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"If the world is still here and round and beautiful"

Smithsonian Collections - Thu, 09/11/2014 - 8:00am
Lee Hays liked to write letters. He tended to be a homebody, but after he lost both legs to diabetes, he was stuck at home more often. Long, thoughtful letters were his way of being a part of the world, and his correspondents responded in kind. His resulting papers, now being digitized here at the Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, are thus rich and dense with perfectly encapsulated life moments.

One such cluster of letters are copies of those sent to the Murtaugh family, who seem to be his neighbors in upstate New York. A few of the letters, written to the younger Murtaughs, caught my eye in particular because of the uniquely wonderful way Lee had of speaking to younger people: with respect, interest and humor. They are full of advice that is honest and kind--never preachy or judgmental.

Lee Hays is often remembered for his work in music, especially his contributions to The Weavers, but it's his powerful grasp of language that always gets me. Since it's back-to-school season and some of you may be getting ready to either hit the books or assign said books, let Lee drop some knowledge on you: he has quite a bit to share.

Poem for Lee Murtagh, August 1973. Lee Hays Papers, Hays_01_01_070_004. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.

Lee Hays to Bruce Murtagh, 1977. Lee Hays Papers, Hays_01_01_070_005. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Lee Hays to Tony Murtaugh, 8 August 1978. Lee Hays Papers, Hays_01_01_070_008. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.

Lee Hays to Bruce Murtaugh, November 1980. Lee Hays Papers, Hays_01_01_070_010. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.
Cecilia Peterson, Digitization Archivist
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

Water, Water, Everywhere. And Latino studies too!

Smithsonian Collections - Tue, 09/09/2014 - 8:00am
As a curator of Latino Studies at the Anacostia Community Museum, I am often asked where my work fits within the museum’s initiatives.  The answer is: EVERYWHERE. 

Here is one example.

One of the Smithsonian’s signature initiatives, Waterways, has its roots right here in the Urban Waterways project at the Anacostia Community Museum. Urban Waterways has made profound and multifarious connections (geographic, fresh/salt water, culture/science, nature/built environment, and many more).

Rowers compete during the Stonewall Regatta held Sunday June 3, 2012 at the Anacostia Community Boathouse and sponsored by DC Strokes Rowing Club. here they row under the Pennsylvania Avenue/John Phillips Bridge on the Anacostia River.  Reclaming the Edge Exhibition Records, Anacostia Community Museum, Smithsonian Institution.  Photograph by Susana Raab
When I started at ACM, I was immediately tasked with planning a small exhibition. Reclaiming the Edge was in the main gallery and it sparked an idea: Bridging the Americas. My exhibition is not about the Panama Canal per se, but the history and culture of Panama, the migration patterns of Panamanians to the U.S., and the unique urban identity called “Zonians” have everything to do with the Canal. I am building an archival collection through photo documentation in D.C. and Panama and by conducting oral history interviews with Panamanian and Xonian D.C.area residents.  Bridging the Americas connects the Washington D.C. area to Panama, a country famous for its urban waterway. In the exhibition there will be a breakout section about the Panama Canal, a powerful geographic/cultural/commercial/political urban waterway. Moreover, it connects me to the current museum work.

Bridge of the Americas, Pacific side of the Panama Canal, August 2014.  Bridging the Americas Research Project, Anacostia Community Museum. Photograph by Susana Raab.
Various Smithsonian units have holdings that relate to the Panama Canal, such as photos of celebrity Canal visitors, political buttons, and of course, the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, which is located in Panama.
However, the framework of Urban Waterways is a new perspective on Panama and one with with global implications.

I had the opportunity to travel to Panama last month for the 100th anniversary of the Panama Canal and to see the current Panama Canal expansion project.

100th anniversary of the Panama Canal sign, Gatun Observation Center, Panama. Atlantic side of the Panama Canal, August 2014. Bridging the Americas Research Project, Anacostia Community Museum. Photograph by Susana Raab.
Panama Canal expansion in progress, August 2014. Gatun Observation Center, Panama, Atlantic side of the Panama Canal. Bridging the Americas Research Project, Anacostia Community Museum. Photograph by Susana Raab.
As water covers 75% of the earth, the waterways initiative has been a fluid connector (pun intended). I want to capitalize on my expertise and also build meaningful links to the existing work of the Museum.
So where does Latino Studies fit at Anacostia? EVERYWHERE!

Ariana A. Curtis, Ph.D.
Curator (Latino Studies)
Anacostia Community Museum

Fascinating Fasteners

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 09/05/2014 - 8:00am
Micro spatula and archival bond paper with stainless steel paper clip (photo courtesy Alison Oswald)One of my favorite archival tools is the stainless steel micro spatula. This durable, light-weight tool is invaluable for quickly and safely removing staples and other fasteners found in archival collections. Fasteners, such as staples, paper clips, brads (small tapered nails), grommets, and straight pins are found throughout archival collections. They were used by the creators of the documents to maintain the order and relationship deemed important at the time. Consequently, these fasteners play an important role in archives. An archivist must respect and retain these relationships when organizing and preparing a collection for research use to ensure historical integrity and context. Unfortunately, these all-important fasteners can cause physical damage to the documents such as tearing, puncturing, and staining from rusted metal. Metal fasteners can also be sharp, cutting archivists and breaking against brittle paper, causing even more damage. To reduce the risk of further damage to the materials, archivists remove these fasteners and keep relevant items together using a stainless steel paperclip secured over a small strip of archival bond paper. In some cases where a paper clip will not work, a small folder made of archival bond paper can maintain the order.  Sometimes, we leave non-rusty staples in place provided that environmental conditions are not conducive to rust. In some cases, fasteners are embedded so deeply that they can’t be removed.

2. Advertisement and price list for Rockwell-Barnes Company, manufacturer of fasteners, undated. (AC0060-0002300)3. Sample card for McGill’s patent fasteners, Holmes, Booth & Haydens, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Office Equipment series, undated.  (AC0060-0002305-01) (front) 4.  Verso of card above  (AC0060-0002305-02)Most fasteners I encounter while processing are the standard paper clip, sometimes known as the “Owl” or “Fay.” Although I have yet to encounter one in a collection, I recently found information about some really fabulous fasteners manufactured by Holmes, Booth & Haydens, a Waterbury, Connecticut manufacturer involved in casting, rolling and drawing brass and copper in the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana.  I am especially fond of McGill’s No. 3, S-Ring (a turtle). This sample card which features the “McGill Fastener” was used by salesmen as a point-of purchase ad in a stationery store. I was intrigued by these fasteners and began to wonder if I would remove an example if I found one while processing? Would I hesitate, micro spatula in midair?  Best practice dictates I remove it, but I would save this novelty.

