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Passiflora ambigua Hemsl.

NMNH - Botany Dept.

The Code That Sent Apollo 11 to the Moon Just Resurfaced Online and Is Chock-Full of Jokes

Smithsonian Magazine

Last week, techies at the code-sharing site GitHub received a treat when former NASA intern Chris Garry uploaded the source code for the Apollo 11 Guidance Computer, reports Keith Collins at Quartz. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was installed on board and served the lunar module that eventually reached the moon in July, 1969.

The source code was written by the MIT Instrumentation Lab with input from computer engineering pioneer Margaret Hamilton. And soon after the data was posted, the internet went to town dissecting every line. Collins reports that the code is written in an assembly program language that is gobbledygook to many programmers today. But the Apollo engineer's comments within the code, which explain what each section does, are a time capsule of 60s geek culture.

Users at Reddit have gleefully sifted through the comments eating up the in-jokes and pop culture references. The master ignition routine, for example, is called "BURN, BABY, BURN," the slogan of the popular DJ Magnificent Montague that became a chant during the 1965 Watts Riots in LA. Another section of code was dubbed "TRASHY LITTLE SUBROUTINES."

In "PINBALL_GAME_BUTTONS_AND_LIGHTS.s," the coder inserts some lines of Shakespeare.

# THE FOLLOWING QUOTATION IS PROVIDED THROUGH THE COURTESY OF THE AUTHORS.

# "IT WILL BE PROVED TO THY FACE THAT THOU HAST MEN ABOUT THEE THAT

# USUALLY TALK OF A NOUN AND A VERB, AND SUCH ABOMINABLE WORDS AS NO

# CHRISTIAN EAR CAN ENDURE TO HEAR."

# HENRY 6, ACT 2, SCENE 4

It’s not known why, exactly, The Bard appears in the Apollo code, but Reddit users speculate it's because the AGC code was input as two digit numbers, one called the noun, the other the verb.

Another line reads, "HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE," the motto of the Order of the Garter that means, “shamed be he who thinks evil of it.” In other words, one coder was warning others not to bash or make fun of his code.

“It's humbling to see that the folks who wrote the code that took us to the moon are basically just like me and my coworkers,” writes Reddit user rooktakesqueen.

The code has been on the internet for years, Collins reports, first as scanned photocopies of paper printouts that MIT put online and later by Google. But the GitHub upload has renewed interest in the Apollo code.

The original AGC had just 3840 bytes of data and weight 70.1 pounds. A virtual simulation of the original shows just how old school the computer was compared to today’s high-powered machines. But, at the time, work on the AGC was a huge step forward in software development.

Even so, the significance of the code has not stopped modern coders from flagging two dozen typos and other problems that need fixing at GitHub.

Andersonville Prison, Georgia

National Museum of American History
The largest Confederate prisoner of war camp constructed to house captured Union troops, Andersonville held 45,000 troops over the course of its 14 month existence. Conditions within the camp were horrific and 13,000 Union prisoners died from disease, exposure, and food shortages. This 1865 print shows Union prisoners cramped into a rectangular stockade. Armed Confederate sentries look down upon the men from the wall. In the lower left a wagon of meat is taken into the camp to feed the prisoners. In the lower right, a mounted Confederate officer leads a Union prisoner to be punished at the prison’s stocks. This is Captain Henry Wirz, the commander of the camp, who was tried and executed for war crimes at the end of the Civil War. Although the facility was constructed to house a maximum of 10,000 prisoners, a caption below the illustration claims that in June, July, and August of 1864, the number of prisoners had swelled to 33,000. This print, from 1865, was created during a moment of Northern fascination with the arrest, trial, and execution of the camp’s commander, Henry Wirz. Images of Andersonville remained popular in the North after the war, exhibited in homes as both remembrances of the war’s horrors and alleged examples of widespread Southern cruelty. These prints, by safeguarding the memories of the prison, helped to secure the camp’s designation as a National Historic Site, but also amplified sectional hostilities throughout the years of Reconstruction.

Thomas S. Sinclair, the publisher of this print, was a Scottish immigrant to Philadelphia who worked in the lithographic shop of John Collins, before taking it over the next year. His firm was profitable into the 1880s, producing maps, city views, certificates, book illustrations, political cartoons, sheet music covers, and fashion advertisements.

This illustration of Andersonville was based on a sketch by John Burns Walker, a Union private from a Pennsylvania regiment who had been imprisoned there. His sketches were transferred to lithograph by Bavarian-born artist Anton Hohenstein, who changed his name to Anthony Hochstein sometime during the 1860s.

Museum of the Smithsonian Institution Building

Smithsonian Archives - History Div
From William Jones Rhees, An Account of the Smithsonian Institution (Philadelphia: Collins, 1857).

There are additional prints of this image with negative numbers 43804-H and 75-12247 in Record Unit 95, Box 41, Folder: 15.

See Field, Stamm, Ewing, THE CASTLE, p.56.

The engraving was probably executed before the hall was completed because it shows three tiers of cases, a plan which was intended by the first Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry (1846-1878), but in fact was never cared out. The engraving also mistakenly shows the room illuminated by gas fixtures.

Engraving of the Smithsonian Institution Building, or "Castle," museum with visitors viewing objects in display cases. The engraving was published in the Smithsonian Guidebook of 1857.

Andersonville Prison, Georgia

National Museum of American History
The largest Confederate prisoner of war camp constructed to house captured Union troops, Andersonville held 45,000 troops over the course of its 14 month existence. Conditions within the camp were horrific and 13,000 Union prisoners died from disease, exposure, and food shortages. This 1864 print shows Union prisoners cramped into a rectangular stockade. Armed Confederate sentries look down upon the men from the wall. At the upper left and right corners, fortifications ensure that no prisoners would attempt to escape. Behind the upper right fort, a grouping of buildings are marked as the headquarters for Captain Henry Wirz, the commander of the camp, who was tried and executed for war crimes at the end of the Civil War. Although the facility was constructed to house a maximum of 10,000 prisoners, a caption below the illustration claims that in June, July, and August of 1864, the number of prisoners had swelled to 33,000. In the lower left, a horse-drawn wagon carries dead bodies of Union soldiers out of the camp, 12,877 in total. Images of Andersonville remained popular in the North after the war, exhibited in homes as both remembrances of the war’s horrors and alleged examples of widespread Southern cruelty. These prints, by safeguarding the memories of the prison, helped to secure the camp’s designation as a National Historic Site, but also amplified sectional hostilities throughout the years of Reconstruction.

Thomas S. Sinclair, the publisher of this print, was a Scottish immigrant to Philadelphia who worked in the lithographic shop of John Collins, before taking it over the next year. His firm was profitable into the 1880s, producing maps, city views, certificates, book illustrations, political cartoons, sheet music covers, and fashion advertisements.

This illustration of Andersonville was based on a sketch by John Burns Walker, a Union private from a Pennsylvania regiment who had been imprisoned there. His sketches were transferred to lithograph by Bavarian-born artist Anton Hohenstein, who changed his name to Anthony Hochstein sometime during the 1860s.

Birchbark Canoe

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Catalogue card indicates the other catalogue numbers formerly used for this canoe were E168191 and E160382. Catalogue card lists both accession number 26892 and 27937, however 26892 seems to be correct. See Collins Ms. p. 849.

This canoe is described in the U.S. National Museum Bulletin # 127, p. 215: "Birch-bark canoe. Type used by the Tinneh [Athabaskan] Indians for traveling, hunting, and fishing on the rivers of northern Alaska. It is made of birch bark, which covers a light wooden frame and is held to the gunwales by lashings of root fiber; seams pitched. The canoe has long, sharp, raking ends; flat bottom; flaring sides; and a deck at one end for a length of 5 feet; four gunwale braces. Dimensions of canoe. - Length, 18 feet; beam, 26 1/2 inches; depth, 12 1/2 inches. Collected by J. Henry Turner."

Retort

National Museum of American History
Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) used this retort in his Northumberland, Pennsylvania laboratory. Priestley, the noted chemist whose accomplishments include the discovery of oxygen, was born in England. He lived and worked in Birmingham for many years, but his views as a Dissenter and an advocate of the French Revolution incited an angry mob into burning down his house and laboratory. In 1794 he fled to America, eventually settling in Northumberland, near Philadelphia. His great-great-granddaughter, Frances Priestley, donated his surviving laboratory ware to the Smithsonian in 1883.

Retorts are among the oldest forms of glassware used in chemistry. With their bulbs and long necks, they are suitable for distillation-- the separation of one material from another through heating. The bulb containing the sample is heated and the resulting gases travel along the neck to a second collecting vessel.

A 1791 inventory of Joseph Priestley’s lab notes over nine dozen retorts, varying in size from two quarts to one ounce. Priestley likely used these retorts as part of a pneumatic trough, a laboratory apparatus used to trap gases. In it, the neck of the retort is placed into a tank of water. Gases escaping from the retort’s neck bubble up through the water and into a vessel—such as a bell jar—which rests on a shelf with a hole placed several inches below the water’s surface. Gases are trapped in the jar for further study.

Glassmaker William Parker of 69 Fleet St., London or his son Samuel likely made this retort. The Parkers supplied Priestley with laboratory glassware free of charge, even after his move to the United States from London. Priestley wrote in a letter to Rev. Samuel Palmer, of his new home in Northumberland, Pennsylvania: “I have more advantages [in respect to experiments] than you could easily imagine in this remote place. I want hardly anything but a glass house.” Indeed, without a local supplier, getting glassware to Northumberland was quite a challenge. A letter to Samuel Parker dated January 20, 1795, details Priestley’s plan to have his most recent shipment brought from Philadelphia to Northumberland via a sleigh, “which is our best method of conveyance in winter.”

