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A New Species Bonanza in the Philippines

Smithsonian Magazine

After six weeks in the Philippines trawling the ocean floor, canvassing the jungly flanks of volcanoes and diving in coral reefs, scientists believe they have discovered more than 300 species that are new to science. Their research constituted the largest, most comprehensive scientific survey ever conducted in the Philippines, one of the most species-rich places on earth.

The survey, led by the California Academy of Sciences, brought scores of bizarre and unexpected creatures into the annals of life as we know it. It revealed more than 50 kinds of colorful new sea slugs, dozens of spiders and three new lobster relatives that squeeze into crevices rather than carry shells on their backs. The scientists found a shrimp-eating swell shark that lives 2,000 feet under the sea, a starfish that feeds exclusively on sunken driftwood and a cicada whose call sounds like laughter.

For two weeks I shadowed teams of scientists—from seahorse specialists to spider experts—as they surveyed reefs, rain forests and the South China Sea. On a deep-sea vessel, scientists dropped traps and nets to obtain a glimmer of the life that exists in the shadowy depths. They surrounded each haul excitedly as it was deposited on deck, picking through the curious sea life and discarding the garbage that inevitably accompanied it. “To see live stalk crinoids”—feather stars—“come up that I’ve only seen as preserved specimens is like a scientist’s dream world!” said invertebrate zoologist Terrence Gosliner, who led the expedition, one afternoon as he sorted spindly starfish and coral from candy wrappers.

Three new species of deep-sea “bubble snails” that possess fragile, translucent, internal shells arrived in one trawl, along with a snake eel and two new “armored corals” called primnoids, which protect themselves against predatory nibbles from fish by growing large, spiky plates around each soft polyp. Ten-inch-long giant isopods as imagined by science fiction turned up in a trap. “If you saw District 9 I’m sure they modeled the faces of the aliens off these,” said marine biologist Rich Mooi, who studies sea urchins and sand dollars. Later that evening, the catch yielded several two-foot-long, mottled swell sharks that inflate their stomach with water to bulk up and scare off other predators.

“When I watch the trawl come up it’s like a window onto the frontier,” said Mooi. “You start going through this material wondering, ‘What are they doing down there? Are they interacting with each other?’ We’ve seen a very tiny percentage of that sea bottom—three-quarters of the planet is obscured by this endlessly restless mass of water you can’t see through.”

Many of the new species found in the survey had evaded science because of their small size—the 30 new species of barnacles discovered measure just fractions of an inch in length—while others lived in areas rarely visited by humans. A primitive, fernlike plant called a spikemoss was found growing on the precipitous upper slopes of a 6,000-foot volcano. “Our scientific understanding of this part of the world is still in its infancy,” said Gosliner. “For people interested in biodiversity and the distribution of organisms and evolution, the Philippines is a treasure trove.”

Yet it is a gravely imperiled treasure trove. The rate of species extinction in the Philippines is “1,000 times the natural rate,” according to the country’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources, because of deforestation, coastal degradation, unsustainable use of resources, climate change, invasive species and pollution. A recent study by Conservation International found that just 4 percent of the Philippines' forests remained as natural habitat for endemic species, and according to the World Wildlife Fund, destructive commercial fishing has left only 5 percent of coral reefs in the Philippines in excellent condition.

Scientists described the expedition this spring as a kind of emergency response. “We’re living in a burning house,” said Mooi. “In order for firemen to come in and make an effective rescue they need to know who’s in those rooms and what rooms they’re in. When we do biodiversity surveys like this we’re doing nothing less than making a tally of who’s out there, who needs to be paid attention to, and how can we best employ the resources we have to conserve those organisms.”

For years scientists have recognized a 2.2-million-square-mile area around Malaysia, Papua New Guinea and the Philippines as being home to the world’s highest diversity of marine plants and animals. It’s known as the Coral Triangle and considered the Amazon basin for marine life. The waters harbor 75 percent of the planet's known coral species and 40 percent of its coral reef fish.

In 2005 Kent Carpenter, an ichthyologist at Old Dominion University, identified the core of that diversity. Overlaying global distribution maps for nearly 3,000 marine species, including fishes and corals, sea turtles and invertebrates, Carpenter found that the highest concentration of marine species on the planet existed in the central Philippines. “I fell off my chair—literally—when I saw that,” Carpenter recalled recently. He dubbed the region “the Center of the Center.”

Image by Andy Isaacson. Scuba gear being loaded for a night dive in the Verde Island Passage, Philippines, a center of global marine diversity where California Academy of Sciences focused their shallow water survey. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences invertebrate zoologist and nudibranch expert Dr. Terrence Gosliner holds Hypselodoris sp., a colorful new species collected in the Verde Island Passage. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences marine biologist and seahorse/pipefish expert Healy Hamilton shows off a seahorse species from the Verde Island Passage. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences arachnologist Charles Griswold, an expert on spider morphology, uses a rubber straw to extract tiny spiders from leaf litter for his collection. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. In a patch of intact rainforest on the University of the Philippines Los Baños campus, Griswold and graduate students from San Francisco collect insects attracted to an illuminated white screen. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. “There’s a lot of good policies and regulations in place in the country, but the main weakness right now is enforcement,” says Romeo Trono, country director for Conservation International. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences botanist and moss expert Jim Shevoc inspects a collected specimen on Mt. Isarog. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences and Filipino scientists anticipate the catch—including shrimp and small sharks. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. On the deck of a deep sea vessel operated by the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, California Academy of Sciences invertebrate zoologist and echinoderm expert Rick Mooi displays an urchin caught in a trawling net more than 1,500 feet below the surface of the South China Sea, as scientists sort other marine life from trash and debris. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. Mooi displays a giant isopod caught in a trawling net more than 1,500 feet below the surface of the South China Sea. “If you saw District 9 I’m sure they modeled the faces of the aliens off these,” he said. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. Mooi sorts marine life from trash and debris. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. Scientists compare the various crustaceans pulled from the sea. (original image)

Image by Andy Isaacson. California Academy of Sciences ichthyologist John McCosker inspects a likely new species of shrimp-eating, deep sea swell shark that inflates its stomach with water to bulk up and scare off other predators. (original image)

The reasons for this are not entirely understood. The 7,107 islands that make up the Philippine Archipelago constitute the second-largest island chain in the world after Indonesia. The islands converged over millions of years from latitudes as disparate as those of present-day Hong Kong and Borneo, and they may have brought together temperate and tropical fauna that managed to get along in a crowded environment.

Another possible explanation is that the Philippines has a higher concentration of coastline than any country except Norway, providing a lot of habitat. It is also a place where species are evolving more rapidly than elsewhere. Populations become isolated from other populations due to oceanographic features such as swirling currents known as gyres. The populations then diverge genetically and become new species. “The only place on the planet where you have all of the above is in the Central Philippines,” said Carpenter.

A prime location for this diversity is the Verde Island Passage, a busy commercial sea route off Luzon Island, the largest island in the archipelago. During two decades of diving in the Verde Island Passage, Gosliner, the world’s foremost expert in nudibranchs, or sea slugs, has documented more than 800 species, half of them new to science. There are more species of soft corals at just one dive site than in all of the Caribbean. “Every time I go into the water here I see something I’ve never seen before,” he said.

One afternoon, Gosliner emerged from a dive into the shallow water reefs clutching a plastic collection bag that contained two nudibranchs, one colored a bright purple with orange tentacles. “Two new nudis!” he called out. “And the black and electric blue nudibranchs were mating like crazy down there. There were egg masses everywhere. They were having a good ole time.”

Unlike land slugs, nudibranchs have bright colors that advertise toxic chemicals in their skin. These chemicals may have pharmaceutical value, and several are in clinical trials for HIV and cancer drugs. Gosliner explained that the presence of nudibranchs, which feed on a wide variety of sponges and corals, “are a good indication of the health and diversity of the ecosystem.”

The Verde Island Passage ecosystem has faced immense pressures over the past few decades. In the 1970s, Carpenter worked as a Peace Corps volunteer with the Philippines Bureau of Fisheries. “Every 50 feet you’d see a grouper the size of a Volkswagen Bug, big enough to swallow a human being,” he recalls. Today, large predatory fish like sharks are virtually absent. Fishermen now harvest juveniles that haven’t had a chance to reproduce; “it’s at the very level where you can’t get any more fish out of oceans here,” says Carpenter. Destructive fishing methods have devastated the area’s coral. Illegal trade has exacted a further toll; this spring, Filipino officials intercepted a shipment of endangered sea turtles and more than 21,000 pieces of rare black corals bound for mainland Asia, for the jewelry trade.

“There’s a lot of good policies and regulations in place in the country, but the main weakness right now is enforcement,” says Romeo Trono, country director for Conservation International.

The Philippines has more than 1,000 marine protected areas, more than any country in the world, but only a few, Carpenter and other scientists say, are well managed. For 30 years, Apo Island, in the southern Philippines, has been held as a model for community-managed marine reserves. In 1982 a local university suggested the community declare 10 percent of the waters around the island a “no take” zone for fishermen. Initially resistant, the community eventually rallied behind the reserve after seeing how an increase in fish numbers and sizes inside the sanctuary spilled over into the surrounding waters. They established regulations against destructive fishing and a volunteer "marine guard" (called bantay dagat) to patrol the fishing grounds and prevent encroaching from outsiders. User fees from the marine sanctuary generate nearly $120,000 per year, and the tourist industry surged after the marine ecosystem recovered.

“Where marine protected areas have been established and populations of animals and fishes have been allowed to recover, they recover very well and very quickly,” says Gosliner. “The difference between diving in a marine protected area versus an area right next to it is like night and day.”

Over the next several months, California Academy scientists will use microscopes and DNA sequencing to confirm and describe these new species. The species lists and distribution maps created during the expedition, they hope, will help to identify the most important locations for establishing or expanding marine protected areas, as well as areas for reforestation that will reduce erosion and subsequent sedimentation damage to the reefs.

But for the scientists, the survey is just the beginning. “Being able to document the richest and most diverse marine environment on the planet” will help them “get an understanding of what the dimensions of diversity are,” said Gosliner. “We really don’t know the answer to that fundamental question.”

Andy Isaacson is a writer and photographer who lives in Berkeley, California. His reporting was made possible by a grant from Margaret and Will Hearst that funded the expedition.

Ten Famous Intellectual Property Disputes

Smithsonian Magazine

1. S. Victor Whitmill v. Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.
In the recent movie The Hangover Part II, Stu Price, a strait-laced dentist played by actor Ed Helms, wakes up after a night of debauchery in Bangkok to find a tribal tattoo wrapped around his left eye, his skin still painfully pink. Price’s tattoo is identical to the one Mike Tyson has, and it alludes to the boxer’s cameo in the original 2009 movie The Hangover.

Tyson’s tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment on April 28, just weeks before the movie’s May 26 opening. Since he obtained a copyright for the eight-year-old “artwork on 3-D” on April 19, he claimed that the use of his design in the movie and in advertisements without his consent was copyright infringement. Warner Bros., of course, saw it as a parody falling under “fair use.”

On May 24, 2011 Chief Judge Catherine D. Perry of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri denied an injunction on the movie’s release, but said Whitmill still had a case. If it meant avoiding a long trial, Warner Bros. said, in early June, that it would be willing to “digitally alter the film to substitute a different tattoo on Ed Helms’s face” when the movie is released on home video. But that ending was avoided on June 17, when Warner Bros. and Whitmill hashed out an agreement of undisclosed terms.

2. Isaac Newton v. Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz
By the early 18th century, many credited the German mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz with inventing the study of calculus. Leibniz had, after all, been the first to publish papers on the topic in 1684 and 1686. But when Englishman Isaac Newton published a book called Opticks in 1704, in which he asserted himself as the father of calculus, a debate arose. Each of the thinkers’ respective countries wanted to stake a claim in what was one of the biggest advances in mathematics.

Newton claimed to have thought up the “science of fluxions,” as he called it, first. He apparently wrote about the branch of mathematics in 1665 and 1666, but only shared his work with a few colleagues. As the battle between the two intellectuals heated up, Newton accused Leibniz of plagiarizing one of these early circulating drafts. But Leibniz died in 1716 before anything was settled. Today, however, historians accept that Newton and Leibniz were co-inventors, having come to the idea independently of each other.

3. Kellogg Co. v. National Biscuit Co.
In 1893, a man named Henry Perky began making a pillow-shaped cereal he called Shredded Whole Wheat. John Harvey Kellogg said that eating the cereal was like “eating a whisk broom,” and critics at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893 called it “shredded doormat.” But the product surprisingly took off. After Perky died in 1908 and his two patents, on the biscuits and the machinery that made them, expired in 1912, the Kellogg Company, then whistling a different tune, began selling a similar cereal. In 1930, the National Biscuit Company, a successor of Perky’s company, filed a lawsuit against the Kellogg Company, arguing that the new shredded wheat was a trademark violation and unfair competition. Kellogg, in turn, viewed the suit as an attempt on National Biscuit Company’s part to monopolize the shredded wheat market. In 1938, the case was brought to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of the Kellogg Company on the grounds that the term “shredded wheat” was not trademarkable, and its pillow shape was functional and therefore able to be copied after the patent had expired.

4. Marcantonio Raimondi v. Albrecht Dürer
Artist Albrecht Dürer discovered in the early 1500s that a fellow engraver by the name of Marcantonio Raimondi was copying one of his most famous works, a woodcut series of engravings called the Life of the Virgin. To make his prints, Raimondi carved detailed replicas of Dürer’s wood blocks. The prints, with Dürer’s “A” above “D” signature, could pass as Dürer originals, and Raimondi made considerable profits off of them. Dürer took issue and brought his case to the court of Venice. Ultimately, the court ruled that Raimondi could continue making copies, as long as he omitted the monogram.

5. Mattel Inc. v. MGA Entertainment Inc.
Barbie was 42 years old when the exotic, puffy-lipped Bratz dolls Cloe, Jade, Sasha and Yasmin strolled onto the scene in 2001. Tensions escalated as the Bratz seized about 40 percent of Barbie’s turf in just five years. The Bratz struck first. In April 2005, their maker MGA Entertainment filed a lawsuit against toy powerhouse Mattel, claiming that the line of “My Scene” Barbies copied the big-headed and slim-bodied physique of Bratz dolls. Mattel then swatted back, accusing Bratz designer Carter Bryant for having designed the doll while on Mattel’s payroll. Bryant worked for Mattel from September 1995 to April 1998 and then again from January 1999 to October 2000, under a contract that stipulated that his designs were the property of Mattel.

In July 2008, a jury ruled in favor of Mattel, forcing MGA to pay Mattel $100 million and to remove Bratz dolls from shelves (an injunction that lasted about a year). But the two toy companies continued to duke it out. This April, in yet another court case, underdog MGA prevailed, proving that Mattel was actually the one to steal trade secrets.

Image by © Bettmann / CORBIS. After Henry Perky, the inventor of the first shredded wheat cereal, died in 1908 and his two patents, on the biscuits and the machinery that made them, expired in 1912, the Kellogg Company began making a similar pillow-shaped cereal. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures / Everett Collection. Mike Tyson's tattoo artist S. Victor Whitmill filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. Entertainment this spring, claiming that the use of his design in the movie The Hangover Part II was copyright infringement. (original image)

Image by Albrecht Dürer. In the early 1500s, Marcantonio Raimondi produced copies of artist Albrecht Dürer's series Life of the Virgin. His versions even included Dürer's distinctive monogram, shown at the bottom of this original. (original image)

Image by © Carl Robbins / epa / Corbis. Barbie was 42 years old when the exotic, puffy-lipped Bratz dolls strolled onto the scene in 2001. Tensions escalated as the Bratz seized about 40 percent of Barbie's turf in just five years. (original image)

Image by © Jerry Talfer / San Francisco Chronicle / Corbis. A&M Records, as well as several other record companies, accused Napster, a peer-to-peer music sharing service, of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. In 2002, Napster was shut down. (original image)

Image by © Alexandra Beier / Reuters / Corbis. Adidas, which has used its three-stripe mark since 1952, was miffed when Payless started selling confusingly similar athletic shoes with two and four parallel stripes. (original image)

6. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc.

“Weird Al” Yankovic has a policy of writing a parody of a song only if he gets permission from the artist. In the late 1980s, the rap group 2 Live Crew attempted to play by the same rules. Luther Campbell, one of the group members, changed the refrain of Roy Orbison’s hit “Oh, Pretty Woman” from “pretty woman” to “big hairy woman,” “baldheaded woman” and “two-timin’ woman.” 2 Live Crew’s manager sent the bawdy lyrics and a recording of the song to Acuff-Rose Music Inc., which owned the rights to Orbison’s music, and noted that the group would credit the original song and pay a fee for the ability to riff off of it. Acuff-Rose objected, but 2 Live Crew included the parody, titled “Pretty Woman,” on its 1989 album “As Clean as They Wanna Be” anyway.

Acuff-Rose Music Inc. cried copyright infringement. The case went to the Supreme Court, which, in so many words, said, lighten up. “Parody, or in any event its comment, necessarily springs from recognizable allusion to its object through distorted imitation,” wrote Justice David Souter. “Its art lies in the tension between a known original and its parodic twin.”

7. Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh v. The Random House Group Limited
Authors Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh surfaced in 2004 with claims that Dan Brown had cribbed the “central theme” and “architecture” of their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Though Baigent and Leigh’s book was nonfiction and Brown’s The Da Vinci Code was fiction, they both boldly interpret the Holy Grail as being not a chalice but the bloodline of Jesus and Mary Magdalene, who they alleged had a child together.

Baigent and Leigh accused Random House—ironically, their own publisher, as well as Brown’s—for copyright infringement. A London court ruled, in 2006, that historical research (or “historical conjecture,” as was the case with The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail) is fair game for novelists to explore in fiction. “It would be quite wrong if fictional writers were to have their writings pored over in the way The Da Vinci Code has been pored over in this case by authors of pretend historical books to make an allegation of infringement of copyright,” wrote Justice Peter Smith in his decision.

8. Lucasfilm Ltd. v. High Frontier and Lucasfilm v. Committee for a Strong, Peaceful America
When politicians, journalists and scientists, in the mid-1980s, nicknamed the Reagan administration’s Strategic Defensive Initiative (SDI), the “star wars” program, George Lucas’s production company was miffed. It did not want the public’s positive associations with the term to be marred by the controversial plan to place anti-missile weapons in space.

In 1985, Lucasfilm Ltd. filed a lawsuit against High Frontier and the Committee for a Strong, Peaceful America—two public interest groups that referred to SDI as “star wars” in television messages and literature. Though Lucasfilm Ltd. had a trademark for Star Wars, the federal district court ruled in favor of the interest groups and their legal right to the phrasing so long as they didn’t attach it to a product or service for sale. “Since Jonathan Swift’s time, creators of fictional worlds have seen their vocabulary for fantasy appropriated to describe reality,” read the court decision.

