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.
Souvenirs from battlefields the world over can be found in our Division of Political and Military History. Unique among them is a mounted German pigeon. His name is Kaiser, and his story is unique in the annals of military homing pigeon history. He would become one of the longest-held prisoners of war in American history and one of the longest-living pigeons ever bred in captivity. But how did a German war bird come to "live" at the National Museum of American History?
After he died in 1949, Kaiser's remains came to the Smithsonian. He's not the only military pigeon in our collection.
Kaiser's story begins in Koblenz, Germany, in the first week of February 1917. There, in Hans Zimmerman’s loft, a young pigeon (or "squeaker") hatched. When he was just five days old, a small aluminum identification band was placed on his left leg, bearing the Imperial German crown and marked 17-0350-47 (17 indicated the year of birth). After six weeks, Zimmerman turned this young pigeon over to representatives of the Imperial German Army.
In the Great War, pigeons proved essential in trench warfare. Massed artillery fire caused more casualties than any other weapon, and communication between the forces in the trenches and those in the rear areas was essential to avoiding friendly casualties. Artillery fire could cut communication wires and prevent human runners from bringing messages to the rear echelons, but homing pigeons were a low-technology solution, operating swiftly despite bombardments, dust, smoke, and bad weather.
After months of training as a homing pigeon, the bird that would one day be known as "Kaiser" entered frontline service and began flying messages for Kaiser Wilhelm II's German troops in Northern France. In April 1917, just as Kaiser entered the German Army, the United States declared war on Germany.
Shortly after entering the war, the U.S. Army Signal Corps decided it too needed a force of homing pigeons. By March 1918, the Signal Corps' Pigeon Service commenced operations in France. When General John J. Pershing and the American Expeditionary Forces launched the massive Meuse-Argonne Offensive on September 26, 442 American pigeons served the doughboys advancing against the German lines.
During the fighting in October, American troops captured German prisoners and equipment—including pigeons. Men of the 28th Infantry Division, fighting in the Argonne Forest, captured a German trench line. Among the enemy equipment the Americans seized was a German pigeon basket with 10 pigeons, including young Kaiser.
When the war ended less than a month later on November 11, 1918, Kaiser remained confined to a pigeon loft with his captured colleagues, his fate undetermined.
Capturing pigeons, in addition to other equipment, was not uncommon. This image is from the U.S. National Archives.
In December, the Signal Corps decided to bring home distinguished American pigeons together with captured German birds for public relations and morale purposes. On July 17, 1919, Kaiser and 21 other captured German birds arrived in the United States aboard the transport ship USS F.J. Luckenbach. Once in America, Kaiser was paraded with other captured birds and used for recruiting purposes in 1919 before settling in at the Signal Corps Pigeon Center in Fort Monmouth, New Jersey.
In this image from the U.S. National Archives, captured German war pigeons are on parade with military personnel.
Although still a prisoner of war, Kaiser found life comfortable. In addition to free room and board, he received the name "Kaiser" from his American captors and found a mate. Kaiser became a breeding bird and began supplying squeakers for the U.S. Army. By the 1930s, Kaiser was the last surviving captured German pigeon in American custody and, despite his age, his offspring proved champion racers.
In this photo from the U.S. National Archives, "men with previous service" and "pigeon knowledge" are encouraged to learn to fly pigeons for the pigeon section of the Signal Corps.
After American entry into World War II, Kaiser's offspring headed to war in Europe and the Pacific, while their father moved to Camp Crowder, Missouri, home to the U.S. Army's Pigeon Breeding and Training Center. By 1945, Kaiser had sired over 75 birds for the army, living in his own special white loft with his latest mate, Lady Belle. As a special concession for his age, the army equipped the loft with an electric heater to make cold nights cozier for Kaiser and Lady Belle.
Postwar, the army shipped Kaiser back to Fort Monmouth to live out his semi-retirement from active service. On February 27, 1948, the army celebrated Kaiser's 31st birthday. The children at the fort's nursery school held a birthday party for Kaiser and made him the guest of honor.
