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“We Won't Go Home Until Morning”

National Museum of American History
The sheet music for the song, “We Won’t Go Home Until Morning” was written by Keller Mack and composed by Frank Orth. The music was published by M.D. Swisher of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1907. The white cover has blue-green lettering and an inset photo of Bessie Wynn, who sang the song as a vaudevillian actress.

“We Heard a Loud Boom!” - Interview with Miracle on the Hudson Passenger

National Air and Space Museum
Within three minutes of takeoff from New York City's LaGuardia Airport on January 15, 2009, US Airways Flight 1549 struck a flock of geese causing the aircraft to lose all engine power. Pilots Chesley Sullenberger and Jeffrey Skiles glided the plane down into the Hudson River, where all 155 passengers on board were rescued by nearby boats. Passenger Beth McHugh recounts her experience on flight 1549, known as the Miracle on the Hudson.

“Wah! Hoo!”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Wah! Hoo!” that was written and composed by Cliff Friend. The Crawford Music Corporation of New York City published this sheet music in 1936. The yellow and black cover features an illustration of a cowboy riding a bucking horse, and an inset photograph of Eddie Davis who featured the song at the New York City club “Leon & Eddies.”Eddie Davis and Leon Enken opened the club as a speakeasy in 1928 with Davis as the main entertainment.

“Wabash Blues”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Wabash Blues.” Dave Ringle wrote the song’s lyrics and Fred Meinken composed the music. Leo Feist Inc. of New York City published this sheet music in 1921. The blue cover has an image of a yellow house, with an inset photograph of Vincent Lopez, a popular band leader at the time who would have featured the song with his orchestra.

“Virginia Rose Bud”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Virginia Rose Bud” as part of a collection of “Ethiopian Melodies.” The music was published by E. Ferrett & Company of Philadelphia in the middle of the 19th century. Ethiopian melodies were songs that were part of the culture surrounding the blackface performances in minstrel shows that were popular at this time.

“Vengeance Weapon 2”: 70th Anniversary of the V-2 Campaign

National Air and Space Museum
Shortly after 11:00 am on September 8, 1944, there was an explosion on the southeastern outskirts of newly liberated Paris. It killed six people and injured 36 more at Charentonneau à Maison-Alfort. That evening, about 6:43 pm, another explosion took place in Chiswick, in far west London, killing three people and seriously wounding 17. Seconds later   ...Continue Reading

“Up in a Balloon”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music for the song “Up in a Balloon” was written and composed by G. W. Hunt and published by R.M. DeWitt of New York, New York in 1869. The cover is a green background with white parchment scrolls that frames the lettering on the cover. There are five small cherubs scattered around the cover, and one is playing a harp, and another the pan flute.

“Unschooled” Kids Do Just Fine in College

Smithsonian Magazine

Unschooling—child-directed learning—is “the final and most extreme frontier in the broader cultural shift toward 'child-centred' parenting,” says the Globe and Mail. Unlike more traditional homeschooling, in which parents "try to replicate the formal curriculum of the school system in the home," says University Affairs, unschooling "encourages kids to do pretty much whatever they want with their time.”

The idea is that children are, by default, keen learners. If something strikes their passions, the thinking goes, kids will pursue it to the end, picking up intellectual skills and self-motivation as they go.

The question that's always posed to unschooling is whether kids who learn in this way are set up to succeed when confronted by the structured, organized, hierarchical society that awaits. According to new research, described by Luba Vangelova for KQED, it seems that—contrary to what skeptics might assume—unschooled kids do just fine when transitioning to more traditional colleges.

In a survey, psychologists Peter Gray and Gina Riley found that of 232 families who unschooled their kids, 83 percent of the children went on to study at a post-secondary institution:

Almost half of those had either completed a bachelor’s degree or higher, or were currently enrolled in such a program; they attended (or had graduated from) a wide range of colleges, from Ivy League universities to state universities and smaller liberal-arts colleges.

According to KQED, though the path from unschooling to college isn't as streamlined as for kids who go to regular school, it isn't that difficult to tread, either. Aside from a few administrative hurdles, unschooled students didn't face immediate barriers in college:

Getting into college was typically a fairly smooth process for this group; they adjusted to the academics fairly easily, quickly picking up skills such as class note-taking or essay composition; and most felt at a distinct advantage due to their high self-motivation and capacity for self-direction.

