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How Do Astronomers Actually Find Exoplanets?

Smithsonian Magazine

A generation ago, the idea of a planet orbiting a distant star was still in the realm of science fiction. But since the discovery of the first exoplanet in 1988, we've found hundreds of them, with the discoveries coming at a faster rate over time.

Last month, in a single announcement, NASA astronomers revealed the discovery of 715 previously unknown planets in data collected by the Kepler Space Telescope, bringing the total number of known exoplanets to 1771. Within this are all sorts of exoplanets: some that orbit two stars, some that are full of water, some that are roughly Earth-sized and some that are more than twice as big as Jupiter.

But the vast majority of all these distant planets have one thing in common—with a few exceptions, they're too far away for us to see, even with our most powerful telescopes. If that's the case, how do astronomers know they're there?

Over the past few decades, researchers have developed a variety of techniques to spot the many planets outside our solar system, often used in combination to confirm the initial discovery and learn more about the planet's characteristics. Here's an explanation of the main methods used so far.


Imagine looking at a small planet orbiting a star far, far away. Occasionally, the planet might pass in between you and its star, briefly blocking some of the starlight. If this dimming happened with enough frequency, you might be able to infer the presence of the planet, even if you can't see it.

(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Nikola Smolenski)

This, is essence, is the transit method of detecting exoplanets, responsible for the majority of our exoplanet discoveries so far. Of course, for distant stars, there's no way the naked human eye would be able to reliably detect a dimming in the amount of light we see, so scientists rely on telescopes (notably, the Kepler space telescope) and other instruments to collect and analyze this data.

Thus, for an astronomer, "seeing" a distant exoplanet via the transit method generally ends up looking something like this:

The amount of light from a distant star, graphed, dips as a planet transits in between it and us. (Image via Wikimedia Commons/Сам посчитал)

In some cases, the amount of dimming caused by the planet passing in between its star and us can also tell astronomers a rough estimate of the planet's size. If we know the size of a star and the planet's distance from it (the latter determined by another detection method, radial velocity, lower down on this list), and we observe that the planet blocks a certain percentage of the star's light, we can calculate the planet's radius based solely on these values.

There are, however, disadvantages to the transit method. A planet has to be lined up correctly to pass in between us and its star, and the farther out it orbits, the lower the chance of this alignment. Calculations indicate that for an Earth-sized planet oribiting its star at the same distance we orbit ours (about 93 million miles), there's just a 0.47 percent chance that it'd be aligned properly to cause any dimming.

The method can also lead to a high number of false positives—episodes of dimming that we identify as transiting planets but are ultimately caused by something else entirely. One study found that as much as 35 percent of the large, closely orbiting planets identified in Kepler data could in fact be nonexistent, and the dimming attributed to dust or other substances situated between us and the star. In most cases, astronomers attempt to confirm planets found via this method with other methods on this list.

Orbital Brightness

In some cases, a planet orbiting its star causes the amount of light reaching Earth to rise, rather than dip. Generally, these are cases in which the planet orbits very closely in, so that it's heated to the degree that it emits detectable amounts of thermal radiation.

Although we're not able to distinguish this radiation from that of the star itself, a planet that's orbiting in the right alignment will be exposed to us in a regular sequence of stages (similar to the phases of the moon), so regular, periodic rises in the amount of light that space telescopes receive from these stars can be used to infer the presence of a planet.

Similar to the transit method, it's easier to detect large planets orbiting close to their stars with this technique. Although only a handful of planets have been discovered using solely this method so far, it may end up being the most productive method long-term, because it doesn't require an exoplanet to pass directly in between us and the star for us to detect it, opening up a much wider range of possible discoveries.

Radial Velocity

In elementary school, we're taught that a solar system is a stationary star surrounded by slowly orbiting planets, asteroids and other debris. The truth, though, is slightly more complicated: Due to the gravitational pull of the planets, the star wobbles away from the system's center of gravity ever so slightly as well:

(Image via Wikimedia Commons/Zhatt)

The phenomenon goes something like this: a large planet, if it has enough mass, might be able to pull the star toward it, causing the star to move from being the exact center of the far-away solar system. So periodic, predictable yet still minute shifts in the star's position can be used to infer the presence of a large planet near that star.

Astronomers have taken advantage of this phenomenon to detect hundreds of exoplanets. Until recently, when it was surpassed by transit, this method (called radial velocity) was responsible for the majority of exoplanets discovered.

It might seem difficult to measure slight movements in stars hundreds of light years away, but it turns out that astronomers can detect when a star accelerates towards (or away from) Earth at velocities as low as one meter per second because of the Doppler effect

The effect is the phenomenon of waves (whether sound, visible light or other forms of electromagnetic energy) appearing to be slightly higher in frequency when the object emitting them is moving towards an observer, and slightly lower when it's moving away. You've experienced firsthand if you've ever heard the high whine of an approaching ambulance's siren replaced with a slightly lower tone as it drives away.

Replace the ambulance with a distant star and the sound of a siren with the light it emits, and you've pretty much got the idea. Using spectrometers, which measure the particular frequencies of light emitted by a star, astronomers can search for apparent shifts, indicating that the star is moving slightly closer to us or drifting slightly away.

The degree of movement can even reflect the mass of the planet. When combined with the planet's radius (calculated via the transit method), this can allow scientists to determine the planet's density, and thus its composition (if it's a gas giant or a rocky planet, for instance). 

This method is also subject to limitations: it's much easier to find a bigger planet orbiting a smaller star, because such a planet has a higher impact on the star's movement. Relatively small, Earth-sized planets would likely be hard to detect, especially at far distances.

Direct Imaging

In a few rare cases, astronomers have been able to find exoplanets in the simplest way possible: by seeing them.

Three massive planets—likely larger than Jupiter—were directly imaged orbiting the star HR8799 in 2010. (The star itself is blocked with a coronagraph. (Image via NASA/JPL-Caltech/Palomar Observatory)

These cases are so rare for a few reasons. To be able to distinguish a planet from its star, it needs to be relatively far away from it (it's easy to imagine that Mercury, for instance, would be indistinguishable from the Sun from far away). But if a planet is too far from its star, it won't reflect enough of the star's light to be visible at all.

Exoplanets that can most reliably be seen by telescopes are large (like Jupiter) and very hot, so that they give off their own infrared radiation, which can be detected by telescopes and used to distinguish them from their stars. Planets that orbit brown dwarfs (objects that aren't technically classified as stars, because they're not hot or massive enough to generate fusion reactions, and thus give off little light) can also be detected more easily.

Direct imaging has also been used to detect a few particularly massive rogue planets—those that float freely through space, instead of orbiting a star.

Gravitational lensing

All the previous methods on this list make some sense to a non-scientist at some intuitive level. Gravitational lensing, used to discover a handful of exoplanets, requires some more abstract thought.

Imagine one star very far away, and another star about half way between it and Earth. In rare moments, the two stars might nearly line up, almost overlapping one another in the night sky. When this happens, the force of the closer star's gravity acts like a lens, magnifying the incoming light from the distant star as it passes near it to reach us.

A simulation of gravitational lensing, showing the light coming from a distant galaxy briefly being magnified by a black hole in the middle ground. (Image via Urbane Legend)

If a star that has a planet in near orbit serves as the gravitational lens, that planet's gravitational field can add a slight but detectable contribution to the magnification event. Thus, in some rare cases, astronomers have been able to infer the presence of distant planets by the way that they magnify the light of even more distant stars.

A graph of exoplanet discoveries by year, with detection method represented by color. Green = transit, blue = radial velocity, red = direct imaging, orange = gravitational lensing. (Image via Wikimedia Commons/Aldaron)

How Baseball Has Strengthened the Relationship Between the United States and Japan

Smithsonian Magazine

On February 9, 2001, an American submarine, the USS Greenville, surfaced beneath the Ehime Maru, a Japanese ship filled with high school students who were training to become fishermen. The ship sank, and nine students and teachers died.

Had a Japanese submarine surfaced beneath a North Korean ship and sank it, the two nations might have gone to war.

But in this case, U.S. and Japanese officials were able to turn to a familiar diplomatic tool: baseball. To honor the victims, they formed a youth baseball tournament that takes place each year, with the location alternating between Shikoku and Hawaii.

The role of baseball in Japanese-U.S. diplomacy has a long and rich history. After American educator Horace Wilson and railway engineer Hiroshi Hiraoka introduced the sport to the Japanese people in the 1870s, it flourished. With time, the sport has been a unifier, bringing together the people of two nations with vastly divergent histories and cultures.

Goodwill tours first began in the early 1900s, when Japanese and American college baseball teams competed against one another. Professional teams soon followed. While World War II interrupted the cultural exchange, baseball has served as a healing mechanism since the end of the war, helping the two geopolitical foes become loyal allies.

As a Fulbright scholar in Japan, I studied the role baseball played in the diplomatic relationship between Japan and the U.S. I’ve identified six key moments in this unique history.

The Babe wins hearts and minds

In 1934, though the clouds of war were looming, Babe Ruth and his American teammates embarked on an 18-game tour of Japan.

Swatting 13 home runs, waving American and Japanese flags, clowning with kids and even donning a kimono, the Babe won the hearts and minds of the Japanese people.

Today, Ruth’s statue stands in the Sendai Zoo. It was on that very spot – considered sacred by some – where the great Yankees slugger’s first home run in Japan landed.

Today, a statue of Babe Ruth stands at the Sendai Zoo. (The Nihon Sun)

When the team returned to the U.S., Connie Mack, owner and manager of the Philadelphia Athletics, proclaimed that the two countries would never go to war.

“There was strong anti-American feeling throughout Japan,” Mack told reporters, “and then Babe Ruth smacked a home run, and all the ill feeling and underground war sentiment vanished just like that!”

Unfortunately, seven years after Ruth’s visit, Mack would be proven wrong.

Lefty to the rescue

In 1949, four years after the end of World War II, American troops were still occupying Japan.

General Douglas MacArthur, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Powers, was charged with overseeing the postwar occupation and rebuilding efforts. With food shortages and homelessness a recurring issue – and complaints about some culturally insensitive troops – he became concerned about anti-American sentiment and feared a communist insurgency.

MacArthur, who had played baseball as a cadet at West Point, understood the cultural importance of the sport to both countries. As a way to ease tensions, he summoned former MLB star Lefty O’Doul, who had become the manager of the minor league San Francisco Seals. The Japanese people were already familiar with O'Doul: He had played during the 1931 tour, persuaded Ruth to go to Japan in 1934 and helped launch a Japanese professional league in 1936.

The Seals would become the first American baseball team to play in Japan since Ruth’s tour, and their 10-game tour drew 500,000 fans, including 14,000 war orphans at a game against an American military all-star team. Emperor Hirohito even met with O’Doul to thank him and the Seals.

MacArthur would later say that O’Doul’s tour was the greatest example of diplomacy he had ever seen. Today, O’Doul is one of only three Americans in the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wally Yonamine ‘integrates’ Japanese baseball

In the early 1950s, several Japanese team owners began to explore the feasibility of recruiting American baseball players, hoping an infusion of American talent could elevate the quality of play.

However, there was still some concern about lingering hostility from the war, and owners worried that fans wouldn’t take kindly to rooting for “pure American” ballplayers. Matsutaro Shoriki, the owner of the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, reached out to his good friend, Lefty O'Doul, for advice.

After consulting with the U.S. State Department, O'Doul recommended Wally Yonamine. The Japanese-American spoke no Japanese and was initially subjected to racist taunts.

Nonetheless, as the first American to “integrate” Japanese baseball after World War II, he would change Japanese baseball forever: Between 1951 and 2017, more than 300 American players would follow Yonamine’s lead and sign with Japanese ball clubs.

Yonamine’s arrival in Japan also coincided with the signing of the 1951 peace treaty that ended U.S. occupation of Japan in 1952.

The Giants poach a player

In 1964, left-handed relief pitcher Masanori Murakami was sent to the United States by the Nankai Hawks for special instruction from the San Francisco Giants. Assigned to the Giants’ minor league affiliate in Fresno, California, Murakami was scheduled to return to the Hawks in June. But he ended up staying on with the Giants when the Hawks never summoned him home.

Masanori Murakami is the first native-born Japanese player to play for an American major league team. (John Rooney/AP Photo)

By September, the Giants were in the heat of a pennant race and needed to replenish their depleted pitching staff. So they called up Murakami from the minor leagues, and the Japanese southpaw was so effective in his short stint with the Giants that they wanted him to stay on with the team. By the end of the season, they claimed they owned the rights to his contract.

Nippon Professional Baseball protested, and although a compromise was reached – with Murakami being permitted to stay one more year with the Giants before returning to Japan permanently – no Japanese players would be allowed to come to the U.S. for more than 30 years.

Japanese team owners were well aware of what happened to the Negro Leagues after MLB clubs started poaching their best players. Jackie Robinson joined the Dodgers in 1947; by 1958, they had dissolved.

‘The Tornado’ eases economic tensions

In the 1980s, Japan’s economy went into overdrive. By 1990, Japan had passed the U.S. in per capita GNP, and many Americans began to resent their success. Japanese investors were gobbling up icons of American business like Rockefeller Center and Universal Studios, while auto workers smashed Toyota cars to protest Japanese trade policy.

In 1995, finding a loophole in his contract, right-handed pitcher Hideo Nomo declared himself “retired” at age 26 and signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent. Many of his countrymen viewed Nomo as a traitor, and there were rumors that his father had stopped speaking to him.

But Nomo became an instant star. With a corkscrew windup that flummoxed hitters, “The Tornado” was named the starting pitcher for the 1995 All-Star game and won the Rookie of the Year award. Nomo’s success in the states softened the backlash back home, and Japanese baseball fans ended up embracing him.

The posting fee is implemented

Yet as more and more Japanese players followed Nomo to Major League Baseball, Nippon Professional Baseball owners were rightfully concerned about losing their “national assets” and receiving nothing in return. So in 1999, they worked in concert with Major League Baseball to establish a “posting fee” system.

In short, a Japanese team can “post” a player who wants to play stateside; MLB teams then bid for the rights to negotiate with the player. This compromise apparently satisfied the Japanese, while forcing MLB teams to be more selective in pursuing Japanese ballplayers.

Some of the more notable players to join MLB clubs via the posting system include Ichiro Suzuki, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Yu Darvish, Masahiro Tanaka and Kenta Maeda. The most recent arrival is Shohei Ohtani. This past offseason, the Los Angeles Angels paid a US$20 million posting fee to Ohtani’s former team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, and gave Ohtani a $2.3 million signing bonus.

In an ironic twist, Ohtani, like Babe Ruth, is talented as a pitcher and a hitter. With the Angels, he plans to do both – a fitting echo to the legacy of the superstar who became one of baseball’s leading diplomats.

Fans plead for an autograph from Shohei Ohtani, Major League Baseball’s newest Japanese import. (Chris Carlson/AP Photo)

How Flowers Changed the World, From Ecosystems to Art Galleries

Smithsonian Magazine

What makes us want to grow a lily in a pot? It’s a question at the center of entomologist Stephen Buchmann’s latest book, The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology and How They Change Our Lives. People have been obsessed with flowers since ancient times, Buchmann notes. A painted casket found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb is decorated with a bouquet including cornflowers and lily petals, and Chinese gardeners have grown lotus, peonies, magnolias and tiger lilies since at least 1,000 B.C.

