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"1778-1943 Americans Will Always Fight for Liberty" Poster

National Museum of American History
Physical Description Four-color print on paper. Specific History Produced by the United States Office of War Information, Washington, D.C. Printed by the United States Government Printing Office. Distributed by the Division of Public Inquiries, Office of War Information. Series: Office of War Information Poster, No. 26 To control the form of war messages, the government created the U.S. Office of War Information in June 1942. OWI sought to review and approve the design and distribution of government posters. Posters and their messages were seen as "war graphics," combining the sophisticated style of contemporary graphic design with the promotion of war aims. Over time, OWI developed six war-information themes for its own internal use, as well as to guide other issuing agencies and major producers of mass-media entertainment. 1. The Nature of the Enemy - general or detailed descriptions of this enemy, such as, he hates religion, persecutes labor, kills Jews and other minorities, smashes home life, debases women, etc. 2. The Nature of our Allies - the United Nations theme, our close ties with Britain, Russia, and China, Mexicans and Americans fighting side by side on Bataan and on the battlefronts. 3. The Need to Work - the countless ways in which Americans must work if we are to win the war, in factories, on ships, in mines, in fields, etc. 4. The Need to Fight - the need for fearless waging of war on land, sea, and skies, with bullets, bombs, bare hands, if we are to win. 5. The Need to Sacrifice - Americans are willing to give up all luxuries, devote all spare time to the war effort, etc., to help win the war. 6. The Americans - we are fighting for the four freedoms, the principles of the Atlantic Charter, Democracy, and no discrimination against races and religions, etc. ref: Alan Cranston to Norman Ferguson, 17 November 1942, folder: California Trip, box 1078, entry E222, MC 148, RG 208, NACP. From Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Home Front, William L. Bird Jr. and Harry R. Rubenstein. Princeton Architectural Press, New York. 1998. This particular poster fits neatly into theme six. General History The Division of Military History and Diplomacy has been collecting recruiting posters for more than fifty years. Recruiting as an activity of the military is important to the understanding of who serves in uniform, during both war and peace, and the visual materials used to market military service. The collection contains examples of early Civil War broadsides, World War I posters, including the original artwork for Uncle Sam as drawn by Montgomery Flagg, and World War II posters, which show the recruiting of men and women for all services and auxiliary organizations. The collection contains primarily Civil War, Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II recruiting posters for the army, navy and some marines. More modern-day recruiting materials are also contained in the collection, and cover a broad range of army recruiting slogans. Posters during World War II were designed to instill in people a positive outlook, a sense of patriotism, and confidence. They linked the war in trenches with the war at home. From a practical point, they were used to encourage all Americans to help with the war effort. The posters called on every man, woman, and child to endure the personal sacrifice and domestic adjustments to further the national agenda. They encouraged rationing, conservation, and sacrifice. In addition, the posters were used for recruitment, productivity, and motivation as well as for financing the war effort. The stark, colorful graphic designs elicited strong emotions. The posters played to the fears, frustrations, and faith in freedoms that lingered in people's minds during the war.

"Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture" Curator's Video Tour

Smithsonian American Art Museum
This exhibition reveals how the influential naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) shaped American perceptions of nature and the way American cultural identity became grounded in our relationship with the environment. Chapter 1 0:00 Who was Alexander von Humboldt? Curator Eleanor Jones Harvey introduces us to the Prussian naturalist. Chapter 2 8:22 How did natural monuments become symbols of America’s cultural identity and subjects for Hudson River School painter Frederic Church? Chapter 3 14:32 Humboldt’s abolitionist ideas influenced American art and culture and President Lincoln’s creation of Yosemite as a natural monument to a post Civil War society. Chapter 4 18:31 Learn how Humboldt’s strong belief in the equality of races extended to all of the Americas and inspired paintings of Native Americans by George Catlin and others. Chapter 5 25:01 Humboldt’s circle included artist and inventor Samuel Morse, and James Smithson who would be influenced by the naturalist in the founding of the Smithsonian. Chapter 6 31:13 Humboldt’s ideas are reflected in the Smithsonian’s mission and in Frederic Church’s Aurora Borealis with its emphasis on science, nature, and the interconnectedness of all things. "Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture" is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum with generous support from: Joanne and Richard Brodie Billings and John Cay Fern and Hersh Cohen Sheila Duignan and Mike Wilkins Marie M. Halff Liliane A. and Christian W. E. Haub Raymond J. and Margaret Horowitz Endowment Kandeo Asset Management Maureen and Gene Kim LATAM Trade Capital Robert Lehman Foundation Henry Luce Foundation The Lunder Foundation — Peter and Paula Lunder Family Provost of the Smithsonian Lucy S. Rhame Holly and Nick Ruffin Jacquelyn and William Sheehan Smithsonian Scholarly Studies Awards Terra Foundation for American Art Kelly Williams and Andrew Forsyth This exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities. Lenders to the Exhibition: Albany Institute of History and Art American Philosophical Society Autry Museum of the American West Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, Archiv Boston Athenæum Cincinnati Art Museum The College of Physicians of Philadelphia Concord Free Public Library Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum Detroit Institute of Arts Établissement public du château, du musée et du domaine national de Versailles The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia George Glazer Gallery Hessisches Landesmuseum, Darmstadt Robert W. Hoge and Immaculada Socias Hoge Independence National Historic Park Joslyn Art Museum Library of Congress Maryland Historical Society Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association Museum of Fine Arts, Boston National Gallery of Art National Gallery of Art Library National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution The New-York Historical Society New York State Museum Mr. and Mrs. Robert F. Norfleet Jr. Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew Smithsonian American Art Museum Smithsonian Libraries Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History Sons of the Revolution in the State of California Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Nationalgalerie Terra Foundation for American Art The Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello Timken Museum of Art Alan V. Weinberg and one Private Lender

"Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture" at SAAM

Smithsonian American Art Museum
Renowned Prussian naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt was one of the most influential figures of the nineteenth century. He lived for 90 years, published more than 36 books, traveled across four continents, and wrote well over 25,000 letters to an international network of colleagues and admirers. In 1804, after traveling four years in South America and Mexico, Humboldt spent exactly six weeks in the United States. In these six weeks, Humboldt—through a series of lively exchanges of ideas about the arts, science, politics, and exploration with influential figures such as President Thomas Jefferson and artist Charles Willson Peale—shaped American perceptions of nature and the way American cultural identity became grounded in our relationship with the environment. Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture places American art squarely in the center of a conversation about Humboldt’s lasting influence on the way we think about our relationship to the natural world. Humboldt’s quest to understand the universe—his concern for climate change, his taxonomic curiosity centered on New World species of flora and fauna, and his belief that the arts were as important as the sciences for conveying the resultant sense of wonder in the interlocking aspects of our planet—make this a project evocative of how art illuminates some of the issues central to our relationship with nature and our stewardship of this planet.

"Asbestos Family Cabinet"

National Museum of American History
Set of "Asbestos Sad Irons", consisting of three, wood-handled, asbestos-lined hoods (small, medium, large) with flip-over spring clasp or latch for interchangeable use with seven cores (one small, one medium and two large double-pointed, one square-heeled presser, one flounce and one fluter), plus two double-pointed stands, one square mat and yellow wrapping paper for "The DOVER Wax Pad"; all fitted inside a handleless oak case with hinged lid having two hook-and-post fasteners. "ASBESTOS / SAD IRON" cast in tops of all cores. All hoods stamped inside their handles on the face of the heat shield with maker guarantee and patent information.

Complete set; three cores and the two double-pointed stands still in original wrapping paper. Paper lining lid interior with product name missing.

Maker is Dover Manufacturing Company of Canal Dover, OH (not to be confused with Dover Stamping and Manufacturing Co. of Dover, NH, established 1833). Business was started by Charles T. Johnson-Vea and Ole Tverdahl in Stoughton, WI, in 1893 and moved to Ohio in 1900; produced exclusively asbestos sad irons. Tverdahl received U.S. Patent No. 649,968 on May 22, 1900 for the flip-over spring clasp or latch locking mechanism (covered improvements in hood and core).

"Bata" Box

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
From card: "A bell metal box, containing small trays or saucers of bell metal, for holding different spices used after meals by the Hindoos. A shallow plate like dish, with close fitting, shallow cover, containing a low tray 1/2 inch high, 3 3/8 inches in diameter, surrounded by nine shallow trays 3/8 inches high and 1 inch in diameter, all are of bell metal, apparently turned, ornamented with shallow grooves in pairs, and polished in the lathe."

