats of other early space pioneers come to life as never before in the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex’s new Heroes & Legends featuring the U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame®. A 360-degree discovery bay, 4D multisensory theater and interactive exhibits present the stories of pioneering astronauts while exploring how Americans define heroism. Interact with the nearly 100 astronaut heroes inducted to date in the new U.S. Astronaut Hall of Fame® and watch a hologram reenact Gene Cernan’s hair-raising spacewalk, during which his goggles fogged up and he struggled to reenter the Gemini 9 capsule.

Witness the Launch of Historic Apollo 8

Symbolizing the height of the space race with the Soviet Union, the Apollo moon-landing era was a defining period in American history. Inside the Apollo/Saturn V Center's Firing Room Theater, relive the launch of the first crewed NASA mission to orbit the moon in 1968 aboard the massive Saturn V rocket. Seated behind the consoles used during the Apollo launches, experience the thrill of the Apollo 8 countdown, then see and feel the Saturn V blast into space.

Meet an Astronaut

No one tells the story of space travel quite like the people who have been there themselves. Each day in the Astronaut Encounter Theater, a featured astronaut shares his or her experiences training for and living in space, followed by a tell-all Q&A session. “If you’re bold enough to ask, I’m bold enough to answer,” says astronaut Bob Springer, who served as a mission specialist on the STS-29 Discovery and STS-38 Atlantis shuttle flights. He enjoys the Q&A sessions for the chance to inspire a new generation and share what NASA releases leave out – “the emotional part” and “stories behind stories." After the Q&A, visitors can meet and take photos with featured astronauts, who range from commanders to pilots, mission specialists and payload specialists.

What Does a 36-Foot-Tall Human Tower Have to Do With Catalan Independence?

Smithsonian Magazine

In the past few days, in the central squares of eight European capitals, Catalans from northeastern Spain launched an innovative, if quirky, publicity stunt. At noon on June 8, Barcelona-time—the region’s major city, they raised traditional human towers in a coordinated campaign dubbed: “Catalans want to vote. Human Towers for Democracy.” The movement also sparked a following and human towers rose up in more than 60 other towns and cities, including Montreal and Santiago in Chile.

The Catalans are actively seeking international support for a referendum on November 9th, allowing a vote to settle the question of an independent state for the region. The Spanish government maintains that the Catalans have no legal right to pose this question, but most Catalans think that as members of European democracy, they can call for a non-binding plebiscite. The use of human towers to draw attention to the fact that they want their voices to be heard is a dramatic and intriguing display of a performance that was declared in 2010 by UNESCO as an “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.”

The Catalan struggle for independence has its roots in culture as much as it does in economics and politics. Catalans speak a unique Romance language, distinct from the French and Spanish spoken in the region, and Catalonia’s political identity dates to the 12th century. Catalonia became part of unified Spain, when King Phillip V abolished its local laws in the first decades of the 18th century.

For centuries, the region maintained its separate identity while under Spanish rule, but by the 1930s, the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, who held a particular contempt for Catalonia, enforced a series of measures to stamp out its distinctive language and culture. The Catalan language was not taught in schools or generally used in public, and Catalan versions of names were not permitted on birth certificates or other public records.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, a vibrant independence movement led by a number of strong civic organizations promotes and advocates for this distinctly Catalan culture. Barcelona’s Palace of Catalan Music in Barcelona, often considered a modernist masterpiece, was designed and built by Gaudí’s teacher, Lluís Domènech i Montaner, for the Orfeó Català, a choral music group that sought to provide a broad public access to Catalan music. The current government in Madrid permits the use of the Catalan language, but teaching Catalan in schools continues to be hotly debated. Catalans often also point out that the central government levies more taxes in Catalonia than it reinvests in government services.  In 1961, while Spain was still under Franco’s rule, five Catalan men formed Òmnium Cultural to promote Catalan culture and language. Their organization collaborated with the Coordinating Committee of Human Tower Teams of Catalonia to mount the recent performances in Berlin, Brussels, Geneva, Lisbon, London and Paris.

The human towers or castells, date to the 18th century, when people in the local town of Valls began to build these remarkable temporary structures at annual festivals. Since that time, local clubs have passed on the tradition, and the amateur teams compete each year at large festivals under the motto “strength, balance, courage, and seny”—a particularly Catalan value that mixes good sense and a calm demeanor and is often contrasted with rauxa, a sense of careless abandon.

The team members that mount the castells wear a simple uniform that includes white pants, a colored shirt, a bandana and a faixa, a sash up to 36-feet-long that provides back support and a handle for climbers. Ideally the castell rises and falls with a smooth and elegant ease. The towers are traditionally called by the number of stages and people per stage—it can have between one and five people per stage. So a castell with three people per stage and five stages is called a "3 by 5." The most ambitious human towers may contain ten stages, but only two human towers in the last 200 years have been assembled and disassembled with that claim to fame.

At the base is the bulky pinya, the band of people who support the weight of the tower. Then climbers descend up the backs of the members of the base and onto their shoulders, locking arms, and stabilizing that stage. The next set of climbers repeat the action until the last stage is completed, but it is amazing to watch as there can be three or four people crawling up the outside of the human tower at once. Really tall castells include a central tower inside the outer ring to provide support, and that pillar stays in place until the rest of the tower is dismantled.