Kids who are unschooled pretty much by definition won't get as broad of a baseline education as kids in the traditional school system, though. Unschooling lends itself to deep dives, to kids getting passionately and heavily invested in a sphere of innate interest. One of the main critiques of unschooling, says University Affairs, is that experiential learning doesn't lend itself to the broad range of intellectual pursuits available to the human race. And, says KQED, unschooled kids did report having trouble with math and, as a group, disproportionately favored careers in the "creative arts."

Many of the unschooled kids, however, did follow their passions into technical fields: “half of the men and about 20 percent of the women,” says KQED, went in to fields that required a substantial background in science, technology or math.

“Under the Double Eagle”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Under the Double Eagle” was composed by Josef Franz Wagner and published by the Armstrong Music Publishing Company of New York, New York. The song was written by Wagner in the 1880s, but popularized in America by John Philip Sousa. The cover of the sheet music has a green and purple motif, with an image of a double-headed eagle in the upper right.

“Under the Daisies”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music for the song “Under the Daisies” was written and composed by H. Millard and published by S. T. Gordon and Sons of New York, New York in 1865. The cover features an image of a graveyard, with a tombstone that reads “In Memory,” and the cover notes that this song was written by Millard, “to his friend, Harry Standfield.”

“Under the Banana Tree”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Under the Banana Tree.” Arthur J. Lamb wrote the lyrics for the song and Lawrence B. O’Connor composed the music. The sheet music was published by G.W. Setchell of Boston, Massachusetts in 1904. The blue cover has an illustration of blue flower, with an inset image of popular singer and actress Jennie Yeamans in the center. The illustration was signed “Fisher.”

“Under the Bamboo Tree”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music for the song “Under the Bamboo Tree” was published by Joseph W. Stern & Company of New York, New York, and composed by the Cole and Johnson Brothers. The sheet music cover features an image of Marie Cahill, a famous actress of the time who sang the song in the musical “Sally in our Alley.” The cover is styled after a bamboo wall to go along with the title of the song.

“Under What Planet Were You Born” Astrology Chart

National Museum of American History
Astrology chart titled, “Under What Planet Where You Born.” This chart is part of a collection of items related to the fortune-telling business of a Romanichal Gypsy American family in Pineville, North Carolina.

“Tracing American Journeys” Chronicles Experiences of 17 Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Smithsonian Insider

The United States was in part shaped by the dreams and contributions of immigrants who sought a better life for themselves and their families. Thanks […]

The post “Tracing American Journeys” Chronicles Experiences of 17 Immigrant Entrepreneurs appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

“Toreador Song”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the “Toreador Song,” from the opera “Carmen.” The song was originally composed in French by Georges Bizet, but this English translation is done by Jerry Castillo. The sheet music was published by the Calumet Music Company of Chicago, Illinois in 1935. The bright red cover features a silhouetted image of a toreador, or bullfighter, with an inset photograph of George Olsen on the lower left.

“Too Young”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Too Young.” The song’s lyrics were written by Sylvia Dee and the music was composed by Sid Lippman. The sheet music was published by the Jefferson Music Company of New York City in 1951. The blue-tinged cover features a central photograph of Nat King Cole, who recorded the song for Capitol Records. There is also a white silhouette bust of Thomas Jefferson just below the title.

“Till the Sands of the Desert Grow Cold”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Till the Sands of the Desert Grow Cold.” The song’s lyrics were written by George Graff Jr., and the music was composed by Ernest R. Ball. The sheet music was published by M. Witmark and Sons of New York City in 1911. The sheet music has a plain white cover with plain black lettering, and the song’s lyrics are typical of a love song written during this period.

“Till We Meet Again”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Till We Meet Again.”The song was written by Raymond B. Egan and composed by Richard A. Whiting. The music was published by Jerome H. Remick & Company of New York, New York. The cover image features an image of an officer clutching a woman to his chest while he fades into the shadows; the woman is reclining against him holding a rose in her hand.

“Tiffany Chung: Vietnam, Past Is Prologue” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Artist Tiffany Chung probes the legacies of the Vietnam War and its aftermath through maps, videos, and paintings that highlight the voices and stories of former Vietnamese refugees.

“Three Jolly Sailors”

National Museum of American History
The sheet music for the song "Three Jolly Sailors" was written by Louise E. Stairs and published by the Theodore Presser Company of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1936. The cover is white and has blue text and an illustration of three boys riding on a raft down a river, and one boy is standing with a pole propelling the raft downstream.

“This letter was left here for you. Yes, you!!”