He was given membership in the American Legion's First Retread Post No. 667 in Los Angeles, California, in August 1948, on account of his service in two wars. The group created a special gold band bearing the organization's crest and engraved with "Kaiser" and "1st Retread 667" which the army placed on Kaiser's right leg.
The bands on Kaiser's legs include one from the American Legion Post No. 667.
Kaiser came to Washington, D.C., to celebrate the inauguration of President Harry Truman on January 20, 1949, joined by hero pigeons G.I. Joe and Jungle Joe as part of the Signal Corps' exhibition.
On Halloween night 1949, Kaiser passed away at Fort Monmouth. He outlived both his namesake Kaiser Wilhelm and every other homing pigeon that served in World War I. His bloodline provided the U.S. Army with countless homing pigeons in World War II. The progeny of his great-great-great-great grandchildren, sold to the public when the army disestablished the pigeon service in 1957, remain in lofts across the United States, undoubtedly still producing racing champions.
As for Kaiser himself, the Signal Corps arranged for the Smithsonian Institution to receive the old pigeon's remains after his death, for mounting and display. Since arriving at the museum in 1950, Kaiser has found himself in good company with three other hero pigeons: Global Girl and Anzio Boy of World War II fame, and the little British pigeon Cher Ami, a fellow veteran of the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne.
In this photo from the U.S. Army, a bird identified as Kaiser perches on a post.
The museum's pair of Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz returned to display on October 19, 2018, after spending time in the museum's Conservation Lab.
In a memorable scene from the 1939 movie The Wizard of Oz, the Wicked Witch of the West tries to retrieve the Ruby Slippers off the feet of her dead sister, but they disappear in front of her eyes.
"What have you done with them!" she demands to know from Glinda, the Good Witch of the North. Glinda points her glistening, star-tipped wand to the feet of Dorothy Gale and responds, "There they are and there they'll stay."
Today, Glinda would likely be relieved to know, the Ruby Slippers stay here at the National Museum of American History. But what became of Glinda's wand? We don't know where wands used in the movie ended up. Multiple pairs of Ruby Slippers were created for the movie (ours were likely used in dancing sequences), and it looks like more than one version of the wand was created as well. The one on temporary display here at the museum wasn't used in the film. Instead, it was produced for publicity photos to be held by Glinda, played by Billie Burke.
On loan to the museum for temporary display, this wand was produced for publicity photos of Glinda, played by Billie Burke
Lent to the museum by Wizard of Oz aficionado Randy Struthers, a librarian in Plano, Illinois, the wand points to another aspect of movie magic—marketing. Still photos would have been used to promote the film. Why would Glinda be photographed with a wand she didn't use in the film? Perhaps there were multiple iterations of the wand created and this was an earlier or later version—or perhaps this wand was designed to look better in black-and-white photography.
Struthers, a Wizard of Oz researcher for decades, was unable to locate either of the two wands that appeared in the movie. So he did the next best thing, purchasing the studio prop in October 2017 from a private owner he tracked down after years of detective work.
After over 200 hours of conservation work and study, the Ruby Slippers returned to display in their own special gallery on the museum's third floor. A mural by D.C.-based studio No Kings Collective sets the scene.
Struthers, who has been recreating objects from the movie for two decades, said his research on the wand included comparing it to one that Billie Burke used in a Christmas card in 1939 with the greeting "May your dearest wish come true."
Glinda is never without her wand in the movie, and the magical transfer of the Ruby Slippers to Dorothy is only one of the scenes where it appears. The wand directs Dorothy to the beginning of the Yellow Brick Road. And the wand is waved as Dorothy begins to say, "There's no place like home."
Ryan Lintelman, the museum's curator who oversees collections relating to The Wizard of Oz, said the wand is important because it's "the best surviving prop or costume piece to represent the character Glinda."