The last person up is usually a child wearing a safety helmet (the Coordinating Committee recently employed modern standards for safety), who stands at the top of the tower, sometimes on the shoulders of nine other people. This child traditionally holds up four fingers, a gesture that evokes the four red strips on the Catalan flag and turns this interesting human feat into an act of cultural nationalism. When Catalans reflect on tower building, they often stress the sense of “community, cooperation and integration—a metaphor or ideal of what many Catalans aspire for Catalonia to be one day,” as Catalan historian Meritxell Martin-Pardo explains.

The Catalans’ use of traditional culture to make a political statement is not unique, but what is remarkable here is how that they are using cultural performances as a tool to build support for their desire for self-determination. This strategic use of cultural and artistic expression is part of what some scholars are calling cultural democracy, the idea that people have the right to determine how their cultural life develops. Cultural democracy also embraces the idea that people use their cultural art forms as a tool to seek their own best interests and their cultural values to chart their course through the present and into the future. It reflects the basic human right to free expression as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. It honors and celebrates cultural diversity, and it nurtures active participation in the cultural life of communities. Like others engaged in cultural democracy around the world, the Catalans are using traditional culture to make a modern point about a very real and relevant issue of the day: They are building human towers for democracy.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Mahican/Stockbridge, 1930-1952

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 6, reels 10-12. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

The first evidence of John P. Harrington's interest in studying the Mahican language surfaced in January 1930 correspondence. (At this time, he used the names Mahican and Mohegan interchangeably.) In September 1930 he tried to interest Bernard Hoffmann of Santa Barbara, California, to fund a Wisconsin field trip in a search for Stockbridge vocabulary, legends, songs, placenames, tribenames, history, etc. He hoped to find native speakers who could rehear terms from early manuscripts and publications.

Between 1930 and 1949, Harrington secured copies of or made reading notes from some of these manuscripts, most of which are clearly identified in the field notes. The most exhaustively reheard and reorganized body of material consists of terms and text copied from the Stockbridge linguistic notes and texts recorded by Truman Michelson in 1914 (B.A.E. MS 2734). Harrington's notes and correspondence reveal a diligent search for those informants of Michelson who might still be living in the Stockbridge, Wisconsin, area in the hope that they would be willing to work with him.

In 1949, Harrington arrived at the Stockbridge Reservation on April 16 and remained there until April 23. Mr. Arvid E. Miller drove him around the area and introduced him to numerous other Millers, most of whom supplied linguistic and ethnohistoric information. His first introduction to Bernice Metoxen Robinson Huntington (sometimes erroneously spelled Robertson) took place at this time. In 1914, at the age of about thirty-seven, she had been one of Michelson's informants. She had also worked with Frank T. Siebert,Jr., in 1935 and 1936. She was a black adopted by the Mahicans with whom she lived from earliest childhood; she learned Menominee in school. Harrington's first meeting with her was unsuccessful, the second more cordial and fruitful, and about the last week of October 1949, on a subsequent trip to Wisconsin, he was able to hear and rehear with her a substantial amount of Mahican linguistics. He found another excellent informant in Webb Miller. Most of the notes are of a comparative nature, particularly comparisons with the two Abenaki dialects and with Delaware. This fell into place rather easily as Harrington was in various cities of Maine, in Quebec, and in Albany, N.Y., between April 24 and October 24 taking notes from St. Francis and Penobscot Abenaki speakers. He extracted Delaware terms from Daniel G. Brinton and Albert S. Anthony's A Lenape-English Dictionary (1888), and from the unpublished manuscript of Mathew S. Henry, Vocabulary of Words in Various Indian Dialects of the United States (ca. 1861). In November and December while traveling between New York and Washington for other reasons, he carried most of these notes with him and began the work of sorting and rearranging, which continued on and off in Washington at least until 1952. Other equivalent terms are in Menominee and were supplied by interviews in Washington with Al Dodge, an employee of the Interior Department. Ojibwa and Pequot terms are mainly from secondary sources.

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 6: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Northeast/Southeast," edited by Elaine L. Mills and Ann J. Brickfield (1987). http://anthropology.si.edu/naa/harrington/pdf/mf_guides/jp%20harrington%20guide%20-%20volume%206.pdf

This subseries of the Northeast/Southeast series contains Harrington's Mahican/Stockbridge research. The materials consist of comparative vocabulary, comparative grammar, comparative linguistic notes, and writings.

The vocabulary is arranged according to numerous semantic categories designated by Harrington. The basic source is Truman Michelson's Stockbridge Manuscript 2734, information from which was reheard with Mahican speakers, and compared with secondary sources and with Abenaki material rewritten or removed from his own field notes. Harrington interfiled Menominee information secured later in Washington from Al Dodge. The "Persons" category is quite rich in biographical information. Webb Miller apparently identified for Harrington the subjects of some of his old photographs, although the prints were not found with the notes. There are two pages taken from an old family record listing the names Pye, Bennett, Moon, and Turkey, the dates ranging from 1845 to 1865. Harrington evidently began another (possibly later) semantic organization of the Michelson notes. Other secondary sources used as a basis for comparison are Brinton and Anthony (1888), James Trumbull's Natick Dictionary (1903), and Frederic Baraga's A Dictionary of the Otchipwe Language (1853).

A set of grammatical notes is also based on MS 2734 but it is not as well developed as the vocabulary material. Only a few notes deal with phonetics. There is more information on verbs and numerals than on any other morphological category.