Like many things, these fasteners have a fascinating story. George W. McGill (1843-1917), an inventor and patent attorney (how convenient!), invented the first of many metal fasteners in 1866. McGill held over fifty patents, all relating to fasteners.  An improvement in metallic paper-fasteners (US 56,587) was McGill’s first patent, issued on January 24, 1866.  Several legal cases were based on this 1866 patent and subsequent patents for improvements to fasteners. Holmes, Booth & Haydens, had, under contract, the sole right to manufacture the McGill fasteners. But others in the fastening business were interested too so the trade was fraught with litigation surrounding the McGill patents.

In 1891, McGill sued (McGill Fastener Company vs. Universal Paper Fastener) for infringement upon his patent of 1875 for an improvement in metallic paper-fasteners (US 162,183) and his 1886 patent for the regular flathead “T” paper fastener (US 337,182). These two shank fasteners, with the head covered by a metal cap and bent at right angles, formed a button-like head that was applied in a variety of ways. The courts decided in favor of the Universal Paper Fastener Company, citing the McGill patents void and “want of novelty” and therefore there was no infringement. Despite this legal setback McGill would not be deterred.

In 1893, he went back to court in Lawrence vs. McGill.  McGill accused Benjamin Lawrence of the B. Lawrence Stationery Company of manufacturing fasteners like McGill’s patents of 1866 for a metallic fastener  (US 56,587) and 1883 for a staple fastener (US 285,640) and selling them at half the cost.  Lawrence argued that McGill’s patent was invalid because it was invented in England and that even if the patent was valid, it had expired. McGill sent a circular notice to the trade warning other companies against selling the infringed fastener. That circular caused the courts to consider a companion libel case—did McGill’s have the right to issue the circular claiming that B. Lawrence Stationery was infringing? Did McGill blackmail Lawrence by offering money to cease manufacturing?

McGill stated in his testimony, “I am the pioneer in this fastener line in this country. When I brought out my first device in 1866 I had faith and confidence in the business, and devoted my time, energy and money to its development. I spent $25,000 in making improvements which it took years to make and complete. I studied the needs of the business community, kept in touch with the march of improvement, worked hard to find out precisely what the trade needed, and invented new devices for growing needs and various uses.”

5. Advertisement for McGill’s Patent Fasteners, manufactured by Holmes, Booth & Haydens, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Office Equipment series, undated.  (AC0060-0002303)And, in 1901, Holmes, Booth & Haydens vs. McGill appeared on the docket again. McGill brought four lawsuits (thankfully, they were consolidated into one lawsuit) against Holmes, Booth & Haydens for liability for royalties from 1895 to 1896. The suit was settled in favor of McGill, who recovered $20,315.96 worth of royalties. Metal fasteners were certainly profitable for McGill!
To learn more about our collections, visit the Archives Center.

The American Stationer, Volume, 28, 1890, pages 277, 958.
The American Stationer, Volume, 31, 1892, pages 695 and 745.
The American Stationer, Volume, 33, 1893, pages 202-204.
American Stationer and Office Outfitter, October 13, 1917.
Federal Reporter, Cases Argued and Determined in the Circuit Courts of Appeals and Circuit and District Courts of the United States, Volume 48, 1892.
United States Court of Appeals Reports, Volume 47, 1901, pages 296-302.

Alison Oswald

Garden Time: The Beauty of Floral Clocks

Smithsonian Collections - Wed, 09/03/2014 - 8:00am
Floral clocks are an exciting and innovative garden design element that began to be featured in outdoor public spaces at the turn of the twentieth century.  Though “Floral clocks” can refer to Carl Linnaeus’ design which places flowers in a clocklike pattern to open and close according to the hour, the floral clocks referred to here are large functioning time pieces placed amongst richly colored and contrasting “carpet plants” in elaborate, often geometric patterns in a garden bed.
The Archives of American Gardens’ includes photographic prints Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens' floral clock.  The idea for the floral clock’s design is credited to Edinburgh Parks Superintendent, John McHattie who arranged to have clock makers Ritchie & Son install the mechanism for the clock in 1903.

When the clock began to operate on June 10, 1903, it had only an hour hand; in 1904 a minute hand was added.  The Prince Street Gardens’ floral clock was unique for not only having a twelve foot dial, but also for having florally worked out hands.  The hands of the clock were created from long, shallow troughs of sheet meal, and planted with flowers.  The Princes Street Gardens’ floral clock was not only a work of ingenuity for masterfully combining the technology of clock making with the art of planting design, but also for the engineering that took to install it on a forty degree incline.

Princes Street gardens Floral Clock in Edinburgh, Scotland, between 1920 and 1940.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland Collection.
At the turn of the twentieth century, floral clocks became feature at world fairs and public parks. In America there were floral clocks displayed on the slope of the Agricultural hill at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. Water Works Park in Detroit Michigan featured a water powered floral clock and by 1948, America was home to the world’s largest floral clock in Fort Lincoln Cemetery in Brentwood, Maryland, which still operates today.

Stereograph of the Great Floral Clock in front of the Agricultural Building at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904.
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, Historic Gardens Stereograph CollectionFloral clocks have their place as a trend or fad in gardening history and are wonderful examples of the use of technology in the garden.  The ability of landscape architects, gardeners, and clock makers to collaborate on such beautiful and yet demanding pieces is what makes the floral clock so special.  
Jessica BrodeArchives of American Gardens InternSmithsonian Gardens

The Guiding Spirit of Tuskegee

Smithsonian Collections - Tue, 08/26/2014 - 11:29am
In my previous blog post, Donors in the Archives, I promised to share interesting tidbits learned about treasures in the Dale/Patterson Family papers. During a recent processing session with the donor, Dianne Dale, I learned an interesting fact about Frederick Douglass Patterson, who Ms. Dale affectionately refers to as “Uncle Fred.”

I was aware of Frederick Douglass Patterson’s many accomplishments during his long and distinguished career. He was the third president of Tuskegee Institute (University); founder of the United Negro College Fund; and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1987.

What I didn’t know about Dr. Patterson was his personal aspiration to fly and his role in establishing an aviation program at Tuskegee.

The Spirit of Tuskegee Institute,  Frederick Douglass Patterson papers, 1882 - 1988.  Anacostia Community Museum Archives.
As Ms. Dale and I organized the Patterson materials within the collection, she provided me with further insight. She said:

While serving as president of Tuskegee, Uncle Fred was able to use his position to realize his dream of flight. He established a commercial aviation program and learned to fly at an old cow pasture at the school. When WWII escalated, he saw the potential for training black pilots and met with officials at the Department of Defense to find out if the Army Air Corps was to be integrated. His idea was that if the armed services were to remain segregated, Tuskegee had the capacity to train black men to fly.

At the time, Eleanor Roosevelt was a trustee of the Julius Rosenwald Foundation, which funded black schools in the rural South. Uncle Fred invited Mrs. Roosevelt to Tuskegee to propose the construction of an airfield there. Eventually Tuskegee received funding to start pilot training at Moton Field. Benjamin O. Davis Jr. and Daniel “Chappie” James were a part of the ROTC program and were among the first officers to command and train troops now known as the Tuskegee Airmen.

