Science and Technology
Jefferson Responds to Banneker
Thomas Jefferson, secretary of state in the first federal government and one of Virginia’s largest planters and slave holders, wrote this letter to Benjamin Banneker in response to a letter that argued strongly for an end to slavery. In it Banneker had enclosed a manuscript copy of the mathematical calculations for his 1792 almanac. Jefferson’s polite response expresses his ambivalent feelings about slavery and the native abilities of black individuals.
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Napoleon commissioned the first practical submarine, designed by the American inventor Robert Fulton. Testing of this craft, the Nautilus, was successfully carried out in France in 1800–1801, when Fulton and three mechanics descended to a depth of 25 feet.
This bound manuscript provides explanatory text for Fulton’s illustrations of the construction and propulsion of the submarine.
In 1807 the famous Clermont, Fulton’s first commercially viable steamship, sailed from New York to Albany, and proved to a nation of farmers and craftsmen that the U.S. could compete technologically with Europe.
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Robert Fulton (1765–1815). “On Submarine Navigation and Attack.” Bound manuscript, August 1806. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift, 1924 (124.2)
Robert Fulton (1765–1815). Plunging boat [submarine], above and below water views. Graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper, 1806. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1983 [ Digital ID# LC-USZC4-6051] (123.15)
Robert Fulton (1765–1815). Interior Chambers for Crew, Ballast, and Submarine Bombs. Graphite, ink and watercolor on paper, 1806. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Sighting Mechanism and details. Plunging boat [submarine]. Section. Ink and watercolor on paper, 1806. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
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A Historic Message
This paper strip contains the telegraphic characters or Morse code of this historic message sent by Samuel F. B. Morse from the chamber of the Supreme Court, then in the United States Capitol, to his assistant Albert Vail at the Mount Clair depot in Baltimore in 1844. Morse allowed Annie Ellsworth, the young daughter of a friend, to choose the words of the message, and she selected a verse from Numbers XXIII, 23: “What hath God wrought?”
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Samuel F. B. Morse and the Telegraph
Merely eleven years after Samuel F. B. Morse sent his historic telegraph message from the chamber of the Supreme Court, then in the United States Capitol, a complex line of telegraph lines began to connect the globe. This map reveals the status of the telegraph network as it existed in the U.S. in 1855. By this time, telegraph communication was possible across all of the United States. The legend above denotes those lines in operation (marked in green), those under contract for construction (in red); and the dotted lines represent telegraph lines projected for construction.
Map Showing the Telegraph Lines in Operation, Under Contract, and Contemplated to Complete the Circuit of the Globe, 1855. Engraved map with annotations. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (125.13)
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World’s First Telecommunications Company
On May 15, 1845, the world’s first telecommunications company was officially established. The Magnetic Telegraph Company’s articles of incorporation established that for every fifty dollars subscribed in the capital of the company, one share of common stock valued at $100 would be issued. The articles further stated that for every share issued, another would be issued to the patentees, who included founders Samuel F. B. Morse, F.O.J. Smith, Leonard Gale, and Alfred Vali. The volume is open Morse’s account ledger detailing the acquisition and disposition of his shares.
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Battles of Manassas
Although exchanged on the same day, these telegrams between Union balloonist T.S.C. Lowe and Brig. Gen. Fitz-John Porter were transcribed on different company mastheads, suggesting that the new American Telegraph Company would sometimes still use its predecessor’s telegraph paper. General Porter was a supporter of balloons for reconnaissance, and this exchange took place at Halls Hill, Virginia, between the first and second Battles of Manassas.
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Telegram to Lowe from Gen F. J. Porter showing “American Telegraph Company” masthead, November 30, 1861. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (124A.4)
Telegram from Lowe to Gen F. J. Porter showing “American Telegraph Company” masthead, November 30, 1861. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (123.17)
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Praise for Banneker
In this letter to the French philosophe Marquis de Condorcet, Thomas Jefferson praises the mathematical abilities of Benjamin Banneker, “the son of a black man born in Africa, and of a black woman born in the United States.” He voices the hope that the example of Banneker might prove “that the want of talents observed in them is merely the effect of their degraded condition, and not proceeding from any difference in the structure of the parts on which intellect depends.”