The comparative linguistic notes are from Harrington's two 1949 interviews with Bernice Robinson Huntington and encompass vocabulary, grammar, ethnography, ethnohistory, and some miscellaneous information on Stockbridge persons, including something of her own background. One group is arranged alphabetically by main entry in Mahican, with Delaware, St. Francis Abenaki, Natick, Ojibwa, and Cree equivalences (if any) placed immediately following the related Mahican term. The unmarked main entries are apparently Huntington's original terms; those in ink marked Brinton and Anthony are from their 1888 dictionary; the pencil notes are St. Francis Abenaki obtained in the field and are identified by informant "codes" Am. (Alfred Miller), Den. (George Dennis); Watso (John Watso); (Oliver Obomsawin). The significance of the numbered divider pages was not documented. Another group designated "B2" probably refers to the fall rehearing with Bernice Huntington and is confined chiefly to St. Francis Abenaki and Menominee equivalences. Some new information from Huntington, especially changes in orthography, may have been interfiled. A third group contains Huntington's comments on Mathew S. Henry's Vocabulary. ... It represents an attempt to organize Henry's material according to a semantically arranged vocabulary and a brief grammar touching on phonetics and morphology. Harrington crossed out St. Francis Abnaki comparisons and, according to a field note, copied them for use elsewhere. He also incorporated some of Huntington's (B2) terms.

This subseries also contains a draft and notes relating to his unpublished manuscript, "Seven Mahican Texts Recorded by Truman Michelson". Harrington excerpted the texts verbatim from the Michelson MS 2734, including Michelson's interlinear Mahican translations and free English versions. The draft contains a short vocabulary culled from the texts which Harrington arranged semantically. He provided some Mahican historical background and explained certain orthographic changes made to update Michelson's spelling and to facilitate pronunciation. An eighth text in English only was given to Michelson by Sterling Peters. There is informative bibliographical material both in the body of the draft and in the separate section devoted to this category.

Before There Was “Hamilton,” There Was “Burr”

Smithsonian Magazine

“Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?” sing the cast of Hamilton in the finale of the smash Broadway musical. In the case of Aaron Burr—the “damn fool” who shot Alexander Hamilton—the answer to that last question, at least before playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda came around, was simple: Gore Vidal.

More than 40 years before there was Hamilton, there was Burr, the best-selling and critically acclaimed 1973 novel about the disgraced Founding Father—written by a celebrity author with a reputation as a skilled duelist himself (albeit with words, not pistols).

Vidal died in 2012. In his obituary, the New York Times called Vidal a “prolific, elegant, all-around man of letters.” He was also a successful television writer in the medium’s early days, and a regular on the talk show circuit later in his career (Reportedly, Johnny Carson was impressed enough to offer him a spot as a regular guest host of “The Tonight Show”). The aristocratic Vidal also dabbled in politics: He ran for Congress from New York in 1960, and for the Senate in California in 1982. “Though he lost both times,” noted the Times’ Charles McGrath, “he often conducted himself as a sort of unelected shadow president. He once said, ‘There is not one human problem that could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise.’”

His sharp wit and on-camera poise was best displayed in his debates with luminaries like conservative ideologue William F. Buckley, founder of the National Review. (2015’s documentary Best of Enemies highlights these vituperative but entertaining televised fights between two heavyweight intellectuals of the left and right.)

Vidal began writing about Burr in late 1969. That was the year after the debates which, along with the publication of his scandalous sex satire, Myra Breckenridge, had helped propel the then 43-year-old to national prominence.

“At the time he begins writing Burr, he’s on the top of his game,” says Jay Parini author of the 2015 Vidal biography, Empire of Self.  “He’s been on the cover of Time, Life and Look. He’s everywhere.”

So what got a man so very much in-the-moment interested in a character 200 years in the past? Parini cites multiple reasons, from the nation’s excitement over the anticipated bicentennial celebration of its independence in 1976 to his stepfather’s purported distant relationship with Burr to the shadowy machinations of the Nixon White House reminding Vidal of the intrigues of the Jefferson White House. In addition to those motivations, Vidal wanted to continue his exploration the historical novel—a genre he had experimented with in his 1964 novel Julian about the Roman emperor Flavius Claudius Julianus.

But perhaps most significantly, says Parini, a writer and professor at Middlebury College in Vermont, who was also Vidal’s friend for nearly 30 years ,“I think he saw himself in Burr.”

Certainly few characters in early American history have sparked such passion as the man who fought with distinction in the American Revolution and lived well into the Industrial Revolution.  In between, of course, he figured prominently into two of the most infamous episodes in the history of the early Republic: The 1804 duel in which Burr—then vice president of the United States—shot and killed Hamilton; and the so-called “Burr Conspiracy” three years later, when he was ordered arrested by President Thomas Jefferson and charged with treason, allegedly for plotting to create an independent nation in the Southwest, taking some of the United States with him (Burr’s defenders maintained he wanted to “liberate” Mexico from Spain). The truth was somewhere in the middle. Historian Nancy Isenberg writes in her 2007 biography of Burr, Fallen Founder, that “Burr never planned the grand conspiracy that attached to him, and neither did he seriously contemplate the assassination of the president or his own installation as emperor of Mexico” (all things he was charged with at various points). “But it seems undeniable that he was foolish in his dealings with Jefferson.”. After a trial that gripped the new nation, presided over by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall, Burr was acquitted of treason, and his political career was over.

Illustration, Duel between Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr. After the painting by J. Mund (Lord, John, LL.D. (1902). Beacon Lights of History. Vol. XI, "American Founders.")