9. A&M Records, Inc. v. Napster Inc.
In 1999, to the dismay of musicians around the world looking to sell albums, Shawn Fanning, an 18-year-old whiz kid studying computer science at Northeastern University, created Napster, a peer-to-peer music sharing service that allowed users to download MP3s for free. A&M Records, part of Universal Music Group, a heavy hitter in the music industry, as well as several other record companies affiliated with the Recording Industry Association of America slapped Napster with a lawsuit. The plaintiffs accused Napster of contributory and vicarious copyright infringement. The case went from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, where Napster was found guilty on both counts. In 2002, Napster was shut down. Grokster, another music-sharing site, surged on for a few more years, but it too stopped operating when the Supreme Court ruled against it in MGM v. Grokster in 2005.

10. Adidas America Inc. v. Payless Shoesource Inc.
In 1994, Adidas and Payless got into a scuffle over stripes. Adidas had used its three-stripe mark as a logo of sorts since 1952, and had recently registered it as a trademark. But Payless was selling confusingly similar athletic shoes with two and four parallel stripes. The two companies hashed out a settlement, but by 2001, Payless was again selling the look-alikes. Fearing that the sneakers would dupe buyers and tarnish its name, Adidas America Inc. demanded a jury trial. The trial lasted seven years, during which 268 pairs of Payless shoes were reviewed. In the end, Adidas was awarded $305 million—$100 million for each stripe, as the Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog calculated.

Otherworldly Photos From Inside One of the World's Largest River Caves

Smithsonian Magazine

Deep in Laos lies a four mile-long river cave—an underground cache filled with 65-foot stalagmites, gigantic rimpools, cave pearls and even (gulp) giant spiders. Though it opened to tourists in 2005, Tham Khoun Xe's location is so remote and the cave's watery interior so extensive (with occasional underground rapids blocking the way), few have explored it. ​

For photographer Ryan Deboodt, Tham Khoun Xe's inaccessibility offered a tantalizing challenge. Deboodt has spent a good portion of the last five years underground documenting caves, which are among the world’s least-documented geological formations. Some speleologists estimate that at least half of the world's caves have never been visited by humans.

At first, Deboodt didn't plan on devoting his career to photographing caves: He just wanted to explore them. The Bejing-based photographer first began documenting his otherworldly subjects in 2011, when his wife’s job took the couple to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Their move coincided with a deluge of caving discoveries in the region—most notably the exploration of Hang Sơn Đoòng, the world’s largest cave passage. After coming face to face with some of these spectacular formations, Deboodt felt compelled to share these hidden landscapes with the world.

Deboodt's recent exploration of Tham Khoun Xe took the photographer farther into the cave than most tourists get to go. He and his companions spent two days kayaking seven kilometers on the underground river, portaging over rapids, and exploring several of the caves many side chambers, returning outside only in the evenings to set up camp. 

Tham Khoun Xe Cave has one of the largest known river passages in the world, as the Xe Bang Fai River snakes through it to eventually meet the Mekong River. The cave, which stretches an average of 76 meters in width and 56 meters in height, was formed as the river carved through the layers of sandstones and carbonates that make up the Nakhai Plateau. Known by locals for centuries, the first international explorer to enter the cavern was Paul Macey, who traversed the entire river passage by bamboo raft in 1905. Political turmoil in the region kept international researchers from further explorations for almost 90 years, but new expeditions in 1995 and 2006 brought renewed attention to the cave. These trips documented stunning formations including 20-meter-tall stalagmites and an extensive area of rimstone pools, tiered pools of water rimed by calcite deposits.

Armed with multiple cameras, video equipment, a drone and plenty of back-up flashlights, Deboodt braved the cavern's depths and got some spectacular photos in return. He talks to about the experience:

What got you interested in documenting Tham Khoun Xe?

I went with a group of people that I’ve done a lot of work with. It was a trip they wanted to do for a while. I don’t want to say it’s a well-known cave, but it's known among cavers. It’s one of the largest active river cave passages in the world, so my friends in Vietnam were really excited, and I got asked to come along and photograph and film it.

The cave only opened up to tourists around 2005?

It’s in Hin Namno National Park in Laos. The national park takes people in. I think you can go in around 300 meters or two kilometers in. So that’s what they do with tourists. For our trip, we went all the way through the cave, so a total of seven kilometers. The national park [invited] us to take a look and photograph it.

Describe your journey to the cave.

It’s a pretty big journey. We started in Vietnam and crossed the boarder to Laos. Once we got to Laos, the road condition was quite poor. Dirt roads, and the bridges were damaged from floods from the previous years. It took a day of driving to get to the cave. When we got to the cave, we set up camp by the downstream entrance. From there, we spent two days kayaking inside the cave. We started at the downstream entrance and then went to the upstream entrance. Through the caves there are about seven to eight small waterfalls where we had to get out and carry our kayaks.

What geological formations stood out to you?

Since it’s still an active river cave, there’s actually not a lot in the main passage. The flooding every year washes the big stuff away, so a lot of the stuff is in the side passages, but there’s really some huge stuff there. The shot of the person standing in one of the big rimpools? That’s one of the largest rimpools in the world. Off to the sides, there are these amazingly large stalagmites and stalactites. It’s very empty, but then you look up in the distance and see these huge stalagmites. It’s a very strange feeling—it’s so empty and yet there’s so much big stuff on the sides.

Did you come across any wildlife?

I didn’t see any cave life in there, but what we did find—and this is a report that was done by cavers before—were [the remains of] some extremely large spiders. In some parts of cave, you can find their legs. We saw these things that looked kind of like sticks, but it turned out they were big spider legs. Seeing how big those legs were, you could just tell how big those spiders are. It’s not something that you really care to run into in the dark.

It sounds like something out of Tolkien. What about video interests you, in comparison to still photography?

It just creates a new perspective for me on the caves and a new challenge. Cave photography is already really difficult, and filming is another step up. You have to deal with all the movements, and it’s quite a bit harder. I like the challenge involved with it. Also, sometimes by filming caves, you can experience the cave in a different way than you can through still photos. I especially like using drones or quadcopters in the cave; it’s a whole new perspective on caves. It shows the immense size of them very well.

What did you use to shoot this cave?

For all the areal shots I had a DJI Phantom Three. For ground shots, I used a Sony a7S.

Which images have stayed with you the most from the shoot?

By far my favorite image is the photo where I’m up high looking [down] on two people on boats riding up the water with the daylight coming in through the entrance. That’s definitely a shot that I won’t forget.

What was it like to capture that moment?

It was a steep climb. I was shooting really high above the water—basically I was on a little balcony that formed near the ceiling of the cave. So you climb up there, you look down on the river and on the entrance—it’s a stunning sight with the two boats there with the light hitting the water. It was something special.

Did you encounter anything unexpected during the shoot?

One shot in the film is this really long straight passage. That doesn’t happen very often in caves. You’re standing on one end and looking down on the other end and it’s just massive, this straight, long, huge passage. That’s stuff that when you come across, it’s surprising. To see things that big, that straight and the fact that nature built it so straight and it’s not manmade, it’s surprising.

Were you hoping to get anything across through this series?

A big thing I wanted to show was how large this cave really was. I set up in places where we look small and the cave passages look big. That’s one of my driving motivations for a lot of my cave stuff, showing the immense scale—showing how unbelievable it is that these places actually form.

What keeps you coming back to caves in Vietnam?

Some of these caves nobody has ever been in, nobody’s ever seen. Or people have seen just the entrance. A lot of times, we work with people who used to illegally hunt in the jungle, who now help find caves and basically work as porters, cook our food and that kind of stuff. They’ll take us to places they’ve seen [during their] time in the jungle. [It's] a steadier income, and they can rely on this income. At least one company runs tours through the caves, and they employ 200 local people as porters. Now they have steady incomes, and they don’t have to worry about being arrested because hunting in the jungle [a protected park] is illegal.

What are some popular misconceptions about caves?

There’s a surprising amount of people who think the caves are pre-lit. I also think some people don’t realize how fragile caves are. You can be walking through and, for example, [come] across cave pearls. They’ve formed over thousands of years, and they’re these small little rocks—most times perfectly round—and they look like pearls. They’re just rocks, and if you walk on them, if you touch them, that can stop the formation because [of] the oils of your skin. That is how fragile the cave pearls are. The oils of your skin make it so the calcite no longer sticks to the cave pearls and they stop forming. Some of the stalagmites can be formed on mud, so if you touch them, they can fall over. If you hit [the ceiling with] your head, it can destroy [stalactites] that have formed for hundreds of thousands of years—and it’ll take that long for them to form again.

What’s your next project?

I have a couple things I’m working on. This past year, I set up some time-lapse cameras in caves in Vietnam to document the flooding there. I set up three cameras inside of a cave that took a photo once an hour for six months, hopefully capturing something really unique there. I’m going to Vietnam this week or next week to pick up my camera. [Then] I’m going on a five-week caving expedition to search and explore new caves.

Keep track of Deboodt's latest projects by following him here.

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Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Screen printed with fabric swatches. Floral, paisley and plaid designs printed in pastel colors.

Where Did the FDA Come From, And What Does It Do?

Smithsonian Magazine

In the past month, the Trump administration has already started to reshape the alphabet soup of federal agencies that regulate Americans’ food, air and water. Most of the spotlight has been on the Environmental Protection Agency, which underwent a hearing this week titled “Make EPA Great Again” that laid out a controversial bill seeking to limit the scientific data the agency can use to create regulations. But there are plenty of other science-focused agencies that regulate issues critical to Americans’ health and well-being.

As fundamental changes come to some of these agencies, it’s worth looking back at how they originated and what they actually do. We’ll start with the Food and Drug Administration, which exists to ensure the safety of America's food, cosmetics, drugs and medical devices. For most Americans, the phrase “FDA approved” serves a seal of trust: It means that the product in your hands—whether it’s a tube of lipstick, an insulin pump or a condom—has been deemed scientifically, medically and nutritionally sound. But who’s doing all that vetting?

What it does

Overall, the FDA estimates that it regulates roughly $1 trillion worth of products annually. These include consumer products that emit radiation, such as microwaves and sunlamps, and even tobacco products and pet and livestock food and medicines. 

The FDA conducts this regulation through the rules it issues, and employs more than 14,000 people to inspect food and drug production and conduct research into new technologies for inspection. (Meat, poultry and eggs fall under the jurisdiction of the Department of Agriculture, while tap water falls under the purview of the EPA.)

How it came to be

The FDA got its start with the passage of the country’s first major food and drug safety bill, the 1906 Pure Food and Drug Act. That law's origins stem from a decades-long fight for the government to regulate food.

As the Industrial Revolution swept America, the production of food and medicine became a large-scale enterprise. Inventions like canning allowed foods to last long enough to be shipped around the country, and sit on store shelves for extended periods. Meanwhile, "patent medicines" started being sold in catalogs for a variety of ailments. This industrialization put a new veil between consumer and product: Besides artful labels and hyped slogans, there was no way of knowing what a product really contained.

Naturally, manufacturers began to exploit this ambiguity. Using spices or additives, canners could mask the taste of expired meat and other substandard ingredients. Many patent medicines ended up relying on large quantities of morphine or cocaine to give users a high instead of actually healing them.

The federal government largely took a hands-off approach to food and drug safety at this time. It didn't help that manufacturers had a significant influence on Congress through aggressive lobbying. But there was resistance from within: One of the most powerful advocates of food and drug regulation was Harvey Wiley, who served as head of the USDA's Bureau of Chemistry. Wiley’s official role was to support scientific developments to help farmers, but his passion was to make America's foods and medicines safe.

Wiley tapped into a network of powerful support: millions of American women who feared for the safety of themselves and their families. Led by activist Alice Lakey, these women formed an unstoppable crusade of lobbyists. "Historians and Dr. Wiley himself credit the club women of the country for turning the tide of public opinion in favor of the 'pure food' bill," FDA historian Wallace Janssen wrote in 1981.

The crusade for the Pure Food and Drug Act received a final push from the 1906 publication of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle. This powerful exposé, which set out to document the inhumane labor conditions in America's factories, also ended up drawing attention to the horrifically unsanitary production of many processed foods. As Sinclair famously wrote: “I aimed at the nation's heart and by accident hit its the stomach." Around the same time, muckraking journalist Samuel Hopkins Adams published a 12-part expose on the fraudulence and dangers of the patent-medicine industry in the widely read Collier’s magazine. Soon after the book and series’ publication, an outraged President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill into law on June 30, 1906.

The law was nicknamed the Wiley Act, and regulation power was given to Wiley's Bureau of Chemistry. Later amendments and laws expanded and reorganized the agency, which eventually grew into today’s Food and Drug Administration.

A key accomplishment

The FDA has maintained its watch over the American consumer for a century. One of its most famous accomplishments was its rejection of thalidomide, a widely used drug that was later revealed to cause significant birth defects. The drug was marketed extensively in Europe in the late 1950s as a way to suppress morning sickness in pregnant women. At the time, doctors thought that drugs given to a mother couldn’t affect fetuses. Thus, they didn’t even bother to test its safety for developing babies.

When thalidomide’s manufacturers sought approval from the FDA to sell the drug in the U.S. in 1960, FDA inspector Frances Kelsey put the brakes on the process by requesting the company conduct more safety studies. The following year, reports of thousands of babies being born with severe birth defects started coming out. The FDA’s work on thalidomide earned Kelsey praise from President John Kennedy and helped spur the passage of amendments strengthening the FDA’s drug review process.

“Her exceptional judgment in evaluating a new drug for safety for human use has prevented a major tragedy of birth deformities in the United States,” Kennedy said while awarding her with a medal for distinguished federal service in 1962.

Major criticisms

One of the biggest critiques against the FDA in recent years has been for its continued approval of opioid medicines, despite the increasingly devastating epidemic of opioid abuse nationwide, with overdoses now killing 91 people per day, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“They’re listening to these patients, and the people who stand to gain a lot financially from opiates, instead of taking notice of the evidence,” University of Washington physician Jane Ballantyne told Roll Call in 2015.

Ballantyne, who also served as president of the Physicians for Responsible Opioid Prescribing, said that the FDA had repeatedly declined to consider the highly addictive nature of opioid drugs when it reviewed the medicines. This left many patients unaware of the dangers of the pain medicines they were prescribed.

Marion Nestle, a food historian and professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University, also worries about the FDA’s rapid approval of many other kinds of drugs. This process, she says, has led to the approval of controversial drugs that she believes should not have been marketed. “The drug industry wants fast approval of the drugs that it’s coming up with, whether they work or not,” she says.

Its leadership

The majority of the FDA's leaders have been medical doctors. This includes the most recent Commissioner of Food and Drugs, cardiologist Robert Califf. Califf, who worked at Duke University for 35 years before being appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as commissioner in 2015. In an exit interview with the Washington Post last month, Califf defended his efforts to speed up the approval of generic drugs to fight the rising cost of medicines while still cracking down on ineffective medicines.

"I think we have pretty clear evidence from the public that they would like to have a system that's giving them some assurance that the treatments they are given work," Califf says.

In response to rumors that the next FDA commissioner may come from the investment world, Nestle says that a non-medical or scientific figure would reshape the agency in potentially negative ways. “To put somebody who doesn't have any science background at all in that job turns it into a very different kind of agency,” says Nestle, who has also served on the FDA’s science advisory board. She also calls for strong future government support for the FDA, despite its shortcomings.

“It's an enormously important agency that needs more funding, not less,” she says.

A ridiculous fact

Maggots are an FDA-approved medical device. In 2004 the agency certified that doctors could use these creepy-crawlies to safely clean dead and infected tissue from open wounds, and help stimulate healing growth. And they aren't the only bug the agency regulates: Leeches and worms are also recognized as medical treatments. Something to think about the next time you see the words "FDA approved."

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of Smithsonian primers on science-driven government agencies and how they came about.

Connecting objects with place: 5 stories of innovation from "Object Project"

National Museum of American History

The Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project is a new interactive learning space opening on July 1. Here, we're highlighting five objects that will be on display—all of which have unique stories tying them to the places where they were invented. Because of certain resources, innovators, and geographical characteristics, these objects came to exist at specific times and places. Through authentic objects and interactive experiences, the Taylor Foundation Object Project will let visitors explore how social and technological changes transformed everyday life.

1. Mother-of-pearl buttons for mass-produced clothing: Muscatine, Iowa, 1890s

Ready-to-wear clothing became increasingly popular in 1890s America. Access to this mass-produced clothing, sold in catalogs and department stores, gave people of all social classes the opportunity to choose from popular styles at affordable prices. With this increasing demand for rapidly produced clothing came a greater need for buttons.

A German button maker named John Frederick Boepple opened a button factory in Muscatine, Iowa, in 1887. With its location right on the Mississippi River, Muscatine offered easy access to American freshwater mollusks that contained mother-of-pearl. This is a strong inner layer in the shells of some mollusks, and it also forms the lustrous coating on the outside of pearls. Workers at button factories all along the Mississippi River used tubular saws to cut round shapes from mussel and clam shells, which were then ground to standard thickness, drilled, and polished. By 1905, Muscatine produced 1.5 million pearl buttons per year—supplying nearly 40 percent of the world's buttons. The pearl button industry began to decline in the 1930s, faced with foreign competition, the production of plastic buttons, and the growing popularity of the zipper.

2. Maytag washing machines in a farming community: Newton, Iowa, 1900s

Frederick Louis Maytag moved to Newton, Iowa, in 1893 and started a farm equipment company. He began producing washing machines during the winter, when farm machinery sales were down. Though Fred Maytag did not invent the first washing machine, he made a number of innovative improvements to it. Maytag introduced a "multi-motor" model in 1914 that was available with either an electric motor or a gasoline engine—a feasible solution for farms that lacked electricity. Farmers were early adopters of the automobile and were also likely to have farm equipment that ran on gasoline, making the fuel a convenient power source for washers as well.

The company's leadership position in the washing machine industry was cemented when one of its engineers, Howard Snyder, designed the "gyratator"—now known as the agitator—to churn the water, a design concept that washing machines still rely on today. Maytag also developed the wringer attachment, for squeezing excess water out of clothing.

A Maytag Model 32/33 washing machine will be on display in the Taylor Foundation Object Project. By looking at its serial number, we know that it was produced in Newton between February 1937 and August 1941.

3. Ceramic containers for the new refrigerator: East Liverpool, Ohio, 1930s

This Ohio town was named East Liverpool by English potters who settled there in the 1830s. Bringing the pottery trade to this region was a natural fit; East Liverpool was rich with natural clay deposits. Since the beginning of the pottery industry in East Liverpool, the town has been home to at least 300 different potteries. Robert Hall formed the Hall China Company in the early 1900s but died soon after, leaving his son, Robert Taggert Hall, to take over the business. The younger Hall adopted a single-fire process, using a glaze that would withstand higher heat and expedite the firing process.

In the 1930s, Hall China introduced its line of refrigerator ware. The refrigerator's popularity grew throughout the 1930s, as a replacement for the icebox. Hall's refrigerator ware included containers for leftovers, water pitchers, and butter dishes. This line of pottery is still known for its bright colors and durability.