"Glinda acts as a protector and guide to Judy Garland's Dorothy as she navigates her way through the fantastic land of Oz," Lintelman said. "Although this wand was probably only used in publicity photographs and not in the production of the film, it is likely the only surviving wand."
In the era in which The Wizard of Oz was made, movie props weren't recognized as collectors' items worthy of long-term preservation. Props were sometimes adapted for use in other movies or discarded. (In the 1970s and 1980s, costumes used on the television show M*A*S*H were occasionally famous hand-me-downs.)
"On display here in the museum, the wand is reunited with the Ruby Slippers and Scarecrow hat for the first time in a museum exhibition," Lintelman said. "We hope that visitors will enjoy seeing these treasures of film history together."
"I've always been attached to magical props," Struthers said in an interview. "I made my own when I was a teenager. I think it can appeal to a lot more than Oz fans. It will be a nice surprise, because up until now, nothing from Glinda has shown up in the museum."
Struthers said Billie Burke, who died in 1970 at age 85, described her character as "a good fairy." Struthers added, "A fairy princess is how a lot of people describe her."
The end of the wand is topped with a sparkly star
Visit soon to see the Ruby Slippers and the wand together. Through the end of February 2019, you'll also notice another object from The Wizard of Oz on display: Scarecrow's hat.
Worn by actor Ray Bolger in The Wizard of Oz Scarecrow's hat is too fragile to be on permanent display. After attention from the museum's conservators, it's on temporary display near the Ruby Slippers through the end of February 2019.
Larry Margasak is a retired journalist and a volunteer at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History. Past articles have included visitors' emotional attachment to the Ruby Slippers; the return of baseball's All-Star Game to Washington, D.C., and history in the second half of the 1800s as seen through the diary of piano manufacturer William Steinway.
The museum extends its thanks to supporters of the Ruby Slippers conservation effort through Kickstarter.
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.
In 1911, a New York City clothing factory went up in flames and 146 garment workers, mostly immigrant women in their teens and twenties, died. The horrific news woke up many to the issues of worker safety. Curator Peter Liebhold sorts through the facts of the tragedy and its legacy.
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.
This year we celebrate 50 years of mumps vaccination in America, helping to make chipmunk cheeks and swollen testicles a thing of our nation's past.
Mumps quarantine sign, from sometime after 1909
Illustrations often comically portray the famous calling card of mumps—swollen jaw and cheeks. Because so many of us are now protected by the mumps vaccine, we never experienced those cheeks, nor do we suffer the lasting indignity of parental photographs of our puffy faces. Mumps cheeks became an artifact of the American past—the perfect subject for Norman Rockwell illustrations of a family's fishing vacation canceled at the appearance of the dreaded swelling.
Two prints by Norman Rockwell, around 1972. Merck Research Laboratories commissioned the works to celebrate vaccination and the changing American experience of childhood disease.
Most people who contract the disease recover fully. However, beyond those chipmunk cheeks, mumps can have serious (and sometimes permanent) complications that are not so comical: inflammation of the testicles and ovaries, encephalitis (swelling of the brain), meningitis (infection of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord), seizures, and deafness.
Fifty years ago, Americans began to forgo chipmunk cheeks and swollen testicles, when a hard-won mumps vaccine became available.
In the 1960s, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, the chief virologist at Merck Research Laboratories, set his mind to creating a mumps vaccine. He did so knowing that although mumps was a universal disease of childhood, many parents underestimated its danger. According to Dr. Paul Offit's book Vaccinated, during the 1960s "mumps virus infected a million people in the United States every year." Scientists had been working to develop a safe and effective vaccine against mumps without success: the vaccines caused either an unacceptably high level of mumps symptoms, or an unacceptably low level of immunity. Dr. Hilleman suspected he needed to start anew with a different strain of the virus—and he got his chance when his daughter Jeryl Lynn awoke him one night to show him her swollen cheeks. That night Hilleman swabbed her throat to collect a sample of the virus, and then drove the sample to his lab.
