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Taking on Fannie Farmer: How a baking-impaired intern negotiated a 100-year-old bread recipe in a modern kitchen

National Museum of American History

I do not bake. My cookies burn, my pie crust is either too dry or too sticky, and my pies turn out watery. So how did I find myself lead baker testing a 100-year-old bread recipe? The bread recipe, Entire Wheat Bread, came from the 1911 edition of the 1896 Fannie Farmer's Boston Cooking-School Cookbook, one of the best-selling cookbooks of all time because it was "reliable, comprehensive, and easy-to-follow," everything I needed more than a century later. My predicament sprang from my involvement in a new Smithsonian Food History program, Harvest for the Table, a free daytime hands-on activity exploring the technological innovations in wheat and flour production over 100 years ago. It was my job to test the bread recipe in preparation for possible future programs in our demonstration kitchen.

On a steel kitchen surface, bowls and measuring devices hold different wet and dry ingredients, most white or light in color. There is a wooden spoon laying on the right side by the bowls.

First came the flour. I used the coarse, brown, stone-ground flour milled by museum visitors during our Harvest for the Table program. (See our calendar for dates and times.) Until the 1880s, this type of "entire" or whole wheat flour was standard. The introduction of the steel roller mill, still the dominant mill type today, changed the flour industry by stripping the bran and germ from the wheat kernel, producing a whiter flour (desired by customers) with a greater shelf life and enhanced baking performance. Over 100 years ago, Farmer experienced firsthand these technological innovations and witnessed the rise in white flour. She felt its impacts on home baking, observing how "entire" wheat flour was only available in health food stores and, much to her disapproval, how manufacturers marketed identical flour under a variety of new brand names.

An illustration of a windmill. It may be slightly faded but there is a whimsical feel to it. In the background, there is a sky from a fragonard painting.

Flour. Check.

Next on the ingredient list, one yeast cake. What in the world was a "yeast cake?" Research led me to specialty food sellers still carry these small, moist cakes enclosed in tin foil. Sold by Fleischmann's and others, this is a product with which cooks in the 1890s would be very familiar—but I sure wasn't. I used a modern conversion chart to figure out how much of my dry yeast to add.

According to Farmer, yeast is a necessary addition to the bread dough because it acts as a ferment and "attacks some of the starch in flour, and changes it to sugar, and sugar in turn to alcohol and carbon dioxide, thus lightening the whole mass." Yeast also gives bread its distinctive flavors and irresistible smell while also interacting with the protein in flour, gluten, to give the bread its structure. When the dough is kneaded, the act stretches the gluten and allows it to fill with gas bubbles from the yeast while the dough rises. However, Farmer warns, "If risen too long, [the bread] will be full of large holes; if not risen long enough, it will be heavy and soggy." She continues, "If proper care is taken, the bread will be found most satisfactory, having neither 'yeasty' nor sour taste." That was my goal: to make a "most satisfactory" loaf.

A dark metal oblong object. There is a lip that runs around it but the shape looks like a capsule or glasses case. There is a small latch on one side.

A dark metal rectangular pan. The metal looks old and it is shaped to accommodate a bread loaf.

Experienced bakers will notice that I haven't mentioned the salt or milk Farmer would have used or the modern equivalents. These ingredients certainly have interesting stories to tell, but I need to get this loaf in the oven before my internship is over!

When it came time to put my dough in the oven, I found myself playing the bread whisperer. Farmer's oven was still fueled by fire. Her cookbook even describes how to control airflow and fuel in the cookstove in order to control its temperature. Most recipes classified temperature in three ways: hot, moderate, and cool. Bakers tested their oven's temperature by placing their hand in the oven and seeing how long they could bear the heat or by placing flour on the oven floor and waiting for it to brown or catch fire. According to Farmer in her 1896 cookbook, "Experience is the best guide for testing temperature of [the] oven." Her readers in 1911 had coal- and wood-burning ranges without temperature controls, but I never learned that intuition using today's calibrated ovens. Choosing to avoid oven fires or burning my hand, I did as Farmer suggested and drew from past baking experience. I set my oven to 400 degrees.

A black and white photo of a woman into a white dress kneeling beside an oven. It has a white kettle and pot resting on the stove. There are baking accoutrements laid out on a table in the background. The woman looks at the camera knowingly as she clasps a loaf of bread in a tin pan with a cloth. The woman's face is the focal point of the photo. Her expression could sell a hundred stoves.

With trepidation I placed my doughy loaf into the oven. Even with modern equipment, it had taken me several hours to make a single loaf of bread, having kneaded and let the bread rise twice before baking it for approximately 40 minutes. While there is a movement today to make artisanal bread as an alternative to mass-produced loaves, most modern bread comes from a supermarket. It is hard to imagine making bread every day as a necessity, let alone lighting a fire to bake bread!

A silver-colored metal pot with handles on each side. There is a lid with a hand crank attached.

A silver-colored metal pot with handles on each side. There is a lid with a hand crank attached.

Innovations over the past century have distanced most consumers from their bread, trading nutrients and control for convenience and efficiency. My foray into baking will help reveal to visitors just how distanced some of us have become, and, hopefully, give them a new appreciation for the complex processes that go into making a simple loaf of bread. Baking this recipe on the stage of our demonstration kitchen, using the flour made by visitors in our stone hand mill, with the backdrop of a highly advanced kitchen, juxtaposes the old and new baking technology, demonstrating just how much our bread has changed over time. Who knows how technology will change baking in the next hundred years!

And my entire wheat bread? I cut into my loaf, exposing an even, perfectly baked crumb and releasing a sweetly nutty, maple aroma—a crumbly, moist loaf of whole wheat bread that, hopefully, would make Fannie Farmer proud.

A loaf of bread on a wooden surface. It is light wheat colored and the surface is rough

A piece of bread. The picture is taken at an angle so you see across the width of the bread. It is rough in texture.

A picture of a piece of light brown bread taken from directly over it. The bread is rougher in texture.

If you'd like to hear about the latest food and agriculture history happenings at the museum, be sure to sign up for our Food History newsletter.

Rachel Snyder completed a summer 2016 internship in the Office of Audience Engagement working on food and agriculture programs.

intern Rachel Snyder
Posted Date: 
Thursday, June 15, 2017 - 09:00
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Anthony Fauci Is Waging War Against Zika, and Preparing for Other Epidemics to Come

Smithsonian Magazine

It is one thing to know the science of epidemics—why they start, how they spread, who’s at risk. But to truly understand a disease’s impact, Anthony Fauci believes you need to see its victims. And so, last year, when a health care worker who had contracted Ebola in Sierra Leone was being treated at the National Institutes of Health, Fauci often broke from his busy schedule and donned a bulky protective suit so he could personally examine the patient.

That’s all part of the job for Fauci, who has been America’s point person in confronting epidemics and other public health crises for decades.

As director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since 1984, he is the person who oversees the government’s research into outbreaks of infectious diseases, most recently the Zika virus and Ebola. He has been a leader in the fight again AIDS and HIV, and he also is one of America’s top advisors on bioterrorism. Among his numerous awards is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor that can be given to a citizen by the president of the United States. contributor Randy Rieland interviewed Fauci in advance of his appearance at Smithsonian magazine’s "Future Is Here" festival this weekend. He discussed the spread of the Zika virus, its unexpected consequences and how to prevent catastrophic epidemics in the modern world.

When do you think clinical trials for a Zika virus vaccine can begin?

I’m pretty sure we’ll be able to start phase one trials—at least to ask “Is it safe, and does it induce the kind of response you would predict might be protective?”—in September. But that’s just the first phase in a number of phases you need to go through in order to develop vaccines.

So when do you think a vaccine could be available?

It really is impossible to predict, because to be available it has to be shown to be effective. What will happen in early 2017 is that we likely will go into expanded efficacy trials, and if the vaccine is very effective, you’ll find that out sooner than later. The second factor is how many infections are occurring in the community. If there are a lot of infections, then the vaccine trial moves expeditiously and you can get an answer within a year. If the infections slow down, then it may take a few years to get an answer. Once you get an answer, you have to submit the data to the FDA for them to determine whether you can make it available to the public. It’s very difficult to put a time frame on it.

"It's a very serious situation," says Fauci, of the spread of Zika. (Flavio Forner/Xibe Images/Corbis)

At one point, you were quoted as saying about Zika, “The more we know about this, the worse things seem to get.”  What has been the most unsettling aspect of the spread of this virus?

The thing that has been most unsettling is the degree and frequency of the congenital abnormalities that we are seeing in women who are infected with Zika during pregnancy. Generally, these abnormalities have occurred when women are infected in the first trimester of their pregnancies. But now we’re finding that there are even deleterious effects on the fetus when the woman is infected during the second and even the third trimester. So that’s very disturbing that the vulnerability essentially lasts throughout the entire pregnancy.

The second thing is the high percentage of women who, when they are infected during pregnancy, are showing abnormalities in their fetus. We don’t know exactly what that number is, but the most accurate studies so far show that it’s at least 29 percent with gross abnormalities—there’s a much higher percentage of subtle abnormalities that you don’t notice until the baby is born and has difficulty at developmental landmarks, such as with hearing, with seeing, with intellectual capabilities.

So, it doesn’t look very good from the standpoint of the percentage of women who do get abnormalities with the fetus. That makes it more compelling for us to protect pregnant women and keep them away from the regions of the world where there is Zika, and if they live there, try and protect them as best as we can by mosquito control. It’s a very serious situation.

What do you think is the most critical information that people should know?

I get asked all the time by women who are pregnant, or thinking about getting pregnant, whether I’m sure they shouldn’t be going down to Brazil or other regions where Zika has spread. Absolutely, I’m sure. If you are pregnant or might be pregnant or are thinking about getting pregnant, you should not travel to a region where there’s a considerable degree of Zika. Also, if you’re a male and you go and travel to that region, and even if you don’t think you got infected—many of the infections are without symptoms—and you come back here to the United States, and you have a pregnant wife or a pregnant girlfriend, you need to make sure you use a condom consistently throughout the entire pregnancy. If you have a pregnant partner, you should make sure that at least for a period of eight weeks that you do not have unprotected sex.

Do you think the notion that there may have been an overreaction to the threat of the Ebola virus has affected how people have responded to the Zika outbreak?

No, I think the response has been appropriate. I certainly think the press has handled it really well. They’re covering it in an intellectually sound way. They’re not panicking. They’re reporting the truth—there is a real problem in South America, the Caribbean and Central America. We will almost certainly get a small degree of local outbreaks here in the United States. Hopefully, we’ll be able to contain them the same way we were able to contain local outbreaks of dengue fever and chikungunya in Florida and Texas. The real critical issue is how well we respond to that and prevent it from becoming a sustained outbreak.

Fauci speaks at a news conference in Maryland on October 24, 2014. Nina Pham (in black suit), who contracted Ebola while caring for a patient from Liberia, was released from the National Institutes of Health's Clinical Center. (Bao Dandan/Xinhua Press/Corbis)

It’s generally acknowledged that air travel has made controlling epidemics in the modern world more difficult. What else makes fighting epidemics more challenging today?

One of the things you have to do is recognize them as early as you possibly can so you can respond to them effectively. The United States has been an important part of that in setting a global health security agenda—to have communication and surveillance throughout the world, so if you do have an outbreak, you are able to recognize it and respond as early as you possibly can. We have been on top of things in regard to Zika because Brazil has a pretty good health care system and they were able to detect this early on. That was not the case in West Africa with Ebola. The first cases occurred in December of 2013, but it wasn’t until well into 2014 that anyone realized that there was a serious problem. So having good dissemination of information is one of the best things we can do to respond to these kinds of outbreaks. 

Why do mosquito-borne illnesses tend to occur in waves?

Many of them are seasonal, and mosquitoes bite so widely that they infect a certain percentage of the population—almost all the vulnerable ones—and then it dies down for a bit until there’s a new cohort of susceptible people. So, it’s a combination of variations in weather and the climate depending on where you are.  Even countries that are near the equator have seasons that are more or less amenable to mosquitoes. In Brazil right now, it’s just the end of their summer and they had a lot of mosquitoes during this past summer. But we hope, because of the Olympics in Brazil later this year, that by the time we get to our summer and their winter, the mosquito population will be lower there.

Can people, once they’re bitten, build up immunity to Zika?

We are not sure. But if Zika acts like dengue and West Nile virus acts, when you do get infected, you build up a certain amount of immunity that would likely protect you against a subsequent infection if you’re dealing with the same strain of Zika. Right now, it does not look like there are multiple strains of Zika. What we’re seeing in South America, the Caribbean and Central America is very closely related to the Asian strain from where we think it came. We believe the Zika came across the Pacific from Southeast Asia to Micronesia, French Polynesia and then South America.

How high would you say is the risk of Zika spreading in the southern U.S. this summer?

I think it is likely we’ll have a local outbreak, but I also think we’ll be able to contain it. I do not think that it’s possible to predict whether we’ll have a sustained outbreak. How long it will last and how broad it will be, we don’t know.

What were the most valuable lessons learned from dealing with the Ebola outbreak? Has that helped in dealing with the Zika epidemic?

They’re really too different. If there was a lesson, it was the importance of having a coordinated response and good communications between different elements of the response. We were not that successful with Ebola. The World Health Organization failed rather terribly with the Ebola outbreak. They admitted it.  But we’re not seeing that with Zika. There seems to be much better coordination among health organizations with this disease.

What do you think is the greatest challenge that still exists in dealing with HIV and AIDS?

The challenge is the implementation of the advances we’ve already made. We now have excellent treatments and excellent capabilities at preventing infection. So we really have more of an implementation gap than we have a science gap. Certain parts of the country and the world are implementing programs very well, and we’re seeing a dramatic decrease in infection and death. In the United States, for example, there is a very robust program in San Francisco to aggressively seek out people, test them, get them into care, and keep them in care so that they save their own lives and don’t infect others. There are certain countries that are doing better than others. Rwanda, in Africa, is doing much better than other countries there. The implementation gap is really the big challenge.

But there are still some scientific challenges. We are trying very hard to get a good vaccine. We don’t have it yet. If and when we do get a good vaccine, it could play a major role in turning around the trajectory of the epidemic.

Given that, do you think there will be a day when we’ll be able to eliminate those diseases?

I think we’ll be able to control them much better than we can now. I think it’s too much to ask for to think that we can completely eradicate HIV. But we’d like to have control of HIV like we now do with many other infectious diseases.

What lessons have you learned from the recent epidemics that we’ve seen?

It’s the same lesson over and over again. You’ve got to be prepared. You have to have good surveillance. You have to have good diagnostics. And you have to be able to move quickly.  And we’ve shown that when you do that, you get good results.

That’s the lesson.