Dr. Patterson’s interest in flight soon subsided after almost crashing his plane twice. His passion for aviation turned into an avocation until he finally stopped flying and focused his energies on building Tuskegee’s military aviation program.

Frederick Douglass Patterson isn’t mentioned often when we speak of the Tuskegee Airmen. However, I would argue it was Patterson’s aspirations to fly coupled with his belief in aviation programs to provide opportunities for trained African American pilots that paved the way for the celebrated WWII fighter pilots.

Jennifer Morris
Anacostia Community Museum Archives    

All the World’s a Stage: Researching the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893 at the Archives Center

Smithsonian Collections - Thu, 08/14/2014 - 8:00am
Between May 1st and October 30th of 1893, Chicago hosted the World’s Columbian Exposition, which celebrated the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s journey to the New World. The people of Chicago had their work cut out for them.  Just twenty years after the Great Fire of 1871 and in the midst of labor strife, organizers set out to create a magnificent space in Jackson Park, located along Lake Michigan.  Known as the “White City,” the structures that were built were to be temporary and plastered with white stucco. They included the largest building in the world at the time, the Manufacturers and Liberal Arts building, in addition to the Woman’s Building designed by the first woman to receive an architecture degree from MIT, Sophie Hayden (1868-1959). Still standing today is the Palace of Fine Arts building, now known as the Museum of Science and Industry.
Silver gelatkin photographic print by unidentified photographer, 1893.  Kenneth M. Swezey Papers,
Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Many of the collections housed at the National Museum of American History’s Archives Center offer a glimpse into the World’s Columbian Exposition, where the Ferris Wheel and Crackerjack made their debut, and millions of people throughout the world journeyed to Chicago, which was considered by some as “the greatest marvel of rapid and substantial growth of any city in the United States” (Schneyer’s Illustrated Handbook, p. 2).  The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana has an exceptionally comprehensive collection of World’s Fair material. In fact, viewing this collection wouldn’t limit a researcher to just the topic of a World’s Exposition. The collection provides great historical context for anyone researching  Chicago at this time. The scope of the collection includes many guidebooks that provide calendars of events, maps, information on the many buildings of the fair, including their exhibits and layouts. Tourist information, including hotel costs ($2-$3 dollars a day for the Sherman House and the Tremont), places to shop (department stores Marshall Field’s and Carson Pirie Scott), and restaurants (over 700) can be found in these books as well.

New Indexed Standard Guide Map of the World's Columbian Exposition at Chicago, 1893, from Rand McNally's "Week at the Fair" booklet.  From World Expositions series, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, NMAH 
In addition to the Warshaw collection’s World’s Exposition material, the Archives Center has two diaries written by attendees of the fair in 1893. The Paul R. Strain Columbian Exposition Diary, 1893 was hand written by fourteen-year-old Paul Strain of West Virginia, who kept a daily log of every building he visited and each exhibit he viewed. Inside the West Virginia exhibit, he saw a globe made of grain, and when he visited “the largest building on Earth” he noted the French gowns, pipe organs, and a two-hundred-year-old carpet priced at $15,000 on display.  Plooma Boyd’s Diary of the 1893 Columbian Exposition notes her surroundings in Chicago, including streets and neighborhoods visited throughout the city and exhibits within the Chicago Exposition.

The Larry Zim World’s Fair Collection has an extensive amount of 1893 Columbian Exposition material and contains printed ephemera such as advertisements and admission tickets. The stereographs in the collection detail the breath-taking architecture, interiors of buildings, exhibits, and attractions such as the Ferris Wheel.

Stereograph by B.W. Kilburn, 1893 (copyright 1894), from World's Columbian Exposition series.
Larry Zim World's Fair Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Stereograph by B.W. Kilburn, 1893 (copyright 1894), from World's Columbian Exposition series.
Larry Zim World's Fair Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
In addition to the collections mentioned, there are Chicago Exposition materials interspersed throughout the 1350-plus collections in the Archives Center.  So take a journey back in time and experience the Chicago Columbian Exposition through the diaries, guidebooks, photographs and ephemera at the Archives Center.

Meghan Ryan, Intern
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Ephemeral Thoughts during the Waning Days of Summer

Smithsonian Collections - Tue, 08/12/2014 - 11:00am
Dawn at the Tidal Basin, April 2014 (photo by Julia Blakely)The spectacular display of the capital cherry trees of this year is but a happy, distant memory and the gardens of Washington have that hot, exhausted look of August, escaping into a rare gardening book is in order. The Cullman Library has a survivor of an ephemeral form of publication—nursery trade catalogs—that are valuable not only for their pictures (documenting different techniques of illustrating processes) but as research sources on introduction of plants into the trade as well as trends in horticultural fashion. L. Boehmer & Co. in Yokohama, Japan, produced for the 1899-1900 season the Catalogue of Japanese lilybulbs, iris and other flower roots, trees, shrubs, plants, seeds, etc.

Front cover of the Catalogue of Japanese lilybulbs, iris and other flower roots ...Bonsai trees were just beginning to be imported into the United States in the late nineteenth century. One of the earliest collections, bought in 1913 from the Yokohama Nursery by the departing American Ambassador, is at Harvard University’s Arnold Arboretum. And Washington’s famed cherry trees were a gift to the city from Tokyo in 1912. There were examples of importations from the mid-nineteenth century. Famed botanist and plant explorer David Fairchild and his wife, Marian, the younger daughter of the Smithsonian’s own Alexander Graham Bell, did much to beautify Washington, D.C. Along with their friend Barbour Lathrop, they introduced various varieties of Japanese cherries to the United States in 1903 and 1905, again from the Yokohama Nursery. Some of these were planted in the Fairchild’s home in nearby Chevy Chase, Maryland. For more on this history, with links to the Library of Congress's research on the first cherry trees in the District, please click here.

So it is interesting to find fruit, ornamental, dwarf trees and shrubs in the stock listed in the catalog (QK369 .B67c 1899 SCNHRB), as stated on the title page, of “L. Boehmer & Co., nurserymen & exporters of Japanese bulbs, seeds, plants, &c. … Yokohama, Japan … the only European nursery firm in Japan, established 1882.” Appealing to a well-to-do, sophisticated clientele, there are delicate hand-colored wood-block illustrations, bound-in illustrated printed wrappers, with silk ties. Although the text is all in English, the leaves are double-folded, Japanese style and printed by T. Hasegawa, publisher & art printer, Tokyo, Japan. An imaginative artist wittily combined images with the printed words.
This example, along with other nursery catalogs in the Smithsonian Libraries, can also reveal hints at the propagation history of specific plants, seed cleaning, packing and shipping methods, and prices, as well as changing styles in landscape design. Or, rather than research, the catalogs can provide inspiration—one can dream of a time of planting something new and exotic and while wandering around the gardens, enjoying cool weather.  


Soon The Ephemera Society of America will hold its board meeting in Washington D.C. (September 13, 2014). Events surrounding the gathering will include visits to several collections of the Smithsonian Libraries, to view such items as trade literature, including perhaps this truly rare nursery catalog, only one other copy of the 1899 imprint is known to exist. 