National Postal Museum
By Ren Cooper, Marketing Assistant Here at the National Postal Museum, we love letters. Obviously! As poet and cleric John Donne once wrote, “…more than kisses, letters mingle souls.” One of our steadfast security officers came upon an unexpected object that had slipped into a crack within the mud wagon: a letter. How fitting for a museum dedicated to the preservation, study, and presentation of postal history! The mud wagon is part of the National Postal Museum’s Moving West exhibition, which details how the development of overland mail routes helped drive settlement of the newer territories between the Mississippi River...

“This is 9-1-1. What is your emergency?”: A history of raising the alarm

National Museum of American History

At 2 p.m. on February 16, 1968, a special red telephone rang at the police station in Haleyville, Alabama. Rather than a police officer, U.S. Congressman Tom Bevill answered the call. On the other end of the line was Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, calling from the mayor’s office (actually located in another part of the same building). Bevill’s simple answer of “hello” may not rank alongside Samuel Morse’s “What hath God wrought,” but it ushered in an important part of daily life, one that has saved countless American lives over the past 50 years. The call marked the first use of the emergency number 9-1-1, a technological answer to a life-and-death question—how do you get help quickly in the event of an emergency? Americans wrestling with the problem have experimented with many innovative solutions over the years.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, getting to the scene of a fire as quickly as possible was the best defense against a damaging conflagration. Just as today, time was of the essence. Watchmen would alert the populace with wooden rattles and raise the alarm by shouting through the streets (sometimes known as “hallooing fire”). Citizens and volunteer firefighters alike would grab leather buckets, hooks, axes, and other necessary equipment and head in the direction of the clamor. A simple fire pumper might be drawn by hand to the scene as well. But finding a fire fast, especially in a warren of urban streets, could be difficult.

Wooden device with a grooved handleA wooden alarm rattle like this one would have been standard equipment for watchmen patrolling city streets in late-18th and early-19th-century America.

The citizens of Philadelphia tried one solution when they restored the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (better known as Independence Hall) in 1828. They hung a new bell and put a watchman on duty to keep a lookout for fires. Franklin Peale, son of painter Charles Willson Peale, suggested an alarm system for the new bell that would direct fire companies to the scene of a blaze. In the event of a fire near the State House itself, the bell in the steeple was rung continuously. One peal at regular intervals indicated a fire to the north, two peals meant a fire to the south, three to the east, four to the west, and so on. This system is preserved in the decoration on the top of a fire hat from Philadelphia in the museum collections. A compass rose, with a bell at the center, displays the alarm code. Bell codes were used in other cities as well, like New York. In Boston, the city was divided into fire districts, and church bells would peal the number of a district where a fire was discovered. However, the 19th century saw American cities growing in size and population, and a better system was needed to pinpoint the location of an emergency.

Two images; Left, a fire hat with elaborate designs. Right, the top of the hat decorated with a compass rose.This fire hat, worn by a member of Philadelphia’s Taylor Hose Company, has the bell code for the city painted on its crown, in the form of a compass rose. The marks stand for the number of peals of the bell that corresponded to each direction, with Independence Hall as the center point.

William F. Channing and Moses Farmer were both obsessed with the potential for electromagnetism and telegraphy. Specifically, both believed it could be harnessed to create a reliable and near-instantaneous fire alarm system throughout the city of Boston. The two collaborated to lobby city officials to fund “the Application of the Electric Telegraph to signalizing Alarms of Fire” (as their presentation was titled) and received $10,000 to develop and establish their system.

After running nearly 50 miles of wire throughout the city, connected to dozens of alarm boxes and bells, Channing and Farmer’s system was ready in the spring of 1852. If someone opened an alarm box and turned a small crank, the special-purpose telegraph would send out a pulsating electric current to electromagnets that pulled and released the bell clappers, producing alarms both at the scene of the emergency and at the central station, where the location was recorded. The first attempt by the public to use the system was on April 29, 1852. Unfortunately, the helpful citizen cranked too fast, such that the message could not be read, and the man had to run to the central signal office to alert them of the fire in person. Nevertheless, Channing and Farmer would continue to refine their system, and within months it proved a reliable tool in raising the alarm in Boston.

Channing and Farmer made a joint application for a patent for their system, and a patent was issued on May 19, 1857 (Patent No. 17355). Their patent model resides today in the Electricity Collections here at the museum, along with earlier prototypes.