Sources:

Badash, Lawrence. 1964. “Joseph Priestley’s Apparatus for Pneumatic Chemistry.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences XIX (2): 139–55. doi:10.1093/jhmas/XIX.2.139.

National Museum of American History Accession File #13305

Priestley, Joseph, and Henry Carrington Bolton. 1892. Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley. Ninety-Seven Letters Addressed to Josiah Wedgwood, Sir Joseph Banks, Capt. James Keir, James Watt, Dr. William Withering, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and Others. Together with an Appendix: I. The Likenesses of Priestley in Oil, Ink, Marble, and Metal. II. The Lunar Society of Birmingham. III. Inventory of Priestley’s Laboratory in 1791. New York: Privately printed [Philadelphia, Collins printing house]. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001486336.

Priestley, Joseph, and John Towill Rutt. 1817. The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley. Vol. I Part 2. [London : Printed by G. Smallfield. http://archive.org/details/theologicalmisce0102prie.

Retort

National Museum of American History
Joseph Priestley (1733–1804) used this retort in his Northumberland, Pennsylvania laboratory. Priestley, the noted chemist whose accomplishments include the discovery of oxygen, was born in England. He lived and worked in Birmingham for many years, but his views as a Dissenter and an advocate of the French Revolution incited an angry mob into burning down his house and laboratory. In 1794 he fled to America, eventually settling in Northumberland, near Philadelphia. His great-great-granddaughter, Frances Priestley, donated his surviving laboratory ware to the Smithsonian in 1883.

Retorts are among the oldest forms of glassware used in chemistry. With their bulbs and long necks, they are suitable for distillation-- the separation of one material from another through heating. The bulb containing the sample is heated and the resulting gases travel along the neck to a second collecting vessel.

A 1791 inventory of Joseph Priestley’s lab notes over nine dozen retorts, varying in size from two quarts to one ounce. Priestley likely used these retorts as part of a pneumatic trough, a laboratory apparatus used to trap gases. In it, the neck of the retort is placed into a tank of water. Gases escaping from the retort’s neck bubble up through the water and into a vessel—such as a bell jar—which rests on a shelf with a hole placed several inches below the water’s surface. Gases are trapped in the jar for further study.

Glassmaker William Parker of 69 Fleet St., London or his son Samuel likely made this retort. The Parkers supplied Priestley with laboratory glassware free of charge, even after his move to the United States from London. Priestley wrote in a letter to Rev. Samuel Palmer, of his new home in Northumberland, Pennsylvania: “I have more advantages [in respect to experiments] than you could easily imagine in this remote place. I want hardly anything but a glass house.” Indeed, without a local supplier, getting glassware to Northumberland was quite a challenge. A letter to Samuel Parker dated January 20, 1795, details Priestley’s plan to have his most recent shipment brought from Philadelphia to Northumberland via a sleigh, “which is our best method of conveyance in winter.”

Sources:

Badash, Lawrence. 1964. “Joseph Priestley’s Apparatus for Pneumatic Chemistry.” Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences XIX (2): 139–55. doi:10.1093/jhmas/XIX.2.139.

National Museum of American History Accession File #13305

Priestley, Joseph, and Henry Carrington Bolton. 1892. Scientific Correspondence of Joseph Priestley. Ninety-Seven Letters Addressed to Josiah Wedgwood, Sir Joseph Banks, Capt. James Keir, James Watt, Dr. William Withering, Dr. Benjamin Rush, and Others. Together with an Appendix: I. The Likenesses of Priestley in Oil, Ink, Marble, and Metal. II. The Lunar Society of Birmingham. III. Inventory of Priestley’s Laboratory in 1791. New York: Privately printed [Philadelphia, Collins printing house]. http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001486336.

Priestley, Joseph, and John Towill Rutt. 1817. The Theological and Miscellaneous Works of Joseph Priestley. Vol. I Part 2. [London : Printed by G. Smallfield. http://archive.org/details/theologicalmisce0102prie.

The History of the Christmas Card

Smithsonian Magazine

A prominent educator and patron of the arts, Henry Cole travelled in the elite, social circles of early Victorian England, and had the misfortune of having too many friends.

During the holiday season of 1843, those friends were causing Cole much anxiety.

The problem were their letters: An old custom in England, the Christmas and New Year’s letter had received a new impetus with the recent expansion of the British postal system and the introduction of the “Penny Post,” allowing the sender to send a letter or card anywhere in the country by affixing a penny stamp to the correspondence.

Now, everybody was sending letters. Sir Cole—best remembered today as the founder of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London—was an enthusiastic supporter of the new postal system, and he enjoyed being the 1840s equivalent of an A-Lister, but he was a busy man. As he watched the stacks of unanswered correspondence he fretted over what to do. “In Victorian England, it was considered impolite not to answer mail,” says Ace Collins, author of Stories Behind the Great Traditions of Christmas. “He had to figure out a way to respond to all of these people.”

Cole hit on an ingenious idea. He approached an artist friend, J.C. Horsley, and asked him to design an idea that Cole had sketched out in his mind. Cole then took Horsley’s illustration—a triptych showing a family at table celebrating the holiday flanked by images of people helping the poor—and had a thousand copies made by a London printer. The image was printed on a piece of stiff cardboard 5 1/8 x 3 1/4 inches in size. At the top of each was the salutation, “TO:_____” allowing Cole to personalize his responses, which included the generic greeting “A Merry Christmas and A Happy New Year To You.”

It was the first Christmas card.

Unlike many holiday traditions—can anyone really say who sent the first Christmas fruitcake?—we have a generally agreed upon name and date for the beginning of this one. But as with today’s brouhahas about Starbucks cups or “Happy Holidays” greetings, it was not without controversy. In their image of the family celebrating, Cole and Horsley had included several young children enjoying what appear to be glasses of wine along with their older siblings and parents. “At the time there was a big temperance movement in England,” Collins says. “So there were some that thought he was encouraging underage drinking.”

The criticism was not enough to blunt what some in Cole’s circle immediately recognized as a good way to save time. Within a few years, several other prominent Victorians had simply copied his and Horsley’s creation and were sending them out at Christmas.

While Cole and Horsley get the credit for the first, it took several decades for the Christmas card to really catch on, both in Great Britain and the United States. Once it did, it became an integral part of our holiday celebrations—even as the definition of “the holidays” became more expansive, and now includes not just Christmas and New Year’s, but Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and the Winter Solstice.

Louis Prang, a Prussian immigrant with a print shop near Boston, is credited with creating the first Christmas card originating in the United States in 1875. It was very different from Cole and Horsley’s of 30 years prior, in that it didn’t even contain a Christmas or holiday image. The card was a painting of a flower, and it read “Merry Christmas.” This more artistic, subtle approach would categorize this first generation of American Christmas cards.  “They were vivid, beautiful reproductions,” says Collins. “There were very few nativity scenes or depictions of holiday celebrations. You were typically looking at animals, nature, scenes that could have taken place in October or February.”

Appreciation of the quality and the artistry of the cards grew in the late 1800s, spurred in part by competitions organized by card publishers, with cash prizes offered for the best designs. People soon collected Christmas cards like they would butterflies or coins, and the new crop each season were reviewed in newspapers, like books or films today.

In 1894, prominent British arts writer Gleeson White devoted an entire issue of his influential magazine, The Studio, to a study of Christmas cards. While he found the varied designs interesting, he was not impressed by the written sentiments. “It’s obvious that for the sake of their literature no collection would be worth making,” he sniffed. (White’s comments are included as part of an online exhibit of Victorian Christmas cards from Indiana University’s Lilly Library)

“In the manufacture of Victorian Christmas cards,” wrote George Buday in his 1968 book, The History of the Christmas Card, “we witness the emergence of a form of popular art, accommodated to the transitory conditions of society and its production methods.”

The modern Christmas card industry arguably began in 1915, when a Kansas City-based fledgling postcard printing company started by Joyce Hall, later to be joined by his brothers Rollie and William, published its first holiday card. The Hall Brothers company (which, a decade later, change its name to Hallmark), soon adapted a new format for the cards—4 inches wide, 6 inches high, folded once, and inserted in an envelope.  

“They discovered that people didn’t have enough room to write everything they wanted to say on a post card,” says Steve Doyal, vice president of public affairs for Hallmark, “but they didn’t want to write a whole letter.”

In this new “book” format—which remains the industry standard—colorful Christmas cards with red-suited Santas and brilliant stars of Bethlehem, and cheerful, if soon clichéd, messages inside, became enormously popular in the 1930s-1950s. As hunger for cards grew, Hallmark and its competitors reached out for new ideas to sell them. Commissioning famous artists to design them was one way: Hence, the creation of cards by Salvador Dali, Grandma Moses and Norman Rockwell, who designed a series of Christmas cards for Hallmark (the Rockwell cards are still reprinted every few years). (The Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art has a fascinating collection of more personal Christmas cards sent by artists including Alexander Calder.) 

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. Jacqueline Kennedy painted two Christmas card designs for Hallmark in 1963. The designs, including Glad Tidings (featured) and the Journey of the Magi, were to be sold as a benefit for the Kennedy Center. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. Between 1948 and 1957, Norman Rockwell created 32 Christmas card designs, including Christmas Surprise (1954), for Hallmark. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. Between 1948 and 1957, Norman Rockwell created 32 Christmas card designs, including Santa Looking at Two Sleeping Children (1952) for Hallmark. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. In 1959, Salvador Dali agreed to design ten Christmas cards for Hallmark. The following year, Madonna and Child and The Nativity, were sold in stores that carried Hallmark cards. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. Hallmark’s all-time best selling Christmas card, "Three Little Angels", was first introduced in 1977. This cute, religious card features three praying angels, one with a drooping halo, and the words, “God bless you, love you, keep you… at Christmas time and always.” (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the Hallmark Archives, Hallmark Cards, Inc., Kansas City, Mo.. Dali’s surrealist take on Christmas proved a bit too avant-garde for the average card buyer, so the rest of the designs were soon pulled from store shelves. (original image)

The most popular Christmas card of all time, however, is a simple one. It’s an image of three cherubic angels, two of whom are bowed in prayer. The third peers out from the card with big, baby blue eyes, her halo slightly askew.

