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“That International Rag”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music for the song “That International Rag” was composed by Irving Berlin, and published by the Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Company in New York, New York, in 1913. “That International Rag,” was composed by Berlin on his tour to England. After a disastrous press conference where Berlin gave the false impression he had no musical talent, he composed this tune overnight, and played it to great success the next day at London’s Hippodrome. The cover shows Uncle Sam conducting a choir of various nationalities in the tune, with an inset image of actress Goldie Moore.

“Kathleen Mavourneen”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Kathleen Mavourneen” that was composed by Frederick N. Crouch and published by George Dunn & Company of Richmond, Virginia around 1864. The sheet music says it was composed by a P.N. Crouch, but this is a misprint. The word “mavourneen” comes from the Irish Gaelic term “mo mhuirnín,” which means “my love.” The song became popular during the Civil War, thanks to the touring of Irish opera singer Catherine Hayes.

“Jenny Lind's Favorite Polka”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Jenny Lind's Favorite Polka” that was composed by Anton Wallerstein in 1846. G.P. Reed of Boston, Massachusetts published the sheet music. Jenny Lind was a Swedish opera singer nicknamed “The Swedish Nightingale,” who was so popular that P.T. Barnum offered her $1,000 a performance to come and tour America in 1850. Anton Wallerstein composed this polka to honor Lind.

“Forget-Me-Not Waltzes”

National Museum of American History
This sheet music is for the song “Oscar Wilde Forget Me Not Waltz.” It was written and composed by Miss Amy Henry and published by W. A. Evans and Brothers of Boston, Massachusetts in 1900. The cover features an illustrated portrait of Oscar Wilde in an oval surrounded by sunflowers and lilies. Wilde was very popular around this time, and underwent an American speaking tour in 1882 that was very popular, and a few different songs were written about him during his time in the limelight.

‘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.”

‘Hamilton: The Exhibition’ Opens in Chicago to Eager Fans

Smithsonian Magazine

On Saturday, April 27, hundreds of fans waiting in line for the opening of "Hamilton: The Exhibition" received a special surprise: The man behind the hit Broadway musical, Lin-Manuel Miranda himself, appeared on the scene with donuts in hand, ready to reward the so-called "Hamilfans" who had braved the dismal Chicago weather with sweet treats and selfies.

As Michael Paulson reports for The New York Times, a specially constructed 35,000-square-foot structure on Chicago’s Lake Michigan shoreline is the first locale to host an immersive, surprisingly educational exhibition on "Hamilton." Dubbed "Hamilton: The Exhibition," the show features an in-depth look at the eponymous Founding Father’s life, correcting historical inaccuracies seen in the musical while simultaneously fleshing out events and themes raised by Miranda’s Tony Award-winning creation.

Catering to the musical enthusiasts sure to flock to the space, the exhibit also includes an audio guide narrated by Miranda and original cast members Phillipa Soo and Christopher Jackson, a reworked instrumental version of the soundtrack recorded by a 27-piece band, and 3-D footage of Miranda leading the Washington, D.C. cast in a performance of the musical’s opening number.

Amazingly, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" cost $1 million more to launch than its Broadway predecessor. Built to travel (at least with the aid of 80 moving trucks), the show carries a hefty price tag of $13.5 million, as opposed to the musical’s $12.5 million—a fact that may account for its high admission rates, which stand at $39.50 for adults and $25 for children. Although the exhibit’s Chicago run currently has no fixed end-date, Jeffrey Seller, the musical's lead producer and the individual in charge of this latest venture, tells Paulson it will likely stay in the Windy City for several months before moving on to cities such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.

According to the Chicago Tribune’s Steve Johnson, Miranda, who served as an artistic advisor for the exhibition, describes the show as a “choose-your-own-adventure” experience. Those hoping to delve into the details of the Revolutionary War, federalism and early 19th-century fiscal policy will want to pay attention to wall text and audio narration, while those more interested in the musical will enjoy interactive visuals, games and set pieces crafted by exhibit designer David Korins.