Jeryl Lynn Hilleman displays mumps cheeks in 1963
In the ensuing days, Hilleman set to work hoping to weaken, or attenuate, the virus so that it would not cause mumps, but could still provoke immunity. He accomplished this by introducing the virus to generations of chicken embryo cells. With each successive generation, the virus changed: it became better and better at attacking the chick cells, and consequently became worse and worse at attacking human cells.
Human testing of Hilleman's officially designated "Jeryl Lynn Strain" vaccine proved that it achieved that delicate balance of producing strong immunity without causing the disease in vaccinated children. Although Jeryl Lynn could not benefit directly from the vaccine that bears her name, her younger sister did. In 1966 Kirsten Jeanne Hilleman was immunized with the investigational vaccine. In early 1968 doctors began administering the Jeryl Lynn Strain mumps vaccine to the American public.
The vials of investigational vaccine used to immunize Kirsten Jeanne Hilleman against mumpsA 1966 photograph that accompanied Merck's press release about the successful vaccine depicted Jeryl Lynn comforting the crying Kirsten as the younger girl received her vaccination with the Jeryl Lynn Strain from Dr. Robert Weibel.
Recently, we acquired an intriguing object that documents how—for 50 years—we have all relied on Jeryl Lynn's throat swab that fateful night: a shiny stainless-steel 15-liter canister. The canister is one of five in which the entire supply of the frozen Jeryl Lynne virus "seed stock" was kept safe and pure. For years this canister had safeguarded stock that could produce 3.26 billion doses of vaccine . . . that is, until its green neoprene stopper began to fail.
The trusty stainless-steel canister that once housed the virus seed stock.
In 2015 Merck scientists embarked upon an anxious task: they had to thaw and transfer the precious seed stock to new containers, all while keeping it untainted. If the stock had lost its potency, or became contaminated during the transfer, it would take five to seven years to get new stock into production. This could cause a gap in the vaccine supply.
The transfer was successful, and the Jeryl Lynn stock now resides within a more secure type of container. The old mumps canister has come to live at the Smithsonian. Like the millions of Americans protected by the strain it once sheltered, the canister is now mumps-free.
Rachel Anderson is a research and project assistant in the Division of Medicine and Science. She has also blogged about preventing rabies.
Learn more about the mumps and Dr. Hilleman through the museum's Antibody Initiative, made possible through the generous support of Genentech.
Over seventy years ago, in 1947, Jackie Robinson became the first African American athlete to play in the World Series, having famously broken the color barrier in Major League Baseball earlier in the year. In another breakthrough, Leopoldo “Polín” Martinez, a Mexican American ballplayer, played in a world series that year as well—just not the one that Jackie Robinson played in.
Instead of playing in the Major League World Series, Martinez played in the IX Serie Mundial de Beisbol Amateur—the Ninth Amateur World Series, an event dominated by Latin American ballplayers. Martinez’s life and achievements show the long tradition of Latinos and baseball.
Jackie Robinson cleared the path for baseball greats like Minnie Miñoso, from Cuba, and Roberto Clemente, from Puerto Rico, two of the first Latino Major League superstars, who came to prominence in the 1950s.
Leopoldo “Polín” Martinez was known for his eager and hardworking attitude, as well as his trademark smile.
Leopoldo Martinez was born in Mexico in 1920 and was an avid baseball lover throughout his life. As any fan might, he idolized the Major League greats of his day, such as Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth. Years later, he told his children of how he saw Gehrig and Ruth hold batting practice during an off-season travel-team game in Mexico.
Martinez included Gehrig and a few other Major League stars in his homemade scrapbooks. Alongside these stars, Martinez included another important, though not as well-known, baseball player: himself. He was playing amateur baseball by the age of 17, playing in the Mexican state of Chihuahua just across the border from Texas. Martinez was known for his fielding, dedication, and trademark smile. In his scrapbook, he carefully recorded his career, from his 1939 season, where he batted a mere .176—recording the season stats by hand—to his two consecutive appearances in the Amateur World Series.
