The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. Through incomparable collections, rigorous research, and dynamic public outreach, we explore the infinite richness and complexity of American history.
Every April, people throughout North, Central, and South America celebrate Pan American Day. The roots of Pan American Day go back to 1890, when the First International Conference of American States convened to establish the International Union of American Republics, an organization that would strengthen the bonds of friendship, mutual understanding, and respect for diverse cultures and peoples.
In 1930, the 24 countries of the Pan American Union’s governing board adopted a resolution to commemorate that first meeting and reinforce the common bonds and mutual goals established to promote goodwill between the countries of the Western Hemisphere; Pan American Day was born! A few years later, in his 1933 inaugural speech, President Franklin D. Roosevelt promoted the importance of the Good Neighbor Policy, recognizing the United States’ need for strong personal, political, and economic relations with its southern neighbors. When Roosevelt delivered his speech, few would have guessed that, just a few years later, Donald Duck would become an "ambassador at large" to facilitate U.S. policy.
"Fiesta Pan Americana" flyer, put out by Disney Company, promoting the Good Neighbor Policy and referencing our shared holidays—Pan American Day and Columbus Day. The 1943 calendar is bordered by Disney characters that starred in the 1943 film "Saludos Amigos," including the star of the cartoon shorts, Donald Duck.
As a diplomatic strategy, the Good Neighbor Policy increased in importance in the years leading up to World War II due to the rising influence of the Nazi regime throughout Europe and its attempts to make inroads into Central and South America, especially Argentina. As the Nazi propaganda machine became a serious threat to the Allied powers, the United States was compelled to develop its own campaign to strengthen support for South America. To develop closer economic and personal relationships, Roosevelt established a new agency, the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs. Nelson Rockefeller was appointed as the new agency’s head but, in time, the affable Donald Duck would become the agency’s most successful spokesman.
Sheet music for song from the 1947 film "Road to Rio," one in a series of popular movies starring Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, and Lana Turner. From the early 1930s to the 1950s, Hollywood increased the number of movies featuring Central and South American stars, themes, locations, and stories as part of a diplomatic gesture toward the Good Neighbor Policy.
Sheet music for the song "Aquarela do Brasil" or "Watercolors of Brazil," which was introduced in Disney’s movie "Saludos Amigos." Written by Ary Barroso and performed by Aloísio de Oliveira, both South American artists, the song extolls the beautiful countryside of Brazil.
Early attempts by the Office of the Coordinator of Inter-American Affairs to encourage Hollywood studios to produce films targeted at both U.S. and South American audiences had failed miserably. Instead of feel-good movies accentuating the diverse peoples, traditions, and cultures found in South America, the American film studios created movies rife with stereotyped bandits, thieves, and buffoons. South Americans found the films racist, insulting, and pandering. Hoping to smooth over relations, Rockefeller approached Disney and requested some movie shorts. By this time, both Snow White and Pinocchio had been translated into Spanish and Portuguese, and Disney enjoyed widespread popularity in South America.
Walt Disney saw this as an opportunity to promote his own publicity tour. From August to October 1941, he and a handpicked team of musicians, artists, animators, writers, and soundmen toured the countries of Chile, Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Panama, and Mexico. The group was encouraged to explore and record the geography, architecture, music, art, and traditions of the different South American cultures. They returned with an abundant supply of story lines, design concepts, and ideas for new characters. Donald Duck, who by this time had surpassed Mickey Mouse in popularity, was the obvious choice to be the star of the films.
In the years that followed, the Disney studio developed books, film shorts, and comic books that celebrated the people and cultures of Central and South America.. In total Disney produced 12 cartoons, four of which—"Lake Titicaca," "Pedro," "El Gaucho Goofy," and "Aquarela do Brasil"—were released in 1942 under the movie title Saludos Amigos. In it, Donald Duck played a bumbling American tourist traveling around South America with a new friend, José Carioca, a Brazilian parrot. The film was an overwhelming success in both North and South America.
These are lobby cards from the Disney movie "Saludos Amigos," or "Hello Friends." "Saludos Amigos" premiered in Rio de Janeiro in 1942 and was released to U.S. audiences the following year. A smaller version of movie posters, lobby cards (11x14) were displayed inside movie theaters to publicize upcoming releases. Produced in a set of eight, the cards included a title page featuring the stars of the film and credits, while the remaining seven cards were highlights from the movie.
Two years later, in December 1944, Disney released its second South American-themed movie, The Three Caballeros, in Mexico City. The film introduced viewers to a host of new characters, including Panchito Pistoles, a Mexican rooster. The first half of the movie featured only cartoon subjects, but in the second half Disney introduced a technology called live-action animation, which included real actors who appeared alongside and interacted with the animated characters. Disney chose Aurora Miranda, a popular actor across North, South, and Central America, to play opposite Donald, José Carioca, and Panchito Pistoles.
Cover of "Collier’s Magazine," February 1945, includes Aurora Miranda, Donald Duck, and José Carioca from Disney’s second South American-themed movie, "The Three Caballeros." Following Donald Duck on a tour of South and Central America, the film introduced new characters such as Aracuan Bird; Flying Gauchito with his donkey, Burrito; Panchito Pistoles, the Mexican rooster; and the Cold-Blooded Penguin.
The success of these films suggests that Disney’s promise of a new version of the Good Neighbor Policy worked. North, South, and Central Americans welcomed Donald Duck and his crew of creative characters, and Roosevelt’s work to foster "international good-will and cooperation" were realized. Who would have guessed that the Good Neighbor Policy would be carried out by a duck?
“We were picking dandelions on the lawn there and we would boil them up,” Henry T. Chamberlain remembered. During the Great Depression, Chamberlain’s mother lost her job and couldn’t pay rent. The family moved to the grounds of the Nebraska Territory capitol building (now Omaha Central High School). “There were a million people living on that lawn,” Chamberlain said. “They all were in the same boat.”