Writing for the Chicago Sun-Times, Miriam Di Nunzio highlights several of the exhibition’s 18 galleries: There’s the “Schuyler Mansion” ballroom, dominated by bronze statues of Alexander Hamilton, the Schuyler sisters, and George and Martha Washington, and a recreation of the Battle of Yorktown that Seller, in an interview with the Sun-Times’ Mary Houlihan, likens to “a giant [animated] Risk board.” Also of note are a “Hurricane” room centered on Hamilton’s youth in St. Croix, a gallery dedicated to Eliza Hamilton’s efforts to ensure her husband’s legacy following his death in 1804, and a “Duel” space featuring life-size statues of Hamilton and Aaron Burr with their pistols raised.

In essence, "Hamilton: The Exhibition" strives to fill the historical gaps left by its namesake musical.

“I couldn't even fit Ben Franklin in my show,” Miranda tells the Daily Beast’s Kimberly Bellware. “I couldn't get the state of Pennsylvania in. But here, we can do a deeper dive on slavery in the north and the south. We can talk about Native American contributions, [and] we can talk about women in the war effort.”

As Bellware observes, one such nod to these hidden histories is a statue of an enslaved woman standing at the edge of the Schuyler ballroom. Rather than providing a cursory overview of slavery in colonial America, the accompanying audio narration urges visitors to consider the figure as an individual, asking, “Where was she from? Who did she love? What were her dreams?”

Focusing on Hamilton specifically, The New York Times’ Jacobs points toward an unassuming sign clarifying the “ten-dollar Founding Father without a father”’s stance on slavery: Although the song “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” finds Eliza stating, “I speak out against slavery / You could have done so much more if you / only had— / Time,” the exhibit notes, “The real Hamilton wasn’t an abolitionist, but he did oppose slavery.”

It’s worth noting that "Hamilton: The Exhibition" has its flaws: For the Chicago Tribune, Johnson notes that the show features a cast of reproductions, as the warehouse’s climate has yet to prove stable enough to house actual artifacts, and argues that it too often relies on heavy blocks of text to convey the history behind the musical’s catchy tunes. Still, Johnson concludes, these are just “quibbles.” Overall, “there are a thousand choices on display in this exhibition, and almost all of them at least satisfy, while a great number go beyond that to surprise and delight.”

In the words of "Hamilton"’s King George III—the musical's resident source of comic relief—you’ll be back.

teddy bear

National Museum of American History
Matthew Shepard was a college student, targeted for being gay, robbed, and brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998.

Shepard's murder affected people around the world in a range of ways. Two men from Denver organized a Teddy Bear Project, in which people created bears in memory of victims of hate or violence. The Bear Foundation (Bringing Equality and Respect) was in Littleton, Colorado. The men hiked from Fort Collins to the fence where Shepard was tortured and left to die and left 150 Teddy Bears. Later, this bear along with the others toured as an educational project.

teddy bear

National Museum of American History
Matthew Shepard was a college student, targeted for being gay, robbed, and brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998.

Shepard's murder affected people around the world in a range of ways. Two men from Denver organized a Teddy Bear Project, in which people created bears in memory of victims of hate or violence. The Bear Foundation (Bringing Equality and Respect) was in Littleton, Colorado. The men hiked from Fort Collins to the fence where Shepard was tortured and left to die and left 150 Teddy Bears. Later, this bear along with the others toured as an educational project.

This bear, named "Jerry Bear," came from Kristie Bonner in Lincoln Park, Michigan. Jerry Bear is named for the son of a woman she met outside a grocery store from the group "Parents of Murdered Children, Inc."

teddy bear

National Museum of American History
Matthew Shepard was a college student, targeted for being gay, robbed, and brutally murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998.