Today, certain flowers have enormous cultural value: In Grasse, France, the distilled oils of jasmine plants can fetch $12,000 a pound, Buchmann writes in a chapter about perfume. He also devotes a chapter to flowers in literature. But his specialty is the science—Buchmann’s interest in flowers began during his childhood in California, when he would chase bees through wild meadows, and his research focuses on the weird and wonderful relationships flowers have forged with their animal pollinators.

I spoke to Buchmann about why we all love flowers and what mysteries these floral wonders still hold. (The following has been edited for length.)

If we visited your home in Arizona, what types of flowers would we find?

I have cut flowers and potted plants year-round. My favorites are the multicolored Chilean Alstroemeria, because their blooms last so long, along with various modern and heirloom roses and the glorious white-flowered Asian moth orchids. My all-time favorite flowers are the orchids, in part because of their incredible diversity of forms, scents and colors. I am especially intrigued by neotropical orchids like Stanhopea and Gongora. These produce spicy scents and no rewards of edible pollen or nectar. Visiting male orchid bees scrape up the floral scents using special hairs on their front legs. After spending weeks or months harvesting orchid and other scents, the bees store the scents in their inflated hind legs. Eventually, they use these purloined floral scents as their own sexual attractants.

Which flowers are underappreciated?

Skunk cabbage. This lowly flower from the eastern United States uses its own internal heat to melt its way up through the snow, and the same heat production volatizes its carrion-like smell into the air to attract its fly pollinators. It’s an amazing example of floral adaptions in action. Many flowers like the Voodoo lily and the starfish flower from Africa are living biochemical factories that produce the same nitrogenous chemicals found when vertebrate bodies decompose. Carrion flowers often mimic the color, scent and even texture of dead animals, corpses ripe for the egg-laying activities of various filth flies.

Is there a rare or exotic flower you’d most like to see in your lifetime?

The giant mottled and red Rafflesia arnoldii had been on my bucket list for many years until I saw it firsthand a few years ago in the rainforests of Sabah, Malaysia, on the island of Borneo. I’d also relish the opportunity to see the giant corpse flower Amorphophallus titanum in the wilds of Indonesia. A. titanum is a contender for the worlds’ largest flower, another one of the carrion flowers whose heat and intense death-like stench attracts its fly pollinators.

Image by Mark van Veen/Buiten-beeld/Minden Pictures/Corbis. A painted casket found in King Tutankhamun’s tomb is decorated with a bouquet that includes cornflowers, like the one seen here. (original image)

Image by Nobuyuki Yoshikawa/Corbis. Buchmann says some of his favorite flowers are the multihued Alstroemeria, because the blooms last so long. (original image)

Image by Christian Ziegler/Minden Pictures/Corbis. Iridescent bees approach the blossoms of the Gongora leucochila orchid in Panama. (original image)

Image by Chinch Gryniewicz/Ecoscene/Corbis. The "underappreciated" flowers of American skunk cabbage. (original image)

Image by Alcibbum Photography/Corbis. The exotic Rafflesia arnoldii flower blooms in the tropical rainforest of Sumatra. (original image)

Image by Fred Hirschmann/Science Faction/Corbis. California poppy and owl's clover decorate the desert near Kitt Peak in Arizona. (original image)

Image by USGS Bee Inventory & Monitoring Lab. This Centris decolorata bee was found in Puerto Rico. Centris bees specialize in flowers that produce energy-rich floral oils as a reward for pollinators. (original image)

Who writes about flowers most poetically?

Alfred Tennyson, Emily Dickinson, Ezra Pound, Louise Gluck, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes. A favorite is the work of Walt Whitman, who gave us wonderful imagery of garden lilacs in his poem “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d,” a poem about the death of Abraham Lincoln. And since I grew up in the ’60s and ’70s, immersed in the southern California rock scene, another favorite are the dead flowers penned in song lyrics by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on their Sticky Fingers album.

Do you prefer the flowers of Van Gogh or O’Keeffe?

Easy. I’ve always adored the powerful but simplified lines and folds [and] the macroscopic views of flowers by the late artist Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m attracted by the simplicity and power, and perhaps, like so many, drawn to their subliminal sexual imagery.

What destination in the world has the best blooms?

For wildflowers growing outdoors, the Sonoran Desert around my home in Tucson. Every year we have the dependable palo verde trees bursting into brilliant yellow, but every 10 or 20 years the desert puts on spectacular wildflower displays, including Arizona poppies, owl’s clover, lupines and globe mallows, among others.

What is the most fascinating flower discovery in the past decade?

It has been found that flowers have a negative charge that may influence pollinator visits. Every object that flies through the air, whether it is a baseball, a jumbo jet or a humble bumblebee, acquires a strong positive electric charge. A honeybee might be carrying a charge of several hundred volts. When a positively charged bee lands on a negative flower, pollen grains can actually jump an air gap and attach to the stigma [the part of a flower where pollen germinates]. These passive electrostatic charges aid the natural pollen-holding branched hairs on the bodies of most bees. Bees may even be able to “label” flowers they just visited with these charges and not revisit empty flowers in the future.


The Reason for Flowers: Their History, Culture, Biology, and How They Change Our Lives

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What’s the most unusual adaptation for attracting a pollinator?

About 8 percent of the world’s flowers have pored anthers, which is the only way for pollen to leave the flower. Certain bees, like bumblebees and carpenter bees, literally turn themselves into living tuning forks—their powerful thoracic muscles deliver sonic blasts to the flower, which ignite a maelstrom of pollen grains that come flying out of the anther pores, striking the bees and allowing them to efficiently collect the pollen grains as food.

Another most unusual adaptation occurs in some tropical and desert plants. Instead of producing typical pollen and nectar as floral rewards offered to pollinators, these “oil flowers,” like Barbados cherry or range ratany, have blisters on their undersides. Bees in the genus Centris rupture the blisters with special squeegee hairs on their front legs and transport these energy-rich floral oils back to their nests. The oils are mixed with pollen as larval food.

What botanical puzzle would you most like to answer?

I’d like to know how bees are most attracted to flowers and the most important sensory cues used in recognizing flowers from a distance. We know very little about this subject, especially in nature, outside of the artificial-flower testing arrays used by many modern behaviorists. Bees have thousands of tiny ommatidia, which together make up their compound eyes. Their visual acuity is only about one-sixtieth that of our human eyes. A flying bee needs to be almost on top of a bloom, about a foot away, before it can make the bloom out, although “flicker fusion” (the ability to detect rapid changes across their visual field) allows bees to detect the highly saturated spots of floral colors while flying across a meadow. My fantasy would be to see the world as a bee does, to become a flying bee, but only for a few minutes, because of all the entomologists, birds, spiders and lizards lurking nearby. 

Everyday philanthropists

National Museum of American History

bucket from the Ice Bucket Challenge. A collection box from the 19th century. A toolbelt from a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity. All these objects tell the story of how we give and receive, how we engage in philanthropy.

An alms box, a mop bucket, and a tool belt.

Sometimes the story is obvious when you look at the artifact—for instance, a March of Dimes donation tin. How you give, what organization you're giving to, and what that organization does with your gift are written on the tin. However, it isn't always this obvious.

A tin with a slot in the top for coins. The side of the can reads "Give to the March of Dimes. Prevent Birth Defects."

In anticipation of #GivingTuesday, I explored how objects can help us understand the many different ways Americans give. In the process, I learned both the stories in our collections and the stories of my colleagues. Many of those stories were right around me.

One of the artifacts that caught my eye was this World War I poster for the Crispus Attucks Circle. What was this circle, and what did a Revolutionary War figure have to do with World War I?

A poster featuring an African American man in combat, with advertisements for the Crispus Attucks Circle

During World War I, African Americans in Philadelphia were concerned that returning black soldiers in Philadelphia would not receive the same level of medical care as their white counterparts. Determined to address this issue, they created the Crispus Attucks Circle —named for an African American man considered the first casualty of the American Revolution—to raise money for a local African American hospital. The poster helped advertise their efforts

Mireya Loza, a curator in the Division of Work and Industry, shared an incredible story tied to an unassuming object.

An open bank passbook.


It’s a little bank book issued to my father in the ’80s for an account he opened up for a hometown association that was raising money for this little village in Guanajuato, Mexico.

The village had this tiny adobe church that was falling apart. My father had this idea that they really had to replace it with a brick and mortar structure and that the migrant community in Chicago could do that.


A photograph showing an empty landscape and a group of people on tractors.

He got together a couple of folks from that village and started a discussion: How would they tackle raising funds to rebuild this church? They decided that they'd do two things: they'd pay dues and they'd throw parties. They basically charged a cover. People cooked, and folks could come in and eat, dance, and basically have a makeshift baile—a dance. They raised the funds across four to five years, and the church was ultimately constructed.

A man sits in a chair.

I think it's an extraordinary example of working class and working poor folks really engaging and serving their community in philanthropy. And they're doing it one dollar at a time. When I was a kid, the kind of project that my dad took on to build this church was quite common. When you're in a particular moment you don't necessarily see the historical significance.

Loza's words stuck with me—there's historical significance in all of our lives. When I hear the word "philanthropist," the first thing that comes to mind is a wealthy benefactor donating millions. However, we can all be philanthropists—making a difference internationally or in our communities. When we give, we shape history.

To be a philanthropist, you don't have to give millions—you can give a little bit of money, or none at all. Philanthropists also help by sharing their time and talents.

Ken Kimery, the executive producer of the Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra and the supervisory producer of American Music History Initiatives, exemplifies this.

Ken Kimery sits behind his drum set.

As a musician, I donate my time and talent through concerts in the museum, outside the museum, educational programs, and more.

One of the moments that I recall was in 2008. The full orchestra was on a pretty extensive tour to Egypt. We insisted that the concerts and what we did during this tour not only benefit those who had the capacity to buy tickets but those who did not have the means. We presented a concert in the Cairo Opera House for orphans. That, to me, was such a highlight—being able to have an impact outside the small community that I live with here in Washington, D.C., was really powerful.

The Smithsonian Jazz Masterworks Orchestra in Egypt, in front of the pyramids.

As I've been getting to know the museum's collection, I've been discovering objects that tell all sorts of stories of people who have donated their talent and their time—sometimes in very creative ways.

A bronze colored plaque that shows the marks of age.

A modest plaque reveals a story about arborists who used the bicentennial of the Constitution to raise awareness about environmental concerns. How? They donated their time researching and locating trees that had been standing when the Constitution was signed and placed a plaque on each in order to raise awareness.

Jane Rogers, a curator in the Division of Culture and Arts, also donated her time. Rogers served as a volunteer EMT and firefighter from 1990 to 1995.

A young woman in firefighting gear holds a toddler wearing a large firefighting hat.

At the fire department where I started, in order to become a firefighter you had to be an EMT first. When a volunteer would join the department, they would be sent to training.

A firefighting helmet, patches, a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff.

While taking my EMT training course, anytime I saw a free arm, I was like, "Can I take your blood pressure?" It's really hard to do, so I bought the stethoscope and the blood pressure cuff to practice. After training, I carried those all the time, every time I went on the ambulance.

I would volunteer for one day—five hours a week. During the summer we would participate in parades, and at Christmas we would man the fire truck with Santa. The training and service took up a lot of time. For a young mother, it was a lot. But now that my kids are grown up, I am thinking of volunteering again.

A lot of times, people think of volunteer firefighters as running into burning buildings with no thought to themselves. But you don't really think like that. There is always that danger in the back of your mind. In the end you just really want to make sure people in your community are safe, so the risk is worth it.

People engage in philanthropy in so many ways, donating their money as well as their time and talent. Objects like these can help us connect to and better understand the different ways people give.

Do you give your time, talent, or treasure? Are you a philanthropist? What objects help tell your story?


Amelia Grabowski is a social media and blog assistant focusing on business and philanthropy history. 

You can share the story of how you give through our #AmericanGiving activity.

The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, with additional support by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees' Initiative, a grantmaking program of Fidelity Charitable.

Posted Date: 
Tuesday, November 21, 2017 - 10:30
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Want to Know How to Make Great Pizza? Consult the Guy Who Wrote the Bible on It

Smithsonian Magazine

It's safe to say that few people know pizza like Tony Gemignani, or at the very least understands pizza the way he does. The 40-year-old has been making pizza for the last 22 years and is now the owner of seven pizza restaurants, including three in San Francisco, where he resides. He holds numerous pizza-related accolades, such as 'Best of the Best World Champion/Master Pizza Maker' at the 2012 Pizza Expo in Las Vegas, and 'World Champion Pizza Maker' at the 2007 World Pizza Cup in Naples, Italy—the first American and non-Neapolitan to ever hold this title. Gemignani is also a pizza acrobat, honored twice by the Guinness Book of World Records, once for creating the largest pizza and a second time for performing the most consecutive rolls of pizza dough across the back of his shoulders. If all this weren't enough, the city of Naples named Gemignani the official U.S. Ambassador of Neapolitan Pizza, one of the most prestigious titles in the pizza industry. But if you're still not convinced that Gemignani is a living and breathing pizza encyclopedia, this much-heralded pizza maker’s latest book, The Pizza Bible, should do the trick.

As well as being a comprehensive cookbook, The Pizza Bible is a guide to pizza's regional and global styles and a course in pizza theory. It also features plenty of history and reveals many little-known facts, such as:

  • That Chicago-style deep dish pizza was invented at the original Pizzeria Uno in 1943…
  • That Rome has its own style of pizza known as pizza in pala, a rectangular pizza that's sliced and then sold by weight in bakeries and specialty food shops…
  • That pepperoni isn't from Italy at all, but is actually an Italo-American invention dating back to the 1930s.

Gemignani peppers his chapters with such facts and stories, giving readers lots to mull over as well as to make.

Talking with Gemignani is even more of an education, as he offers his thoughts on everything from pizza toppings (“I love using Peppadew, a type of sweet pepper,” he says) to why you should always demand that a pizzeria reheat your slice before serving (“It's that 20-30 seconds in the oven that gets the slice to fold and crack, but not break—they kind of slice that NY pizzerias are famous for.”). The key to a great pizza, says Gemignani, is balance: “Some guys just throw fontina cheese onto ciabatta bread and call it a pizza. Complexity should be there, but if I'm using a great cheese and went through the trouble of removing the seeds from tomatoes for an ideal sauce, I don't want a dough with too sour of a starter. That will just overpower the other flavors.”

Image by Sara Remington. Detroit Red Top (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Cast-Iron Skillet (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Fully stuffed (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Lucca (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Campari (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Margherita (original image)

Image by Sara Remington. Organic Three Cheese (original image)

The ingredients you choose are just as important, says Gemignani. “The best cheese in the industry is Grande mozzarella, a Wisconsin cheese that's used by 99.9 percent of New York pizzerias,” he says. “It's the Ferrari of cheeses.” Then there's the dough. “Typically a lot of pizzerias make their dough on the same day they serve it, and that's not good,” says Gemignani. “You want to let the added yeast feed longer on the dough—say 36 hours—to help with digestibility.” It also allows the starter, an ingredient that Gemignani recommends using for increased flavor, a chance to work its magic.

When it comes to producing a great crust, Gemignani stresses that you should not underestimate water. Cities like New York and Chicago have it made when it comes to quality water, but places like San Diego and Jacksonville, not so much. “If you don't drink your tap water, why would you use it to make your dough?,” says Gemignani. “If it comes out of the faucet tasting bad and looking cloudy, why would you do that?” As Gemignani points out, water is pizza dough's second largest ingredient behind flour, and it's what affects how the dough handles, stretches, and holds together. Gemignani employs a reverse osmosis system at his restaurantsfor consistency’s sake (literally), though he says that for home pizza makers, bottled water is an easy substitute.