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The Birth of Data Processing
Modern data processing began with the inventions of American engineer, Herman Hollerith. In 1881 Hollerith began designing a machine to tabulate census data more efficiently than by traditional hand methods. The U.S. Census Bureau had taken eight years to complete the 1880 census, and it was feared that the 1890 census would take even longer.
Hollerith’s great breakthrough was his use of electricity to read, count, and sort punched cards whose holes represented data gathered by the census-takers. His machines were used for the 1890 census and accomplished in one year what would have taken nearly ten years of hand tabulating. Hollerith’s company later developed into the International Business Machines Corporation, known as IBM.
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Franklin on Electricity
Though now he is renowned as an experimentalist, Benjamin Franklin’s formulation of a general theory of electrical “action” won him an international reputation in pure science in his own day. Writing to Dutch physician and scientist Jan Ingenhousz, Franklin responds to a number of his friend’s questions about electricity and the Leyden jar, an early form of electrical condenser.
In a document that is more a draft scientific report than a letter, it appears that Franklin wrote his answers first using dark ink, leaving room (but clearly not enough) for the questions, which he wrote in red ink.
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Bell’s Ring Kite
Alexander Graham Bell discovered that the tetrahedral truss, created from three-dimensional triangles, could support considerable weight even when constructed out of light-weight materials. Bell made extensive aerodynamic studies with these kites before attempting to build airplanes. His Aerial Experiment Association achieved the first manned flight in Canada. The Library’s extensive Gilbert H. Grosvenor collection of photographs documents Bell’s work and family life.
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The Navy’s Forge Tilt-Hammer
Benjamin Henry Latrobe, who served as engineer to the Navy Department beginning in 1804, was among this nation’s earliest proponents of steam power. He supervised the construction of a pioneering industrial complex powered by a single steam engine at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. Latrobe’s own rendering of the complex’s 3,700-pound forge hammer illustrates the mechanism used to work balls of heated scrap iron into useful form. It was powered by the shaft at the left, that connected it to the steam engine and was capable of 98 to 100 strokes per minute, which were tripped by a cam wheel.
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The Croton Aqueduct
Tens of thousands of technical drawings such as this one were necessary to create the great water and transportation systems that were both a part of and spurred the rapid growth of nineteenth- century America. The old Croton aqueduct, completed in 1842 under the direction of civil engineer John Jervis, provided New York City with its first dependable source of drinking water. Without the aqueduct, the city could never have grown as it did. The aqueduct ran a thirty-two mile downhill course from the Croton Reservoir in Westchester County to High Bridge, across the Harlem River, and from there to a great receiving reservoir on the current site of the New York Public Library at 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue and a great public fountain in front of City Hall, between lower Broadway and Park Row.
John B. Jervis (1795–1885) . (Old) Croton Aqueduct, New York Engineering drawing, ca. 1837. Ink and watercolor on paper. Page 2. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Linda Hall Library, 1995 (123.6a,b) (November 21, 2002)
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Mahlon Loomis’s Journal
On February 20, 1864, Mahlon Loomis wrote in his journal: “I have been for years trying to study out a process by which telegraphic communications may be made across the ocean without any wires, and also from point to point on the earth, dispensing with wires.” Two and a half years later, Loomis would do this very thing between two mountaintops in Loudoun County, Virginia.
In October 1866 Mahlon Loomis (1826–1886), an American dentist and amateur inventor, successfully demonstrated what he called “wireless telegraphy.” Loomis was able to make a meter connected to one kite cause another one to move, marking the first known instance of wireless aerial communication. He accomplished this eight years before Guglielmo Marconi, the inventor of the radio, was born.
Shown here are one of Loomis’s early speculative sketches illustrating the possibility of transoceanic wireless communication, his journal and photographs of the inventor, and his telegraph apparatus.