Shepard's murder affected people around the world in a range of ways. Two men from Denver organized a Teddy Bear Project, in which people created bears in memory of victims of hate or violence. The Bear Foundation (Bringing Equality and Respect) was in Littleton, Colorado. The men hiked from Fort Collins to the fence where Shepard was tortured and left to die and left 150 Teddy Bears. Later, this bear along with the others toured as an educational project.

This bear was contributed to the project by Carolyn Jones, a grandmother from Clackamas, Oregon, in memory of the students killed and injured at Columbine. Columbine is a high school in Littleton, CO where two students murdered 13 people and injured 21 in April 1999.

river boat with "Ozark Fun Tour" sign on side

National Museum of American History

program for Joel Grey 1987 Cabaret tour

National Museum of American History

itinerary autographed by those on President Benjamin Harrison's Western tour of the United States to the Pacific Coast

Archives of American Art
Pamphlet : 6 p.

George Elbert Burr's itinerary of President Benjamin Harrison's Western tour of the United States to the Pacific Coast signed by those present.

before Ranger Launch

National Air and Space Museum
Before Ranger launch. Sketch showing six spectators of the Ranger Launch; the three men on the bottom are seated men in uniform; man in upper center shown looking through binoculars; skin tones painted on the men; uniforms on the bottom painted a tea color.

The spring of 1962 was a busy time for the men and women of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. On February 20, John H. Glenn became the first American to orbit the earth. For the first time since the launch of Sputnik 1 on October 4, 1957, the U.S. was positioned to match and exceed Soviet achievements in space. NASA was an agency with a mission -- to meet President John F. Kennedy's challenge of sending human beings to the moon and returning them safely to earth by the end of the decade. Within a year, three more Mercury astronauts would fly into orbit. Plans were falling into place for a follow-on series of two-man Gemini missions that would set the stage for the Apollo voyages to the moon.

In early March 1962, artist Bruce Stevenson brought his large portrait of Alan Shepard, the first American to fly in space, to NASA headquarters.(1) James E. Webb, the administrator of NASA, assumed that the artist was interested in painting a similar portrait of all seven of the Mercury astronauts. Instead, Webb voiced his preference for a group portrait that would emphasize "…the team effort and the togetherness that has characterized the first group of astronauts to be trained by this nation." More important, the episode convinced the administrator that "…we should consider in a deliberate way just what NASA should do in the field of fine arts to commemorate the …historic events" of the American space program.(2)

In addition to portraits, Webb wanted to encourage artists to capture the excitement and deeper meaning of space flight. He imagined "a nighttime scene showing the great amount of activity involved in the preparation of and countdown for launching," as well as paintings that portrayed activities in space. "The important thing," he concluded, "is to develop a policy on how we intend to treat this matter now and in the next several years and then to get down to the specifics of how we intend to implement this policy…." The first step, he suggested, was to consult with experts in the field, including the director of the National Gallery of Art, and the members of the Fine Arts Commission, the arbiters of architectural and artistic taste who passed judgment on the appearance of official buildings and monuments in the nation's capital.

Webb's memo of March 16, 1962 was the birth certificate of the NASA art program. Shelby Thompson, the director of the agency's Office of Educational Programs and Services, assigned James Dean, a young artist working as a special assistant in his office, to the project. On June 19, 1962 Thompson met with the Fine Arts Commission, requesting advice as to how "…NASA should develop a basis for use of paintings and sculptures to depict significant historical events and other activities in our program."(3)

David E. Finley, the chairman and former director of the National Gallery of Art, applauded the idea, and suggested that the agency should study the experience of the U.S. Air Force, which had amassed some 800 paintings since establishing an art program in 1954. He also introduced Thompson to Hereward Lester Cooke, curator of paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

An imposing bear of a man standing over six feet tall, Lester Cooke was a graduate of Yale and Oxford, with a Princeton PhD. The son of a physics professor and a veteran of the U.S. Army Air Forces, he was both fascinated by science and felt a personal connection to flight. On a professional level, Cooke had directed American participation in international art competitions and produced articles and illustrations for the National Geographic Magazine. He jumped at the chance to advise NASA on its art program.