“God bless you, keep you and love you...at Christmastime and always,” reads the sentiment. First published in 1977, that card—still part of Hallmark’s collection—has sold 34 million copies.

The introduction, 53 years ago, of the first Christmas stamp by the U.S. Post Office perhaps speaks even more powerfully to the popularity of the Christmas card. It depicted a wreath, two candles and had the words “Christmas, 1962.” According to the Post Office, the department ordered the printing of 350 million of these 4-cent, green and white stamps. However, says Daniel Piazza, chief curator of philately for the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum, “they underestimated the demand and ended up having to do a special printing.”

But there was a problem.

“They didn’t have enough of the right size paper,” Piazza says. Hence, the first printing of the new Christmas stamps came in sheets of 100. The second printing was in sheets of 90. (Although they are not rare, Piazza adds, the second printing-sheets of these stamps are collectibles today).

Still, thanks to the round the clock efforts by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, a total of one billion copies of the 1962 Christmas stamp were printed and distributed by the end of the year.

Today, much of the innovation in Christmas cards is found in smaller, niche publishers whose work is found in gift shops and paper stores. “These smaller publishers are bringing in a lot of new ideas,” says Peter Doherty, executive director of the Greeting Card Association, a Washington, D.C.-based trade group representing the card publishers. “You have elaborate pop up cards, video cards, audio cards, cards segmented to various audiences.”

The sentiments, too, are different than the stock greetings of the past. “It’s not always the touchy-feely, ‘to you and yours on this festive, glorious occasion’ kind of prose,” says Doherty. “Those cards are still out there, but the newer publishers are writing in a language that is speaking to a younger generation.”

Henry Cole’s first card was a convenient way for him to speak to his many friends and associates without having to draft long, personalized responses to each. Yet, there are also accounts of Cole selling at least some of the cards for a shilling apiece at his art gallery in London, possibly for charity. Maybe Sir Cole was not only a pioneer of the Christmas card, but prescient in his recognition of another aspect of our celebration of Christmas.

It’s big business.

Oral history interview with Bruce Metcalf, 2009 June 10

Archives of American Art
Transcript: 96 pages. Sound recording: 5 sound files (4 hr., 10 min.) digital, wav An interview of Bruce Metcalf conducted 2009 June 10, by Edward S. Cooke, Jr., for the Archives of American Art's Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America, at Metcalf's home, in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. Mr. Metcalf discusses his early years in Amherst, Massachusetts; beginnings as a maker with modeling clay and plastic airplane models; undergraduate years at Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York in the late 1960s; early interest in architecture; early disenchantment with modernist discourse and theory; introduction to Marxist theory and idealism of the 1960s; summer trip to California in 1970; return to the East Coast upon the death of his father; return to college, transferring into jewelry in his senior year; influence of his teacher Michael Jerry; seeing the work in "Objects: USA" exhibition (1969) and influence of the work of J. Fred Woell, Richard Mawdsley, L. Brent Kington; rejection of current trends in art, including conceptual art and formalism; his affinity for the medium of metal, and hammersmithing; influence of funk ceramics, including work by Fred Bauer and Richard Shaw; brief stint at Montana State University, Bozeman; working in cardboard and wood; graduate school at the State University of New York, New Paltz; working with Robert Ebendorf and Kurt Matzdorf at New Paltz; work as a production artist/craftsperson; attending Rhinebeck, New York, craft fair in the mid-1970s; the influence of writings by William Morris and John Ruskin and the notion of "dignified labor"; graduate school at Tyler School of Art, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; formulating his aesthetic of narrative symbolism; publication of his first article in 1977 as a response to review of the exhibition "Forms in Metal: 275 Years of Metalsmithing in America" (1975); yearlong teaching position at Colorado State University, Fort Collins, Colorado; taking a teaching position at Kent State University, Kent, Ohio (1986-1991); publication of his article "Crafts: Second-Class Citizens?" in the first issue of Metalsmith, 1980; growing involvement with the Society of North American Goldsmiths; development of his notion of "social utility" and the role and function of crafts and making; expansion of his writing on craft; rejection of the deconstructivist school of thought in the 1980s; abandonment of sculptural objects for jewelry in the early 1990s; return to Philadelphia in 1991; early teaching of history of craft, first at Kent, then on a Fulbright scholarship in Seoul, South Korea (1990), later at the University of the Arts, Philadelphia, in the early 1990s; influence of Martin Eidelberg; development of his vision for a history of craft course; collaboration with Janet Koplos on "Makers: A History of American Studio Craft"; use of his medium and craft to explore issues of nurturing and anxiety; the psychological/social effect and aesthetic importance of wearing jewelry (for the wearer and the artist); the pros and cons of craft collectors; the problematics of installation work by craft artists; recent trends in craft, including Anne Wilson's notion of "sloppy craft" and an "anti-craft" attitude; recent artists, including Arthur Hash and Gabriel Craig; lack of exhibition opportunities for younger/emerging artists; influential recent texts, including "Shards," by Garth Clark. He also recalls Robert Arneson, Randy Long, Carol Kumata, Jamie Bennett, Steve and Harriet Rogers, Wayne Hammer, Stanley Lechtzin, Gene Koss, Henry Halem, Mark Burns, Rose Slivka, Nilda Getty, Jill Slosberg, Sharon Church, John Gill, David La Plantz, Lois Moran; Gary Griffin; William Daley, Marian Pritchard, Glenn Adamson, Pat Flynn, Susan Cummins, and Judith Schaechter.
The following oral history transcript is the result of a recorded interview with Bruce Metcalf on June 10, 2009. The interview took place in Bala Cynwyd, Penn., and was conducted by Edward S. Cooke, Jr. for the Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution. This interview is part of the Nanette L. Laitman Documentation Project for Craft and Decorative Arts in America. Bruce Metcalf has reviewed the transcript. His corrections and emendations appear below in brackets with initials. This transcript has been lightly edited for readability by the Archives of American Art. The reader should bear in mind that they are reading a transcript of spoken, rather than written, prose.

What connects Abraham Lincoln and vampires? Bram Stoker, of course.

National Museum of American History

What is it about Abraham Lincoln and vampires? When Seth Grahame-Smith published his action/horror mash-up novel Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, scholars cringed. Few historians studying the 16th president were willing to go on the record to say what many truly thought, but suffice to say, it was not as supportive as the praise given for turning the life of Alexander Hamilton into a Broadway play. Nevertheless, a Lincoln/vampire connection does exist, and part of that story is now in the Smithsonian Institution.

Two images. Left: Cover of Dracula with illustration of a castle on a hill. Right: Title page of Dracula with signature of Bram Stoker on adjacent page.Signed copy of the 1899 edition of "Dracula," originally published in 1897. Courtesy of Smithsonian Libraries; photo by Morgan Aronson.

In 1886 three men—New York businessman and art collector Thomas B. Clarke, Century Magazine editor Richard W. Gilder, and famed American artist Augustus Saint-Gaudens—contacted the secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Spencer Baird, with a proposal. The three represented a consortium of subscribers who had recently purchased from Douglas Volk casts of the life mask and hands of Abraham Lincoln—items made by Volk’s father, Leonard, in 1860. If the Smithsonian promised to preserve the plaster mask and hands, and to guarantee that no future copies were ever made from the originals, the group would donate its Lincoln relics and a set of the bronze copies made by Saint-Gaudens. 

Life mask of Abraham LincolnIn April 1860 Chicago sculptor Leonard W. Volk learned that Abraham Lincoln was engaged in a protracted legal case in the city and requested that the former Illinois congressman come to his studio for a sitting. Lincoln—who often sought out opportunities to be photographed at key moments in his life—made time to be immortalized in a work by one of the city’s leading artists. During their sessions, to aid in his creation of a bust, Volk produced this life cast of Lincoln. Captured in plaster is Lincoln on the verge of taking his place on the national stage, with every line and wrinkle on his face recorded. The bronze copy of the cast is currently on display in the “American Stories” exhibition.
Plaster casts of Abraham Lincoln’s handsOn May 18 Leonard W. Volk was in Springfield, Illinois, as news of Lincoln’s Republican presidential nomination became known. This time Volk asked to cast the nominee’s powerful hands. In Lincoln’s two-story house, the sculptor set up shop. Volk asked that Lincoln hold something in his right hand, and the two finally decided on a round piece of wood. Lincoln went out to his shed and sawed off a portion of a broomstick. Volk kept the wood and later inserted it into his personal copy of the plaster-casted hands. The right hand is distinctly swollen, having shaken so many supporters’ hands the day before. The casts are currently on display in the “American Presidency” exhibition.

On January 1888 the institution received the donation. It consisted of the original plaster life mask and hands, a bronze set produced by Saint-Gaudens, a signed affidavit from Leonard Volk, and an illuminated list of the 33 subscribers who, as a group, made the donation. The list includes well-known friends and admirers of Lincoln such as John Hay, the former president’s private secretary. But one name curiously stands out: Bram Stoker, the Irish-born author of Dracula.

Illuminated certificateThis illuminated certificate on vellum accompanied the 33-subscribers' donation to the Smithsonian.
Close-up of illuminated manuscript, showing Bram Stoker’s nameA close-up of Stoker’s name on the illuminated certificate.