"Be Cast"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Case for picnic cutlery 1999-53-21/25. Black rectangular shape with curved corners; the hinged lid, with raised lozenge-shaped section at left and "BE CAST US" logo on upper right, opens to reveal cutlery fitted in sectioned base; each section labled with the name of the corresponding piece: from left to right: spoon, fork, knife, pick, pick.

"Be Cast"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Lozenge shaped polished steel knife (a), the blade with curved bottom edge coming to pointed tip; "BE CAST" on handle; cover (b) of clear matte-textured plastic fits over blade. Part of six-piece picnic set.

"Buffalo Bill" Cody

National Portrait Gallery
To a great promoter like Colonel William F. Cody, the semireligious phrase "I Am Coming" required larger letters on this poster than the identification of the face that everyone would already recognize. Cody, originally a frontier scout, Indian fighter, and buffalo hunter, had become famous as the hero of "Buffalo Bill" dime novels and magazine stories. In 1882 he created his popular wild west show and toured as its star for thirty years, arguably doing more than any single American to popularize the myth of the West. Combining sharpshooting, riding, and roping with historical reenactments of war dances, buffalo hunts, stagecoach attacks, and "Custer's Last Fight," Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show had enormous international appeal. In fact, this copy of the poster, bearing a French tax stamp (top right), is a testament to his extremely successful tours in France.

"Corpse Hotels" Are in Demand in Japan

Smithsonian Magazine

What do you do when a loved one dies? The answer depends on the circumstances of the death, religious customs of your community and the desires of the deceased, but it usually boils down to a mortuary, a funeral home and a cremation or funeral. In Japan, however, there’s another option for the dearly departed, reports Motoko Rich for The New York Times: Take them to a corpse hotel.

Japan’s corpse hotels still involve cremation, but they put a twist on the age-old tradition. And, reports Rich, they serve another purpose: They provide storage for bodies that must wait days for a place in one of Japan’s busy crematoria. Corpse hotels are also places that families can gather to hold vigils and affordable funerals. And when they're not spending time with their loved one’s body, families have a nearby place to rest.

With an aging population and a rising death rate, cremation overload is a real problem in the country. As Al Jazeera’s Drew Ambrose wrote in 2015, Japan has the world’s highest cremation rates at 99 percent. That means waits of up to four days for the remains to be cremated. And with too few crematoria in high-population centers like Tokyo, things are only expected to get worse.

As Japan Times’ Mizuho Aoki notes, these corpse hotels, known as itai hoteru in Japan, were invented as an alternative to sparse morgues where bodies were kept in impersonal cold storage. Despite their friendlier faces, the hotels are often met with protest from residents who don't want to live so close to the establishments.

Creepy or not, it’s an ingenious solution to a growing problem. Other countries have tackled their death dilemmas differently. For example, as reported in 2013, China subsidizes cremations in a bid to tackle dwindling cemetery space. And Hong Kong, which faces a similar cemetery crunch, will soon have a floating columbarium capable of hosting the cremated remains of up to 370,000 people at sea.

Meanwhile, cremation is becoming more popular in the United States. However, crematoria and the cemeteries where remains are eventually buried contribute to environmental problems with emissions and high water usage. As long as people keep dying, the ones left behind will have to keep brainstorming better ways to deal with their remains—even if there’s a long waiting list.

"Demi Decilitre" Measure

National Museum of American History
Bracket-handled, cylindrical metric measure with molded rim and base, hooked rectangular thumb piece, and flat extension burnt to the rimless domed lid; five-knuckle hinge. Handle has notched top corner. Stamped on front "DEMI / DECILITRE" in incuse serif letters below an upside-down small imperial crown; on face of handle with the raised serif letters "I" and "D"; and on extension with a small raised serif "E". Underside of flat bottom struck once with largely illegible touchmark "[LAURENT FRERES] (arched) / B[REV]E[T]E[S] / TOULOUSE (curved)". Lid loose and ill-fitting. One of an assembled set of five metric measures, DL*67.0321-.0325.

Maker is Laurent Freres of Toulouse, France.