Julia Blakely
Smithsonian Libraries

How SI Staff Beat the Heat

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 08/08/2014 - 9:28am
Postcard of the National Museum of Natural History, c. 1910-1915,
Smithsonian Institution Archives, SIA2013-07214Summer means heat and humidity for us in the nation’s capital, and though it seemed like only yesterday we were worried about the snow falls, now we seek out the solace of light clothing and an air conditioned building. However, this was not always a luxury Smithsonian employees could find.

When the Smithsonian’s new United States National Museum building, now the National Museum of Natural History, opened in 1910, its state-of-the-art design and construction exhibited collections wonderfully, but did not always made for a comfortable working environment. Willis Carrier invented the modern air conditioner in 1902, and in 1906 the first office building designed for air conditioning was built. But this expensive novelty was not something the Smithsonian could afford at the time of the construction of the new museum. Consequently, Smithsonian staff often felt the heat.

In addition to the lack of cool air, according to Smithsonian taxidermist Watson Perrygo who worked in the building, “Everybody wore hard collars. We always wore ties. In my days you couldn't go in like this [short sleeved shirt and casual slacks] or they'd call you up to the front office.” This strict dress policy requiring jackets, collars and ties made for some overheated staff members who turned to a creative solution to cool off in the summer months.

Watson Perrygo at Work, January 19,1933
Smithsonian Institution Archives, 81-13386
Smithsonian staff chipped in money and pooled their resources to make their own air conditioning unit. Perrygo noted, “Oh, yes. You know what air conditioning we had--a piece of ice from the ice house with a fan blowing on it. That was the air conditioning. That was it for years and years.” The ice man would deliver a large block of ice and place it in a tub.  Staff would then place an electric fan behind it to distribute the cooled area to their workrooms, allowing them to survive Washington’s hot and muggy summer months. On occasion, the building became too hot and work operations shut down for the day, but that was a rare occurrence.

Taxidermists Working on Hippopotamus in Suites and Ties, 1930s
Smithsonian Institution Archives, MAH 11087-A
The United States Congress approved funds for the installation of air-conditioning in the Natural History Building in 1960, and staff no longer had to rely on ice to cool off. So enjoy the summer heat, casual attire, and the respite of air conditioned buildings.

Courtney Bellizzi,Smithsonian Institution Archives
Perrygo quotes Interview 1, Pages 39-40, Watson Perrygo Oral History, Record Unit 9516, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Root Beer Blast from the Past!

Smithsonian Collections - Wed, 08/06/2014 - 10:46am
Root beer is a small but powerful example of modern print advertising techniques in 19th century America.  The Warshaw Collection of Business Americana holds hundreds of trade cards, advertisements and ephemera.  The collection is organized into hundreds of categories ranging from agriculture to World’s Fairs, and root beer advertisements are found in the “Beverage” series of the Warshaw Collection.  The root beer companies exemplify new marketing schemes and a new way to make profit in patent medicines and “healthful” beverages.  There is also a large “Patent Medicine” series in the Warshaw Collection.

Hires Rootbeer trade card, ca. 1900.The late 19th century, often known as the Progressive Era, was a time of shifting social customs.  Large corporations sprang up as smaller companies were absorbed or were run out of business.  New manufacturers such as Hires Rootbeer sent their products around the country to local grocers, druggists, and chemists, creating standardized nation-wide products.   Trade cards advertising Hires Rootbeer often give a local name and address to find the product, such as “S.O. Tarbox, Groceries and Drugs, Farmington, Me.”  Hires Rootbeer demonstrates the new way companies sold goods to a national market instead of merely a local one.

Some companies used games or pseudoscience to market their product.  Knapp’s Root Beer used palmistry on an advertisement for their root beer to attract more customers.  The drawing of a hand marked with letters corresponds to explanations on the back which supposedly indicate personality traits of the viewer.  Using palmistry on an advertisement attracted a new group of consumers to the brand.  People learned about the product while looking at the advertisement to figure out what their hands allegedly said about themselves.  Without the palmistry “hook,” consumers might not have given the advertisement a second look.  It is similar to the sponsorship that companies participate in today.  When Coca-Cola sponsors the World Cup they are getting brand notoriety, comparable to Knapp’s Root Beer palmistry.

Trade card for Knapps Root Beer, ca. 1900.Verso of trade card at left.
Root beer advertisers also took part in the widely-used marketing scheme of patent medicines. Prevalent in the 19th century in America, patent medicines were non-regulated goods that a druggist or chemist would sell to the public claiming (mostly false) cures for common illnesses.  Dr. Buker’s Root and Herb Beer promised to be “a purifier of the blood” and “a stimulator of the digestive organs.”

Trade card for Allen's Root Beer Extract
Dr. Buker's Root and Herb Beer
advertising flyer.Bryant’s Root Beer was used as “a general stimulant” and “a nerve tonic.”  Allen’s Root Beer Extract claimed not only to act “upon the Kidneys and Liver,” but to furnish “the most valuable elements of nutrition.” The unfounded claims of root beer producers demonstrate an attempt to profit from the budding consumer culture.

Bryant's Root Beer trade card.Bryant's Root Beer trade card. Verso of card above. Trade card for Raser's Root Beer Extract.
Similarly, Raser’s Root Beer believed in their product enough to warn their buyers to “Beware of worthless imitations.” Ironically, Raser’s root beer itself is an imitation of medicine, despite offering no proof of its promise as a “nerve strengthening beverage.” The advertisements never stated what ingredients of the root beer made it “nerve strengthening,” making the words dubious at best.  Questionable descriptions and claims such as these led to the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 passed by President Theodore Roosevelt, partly in an attempt to weed out false claims and misleading information.  The root beer trade cards in the Warshaw Collection of Business Americana are a minuscule part of Warshaw’s collection, but they tell a story of America’s early days of modern advertising.

-- Halle Mares, Intern,
Archives Center,
National Museum of American History

All images shown here are from items in the "Beverages" series, ca. 1880-1920, Warshaw Collection of Business Americana, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.

Vacations are Forever: Archival Records of Leisure in Smithsonian Collections

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 08/01/2014 - 8:00am
We're at the peak of  a beautiful summer here in Washington, DC, but like many of you, we're still dreaming about escaping the daily grind to see something new. The people whose lives are represented in our stacks are no different: we think everyone can agree that vacation rules. Perhaps you've just gotten back from your own little adventure, or maybe you're counting down the days 'till the next one--wherever you are, take a break and dive in for a tour of vacation-themed objects in our collections.

Above: Landscape architect and photographer Thomas Warren Sears on a boat trip to England in 1906, after graduating from Harvard to visit many gardens and landscapes in Europe. Below: His traveling companion, possibly Helena Beatrice Cowburn. Thomas Warren Sears Photographic Collection, Archives of American Gardens, Smithsonian Institution.

