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How Maps Shaped Shakespeare

Smithsonian Magazine

William Shakespeare knew his way around a map—just look at how King Lear divides his kingdom into three parts, creating chaos while he pursues his “darker purpose.” But what did the world look like when the Bard still walked the earth? An exhibition at the Boston Public Library celebrates the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death through historical maps. The play might be the thing for Shakespeare, but these maps, Linda Poon reports for CityLab, shed light on the playwright’s unique perspective and how he created drama for 16th-century theatergoers.

Shakespeare Here and Everywherewhich can be viewed at the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library through February 26, 2017, uses maps to show how Shakespeare thought of far-off worlds. Though he was based in England, the Bard often used foreign settings to create exotic stories—and thanks to the development of maps and atlases during his era, he was able to elevate what amounted to armchair traveling into fine art.

International travel was treacherous and expensive during Shakespeare’s day, so it’s not surprising that neither he nor many of his contemporaries ever left England. But in a time before TV or the internet, maps were a source not just of coveted information, but of entertainment. As the British Museum notes, to own or look at a map meant the viewer was literally worldly, and atlases and wall maps were used not as ways of navigating places most people would never encounter, but as symbols of education and adventure.

Can’t make it to Boston? Do some armchair traveling of your own: You can view the maps in the exhibition on the library’s website. Or explore the locales mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays with Shakespeare on the Map, a project that uses Google Maps to show how the playwright used location.

Editor's note, December 6, 2016: The piece has been updated to reflect that the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center is an independent organization located at the Boston Public Library.

“W” Fare Token

National Museum of American History
The Scovill Manufacturing Company of Waterbury, Connecticut produced this transportation token during the early 20th century. The Scovill Company was established in 1802 as a button manufacturer and is still in business today. Scovill was an early industrial American innovator, adapting armory manufacturing processes to mass-produce a variety of consumer goods including buttons, daguerreotype mats, medals, coins, and transportation tokens. The center of the token has been removed to leave the shape of a “W.”

Obverse: The legend reads: GOOD FOR ONE FARE

Reverse: The legend reads: GOOD FOR ONE FARE

“Weak Lensing” Helps Astronomers Map the Mass of the Universe

Smithsonian Magazine

In ordinary visible light, this cluster of galaxies doesn’t look like much. There are bigger clusters with larger and more dramatic-looking galaxies in them. But there’s more to this image than galaxies, even in visible light. The gravity from the cluster magnifies and distorts light passing near it, and mapping that distortion reveals something about a substance ordinarily hidden from us: dark matter.

This collection of galaxies is famously called the “Bullet Cluster,” and the dark matter inside it was detected through a method called “weak gravitational lensing.” By tracking distortions in light as it passes through the cluster, astronomers can create a sort of topographical map of the mass in the cluster, where the “hills” are places of strong gravity and “valleys” are places of weak gravity. The reason dark matter—the mysterious substance that makes up most of the mass in the universe—is so hard to study is because it doesn’t emit or absorb light. But it does have gravity, and thus it shows up in a topographical map of this kind.

The Bullet Cluster is one of the best places to see the effects of dark matter, but it’s only one object. Much of the real power of weak gravitational lensing involves looking at thousands or millions of galaxies covering large patches of the sky.

To do that, we need big telescopes capable of mapping the cosmos in detail. One of these is the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST), which is under construction in Chile, and should begin operations in 2022 and run until 2032. It’s an ambitious project that will ultimately create a topographical map of the universe.

“[LSST] is going to observe roughly half of the sky over a ten-year period,” says LSST deputy director Beth Willman. The observatory has “a broad range of science goals, from dark energy and weak [gravitational] lensing, to studying the solar system, to studying the Milky Way, to studying how the night sky changes with time.”

Artist’s rendering of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope, currently under construction in Chile (Michael Mullen Design, LSST Corporation)

To study the structure of the universe, astronomers employ two basic strategies: going deep, and going wide. The Hubble Space Telescope, for example, is good at going deep: its design lets it look for some of the faintest galaxies in the cosmos. LSST, on the other hand, will go wide.

“The size of the telescope itself isn't remarkable,” says Willman. LSST will be 27 feet in diameter, which puts it in the middle range of existing telescopes. “The unique part of LSST's instrumentation is the field of view of [its] camera that's going to be put on it, which is roughly 40 times the size of the full moon.” By contrast, a normal telescope the same size as LSST would view a patch of the sky less than one-quarter of the moon’s size.

In other words, LSST will combine the kind of big-picture image of the sky you’d get by using a normal digital camera, with the depth of vision provided by a big telescope. The combination will be breathtaking, and it’s all due to the telescope’s unique design.

LSST will employ three large mirrors, where most other large telescopes use two mirrors. (It’s impossible to make lenses as large as astronomers need, so most observatories use mirrors, which can technically be built to any size.) Those mirrors are designed to focus as much light as possible onto the camera, which will be a whopping 63 inches across, with 3.2 billion pixels.

Willman says, “Once it's put together and deployed onto the sky, it will be the largest camera being used for astronomical optical observations.”

While ordinary cameras are designed to recreate the colors and light levels that can be perceived by the human eye, LSST’s camera will “see” five colors. Some of those colors overlap those seen by the retinal cells in our eyes, but they also include light in the infrared and ultraviolet part of the spectrum.

After the Big Bang, the universe was a hot mess—of particles. Soon, that quagmire cooled and expanded to the point where the particles could begin attracting each other, sticking together to form the first stars and galaxies and forming a huge cosmic web. The junctions of which grew into large galaxy clusters, linked by long thin filaments, and separated by mostly-empty voids. At least that’s our best guess, according to computer simulations that show how dark matter should clump together under the pull of gravity.

Weak gravitational lensing turns out to be a really good way to test these simulations. Albert Einstein showed mathematically that gravity affects the path of light, pulling it slightly out of its straight-line motion. In 1919, British astronomer Arthur Eddington and his colleagues successfully measured this effect, in what was the first major triumph for Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The amount light bends depends on the strength of the gravitational field it encounters, which is governed by the source’s mass, size and shape. In cosmic terms, the sun is small and low in mass, so it nudges light by only a small amount. But galaxies have billions and billions of stars, and galaxy clusters like the Bullet Cluster consist of hundreds or thousands of galaxies, along with plenty of hot plasma and extra dark matter holding them all together and the cumulative affect on light can be quite significant. (Fun fact: Einstein didn’t think lensing would actually be useful, since he only thought of it in terms of stars, not galaxies.)