An illustration from Bibliothèque de poche du naturaliste, published in 1894. Courtesy of Biodiversity Heritage Library/Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (MBLWHOI Library).
With little money, he learned from his new neighbors about survival. After watching others rooting around in the lawn, the young man learned that dandelion flowers were free food. In addition to boiling them, “sometimes we went over to a park where the dandelions were prolific and we would pick the dandelions and wash them off and eat them green,” Chamberlain said.
Under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal, the nation’s economy slowly began to rebuild and Chamberlain’s dandelion-eating days seemed to be over. On his 18th birthday, in 1940, he enlisted in the army. Though he was a crack shot and his first sergeant wanted him on the rifle team, Chamberlain said he wanted to help people—not shoot them—and trained first as a medic, then later as a surgical technician.
U.S. Army medic Henry T. Chamberlain, around the 1940s. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Chamberlain.
After completing his training, Chamberlain was transferred to the Philippines. By December 1941, Japanese planes bombed points in Manila and Chamberlain found himself on the front lines of Bataan serving as a combat medic.
In late January 1942, as Chamberlain transported a group of wounded men south to a hospital behind the front lines, he ran into a colonel who knew him. “He asked me where’d I been so I told him, and he said ‘well, I’ll tell you what. I badly need surgical technicians here, so you aren’t going back,’" Chamberlain said, with great thanks.
Chamberlain stayed at the hospital after American and Filipino forces surrendered on Bataan on April 9, bearing witness to horrors that took a grisly toll on the Filipino and American troops. The movement of American and Filipino prisoners of war from the Bataan peninsula, which became legendary for its brutality, was forever known thereafter as the Bataan Death March.
Under Japanese control, Chamberlain found himself at Cabanatuan Prison Number 1 assigned as a medic in a hut adjacent to the camp hospital known as the Z, or “Zero” Ward. Here prisoners too weak to stand were sent to die. Without any medicines to treat the ill, often sheer kindness and willpower became the deciding factor between life and death.
Beginning in mid-June, cases of diphtheria appeared daily in the camp hospital. As a child, Chamberlain had contracted diphtheria and survived the illness. He volunteered to be a medic in the diphtheria ward because, as he explained, “first of all, I had had it and I thought I was immune from it, and secondly it was a way to get away from the Japanese and the labors they were putting us through.”
In the prisons there was no medicine to treat the sick, and the ill prisoners were missing key nutrients. Recalling the situation over 75 years later, Chamberlain observed how “there was a whole profusion of dandelions, so I told the guys ‘let the things blossom and we’ll pick the seeds, and don’t pull them up, just pull the leaves off them and eat them that way.’ And that’s what they did, they ate them green and I think that saved a lot of lives there because we were not getting any green stuff at all and we were not getting any protein.”
After considerable deaths from malaria, dysentery, and diphtheria, the Japanese guards at last began providing medicines to the prisoners at Cabanatuan in August 1942, albeit too little too late. From June through December 1942, 2,556 American prisoners of war had died at Cabanatuan.
Chamberlain’s humble dandelion garden adjacent to his diphtheria ward went unnoticed by the Japanese guards, who feared nearing the darkened building that housed the sick and dying. He continued to work in the diphtheria wards in the Cabanatuan prison camp throughout the remainder of 1942 and into 1944.
As for the dandelions, “What few dandelions there were we fed to the sick guys in the sick bay,” he said. “I think it may have kept them going, I’m not sure, but that’s the only vitamins they got. Whatever protein was in them, that’s what they got.”
Malnutrition was dangerous at Cabanatuan.“One of my friends died in my arms,” Chamberlain said, "He would not eat the rice. They were so full of maggots, rice maggots. I think for every grain of rice there was a rice maggot. One of our doctors said ‘you just as well eat them fellas because that’s all the protein you’re gonna get.’ That’s the way that was, but my friend would not eat those things. He said ‘people were not meant to eat worms,’ so he died in my arms, mostly from starvation.” Chamberlain’s friend remains interred at Cabanatuan, having asked that he be buried there, to “let these people know what we did for him,” with his grave marked “known but to god.”
In October 1944, the Imperial Japanese Army shipped Chamberlain and approximately 1,100 prisoners out of the Philippines to work as forced laborers. Before leaving Cabanatuan, Chamberlain made sure his dandelions came with him. Throughout his time at Cabanatuan, he “let the seeds grow and when I left there I had picked a whole bunch of seeds and put them in various places in what was left of my uniform, in pockets and things. The Japanese guards never suspected them.” After laboring in Formosa (present-day Taiwan), Chamberlain arrived in Moji, Japan, in January 1945 and was moved to Hosokura to a lead and zinc mine owned by the Mitsubishi Mining Corporation.
At Hosokura, Chamberlain served as a medic for his fellow prisoners in Sendai #3-B Prisoner of War Camp. Chamberlain worked with one doctor to take care of all the 284 American and British prisoners. “Taking care of them didn’t mean much because we were not given any medicine, we were given very little food. If you were sick they put you on half rations because you wouldn’t work, and so that’s the way it was,” he said.
“We never saw any dandelions up there so I planted the seeds and boy, I’m sure they got lots of dandelions up there now,” Chamberlain said with a chuckle. The dandelions again provided critical nourishment to the sick and dying, a humble weed turned heavenly manna.
As the war closed in on the Japanese home island, Chamberlain too found himself working in the zinc and lead mines. The grueling work of loading ore into carts and pushing them out of the mine strained all the prisoners, with food and water barely available on any occasion. At least 15 prisoners died at the camp, mostly from malnutrition. Relief for the Hosokura prisoners arrived on September 12, 1945, when American forces reached the camp and accepted the surrender of the Japanese guards.
In 2017 Chamberlain returned to Japan to visit the former Hosokura lead and zinc mine where he was held for almost a year as a forced laborer. Photo courtesy of Rebecca Chamberlain.