Vidal certainly wasn’t the first writer to recognize that Burr’s life made for a fascinating story. In her book, Isenberg traces the history of Burr-Lit, noting that as early as 1838—two years after his death—the “devilish Burr” made an appearance in a novel about his alleged schemes in the West.

While he would have his defenders in print over the subsequent years, most depictions of Burr were ugly. Isenberg notes that even as late as 1955, playwright Thomas Sweeney, in his “Aaron Burr’s Dream for the Southwest,” depicts the former vice president as “a hypersexualized and insane genius...a weird blend of Dr. Frankenstein and Hugh Hefner.”

It’s likely that Vidal would have been familiar with most of these earlier works when he began researching his own novel on Burr. He was known for exhaustive research – when he wrote Julian he moved to Rome to spend a year immersed in the history of the Roman Empire. Parini describes his research zeal as “fanatical...he would buy up books on the subject and talk to experts at length.” Burr was no exception: To prepare for his novel, he consulted with his friend and historian Arthur Schlesinger on the most useful books and sources, and had about 200 volumes shipped to his residence in Rome.

Every morning, Vidal would head to a café near the Pantheon and sip coffee as he began to immerse himself in the period, and the character. “I was beginning to feel the weight of the book, and worked easily,” Vidal later told Parini. At first, “I had in mind only the glimmer of a sequence.”

While there was certainly plenty for him to read, part of the problem in re-telling Burr’s story, fictional or historically, is the paucity of his personal papers. “People don’t realize that the archive shapes the story,” says Isenberg, a professor of history at Louisiana State University. As opposed to the other Founding Fathers, who left extensive troves of documents—not to mention, as in the case of Hamilton, children and a widow to manage them and help shape the legacy—most of Burr’s papers went down at sea, along with his only child, daughter Theodosia, and  grandson, in 1813.

Without many of his own words left for historians to use in his own defense, Burr has been at a disadvantage in posterity, which tends to paint him as an elusive and dark figure,

“He’s always stood in for this role to be the villain, the traitor,” Isenberg says.

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Not that there weren’t supporters. One of them was John Greenwood, who knew Burr later in life. Greenwood was a clerk and student in Burr’s law office from 1814-1820. Years later, and by then a judge, Greenwood gave an address to the Long Island Historical Society on his old mentor. He recalled Burr, who would have been in his 60s at the time Greenwood clerked for him, as a good storyteller with seemingly few unpleasant memories, and asa man who would go to great lengths to help a friend. “His manners were cordial and his carriage graceful, and he had a winning smile,” said Judge Greenwood who also noted that Burr’s “self-possession under the most trying circumstances was wonderful...he probably never knew what it was to fear a human being.”

Greenwood’s remarks were later reprinted by the late 19th-century biographer James Parton. Published in 1892, The Life and Times of Aaron Burr was likely one of the books consumed by Vidal in his preparations for his novel, as his Burr sounds very much like the one described by the Judge.

Researching and writing Burr took Vidal several years. In between working on Burr, he wrote a Broadway play An Evening with Richard Nixon that lasted 13 performances, and also contributed articles and reviews (he was a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books and Esquire). But the main focus of his effort for the two years leading up to its publication was Burr. In his 1999 book, Gore Vidal: A Biography, historian Fred Kaplan cites a letter from Vidal to his editor in June, 1972, expressing satisfaction with his progress on the novel. “70,000 words written, about a third I would think,” he wrote. “Odd things are happening to my characters, but then again, look what happened to their Republic?”

The finished novel was a story within a story: The narrator is one of the few fictional characters in the book, Charles Schuyler, a young journalist who is hired to write Burr’s memoir. (A few pages into the novel, Burr has Schuyler make the point that “I was not one of the Schuylers,” a reference to Alexander Hamilton’s storied in-laws. It’s unclear why Vidal gave his narrator this surname...although maybe it was an inside joke).  The memoir is designed to discredit presidential hopeful Martin Van Buren-—in the hopes that “The Colonel” (as Burr is referred to throughout the book) will somehow reveal that Van Buren is really his illegitimate son, an actual rumor that existed at the time. Although far apart in age, Burr and Van Buren were good friends who agreed on many issues, says Isenberg. “The resemblance between the two men extended to their personal appearance,” she wrote in Fallen Founder. “Each was of small build, dressed meticulously, and was called a ‘dandy.’ Rumors later circulated that Van Buren was Burr’s bastard child. He was not.”

Schuyler has mixed feelings about his mission, as he grows fond of Burr—whose reminisces for the memoir are the second narrative of the book. These offer the opportunity for much Founder-bashing by Vidal. In particular, George Washington (“He had the hips, buttocks and bosom of a woman”) and Jefferson (“The most charming man I ever knew, and the most deceitful”), are skewered by his Burr. The former is further depicted as a vainglorious, inept general—while Vidal’s Burr tweaks Jefferson for his cowardice during the Revolution, fleeing ignominiously at the approach of the British and leaving Virginia without a governor. Burr, through Vidal’s deliciously acerbic writing, asserts that Jefferson’s much-vaunted inventions frequently broke and that he was a bad fiddle player.