A dark matter map, created by Japanese astronomers using weak lensing (Satoshi Miyazaki, et al.)

Strong gravitational lensing is produced by very massive objects that take up relatively little space; an object with the same mass but spread out over a larger volume will still deflect light, but not as dramatically. That’s weak gravitational lensing—usually just called “weak lensing”—in essence.

Every direction you look in the universe, you see lots of galaxies. The most distant galaxies may be too faint to see, but we still see some of their light filtering through as background light. When that light reaches a closer galaxy or galaxy cluster on its way to Earth, weak lensing will make that light a little brighter. This is a small effect (that’s why we say “weak”, after all), but astronomers can use it to map the mass in the universe.

The 100 billion or so galaxies in the observable universe provide a lot of opportunities for weak lensing, and that’s where observatories like LSST come in. Unlike most other observatories, LSST will survey large patches of the sky in a set pattern, rather than letting individual astronomers dictate where the telescope points. In this way it resembles the Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS), the pioneering observatory that has been a boon to astronomers for nearly 20 years.

A major goal of projects like SDSS and LSST is a census of the galactic population. How many galaxies are out there, and how massive are they? Are they randomly scattered across the sky, or do they fall into patterns? Are the apparent voids real—that is, places with few or no galaxies at all?

The number and distribution of galaxies gives information about the biggest cosmic mysteries. For example, the same computer simulations that describe the cosmic web tell us we should be seeing more small galaxies than show up in our telescopes, and weak lensing can help us find them.

Additionally, mapping galaxies is one guide to dark energy, the name we give the accelerating expansion of the universe. If dark energy has been constant all the time, or if it has different strengths in different places and times, the cosmic web should reflect that. In other words, the topographical map from weak lensing may help us answer one of the biggest questions of all: just what is dark energy?

Finally, weak lensing could help us with the lowest-mass particles we know: neutrinos. These fast-moving particles don’t stick around in galaxies as they form, but they carry away energy and mass as they go. If they take away too much, galaxies don’t grow as big, so weak lensing surveys could help us figure out how much mass neutrinos have

Like SDSS, LSST will release its data to astronomers regardless of whether they’re members of the collaboration, enabling any interested scientist to use it in their research.

“Running the telescope in survey mode, and then getting those extensive high-level calibrated data products out to the entire scientific community are really gonna combine to make LSST be the most productive facility in the history of astronomy,” says Willman. “That's what I'm aiming for anyway.”

The power of astronomy is using interesting ideas—even ones we once thought wouldn’t be useful—in unexpected ways. Weak lensing gives us an indirect way to see invisible or very tiny things. For something called “weak,” weak lensing is a strong ally in our quest to understand the universe.

“Tracing American Journeys” Chronicles Experiences of 17 Immigrant Entrepreneurs

Smithsonian Insider

The United States was in part shaped by the dreams and contributions of immigrants who sought a better life for themselves and their families. Thanks […]

The post “Tracing American Journeys” Chronicles Experiences of 17 Immigrant Entrepreneurs appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

“This is 9-1-1. What is your emergency?”: A history of raising the alarm

National Museum of American History

At 2 p.m. on February 16, 1968, a special red telephone rang at the police station in Haleyville, Alabama. Rather than a police officer, U.S. Congressman Tom Bevill answered the call. On the other end of the line was Alabama Speaker of the House Rankin Fite, calling from the mayor’s office (actually located in another part of the same building). Bevill’s simple answer of “hello” may not rank alongside Samuel Morse’s “What hath God wrought,” but it ushered in an important part of daily life, one that has saved countless American lives over the past 50 years. The call marked the first use of the emergency number 9-1-1, a technological answer to a life-and-death question—how do you get help quickly in the event of an emergency? Americans wrestling with the problem have experimented with many innovative solutions over the years.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, getting to the scene of a fire as quickly as possible was the best defense against a damaging conflagration. Just as today, time was of the essence. Watchmen would alert the populace with wooden rattles and raise the alarm by shouting through the streets (sometimes known as “hallooing fire”). Citizens and volunteer firefighters alike would grab leather buckets, hooks, axes, and other necessary equipment and head in the direction of the clamor. A simple fire pumper might be drawn by hand to the scene as well. But finding a fire fast, especially in a warren of urban streets, could be difficult.

Wooden device with a grooved handleA wooden alarm rattle like this one would have been standard equipment for watchmen patrolling city streets in late-18th and early-19th-century America.

The citizens of Philadelphia tried one solution when they restored the steeple of the Pennsylvania State House (better known as Independence Hall) in 1828. They hung a new bell and put a watchman on duty to keep a lookout for fires. Franklin Peale, son of painter Charles Willson Peale, suggested an alarm system for the new bell that would direct fire companies to the scene of a blaze. In the event of a fire near the State House itself, the bell in the steeple was rung continuously. One peal at regular intervals indicated a fire to the north, two peals meant a fire to the south, three to the east, four to the west, and so on. This system is preserved in the decoration on the top of a fire hat from Philadelphia in the museum collections. A compass rose, with a bell at the center, displays the alarm code. Bell codes were used in other cities as well, like New York. In Boston, the city was divided into fire districts, and church bells would peal the number of a district where a fire was discovered. However, the 19th century saw American cities growing in size and population, and a better system was needed to pinpoint the location of an emergency.

Two images; Left, a fire hat with elaborate designs. Right, the top of the hat decorated with a compass rose.This fire hat, worn by a member of Philadelphia’s Taylor Hose Company, has the bell code for the city painted on its crown, in the form of a compass rose. The marks stand for the number of peals of the bell that corresponded to each direction, with Independence Hall as the center point.

William F. Channing and Moses Farmer were both obsessed with the potential for electromagnetism and telegraphy. Specifically, both believed it could be harnessed to create a reliable and near-instantaneous fire alarm system throughout the city of Boston. The two collaborated to lobby city officials to fund “the Application of the Electric Telegraph to signalizing Alarms of Fire” (as their presentation was titled) and received $10,000 to develop and establish their system.

After running nearly 50 miles of wire throughout the city, connected to dozens of alarm boxes and bells, Channing and Farmer’s system was ready in the spring of 1852. If someone opened an alarm box and turned a small crank, the special-purpose telegraph would send out a pulsating electric current to electromagnets that pulled and released the bell clappers, producing alarms both at the scene of the emergency and at the central station, where the location was recorded. The first attempt by the public to use the system was on April 29, 1852. Unfortunately, the helpful citizen cranked too fast, such that the message could not be read, and the man had to run to the central signal office to alert them of the fire in person. Nevertheless, Channing and Farmer would continue to refine their system, and within months it proved a reliable tool in raising the alarm in Boston.