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Photograph of Mahlon Loomis. Silver gelatin print. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.2a)
Photograph of Wireless Telegraph Apparatus. Silver gelatin print. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.2b)
Mahlon Loomis (1826–1886). Drawing with colored pencil and graphite, October 1866. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.3) [Digital ID# uc125.3p1]
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DNA: An “Amateur” Makes a Real Contribution
In 1954, George Gamow made what has been called “perhaps the last example of amateurism in scientific work on a grand scale.” Less than a year after James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the molecular structure of DNA, Gamow, a professional physicist and amateur biologist, proposed the first definite coding scheme for DNA. In this letter to his colleague, Lithuanian-American microbiologist, Martynas Ycas, Gamow discusses this idea in typical Gamow fashion—couching his contribution with wit and flair.
This Danish reprint of Russian-American physicist George Gamow’s 1954 Nature article illustrates his diamond-shaped holes in the double helix of DNA and the coding scheme for protein synthesis that he proposed in 1953. Although the physicist Gamow had made errors in his sequencing suggestion, Francis Crick later stated that Gamow’s idea was provocative and led him to consider immediately the all-important coding problem.
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George Gamow (1904–1968). “Possible Mathematical Relation Between Deoxyribonucleic Acid and Proteins,” Det Kongelige Danske Videnskabernes Selskab, 1954. Page 1 - Page 2. Reprint. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (125.7a,b)
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A New Language: Visible Speech
Dr. Alexander Melville Bell, father of Alexander Graham Bell, devised a system of “visible speech” in April 1864. These alphabetical symbols were intended to be used to teach deaf individuals how to use his or her vocal chords in order to produce specific sounds, even if the person had never heard sound.
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Alexander Melville Bell (1819–1905). Professor A. Melville Bell’s invention of Visible Speech Chart. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Bell Family, 1947 (123A.1)
Alexander Melville Bell (1819–1905). Visible Speech Alphabetical Symbols. Printed cards and box. Card 1 - Card 2 - Card 3. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Bell Family, 1947 (123A.5a-d)
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A Lifelong Friendship
Following in the footsteps of his father, Alexander Graham Bell devoted much of his life as an advocate for the deaf and blind. One of Dr. Bell’s most notable students, with whom he developed a close relationship, was Helen Keller. Bell met Keller in 1887 and recommended that she be sent to the Perkins Institute in Watertown, Massachusetts. At the age of thirteen, Helen Keller composed a poem for Bell, expressing her appreciation and gratitude towards him.
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Friend, Mentor and Advocate
Even after becoming world renowned for his invention of the telephone, Bell never ceased in his lifelong work as an influential activist for handicapped people. This is demonstrated in a telegram to Bell from Helen Keller requesting his presence and assistance at a speaking engagement in New York. Dr. Bell also received letters of admiration and gratitude from blind students all over the country as shown in a letter from a student at the Alexander Graham Bell School in Chicago, Illinois.
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Helen Keller to Alexander Graham Bell, January 12, 1907?. Telegram. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Alexander Graham Bell Family, 1947 (123A.3)
Letter from student at Alexander Graham Bell School, Chicago, Illinois, 1917. Printed document. Page 2. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of the Alexander Graham Bell Family, 1947 (123A.4)
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Invention and Sound
In the late 1880s, German immigrant Emile Berliner (1851–1929), working in Washington, D.C., created a new medium for sound recording and playback, the flat disc “Gramophone.” While Thomas Edison’s 1877 phonograph was “a wonderful invention,” in the words of a contemporary Scientific American, in its original tinfoil form it was impractical for common use. Edison soon devoted his energy to development of the incandescent light. But about the same time that Berliner was creating the gramophone, Alexander Graham Bell’s Volta Laboratory and Edison’s laboratory resumed work on development of the phonograph. (The word, “phonograph,” was Edison’s trade name for his device, which played cylinders rather than discs. The cylinder invention patented by Bell’s Volta Laboratory was called the “graphophone.”)