4. Concentrated juice to preserve Florida orange freshness: Lakeland, Florida, 1940s

The Sunshine State is far and away the biggest producer of oranges, but it wasn't always possible to get that Florida-fresh taste in other parts of the country. Canned juice was easy to ship, but the flavor left something to be desired. During World War II, the U.S. Army wanted to improve both the taste and nutritional value of food for troops. At the time, soldiers were given lemon crystals with vitamin C, but many chose not to eat them because of the bitter taste. The Florida Citrus Commission asked a team of three researchers, C.D. Atkins, Edwin L. Moore, and L.G. MacDowell, to see if they could come up with a solution. Working at a laboratory in Lakeland, FL, they devised the "cutback" process, patented in 1948. This involved first heating the orange juice to evaporate the water in it, then adding back some fresh juice right before freezing it.

Adding cutback restored both fresh flavor and vitamin C, much of which was lost during the heating process. This innovation in O.J. processing also addressed a major problem facing Florida's orange growers. If there happened to be a bumper crop one year, producers could freeze the excess supply, to be shipped anywhere and sold at any time. Minute Maid was the first major distributor of concentrated orange juice, its name reflecting how easy it was to prepare the frozen beverage.

5. The Macintosh, "a computer everyone can use:" Silicon Valley, California, 1984

The region south of San Francisco and including Stanford University in Palo Alto is ubiquitously known as "Silicon Valley," one of six communities that our upcoming exhibit Places of Invention will explore in the Jerome and Dorothy Lemelson Hall of Invention and Innovation. Silicon Valley became a center for electronics companies in the 1960s, with silicon being a key material used in making computer circuits. And the growing atmosphere of technological innovation in Silicon Valley in the 1970s and 1980s helped spur the development of the personal computer.

Steve Jobs, who later became CEO of Apple Inc., unveiled the first Macintosh computer in Cupertino, California, in 1984. With its novel user-focused approach, the Mac helped transform personal computing. It was based on the idea that anyone could use a computer at home; you didn't have to be a tech whiz. At the Apple shareholder event where the Mac was introduced, Jobs described it as "insanely great," and announced it would be available at the "mainstream price point" of $2,495. The Mac's success proved to be an important step toward the personal computers we use today—at work, at home, and on the go—in everyday life.

These five objects, and many others that Americans have used to transform their daily lives, will be on display in the Patrick F. Taylor Foundation Object Project beginning July 1Do you have a story about an innovative object that has a unique connection to place? Add it to the interactive Places of Invention map.

Caitlin Kearney is a new media assistant for Object Project. Previously, she has blogged about cycling history and Tabasco hot sauce.

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Ecstatic frenzy over Wagner's "Ring Cycle" premieres

National Museum of American History

Are you a Wagner fan? If so, you were likely excited by the Washington National Opera's presentation of The Ring of the Nibelungen, a cycle of four operas by Richard Wagner, in May 2016. Perhaps you visited the Morgan Library's exhibition on the premieres of the complete Ring of the Nibelungen, a cycle of four operas, in 1876 in Bayreuth, Germany, and in 1889 in the United States.  

Piano manufacturer William Steinway (1835–1896) attended all the operas within the Ring cycle. Steinway was a German emigrant, arriving in New York City from Seesen, Germany, in 1850 with his family when he was 15. An avid supporter of German music and culture, Steinway attended numerous plays at the two German theaters in New York, the Germania and Thalia, and attended operas and concerts, many under the direction of German-born conductors. He was also a member of the New York Liederkranz, a German singing society. Under William's leadership, Steinway & Sons, founded by William's father, Heinrich Steinway, became one of the most successful piano companies in the country. The company also sponsored the tours of numerous artists, including Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein and Polish pianist Ignacy Paderewski. Delving into Steinway's diary that is housed in the museum's Archives Center and available online, we get a glimpse into how these operas captured the souls of 19th-century music lovers—from the ordinary folk to sovereigns and nobility—sending them into a state of ecstatic frenzy.

Portrait of a man wearing glasses

Wagner called his Ring cycle "a festival play of four individual works" based on Norse myths with gods and magic, giants and dwarfs, and a dragon and Rhine maidens. In a letter written February 11, 1853, to his future father-in-law and composer Franz Liszt, Wagner stated that the Ring contained "the world's beginning and its destruction." The first opera, The Rhinegold, acts as a prelude to establish the origin of the curse of the Ring forged from the stolen Rhine gold and takes place in a world of gods and myths. The second, The Valkyrie, brings the story down to the world of man in which Siegmund and Sieglinde, unaware that they are twins, fall in love, thus violating Sieglinde's wedding vows to her husband. Brünnhilde, a Valkyrie, tries to protect Siegmund, but is then banished by her father, Wotan, king of the gods. In Siegfried, the third installment, Siegfried (the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde) garners the Rhine gold including the Ring. He then saves Brünnhilde and they fall in love. But as we discover in the finale, Twilight of the Gods, all does not end happily for the lovers. Siegfried leaves Brünnhilde to seek adventures, and in a series of betrayals he abandons her and is subsequently murdered. Brünnhilde throws herself on his funeral pyre. The fire destroys the earthly kingdom and spreads to the godly kingdom of Valhalla. The river Rhine overflows its banks and reclaims the lost gold.

The 14-hour Ring far surpassed all the major dramatic achievements ever produced on stage at that time. In order to produce the cycle as he imagined it, Wagner designed a theater intended solely for the Ring's production in the small Bavarian town of Bayreuth. Wagner produced the complete Ring cycle at the first annual Bayreuth Festival in 1876, the triumph of a vision nearly 26 years in the making turned into reality. Summer Bayreuth musical festivals of Wagner's operas have continued through the years to the present day.
William Steinway's friend, the German American conductor Leopold Damrosch, wrote of his experiences at that very first Bayreuth Festival that introduced the Ring cycle to the public. Arriving in Bayreuth in August 1876, Damrosch noticed the excitement surrounding the immense numbers of people from around the world, from avid opera lovers to two emperors, Wilhelm I of Germany and Pedro II of Brazil. Wagner's friend and financial backer King Ludwig II of Bavaria attended the rehearsals and the Ring's third presentation that summer.

According to Damrosch's reports in The Sun, after hearing the prelude, the sovereigns and princes shouted for Wagner for 15 minutes to no avail, but their enthusiasm "shook with the reverberations of their applause." At the close of Twilight of the Gods, the audience burst into fanatical demonstration, waving handkerchiefs and hats then calling for Wagner in a dozen languages until he finally appeared.

The audience reactions mirrored those of the performers who were equally ecstatic about the opportunity to sing at the first Bayreuth Festival. Writing her memoirs 40 years later, renowned soprano Lilli Lehmann, whom Steinway mentioned on a number of occasions in his diary, still delighted in that magical time. According to Robert Hartford's Bayreuth The Early Years (1980), she wrote that the 1876 Bayreuth Festival was for her "surrounded by an aura which the passing of years has failed to diminish . . . the proof of its power remains."  She credited Wagner with inspiring the performers to greatness. The music composed by the great genius and the performance by the orchestra, "all combined to produce a state of inspired exaltation. It was a powerful and strange magic spell that remains in my memory . . . and still works my emotions." Recalling those years she maintained that "nothing ever made my heart beat so much as hearing the first sounds of The Rhinegold when the orchestra began to stir in those first tones . . . and I was called on to make my voice ring out above it. . . . For me it was a glorious moment even at the cost of much anxiety and nervous apprehension."

At the festival's conclusion, Damrosch wrote that to understand the tragic force that Wagner had conceived, "to appreciate the passion intensified to colossal limits ," one had to be there. Nothing of this magnitude had yet been created and "nothing but the power of music was capable of shining down into and lighting up these fathomless abysses of the soul." Wagner had forged a new era in music history.

Black and white illustration of performers on stage in front of large audience

This passion for Wagner's music only intensified over the years. In his essay, At the Shrine of St. Wagner, Mark Twain wrote of his pilgrimage to Bayreuth in 1891: "You seem to sit with the dead in the gloom of a tomb. You know that they are being stirred to their profoundest depths . . . and times when tears are running down their faces, and it would be a relief to free their pent emotions in sobs or screams; yet you hear not one utterance till . . . the closing strains have slowly faded out and died; then the dead rise with one impulse and shake the building with their applause."

New York audiences were equally passionate with much fanfare when these operas debuted under Steinway’s friends, the Metropolitan conductors Leopold Damrosch and Wagner protégé Anton Seidl, with standing-room-only audiences and multiple recalls. In November 1886 Steinway attended the second opera, The Valkyrie, with the debut of renowned tenor Albert Niemann. According to the American Art Journal the audience "bubbled over with excitement" that abated only after the performers returned four times. Steinway thought Niemann "magnificent." In February 1888, Steinway attended the New York premiere of the final opera, Twilight of the Gods. Tickets sold instantly, filling standing room 15 minutes prior to opening with hundreds turned away, inspiring The New York Times critic to deem it "the greatest success in the history of the Metropolitan," while Steinway considered it "highly interesting."

Image from stage showing multiple tiers of audience packed into the seats

In 1894, with Steinway's encouragement, financial backing, and introductions to artists and donors, the German American conductor Walter Damrosch, the son of Leopold Damrosch, formed his opera company, returning Wagner's operas to New York in February 1895 after a four-year absence. That fall the troupe embarked on a 27-city tour to introduce the country to Wagner's operas. From the first announcement, audiences thronged to the company, leading a critic from The Louisville [Kentucky] Courier-Journal to opine: "Those who had never before heard Wagner's music had become disciples, those who had been indifferent became advocates; many who thought little of Wagner theretofore had become converts."  Crowds packed the halls, recalling the performers repeatedly. Women stood on their seats, wept, shouted, and cheered. Wagner had conquered America.

Susan Welch, a music major in college and a longtime Wagner fan, has been a museum volunteer researcher on music-related topics with the Steinway Diary Project since 1997.

Volunteer Susan Welch
Posted Date: 
Wednesday, May 18, 2016 - 10:00


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At home and "Over There": Women in World War I object group

National Museum of American History

The Women in World War I object group was a long labor of love for my internship. Essentially an online exhibition, the object group showcases objects from this museum, as well as the rest of the Smithsonian, and is part of the Division of Armed Forces History's effort to incorporate women's military history within the larger field of military history. The group is also particularly appropriate because we are in the midst of the centennial of World War I—and will continue to be until 2018!

Illustration of people working together. A charcoal and watercolor sketch on paper of a salvage depot at St. Pierre, France. Below a backdrop of five large windows, men and women are working in a large open space. The women are mostly engaged in carrying and sorting material. A group of men are on top of a pile of salvage on the left side of the drawing.

This project was a wonderful experience for me on many different levels. I was able to delve into a part of history in which I have a keen interest and bring to light many untold or forgotten stories. I had the pleasure of working with several museum staff members and divisions to complete the group. What I love most about this project is that the focus of women's military history is not restricted to what we might consider traditional military roles; instead, it showcases the breadth of women’s experiences during the war, whether they were on the home front or "over there," as a member of the military or a member of a civilian organization.

Photo of embroidered table cloth

The group is split into 17 sections, the first eight showcasing groups of objects in the collections of this museum, and the latter nine suggesting and highlighting collections at other Smithsonian museums and archives. As a knitter and craft-lover, two of my favorite sections are the French Stitchery and the Belgian War Lace. The items themselves are amazing—exquisite laces and embroidered household objects, many bearing motifs of the different Allied countries participating in the war. What is more extraordinary about these items, though, and why I loved working with them, is that they were handmade by French and Belgian women, oftentimes under extenuating circumstances. The stitchery came from Lorraine, an area of France ravaged by war, where peasant women worked under impossible conditions to embroider the household items to be sold in America. The profits from these pieces would go back to the French women to support themselves, their families, and their communities.


Like the stitchery, the laces in the Division of Home and Community Life were made by Belgian women, and the profits from selling these laces abroad went back to the women and their communities. The exportation of lace was part of a larger effort by the Committee for the Relief of Belgium, chaired by Herbert Hoover, to bring food and other necessary supplies to the Belgian people. Among the supplies imported was thread for making the war laces.

Black and white photo of four uniforms for women

On the other side of the Atlantic, American women were doing everything in their power to support the soldiers and people overseas. For some, this support meant joining an auxiliary to the U.S. armed forces, such as the Navy's Yeomen (F), or a voluntary organization. The Women's Uniforms section of the object group highlights these uniforms in a unique way while we are in the process of digitizing color slides of them; it presents a slideshow of black and white photographs taken of the uniforms while they were on display in the 1920s. The best part about getting to put this section together was going back into collections storage with my supervisor and seeing the uniforms up close and in color. Getting to see the uniforms was an indescribable feeling, and it also gave us the chance to discuss the important roles that uniforms played in shaping women's future identities and rights.

Photo of orange and blue button with three ribbons

Aside from uniforms, pins and buttons also signified women's participation in voluntary organizations and their efforts on the home front. The Pins & Buttons section was especially fun and engaging to work on with the Division of Medicine and Science because the objects come from so many different organizations and war efforts. I spent a lot of enjoyable time researching each one and putting together brief histories. My favorite button is one that began as a bit of a mystery, as I'd never heard of "Sunbeams" before. It shows that even young girls volunteered what they could to help the war effort—Sunbeams were the very young (ages 6 to 11) female members of the Salvation Army, an extremely active organization during World War I.

As wonderful as it was for me to work on this project, I am happy that it is now online so that people can see these great pieces of women's history. Some of the sections in the object group, such as the War Posters and Women's Uniforms ones, will continue to be updated and filled with more objects as they are photographed and approved to go online. We are also adding two more sections to the group later in the fall, including additional war-inspired textiles, so please explore the diverse, rich history of women's military involvement through this object group and check back frequently for updates!

Former National Museum of American History intern Leah Tams works for an archive in Washington, D.C. The James Lollar Hagan internship was generously created with the support of Bette and Lindsey Hagan. Visit our internship website to learn more about this opportunity

Leah Tams
Posted Date: 
Monday, January 4, 2016 - 08:00
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Museums With Their Own Niche

Smithsonian Magazine

I peered at the rows of lunchboxes and stopped with a smile in front of a gleaming Strawberry Shortcake, its pink and white figures recalling peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, piles of crayons and an overnight party where at least one lucky girl unrolled a Strawberry Shortcake sleeping bag. I wondered if one of these lunchboxes was still hidden in the dusty recesses of my house. In an instant, a tall man with hair like gray steel wool was at my side.

“Ah, you’re of the metal lunchbox era!” said Tim Seewer, artist, cook and partner in Etta’s Lunchbox Café and Museum in New Plymouth, Ohio. “The Florida Board of Education decided in 1985 to ban metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. All across the United States, lunchboxes started to go plastic. Ironically, the last metal lunchbox was Rambo.”

Etta’s is a thoroughly charming bit of Americana. Lodged in an old blue-tiled general store, this free museum displays owner LaDora Ousley’s collection of 850 lunchboxes as well as the tobacco and lard tins that were the precursors to the lunchbox. The collection offers a unique lens into the popular culture of the last century—especially when accompanied by commentary from Seewer and Ousley, who do double time in the kitchen making pizza, sandwiches and salads. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection’s notable items. Also on display are lunchboxes featuring the many television icons that followed: Gunsmoke, Looney Tunes, a host of Disney characters, Popeye, Space Cadet, the Dukes of Hazzard, and more.

The collection both chronicles the stories and characters that shaped many a childhood and offers a perspective on larger social trends in America. As an example, Ousley points to her tobacco tins, which were produced beginning in 1860 with sentimental domestic scenes on them. “It was a clever cross-marketing ploy,” Ousley explains. “Women weren’t allowed to buy tobacco, but it was a sign of status to own one of these tins. It showed you knew a man wealthy enough to buy one and that you were special enough to receive it as a gift.”

Museums with a singular focus—whether on an object or a theme—offer visitors an intimate educational experience, often enhanced by the presence of an owner or curator with an unmatched passion for the subject. Here are seven more narrowly focused museums from around the country, some tiny and precariously funded, others more firmly established.

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Located in New Plymouth, Ohio, Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum displays owner LaDora Ousley's collection of 850 lunchboxes. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. A 1953 Roy Rogers and Dale Evans lunchbox, the first to have a four-color lithograph panel, is among the collection's notable items. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. In 1985, the Florida Board of Education banned metal lunchboxes because they could be used as a weapon. Rambo was the last metal lunchbox made. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Etta's Lunchbox Cafe & Lunchbox Museum. Lunchboxes on display at Etta's Lunchbox Café and Museum include television icons such as Looney Tunes, Disney characters, Popeye and the Dukes of Hazzard. (original image)

Image by Richard Clement / Reuters / Corbis. At last count, Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of the National Museum of Roller Skating. The National Museum of Roller Skating contains the largest collection of historical roller skates in the world. Some of their skates date back to 1819. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Roadchix. The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. Every year the museum and Britt host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. (original image)

Image by Newscom. The Bigfoot Discovery Museum was inspired by owner Michael Rugg's encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. (original image)

Image by Courtesy of Vent Haven Museum. Located in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky is the world's only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. The Vent Haven Museum features 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. (original image)

Velveteria, the Museum of Velvet Paintings in Portland, Oregon, has nearly 2,500 velvet paintings at last count. Eleven years ago, Caren Anderson and Carl Baldwin were shopping in a thrift store, spied a black velvet painting of a naked woman emerging from a flower and had to have it. That impulse buy ultimately led to a vast collection, much of which is now displayed in an 1,800-square-foot museum. Co-authors of Black Velvet Masterpieces: Highlights from the Collection of the Velveteria Museum, Anderson and Baldwin have a connoisseur’s eye for this neglected art form and an appreciation for its history. The paint-on-velvet form had its origins in ancient China and Japan, enjoyed some popularity in Victorian England, then had its modern heyday when American servicemen like Edgar Leeteg expressed the beauty they saw in the South Seas islands on black velvet. You can tour the museum for $5.00, but watch out for unexpected emotion. “A young couple got engaged in our black light room the other day,” says Anderson.

The National Museum of Roller Skating in Lincoln, Nebraska, boasts 2,000 square feet of memorabilia from roller derby, roller speed and figure skating, and roller hockey. Included are a pair of the first skates ever made, which resemble modern inline skates, patent models from the history of roller skate design, costumes, trophies, photos and magazines on skating. Oddest items: a pair of skates powered by an engine worn on the back and a pair of skates made for a horse—with a photograph of the horse wearing them. This is the world’s only museum devoted to roller skating; admission is free.

The Hobo Museum is located in the hobo capital of the world, Britt, Iowa. According to curator Linda Hughes, the town fathers of Britt tossed out a welcome mat for hoboes in 1899 after hearing that Chicago rolled up theirs when Tourist Union 63—the hobo union—wanted to come to town. A famous hobo named Onion Cotton came to Britt in 1900, and hoboes have been gathering there ever since. The museum is currently housed in an old movie theater, but has so much material it plans to expand into a larger space. The collection includes contents of famous hobo satchels, a hat adorned with clothespins and feathers from Pennsylvania Kid, tramp art, hobo walking sticks, and an exhibit of the character language hoboes use to leave each other messages. Every year, Britt and the museum host a hobo convention that attracts up to 20,000 ramblers from all parts of the country. “It’s like a big family reunion,” Hughes says.