Channing and Farmer made a joint application for a patent for their system, and a patent was issued on May 19, 1857 (Patent No. 17355). Their patent model resides today in the Electricity Collections here at the museum, along with earlier prototypes.

A wooden model. It consists of a wooden base supporting an upright board that has two fire alarm transmitting stations operated by a crank and one alarm station, powered by two battery cells at the back.This is the original patent model for William Channing and Moses Farmer’s “Electromagnetic Fire Alarm Telegraph for Cities.” Patent No. 17355 was issued on May 19, 1857. It consists of a wooden base supporting an upright board that has two fire alarm transmitting stations operated by a crank and one alarm station, powered by two battery cells at the back.

It was at a Smithsonian Institution lecture in March 1855 that emergency alarms took another step. At that lecture, William Channing described the details and merits of the Channing and Farmer system, humbly noting theirs was “a higher system of municipal organization than any which has heretofore been proposed or adopted.” Despite this lofty claim, both men had failed to sell their system to other cities and municipalities, and Channing was falling into debt.

Attending the lecture was John Nelson Gamewell, a postmaster and telegraph operator from Camden, South Carolina. Seeing an opportunity, Gamewell raised the funds to buy the rights to market the Channing and Farmer system. Beginning in 1856, he sold the system to several American cities, including New Orleans, St. Louis, and Philadelphia. By 1859 Gamewell obtained the full rights and patents to the system and was on the verge of creating a fire alarm empire when the Civil War broke out. The U.S. government seized the patents from the Confederate Gamewell, and John Kennard, a fire official from Boston, bought them on the cheap in 1867.

After the war, Gamewell moved north and partnered with Kennard to create a new company to manufacture and sell fire alarms. Building on their success, Gamewell established the Gamewell Fire Alarm Telegraph Company, and its logo—a fist holding a clutch of lightning bolts—would soon be found on alarm boxes throughout North America. By 1890 Gamewell systems were installed in nearly 500 cities in the United States and Canada.

A red box shaped like a fire house station with a pull handle. The box is decorated with the company logo of Gamewell, complete with a hand gripping bolts of electricity.An example of a Gamewell fire alarm box, with the company’s innovative Peerless 3 Fold mechanism still inside. This unit dates to the mid-1940s. By the early 20th century, Gamewell had over 90% of the market share in the United States; these fire alarm boxes would have been a common feature in nearly every American town and city.

While Gamewell boxes became a common sight on public streets and buildings in the early 20th century, more and more Americans were installing a new device in their homes and businesses: the telephone. Before the advent of rotary dial phones (ask your parents, kids), all calls went through with operator assistance, and emergency calls could be directed to the appropriate party. With dial service, a person with an emergency had to call direct to their local police station, hospital, or fire department. Experiments with a universal emergency number in the UK in the 1930s prompted the National Association of Fire Chiefs to recommend such a system for the United States in 1957. On January 12, 1968, after a decade of study and debate and presidential commissions, the Federal Communications Commission and AT&T announced the selection of 9-1-1 as a national emergency number. One FCC member boasted at the time that 911 would be better remembered than 007.

The number was indeed easy to remember, quick to dial when needed, particularly on rotary phones (did you ask?), and difficult to dial in error. AT&T had already established special three-digit numbers—4-1-1 for directory assistance and 6-1-1 for customer service—so the new emergency number fit the existing system.

Some 2,000 independent phone companies in the United States had been left out of the decision, many preferring “0” as the standard number. Nevertheless, one such company decided get behind 9-1-1 in a big way. Bob Gallagher, the president of the Alabama Telephone Company (ATC), decided his company would beat “Ma Bell” to the punch. ATC staff picked Haleyville as the best location and worked after hours to design and implement the infrastructure. Almost exactly one month after AT&T’s announcement, Speaker Fite and Congressman Bevill spoke over the first dedicated 9-1-1 line. Nome, Alaska, would debut a 9-1-1 system about a week later.

A red rotary phoneThe phone from the first 9-1-1 call, on display in Haleyville, Alabama. Photo courtesy of Mayor Ken Sunseri, Haleyville, Alabama.

It would take time for the system to grow in the United States, so publicity like that which surrounded the Haleyville call helped to spread the idea. Twenty years later, only half the U.S. population had access to a 9-1-1 system. By the end of the last century, that number had grown to well over 90%. Today an estimated 240 million calls a year are made to 9-1-1. Upwards of 80% of these calls now come from wireless devices, something almost impossible to consider 50 years ago, just as the watchman with a wooden rattle might not envision an alarm traveling over electrical wires.

Tim Winkle is the deputy chair of the Division of Home and Community Life and the curator of the Firefighting and Law Enforcement Collection.

Posted Date: 
Thursday, February 15, 2018 - 06:30
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“The Simpsons” Has Been Secretly Teaching Its Fans Complicated Math

Smithsonian Magazine

Photo: tagh

After Marcia Wallace passed away last month, “The Simpsons” lost one of its characters, the 4th grade teacher Edna Krabappel, whose voice Wallace had provided for years. Mrs. Krabappel probably spent more time cynically cackling in the classroom than teaching math—but she wasn’t the only source of math lessons on the best cartoon television series ever to run. Several writers for The Simpsons, including Al Jean, J. Stewart Burns, Jeff Westbrook, and David X. Cohen, completed degrees in math and physics before they turned to screenwriting, Wired reports. And, ever faithful to their academic roots, those writers have found numerous ways to sneak in mini math lessons in various Simpsons episodes over the years, thanks to a variety of nerdy, clueless and informative characters.

A new book, The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets, takes a deep dive into the math, physics and astronomy specifics of the show, but here are just a few examples, courtesy of Wired:

  • “Treehouse of Horror VI: Homer 3″ (1995): Homer gets sucked into the third dimension, giving viewers a lesson on depth. 
  • “The Wizard of Evergreen Terrace” (1998): Homer’s notes include formulas for the then-elusive Higgs boson, the density of the universe and the geometry of donuts. 
  • “They Saved Lisa’s Brain” (1999): Physicist Stephen Hawking compliments Homer’s donut-shaped universe theory–a serious hypothesis among astronomers. 
  • “Bye Bye Nerdie” (2001): Professor Frink parrots a real-life proposal from 1897 to round Pi down to 3. 
  • “Bart the Genius” (1990): Bart has nightmares about the the trains-traveling-at-different-speeds question
  • “Marge in Chains” (1993): A convenience store owner can recite π to its 40,000th digit. 
  • “Bart the Genius” (1990): Bart struggles to understand why the answer to the calculus problem y = (r3)/3 is worthy of interest. 