Thereafter, Chamberlain would not need to tend any dandelions. He chose to remain in the military, transferred to the new United States Air Force, and retired after 28 years as a Senior Master Sergeant and a trained paramedic. At 96, he continues to enjoy carving, and as he reminded me, “I get to sleep in every day.” As I stated in reply, “you’ve earned it.”
Frank Blazich Jr. is a curator in the Division of Political and Military History. He has previously written about the life and legacy of Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., a 20-year-old Marine deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer, and Captain James K. Redding’s experience in the Battle of Hue. He was honored to meet Chamberlain at the annual meeting of the American Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial Society and appreciative of the opportunity to learn about Chamberlain’s experiences.
They had just arrived in a foreign country and the small girl’s mother was sent away.
Ernest and Mimi Hausner fled their home in Vienna in 1938, when little Evelyn was just a toddler. Nazi Germany had annexed Austria, putting the lives of Jews like the Hausners at risk. They made it to England as refugees, but when war broke out the next year and tensions were heightened, Mimi was feared to be a spy and sent to an internment camp on the Isle of Man, far away from her daughter. Evelyn’s father put her in care while he worked to raise money and get his wife out of the camp. By 1940, the family was reunited and they immigrated to the United States.
The experience made her tough, Evelyn H. Lauder later explained. Her strength enabled her to help lead a global cosmetics company, Estée Lauder, after she married into the Lauder family. She used the platform the business afforded her to launch a philanthropic campaign that has a worldwide reach, both in terms of who it helps and who contributes to its work.
After Lauder was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, she became an advocate for women’s health. In 1992 she and Alexandra Penney, editor of Self magazine, launched a pink ribbon campaign to bring attention to breast cancer. Lauder and Penney drew inspiration from the red ribbon campaign to raise awareness of AIDS. They recognized that the red ribbon was bringing great attention to the problem of AIDS and hoped to bring similar attention to breast cancer.
This red ribbon raised awareness of AIDS
By placing pledge cards and petitions at makeup counters and branding certain Estée Lauder products with pink ribbon designs, Lauder and her colleagues tapped into women’s purchasing power to raise funds for the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.
A petition and a pin used in Estée Lauder’s 1992 pink ribbon campaignA makeup compact with pink ribbon branding, sold during Estée Lauder’s early campaigns.
Lauder’s work against breast cancer continued. Together with cancer researcher Dr. Larry Norton of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and with her husband, Leonard, Evelyn Lauder created the Breast Cancer Research Foundation in 1993. The idea was hatched around Lauder’s kitchen table and it built on her experience as a businesswoman and arts philanthropist. Norton had explained that researchers were gaining an understanding of the molecular science of cancer, but that there needed to be greater communication between scientists and clinical researchers to bring together advances in the molecular understanding of cancer with knowledge of effective ways of preparing drugs and testing them clinically. Existing funding practices made that communication hard. Lauder responded that she had always been around creative people in the cosmetics industry and as an arts funder. As a result, she knew that they needed two things: freedom and security. She understood the ability to create—including in cutting-edge scientific research—rested on scope for imagination along with the financial security to fail constructively and learn from the experience. The Breast Cancer Research Foundation was born to give cancer researchers those opportunities.
AVON offered this pink pen to donors who supported breast cancer research through its foundation.
The Breast Cancer Research Foundation joined several other foundations working to prevent and cure breast cancer. Avon’s Breast Cancer Crusade was also founded in the early 1990s, and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation was founded in 1982. These are just a few of the organizations working to prevent and cure breast cancer today.
In 2012 the Guinness Book of World Records honored the Estée Lauder Companies’s initiative to illuminate landmarks pink to raise awareness of breast cancer.
In some ways extraordinary, Lauder’s story is also typical of many in medical philanthropy throughout American history. Her character was formed by crossing borders. Her business was international. She drew on her own and others’ experiences in various philanthropic causes to craft a new endeavor. She and her colleagues created an organization that funds researchers in countries across the world. Breast cancer is a leading cause of death for women in developing countries around the globe—as it is in the United States—and the organization Lauder created has a mission that extends far and wide. People, knowledge, diseases: the story of American medical philanthropy, like Evelyn Lauder’s story, reaches far beyond the country’s borders.
Amanda B. Moniz is the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy in the Division of Work and Industry. The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, with additional support by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, a grantmaking program of Fidelity Charitable.
The National Museum of American History has a staggering 1.8 million objects in the collections. It isn’t possible for one person to know all the artifacts, but, as a curator of agricultural history, I am proud to be very familiar with the museum’s 14 full-sized tractors. Not only do these incredible objects help us explore the long history of farming, innovation, and social change, they are also just plain big. It’s hard to miss a tractor.
So you can imagine my surprise when I recently discovered the 15th tractor in our collection: Old Red.
Old Red, a 1943 International Harvester H-10-H cotton harvester
I always knew about Old Red. I just thought it was a cotton picker.
In the 1940s, International Harvester introduced a practical spindle-based mechanical cotton picker. To demonstrate the new technology to the expanding California market, International Harvester sold a pre-production model H-10-H single-row cotton picker to Producer’s Cotton Oil Co. of Fresno, California, in 1943. For 16 years, the harvester lumbered through the California fields, harvesting about 8,000 bales of cotton before being retired from service.
This first successful mechanical cotton picker reduced the labor needs for harvesting cotton and contributed to the rise of cotton production in the American West. Before its introduction, inventors experimented for nearly 100 years looking for a mechanical cotton picker. Ideas ranged from mechanical fingers to vacuums, but an effective cotton harvester remained elusive. Since cotton does not ripen all at once, fields are picked several times, and a successful mechanical harvester cannot damage the plants. Without a good mechanical solution, growers had no choice but to have workers handpick cotton.
Cotton growers first depended on slave labor, and then sharecropping and migrant workers, to tend their crops. Labor conditions were often difficult. By the 1930s the introduction of tractors began displacing those laborers, making large farms easier to operate. A single operator could plow, seed, and cultivate more acres with the new machines. Old Red wasn’t just a hidden tractor—it helps us tell these hidden stories.