"Emily's Oz" brought a little girl's imagination to life

National Museum of American History

Our storeroom has a tiny web-footed lion that defies logic. It is a three-dimensional portal into the world of a little girl, and one of thousands of models in the museum's collections. Model-making begins in the imagination. An intriguing thing about models is that they are both practical and aesthetic objects. They translate something abstract, like an idea, a hunch, or a brainstorm, and the design determines the success of the translation. An artist or inventor needs something concrete with which to work, similar to the way children model crude snakes from clay. Engineers need models to demonstrate to others what is in their head. For those with a software bent, models are a way to process information. In fact, every object is a model of something that came out of someone's imagination. 

Model of a small boat. Shaped like a canoe. White on inside, green on outside.

Models provide a way to track the path of an idea as it comes to fruition. They allow us to trace a developing idea (the way fluorescent jellyfish proteins light up the movement of an altered cell so scientists can see it moving through the human body). Models inhabit that realm of necessity in which communicating the invisible or barely glimpsed becomes possible. The museum has numerous examples of models in our collections that pull ideas out of the imagination and into real time. There are some 10,000 patent models alone, of everything from cannons and fishing reels to artificial limbs.

Model of a home. It has eight columns in the front, with three doors and many windows with green shutters. It is mostly white with a red brick roof.

All of the museum's models were made by visionaries, who relied upon their sight and insight to build their models. The models from the Michigan School for the Blind, for example, depict architectural forms such as skyscrapers and corn cribs that sighted teachers wanted students who were blind to learn about through touch. They were constructed in the 1930s and '40s for teaching history and civics.

The lion has large, hooded eyes and an oval-shaped mouth. His face barely has a nose. His face is very round and somewhat worm-like. He has a fluffy brown mane around his head, duck feet in the front, and stands on his front feet. His back feet arch over his body and hang in front. His body, somewhat worm-like, is a tube covered in textured, thick fuzzies, also brown. His tail is made of the same material as his mane, fluffy and frizzy.

But what if a model were reverse engineered? Instead of fixing something by working backwards from a problem, it worked forwards from the sensory image of a blind person to a three-dimensional space? This is what happens in "Emily's Oz." We recently collected a model that jumps across sensory realities. In 2015 the mega-media conglomerate Comcast was looking for a splashy and disability-appropriate way to launch a new product designed for people who are blind or have low vision. Their lab had created a talking TV interface that provided navigational instructions about channels and what happened on the screen. 

A woman with red hair and glasses holds a model in her hands. It has a poofy mane, webbed feet, and a thickly fuzzy tubular body. Its face hasn't been attached yet and is just a fabric nub. The table on which she holds the model is covered with scissors, supplies, and other craft items.

The launch team worked with a seven-year-old girl named Emily, whose favorite film is The Wizard of Oz. Emily is blind, and the designers set out to create models of the characters as she imagined them in her head. We collected Emily's Cowardly Lion. The Lion is proportionally much smaller than the Tin Man and the Scarecrow. It walks on its two front legs, has webbed feet, and sports a shag-rug textured body similar to the soft buffing cylinders at a car wash. Emily's Lion is about the same size as the toe of her eight-foot Tin Man (he only has one toe on each foot).

A little girl with her eyes closed gently touches the webbed foot of the lion. Her facial expression is happy--we see her in silhouette. The lion's poofy made is visible.

Models leap the gap between intuition and possibility, allowing what you understand without words to be shared through your hands, eyes, and senses. Looking at a model is like looking into someone's brain. They are often surprisingly eloquent in the way they pierce barriers and pull us into another person's reality. 

There is a giant metal toe with a toe nail and a sheathed metal pant leg on the right. On the left, the lion model is much smaller. It stands beside the toe, its back feet dangling and front webbed feet helping it stand. Its mouth is open wide. The background is green, as if plants are growing there.

Another image of lion model. The lion has large, hooded eyes and an oval-shaped mouth. His face barely has a nose. His face is very round and somewhat worm-like. He has a fluffy brown mane around his head, duck feet in the front, and stands on his front feet. His back feet arch over his body and hang in front. His body, somewhat worm-like, is a tube covered in textured, thick fuzzies, also brown. His tail is made of the same material as his mane, fluffy and frizzy.

Graphic including the text "Help conserve Scarecrow's costume" and an image of the Ruby Slippers plus Scarecrow's hat.

Katherine Ott is a curator in the Division of Medicine and Science.