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“Tapster” for Opening Beer Cans

National Museum of American History
This unusual metal object, shaped like a small pitcher with a lid, becomes even more curious when the lid is raised and a sharp can opener is revealed in the lid’s underside. Called the “Tapster,” this device was made by Revere Copper and Brass, Inc., in Rome, New York, probably around 1934, after the repeal of Prohibition. Although it was never used extensively, the Tapster did offer consumers a somewhat refined way of serving canned beer: a can of beer is placed inside the device and, when the lid is closed, the opener pierces the can. The beer can then be poured out of the spout.

As its name implies, Revere Copper and Brass was the direct descendant of the company founded by Paul Revere in 1801. Through its long history, the company has manufactured a variety of copper, brass, and stainless steel products. As of 2015, the company is still in business under the name Revere Copper Products, with headquarters in Rome, NY.

This “Tapster” opener is part of a large collection of brewing material donated to the museum in 1967 by former brewmaster Walter Voigt, of Ruxton, Maryland, near Baltimore. Voigt’s collection consists of objects and archival materials reflecting the history of brewing in the mid-Atlantic region between 1870 and the beginnings of consolidation and large-scale, industrial production in the 1960s. His correspondence reveals an interest in preserving the history of brewing in America before brewmasters were “replaced by chemical engineers and highly trained chemists in modern laboratories.” Voigt’s papers are housed in the museum’s Archives Center, Collection #ACNMAH 1195, “Walter H. Voigt Brewing Industry Collection, 1935-1967.”

“Somewhere There Are Thousand Broken Hearts”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Somewhere There Are Thousand Broken Hearts” that was written by A. Rossi and composed by T. Acciani. The Fred G. Heberlein Company of New York City published the sheet music in 1916. The cover has an illustration of a soldier walking through underbrush on the left side, and an illustration of a naval officer operating a machine gun on the right side. There is a heart-shaped photograph of Emily Gordon in the middle of the cover, who featured the song in her performances.

“New” 2,000-Year-Old Geoglyph Spotted in Peru

Smithsonian Magazine

Easter Island has its iconic statues. England has Stonehenge. And Peru has its own mysterious modification to the landscape—the Nazca lines. The enormous geoglyphs were made in the desert ground around 2,000 years ago and have long been the subject of speculation. Now, Japanese researchers have discovered an entirely new geoglyph in Nazca, showing how much more there is to learn about the puzzling designs.

Masato Sakai and Jorge Olano of Yamagata University in Japan recently announced the discovery of the 98-foot-long geoglyph, which is thought to represent a mythical animal sticking out its tongue. Its makers seem to have forged it by removing stones with darker colors from the plateau surface to expose whitish ground below. They then piled up the stones to shape the image. It’s in the vicinity of another geoglyph the team discovered in 2011 that shows what they characterize as “a scene of decapitation.”

Imaginary animals and gory scenes may seem like strange things to encounter in the vast pampas of Peru, but they’re all part of the enigma of Nazca. Archaeologists now think that the lines were part of astronomical religious rituals enacted by the pre-Columbian Nazca culture, a group of ancient indigenous Peruvians who lived as farmers and warriors on the desert plains of Peru’s Rio Grande de Nasca. Since the pampas are so untouched by wind and rain, the lines they contain have remained relatively unscathed over thousands of years.

An outline reconstruction of the figure. (Yamagata University)

In a time before planes or satellites, the creation of thousands of geoglyphs that could only be fully appreciated from above was a leap of faith. But in the 1940s, archaeologists began to study the lines from the sky. The lines are now considered one of the world’s most impressive—and baffling—ancient feats.

Their symbolism continues into the 21st century, too: In 2014, they were irreparably damaged by Greenpeace activists looking to make a point about renewable energy. They may be co-opted by modern voices, but the Unesco-protected lines are a mute testament to a religion and culture that is largely lost.

But archaeologists are determined to find out as much as they can about the lines. As the Japan Times reports, Sakai’s team has already discovered over 100 “new” geoglyphs. The lines may be old, but there’s always more to learn.

“La Salle Wilton” Pattern

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Rectangular black wool rug with grey double border and central wreath of grey lattice pattern with abstracted lilies, blossoms and shapes in gradients of rust, orange and yellow; corners boast additional lattice pattern punctuated by orange circles.

“Kiss of Spring”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Kiss of Spring,” a waltz by Walter Rolfe. The sheet music was published by Walter Jacobs of Boston, Massachusetts in 1906. The cover features a pastoral image of two maidens in a field surrounded by lambs, bending a blossom branch into a heart shape.

“Hotpoint” Electric Toaster

National Museum of American History
A. Side-opening electric two-slice toaster, nickel-plated sheet metal. Trapezoid-shaped body with overhanging top, curved corners, bent rim, pierced with geometric pattern. Doors on either side that open downward to allow bread to be placed into toaster. Each door is pierced with geometric and floral design, has wooden “mushroom” shaped knobs, faceted, on either side to open door. Each end is pierced with a similar design. Hollow base with lobed bottom edge, arched legs with hidden oval Masonite feet at corners. Two-pronged cord attachment at one end. “Hotpoint” debossed in cursive on one side of base. Underside is stamped within cartouche: “CAT. NO. 115T17 W. 550 V. 110/PAT’D FEB. 22 1910 JULY 23 14/EDISON ELECTRIC APPLIANCE CO. INC./CHICAGO MADE IN USA ONTARIO CAL”

B. Power cord, grayish-yellow woven cloth with silver metal coil on one end, molded plastic two-pronged plug, one end is embossed in cursive: “Hotpoint”


US 950058 A, Feb 22, 1910, Frank E. Shailor, assignor to General Electric Corporation, for “Electric heater”

(Possibly) US 1257106 A, Filed July 23, 1914, Published Feb. 19, 1918, Leon F. Parkhurst, assignor to General Electric Corporation, for “Electric heating device”

Maker is Edison Electric Appliance Company, founded in 1904 as the Pacific Electric Heating Company by Earl Richardson in order to manufacture a lightweight electric iron he had designed. Richardson registered the “Hotpoint” trademark in 1914, and changed the company’s name to Hotpoint Electric Heating Company. Shortly after, Richardson purchased the rights to the Edison name—which Edison sold to numerous companies over the years—and changed the company’s name to the Edison Electric Appliance Company. In 1918 the company merged with Hughes Electric Heating Company (the heating device section of General Electric), and in 1931 the name of the company changed once again—to the Edison General Electric Company. Three years later the “Edison” name was dropped and it became the Hotpoint Division of General Electric.