While initially cautious with regard to the time the project might require of one of his chief curators, John Walker, director of the National Gallery, quickly became one of the most vocal supporters of the NASA art initiative. Certain that "the present space exploration effort by the United States will probably rank among the more important events in the history of mankind," Walker believed that "every possible method of documentation …be used." Artists should be expected "…not only to record the physical appearance of the strange new world which space technology is creating, but to edit, select and probe for the inner meaning and emotional impact of events which may change the destiny of our race." He urged quick action so that "the full flavor of the achievement …not be lost," and hoped that "the past held captive" in any paintings resulting from the effort "will prove to future generations that America produced not only scientists and engineers capable of shaping the destiny of our age, but also artists worthy to keep them company."(4)

Gordon Cooper, the last Mercury astronaut to fly, was scheduled to ride an Atlas rocket into orbit on May 15, 1963. That event would provide the ideal occasion for a test run of the plan Cooke and Dean evolved to launch the art program. In mid-February, Cooke provided Thompson with a list of the artists who should be invited to travel to Cape Canaveral to record their impressions of the event. Andrew Wyeth, whom the curator identified as "the top artist in the U.S. today," headed the list. When the time came, however, Andrew Wyeth did not go to the Cape for the Cooper launch, but his son Jamie would participate in the program during the Gemini and Apollo years.

The list of invited artists also included Peter Hurd, Andrew Wyeth's brother-in-law, who had served as a wartime artist with the Army Air Force; George Weymouth, whom Wyeth regarded as "the best of his pupils"; and John McCoy, another Wyeth associate. Cooke regarded the next man on the list, Robert McCall, who had been running the Air Force art program, as "America's top aero-space illustrator. Paul Calle and Robert Shore had both painted for the Air Force program. Mitchell Jamieson, who had run a unit of the Navy art program during WW II, rounded out the program. Alfred Blaustein was the only artist to turn down the invitation.

The procedures that would remain in place for more than a decade were given a trial run in the spring of 1963. The artists received an $800 commission, which had to cover any expenses incurred while visiting a NASA facility where they could paint whatever interested them. In return, they would present their finished pieces, and all of their sketches, to the space agency. The experiment was a success, and what might have been a one-time effort to dispatch artists to witness and record the Gordon Cooper flight provided the basis for an on-going, if small-scale, program. By the end of 1970, Jim Dean and Lester Cooke had dispatched 38 artists to Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and to other NASA facilities.

The art program became everything that Jim Webb had hoped it would be. NASA artists produced stunning works of art that documented the agency's step-by-step progress on the way to the moon. The early fruits of the program were presented in a lavishly illustrated book, Eyewitness to Space (New York: Abrams, 1971). Works from the collection illustrated NASA publications and were the basis for educational film strips aimed at school children. In 1965 and again in 1969 the National Gallery of Art mounted two major exhibitions of work from the NASA collection. The USIA sent a selection of NASA paintings overseas, while the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service created two exhibitions of NASA art that toured the nation.

"Since we …began," Dean noted in a reflection on the tenth anniversary of the program, the art initiative had resulted in a long string of positive "press interviews and reports, congressional inquiries, columns in the Congressional Record, [and] White House reports." The NASA effort, he continued, had directly inspired other government art programs. "The Department of the Interior (at least two programs), the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Army and even the Veterans Administration have, or are starting, art programs." While he could not take all of the credit, Dean insisted that "our success has encouraged other agencies to get involved and they have succeeded, too."(5)