The Museum of Mountain Bike Art and Technology Museum is located above a bike store in Statesville, North Carolina, with a 5,000 square-foot showroom displaying the evolution of mountain bikes. The collection includes “boneshakers”—bikes from 1869 with wooden spoke wheels—as well as bikes with interchangeable parts from the turn of the century. Among this free museum’s 250 bikes are several from the mountain bike boom beginning in the 1970s, when the energy crisis pushed people to make tougher bikes. Many of these are highly designed with great craftsmanship. “Even if you have no interest in bikes, you’d hang one on the wall because they’re so pretty,” says owner Jeff Archer. The museum holds an annual mountain-bike festival that attracts many of the sport’s pioneers.

The Bigfoot Discovery Museum in Felton, California, was inspired by owner Michael Rugg’s encounter with a Sasquatch-like creature when he was a child. The museum offers local history tied to Bigfoot; plaster casts of foot and hand prints; hair, scat and tooth samples; displays that discuss hypotheses to explain Bigfoot sightings and Bigfoot in popular culture; and a research library. In the audio-visual section, the controversial Patterson-Gimlin film purporting to show a Bigfoot spied in the wild runs on a continuous loop. “I’ve got everything I’ve found dealing with Bigfoot or mystery primates here,” Hughes says.

Vent Haven Museum in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, is the world’s only public collection of materials related to ventriloquism. A Cincinnati businessman named William Shakespeare Berger and later president of the International Brotherhood of Ventriloquists began the collection in the early 1900s; ventriloquists—“vents”—still donate materials. There are 700 ventriloquist dummies arranged in three buildings, some sitting in rows as if waiting for a class to begin. Unusual creations include a head carved by a German prisoner in a Soviet POW camp from World War II—the vent performed for fellow prisoners as well as for the cook to get extra food—and a family of figures used by a blind Vaudeville-era vent. Photographs and drawings of vents abound, including one from the late 1700s, when ventriloquism was more often a trick to con people out of money instead of a form of entertainment. The museum also has a library with 1,000 volumes and voluminous correspondence for scholars. Admission is by appointment only, and curator Jennifer Dawson leads hour-and-a-half tours for $5.00. A yearly convention is held nearby.

The Robert C. Williams Paper Museum in Atlanta originated with a collection by Dard Hunter, an artist from America’s Arts and Crafts Movement who traveled the world to record the ways that people made paper and collect artifacts. In the museum, visitors can examine precursors to modern paper, including many tapa cloths made from pounded bark in Sumatra and Tunisia with inscriptions from special occasions; a vat used by Chinese papermakers in 200 B.C.; and one of the one million prayers printed on paper and enshrined in wooden pagodas that were commissioned by the Empress Shotuku after Japan’s smallpox epidemic of 735. In all, there are over 100,000 watermarks, papers, tools, machines and manuscripts. Admission for individuals is free; guided tours are $5 per person or $8.50 for a tour and paper-making exercise.


Smithsonian Institution Archives

Tomorrow marks the anniversary of the first Nobel Prize awarded in 1901. The recipients that year were:

  • Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (physics) "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the remarkable rays subsequently named after him"
  • Jacobus Henricus van 't Hoff (chemistry) "in recognition of the extraordinary services he has rendered by the discovery of the laws of chemical dynamics and osmotic pressure in solutions"
  • Sully Prudhomme (Literature) "in special recognition of his poetic composition, which gives evidence of lofty idealism, artistic perfection and a rare combination of the qualities of both heart and intellect"
  • Emil Adolf von Behring (physiology or medicine) "for his work on serum therapy, especially its application against diphtheria, by which he has opened a new road in the domain of medical science and thereby placed in the hands of the physician a victorious weapon against illness and deaths."
  • Jean Henry Dunant and Frédéric Passy (Peace)

The first woman to receive the prestigious award was Marie Curie, who was awarded twice with the 1903 Nobel Prize in Physics and the 1911 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. In the history of the Nobel Prize, out of the 889 Nobel Prizes laureates, only 46 have been women. As Marcel Chotkowski LaFollette points out in her recent piece for the Hillman Photography Initiative, the small numbers don't represent the actual contributions women have made. LaFollette examines the culture surrounding physical chemist Rosalind Elsie Franklin, who was the first person to image DNA structure.

Without Franklin's knowledge, Maurice Wilkins, one of Franklin's colleagues, shared her photograph with two other scientists also researching DNA, James Watson and Maurice Crick. Because of their interpretation of the image, the three men went on to win the 1962 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA; basically an interpretation Franklin had hypothesized in 1952. For many years, Franklin was left out of the history books when it came to this historic discovery. As LaFollette describes, "Credit should go to the flyboys, the creative geniuses, not the others. 'Technical stuff' was 'woman's work.'"

In honor of this anniversary, we'd like to highlight the women scientists in our collections who have broken boundaries to capture the elusive Noble Prize. We also include one woman, Austrian-born physicist, Lise Meitner, who was overlooked when her colleague, Otto Hahn, won the Noble Prize for the discovery of nuclear fission in 1945.

Physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer walking in to the Nobel ceremony with King Gustaf Adolf 1963

Physicist Maria Goeppert-Mayer received the Noble Prize in physics for the development of the model of atomic nuclei in which the orbits of protons and neutrons are arranged in concentric "shells".

Biochemists Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori and Carl Ferdinand Cori

Biochemist Gerty Theresa Radnitz Cori and her husband Carl Ferdinand Cori were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1947 for their work on how the human body metabolizes sugar.

Lise Meitner (1878-1968) and Otto Hahn (1879-1968), Dahlem, Germany, 1913

Physicist Lise Meitner was overlooked for a Nobel Prize when her colleague, Otto Hahn (pictured here), received it in 1945 for the discovery of nuclear fission.

Pierre Curie and Marie Sklodowska Curie were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium.

Pierre Curie and Marie Sklodowska Curie were jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1903 for discovery of the radioactive elements polonium and radium.

Frédéric Joliot (1900-1958) and Irène Joliot-Curie (1897-1956), 1940s

Frédéric Joliot and Iréne Joliot-Curie had been jointly awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1935 for their synthesis of new radioactive elements.

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Space Rock Hunters Are About to Invade Antarctica

Smithsonian Magazine

After 35 trips helping scientists traverse the blue ice fields of Antarctica, mountain guide John Schutt has seen it all.

“One time we had a tent catch on fire,” says Schutt. “The person ignored our protocols, and he filled his stove inside the tent with another stove going, because it was cold and windy out. He had to be taken out of the field with second-degree burns.”

The breach in protocol is probably understandable: The specific group Schutt works with camps each year in the Transantarctic Mountains at an elevation of about 8,000 feet. They face sub-zero temperatures even during a time of year when the sun never sets. Then there are the gale-force winds, cramped living quarters and backbreaking physical labor.

But for the scientists of the Antarctic Search for Meteorites, it’s all worth it when they at last pick up a piece of an alien world that crash landed on Earth.

Led by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, the Antarctic Search for Meteorites, or ANSMET, is the unsung hero of planetary science. ANSMET has collected about 20,000 meteorites since its formation in 1976, with yearly counts that have varied from 30 to over 1,200.

Those space rocks, retrieved from the frozen wasteland around the South Pole, have been invaluable to our understanding of the solar system. Over 80 percent of the world's extraterrestrial rocks have come from Antarctica, collected by ANSMET or similar programs for a fraction of the cost it would take to send robotic space missions to bring back samples.

“ANSMET has been a great boon for scientists,” says Jim Karner, the science lead for this year’s expedition, which departs in late November. “We don’t own the samples. They’re curated by the Smithsonian and NASA’s Johnson Space Center, and [are] really free to anybody in the world who wants to study them.”

Meteorites collected by ANSMET and other Antarctic field teams come from asteroids, the moon and even Mars, and they can teach us about the nature and origins of our cosmic neighborhood.

“There is a myriad of studies you can do with meteorites,” says Karner. “They tell us about the properties of our solar system and the evolution of planetary bodies. Some really old meteorites even have solid pieces of minerals that predate our solar system.”

We can also use meteorites to learn about the formation of our own world. “One thing we can do with meteorites is develop a better understanding of the Earth,” says Cari Corrigan, a geologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History who works on meteorite classification. 

“If we can understand the composition and the makeup of the early solar system, we will have a much better picture of the Earth’s early composition and structure and the processes that had to take place to give us what we have now.”

We might even discover how the first life on Earth sprung from primordial chemical interactions, she notes

“Things like amino acids have been found in meteorites in the last 20 years—the starting compositions for life on Earth,” says Corrigan. “Trying to understand what we started out as, and what we started out with, will help us understand why the Earth evolved the way it did.”

Image by Christine Floss. ANSMET team members pull a Martian meteorite from the ice in Antarctica. (original image)

Image by Bingkui Maio. The ANSMET team scours the polar ice fields in snowmobiles looking for meteorites. (original image)

Image by Vincianne Debaille. ANSMET field camps are not for the faint of heart. (original image)

Meteorites can come crashing down onto any spot on the planet. But of all the spots on Earth, Antarctica is the ideal place to gather meteorite samples. For starters, large parts of the continent are composed of ice sheets devoid of indigenous surface rock. When you scour the area, virtually every rock found is a meteorite, and the thin black crust the rocks form as they endure their fiery plunge through the atmosphere makes them easy to spot against the blue-white background.

“We literally just form this large skirmish line and drive up the ice on snowmobiles and collect them by hand,” says Constantine Tsang, a planetary scientist at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder and a first-year ANSMET field team member. “People say 50 percent of ANSMET is just hauling sh-t around,” he laughs.

Geologic activity along the Transantarctic Mountains also plays a role. As the East Antarctic Ice Sheet slides down into the Ross Sea, it comes into contact with the Transantarctic Mountains, and old, deep ice is forced to the surface. That uplifts meteorites that crashed into the continent long ago, boosting the numbers than can be found during a field season.

Combine this process with ice erosion from strong winds and sublimation, and certain areas can boast incredibly high concentrations of all types of meteorites, just waiting for the scientists to come scoop them up. These meteorites might have impacted Earth less than a year beforehand or more than 10,000 years ago, offering a wide range of possible parent sources.

An area known as Miller Range is one of the most lucrative sites, with hundreds of meteorites per square mile, which is why this year marks ANSMET's ninth visit to the region.

“We’ve found every conceivable type of meteorite in the Miller Range,” says Karner. “So it’s been this great range of diversity.”

Most importantly, all that bounty is beautifully preserved in Antarctica’s frozen wasteland. Chemicals and minerals on Earth can corrupt the composition of meteorite samples, limiting their scientific value. Even water will alter the mineralogy of a meteorite. But in the deserts of Antarctica, where moisture is minimal, the meteorites are essentially cryogenically preserved.

When a field season wraps up, the yearly haul from ANSMET is shipped to NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. NASA creates initial descriptions of the meteorites and sorts them into general categories. A piece chipped from each one is then sent to the Smithsonian for further classification, and twice a year the Smithsonian publishes a newsletter with a list of all the meteorites in its catalog, so scientific institutions can request samples.   

Meteorite classification is rather complex, with different types categorized by chemical composition, mineralogy, the presence of certain elements and the parent body that the meteorite broke off from. But meteorites can generally be sorted into four groups: chondrites, achondrites, stony-iron and iron.

Image by Brendan McCabe. This shiny slice is from one of the first iron meteorites found in Antarctica, recovered from Derrick Peak in 1978. The lump of metal alloy is probably from the core of a large asteroid. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. Found in the Cumulus Hills region of Antarctica in 2004, this slice of space rock is a pallasite, a type of meteorite that consists of large olivine crystals suspended in an iron-nickel alloy. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. Found in Alan Hills in 1984, this meteorite lives in infamy as the Martian rock said to contain fossil signs of alien microbes. While that claim is in dispute, the space rock does hold minerals that can only form in the presence of liquid water, offering the first purely chemical clues that water flowed on ancient Mars. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. It may come nestled in a foil wrapper, but don't try to taste it. This meteorite, found on the LaPaz Ice Field in 2002, is a rare piece of the moon. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. The 2003-04 ANSMET expedition returned with this Martian meteorite, thought to be from a lava flow dating back about 1.3 billion years. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. This space rock, found in Patuxent Range in 1991, is a chondrite with an unusually high number of holes (called vesicles). CAT scans and other analytical tests showed that this meteorite likely broke off its parent asteroid during a high-speed collision about 4.4 billion years ago. (original image)

Image by Brendan McCabe. This space rock, an ordinary chondrite, was the first meteorite found by the ANSMET team. It was recovered from the Alan Hills region in 1976. (original image)

Chondrites are meteorites that contain chondrules—round grains that initially formed from molten droplets during the early days of the solar system and then got incorporated into existing asteroids. These meteorites have been largely unaltered since the solar system formed about 4.6 billion years ago, and they account for more than 80 percent of all our meteorite samples.

“The reason we look back at the chondrites is because we think that they are the starting material for everything else,” says Corrigan.

Achondrites are just the opposite: meteorites that do not contain chondrules: “Achondrites represent some kind of geologic process; something happened to them to either melt the chondrules or melt the whole asteroid,” says Corrigan.

Two of the rarest and most interesting types of meteorites are achondrites: lunar and Martian. Rocks from these worlds have undergone significant geologic change, and understanding that metamorphosis can tell us what each body was like over time. A Martian meteorite, for instance, provided the first purely chemical evidence that water once flowed on ancient Mars.

“The Martian meteorite Allan Hills 84001 contains carbonate minerals that require liquid water to form,” says Corrigan.

Stony-iron meteorites, which are nearly equal parts metal and silicate minerals, include perhaps the most attractive of all meteorites, the pallasites. These space rocks consist of large olivine crystals suspended in an iron-nickel alloy, creating a striking visual contrast. Studies of these stunning samples suggest that they come from large asteroids that differentiated into layers. The metallic mix is likely from the transition area between the mantle and the core.

Finally, iron meteorites are almost entirely made of a nickel-iron alloy that forms in the cores of large asteroids and other rocky cosmic objects. The parent bodies of iron meteorites had to have been destroyed in collisions for the core material to escape and begin its trajectory toward Earth.

While the meteorites collected so far have unlocked these and other cosmic mysteries, plenty more space rocks await discovery in the cosmic freezer of Antarctica, so for ANSMET, this year's field season is business as usual.

There’s no way to tell what they will find until they get out on the ice and start collecting samples, and the scientific discoveries the rocks yield will be made thousands of miles away, months or even years in the future, in laboratories that request the meteorites long after they are found.

“We have a lot,” says Tsang. “But the more we can collect, the more we can analyze and understand.”

The History of D.C.'s Epic and Unfinished Struggle for Representation and Self-Governance

Smithsonian Magazine

Today as cranes dot the Washington, D.C., skyline and new buildings open almost monthly, rapid gentrification and rebuilding is changing the landscape and demographics of the Nation’s Capital. Visitors to the federal district, whose growing population is now greater than either that of Wyoming or Vermont, often remark how much Washington, D.C. has changed in the last decade.

Across the 68-square-mile city, nestled on the banks of the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia, a debate continues over statehood, control of the city’s affairs, and fair representation—a single, non-voting delegate represents its nearly 659,000 citizens in Congress. That struggle dates to a 12-year period from the early 1960s to mid-1980s, a time of uprising, protest and seismic change that finally culminated in 1975 when for the first time in a century the city’s citizens were finally able to seat a mayor and a city council.

The story of that period is the subject of a new exhibition, “Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington: 1963-1975,” which just opened at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, in a neighborhood that itself is a reflection of that change.

Once a rural, sparsely populated area south of the Anacostia River, Anacostia became a predominately African-American community after whole blocks of southwest Washington, near the waterfront, were cleared for urban renewal in the early 1960s. 

The museum itself, established nearly half a century ago as the Anacostia Neighborhood Museum, was an experimental outreach project that the Smithsonian Institution fostered in 1967. The vision was to speak to the American history experience from a community perspective. The facility became the Anacostia Community Museum in 2006, focusing on today’s urban issues.

Image by D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Collection. It wasn’t until the 1964 elections that city residents could participate in presidential elections. “It’s only then that Washingtonians got two electoral seats,” says historian Marjorie Lightman. (original image)

Image by Vernard Gray. Black activist leaders like mayor Walter E. Washington and mayor Marion Barry, in an undated photo, gained critical influence during this 12-year period. (original image)

Image by D.C. Public Library, Washingtoniana Collection. A 1973 Tax Day protest on the Southwest waterfront in Washington, D.C. was a parody of the Boston Tea Party. (original image)

Image by D.C. Public Library. The Joe Caplan Liquor store near The Howard Theater in Washington, D.C. (original image)

Image by National Museum of American History. Gay activists protest at the White House, April 17, 1965 (original image)

Image by Washington Post. With empowerment came cultural growth and Washington made its mark not only in dance and music, but in theater like the award-winning Washington Theater Club. (original image)

Image by Library of Congress. Key events in the 12-year period covered in the exhibition included the 1970 Women's Liberation March. (original image)

“Washington’s history is traditionally told from the top down,” says guest historian Marjorie Lightman, who along with William Zeisel, her partner at the research organization QED Associates worked on the “Twelve Years” project.

Referring to the power structure of the city’s four geographical quadrants, Lightman says that governance emanates from the area that includes the federal government and the central business district. “The top is not only the White House, but the top is also the Northwest,” she says, “that’s where power has traditionally thought to have been in Washington and that’s the perspective that has always historically defined the discussion of the city.”

“Instead of talking from the hills of Northwest and looking down to the river,” Zeisel adds, “there might be some way of reversing that and starting in Southeast, Southwest, closer to the lowlands, you might say, the ordinary people, and then looking up.” 

“Twelve Years” is more of a people’s history, led by senior curator Portia James, who just weeks before the opening of the show, died at age 62. James’ scholarship had long focused on the ever changing landscape of the city and she curated such popular exhibitions as “Black Mosaic: Community, Race and Ethnicity among Black Immigrants in Washington, D.C.,” “East of the River: Continuity and Change” and “Hand of Freedom: The Life and Legacy of the Plummer Family,” among others.

Washington, D.C., like many other American cities in the 1950s and 1960s, experienced a changing demographic when white families moved to the suburbs. The result of this so-called "white flight," Lightman says, was that by 1970, the city was 71 percent African American.

“It not only was the capital of the free world, it was the black capital of America,” she says. “At one point in the 1960s, it was 70 percent black.” That meant emerging black leadership as well, but at a time when the city politically had no power—everything was under the control of the U.S. Congress, as it had been for a century.

Until the district got the right to elect its first school board in 1968, Zeisel says, “Congress was running this place. I mean, they were practically voting on how many light bulbs you could have in the schools.”

It wasn’t until the 1964 elections that city residents could participate in presidential elections. “It’s only then that Washingtonians got two electoral seats,” says Lightman, “and it’s the first time Washingtonians had a meaningful voice in the presidential process.”

In 1968, an executive action by President Lyndon Johnson led to partial home rule, with the first locally elected school board elections. The first elected mayor and city council were not seated until 1975. At the inaugural that year, the city’s new mayor Walter E. Washington told the city’s residents that after decades of being treated as second-class citizens, “now we are going in by the front door!”