“Cutie Pie” type radiation survey meter

National Museum of American History
Background on “Cutie Pie” type radiation survey meter, Object ID 1994.0125.30.1 and alternate ionization chamber, Object ID 1994.0125.30.2

A Cutie Pie type of meter, such as Object ID 1994.0125.30.1, is a hand-held ionization chamber instrument.

As defined by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), a survey meter is any portable radiation detection instrument especially adapted for inspecting an area or individual to establish the existence and amount of radioactive material present. The survey meter typically measures the amount of radiation present and provides this information on a numerical display in units of counts per minute, counts per second, or microroentgen (µR) or microrem (µrem) per hour. The most commonly used hand-held survey meters are the scintillation counter, which is used in the measurement of alpha, beta and neutron particles; the Geiger counter, widely used for the measurement of alpha, beta and gamma levels; and the ion chamber, which is used for beta, gamma and X-ray measurements.

For background on the development of early survey meters and their nicknames, go to:

The ionization chamber is the simplest of all gas-filled radiation detectors, and is widely used for the detection and measurement of certain types of ionizing radiation; X-rays, gamma rays and beta particles. Conventionally, the term "ionization chamber" is used exclusively to describe those detectors which collect all the charges created by direct ionization within the gas through the application of an electric field. It only uses the discrete charges created by each interaction between the incident radiation and the gas, and does not involve the gas multiplication mechanisms used by other radiation instruments, such as the Geiger-Müller counter or the proportional counter. Ion chambers have a good uniform response to radiation over a wide range of energies and are the preferred means of measuring high levels of gamma radiation. They are widely used in the nuclear power industry, research labs, radiography, radiobiology, and environmental monitoring.

Detailed description of Object ID no. 1994.0125.30.1, Cutie Pie type radiation survey meter by Chicago Nuclear Corp., Model 2586.

(One of the accompanying photographs provided by donor, Prof. Herbert Clark, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.)

Gray-painted cast aluminum bread loaf-shaped housing, sitting on similarly made 'shoe' surmounting integral pistol grip. Inserted into front of housing is black cylindrical ionization chamber, 8cm (3 in) diam., ca 21 cm (8½ in) long, with window at front end covered by white plastic cap. The chamber has a multi-pin base that plugs into the main unit. The plastic cap contains a calibration source. At the back of housing, facing operator, is 'rate' ammeter. Instrument stands on butt of grip and on two chrome-plated 5 mm diam. wire legs, in form of square loops, that may be rotated around their insertions in front and back of 'shoe' into retracted positions alongside housing. Total length 34 cm (13¼ in), width 8 cm (3¼ in), height 23 cm (9 in). Painted on side of housing: "nuclear-chicago/ Model 2586". Label adhered on bottom of base: "Mod 2586/ Ser 1384/ nuclear-chicago/ Corporation/ Des Plaines, Illinois". RPI Prof. Herbert Clark (letter 1994.5.4) used this instrument during the 1960s.

Detailed description of Object ID no. 1994.0125.30.2, Ionization chamber for Cutie Pie type radiation survey meter .30.1

An alternate, interchangeable, 8 cm (3 1/8 in) diam., black cylindrical ionization chamber with incorporated electrometer tube for extending sensitivity of survey meter .30.1 by a factor of 100. On the cylinder is a two-position switch knob over a label that reads: “P24M / INTEGRATING CHAMBER / RANGE / X0.01 X1 / DO NOT USE WITH X100 / PULL TO REMOVE”. The chamber also has a detachable plastic cap that contains a calibration source.

For full details on the Nuclear-Chicago Model 2586 radiation survey meter and related devices, see Rick Maurer’s comprehensive, web-based National Radiation Instrument Catalog at:


National Museum of American History
This sheet music for the song “Cupid” was composed by L. M. French and played by the Chicago Marine Band. The music was published by Sol Bloom of New York, New York in1896 and appeared as a supplement to the “New York Herald” on May 30, 1903. The cover features an illustration of cupid with his bow and arrow walking between a V-shaped row of flowers.

“Call Me Ishmael” Is the Only Melville Tradition in This Innovative Presentation of “Moby Dick”

Smithsonian Magazine

“Call me Ishmael.” So begins Arena Stage’s current presentation of the play Moby Dick. But after that familiar line, this highly engaging production shrugs off tradition with strobe lights flashing, giant waves crashing and the audience swept up in a relentless sense of movement. The play has become an "experience" of life aboard the Nantucket whaler Pequod with Capt Ahab in pursuit of the white whale Moby-Dick.

Arriving at Arena from Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company and with an upcoming stop at South Coast Repertory in Cosa Mesa, California in January, Moby Dick is the product of a multidisciplinary group that received the 2011 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre.

Founded in 1988, the company is dedicated to creating original, story-centered theater through physical and improvisational techniques. For this production, playwright-director and founding member David Catlin was inspired by the challenge of transforming Herman Melville’s lengthy 1851 novel into a compact 21st-century production that reflects the pace and interaction demanded by today’s audiences.

As a faculty member of Northwestern University, Catlin calls himself a “theater-maker who acts, writes, directs and teaches.” Since Lookingglass was created, he has been part of more than 50 world premieres, and currently serves as the company’s director of artistic development.

Traditional “static theater” is dead-in-the-water to today’s theatergoers who are “used to interacting with multiple screens” and multitasking, says Catlin. So the idea for Moby Dick was to dramatically reimagine Melville’s classic seafaring tale, strip it of convention, and make it pulsate with bold acrobatics.

“We refer to the stage as the deck,” Catlin says, and “the people working back stage are the crew.”

He appreciates that theater has long been a primarily auditory experience. “In Shakespearean England, you wouldn’t go to see a play, you’d go to hear a play,” he says, referring to the rich language and iambic rhythms of Elizabethan theater. 

While he respects that tradition, Catlin wants to experiment with a type of theater that people “can experience in other ways, too.”

Lookingglass continually innovates with a performance style that shapes an immersive audience environment. Their method incorporates music, circus, movement, puppetry and object animation, symbol and metaphor, and visual storytelling to create work that is visceral, kinesthetic, cinematic, aural and psychological.  