Why did Bram Stoker join the group, and how did he ever learn about the project? When the museum was given the opportunity to collect Stoker’s copy of the life mask, we decided to find answers to these questions.

It turned out that American poet Walt Whitman held the answers. Stoker—like a number of young Irish students at Trinity College in Dublin—was drawn to this rebellious voice from across the ocean that explored the notion of manly love and comradeship. In 1872 Stoker began a correspondence with the poet. In what can only be considered fan letters, Stoker poured out his soul and declared himself a Walt-Whitmanite.

Portrait of Walt Whitman, seatedPhotograph of Walt Whitman taken by George Collins Cox, 1887

For much of his professional life, Stoker was the business manager for celebrated actor Henry Irving and his Lyceum Theatre in London. As the theater’s manager, Stoker made several trips to the United States in the 1880s. These trips allowed him to meet his literary idol—who, in his estimation, did not disappoint. Stoker would later write, “I found [Whitman] all that I had ever dreamed of, or wished for in him.” During these visits, Whitman shared with Stoker his memories of his own personal hero, Abraham Lincoln. Stoker recalled how “our conversation presently drifted towards Abraham Lincoln for whom he had an almost idolatrous affection. I confess that in this I shared; and it was another bond of union between us.”

In 1886 Stoker visited Saint-Gaudens’s New York studio, hoping to persuade the artist to make a bust of Whitman. Saint-Gaudens expressed interest in creating a sculpture of the poet, but it never materialized due to Whitman’s declining health. By chance, sitting in the studio were the original casts of Lincoln’s life mask and hands. Seeing the relics, Stoker not only joined the list of subscribers, he convinced Henry Irving to participate as well.

Bronze Abraham Lincoln life mask on white backgroundBronze Abraham Lincoln life mask purchased by Bram Stoker. 
Close-up of the back of Abraham Lincoln life mask, showing plate with Bram Stoker’s nameAffixed to the back of each life mask is an individualized plate with the name of the subscriber.

Back in London, with the bronze mask of Lincoln resting on the podium, Stoker delivered a series of lectures on America in which he presented the stories that Whitman had shared with him. At his death in 1913, Stoker’s widow auctioned off many of his possessions. Prominently listed in the sales announcement were the author’s notes on Dracula, his Whitman collection, and the cast hands and mask of Lincoln.

The life mask found its way into the personal collection of prominent American financier and philanthropist John D. Rockefeller Jr. (the whereabouts of the hands are unknown). He would pass the mask on to his son Nelson Rockefeller, who shared Lincoln’s presidential ambitions and would become governor of New York and vice president under Gerald Ford. Nelson gave the life mask to his daughter Mary Rockefeller, who presented it to her Springfield, Illinois-born husband, Thomas Bruce Morgan, whose career included being a writer; magazine editor for LOOK, Esquire, and The Village Voice; and press aide to presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson and New York City Mayor John Lindsay. Following Morgan’s death, his children, Kate and Nick Morgan, hoped to find a more public home for Bram Stoker’s life mask and offered it to the National Museum of American History. This not only resulted in a wonderful new acquisition to the collection, but also led the museum to answer the riddle of Stoker’s involvement with the original donation in 1888.

While the mystery of how and why Bram Stoker joined the group of subscribers has been solved, additional connections between Lincoln and vampires will have to wait for another day. 

Harry R. Rubenstein is a curator in the Division of Political History.

Posted Date: 
Thursday, June 7, 2018 - 15:45
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Archaeologists Unearth Remnants of Lost Scottish Wine-Bottle Glass Factory

Smithsonian Magazine

Construction of an apartment complex in the Scottish port district of Leith has revealed the remnants of an 18th-century glass factory, reports David McLean for the Edinburgh Evening News.

Leith’s bottle production was once vital to Britain’s trade in wine and spirits. At its peak around 1770, the glass factory’s furnaces produced “a staggering [one] million bottles per week,” Fraser Parkinson, a local historian and tour guide for Select Scotland Tours, tells Collin Dreizen of Wine Spectator.

Archaeologists discovered the factory’s remains while excavating a timber yard during a pre-construction archaeological survey mandated by local law. On its broadest side, the three-acre area is flanked by Salamander Street, which also serves as the development project’s name. Though it might seem like an odd choice for a street name, the amphibious moniker was actually adopted in a nod to the blazing, coal-fired kilns of the property’s past: Folklore associating salamanders with fire dates back to the days of ancient Rome.

The archaeological survey quickly turned up evidence of the Edinburgh and Leith Glassworks’ six enormous, cone-shaped kilns. The kilns—standing 80 to 100 feet tall, with a diameter of roughly 40 feet at the base—once formed a dominant part of the local skyline; per the Edinburgh Evening News, the company fired up its first furnace in 1747.

Though not a major wine producer, the United Kingdom has still made significant contributions to the field of glass bottle manufacturing. In 1615, England’s James I demanded that the wood used to power glass-making furnaces be diverted to the construction of warships needed to protect the British Empire, reported Restaurant Business in 2006. Coal replaced wood as the fuel of choice for glass-making, and as a result, hotter furnaces yielded stronger glass.

The next innovation arrived in 1633, when Sir Kenelm Digby—a founding member of the Royal Society in London, as well as an adventurer, privateer and alchemist who is said to have faked his own death—tweaked the glass formula by adding metals and oxides. This produced bottles that were stronger, thicker, darker and cheaper, reported Henry Jeffreys for the Spectator in 2013.

Digby is credited as the “father of the modern bottle,” and it was his stronger glass that made effervescent wines such as champagne possible. Until then, glass was too delicate to withstand the substantial pressure exerted by bottle fermentation.

“There are references to wines that sparkled in Roman times,” Gladys Horiuchi of the San Francisco-based Wine Institute told Restaurant Business, “but back then they had no good way to package it, no way to keep the bubbles contained.”

Leith produced its millions of bottles to accommodate the growing demand for wine and whiskey across the British Empire, John Lawson, the City of Edinburgh Council’s archaeologist, tells Wine Spectator. When barrels of wine and spirits arrived at the port of Leith, they were swiftly decanted into bottles from the newly rediscovered glass bottle factory.

The factory was conveniently located near plentiful sand and kelp essential to glass production, reports the Edinburgh Evening News.

The bottles produced in Leith may have even influenced the shapes of wine bottles seen today. Speaking with Wine Spectator, Parkinson cites a late-19th century quote from writer James Grant: “The Leith pattern bottle is the parallel-sided, round-shouldered, narrow-neck bottle now dominant within the wine industry.”

Other sources cite Peter Mitchell, an early 18th-century Irishman who immigrated to France and changed his name to Pierre, as the inventor of the Bordeaux bottle, or bordelaise. The bordelaise’s mostly cylindrical shape allows it to be stored on its side for aging, keeping its cork wet and maintaining a tight seal that prevents air from intruding.

In 1874, the Scotsman newspaper reported that the Edinburgh and Leith Glass Works Company had been dissolved, per the Edinburgh Evening News.

One of the reasons for the factory’s closure was the loss of business following the American colonies’ declaration of independence, Lawson tells Wine Spectator.

“Trade to the U.S.A. ...was significantly affected by independence, with the loss of trade except, it seems, to New York,” he says.

The site’s last glass furnace was finally torn down in 1912. Its subsequent leasing by a timber yard signaled the fadeout of Leith’s historical glass industry.

“[I]t is really exciting to be able to view the footprint of the old glass making buildings and especially the foundations of the old cones,” says Parkinson to the Edinburgh Evening News. “ … It’s a brief but appreciated glimpse back in time. Let’s hope that the developers make good recordings of what is unearthed before moving onto Leith's future buildings.”

Lawson tells Wine Spectator that the current plan is for the apartment complex to be built around—rather than on top of—“these nationally important remains.”

Shakespeare’s First Folio Goes on Tour in the U.S.

Smithsonian Magazine

This year marks the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s death. The Bard’s cultural legacy is still robust, as is people’s curiosity about every aspect of his life—whether it's what he ate, how his health fared, if he was scientifically literate or whether he smoked pot. The literary giant's quadricentennial deserves a celebration that lasts beyond the calendar date of his death and birth (both of which are a little uncertain) or even the month (April). So the Folger Shakespeare Library is making the celebration last the entire year by taking rare copies of the First Folio to all 50 states and Puerto Rico in the First Folio! The Book that Gave Us Shakespeare tour.

In total, the Washington, D.C.-based library has 82 copies of the First Folio, the printed collection of Shakespeare’s plays, reports Susan Stamberg for NPR. That might sound like a lot, but the folio was originally printed seven years after his death. Actors John Heminges and Henry Condell assembled the collection in a single volume of 36 plays, including 18 that had never before appeared in print. “Without this book we probably wouldn't have ... Twelfth Night, Julius Caesar, Macbeth, The Winter's Tale ..." says Michael Witmore, the Folger’s director. Experts estimate that 750 copies were printed in 1623. Now around 230 remain. 

These surviving copies are extremely valuable for researchers because subsequent printings introduced changes to the text. As Paul Collins points out in Smithsonianevery copy of the First Folio is unique because 17th-century printers introduced their own changes and corrections “on the fly," which makes it possible for scholars to identify what Shakespeare actually wrote. 

Each First Folio is housed in conditions designed to keep them preserved and safe. The Folger Library keeps its collection, which the largest in the world, in a rare manuscript vault deep underground, behind a fireproof door, a safe door and one monitored by a bell to “alert librarians that someone has entered,” Stamberg writes for NPR

Eighteen of these copies will be venturing out for the tour and six copies will be on the road at any given time this year, though they will be subject to careful measures of protection. Indeed, the 52-stop traveling exhibition has the logistics and hype that seems more fitting for “a rock star’s tour schedule than the display of an antiquarian book,” writes our Smart News colleague Erin Blakemore for Fine Books & Collections magazine. Silica gel and a special case will keep the folio on display at the proper humidity and the hosting venues will have intense security to guard the book. While on display, the book will be open to Hamlet’s “To Be or Not to Be” soliloquy.