One of the largest federal urban renewal projects took place in the Anacostia area in the 1950 and 1960s, neighborhoods were leveled and some 600 acres were cleared in Southwest for redevelopment. 

“It was the largest government-funded urban renewal in the country,” Zeisel says. “Twenty-three thousand people lived there, a majority of them poor. And when I mean cleared and flattened, I mean churches, too. It looked like the moon.” 

As a result, he says, “Anacostia went from a thinly populated white population to a densely populated black population.”

The building of the Metro rail system in D.C. during that time period was important to the story, as well, although the public transit system wouldn’t officially open until 1976. It saved the city from the fate of other large cities, where whole neighborhoods were replaced by the federal highway system.

Part of that was avoided by the creation of the emergency Committee on the Transportation Crisis, established by neighborhood groups to prevent construction of freeways meant as quick thoroughfares to the suburbs. A sign from that effort, reading “White Man’s Road Through Black Man’s Home” is part of the exhibition.

Washington may have been a natural magnet for national protests in the 1960s against the Vietnam War and for Civil Rights, but by comparison there was little of the rioting that hit other cities, at least until Martin Luther King’s assassination in 1968. At that time, six days of rioting resulted in the deaths of 12, injuries to more than 1,000 and more than 6,000 arrests. Neighborhoods in Columbia Heights, and along the U Street and H Street corridors were reduced to rubble.

But that event, so often cited as the blight that stalled Washington’s progress for decades, is “not what defines the era in the city,” says Joshua Gorman, collections manager at the museum. “It’s not even what defines that year in this city.”

The blight that followed, with empty buildings along the now-popular 14th Street NW corridor and H Street NE was simply a symptom of “de-urbanization” that hit many U.S. cities in the 1970s and 1980s, when investors were less attracted to city developments and set their sights on suburbs, Zeisel says. 

At the same time, the federal Community Development Corporation helped create jobs programs and organizational opportunities in various neighborhoods with school lunch and afterschool programs for students, and job finding programming for adults. It also led to the rise of black leaders from future mayor Marion Barry to Mary Treadwell, the activist who was also Barry's first wife. 

With empowerment came cultural growth and Washington made its mark not only in dance and theater but music, with musician Chuck Brown and the go-go explosion, as well as in art with the homegrown Washington Color School

Brown’s guitar is one of the artifacts in the exhibition that also includes the one of the pens President Lyndon B. Johnson used to sign the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A display in the lobby of 10 posters, some protest and some merely decorative by prominent D.C. artist and printmaker Lou Stovall serves as prelude to “Twelve Years.”

A number of audio files and video are also available to play. Among them is a 1964 film from the American Institute of Architects extolling the virtues of urban renewal, “No Time for Ugliness,” and a 1971 film about the role of community engagement in improving police-community relations, “The People and the Police,” from the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunity.

For all the progress made in the period covered by “Twelve Years,” there remains more yet to do before Washington D.C. residents obtain the kind of representation enjoyed by the rest of the country.

As such, museum director Camille Giraud Akeju says, “Never has there been a more important moment to engage Washingtonians in the history of the city and especially of this immediate past.” 

“Twelve Years That Shook and Shaped Washington: 1963-1975” continues through Oct. 23, 2016 at the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum, 1901 Fort Place SE, Washington, D.C. Information: 202-633-4820.

Minute by Minute: Preparing Board of Regents Records for Digitization

Smithsonian Institution Archives

Conserving the Board of Regents Minutes

At the Archives, much of the treatment we undertake is driven by need and request: in this instance, the Board of Regents requested that their historical meeting minutes be digitized for easy consultation, requiring that conservation staff survey and treat the collections in question to ensure they are stable for scanning.

The broken joint and damaged headcap needed significant attention before the volume could be scanned safely. Courtesy of William Bennett.

The majority of the volumes were in stable condition with few interventive needs; however, volume 1, covering the meeting minutes from 1846 to 1856, required some structural reinforcement before it could be safely handled during digitization.

Volume 1 is an oversized book measuring 19.5” by 14”, and is 4” thick; it is bound in plum-colored leather, decorated in a style similar to one known as the Cambridge panel. The first volume begins with a transcribed version of James Smithson’s will and the Acts of Congress that created the Smithsonian Institution; after these items, the minutes of the Board of Regents meetings start, carefully written across penciled grid lines to ensure straight text.

This diagram shows how the W-shape of the gusseted joint allows the textblock to open safely while keeping the book in one piece. Courtesy of William Bennett.

Despite the overall fine condition of the volume, there were a few obstacles impeding its quick send-off to digitization. These were structural, based on the style and girth of the binding. As described above, the book is quite large and weighty, with heavy covers that stress the joint of the volume as the book is opened and closed. It also appears that when the book was made, the spine of the book was not fitted closely enough to the paper textblock; as a result, when the volume is opened, it wants to pull further than the textblock is able to move, causing the textblock to break at various points and leave loose pages. The book’s leather spine is heavily cracked, another result of the overlarge spine trying to open further than the textblock can. The stress of opening the book also caused the leather to break along the joints, particularly at the head of the front cover board where the joint is broken through completely. The headcap was heavily damaged as well, probably because it is a natural place to grip a book when removing it from the shelf; the leather was broken, exposing the heavy cord used to strengthen it, and revealing a large unsupported cavity that contributed to its damage.

In progress repair of the broken exterior joint: a piece of toned Japanese paper is adhered under the leather across the joint, prior to readhering the original leather of top of the paper. Record Unit 1: Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Meeting Minutes. William Bennett/Smithsonian Institution Archives.Attention was devoted first to the textblock, with some light surface cleaning. Loose pages were reattached with V-shaped Japanese paper hinges: one side of the V was adhered with wheat starch paste to the textblock and allowed to dry before pasting out the other side and laying the loose page atop it. This ensured that the page edges aligned properly. Once all loose pages were in place, the dilemma described above needed solving—how to connect the separated pieces of the textblock but allow the binding to open fully, preventing the textblock from breaking anew.

The solution arrived at is a modification of the V-shaped hinges. A W-shaped piece of Japanese paper, carefully scored and folded in advance, was created. This gusseted joint leaves the central peak of the W left free to flex across the opening of the book, distributing the stress and preventing future breaks. Each leg of the W was adhered in place along the spine edges of the pages facing across the break and left to dry under weight.

With textblock repairs completed, focus moved to the broken leather exterior. A simple but effective method of treatment, known as the Etherington hinge, was employed: strips of pre-colored Japanese paper, chosen to match the leather, were placed under the leather of the covers and of the spine to span the joint and adhered in place with wheat starch paste. Once this was set, the original leather was re-adhered atop the paper hinge. Slightly damaged endcaps can be repaired in a similar fashion.

In-progress repair of the broken headcap: the new core has been placed and molded into shape alongside the original. Record Unit 1: Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Meeting Minutes. William Bennett/Smithsonian Institution Archives.The heavily damaged headcap needed more attention. As mentioned above, a large space inside the leather left the headcap without adequate support and resulted in significant damage. To fill this gap, a new core was created by wrapping the same Japanese paper used to repair the joints around a short length of linen thread; this was inserted beneath the leather on top of the original cord. A second, narrower one was created in the same manner to fill in the space left between the two cylindrical pieces, before re-adhering the original leather.

Finally, abraded and deteriorating areas of the leather were consolidated to prevent further loss of material.

View of bound-in flyleaf, possibly the repaired cover of the original volume. Record Unit 1: Smithsonian Institution, Board of Regents, Meeting Minutes. William Bennett/Smithsonian Institution Archives.Now in a condition to be digitized, the book was given a new Mylar wrapper prior to being returned to collection storage. However, in the process, something intriguing came to light: leather removed from a different book, lined with linen, and bound in to the rear of this volume. There is evidence of water damage as well as a repair done to fill a section of missing leather. But where did it come from?

Based on research in the Mary Henry diaries and conversation with Pam Henson, Smithsonian Historian, it appears that after the Castle fire in 1865, few to no records were saved, including the original minutes of the Board of Regents. This volume is in fact a sort of facsimile prepared from the edited and published versions of the minutes, copied into a new volume to create a similar effect to the original book. The style of the decoration is very similar and was possibly an attempt at reproduction.

Regardless of the “originality” of this volume, the minutes it preserves make up a valuable piece of the Smithsonian’s history. With a digital version forthcoming, it will be of even greater use to the Regents as they shape the present and future of the Institution.

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The woman who would be cardinal

National Museum of American History

In reflecting on National Coming Out Day, Curator Kenneth Cohen was reminded of the fascinating story of Charlotte Cushman that we've preserved through objects in our collections.

An elaborate outfit comprising a crimson robe with matching skirt with gold lace overlay. There is a sloping sash placed around the shoulders and a hat with four points.

This is one of the oldest theater costumes in the museum's collection. It was made around 1857 for the role of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in Shakespeare's Henry VIII. But it is important less for its age than for the fact that it was made for an actress not an actor—an actress who challenged the conventions of gender and sexuality in her day, both on stage and off.

The actress was Charlotte Cushman. Few remember her name today, but it would be hard to overstate her renown during her lifetime. Besides constant announcements of her performances, she was celebrated in prints, photos, and even statues. At her final show in New York City in 1874, the police had to guard the theater for fear of overcrowding inside, and thousands lined Fifth Avenue after the show to watch fireworks as she passed on the way back to her hotel.

This kind of celebrity explains why the Smithsonian acquired two of Cushman's costumes for the same 1914 exhibition that launched its collection of First Ladies gowns. Charlotte Cushman was without a doubt the first lady of the American stage.

On the left is a color print of a woman in a man's costume with a seated woman in a white dress clinging to her. They are on a balcony with trees and a view of the sunset behind them.

A long piece of paper covered in text in different sizes with some words made bold.

Of course, this costume does not represent a lady. Cushman wore it when she played Wolsey on more than a dozen special occasions, from Boston to New Orleans, between 1857 and 1873. In taking on the role of Henry VIII's scheming churchman and minister, Cushman broke with a century of theatrical precedent.

Women had long played tragic male characters such as Romeo and Hamlet. In fact, Cushman herself first achieved stardom playing Romeo opposite her sister as Juliet. But, traditionally, lots of men went to see women in these male roles because they were costumed in tights that revealed legs normally concealed under dresses. In contrast, the Wolsey costume did not show off Cushman's body. In addition to covering her legs, the robes fit her more loosely than did her Romeo costume or the dress she wore in the role of Katharine of Aragon (the female protagonist in Henry VIII and the other costume of hers in the Smithsonian collection).


An old, ornate black gown with gold leaves and vines stitched along the hems and embroidery on the waist and collar. It has long, full sleeves and the skirt is slashed to show a cream underlayer with gold detailing.

A faded photograph of a woman leaning against a balustrade. She is wearing a dark crown-like hat and a skirted outfit with embroidery.

The Katharine gown has the same waist measurement as the Wolsey robe but is only 32 inches around the chest. The Wolsey robe measures 40. The result is a costume that conceals rather than accentuates Cushman's bust. Coupled with a wig of thin blonde hair, in comparison to wearing her own thick, dark hair when she played Romeo and Hamlet, the Wolsey costume reflects an effort to play a male role while looking as much like a man as possible instead of trying to play a male role noticeably as a woman.

Cushman took on the part of Wolsey in order to show that she could play dramatic men's roles on her acting merits, without resorting to looking racy. She evidently succeeded. Reviewers consistently called her impersonation "a positive success." After her death, one national magazine noted "that for complete abnegation of sex Miss Cushman's Cardinal Wolsey was pre-eminent."

If the story of this costume was only about Cushman's place in theater history, we could stop with the fact that it helped women lay claim to a wider range of roles than they previously played. But Cushman's private life reveals that she pursued such freedom offstage as well as on. Her acting success made her the breadwinner for her family after her father went broke when she was a teenager. As an adult, she funded and lived in a community of what she and her friends called "jolly female bachelors" or "emancipated women" who were known for producing art, wearing men's clothing, and lobbying for working women. All of the romantic relationships documented in her personal papers at the Library of Congress were with women.

A black and white photograph of a seated woman. A younger woman stands next to her, looking in the opposite direction.

An older woman in a dark satin gown sits in this black and white photograph as a younger women in a polka dot dress looks with her to something to their right.

In a period before words like "lesbian," "queer," and "transgender" came into use, most Americans saw Cushman's lack of male partners as evidence of chastity and purity, particularly considering other actresses' reputations for philandering. Her audiences saw her relationships with women as close, but platonic, friendships. Cushman herself did nothing to correct this view, and frequently told her partners and lovers to burn her letters to protect her reputation.

The respectability of the first lady (or as the New York Times put it, the "Queen") of the American stage declined only in the decades after her costumes came to the Smithsonian. Then, as female homosexuality became more recognized—and ridiculed—the photos and memoirs that documented her relationships with women made her less celebrated. Perhaps such homophobia explains why her costumes have not been exhibited since at least the 1910s. Recently, however, the National Museum of American History has updated the photography and research of its Cushman items in an effort to spread the word about how her stage work reflected her refusal to conform in her personal life.

Cushman may never have felt free enough to come out, but her success in male roles and refusal to take a male partner simply for show makes her a groundbreaking figure in LGBTQ history, as well as a foundational star in the history of American entertainment.

Kenneth Cohen is curator in the Division of Culture and the Arts.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017 - 08:00
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Hey Vegans! There May Be Fish Bladder in Your Guinness

Smithsonian Magazine

Since the mid to late 19th century, isinglass, a fish by-product has been used as a clarification agent in Guinness beer. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Guinness sells about 10 million pints a day across 100 countries. On St. Patrick’s Day, that number hops to 13 million. When Arthur Guinness set up shop in Dublin back in 1759, he never would’ve guessed that his stout would become the unofficial beer of the Irish and the go-to beverage to shout to the bartender come March 17 (besides Jameson). Even Obama honored his Irish lineage with a highly-publicized Guinness at a pub in Ireland last year. But the classic brew isn’t for everyone. For the hardline vegetarians and vegans out celebrating this St. Paddy’s Day: there could be traces of fish bladder in your Guinness.

Isinglass, a gelatine-like substance made from the air-bladders or sounds of fish like the sturgeon is added to cask beers like Guinness to help any remaining yeast and solid particles settle out of the final product. As the finings pass through the beer, they attract themselves to particles in the fermented beer that create an unwanted “haziness” in the final product and form into a jelly-like mass that settles to the bottom of the cask. While beer left untouched will clear on its own, isinglass speeds up the process and doesn’t affect the final flavor of the beer once removed.

The word isinglass most likely comes from the corruption of the Dutch word huisenblas which translates directly to “sturgeon’s bladder,” but its history goes back a little further. Its archaic, Latin root, ichthyocolla, comes from the Greek words ikhthus (fish) and kolla (glue)—defining the mucous-like substance as “fish glue.”

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica Volume IX, originally published in Edinburgh in 1797, the method of using isinglass as a clarification agent was long a secret in the hands of the Russians who were known for their exceptionally strong isinglass-made glue. The entry, which draws heavily from Humphrey Jackson’s 63rd volume of the Philosophical Transactionscites the principal research of Pomet on the process of making isinglass:

“As to the manner of making the isinglass, the sinewy parts of the fish are boiled in water till all of them be dissolved that will disolve; then the gluey liqur is strained and set to cool. Being cold, the fat is carefully taken off, and the liquor itself boiled to a just consistency, then cut to pieces and made into a twist, bent in form of a crescent, as commonly fold: then hung upon a firing and carefully dried.”

Pomet’s experiments with the sounds of fish and its chemical properties lead him to discover the fish membrane’s ability to clarify beer. Adding an ounce and a half of “good isinglass” to a gallon of stale beer to steep for a few days, he found that the bad beer “was converted into good fining, of a remarkably thick consistence.” When he tried this with the same quantity of glue, the experiment yielded only “mucilaginous liquor, resembling diluted gum water which instead of clarifying beer, increased both its tenacity and turbidness.”

Combining the insinglass with malt liquor, he found that a “vast number of curdly masses became presently formed”, became attracted to the “feculencies of beer,” and, with the “well known laws of gravitation,” the unwanted particles combined with the isinglass and fell to the bottom of the barrel.

The process is simple: Remove the membranous parts of fresh-caught fish, scrape off the mucosity with a knife, roll, twist and dry in open air.  The thicker the sounds are, the better the isinglass. The air-bladders of fresh water fish are preferred because they are more flexible and delicate. Swim bladders from sturgeon—especially that from the Beluga sturgeon which yielded the greatest quantity of sounds—were used to make isinglass until the 1795 invention of a cheap cod substitute by William Murdoch.  Summer is the best time to collect, as frost interferes with the fish’s gelatinous principles. After the drying process, “good” isinglass, once held up to a light, exhibits prismatic colors.  

Guinness first used isinglass in its Dublin brewery in the mid to late 19th century. A young fermentation scholar by the name of Forbes Watson, the son of an Edinburgh solicitor, was a pioneer in the experimentation and examination of the mineral constituents of Guinness beer. Within six weeks of being hired at the brewery, Watson discovered a way to recover beer at the bottom of the vat saving Guinness 6,000 pounds a year. Very early in his career, he toyed with pasteurization and introduced new methods of breaking down isinglass finings that would increase the lifetime of the stout. In 1909, Watson was killed in an accident with a machine he had helped create at age 37. After he died, little scientific ground was broken for the company until the 1930s.

With the presence of modern gelatin, isinglass is rarely used today with the exception of British “real ale” cask beers. Generally, British beers still use isinglass, gelatin, glycerin or casein. According to a recent statement made by Guinness:

“All Guinness brands are free from animal matter and from contact with animal matter. However, isinglass, which is a by-product of the fishing industry, is used as a fining agent for settling out suspended matter in the vat. The isinglass is retained in the floor of the vat but it is possible that minute quantities might be carried over into the beer.”

For many strict vegetarians and vegans even “minute quantities” of an animal product is enough to abstain from eating a particular food. Much like the honey debate (Does it hurt the bee? Or does it not count as an animal product? What about silkworms and cochineal bugs?) flexitarians and militant vegans may disagree on how to classify the potential traces of isinglass in beer.

For those who are on the anti-isinglass side of the spectrum, carrageenan, a type of red algae, also called Irish Moss, (an appropriate title for St. Paddy’s Day) also works as a fining agent in beer, but doesn’t yield the same results as isinglass. The k-carrageenan interacts with the proteins that create cloudy beer and form the molecular equivalent of marbles in syrup> at the bottom of the batch. Vegan brands like Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon use carrageenan while others like Odell Brewing Co. use centrifugation for clarification. 

Strict vegetarians and vegans often choose German or Belgium brews which abide by “purity laws” (first enacted in 1516) which require that breweries use only ingredients of water, grain (barley or wheat), hops and yeast. The ruling was officially lifted in 1987 by the European Court, but the tradition of the law remains.

So, before you step out on the town in your green get-up and order an Irish stout this St. Patrick’s Day, remember: Pescetarians, rejoice—Guinness is still “good for you“. Vegans, stick to whiskey.