The company collaborated with The Actors Gymnasium, in Evanston, Illinois, one of the nation’s premier circus and performing arts training centers. Actors tell their stories acrobatically, propelling themselves across a set designed as a ship’s deck. Filled with interlocking cables and rope riggings, the entire stage, or deck, is framed by arching steel-tubed pipes suggesting the curved ribs of a whale. The set, says Catlin, conveys the long connection between theater and ships—many of the mechanical elements used to move theatrical scenery are common to sailing, such as the block and tackle used to raise and lower curtains, and the use of rope lines.

This production of Moby Dick with its daring use of circus techniques plays to a shared history with the book’s origins.

Anthony Fleming III as Queequeg, Christopher Donahue as Captain Ahab and Emma Cadd as Fate in Moby Dick at Arena Stage. (Liz Lauren/Lookingglass Theatre Company)

Herman Melville published Moby Dick in a decade that’s been called “the golden age of the circus.” The circus was considered America’s most popular form of entertainment in the mid-19th century, and master showman P.T. Barnum even established his American Museum as a proto-circus on Broadway, winning great notoriety by displaying such wildly diverse entertainments as “industrious fleas, automatons, jugglers, ventriloquists….” 

While Melville never met Barnum, he was certainly aware of the circus and wrote about it evocatively in his short story “The Fiddler,” published anonymously in Harper’s in 1854. The story depicts a sad poet being cheered up by a friend who takes him to a circus:  he is swept up by “the broad amphitheater of eagerly interested and all-applauding human faces. Hark! claps, thumps, deafening huzzas; one vast assembly seemed frantic with acclamation. . . .” 

The stage audience experiences circus and movement, says Catlin, “in a visceral and kinesthetic and muscular way.” Some of the performers are circus-trained, adding authenticity to the aerial acrobatics displayed.

“The dangers of sailing and whaling are made that much more immediate,” he says, “when the performers are engaged in the danger inherent in circus.” 

Herman Melville's sixth and most famous novel, Moby-Dick was published in 1851. (Moby Dick, illustration by Rockwell Kent, Random House, 1930, NMAH)

Using movement to propel the art of storytelling is an increasingly popular theatrical approach. Earlier, modern dance pioneers occasionally incorporated a mix of artistic and theatrical ingredients; Martha Graham notably had a brilliant 40-year collaboration with sculptor Isamu Noguchi that resulted in 19 productions. A photograph of Noguchi’s “Spider Dress” for Graham is currently on display in the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s new exhibition, "Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern."

Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon is contemporary ballet’s leading proponent of storytelling through movement, and has applied his flowing narrative approach both to classical ballet and to Broadway, where his production of An American in Paris won a 2015 Tony Award.

Perhaps the singular, most dramatic example of a company that tells stories through movement is the Synetic Theater in Arlington, Virigina, which is renowned for its fluid synthesis of innovative techniques for silent storytelling using only mime and movement.    

Moby Dick has inspired countless adaptations: Orson Welles broadcast a 1946 radio version, Gregory Peck starred in a 1956 film, Cameron Mackintosh produced a 1992 musical that became a West End hit, and there was a 2010 Dallas Opera production that was a box office triumph.

The Lookingglass production of Moby Dick taps into the public’s continuing fascination for the classic novel with a grand and obsessive vengeance, but Lookingglass employs a more intimate approach.

The company creates a small-scale immersive theatrical experience that largely succeeds, although coherent storytelling in Act II sometimes loses out to vivid theatricality. The costume designs are highly imaginative—actors opening-and-closing black umbrellas seem perfectly credible as whales spouting alongside the Pequod, and the humongous skirt of one actor magically flows across the stage/deck in giant wave-like ocean swells.

Ahab’s doom is never in doubt, and we are there for every vengeful step. For David Catlin, the set’s rope riggings convey the play’s essential metaphor: the web they weave provides the “aerial story-telling” that connects Ahab to his fate, and the rest of us “to each other.”

Moby Dick is a co-production with The Alliance Theatre and South Coast Repertory. It will be in residence at Arena Stage through December 24, before heading to the South Coast Repertory in Cosa Mesa, California, January 20 through February 19, 2017. 

“Are Women Animals?” Asked One 19th-Century Letter Writer

Smithsonian Magazine

Satire has long been used to expose human rights abuses—take Jonathan Swift’s “A Modest Proposal,” or this letter to a newspaper written over a hundred years later.

“Are Women Animals?” asked its writer, whose letter was published this month in 1872 in The Times of London. The writer, still known only as “An Earnest Englishwoman,” asked if women—who did not have remotely equal legal status with men under English law at that time—were even due the level of legal protection against cruelty afforded to animals.

By doing so, writes author Joanna Bourke in What it Means to be Human: Reflections from 1791 to the Present, the Earnest Englishwoman was “protesting against the fact that women were not being treated as fully human.” She wasn’t asking if women were biologically animals—the answer to that question was clear—but was using the example to highlight the cruelty towards women that she felt went often unpunished in a legal system designed to protect men’s property rights.  Bourke writes:

Who, she asked, are entitled to the social and political rights assigned to ‘mankind’? How could it be just that animals had been granted more rights under law than women? She sounded exasperated. ‘Whether women are the equals of men has been endlessly debated’, she admitted, adding that it was a ‘moot point’ whether women even possessed souls. But, she pleaded, ‘can it be too much to ask [for] a definitive acknowledgment that they are at least animals?’

Women’s status under the law would improve if they were considered animals, Bourke writes—because they would be subject to the explicit prohibitions against animal cruelty that had been put into force earlier in the century, thanks to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

The RSPCA was founded in 1824, almost 50 years before the Earnest Englishwoman’s letter. RSPCA members pushed for more animal welfare laws and sought to enforce existing laws. In doing so, that meant animals had an active advocate looking out for their welfare—something women did not have. The Earnest Englishwoman's letter, writes Bourke in a separate article, was prompted by real events:

Her fury had been fuelled by recent court cases in which a man who had “coolly knocked out” the eye of his mistress and another man who had killed his wife were imprisoned for just a few months each. In contrast, a man who had stolen a watch was punished severely, sentenced to not only seven years’ penal servitude, but also 40 lashes of the “cat.” She noted that although some people might believe that a watch was an “object of greater value than the eye of a mistress or the life of a wife,” she was asking readers to remember that “the inanimate watch does not suffer.” It must cause acute agony for any “living creature, endowed with nerves and muscles, to be blinded or crushed to death.”