Peter A. Juley and family on a road trip, undated. Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Photograph Archives. 
Scurlock Family Negs Russell Cox etc. [from enclosure]. Scurlock Studio Records, ca. 1905-1994, Archives Center, National Museum of American History.
Paul Bransom letter to Kicki Hays, 1947 Oct. 17. Helen Ireland Hays papers concerning Paul Bransom, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Walcott Family Enjoy a Meal in the Grand Canyon, May 1903. George P. Merrill Collection, Smithsonian Institution Archives.Vacation portrait of Mrs. Catherine Bryan and friends, circa 1944. Percival Bryan Collection, Anacostia Community Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution.

Carter Harman [?], relaxing on a beach in Trinidad during a recording trip with Emory Cook, circa 1956 [?]. Cook Labs Records, Cook-051-13-n20. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
Come, take a trip in my air ship by Geo. Evans and Ren Shields. Bella C. Landauer Collection of Aeronautical Sheet Music, National Air and Space Museum Library, Smithsonian Institution Libraries.
Cecilia Peterson and Rachel Menyuk, Blog Coordinators

Exploring a Renaissance Rarity in the Dibner Library

Smithsonian Collections - Wed, 07/30/2014 - 8:00am

In the auspicious year of 1543, a book in German, Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments (The Gospels and Letters of the New Testament; qBS239 1543 SCDIRB) was printed in the ancient Alsatian town of Colmar. Compiled by one Ambrosius Kempff, the work contains almost all of the New Testament and some of the Old Testament arranged in the order of the days of the Church calendar. As in a typical Roman Catholic lectionary, each selection was to be read on a certain day of the year. While the Dibner Library is primarily known for its history of science collections, it also contains several Bibles and other religious works, and we were pleased to be given this example on several accounts.

It is indeed a rare volume, with no other recorded copies in the United States and only a handful in European collections. Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments appears in none of the standard reference works. It does get a mention in John M. Frymire’s The Primacy of the Postils (2010) which states it is written “Catholic” in the tradition of Erasmian humanism.
The Bewitched Groom

Interspersed among the 269 leaves of Fraktur letterpress are over a hundred woodcut illustrations by various artists, some of intriguing quality. This work could prove to be a rich source of analysis by an art historian as some of the woodcuts are by that most gifted and strange student of Albrecht Dürer’s, Hans Baldung, called Grien (d. 1545). Known as a painter—one familiar work is Three Ages of Woman and Death (Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, 1510)—he was also a printmaker with a preoccupied with mortality and sorcery. One of Grien’s best known prints is the erotically charged The Bewitched Groom (1544).

The 1540s were a dynamic period for publishing: not only were significant works related to the Protestant Reformation printed but also announcements of new strides in the field of science. The year 1543 in particular is a major milestone in history of science literature, marked with exceptionally significant publications. In the field of astronomy, Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543) produced De revolutionibusorbium coelestium (On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres) in Nuremberg, providing arguments, based entirely on mathematical calculations, for the heliocentric universe. In mathematics, the first modern European language edition of Euclid's Elementsappeared in Venice, translated into Italian by Niccolò Fontana Tartaglia (d. 1557). And in medicine, Andreas Vesalius's Dehumani corporis fabrica (On the Fabric of the Human Body) was edited and printed in Basel by Johannes Oporinus (1507-1568). The profusely illustrated volume transformed the science of human anatomy by promoting direct observation in addition to (or many times countering) classical medical knowledge. These books of 1543 foreshadowed a new scientific era, the Scientific Revolution in the same year when Evangelien vnd Epistlen manifested the rich new religious literature.

This donation contained a pleasant surprise: it has a 19th-century armorial bookplate although without an accompanying name. However, thanks to online resources, notably the Ex Libris Chronicle of the American Society of Bookplate Collectors (formed in Washington, D.C. in 1922), the previous owner could be quickly identified by the motto and coat-of-arms. Evangelien vnd Epistlen des Neϋwen Testaments once belonged to a great bibliophile, Prince Augustus Frederick, Duke of Sussex (1773-1843). He was the sixth son (of fifteen children) of King George III. His vast library of some 50,000 volumes was housed in Kensington Palace, where some members of the Royal family still live. The Duke’s librarian happened to also be his surgeon, Thomas Joseph Pettigrew, who produced catalogues of the collection as well as books on other topics. Pettigrew’s Medical Portrait Gallery (London, [1838?-1840]; R134 .P52 1838 SCDIRB) is on the Dibner shelves. Alas, the Duke had amassed huge debts (in no small part because of his collecting habits) so soon after his death the books and manuscripts were sold at auction and the library’s contents scattered. This volume is the only one in the Smithsonian Libraries identified with this provenance.
The manuscript inscription and armorial bookplateBut there was more interesting history to uncover in this one book. A handwritten inscription above the Duke’s bookplate seemed matter-of-fact at first glance: Jacob A. Westervelt to his daughter Eliza M. Westervelt / 1864. The names did not appear in either the Smithsonian Libraries online catalog nor in the Library of Congress or the Virtual International Authority File. However, one very good Wikipedia entry pinpointed the identities of these two:  Jacob Westervelt (1800-1879) was a famous shipbuilder whose long career included constructing 247 vessels, and who also served as mayor of New York City, from 1853 to 1855. One of his accomplishments was placing the police force, against great resistance, in uniforms for the first time. An 1885 portrait of Westervelt by Edward Ludlow Mooney is in the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Eliza Mariette (1841-1891) was the youngest of his eight children. 

The donor of the Evangelien vnd Epistlen is Mr. Theron Patrick, Commander United States Coast Guard (Retired) who recently visited the Dibner Library and the Book Conservation Laboratory of the Smithsonian Libraries. We very much appreciate his interest in our collections and we thank him for donating such a fascinating volume.

Julia Blakely and Lilla Vekerdy,with the help of Diane Shaw, Special Collections Librarians, Smithsonian Libraries
The illustration of The Bewitched Groom is from Wikimedia Commons, all others are from the Lectionary, Evangelien vnd Epistlen.

Frosty Treats in the Archives

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 07/25/2014 - 8:42am
Generally, food and archives do not mix, at least not literally. At the Archives of American Art we do not allow our researchers to indulge in a double scoop in our Reading Room, nor our staff to sip a milkshake in storage, but we can still celebrate National Ice Cream Month vicariously through some of our collection materials.

Andy Warhol and Philip Pearlstein in the cafeteria at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, 1948-49 / unidentified photographer. Philip Pearlstein papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.For example, take this photo of a young Andy Warhol working on a sugar cone in the cafeteria of the Carnegie Institute of Technology. I distinctly remember being a bit starry-eyed when I first saw the soft-serve ice cream machines in my college cafeteria (think of the options - soft-serve for lunch! Soft-serve for dinner! Soft-serve with Captain Crunch on it for breakfast!) so it is good to see that there are others, even super-famous artists, who share my affliction.