For all of that, he noted, it was still necessary to "defend" the role of art in the space agency. Dean, with the assistance of Lester Cooke, had been a one-man show, handling the complex logistics of the program, receiving and cataloguing works of art, hanging them himself in museums or on office walls, and struggling to find adequate storage space. In January 1976, a NASA supervisor went so far as to comment that: "Mr. Dean is far too valuable in other areas to spend his time on the relatively menial …jobs he is often burdened with in connection with the art program."(6) Dean placed a much higher value on the art collection, and immediately recommended that NASA officials either devote additional resources to the program, or get out of the art business and turn the existing collection over the National Air and Space Museum, "where it can be properly cared for."(7)

In January 1974 a new building for the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) was taking shape right across the street from NASA headquarters. Discussions regarding areas of cooperation were already underway between NASA officials and museum director Michael Collins, who had flown to the moon as a member of the Apollo 11 crew. Before the end of the year, the space agency had transferred its art collection to the NASM. Mike Collins succeeded in luring Jim Dean to the museum, as well.

The museum already maintained a small art collection, including portraits of aerospace heroes, an assortment of 18th and 19th century prints illustrating the early history of the balloon, an eclectic assortment of works portraying aspects of the history of aviation and a few recent prizes, including several Norman Rockwell paintings of NASA activity. With the acquisition of the NASA art, the museum was in possession of one of the world's great collections of art exploring aerospace themes. Jim Dean would continue to build the NASM collection as the museum's first curator of art. Following his retirement in 1980, other curators would follow in his footsteps, continuing to strengthen the role of art at the NASM. Over three decades after its arrival, however, the NASA art accession of 2,091 works still constitutes almost half of the NASM art collection.

(1) Stevenson's portrait is now in the collection of the National Air and Space Museum (1981-627)

(2) James E. Webb to Hiden Cox, March 16, 1962, memorandum in the NASA art historical collection, Aeronautics Division, National air and Space Museum. Webb's preference for a group portrait of the astronauts was apparently not heeded. In the end, Stevenson painted an individual portrait of John Glenn, which is also in the NASM collection (1963-398).

(3) Shelby Thompson, memorandum for the record, July 6, 1962, NASA art historical collection, NASA, Aeronautics Division.

(4) John Walker draft of a talk, March 5, 1965, copy in NASA Art historical collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(5) James Dean, memorandum for the record, August 6, 1973, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(6) Director of Planning and Media Development to Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, NASA art history collection, NASM Aeronautics Division.

(7) James Dean to the Assistant Administrator for Public Affairs, January 24, 1974, copy in NASA Art history Collection, Aeronautics Division, NASM.

Tom D. Crouch

Senior Curator, Aeronautics

National Air and Space Museum

Smithsonian Institution

July 26, 2007

Zygote (Mitosis Series, no. 1)

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Zurich

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Zululand : a mission tour in South Africa / by G.H. Mason

Smithsonian Libraries
Also available online.

Elecresource

Zoom through the Galaxy and tour the planets

National Museum of Natural History
© Smithsonian Institution Animations courtesy NASA/GSFC The atmosphere has been changing since Earth began. Once living things evolved the ability to carry out photosynthesis, perhaps 2.7 billion years ago, they began to remake the atmosphere. Explore the invisible envelope that surrounds us and see how our changing atmosphere is unique within our Galaxy. Learn more about our atmosphere by visiting the online exhibition, Change is in the Air at: http://forces.si.edu/atmosphere

Zoological results of a tour in the Far East / edited by N. Annandale

Smithsonian Libraries
Cover title.

Text in English or French.

Also available online.

Elecresource

INVZ copy 39088006714463 is pt. 5 only.

Zen and the Art of Sleeping Anywhere

Smithsonian Magazine

Wild camping is first-class lodging in rural Turkey, where dinner is had in bed and nights are passed beneath the stars.

It takes a degree of enlightenment, a Zen-like grace and contentment, to be able to yawn, stretch and lie down to sleep just anywhere in the world. Relatively few people are blessed with this capacity—or, anyway, been lucky enough to experience the pleasure. In most cases, if we’re away from home when darkness falls, we’ll panic, while authorities are roused and a search party deployed. In the best outcomes, the lost person is restored safely to the world of sturdy homes, hot meals, soft beds and dependable Internet access.