Gemignani understands that everyone may not have the time or even desire to start their pizzas from scratch (However, The Pizza Bible does provide step-by-step instructions). In this case he offers an ingenious suggestion: stop into your local pizzeria -- (“Make sure it's a mom & pop place and not a chain,” he says) -- and ask if you can purchase a couple of nine-to-fifteen-ounce balls of dough. “But first you want to be sure you have an oven you can cook it in,” he says. “Wood-fire doughs cook very hot (800-900 degrees) and so the doughs used in wood-fire ovens are not meant for cooking at home. [So make sure the mom and pop joint you go to doesn’t use a wood stove.] Doughs that cook at 500-600 degrees should work.”

Gemignani also mentions Trader Joe's pizza dough as an option, citing that he's heard both pros and cons about it. “On the plus side,” he says, “it's easy to use and it's tacky,” meaning it won't stick all over your hands when you work it. 

As a longtime resident of Northern California, Gemignani also has thoughts on another important question: why does the average pizza taste so well, different out west, compared to New York and New Jersey styles?

 “On the East Coast you have third generation Italians running the corner pizzeria their grandfather started,” he says, “but a lot of the guys making pizza out here during the '80s and '90s just didn't grow up with it. They got into it for the money, but there was no real research. They may not have been using the correct flour or the right cheese. Some of them weren't even using the proper oven.” Gemignani contends that things out west are definitely changing, “though some guys still don't know what goes into a good pizza.”

All they'd have to do is pick up a copy of The Pizza Bible, where Gemignani not only provides a list of suggested ingredients but also offers recipes for every type of pizza imaginable. There's the Detroit Red Top, a thick, rectangular pizza with both cheddar and brick cheeses that cook until they're golden brown; and the Honey Pie, a California-style white pie that serves as a showcase for its toppings, which include beer-battered caramelized onions and a generous drizzle of honey. There's a section on regional Italian pizzas and another completely devoted to Neopolitan, the gold standard of pizza in Italy, including recipes for authentic dough, sauce, and cheese. Gemignani even includes recipes for calzones and pepperoli, focaccia bread, and—a surprise addition—Chicago-inspired cocktails that Gemignani says are ideal for enjoying while your deep-dish pizza cooks.

All images reprinted with permission from The Pizza Bible by Tony Gemignani, copyright (c) 2014. Photography (c) 2014 by Sara Remington.

There is No Shortage of History When it Comes to Velveeta

Smithsonian Magazine

Just in time for the biggest dip day of the year, Kraft Foods announced that Americans might notice a distinct lack of Velveeta on their grocery store shelves. Following an announcement by the company, which noted that consumers in some states might have a hard time finding their liquid gold cheese in the coming weeks, the Internet wasted no time in completely freaking out, dubbing the shortage "Cheesepocalypse" on Twitter and creating imitation Velveeta-dip recipes on Lifehacker. There's even a website,, which shows a map of the conversation about the Velveeta shortage by pulling geographic information via Twitter (currently, users are talking most about the shortage in places like Massachusetts and Maryland).* In reality, people looking to munch on a chip with dip might have to resort to traditional cheese for their melty concoctions--which, while reassuringly natural, will also mean less-than-velvety texture for a lot of Super Bowl dips.

It's an unfortunate reality that cheese, when melted, becomes imperfect--it pools oil (more, the fattier it is) and coagulates quickly, turning a once molten bowl of queso dip into a sad stringy mess. Seekers of gooey cheese can work around this by using a young cheese or a less-fatty cheese, but sometimes, standard hacks just won't cut it: enter Velveeta, a cheese named for the fact that it melts so smooth.

In reality, the makers of Velveeta weren't looking for a way to melt cheese down--they were looking for a way to put cheese back together. And, though it's owned by, and most heavily associated with, Kraft now, Velveeta was not one of James L. Kraft's cheese creations.

The Frankenstein behind the cheese creation was one Emil Frey, a Swiss cheesemaker who moved from Switzerland to upstate New York, where he worked in cheese factories in the late 1880s. While working at the Monroe Cheese Factory in Monroe, New York, Frey made a name for himself in cheese history by creating Liederkranz, an American-made version of Limburger, a particularly odoriferous semi-soft cow's milk cheese. Liederkranz was extremely successful, but the Monroe Cheese Company wasn't so lucky: in 1891, the business was foreclosed upon by a bank and bought by a New York City grocer named Jacob Weisl. Under Weisl's new leadership, the company opened up a second factory in Covington, Pennsylvania, which produced mostly Swiss cheese. Unfortunately, cheesemaking wasn't--and still isn't--a perfectly precise process, and the factory noticed that many wheels were broken or misshapen, wasting valuable product. Not wanting to let this waste fall by the wayside, the company shipped the broken bits back to Monroe, where Frey was charged with figuring out a way to make something valuable from the scraps.

Laura Werlin, cheese historian and author of The New American Cheese, speculates that the rise in cheese factories might have been the final push to save these broken bits. "Cheese manufacturing was new, meaning that it was done on a much smaller scale prior. On a smaller scale, if you lose a little bit here and there, it still has an impact on you the producer, but when you see it coming off the line on a larger scale and there’s all this waste piling up, maybe it seemed like, 'Wow, we're losing a lot here and it's time we try to think of something to do with it,'" she speculates.

Frey was tinkering with the recipe for Velveeta at an interesting time in American cheese history. "The whole 20th century, there’s so much technology and rapid change," says Paul Kindstedt, professor and author of Cheese and Culture: A History of Cheese and Its Place in Western Civilization. "Velveeta is a very important part of the story." The Industrial Revolution of a century before had turned the world on its head, and cheese production was no different: small, farm-based cheesemakers of yesteryear had turned into large, industrial cheese operations. Moreover, the cheesemaking industry was crossing into science like never before, with the first processed cheeses coming out of Europe in the early part of the 20th century (from the Swiss tradition of melting cheeses for fondue). In America, James L. Kraft became perhaps the most recognizable face of processed cheese when he discovered that heated cheese with added emulsifying salts would form into a solid mass when cooled--and would keep much longer than non-processed cheese. Processed cheese was immediately welcomed by American consumers because of its consistent quality and increased stability.

In 1918, Frey figured out how to use similar technology to help recoup some of the factory's waste. He learned that by adding a by-product of cheesemaking called whey, which is the liquid released from curds during the cheesemaking process, to the leftover Swiss bits, he could create a very cohesive end-product. Frey named the product Velveeta, and in 1923, the Velveeta Cheese Company became its own corporation. It was successful for a while as its own company (which was based out of Monroe, NY), but in 1927, it was sold to Kraft Foods.
(UPDATE: A Kraft spokesperson, meanwhile, states that the company created Velveeta internally, using just Frey's name in the marketplace, but not his product.)

Kraft wasted no time marketing the cheese product for its nutritional value, arguing the addition of whey (which includes potentially desirable carbohydrates and minerals) made the cheese a kind of dairy wonder-product. The company even paid for a research study at Rutgers University to confirm Velveeta's nutritional benefits. In 1931, the American Medical Association gave Velveeta its stamp of approval, citing that the product had all the necessary nutritional value to build "firm flesh." 

Velveeta's popularity increased throughout the '30s, '40s and into the '50s--studies of consumer preference done in the 1930s found that two-thirds of Americans preferred processed cheese to natural cheese. But it wasn't just the product's advertised nutritional advantage that kept consumers interested.

"We as a culture have tended to gravitate toward foods that were—and are—predictable, unchanging and relatively bland," Werlin explains. "Processed cheese fit the bill, and it is also easy to use."

Advertising campaigns from the 1950s touted Velveeta's mild flavor, ease of use and nutritional value. As far as cheese products went, Velveeta was a convienent food that was also mild enough to please most consumers, from "Grandad to two-year-olds" as one 1951 newspaper ad proclaimed.

But for moms who wanted the convenience of Velveeta without the hassle of slicing it from the block (like the above video shows), the 1950s brought an alternative: Kraft DeLuxe Slices, which promised more convenience and none of the dried edges of block cheese. Slowly, Velveeta advertisements moved away from competing with the sliced cheese market, toward the now more recognizable iterations of Velveeta as a perfect melting cheese for dips or pastas.

In 1978, Velveeta Shells and Cheese became the first of Kraft's products to claim a portion of the "shelf-stable market," which describes foods that normally would need refrigeration but processing allows them to remain stable at room temperature. A commercial from the 1990s advertises the shells and cheese, with the help of some soulful crooners, by tapping into Velveeta's seemingly endless supply of wonder: it's not the same-old mashed potatoes or rice--it's something new and exciting.

Still, even with the introduction of Velveeta Shells and Cheese, the product only represented a small amount of Kraft's overall profit shares (currently, Velveeta is estimated to account for only 5 to 8 percent of the company's overall revenue). So, in the early 2000s, Kraft decided to enter into a mutually benefically partnership with ConAgra Foods. If when you think of Velveeta, you think of a cheesy queso chile dip, it's because of this very partnership. Neither Velveeta nor RoTel tomatoes and chiles, a ConAgra brand, represent enough of either company's total profits to earn much of their own share of the marketing budget. But by pairing the two items in advertising campaigns together, Kraft gained two things: advertising for Velveeta that it could afford, and a brand-association with a competitor.

Even as the cheese industry shows steady growth in the creation and sale of artisan cheeses, it's unlikely that Kraft's liquid gold will disappear (for more than a few cheesepocalyptic weeks) anytime soon. 

"For those many, many people who were raised on processed cheese, there is a memory connected with it that can’t be discounted in terms of its importance," Werlin says. "It’s a bite of the past, and that trumps flavor every time."

*Editors note: The original statement has been modified to clarify that does not actually track the amount of Velveeta on store shelves, but acts as a "heat map" to see where conversations about Velveeta are happening around the country.

Comic book project helps teens discover and share stories of Japanese Americans incarcerated during World War II

National Museum of American History

Comics have historically been used to tell difficult stories and engage youth in important but challenging topics. Martin Luther King Jr. contributed to a comic book titled The Montgomery Story, a copy of which can be found in the museum's Archives Center. That work inspired Congressman John Lewis to tell his own story of the civil rights movement through comics in the New York Times bestseller March. Other famous examples are Maus, Art Spiegelman's series about his family's experiences during the Holocaust, and Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical graphic novel series about her childhood in Iran.

Comics were also a method for Japanese American incarcerees in World War II to express their experiences. Most famous among these artists was Miné Okubo, who was incarcerated in Topaz War Relocation Center in Utah during World War II. A collection of 197 of her original drawings depicting incarceration are housed at the Japanese American National Museum (JANM), our partner for this year's National Youth Summit. Okubo's drawings take you through her time at the Tanforan Assembly Center in San Bruno, California, and eventually to the Topaz camp in Utah. Her artwork inspired her book Citizen 13660, which in 1946 became the first personal account published on this topic.

Black and white drawing of people in line heading to a building. Mountains in background.

Painting in greens, grays, browns, and whites. A wooden guard tower (like a small house raised on stilts) stands to the left of the image, with rolling grassland in front and mountains behind.

Many photographs of incarceration offer a simplistic view of life in the camps. Having lived through this injustice, Okubo was able to portray what everyday life was actually like—dehumanizing and disheartening. Few besides those who experienced the camps truly understood what life behind barbed wire consisted of, and her heartbreaking illustrations help the reader empathize with the plight of their fellow Americans.

To prepare for this year's National Youth Summit, teen participants in the museum's Youth Civic Engagement Program (YCEP) collaborated with Evan Keeling, an artist and exhibition fabricator from the Smithsonian's Office of Exhibits Central, and the incredibly talented teens at Hirshhorn's ARTLAB+, to create original comics to represent oral histories from camp survivors. These comics are now available for the teens' peers, to be used in classrooms as preparation for the Youth Summit webcast.

Photo of a room in which about 12 teenagers are gathered. A man speaks to them while they listen, flip through a comic book, etc. In background, "ArtLab+" collaged on wall.

First, the YCEP teens from the museum listened to and summarized oral histories of incarcerees, then shared them with ARTLAB+ students and Keeling. The artists and students not only helped construct the storylines, but also had to help make difficult editing decisions throughout the process.

Four students lean over white sheets of paper. Two of them draw comics into boxes with markers.

The students learned that they were able to tell these emotional stories and engage audiences in this short-form medium. My fellow intern, Jasmine Daniels, reflected that, "It's been heartwarming to see how engaged our students have become in the topic of incarceration, and seeing that manifest through their tangible and thought-provoking comics is amazing."

With comic books open in front of them, two teens smile.

Our teens were able to use the comics as tools to tell emotional stories and better understand the events of Japanese American incarceration. The use of comics made it possible to break down these often long oral histories into more digestible pieces, without losing the humanity of the narrators.

"Comics allow us to tell deeper and more personal stories," Sage Morgan-Hubbard, the museum's youth programs coordinator, said. "The images and words are capable of expressing intricate personal stories that words or images cannot possible do alone."

I asked Keeling to tell me a little more about why comics are important to him, and why he's chosen to use comics to tell stories that are important to him.

"Working at Smithsonian Exhibits, I've seen how much information about objects at the museums gets left out because you can only fit so much onto a label," Keeling said. "Comics are a great way to provide that extra bit; the combination of words and pictures allows for you to fit a lot of information into a quick, digestible, and easily reproducible format. Learning about Japanese American incarceration with and from the teens has been great."

The students were also able to participate in a panel discussion by comic artists hosted by the National Museum of American History, where they explored issues of creative license and portraying sensitive topics in comic form.

Afterwards, one student noted, "I've learned that comic books, graphic novels, and methods to communicate to the youth need to be developed and incorporated into [high school] curriculum . . . so social issues can be addressed."

Seeing how the students were able to understand and digest the material presented to them in a different way proved to me that comics can be a great tool to teach and engage students of all ages about important historical events and social justice.

"I love sharing my love and knowledge about comics but I also love seeing how the teens approach the creation of the comics," said Keeling. "I enjoy seeing the aspects that they are drawn to and the ways they use the medium to tell these stories. I love researching about people and events and finding new ways to tell their stories in the dynamic medium of comics. Comics are a great tool for reluctant readers but they are also just as great for voracious readers. They quickly immerse the reader into a world fostering the desire to find out more about the subject."

Are you hungry to learn more? You can print out and enjoy the comics our students helped create and we invite you to help students you know to make their own! While you're at it, join us for a nationwide discussion with scholars, students, civil rights activists, and artists to learn more about Japanese American incarceration, its modern parallels, and how we use the lessons of the past to make positive change today.

Cover of comic book. Little boy in tears runs to father. Text: "Dad! They took away my baseball bat!"

Mia Calabretta is an intern for the Youth Civic Engagement Program and an American Studies major at California State University, Fullerton. Learn more about the Boy Scout on the cover of the comic in her recent post. 

Intern Mia Calabretta
Posted Date: 
Thursday, May 12, 2016 - 08:00
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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Collection of abstract designs, each printed with a raised pigment.

What is The Godfather Effect?

Smithsonian Magazine

Tom Santopietro was 18 years old in 1972, when he saw the movie The Godfather in a theater in his hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. “I saw the movie for the first time with my parents,” recalls the author. “I have this very distinct memory of my father and I being wrapped up in it, and my mother leaning over and asking me, ‘How much longer is this?’”