Detail of a storefront sign in Chicago, between 1972 and 1981 / Ray Yoshida, photographer. Ray Yoshida papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
While we're on the topic of soft-serve, how about these two cake cones filled with the stuff from the Ray Yoshida papers? Yoshida drew inspiration from found art and his papers include snapshots which he took of Chicago signs and billboards with quirky illustrations. Many of these are quite delightful, I particularly enjoy this one of a smiling tooth (it's a tooth...with teeth!), but the ice cream cones are undeniably the most mouthwatering.

Ad Reinhardt cover of Ice cream field magazine, 1939 July. Ad Reinhardt papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.
Lastly, we have Ad Reinhardt. Known for his abstract paintings, he also worked as a commercial artist and served for a time as the art director of the trade magazine Ice Cream Field. This cover that he designed for a 1939 issue epitomizes the enjoyment of cold treats on a hot day.

Hope you enjoyed this tour of all that is frozen and creamy in the Archives of American Art - now I don't know about you, but I need to go eat some actual ice cream. I promise I'll keep it away from the archival materials. If you can't get up right now and do the same, enjoy these other sweet frosty artifacts from across the Smithsonian's collections

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art


Smithsonian Collections - Mon, 07/14/2014 - 8:00am

Fifth Annual All-Star Game program, 1937.
Eleanor Linkous Washington, D.C. Sports Memorabilia
Collection, 1925-1956, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History

It has been 45 years since the city of Washington, D.C. hosted Major League Baseball’s annual mid-summer classic, the All-Star Game.  With a recently built stadium to show off, Washington fans want their turn.  Unfortunately, several other cities also want the All Star Game and some of them have new ballparks too, including Cincinnati (which will host in 2015), Philadelphia, Miami and San Diego.  It might be several years before Washington hosts, but I hope that the city’s 33 years without baseball will count for something to baseball’s selection committee, possibly as early as 2017.  Washington has hosted the All-Star Game four times, twice (1937 and 1956) at Griffith Stadium and twice (1962 and 1969) at Robert F. Kennedy Stadium.  The Archives Center is fortunate to have the programs from two of these games, those of 1937 and 1956.  They were donated to us by SI volunteer Eleanor Linkous.The 1937 program features President Franklin Roosevelt on the cover, throwing out the first pitch, a ceremonial baseball tradition begun by President Taft in 1910 on that season’s Opening Day.  1937’s All-Star game was the first attended by a president.
The game’s roster on both sides contained an impressive number of future Hall of Famers.  For the American League, this included both Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig in one of the only two years their careers as Yankees overlapped.  Also in the game were Joe Cronin and Jimmie Foxx of the Red Sox, and Charlie Gehringer of the Tigers.  For the visiting National League, the list was just as impressive, including starting pitcher Dizzy Dean and Ducky Medwick of the Cardinals, Carl Hubbell and Mel Ott of the Giants, and Paul Waner and Arky Vaughan from the Pirates.  Ironically, even though the home town Washington Senators had three members of its team elected to the All Star Game, Yankee manager Joe McCarthy, who was managing the game for the American League, never put any of them in to play.  Instead, the game was dominated by his Yankees.  The American League won the game 8-3.Clark C. Griffith Memorial All-Star Game program.
Eleanor Linkous Washington, D.C. Sports Memorabilia
Collection, 1925-1956, Archives Center,
National Museum of American History. The 1956 program featured an image of “the Old Fox,” Clark Griffith, a former player and owner of the Senators, who had died the previous autumn.  The game was dedicated to him.  Only five years later, his son would relocate his beloved team to the Twin Cities.Like 19 years earlier, the 1956 All-Star Game was full of future Hall of Famers.  For the American League, there were sluggers Ted Williams of the Red Sox, Al Kaline of the Tigers, and Mickey Mantle of the Yankees.  The National League fielded a team that included Stan Musial from the Cardinals, Willie Mays of the Giants and Hank Aaron of the Braves.  Pitchers in the game included the Braves’ Warren Spahn for the National League and the Yankees’ Whitey Ford for the American League.  The result was quite different from that of the game 19 years earlier, when the Yankee sluggers had dominated.  This time it was the National League dominating, with help from home runs by Mays and Musial.  The final score was 7-3.  This year’s All-Star Game will, almost certainly, feature some future Hall of Famers.  It is fun to speculate which players on this year’s ballot will one day be enshrined in Cooperstown. Cathy Keen, Archivist
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

“Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” Smokey Bear Arrives at the National Zoo

Smithsonian Collections - Wed, 07/09/2014 - 8:00am
Statue of Smokey Bear in Smokey Bear Park in International Falls, Minnesota, sculpted by Gordon Shumaker, 1954, Smithsonian Art Inventories Catalog #IAS MN000034Sixty-four years ago, in June of 1950, a tiny singed bear cub arrived at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., having lost its mother and survived a forest fire in the Lincoln National Forest near Capitan, New Mexico.  Named Smokey Bear, he had been rescued and nursed back to health by Forest Service staff to become the living symbol of fire prevention.  Although most people believe Smokey Bear came into existence with the cub, he had actually been a fire prevention ad campaign for the Forest Service for six years prior to that. However it was the tiny cub, found clinging to a tree, who breathed life into the forest fire campaign and grew to be a nationally known symbol who taught generations of children to be careful while enjoying the national forests.

In television and radio ads, Smokey Bear admonished us, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” The Forest Service erected an exhibit outside his enclosure at the zoo and he was visited by thousands of families every year.  A popular jingle added the extra “the” in Smokey the Bear, but both are used interchangeably. He even had his own postage stamp.

Smokey Bear 20 cent postage stamp from 1984 shows Smokey the icon and Smokey the cub clinging to a burned tree.  National Postal Museum, #1985.0796.3181.Unfortunately, the original Smokey lacked the charisma one might want in such an icon, and was, indeed, a bit cranky and solitary.

The original Smokey Bear frolicking in a pool at the National Zoological Park in the 1950s, photograph by Francine Schroeder.  Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative #92-3559. But given his difficult early months, it was not surprising he was not the cheeriest of fellows.   He never produced off-spring with with mate, Goldie, and he was retired in May of 1975.

He was replaced with Smokey Bear II for the next fifteen years, but the exhibit was closed when Smokey II was retired. 

Smokey Bear II enjoying the honey and berries that are dispensed from his new automated dispensing tree. National Zoological Park staffers put together the "honey tree" in Smokey’s exhibit area in the summer of 1984. The national symbol of forest-fire prevention turned 40 that year. The Cooperative Forest Fire Prevention Program funded the construction, photograph by Jesse Cohen. Smithsonian Institution Archives, negative #95-1209. 

Smokey I passed away in 1976 and his remains were returned to Capitan to rest beneath a stone marker in Smokey Bear Historical State Park.

I have a special fondness for Smokey Bear.  When I was five years old in 1953, I fell down while trying to fly a kite and I broke my arm.  After taking me to the doctor to have the arm set in a cast, my father consoled me by taking me to the little shop full of toys in my home town of Rochelle Park, New Jersey.  I did not hesitate for a moment and picked the little stuffed bear with a shovel, hat, badge, Smokey belt, and Forest Service uniform.  Smokey was my constant companion for many, many years!  This image on Pinterest is most like mine, although it lacks the shovel.  I was rarely seen without him, no matter how much my older sisters teased me, and never went to sleep without him at my side.