According to its donor, Mrs. Isabelle S. Sayers, this Gramophone machine of the mid-1890s was owned by Thomas Edison himself. While Edison probably saw little threat to his phonograph in this crude machine, discs would far outsell cylinders by 1910. Berliner’s January 1895 List of Plates, shown next to the Gramaphone, describes the typical range of music and speech that could be heard on cylinders as well as discs at that time.
The disc on the Gramophone seen here is the first recording of John Philip Sousa’s “Stars and Stripes Forever,” recorded for Berliner only thirteen days after the premiere of the march. Generous descendants of Berliner’s have entrusted the Library with preservation of more than five hundred published and unpublished Berliner discs along with the inventor’s laboratory notebooks, business and legal papers, and personal scrapbooks.
Berliner’s discs were the first sound recordings that could be mass-produced by creating master recordings from which molds were made. From each mold, hundreds of discs were pressed. Recording masters and Gramophone machines were made in Berliner’s Washington, D.C. laboratory, two blocks from the White House. Fire destroyed that laboratory in 1897. Later, Berliner’s company evolved into the Victor Talking Machine Company.
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Emile Berliner (1851–1929). Gramophone, disc, and “List of Plates,” 1895. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress
Berliner factory after the fire, Washington, D.C., 1897. Color digital print from original photograph. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress (127.2)
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A Radio Pioneer
The prolific American inventor Lee De Forest (1873–1961) is one of several pioneers of radio development. De Forest experimented with receiving long-distance radio signals and in 1907 patented an electronic device named the audion. Until this time, the radion was considered little more than “wireless telagraphy,” since it sent Morse code (dots and dashes) instead of conveying actual sound. De Forest’s new three-electrode (triode) vacuum tube boosted radio waves as they were received and made possible what was then called “wireless telephony,” which allowed the human voice, music, or any broadcast signal to be heard loud and clear. Shown here are examples of De Forest’s schematic diagrams and notes scribbled hurriedly on hotel stationery around 1915.
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The Bettini Reproducer
Native-Italian Gianni Bettini (1860–1938) recorded and sold cylinders in New York City in the 1890s. Bettini’s patented improvements to existing cylinder machines included a playback device which purportedly improved the sound quality of recordings. Bettini cylinders are among the rarest in existence. The most intriguing of those he made were recordings of President Benjamin Harrison and Mark Twain, both now lost. Shown is his poster and a cylinder.
Gianni Bettini (1860–1938). Poster, ca. 1890. Gift of Robert A. Truax, 2000. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1985 (195.2a, 195.2b)
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Bubble Books, published by Harper Columbia between 1917 and 1922, was the first series of books and records published together produced especially for children. Each book contained three five and one half inch discs to accompany three printed nursery rhymes. Ralph Mayhew and Burges Johnson wrote the text and Rhoda Chase provided the illustrations. The singer is not listed on the discs but is thought to be Henry Burr. Millions of books were sold to delighted children in the U.S. and abroad. The first book in the series shown here was named by the National Recording Preservation Board to the 2003 Recording Registry.
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Ralph Mayhaw and Burges Johnson. The Bubble Book: The Harper Collins Book that Sings. New York: Columbia Graphophone Co. and Harper Brothers, 1917. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposits (102B.3a,b, 103B.3)
Ralph Mayhaw and Burges Johnson. The Bubble Book: The Harper Collins Book that Sings. New York: Columbia Graphophone Co. and Harper Brothers, 1917. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposits (102B.3a,b, 103B.3)
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Invention and Photography
The First Photographic Portrait
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Early Street Scene
Philadelphia was one of the most “daguerreotyped” cities in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century. Made in the heart of the city’s commercial district, this early street scene, photographed by Robert Cornelius, shows a laterally correct image, indicating that the daguerreotype was taken through a mirror or a reversing prism.
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Robert Cornelius, Daguerreotypist
John McAllister, Jr. was the first patron to be photographed “as a Matter of business” at Robert Cornelius’s studio, the first commercial daguerreian gallery in the country. In his letter reminiscing about the May 6, 1840 sitting, McAllister wrote “I called at the Room...in order to inform Mr. C. that I would be there very early on the next morning. ‘Well,’ said he ‘I have all ready and if you will sit down I will take it now.’ To this I readily agreed.”