Posted Date: 
Friday, November 4, 2016 - 08:00
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"Faceless" Fish Found off the Coast of Australia

Smithsonian Magazine

For the last two weeks, a crew of scientists aboard a trawler have surveyed Australia’s marine reserves, cataloging the region's unusual deep sea creatures. So far, they’ve brought up a lot of interesting critters, but the most surprising is a faceless fish, reports Emilie Gramenz at the Australia Broadcasting Corporation.

According to a blog post at Australia’s Marine Biodiversity Hub, the researchers collected the creature, Typhlonus nasus, from a depth of about 13,000 feet. At these depths, the pressure is enormous and temperatures average a chilly 34 degrees Fahrenheit. At first, the researchers thought they had a new species on their hands. But with a search through scientific journals, they realized their faceless monster had been seen before. 

The HMS Challenger—the first global oceanographic expedition—collected the first T. nasus, in the Coral Sea just outside Australian waters on August 25, 1874. Since then, the species has been occasionally found in deep water around the globe, including in the Arabian Sea and off the coasts of Borneo, Japan and Hawaii. 

“This little fish looks amazing because the mouth is actually situated at the bottom of the animal so, when you look side-on, you can’t see any eyes, you can’t see any nose or gills or mouth,” Tim O’Hara, expedition leader and senior curator of marine invertebrates at Museums Victoria, tells Elle Hunt at The Guardian. “It looks like two rear-ends on a fish, really.” Because of this distinctive—and disturbing—feature, researchers are calling the fish the “Faceless Cusk.”

As Hunt reports, the month-long expedition (sponsored by Museums Victoria and the Australian government’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) is exploring the marine reserves by dragging a device that looks like a metal sled on a five-mile long cable, collecting sediment from the seafloor. The team is also using a camera to observe the creatures of the deep, hauling samples to the surface in small nets.

Aside from the eyeless fish, the team has also spotted a strange tripod fish, a chimaera, bioluminescent sea stars and rock crabs. “The experts tell me that about a third of all specimens coming on board are totally new to science,” O’Hara tells Hunt. “They aren’t all as spectacular as the faceless fish but there’s a lot of sea fleas and worms and crabs and other things that are totally new and no one has seen them ever before.”

But it's not all crazy creatures: the team is also dredging up lots of trash, including cans of paint and PVC pipe. 

This expedition is the first time the “eastern abyssal plain” off the coast of Australia has been systematically surveyed, Gramenz reports, and the results will serve as a baseline that researchers can use to monitor future potential impacts of climate change.

The expedition is expected to last until June 16—so stay tuned for more crazy critter finds.

"Freedom to Breathe" Environmental Poster

National Museum of American History
Scientific studies have linked air pollution to quality of life and health issues. To emphasize the need to control the quality of the country’s air, this poster shows the Statue of Liberty, an American symbol of freedom, wearing a gas mask because she has lost the freedom to breathe clean, healthy air. Produced in 1969 by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, it resembles rock music posters of the era.

"Futa-Tsubo" Covered-Jar

NMNH - Anthropology Dept.
Card: "Kutani, red and gold porcelain. Form: an octagon body, an almost square shoulder, a large circular neck, flaring towards the lip, a high raised cover with kneeling figure for a knob. Decoration: The sides are separated by bars of gold and red and the panels are painted with landscapes with figures and flowers in gold, red, green, black, brown, and salmon colors over the glaze. The panels opposite are alike; the base, shoulder, neck, and cover have gold designs on a red ground. Mark painted in red on the bottom.The head of the figure or knob is broken off."

The catalog card mentions that the head of the kneeling figure is broken off. This had been missing, but was found to have been renumbered ET8403. It is a ceramic knob in the shape of a human head, and fits on the kneeling figure on top of the covered jar.

"Green Mountain Rifle Powder" Tin

National Museum of American History
Flattened oval, japanned retail tin bearing a large, circular, lithographed, pale blue paper label on one side for "GREEN MOUNTAIN RIFLE POWDER" and "LYMAN FENTON & C\O" around what appears to be a view of lions or leopards in a palm tree-filled landscape. Friction-fit, low-domed, stepped cover fits over a double-collared opening at top center of the container, which is made in three pieces, the body has a folded vertical seam at side, and the low-domed, stepped shoulder and slightly concave bottom have soft-soldered folded edges. Cover and collars have soft-soldered lapped seams.

"How is that for high?"

