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Reprint. Originally published in Mitteilungen aus dem Naturhistorischen Museum, 28.
Rhopalocera exotica ; being illustraions of new, rare, and unfigured species of butterflies / by H. Grose Smith and W.F. Kirby
April Fool's! It is not Yo-yo Heritage Month, so we unfortunately will not be sharing yo-yo facts all month. But we do have a few for you today!
The origins of toys like yo-yos are said to stretch way back to ancient Greece or China, but it is believed that the yo-yo we know today comes from the Philippines, where "yo-yo" means "come come" in one of the local languages. The popularity of the toy in America began growing in the 1920s, when a Filipino bellhop at a Southern California hotel, Pedro Flores, attracted attention with his yo-yo tricks on his breaks. Seeing an opportunity, Flores began manufacturing the toys, and was soon bought out by entrepreneur Donald F. Duncan, who began a wildly popular marketing campaign for yo-yos.
Our yo-yo collections span the decades. Here are a few of my favorites:
This "Musical Ka-Yo" was made in the early 1930s by the Caro Manufacturing Company. "Musical" comes from the holes in the side that cause the steel yo-yo to whistle as it travels up and down. "Ka-Yo" comes from the Cayo Company avoiding the term "yo-yo," which had been trademarked by the Duncan toy company.
Yo-yos and pop culture often go hand-in-hand. This Round Up King yo-yo from the 1950s features cowboy actor Roy Rogers and his horse Trigger. The yo-yo was made by Nebraska's All Western Plastics. The yo-yo's packaging (not pictured) reads: "It's smooth and fast, it's inside walls are slick as glass, no rough wood to catch the string, does all the tricks…it's Roundup King."
For those with memories of the Happy Meal toy and/or appreciation for anything food shaped: The McDonald's Hamburger Yo-Yo of the 1980s.
Yo-yos aren't all fun and games. This yo-yo, manufactured by the Hummingbird Toy Company in about 1990-1991, commemorates Operation Desert Storm, Saudi Arabia. For every one bought in the U.S., one was sent to a serviceman overseas.
Competitors and record-setters take their yo-yos seriously. Trick yo-yos are specially made to perform all the maneuvers you might have tried to master as a kid: "walk the dog," "rock the cradle," "loop the loop." This yo-yo was made by Mega SpinFaktor in 2001, to help yo-yo master Rick Wyatt set a world "sleep" record. "Sleep" is when a yo-yo spins at the end of the line. Wyatt successfully set a new record with this yo-yo in 2001, with 13 minutes and 5 seconds of sleep.
Here's a yo-yo that we here at the museum get excited about! This colorful wooden specimen was made by What's Next Manufacturing Inc in 1995 as part of the BC yo-yo line. It bears a golden Smithsonian Institution sunburst logo.
Take a minute to explore our yo-yo collections online. Which one is your favorite?
Julia Falkowski is an intern in the New Media Department of the National Museum of American History. She has also blogged about hearing historic voices on fragile recordings.
In 2004, archaeology professor Robert Muckle was alerted to a site within the forests of British Columbia’s North Shore mountains, where a few old cans and a sawblade had been discovered. He suspected the area was once home to a historic logging camp, but he did not anticipate that he would spend the next 14 years unearthing sign after sign of a forgotten Japanese settlement—one that appears to have been abruptly abandoned.
Brent Richter of the North Shore News reports that Muckle, an instructor at Capilano University in Vancouver, and his rotating teams of archaeology students have since excavated more than 1,000 items from the site. The artifacts include rice bowls, sake bottles, teapots, pocket watches, buttons and hundreds of fragments of Japanese ceramics. Muckle tells Smithsonian that the “locations of 14 small houses … a garden, a wood-lined water reservoir, and what may have been a shrine,” were also discovered, along with the remnants of a bathhouse—an important fixture of Japanese culture.
The settlement sits within an area now known as the Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve, located around 12 miles northeast of Vancouver. Muckle has in fact uncovered two other sites within the region that can be linked to Japanese inhabitants: one appears to have been part of a “multi-ethnic” logging camp, Muckle says, the second a distinctly Japanese logging camp that was occupied for several years around 1920. But it is the third site, which seems to have transitioned from a logging camp to a thriving village, that fascinates him the most.
“There was very likely a small community of Japanese who were living here on the margins of an urban area,” Muckle tells Richter. “I think they were living here kind of in secret.”
In approximately 1918, a Japanese businessman named Eikichi Kagetsu secured logging rights to a patch of land next to where the village once stood, making it likely that the site was once inhabited by a logging community. The trees would have been largely harvested by around 1924, but Muckle thinks the village’s residents continued to live there past that date.
“The impression that I get, generally speaking, is it would have been a nice life for these people, especially in the context of all the racism in Vancouver in the 1920s and ’30s,” he tells Richter.