The Forest Service is planning to relaunch the Smokey Bear campaign for a 21st century audience, and I suspect he will snuggle with many more little children for generations to come and hopefully reinvigorate the message to care for our national forests.

Pamela M. Henson
Institutional History Division
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Roses for Hershey

Smithsonian Collections - Thu, 07/03/2014 - 8:00am
Milton Hershey did more than just make chocolate, the famed chocolatier founded the Hershey Rose Gardens. The idea to establish a rose garden arose out of conversations with J. Horace McFarland, an active member of the American Rose Society and a national spokesperson for the City Beautiful Movement. McFarland had hoped to convince Hershey to create a National Rose Garden in D.C. Ultimately, Hershey went on to construct the rose garden in Hershey, Pennsylvania, the town of his chocolate factory and the famed Hotel Hershey, instead of in the nation’s capital.

Hershey Rose Gardens.  Hershey, PA. (AAG# PA072001)
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland CollectionHershey Rose Gardens, which opened to the public in June of 1937, was dedicated in September 1938 by the American Rose Society with J. Horace McFarland attending the dedication. The gardens have expanded from a three and a half acre rose garden to a twenty three acre botanical garden and arboretum that is a popular destination for many.

Hershey Rose Gardens.  Hershey, PA. (AAG# PA072003)
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, J. Horace McFarland CollectionSee more early photographs of Hershey Rose Gardens in the J. Horace McFarland Collection housed at the Archives of American Gardens.
For more information about the development of the Hershey Gardens see the Hershey Community Archives online.

Jessica Brode2014 Summer Intern Archives of American Gardens 

ARCHIVES PRIDE: LGBT-Related Collections at the Archives Center, National Museum of American History

Smithsonian Collections - Mon, 06/30/2014 - 8:00am
President Obama has proclaimed June 2014 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Pride Month, and many cities and towns throughout the United States will celebrate LGBT Pride.  An outgrowth of the gay rights movement, the creation of Pride was sparked by the Stonewall riots in June 1969.  The first Pride parade was held in New York City in June 1970.

Promotional advertisement for DC Cowboys with photographs by Julian Vankim, 1994-2012: front and verso shown.
From the DC Cowboys Dance Company Records, Archives Center, National Museum of American HistorySmithsonian secretary Wayne Clough, in his recent Message from the Secretary, stated in part, “We continue to strengthen our collections so that we may more fully present LBGT contributions to American history, art, science, and culture, and be a welcoming resource to scholars studying LGBT contributions to American society.”  The secretary ended his message affirming, “The LGBT story is an important part of the American experience, and the Smithsonian is committed to making sure that story is told.”

The Archives Center at the National Museum of American History is actively collecting records that tell those stories.  Recently the Archives Center received a donation of the DC Cowboys Dance Company Records, an all-male, gay, non-profit dance company based in Washington, D.C. that was active from 1994-2012. They performed nationally and internationally, "celebrating diversity through dance." Typical performance venues included: Pride Festivals, the Gay Rodeo circuit, and charity events for numerous local and national charities.  The Cowboys also performed on: NBC’s America's Got Talent (2008); Closing Ceremonies of the Gay Games VII at Wrigley Field in Chicago (2006); The Sziget Festival, Budapest, Hungary (2009–2012); ITV’s Dales’ Great Getaway, London, England (2012), and RTE’s The Podge and Rodge show, Dublin, Ireland (2010).  The collection includes correspondence, advertisement, financial records, photographs, and ephemera.

The DC Cowboys Dance Records join over 68 cubic feet of LGBT-related collections currently held by the Archives Center.  The Archives Center’s growing LGBT collections include: The Shamrock Bar: Photographs and Interviews by Carol Burch-Brown; John-Manuel Andriote VICTORY DEFFERRED Collection; Archives Center Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender (LGBT) Collection; the Joan E. Biren Queer Film Museum Collection; and the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network Records.  For more information visit the Archives Center website. 

Franklin A. Robinson, Jr., Archives Specialist 
Archives Center, National Museum of American History

In the Good Old Watermelon Time

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 06/27/2014 - 8:00am
Pollock family eating watermelon in Arizona, ca. 1914 / unidentified photographer. Jackson Pollock and Lee Krasner papers, Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.Now that summer is fully upon us, it seemed a good time to share this photograph which has long been a staff favorite here at the Archives of American Art. Not only is it seasonally appropriate (I could go for a 2-foot long slice of watermelon right about now) and a charming family portrait, but it shows the softer side of one of America's most influential artists, Jackson Pollock. Perhaps you didn't recognize him right away since he was only a toddler when this photo was taken, but he is the smallest of the tow-headed youngsters in this picture, standing in the center and struggling to hold up that watermelon that is almost as big as he is. Who knows, perhaps the patterns created by the dribbling of watermelon juice in the dirt sowed some inspiration in him that would later influence his Abstract Expressionist style...

Bettina Smith, Digital Projects Librarian
Archives of American Art

Under the Privilege of the Fifth Amendment

Smithsonian Collections - Wed, 06/25/2014 - 8:00am
“I don’t think I have ever felt so damned alone as on that day”  Lee Hays on his experience testifying before the House of Un-American Activities Committee

Subpoena received by Hays, 1955. Lee Hays Papers.
Hays_02_02_055_001. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and CollectionsIn 1955, two members of The Weavers, (a folk group comprised of Pete Seeger, Lee Hays, Fred Hellerman, Ronnie Gilbert, and Pete Seeger) were called to appear before the House of Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC). HUAC was formed in 1938 in order to discover Nazis within the states, however, it became infamous during the Cold War for interrogating private citizens suspected of having Communist ties.

Lee Hays and Pete Seeger had been identified as Communists by an FBI informant.  During this time, being identified as a Communist could be detrimental to one's livelihood. In the case of Lee Hays it led to a commercial blacklisting that would cast a shadow over the next several decades of his career.  The Weavers and Lee Hays were responsible for penning hits in support of the working class such as "Roll the Union On" and "If I Had a Hammer".  

Pete Seeger and Lee Hays. Photograph by Joe Thompson. Lee Hays Papers,
Hays_02_073_j016. Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.Hays, along with Seeger, founded People’s Songs which was "organized to create, promote and distribute songs of labor and the American people."  Unfortunately, these politically charged songs came to be at the height of McCarthyism.  That is, when Senator Joseph McCartney encouraged Americans to turn in their neighbors, friends, and family on suspicions of being a Communist.  In retrospect, McCarthyism has been seen as invasive, a witch-hunt, and in a twist of irony, distinctly un-American.

On August 16, 1955 best-selling folksinger Lee Hays appeared before HUAC to defend his political beliefs. 