Texas - Nature and Scientific Wonders

Smithsonian Magazine

The Seven Natural Wonders of Texas
Texas is famous for vast cattle ranches and oil booms, but our natural wonders are what awe and inspire travelers.

Natural Bridge Caverns
Located 13 miles north of San Antonio, Natural Bridge Caverns is one of the world’s premiere show caves and Texas’s largest natural attractions. Visitors can view more than 10,000 different formations in its underground chambers. More than 250,000 tourists a year visit this Texas treasure that was recently named to the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior for sites that have an important role in preserving cultural history.

Enchanted Rock
Located just outside the Texas Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, visitors are invited to backpack, camp, hike, rock climb, picnic, bird watch and star gaze in this Texas state park, which is the second-largest granite dome in the United States. The formation rises 425 feet above ground (1,825 feet above sea level) and covers 640 acres.

Big Bend National Park
Hailed as one of America’s largest national parks, Big Bend National Park encompasses more than 800,000 acres along the Rio Grande River in West Texas. The park ranges in elevation from less than 2,000 feet along the Rio Grande River to nearly 8,000 feet in the Chisos Mountains and encompasses massive canyons, rock formations and vast desert expanses.

Padre Island National Seashore
Visitors are sure to soak up plenty of sun on the Padre Island National Seashore, which is the longest remaining undeveloped stretch of barrier island in the world.

The Meteor Crater
Visitors can travel back in time in Odessa, where they can see the 550-foot meteor crater, the second largest in the nation, which was the result of a barrage of meteors crashing to the earth 20,000 to 30,000 years ago.

Big Thicket National Preserve
Nature enthusiasts will want to visit this national preserve where the southwestern desert meets the eastern hardwood swamps and coastal prairies meet the northern piney woods. The preserve is home to diverse plant communities including orchids, cactus, cypress and pine, as well as many species of birds, insect-eating plants and a wide variety of wildlife.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Famed as the second-largest canyon in the United States, the colorful slopes of the Palo Duro Canyon span approximately 120 miles long, 20 miles wide and 800 feet deep.

Outdoor Adventure: Not Just For Cowboys
Whether you are looking to camp, hike, bike, golf, swim, fish, hunt, horseback ride, bird watch or experience just about any other outdoor activity you can think of, Texas is the place to be.

With more than 267,000 square miles to explore, cyclists find many diverse and thrilling rides in Texas, whether it is through the mountains of West Texas or on the trails of the Piney Woods.

Texas also has a number of excellent spots to pitch a tent and spend the night under the stars. State parks, national parks, sandy beaches and nature preserves offer campers a vast variety of areas from which to choose.

One of the most majestic sites for camping and hiking is Palo Duro Canyon State Park in North Texas. If adventure is on the agenda, visitors have their choice at Big Bend National Park in far West Texas that encompasses more than 800,000 acres of mountains and desert along the Rio Grande River, where visitors enjoy hiking, camping, wildlife and more.

The fish are sure to be biting in the more than 90 freshwater lakes and saltwater bays of Texas. From tournament fishing for black bass to fly fishing for rainbow trout, Texas offers fishermen more than any other single state. Deep sea fishing excursions from South Padre Island, Corpus Christi and Galveston offer fishermen a chance to bring home a prize sailfish or shark as a souvenir from their day in the Gulf of Mexico.

For visitors who want to get their feet wet, Texas offers numerous swimming, rafting and scuba diving adventures. Located just 110 miles off the coast of Freeport, the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a scuba diver’s paradise and a world premier diving destination.

With more than 600 species of birds to see and catalogue, Texas is arguably the birding capital of America. Famed birding areas in Texas include the Gulf Coast, Texas Hill Country and the Piney Woods of East Texas. Texas is also home to the World Birding Center, a network of nine birding sites dotted along 120 miles of river road from South Padre Island west to Roma along the Rio Grande River of South Texas.

Happy Trails: Discovering Texas Wildlife
Wild treasures in Texas go far beyond cattle, cactus and coyotes. In addition to a world-class bird-watching experience, adventurers who hike, bike, kayak or even camel trek their way through Texas will find opportunities to chase rare butterflies, spot an endangered ocelot, boat with dolphins or watch sea turtles make their nests.

The Rio Grande Valley is a canvas of color and a haven for nature and bird enthusiasts. The World Birding Center in Mission serves as a global model for conservation and ecotourism and is home to rare Altamira orioles and plain chachalacas. Just down the road, the International Butterfly Park serves as an 85-acre refuge attracting native flora and fauna as well as more than 290 species of butterflies. Weslaco’s Valley Nature Center is not only home to hundreds of bird and butterfly species but also 23 varieties of dragonflies and damselflies. Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge, the "jewel" of the U.S. National Wildlife refuge system, in Alamo, rounds off some of the Valley’s wildlife attractions. This refuge boasts 12 miles of walking trails and a seven-mile tour road that is open to both drivers and bicyclists.

Texas’s Gulf Coast draws whooping cranes and waterfowl galore, particularly in Rockport at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, which hosts the world’s last natural wild population of whoopers along with nearly 400 other bird species. Sea Turtle, Inc. on South Padre Island allows visitors to see endangered sea turtles and learn how its staff rescues and rehabilitates the turtles before releasing them back into the wild. Just across the island, the Dolphin Research and Sea Life Nature Center offers guests the opportunity to feed creatures including starfish, octopus and sea horses. The center also offers dolphin-watching boat tours.

In the Texas Hill Country, the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and black-capped vireo are on display each spring along with other rare songbirds; and fall brings sandhill cranes to the Panhandle Plains region.

Outdoor enthusiasts are sure to fall in love with the rugged beauty of the Big Bend Region. Anchored by Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park, visitors can take in dramatic vistas while enjoying hiking, camping, river running, horse riding, camel trekking, mountain biking and jeep touring. The park also has more than 450 bird species—more than any other national park. Float or raft down the Rio Grande River or for an out-of-the-ordinary touring excursion, contact the Texas Camel Corps for a Camel trek through the desert.

Tee Off in Texas
With a mild climate, a storied past and more than 900 golf courses strewn across rugged desert mountains, rolling green hills, piney woods and seaside links, Texas is blazing a trail in the world of golf. As lush public, private and resort courses spread across the Lone Star State, Texas is fast becoming a destination hotspot and golf-lover’s getaway.

Some of the top names in golf course design have left their mark on the Texas golf landscape, including Tom Fazio, Arnold Palmer and Robert Trent Jones. Golf Schools in Irving and Austin boast such famous namesakes as Byron Nelson and Harvey Penick.

If visitors do pack their clubs while visiting Texas, they won't be alone. We count more than 70 of the top PGA players as Texas residents. And many of the courses are stops on the tour itself, including the Shell Houston Open in Houston, the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in Irving, the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial in Fort Worth, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, the FexEx Kinkos Classic in Austin and the Tour Championship in Houston.

In addition to first-rate golfing, Texas’s golf resorts and destination cities boast an assortment of leisure activities, including world-class spa facilities, shopping and fine dining.

From the Gulf Coast to the Big Bend, visitors can play an unforgettable round of golf in Texas.

Just for Kids
Texas’s wide open spaces are matched in size only by the imaginations of its young travelers. Children of all ages can explore their biggest dreams here—or just get lost in the thrill of a theme park or the warm sun shining down on the Gulf of Mexico.

"Lil’ pardners" looking for a taste of the Old West can hop into the saddle at any of the more than 100 Texas dude ranches with cattle, cowpokes and authentic chuck wagon dinners. Bandera, "The Cowboy Capital of the World," is just northwest of San Antonio and offers such experiences. Families vacationing in urban areas can add a dose of cowboy flavor to their trips with an evening at the rodeo or a two-step lesson at an authentic dance hall.

Young travelers have much to experience at Texas’s world-class museums, zoos and aquariums. The Lone Star State houses everything from natural history and children’s museums to a tribute to Dr. Pepper. Kids can discover the past at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum in Austin, blast off to new worlds entirely at NASA/Johnson Space Center in Houston or spy the night skies at the McDonald Observatory in West Texas. While in West Texas, another can’t-miss night wonder is the famous Marfa lights.

More new worlds are waiting underwater in the Lone Star State. The 600 miles of Texas beaches on the Gulf of Mexico are among the most calming and beautiful in the nation. Ideal family activities include parasailing, boating, dolphin watching, bird watching, building sandcastles, deep sea fishing and just relaxing on the pristine beaches.

Texas also has hundreds of old-fashioned freshwater swimming holes scattered throughout the state, from Barton Springs Pool in Austin to San Solomon Springs in Balmorhea State Park. The state is also home to numerous lakes perfect for swimming, boating, jet skiing and fishing.

Another outdoor activity for the whole family has a simple recipe—a tent, a cooler and the beautiful Texas scenery. Texas has plenty of parks, RV sites and cabins to set the stage for an evening under the stars. Beginning and experienced campers alike can enjoy hiking, backpacking and rock climbing from Palo Duro Canyon, in the Texas Panhandle, to the Piney Woods of East Texas.

Those wanting to get their adrenaline pumping need look no further than Texas’s theme parks, each with monster roller coasters, stunt shows, musical productions and fun rides for all ages. In addition, Texas is home to some of the nation’s best water parks. Families can also spend lazy days floating along Texas’s many lazy rivers, including the Comal, San Marcos, Frio and Guadalupe.

Europe’s Hypocritical History of Cannibalism

Smithsonian Magazine

In 2001, a lonely computer technician living in the countryside in Northern Germany advertised online for a well-built man willing to participate in a mutually satisfying sexual act. Armin Meiwes’ notice was similar to many others on the Internet except for a rather important detail: The requested man must be willing to be killed and eaten.

Meiwes didn’t have to look far. Two hundred and thirty miles away in Berlin, an engineer called Bernd Brandes agreed to travel to Meiwes’ farmhouse. There, a gory video later found by police documented Brandes’ consensual participation in the deadly dinner. The cannibalism was both a shock to the German public and a conundrum to German prosecutors wanting to charge Meiwes with a crime.

Cannibalism might be humanity’s most sacred taboo, but consent of a victim typically eliminates a crime, explains Emilia Musumeci, a criminologist at the University of Catania, in Italy, who studies cannibalism and serial killers.

More technically, cannibalism is not designated as illegal in Germany’s extensive criminal code: Until that point, laws against murder had sufficed to cover cannibalism. If Brandes had volunteered his own life, how could Meiwes be accused of murder?

Because of his victim’s consent, Meiwes was initially found guilty of something akin to assisted suicide, and sentenced to eight years in jail. Had there not been widespread uproar about the seemingly lenient penalty, Meiwes would be out of jail by now. Instead, the uproar led to a subsequent retrial, where Meiwes was found guilty of killing for sexual pleasure. He will likely spend the rest of his life in jail.

The unusual Meiwes case is just one of the topics to be discussed this weekend at an interdisciplinary cannibal conference to be held at the Manchester Museum—the world’s first, say many attending the meeting.

The idea of a cannibalism conference might sound like the basis for a macabre joke about coffee-break finger food. However, there’s serious cannibal scholarship taking place in many disciplines, says conference organizer Hannah Priest, a lecturer at Manchester University, who has previously hosted other academic meetings on werewolves and monsters under the banner of her publishing company Hic Dragones. “From contemporary horror film to medieval Eucharistic devotions, from Freudian theory to science fiction, cannibals and cannibalism continue to repel and intrigue us in equal measure,” advertises the conference’s website.

When the call for abstracts went out last fall, “our first response was one from anthropology, another one was on heavy metal music and the third was on 18th-century literature,” Priest says. “Academics will quite happily discuss very disturbing things in quite polite terms and forget that not everybody talks about this stuff all the time.”

It is perhaps fitting that the conference should take place in Europe because the region has a long chronicle of cannibalism, from prehistory through the Renaissance, right up to the 21st-century Meiwes case. In addition, the area has bequeathed us a bounty of fictional cannibals, including Dracula, who is arguably the world’s most famous consumer of human blood and a gory harbinger of the current pop culture fascination with vampires and zombies.

Europe boasts the oldest fossil evidence of cannibalism. In a 1999 Science article, French paleontologists reported that 100,000-year-old bones from six Neanderthal victims found in a French cave called Moula-Guercy had been broken by other Neanderthals in such a way as to extract marrow and brains. In addition, tool marks on the mandible and femur suggested that tongue and thigh meat had been cut off for consumption. 

The cannibalism at Moula-Guercy wasn’t an isolated incident in prehistory. In the past decade, researchers have reported other evidence that Neanderthals continued eating each other until just before their disappearance. In one particularly grisly discovery at the El Sidrón cave in Spain, paleontologists discovered that an extended family of 12 individuals had been dismembered, skinned and then eaten by other Neanderthals about 50,000 years ago.

When early Homo sapiens began engaging in cannibalism is a topic of debate, although it is clear they eventually did, says Sandra Bowdler, an emeritus professor of archeology at the University of Western Australia. Evidence is scant that this happened in early human hunter-gatherer communities, she says, although in 2009 Fernando Rozzi, at the Centre National de la Récherche Scientifique, in Paris, reported finding a Neanderthal jaw bone that may have been butchered by early humans.

Even if Europe’s Homo sapiens didn’t consume each other in prehistory, they certainly did in more modern times. References to acts of cannibalism are sprinkled throughout many religious and historical documents, such as the reports that cooked human flesh was being sold in 11th-century English markets during times of famine, says Jay Rubenstein, a historian at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

However, the world’s first cannibal incident reported by multiple, independent, first-hand accounts took place during the Crusades by European soldiers, Rubenstein says.

These first-hand stories agree that in 1098, after a successful siege and capture of the Syrian city Ma’arra, Christian soldiers ate the flesh of local Muslims. Thereafter the facts get murky, Rubenstein says. Some chroniclers report that the bodies were secretly consumed in “wicked banquets” borne out of famine and without the authorization of military leaders, Rubenstein says. Other reports suggest the cannibalism was done with tacit approval of military superiors who wished to use stories of the barbaric act as a psychological fear tactic in future Crusade battles.

Either way, post-Crusade European society was not comfortable with what happened at Ma’arra, Rubenstein says. “Everybody who wrote about it was disturbed,” he says. “The First Crusade is the first great European epic. It was a story people wanted to celebrate.” But first they had to deal with the embarrassing stain.

Part of the problem was that cannibalism at Ma’arra simply didn’t fit in with the European self-image. In medieval times, cultural enemies—not military or religious heroes—were commonly depicted as cannibals or giants, “especially in narratives of territorial invasion and conquest,” argues Geradine Heng, in Cannibalism, The First Crusade and the Genesis of Medieval Romance. “Witches, Jews, savages, Orientals, and pagans are conceivable as—indeed, must be—cannibals; but in the 12th-century medieval imaginary, the Christian European subject cannot.”

By the 16th century, cannibalism was not just part of the mental furniture of Europeans; it was a common part of everyday medicine from Spain to England.

Initially, little bits of pulverized mummies imported from Egypt were used in prescriptions against disease, but the practice soon expanded to include the flesh, skin, bone, blood, fat and urine of local cadavers, such as recently executed criminals and bodies dug up illegally from graveyards, says University of Durham’s Richard Sugg, who published a book in 2011 called Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians.

Medicinal cannibalism reached a feverish pitch around 1680, Sugg says. But the practice can be traced back to the Greek doctor Galen, who recommended human blood as part of some remedies in the 2nd century A.D., and it continued all the way into the 20th century. In 1910, a German pharmaceutical catalog was still selling mummy, says Louise Noble, who also wrote a book on the topic called Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture.

While Europeans ate “mummy” to cure their physical ailments, the same culture sent missionaries and colonists to the New World to cure New World indigenous people of their purported barbaric cannibalism, some of which was entirely fabricated as a rationale for conquest, Bowdler says. “It’s certainly possible that Europeans were consuming more human flesh at the time than people in the New World,” Sugg says.

 “It’s a big paradox,” Noble adds. The term cannibal was being used to describe someone inferior while the “civilized in Europe were also eating bits of the human body,” she says.

The word cannibal first entered the English language in the mid-16th century by means of Spanish explorers, says Carmen Nocentelli, a 16th-century comparative literature and culture scholar at the University of New Mexico. It derives from the Spanish word Canibales, which was used by Columbus in his diaries to describe indigenous people of the Caribbean islands who were rumored to be eaters of human flesh, Nocentelli says. In his diaries, it is clear Columbus didn’t initially believe the rumors, she adds.

But the name stuck: Cannibal became a popular term used to describe people in the New World. It was certainly sexier than the Greek and then Latin word “anthropophagi,” which a 1538 dictionary defines as “people in Asia, which eate [sic] men,” Nocentelli says.

Because there’s evidence that colonists exaggerated accounts of cannibalism in the New World, some scholars have argued that all cannibalism reports in the colonies were fictitious. But the balance of evidence suggest some reports were certainly true, Bowdler says, namely, from human blood proteins found in fossilized feces at American Southwest sites to first-hand reports from reliable sources about cannibal practices among Mesoamerican Aztecs and Brazilian Tupinambá. “One of the reasons cannibalism is so controversial is because we have few detailed accounts of how it worked in society,” Bowdler adds.

Bowdler has been compiling a list of well-documented accounts of worldwide cannibalism that she will present at the conference this weekend. In particular, she’ll discuss categories of cannibalism where consuming human flesh is “not considered out-and-out bad” in the society where it is practiced, she says.

One such category is survival cannibalism, where people consume each other out of absolute necessity, such as the 16 survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes mountains or the members of Sir John Franklin’s failed 1845 expedition to the Arctic.

Another category is mortuary cannibalism, the consumption of the dead during their funeral rites, practiced through the 20th century in the Eastern Highlands Province of Papua New Guinea and the Brazilian and Peruvian Amazon. “This is not, as we may instinctively imagine, morbid and repulsive,” notes the University of Manchester’s Sarah-Louise Flowers in her conference abstract, “but is instead an act of affection and respect for the dead person, as a well as being a means of helping survivors to cope with their grief.”

As some conference attendees compare culturally acceptable categories of human consumption with nefarious cases of cannibal serial killers, other conference presenters will pick apart the presence of cannibals in pop culture, such as the episode of revenge cannibalism in the animated sitcom South Park, the blockbuster popularity of the vampire romance novel series Twilight and the emergence of the Call Of Duty: Zombies video game.

With talk titles like “Flesh-Eaters in London: Cosmopolitan Cannibals in Late 19th-Century Fiction and the Press,” “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner? Inside the Mind of the Cannibal Serial Killer,” and “Bon Appetit! A Concise Defense of Cannibalism,” one can only hope the conference canapés are vegetarian.

The Forgotten History of Mace, Designed by a 29-Year-Old and Reinvented as a Police Weapon

Smithsonian Magazine

In May 1968, in front of photographers and television cameras, Sheriff Joseph Woods wiped a tear from his eye. As an unyielding ex-Marine who hadn't hesitated using force against protestors in Chicago and its suburbs, Woods wasn't really the crying type. He was tearing up because he had just been shot by mace—which, he argued, "is a very humane weapon." The television cameras were broadcasting his attempt to try and prove his point.