The preparations and the pomp and circumstance are worth it, says Sloane Whidden, registrar and exhibitions manager at the Folger. “A personal encounter with the First Folio is very meaningful,” she tells Blakemore. By January 2017, all the traveling folios should be back in their vault, safe and sound. 

Paddles for Norton Sound Type Kayak

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
THIS KAYAK WAS ORIGINALLY CATALOGUED AS 129576. IT WAS LATER RECATALOGED AS 160331. AS OF 6-5-2002 IT HAS BEEN RETURNED TO ITS ORIGINAL NUMBER OF 129576. IT IS DESCRIBED PP. 751-2 IN COLLINS MS.. CATALOGUE CARD NOTES THAT KAYAK HAS ONE PADDLE. HOWEVER, MOVE CREW LOCATED TWO LARGE PADDLES, ONE VERY SMALL PADDLE AND HANDLE OF A SINGLE BLADE PADDLE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LARGE DOUBLE BLADED PADDLE AND THE SMALL PADDLES DO NOT ACTUALLY BELONG TO 129576 (SOME MAY PERHAPS BELONG TO 160332?), HOWEVER THEY HAVE BEEN KEPT AS E129576 FOR NOW. Per Harvey Golden, 3-5-2008, the end knob tied with string to the large double bladed paddle stored with the kayak may actually go with kayak # E35667 ? Also, the very small paddle is marked in pencil "This paddle belongs to boat Sairy Gamp." The "Sairy Gamp" was a custom-made lightweight canoe designed and built by John Henry Rushton in 1882 for the writer George Washington Sears and it is in the NMAH collections, so, if this information is correct, the paddle may not belong with this kayak at all.

Kayak is illustrated and described in detail in Golden, Harvey. 2015. Kayaks of Alaska. Portland, OR: White House Grocery Press: Plate 36, p. 213, and pp. 223 - 224. Single blade paddle is illustrated and described on p. 470 of same publication. Golden identifies kayak and single blade paddle as Unaligmiut. Golden identifies the other large double blade paddle with this # as an East Canadian Inuit paddle.

Kayak - Norton Sound Type

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
FROM CARD: "ONE PADDLE." THIS KAYAK WAS ORIGINALLY CATALOGUED AS 129576. IT WAS LATER RECATALOGED AS 160331. AS OF 6-5-2002 IT HAS BEEN RETURNED TO ITS ORIGINAL NUMBER OF 129576. IT IS DESCRIBED PP. 751-2 IN COLLINS MS.. CATALOGUE CARD NOTES THAT KAYAK HAS ONE PADDLE. HOWEVER, MOVE CREW LOCATED TWO LARGE PADDLES, ONE VERY SMALL PADDLE AND HANDLE OF A SINGLE BLADE PADDLE. IT IS POSSIBLE THAT THE LARGE DOUBLE BLADED PADDLE AND THE SMALL PADDLES DO NOT ACTUALLY BELONG TO 129576 (SOME MAY PERHAPS BELONG TO 160332?), HOWEVER THEY HAVE BEEN KEPT AS E129576 FOR NOW. Per Harvey Golden, 3-5-2008, the end knob tied with string to the large double bladed paddle stored with the kayak may actually go with kayak # E35667 ? Also, the very small paddle is marked in pencil "This paddle belongs to boat Sairy Gamp" The "Sairy Gamp" was a custom-made lightweight canoe designed and built by John Henry Rushton in 1882 for the writer George Washington Sears and in the NMAH collections, so, if this information is correct, the paddle may not belong with this kayak at all.

Kayak is illustrated and described in detail in Golden, Harvey. 2015. Kayaks of Alaska. Portland, OR: White House Grocery Press: Plate 36, p. 213, and pp. 223 - 224. Single blade paddle is illustrated and described on p. 470 of same publication. Golden identifies kayak and single blade paddle as Unaligmiut. Golden identifies the other large double blade paddle with this # as an East Canadian Inuit paddle.

The Washington Monument: A view from the museum

National Museum of American History

The view from the western side of the museum is spectacular. It includes the western end of the National Mall, the World War II Memorial, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, and, of course, the Washington Monument. During a recent meeting, I looked out the window at this view and began wondering why the nation decided to build a tall marble obelisk as an homage to our first president. As it turns out, it is quite a story!

The idea to build a memorial to George Washington pre-dates both Washington, D.C., and Washington’s presidency. In the 1780s, members of the Continental Congress resolved to build an “equestrian statue” in Washington’s honor, but there was a debate over the location of the statue. Washington’s death in 1799 renewed interest in a memorial to honor him. That year, Congress recommended that a “marble monument be erected in Washington, and that the family of General Washington be requested to permit his body to be deposited under it.” Eventually, plans to entomb Washington beneath the monument were abandoned.

Although the proposal of a monument to Washington was introduced several times, no progress was made. In the early 1830s, several prominent Washingtonians decided they had had enough—if Congress wasn’t going to build a monument to the first Commander in Chief, they would; and so the Washington National Monument Society was formed. The society put forward a call for designs and later selected the winning proposal: a marble obelisk with surrounding colonnade, designed by Robert Mills.

Conceptual drawing of Washington MonumentRobert Mills’s original design for the Washington Monument included a subterranean space, a colonnade, and equestrian statues. Due to construction costs, only the obelisk was built.

To raise money for the project, the monument society appointed agents to collect funds, and public participation was limited to $1 so that all could contribute. However, after three years the society had only collected $20,000, and due to a recession in the late 1830s, collecting was suspended. After the recession, the $1 limit on contributions was lifted. To raise money the society made lithographs for contributors who donated at least $1; the lithographs showed the proposed design alongside signatures of various prominent politicians of the day, including Zachary Taylor, James Polk, George Dallas, Henry Clay, Millard Fillmore, John Quincy Adams, and Daniel Webster. Additionally, contribution boxes were placed in post offices around the country. 

Metal collection box with handwritten instructions attached to sideThis Washington Monument contribution box is from Great Barrington, Massachusetts.

In 1849, after receiving a block of marble for the monument from the citizens of Alabama, the society began soliciting blocks of marble from other states, territories, trade unions, Native American tribes, and foreign governments. Not all donations were equally popular. On the evening of March 5, 1854, several men broke into the monument’s construction site and stole a block of marble that had been sent by Pope Pius IX. The men then threw the stone into the Potomac River. Although no arrests were made, it was common knowledge that the perpetrators were members of the American Party, more commonly known as the “Know-Nothings.” The Know-Nothings, who quickly rose to political power in the 1840s, were strongly anti-Catholic and opposed the growing number of immigrants to the United States. 

Pink marble stone fragment shaped mildly like the Washington MonumentAlthough the pattern of the marble doesn’t match the original description, this stone came to the museum with the claim that it is the Pope’s stone. 

From 1855 to 1858, the Know-Nothings seized control of the Washington Monument Society. During this time, very few monetary contributions were collected and only a few feet of marble were added to the monument. Ultimately, the Know-Nothings fell from political power and returned the monument to the Society’s original members, but the lack of progress convinced many Americans that the federal government needed to intervene. In February 1866, President Andrew Johnson stated, “Let us restore the Union and proceed with the monument as its symbol until it shall contain the pledge of the States of the Union . . . Let us restore the Union and let us proceed with the monument founded as its symbol until it shall contain the pledges of all the States of the Union . . . Let your monument rise . . . higher and higher.” Ten years later, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law a joint resolution stating “we, the Senate and House of Representatives in Congress assembled, in the name of the people of the United States . . . do assume and direct the completion of the Washington Monument, in the City of Washington.” This joint resolution, unanimously adopted by both the House and Senate, meant that the Washington Monument Society ceded “all property, rights, and privileges” to Congress. Now, Congress was officially responsible for completion of the Washington Monument. 

Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Casey, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, was appointed to resume construction of the monument. After inspecting its “stub” he found that the foundation did not provide enough support and the section of marble installed by the Know-Nothings was inferior and needed to be removed. Under Casey’s direction, progress on the construction of the monument proceeded quickly and efficiently. Between 1880 and 1882 the monument grew in height—from 154 feet to 340 feet. In November 1884 the monument hit the 520-foot mark, temporarily becoming the tallest structure in the world. 

Finally, in February 1885 the dedication of the Washington Monument took place. During the ceremony, Senator John Sherman stated, “the monument speaks for itself—simple in form, admirable in proportion, composed of enduring marble and granite, resting upon foundations broad and deep, it rises into the skies higher than any work of human art. It is the most imposing, costly, and appropriate monument ever erected in the honor of one man.”

Pamphlet with small carton illustration of George WashingtonThe Order of Proceedings for the Dedication of the Washington Monument took place on Washington’s Birthday. This program belonged to Smithsonian Secretary Spencer Baird.

Although the monument was dedicated in 1885, it wasn’t officially ready to receive visitors until 1888. Since its opening, hundreds of thousands of people have climbed to the top, and hundreds of thousands more have used the monument as a landmark. Not only is the Washington Monument a memorial to our first president, but it has been a witness to numerous events on the National Mall. The monument stood as a backdrop to the Civil Rights demonstrations in the 1960s and played a key part in the 1963 March on Washington. In the late 1960s and early 1970s the monument’s grounds were used as a rallying point for both anti-Vietnam War protestors and the National Guard. For the nation’s bicentennial, the monument was the centerpiece of a fireworks display. And in 1987 an AIDS quilt with the names of those who had died was displayed on the National Mall with the Washington Monument standing in the background. Most recently, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, a life-sized image of the Saturn V rocket that took Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins into outer space was projected onto the Washington Monument. The monument has borne witness to innumerable events in Washington, D.C., and it will bear witness to countless more. 