Santopietro’s mother, Nancy Edge Parker, was of English descent, and, his father, Olindo Oreste Santopietro, was Italian. His grandparents Orazio Santopietro and Maria Victoria Valleta immigrated to the United States from southern Italy in the early 1900s. But it was seeing The Godfather trilogy that ultimately awakened Santopietro to his Italian roots and the immigrant experience.

In his new book, The Godfather Effect, Santopietro looks at how the film saga portrays Italian-Americans and what that has meant for him, the film industry and the country.

How did the idea for this book—part memoir, part study of The Godfather films—form? 

Like millions of other people around the world, I have been obsessed by The Godfather trilogy. I wanted to write about that. And, then, as I started writing about the films, I realized that I also wanted to write about other films depicting Italian-Americans and how horrible the stereotypes were. That made me start thinking about the journey that immigrants had made coming to America, the whys behind the journey and really the history of the mob. I started thinking about my own life, and I thought, I want to make this, in part, a memoir because I am half-Italian and half-English. There was a pull, because I had a very Italian name growing up in a very Anglo world.

When I saw The Godfather: Part II, and when ten minutes into the film there is the image of the young Vito on board the ship coming to America and passing by the Statue of Liberty, all of a sudden the light bulb went off. That image brought home to me my grandfather’s journey and how brave, at age 13, he was arriving here alone. At age 13, I was in a private school running around wearing my uniform and school tie, so removed from his experience. So it became not just a movie I loved as a movie lover, but a very personal depiction of the American journey for me.

How would you define the “Godfather effect”?

The film changed Hollywood because it finally changed the way Italians were depicted on film. It made Italians seem like more fully realized people and not stereotypes. It was a film in Hollywood made by Italians about Italians. Previously, it had not been Italians making the mobster films featuring Italian gangsters.

I feel it helped Italianize American culture. All of a sudden, everyone was talking about Don Corleone and making jokes about, “I am going to make you an offer you can’t refuse.” I think it helped people see that in this depiction of Italian-Americans was a reflection of their own immigrant experience, whether they were Irish or Jews from Eastern Europe. They found that common ground.

Then, of course, it changed me because when I saw what I felt was my grandfather on that ship coming to America, it was as if I was fully embracing my Italian-ness. I had never really felt Italian until then.

During the making of The Godfather, the Italian-American Civil Rights League organized protests, because it felt that the film would only reinforce the “Italian equals mobster” stereotype. And, to some extent, of course, it did. As you cite in the book, the Italic Institute of America released a report based on FBI statistics in 2009, stating that only 0.00782 percent of Italian-Americans possessed any criminal associations. And yet, according to a national Zogby poll, 74 percent of the American public believed that Italian-Americans have ties to the mob. Be honest, are you approaching this interview differently knowing my last name is Gambino?

I knew you weren’t a part of the Gambino crime family, but I have to tell you, I got a big smile. I thought, if I can be interviewed by a Gambino about my book about The Godfather, I am very happy.

Image by Photofest. When author Tom Santopietro first saw The Godfather: Part II and saw the image of young Vito on board the ship coming to America, he thought of his grandfather's journey and how brave, at age 13, he was arriving here alone. (original image)

Image by Everett Collection. The Godfather Effect looks at how the film saga portrays Italian-Americans and what that has meant to Santopietro, the film industry and the country. (original image)

Image by Photofest. Don Corleone, a man of such certainty that he created his own laws and took them into his own hands, appealed to a lot of people. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Tom Santopietro. Patriarchy Italian-style, 1924. Santopietro's grandparents, Orazio and Maria, with, left to right, daughters Julia and Emma, niece Katherine, sons Andrew and his seven-year-old father, Olindo. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Tom Santopietro. Santopietro wanted to write about his obsession with The Godfather trilogy but as he started writing he realized that he also wanted to write about other films depicting Italian-Americans and how horrible the stereotypes were. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Tom Santopietro. Santopietro was 18 years old in 1972, when he saw the The Godfather in a theater in his hometown of Waterbury, Connecticut. (original image)

You argue that The Godfather movies actually squash some stereotypes. Which ones?

Italian-Americans are very sensitive about their image in movies because it has traditionally been so negative, as either mobsters or rather simple-minded peasants who talk-a like-a this-a. I don’t like these stereotypical images, and yet, I love these films so much.

I think the vast majority of Italians have come to accept and actually embrace the film because I think the genius of the film, besides the fact that it is so beautifully shot and edited, is that these are mobsters doing terrible things, but permeating all of it is the sense of family and the sense of love. Where I feel that is completely encapsulated is in the scene toward the end of the first film when Don Corleone [Marlon Brando] and Michael Corleone [Al Pacino] are in the garden. It is really the transfer of power from father to son. Don Corleone has that speech: “I never wanted this for you.” I wanted you to be Senator Corleone. They are talking about horrible deeds. They are talking about transferring mob power. The father is warning the son about who is going to betray him. But you don’t even really remember that is what the scene is about. What you remember is that it is a father expressing his love for his son, and vice versa. That is what comes across in that crucial scene, and that is why I feel that overrides the stereotypical portrayal that others object to.

I think it squashed the idea that Italians were uneducated and that Italians all spoke with heavy accents. Even though Michael is a gangster, you still see Michael as the one who went to college, pursued an education and that Italians made themselves a part of the New World. These were mobsters, but these were fully developed, real human beings. These were not the organ grinder with his monkey or a completely illiterate gangster. It is an odd thing. I think to this day there are still some people who view the Italian as the “other”—somebody who is not American, who is so foreign. In films like Scarface [1932], the Italians are presented almost like creatures from another planet. They are so exotic and speak so terribly and wear such awful clothes. The Godfather showed that is not the case. In the descendant of The Godfather, which is of course “The Sopranos,” once again the characters are mobsters. But they are the mobsters living next door in suburban New Jersey, so it undercuts a bit that sense of Italian as the “other.”

What made the 1970s a particularly interesting backdrop for the release of The Godfather movies?

On the sociological level, we had been facing the twin discouragements of the Vietnam War and Watergate, so it spoke to this sense of disillusionment that really started to permeate American life at that time. I think also the nostalgia factor with the Godfather cannot be underestimated, because in the early ’70s (the first two films were in ’72 and ’74), it was such a changing world. It was the rise of feminism. It was the era of black power. And what The Godfather presented was this look at the vanishing white male patriarchal society. I think that struck a chord with a lot of people who felt so uncertain in this rapidly changing world. Don Corleone, a man of such certainty that he created his own laws and took them into his own hands, appealed to a lot of people.

In the book, you share some behind-the-scenes stories about the filming of the movies, including interactions between the actors and the real-life mafia. What was the best story you dug up about them intermingling?

That was really fun doing all the research on that. We all love a good Hollywood story. I was surprised that somebody like Brando, who was so famously publicity-shy and elusive, actually took the time to meet with a mafia don and show him the set of The Godfather. And that James Caan made such a point of studying the mannerisms of all the mobsters who were hanging around the set. I love that. You see it. Now when I watch the films again, all the gestures, all the details, the hands, the hitching of the pants, the adjusting of the tie, it is all just so smartly observed.

Both Mario Puzo, author of The Godfather, and Francis Ford Coppola, who directed the films, used some terms and phrases that were only then later adopted by actual mobsters. Can you give an example?

Absolutely. The term “the godfather.” Puzo made that up. Nobody used that before. He brought that into parlance. Here we are 40 years later and all the news reports of the mob now refer to so and so as the godfather of the Gambino crime family. Real-life mobsters now actually say, “I am going to make him an offer he can’t refuse.” That was totally invented by Puzo. I think these are phrases and terms that are not just used by the general public, but are also used by the FBI. So that is a powerful piece of art. The Godfather reaches its tentacles into so many levels of American life. I love the fact that it is Obama’s favorite movie of all time. I just love that.

Do you think anything has changed in the way audiences today react to the movie?

I think the biggest thing when you screen it today is that you realize it enfolds at a pace that allows you to get to know the characters so well. Today, because of the influence that started in the ’80s with music videos, it is all quick cuts, and they would never allow a film to unroll at this pace, which is our loss. We have lost the richness of character that The Godfather represents.

What do you think of television shows like “Mob Wives” and “Jersey Shore?” And, what effect do they have on Italian-American stereotypes?

I think “Mob Wives” and “Jersey Shore” are, in a word, terrible. The drama is usually artificial, heightened by both the participants and the editors for the dramatic purposes of television and hence are not real at all. They play to the worst stereotypes of Italian-American culture. Both shows center on larger-than-life figures to whom the viewing audience can feel superior. The audience condescends to these characters and receives their pleasure in that manner. It's not just “Jersey Shore” of course, because part of the pleasure for viewers of any reality show is feeling superior to contestants who sing badly, flop in their attempts to lose weight and the like. But the display of gavonne-like behavior on the two shows you mention results in both shows playing like 21st century versions of the organ grinder with his monkey—the Uncle Tom figure of Italian-Americans. It has been 100 years since the height of the immigrant and we're back where we started.

Alfred Peats Set A Book No. 5

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Catalog of machine-printed papers, some with embossing. Many designs contain metallic pigments in a variety of colors. All the samples are showing matched sets of sidewall, frieze and ceiling paeprs with multiple colorways of many of the patterns.

This One-Year Alternative to College Promises to Land Students a Well-Paying Job, Debt-Free

Smithsonian Magazine

This fall, a couple dozen students will be the guinea pigs to test a new form of higher education. Without coughing up any tuition, they will enter MissionU, and a year later, with any luck, they will land jobs at Spotify, Warby Parker and other rising companies.

Here’s the deal: Once they land those well paying jobs, for the first three years, 15 percent of their salaries will go back to MissionU.

The school is the brainchild of Adam Braun, a 33-year-old entrepreneur and Brown University graduate who recognizes that a four-year college isn’t for everybody. His first venture in education, an organization called Pencils of Promise, has helped to build 400 schools in the developing world since 2008. MissionU, founded this year, started accepting applications last month. spoke with Braun about the program's financial model, its curriculum and the ideal candidate.

Let’s start with the problem. What problem are you trying to fix?

We have a broken college system in the United States. In particular, there are two major issues that we’re facing. The first is that young people are leaving their undergraduate education without the skills necessary to land their first job nor to really thrive in their lives and careers going forward. Seventy-four percent [of students] feel that they are leaving university unprepared to enter the job market, and 50 percent of hiring managers think that today’s college grads lack the critical thinking skills necessary to really thrive or contribute at their company.

The second, even more troubling, is whether students obtain a degree or not they are leaving their undergraduate with insurmountable, crippling debt. I’m sure you’ve seen some of the national numbers. There are 31 million students with some college credit and no degree. So there is a tremendous amount of people that are entering college and not even obtaining a bachelor’s degree. For those that do get a bachelor’s degree, seven in ten have borrowed money, and the average student debt as of this year is over $37,000 with high interest rates as well.

Those two factors lead to the belief that we no longer should advocate for a one-size-fits-all model.

So what is MissionU?

MissionU is a one-year college alternative for the21st century that prepares students for the jobs of today and tomorrow debt-free. We charge zero tuition. We believe that institutions should invest in their students, rather than vice versa, and that ultimately we should only be successful if our students are successful. When you get into MissionU we invest in you for that whole year, which enables any student from any background to be able to participate in our program, regardless of your socioeconomic background and your financial situation. Only once you are making $50,000 or more, once you have that job, you contribute 15 percent of your income back to MissionU for three years. That enables us to provide that opportunity to the next student. IAnd if you don’t reach that $50,000 threshold, then you don’t pay us anything. It really ties our well being to theirs.

Is there any model for this?

Purdue University has launched a large program that allows students to choose an income-share agreement rather than a traditional loan with high interest rates, because they see it as an appealing alternative. When students are actually educated on the two options, more than half the time they prefer the income-share agreement. This idea is becoming increasingly more mainstream.

Your wife's experience, in part, inspired you to found this college alternative.

My wife really bought into the idea that a top traditional college was the way to get ahead and do well in life. Instead, she ended up with over $100,000 in student debt and no bachelor’s degree after two and a half years and had to leave school due to financial hardship. What I saw was the crushing burden that that debt was putting on every aspect of her life, not just her financial well being but her emotional well being. Her sense of possibility about what she could attain in her life was really affected by how large her debt was and the notion that she would never be able to get out from under it. The more that I read into the statistics what I saw is that her situation was not a rare one. That really inspired me to go out and try to put together a world-class team of individuals and companies that believe that we need new alternatives.

Adam Braun, founder and CEO of MissionU (Nick Onken)

How does it work exactly?

We have a skills- and career-focused curriculum. We start by partnering with employers. Our employer partners do two things. First, they advise us on curriculum, and the second is once we calibrate our curriculum to make sure that we are meeting the needs of these industry leading employers, that are indicative of the broader industry needs, we give them early hiring access to consider our top graduates. Right now, our employer partners are companies like Spotify, Lyft, Warby Parker, Uber, Casper, Harry’s, Birchbox and a whole bunch of others.

You are now taking applications for your first class, starting this fall. How many students are you accepting? And who is the ideal candidate?

Each cohort at MissionU is about 25 students. So we’ll be accepting 25 students into the fall cohort, but we have rolling cohorts that start every quarter. The way it works is all students live within 50 miles of their cohort city.

Our ideal student is what we define as a career starter. These are students ages 19 to 25 who view their higher education experience as a pathway to get a better job. They come from all parts of our society, all backgrounds. They are incredibly motivated. They are self-directed learners, and they are interested in landing a great job at a great company, and doing so without incurring a tremendous amount of financial debt.

It’s not your traditional college application either.

Our application process is designed to identify future potential rather than evaluate previous test scores. We don’t look at SATs, GPA or high school degrees. Instead, what we really look for is people’s problem solving abilities and their abilities to work effectively in teams to demonstrate soft skills that the world’s greatest companies all highly value.

There’s a four-step process. The first step just includes some basic information. Tell us about yourself. The second step is an admissions challenge where you can use the internet to research answers to tough problems. We want to see how well you do as a problem solver. The third step is a group challenge where you work in a small team to come up with a presentation and present to some of our admissions staff and work through a challenging problem that’s very similar to how you’d work on a team in a great company. The fourth step is an individual interview.

The first class will study data analytics and business intelligence. How did you make that decision?

We had hundreds of conversations with employers and hiring managers, and the roles we kept on hearing were in demand and really well paid  consistently were in this space of data analytics and business intelligence.

Turns out McKinsey did a very large study and demonstrated that by the year 2018 we’d have 1.5 million analysts and managers that lack the analytic skills necessary for the companies with which they work. There’s a tremendous amount of analyst jobs across many functions in companies that this will prepare people for, also a lot of business intelligence roles across many types of companies, data driven jobs, consulting type jobs as well. Those are the main buckets of jobs that we’re preparing people for. We’re targeting, on average, a $70,000 job.

What will the yearlong program look like?

Our first quarter is the foundational quarter. You learn eight hard skills. Those are things like business writing, public speaking, project management, excel gathering and basic tech foundation of html and css. These are eight hard skills we believe will make you an effective employee at any company, regardless of the industry.

The second quarter is called discovery, and that’s really about the process of personal discovery to understand where you want to point your compass in your life and career—doing the deep introspective work that enables you to understand how you want to position your future. The third quarter is basically a 12-week immersive sprint on your major. These are all project-based assignments, so you are working on real projects with your team.