Old Red is more than just the first successful commercial cotton picker. Hidden in the bowels of the harvester is a complete Farmall H tractor. It turns out the IH H-10-H cotton harvester was in fact merely a mammoth attachment that completely engulfed a standard row crop tractor. Of course some modification was needed. In order to prevent the machine from crushing the cotton plants, the operator had to drive the tractor backward, requiring the transmission, steering, and seat to be reversed.
A detail of Old Red
The Farmall H was a famous tractor on its own. It was one of the first general-purpose row crop tractors, in production from 1939 until 1953. Lightweight commercial tractors like the Fordson had only been introduced in the late teens, and development of general purpose really helped the technology take off. The tricycle setup made the tractor more maneuverable than four-wheeled tractors, and its power takeoff and powered equipment lift made it immensely popular for medium-sized farms to attach different implements for different jobs. Gone were the steel lugged wheels of the 1910s and 1920s; the Farmall H sported pneumatic rubber tires, which reduced vibration and fuel consumption.
From a curator’s perspective, Old Red is a fabulous object. It tells so many stories at once: Innovation in cotton picking! Invention of new technology! The adaption of tractors on small and medium farms! It also provides a window into the complicated labor history of agriculture.
An FSA photographer took this photo of a tender embrace between the future and the past in Jasper County, Iowa, in 1940. By the 1950s tractors had completely replaced animal horses and mules on American farms. Courtesy of Library of Congress.
Peter Liebhold is a co-curator of the American Enterprise exhibition in the Mars Hall of American Business. Liebhold has written about Old Red for other online publications.
In May 2018, the Boy Scouts of America changed the name of its program for older children to Scouts BSA and opened membership to girls for the first time. Girl Scouts of the USA initially responded to the change by emphasizing the unique nature of its program for girls. However, in November 2018 Girl Scouts filed a lawsuit against BSA in federal court, claiming trademark infringement, unfair competition, and brand confusion related to the decision to remove the “Boy” from “Scouts.” Cooperation and conflict between the two organizations has waxed and waned over time, and the separation and overlap of scouting for boys and girls has been a sometimes contentious issue from the beginnings of the groups, over 100 years ago. Such disagreements, both in the past and today, remind us that volunteer organizations and organizations for children can be important indicators of larger cultural conversations around gender and equality.
James E. West was not pleased. In 1913, just one year after its foundation, the Girl Guides of America had changed its name to the Girl Scouts of the United States of America. West, the Chief Boy Scout Executive, worried that use of the term “scouts” by the all-girls’ group “trivialized” and “sissified” his Boy Scouts. West wrote letter after letter to that effect, and brought legal challenges against Girl Scouts in an effort to control the moniker.
West’s objections to the group did not stop there. Boy Scouts wore khaki uniforms, similar to the military uniforms of the day. When Girl Scouts started wearing khaki uniforms too, West called them “mannish.” Couldn’t they be more like the Camp Fire Girls? For that matter, why couldn’t they just merge?
This early khaki Girl Scout uniform dates to around 1918.
In the early decades of the Boy Scouts of America, West and his supporters saw any crossover with Girl Scouts as a blow to the burgeoning masculinity of Boy Scouts. They feared boys wouldn’t want to do anything that girls were also doing. Critics also worried about girls becoming “tomboys” who would reject the more socially acceptable roles for women in the domestic sphere—homemaker, wife, mother.
In contrast, the more popular scouting group for young women at the time, the Camp Fire Girls of America, promoted “womanly qualities.” Instead of badges, Camp Fire Girls had a system of bead rewards, called “honors,” that recognized repeated tasks and skills such as cooking, sewing, or caring for the sick and injured. Even skills that fell under “camp craft” and “nature lore” had underlying domestic applications. And unlike the Girl Scouts, the Camp Fire Girls steered clear of overlap with the Boy Scout program. Camp Fire Girls founders, having worked with James E. West to develop the organization, actively partnered with the BSA to create activities that were, as West put it, “fundamentally different from those of the boys.”
Instead of the Girl Scouts quasi-military uniforms, Camp Fire Girls wore ceremonial garments, along with earned beads called “honors.” Camp Fire Girls merged a simplistic view of a Native American past with a focus on bringing meaning, and even romance, to domestic duties.
The Girl Scouts, on the other hand, sought to prepare citizens—not just homemakers. Badges were still awarded for domestic tasks like housekeeping and sewing, but also for things like automobiling and civics. As one national Girl Scouts board member wrote, “Now that [the right to vote] has been extended to women of this state . . . I believe there is no better way for [children] to learn to become good citizens than to learn to become the best kind of Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts.”
In 1913, the year the Girl Scouts changed their name, many Western states had already given women the right to vote, as this postcard illustrates.
Girl Scouts detractors referenced the right to vote in their objections as well. In 1922 one Boy Scout commissioner complained that “since the ballot came through,” women want to “wear the breeches,” “bob her hair,” and “assume rights and privileges of men.”
However, not all Boy Scouts shared these opinions. One Boy Scout master contacted Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low personally, writing, “Boys and girls play together and must in these times learn to work together. Men and women are united in the struggle for Democracy. . . . I am convinced that Girls are just as good Scouts as Boys.”
Indeed, the similarity between Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts isn’t surprising. Both trace their roots back to the same person: Robert Baden-Powell. An officer in the British Army in the late 1800s and early 1900s, he developed a training regimen that focused on outdoor activity, skill development, and character building for his officers. When he published his “scout method,” it became wildly popular with young men and youth groups, so Baden-Powell republished it as a handbook for civilian youth.