Overhead map showing the parade route for the March on WashingtonThe Washington Monument served as a visual marker for those that participated in the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom on August 28, 1963.

Sara Murphy is a museum specialist and collections manager in the Division of Political and Military History. She has previously blogged about how first families have memorialized and mourned and about the process of exhibition installation.

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, September 17, 2019 - 11:30
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4 music-inspiring objects through the eyes of our Making American Music interns

National Museum of American History

Musical inspiration abounds in the collections and exhibitions around us. As interns in the Making American Music project, we get to follow that inspiration to make music and engage museum visitors in a conversation about the relationship between music and history in the United States. With the guidance of artist-in-residence Dom Flemons, we’ve been exploring the collections and using our knowledge of performance and research to interpret them.

Follow along as we explore four items in the museum collection that sparked a musical connection!

Listening to the hopeful sounds of victory: “A Yankee Doodle Tan” sheet music

Sheet music cover with silhouette of marching soldiers and large V"A Yankee Doodle Tan (The 'Double V' Song)" sheet music, 1942. Duke Ellington Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Kelly Bosworth: Spot the two large Vs on this striking sheet music cover from 1942? This song, “A Yankee Doodle Tan,” written by Andy Razaf and J. C. Johnson, was the theme song for a movement during World War II called the "Double V Campaign." African Americans volunteered in large numbers to serve in the war, even as they were treated as second class citizens at home in the United States. The Double V Campaign called for a double victory in World War II: victory against fascism abroad and against racism at home.

After seeing this song highlighted in the museum, I became fascinated with the small but remarkable body of music that came out of the Double V Campaign. These songs highlight American ideals of equality, freedom, and liberty, while emphasizing the patriotism and sacrifice of African Americans in a time of war. For example, in “A Yankee Doodle Tan,” the lyrics say, “America, you can depend on ev’ry native son / To stand by you until the end, his color doesn’t run.”

Music has always been a powerful tool for sharing political messages in the United States. The songs from the Double V Campaign are an early example of the contributions of African American lyricists and composers in a continuing tradition of civil rights protest.

Innovating with your instrument: Elizabeth Cotten’s guitar

Photo of acoustic guitar on red backgroundElizabeth Cotten's C. F. Martin and Company, Auditorium Orchestra model #000-18 guitar, 1950.

Libby Weitnauer: One of the musical instruments currently on display (in 1 Center) is Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten’s guitar. Upon arriving at the museum, I was unaware that the guitar was part of the collection but had serendipitously learned one of Cotten’s most beloved songs, “Freight Train,” just days before.

Self-taught and left-handed, Cotten played her guitar both upside down and backwards, which resulted in a warm and rolling style completely unique to her. The style she pioneered, which is deeply rooted in the sounds of the blues guitarists that preceded her, is now known as “Cotten-style.” Her process is a perfect example of the ways in which folk musicians innovate and propel musical traditions forward by customizing their approach to their instruments. Elizabeth Cotten’s groundbreaking spirit has inspired me to innovate in my own playing.

Feeding the body as well as the heart: Bread and Roses magazine cover

Illustration of an African America woman with an Afro hairstyle. Roses bloom around her hair and face. She looks positively into the distance."Bread and Roses" magazine cover, artwork by Paul Davis, 1978. Courtesy of Cultural Project 1199 at Cornell University.

Rose Alia Rodgers: Located in the Many Voices, One Nation exhibition, a colorful magazine cover titled “Bread and Roses” instantly caught my eye. I looked into the history of the phrase, “bread and roses,” and found that it originated from a 1911 poem, and has continued to provide a staple slogan for workers’ movements since then.

An early mention of the phrase came from a workers’ rights leader Rose Schneiderman. At a 1912 textile strike, she said, “The worker must have bread, but she must have roses too.” She explained that workers needed dignified working conditions, meaning safety, fair wages, and reasonable work hours. The words were later put to a melody and performed by numerous artists, including Judy Collins, Bobby McGee, and Mimi Fariña.

I was drawn to this song not only because of the value in its meaning but also because it inspired protest, bringing various communities together (including immigrant communities, workers unions, and leading women) to strike for better treatment in the workplace.

Songs of slavery: Eli Whitney’s cotton gin patent model (reproduction)

Wooden box with wisps of cotton in gears.Courtroom cotton gin model, about 1800

Hannah Rose Baker: Henry Truvillion was a singer and preacher who spent many years working for the railroad, where singing “work songs” was often a means for coordinating labor. Folklorist John Lomax recorded him singing many of these songs in the late 1930s, including this “Cotton Picking Song.” Truvillion emphasizes in his song that he’s “picking [cotton] by the pound.”

While we were working on the song, I had the opportunity to visit the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. There I read a label about the effects of the invention of the Whitney cotton gin in 1793. It read, “Before Whitney’s gin, one person could clean one pound of cotton per day. The gin increased that number by 4,900 percent.” I was struck by the contrast between the beauty of the song, the actual examples of cotton gins on display in the museum—now dormant and disconnected from the work they once did—and the inhumane oppression of the unending work cotton production meant for enslaved people. I wanted to explore this in our program and I was drawn to researching American work songs, of which “Cotton Picking Song” is an example. 

Work songs, born in the coerced labor and hardships of slavery, came to influence many American musical genres, from bluegrass to rock and roll. In many ways, like every aspect of American history and life, American popular music has been forever imprinted with the legacy of slavery and oppression. As interns, we have had the opportunity to share this complicated history with our visitors through song.

Four young women stand on a stage with microphones and a music stand. Background is black. Two hold instruments. Mouths open in song.The 2018 Making American Music interns. From left: Hannah Rose Baker, Rose Alia Rodgers, Libby Weitnauer, Kelly Bosworth. 

This blog post was compiled by Libby Weitnauer, a musician who has recently finished a master’s degree at New York University. Rose Alia Rodgers is a recent Sociology graduate from the University of California, Santa Cruz. Kelly Bosworth is a musician and a PhD student in Ethnomusicology at Indiana University. Hannah Rose Baker is a scholar-musician currently residing in Boston, Massachusetts.

Making American Music is supported by the Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation and the John Hammond Performance Series Endowment Fund.

Author(s): 
interns Libby Weitnauer, Hannah Rose Baker, Kelly Bosworth, and Rose Alia Rodgers
Posted Date: 
Thursday, August 16, 2018 - 16:45
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The Incomparable Legacy of Lead Belly

Smithsonian Magazine

“If you asked ten people in the street if they knew who Lead Belly was,” Smithsonian archivist Jeff Place says, “eight wouldn’t know.”

Chances are, though, they’d know many of Lead Belly songs that have been picked up by others. Chief among them: “Goodnight Irene,” an American standard made a No. 1 hit by The Weavers in 1950, one year after the death of the blues man who was first to record it, Huddie Ledbetter, better known as Lead Belly.

But the roster also includes “Where Did You Sleep Last Night,” the spooky song that capped Nirvana’s Grammy winning No. 1 “Unplugged in New York” album in 1994 that sold 5 million copies.

And in between? “Rock Island Line,” recorded by both Lonnie Donegan and Johnny Cash; “House of the Rising Sun,” made a No. 1 hit by the Animals; “Cotton Fields,” sung by Odetta but also the Beach Boys; “Gallows Pole,” as interpreted by Led Zeppelin and “Midnight Special” recorded by Credence Clearwater Revival and a host of others.

Also on the list is “Black Betty,” known to many as a hard-hitting 1977 rock song by Ram Jam that became a sports arena chant and has been covered by Tom Jones.

Few of its fan would realize the origins of that hit as a prison work song, in which its relentless “bam de lam” is meant to simulate the sound of the ax hitting wood, says Place, who co-produced a five-disc boxed set on Lead Belly’s recordings out this week.

John and Alan Lomax, the father and son team of musicologists who recorded prison songs and found Lead Belly chief among its voices in 1933, wrote that “Black Betty” itself referred to a whip, though other prisoners have said it was slang for their transfer wagon.

Either way, it’s an indication of how much the songs of Lead Belly became ingrained into the culture even if audiences aren’t aware of their origins.

Today, 127 years after his birth, and 66 years after his death, there is an effort to change that.

 

On Feb. 23, the Smithsonian Channel will debut a documentary about the twice-jailed singer who became so influential to music, “Legend of Lead Belly,” including striking color footage of him singing in a cotton field and lauditory comments from Roger McGuinn, Robby Krieger, Judy Collins and Van Morrison, who just says “he’s a genius.”

Then on Feb. 24, Folkways releases a five-disc boxed set in a 140-page large format book that is the first full career retrospective for the blues and folk giant. On April 25, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will put on an all-star concert that echoes the original intention of the project, “Lead Belly at 125: A Tribute to an American Songster.”

The 125 milestone is meant to mark the anniversary of his birth to sharecroppers in rural Louisiana. But even if you believe some research that says he was born in 1889, that marker has still passed. “Had things happened quicker,” Place says, it all would have been completed for the 125th, who previously put together the massive “Woody at 100” collection on Woody Guthrie in 2012. The vagaries of collecting materials and photographic rights for the extensive book, and shooting the documentary took time.

It was a little easier to assemble the music itself since the Smithsonian through its acquisition of Folkways label, has access to the full span of his recording career, from the first recordings in 1934 to the more sophisticated “Last Sessions” in 1948 in which he was using reel-to-reel tape for the first time, allowing him to also capture the long spoken introductions to many of the songs that are in some cases as important historically as the songs themselves.