Martinez (on the left, not the right as marked) traveled to El Paso, Texas, to attend spring training with the El Paso Texans. Paul Dean (middle), brother of famed Cardinals pitcher “Dizzy” Dean, managed the team.
New York Yankees pitcher Vernon “Lefty” Gomez, who played from 1930 to 1943, makes an appearance in one of Martinez’s scrapbooks.
This pamphlet from the Amateur World Series includes highlights on players, brief histories of the Amateur World Series, and, as with most baseball programs, sponsored advertisements. The Amateur World Series had advertisements of its own, two of which Martinez collected in one of his scrapbooks.
The roster of the Mexican National team in one of the Serie Mundial de Beisbol Amateur pamphlets. Martinez is in the far-left, bottom row.
The IX Serie Mundial de Beisbol Amateur took place in Cartagena, Colombia, from November 29 through December 20, 1947. The Amateur World Series was the equivalent of today’s World Baseball Classic, in which different countries fielded national baseball teams to compete. It began in 1938 and first took place in Great Britain. In its first year, only Great Britain and the United States participated. While the Amateur World Series never gained a substantial audience in Europe, it became an instant hit amongst fans and players throughout Latin America. Latin American countries eagerly embraced the series. In its second year the series moved to Cuba, where it remained for four more years.
By 1947 nine national teams played, every single one of which was from Latin America. While 1947 marked a new era for baseball in the United States, Latino inclusion in the majors on a broader scale was slow. According to Mark L. Armour and Daniel R. Levitt’s article, “Baseball Demographics, 1947–2016” for the Society for American Baseball Research, it was not until 1967 that Latinos started to make up more than 10% of Major League Baseball players. By 1991 that number was 15%—greater than the percentage of Latina/os in the United States, which in 1990 was only 9%. Before greater inclusion, Latina/os found alternative ways to play the sport they loved, usually at the local and semiprofessional levels. The Amateur World Series was just one of the grander stages for Latina/o baseball at this time.
By 1947 Martinez had gone a long way since the 1939 season—always having been a great fielder, he eventually became one of Mexico’s great hitters as well. Though he never played professionally, he played the game he loved throughout the Americas. One can easily imagine the excitement in the air at the Amateur World Series, from the many photographs of parading teams and the autographs he collected from players of his own and different teams in his 1948 program. He cherished these experiences, kept clippings of the games, archived photographs of his time in personal scrapbooks, and treasured the Amateur World Series programs—all of which are currently preserved in the national collection at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
After a weak start in Europe, the Amateur World Series was quickly adopted by Latin American countries. Here, the Mexican National Team poses in the stadium. Martinez played with the Mexican National Team for two years before becoming a U.S. citizen. He is in the back row, third from the right.
Despite no press recording his fame in the annals of baseball history, Martinez kept his own record of his baseball career, creating scrapbooks of his time playing in Mexico. Here are clippings of him and the rest of the Mexican National Team.
Luke Perez is from Los Angeles, California. A former intern on the museum’s Latinos and Baseball Project, he is now a museum specialist in the Division of Political History. He has blogged about Leopoldo Martinez’s scrapbooks and his family’s dedication to playing baseball.
Wielding an adorably tiny vacuum, objects conservator Dawn Wallace peered through her stereomicroscope at thousands of 80-year-old red sequins. As the soundtrack to The Wizard of Oz drifted through the Conservation Lab, Wallace gently began vacuuming every single delicate sequin, carefully removing surface dirt with a soft brush and a pipette attached to a vacuum cleaner. In a process that took over 200 hours, Wallace examined, cleaned, and stabilized Dorothy's Ruby Slippers from the 1939 movie, preparing them to go back on display in their own special gallery. As the Ruby Slippers step back into the spotlight, here are five things to know about their journey through the Conservation Lab.