Gore Vidal at age 23, November 14, 1948 (Library of Congress)

Critics loved it. Burr was published by Random House in late 1973 to lavish praise. “What a clever piece of machinery is Mr. Vidal's complicated plot!” wrote New York Times critic Christopher Lehmann-Haupt. “By setting the present- tense of his story in the 1830s and having Aaron Burr recall in his lively old age his memories of the Revolutionary War, the early history of the Republic, and his famous contests with Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson (as if these mythic events had happened only yesterday)--what a telescoping of the legendary past Mr. Vidal achieves, and what leverage it gives him to tear that past to tatters.”

Burr soared up the best-seller list and remains in print today. Gore never got prizes,” Parini said. “He was, “not part of the literary establishment in that way.” But his work did have an impact on politics, albeit an unexpected and much-delayed one.  In a 2010 speech to fellow Republicans in Troy, Michigan, Rep. Michelle Bachmann claimed Burr as the reason she became a Republican. She was a student in college at the time, and a Democrat. "Until I was reading this snotty novel called Burr, by Gore Vidal, and read how he mocked our Founding Fathers," said Bachmann. She was so outraged by this, she told the crowd, she had to put the book down. “I was riding a train. I looked out the window and I said, 'You know what? I think I must be a Republican. I don't think I'm a Democrat.'"

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Of Vidal’s 25 novels, and works of non fiction, Burr is often considered at or near the top. Writing in Slate in 2012, critic Liam Hoare, judged Burr and Vidal’s 1984 best seller Lincoln, “unsurpassed in the field of American historical fiction.”

Burr was part of what Vidal would later call his “Narratives of Empire,” a seven-volume series fictionalizing various periods of U.S history. In addition to Burr, its follow-up 1876 (in which an older Charles Schuyler re-appears) and Lincoln, the series would go on to include Empire (1987), Hollywood (1990) and The Golden Age (2000).

“I re-read (Burr) again and again, to remind myself of what the historical novel can do,” says Parini. “How it can play into the present and how it can animate the past. And how you can get into the head of a character.”

“As fiction it’s an excellent work,” agrees Isenberg. In terms of the historical veracity, “what I like is that he gives a fuller portrayal of (the Founding Fathers) as men. It’s more realistic in that it shows, yes, they had sex, yes, they engaged in land speculation.” (And yes, they frittered away their money. “The one thing that Jefferson, Hamilton and I had in common,” says Vidal’s Burr, “was indebtedness. We all lived beyond our means and on the highest scale.”)

Vidal’s urbane but cynical Burr was a perfect anti-hero for the ’70s. But what would he make of the popularity of Broadway’s ubiquitous hit? According to Parini, the usually astute Vidal missed the boat on that one. He relates a visit to Vidal by his friend Leonard Bernstein, who at the time was having trouble with his historical musical 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, which focused on the early occupants of the White House and race relations. Bernstein knew Vidal was steeped in the history of this period, and asked him to help. The writer declined, which may have been just as well considering that the show only lasted for seven performances. “I remember Gore saying to me, ‘Poor Lenny,’” Parini recalls. "'They’ll never make a Broadway musical about the Founding Fathers. I just can’t see Jefferson and Hamilton dancing across the stage.’”

When the British Wanted to Camouflage Their Warships, They Made Them Dazzle

Smithsonian Magazine

In late October 1917, King George V spent an afternoon inspecting a new division of Britain’s merchant naval service, the intriguingly named “Dazzle Section”.

The visit came during one of the worst periods in war that had already battered British sea power. German U-boat technology was a devastating success; fully one-fifth of Britain’s merchant ships, ferrying supplies to the British Isles, had been sunk by the end of 1916. The next year brought fresh horror: Desperate to grind down the Allies and bring an end to this costly war, the Kaiser declared unrestricted submarine warfare on January 31, 1917, promising to torpedo any ship that came within the warzone. Imperial U-boats made good on that promise – on April 17, 1917 a U-boat torpedoed a hospital ship, the HMHS Lanfranc, in the English Channel, killing 40 people, including 18 wounded German soldiers. “Hun Savagery” read the headlines. The Lanfranc’s sinking was outrageous, but it was by no means the only one – between March and December 1917, British ships of all kinds were blown out of the water at a rate of 23 a week, 925 ships by the end of that period.

So it was imperative that what George V was about to see worked.

The King was shown a tiny model ship, painted not standard battleship gray, but in an explosion of dissonant stripes and swoops of contrasting colors. The model was mounted on a turntable set against a seascape backdrop. George was then asked to estimate the ship’s course, based on his observations from a periscope fixed about 10 feet away. The King had served in the Royal Navy before the death of his older brother put him first in line for the throne, and he knew what he was doing. “South by west,” was his answer.

“East-southeast” came the answer from Norman Wilkinson, head of the new department. George V was astounded, dazzled even. “I have been a professional sailor for many years,” the confounded King reportedly said, “and I would not have believed I could have been so deceived in my estimate.”

Dazzle, it seems, was a success.

How to camouflage ships at sea was one of the big questions of World War I. From the early stages of the war, artists, naturalists and inventors showered the offices of the United States Navy and the British Royal Navy with largely impractical suggestions on making ships invisible: Cover them in mirrors, disguise them as giant whales, drape them in canvas to make them look like clouds. Eminent inventor Thomas Edison’s scheme of making a ship appear like an island – with trees, even – was actually put into practice. The S.S. Ockenfels, however, only made it as far as New York Harbor before everyone realized what a bad and impractical idea it was when part of the disguise, a canvas covering, blew away. Though protective coloring and covers worked on land, the sea was a vastly different environment. Ships moved through changing light and visibility, they were subject to extreme weather, they belched black smoke and bled rust. Any sort of camouflage would have to work in variable and challenging conditions.