Then the fourth quarter is similar to an internship in that you’re broken up into small teams and you work on real companies and real projects to build a public portfolio of work and have a robust resume by the time you finish the program. Then we have our graduation moment, but we don’t think that graduation should be at the very end of the year and that you should be sent on your way to find a job yourself. Instead, we reserve six weeks at the end our program for 'career launch.' Career launch is where we support you from interview preparation all the way through to salary negotiation.

On a monthly basis, the majority of your learning experience happens online, but not through pre-recorded lectures. These are live, virtual classrooms with you, your classmates and an industry practitioner. Then you come together once a month for what we call our meetups. These are at company campuses, college campuses or collaborative working spaces. That’s really to build the friendships and the bonds that we all have from college.

What types of majors will you offer in the future?

We plan to grow into many different cities and offer many different majors. I think there is a real interest in the health oriented space, a lot of professions in health sciences and health care that are in demand. Right now, we just don’t have enough well-trained and qualified people to take on these roles that are very fulfilling and well paid. So that’s an area of interest, personally. But we are going to continue to evaluate, and we will ultimately make the decisions based on where the industry needs are.

How will you convince employers to hire a MissionU grad over a student with a bachelor’s degree?

The one thing I can tell you is that employers value competency over credentials nowadays. In the last 18 months, PricewaterhouseCoopers and Ernst & Young have removed the bachelor’s degree as a requirement to apply for jobs at their companies. They ran studies and could not prove that having a bachelor’s degree made you a more effective employer at their companies. Google has also removed the bachelor’s requirement, as well as Penguin Books. I think for any employer what they value most is not just a piece of paper but somebody who can demonstrate the skill set they are seeking.

Why North Korea Needs an Enemy Like America to Survive

Smithsonian Magazine

All summer long, North Korea has tested one weapon after another, the most recent being a ballistic missile this Friday. And with each new act of belligerence, experts and the media have scrambled to make sense of what comes next. “What is North Korea Trying to Hit?” asked the Washington Post, while Bloomberg went straight for the gut-punch with “Scared About North Korea? You Aren’t Scared Enough.” For the more levelheaded readers (like Alaskans, the Americans who live within closest range of a North Korean missle, but are more concerned about bears and moose), the real question might be, why do North Koreans hate us so much? After all, the Korean War—as horrifically destructive as it was—ended more than 60 years ago. The United States hasn’t attacked North Korea once since that armistice was signed, but the little country has remained a belligerent—and since 2006, nuclear-armed—thorn in the world’s side.

Part of this perpetual aggression has to do with the personal experiences of North Korea’s founding father, dictator Kim Il-sung. Born in Japanese-occupied Korea in 1912, Kim Il-sung spent most of his childhood in China, eventually joining the Chinese Communist Party and leading a renowned band of guerrilla fighters that took on Japanese forces in northeast China and Korea (a region then called Manchuria). But when other members of the Chinese Communist Party accused Kim of conspiring with the Japanese, he learned that loyalty wasn’t always returned. In the 1930s, Kim also knew the Soviet Union was deporting ethnic Koreans from the Soviet Far East back to Korea, because the Soviets, too, feared Koreans would support Japan in the latter’s expansion across Asia. Even the countries that should have ostensibly been Kim’s allies from the start of his military career didn’t seem to have his home nation’s best interests at heart.

From there, things only got worse. Having joined the Soviet Red Army in 1940, Kim Il-sung was perfectly positioned for a fortuitous appointment—Stalin made him the head of the North Korean Temporary People’s Committee in 1946, and when North Korea officially became a country in 1948, Kim was declared its prime minister (at that point Russia and the U.S. had succeeded in defeating Japan and divided the Korean peninsula into two countries, with the border drawn so that the U.S. would administer over Seoul).

In 1950, Kim Il-sung convinced Soviet Premier Josef Stalin to provide tanks for a war that would reunify North and South Korea. Kim nearly succeeded, advancing his troops down to the southern edge of the peninsula to take almost the entirety of South Korea. But then American forces led by General Douglas MacArthur pushed the North Koreans all the way back up to their shared border with China. When Kim begged Stalin for help, the Soviet dictator said no. And Chairman Mao Zedong of China waited two days before agreeing to assist the North Koreans.

“Imagine how one would feel knowing that you lost your country for those two days,” says James Person, director of the Center for Korean History and Public Policy at the Wilson Center. “The historical experience and Kim’s own personal experience shaped the way that the Korean leadership saw the world”—as a hostile place with no reliable allies.

After three years of fighting, the war ended in 1953. Even then only an armistice was signed—not a formal peace agreement. A new border was drawn that gave South Korea slightly more territory and created the demilitarized zone, or DMZ, between the two nations. The U.S. continued assisting South Korea in its development, and China and the Soviet Union remained nominal allies of North Korea.

North Korea’s idiosyncratic foreign policy since then can be traced in the history of three words: juche, songun and byungjin. Each has taken its turn as a central tenet for every new Kim in the North Korean dynasty. Each has colored the totalitarian regime’s reaction to the rest of the world—and especially its relationship to the U.S.

Juche (Going It Alone)

In 1972, North Korea’s socialist constitution adopted “juche—a creative application of Marxism-Leninism—as the guideline for state activities,” according to Understanding North Korea, a publication of the South Korean government. Although the word is often translated as “self-reliance,” North Korea expert Jonathan Pollack, who works with the Brookings Institution, says that doesn’t capture the whole of it. “Juche is more what I would call ‘self-determination.’ It basically says you can beg, borrow and steal from anyone in the world, but you can still tell them to go f*** themselves,” Pollack says. “There’s a level at which they’ve been so audacious through all their history—don’t get me wrong—but you kind of have to admire it.”

For Kim Il-sung, juche was the result of not trusting either of North Korea’s nominal allies, the Soviet Union and China. He already felt betrayed by their lack of support during the Korean War, and his opinion didn’t improve during the Cold War. North Korea perceived the Soviets as having capitulated to the U.S. during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, Person says, and his experiences in China made him wary of fully trusting Mao Zedong. So beginning in the early 1960s, the country threw an enormous amount of resources into developing its military. By 1965, North Korea’s budget for national defense rose to nearly 30 percent of its GDP, when it had only accounted for 4.3 percent of its GDP just nine years earlier, reports Atsuhito Isozaki.

Kim Il-sung continued to squeeze China, the Soviet Union and Eastern European Communist countries for all he could get, all the while keeping them at arm’s length. “No foreign country has retained a major presence in the North, other than in an advisory capacity,” Pollack says. But that mistrust of other countries and determination to forge their own path backfired when the Soviet Union collapsed at the end of the 20th century, and North Korea’s go-it-alone mentality was tested by a sudden decline in foreign aid. Shortly after that, in 1994, Kim Il-sung died, and the torch of leadership passed on to his son, Kim Jong-il.

Songun (Maintaining Power With Military Might)

Kim Jong-il inherited a country—but also a devastating economic recession and famine. Without the Soviet Union providing food aid and acting as willing trading partner , North Korea’s economy contracted by a quarter, Pollack says. Several million people died of starvation, though the exact number is unknown because the country is so secretive. But rather than invest in agricultural development, Kim Jong-il doubled down on his father’s policy of increased military spending, creating a new national ethos called songun, or “military first.”

“The military is not just an institution designed to perform the function of defending the country from external hostility,” writes researcher Han S. Park for the Korea Economic Institute of America. “Instead, it provides all of the other institutions of the government with legitimacy. [Under songun], no problem is too big or too small for the military to solve.”

In a country of only 24 million people, more than 1 million are active members of the military, and the institution has a compulsory 10-year service requirement. Not only do military personnel test weapons and train for battle, they’re also assigned more menial duties like carrying groceries for civilians and repairing plumbing. With the U.S. conducting annual military drills in South Korea to show its continued support of South Korea’s existence, Kim Jong-il’s military focus served to reinforce his false narrative: The country needed the military not only to survive the famine, but also to protect itself against the external threat of an aggressive U.S.

“They have a vested interest in maintaining the idea of an implacable American adversary,” Pollack says. “It enables him to explain why they’re backward: if it were not for the evil Americans, we would be x, y, and z economically advanced.”

Byungjin (Parallel Paths to Butter and Bombs)

After Kim Jong-il died in 2011, his son, Kim Jong-un, assumed office and quickly developed a new vision for the future of the country—byungjin, or “parallel paths.” The idea built on what had been established by his grandfather at the country’s origins, incorporating the ideas of both juche and songun. Introduced in 2013 as a major policy, it directed that North Korea’s economy would focus on manufacturing consumer goods and developing a nuclear deterrent.

“It’s not just about trying to get attention,” Person says of North Korea’s nascent nuclear program. “They are trying to demonstrate that they’re able to defend themselves, and they’re resisting regime change.” Kim Jong-un only needed to look at the outside world for examples of what happens when a country either stops pursuing or doesn’t fully develop a nuclear weapon program: Saddam Hussein was toppled in Iraq in 2006, and Muammar Qaddafi was killed in 2011. It doesn’t matter that North Korea isn’t entirely analogous to those countries, Person says; focusing on nuclear weapons continues to legitimize Kim Jong-un’s rule.

The manufacturing prong of byungjin indicates that unlike his father, Kim Jong-un may have also recognized that a nation of people can’t live on nuclear weapons alone. “[The isolationism] can’t go on forever,” Pollack says. “Unless North Korean leaders are content with remaining isolated and backward, there will be pressures that will erode the loyalty of central elites.”

But because North Korea has long defined its national policy in relation to the existential threat of external foes, when that happens is anyone’s guess. “They’ve had almost a 70-year history and they’re still standing,” Pollack adds. “I’m not going to hazard a prediction or presume they’re going to end soon.” 

Correspondence, Andrews, Ambrose - Harding, Chester 1779-1981

Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery Archives
Thomas B. Brumbaugh research material on Abbott Handerson Thayer and other artists, 1876-1994 (bulk 1960s-1994); e Also located at; a Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

Ambrose Andrews was a portrait, miniature, and landscape portrait who worked throughout New England and the United States. He was born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1801 and studied at the National Academy of Design. He exhibited paintings at many different institutions, including his portraits of Henry Clay and Sam Houston. Andrews's work is now in the New York Historical Society.

Edward Bates was a representative for Missouri in the mid-1800s. He served in the War of 1812 as a sergeant in a volunteer brigade, studied and practiced law, attended the state constitutional convention, was district attorney from 1821 to 1826, and was a member of the state senate. He declined to serve as Secretary of War for President Fillmore, but was appointed Attorney General of the United States by President Lincoln, and served from March 5, 1861 to September 1864. Bates died on March 25, 1869.

Admiral Charles Henry Davis was born on January 16, 1807, and served as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation between 1862 and 1865. He then served as Superintendent of the Naval Observatory. He had three ships named after him.

Forbes Watson was an art critic, lecturer, and administrator in New York City in the early 20th century. He served as art critic for the New York Evening Post. In 1933 he was appointed Technical Director of the first New Deal art program, the Public Works of Art Project, which provided work for artists in the decoration of non-federal buildings. He later worked at the Treasury Department of Painting and Sculpture, which administered funding for decorating federal buildings. Watson finally served in the Treasury Department's War Finance Division, where he organized exhibitions and posters by combat artists to promote the sale of war bonds. Forbes Watson's papers are held in the Archives of American Art.

Gifford Beal was an American artist who worked with many organizations for the advancements of the arts, finding inspiration from a wide variety of sources, including holiday scenes, every-day life, and landscapes. Beal loved spontaneity and was influenced by French Impressionists. He was commissioned by the government to paint two murals: one on the post office in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and one in the Main Interior Building in Washington, D.C. Beal's papers are held in the Archives of American Art.

Aaron Bohrod was born in Chicago, Illinois on November 21, 1907, where he studied art at the Art Institute of Chicago. He worked for a while in the advertising art department at the Fair Department Store in Chicago, but eventually moved to New York City, where he joined the Art Students League. He died on April 3, 1992. During World War II, Bohrod worked as an artist for the United States Army Corps of Engineer and Life magazine in Europe.

Carroll Cloar was an American realist and surrealist who lived from 1913 to 1993. He grew up in Arkansas, but later moved to Tennessee, travelled Europe, and joined the Art Students League in New York City. During World War II, he joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, and although he did complete some artwork during this period, none of it survives. Cloar then settled in Memphis. One of his paintings was chosen to commemorate President Clinton's inauguration in 1993. Cloar died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound on April 10, 1993, after a long battle with cancer.

Samuel Colman was an American painter who belonged to the Hudson River School, and is most well-remembered for his landscapes. He was born in Portland, Maine, in 1832, and began exhibiting at the young age of 18. At 27 he was elected an associate of the National Academy, and later studied abroad in Paris and Spain. He was made a full Academician upon his return to the United States, and both founded and served as the first president of the American Water-color Society. He continued to both study in Europe and exhibit artwork, moving from New York to Rhode Island. Colman is represented in the metropolitan Museum, Chicago Art Institute, and many other collections. He died in New York City in 1920.

Josephine Daskam Bacon was an American writer known for writing about "women's issues" and using female protagonists. She wrote a series of juvenile mysteries and helped pioneer the Girl Scouts movement, writing a guidebook for the organization.

Daniel Denison Rogers is perhaps most widely remembered for the painting that John Singleton Copley completed of his wife, Abigail Bromfield.

Ithiel Town was an American architect and civil engineer who lived from October 3, 1784 to June 13, 1844. He worked in the Federal and revivalist Greek and Gothic styles, and was widely copied. He was born in Connecticut, and built both Center Church and Trinity Church in New Haven. Town patented a wooden lattice truss bridge, which made him quite wealthy. He formed a professional architecture firm with Alexander Jackson Davis. One of Town's most amazing feats was the construction of the Potomac Aqueduct in Washington, D.C., which allowed fully loaded canal boats to cross the Potomac River.

William Parker Elliot designed the old U.S. Patent Office, a very important Greek Revival building, with Ithiel Town.

George de Forest Brush was an American painter who grew up in Connecticut and is typified by his paintings and drawings of Native Americans. Even after moving from Wyoming, where he met the Native Americans, back to the East, Brush still occasionally enjoyed living in a teepee. Brush's artistic style later developed into Renaissance-inspired portraits. He was friends with Abbott H. Thayer, and along with Brush's wife, Mary, and son, Gerome, they all contributed to early camouflage designs. Brush died in New Hampshire in 1941.

Chester Harding was an American portrait painter born in Massachusetts in 1792. He worked in many different professions, finally becoming a self-taught itinerant portrait painter. Harding settled in Beacon Hill, Boston, Massachusetts, in a building that now houses the Boston Bar Association (the Chester Harding House, a Historic National Landmark). He studied at the Philadelphia School of Design, later setting up a studio in London, where he befriended and painted for royalty and nobility. Harding finally returned to Boston, where he died in 1866.

Gift of Susan A. Hobbs.

This folder is an amalgamation of letters written and recieved by prominent figures in 19th and 20th century American art. Included in the folder are letters by Ambrose Andrews, Edward Bates, Gifford Beal, Aaron Bohrod, Carroll Clear, Samuel Colman, Josephine Daskam, Daniel Denison Rogers, William Elliot, George de Forest Brush, and Chester Harding. The letters' subjects cover a wide range of topics, including the buying and selling of art, invitations to dinner, and general correspondence.