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A Daguerrian Gallery
In 1844, photographer and entrepreneur Mathew Brady opened his first daguerreotype studio in New York City. As his career flourished, he moved to more opulent quarters. Brady exhibited portraits of “Illustrious Americans” on his gallery walls and encouraged the public to admire these images much as one would view an exhibition of paintings in an art gallery. The three large paintings in the center of this wood engraving were based on Brady studio daguerreotypes. They depict statesmen John C. Calhoun, Henry Clay, and Daniel Webster.
Albert Berghaus, engraver. “M. B. Brady’s New Photographic Gallery, Corner of Broadway and Tenth Street, New York.” Published in Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, January 5, 1861. Wood engraving. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit, 1861 (121.4)
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Samuel F. B. Morse
In March 1839, artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse traveled to Paris to promote his latest invention, the telegraph. On this trip, Morse met with Louis Jacques Mandé Daguerre, inventor of the “daguerreotype,” one of the earliest photographic processes. Morse was the first American to see examples of this new art form. After returning from abroad, Morse experimented with the process, made early portraits, and taught others in the art. His notebook records his photographic experiments—both his successes and failures.
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The now demolished El and Victorian Gothic Jefferson Market to the right were in photographer Chapman’s own Greenwich Village neighborhood. He remarked that he “used one of the Sixth Avenue elevated stations twice a day for several months” before he discovered this view, adding: “There is too much searching after things strange and unusual in themselves, and not enough analysis and selection of new viewpoints from which to record familiar things.”
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The Bruehl brothers formed a commercial partnership in New York in 1927 and specialized in making high quality color images like this one for publisher Conde Nast.
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Photographer and Mentor
After meeting the French artist and photographic pioneer Louis Daguerre (1789–1851), artist and inventor Samuel F. B. Morse embraced the new process of photography and imported it to the U.S. One of the first Americans to make “daguerreotypes,” Morse opened a New York studio in 1840, and there he taught the art of daguerreotypty to numerous students including Mathew Brady, who’s own highly successful studio later made this portrait of Morse sometime between 1844 and 1860. In this letter to Morse, Brady recognizes his teacher’s significance to early photography by calling him “the first successful introducer of this rare art in America.”
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Mathew Brady Studio. [Samuel Finley Breese Morse, head and shoulders portrait, facing front.] Gold toned, half-plate daguerreotype, ca. 1844–1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. U.S. War College transfer, 1920 (125A.1)
Mathew Brady (ca. 1823–1896) to Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872). Holograph letter, February 15, 1855. Page 2. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Edward Lind Morse and Leilia Morse, 1916–1944 (124.5)
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John Stull of Philadelphia patented this unusual stereo viewing case on February 27, 1855. Stull claimed that his invention would “preserve at all times a perfect parallelism between that part of the case containing the lenses and the part which contains the figures, so that a perfect stereoscope is formed...” When the case’s butterfly hinges were closed, the flat case could be conveniently carried in one’s pocket.
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Early Stereo Views
Based in Philadelphia, Frederick Langenheim and his brother William operated America’s first commercial stereo company. The firm produced both glass and paper stereographs. Their first set of paper views depicted sites in Philadelphia, New York City, and the tourist spots along the route to Niagara Falls. Before the invention of radio and television, typical middle- and upper-class families collected and viewed stereographs as entertainment using a stereoscope that brought the images together for a 3-D effect.
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The daguerreotype is a direct-positive process, creating a highly detailed, unique image on a sheet of copper coated with silver. The process was labor intensive and required great care in processing. The plates, manufactured in standard sizes, had first to be cleaned and polished to a mirrored finish. Next, the plate was sensitized with iodine until it took on a yellow-rose appearance. The plate was then transferred to the camera and exposed to light. Later the plate was developed over hot mercury until an image appeared, which was fixed in a salt solution and then toned with gold chloride.