Wilkinson’s innovation, what would be called “dazzle,” was that rather than using camouflage to hide the vessel, he used it to hide the vessel’s intention. Later he’d say that he’d realized that, “Since it was impossible to paint a ship so that she could not be seen by a submarine, the extreme opposite was the answer – in other words, to paint her, not for low visibility, but in such a way as to break up her form and thus confuse a submarine officer as the course on which she was heading.”

Image by The Collection Database of the Australian War Memorial via WIkicommons. Photograph of the Australian Bathurst class minesweeping corvette HMAS Wollongong (J172) (original image)

Image by The collections of the Imperial War Museums via Wikicommons. HMS Fencer at anchor (original image)

Image by via Wikicommons. Submarine commander's periscope view of a merchant ship in dazzle camouflage (left) and the same ship uncamouflaged (right). (original image)

Image by The Canadian Copyright Collection held by the British Library via Wikicommons. Dazzle camouflage (original image)

Image by The collections of the Imperial War Museums via Wikicommons. British destroyer HMS Badsworth under tow on the Mersey. She served as HNoMS Arendal with the Royal Norwegian Navy from 1944 to 1961. (original image)

Image by via Wikicommons. The HMS Argus (I49) in harbour in 1918, painted in dazzle camouflage, with a Renown class battlecruiser in the distance (original image)

Image by U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph via Wikicommons. HMS Furious (British Aircraft Carrier, 1917-1948) In a British port in 1918, after she had been fitted with a landing-on deck aft. Note the large crash barrier rigged behind her funnel, her "dazzle" camouflage, and the steam launch passing by in the foreground. (original image)

Image by The collections of the Imperial War Museums via Wikicommons. HMS Haydon Underway (original image)

In order for a U-boat gunner to fire and hit his target from as far as 1,900 meters away (and not closer than 300 meters, as torpedoes required at least that much running distance to arm), he had to accurately predict where the target would be based on informed guesses. Compounding the difficulty was the fact that he had typically less than 30 seconds to sight the target ship through the periscope, or risk the periscope’s wake being seen and giving away the submarine’s location. Typical U-boats could only carry 12 very expensive and very slow torpedoes at a time, so the gunner had to get it right the first time.

“If you’re hunting for ducks, right, all you have to do is lead the target and it’s a simple process. But if you’re a submarine aiming at a ship, you have to calculate how fast a ship is going, where is it going, and aim the torpedo so that they both get to the same spot at the same time,” says Roy Behrens, a professor at the University of Northern Iowa, author of several books on Dazzle camouflage and the writer behind the camouflage resource blog Camoupedia. Wilkinson’s idea was to “dazzle” the gunner so that he would either be unable to take the shot with any confidence or spoil it if he did. “Wilkinson said you had to only be 8 to 10 degrees off for the torpedo to miss. And even if it were hit, if [the torpedo] didn’t hit the most vital part, that would be better than being hit directly.”

Wilkinson used broad swathes of contrasting colors—black and white, green and mauve, orange and blue—in geometric shapes and curves to make it difficult to determine the ship’s actual shape, size and direction. Curves painted across the side of the ship could create a false bow wave, for example, making the ship seem smaller or imply that it was heading in a different direction: Patterns disrupting the line of the bow or stern made it hard to tell which was the front or back, where the ship actually ended, or even whether it was one vessel or two; and angled stripes on the smokestacks could make the ship seem as if it was facing in the opposite direction. One American dazzle camoufleur (the actual term for a camouflage artist) referred to the optical distortion concept undergirding Dazzle as “reverse perspective”, also known as forced perspective and accelerated perspective, optical illusions that create a disconnect between what the viewer perceives and what is really happening (think of all those photos of tourists holding up the Leaning Tower of Pisa). In practice, that meant that the system did have its limitations – it could only be applied to ships that would be targeted by periscopes, because it worked best when seen from the low-down viewpoint of a U-boat gunner.

“It’s counterintuitive. People can’t really believe that you could interfere with the visibility of something by making it more highly visible, but they don’t understand how the human eye works, that something needs to stand out from the background and hold together as an integral figure,” says Behrens.

Wilkinson was, in some ways, an unlikely innovator. At 38, he was known as talented painter of landscapes and maritime scenes – his painting of Portsmouth Harbour went down in the smoking rooms of the Titanic. Nothing in his work augers the kind of modern, avant garde aesthetic that Dazzle possessed. But crucially, Wilkinson had both an understanding of perspective and a relationship with the Admiralty and merchant shipping authorities. An enthusiastic yacht racer, he’d joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserves at the outbreak of war. In 1917, he was a lieutenant in command of an 83-foot patrol launch that swept the central English Channel for mines, according to Nicholas Rankin in his book, A Genius For Deception: How Cunning Helped the British Win Two World Wars. And where other innovators, including John Graham Kerr, a Scottish naturalist whose similar camouflage ideas were used briefly and discarded by the Royal Navy, failed, Wilkinson’s straightforward charisma helped his rather outré idea be taken seriously by important people, wrote Peter Forbes in Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage.

After earning support for the idea, Wilkinson was given the chance to test his theory in the water. The first ship to be dazzled was a small store ship called the HMS Industry; when it was launched in May 1917, coastguards and other ships sailing the British coast were asked to report their observations of the vessel when they encountered it. Enough observers were sufficiently confused that by the beginning of October 1917, the Admiralty asked Wilkinson to dazzle 50 troopships.