The first major wave of Japanese immigration to Canada began in 1877, with many of the new arrivals settling in the coastal province of British Columbia. From the start, they were met with hostility and discrimination; politicians in the province prohibited Asian residents from voting, entering the civil service and working in various other professions, like law, according to the Canadian Encyclopedia.
Anti-Japanese prejudices boiled over during the Second World War, in the wake of the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. Days later, Japanese troops invaded Hong Kong, killing and wounding hundreds of Canadian soldiers who were stationed there. Back in Canada, authorities began arresting suspected Japanese operatives, impounding Japanese-owned fishing boats and shutting down Japanese newspapers and schools. By the winter of 1942, a 100-mile strip of the Pacific Coast had been designated a “protected area,” and people of Japanese descent were told to pack a single suitcase and leave. Families were separated—men sent to work on road gangs, women and children to isolated ghost towns in the wilderness of British Columbia. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, more than 90 percent of Japanese Canadians were uprooted during the war, most of them citizens by birth.
No records survive of the people who lived in the North Shore camp, and Muckle has yet to find an artifact that can be reliably dated to after 1920. But given that the inhabitants of the village seem to have departed in a hurry, leaving precious belongings behind, he tells Smithsonian that he suspects they stayed in their little enclave in the woods until 1942, when “they were incarcerated or sent to road camps.”
Eventually, per the CBC, the Greater Vancouver Water District closed off the valley where the settlement was located, and the forest began to take over. Speaking to Richter of North Shore News, Muckle notes that, after nearly 15 years spent excavating at the site, he will likely not return again. But he hopes to share his records and artifacts with several museums and archives— including the Nikkei National Museum & Cultural Centre in Burnaby, British Columbia, which seeks to preserve Japanese Canadian history and heritage—so the forgotten settlement in the woods will be remembered for years to come.
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery tells America’s history through portraiture. It holds more than 24 thousand portraits of people who have made contributions of national […]
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Eaten raw and thinly sliced, the dark-red belly meat of the Pacific bluefin tuna is highly prized—and priced—for its rich oily flavor by sashimi and […]
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The expanded and remodeled Mathias Laboratory, named in honor of U.S. Senator Charles "Mac" Mathias Jr. (1922-2010) (R-Md.) will have a low environmental impact on all fronts, from where it gets its power to where it gets its materials.
The post New Mathias Lab at Environmental Research Center will have low environmental impact appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.
Some dolls, some dogs, and a charming Parisian story from our textile collections, part of our World War I series this month.
In July 1918, observers of life in the war-weary city of Paris, France, commented on the fad for carrying tiny yarn-doll good luck charms. One noted: "It is taking a long chance in these wild days of war . . . to go about unprotected by a Nénette and Rintintin. Curious little mascot dolls they are, that have taken Paris by storm. . . . But their charm is not to be purchased. Until you have been presented with a Nénette and Rintintin, you have not their sweet protection; and if you have the one without the other, the charm is broken."
Several origin stories exist for the dolls. One widely circulated was that they arose as a charm when the German bombing raids began over Paris. A more sentimental and less likely version of the tale says that a French regiment discovered two French children, a boy and a girl, sheltering on an abandoned farm and adopted them. The girl then made a set of yarn doll mascots, which were named after the children. The regiment went on to have great good luck in succeeding battles.
Another version of the story: a Parisian seamstress in the couture house of Madame Paquin made them for a friend and named them after two war refugee acquaintances. But no matter how the dolls originated, they were always supposed to be given, not bought, and the yarn link between the two dolls must not be broken, or they lost their power to protect.
In the fall of 1918, just about the time of the Armistice that ended the carnage of World War I, H. R. Mallinson & Co., Inc., one of the most innovative American silk manufacturers, created a design for printed dress silks depicting the little dolls and their linking yarn. The company noted that for each yard of the design sold, five cents would be donated to the relief fund of the orphaned children of Alsace and Lorraine—two French provinces that were occupied by Germany during the war. The Mallinson firm may have made this gesture from respect and friendship for a colleague in the textile industry, Albert Blum, head of the United Piece Dye Works of New York and New Jersey. Blum was active in wartime relief efforts and had a particular interest in the regions of Alsace and Lorraine.
Rintintin made his mark in America after the war was over. In September 1918 Corporal Lee Duncan of the U.S. Army Air Service rescued a German shepherd and her newborn puppies, abandoned in a damaged kennel. He nursed them back to health, then gave several of the dogs to fellow airmen. The two he kept he named Nanette and Rin Tin Tin, as his own good luck charms, and brought them back with him to the U.S. at the end of the war.
The Americanized Rin Tin Tin, and a few of his descendants, would become American film and television stars from the 1920s through the 1950s. Early in World War II, Rin Tin Tin also served as a mascot in his own right, encouraging Americans to donate their dogs to the military’s newly established K-9 Corps.
Madelyn Shaw is curator of textiles in the Division of Home and Community Life.
Maya’s Blanket | La manta de Maya by Monica Brown, illustrated by David Diaz, translated by Adriana Domínguez
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