Back in the United States, there had been a burgeoning “back to nature” movement since the late 1800s. Youth organizations and scout-like groups were popping up to ensure children were exposed to healthy outdoor activities. Baden-Powell’s scout handbook made its way to the States, and the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts soon followed. The Boy Scouts of America was founded in 1910 by newspaper publisher W.D. Boyce, who soon after handed the reins to James E. West. The Girl Scouts were founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912. They were originally modeled on the British “Girl Guides” founded by Agnes Baden-Powell, Robert’s younger sister. When the American Girl Guides changed its names to Girl Scouts and their uniforms to khaki—that’s when the trouble really started.
Juliette Gordon Low oversaw the publication of this early Girl Scout manual, published in 1916. It was adapted from "How Girls Can Help Build Up the Empire," the first handbook of Britain’s Girl Guides.
During those first decades of American scouting, the tension between the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts was never truly resolved. Eventually, the Girl Scouts surpassed Camp Fire Girls as the most popular scouting group. Several elements collaborated to blunt the anti-Girl Scout criticism. Larger cultural shifts like women’s suffrage gained momentum, and Girl Scouts demonstrated effective service on the home front during the First World War. In the mid-1920s, the group even changed its uniforms to green, moving away from the more militaristic khaki. Both the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts organizations grew into hallmarks of American childhood. But West never got over the name change. He kept complaining about it until his retirement in the 1940s.
Girl Scouts of the USA turned to green uniforms in 1928, moving away from khaki and its military associations. This uniform dates to the period following World War II.
Tim Winkle is a curator in the Division of Cultural and Community Life at the National Museum of American History. Amanda B. Moniz is the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy in the Division of Home and Community Life. Amelia Grabowski is a social media and blog assistant focusing on business and philanthropy history.
Special thanks to Mary Aickin Rothschild, whose article “To Scout or to Guide? The Girl Scout-Boy Scout Controversy, 1912–1941” provided many of the quotes in this post. The Philanthropy Initiative is made possible by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and David M. Rubenstein, with additional support by the Fidelity Charitable Trustees’ Initiative, a grant making program of Fidelity Charitable.
James Buchanan. Do you recognize this name? According to TIME magazine’s “Top 10 Forgettable Presidents,” you probably don’t. Chances are, if you do recognize it, you remember Buchanan as one of the worst leaders to live in the White House. And, as he ranks number 43 in at least one recent survey of presidential greatness, your memory would serve you well.
James Buchanan campaign ribbons
James Buchanan’s resume was impressive. On paper, Buchanan appeared more prepared than most for the presidency, serving as President Andrew Jackson’s Minister to Russia, as President James Polk’s Secretary of State, as ambassador to the United Kingdom under President Franklin Pierce, and as a member of the House of Representatives and of the Senate (winning multiple reelections). This raises the question: Why then was his administration so bad and forgettable? Fortunately, our political history collections contain a number of recently cataloged objects and prints that shed light on our 15th president’s career.
“Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion” depicts the smartly dressed Buchanan and his tree-covered residence in Wheatland, Pennsylvania.
With the nation on the verge of a civil war, the only Pennsylvanian president swore the oath of office on March 4, 1857. As a slavery sympathizer, Buchanan made critical mistakes that historians often cite as complacency in the instigation of the Civil War. Decided two days after his inauguration, the Dred Scott v. Sandford Supreme Court case ruled that “a negro, whose ancestors were imported into [the U.S.] and sold as slaves” was not considered American citizens and therefore had no legal standing. The newly inaugurated president supported this ruling alongside many anti-abolitionists.
The newspaper clipping equates the president-elect and his vice president to the first presidential pair of George Washington and John Adams. Depicting scenes of the first inauguration in 1789 on the balcony of Federal Hall, Washington’s Potomac Oasis in Mount Vernon, Buchanan’s 1857 swearing-in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and his Pennsylvanian farm home, “Harper’s Weekly” was the first and last to connect the first president to the 15th one.
In 1854 the Kansas-Nebraska Act allowed popular sovereignty of the citizens of a territory to determine if theirs should be a slave or free state. Buchanan once again fatally allied with the South and supported the admission of Kansas as a slave state to expedite the official state-making process of the territory. Passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act proved to abolitionists that the country, and its new territories, were not headed toward an end to slavery. The act served as further validation to Southern slave owners and only increased the bitter tension between the North and the South. “Bleeding Kansas” further wounded the abolitionists’ campaign with the administration’s Southern sympathies.
As a wild-haired James Buchanan beats John Breckinridge with a cane, a town burns and a ship sits in the Gulf of Mexico. Two enslaved Africans chained to a flag ask, “Is this Democracy?” The answer: “We will subdue you!”
Buchanan’s decision to side with slaveholding interests wasn’t the only strike against his presidency. The Panic of 1857 struck in the beginning of Buchanan’s time in office, leading the country into a financial crisis in addition to the morality crisis of the slavery question.
As Buchanan’s presidency continued into its fourth and final year, tensions in the Southern states were at an all-time high. States began to threaten secession and Buchanan woefully responded in his final message to Congress: “the injured States, after having first used all peaceful and constitutional means to obtain redress, would be justified in revolutionary resistance to the Government of the Union.” The president’s only plan was to create an amendment that reaffirmed the constitutionality of slavery. The Northern states responded with fierce criticism and South Carolina seceded the Union on December 20, 1860.
With a copy of the Constitution of the United States in hand, Mistress Columbia straddles the Mason-Dixon Line and attempts to create decorum among her divided scholars. The Southern scholars search in their copies of the founding document for any excuse to leave the Union while the Northern scholars have their noses buried in their research. “Harper’s Weekly” depicts the disunion among party and regional lines as America finally realizes the unceasing divisiveness.