Indeed, she wrote, she had “read of heavier sentences being inflicted for cruelty towards that—may I venture to say?—lower creation,” meaning animals.

The letter, Bourke writes, added to the ongoing conversation about the rights of sentient beings that helped to shape Victorian England and America. Indeed, a year later in America, the first successful court case against child cruelty was brought—by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

‘The North Star’ Amplified Black Voices. How a 2019 Reboot of Frederick Douglass’ Paper Hopes to Do the Same

Smithsonian Magazine

Four pages, two dollars, one vision: This is what hope looked like to many Americans in December 1847 when Frederick Douglass’ newspaper, The North Star, first appeared in print. The seasoned journalist, now a global crusader for the cause of abolition, poured profits from his British speaking tour into the start-up enterprise. Working with editor Martin R. Delany and others, Douglass inaugurated the press in Rochester, New York. The newspaper’s title referred to the Underground Railroad’s skyward guide, and the masthead proclaimed: “Right is of no sex–Truth is of no color–God is the father of us all, and all we are brethren.”

That sweeping directive shaped The North Star’s coverage of injustice, which often stretched across the Atlantic to cover the European revolutions of 1848. Foreign or familiar, the cause of freedom filled The North Star’s pages and inspired a transatlantic community of activist readers. “A revolution now cannot be confined to the place or the people where it may commence, but flashes with lightning speed from heart to heart, from land to land, till it has traversed the globe, compelling all the members of our common brotherhood at once, to pass judgment upon its merits,” Douglass wrote in one editorial. Describing events in Paris, his words hit home for Americans. From the beginning, Douglass’s North Star supplied news and nurtured revolution.

Building on that legacy, a modern version of The North Star launches today as a multiplatform media outlet, led by progressive journalists Shaun King and Benjamin P. Dixon, with historian Keisha N. Blain at the helm as editor in chief. Through written content, podcasts, video broadcasts, and an app, the new North Star editorial team plans to explore issues of civil rights, human rights, and social justice in America and around the world. Inspired by Douglass’ focus on “liberty, humanity, progress,” this North Star reboots the idea of grassroots journalism. “In thinking about reviving The North Star, we wanted to meet the needs of someone living in 2019,” Blain says. The North Star platform will provide a new online ecosystem for interpreting news, encouraging dialogue, and providing concrete solutions. “We are unapologetic in our stance, and I think people appreciate that,” Blain says. “If you need the tools to make your work even more effective, come here.”

In the original North Star, Douglass’s call for abolition swelled with each issue. Subscriptions grew to more than 4,000; in 1851 it merged with another abolitionist newspaper, Gerrit Smith’s Liberty Party Paper. Amid the fractious politics of the 1840s and 1850s, which saw the rise of third parties like the Know Nothings and violent clashes in Kansas and Virginia, Douglass’s North Star was a voice of moral authority. Living up to the masthead’s pledge, Douglass swung the paper’s spotlight onto the women’s rights convention at Seneca Falls, New York, held in July 1848. “There can be no reason in the world for denying to woman the exercise of the elective franchise, or a hand in the making and administering of the laws of the land,” he wrote in a North Star editorial.

The newspaper’s vast mission, which had brought him into contact with diverse activists, worked a deep change in Douglass’ outlook. Shortly before his death, the great orator rose to address the 1888 International Council of Women, the lessons of his long years at The North Star still fresh in his mind. “When I ran away from slavery, it was for myself; when I advocated for emancipation, it was for my people,” Douglass told the crowd. “But when I stood up for the rights of women, self was out of the question, and I found a little nobility in the act.”

He gave reform-minded readers an outlet that both rivaled William Lloyd Garrison’s The Liberator, which Douglass left to start The North Star, and amplified the blossoming political power of the African-American press. Once enslaved himself —in 1838 he fled the Maryland home of his owner and settled in New England—Douglass used his publication to redefine American liberty.

“Frederick Douglass was able to teach himself to read and write over the objections of his overseer and master,” says Kenneth B. Morris, Jr., a descendant of Douglass and Booker T. Washington who serves as director of Frederick Douglass Family Initiatives. “When he escaped from slavery and began to speak out, he started to build his own strategy for the abolition of slavery. The North Star was a mouthpiece for the enslaved and the oppressed. It was an opportunity for him to speak for the voiceless. The importance of that newspaper in that time cannot be overstated.”

When Frederick Douglass began the newspaper in 1847, he changed the national conversation on race and rights. Douglass, Delany, and publisher William C. Nell carefully curated each issue, with help from transatlantic contributors and relatives who worked in the Rochester newsroom. “We’re proud of that legacy,” Morris says of The North Star’s origins. “It was a family enterprise for sure.”

According to historian Heather Cox Richardson, who studies the political thought and culture of the 19th century, The North Star gave African-Americans a public channel that hadn’t existed before. “Voices that are not heard cannot be included in American debate; they can only be reflected by those others who care about them,” she says. When Douglass chose to leave The Liberator, he turned away from the paternalism of Garrisonian abolitionism, and opened up a new path for the movement. His founding of The North Star signaled a new chapter for both the man and his mission. Frederick Douglass’ leadership of the North Star, along with his shrewd use of new forms of mass media like photography, sent a bold message about the visibility of African-American citizenship. “Only a presence in national debate can change the national narrative,” Richardson says.

Why relaunch The North Star now? “We’re in an incredibly complicated and consequential time politically,” King says. “There are lots of changes that are happening, that people are fighting for on the grassroots level, globally and politically, not just justice reform.” Critically, The North Star also aims to fill what Dixon calls “a big gaping hole” in the current media landscape, by welcoming “black voices and people of color to not only speak on our issues and community, but to speak on all issues.” As The North Star community takes shape, a blend of hope and history bolsters the project’s launch. “We’re telling the narrative from our perspective,” Dixon says. “The time has always been there.”

Éva Székely, Holocaust Survivor and Olympic Champion Swimmer, Dies at 92

Smithsonian Magazine

Between December 1944 and January 1945, members of Hungary’s fascist Arrow Cross Party executed as many as 20,000 Jews on the banks of the Danube. Éva Székely was 17 years old when a young official came to round her up. Decades later, providing survivor testimony to the University of Southern California’s Shoah Foundation, she recalled his unique appearance: “One of his eyes was grey and the other one was brown. And this stayed with me, as never before had I seen a man with different colored eyes.”