National Museum of American History

What do you do after recovering sound from 130-year old recordings? For the museum, the next step was trying to understand that sound. In the exhibition "Hear My Voice": Alexander Graham Bell and the Origins of Recorded Sound," experimental historic sound recordings made by Bell and his Volta Laboratory team in the 1880s are matched with transcripts of the speakers' words. Matching the sound with the written word took a lot of work. Patrick Feaster, three-time Grammy nominee and specialist in history, culture, and preservation of early sound, helped with that effort. In an interview, Feaster discussed his involvement in the project, the process of rediscovering the content of historic sound recordings, and one of the New Media department's favorite phrases from the recordings.

What was your role in the Bell recordings project?

For a long time, I've been studying early sound recordings in the way that some people study early cinema. With this interest, I approached museum curator Carlene Stephens, and got a better understanding of the Bell recordings and the challenges of understanding them. I put in an application for a Lemelson Center Fellowship to study the recordings, and go through written materials about the experiments—some are at the museum and some are at the Library of Congress—and try to pull them together into a better picture of what Bell and his team were doing and how the recordings fit into it.

Man with brown hair and glasses holds a measuring tape up to a record in front of a laptop screen

What can you tell me about the experience of deciphering early sound recordings?

I think a lot of people assume sound recording should be easy to understand. We're used to old writings being difficult to decipher and old artworks taking some work to figure out, but sound recordings that don't make sense tend to throw people. I've done a good bit of listening to early sound recordings and I've developed something of an ear for it. It’s certainly nothing magical; it's having a sense of what certain phonographic processes do to different speech sounds. A lot of it is understanding the culture and context well enough to know the range of possibilities: what things are people most likely to have said?

Round, clear glass sound recording

How do you research phrases you hear that were more common in spoken language than in written language?

When I listen, I try to pick out names of people or short phrases of recitations, just to lock onto four or five distinctive words in a row that I'm pretty sure about. I then search for that string of words online. Often I find digitized texts that contained those words. I see what words are before them, what words are after them, and hopefully that fits a part of the recording that I hadn't been able to figure out. When all of that falls into place, it's incredibly gratifying, like finding the final piece in a jigsaw puzzle.

Notebook page of text

Can you explain the phrase "How is that for high?" from the recordings?

Going through written Volta materials, I got a sense for the kinds of test phrases they liked to use. "How is that (or this, both occur) for high?" was one. I'd say it's something along the lines of "How do you like them apples?," "Well what do you think of that?," or "Amazing, isn't it?" It’s a little hard to find an equivalent, but it's a slightly boastful, slightly playful, remark of something being very clever, interesting, astonishing, or marvelous. I don't know that anyone from the period defined it clearly or unambiguously. It would be like trying to define Homer Simpson's "D'oh!" "How's that for high?" turns up all over the place in popular songs, newspaper stories, and apparently, it occurred to the folks who were making these recordings. Why they used it is an interesting question. Generally you might use it in a way such as, "Hey I just found a $50 bill on the sidewalk! How's that for high?" But in this case, it just pops up in the middle of the recording, among other phrases. So I guess just the fact that the words could be reproduced at all is one of these things you might want to say that about.

Deciphering the words and phrases in 130-year old sound recordings? How’s that for high?

Julia Falkowski is an intern in the New Media Department of the National Museum of American History. She has also blogged about hearing historic voices on fragile recordings and yo-yos.

Want more stories of American innovation and inventiveness? Join us to explore the theme of American innovation through blog postsexhibitions, collections, programs, and more

Julia Falkowski
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"IWANTU" Comfort Gas Iron Base

National Museum of American History
Triangular or single-point gas iron base fitted with a fuel pipe running inside the length of the body, its nozzle end fixed at an angle at back. Four ventilation holes along bottom of both sides. Base fits inside cover 2005.0272.01 and secures to it by the small hole inside the toe, which corresponds to a rounded projection on the cover, and by the twist-lock handle at back which slips into a narrow slot in the cover. Flat and smooth underside. No marks.

"It's Your Story" - National Museum of American Jewish History

Smithsonian Education
The new National Museum of American Jewish History (/, opening in November 2010, is dedicated to telling the still-unfolding story of Jews in America, who embraced freedom with its choices and challenges as they shaped and were shaped by our nation. The Museum envisions its new home as a place that welcomes all people, inviting them to discover what they have in common with the Jewish experience in America, as well as to explore the features that make this history distinctive. Rising five stories above Independence Mall, in the heart of historic Philadelphia, the National Museum of American Jewish History will join Independence Hall, the National Constitution Center, the Liberty Bell and other landmarks at the hallowed site of America's birth. There could not be a more fitting place for a museum that will explore the promise and challenges of liberty through the lends of the American Jewish experience.