By the end of his presidency, Buchanan’s only fans may have been in Minnesota, Oregon, and Kansas, as these states were admitted to the Union during his stay in office. Labeled a traitor by his fiercest enemies, the retired Buchanan received daily death threats and crude letters criticizing him for his role in Southern secession. As the Union and the Confederate forces were battling bayonet to bayonet, Buchanan was fighting his own personal, pity war of defense that some referred to as “Buchanan’s War.” In 1866 he composed his memoir, The Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion, to defend his policies against his critics. Its preface reads:
The authorities cited in the work will show that Mr. Buchanan never failed, upon all suitable occasions, to warn his countrymen of the approaching danger, and to advise them of the proper means to avert it. Both before and after he became President he was an earnest advocate of compromise between the parties to save the Union, but Congress disregarded his recommendations.
If the preface is any indication, it appears that James Buchanan suspected that he would be judged as a less than competent historical figure. He hoped he could persuade posterity to rank him higher than his contemporary Americans had. Perhaps Buchanan’s failures are remembered so harshly because they are juxtaposed with the heroic acts and eloquent voice of his successor: Abraham Lincoln. Is Buchanan remembered for being such a bad president because one of the most effective presidents was the next tenant of his political home? Is the 15th president often forgotten because everyone remembers the 16th so much more?
It is difficult to say exactly how Buchanan would defend himself today. At the very least, he would likely hope the average American would recognize him. So, for the 15th president’s sake, I’ll remind you once more of his name: James Buchanan.
Hailey Philbin is a former intern in the Division of Political and Military History.
Squirrels seem to be everywhere until you need a few for your Buttermilk Fried Squirrel recipe.
On stage at Smithsonian Food History Weekend, Chef Jason Flores and I shared Oklahoma-style cooking and stories
As the Food History Team pondered the roster for the 2018 Food History Weekend cooking demonstrations, we knew we wanted to feature a chef who had game—someone whose background included hunting, trapping, and cooking in a region of the country we hadn’t yet explored. So when Oklahoma native Jason Flores came to our attention, we jumped at the chance to learn about his boyhood along the Verdigris River, where his family regularly prepared meals featuring wild game and foraged foods. As the executive chef at the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, Flores has moved beyond the dishes from his youth, but when we contacted him about sharing those regional favorites and his experiences from home, he was ready to come to Washington and do just that.
When we initially asked Flores to share a few recipe ideas from his past, he recalled his Granny Williams’s apricot fried pie, and other family recipes like grilled frogs legs in buttermilk secret sauce, Okie fried catfish, wild boar chorizo, and buttermilk fried squirrel with pimento cheddar biscuits and gravy.
With an array of options, I consulted our museum’s demonstration kitchen manager, Kathy Phung, for help in deciding. We both liked the Southwestern influences present in the chorizo recipe and agreed that the squirrel would be an excellent way to showcase Flores’s creative use of wild game in Southern cooking.
Squirrel has long been a source of protein in American cookery, along with opossum, raccoon, rabbit, and muskrat. It is common to find recipes for game in historic regional American cookbooks. Mary Land’s Louisiana Cookery (1954), for example, has several recipes for squirrel, including squirrel head potpie and squirrel stew. The latter recipe begins: “Dress forty squirrels. Place the squirrels in a big iron pot over coals. Place three bottles of cooking oil in the pot. Let the meat braise for ten minutes . . .” and so on. Like Land, we were going to attempt to engage our audience and learn about the uses, past and present, of squirrel in American regional cuisine.
How in the world were we going to get fresh squirrel meat to the National Museum of American History demonstration kitchen? Wegmans provides most of our cooking demonstration ingredients through an in-kind donation, but they do not stock squirrel. Our program producer, Katharine Mead, found a potential solution. In late August, she reached out to Ailsa Von Dobeneck, a chef and writer residing in New Orleans, who demonstrated how to make President McKinley’s squirrel soup at our museum in 2016. (The subject line of the email? “Hello! And squirrel question.”) After exchanging a few messages, Von Dobeneck confirmed that she had reached out to her network of Louisiana-based hunters—as she put it, “a TON of guys in the bayou”—and would keep us posted.
And so, we waited. Almost a month passed. No word. Eventually, we heard that Von Dobeneck’s connections at the hunting lodge fell through. Our hearts raced as we wondered if our cooking demonstration in November would be derailed for lack of squirrel. A museum colleague offered to go squirrel hunting in Maryland for us, but Von Dobeneck reassured us by taking matters into her own hands. She wrote: “It is squirrel season now in Louisiana, so we are going hunting on Sunday.”
A few days later, we got another update: “Hey ladies. Unsuccessful hunt on Sunday.” Although Louisiana has an abundance of grey and fox squirrels, they are not always easy to find. As Mary Land noted in her cookbook, “Despite their extensive range and the fact that both species breed twice a year, these Louisiana squirrels are not easy to locate. They nap during the warm winter days and are difficult to see in the green winter woods.” She goes on to note that the “canny hunter learns, however, to detect their gastronomic whimsies—sweet nuts, berries, or plums—and settles near the location of these delicacies.”
Bound and determined to help us, Von Dobeneck reached out to a friend who regularly hunts in the Louisiana bayous. He delivered on his promise: three squirrels, to be exact, shipped frozen on dry ice via FedEx. They were exactly what we needed for Chef Jason Flores’s recipe.
Flores arrived a day prior to his cooking demonstration to prepare the squirrel, expertly butchering the meat for the dish that his grandfather regularly made for him. Flores then soaked the meat in buttermilk to tenderize it. Squirrel, like a lot of game meat, can be tough, so taking the extra step can make a big difference once you batter and fry it (in rendered bacon fat, as recommended by Flores).
Flores fries the Louisiana squirrels as delicious smells waft across the stage
Flores mixed in some wild boar chorizo he brought from Arizona to the gravy, adding a full-bodied richness to the dish. The final touch? Pimento cheddar drop biscuits, baked fresh the morning of the demo. Now that’s a dish that brings the outdoors in while representing the historic and lasting importance of game in regional American cooking.
Dr. Ashley Rose Young is the historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is also the host of Cooking Up History. She tried the Buttermilk Fried Squirrel and was convinced that it was the best squirrel she had ever had—better, even, than her grandmother’s squirrel stew!