Smithsonian magazine's "Future is Here" festival will be held April 22-24, 2016, at Shakespeare Theatre's Sidney Harman Hall in Washington, D.C. Exhilarating and visionary, the event will provide an eye-opening look into the near and far future, where science meets science fiction.

How Should South Africa Remember the Architect of Apartheid?

Smithsonian Magazine

On the afternoon of September 6, 1966, the architect of apartheid, H.F. Verwoerd, sat in the seat of the Prime Minister before the all-white Parliament of South Africa. With his white hair swept neatly to one side, he held himself with confidence. Verwoerd, 64, was the proud Afrikaner who set in stone the segregation of South Africa. He listened as bells called his fellow legislators to the chamber.

It was a day South Africans would remember for decades to come. At a quarter-past-two, a Parliamentary messenger suddenly rushed into the room. In his official uniform, he must have gone largely unnoticed. But then the messenger—later described as “a tall, powerful, gray-haired man in his late 40s”—produced a knife and stabbed Verwoerd four times in the chest and neck. The Prime Minister slumped forward, blood pouring from his body. By the time Verwoerd's colleagues had pinned down the assassin—a mentally ill half-Greek, half-black man named Dimitri Tsafendas—the carpet was stained with blood. Verwoerd was dead before he reached a hospital.

His funeral ceremony was attended by a quarter-million South Africans, the vast majority of whom were white. The architect was dead, but his policies were not; the system that Verwoerd helped to establish would continue to subjugate black South Africans for almost three decades.

In the 50 years that have passed since H.F. Verwoerd was assassinated, his reputation as a hero of white South Africa has eroded so thoroughly that he now symbolizes—even epitomizes—racism and brutality. His assassin, meanwhile, remains an enigma—a man whom some condemn, some celebrate and some simply ignore. Declared mentally unfit for trial, in part because he spoke bizarrely about a tapeworm that supposedly directed his actions, Tsafendas would end up outliving apartheid, but he would die behind bars as South Africa's longest-serving prisoner. To trace the legacy of both men today is to trace fault lines that still cut through South African society. 

* * *

Among black South Africans, even the name Verwoerd inspires wrath. “I have vivid memories of what Verwoerd did to us,” says Nomavenda Mathiane, who worked for decades as an anti-apartheid journalist. She remembers that, during high school in 1960, her teacher announced that Verwoerd had been shot in an earlier, unsuccessful assassination attempt. The class broke out into applause.

Mathiane struggles to explain how powerful a symbol Verwoerd has become. At one point, by way of illustration, she compares him to Hitler. “We were happy that he died,” she remembers.

Verwoerd's notoriety began with one particular piece of legislation—the Bantu Education Act, passed in 1953. Like Jim Crow laws in the United States, the act preserved the privileges of white South Africans at the expense of people of color. It forced millions of black South Africans (who the apartheid government referred to as “Bantu”) to attend separate and decidedly unequal schools. “The Bantu must be guided to serve his own community in all respects,” Verwoerd said in June 1954. “There is no place for him in the European community above the level of certain forms of labour. Within his own community, however, all doors are open” 

These memories deeply anger Mathiane. “After white people had taken the land, after white people had impoverished us in South Africa, the only way out of our poverty was through education,” she says. “And he came up with the idea of giving us an inferior education.”

Verwoerd became prime minister in 1958, and during his tenure, segregation only worsened. Anti-apartheid activism was banned, and using earlier laws like the 1950 Group Areas Act and the 1953 Reservation of Separate Amenities Act, Verwoerd helped extend his education policies to the layout of cities and states. The philosophy of “grand apartheid” was used to justify the forced relocation of millions of non-white South Africans.

What South Africans disagree about is whether Verwoerd deserved his demise—and whether his assassin deserves our respect. Half a century after the assassination, in the Sunday Times newspaper, two recent articles suggest that there's still room for debate. “No place for heroes in story of Verwoerd and Tsafendas,” declared one headline. “Hendrik Verwoerd's killer a freedom fighter?” asked another.

“I think to some regard he should be taken as some sort of hero,” says Thobeka Nkabinde, a student at South Africa’s Stellenbosch University. “Hendrik Verwoerd was a bad person and a bad man, and his death can only by me be seen as a positive thing,” she adds. Harris Dousemetzis, a researcher based at Durham University, goes so far as to portray Tsafendas as a self-aware political assassin who may not have acted alone.

One reason the story still carries weight is that the psychological traces of Verwoerd are made physical in places like Cape Town, a city that remains notoriously segregated. “In South Africa, you drive into a town, and you see a predominantly white area, a predominantly black area, and then a predominantly colored area,” Nkabinde says, using the South African term for mixed-race. “The white area is the richest.”

The entrance to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. Your purchased ticket indicates what "color" you are, therefore which entrance your ticket is valid for. You will likely be torn from your group at this point, but not to worry, you will be rejoined later. (Nanniette via Wikicommons)

Last year, Nkabinde joined the burgeoning “decolonization” movement that has been sweeping the country. Much like the efforts of activists and legislators in the United States to bring down or contextualize monuments to the Confederacy, South African activists seek to deny colonialist figures the honor of plaques, statues and place names. For her—a first-generation university student—this history was deeply personal. Nkabinde and her fellow students demanded the removal of a Verwoerd plaque; in response to their efforts, it was taken down, as was a statue of the mining magnate Cecil John Rhodes at the University of Cape Town.

* * *

For a long time, white South Africans viewed Verwoerd from a strikingly different perspective than blacks. A few still bear his name—including Melanie Verwoed, a well-known politician who adopted the family name by marriage (her ex-husband is H.F. Verwoerd's grandson). “If you speak to Afrikaans[-speaking] white people, as a rule, they would be very, very impressed that you're a Verwoerd.” Her own family viewed him as a smart and effective leader—a perspective that it took her many years to reject.

“When you carry a surname like Verwoerd in South Africa, you always get a reaction,” she says. When Melanie Verwoerd enters the country from abroad, border control officers raise their eyebrows. It can help when she explains that she fought late apartheid, and belonged to the same political party as Nelson Mandela. But her surname carries too much weight to be easily shrugged off. “Sometimes if I say I'm one of the good Verwoerds, jokingly, I get told there is no such thing.”

Only a tiny minority of South Africans stubbornly maintain that H.F. Verwoerd was a good man. I called his grandson Wynand Boshoff, who used to live in the “white homeland” of Orania, a remote town populated by Afrikaner nationalists. If not for Verwoerd, “we would have today had a much less educated black population,” Boshoff claims, despite wide agreement to the contrary among South Africans and historians. “As a ruler of South Africa, he did not do any additional harm to what had been done already by this whole clash of civilizations in Africa,” Boshoff adds. When asked if he thought Verwoerd's vision of apartheid was a good idea at the time, he says yes.

White nationalists notwithstanding, Verwoerd's status as a symbol of evil isn't likely to change anytime soon. His name is now shorthand for injustice; in Parliament, comparisons to Verwoerd have become a dagger of accusation that politicians brandish at each other. This, says Melanie Verwoerd, is for the most part a good thing. “It's helpful sometimes that there is one person or policy or deed that can be blamed. It certainly unifies people.”

At the same time, systems of oppression can seldom be summed up by the wrongdoing of an individual, and the idea of an “evil mastermind” seems better suited to comic books than history books. Just as Nelson Mandela has become one focal point in stories of liberation, Verwoerd has become a focal point in stories of injustice—a darkness against which wrongs are measured. Too rarely are his collaborators and successors condemned with such passion.

* * *

Sign from the Apartheid era in South Africa (Public Domain via Wikicommons)

In 1994, the year apartheid finally collapsed, the anti-apartheid party ANC, or African National Congress, held a meeting in the old South African Parliament—the same chamber where Dimitri Tsafendas stabbed H.F. Verwoerd. Melanie Verwoerd, who had recently won a seat in Parliament, was in attendance. So were heroes of the fight for liberation: Nelson and Winnie Mandela, Walter and Albertina Sisulu, Thabo Mbeki.

“Everybody stood up in these benches where all this terrible apartheid legislation had been written, and where the ANC was banned, and where Nelson Mandela was demonized,” Melanie Verwoerd recalled. Mandela, who was about to become President of South Africa, sang Nkosi sikelel' iAfrika—“God Bless Africa”—and many wept as they took their seats.

History was almost palpable that day. “Mandela was sitting in the bench where Verwoerd had been assassinated many years before,” Melanie Verwoerd recalled. “And in fact the carpet still had a stain on it, which they never replaced, where Verwoerd's blood had been spilled.”

When freedom came to South Africa, the present didn't replace the past—it only added new layers to what had come before. This is a country that refuses to forget. “So much blood was spilled in this country for us to get where Mandela ultimately sat on that chair,” says the journalist Nomavenda Mathiane. Of Verwoerd, she says: “You cannot sweep a person like that under the carpet. People must know about him, people must write about him. Because if we don't say these things, people will forget, and more Verwoerds will arise.”

“But I must say that in spite of all that, we pulled through,” Mathiane adds, as if pushing Verwoerd's memory into the shadows, where it belongs. “We survived.”

Editor’s Note, September 22, 2016: This piece originally included a quote by Verwoerd that has since been determined to be inaccurate. It has been replaced with a statement read by Verwoerd before Parliament in June, 1954.

The Story of Brownie Wise, the Ingenious Marketer Behind the Tupperware Party

Smithsonian Magazine

Today, Earl Tupper and Brownie Wise are remembered for their acrimonious split, but neither of the two entrepreneurs of 1950s America would have been able to create Tupperware alone.

Together, the inventor and saleswoman made Tupperware a household name—and there’s nowhere their shared legacy is more visible than the Wonder Bowl.

The Wonder Bowl has always been “the linchpin of Tupperware,” says Smithsonian curator Shelley Nickles, who frequently works with the National Museum of American History’s extensive Tupperware collection, which includes more than 100 pieces made between 1946 and 1999. The bowl was translucent like milk glass but more durable than any container before it. It was air- and water-tight as well, thanks to Tupper’s double sealed lid, patented in 1947, but could be sealed and unsealed just by pressing. As Tupperware dealers would tout to their clients a few years later, it was perfect for the fridge or for outside entertaining.

In the years following World War II, plastics inventor Tupper designed novel products intended—unlike most plastics to date—for the consumer market. Before this, plastic goods were manufactured for use in the war as everything from insulation for wiring to truck parts, but not for home use. Tupper created a new kind of plastic from oily polyethylene slag: called “Poly-T,” it was easy to mass-produce in a myriad of colors and form in a mold, giving it the clean modern look that set the Wonder Bowl apart.

E. S. Tupper's "Open Mouth Container and Nonsnap Type of Closure Therefor" (U.S. Patent No. 2,487,400)

When it was first released in 1946, the bowl—Tupperware’s very first product—was widely praised by the burgeoning plastic industry, says Nickles, which wanted quality plastic products in consumer hands. “It was also featured as an icon of modern design,” she says. An article in House Beautiful described its sleek, translucent, green-and-white lines as “fine art for 39 cents.” That was the original cost of the bowl, which translates to about $5.50 in today’s money. Now, a three-piece set of the Wonderlier bowl, its successor, goes for $35.00. Elsewhere, Tupperware products were described as “featherweight,” “pliable” and “modern.”

But even though the Wonder Bowl earned design and industry accolades, it wasn’t selling in department stores, and neither were Tupperware’s other products. They were too different: plastic was an unfamiliar material in the home. The patented Tupper seal had to be “burped” before it would work: it was difficult for people accustomed to glass jars and ceramic containers to intuit how to use the seal.

Wise, a former advice columnist and a secretary who lived with her mother, Rose Humphrey, and her young son Jerry Wise in Miami, Florida, however, saw potential. She started her own Tupperware-selling business, Patio Parties, in the late 1940s and recruited women to sell for her. The sales strategy was rooted in the home selling model pioneered by companies like Stanley Home Products, which used home sellers to demonstrate novel products, but Wise put women front and center as sellers at parties, then known as “Poly-T parties.” Instead of just a product demonstration, a Tupperware party was a party, whose hostess was supported by a Tupperware dealer—an honored guest who could demonstrate the products and sell. Hostesses received merchandise as a thank-you for providing their homes and social networks. By 1949, Wonder Bowls were flying out of the hands of Wise’s sellers: one woman sold more than 56 bowls in a week.

At this point, however, Tupper himself was just catching on to the idea of home selling. “In 1949, Tupper published a mail-order catalogue illustrated with product settings in his own New England home and featuring a range of 22 standard Tupperware items,” writes historian Alison J. Clarke in Tupperware: The Promise of Plastic in 1950s America. The products came in delicious-sounding fruit colors like raspberry and orange or expensive-sounding gem tones like sapphire and frosted crystal. But despite these appealing images—and the fact that unbreakable, sealable, leak-proof Tupperware was several steps above what people were using at the time to keep food in the fridge—consumers weren’t buying it. Tupperware was too high-tech and unusual to appeal to shoppers who weren’t used to having plastics in the home.

Wise’s innovation lay in figuring out how to make a plastic bowl familiar. The life of this divorced breadwinner was different from those of the married suburban housewives who Tupper was targeting, but she understood that they could be both the ideal market and the ideal salespeople for this new dishware, and she was able to create a Tupperware empire.

Tupper introduced the "Wonder Bowl" with the two-step seal (press the lid down, then lift it a bit to "burp" out air) in 1947. (NMAH)

In 1951, Tupper hired Wise as his vice president of marketing, an unprecedented position for a woman, says Bob Kealing, author of Life of the Party: The Remarkable Story of How Brownie Wise Built, and Lost, a Tupperware Party Empire. She took charge of the newly created division of the company centered around what Kealing calls “the home party plan.” At the iconic Tupperware party, a well-dressed dealer with practiced demonstration skills would show the hostess and her friends how to use this high-tech, colorful new kitchenware. She’d lead the group in dramatic party games, like tossing a sealed Wonder Bowl full of grape juice around the room to demonstrate the strength of its seal. Dealers had the support of the Tupperware company and their regional dealer network, who would manage and encourage them to develop their demonstration skills. In return, they were able to earn income and recognition: they sold products at retail prices, but Tupperware only took the wholesale price of an item. Husbands, as the titular holder of the family money, often stepped in to deal with distribution, Kealing says, but the selling belonged to the dealers.

At Patio Parties, Wise had motivated her dealers by asking them to share their successes and expertise with one another. She ran a weekly newsletter for them and touted the idea of positive thinking, making Tupperware-selling as much a lifestyle as a job and empowering women who didn’t get recognition for doing household chores or caring for children. “She really could speak to her dealers’ dreams,” Kealing says. She listened to the women who worked for her and made marketing decisions based on their feedback. The saying she was known for: “You build the people and they’ll build the business.”