Lead Belly wrote dozens of songs, but a lot of the material that he first recorded were acquired from hearing them first sung in the fields or in prison, where he served two stints. He got out each time, according to legend, by writing songs for the governors of those states, who, charmed, gave him his freedom.

The real truth, Place’s research shows, is that he was up for parole for good behavior around those times anyway.

But a good story is a good story. And when the Lomaxes found in Lead Belly a stirring voice but a repository for songs going back to the Civil War, the incarcerations were such a big part of the story, it was often played up in the advertising. Sometimes, he was asked to sing in prison stripes to drive home the point.

And newspapers couldn’t resist the angle, “Sweet Singer of the Swamplands here to Do a Few Tunes Between Homicides” a New York Herald Tribune subhead in 1933 said. “It made a great marketing ploy, until it got too much,” Place says.

Notes from the singer’s niece in the boxed set make it clear “he did not have an ugly temper.” And Lead Belly, annoyed that the Lomaxes inserted themselves as co-writers for purposes of song publishing royalties. “He was at a point of: enough is enough,” Place says.

While the blues man was known to make up songs on the spot, or write a sharp commentary on topical news, he also had a deep memory of any songs he had heard, and carried them forward.

 

“Supposedly Lead Belly first heard ‘Goodnight Irene,’ sung by an uncle in around 1900,” Place says. “But it has roots in this show tune of the late 19th century called ‘Irene Goodnight.’ He changed it dramatically, his version. But a lot of these songs go back many, many years.”

While the young Lead Belly picked up his trade working for years with Blind Lemon Jefferson, his interests transcended the blues into children’s songs, work songs, show tunes and cowboy songs.

And he stood out, too, for his choice of instrument—a 12-string guitar, so chosen, Place says, so it could be heard above raucous barrooms where he often played. “It worked for him, because he played it in a very percussive way, he was a lot of times trying to simulate the barrelhouse piano sound on the guitar.”

He played a variety of instruments, though, and can be heard on the new collection playing piano on a song called “Big Fat Woman,” and accordion on “John Henry.” While a lot of the music on the new set was issued, a couple of things are previously unreleased, including several sessions he recorded at WNYC in New York, sitting in the studio, running through songs and explaining them before he came to his inevitable theme song, “Good Night Irene.”

One unusual track previously unreleased from the “Last Session” has him listening and singing along to Bessie Smith’s 1929 recording of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out.”

“Now that’s really cool,” Place says. “I’d play it for people who came through, musicians, and they’d say, ‘That blew my mind, man.’”

The legacy of Lead Belly is clear in the film, when John Reynolds, a friend and author, quotes George Harrison as saying, “if there was no Lead Belly, there would have been no Lonnie Donegan; no Lonnie Donegan, no Beatles. Therefore no Lead Belly, no Beatles.”

And even as Place has been showing the documentary clips in person and online he’s getting the kind of reaction he had hoped. “People are saying, ‘I knew this music. I didn’t know this guy.”

The New Exhibition on Black Music Could Give Other Museums a Run for Their Money

Smithsonian Magazine

Music is so much a part of black America, it pops up all over the vast new National Museum of African American History and Culture. From Harriet Tubman’s modest hymnal of spirituals to Sly Stone’s signed Fender Rhodes keyboard and Public Enemy’s boom box that helps close the 20th-century cultural history, there’s no separating the importance of music from the history on hand.

But when one arrives at the entry to the fourth floor “Musical Crossroads” exhibition, heralded by the sparkly red finish on Chuck Berry’s Cadillac, the futuristic fantasy of the Parliament-Funkadelic mothership replica, and Michael Jackson’s Victory Tour fedora, it is as if entering its own inclusive African-American Music History Museum.

And inclusive it is—with displays on African music imported by the enslaved to this country, devotional music that helped bind black communities against all odds, gospel, minstrel music, ragtime, jazz, blues, rhythm & blues, rock ’n’ roll, hip-hop and EDM. Yes, and some country stars of color as well.

One of the challenges of opening the Smithsonian’s newest major museum was acquiring its contents from scratch. Sure, the nearby National Museum of American History already had a lot of artifacts, from Scott Joplin sheet music to Dizzy Gillespie’s B-flat trumpet.

The 1973 Cadillac Eldorado convertible was driven on stage for the big superstar tribute concert for Chuck Berry in the 1987 film Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll. (NMAAHC)

But it was important not to raid other museums; those artifacts were part of the American story. 

It was up to Musical Crossroads curator Dwandalyn Reece to amass the objects that would fill the 6,200 square foot space.

Other American music museums had a significant head start on major artifacts—from Cleveland’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame to the Experience Music Project in Seattle. And that’s not to mention all of the historical items in all of the Hard Rock Cafes around the world.

In the more than 20 years since she started her career, Reece says, “the whole concept of music as memorabilia has flourished.”

Still, there was something about the prestige of the Smithsonian that convinced many to donate cherished and long-held heirlooms that were not previously seen or available. 

One of the most impressive things about the museum is that relics like Little Richard’s flashy jacket or Chuck Berry’s car, were donated directly from the artists themselves. Others, like Bo Diddley’s signature square guitar and porkpie hat, were given by their estates. 

Made by Henri Selmer of Paris, Louis Armstrong's trumpet is among only a few to be inscribed with his name. (NMAAHC)

Some families donated items that were not previously known to have existed at all, such as the ensemble that the celebrated opera singer Marian Anderson wore as she sang on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1939. The historic concert before a crowd of more than 75,000 people and millions more on radio had been organized with the help of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt after the Daughters of the American Revolution refused to allow Anderson to sing to an integrated audience at its Constitution Hall.

“That’s a tremendous event in the history of the United States and in music,” Reece says. Her outfit that day “would have been a wished-for item if I’d known it existed. But I didn’t know it existed.”

While researching another object however, she says, “we were put in contact with the family and they let us know that they still had the outfit and they were willing to donate it to the museum.”

Flashy as it is, the shiny red 1973 Cadillac Eldorado convertible at the Musical Crossroads entrance may not seem to have anything to do with Chuck Berry, other than simple ownership. He started pioneering Rock ’n’ Roll by mixing of country and R&B two decades earlier.

Michael Jackson's signature fedora he wore for his 1984 six-month Victory tour. (NMAAHC)

But, Reece says, “the car has its own symbolism.”

It was driven on stage for the big superstar tribute concert for Berry captured in the 1987 movie Hail! Hail! Rock ’n’ Roll

“It’s more than just a shiny object that’s standing in the center of the museum,” she says. “It’s also a symbolic element of Chuck Berry’s own personal story and career, tied to his relationship, growing up in St. Louis, Missouri, and not being allowed to go to the Fox Theatre as a child, because of his race. And then you have this moment where he’s driving a car across the stage at this same theater 40 years later. Everything represented by that—the freedom and liberation and sense of achievement of an African-American man who is one of the architects of America’s greatest exports, Rock ’n’  Roll, and what that says about music from that standpoint. Where does music function as a tool of liberation and protest and individuality in American culture and African-American culture.”

A Chuck Berry guitar that he nicknamed “Maybellene” is also part of the display—one of more than a dozen or so guitars on display.

But there are other items tied to individual artists that helped define their place in music and the American imagination—from the wire rim glasses of Curtis Mayfield to the eyepatch of Slick Rick; from the cape (and signed shoes) of James Brown to the star-shaped guitar and outfit of Bootsy Collins. And there are the tiny tap shoes once worn by a 3-year-old Sammy Davis Jr.

One never knows what particular item will provide that instant connection to the artist it represents, but it can come in artifacts big and small—from the elaborate dresser kit of Lena Horne to the singular metal cigarette lighter of bluesman Josh White. 

A 1946 Selmer trumpet played by Louis Armstrong represents that jazz great; Miles Davis’ legacy is marked by a stylish jacket he wore in the 1960s. The formidable dress of Ella Fitzgerald, and M.C. Hammer’s parachute pants are also under glass (as if to say, “Can’t Touch This”).

One ensemble does double duty—a costume from Lady Sings the Blues calls to mind the both singer who wore it, Diana Ross, and the character she portrayed, Billie Holiday, who is otherwise represented by an oversized acetate of a 1953 10-inch studio album, “An Evening with Billie Holiday.” 

Along the way, there are artists represented who will likely be unfamiliar to wide audiences, from 19th century composer Francis Johnson to early prodigy Blind Tom Wiggins (whose flute is on display). Visitors will learn of both “sacred” steel guitar player Felton Williams and early ’70s Detroit punk band Death. 

Some artists may seem shortchanged. Sam Cooke is represented by a contract signature; the Jackson 5 by Jermaine’s costume (with the Gary, Indiana, musician representing Detroit), Janet Jackson by a cassette of “Control.” Frankie Beverly’s cap is there, but there does not seem to be anything from Al Green. 

Hundreds of albums are on display in a record store flip format, but the covers are affixed to durable materials and fastened to their crates so as to withstand the expected crush of visitors. “We didn’t want album covers all over the floor, or tossing them around,” Reece says. 

One area will allow visitors to spend time to sit in a producer or engineer’s seat to create a track. Another interactive area shows the relationships of songs to regions and other genres. 

When asked to divulge her favorite object, Reece can’t ignore the triangular Parliament/Funkadelic mothership. “The thing that resonates the most for me is not only that George Clinton donated it, but it was the public reaction to the acquisition,” she says. “For some reason it touched a positive nerve in people, in people seeing the Smithsonian as their place, as being interested in their history.”

Sometimes, people think of a national museum as elite and apart from regular people, Reece says. “But this resonated with people,” she says. “And I’m so proud of that.”

The inaugural exhibition Musical Crossroads is on view in the National Museum of African American History and Culture. All free timed entry passes to visit the museum have currently been distributed through the month of December.  Passes for 2017 are available beginning Monday, October 3, at 9 a.m.  A limited number of same-day timed entry passes are offered each day at the museum and are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis beginning at 9:15 a.m.