John Peabody Harrington papers: Taos, 1909-circa 1944

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 4, reels 38-49. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

The first indication of John P. Harrington's work among the Taos Indians comes from his financial records of September 20, 1909, to January 15, 1910, when he was based in Santa Fe and doing fieldwork in various languages of the Southwest. Peak periods of in-depth work on Taos, sometimes in the field and sometimes in Washington, D.C., appear to be 1909-1911, 1918-1922, 1926-1930, and 1944-1945. He worked primarily with Joe Lujan (abbreviated "L.") and Manuel Mondragon ("M."), with Mondragon helping from 1910 to 1927. There are references to a trip which Harrington made with Margaret Tschirgi and F. E. Betts to the ruins east of Taos on September 30, 1928, but there are no further explanatory notes.

Mutual professional respect had arisen between Harrington and Matilda Coxe Stevenson of the Bureau of American Ethnology, at whose ranch he spent six weeks in the autumn of 1908. He was in possession of a large body of her original notes on south western Indians at the time of her death in 1915 and planned to arrange, annotate, and publish them. Her material on Taos appears in an unpublished historical and ethnographic manuscript titled "The Taos Indians."

Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. Also see "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 4: A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Southwest," edited by Elaine L. Mills and Ann J. Brickfield (1986).

This subseries of the Southwest series contains Harrington's Taos research. The materials consist of field notes, grammatical and semantic slipfile, grammar, dictionary, linguistic notes, ethnographic and historical notes, and texts.

Among his field notes are slips prepared for semantic arrangement (former B.A.E. MS 2309 and 2290pt.). Many of the terms were used in the draft of an unpublished grammar, with some orthographic variations. The use of "q" for "kw" suggests an early date, possibly 1909-1910 . An early vocabulary is comprised of Harrington's comparative Taos terms used in his article "Notes on the Piro Language" (1909a).

From former B.A.E. manuscripts 2290pt., 2292pt., and 2296 come several categories of miscellaneous field notes. Included are a vocabulary elicited in 1910, typed and annotated notes which collate much of the information written on slips, and miscellaneous slips some dated 1920, some probably earlier-which contain brief Picuris comparisons. Data encompass placenames, tribenames, ethnogeographic terms, and some grammatical elaborations.

Another group of field notes appears to be Taos with Isleta comparisons. This is a tentative identification still subject to the scrutiny of linguists, who are not presently in complete agreement. The physical condition and type of paper used indicate that these notes may have been recorded during the period 1909 to 1911.

A set of slips, formerly cataloged as B.A.E. MS 2318 and 2295pt., fills four boxes. Field notes and reports suggest that this comprehensive body of material may have been accumulated, annotated, and rearranged over a period of time ranging from 1909 to 1928. The largest section of the file was arranged by Harrington according to grammatical categories and is especially substantial on verb and pronoun usage. Another group of slips is semantically arranged; some phonetic, ethnographic, and historical material is interjected.

The grammar section includes tabulations in English of pronoun prefix material which give an excellent indication of Harrington's methodology for accumulating slipfiles. Taos slips deal with pronoun usage, verb paradigms, and sentence structure. These are early notes, probably dating from 1909 to 1911. Mondragon was the principal source of information. The section also includes three drafts of manuscripts on Taos grammar, only of which one was published. "Ambiguity in the Taos Personal Pronoun" (1916) (former B.A.E. MS 2293pt. and 4682pt.) was condensed from another draft of an unpublished, more comprehensive grammar (former B.A.E. MS 4682pt.). A draft of a paper on numerals is filed with some of the original field notes from which it evolved (former B.A.E. MS 4681). Another major subsection consists of a draft of over 500 typed pages of a comprehensive grammar by Carobeth Laird, Harrington's wife at the time. The manuscript (former B.A.E. MS 2307 and 4680), titled "Grammatical Analysis of the Taos Language," is dated 1920. The fieldwork for the paper was done in Taos during July and August of 1918 with Taos speakers Lujan and Mondragon. A partial and preliminary draft and notes reveal some annotations by Harrington, who also was in Taos at the same time working with the same speakers.

This subseries also contains Harrington's Taos dictionary. The Taos-English section is in alphabetical order according to the first sound of the base. Although the English-Taos section gives the English word first, it follows the alphabetical order of the Taos term according to Harrington's list of initial symbols. Some entries in the dictionary are followed by the notes from which they evolved. There is also a file of Taos bird names, apparently intended for incorporation into the dictionary, as well as a small group of plant names. These also are in Taos-English and English-Taos. Filed with this material is a list of the scientific names for Taos birds; annotations were supplied by Florence Merriam Bailey and Vernon Bailey. (See "Studying the Mission Indians of California and the Taos of New Mexico" [1929].)

Harrington's linguistic notes (former B.A.E. MS 2292pt. and 2295pt.) include grammar, vocabulary, and textual material, apparently accumulated in July and August of 1918 from his work with Lujan and Mondragon. At least a portion of the material was collected with the assistance of his wife Carobeth, and a number of pages are in her hand. The pagination evidently underwent several reorganizations and is therefore somewhat chaotic. His other notes consist of comments on George L. Trager's "The Kinship and Status Terms of the Tiwa Languages" (1943) and on Elsie Clews Parsons' Taos Pueblo (1936). Relationship terms, age and sex nouns, personal names, rank nouns, and tribenames are mentioned.

Among his ethnographic and historical notes is his unfinished manuscript, "The Taos Indians" (former B.A.E. MS 3073). He relied heavily on Matilda Coxe Stevenson's field notes for his manuscript; her contribution is mainly ethnographic while a few pages are the work of her husband, James. Taos speaker Tony Romero is the source for the clan names. Harrington also incorporated his notes from 1908, 1909, 1911, 1918, and 1919. For historical data, Harrington relied on published sources, especially early Spanish documents for which he supplied original translations and throughout which some Picuris history is interwoven. The bibliographic information for the historical sources is interspersed throughout the notes.

There are also notes and excerpts from Blanche C. Grant's publications and miscellaneous notes on dances (former B.A.E. MS 2292pt.). A few random ethnographic notes on slips are written in English.

Contained in a series of texts are stories of Wolf and Deer and two versions of the Lord's Prayer with grammatical notes. Also included is the Tanoan linguistic diagram (former B.A.E. MS 2292 pt.) used in Harrington's "An Introductory Paper on the Tiwa Language, Dialect of Taos, New Mexico" (191 Oc). Jose Lopez and Santiago Mirabel provided the Taos terms used in this publication.

The Charles William Stores Inc.

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Samples include floral stripes, medallion stripes, tapestry effects, intaglio prints and varnished tile patterns, among others. Examples of ceiling papers at the end of book.

Casa Hermosa (Beautiful Home)

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Sample book of wallcoverings and coordinated fabrics devoted entirely to authentic Mexican designs. The Mexican palette is documented in five design groups: Pre-Columbian, Calla Lilly, Fruit Market, Pottery and Folkloric Splendor.

Tasting the 1930s: An experiment with congealed salads and other one-dish wonders

National Museum of American History

The members of the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project team have been poring over authentic period cookbooks as research for the refrigerators section of this new learning space. We cringed at the varied uses of gelatin; we marveled at the elegant radish roses. Finally, we decided to put the recipes into practice. We each selected one from the Product Cookbook Collection of the museum's Archives Center.

A Monitor top refrigerator from the 1930s

The 1930s witnessed major developments in how Americans ate and thought about food, as well as how they purchased, stored, and prepared it. More than 11 million women were in the workforce by 1930 (11.7 percent of them were married), and they looked for ways to save time in the kitchen. Many began to replace their messy and inefficient iceboxes with electric refrigerators. By the end of the decade, 60 percent of American households had one.

Refrigerators kept food reliably cold for longer periods, which meant less time spent on frequent trips to the grocery store. And thanks to the electric refrigerator, "cooking with cold" became not only a convenient way to prepare a meal but a trendy way to enhance the experience of eating. A 1929 advertisement described the process: "chill new flavor and sooth coolness into every course."

Leftover dishes and recipe book

In the midst of the Great Depression, economy became just as important as efficiency. "Leftovers are valuable," declared one cookbook, "don't waste them!" To prevent the boredom of eating the same meal over and over again, home economists and cookbook authors alike encouraged home cooks to disguise leftovers by incorporating them into whole new dishes.

Armed with jars of mayonnaise, can openers, and Jell-O molds, the Taylor Foundation Object Project team set out to recreate historical 1930s recipes. Here's what we found when we put our concoctions to the taste-test:

Orange jello and 1930s entree salad molds

Gelatin, of course, was an unavoidable thread throughout the meal; almost every dish jiggled. It was (and is) inexpensive, as well as a source of a protein. As fresh fruits and vegetables became more prominent in the American diet in the 1930s, congealed salads were considered an elegant way to present them. Bright colors, dainty shapes, eye-catching swirls of mayonnaise, and garnishes galore were intended to make meals attractive and appealing.

A chicken salad mold and a tomato aspic

Gelled and congealed salads—sweet, savory, or both—became staples in American households to the point that "about one-third of all cookbook recipes of the time were gelatin based," according to The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America. Bits of vegetables, meats, fruit, marshmallows, and cheese could be mixed together to created molded "one-dish wonders" suitable to be served as a main course.

Molded mayonnaise recipe and actual dish

Team member Fernanda chose perhaps the boldest recipe, a Molded Mayonnaise Salad. Besides that key condiment, ingredients included lemon Jell-O, vinegar, American cheese, cayenne pepper, and salt.

The recipe appears in the 'Salads for Special Occasions' section of a cookbook, which states that "the more attractive, the more dainty, the more delicious the salad, the more competent delightful hostess do you prove yourself to be."

"There were not enough radish roses to make my salad delicious," Fernanda lamented.

Though our modern taste buds found this surprising combination of flavors and textures less than delicious, it would have been a highly fashionable entrée for the 1930s hostess.

Surprise loaf recipe and the surprise loaf at the potluck

And the biggest surprise? The Surprise Loaf itself. It was assembled like a cake, consisting of three tiers of bread separated by layers of a coleslaw-like mixture and relish, with a whipped combination of cream cheese and "snappy" cheddar cheese spread like icing on the outside. Garnished with parsley and radish roses, the Surprise Loaf proved to be yet another example of a fancy-looking entrée that used inexpensive ingredients.

The Object Project potluck table

In truth, presentation was where our potluck excelled. Along with finding creative ways to repackage leftovers, 1930s hostesses had an eye for elaborate tables. Emma made a Leftover Vegetable Casserole, unanimously voted "most edible."

"I think I could learn a thing or two about presentation from the 1930s hostesses," Emma said. "I was surprised how pretty everything looked. We made up in style what we lacked in taste. Styling my food really made it feel special."

Team member Judy with her tomato aspic

Making these 1930s recipes ourselves, especially where molds and casserole dishes were involved, helped demonstrate a key theme in the cooking literature of the time: the emphasis on easy, make-ahead meals. The convenience that 1930s cooks desired allowed us to make our dishes at home the night before, then easily plate and garnish them when it was time for the potluck.

As Judy said, "This was certainly a celebration of home refrigeration, gelatin, and garnish!"

Emma Grahn is a museum educator and facilitator for the Taylor Foundation Object Project. Previously, she has blogged about the advent of electric refrigeration. Caitlin Kearney is a new media assistant for Taylor Foundation Object Project and has blogged about mid-century cooking.

See all the photos from our 1930s potluck:

Posted Date: 
Monday, November 16, 2015 - 11:00
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A Federal Immigration Building With a Dark Past

Smithsonian Magazine

From the outside, the U.S. Appraiser’s Building in downtown San Francisco is austere and bureaucratic, rising 16 stories tall at 630 Sansome Street. Distinctive for its time, it now resembles federal buildings in other cities around the country. But on the inside, the building carries a troubling history that resonates today, even though its past is largely lost to memory.

Ever since its completion near the end of World War II, 630 Sansome Street has been home to the bureaucracy of immigration, a shifting web of government agencies whose policies have changed over time, like the nation’s anxieties about its borders. In the post-war years, and especially for San Francisco’s Chinese community, the building was synonymous with the notorious detention quarters located on the upper floors—and the suicide and hunger strike that sparked public outrage.

On September 21, 1948, Leong Bick Ha, a 32-year-old Chinese woman, hanged herself from a shower pipe in the building’s detention quarters. She had undergone a thorough examination in China, waiting several months to receive permission to enter the U.S. “Coming from afar to join her husband, she had already borne much suffering,” wrote  San Francisco’s Chinese press. But when she arrived in the city, it was only to be detained at Sansome Street for three months by immigration officials. Separated from her 15-year-old son, who was held in another part of the building, “the torment in her mind was inconceivable.”

Ha’s death was hardly the first incident at 630 Sansome Street. Just three months earlier, Huang Lai, a 41-year-old Chinese woman, climbed from the window of her cell and attempted to jump from a parapet on the building’s 14th floor. After six months’ detention, the constant threat of deportation, and a grueling interrogation in a language she barely knew, Lai had given up. It took San Francisco police three hours to rescue her. Crowds witnessed the ordeal from the sidewalk.

The detention quarters at Sansome Street were a legacy of Angel Island, the “Ellis Island of the West,” the major point of entry for immigrants who had crossed the Pacific, until a fire shut it down in 1940. Between 1910 and 1940, “about a half a million people entered or departed the country through Angel Island,” says Erika Lee, director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota. As Lee and her co-author Judy Yung show in Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America, “the island,” as it was known locally, wasn’t comparable to its counterpart in the East. Whereas Ellis Island came to symbolize an open-door nation of immigrants, the purpose of Angel Island was to close America’s gates, to restrict entry to newcomers from Asia. On Angel Island, the entire process was racially driven: Europeans were separated from Asians, and Chinese were segregated from Japanese and other nationalities. Most immigrants were held for a few hours—at most a few days—while inspectors performed routine checks for signs of disease, criminality, insanity or disability.

But not the Chinese, who were detained for longer periods pending intensive interrogation and verification of their eligibility to land. The majority stayed for three to four weeks, but many waited much longer, some even enduring years of confinement. A 1909 report, prepared for the Secretary of Labor as construction at Angel Island was underway, described the island’s “delightful. . .scenic, climactic, and health conditions.” The San Francisco Chronicle boasted of the “finest Immigration Station in the world.” But this rhetoric belied reality. Housing was cramped and poorly insulated, and inspectors reserved harsh, cruel methods for Chinese detainees. “The only place in the United States where a man is guilty until he is proved innocent is at the immigration station,” remarked Charles Jung, who worked as an interpreter on the island between 1926 and 1930.

Even in the decades prior to Angel Island’s existence, anti-Chinese violence had been a constant in the development of California and the West. The mid-19th century Gold Rush attracted Chinese laborers who sought jobs with mining companies or along an expanding network of railroads. In response, nativist movements and their members pressured employers to fire Chinese workers and lobbied U.S. officials to enact anti-Chinese measures. Years of populist agitation against the Chinese culminated in the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was signed into federal law in 1882. It was the first major federal law restricting immigration to the United States—and the first to target a specific group of immigrants.

Although the law banned most Chinese immigration and prohibited Chinese naturalization, an estimated 303,000 Chinese still entered the country during the exclusion period under its exempted categories: returning laborers, merchants, U.S. citizens, and the wives, sons and daughters of merchants. Yet immigration officials, tasked with enforcing the restrictions, treated all Chinese people with suspicion and contempt. Detention facilities resembled prisons, and the Chinese, who spoke little or no English, were expected to prove their identities and marital relationships in punishing interrogations.