Tupperware ad, 1960s (NMAH)

In the 1950s, as Tupperware sales soared, hitting $25 million in 1954 (more than $230 million in 2018’s money), products like the Wonder Bowl, Ice-Tup popsicle molds and the Party Susan divided serving tray came to represent a new post-war lifestyle that revolved around at-home entertaining and, yes, patio parties. More and more women (and some men) became dealers and distributors, and not just white suburbanites. In 1954, there were 20,000 people in the network of dealers, distributors and managers, according to Kealing. Technically, none of these people were employees of Tupperware: they were private contractors who collectively acted as the infrastructure between the company and the consumer.

Tupperware’s marketing model relies on social networks, Nickles says, which means it’s highly adaptable to a specific dealer’s social circle and needs. That meant dealers included rural women, urban women, black and white women. A lot of these women were attracted not just by the opportunity to make money, writes Clarke, but for the self-help rhetoric Wise used to work with dealers. She held pep rallies for her sales force and an annual retreat where the country’s top sellers received awards and gifts. The network of dealers and distributors also acted as a support network for those within it, Kealing says. If someone in the network needed help to succeed, such as someone to pick up their merchandise, the culture of the network meant they could ask.

In these years, Wise became the public face of Tupperware, appearing in women’s magazines and business publications to tout Tupperware and the business culture she created. Tupper himself didn’t like making public appearances, so Wise stood solo in the limelight. Among other press appearances, she became the first woman to appear on the cover of Business Week. Tupperware in this period has been compared to a religion, with Wise its chief priest. She even carried a black chunk of polyethylene known as Poly around to sales rallies. Wise maintained that it was the original polyethylene slag that Tupper had gotten to begin his experiments with, and encouraged dealers to rub Poly, “wish, and work like the devil, then they’re bound to succeed,” writes Clarke.

Although she was a prominent figure, Wise was also a woman in business at a time when “she really didn’t have any [female] contemporaries,” Kealing says. She had to make up her own way of doing things, without peers or mentors, and she made mistakes along the way. She may also have been overconfident in handling Tupper, he says, believing her own great press and not making him feel valued for continued innovation on the product side, he says. As time went on, she and Tupper fought frequently over company strategy and management. By the late 1950s, Tupper was looking to sell the company, and “his gut told him it would be less attractive to sell with an outspoken woman at the helm of the sales end,” he says. In January 1958, he and the board of directors fired Wise, who did not have a formal contract. After taking them to court, Wise received a one-time payout of a year’s salary, which was around $30,000. She went on to found and work at cosmetics companies that used the same kind of home party techniques, but none of them did all that well. Tupper sold the company in early 1958.

Tupperware party invitation, 1960s (NMAH)

The modern Tupperware company has since worked to recognize Wise, donating $200,000 to an Orlando park near the company’s headquarters in 2016, so it could be renamed Brownie Wise Park, and adding her to the company’s official history. Her larger legacy, of course, is in creating the model for a whole field of home party businesses, from Mary Kay onwards. The home party model she pioneered at Tupperware has ensured the company’s continued success: it now does most of its sales abroad. But it’s also the basis for a burgeoning field of “side hustle” direct sales businesses that have found a new kind of meaning in our age of precarious labor, particularly for women. So-called “mom blogs” are full of companies like LuLaRoe, Pampered Chef and DoTerra, all of which rely on multi-level marketing and direct sales.

Kealing did a large portion of the research for his book in Smithsonian collections: though their relationship fractured in life, the papers of Tupper and Wise, including company memos between the two, as well as physical objects donated from their private collection by descendants, rest together in peace in the Smithsonian archives and the National Museum of American History.

Having both collections shows the two sides to the Tupperware story, Nickles says: the innovative product (which is sold by more than 3.2 million people today) and the ingenious marketing strategy. Referencing both record troves is “like putting the jigsaw puzzle together.”

Is Zero-Emission Freight Possible? The Port of Los Angeles Thinks So

Smithsonian Magazine

In a conference room high above the 43 miles of waterways that make up the Port of Los Angeles, the view is incredible: cranes, ships and the massive Pacific Ocean. The port looks much the same from the outside as it did ten years ago, when the giant cargo ships and tens of thousands of diesel trucks spewed out nearly half the sulfur particles in the LA region.

Now, those emissions—and others—have dramatically declined at the country’s largest port. So what’s different?

“The guts inside the port are completely changed,” says Gene Seroka, the executive director of the Port of Los Angeles.

From zero-emission electric trucks to ships that plug in, California has an ambitious plan to have an emission-free freight system by 2050. The efforts are already having a real effect on the health of people around southern California—and it could be a model for the rest of the country.

The port has succeeded in decreasing particulate pollution by 83 percent since 2005 and lowering levels of sulfur. That’s important, because the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports, which stand side by side in San Pedro, are the largest single source of air pollution in Southern California, generating about 10 percent of the region's smog-forming emissions, according to the South Coast air district.

The health effects of air pollution have been widely studied, and bad air is linked to everything from cancer to asthma, heart disease and even the volume of white matter in the brain.

And of course, reducing emissions has benefits for slowing global climate change.

Fifteen years ago, the port was growing fast—as was the dirty air. So the port came up with a plan to clean the air while expanding. They started investing in new technologies like alternative marine power (also known as AMP), which is “basically a giant extension cord that you pull out to plug into ships,” says Seroka. The Port of LA was the first to develop AMP, which is now an international standard. The power lets ships use the electric grid while in port instead of burning fuels, and 24 berths at the port are set up to do so. Ships use power to load and unload goods, to keep refrigerators running, and to keep the lights and emergency equipment on.

The port also had success reducing emissions by requiring ships go slower and switch to cleaner-burning fuels when close to land. In addition to ship technology, the port has been testing and using electric trucks, cranes and lifting equipment. There are other, less concrete ways that the port reduced emissions, including optimizing the supply chain so trucks didn’t have to idle for long periods, spewing out exhaust into the air.

Adding rail connectors to each of the eight terminals also lets cargo move with less pollution. In Los Angeles, about a third of cargo leaves on rail, and the other two-thirds go by truck either to distribution centers east of Los Angeles or to the giant market of the Los Angeles region. “You can think of a basic equation: if you have a box and it’s moved by a truck then the emissions of that box are the truck,” says Chris Cannon, director of environmental management at the Port of Los Angeles.But if you can put a whole bunch of boxes on a train, the emissions per box go way down, so we always try to prioritize rail.”

A future of even more experimental technology looms in the next few years. Last week, the port and business partners announced that it will launch the Green Omni Terminal Demonstration Project, a $26.6 million project which will operate completely off the grid using a microgrid that includes solar power and battery storage.

One new feature of Omni is ShoreCat, a giant hood that covers a ship’s smokestack, capturing any exhaust while in port (because not all the ships have plug-in capacity). The project is estimated to cut greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3,200 tons per year and reduce diesel particulate matter, nitrogen oxides and other harmful emissions by nearly 28 tons annually—equivalent to taking 14,100 cars a day off the road, according to a press release.

The hope is that the technology will go beyond the port and demonstrate the viability of electrified equipment and vehicles. Seroka says he hopes it serves as a scalable model for moving goods sustainably that could be replicated at thousands of distribution facilities throughout California and beyond.

An aerial view of the Port of Los Angeles shows how massive the port really is--and what an effort it is to clean it up. (Port of Los Angeles)

It’s easy to think of the ports—any port, really—as a self-contained unit, but the cargo that moves on and off ships has to go somewhere, so the emissions and pollution from the port really spins off to the rest of the country.

“One of the things that most people miss is that goods movement is a regional issue,” says Ed Avol, professor of clinical preventive medicine at the University of Southern California, who studies the effects of air pollution on communities around Los Angeles. “What begins at the port just accentuates across the whole area, affecting everything from traffic to air pollution many miles away from the port.”

Those effects are one reason that California is working on a Sustainable Freight Action Plan, which sets a goal of transitioning to zero emissions tech in all freight—air, land and sea—by 2050.

Trucks may be dirty, but they’re ubiquitous—and simple. Kevin Hamilton, CEO of the Fresno-based Central California Asthma Collaborative, a nonprofit focused on mitigating the burdens of asthma and other chronic and acute respiratory conditions in the San Joaquin Valley, admits that it’s difficult to think of a way around using heavy trucks to move cargo. “I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have a better way to get these goods anywhere than putting them on a truck,” he says. “We have to accept that we are going to have them around for a while.”

Hamilton adds that low-emissions trucks that run on natural gas may be a stepping stone before zero-emissions trucks hit the roads.

And it’s not too much of a stretch to think about trucks changing over to cleaner power before California's goal of 2050. According to Hamilton, the average lifetime of a diesel truck is 20 years, but most trucks that carry high-value loads, like fresh food, across the country get sold after only five years.

Of course, it’s going to take some cash. The cost for a truck with no emissions, for example, is about $150,000 per unit or more above a conventional vehicle, according to a 2015 white paper the Port of Los Angeles published. Hamilton says there’s about a 20 percent price difference to move to a zero-emissions truck.

Port planning firm Moffatt & Nichol calculated that terminals in Los Angeles, Long Beach and Oakland would spend around $7 billion over the next 30 years to replace terminal operating equipment and related infrastructure. If the terminals choose to or are required to replace retired units with zero or near-zero emission equipment, the total cost would be $23 billion, a more than 225 percent increase.

Seroka admits that the technology being tested now at the Port of Los Angeles doesn’t come cheap; each electric truck has to be manufactured for the port. But without trying new things, innovation won't happen. “If the operators like the new machines and if they work, they’ll start to be mass-produced,” he predicts.

Chris Cannon adds that technological innovation and environmental stewardship take time. The Port of Los Angeles started testing zero-emissions trucks in 2007. The program has had ups and downs—while the projects demonstrated that the concept is solid, early models tended to experience power inverter, battery and battery management issues, and eight out of 14 units were returned to the developers.

The first versions could only last three or four hours per charge when pulling a heavy container. The next lasted for eight, then 14—and now the port has electric trucks that can work for 18 hours on a charge. “People tend to focus on one step, but it’s all an evolution,” says Cannon. “We have had dramatic improvements, but we have to go through iterations to get it just right.”

Cleaner ships and trucks do have a concrete effect on human health, especially in vulnerable populations. When Ed Avol started to look at the ports as a source of pollution in the early 2000s, the side-by-side ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach were responsible for almost a quarter of the particulate burden in the region. Avol joined a long-term study that looked at children's health in the LA region. The study commenced in 1993, with 3,600 fourth graders from 12 different communities. Each year, the children got a breathing test while the researchers monitored levels of different pollutants in their communities.

The study found that kids from places with poor air quality—including neighborhoods near the ports—had less-developed lungs during their teen years than kids who grew up in cleaner areas, and that children who grew up close to big roads were especially at risk. As the study continued to monitor kids, it found improvements in the air mirrored progress in health: the percentage of teenagers in the study with low lung function dropped by half from the mid-1990s to 2011. 

For the communities around the ports, better air has become an issue of environmental justice. "People who live near these operations are in lower socio-economic strata and are often overlooked,” says Avol. “Working to clean up the ports is [as much] an issue of environmental equity as anything else.”

So the air is clearer now, but there is still more to do—and the low-hanging fruit has been picked. “It’s an ongoing challenge, because the easiest things get done first—for example, a cleaner fuel for the ships in port,” says Cannon.

Still, looking out at the biggest port in the country, it seems the future may be driven by technology that doesn’t foul the air, leaving room for everyone to breathe a bit easier. 

Correct Wall Paper; Montgomery Ward & Co.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sample include cut out borders, tapestry papers, and many floral stripe patterns.

Sample book of ribbons

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Notebook with dark leather corners and back, with board covers covered with polychrome marbled paper, and plain pages on which are pasted 94 wide ribbon samples in polychrome and white silk, and one section of coarse cotton cloth printed with roses. Samples include chine, satin stripes, satin printed, fancy cloth, ribbed cloth, printed cotton.

Would Astronauts Survive an Interstellar Trip Through a Wormhole?

Smithsonian Magazine

In the space opera Interstellar, astronauts seeking to save humanity have found a lifeline: a wormhole that has mysteriously appeared next to Saturn. The tunnel through spacetime leads to a distant galaxy and the chance to find habitable planets that humans can colonize. The movie's wormhole is based on real physics from retired CalTech professor Kip Thorne, an astrophysics pioneer who also helped Carl Sagan design his wormhole for the novel Contact. The visualizations are stunning and are being hailed as some of the most accurate simulations of wormholes and black holes in film. But there is one aspect of plunging into an interstellar express that the film doesn't address: How do you survive the trip?

Although they didn't call it such, the original wormhole was the brainchild of Albert Einstein and his assistant Nathan Rosen. They were trying to solve Einstein's equations for general relativity in a way that would ultimately lead to a purely mathematical model of the entire universe, including gravity and the particles that make up matter. Their attempt involved describing space as two geometric sheets connected by "bridges," which we perceive as particles.

Another physicist, Ludwig Flamm, had independently discovered such bridges in 1916 in his solution to Einstein's equations. Unfortunately for all of them, this "theory of everything" didn't work out, because the theoretical bridges did not ultimately behave like real particles. But Einstein and Rosen's 1935 paper popularized the concept of a tunnel through the fabric of spacetime and got other physicists thinking seriously about the implications.

Princeton physicist John Wheeler coined the term "wormhole" in the 1960s when he was exploring the models of Einstein-Rosen bridges. He noted that the bridges are akin to the holes that worms bore through apples. An ant crawling from one side of the apple to another can either plod all the way around its curved surface, or take a shortcut through the worm's tunnel. Now imagine our three-dimensional spacetime is the skin of an apple that curves around a higher dimension called "the bulk." An Einstein-Rosen bridge is a tunnel through the bulk that lets travelers take a fast lane between two points in space. It sounds strange, but it is a legit mathematical solution to general relativity.

Wheeler realized that the mouths of Einstein-Rosen bridges handily match descriptions of what's known as a Schwarzschild black hole, a simple sphere of matter so dense that not even light can escape its gravitational pull. Ah-ha! Astronomers believe that black holes exist and are formed when the cores of exceedingly massive stars collapse in on themselves. So could black holes also be wormholes and thus gateways to interstellar travel? Mathematically speaking, maybe—but no one would survive the trip.

In the Schwarzschild model, the dark heart of a black hole is a singularity, a neutral, unmoving sphere with infinite density. Wheeler calculated what would happen if a wormhole is born when two singularities in far-flung parts of the universe merge in the bulk, creating a tunnel between Schwarzschild black holes. He found that such a wormhole is inherently unstable: the tunnel forms, but then it contracts and pinches off, leaving you once more with just two singularities. This process of growth and contraction happens so fast that not even light makes it through the tunnel, and an astronaut trying to pass through would encounter a singularity. That's sudden death, as the immense gravitational forces would rip the traveler apart.