What follows is a short selection from his trial transcript:

Mr. Tavenner: What I am trying to get at, Mr. Hays, is to learn to what extent the Communist Party has used you in its program to advance the cause of the Communist Party in this country.Mr. Hays: I don’t know what you mean, sir, by the use of the word ‘used’.Mr. Tavenner: I mean used in the sense that you contributed your talent and your services, and your time, and your effort knowingly to assist the Communist Party in the field of your talent.
Mr. Hays: You are asking questions which to me are highly argumentative and debatable, and I don’t propose to get into that debate and argument because it is an area that deals with associations and beliefs and so I do decline to answer that under the reasons stated.
Chairman Walter: You decline to answer because of the fifth amendment, is that right?
Mr. Hays: Under the privilege of the fifth amendment.

Lee Hays, throughout his trial, declined to answer any questions that would identify anyone as being a communist. In personal correspondence, Hays has described the experience as being harrowing.  He found it immoral and un-American to provide information on others' personal and political beliefs; even if they were not Communists or sympathizers.

Letter of condemnation, 1955. Lee Hays Papers,
 Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.Letter of Support, 1955. Lee Hays Papers, Hays_02_02_054_015.
Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections.

Hays was a popular enough figure in 1955 that the public had many opinions regarding his trial.  Contained in the Lee Hays Papers are letters of support and condemnation that Hays received immediately following his appearance before HUAC.  Following the trial, Hays and Seeger were placed on a commercial blacklist which only allowed them to find work in underground circles. The blacklisting lasted into the late 60's and once it was lifted, Hays went on to enjoy several reunions with The Weavers.

Nichole ProcopenkoRalph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections

On Becoming a National Museum – 50th Anniversary of the National Museum of African Art

Smithsonian Collections - Thu, 06/19/2014 - 8:00am

NMAfA Pavilion , 1987, by Jeff Tinsley, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 87-7812-36.

The National Museum of African Art (NMAfA) is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. Although it did not join the Smithsonian until 1979 and move to its present home in 1987, it was established in 1964 as a private museum at the initiative of Warren Robbins.  These images look back at the museum in the years since it joined the Smithsonian Institution.

Six children, visiting the National Museum of African Art, listen to Amina Dickerson, program director, at the museum in 1978, photographer unknown, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 96-1008.
   At the National Museum of African Art, Legani Kaunda, an artist-in-residence, is at work sculpting from wood a long pipe with a hinged bottom for the tobacco, 1980, by Jeffrey Ploskonka, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 80-16887-37.
Chief Justice Warren E. Burger, Vice President George Bush, and Secretary S. Dillon Ripley at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Quadrangle Complex, June 21, 1983. The complex includes the National Museum of African Art, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, and the S. Dillon Ripley Center, photographer unknown, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 83-6885.12.  

The National Museum of African Art under construction. The photograph shows workers adding copper covering on the domes and the pink granite on the sides of the building. The hexagonal patio in the foreground, still under construction, will be the centerpiece of an Islamic garden with a waterfall, central water jet and seating walls shaded by eight hawthorn trees, 1986, by Jeff Tinsley, Smithsonian Institution Archives, sia85-5103-16.
Beatrice Birra dressed in traditional African clothing tells stories to an audience of children at the National Museum of African Art, July 15, 2005, by Anthony Cross, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 2005-22813.
Pamela Henson, Smithsonian Institution Archives

Happy Birthday to the Smithsonian’s Transcription Center!

Smithsonian Collections - Fri, 06/13/2014 - 10:18am
As the nation’s premier museum system, the Smithsonian has an enormous collection of historical documents, many of which remain largely unstudied. To allow the public to aid us in the analysis and transcription of these documents, the Smithsonian launched the Transcription Center on June 15, 2013.  As we celebrate our one year anniversary, we are amazed by how much the public has contributed in helping this Smithsonian project.  Let’s do a quick review.

This is a new online system for the public to help us transcribe and review these historical documents held at the Smithsonian.  If you have not seen the Transcription Center before, we invite you to take a quick look at it at http://transcription.si.edu.

The Transcription Center home pageThe Transcription Center contains many different types of documents for our volunteers to choose from.  For example, Field Notebooks were frequently used by Smithsonian scientists as they went on scientific expeditions in the US and around the world.  The field notes documented their journeys and observations of animals, plants and people along the way.  Take a look at an example notebook from 1963 on the observation of Cyanerpes (honeycreepers) birds.  When I look at these notes, I am amazed by the painstaking details and the author’s systematic approach in his work, not to mention the valuable data he collected.
Transcribing a page from a 1963 notebook on the observation of Cyanerpes (honeycreepers) birds by Martin Moynihan
The Transcription Center also includes many diaries from artists and scientists which shed light on the events of the past. Take a peek at Leo Baekeland's diary, started in 1907. Leo Baekeland created Bakelite,  an early plastic; his inspiration, frustrations and motivation are well documented throughout his diary.  
There are also many manuscripts, personal letters, and business documents available to be transcribed. Another example project in the Transcription Center is the Charles Henry Hart Autograph collection, 1731-1912.  This is a collection of 167 letters sent between artists to trace the history of art.

A page from the Charles Henry Hart Autograph collection, 1731-1912.Since the materials are available online, anyone can access these documents from their homes, schools, or offices.  Since launching the Transcription Center, we have already received an overwhelming number of digital volunteers helping us to transcribe and review the documents.  In the first 12 months since we launched the application, we have had more than 900 active volunteers contribute to our crowdsourcing effort.  Together, our volunteers have completed 96 projects which included over 12,980 pages of documents.  A list of the completed projects can be found here; you can read these documents online or download them as PDF files.  They can be used as research references, support documents for homework, or simply reading materials to help you learn more about history.  
One more exciting outcome from the completed transcription: you can search the transcribed text of the object in the Smithsonian’s Collection Search Center.  For example:  In Leo Baekeland’s diary, he talked about “shellac” three time in his diary.  You can now search on “Shellac” online, and get the relevant pages.

A search result page from the Smithsonian Collections Search Center.

Our volunteers come from 124 countries, but most of them are from the United States.  People from all 50 states have joined us in actively transcribing and reviewing our documents.  Outside of the US, the top ten countries from which  our volunteers hail include New Zealand, United Kingdom, Australia, Israel, Canada, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, India, Venezuela and Brazil.

I am humbled by the incredible participation of our volunteers who have given us their time and dedication to help the Smithsonian in the Transcription Center.  We know how much time it must have taken to transcribe the over 12,980 pages of documents already completed – documents which frequently have illegible handwriting and difficult page layouts.  Yet the quality of the finished transcription is outstanding!  In our communications with our volunteers, we can tell that everyone is dedicated to producing quality work.  Our volunteers take full advantage of the “Review” function in the Transcription Center; they reviewed and corrected any inaccurate content and their efforts have resulted in accurate transcriptions for everyone to use.  

Our next blog post will discuss our efforts to make the use of the transcriptions which our volunteers have provided. Stay tuned for more!

Ching-Hsien Wang
Library and Archives System Support Branch, OCIO


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