The live cooking demonstrations, as part of Smithsonian Food History Weekend, are generously supported by Hilton, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and Sur La Table.
When Chef Sean Sherman began speaking about his experiences growing up on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, he shattered all-too-common stereotypes of indigenous life in 20th-century America. He jokingly noted that some people expect to hear how he hunted buffalo with his slingshot as a kid, but that romanticized myth of American Indian foodways had nothing to do with his work of rediscovering the foods that sustained his ancestors. He shared insights with museum visitors during the “The Power of Place” roundtable discussion, part of the 2018 Food History Weekend: Regions Reimagined.
Chef Sean Sherman speaks on stage at our Smithsonian Food History Weekend
Yes, Sherman and his family hunted wild game, but, for the most part, he ate differently than past generations of Lakota. Like many children growing up on reservations in the second half of the 20th century, Sherman ate non-perishable foods distributed on Indian reservations by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR). Growing up, he noted: “Our shelves were lined with government-issued canned corn, canned carrots, canned peas, canned salmon, chipped beef, saltines, white flour, and bricks of bright orange commodity cheese.” FDPIR, which began in 1977, contributed to a dramatic shift in the eating habits of communities living on reservations—a shift away from traditional indigenous food practices. That shift contributed to the development of serious health problems and a profound sense of disassociation from Native values.
Within a few generations of FDPIR’s introduction, knowledge of traditional Lakota foodways at Pine Ridge have all but been forgotten. Sherman is trying to change that. He seeks to empower indigenous communities by reviving their healthful historic foodways.
In his adult life, Sherman has re-acquainted himself with foods Lakota people had eaten prior to the introduction of FDPIR. Easier said than done. As Sherman noted, he “couldn’t just go online and order The Joy of Native American Cooking,” referencing Irma Rombauer’s canonical cookbook. Instead, he interviewed his grandparents’ generation, probing their childhood memories of family meals and feasts, while also combing through archives to find descriptions of historic foods of the Lakota.
After many years of research into the food cultures of the Lakota and other indigenous communities, Sherman founded The Sioux Chef in 2014—a catering and food education company in Minneapolis that seeks to revitalize and build awareness of indigenous food systems. Through the Sioux Chef business and cookbook bearing the same name, Sherman is shedding light on the diverse farming, foraging, hunting, and production practices of the Lakota and a diverse array of tribes. He is also creating a pathway through which to strengthen indigenous communities’ food sovereignty.
In our demonstration kitchen, Chef Sherman prepares duck pemmican
During one of our Food History Weekend live-cooking demonstrations, Sherman shared some of those historic food practices with us by preparing duck and wild rice pemmican (Mag˘áksic˘a na Psíŋ Wasná). The dish features dried duck, preserved with salt and maple sugar, which could be stored for a long time and provide protein when game was less abundant. Sherman noted that like many of the dishes in his cookbook, this one does not include any ingredients brought to North America after European settlement on the continent. That means, no dairy, wheat (or gluten), beef, pork, or cane sugar, among other popular ingredients in many Americans’ diets today (and ones regularly distributed through FDPIR). Instead, the food found in Sherman’s cookbook, The Sioux Chef’s Indigenous Kitchen (2017), relies on flora and fauna indigenous to North America like sea salt, juniper, maple sugar, honey, sumac, maple vinegar, eggs, sunflower oil, wild ginger, and mushrooms.
As Sherman notes in The Sioux Chef, the indigenous diet is “hyperlocal, ultraseasonal, uber-healthy […] most of all, it’s utterly delicious.”
Don’t be surprised if you start seeing more indigenous eateries, cafes, and restaurants pop up across the United States. In the meantime, try out Sherman’s recipe for duck and wild rice pemmican and watch the recording of the roundtable “The Power of Place” and other conversations from the 2018 Food History Weekend by visiting our website.
Chef Sherman’s completed dish
Dr. Ashley Rose Young is the historian of the American Food History Project at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and is also the host of Cooking Up History.
The live cooking demonstrations, as part of Smithsonian Food History Weekend, are generously supported by Hilton, Wegmans Food Markets, Inc., and Sur La Table.
George Dewey was promoted to the rank of rear admiral after the Battle of Manila Bay. Dewey was celebrated in American culture with songs, paintings, and public sculptures.
The Spanish-American War ended with a fantastic performance. It starred an American hero, a veteran commander taking control of a crew of both fresh-faced and veteran sailors in a corner of the Pacific few back home had heard about. His opponent: a Spaniard at the helm of his empire’s last stand in a far-flung colony. Both were aided by an efficient Belgian consul who brokered a plan to save Spanish honor, guarantee a bloodless victory, and, most important, keep a revolutionary Filipino general in the dark about the entire operation. But before we get to the main attraction, the fanfare.
An explosion aboard the USS Maine, which had been anchored in Havana harbor, ignited the Spanish-American War. An investigation argued that the ship’s ammunition stocks had caught fire but was not the result of Spanish sabotage.
On April 25, 1898, Congress declared war against Spain, and the U.S. Navy secretary cabled Commodore George Dewey, commanding the Asiatic Squadron, with orders to engage the enemy, not in the Caribbean but across the globe in the Philippines, where military commanders knew the empire was weakest, with a flotilla described as antiquated and decrepit.
By 1898, Spain had lost control of its once global reach, with the last of its colonies in the Philippines, Guam, Puerto Rico, and Cuba seized by the United States.
Often referred to as decisive, the United States’ battle for control of Manila involved Dewey’s squadron facing off with a Spanish flotilla described as a "grab-bag collection of mostly obsolete vessels" which was in "poor repair." Even so, this event has become the kind that has inspired the creation of songs like "Brave Dewey and His Men (Down at Manila Bay)" and public sculptures like the Dewey Monument in San Francisco’s Union Square. While Dewey controlled the bay with a blockade, Filipino General Emilio Aguinaldo and his army had cornered the Spanish on land. By late May, Aguinaldo’s troops had captured 5,000 Spaniards and surrounded the walled city section of Intramuros in an attempt to starve the colonizing army.