A wooden model. It consists of a wooden base supporting an upright board that has two fire alarm transmitting stations operated by a crank and one alarm station, powered by two battery cells at the back.This is the original patent model for William Channing and Moses Farmer’s “Electromagnetic Fire Alarm Telegraph for Cities.” Patent No. 17355 was issued on May 19, 1857. It consists of a wooden base supporting an upright board that has two fire alarm transmitting stations operated by a crank and one alarm station, powered by two battery cells at the back.

It was at a Smithsonian Institution lecture in March 1855 that emergency alarms took another step. At that lecture, William Channing described the details and merits of the Channing and Farmer system, humbly noting theirs was “a higher system of municipal organization than any which has heretofore been proposed or adopted.” Despite this lofty claim, both men had failed to sell their system to other cities and municipalities, and Channing was falling into debt.

Attending the lecture was John Nelson Gamewell, a postmaster and telegraph operator from Camden, South Carolina. Seeing an opportunity, Gamewell raised the funds to buy the rights to market the Channing and Farmer system. Beginning in 1856, he sold the system to several American cities, including New Orleans, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. By 1859 Gamewell obtained the full rights and patents to the system and was on the verge of creating a fire alarm empire when the Civil War broke out. The U.S. government seized the patents from the Confederate Gamewell, and John Kennard, a fire official from Boston, bought them on the cheap in 1867.

After the war, Gamewell moved north and partnered with Kennard to create a new company to manufacture and sell fire alarms. Building on their success, Gamewell established the Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company, and its logo—a fist holding a clutch of lightning bolts—would soon be found on alarm boxes throughout North America. By 1890 Gamewell systems were installed in nearly 500 cities in the United States and Canada.

A red box shaped like a fire house station with a pull handle. The box is decorated with the company logo of Gamewell, complete with a hand gripping bolts of electricity.An example of a Gamewell fire alarm box, with the company’s innovative Peerless 3 Fold mechanism still inside. This unit dates to the mid-1940s. By the early 20th century, Gamewell had over 90% of the market share in the United States; these fire alarm boxes would have been a common feature in nearly every American town and city.

While Gamewell boxes became a common sight on public streets and buildings in the early 20th century, more and more Americans were installing a new device in their homes and businesses: the telephone. Before the advent of rotary dial phones (ask your parents, kids), all calls went through with operator assistance, and emergency calls could be directed to the appropriate party. With dial service, a person with an emergency had to call direct to their local police station, hospital, or fire department. Experiments with a universal emergency number in the UK in the 1930s prompted the National Association of Fire Chiefs to recommend such a system for the United States in 1957. On January 12, 1968, after a decade of study and debate and presidential commissions, the Federal Communications Commission and AT&T announced the selection of 9-1-1 as a national emergency number. One FCC member boasted at the time that 911 would be better remembered than 007.

The number was indeed easy to remember, quick to dial when needed, particularly on rotary phones (did you ask?), and difficult to dial in error. AT&T had already established special three-digit numbers—4-1-1 for directory assistance and 6-1-1 for customer service—so the new emergency number fit the existing system.

Some 2,000 independent phone companies in the United States had been left out of the decision, many preferring “0” as the standard number. Nevertheless, one such company decided get behind 9-1-1 in a big way. Bob Gallagher, the president of the Alabama Telephone Company (ATC), decided his company would beat “Ma Bell” to the punch. ATC staff picked Haleyville as the best location and worked after hours to design and implement the infrastructure. Almost exactly one month after AT&T’s announcement, Speaker Fite and Congressman Bevill spoke over the first dedicated 9-1-1 line. Nome, Alaska, would debut a 9-1-1 system about a week later.

A red rotary phoneThe phone from the first 9-1-1 call, on display in Haleyville, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Mayor Ken Sunseri, Haleyville, Alabama.

It would take time for the system to grow in the United States, so publicity like that which surrounded the Haleyville call helped to spread the idea. Twenty years later, only half the U.S. population had access to a 9-1-1 system. By the end of the last century, that number had grown to well over 90%. Today an estimated 240 million calls a year are made to 9-1-1. Upwards of 80% of these calls now come from wireless devices, something almost impossible to consider 50 years ago, just as the watchman with a wooden rattle might not envision an alarm traveling over electrical wires.

Tim Winkle is the deputy chair of the Division of Home and Community Life and the curator of the Firefighting and Law Enforcement Collection.

Posted Date: 
Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 06:30
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“They're on Their Way to Germany”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “They're on Their Way to Germany” that was written and composed by Halsey K. Mohr. The sheet music was published by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co. of New York City in 1917. The blue and red cover features a photograph of soldiers marching in file down the street with a crowd watching.
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