Though the new initiative had backing from both the Merchant Navy and the Royal Navy, it was still operating on a wartime budget. The Royal Academy of Arts offered up four unused studios for headquarters and Wilkinson went to work with a team of 19– five artists, three model makers, and 11 female art students who hand-colored the technical plans for the final designs (one later became Wilkinson’s wife). Each design not only had to be unique to prevent U-boat crews from getting used to them, but they also had to be tailored to individual ships. Wilkinson and his artists designed schemes first on paper, and then painted them on tiny, rough-hewn wooden models, which they’d place in the mock seascape George V saw. The models were examined through periscopes in various lighting. Designs were chosen for “maximum distortion”, Wilkinson later wrote, and handed off to the art students to map out on technical drafts, to be then executed by ship painters on ships in dry dock. By June 1918, less than a year after the division was created, some 2,300 British ships were dazzled, a number that would swell to more than 4,000 by the end of the war. 

The United States, which joined the war on April 6, 1917, was then grappling with as many as six systems of camouflage, most of which peddled low visibility or invisibility to private ship owners. The Navy, however, had little confidence in the claims of diminished visibility and moreover, was also dealing with the fact that many of its ships had been German ships – meaning that the enemy knew their speed and vulnerabilities. When news of the dazzle system and its ability to mask the speed and kind of ships reached Britain’s new ally,  a young Franklin Roosevelt, then assistant to the secretary of the navy, agreed to meet with Wilkinson to discuss it. After another successful demonstration of dazzle, in which a confused U.S. admiral reportedly exploded, “How the hell do you expect me to estimate the course of a God-damn thing all painted up like that?”, Wilkinson was asked to help set up an American dazzle department under the Navy’s Bureau of Construction and Repair. Wilkinson spent five weeks in the U.S., with Everett Warner, an artist and Naval Reserve officer who would head up the Washington, D.C. dazzle subsection, as his host. Chummy as that sounds, it wasn’t.

“There was a lot of fighting or jealousy or whatever between the U.K. and the U.S.,” says Behrens with a chuckle. “If you go to the correspondence, you find that the American artists are making fun of [Wilkinson] and all sort of that thing. Warner arrived at the idea that Wilkinson didn’t know what he was doing and that what he was doing was quite haphazard.”

However the British and American departments felt about each other, they were still creating visually disruptive designs that on the face of it, were very much alike: Broad stripes and curves of white, black, green, blue, spiky and jagged and very Modern art. This was not lost on contemporary journalists, who branded the dazzled ships a “futurist’s bad dream” and “floating Cubist paintings”, as well as “an intoxicated snake”, “a Russian toyshop gone mad”, and a “cross between a boiler explosion and a railroad accident”. That dazzle bore such a similarity to burgeoning movements in art wasn’t lost on the artists, either – Picasso even claimed that Dazzle was actually his idea.

But Modern art, which had been introduced in America at the 1913 Armory Show, was an object of derision and suspicion for contemporary newspapers. “Very frequently in newspapers and magazines, they were trying to explain it to the public and I think [the public] had great difficulty believing it was legitimate,” says Behrens. “But on the other hand, that’s why it was fascinating.” This amusement and fascination in equal measure reflected how the public saw dazzle. It was lampooned in newspaper cartoons, of course – one image shows painters tarring a road in dazzle patterns – but its distinctive look also popped up on bathing suits and dresses, cars and window displays. “Dazzle balls”, for which attendees dressed in dazzle-inspired costumes, gained popularity as ways to raise money for the war effort.

Still, convincing Naval personnel dazzle was more than just fun was difficult. “I had a large of collection of [correspondence from] experienced Navy officers and ship captains making fun of it. It made them sick that their pristine ship was painted with all these Jezebel patterns,” says Behrens, noting that the idea of these flashy ships seemed to subvert their sense of military order. The ships were so wild that some American observers started calling them “jazz” ships, after the improvisational style of popular contemporary music. But Warner, who applied a scientific rigor to understanding how his designs worked, rejected that comparison. Dazzle was, he said, “firmly grounded in the book of Euclid” on geometric principles of visual disruption and proportion, and was not the work of a “group of crazy Cubists”, Behrens recounted in his book, False Colors.

However founded on science it was, determining whether Dazzle actually worked is difficult. In theory, it should work: Behrens found that in 1919, near the end of the war, an MIT engineering student studied the efficacy of individual designs using one of the original model observation theaters provided by the Navy. Three sets of observers were given the same test that George V and the unnamed American naval commander failed. Designs that yielded a higher degree of course error were considered successful; the most successful were off by as much as 58 degrees, when just 10 degrees would be sufficient for a fired torpedo to miss its target. Similarly, in 2011, researchers from the University of Bristol determined that dazzle patterns could disrupt an observer’s perception of the speed of a moving target, and could even have a place on modern battlefields.

But lab conditions are hardly real life. Forbes, in his book, writes that the Admiralty commissioned a report on dazzled ships that came out in September 1918. The statistics were less than conclusive: In the first quarter of 1918, for example, 72 percent of dazzled ships that were attacked were sunk or damaged versus 62 percent of non-dazzled, implying that dazzle did not minimize torpedo damage.