1. They're the same old shoes—we promiseOur Ruby Slippers before visiting the Conservation Lab (top) and after (bottom).
With their renewed shimmer, we can't blame you for thinking Wallace artificially enhanced the look of the shoes worn by Judy Garland on the Yellow Brick Road. While they do shine a little brighter now, we assure you that they're the same pair. Wallace didn't add new sequins, touch-up the pair with paint, or replace missing beads—"improvements" or restoration were not used on this project.
"The shoes are 80 years old, and we want to retain the history of their use," Wallace said. "Missing sequins or broken beads could be from the filming." Erasing that evidence was out of the question, but removing surface grime was an important part of her work.
In this photo taken through a Conservation Lab microscope, it's possible to see where the color coating on the sequins is in less-than-mint condition. These shoes worked hard—Garland likely wore them in dance scenes, the felt on the bottom muffling the noise of her steps—and that's history we're proud to preserve.2. A little cleaning goes a long way
Cleaning the glass beads on the bows created a particularly dramatic before-and-after difference, revealing glistening, shiny red glass beads where there had been a hazy burgundy color before.
In this photo taken during treatment, the left section of this bow from the Ruby Slippers has not been cleaned. The right side has.3. We're not losing a single sequin
After cleaning, Wallace took an even closer look at how each sequin is attached to the fabric covering the shoe, checking 80-year-old thread for any sign of weakness. Where she discovered weak thread, she reinforced it with an appropriate adhesive or fine hair silk that provides stability. You'll only be able to spot these stabilizers in very close-up photographs.
Without a very close look, you might miss Wallace's handiwork. This sequin's thread showed signs of weakness, so she secured it with a silk thread to provide stability that will allow the shoes to be on display for years to come.
While you may never appreciate the thread in the Ruby Slippers, Wallace said that examining it was one of her favorite parts. "That's where you see the really human touch," she said. Multiple pairs of Ruby Slippers were made for The Wizard of Oz, and different costumers might have subtle differences in their work and sewing skills.
Wallace examines the sequins of the Ruby Slippers.4. Sequins, get in formation
Looking even closer, Wallace discovered that each sequin has multiple layers. A reflective silver layer under the top coating gives the red its special reflectance—but over the years, some sequins had flipped the other direction or rotated out of the original position. Using tweezers covered with Teflon to protect the delicate, scratch-prone surface, Wallace gently realigned individual sequins when possible and necessary, revealing their reflective side.
This gentle realignment of certain sequins also helped the Ruby Slippers regain their sleek appearance. The shoes were commercial Innes heels purchased by costumers and covered with red fabric onto which they'd sewed red sequins in bias rows, creating a sleek appearance in which all of the sequins lightly overlap and lay smoothly. Realignment allowed many sequins to regain their rightful position in relation to their neighbors. If a sequin were sewed on too tightly to realign or the process might endanger a sequin or thread in any way, Wallace left it alone.
Examining the shoes to better understand their construction was an important step for Wallace.5. Cleaning all those tiny sequins wasn't the hardest part
Handling the shoes without touching the sequins was a huge challenge, Wallace reports. Spending hundreds of hours working on objects you can only manipulate in certain ways presents challenges, but Wallace quickly learned how to safely handle the shoes. She also created special mounts to support the shoes during treatment.
For Halloween, Wallace decorated her own pair of shoes with sleek rows of sequins, just for fun.
After spending over 200 hours working with the Ruby Slippers, Wallace confesses that, while she is glad the Ruby Slippers are back on display, she misses having them around the Conservation Lab. Perhaps that's why her Halloween costume this year included a pair of red heels onto which she attached rows of sparkling red sequins. "After working with the real thing for so long, I just had to try my hand at sequinning my own pair of Ruby Slippers," Wallace said.
Ruby Slippers conservation is complete - YouTube
In this video, Wallace shares why she'll miss having the shoes around the Conservation Lab.
Erin Blasco manages the museum's blog and social media outreach.