Slurred Lines: Great Cocktail Moments in Famous Literature

Smithsonian Magazine

The Ramos gin fizz gets its frothy top from several minutes of vigorous shaking. Photo by Flickr user ReeseCLloyd

Cocktails are having a moment right now, but they’ve been iconic motifs in literature for the past century. They define characters, offering a window into their tastes and personalities—who could picture James Bond without his “shaken, not stirred” martini? Cocktails drive storylines, clearing paths toward delight, despair or some combination of the two. In some cases, they come to represent the authors themselves, whose lives were as colorful as their prose. And of course, each cocktail has a life of its own—the more obscure the origin, the better. Drinking might not make a great writer, but it does sometimes make a great story.

Read on for five famous cocktails and the literary moments they inspired:

Ramos Gin Fizz

The Ramos gin fizz is a New Orleans classic invented in 1888 by Henry C. Ramos of the Imperial Cabinet Saloon. The recipe calls for egg white, flower water, dairy and vigorous shaking for three to ten minutes. The drink became so popular in the 1910s that Ramos had to employ 20 to 30 “shaker boys” to keep up with demand. Despite its long prep time, the gin fizz is meant to be consumed quickly, especially as a cool refreshment on a hot summer day.

On one of histrips to New York, Louisiana “Kingfish” Huey Long had a bartender flown in from the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, he said, to “teach these New York sophisticates how and what to drink.”

Watch a bartender make the Ramos gin fizz:

In Walker Percy’s Love in the Ruins, Dr. Thomas More defies his egg white allergy by downing gin fizz after gin fizz with Lola, his lover. “These drinks feel silky and benign,” he muses—until seven fizzes later, he breaks out in hives and his throat starts to close. More’s brush with death mirrors Walker Percy’s own: the writer once went into anaphylactic shock after drinking gin fizzes with (luckily for him) a Bellevue nurse. Percy later wrote in his 1975 essay, “Bourbon”: “Anybody who monkeys around with gin and egg white deserves what he gets. I should have stuck with Bourbon and have from that day to this.”

(The recipe below, along with all the others in this post, is courtesy of Philip Greene, co-founder of the Museum of the American Cocktail and author of To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion. Greene recently hosted the Smithsonian Associates seminar, “Literary Libations.”)

1 ½ oz Citadelle gin

½ oz fresh lemon juice

½ oz fresh lime juice

1 tsp sugar or ½ oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup

1 oz half and half or cream

3 drops Fee Brothers orange flower water

1 egg white (pasteurized optional)

Place ingredients in a shaker with cracked ice. Shake vigorously for 2-3 minutes. Strain into a chilled Delmonico or short Collins glass. Top off with 1-2 oz seltzer water.

Gimlet

A traditional gimlet contains gin and Rose’s lime cordial, but today the drink is often made with vodka and fresh lime juice. Photo by Flickr user Kenn Wilson

“Mad Men” fans may recognize the gimlet as Betty Draper’s drink of choice, but her own generation likely knew it from Raymond Chandler’s 1953 novel The Long Goodbye. “A real gimlet is half gin and half Rose’s Lime Juice and nothing else,” Terry Lennox tells the detective Philip Marlowe. “It beats martinis hollow.”

Lennox’s one-to-one ratio is too sweet for most modern drinkers. These days, gimlets are typically made with fresh lime juice instead of Rose’s syrupy cordial (and with vodka instead of gin). But Rose’s did have an edge in shelf life: as seen in Green Hills of Africa and The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, Ernest Hemingway opted for gimlets on safari, probably because Rose’s was less likely to spoil.

Legend has it that the gimlet was named after Dr. Thomas Gimlette of the Royal British Navy, who used the citrusy drink to stave off sailors’ scurvy—or after the device, called a “gimlet,” used to bore holes in lime juice casks.

2 oz Hendrick’s gin

1 oz Rose’s lime juice

Shake on ice until well chilled. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a lime wedge or wheel.

Brandy Alexander

Made with cream and chocolate liqueur, the brandy Alexander is basically an alcoholic milkshake. Photo by Flickr user ImipolexG

Few cocktails are as maligned as the brandy Alexander, a rich concoction containing cream and chocolate liqueur. The drink is believed to be a Prohibition innovation, made with “enough sugar and cream to mask the foulest of bootleg hooch,” writes Wall Street Journal cocktail columnist Eric Felten. Since then, this “milkshake,” as John Lennon liked to called it, has acquired a reputation of femininity and ostentation. In Ian Fleming’s short story, “Risico” (later adapted into the 1981 film, For Your Eyes Only), the drink is used as a “secret recognition signal” between James Bond and a CIA informant, Aristotle Kristatos. Fleming writes: “The creamy, feminine drink was so much cleverer than the folded newspaper, the flower in the buttonhole, the yellow gloves that were the hoary, slipshod call signs between agents.”

The brandy Alexander also figures in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee’s nightmare portrait of marital dysfunction. The drink takes George and Martha back to a more innocent time in their relationship, when the latter would order “real ladylike little drinkies” including brandy Alexanders and gimlets. “But the years have brought to Martha a sense of essentials,” says George, “the knowledge that cream is for coffee, lime juice for pies … and alcohol pure and simple … here you are, angel … for the pure and simple. For the mind’s blind eye, the heart’s ease, and the liver’s craw. Down the hatch, all.”

1 ½ oz brandy

1 oz cream

1 oz crème de cacao (brown)

Shake with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a sprinkle of nutmeg.

Whiskey Sour

Ernest Hemingway once tried to cure F. Scott Fitzgerald with a “lemonade and a whisky,” his term for a whiskey sour. Photo by Flickr user Mitchell Bartlett

To make a real whiskey sour, ditch the sour mix for fresh lemon juice and simple syrup. This cocktail, first described as a “whiskey crusta” in Jerry Thomas’s 1862 book How to Mix Drinks, was a favorite of Ernest Hemingway’s—and made for one eventful night with F. Scott Fitzgerald, recorded in A Moveable Feast.

Hemingway was an up-and-coming writer, and Fitzgerald a literary star, when the two first met in France in 1925. According to Hemingway’s memoir, Fitzgerald became hysterical one night after having too much wine. He worried that he would die from “congestion of the lungs” and wondered aloud who would take care of his wife Zelda and daughter Scottie. Hemingway recalled trying to calm him down: “If you want to do the best thing to keep from catching cold, just stay in bed and I’ll order us each a lemonade and a whisky. . .” Hemingway was irritated by the whole “silliness,” but said that “you could not be angry with Scott any more than you could be angry with someone who was crazy. . . it was hard to accept him as a drunkard, since he was affected by such small quantities of alcohol.”

Whiskey sours also make an appearance in Thomas Pynchon’s The Crying of Lot 49 (1966). The novel opens with Oedipa Maas going through the motions of her dull life as a housewife—Tupperware parties, Muzak, lasagna making and the “mixing of the twilight’s whiskey sours against the arrival of her husband.” But it’s the whiskey sour that makes the cut in John Crace’s satirical “digested read” of the novel, indicating that the drink was especially emblematic of Maas’s domestic malaise.

1 ½ to 2 oz. Wild Turkey bourbon

½ oz Fee Brothers rock candy syrup

Splash water

½ oz fresh lemon juice

Shake well with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Bronx Cocktail

The citrusy Bronx cocktail was popular in the Jazz Age. Photo by Flickr user ReeseCLloyd

H.L. Mencken once wrote that the origin of the Bronx cocktail was “unknown to science” (“all that is known is that it preceded the Bronx Cheer”), but a popular story credits Johnnie Solon, famed bartender of the Waldorf-Astoria, with inventing the drink circa 1900. Solon reportedly named the Bronx cocktail after the Bronx Zoo: “I had been at the Bronx Zoo a day or two before, and I saw, of course, a lot of beasts I had never known. Customers used to tell me of the strange animals they saw after a lot of mixed drinks. So when Traverson said to me, as he started to take the drink in to the customer, ‘What’ll I tell him is the name of this drink?’ I thought of those animals, and said: ‘Oh, you can tell him it is a “Bronx.”‘”

The Bronx cocktail caught on in the 1910s and ’20s, rivaling the Manhattan and the martini in popularity. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, orange juicing is mechanized at the Gatsby mansion to keep up with Bronx cocktail demand: “Every Friday five crates of oranges and lemons arrived from a fruiterer in New York—every Monday these same oranges and lemons left his back door in a pyramid of pulpless halves. There was a machine in the kitchen which could extract the juice of two hundred oranges in half an hour if a little button was pressed two hundred times by a butler’s thumb.” And in This Side of Paradise, Amory Blaine consoles himself with a round of Bronxes after getting dumped by Rosalind.

In his 1940 autobiographical work Dusk of Dawn, W.E.B. Du Bois draws a caricature of a hypocritical white minister as a well-bred man in Brooks Brothers clothes who “plays keen golf, smokes a rare weed and knows a Bronx cocktail from a Manhattan.” For the record, the main difference between the two cocktails is the liquor—a Bronx is made with gin and a Manhattan with rye. But, according to the 1934 film version of Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, the “important thing is the rhythm. . . . a Manhattan you always shake to fox-trot time, a Bronx to two-step time. . .”

1 ½ oz Citadelle gin

½ oz Martini sweet vermouth

½ oz Noilly Prat dry vermouth

½ oz orange juice

Shake well and strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Thirsty for more drink-related programming? Check out the upcoming Smithsonian Associates seminar, “Mad Men Style: Janie Bryant on Fashion and Character,” on September 9, 2013, which will feature a tasting of Mad Men-inspired cocktails.

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