In the second quarter, the statistics reversed themselves: 60 percent of attacks on dazzled ships ended in sinking or damage, compared to 68 percent of non-dazzled. More dazzled than non-dazzled ships were being attacked in the same period, 1.47 percent versus 1.2 percent, but fewer of the dazzled ships were sunk when hit. The Admiralty concluded that though dazzle probably didn’t hurt, it also probably wasn’t helping. American dazzled ships fared better – of the 1,256 ships dazzled between March 1 and November 11, 1918, both merchant and Naval, only 18 were sunk – perhaps owing to the different seas in which American ships were sailing. Ultimately, Behrens said it’s difficult to retroactively determine whether dazzle was truly a success, noting, “I don’t think it will ever be clear.”

And in truth, it didn’t matter whether dazzle actually worked or not: Insurance companies thought it did and therefore lowered premiums on dazzled ships. At the same time, the Admiralty’s investigation into dazzle noted that even if it didn’t work, morale on dazzled ships was higher than on non-dazzled and that was reason alone to keep it.

By November 1918, however, the war was over, though the battle between Wilkinson and the Scottish naturalist Kerr over who actually invented dazzle was just heating up. Kerr argued that he’d introduced the Admiralty to a similar idea back in 1914 and demanded recognition. The Admiralty eventually sided with Wilkinson and awarded him £2,000 for dazzle; for years after, however, Kerr never gave up the idea that he’d been cheated and the two men would trade snide comments through the next war. But exactly what they were fighting over was soon forgotten. Ships require frequent painting – it’s part of what keeps them preserved – so the Allied vessels lost their dazzled coating under a more sober gray. Though World War II saw a resurgence of dazzle in an effort to hide a ship’s class and make, its use was limited and dazzle’s legacy was again buried under layers of maritime paint.

Sort of. Because though dazzle’s influence on naval warfare may have been short-lived, its impact on art and culture remains significant even now. Dazzle, though functional in its intent, was also part of a wave of Futurism, cubism, expressionism, and abstract art that eroded the centuries of representational art’s dominance. The look of dazzle later re-emerged in 1960s Op-art, which employed similar techniques of perspective and optical illusion, and in the mass market fashion that followed. Even today, dazzle remains fashionable, recalled in the aggressive patterns of designers like Jonathan Saunders, or more directly referenced in the “Urban Dazzle” collection of French sportswear designer Lacoste, the Dazzle rainboots from Hunter, and upscale British handbag label Mulberry’s Dazzle collection.

“Dazzle is just everywhere, it’s such a successful visual design system. It’s hugely attractive… I think it’s been used – plundered as it were – but used as a kind of inspiration certainly in fashion,” notes Jenny Waldman, director of 14-18 Now, an ambitious arts program working in partnership with the Imperial War Museum, the British government, and U.K. arts organizations to commemorate the centenary of the World War I. Dazzle was everywhere but on ships – even if the designs themselves weren’t forgotten, the link between them and the war was. “There are a lot of great untold stories, and the dazzle ship is a kind of whopping great untold story,” says Waldman.

That changed, however, when in 2014, 14-18 Now called on contemporary artists to dazzle real-life vessels. Explains Waldman, “The brief was very much to be inspired by the dazzle ships rather then try to recreate the Dazzle designs or functionality in any way.”

Finding artists, Waldman says, was easier than finding ships, but they eventually managed to locate three. The Snowdrop, designed by Sir Peter Blake, the artist who created the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, is actually a working ferry on the River Mersey in Liverpool and will be operational through December 2016. The other two ships recently finished their deployment: The Edmund Gardner, an historic pilot ship in drydock outside the Mersey Maritime Museum in Liverpool, was painted in green, orange, and black stripes by Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez and the HMS President, which is permanently docked on the River Thames, was dazzled in grey, black, white and orange by artist Tobias Rehberger. The President is one of only three surviving Royal Navy ships that served in the First World War; called the HMS Saxifrage when it was built in 1918, it was actually dazzled by Wilkinson and his team during its tour of duty.

Image by Anthony Beyga/Demotix/Corbis. Legendary British pop artist Sir Peter Blake, who designed the Beatles iconic Sergeant Pepper album sleeve, was commissioned to "dazzle" a Mersey ferry that was unveiled today as part of First World War commemorations. (original image)

Image by FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/epa/Corbis. Dazzle camouflage ship on the River Thames (original image)

Image by FACUNDO ARRIZABALAGA/epa/Corbis. The dazzle camouflage was used extensively during the First World War as a means of camouflaging a ship using bright colors and geometric shapes to make it difficult for the enemy to target it accurately. (original image)

So far, more than 13.5 million people have seen, visited, or sailed on the dazzled ships and 14-18 Now recently announced that a fourth ship, the MV Fingal, a former lighthouse tender docked at the Port of Leith in Edinburgh, will be dazzled by Scottish artist Ciara Phillips. The ship will be unveiled in late May, in time for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

“The wonderful thing about our ships is that they are very big and they’re very public, and the Mersey ferry you can go on, it makes them hugely accessible,” says Waldman. The fact that they show very well on social media has helped to spread the story of the dazzle ships. The ships also speak, as Waldman says, to “the power of contemporary art to reveal and explore the unknown stories of the First World War.” Waldman continued, “People see the dazzle ferry and they think, ‘I want to go on that, that looks phenomenal’ and when they’re on it, they find out more. And then they tell their friends and 13-and-a-half million people now know about the dazzle ships.”

So perhaps this time, the story of the dazzle ships and their place in the science and art of making war won’t be forgotten.

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