"Jardin d'Hiver"

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
High, thick cluster of flowers and leaves growing from brown soil at bottom. Flowers, in bright colors, are roses, tuberoses, daisies, poppies, morning glories, and others. The base of the pedestal which appears in the decoration fitting above this dado can be seen dimly, on white ground.

"Look Ma, No Hands!" A Rock Climber Scales Cliffs Without Using His Hands

Smithsonian Magazine

Johnny Dawes—the Stone Monkey, the Leaping Boy, the Dawes—is a living legend in certain niche circles. In the 1980s and 90s, he earned rockstar status in the rock climbing community by making some of the most difficult and dangerous climbs up Britain’s crags, such as “The Indian Face.” Now 50, Dawes has moved on to new ventures: he's still scaling rock faces, but now without the use of his hands.

“It’s a bit like climbing’s like lager or wine, and no-hands is really like a liqueur or sprit,” Dawes says. “It’s a lot stronger coordination medium.”

Watch Dawes in action:

Is Dawes serious about his feats of handless derring-do? Steve Casimiro of the Adventure Journal frames it best:

It is such a preposterous and brilliant idea, and delivered with such British aplomb, that I keep thinking it might be the world’s greatest climbing put-on. Watch it as if it’s totally fake and you’ll find yourself cracking up; watch it as if it’s real and you’ll be nodding your head and saying, “Yeah, Johnny!” It could go either way.

But this isn’t the first time Dawes’ unconventional and buoyant ways have garnered public attention. After he published a memoir, Full of Myself, in 2011, Dawes waxed philosophical on climbing and on life with the Guardian

So, will no-hands climbing take off? “It’s a really good question as to why other people aren’t interested in this,” Dawes says. “It’s not really cool . . . It’s sort of like a stamp collecting club. You know, happy being really boring.”

But those who know Dawes also know that “boring” is by no means a fitting descriptor for the man. And now that other disciplines of climbing are no longer the safe havens for nonconformists that they once were, maybe – just maybe – there’s room for this no-hands thing to fill that void.

The best part about it? “If it’s a cold day, you can wear gloves as well,” Dawes says. 

"OK," "Sheeple" Says Scrabble, Which Added 300 New Words to Official Dictionary

Smithsonian Magazine

As a jobless architect living in the Great Depression, there’s no way Alfred Mosher Butts could have foreseen the 1933 board game he invented would one day be found in three out of every five American homes. Initially dubbed “Lexiko,” the game underwent several retoolings in the decade that followed, but failed to gain any traction. It was only in the early 1950s—just a few years after the game had been rebranded “Scrabble”—that it began to fly off the shelves.

But the game still needed to be standardized. According to David Bukszpan’s book Is That A Word? From AA to ZZZ: The Weird and Wonderful Language of Scrabble, it was Scrabble’s growing popularity in the 1960s, and its adoption on the “penny-a-point” chess club circuit in Manhattan (aka “once money became involved”), which forced the game to adopt an official dictionary. By 1978, the first edition of The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary had made its debut.

This week, the sixth edition of the dictionary has dropped. Brace yourself, Scrabble fiends: More than 300 new words have been adopted, and the compilers have embraced some millennial mainstays like “twerk,” “emoji” and “listicle.”

“For a living language, the only constant is change,” says Peter Sokolowski, editor at large for Merriam-Webster in a press release.

The new additions bring the acceptable Scrabble lexicon up to more than 100,000 two- to eight-letter words.

It’s a sure bet that many players will be pleased to find that among the new entries are some long-awaited two-letter power plays, such as “ew.” In an interview with Leanne Italie at the Associated Press, Sokolowski refers to two-letter and three-letter words as the “lifeblood of the game,” and says that the inclusion of words like “ew” fit an evolving English-language lexicon. “[S]o much of our communication [now] is texting and social media,” he says.