"Anything or anyone that attempts the trip will get destroyed in the pinch-off!" Thorne writes in his companion book to the movie, The Science of Interstellar


The Science of Interstellar

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There is an alternative: a rotating Kerr black hole, which is another possibility in general relativity. The singularity inside a Kerr black hole is a ring as opposed to a sphere, and some models suggest that a person could survive the trip if they pass neatly through the center of this ring like a basketball through a hoop. Thorne, however, has a number of objections to this notion. In a 1987 paper about travel via wormhole, he notes that the throat of a Kerr wormhole contains a region called a Cauchy horizon that is very unstable. The math says that as soon as anything, even light, tries to pass this horizon, the tunnel collapses. Even if the wormhole could somehow be stabilized, quantum theory tells us that the inside should be flooded with high-energy particles. Set foot in a Kerr wormhole, and you will be fried to a crisp.

The trick is that physics has yet to marry the classical rules of gravity with the quantum world, an elusive bit of mathematics that many researchers are trying to pin down. In one twist on the picture, Juan Maldacena at Princeton and Leonard Susskind at Stanford proposed that wormholes may be like the physical manifestations of entanglement, when quantum objects are linked no matter how far apart they are.

Einstein famously described entanglement as "spooky action at a distance" and resisted the notion. But plenty of experiments tell us that entanglement is real—it's already being used commercially to protect online communications, such as bank transactions. According to Maldacena and Susskind, large amounts on entanglement change the geometry of spacetime and can give rise to wormholes in the form of entangled black holes. But their version is no interstellar gateway.

"They are wormholes which do not allow you to travel faster than light," says Maldacena. "However, they can allow you to meet somebody inside, with the small caveat that they would both then die at a gravitational singularity."

OK, so black holes are a problem. What, then, can a wormhole possibly be? Avi Loeb at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics says our options are wide open: "Since we do not yet have a theory that reliably unifies general relativity with quantum mechanics, we do not know of the entire zoo of possible spacetime structures that could accommodate wormholes."

A still from the Interstellar trailer shows the flower-like Endurance spaceship approaching the wormhole. (Paramount Pictures and Warner Brothers Entertainment, in association with Legendary Pictures)

There's still a hitch. Thorne found in his 1987 work that any type of wormhole that is consistent with general relativity will collapse unless it is propped open by what he calls "exotic matter" with negative energy. He argues that we have evidence of exotic matter thanks to experiments showing how quantum fluctuations in a vacuum seem to create negative pressure between two mirrors placed very close together. And Loeb thinks our observations of dark energy are further hints that exotic matter may exist.

"We observe that over recent cosmic history, galaxies have been running away from us at a speed that increases with time, as if they were acted upon by repulsive gravity," says Loeb. "This accelerated expansion of the universe can be explained if the universe is filled with a substance that has a negative pressure … just like the material needed to create a wormhole." Both physicists agree, though, that you'd need too much exotic matter for a wormhole to ever form naturally, and only a highly advanced civilization could ever hope to gather enough of the stuff to stabilize a wormhole.

But other physicists are not convinced. "I think that a stable, traversable wormhole would be very confusing and seems inconsistent with the laws of physics that we know," says Maldacena. Sabine Hossenfelder at the Nordic Institute for Theoretical Physics in Sweden is even more skeptical: "We have absolutely zero indication that this exists. Indeed it is widely believed that it cannot exist, for if it did the vacuum would be unstable." Even if exotic matter was available, traveling through it may not be pretty. The exact effects would depend on the curvature of spacetime around the wormhole and the density of the energy inside, she says. "It is pretty much as with black holes: too much tidal forces and you get ripped apart."

Despite his ties to the film, Thorne is also pessimistic that a traversable wormhole is even possible, much less survivable. "If they can exist, I doubt very much that they can form naturally in the astrophysical universe," he writes in the book. But Thorne appreciates that Christopher and Jonah Nolan, who wrote Interstellar, were so keen to tell a story that is grounded in science.

“The story is now essentially all Chris and Jonah's,” Thorne told Wired in an exclusive interview. “But the spirit of it, the goal of having a movie in which science is embedded in the fabric from the beginning—and it's great science—that was preserved.”

Dyer's record book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Record book of dye recipes kept by the textile printer Edmund Barnes that was started in Bury, England in the late 1820s. The printer brought the book with him to Dover, New Hampshire in 1829 when he began working for Dover Manufacturing Company, later known as Cocheco Print Works. Barnes continued to add to the notebook through the early 1830s.

The small book contains samples of printed cottons with handwritten dyestuff recipes, dyeing processes and finishing techniques. A small bill loose in back of book bears the name: William Barnes. Book bound in marble paper sides and leather back.

The “Charlie Brown Christmas” Special Was the Flop That Wasn’t

Smithsonian Magazine

“Television is running a big gamble,” wrote television reporter Val Adams in The New York Times on August 8, 1965. “It will attempt a half-hour animated cartoon in color based on the newspaper comic strip ‘Peanuts.’ In lifting ‘Peanuts’ characters from the printed page and infusing them with motion and audibility, television is tampering with the imaginations of millions of comic strip fans both well and self-conditioned on how Charlie Brown, Lucy and others should act and talk.”

Newspapers, though not The Times, of course, had delivered the tales of the “Peanuts” characters to American doorsteps every day since October 2, 1950. The group’s personal and social misfortunes captured American sentiment: for not much more than the cost of Lucy van Pelt’s 5-cent therapy booth, readers could relive their childhood angst through the antics and quips of Charlie Brown and his gang. And they would for another 50 years, for as creator Charles Schulz would later reflect, “All the loves in the strip are unrequited; all the baseball games are lost; all the test scores are D-minuses; the Great Pumpkin never comes; and the football is always pulled away.”

The public would have specific expectations, then, when CBS aired for the first time an animated adaptation of the comic strip on December 9, 1965. The greater gamble for the network, though, was how airing an animated children’s special at night would change its primetime philosophy.

As has been widely reported, “A Charlie Brown Christmas” incorporated unexpected elements in its animation – the voices of children instead of trained adults, jazz music, a Bible passage, no laugh track. But the team behind the special had toyed with the screen presentation of the characters years before, first in a 1959 Ford Motor commercial. Schulz, fiercely protective of his creation, only allowed the “Peanuts” crew to participate after seeing the work of former Disney animator Bill Melendez, who preserved Schulz’s seemingly inimitable style.

A few years later, Melendez reunited with the characters when Schulz agreed to collaborate on a documentary with Lee Mendelson, a television producer. Mendelson wanted a few minutes of animation for the project – about Schulz and his history with “Peanuts”—before  marketing it. He couldn’t sell the program, but at least one advertising firm on Madison Avenue remembered the project when Charlie Brown and company landed on the April 9, 1965 cover of Time magazine: McCann-Erickson, the agency representing another of America’s most beloved institutions, Coca-Cola.

The Coke and Pepsi advertising wars of the 1960s took to the television airwaves as the central battlefield. “The Pepsi generation” came into vogue in 1963, and in 1964, Pepsi Co. doubled its volume of advertisements, increased its television budget by 30 percent, and tripled its market research budget. That same year, it teamed with Disney to present “It’s a Small World” in the Pepsi pavilion at the World’s Fair in New York.

As the next parry in the advertising wars, Coca-Cola, McCann-Erickson executive John Allen told Mendelson, wanted to sponsor a family-friendly Christmas special in 1965. Could he produce a Charlie Brown one? Mendelson said yes without asking Schulz, but the cartoonist agreed to give it a go. The two sent off a one- page triple-spaced treatment a few days later. Coca-Cola accepted it right away.

CBS executives outright rejected the Charlie Brown Christmas special when McCann-Erickson first pitched them. It wasn’t that they didn’t think animated shows could succeed in prime time: NBC had aired the Christmas special “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” at the end of 1964, and for several years already, ABC had a hit with Hanna-Barbara’s “The Flinstones,” television’s first half-hour animated sitcom. In the 1950s, CBS had experimented with animated shorts in its nighttime line-up, but these disappeared in 1959 when James Aubrey became president of the network. He didn’t believe in specials, seeing them as programming interruptions that distracted “habit viewers” from their routines. Children fell into this category for Aubrey, and as they expected cartoons on Saturday morning, not on a weeknight.

Although a volatile presence, Aubrey was a good steward of the CBS reputation. The “Tiffany network,” named such for its high-quality programming, had established itself with outstanding broadcast journalism, lead by Edward R. Murrow, during the post-war television boom. For the next 20 years, the network struggled with the balance between journalism and entertainment. Several years before the Charlie Brown Christmas special, Murrow had left CBS after a long series of publicized arguments with Aubrey’s boss, CBS corporation president Frank Stanton. Murrow’s main concern was “television’s inadequate coverage of grave world problems.” Stanton, in a speech to CBS network affiliates on May 4, 1962, said, “CBS cannot agree that we ought to conceal the fact that we are diverted by mystery dramas or westerns or situation comedies.”  

Under Aubrey’s leadership, these mystery dramas, westerns, and situation comedies appeared at the same time on the same nights every week for the benefit of “the habit viewer,” placing CBS at the top of the ratings. In a May 1976 article, New York Times reporter Les Brown noted that only when Stanton fired James Aubrey in early 1965 did CBS culture begin to entertain specials (then called “spectaculars”) other than documentaries; even then, the television events aired infrequently, in conjunction with “a big-name personality or the presentation of a play or news documentary.”

Charles Schulz and "Peanuts" fit that description. But airing “A Charlie Brown Christmas” was indeed a gamble. Both Charles Schulz and his “Peanuts” gang had big-name personalities, but not the kind that fronted variety shows. With Aubrey ousted in February 1965, and the “Peanuts” proposal before them just two months later, CBS had little time to experiment with specials, and no experience with half-hour prime time animation. According to The Times, CBS executives agreed to A Charlie Brown Christmas once they realized that Stanton was a friend to Schulz and a fan of the comic. Meanwhile, Schulz, Mendelson and animator/director Melendez only had six months to put together a half-hour animated special. None of them had attempted the feat before.

Quickly, the proposal’s bare bones came together: the ice skating, the skinny little tree, the debate over Linus’s Scripture reading (Mendelson and Melendez balked, Schulz insisted), the hapless dialogue that fans had come to love from the lips of little Charlie Brown (“I know nobody likes me. Why do we have to have a holiday season to emphasize it?”).

Three weeks before screening the special for CBS, Mendelson and Melendez watched it in a small room full of animators. The pace felt slow. The music didn’t quite fit every scene. The kids’ dialogue sounded stilted.  In Charles Solomon’s The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation: Celebrating 50 Years of Television Specials,, Mendelson remembers Melendez turning to him and saying, “I think we’ve ruined Charlie Brown.”

So thought Neil Reagan, an executive at McCann-Erickson. “This isn’t very good,” he said when he checked in on the work for his client.

Some of these early concerns could be improved upon. Realizing that the Vince Guaraldi instrumental for the opening ice-skating sequence needed lyrics, Mendelson jotted down the poem “Christmastime is Here.” The actors’ cadences were harder to edit. For the short documentary “The Making of a Charlie Brown Christmas,” Mendelson indicated that is why music accompanies some of the dialogue.

Days before the air date, CBS—which had taken the gamble of this drastic sidestep from their successful primetime philosophy—had the opportunity to take their first look at the special. Fred Silverman, a former CBS programming executive, was in his late 20s during the time of the viewing.

“The general reaction was one of some disappointment,” he remembered. “That it didn’t really translate as well as we thought.”

“[CBS executives] didn’t get the voices,” Mendelson told The Washington Post. “They didn’t get the music. They didn’t get the pacing.” CBS would only air the show, executives said, because they had already scheduled it to run the following week.           

Prior to the airing, Time magazine published a review of the special that presaged its overwhelming reception. “A ‘Charlie Brown Christmas’ is one children’s special that bears repeating,” wrote Richard Burgheim. 

On Thursday, December 9, 1965, over 15 million households tuned in to judge for themselves.  The reception would turn the special into a classic. CBS soon learned that nearly half of American television sets had watched what the network thought would be a flop.

“What did I know compared to Charles Schulz?” remembered former executive Fred Silverman. He had been concerned about how the comic would translate onscreen, and although the show was a hit, some critics agreed that the transition was disappointing.

“It was not a bad show, but many of the strip’s purist fans probably experienced a letdown,” wrote Walt Dutton in the Los Angeles Times the next day. 

CBS called Mendelson and ordered four more specials.  Less than one week later, CBS announced that it would rebroadcast the special the following Christmas,.  It didn’t change a thing, other than removing Coca-Cola branding from the opening and closing sequences (The following summer, Coke sponsored another “Peanuts” special, focusing on Charlie Brown’s ill-fated baseball career, but its sponsorship ended before the Christmas special ran again in 1966. Gradually, the advertising market shifted to the more profitable scheme today of multiple sponsors per show.)

Mendelson. Schulz and Bill Melendez were shocked at the program’s reception.

“I thought ‘good Golly,’ I’m suddenly involved in something that’s big,” said Bill Melendez.

“We only expected it to be on once, and then never heard from again,” Lee Mendelson told Coca-Cola’s website in a recent interview.

In 1966,  “A Charlie Brown Christmas” would go on to win a Peabody and an Emmy for outstanding children’s programming,  The success of “A Charlie Brown Christmas” changed the network’s prime-time philosophy. The following year, CBS telecast a second prime-time animated holiday special: the adaptation of Dr. Seuss’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” And in 1969, it aired “Frosty the Snowman.”

By the mid-70s, CBS aired about 80-90 television specials annually (as did NBC and ABC), including sports events, pageants, awards shows, variety programs, and made-for-TV movies. In 1971, program executive Fred Silverman spun the success of one such film – called “The Homecoming” – into a series that his colleagues didn’t think would last: The Waltons, which ended up running from 1972 until 1981.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” ran annually for 35 years on CBS, until ABC acquired the rights in 2001, a year after Charles Schulz died. The show was the first of more than 45 animated Charlie Brown television specials.

“The continued success of the special has surprised me as much as anyone,” Charles Schulz said to TV Guide in 1985. “A lot of the drawings are terrible.”

Inventing the Beach: The Unnatural History of a Natural Place

Smithsonian Magazine

This summer, millions of Americans will flock to the beach, taking advantage of long days, warm weather and the end of classes. From Coney Island and Venice Beach to the shores of Lake Michigan and the Gulf Coast, bags will be packed, coolers dragged, sunscreen slathered, and sandcastles built. Similar scenes will be repeated around the world. In Rio de Janeiro, Sydney, Barcelona, and Beirut, children will be splashing in the waves while sunbathers doze on the sand. A day at the beach is a cultural ritual.