But there are creatures indifferent to darkness and unaffected by attachments to home. When they grow tired, they sleep. They may be comfortable anywhere—on beds of pine needles, on sandy beaches, on cliff ledges, on rocks—and they care not for the fuss of quilts, pillow cases and sheets. Wild cats, for instance, will sleep in trees if that’s where sleepiness finds them, bears will conk out in caves, and deer will doze in tall grass.

Bike tourists, also, are known to pass a night just about anywhere. We’re nomads who travel for months or years and who simply can’t part with 5, 10 or 20 dollars every night just to sleep. For many of us, our lifestyle depends on frugality. We spend our money where we must—a reliable bike, a few essential items to strap on the back, a plane ticket—and then accept what comes our way. When darkness falls, we do what’s natural: We sleep. It may be on the side of a mountain, or in a dark forest, or in a pomegranate orchard, or on a high and windy pass. Pigs may thunder past us in herds, and occasionally bears chase us back onto the road. We absorb it all in stride.

We learn to, anyway. Six years ago, when I first toured in Europe, I would grow nervous as night fell. In Spain, I would ask villagers if a campground was nearby, or even a room. As a last resort I would sleep wild. I preferred not to. It took me another two long rides through Europe to fully learn the way of the wild camper, and in 2009 as I rode through Greece and the Balkans I slept in the open woods nearly every night and grew to love the liberty of the lifestyle; I could ride in whatever direction I pleased without regard for whether I would find “accommodations” or not; everything I needed was on the back of my bike. I didn’t even carry a laptop in those days. I had attained enlightenment. I had mastered the art of sleeping anywhere. When locals warned me that there was “nothing” along the road ahead, I would smile and quicken my pace to get there. Only on my final night on that 2009 tour did I decide to treat myself to an established campground, which in Europe are often unsightly, crowded places paved like Walmart parking lots and surrounded by fences and where the only virtue is the chance of meeting other travelers. I was in Trento, Italy and went to the municipal lakeshore “camping” (that’s what Europeans call their campgrounds). When I arrived, I found the gates locked for the winter—but there was no call to panic; I lay down and slept where I was.

But some bike tourists never can kick their need for proper accommodations. I’ve met and talked with them. They often travel as a couple with matching bicycles and gear, and they tend to carry a guidebook that leads along “the route,” whether it’s the Camino de Santiago or the popular coastal California route or the rim of the Mediterranean. These folks stick to the main roads, research by Internet to locate campgrounds ahead, and often prefer to stay in plush rooms, three stories above ground and with breakfast served at 8. They’re preoccupied with having a daily shower and clean laundry—and such things they miss for it! Like having sheep walk over them at 3 a.m. to fight for leftover melon rinds, or the brisk exhilaration of setting up the tent as a surprise nighttime rain squall begins, or ducking under a ledge to hide from gunmen.

At the Istanbul airport, where I stayed the night, I passed the wee hours drinking espressos with a cyclist named Mark, from Alaska, also flying home at dawn. We had actually met two months prior in Plovdiv and had discovered then that we were flying out of Istanbul on the very same morning. Having reconvened at the airport, we traded stories from our journeys. His had lasted four-and-a-half months, classifying him as a real voyager—but he opted to sleep in campgrounds, resorts and hotels every single night.

“But you can camp anywhere in Turkey,” I blurted, a little shocked.

He grinned sheepishly and said, “I’m 52, man. I need a room and a bed.”

That sounds reasonable enough: He’d rather be comfortable than not. Even Odysseus, the greatest adventurer in literature, preferred not to pass a night without first a massage from a nymph, then an extra virgin olive oil rub-down, a gluttonous feast of goat flesh and wine and finally a soft bed. But what Odysseus, Mark from Alaska and others still held captive by the perceived comforts of down blankets and queen-sized mattresses don’t realize is that wild camping is arguably the most comfortable form of lodging available. By camping wild, we bypass the hassle of locking the bike in the basement, of unloading the luggage, of taking off our shoes at the doorstep, and all the other finicky logistics of dwelling in a well-groomed society.