The 1940 fire at Angel Island, blamed on an overloaded circuit in the basement of the administration building, destroyed the Immigration Station. The Immigration Naturalization Service (INS), the precursor to today’s Department of Homeland Security, scrambled to find a place to house detainees. The decision was to relocate to the Appraiser’s Building at Sansome Street, which was slated to open later that year. Wartime shortages of manpower and materials delayed construction. In 1944, following years of makeshift arrangements at a building on Silver Avenue, the INS made its permanent move. Gilbert Stanley Underwood, an architect known for his National Park lodges, train stations, and the San Francisco branch of the U.S. Mint, designed the soaring structure under the auspices of the New Deal’s Public Works Administration. Floors 10 through 16 were reserved for INS offices and “temporary housing for new immigrant arrivals awaiting entry processing.”

World War II transformed the status of the Chinese in America; an estimated 13,000 Chinese Americans enlisted in the armed forces and China, a U.S. ally, successfully pressured Congress to end exclusion in 1943. But conditions for Chinese immigrants at Sansome Street continued as if nothing had changed.

Leong Bick Ha arrived in San Francisco in 1948 to join her husband, former U.S. Army sergeant Ng Bak Teung of New York. He secured the right to bring her into the country under the War Brides Act, which waived immigration quotas for women who married American GIs. Amended in 1947 to include Asian spouses, the War Brides Act was supposed to expedite her move to the U.S. Yet Ha waited for three months at Sansome Street, separated from her son, while authorities investigated her marital status. Performing poorly at her interrogation, a nerve-wracking experience, she was told that her marriage could not be confirmed and deportation was imminent.

The Chinese-language press in San Francisco erupted in fury at the news of Ha’s death, citing “racial discrimination and the unreasonable immigration procedures that put stress on Chinese immigrants,” write historians Judy Yung, Gordon H. Chang, and Him Mark Lai, offering a roundup of Chinese editorial opinion in translation that appears in Chinese American Voices from the Gold Rush to the Present, a documentary collection. Ha’s story even traveled to China, where accounts of suffering at the hands of U.S. immigration authorities were not uncommon.

At Sansome Street, all 104 women detainees, the majority Chinese war brides like Ha, launched a hunger strike to protest immigration policies. Officials tried to downplay events, telling reporters that “the women did not eat because that was the way Chinese mourned the deceased,” says historian Xiaojian Zhao in her book Remaking Chinese America: Immigration: Family, and Community. “That these middle-aged Chinese country women would take group action against an agency of the U.S. government was inconceivable to the INS,” she adds. It wasn’t long before the American Civil Liberties Union got involved. Facing a storm of criticism from lawyers, local politicians, and the public, San Francisco’s INS district office shuttered the detention quarters in 1954, while keeping its offices in the building.

Today, 630 Sansome Street teems with activity. Run by the Department of Homeland Security, the building houses a number of federal immigration agencies. Citizenship oaths and interviews are administered to new and aspiring Americans on the sixth floor. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has its northern California field office on the fifth. Deportation cases are heard in the fourth-floor courtroom, where nervous energy and the sounds of Spanish fill the air. It’s one of the busiest immigration courts in the country, handling about 10,000 new cases a year, many from those seeking asylum from poverty and bloodshed in Central America.

“U.S. immigration history is often told as a narrative of progressive reform,” says Lee. Xenophobic attitudes that began with the Exclusion Act are said to have waned in the postwar period. The 1965 Immigration and Naturalization Act abolished national origins quotas restricting non-European immigration.

But reality tells a different story. Dramatic ICE raids might capture headlines, but for immigrants at Sansome Street, encounters with federal power are far more quotidian, if no less cruel. The building belongs to the slow, grinding immigration bureaucracy, and its history shows how anxieties have shifted, from the country’s western shores to its southern borders. Detention remains a key component of American immigration policy, but instead of the old system—under federal control and limited to major ports of entry—today, it’s often done through the private sector.

As CIVIC, an organization that monitors conditions at detention centers around the country, states on its website, “legal permanent residents with longstanding family and community ties, asylum-seekers, and victims of human trafficking are detained for weeks, months, and sometimes years.” Abuses at detention centers, many run by for-profit prison corporations are rampant, according to advocates. Immigrants in ICE custody have died of neglect and sexual assault is pervasive. The average daily population of detained immigrants was 5,000 in 1994. In 2014, it was 34,000, says the Detention Watch Network. A 2016 DHS report put the total number of immigrant detainees at 352,882. The U.S. is now home to the largest immigrant detention system in the world.

Today at Sansome Street, immigrants from Central America, fleeing poverty or seeking opportunity, find themselves in bureaucratic limbo, just as the Chinese once did. The building stands as a reminder that the troubled past isn’t past at all.

Disposition d'un Taffetas Faconne Deux Lats

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

The History of Baseball Stadium Nachos

Smithsonian Magazine

A Ricos advertisement for the nacho bowl from the early ’80s. Image courtesy of Ricos Products Co., Inc.

The smell of freshly cut grass, the crack of the bat, the 30 minutes standing in line at the concession stand. Baseball season is up and running and the experience of going to a game wouldn’t be the same without an expensive beer in one hand and a plastic receptacle of nachos covered in ooey-gooey cheese product in the other. But how did nachos become a stadium standard?

In September 1988, Adriana P. Orr, a researcher at the Oxford English Dictionary, was asked to trace the etymology of the word “nachos” and conducted an initial investigation of the nacho story. She followed a paper trail of documents and newspaper articles until she found what she was looking for in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress:

“As I walked down the long corridor leading back to the library’s central core, I heard a voice softly calling my name. There was a young woman I recognized as a staff member of the Hispanic Division…she told me she had been born and raised in Mexico and there, nacho has only one common usage: it is the word used as a diminutive for a little boy who had been baptized Ignacio. His family and friends call him Nacho… Now I was convinced there was a real Nacho somewhere who had dreamed up a combination of tortilla pieces with melted cheese and jalapeño peppers.”

Using this information, Orr tracked down a quote from the elusive 1954 St Anne’s Cookbook printed by The Church of the Redeemer, Eagle Pass, Texas, which includes a recipe for a dish called “Nachos Especiales.” 

What Orr would find is that, in 1943 in Piedras Negras, Mexico — just across the border from Eagle Pass, a group of hungry army wives were the first to eat the meal. When the ladies went to a restaurant called the Victory Club, the maitre d’, Ignacio “Nacho” Anaya greeted them. Without a chef around, Anaya threw together whatever food he could find in the kitchen that “consisted of near canapes of tortilla chips, cheese, and jalapeno peppers.” The cheese of choice was reportedly Wisconsin cheddar. Anaya named the dish Nachos Especiales and it caught on—on both sides of the border—and the orignal title was shortened to “nachos.”

Anaya died in 1975, but a bronze plaque was put up in Piedras, Negras, to honour his memory and October 21 was declared the International Day of the Nacho.

If Anaya is the progenitor of nachos especiales, then how did it happen that Frank Liberto came to be known as “The Father of Nachos”?  Nachos were already popular at restaurants in Texas by the time Liberto’s recipe hit the scene, but he’s famous in the industry for bringing his version of the dish to the concession stand in 1976 at a Texas Rangers baseball game in Arlington, Texas. What he did that no one else had done before, was create the pump-able consistency of the orangey-gooey goodness we see today—what the company calls “cheese sauce.”  Though some versions are Wisconsin cheddar-based like Anaya’s original, according to the company most of the products are blends. (According to the Food and Drug Administration’s standards, the sauce is technically not “cheese,” but that hasn’t stopped fans from pumping it by the gallons since). Liberto’s innovation didn’t need to be refrigerated and had a longer shelf life. His recipe was top secret—so secret that in 1983 a 29-year-old man was arrested for trying to buy trade secrets into Liberto’s formula.

As a concessionaire, transaction time was key—Frank didn’t want customers to wait more than a minute in line for their snack. To meet this demand, he came up with the idea of warming up a can of cheese sauce, ladling it over the chips and then sprinkling jalapeños on top. Frank’s son and current president of Ricos Products Co., Inc., Anthony ‘Tony’ Liberto, was 13 when Ricos introduced the product in Arlington Stadium. He recalls that the concession operators wouldn’t put the cheesy chips in the stands. They were afraid that the new product launch would cannibalize other popular items like popcorn, hotdogs and sodas.

“We had to build our own nacho carts,”  Liberto, now 50, says. “My dad has an old VHS tape where people were lined up 20 people deep behind these concession carts. You’d hear the crack of the bat and you’d think that they’d want to see what play was going on, but they stayed in line to get their nachos.”

This 35mm film trailer from the ’70s starring Nacho, Rico and Pepe was created by Walt Disney animators and was used during intermission at movie theaters. Image courtesy of Ricos Products Co., Inc.

It was an immediate success: That season Arlington Stadium sold Ricos’ nachos at the rate of one sale per every two-and-a-half patrons—over $800,000 in sales. Popcorn, which previously had the highest sales, only sold to one in 14 patrons for a total of $85,000. There is one ingredient to thank for that shift, Liberto says: The jalapeño pepper.

“When you put a jalapeño pepper on chips and cheese, of course it’s going to be spicy,” he says. “You’re going to start looking for your beverage—a Coke or Pepsi, whatever—you’re gonna need something to drink.”

Beverage sales spiked and hotdog and popcorn sales thereafter, he says. By 1978, the spicy snack became available at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, where iconic “Monday Night Football” announcer Howard Cosell would put nachos on the map. Cosell, a household name for football fans, sat alongside Frank Gifford and Don Meredith giving viewers the play-by-play, when a plate of nachos was brought to the broadcast room.

“Cosell was trying to take up some dead air and he says ‘They brought us this new snack—what do they call them? knock-o’s or nachos?’” recalls Liberto. “He started using the word ‘nachos’ in the description of plays: ‘Did you see that run? That was a nacho run!’”

Cosell and others used the word for weeks after, allowing nachos to branch out from their Texas birthplace.

“My father first sold a condensed formulation of the product,” Tony says. “You open up the can, add water or milk and pepper juice to the mix.”

Each number ten can contains 107 ounces of the condensed cheese conconction to which 32 ounces of water and 20 ounces of pepper juice are added. Once combined, the cheese blend is put into a dispenser like the pump or button-operated machines you see at concession stands today.

“That’s an added 52 ounces of servable product,” Tony says. “Nearly 50 percent more sauce  Plus, the water is free and the pepper juice you get from the jalapenos anyway. You get an additonal 52 0z to serve and it doesn’t cost the company a dime.”

Just to make this profit thing clear—some math: If you have an extra 52 ounces of product and each two-ounce serving of cheese sauce goes for four bucks a pop, that’s 100 dollars directly into the concessionaire’s cash register.

Today Ricos sells product to 57 countries and works with more than 200 distributors worldwide. Since the early ’80s the company has dominated the movie theater concession industry and now families can “make every game a home game” when they take a portion-controlled pack home to enjoy. 

An advertisement from 1956. The company responsible for stadium nachos surprisingly sells a lot of sno-cone products. Image courtesy of Ricos Products Co., Inc.

Tony has two children, a daughter (13) and a son (11), who he hopes will take an interest in working for the family business one day as he did. His niece, Megan Petri (fifth generation), currently works for Ricos Products Co., Inc. 

“We can’t go to any baseball game without getting an order of nachos,” says Liberto. “ says ‘I need my nachos I need my nachos.’ It’s like she needs her fix.”

His daughter is not alone in her affinity for her family’s invention. As millions of people crunch into their plates of chips and cheesiness at baseball games and movie theaters around the world, one question remains: How much cheese is actually in the nacho sauce?

“I will not tell you that,” he laughs. ”We’ve got lots of formulas and that is a a trade secret—you never want to give away how much cheese is in your product.”

Pilot, Thinker, Soldier, Spy: The Epic "Timeless" Season Finale Twofer

Smithsonian Magazine

Well, another season of Timeless has ended with a bang. Some predictable twists, some less so. As always, these writeups contain not just history but major plot spoilers, so read with caution.

The last two episodes of the season take us to Civil War-era South Carolina and San Francisco's Chinatown, circa 1888. As they aired together, we'll tackle them together.

First, South Carolina, June 1, 1863. In real history, this is the day that a ragtag group of soldiers pull off one of the most audacious operations of the entire war: sail gunboats into the heart of enemy territory, burn Southern plantations, and rescue all the enslaved people. Their leader? Harriet Tubman.

Born into slavery, Tubman suffered under various cruel masters. She escaped to Pennsylvania, and freedom, in 1849, at about age 27 (her birth year is contested), then returned to Maryland to rescue her family on the Underground Railroad. She would ultimately make 19 trips into slaveholding states to rescue enslaved people; conservative accounts say she rescued 70 people, other accounts say up to 300. When the Civil War broke out, she worked for the Union as a cook, nurse and spy.

Which brings us to June 1, 1863. On this night and into the pre-dawn hours of the following day, Tubman, under the command of Union Colonel James Montgomery, took between 150 and 300 black Union soldiers (the 2nd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry (African Descent)) up the Combahee River. The river was filled with mines, but Tubman had gathered intel on where they were. Three ships traveled up the river under cover of darkness. By dawn, they had reached the first plantation. Enslaved families ran for the boats, and the soldiers burned everything else.

As the podcast UnCivil reports, the Union freed 700 enslaved people that night. Most of the men of fighting age immediately enlisted in the Union Army.

This is one of those arresting stories that really ought to be taught in history class. (In a nod to the unfortunate relative obscurity of this story, even Lucy needs a refresher, provided by Rufus) In "Timeless," which gets the story mostly right, the mission seems fated for failure because Emma (BOO! HISS!) has given the Rittenhouse sleeper, a fictional Confederate colonel, a modern-day military history of the Civil War that gives him a roadmap to victory, including exactly where Montgomery’s Union troops are camping out. The Rebs massacre members of the 2nd South Carolina, Montgomery flees, and the raid looks to be doomed before it even started.

The Time Team meets up with Tubman, who insists on raiding the plantations, troops or no troops; Rufus is starstruck. Lucy, realizing that the raid will be a disaster for the Union without the extra manpower, goes with Flynn to convince Montgomery to return. Meanwhile, Rufus and Wyatt go incognito at a nearby plantation to find the sleeper and destroy the Confederate version of Gray’s Sports Almanac. Spoiler, they do both.

Then—at the end of episode nine—a twist: Jessica is a Rittenhouse agent. Curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal! She swipes Wyatt’s gun, forces Jiya into the Lifeboat and vanishes just in time for Wyatt to realize what an incredible idiot he's been. Whoops.

The season finale picks up where we left off. A slightly sedated Jiya escapes Rittenhouse HQ thanks to some fancy fighting (where'd you learn that, Jiya?) and zooms off in the Lifeboat with Jessica shooting behind her. Still drugged and piloting a Lifeboat damaged by one of Jessica’s bullets, Jiya’s unable to bring the time machine back to the bunker. Instead, she has jumped in time and space. But Where? And When? Knowing that Jiya will try to change the historical record to communicate with the present, Lucy hits the stacks and finds a photo of Jiya in San Francisco's Chinatown, circa 1888. There's also a message in the photo (written in Klingon, natch): GPS coordinates to where the Lifeboat has been hidden and two words: "DON'T COME."

Of course the team ignores the message. After they've fixed up the Lifeboat, which has been hiding under some bushes since Jiya hid it there 130 years ago, they immediately jump to late-19th century San Francisco and soon find her.