But it hasn’t always been this way. From antiquity up through the 18th century, the beach stirred fear and anxiety in the popular imagination. The coastal landscape was synonymous with dangerous wilderness; it was where shipwrecks and natural disasters occurred. Where a biblical flood engulfed the world. In classical mythology, the wrath of the ocean is a major theme; the beach a bearer of misfortune. Tears flow on Homer’s shores while monsters lurk in the surf: Scylla surrounded by her barking dogs and Charybdis swallowing the sea only to spit it out again in a boiling whirlpool. “With few exceptions,” writes Alain Corbin, professor emeritus of modern history at Paris’s Sorbonne University and author of The Lure of the Sea: The Discovery of the Seaside in the Western World, 1750-1840, “the classical period knew nothing of the attraction of seaside beaches, the emotion of a bather plunging into the waves, or the pleasures of a stay at the seaside.”

The specter of Leviathan or Kraken gave the beach its threatening aura, but so did real hazards that arrived on the shore: pirates and bandits, crusaders and colonizers, the Black Death and smallpox. No wonder Dante’s third circle of hell is lined with sand. On the beach, terror strikes Robinson Crusoe, the first of many castaways to confront destiny on the sand. In Western literature, the shoreline has served as a boundary; the beach the symbolic edge of the unknown.

How was the beach transformed from perilous place to preferred vacation destination — its white sand and rolling waves becoming the ultimate landscape of leisure? The modern embrace of the beach for the purposes of health and hedonism, recreation and retreat, came with the rise of urban, industrial society. The European “discovery” of the beach is a reminder that human ideas about nature have changed over time — with real consequences for the environment and the world.

"Brighton Beach" by John Constable (Wikiart)

Around the mid-18th century, according to Corbin, European elites began touting the curative qualities of fresh air, exercise and sea bathing. Especially in Britain, home of the Industrial Revolution, aristocrats and intellectuals became preoccupied with their own health and hygiene. They viewed workers, whose numbers were multiplying in factories and new industrial towns, as strengthened through labor. By comparison, the upper classes seemed fragile and effete: lacking in physical prowess and destined for decline. The notion of the “restorative sea” was born. Physicians prescribed a plunge into chilly waters to invigorate and enliven. The first seaside resort opened on England’s eastern shore in the tiny town of Scarborough near York. Other coastal communities followed, catering to a growing clientele of sea bathers seeking treatment for a number of conditions: melancholy, rickets, leprosy, gout, impotence, tubercular infections, menstrual problems and “hysteria.” In an earlier version of today’s wellness culture, the practice of sea bathing went mainstream.

Corbin draws on art, poetry and travel literature, as well as medical and scientific writing, to show how Romantic sensibilities aided this process. Beginning with Kant and Burke, theories of the sublime extolled nature for its power to generate awe and terror. It was Romantic writers and artists at the turn of the 19th century who added emotion and wonder to the act of strolling along the beach or watching the tide turn. The coastal landscape, once dangerous and deadly, became a site of transformative experience, where the individual was immersed in nature. The beach held the promise of self-discovery. From the shore, J. M. W. Turner and Caspar David Friedrich painted rugged vistas with expressive intensity, creating a new pictorial subject: the seascape. The term, according to a Google Ngram graph, wasn’t used until 1804.

Tracing this remarkable turnaround, “the irresistible awakening of a collective desire for the shore,” Corbin concludes that by 1840, the beach meant something new to Europeans. It had become a place of human consumption; a sought-after “escape” from the city and the drudgery of modern life. The rise of trains and tourism facilitated this cultural and commercial process. Travel became affordable and easy. Middle-class families took to the shore in ever-increasing numbers. In sailors’ jargon, “on the beach” once connoted poverty and helplessness; being stranded or left behind. Now it conveyed health and pleasure. The term “vacation,” once used to describe an involuntary absence from work, was now a desired interlude.

"On the Beach at Trouville" by Claude Monet (Wikiart)

“For better and worse,” the British gave modern tourism to the world, writes John K. Walton, a historian at the University of the Basque Country in Spain, and author of The British Seaside: Holidays and Resorts in the Twentieth Century. Like “factory industry, steam power, modern means of transport and other innovations of the Industrial Revolution,” the seaside resort was a British export, one that originated in the coastal towns of Scarborough, Margate, and Brighton. Over the course of the 1800s, the phenomenon made its way across Europe to Normandy, southwestern France, Italy, parts of Scandinavia, and northern Germany, bringing with it the cult of health and sociability. In Buddenbrooks, Thomas Mann’s intergenerational epic, seaside gatherings of family and friends on the Baltic seem as elemental as the rocks on the shore. But the opposite was true; Europe’s 19th-century beaches and the societies that took to them were transformed by a relentless tide of change. On the Baltic, the Adriatic, and later the Mediterranean and Atlantic, the arrival of the modern masses remade the landscape, reconfiguring old towns and creating new ones. Jane Austen’s Sandition, her final, unfinished novel, satirizes the fashionable beach town with its sublime shoreline as a capitalist distortion; the end of normal life in a traditional fishing community.

“It happened in phases,” says John Gillis, professor emeritus of history at Rutgers University and author of The Human Shore: Seacoasts in History. “The seashore went from being a source of food and where journeys began and ended, to a site of amusement and recreation. Eventually we got to Coney Island and the sport side of the beach: surfing, and so forth.” The problem with all this, Gillis explains, is that “the beach was popularized as a non-place. It was denatured even as it was reconstructed as the purest expression of nature.” In Europe, the beach entered the collective imagination as an escape or a getaway; a retreat from modernity. It was “created ex nihilo” and cordoned off from human activity. “Nothing is more epic than the sea,” wrote Walter Benjamin in 1930, invoking timeless, universal qualities. The beach’s appeal lay in this pristine emptiness; a lack of history and sense of place. “Unlike the countryside,” explains Jean-Didier Urbain, professor of sociology at the University of Paris-Descartes and an expert on tourism cultures, “the beach is not so much a place of return as a place of new beginnings. . .It is a tabula rasa, a blank slate, an abstraction.” These modern meanings have deprived the shore of its own intrinsic value, says Gillis. The consequences for the environment have been dire.

Writing in The New York Times two years ago, Gillis shined a spotlight on a global crisis. Despite modern illusions of timelessness and permanence, “75 to 90 percent of the world’s natural sand beaches are disappearing,” he noted, “due partly to rising sea levels and increased storm action, but also to massive erosion caused by the human development of shores.” Gillis described seaside rituals that have more to do with ecological disaster than leisure: governments importing sand from overseas to satisfy tourist expectations and dump trucks filling in barren stretches of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard. Today, fully one-half of the world’s people live within 60 kilometers (37 miles) of an ocean. Coastal populations have increased, says Gillis, 30 percent in the last 30 years, and the figures are expected to soar in the next decade. Beachside properties are among the most valuable in the world, and while coasts have become the most desirable places to live, they are also highly vulnerable habitats. “Every year governments around the world spend billions,” notes Gillis, “trying to ‘fix’ their coasts to make them conform to the lines they have drawn in the sand.” The imperiled state of the world’s beaches is not only an ecological problem, but also a cultural one. “The beach needs to be reincorporated into nature as a natural phenomenon,” Gillis maintains.

Gillis and other scholars are trying to give the shore a history. In doing so, they are challenging the image of the beach in the popular imagination as an empty, eternal place. History has always been a terrestrial discipline, conceived in the interests of new nation-states, but a growing area of research focuses on the significance of the seas for modern society. The rise of maritime history, observes Gillis, is part of a larger scholarly shift from land to sea. Anthropologists began on islands, but are now studying the waters between them. Geographers and archaeologists have moved offshore to examine human interaction with the oceans. Steve Mentz, an English professor at St. Johns University in New York and author of Shipwreck Modernity: Ecologies of Globalization, 1550-1719, refers to “the blue humanities” to describe these developments. The world’s water, once left to scientists, is now recognized as having cultural and social meaning.

"Beach With People Walking And Boats" by Vincent Van Gogh (Wikiart)

Still, the beach isn’t quite the same as the sea, as Rachel Carson suggested in The Sea Around Us, a lyrical natural history of the world’s oceans. “The boundary between sea and land is the most fleeting and transitory feature of the earth,” Carson wrote. This elusiveness helps explain why the beach hasn’t, until recently, had a history, despite being a global phenomenon. Nineteenth-century Europeans went in search of uncrowded, “unspoiled” shores in their colonial empires. Beach resorts multiplied along the coasts of North and South America over the course of the 20th century. To be sure, each stretch of sand has its own history; a political and social context with its own dynamics of gender, race and class. But everywhere modernity went, it contributed to the rise of a global “pleasure periphery,” places beyond the boundaries of quotidian life dedicated to the pursuit of health and leisure. On the beach, Rachel Carson saw “the history of the earth” in “every grain of sand.” Her words are a reminder that beach has a history; one that might soon disappear.

How our "We the People" film came into being

National Museum of American History

Entering a museum with three floors, three million artifacts, and three dozen displays and exhibitions can be intimidating. That's why we decided to create "We the People," a new introductory film that made its public debut in our Warner Bros. Theater on December 16. Produced in collaboration with Smithsonian Channel, the 20-minute video provides an overview of American history to illustrate the museum's mission and connect visitors with its collections.

Film poster with three faces

John Gray, director of the museum, brought his proposal for an introductory film to Smithsonian Channel in the summer of 2014, and the Channel agreed to make it as a gift. The first film of its kind at any Smithsonian site, "We the People" was an ambitious undertaking. It had to distill the essence of the museum, the nation's history, and its people into a succinct, streamlined narrative.

"The video can help American citizens and visitors from all over the world understand some key ideas and pivotal events in our nation's history," said Jaya Kaveeshwar, senior advisor to the director. "As our visitors explore our unparalleled collection of national treasures and engage with American history, the film helps to knit these experiences together and demonstrate that history matters."

An executive producer for Smithsonian Channel, Linda Goldman admits the project's sprawling scope was daunting, but she emphasizes that the team at the network was honored and excited to contribute.

"It was an opportunity to use our skills as filmmakers and storytellers and combine them with the museum's scholarship and deep knowledge," she said. "We thought it would be a very exciting thing to work together to create a film that was going to be a lasting part of the museum visitor experience."

The year-and-a-half-long process began with extensive research. This involved not only talking to curators and combing collections and archives but also watching introductory films featured in other museums and historical sites, such as Mount Vernon, to understand what makes them effective.

"One of the big questions that we wrestled with early on was, why was this film in this museum?" Goldman said. "What story could the National Museum of American History tell that's unique, that couldn't be a video someplace else?"

Some debate surfaced concerning the film's structure. While Smithsonian Channel filmmakers thought it should be organized chronologically, museum staff countered that it should be organized thematically to mirror the museum's design. As David Allison, associate director for Curatorial Affairs and lead content advisor on the project, pointed out, a thematic approach is appropriate for an institution about American history.

"The United States is a country that is, in fundamental ways, based on ideas," he said. "It's not based on a particular piece of land, not a particular racial or ethnic group. It's a country that was created deliberately based on a Declaration of Independence and on principles."

In the end, they compromised: the film would present a chronological summary of U.S. history as the framework through which to explore specific themes. Allison and scriptwriter Alicia Green worked to fine-tune the central message, perusing museum exhibitions for inspiration. The three recurring concepts that emerged—democracy, opportunity, and freedom—form the backbone of "We the People."

Blue button with text "Votes from Women" with stars

Another way "We the People" distinguishes itself from other orientation videos is by integrating museum objects into its narrative. For example, during the section on the woman suffrage movement, footage of a march is overlaid with the image of an authentic "Votes for Women" pin from the museum's collection.

"There's nothing like being in the presence of an iconic artifact, but there's also something really wonderful about using media and storytelling to help place the artifact in a more historical context," Goldman said. "We're combining images, music, and narration across time and space. They add dimension to the story and hopefully help take people back to the past."

Associate Producer Kiki Spinner and Art Director Catherine Eunice worked closely together to find relevant visuals and assemble them into a cohesive, aesthetically pleasing vision. Sometimes they had to be creative. It was especially difficult to track down quality images of early historical events, before photography had been invented.

"That was a challenge in terms of taking what we found, using the historical documents that we found and integrating them into a visually interesting composition," Eunice said. "If [the images] were low-resolution, we could integrate them into the presentation with many images on the screen at the same time, or we could integrate them into the background."

Flag with 15 stars, 15 stripes

The filmmakers also struggled with incorporating the Star-Spangled Banner. They knew it had to feature prominently, being an icon of both the country and the museum, but it didn't fit in the required time limit without losing its emotional impact. Instead of telling the full story of Francis Scott Key and the anthem, then, they decided to weave the flag throughout the film as a visual motif.

"It could become a 'fabric of America' analogy in the film that comes back again and again," Green said. "So, the viewer hopefully understands that we're not going to be able to point to one thing that pulls America together but many different things that work as one."

Illustration in black, gray, brown, and dark green. two soldiers in military helmets crouch on low ground as a tank approaches above. Two other soldiers are visible. Barbed wire and foliage frame the scene.

Hard choices surfaced at every turn. It is, after all, impossible to recount the entirety of American history in less than half an hour. A few criteria helped inform decisions about what to include. For starters, the film deviates from the traditional method of tracing history through wars. Some, including World War I, are noticeably missing. According to Allison, this stems less from a wish to be innovative than a desire to accurately represent the museum.

"I understand the importance of how wars are defining episodes in American history," he said. "But we didn't want that to dominate the film because it really doesn't dominate the museum."

Also, in keeping with the themes of democracy, opportunity, and freedom, it was essential for the film to feel relatable. That's why the overarching narrative of politics and conflict is interspersed with segments about inventions and advertising; why the opening consists of bird's-eye views of the American landscape; and why the various famous quotes recited during the video are read by regular people, reminding us that earlier events shape our lives today. The film takes advantage of art's singular power to make the distant past immediate.

Spinner said, "I was very impressed with the Civil War images, being able to find some of those portraits in the montage where you're seeing families after the war and some of the destruction as Reconstruction is happening . . . and being able to say, 'Wow, you know, even though that was such a long time ago, those emotions are very real. People connect to them.'"

All involved attribute the project's success to a strong partnership between the two teams. At each stage of the script and editing, the filmmakers requested feedback from the museum, talking to curators such as Allison and Barbara Clark Smith, the museum’s 18th-century expert, as well as to liaisons, including Kaveeshwar and Valeska Hilbig, deputy director in the Office of Communications and Marketing. Suggestions constantly traveled back and forth. A rough cut of the film was shown to the entire museum staff, who were invited to share comments.