On June 12, Filipino revolutionary forces proclaimed the Philippine Declaration of Independence. The United States refused recognition. The result was a standstill: the U.S. Navy blockaded the bay, Filipino troops controlled the city, and Spanish troops found themselves cut off from support. Over the next two months, reinforcements for Dewey arrived from the United States, including 7,000 landing hundreds of kilometers north of Manila, with another 20,000 troops followed by two battleships.
With the help of Belgian Consul Édouard André, Dewey began secret negotiations with his Spanish opposite, Governor-General Basilio Augustín. The Spanish commander, whose family had been taken prisoner by Filipino troops, sent a telegram to his superiors describing the harsh conditions the Spaniards faced in the city: starvation, sickness, weak and swollen legs from exposure while defending trenches, and low morale among the troops. For telling the truth and proposing surrender, Augustín was dismissed and ordered to transfer command to General Fermín Jáudenes, whose job it was to hold the city for Spain.
This handwritten note, written in English, was directed to U.S. forces occupying the Philippines, offering them cash for surrending themselves and their weapons.
The Spanish, who had control over the Philippines since at least 1565, were not about to surrender to their colonial charges. The Americans, on the other hand, were new to the Philippines. The U.S. military’s treatment of native Filipinos echoed the longer histories of Americans’ attitudes toward African Americans and Native Americans back home.
During negotiations between Dewey’s camp and Jáudenes, U.S. Army General Wesley Merritt, commander of the San Francisco–based VIII Corps, shared his views of Filipinos. In an 1899 interview, Merrit told a journalist from the New York Sun that he had come "with orders not to treat with the Indians [sic]; not to recognize them, and not to promise anything," adding, General "Aguinaldo is just the same to me as a boy in the street." The Spanish commander held a similar attitude; he was "willing to surrender to white people," but never to Filipinos.
The players had agreed on the terms for the performance. Only André, Dewey, Merritt, and Jáudenes knew of the complete plans. The success of the performance hinged on keeping Filipino troops out of the city while U.S. and Spanish troops exchanged places.
On the morning of August 13, the mock battle for Manila began. The band on board the British armored cruiser HMS Immortalité serenaded the Americans with "patriotic aires." At 9 a.m., the "attack" commenced with Dewey’s flagship, the protected cruiser Olympia, lobbing a few shells into the old fort at Malate while the Spanish guns on the coast provided no response. Recently arrived land-based U.S. forces held back Filipinos outside the central city. The historian Teodoro Agoncillo understood the theatrical nature of the event when he wrote: "The few casualties on both sides in the phony attack were due to some ‘actors’ bungling their ‘lines,’ or possibly to the fact that very few officers were let in on the charade."
To confront thousands of U.S. occupying forces, Filipino combatants, low on ammunition and weaponry from revolting against the Spanish in 1896, resorted to guerrilla warfare and improvised military tactics, including making their own arms.
According to plan, Dewey’s staff transmitted the code for surrender to Jáudenes, and the Spanish obliged by raising the white flag at 11:20 a.m., just in time for lunch. To bring the morning’s shock and awe to a close, the crew of the British armored cruiser HMS Immortalité fired a twenty-one-gun salute in honor of the U.S. flag that was hoisted atop Manila’s Fort Santiago, prompting Dewey to say, "I hope it floats there forever."
The mock battle offered Spanish forces in the Philippines an opportunity to save face by surrendering not to their Filipino charges of more than 300 years, but to militarily superior Americans. The Americans played the well-crafted role of savior. But Philippine freedom fighters were not convinced by either of the performances.
The mock battle that ended the Spanish-American War reinforced the Filipinos’ debt to their new American masters for the gift of regime change. That military engagement proved only to be the prelude to the United States’ war with the Philippines from 1899 to 1902, which took the lives of 4,200 American and at least 20,000 Filipino combatants. The U.S. Department of State’s Office of the Historian estimates that 200,000 civilians died.
The most popular writer of his time, Mark Twain, had much to say about the U.S. mission in the Philippines: "It should, it seems to me, be our pleasure and duty to make those people free, and let them deal with their own domestic questions in their own way. And so I am an anti-imperialist. I am opposed to having the eagle put its talons on any other land."
A single sequin was left at the crime scene. A pair of Ruby Slippers was stolen in Minnesota, then recovered 13 years later. The pair was brought to this museum for close examination by our Ruby Slippers experts.
Matthew Shepard was a young, gay man who was killed in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. His murder made headlines around the world and resulted in an outpouring of grief and anger that people channeled into poetry, songs, movies, a charity foundation, a national Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and at least two plays. We were honored to collect objects from his parents and learn about Matthew.
Erupting with flowers, the 1967 debutante gown makes you happy just looking at it. That happiness was Ann Lowe’s goal. Click on this blog post for the beautiful photos, stay for the dramatic story of a disaster that could have ruined a future First Lady’s wedding if not for Lowe's dedication to her work.
Easier than memorizing lines, Alan Alda would often operate on a copy of the script so he could read his dialogue.
When Benjamin Franklin and others set the curriculumThis printed and hand-drawn birth and baptismal certificate for a girl named Catharina Waechter, born January 14, 1774, was created by Heinrich Otto in Pennsylvania around 1774. German settlers brought their tradition of decorating documents with German calligraphy to America and continued it as part of maintaining their culture.
What did Franklin think students of immigrant Germans should learn in classrooms in Britain’s North American colonies?
If you’re in charge, you get to put your face on currency, revealing and concealing aspects of your identity. Our team that works with the National Numismatic Collection discovers LGBTQ stories on some very old coins.
Erin Blasco managed the museum’s social media presence and blog. If you mustache, her toupe blog post of 2018 was about the best hair in the museum’s collection.