Mace was only four years old at this point, and hadn't even reached the consumer market yet—but in its short lifespan, it had already been transformed from a tool of private protection to a front-line weapon of riot control. Strangely enough, it began as the household invention of a young Pittsburgh couple who kept an alligator in the basement. Over time, from Los Angeles to D.C. to Ferguson, it became a ubiquitous and potent symbol of both justice and injustice.

Half a century ago, Alan and Doris Litman lived in Pittsburgh. Doris was a science teacher and Alan, 29 years old, was an inventor, which presumably meant he was waiting for a big break from one of his many pending patents. Journalist Garry Wills portrayed Litman as an enthusiastic and idiosyncratic graduate of the University of Pittsburgh, where among other things he'd done experiments on animal intelligence. This explained why, to the bewilderment of visitors, he and Doris kept an alligator in the basement. It was named Ernst.

Litman's early creations sound like they came off a shelf at Sears. In 1961, he submitted a patent application for an "Infrared nursing bottle heater," a device that warmed milk for infants, and in 1963 he sketched a "waterless egg cooker" and a "bacon cooker." All three inventions seem to have slipped into the netherworld of products that never saw profits. One year later, however, his focus underwent an unexpected shift. He submitted a 1964 application for an "Assailant Incapacitator" and another for an "Aerosol Safety Device," the two of which combined into a little bottle for spraying harsh chemicals. Litman had gone from designing home goods to designing devices for "pocket-sized personal protection." Eventually he'd even patent an "Anti-personnel grenade."

This raises an obvious question. How in the world did Alan Litman go from a builder of bacon cookers to the designer of anti-personnel grenades?

It all started when one of Doris Litman's colleagues, a young female teacher, was mugged on the streets of Pittsburgh. According to several newspaper accounts, when she brought the story home to Alan, the pair started discussing the tools a woman might use in self-defense. Pocket-sized pepper sprays existed, but they often unintentionally afflicted the sprayer, or took so long to sink in that they simply failed to deter attackers. 

So the Litmans started running experiments in their home. They toyed with aerosol spray cans, figuring out how to better direct liquids. They mixed chemicals like kerosene, Freon, and sulfuric acid to dissolve and propel harsh irritants. After trying a dizzying array of chemicals that seared the eyes and face, they settled on chloroacetophenone, a chemical the U.S. military had highlighted as a potent tear gas during World War II. At first they called it TGASI, for "Tear Gas Aerosol Spray Instrument," but soon they came up with the catchier name of "Chemical Mace." According to newspaper reports, the name implied that chemicals could produce the same incapacitating effect as a medieval mace—a chilling design of spiked club—but without causing the same brutal injuries. Alan sent off patent applications for a spray can, nozzle, and their chemical mixture. 

"Chemical Mace" joined a growing list of technologies designed to disarm without killing. Just a handful of chemicals are considered incapacitating but non-lethal, but they're harnessed in weapons from grenades to sprays to artillery shells. Pepper sprays all harness a single chemical, capsaicin, which is the active ingredient of chili peppers and immediately produces an intense burning sensation all across the face. The remaining chemicals, including the active ingredient in Chemical Mace, fall into the category of tear gases. These take effect more slowly than pepper sprays and cause particular pain in the mucous membranes of the eyes and mouth. All these chemicals—pepper spray and the handful of "non-lethal" tear gases—produce the same basic effect: they attach to sensory receptors on our nerve endings and produce the sensation of burning pain.

Mace wasn't innovative because of its active ingredient, which had already been synthesized in laboratories and discussed for its military applications. It was innovative because it repackaged a chemical weapon as a civilian product. Because it wasn't considered deadly, it didn't violate federal laws; because of its spray bottle design, it could fit in your pocket. And in this form, mace was almost immediately a success. The prototype spray bottle became the foundation of Alan Litman's new business, the General Ordnance Equipment Corporation. 

Just two years later, with patent applications still pending, Litman accepted a $100,000 offer for the company from Smith & Wesson—the famed manufacturer of guns and ammunition. His new employer, which made him director of nonlethal weaponry research, bridged the two key markets for weapons that don't kill: private consumers and law enforcement. Mace was in the midst of a transformation. 

Patenting "Chemical Mace" proved far more difficult than Litman anticipated. Because the chemical had already been identified by scientists, he never managed to patent a chemical mixture for his devices. His early sprayer design wasn't granted a patent either, and only after years of tweaking, in 1969, did he arrive at a patentable sprayer design that we'd still recognize today.

Which brings us back to Sheriff Joseph Woods of Cook County, Illinois—one of many powerful members of law enforcement eying new technologies to revolutionize the battle for civil order.

As Woods well knew, the late 1960s were a violent time for American cities. Protests against race inequality and the Vietnam War were flaring up across the country, and police forces were militarizing in response. In the wake of the Watts riots, Los Angeles police were considering the purchase of a 20-ton bulletproof vehicle, capable of carrying a machine gun and crushing a barricade of cars. Detroit police had supplemented standard-issue pistols with 500 rifles, 300 shotguns, and 1200 tear gas grenades. Sheriff Woods' approach was to defy an order from his state's Circuit Court and build a riot control squad from civilian volunteers. His Chicago-area police officers were equipped with the latest in law enforcement technology, namely the mace spray that immediately sparked controversy.

By 1967, mace was being tested on unruly crowds across the nation. Norman Mailer mentioned mace in reporting from antiwar rallies in Washington. As a November story in the Pittsburgh Reading Eagle suggested the concept of a spray weapon was still something of a surprise: "Police from Scituate, R.I. To Chula Vista, Calif., have added a new weapon to their arsenals—an aerosol can of gas." But even though mace was experimental, it was quickly becoming a weapon of the front lines.

The Reading Eagle continued: "It was used recently on a gang that turned a Pittsburgh school hallway into an alley of violence, on antiwar demonstrators who battled Police at an Oakland, Calif., induction center, on a prisoner who went beserk in his New Orleans cell, and on a frightened opossum who took over a W. Va., police car."

"It failed to control one of the disturbances—the opossum," the article concluded lightheartedly, as if the use of mace on prisoners and students wasn't worth comment.

It was, of course, and criticism proved fierce. Several 1968 medical studies flagged potential long-term health risks like eye damage, allergic reactions, and asthma attacks. These fears still seem reasonable: the CDC states that exposure to chloroacetophenone can constrict airways and cause fluid build-up in the lungs, both of which can exacerbate existing respiratory conditions. Severe exposure in the eyes can cause corneal opacity and, if sprayed particles are traveling quickly enough, even blindness. Other critiques objected on principle: Since chemical weapons are outlawed in international warfare, should law enforcement deploy a harsh chemical spray against America's own citizens? Since police brutality is already a concern with conventional weapons—and since protest is a part of healthy democracy—does it make sense to arm officers with another class of weapon? 

In Chicago, Sheriff Woods responded with his televised stunt. He asked to be shot with mace from around 15 inches away, with nurses standing by to monitor his vital signs. Though police officers often aim for the eyes, the stream hit him in the neck. He reported that the spray was cool but quickly vaporized and prompted a sharp burning in the chest and eyes. "It took an effort to keep my eyes open," Woods told a United Press International reporter. But he said the effects were temporary and minor.

The story made national news alongside slightly more rigorous arguments in favor of police uses of mace. In the mid-1960s, over 100 police were shot in riots across the country, and officers justifiably clamored for better methods of self-defense. The strongest and most persistent claim was that mace allowed police officers to incapacitate a suspect without needing to risk firing a gun. In other words, you can see mace as a part of the militarization of police, but you can also argue that it helped halt the domestic arms race. It gave police a reliable alternative to harsher weapons. 
In such a turbulent moment, the original inspiration for Litman's modest spray slipped quietly into the background. A product that had started as a tool to empower individuals, like the teacher mugged in Pittsburgh, was now being accused of disempowering American citizens of their right to protest. According to Garry Wills, Litman gradually stopped discussing the product as controversy grew. Even 50 years after the invention of mace, these criticisms remain relevant. If they've largely faded off the map, that's only because by the 1970s, thousands of police departments had made mace mainstream.

Mace earned its twin identity in American culture, as a tool for both private protection and law enforcement, only in the past few decades. Amazingly, mace wasn't widely sold for private use until 1981—by which time members of law enforcement were arguing against it. Private use of mace, they worried, might put police officers at risk. 

In a society that embraces firearms while fighting gun violence, safety and self-defense can become puzzlingly relative concepts. One man's definition of self-defense is another man's definition of brutality. And with this in mind, perhaps it's no wonder the uses of mace were disputed from the very beginning. Sometimes the very same technology that makes us safe can put us at risk.

Should Trophy Hunting of Lions Be Banned?

Smithsonian Magazine

Their numbers are declining, but lions remain a legal target of trophy hunters in Africa. Big males, like this one, are potential trophies. Photo courtesy of Flickr user suburbanchicken.

Nowhere in the world is it legal to hunt wild tigers, as each remaining subspecies of the giant cat is infamously on the verge of extinction.

Yet the close cousin of the tiger, the lion—almost equally large, equally charismatic and, in places, equally threatened—is legally killed by trophy hunters across its shrinking African range. The remaining lion population, centered in eastern and southern Africa, has declined by as much as 30 percent in the past 20 years, and the cats are considered seriously imperiled. Yet every year 600 lions fall to the bullets of licensed and legal tourists on safari hunts. The activity is opposed by many, but those in favor argue that trophy hunting of lions and other prized targets generates employment and revenue for local economies. The Huffington Post ran an editorial in March 2011 in which the author—lion researcher Luke Hunter—condemned the act of shooting a big cat but still argued that lion hunting is an important tool in generating revenue for land preservation. The author reported that trophy-hunting tourists may pay $125,000 in fees and guide services for the privilege of killing a lion, and he questioned the wisdom in protecting the animals under the Endangered Species Act, an action the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is considering. A hunter’s organization called Conservation Force also makes the case on its website that African “tourist safari hunting” benefits land, wildlife and communities while imparting “no detrimental biological impact.”

But a report published in 2011 says otherwise—that the environmental and economic benefits of trophy hunting in Africa are negligible. The paper, produced by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, states that in 11 sub-Saharan countries that allow trophy hunting of large game, 272 million acres—or 15 percent of the land—is open to the sport. However, returns from trophy hunting are dismal. While hunters in Africa kill, in addition to lions, 800 leopards, 640 elephants and more than 3,000 water buffalo each year, among other species, they leave behind only 44 cents per acre of hunting land. In Tanzania, that figure is much smaller—a per-acre benefit of less than two cents. A closer look by the report’s authors at seven of the 11 countries—Namibia, Tanzania, Botswana, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Benin—revealed that trophy hunting employs not even 10,000 people on a permanent and part-time basis. About 100 million people live in these seven nations.

The IUCN’s report points out that since the economic benefits of trophy hunting appear to be virtually nil in Africa, the only way hunting can be used as a conservation tool is by allowing it as part of carefully designed conservation strategies. Which beckons the question: What species are to gain by hunters prowling their habitat? Certainly, in some cases of overpopulation—usually of grazing herd animals—hunting can serve a direct purpose and even benefit ecosystems. Even elephants are widely said to be overpopulated in certain locations and in need of intervention via rifles.

Female and juvenile lions are off-limits to hunters, but whole prides may be impacted when trophy hunters remove the most powerful breeding males from a population. Photo courtesy of Flickr user kibuyu.

But for lions, can the intentional removal of any animals from remaining populations be tolerated? Their numbers are crashing from historic levels. Lions once occurred in most of Africa, southern Europe, the Arabian peninsula and southern Asia as far east as India. But nation by nation, lions have disappeared. In Greece, they were gone by A.D. 100. In the 1100s, lions vanished from Palestine. The species’ greatest decline occurred in the 20th century, when Syria, Iran and Iraq saw their last lions die. In 1950, there may have been 400,000 left in the wild; by 1975, perhaps only 200,000. By the 1990s, their numbers had been halved again. Today, an isolated population in the Gir Forest of India numbers more than 400 and seems even to be growing. But the current African population of 32,000 to 35,000 is declining fast. (Defenders of Wildlife has estimated that not even 21,000 lions remain.) In Kenya, the situation is dire: In 2009, wildlife officials guessed they were losing about 100 lions per year in a national population of just 2,000 and that they might be extinct within 20 years. The causes are multiple but related; loss of habitat and decline of prey species are huge factors which, in turn, mean increased lion conflicts with livestock herders—and, often, dead lions; and as numbers drop, the gene pool is dwindling, causing inbreeding and weakened immune systems. Disease outbreaks have also had devastating impacts.

Then there is trophy hunting, which may remove powerful breeding males from a population. David Youldon, the chief operating officer of the conservation group Lion Alert, said in an e-mail that no existing lion population needs culling. The only potential benefit from hunting could come as revenue for land preservation and local communities—but this, he says, isn’t happening.

“Hunting has the potential to generate conservation benefits, but the industry needs a complete overhaul, improved regulation and greater benefit to Africa if such benefits are to be realized, and I see little motivation within the industry to make those changes,” he wrote.

Incredibly, as lions disappear, tourists spur the decline; they may still shoot lions in Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Ethiopia also allows very limited hunting. Fifty-three percent of the cats are taken by Americans, according to Lion Alert, which has reviewed the IUCN’s report and warns on its website that the societal benefits of hunting in most of Africa are so minimal that the activity, in effect, creates little or no impetus to preserve land for the activity, maintain populations of target animals or stop poaching.

So what can travelers do to help? Take more pictures, perhaps. “Photographic tourism” generates 39 times the permanent employment that trophy hunting does, the IUCN report says, while protected lands generate on average two times the tourist revenue per acre as do hunting reserves. That is still just pennies—but at least it leaves the lions alive.

A male lion naps as a safari jeep’s spotlight illuminates it for photographers, which reportedly generate almost two times the revenue per acre of land as do trophy hunters. Photo courtesy of Flickr user russelljsmith.

Other Big Cats to Protect—and See While You Can:

Tiger. Since 1900, tiger numbers from Turkey to Malaysia have dropped by 95 percent. Today, between 4,000 and 7,000 remain, and the outlook is grim. The largest population lives in India, where tourists have the best chance at seeing wild tigers in Ranthambore National Park, Kanha National Park and Bandhavgarh National Park.

Cheetah. The world’s fastest land animal once lived in 44 countries in Asia and Africa, with a population of possibly 100,000. Today, most cheetahs live in Africa, where numbers are down to as low as 10,000. A gene pool bottleneck thousands of years ago has left a legacy of inbreeding, one of the major threats to the cheetah’s survival. For now, an excellent place to see cheetahs is Kafue National Park, in Zambia.

Snow Leopard. The granite-colored snow leopard of the Himalaya numbers possibly 6,000 in 12 nations, but, like most wild cats, the snow leopard is disappearing. Trekkers in the Himalaya (PDF) have the best chance, though unlikely, of catching a glimpse.

Clouded Leopard. Perhaps the most mysterious of the big cats—and definitely the smallest—the clouded leopard ranges from Tibet through southern China and south through the islands of Malaysia and Indonesia. The animals weigh just 30 to 50 pounds and spend much of their time in trees. The current population is unknown but believed to be less than 10,000 individuals and shrinking. Seeing clouded leopards is rare—and we may take satisfaction simply in knowing that this beautiful creature exists.

The endangered snow leopard, a resident of the Himilayas, is rarely seen in the wild. This one lives in a zoo. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Tambako the Jaguar.

The Faux “Sioux” Sharpshooter Who Became Annie Oakley’s Rival

Smithsonian Magazine

At about 10:30 a.m. on the morning of August 3, 1901, more than 100,000 people jostled to catch a glimpse of Frederick Cummins’ Indian Congress parade at the Pan-American Exhibition in Buffalo, New York. The crowds shrieked with excitement when they heard the Carlisle Indian Band strike up a tune, and drew a collective gasp when three celebrities appeared on their respective steeds. There was Geronimo, the aged Apache chief, and Martha “Calamity Jane” Canary, the frontierswoman and scout of the American Plains.

And then there was Wenona, the Sioux girl.

Wenona, Cummins proclaimed, was not only the “champion rifle shot of the world,” but also the daughter of a chief named Crazy Horse and a white woman, born in a “tepee on the south bank of the Big Cheyenne, near Fort Bennett, Dakota,” and only 18 years old. Cummins offered a $1,000 reward to anyone who could best Wenona with a rifle at the Exhibition. Her extraordinary shooting prowess, he crowed, had been bestowed upon her by supernatural spirits of the Indian world.

In fact, “Wenona” was not a Sioux teen. She was 29-year-old Lillian Frances Smith, the daughter of a white Quaker couple from New England. A former performer in William “Buffalo Bill” Cody’s Wild West show, she had earned the scorn of the legendary Annie Oakley and had been cast aside to make her own way in the world.

Lillian Smith, probably age 15. Probably a Buffalo Bill’s Wild West publicity photo (Image courtesy of University of Oklahoma Libraries, Western History Collection, Rose Collection, No. 787)

At the cusp of 30, the so-called “California Girl” may have thought that adopting a Native American persona was her last chance to differentiate herself from Oakley. At least, this is what my original thesis was, when I first examined the sparse records that Smith left in her own writing before her death in 1930. I had been casting about for a California figure to write about, and tripped over mention of Smith in a footnote in an article about someone else. I had to piece together a sparse collection of Smith’s letters, newspaper accounts, playbills, accounts of those who worked with her, and genealogical sources to find her “real” story. And her real story, I found, had little to do with Oakley. It was not even so much that a “rehabilitated” Indian could sell a lot of tickets at that time—though that was certainly part of it. As I collected more and more sources, I concluded that the primary purpose of Smith’s transformation into Wenona was so that Smith could completely erase her past and start all over again, in typically American fashion.

Smith was a darling of Buffalo Bill’s 1886-1887 Wild West Show. One was at a loss, exclaimed one observer of the show in New York, whether “Miss Lillian Smith, Miss Annie Oakley, Johnnie Butler, the ‘Kid’ [cowboy Jim Willoughby], or Buffalo Bill himself” deserved the highest praise for marksmanship. As soon as Smith joined the show in April of 1886, Oakley shaved 12 years off her own birth date, insecure about the talented young teen stealing the spotlight. And Smith did not waste any time getting on Oakley’s nerves, bragging that the latter was “done for,” once the public had seen “her own self shoot.”

Yet, I learned through my research, Lillian was far less concerned with a feud with Annie Oakley than with getting away from her controlling father, Levi, who traveled with his daughter on the American leg of the Wild West tour. Levi followed Smith everywhere, and prevented her from making friends when he could. Under normal circumstances, this might illustrate good parenting—she was, after all, just a teen. But Levi exploited his daughter, and later, her younger sister. I found many examples of this, but perhaps the most poignant is mentioned in a letter Smith wrote to a friend, lamenting her sister’s situation: “The best thing she [Nellie] could do would be to marry or go with some man who was smart enough to manage her—else she will never win with this old man around her neck.” This is exactly what Lillian did when she married the cowboy “Kid” Willoughby, who was a dozen years her senior, in 1886. By marrying Willoughby, Smith put a trusted friend in charge of her finances and virtue while overseas, and pushed her father out of the picture. By all accounts, they were smitten with each other, and Willoughby staunchly supported his wife when Oakley and husband Frank Butler took her to task in the newspapers.