"We wanted the video to be really representative of this museum, and in doing so, we wanted to reach out to the broadest spectrum of voices," Kaveeshwar said. "Just like in every collaborative project, there needs to be a lot of mutual respect and a lot of open thinking."

For now, the only thing left to do is wait and hope the public responds. "We the People" will be shown four times a day during its pilot phase, and museum staff and volunteers will monitor audience response.

Either way, those behind the film are proud of their work. They believe it will enrich visitors' understanding of the museum and American history.

"We hope that people leave feeling energized and inspired and positive about our country," Goldman said. "We hope people will gain new insight that enriches their museum experience, and that they will see how they and their families are also a part of our nation's story. At its core, this country is just a remarkable experiment in many ways. We make history every single day—we all do—and that's the biggest message we hope people take with them."

Amy Woolsey is an intern in the Office of Communications and Marketing.

Intern Amy Woolsey
Posted Date: 
Tuesday, February 9, 2016 - 08:00
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Jack Denst Designs Vol. 14

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
A mix of geometric and floral patterns all bold and brightly colored. Each pattern is shown in mulitple colorways.

Printer's sample book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Small notebook with handwritten formulas for dyestuffs to be used for printed textiles. Contains 135 samples of printed fabric.

The Mission to Restore the Original Starship Enterprise

Smithsonian Magazine

Captain's Log, Stardate 27629.2. The USS Enterprise has arrived on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., disassembled and in need of serious spacedock repair.

This isn’t the start of a scrapped “Star Trek” script. Five years after the original series had been canceled and five years before the first of 13 (and counting) Star Trek movies hit the theaters, Paramount Studios donated the “Star Trek” Starship Enterprise studio model to Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, which at the time was housed in the Arts and Industries Building.

The studio didn’t know what it was giving up. This was March 1, 1974, a moment in space and time before Gene Roddenberry’s gospel of an optimistic tomorrow had spread beyond a small but dedicated fan base. The early Trekkers who tuned in to watch Captain James T. Kirk and company “seek out new life and new civilizations” each week, had launched a letter-writing campaign that helped win the show a third season on-air after Paramount was ready to pull the plug at two. Three years after the series was officially canceled in ’69, they organized their own 3,000-strong fan convention. But as far as the studio was concerned, by the early ’70s, the Enterprise had flown her last mission.

The NCC-1701 starship—designed by “Star Trek”’s art director Walter "Matt" Jefferies—was crated and in studio storage when real-life Apollo astronaut and the museum's director, Michael Collins, inquired if Paramount would be open to giving the production model to the museum. The studio was, and not just as a loan, but as a gift.

In 1974, the 11-foot, approximately 200-pound spacecraft, made out of blow-molded plastic and wood and painted light gray, with a slight green tint, sporting yellow and red decals, landed at the museum in three boxes. Peeling duct tape patched together holes in the model’s hull.

At the time, there was no such thing as a space history department at the museum. After all, it was not that long before that the museum was simply the National Air Museum. Only after the U.S. and the Soviet Union burned rocket fuel and popular imagination during the space race in the 1950s and 1960s did the museum’s name expand to include space.

The department of astronautics dealt with the Enterprise. It was run by a former rocket engineer and U.S. Navy test pilot named Fred C. Durant III. During his 15 years at Smithsonian, Durant embarked on a mission to preserve the fledgling history of space travel, acquiring all but one of the spacecrafts that the U.S. used to travel into space and to the moon from 1961 to 1972.

Durant was also a friend of Roddenberry’s. Just like the other artifacts he collected, he made a home for the spaceship that traveled beyond light speed powered by way of a matter/antimatter reactor. He paid the cost of crating and shipping the studio model to the museum and oversaw the ship’s first restoration, when it infamously got a “turkey red” paint coat.

When the building for the National Air and Space Museum opened on the National Mall two years later, the Enterprise came along. It was first used at the end of the “Life in the Universe” exhibition to illustrate what manned space travel might look like one day. The ship was attached to wires and hung from the ceiling. But the wooden frame of the model was never intended to be kept in that position for long.

While “Star Trek” began its first renaissance through the success of its burgeoning movie franchise, the studio model pulled what fans might call a SS Botany Bay. Like the "sleeper ship" under the command of Khan Noonien Singh, which drifted through deep space, the model settled into a quiet existence, moving through several displays and getting touch ups by the curatorial team in ’84 and ’91.

In 2000, the ship was docked in the basement of the museum at the gift shop in a custom display case. Margaret Weitekamp, who curates the museum's social and cultural dimensions of spaceflight collection, says the act was intended to save the spaceship “from Indiana Jones-style deep storage.” But fans didn’t understand that. Trekkers, whose population had multiplied like Tribbles as Star Trek expanded through Next GenerationDeep Space Nine and Voyager (with the prequel, Enterprise, just around the corner), were concerned the ship was suffering structurally and aesthetically.

Weitekamp, who inherited the curatorial responsibility for the Enterprise in 2004, was concerned too. She was beginning to see cracking in the paint that might suggest structural cracks in the body of the model itself. But she was reluctant to move the ship from its current space unless she knew there was a better place for it.

The visible sagging of the engine pods triggered a formal assessment of the ship in 2012. Then a happy coincidence occurred: the need to repair the ship coincided with a gift from Boeing, a two-year renovation of its Milestones of Flight Hall, located straight through the entrance of the museum. The studio model would have a place to go after its repairs—it would become one of the iconic pieces that marked the history of aviation and space travel.

In 2014, the Enterprise went off view to undergo its extensive repairs. The plan was to unveil the vessel during the debut of the renovated hall at the museum’s 40th anniversary in July 2016. The date coincided, purely by luck, with a bigger anniversary for “Star Trek:” the show’s 50th anniversary on September 8th.

Weitekamp assembled a team of experts to treat the ship and also opened the conversation up to the fans, asking if anyone had any information on the studio model. As she herself did extensive research and dug into Smithsonian’s records on the Enterprise, she began to notice a curious thing about the ship. When people were disappointed with the treatment of the Enterprise, going all the way back to 1974, they tended to refer to it as “she.”

Using the Naval convention of referring to ships as feminine, something that “Star Trek” itself did, fans would write in and say something like “she doesn't look good”  or “she is not well cared for.”

But when the museum would answer the letters, Weitekamp says, the museum would say “it.” “There's some overlap, but some real distinction between the physical body of the model and the character that is this beloved character that's a part of the ‘Star Trek’ franchise,” she says. It was something that she really wanted to explore, how the Enterprise was both a working studio model and a star.

So her team worked through careful minutiae to restore the ship back to how it looked around August or September of 1967, when the studio got its last shots of the ship for the show (the third season used recycled footage).

Documentarians followed the extensive restoration process. The final product, Building Star Trek, is set to premiere this Sunday on the Smithsonian Channel. Elliott Halpern, an executive producer on the show, got his first look at the model before much work had been done. He had watched the original series religiously as a boy. It was the first thing, he says, that he ever saw in color. While his folks had a black-and-white TV set, he had a neighbor with a color TV down the block. Each week, he and his friends would make the pilgrimage to the neighbor’s house and watch the adventures in technicolor.

Halpern won’t forget the first time he saw the ship in person in the conservation lab. “You're walking toward it and you think it's a prop, but I had this really emotional response to it, like, I wasn't prepared for it. Like, holy cow that's it,” he says. Still, during the restoration process, he was a little bemused to see the ship treated with the kind of care that real-world objects might be given.

“On one level you think, well why is it that we're elevating a prop from a 20th century TV show? Why are we treating it with such care?” he says. “But the more I thought about it, the more I realized in a way all of these items, whether it’s the Venus de Milo or the roof of the Sistine Chapel, they also were and are central venerated objects for pop culture. I really think you can argue that so is the Enterprise.”

When it comes to making a documentary about “Star Trek,” Halpern admits, finding a fresh way in isn’t easy. The show is beloved enough that if you name it, chances are it already exists. (Klingon Skull Stew, anyone?) But the idea of creating a story around the curatorial perspective offered a new entry point. Throughout the documentary, there are also vignettes about people putting “Star Trek” science and technology into practice today, such as doctors competing for the Qualcomm Tricorder XPRIZE and a physicist working on the first-ever tractor beam.

Watch this video in the original article

The tractor beam is the brainchild of David Grier, a professor of physics at New York University. Though he wouldn’t consider it an invention, so much as a discovery. His team was working on an experiment to use a light wave to push something, and instead, the beam pulled it. Having seen every broadcast episode of “Star Trek” at least once, Grier realized that he was watching the fundamental principle of a tractor beam at work.

“Star Trek” gave him the language to understand the phenomenon taking place in front of him. “A huge part of making a discovery is recognizing that you've made one,” he says. “In the world around us, so many things happen all the time that are remarkable and counterintuitive. Who knows, they could even overturn centuries of received wisdom. But only if you recognize what you are seeing is weird.”

Office hours in Grier’s class often are spent watching a clip from a “Star Trek” episode. It wasn’t, he says, like the franchise invented the wheel. In fact, the opposite. The writers borrowed ideas from pulp fiction and radio dramas of the 1920s and ’30s. The tractor beam, for example, was first described in a 1930s book called Spacehounds of IPC. What “Star Trek” did was integrate the ideas into a technological universe, creating a fabric where this kind of innovation would be completely expected. That, he says, paired with the show’s optimistic storylines, created an aspirational tomorrow that gave the show its legs, and is what makes people so invested in the fate of a studio model.

The Air and Space Museum debuted the Enterprise in July for its 40th anniversary. In attendance were Rod Roddenberry, Gene’s son, and Adam Nimoy, son of the late Leonard Nimoy, who brought the Vulcan science officer Mr. Spock to life. They will be coming back soon for the three-day bash celebrating “Star Trek”’s 50th at the museum next week, joined by people like Betty Jo Trimble, who spearheaded the campaign to renew the original series for that third season.

Since July, anyone who passes through the Milestones of Flight Hall can see the newly restored vessel. Often, the digital display adjacent to it plays the show’s ’60s theme song. On one side facing the entrance to the museum, visitors can check out the camera-ready Enterprise they got to know so well on the show. But they can also see the back side, which was never decorated, and is shown with wires coming out to illustrate its function as a working studio model.

For Weitekamp, she said she knew they’d succeeded with their curatorial mission when they first turned the internal lights on again.

“People came around the corner and saw the model all lit up, and unconsciously almost everybody switched to calling the model ‘she,’” says Weitekamp. “‘She looks beautiful. Look at her. I just thought there we go, we've got it. The character is back.”

Exclusive: Read Harper Lee’s Profile of “In Cold Blood” Detective Al Dewey That Hasn’t Been Seen in More Than 50 Years

Smithsonian Magazine

The murder of the Clutter family in rural Kansas captivated America when Truman Capote published his report in the New Yorker in 1965 and then in a full-length book soon after. Capote rose to fame as a renowned author and Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent Alvin Dewey became, in the words of the Wall Street Journal, “the most famous Kansas lawman since Wyatt Earp.”  

But five years earlier, Capote’s dear friend and colleague Harper Lee wrote her own profile of Dewey, published in March, 1960, in the pages of the Grapevine, a membership magazine of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI of which I am the editor. Lee was just months away from becoming famous in her own right; To Kill a Mockingbird would hit bookshelves in July of that year.

Lee’s unattributed article was unknown to historians until recently. Her biographer Charles Shields contacted us because in his research he had learned that the Grapevine may have an article written by Lee. He sent a blurb from the February 19, 1960, Garden City Telegram, which read:

“The story of the work of the FBI in general and KBI Agent Al Dewey in particular on the Clutter murders will appear in ‘Grapevine,’ the FBI’s publication. Nelle Harper Lee, young writer who came to Garden City with Truman Capote to gather material for a New Yorker magazine article on the Clutter case, wrote the piece for the ‘Grapevine.’ Miss Harper’s first novel is due for publication by Random House this spring and advance reports say it is bound to be a success.”

There had been rumors for years that Lee had published a piece in the Grapevine, but her omitted byline kept the story hidden until Shield’s tip revealed the month and year of its publication. The likely reason the piece had no byline, Shields hypothesizes, is that Lee did not want to take any attention away from her friend’s work. “Harper Lee was so protective of Truman, the Clutter case was his gig,” Shields told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “She didn’t want to steal from him.”

Dewey, the subject of her article, was a former FBI Agent and a member of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, which would explain this story’s appearance in the Grapevine.

Below, for the first time ever, Lee’s article is being made available to the general public.

This article was republished with permission of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI.


Dewey Had Important Part in Solving Brutal Murders

Resident Agent for Kansas Bureau of Investigation Helped Bring to Justice Killers of His Neighbors

Former FBI Special Agent (1940-1945) Alvin A. Dewey Jr., and his colleagues in the Kansas Bureau of Investigation recently put the finishing touches on the most extraordinary murder case in the history of the state.

Dewey, a resident KBI Agent located in Garden City, Kansas, was called into the case on November 15, when the bodies of Herbert Clutter, his wife Bonnie, and their teenage children, Nancy and Kenyon, were discovered in their home near Holcomb, Kansas. All were bound hand and foot and shot at close range with blasts from a .12 gauge shotgun. Clutter’s throat had been cut.

Clutter, a prominent wheat farmer and cattleman in Finney County, was a founder of the Kansas Wheat Growers Association. He was an Eisenhower appointee to the Federal Farm Credit Board, and at the time of his death he was chairman of the local farm cooperative. The Clutter family were prominent Methodists and leaders in community activities.

Drew Nationwide Attention

The case received nationwide coverage in newspapers and news magazines. Time, in its November 30 and January 18 issues, devoted several columns to the murders. Truman Capote, well-known novelist, playwright, and reporter was sent by the New Yorker to do a three-part piece of reportage on the crime, which will later be published in book form by Random House. Capote is the author of The Grass Harp, The Muses are Heard and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

At a Loss For Motive

At first, KBI investigators were at a loss to find a motive for the senseless, brutal slayings. Although Clutter’s farm operations were extensive, and his office was in his house, he was noted for never carrying large sums of money on his person nor transacting business in any other way than by check. The Clutter family were popular members of the Holcomb community and near-by Garden City. None of them had an enemy in the world.

Dewey Personal Friend

Dewey’s role as field supervisor of the KBI investigation was doubly hard; the late Herbert Clutter was a close personal friend. Asked if he would pursue the case to its conclusion, Dewey said, “I’ll make a career of it if I have to.”

The clues Dewey and his colleagues worked on in the beginning were meager. The killers took with them the gun and shells used to murder the family; adhesive tape used to gag three of the victims could have been bought anywhere. The nylon cord with which the family were bound was of a common variety. Fingerprints were out of the question; when the house was carefully gone over, the results were prints of scores of Clutter’s friends. The house, according to one friend, ". . . was like a railway station."