Székely’s father attempted to plead with the fascist, claiming that his daughter was sick and unable to walk. When that failed to sway the official, her father tried a different approach: “She is the swimming champion of Hungary,” he said, “and one day you will be happy you saved her life!”

Miraculously, Székely was spared. And her father’s words would prove prophetic. In 1950, she won a gold medal in an international swimming competition held on Hungary’s Margaret Island. One of the people presenting her prize was the major of the Communist Political Police.

“Imagine, there I was standing there, up on top of the dais … and the man looks at me,” she recalled. “It was that Arrow Cross man, with his different colored eyes.”

Székely, whose remarkable life was marked by both great adversities and great triumphs, died on February 29 and the age of 92, according to Emily Langer of the Washington Post. The cause of death is not known, but Székely’s health had reportedly been declining. She remained active late in life, continuing to swim even as she neared the age of 90.

Born in Budapest in 1927, Székely became interested in swimming after listening to a radio broadcast of Hungarian swimmer Ferenc Csik winning the 100-meter freestyle at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, reports the Guardian’s Andy Bull. She joined a local sports club team that went on to win a national open water title, but was soon booted from the team because of her Jewish heritage.

Her father, she said, told her that “when all the madness was over one’s religion would make no difference.” But conditions for the Jews of Budapest continued to worsen. Forced to live in buildings marked with Stars of David, some 20,000 were rounded up and deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Then, in November 1944, the Germans forced more than 70,000 Jews to march from Budapest to camps in Austria. Those who survived the brutal journey—and many did not—were taken to concentration camps or put to work as forced laborers. Any Jews who remained in Budapest were relocated to a closed ghetto.

Székely, according to the Guardian, was recruited into a labor battalion, but escaped by “leaping onto a passing streetcar during a forced march through the city.” She spent the latter years of the war in a Swiss-operated safe house where 42 people were packed into just two rooms. According to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women, Székely stayed in shape by running up and down five flights of stairs 100 times every morning.

Éva Székely in 1956 (Nationaal Archief via Wikimedia Commons under CC BY-SA 3.0)

After the war, Székely started competing in international sporting events. At one competition, she met Dezsö Gyarmati, a Hungarian athlete regarded as one of history’s best water polo players. They married and had a daughter, Andrea.

Between 1946 and 1954, Székely snagged 32 national individual swimming titles and 11 national team titles. In 1948, she competed at the Olympic Games in London, placing fourth in the in the 200-meter breaststroke. Four years later, she competed in the same race at the Olympic Games in Helsinki—and this time, she won the gold medal, setting an Olympic record in the process.

In 1956, not long after the outbreak of the anti-communist Hungarian Revolution, Székely and Gyarmati traveled to Melbourne for the Olympic Games. While in Australia, they learned that the uprising had been brutally crushed by the Soviets. Székely was sick with worry for her daughter and parents, who had stayed behind in Budapest; she reportedly lost more than 12 pounds in the lead-up to the Olympics. Still, she competed, winning a silver medal in the 200-meter breaststroke.

Székely and Gyarmati went back to Hungary and subsequently defected to the United States. They soon returned, however, to care for Székely’s elderly parents. Székely decided to retire from active competition, working instead as a coach for young swimmers—among them her daughter, who would go on to become an Olympic medalist in her own right.

Székely accompanied her daughter to the infamous 1972 Munich Games, during which eight Palestinian militants attacked the Israeli Olympic team. She befriended Moshe Weinberg, an Israeli wrestling coach who was one of the 11 team members killed; according to the Guardian, the two had coffee the morning before the massacre.

In spite of the persecution she had experienced in her lifetime, Székely did not attempt to obscure her Jewish identity—a fact that set her apart from many other Hungarian-Jewish athletes, according to the Encyclopedia of Jewish Women. In 1974, she gave an interview for Hungarian television in which she recalled the discriminatory laws of the 1940s. Some people at the time, she noted, could prove that their grandparents were not Jewish.

“That was no problem for me,” she said. “I did not have to go back as far as my grandparents. Unequivocally, I was a Jew.”


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Table is oval half-round in shape, supported on four scroll legs. Curved stretcher with openwork crest. Shaped plinth surmounted by two shelves of graduated size with shaped profile edges, supported on pierced fretwork brackets. Back of two upper shelves fitted with mirror glass. Top of second shelf surmounted by scrollwork with central escutcheon and high relief female head. Finial above head missing. Central drawer on table front, with front panel carved with arabesques and grape clusters. Interior of drawer of maple, with rectangular brass locking device.

“Without Light Everything is Lifeless”

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
Image features a pitcher composed of a globular, translucent green glass body with a cylindrical neck covered in silver-plated metal with an inverted U-shaped handle, short spout, and an inset circular lid. Please scroll down to read the blog post about this object.Designer Massimo Vignelli was known for the sense of sophistication and refinement he brought to the product, graphic, and furniture design that he produced first in Italy, and later in the U.S. working with his wife Lella, also a designer.  While a student at the School of Architecture in Venice, Vignelli learned about glass from architect and glass...

“How High the Moon�

Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum
In his How High the Moon chair, designer Shiro Kuramata utilizes an industrial material, steel mesh, to give a contemporary interpretation to the traditional club chair. The shape and proportions are based on an established Western form—a bulky, deeply upholstered easy chair with a low back and deep arms—but here, Kuramata’s use of an unexpected...

“Bittersweet Harvest� exhibit reveals how the bracero program changed America

Smithsonian Insider

Millions of Mexican workers came to the United States in the mid-20th century through a program that has shaped and changed American labor and American […]

The post “Bittersweet Harvest” exhibit reveals how the bracero program changed America appeared first on Smithsonian Insider.

wraparound-contact photovoltaic cells

National Museum of American History
Solar cells come in many shapes and sizes, and are manufactured with a variety of materials. The wafer of this octagonal cell is made with the element silicon. The dark areas convert sunlight into electricity while the thick and thin lines are part of the electrical circuit. This “wraparound-contact” cell has two thin parallel circuit-leads running from top to bottom and about 100 smaller leads running crosswise. Each of the four corners has seven lines running crosswise, making a connection to the back of the wafer.

working drawing,tea sets

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum
Each shows the teapot with the handle at right, on top, the cream pot with the

handle at left, bottom left, the two-handled and covered sugar bowl, bottom

right. The handles of the cream pots and augar bowls are forked on top.

Reverse: blackened for tracing. The knobs of the covers are shaped like urns.

Rough sketch of a pendant(?) top right. Marked, ink,"#38.• Written, bottom

left: "Tracing, "pencil
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