I finish today with a tip of the hat to Robert Louis Stevenson, who knew the Zen and the joy of sleeping outside. In his 1879 journeying account Travels with a Donkey in the Cevennes, the author treks across a parcel of southern France, asking peasants for directions, getting lost, and all the while gnawing on a loaf of bread for sustenance. He exhibits a remarkable state of inner peace in a time so fraught with nervous particularities about wearing proper nightgowns and “drawing” one’s bath and “taking” supper. Stevenson dabbles in both worlds—that of guesthouse lodging and that of wild camping—and he learns fast to favor the latter. He describes the misery of sleeping with a dozen groaning and snoring bodies in a damp, stuffy hostel, and he dwells lovingly on the pleasures of camping anywhere. In Stevenson’s words:

I have not often enjoyed a more serene possession of myself, nor felt more independent of material aids. The outer world, from which we cower into our houses, seemed after all a gentle and habitable place; and night after night a man’s bed, it seemed, was laid and waiting for him in the fields, where God keeps an open house.

Zea mays subsp. mays x Z. mays subsp. mexicana (Schrad.) Iltis

NMNH - Botany Dept.
"Listening to the Prairie" traveling panel exhibit

Peterson, Paul M. and Barbara Stauffer

Drawing was made for traveling exhibit prepared by NMNH Public Programs, Office of Exhibits opening at NMNH on November 18, 2000 and traveling as part of the American Library Association tour in May of 2001.

Zea mays (Poaceae). Collection: John Donnell Smith, U.S.A., Garrett County, MD; inflorescence spike and corn kernal. Illustration of spikelets was from herbarium specimen and illustration of kernal was sketched from living plants on site at Beltsville Agricultural Center. - Sep 22 2000.

Zea mays subsp. mays x Z. mays subsp. mexicana (Schrad.) Iltis

NMNH - Botany Dept.
"Listening to the Prairie" traveling panel exhibit

Peterson, Paul M. and Barbara Stauffer

Drawing image was embossed on acrylic panel for travleing exhibit prepared by NMNH Public Programs, Office of Exhibits, opening at NMNH on November 18, 2000 and traveling as part of the American Library Association tour in May of 2001.

Zea mays (Poaceae). Collection: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, U.S.A., Beltsville, MD; habit. Illustration was sketched from living plants on site at Beltsville Agricultural Center and plant was collected with help from Mark Davis, USDA researcher. - Sep 6 2000.

Zea mays subsp. mays x Z. mays subsp. mexicana (Schrad.) Iltis

NMNH - Botany Dept.
"Listening to the Prairie" traveling panel exhibit

Peterson, Paul M. and Barbara Stauffer

Drawing was made for traveling exhibit prepared by NMNH Public Programs, Office of Exhibits opening at NMNH on November 18, 2000 and traveling as part of the American Library Association tour in May of 2001.

Zea mays (Poaceae). Collection: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, U.S.A., Beltsville, MD; corn cob with husk. Illustration was sketched from living plants on site at Beltsville Agricultural Center and plant was collected with help from Mark Davis, USDA researcher. - Sep 14 2000.

Zea mays L.

NMNH - Botany Dept.
"Listening to the Prairie" traveling panel exhibit

Peterson, Paul M. and Barbara Stauffer

Drawing was made for traveling exhibit prepared by NMNH Public Programs, Office of Exhibits opening at NMNH on November 18, 2000 and traveling as part of the American Library Association tour in May of 2001.

Zea mays (Poaceae). Collection: Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, U.S.A., Beltsville, MD; Corn kernal. Illustration was sketched from living plants on site at Beltsville Agricultural Center and plant was collected with help from Mark Davis, USDA researcher. - Sep 27 2000.
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