Lillian Smith as Princess Wenona, taken at the 1901 World’s Fair in Buffalo, New York. Centered in the photo is Geronimo. An inscription on the photo says, “General Milles–Indian Congress,” probably meant to commemorate General Nelson Miles’s winning of Geronimo’s surrender in 1886. (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

The marriage failed in 1889 when Willoughby left with Buffalo Bill on a second European tour and Smith did not—possibly because Oakley made Smith’s absence a condition of her own return to the show. Newspapers hinted at Smith’s dalliance with a “half-breed” as the reason for the breakup, but it is more likely the young sharpshooter simply lost interest in marriage with Willoughby so far away. Levi Smith immediately took control of his daughter’s career again, and the family traveled up and down the West Coast, living off Lillian’s exhibition earnings.

In 1897, Smith impulsively married a saloonkeeper in Santa Cruz, and just as quickly left him when she met Charles “Frank” Hafley, sheriff of Tulare County, at a gallery in Visalia the following year. Hafley was not conventionally handsome, but he was witty, athletic, and very intelligent. Additionally, he was an extraordinary sharpshooter in his own right, and a very competent equestrian. The two may not have ever legally married, but they began a decade-long romantic and business partnership that packed in more adventure than most people saw in their lifetimes. They traveled to Hawaii as a sharpshooting act, to the East Coast to perform at the 1901 World’s Fair, and to the Jamestown Exhibition in Virginia in 1904. The pair even created their own program called “California Frank’s Wild West,” and started an Indian curio business on the side (Smith created her own brand of tomahawks). It was Hafley who helped Smith morph into “Princess Wenona,” helping her write a “new” biography that included him, “Fighting Frank” Hafley, as the cowboy who brought this fair Indian maiden into a culture of civilizing whites.

Wenona’s costume often included a fully fringed, suede tunic with intricate beadwork and a fantastic feathered headdress, which she wore even while shooting moving objects while astride a galloping horse. Her “Indianness” helped differentiate her among other Wild West stars, but her costuming was also practical. Smith had struggled with her weight since puberty, and her tunic let her hide her voluptuous figure. Additionally, it gave her freedom of movement to do the physically demanding feats she was known for, like shooting glass balls thrown all around an arena while galloping full speed on her horse while flipped on her back.

Perhaps most importantly, Wenona’s adopted Sioux identity forever severed any connection between her and her parents. In 1900, we know from one of her letters, she was still trying to convince her younger sister to leave Levi’s sphere of influence on the West Coast and move east to be closer to her. The Smith girls’ mother died in 1901, and their father in 1908. Wenona did not see either of them again after she met Frank in 1898.

Lillian Smith as Princess Wenona. Publicity photo from Pawnee Bill’s Wild West, circa 1905. In this image, Wenona is Minnehaha, the fictional Native American woman in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 poem “The Song of Hiawatha.” (Image courtesy of Library of Congress)

Audiences were more than willing to receive Wenona as a member of a “noble race,” albeit one doomed by the progress of civilization. As Philip Deloria, Laura Browder, and other historians describe it, Native Americans were icons of American identity, and citizens wanted to feel a natural affinity with the continent. Indians could teach them such “aboriginal closeness.” Lillian Smith was not the first or last performer to try to bridge this gap. In her book, Real Native Genius: How an Ex-Slave and a White Mormon Became Famous Indians, Angela Pulley Hudson describes how in the mid-1800s, Warner McCary and his wife Lucy, who was not only white but divorced, traveled the United States as singers and comedians before turning to lecturing on medical healing. They used “Indianness” as a way to disguise their backgrounds, justify their marriage, and make a living—much as Wenona did. Smith’s popularity spurred a number of wannabes on the Wild West circuit: “Princess Kiowa,” “Princess Winonah,” “Princess Mohawk,” and others. One notable “Princess Kiowa” was Nellie Smith, Lillian’s younger sister, who was also an accomplished sharpshooter, but was never quite as good or as famous as her older sister. Nellie fades from the historical record after 1916, when she was performing for Yankee Robinson’s circus.

Wenona retired from show business in 1925 or thereabouts. She had a brief relationship with cowboy Wayne Beasley just before World War I, but her last substantial romantic entanglement was with Emil Lenders, one of the great painters of the American West. Lenders had also “gone native.” His first marriage had ended when his wife could no longer tolerate his traipsing off with various tribes instead of helping to take care of his family in Philadelphia. He had first met Wenona at the Buffalo Exhibition, and got reacquainted with her around 1920 when Joe Miller of the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch in Ponca City, Oklahoma, brought Lenders in to paint buffalo and other animals. Wenona had performed with the 101’s traveling wild west since 1915, and Joe Miller generously allowed many of his performers to live on the working ranch. It was only natural, when Lenders and Wenona fell in love, that they shared a house there.

The couple parted ways amicably in 1928, when Lenders met and married another woman. Wenona lived on in a tiny cabin on the outskirts of the 101, and passed the time caring for her many chickens and dogs. At age 59, she developed a heart condition, and quickly deteriorated over the Christmas season of 1929.

She still always wore her Sioux garb, and asked to be buried in it upon her death. When she passed away in February of 1930, her friends obliged.

Julia Bricklin is the author of a new biography of female sharpshooter Lillian Frances Smith (University of Oklahoma Press: April 2017), and has authored articles for commercial and academic journals such as Civil War Times, Financial History, Wild West, True West and California History. Bricklin grew up in Southern California, obtained a journalism degree at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo and worked in the TV/film industry for 15 years before obtaining her Master’s degree in history at Cal State Northridge. In addition to serving as associate editor of California History, the publication of the California Historical Society, she lectures in U.S. history for her local community college district. 

This essay is part of What It Means to Be American, a partnership of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and Zócalo Public Square.

"Penn Wallpaper Mills" New Patterns

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
A variety of papers including this children's that is said to be ideal for young girls.

The Devastating Fire That Nearly Consumed the Smithsonian Castle 150 Years Ago This Month

Smithsonian Magazine

Strategically located in Washington, D.C., on the National Mall is a red brick building completed in 1855 and called “The Castle” because of its medieval revival design and architecture. It is also the original home of the Smithsonian Institution, has housed the offices of all 12 Smithsonian secretaries, and remains the meeting place for its governing board of regents. The Smithsonian’s first secretary, a prominent scientist named Joseph Henry, took up residence in the building, living there with his family and his daughter Mary, who kept a diary of the lively events occurring at this location during the Civil War.

Henry advised President Abraham Lincoln on a variety of things, ranging from the use of observation balloons in wartime and proposals for new armaments, to the mining of coal in Central America. The Smithsonian secretary was even asked to investigate a medium who conducted séances for Mrs. Lincoln—and uncovered the trickery employed. President Lincoln often visited Henry in the Castle, and at least on one occasion the pair climbed the north tower to test a light signaling system, whereby warnings of a possible Confederate invasion of the capital could be flashed from the Smithsonian to Fort Washington to the south, the U.S. Capitol, and the Old Soldier’s home—where Lincoln spent the summer months. 

The Castle’s location near the Potomac River and adjacent Virginia was so strategic that in April 1861, Secretary of War Simon Cameron instructed his chief ordinance officer to issue “professor” Henry 12 muskets and 240 rounds of ammunition to defend the Smithsonian. The Castle also hosted an acoustically marvelous 2,000 seat auditorium, which was the site in late 1861 and early 1862 of a series of lectures by prominent abolitionists including Wendell Phillips, Horace Greeley, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry Ward Beecher, among others. President Lincoln and many prominent officials attended. Henry though, would not include Frederick Douglass, who was to be the final speaker in the series participate, reporting, “I would not let the lecture of the coloured man to be given in the rooms of the Smithsonian.”

An 1857 print depicts a scientist cataloging specimens in the Natural History Laboratory of the Smithsonian Institution's Castle Building. (Smithsonian Institution Archives)

It was January 24, 1865, and a bitter cold had descended on Washington, D.C. The Civil War had a reached a turning point and Lincoln had won re-election just months earlier. That afternoon an event took place that was so horrific that Congress adjourned for the day as city residents rushed to the Smithsonian grounds.

Only days before, workmen had been carrying out some repairs in the Castle’s cold and drafty “Picture Gallery,” where some 200 of John Mix Stanley’s magnificent paintings of American Indians, among other artworks, were installed in the popular salon-style of the day. Needing to keep warm, the workers connected a wood-burning stove to what they thought was a flue. But instead, it was the brick furring space behind the wall. Embers from the stove smoldered out of sight, probably for several days before the tragedy struck.

On the afternoon of the 24th, the walls of the Smithsonian Castle Building suddenly burst into what was described at the time as a “sheet of flame.” Custodian William DeBeust sounded the alarm and managed to save a handful of paintings before retreating from the inferno. The fire quickly spread to the “Regents Room,” where the Smithsonian’s governing board typically met, and destroyed some of the rare personal effects that had belonged to the Institution’s British benefactor James Smithson.

The fire roared through the “Apparatus Room,” housing scientific equipment, as well as Secretary Henry’s office, consuming his irreplaceable papers, documents and correspondence. It burned through the Smithsonian’s great auditorium—the largest in Washington. A cautious Henry had his staff stored buckets of water around the Castle to fight a possible fire, but the huge conflagration rendered the plan futile.

The fire rose to the Castle’s wooden roof, causing its collapse, along with a tower and several battlements. Mary Henry, the secretary’s daughter described the scene: 

“truly it was a grand sight as well as a sad one, the flames bursting from the windows of the towers rose high above them curling round the ornamental stone work through the arches and trefoils as if in full appreciation of their symmetry, a beautiful fiend tasting to the utmost the pleasure of destruction.”

Among the thousands of city residents gathered on the snow-covered pleasure garden grounds—now known as the National Mall, witnessing the catastrophe, was photographer Alexander Gardner, who took the only known image of the blaze consuming the famous building. Steam-powered fire engines had difficulty pumping water to squelch the blaze, but finally, by evening, the fire abated.

A page from Mary Henry's diary recounts the fire as it engulfed the Castle on January 24, 1865. (Smithsonian Institution Archives)

Fortunately, Col. Barton Alexander, who had managed the Castle’s completion after the original architect James Renwick was dismissed from the job, had prudently used iron for some of the Castle’s main section pillars and beams, which prevented the edifice from completely collapsing. The fire was confined to the main section and upper stories of the building, and though the losses were major, the damage to the collections in the valuable library and museum areas on the lower floor was limited, caused largely by water. Henry and his family, who lived in the building, and a number of staff dragged out furniture and whatever else they could salvage. But by the next morning, Mary Henry noted the scale of the destruction—she could look up through the shell of the Castle and see blue sky.  

Secretary Henry moved immediately to shelter the Smithsonian’s building and its collections. Given Henry’s relationship with Lincoln, Secretary of War Edwin Stanton quickly responded. General Daniel Rucker was ordered to assist with U.S. Army troop support. Under the guidance of Quartermaster General Montgomery Meigs, soldiers took tar-soaked felt and re-roofed the Castle in just three days—a tremendous feat. Henry and others were much relieved, though they later received a bill for a then-considerable amount of $1,974 to reimburse the government for the repairs.

An 1857 view of the Reading Room of the Castle. (Smithsonian Institution Archives)

On February 5, 1865, some ten days after the Smithsonian fire, Alexander Gardner—who took the photograph of the Castle ablaze, hosted Lincoln in his studio for what would be the president’s last formal sitting. This generated the famous “cracked plate” portrait of Lincoln (now held in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery). Lincoln, though visibly exhausted from the nation’s tribulations, nonetheless managed a slight smile and even exuded a bit of optimism, as he looked forward to war’s end and the country’s rebuilding.

After the Civil War, Henry renovated the Castle, replacing the temporary roof with a permanent one. He decided not to rebuild the auditorium, as the lecture series and his refusal to let Douglass attend caused much consternation. Instead, he turned it into an exhibition hall. The Castle, of course, has evolved in its purpose, and the Smithsonian has grown enormously over the past 150 years since that fire (19 museums, 9 research facilities and a Zoo). And sometimes history comes full circle, indicating how much our country has changed, and grown. When the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture, currently rising on the Mall, opens next year, Frederick Douglass’s words will certainly be heard in the rooms of the Smithsonian.  


The Smithsonian's History of America in 101 Objects

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John Peabody Harrington papers: Mohave, 1907-circa 1914, 1946-circa 1957

National Anthropological Archives
Microfilm and digital surrogates of microfilm are available. See Volume 3, reels 148-168. Only original documents created by Harrington, his collaborators and field assistants, or notes given to him were microfilmed.

As a teacher of modern languages at Santa Ana High School in California (1906-1909), John P. Harrington spent his vacations studying Mohave and Yuma in Needles and Yuma, California. Working with a young Mohave woman in Needles in 1907, Mohave was the first Indian language that he ever recorded.

From 1909 until 1915, when he joined the Bureau of American Ethnology, Harrington held various positions with the Museum of the University of New Mexico and the School of American Archaeology, based mainly in Santa Fe. Along with work in other indigenous languages and cultures, he pursued his Mohave studies in Lincolnia, Cottonia, Needles, and Fort Mohave. The focus was on Mohave with ethnographic references to Yuma, Maricopa, Cocopa, Havasupai, and Walapai.

Under the auspices of the Bureau of American Ethnology, the School of American Archaeology, and the University of Colorado, he was ethnologist for a Mohave Valley expedition undertaken in March and April 1911, in conjunction with Junius Henderson and W. W. Robbins. Henderson identified the botanical life of the Mohave Valley and Robbins the zoological.

According to field notes and reports, the years 1910 and 1911 were the most productive ones for this first period of accumulation of Mohave data. Harrington worked with a number of people who spoke Mohave and Chemehuevi, resulting in numerous comparative references. Among the many Mohave speakers, Lee Irving (abbreviated L. I.), Mr. Edgar (Rev. Edgar), Ferd Wagner (Mr. Ferd), and Peter Dean (Peter) contributed substantially. Harrington primarily worked with Wagner in 1907. Edward H. Davis accompanied him on various placename trips and apparently advised him on the collection of artifacts. Financial records indicate that he spent about six weeks in Needles in late spring, 1914, collecting objects for the Panama-California Exposition.

A second period of endeavor commenced in 1946 with new recordings from Hal Davidson (Hal), Mr. and Mrs. Henry Lewis, George Turner, and Russell. Returning from the field to Washington, D.C., in 1947, Harrington compiled a variety of notes on historical events and interfiled some of his earlier material. The physical arrangement indicates an interest in drafting a paper on Mohave culture, more ethnographic than linguistic.

Electronic inventory available. Consult with archivist. See also "The papers of John Peabody Harrington in the Smithsonian Institution, 1907-1957, Volume 3, A guide to the field notes: Native American history, language, and culture of Southern California/Basin," edited by Elaine L. Mills and Ann J. Brickfield (1986).

This subseries of the Southern California/Basin series contains John P. Harrington's research on Mohave.

Harrington organized his early linguistic and ethnographic notes into more than eighty categories, covering a broad spectrum of Mohave culture from daily practices to mythological and religious beliefs. The variety of content and order of arrangement are encyclopedic. Most of the material is original data from numerous native speakers. Animal and plant notes are also filed in this section. Notes on these topics stem from the Mohave Valley Expedition made with Henderson and Robbins. A typescript of Henderson's report precedes the botanical notes and one by Robbins precedes the zoological notes.

The semantic slipfile consists of data from the original field notes rewritten on slips and arranged in thirteen semantic divisions. Some new information provided by Irving and Wagner was inserted. Material relative to other Yuman tribes is included and almost all categories contain some inextricably interwoven Chemehuevi data which were originally provided by Chemehuevi speakers Jack Jones, John Pete, William Johnson, and Patty Smith. In most instances, the Chemehuevi equivalences are clearly marked. Information on kinship is relatively substantial.

Two Mohave notebooks are also present. One contains vocabulary and texts credited to "Mr. Edgar, Needles, Cal." The other is a packet of loose pages evidently removed from a notebook covering random linguistic and ethnographic data.

Another section consists of a small set of grammar notes arranged under such headings as language, phonology, and morphology. Some notes apparently were taken as early as 1907 and were transferred to slips in 1910 and 1911.

The section of miscellaneous notes on Yuman languages contains Yuma, Cocopa, and Walapai field notebooks. They are principally ethnographic and are difficult to read. Unrelated small groups of notes include Mohave, Yuma, Maricopa, Havasupai, and Walapai ethnographic data, probably provided by Joe Homer. There are lecture notes and students' papers probably from one of the courses which Harrington gave at the University of Colorado. Three small groups of slips include a list of Yuman clan names and a series of excerpts from a Yuman notebook which has not been located. The third is a copy of some Yavapai terms supplied by Barbara Freire-Marreco.

Late linguistic and ethnographic notes contain what appears to be the first draft of a manuscript on Mohave culture. Such subjects as sociology, religion and mythology, physical and mental characteristics, the Mohave universe, warfare, and design are covered. A variety of notes on historical events and on the geographic, political, and economic life of the Needles area was compiled from published sources and correspondence with the Bureau of Indian Affairs and with Indian Agency superintendents. The focus is on Mohave with some general Yuman references. The material has evidently undergone several reorganizations and notes from informants of the earlier period are interfiled. New linguistic and ethnographic information was supplied principally by Hal Davidson, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Lewis, and Russell. Comparative terms appear in Yuma, Maricopa, Chemehuevi, and Paiute. Kroeber apparently lent Harrington some of his personal manuscripts, and information from this source is introduced as "Kr. notes." Correspondence with Charles Battye and excerpts from his scrapbooks in the possession of the Needles Public Library are also contained among these notes.

Another section consists of notes and drafts on material culture. They are arranged alphabetically and predominantly ethnographic. Notes came from the earlier period and such 1946 informants as Davidson and the Lewises. George Turner contributed numerous placenames.

The subseries also contains notes and drafts of tribenames. They represent an attempt to identify ethnic names applied to Yuman and some neighboring non-Yuman tribes. Some of the Mohave names may have been given by bilingual Chemehuevi speakers in July 1946, when Harrington and Murl Emery traveled the Colorado River-Mohave Valley area. A brief typescript follows the notes.

The section of semantically arranged notes consists of small amounts of data on minerals, pigments, fire, plants, animals, hunting, food, and medicine.

The section of late grammatical notes is also small. The notes originated mainly from Russell, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis, and Warren McCord. He based some hearings on Kroeber's (1911) "Phonetic Elements of the Mohave Language" and Sapir's (1930) "Southern Paiute Language." He also drew on A. M. Halpern's (1946 and 1947) six monographs on Yuma grammar published in the International Journal of American Linguistics. In the mid-1950s he again turned to Halpern and produced a small section of comparative Yuman terms.

The final section of the subseries consists of miscellaneus notes, including drafts of a paper on Mohave history and culture and another on the Kuchan vocabulary of George H. Thomas.

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