Footprint Discovered

However, in the basement furnace room where Clutter’s body was found, investigators discovered a clear footprint etched in blood. In the dust on the floor, picked up by a powerful camera, were more footprints. A portable radio was missing from Kenyon Clutter’s room and the family’s pocketbooks and billfolds had been ransacked.

As none of the family was sexually molested, Dewey was confronted with three possibilities: the crime could have been the random work of a psychotic; robbery could have been the motive; or persons with a grudge amounting to murderous intent against any of the family could have been responsible, stripping the house of cash and small items to make robbery seem the motive. Each possibility was improbable.

Checked out 700 Clues

The KBI checked out over 700 pieces of information, and Dewey himself conducted 205 interviews in the intensive search for the killers. Everything led nowhere. But in early December, a strange bit of information was given to the KBI. It sounded fantastic, but the KBI was sensitive to any and all possible leads. A former employee of Herbert Clutter told a bizarre story of the projected robbery of a safe in the home of a prominent Kansas farm family. There was no such safe in the Clutter home, but at least there was a motive.

Dewey and his associates went into action. They discovered no alibi for the suspects from noon, November 14, to noon the next day. In Kansas City, warrants were out for the pair on bad check charges. Both suspects had criminal records and had served together in Lansing penitentiary, but neither had records for crimes of violence. The KBI turned up a .12 gauge shotgun and a hunting knife in the home of one of the suspects. On December 15, a KBI agent flew to Las Vegas and points west with “mug shots” of the pair and advised authorities that the suspects should be picked up on parole violation charges.

Nabbed December 30

The KBI watched and waited. On December 30, as he was having dinner in his home, Al Dewey received a telephone call saying that the two had been picked up in Las Vegas only 30 minutes after their arrival. Dewey, with other KBI agents, left early next morning for Las Vegas.

On Sunday, January 3, Richard Eugene Hickock, 28 confessed his part in the slaying of the Clutter family. One day later, Perry Edward Smith, 31, gave an oral confession to the agents. The pair were returned to Finney County jail, Garden City, where they were formally charged and await trail, each on four separate counts of first degree murder. Their activities in Holcomb netted them between $40 and $50 in cash.

Wife Was Bureau Secretary

Al Dewey, 12 pounds lighter from his exertions, looks forward to settling down again with his family at 602 North First Street in Garden City. Dewey’s family consists of his wife, the former Marie Louise Bellocq, who was a secretary in the New Orleans FBI office, their sons, Alvin Dewey III, 13, and Paul David Dewey, 9, plus Courthouse Pete, the family watch-cat. Pete, age 4, weighs 13 pounds is tiger-striped and eats Cheerios for breakfast.

Dewey was born September 10, 1912 in Kingman County, Kansas. His family moved to Garden City, in 1931, and Dewey continued his education in the local high school and junior college. He attended California State in San Jose, where he played basketball and majored in police administration. He served with the Garden City police department three years, was with the state highway patrol two years, and joined the FBI in 1940. While with the Bureau he served in New Orleans, San Antonio, Miami, Denver, and the West Coast.

Was Sheriff 10 Years

After the war he returned to Garden City, and in 1947 was elected sheriff of Finney County, an office he held for 10 years until he joined the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Dewey’s territory with the KBI includes southwest Kansas, but he is subject to call anywhere in the state.

Dewey owns a 240-acre farm near Garden City, which he rents and uses for pheasant hunting, but during the Clutter case he " . . . only went by there a couple of times." He is president of his Sunday School class at the First Methodist Church, of which Herbert and Bonnie Clutter were members.

Dewey thinks he will have a hard time settling down again to routine larceny and burglary cases, but he feels an abiding sense of personal satisfaction in having brought to justice the killers of his friends in Holcomb.

Can Eco-Conscious Travelers Do Anything To Fly Green?

Smithsonian Magazine

When you're preparing for a flight, you've got a lot on your mind, from what time to arrive at the airport to what to pack. But between comparing ticket prices and deciding whether or not to purchase in-flight WiFi, how much brain space does the environmental impact of your flight occupy?

For the average person, airline travel, which New York Times writer Elisabeth Rosenthal has called "the biggest carbon sin," is one of the largest individual contributors to climate change. In October 2013, meteorologist and Slate writer Eric Holthaus vowed to give up flying completely, after calculating that air travel accounted for almost half of his household's carbon emissions. Holthaus, admittedly, previously flew a great deal for business and pleasure, but even one cross-country flight can contribute to a significant portion of an individual's annual carbon emissions. A round-trip coach ticket from New York to San Francisco accounts for 2 metric tons of carbon dioxide—compare that with the average American, whose annual carbon footprint is roughly 19 metric tons. First class seats, which take up more space and therefore increase the amount of fuel used per passenger, leave an even bigger carbon footprint—up to nine times larger than their economy counterparts, according to a 2009 World Bank study. So while the overall environmental impact of aviation might seem relatively negligible (the aviation industry is responsible for 2 percent of global emissions, compared to 26 percent from the nation's energy supply, or 14 percent from agriculture), for frequent-flyers, air travel is a significant slice of their individual contribution to climate change.

Not every traveler might be willing to make the sacrifice that Holthaus made and give up air travel completely—but if you care about the environment, and need to travel, is there an option for reducing your individual carbon footprint? In an effort to appeal to eco-conscious travelers (and appear more eco-friendly to environmental groups and regulators), some airlines, including Delta and United, have begun offering passengers the chance to add voluntary carbon offsets to their ticket prices. Think of this voluntary offset like a $25 upgrade for a roomier seat—when you purchase a plane ticket, you can calculate the amount of carbon your individual journey will create, then donate money to remove an equivalent amount of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. For a nonstop Delta flight from Boston to Portland, Oregon, the price of offsetting the carbon associated with the flight is $5.19. To check a bag costs almost five times that, but is that $5 actually a savvy buy for the worried traveler?

"At the end of the day, you're neutralizing your carbon emissions or maybe even making them negative," says David Krantz, program director at the Center for Responsible Travel. "You're helping solve the global problem of global warming with those five dollars."

Carbon offsetting hasn't always been this efficient, however. "Early offset programs generally erred on the side of being too flexible and not standardized," explains Peter Miller, senior scientist with the Energy & Transportation Program at Natural Resources Defense Council. "The challenge is developing an approach to counting those reductions that's credible and accurate and reliable and not so burdensome that the business that is doing it voluntarily decides not to do it. Lately, there's been a big evolution in the area of offsets."

The most recognizable—and simplistic—example of an offset is planting a tree; by calculating how much carbon that tree will sequester throughout its lifetime, a company can reasonably estimate the amount of carbon that it can offset. Other offset programs focus on preventing deforestation in areas where forests are under imminent threat from logging or industry. Still others focus on upgrading infrastructure to be more energy efficient—helping a sugar mill in the Caribbean transition to machinery that uses less fuel, for instance.

Whatever the approach, a good carbon offset program has its calculations verified by third-party standards. It's also important that any carbon offset program address the issue of additionality, which means making sure that the tree that is being planted—or the forest that's being conserved—wouldn't have been planted or conserved without the contribution. And a truly gold-standard carbon offset program does more than remove or sequester carbon—it helps support local communities by creating jobs or rebuilding biodiversity in the area.

Delta, who became the first American airline to offer a carbon offset option, works in tandem with the Nature Conservancy to fund three separate projects around the globe. The first, which focuses on an area near the Tensas River in northern Louisiana, is expected to draw over 83,000 metric tons of CO2 from the atmosphere over the next 70 years—that's the equivalent of not consuming 9,339,485 gallons of gasoline. Another project, funded by Delta passengers, avoids the emission of over 445,000 metric tons of CO2 by purchasing forests in southern Chile that would otherwise have been converted for land use—the equivalent of not consuming 50,073,141 gallons of gasoline.

"If you're a traveler and you’re greenhouse gas conscious, then this is a legitimate way of creating an offset," Geoffrey Heal, professor of social enterprise at Columbia Business School, explains. "There's nothing bogus about it. It makes sense. It works."

But critics of offsets aren't worried about the offsets' efficacy; they're worried that offsets might quell guilt—both the consumer's and the airline's—and stymie action. A 2007 report on voluntary airline carbon offsets from the Tufts Climate Initiative concluded that "there is much validity to the argument that offsetting simply helps us assuage our guilt, whilst we continue to fail to change our lifestyles towards patterns that are more truly sustainable." And since voluntary offsets work on an elective, individual basis, their ability to combat the forces of global climate change is limited. Participation in voluntary carbon offset programs remains fairly dismal. Delta would not share the percentage of passengers who elect to participate in their carbon offset program, though a spokesperson did note that the number is low. Since instituting programs such as the Award Miles redemption program, which lets passengers pay for carbon offsets with frequent-flier miles, United has seen a 20 percent increase in participation, though from what baseline number is unclear.

"If everybody did it all the time, it would help. The problem is that very few people do it, and the people that do it don't do it all the time," Heal says.

Others worry that offset programs puts the onus on the passenger—not the airline doing the polluting. By offering offsets, airlines can appear eco-friendly without taking robust steps to actually reduce their emissions. "I think they want to be able to show that they're doing something on their own and that they're not as bad as they're painted and that they have some green instincts," Heal says. "It's not really a profit source for them, just a way of keeping regulators and environmental groups at bay."

Regulations might be on the horizon for airlines, but they're far from a sure thing. In 2011, in response to the European Union's Emissions Trading System (its attempt to curb the emission of greenhouse gases), the U.S. Congress passed an act that prohibited the implementation of the international program. The rejected bill was heavily lobbied against by domestic airline carriers; even a marginal increase in ticket prices caused by taxes or regulations, they protested, could result in revenue loss.

Some, like Alaska Airlines and Boeing, have funneled more money into research and development, hoping to create more fuel efficient jets and fuel sources—but even that comes back to the airline's bottom line, Krantz explains. "I think there is a direct incentive for the airlines to become more fuel efficient," he says. "Fuel is one of, if not the biggest, cost that they have, so any efficiencies they gain from newer engines or aircrafts will benefit them directly."

But aircraft improvements and offset programs haven't been enough to keep cries for regulations at bay. On August 5, three environmental groups, Earthjustice, Friends of the Earth and the Center for Biodiversity, filed a notice of intent to sue the EPA over airline emissions. John Kaltenstein, an attorney with Friends of the Earth, explained that the organization has historically been against offsets, calling them "a passing of the buck" that shepherds responsibility from the airline to their passengers. Vera Pardee, a senior attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity, agrees that only regulations can truly put a dent in the airline industry's carbon footprint, but adds that "once we have all emissions that can be avoided, then offsets, theoretically, are a good idea."

Optimistic appraisals see regulations coming to the airline industry in a decade or so; but in the face of global climate change, a decade might be too long to wait. So what's an individual to do in the meantime? "The truth is, there’s not a lot of other things that consumers can do for air travel," Miller explains. "If people want to reduce their emissions associated with air travel, which are substantial, offsets are a good way to do that so long as they're buying from a credible offset program."

Limiting unnecessary travel, obviously, is the most effective choice an individual can make for reducing their carbon footprint. If you're traveling short distances, try using a carbon emissions calculator to see if driving might be a more eco-friendly option. For longer trips that can't be avoided—or if you've got a travel bug you're not willing to let go of—consider where you're vacationing.

For developing countries, tourism offers a more environmentally friendly way to boost their economy, through ecotourism rather than pollution-intensive options like logging. "There are examples where people have stopped clear cutting forests because of tourism—they realize it's worth more standing than cut down," Krantz explains.

Concerned travelers can also make an impact via the airline they choose—and what time of day they fly—that can limit their carbon footprint. Flying during the day, for instance, is thought to be more eco-friendly, because an airplane's contrails reflect sunlight, limiting the amount of warming caused by emissions. And not all airlines are created equal when it comes to fuel efficiency. This 2010 report, from the International Council on Clean Transportation, lists airline carriers by fuel efficiency—if you have some flexibility with which airline you choose, consider checking the list before booking. "The difference between the most efficient airline and least efficient is 26 percent of emissions," Pardee says. Until planes can fly on solar power or wind power (or an equally renewable source of fuel) air travel will always have a carbon footprint. If you want to do your part in limiting that, carbon offsets, among other choices, might be your best bet.

Printer's sample book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Small notebook with handwritten formulas for dyestuffs to used for printed textiles. Contains 96 samples of textiles in various designs, mostly small motifs.

The Day a Bunch of Billionaires Stopped by the Smithsonian

Smithsonian Magazine

A bevy of billionaires, including Bill and Melinda Gates, Warren Buffett and Ted Turner, joined Smithsonian officials last week, to launch an initiative to research and document the country’s philanthropic history and its role in shaping the nation.

“Expansive, active, results-driven philanthropy is a particularly American innovation, a type of philanthropy that reflects the core values and character of this nation,” said Smithsonian Secretary David J. Skorton.

As part of the program, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History hosted a half-day symposium to explore philanthropy’s impact on American life. Designed to examine the power and impact of all types of giving, the Smithsonian initiative supports an annual symposium, an exhibition display and endows a curatorial position.

Launched on the fourth anniversary of the annual #GivingTuesday, a global outpouring of donations fueled by social media, the movement’s creator Henry Timms, director of the 92nd Street Y, a New York City community and cultural center, was on hand as one of the featured speakers. According to Timms, more than 40,000 organizations participated this year and raised more than $116 million.

It was on #GivingTuesday this year that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan honored the birth of their daughter Maxima with a pledge to donate 99 percent of their Facebook shares, valued at $45 billion, to a new limited liability corporation known as the Chan Zuckerburg Initiative. (Critics quickly jumped in to question the unusual arrangement because the new entity does not have nonprofit status.)

By contrast, the Smithsonian philanthropy initiative sparked little in the way of controversy, but a powerhouse of beneficient donors witnessed as museum director John L. Gray accepted into the collections a simple relic of American charity—a firefighter's boot.

The scuffed and careworn artifact, sporting stickers for muscular dystrophy, along with a sign used to gather money from motorists at traffic light intersections was donated by fire and rescue personnel from Fairfax County, Virginia. The crew has set national records for their charitable solicitations.

Gray also accepted signs and a banner from Jamie McDonald, the founder of Generosity Inc., who ran the BMoreGivesMore campaign during  #GivingTuesday 2013, and which raised $5.7 million—earning Baltimore the moniker #MostGenerousCity.