Most people don't realize that while the federal funding the Smithsonian receives supports its buildings and about 2/3 of its staff; exhibitions, programs, object care, and many positions are privately funded.
Who better to learn from about Smithsonian fundraising than the head of the museum's Office of External Affairs, who handles private fundraising for the National Museum of American History? I recently sat down with Maggie Webster, associate director for External Affairs, to talk about her work and how it is shaped by philanthropy history.
Maggie WebsterWhat does the museum's Office of External Affairs do?
Any kind of private fundraising that the museum does. Our office is responsible for developing and executing strategies for fundraising to support all of the museum's priorities, including exhibitions, programs, positions, and more. We also produce Special Events for internal and external groups as a source of revenue for the Museum.
Our current priorities include raising funds for new exhibitions such as Entertaining America. That exhibition will explore how entertainment spurs critical conversations and can foster important historical change. We need to raise approximately $25 million to complete the third floor. With that, the entire west wing of the museum will have been transformed with new exhibitions, programming, and performance venues with approximately $100 million in privately raised funding combined with federal funding for infrastructure. .
How does the history of philanthropy and fundraising shape how you approach your work?
We need to stay on top of the way fundraising is being done now and the way that it changes over time. Fundraisers are always looking for new ways to get people interested in giving and ways to excite people about giving. It's interesting as a fundraiser to look back over time and study trends that have come and gone in fundraising. Certainly now, technology is the thing people are looking to more and more to make fundraising easy, fast, and efficient.
This 1945 photograph captures the YMCA, mid-membership campaign. Courtesy of Scurlock Studio Records, Archives Center.
In our own collections, we have examples of things like thermometers that were used to keep track of how much money was being raised for projects like new buildings. Later on, fundraisers used electronic tote boards—scoreboards that showed how much money had been raised. During telethons, it was always a big moment to see the new total that came up on the tote board revealing how much money had been raised in the last hour.
T-shirt from a 1998 Race for the Cure
In the last 25 years, different types of walks and rides emerged as a way to make giving more participatory and less about just collecting money for a cause.
Jeanette Senerchia used this bucket to help launch the Ice Bucket Challenge.
More recently the trend has developed for challenges, like shaving your head for charity or the Ice Bucket Challenge. It was just amazing to see how much money that challenge raised for ALS and how excited and involved people became. I don't see much evidence of similar challenges having the same viral and broad impact. So that was maybe a moment in time where there was a trend that worked. But we'll have to see if it becomes reinvented, as these fundraising models often are.
LG ENV mobile phone used in "Text to Haiti" campaign, 2010
Organizations that are trying to do grassroots fundraising are using methods like "text to give" to capitalize on the emotion of the moment and to make it easier for people to give immediately. You don't get big gifts that way, but you can get a groundswell of support from the grassroots level.
Our "Giving in America" exhibit explores the history of philanthropy. What's unique about working in development at a history museum?
At a history museum, it's important to make sure you can build a strong case for supporting the study of the past and why it's important to preserve history. Sometimes that pitch doesn't have the same urgency as contemporary causes. The Red Cross is asking you to give money for the victims of the hurricane that happened yesterday and that has an urgency that supporting the work of a museum doesn't. So it's essential that we make sure the case we are developing for prospects has both importance and also some level of urgency.
It's really inspiring and educational to work with curators who can point to periods in the past when the country has struggled with issues that are similar to what we are dealing with today. When we are trying to make the case that history is relevant, it's important to have these scholars with us who can make that connection. For example, if you think negative campaigning is a contemporary development, you can look back to 1796 for some early mudslinging between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.
In 2018, I watched the Office of External Affairs play a key role in opening the gateway to a new wing, conserving the Ruby Slippers, and supporting countless programs and positions—including my own. As I study the history of philanthropy, I'm grateful for the philanthropy work they do to make the work of the museum possible.
Maggie Webster is the Associate Director for External Affairs. Amanda Moniz is the David M. Rubenstein Curator of Philanthropy.
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.