New words don’t just enter the Scrabble dictionary willy-nilly (which, incidentally, is not included in the game’s official dictionary). Specific requirements must be met: According to the press release, the words must be entries in a standard dictionary, be between two and eight letters in length, and can’t be abbreviated words, capitalized words or words containing hyphens or apostrophes.

No change comes without controversy, of course, and the addition of “OK” in the latest edition, for instance, might excite some serious debate. Normally, the rules of Scrabble prohibit acronyms that are always spelled with capital letters like IQ or TV, reports Mark Abadi at Business Insider. But nowadays, “OK” has been appearing more and more often in lowercase, which is what finally garnered its inclusion in the game.

“OK” certainly breaks precedent: It’s the first valid word ending with the letter “K” to be inducted into the Scrabble dictionary, which will cause a shakeup for serious players of the board game.

Jackson Smylie, who ranks among the top 10 tournament Scrabble players in North America, described “OK” as an initialism “that [is] not very word-like” in an interview with Abadi of Business Insider, but gave his own “OK” to its inclusion in the game.

The latest batch of approved entries also shows an increasing nod to terms derived from other languages. Unsurprisingly, a lot of these words—like bibimbap (the well-known Korean rice bowl with flavorful toppings), cotija (crumbly Mexican cheese) and sriracha (the beloved Southeast Asian hot sauce)—involve a favorite American pastime: eating.

Notably, Merriam-Webster’s version of The Official SCRABBLE Players Dictionary is far from the be-all-end-all. In tournament play, overseen by the North American Scrabble Players Association, Scrabblers dip into an augmented edition containing nearly 190,000 words, reports Ruben Kimmelman for NPR. The two main differences? Longer words—up to 15 letters in length—as well as obscene or offensive words, though a 1996 update shaved off some of the worst offenders.

"Polar Star" Ice Cream Freezer

National Museum of American History
Manually-operated ice-cream freezer, consisting of a exterior cylindrical container or bucket with a hinged crossbar and an interior, cylindrical cream can with friction-fit cover that houses the dasher or scraper-frame. The shaft of the wooden-handled crank fits through the central openings in the crossbar and cream can into the square socket of the bearing attached at bottom on which the dasher also rests. Exterior bucket is pierced with two holes on opposite sides for salt-water overflow. Crossbar is stamped incuse "POLAR STAR / FREEZER / PAT FEB 15 - 1910 / NOTICE / USE ONLY ICE CREAM SALT / NEVER STOP TURNING / AFTER FREEZING BEGINS", while the cream can has "SCALD AFTER USING / DRY ON STOVE TO PREVENT RUST" around its opening. The wire-rimmed bucket is made in two pieces with folded, vertical seams and a folded-edge bottom. All components, except the bucket and cream can, are either cast or forged and detachable.

Elmer I. Young of New York, NY, assignor to Polar Star Company of Philadelphia, PA, filed his application for this ice-cream freezer on February 10, 1908, and received U.S. Patent No. 949,692 for it on February 15, 1910. Young was also one of the Company's founders. Several ice-cream freezers made by different companies are named "Polar Star".

"Save the Whales" Greenpeace Sticker

National Museum of American History
Greenpeace is an international nonprofit, nongovernmental organization that uses direct action, lobbying, and research to combat threats to the Earth’s biodiversity and environment. Global warming, commercial whaling, and nuclear power are just a few of the issues it has focused on since its beginning in 1971.

In 1973 Greenpeace selected the whales as their first ecological campaign. In 2010 this sticker was distributed by Greenpeace during an Earth Day rally on the National Mall. More than 35 years later, Greenpeace continues its efforts “to save the whales.”

"Sensible" Sad Iron

National Museum of American History
Cold handle, double-point iron with a patented removable or detachable handle consisting of a contoured wooden grip on U-shaped base with a spring-lock thumb lever mounted on front that catches under a notch in the front tip of the iron, and a projection at back that fits under a loop or staple at the back tip; black finish. Maker along with product name and number cast in top of body.

Maker is N. R. S. & Co. (or N. R. Streeter & Co.) of Groton, NY; dates in operation not known. Nelson R. Streeter of Groton, NY, received U.S. Patent No. 369569 on September 6, 1887 for his spring-operated removable handle sad iron. A variety of "Sensible" irons (general, polishing, smaller toilet size, sleeve) were made; the general use iron came in two styles (double and single point) as a set of three bottoms (5, 6 and 7 lbs.) with detachable handle and stand.
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