She's spent the last three years working in a seedy saloon and refuses to leave, explaining that her vision shows Rufus dying if and when she attempts to go back to the future. (The gold rush miners filling the bar here aren't exactly cowboys, per her doomsday vision, but they do all have bad teeth and spurs on their boots, so close enough.) Finally convinced to return after Lucy speechifies about friendship and family, events play out almost exactly as Jiya foresaw them. Acting quickly, Jiya prevents her vision—of a Rittenhouse sleeper stabbing Rufus in the back—from coming true, but she can't, tragically, save him from what’s hiding across the street, Emma’s gun.

The Time Team returns down a man, with everyone shocked in disbelief. This would be a depressing note to end on; the "rules" of time travel say that the team can never go back to a place they already were, and it'd take too long to train a new pilot to mount a rescue mission. But just as all hope is lost, what appears but another version of the Lifeboat. Out step older, more badass versions of Wyatt and Lucy. Just before the show closes, Lucy says to a stunned audience (and probably a not-insignificant number of gleeful #Lyatt shippers): "You guys wanna get Rufus back, or what?"

More of note:

  • NBC has yet to announce whether or not “Timeless” will be renewed for a third season, leaving quite a compelling cliffhanger for the rabid “clockblockers” out there.

  • Should there be a new season, there’s been a reshuffling in the House of Rittenhouse. While in San Francisco, Emma murders Lucy’s mom and “big bad” Nicholas Keynes in cold blood, accurately sensing that she was being pushed out of the organization. It’s now her and Jessica as the new matriarchs of Rittenhouse.

  • Episode 9 takes us deep into metaphysical sci-fi territory, with Jiya learning more about her visions from a mentally unstable pilot who's also been seeing visions. He tells her that he's been spending weeks inside his visions, "time traveling" inside his own head. He says he believes the visions are a gift, just like the gifts given to, he says, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, and Kirk Cameron. (Joan did say she spoke to God; your guesses are as good as ours on the other two people.) Another character who we learn is seeing visions? Harriet Tubman herself, who says that God told her to expect Wyatt and Rufus (and showed her a vision of them "stepping out of a giant metal ball, " aka the Lifeboat.) Are we to believe there were other famous people through history who traveled (at least in their heads) through time, and explained those visions through whatever lens made sense to them? Sure seems that way.

  • As in the show, Harriet Tubman did actually report having blackouts, seizures and visions. Historians believe they started when an overseer tried to throw a heavy object at another slave, but hit Tubman in the head instead. A devout Christian, Tubman attributed the visions to God speaking to her. She remained deeply religious her whole life. (Her hymnal is now in the collection of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.)

  • It seemed remarkably easy for Lucy to convince Montgomery to return—all she had to say is that there were 750 potential soldiers on the plantations. This number may have been exaggerated; again, historians believe that the total number of people freed, including including women and children, was closer to 700, putting the population of men of fighting age a bit lower. But, by 1863, the Union Army was in poor shape. After the Battle of Fredericksburg late the prior year, morale was low. Some historians believe that the Union was seeing 100 desertions a day. So perhaps Montgomery would have been thrilled to get a couple hundred replacement soldiers.

  • When Tubman first meets up with the Time Team, Wyatt says that General McClellan had sent them from the North to help. Actually, George McClellan had been sent back to his home in New Jersey months earlier after he failed to land a decisive victory against the Confederates after the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. Some historians believe he was doing the best he could; others argue that his own caution and incompetence caused the battle to end in more of a tie than a rout. McClellan's troops had, by '63, been transferred to Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside.

  • In the Chinatown episode, Lucy said she knew to look in a book about San Francisco—one she co-wrote with her mother, confusingly—because Jiya had been obsessed with it ever since she had her first vision of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction. (This happened at the end of season 1, as you may remember.) The Golden Gate, however, was far, far in the future in 1888. Construction began in 1933. The engineers primarily involved in its design, Joseph Strauss and Charles Ellis, were teenagers at the time.

  • Chinatown in San Francisco arguably was founded in the mid-1840s, when the first Chinese immigrants arrived. By 1880, the 12 square blocks of Chinatown were home to an estimated 22,000 people, and white San Franciscans were getting anxious. By that time, California and San Francisco had passed eight anti-Chinese laws, banning gongs, fining laundry operators and requiring men who wore their hair in a queue to have it cut, among other indignities. (Some of these laws were later repealed or declared unconstitutional.) The racist lawmakers were just getting started, though: 1882 saw the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first U.S. law passed that banned immigration on the basis of race. And in 1890, two years after our story is set, San Francisco passed a law that banned Chinese people, including citizens of Chinese descent, from living or working outside of “a portion set apart for...the Chinese.” (This law was mercifully declared unconstitutional the same year.)

That’s it for our writeups for now, unless NBC decides to renew this fan-favorite show for a third season. But we’re not quite done yet. Look out for our Q&A with co-creator Shawn Ryan to publish tomorrow.

How to Eat Like a King for Christmas

Smithsonian Magazine

From the kitchen window of Ivan Day’s snug 17th-century farmhouse in the far north of England, snow blankets the bald Cumbrian hills of Lake District National Park.

“Just look,” he chuckles, “You’re going to have a white Christmas early.” It’s the last time we will mention the weather.

But it’s only the beginning of our concentration on Christmas. Two weeks before perhaps the biggest feast day in the Christian realm, I’ve flown through a hurricane-strength gale and driven white-knuckled for hours on icy rural roads to reach Day, one of England’s most esteemed food historians. Twelve to 15 times each year, he teaches courses in historic cookery, allowing students access to his 17th-century pie molds and 18th-century hearth to recreate repasts of the past. His two-day historic food lessons range from Italian Renaissance cooking (spit-roasted veal and a quince torte made with bone marrow) to Tudor and Early Stuart cookery (herring pie and fruit paste) for a maximum of eight students. But in late November and early December, Christmas is on the table.

At Christmas, as in much of food history, he says, “What you find are the traditions of the aristocracy which filtered down from above. Everybody wanted what Louis XIV was eating.”

The same could be said today. From the bar to the back booths, nostalgia is on the rise in trend-setting restaurants. In Chicago, chef Grant Achatz of Alinea fame recently opened Next restaurant with quarterly menus that channel specific cultures and times, such as Paris circa 1912. In Washington D.C., America Eats Tavern from chef José Andrés prepares Colonial-era recipes. And in London, chef Heston Blumenthal runs Dinner restaurant with a menu composed entirely of dishes from the 14th through 19th centuries, such as savory porridge made with snails.

When chefs or curators, such as those at the Museum of London, need an authority on historic food, they turn to Ivan Day. A self-taught cook, Day has recreated period dishes and table settings for foundations such as the Getty Research Institute and television programs on the Food Network and the BBC. His food, including a larded hare and flummery jellies, is the centerpiece of “English Taste: The Art of Dining in the Eighteenth Century,” at the Houston Museum of Fine Arts through January 29, 2012.

Inside his white-washed cottage, just off the frost-covered kitchen garden, a blazing hearth warms the beamed, low-ceilinged workroom ringed in Day’s personal collection of food molds for everything from towering meat pies to single-serving jellies. A cross-section of English collectors and cooks has assembled here including a retired antiques dealer who carries a photo album of recently purchased antique cookware; a university department head and avid pastry maker; a winner of a reality TV cooking show, now teaching nutrition; and a former caterer.

“The earliest Christmas menu that we know is from the 17th century and describes white bread for Christmas,” begins Day. “If you were lowly, that might be your only treat.”

But if you were king in 1660, for the Christmas Day bill of fare, you might enjoy 20 dishes, including mutton broth and stuffed kid, for the first course alone. The second course on a historic menu listed 19 dishes, including “swan pye” or pie made with the waterfowl featuring a taxidermied bird atop the crust.

Our class will survey holiday dishes ranging from a modern-looking composed green salad circa 1660 to a Victorian plum pudding. We will create three meals over the course of two days that combine lessons in art, antiques and technology as much as cooking.

Standing between the fire and a dark wooden worktable, Day displays a cleaned 12-pound goose atop a cutting board. Next to it are large glazed ceramic bowls of premeasured ingredients for stuffing, a.k.a. pudding. The kitchen looks like the setting for a Tudor-era cooking show. The recipe is vague, calling for two handfuls of bread crumbs, an onion boiled in stock, sage leaves and a handful of suet, a hard fat that wraps a cow’s kidney and is sold, crumbled in England and will clearly be my first procurement hurdle stateside.

But it’s far from the last. The key to the roast goose is the hearth, an 18th-century iron fireplace inset with a shallow coal chamber roughly three feet tall reaching temperatures that chase us to the far, drafty end of the room.

“There’s plenty of fowl in this country. And coal gave us great roasting,” says Day, who calls himself a “barbecue man” out of affection for his hearth. “But you don’t roast over a fire, you roast in front of the fire.”

There we dangle the bird, stuffed, pinned together with a pewter skewer and trussed in string, for the next two hours, alternatingly spun three times clockwise and another three time counterclockwise by a jack developed by clockmakers in the 1700s. Fat immediately begins to trickle down, flavoring parboiled potatoes heaped in a dripping pan below.

Day next delegates a student to grind pepper in an antique wooden mortar for more pudding. “I bought this when I was 14,” he smiles. “That’s when I started my unhealthy interest in period cookery.”

Image by Elaine Glusac. If you were a kind in 1660, for the Christmas Day bill of fare, you might enjoy 20 dishes, including mutton broth and stuffed kid, for the first course alone. (original image)

Image by Elaine Glusac. Back in the day, according to Ivan Day, one of England's most esteemed food historians, selection was surprisingly great. (original image)

Image by Elaine Glusac. Though pies most often connote dessert today, their savory incarnations were an early form of food preservation. (original image)

Image by Elaine Glusac. Within six months, Day acquired 12 period cookbooks and by his mid-20s he owned a library of more than 200 from which he taught himself to cook. (original image)

It was the year prior, at 13, when he discovered John Nott’s The Cooks and Confectioners Dictionary, written in 1723. Within six months he had acquired 12 other period cookbooks and by his mid-20s he owned a library of more than 200 from which he taught himself to cook. “All of my teachers died 400 years ago,” he says.

A former botanist and former art teacher, Day considers historic food a lifelong passion and, for the past 20 years, a third career. The 63-year-old, with the scarred hands of a chef and the glinting eyes of a storyteller, combines an encyclopedic memory with the opinionated wit of a crusading academic. He also has talent for impersonation and does a spot-on Martin Scorsese phoning to ask if he will consult on the food for a film he helped produce, Young Victoria (Day agreed to do so). In teaching, he says over lunch of our now finished and succulent goose, “I’m interested in getting people in this country to be more inquisitive about their food culture. The vast majority of people are eating cheap food from stalls.”

Back in the day, according to the historian, selection was surprisingly great. Many of the luxury ingredients found in holiday dishes, such as almonds, currants, citrus and raisins, derive from the Islamic world, brought west in the Middle Ages with returning Crusaders. Several centuries later, peddlers roamed the countryside with sacks of spices like nutmeg and recipes called for exotics such as cassia buds, an aromatic spice related to cinnamon. “The variety of ingredients I’ve discovered is much wider than what we have now,” says Day. “In the 18th century in [the nearby village of] Penrith a woman could buy ambergris [a solidified whale excretion used as a flavoring agent], mastic [a gum used for thickening] and a half-dozen other things.”

Many of them make their most acclaimed appearance in plum pudding, the iconic English dessert that was mentioned as a Christmas treat in the 1845 book Modern Cookery and immortalized in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol featuring a nervous Mrs. Cratchit serving her version to the family’s ultimate delight.

Like other savory puddings, this one starts with bread crumbs and suet. Reaching for another generous bowl, Day breaks into a hearty English ditty,

“Plum pudding and pieces of pie,
My mother she gave me for telling a lie,
So much that I thought I should die,
For lumps of plum pudding and pieces of pie.”

We mix in currants, raisins, cloves, diced ginger and preserved orange peel and bind it with eggs, resulting in a wet, dense ball that Day declares “perfect for shot-putting.” Instead we push it into a Victorian-era greased “kosiki” mold, which resembles a castle with a central tower and four surrounding cupolas, where it will be boiled in a pot of water.

With their mix of prosaic and exotic ingredients, holiday puddings were the sorts of dishes the nobility would prepare for the poor on Christmas, doing their benevolent duty on a day that still celebrates hospitality and neighborliness.

“I call myself a culinary ancestor worshipper. It’s all about the people. There are voices from the past trying to explain how to do it.” He adds, “technology is the key.”

Turning our attention to dinner, we prepare a horizontal “cradle spit” caging an eight-pound standing rib roast rigged to a wind-up jack advanced by a slowly descending iron ball. “This is the sound of the 18th-century kitchen,” proclaims Day of the creaking cadence that will pace us over the next several hours while we construct a Christmas pie.

Though pies most often connote dessert today, their savory incarnations were an early form of food preservation. Meat pies could be cooled, drained of their juices via a hole carefully cut into the bottom of the pastry, and refilled with clarified butter, keeping without refrigeration for three months or more, like a canned good.

For our Christmas pie, we employ an elliptical-shaped, six-inch-tall mold with a nipped waist, fluted sides and hinged ends, lining it in pastry crust. Next we fill it with an assortment of poultry – “We tend to eat birds at Christmas when wild food is at its best, its plumpest” – layering in seasoned ground turkey with the breasts of turkey, chicken, partridge, pigeon and goose. Topping it with crust, we decorate the lid with pastry cut from fern-shaped wooden molds and form a rose of pastry petals.

Like pre-20th-century fashion, frippery was in vogue at the table. “Food has a visual aesthetic that reflects the aesthetics of the time,” says Day. “Now we are in an age of abstract modernity with splashes of this and that on the plate.”

Greeting us after a three-hour break before Christmas dinner—take two—is a hot brandy and lime punch with orange peels dangling out of the bowl. It’s the first recipe I feel confident I can replicate at home without scouring an antiques store. In the meantime, Day has prepared a plum pottage, a meat and fruit soup he calls “liquid Christmas pudding.” The 1730 recipe went out of fashion under the influence of King Louis XIV of France. “French cooking in the 17th and 18th centuries changes from cooking meat with fruit, which is of Islamic origin. They renounced sweet and sour flavors and elevated meaty, earthy flavors.”

In addition to its delectability, class time includes instruction in antiques, illustrated by our next morning’s attempt at a 1789 recipe for ice cream. Using a lidded pewter cylinder known as a sorbettier, we fill it with cream, simple syrup, preserved ginger and lemon juice and let it rest in a bucket of salt and ice outdoors in the drizzle of Sunday morning. Spun and stirred occasionally, it freezes about 20 minutes later. Spooned into a mold with layers of sponge cake and candied fruit, it becomes an “ice pudding.” With the remainder, we employ a seau à glace, a delicate 18th-century serving dish featuring a separate bowl that nests in a compartment for ice and salt topped by a lid designed to hold additional ice. Though it sits on the counter at room temperature for over an hour before lunch, the ice cream remains solid, a finale to the gorgeously striated poultry pie, now baked and sliced.

“When you start unraveling its function, you understand an object much more,” says Day, dishing ice cream onto plates and urging us to take seconds: “Christmas only comes but once a year.”

Unless you’re Ivan Day, for whom Christmas has been the subject of five lectures, two cooking courses and numerous television and radio appearances. For his own upcoming holiday, he plans a much simpler celebration. “All I want for Christmas,” he laughs, “is a digestive biscuit and a cream of cocoa.”

Elaine Glusac is a writer based in Chicago who specializes in food and travel.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
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