Image by NMAH/SI. A firefighters boot scuffed and careworn, and sporting stickers for muscular dystrophy is now in the collections. (original image)

Image by NMAH/SI. From the “Fill the Boot” campaign for muscular dystrophy (original image)

Image by NMAH/SI. Donations included a firefighter’s boot from the Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department and the Fairfax County Professional Fire Fighters & Paramedics and sign and T-shirt from the #BMoreGivesMore 2013 campaign. (original image)

When the lights dimmed suddenly and dramatically, a textile conservator wheeled out the fragile three-piece silk suit that Benjamin Franklin wore to secure the 1778 Treaty of Alliance with France. The rare artifact prompted oohs and aahs from the audience and Gray noted a historic first in the art of giving by none other than Franklin himself. Known as the father of American philanthropy, Franklin’s pioneering efforts to collect money from all who would benefit helped to build the nation’s first hospital and public subscription library.

“Franklin introduced an alternative way of thinking about the improvement of mankind, a way that proved to be more democratic, egalitarian, creative and resourceful, much like the new nation itself,” Gray reminded them.

David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-CEO of the Carlyle Group and a member of the Smithsonian Board of Regents, later moderated a panel that examined the past century of American philanthropy. He asked Warren Buffett, chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway holding Inc., about the origins of The Giving Pledge, a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to philanthropy.

Buffett, who still lives in the same modest house in Omaha, Nebraska, that he purchased in 1958, explained that it was an idea developed in 2010 with Bill and Melinda Gates, David Rockefeller Sr., and others after a serious slump in philanthropic giving followed the 2007 financial crisis. Currently, 139 individuals and families have signed the pledge. A rotating selection of these pledge letters is on view as part of the Smithsonian’s philanthropy exhibit.

A preview case unveiled Dec. 1, 2015 includes a register book showing the 1,600 libraries financed by steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie and an 1881 gown designed by English fashion designer Charles Frederick Worth for philanthropist Mary Eno Pinchot. (NMAH/SI)

Buffett has promised about 95 percent of his estimated $64 billion fortune to five philanthropies, including the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. He described the thinking behind his bequests.

“When we were in our 20s, my wife and I decided that we would give away all the money that we didn’t need, and basically, we didn’t think we would need that much,” he said. “Originally, I thought that my first wife would outlive me and I would do ‘the piling up’ and she would do ‘the unpiling,’ but when she died first, I had to have a plan that made sense.“

Buffet, 85, also made it clear that he wants all his funds to be spent within 10 years after his estate is settled. “I do not believe in trying to figure out what the needs of the world are going to be,” he continued.

“You won’t be looking down to see what’s happening?” asked Rubenstein.

“I’ll be looking up, actually,” he quipped.

Rubenstein, who’s estimated worth is $2.8 billion, also signed the Giving Pledge after reading an article detailing that the average, white male lived to be 81.

“I realized that I had lived two-thirds of my normal expected life and I could either take all my money and be buried with it and have an executor give it away, or I could give it away while I was alive,” he said. “I realized that I had made a lot more money than I really needed and my family needed, so I started the process of giving it away.”

Among the many projects to which he has donated are repairs to the Washington Monument after earthquake damage, the purchase of a copy of the Magna Carta for permanent display at the National Archives, the endowment of the panda habitat at the National Zoo, and repairs at both George Washington’s Mount Vernon, and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.

Rubenstein, along with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, endowed the Smithsonian’s Philanthropy Initiative, to among other things, encourage people of every income level to give back.

“My goal has been to expand the concept of philanthropy beyond rich people writing checks," he said. "Money does not have to be the only way that you measure philanthropy. It can be about your energy, your time, your ideas or your volunteerism.”

In another panel discussion, Melinda Gates explained how she and her husband Bill narrowed their philanthropic focus since they started their foundation in 2000. Bill Gates has an estimated worth of more than $79 billion.

“Warren gave us really good advice early on. To figure out who we are and what we cared about deeply and then to define our bull’s-eye and the rest would sort of fall away. I still feel badly if we don’t give to lung cancer, but I know that others are doing that,” said Gates.

“The other great advice that he gave was ‘swing for the fences.’ These are hard problems that society has left behind, so you’ve got to take risks and not everything is going to work, and you are going to do a few things that might look foolish, but that’s OK. You have to take on these tough problems and I have to get comfortable being uncomfortable, and that’s the most important lesson I’ve learned,” she continued.

The Gates Foundation primarily focuses on global health, global poverty reduction and K-12 education in the United States.

Philanthropy has always been close to the Smithsonian’s heart. The Institution itself was founded by an act of individual giving. James Smithson, a British scientist, left his estate to the United States in 1829  for “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge.”  This year marks the 250th anniversary of Smithson’s birth. As well, the treasures that make up the vast majority of the Institution’s collections are often donated.

The National Museum of American History will open the first, full-scale philanthropy exhibition entitled “Giving in America” on #GivingTuesday 2016. The preview case currently on view focuses on how philanthropy has shaped civic culture in both the Gilded Age (1870 – 1900) and the present day.

Sample book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Blue cloth bound volume of 366 numbered samples of printed cotton. Samples of floral and plaid stripes. Title page has two book plates. Book title: "Cotton Prints Samples"

Sample book

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Small notebook with handwritten formulas for dyestuffs to be used for printing textiles. There are 253 samples of printed cotton fabrics in various patterns: geometric, flowers, stripes, checks.

L'Odyssee Africaine

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
L'Odyssée Africaine celebrates Africa. This design assemblage is comprised of 20th century interpretations of the beauty and exotica of the "Cradle of Mankind", including animals of the wild, botanical wonders, abstract and geometric patterns of awesome imagination. Reference to objects of art and delightful and wondrous colors.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Fifty samples of box or book papers, each printed in several color variations. Dated June, 1920.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Nahuatl, 1951

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 7, reels 2-7. Only original documents created by Harrington, his coworkers and field assistants, or field notes given to him by others were microfilmed.

Harrington conducted fieldwork on Nahuatl--also referred to as Aztec--during a six-month period in 1951. In March he left Washington, D.C., arriving at the Hotel Fornos in Mexico City on March 25. He remained there until early September. Most of his informants were found locally, although he did make a number of side trips into the surrounding regions.

During the course of his study he worked with speakers of a number of dialects. He distinguished between the various forms he recorded by the use of abbreviations: "Az." or "Cl. Az." referred to Classical Aztec and "Naw." to Nahuatl. "Fed. Dist." was used for Federal District, "Xoch." for Xochimilco, "MA" for Milpa Alta, "V.C." for Vera Cruz, and "Mat(l)." for Matlapa. Terms from the Valley of Mexico were noted variously by the markers "Valle de Mex.," "V de M.," or "V of M." Some comparisons were occasionally made with Cahuilla (Cah.) words.

Harrington made use of a number of secondary sources throughout his study. The primary works which he consulted included the Dictionnaire de La langue nahuatl ou mexicaine by Remi Simeon, Arte de La lengua mexicana by Horacio Carochi, and a source referred to as "Gar."--possibly by Angel Maria Garibay Kintana or Jose I. Davila Garibi. He evidently had plans to prepare an annotated version of Simeon's Nahuatl-French dictionary. An assistant aided him in photostatting and pasting each entry on a separate card. Preliminary steps were taken to provide English glosses but no new Nahuatl data were appended to them.

The first informant whom Harrington contacted was Miguel Romero. They worked together on March 26 and 27 and April 1. He spoke with Salome Perez on March 27 and interviewed Tomas Perez Escobar on an almost daily basis from March 28 through April 28. The latter, referred to variously as "Professor Perez," "Perez," and "Tomas," was from the Valley of Mexico. Sessions were conducted intermittently with Frederico Hernandez Mota and Professor Jose Farias Galindo in April and May. Farias (Far.) was a Nahuatl speaker teaching elementary school in Mexico City and Xochimilco. Harrington also noted that he was the translator of the Mexican national anthem into Nahuatl and that he published poetry. In several sessions he was accompanied by Santos Acevedo Lopez, a captain in the Mexican army, who also typed a number of sheets for Harrington.

Harrington's financial records for May 22 mention receipts for payment signed by Tiburcio Jaimez and Arcadio Sagahon, indicating that he probably worked with them at least during the latter part of May. Jaimez, usually referred to by the abbreviation "Tib.," was born and raised in the pueblo of San Francisco Calixtlahuacan.

The field notes indicate that Harrington worked with another major informant, Professor Alfonso Hernandez Catarina, beginning in July. Born at Coxcatlan, "Alf." had been living for some nine years at Ciudad Santos, San Luis Potosi.

Among secondary informants with whom Harrington consulted were Professor Gregorio Cruz (Cruz, Ruz), of the Colegio Administrativo at Toluco, who was teaching school in Tenango;Jose Fortino, a resident of Teskitote Ranch; and Professor Camarena of Toluca. Others mentioned were Francisco Pinera Martinez (middle name alternately spelled Pireda), E[fraim] Sanchez, Pablo Yadieis, and Juan Baloria.

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

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

His linguistic notes form the largest section of this subseries. A semantically arranged vocabulary was elicited from Alfonso Hernandez Catarina. The categories of lexical items include phenomena, directions, seasons, astronomy, time, plant parts, plants, animal parts, animals, age-sex, rank, relationship, material culture, religion, tribenames, and placenames. A "Flood Story" in English is also included. In addition, there are some phrases, information on phonetics and grammar, and a little ethnographic data. There are references to secondary sources such as Simeon, Carochi ("Car."), and "Gar."

Arcadio Sagahon was also a major contributor. Harrington recorded eighteen pages of basic vocabulary with him. There is also a section of randomly arranged vocabulary based on an examination of rock and plant specimens, with occasional references to "Arc's book" (not further identified). Some equivalent terms were provided by Tiburcio Jaimez.

A compilation of several sets of word lists on numbered pages resulted from a number of linguistic sessions with Tiburcio Jaimez. These include commentary on a book by Cardenas (abbreviated "Card.") which is not further identified. Harrington also elicited Jaimez's aid in rehearing the source referred to as "Gar." They developed fairly extensive annotations to pages 40 to 51 of that work, and the section on verbs. In addition, Jaimez provided commentary on the book Raices etimologicas del idioma nahuatl by Pedro Barra y Valenzuela.

Additional linguistic data were furnished by Tomas Perez Escobar and Jose Farias Galindo. A general, unsorted vocabulary which Harrington recorded from Escobar, with a few comments from Arcadio Sagahon, is supplemented by a sizable section of notes in his own hand. Sentences in Nahuatl are each followed by a Spanish translation. Farias provided vocabulary during a number of sessions in which he was accompanied by Captain Santos Acevedo Lopez. There is also a small file of miscellaneous vocabulary given together by Farias and Arcadio Sagahon.

Many of the data from the preceding groups of field notes were brought together in a comprehensive semantic arrangement. In addition, Harrington compiled lists of words in English and Spanish as a questionnaire for eliciting Maya words. (In fact, this section is headed by a sheet with the label "Questionnaire for Az[tec].")

A final section of linguistic notes includes miscellaneous shorter vocabularies, a four-page word list, and Harrington's questionnaire. A "Coyotepec Vocabulary" of nineteen pages was recorded from Francisco Pinera Martinez. It includes Xochimilco equivalences, commentary by Jose Farias Galindo, and a reference to Mr. Sanchez. Notes from a "Cuautla Trip" include a short vocabulary (seven pages) from an unidentified informant and miscellaneous notes on people and places. A twenty-three page basic vocabulary and a few phrases were recorded from Jose Fortino. Harrington later obtained a few Xochimilco glosses and a little commentary by Arcadio Sagahon. The sixteen pages of notes, resulting from a trip Harrington took to Tepotzotlan with Farias and "Arc," contain miscellaneous data and references to an unnamed informant. A basic vocabulary and some short sentences were elicited from Jose Barreraon May 2, 1951, under the heading "Tete. Voc." It is unclear whether the language referred to is Tetelcingo or Tetela but it was presumably related to the language of Tezcoco. The seventy pages of data, which include some Xochimilco terms and information on the country, are supplemented by two pages obtained from "Juan while waiting for the bus." The material was reheard with Farias, Perez, and Sagahon at a later date. There are nine pages of data from an interview with Albino (Alvino) Cortes. There is a mention of Frederico Hernandez, and Miguel Romero was also present during the recording of the "Aztec vocabulary." Lexical items were recorded from Munoz (alternate spelling Munos), Romero, and Juan Ramos of Puebla, near Vera Cruz City. There are also four pages of notes in an unidentified hand and a questionnaire used by Harrington in his linguistic work. It includes a little data from "Alf." and "Arc."

Notes on Nahuatl grammar include excerpts from a number of published sources, primarily Whorf, Simeon, and Carochi. The topics covered include phonetics (one section is labeled "Phonetics Tibd"), syntax, verb, noun, pronoun, numeral, adjective, adverb, postposition, conjunction, and interjection. The principal informants cited are Arcadio Sagahon and Tomas Perez Escobar. Additional information was provided by Alfonso Hernandez Catarina, Tiburcio Jaimez, Tomas Perez Escobar, Jose Farias Galindo, and Captain Acevedo. One page of the grammar is in Farias' handwriting. Several pages are marked "Tete."

The major sets of Nahuatl texts which Harrington recorded were assigned by him to one of two categories: "Finished" or "Not yet gone over." The first designation indicates that the Nahuatl phonetic transcription of a given text was refined with the original speaker--and sometimes reheard by others--and that it was accompanied by a complete Spanish translation and possibly notes. There are references to Matlapa and Jalpilla forms. The predominant contributor was Arcadio Sagahon. Alternate versions of each text were also given by Tiburcio Jaimez and Alfonso Hernandez. All of the stories have to do with animals and many appear to be translations of fables rather than native texts: "The Sky Is Falling" (Chicken Little), "La Zorra y el Queso" (The Fox and the Cheese). The texts labeled "Not gone over" appear to have been recorded from Hernandez and Jaimez but not reviewed with Sagahon. The stories include "The Girl and the Head of the Birds," "The Queen Bee and the Drone," and the lengthy "La Vida de un Indigena." A miscellaneous set of texts at the end of the series represents an attempt at a translation of the Lord's Prayer by Hernandez and Sagahon and a poem evidently written by the latter.

Harrington also compiled several miscellaneous files of data on Nahuatl. The first, consisting of notes from the period 1922 to 1927, includes bibliographic references, a list of "Aztek" words from Ben Elson in Vera Cruz, and a partial English translation of Carochi's grammar by Paul Vogenitz. Other files -which contain some typed and handwritten notes prepared by others-include background notes on the geography, history, and language of the Nahuatl; bibliographic references; maps; and a list of "persons and addresses." The latter contains some biographical data on Harrington's informants. There are also reports from Carlos Morales and copies of letters which reflect Harrington's efforts to contact Nahuatl speakers.
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