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Photographer unidentified. [Augusta Currie Bradhurst Field.] Sixth-, ninth-, and sixteenth-plate daguerreotypes, between 1850–1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (125.11) [Digital ID# cph3d02149] Gift/purchases
Photographer unidentified. [Man with cat.] Sixth-, ninth-, and sixteenth-plate daguerreotypes, between 1850–1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (125A.2) [Digital ID# cph3d01979] Gift/purchases
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A Daguerrian Self-Portrait
Solomon Nunes Carvalho was born in 1815 in Charleston, South Carolina, into a Jewish family of Spanish-Portuguese descent. Carvalho worked as both a portrait and landscape painter and a photographer. During the winter of 1853–1854, Carvalho was a member of John C. Frémont’s arduous expedition through the territories of Kansas, Colorado, and Utah in search of a direct route to the Pacific Ocean. The daguerreotypes that Carvalho took on this expedition no longer exist.
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Most likely this image was taken by the daguerreotypist, L.J. Phillips, who may have worked as an itinerant daguerreotypist. His sign, which is made of cloth, can be seen under the upper right window of the County House. It was not unusual for a photographer to set up a temporary studio in a town that could not support a resident daguerreotypist.
Photographer unidentified, possibly L.J. Phillips . [View of a horse and covered cart in front of white frame building with signs for County House, J. Griggs and L.J. Phillips, Daguerrian Rooms, Thompson, Connecticut.] Sixth-plate daguerreotype, between 1850 and 1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase/exchange with Dr. Gary Vroegindewey, 1981. LC-USZC4-4076 (124A.1) [Digital ID# cph.3d02053]
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Americans were fascinated with the invention of the daguerreotype, which allowed the middle class to obtain affordable portraits. Mathew Brady and other notable photographers exhibited portraits of “Illustrious Americans” on their gallery walls, like those of entertainers Tom Thumb and Jenny Lind—both made world famous by impresario P.T. Barnum. Operators, most notably Brady, set up well-appointed displays in their daguerrian studios, much like paintings in an art gallery. Once inside the studio, visitors were thrilled that they, too, could be pictured in a shiny, silver likeness.
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Mathew Brady (ca. 1823–1896) Studio. Tom Thumb (1838–1883). Gold-toned, half-plate daguerreotype, between 1844 and 1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (118.7) [Digital ID3 cph3c09908] U.S. War College transfer, 1920
Jenny Lind (1820–1887). Gold-toned whole plate daguerreotype, between 1844 and 1860. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress (120.4) [Digital ID# cph3g06777] U.S. War College transfer, 1920
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Daguerreotypes of outdoor scenes were less popular than studio portraits due to the technical difficulties of this early photographic process. The daguerreotypist in the Peale Family Studios captured Philadelphia’s historic Independence Square, probably working from a window in a building across the street. A broadside on the gate post leading into the square advertises a demonstration of the effects of laughing gas. Also shown is the Peale business card.
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Mr. Peale’s Daguerrian Rooms. Peale Business Card, ca. 1840s. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (230A) Gift of Mrs. Marion S. Carson, 1996
Peale Family Studio. South West Gate Leading into Independence Square, Philadelphia. Approximate quarter-plate daguerreotype, ca. 1845. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress (230) Gift of Mrs. Marion S. Carson, 1996
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Capturing Niagara Falls
The awe-inspiring scenery of Niagara Falls has attracted tourists since the early 1800s. Platt Babbitt established the first photographic studio at the falls in 1853 and gained exclusive rights to operate at would later be called “Prospect Point.” Babbitt’s images were taken exclusively from a fixed vantage point with the only variables being the atmospheric conditions and the various visitors who wandered in front of the camera. By the end of the nineteenth century, Niagara Falls had become the most photographed site in the nation. By the mid-1850s, the daguerreotype had largely been replaced by the ambrotype, which photographers like Babbitt found to be a faster and less expensive process.
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New technologies can provide compelling prints of World War II color photographs. As a sergeant in the Army Signal Corps, Frank Errigo produced this image for military recruiting and training purposes. He obtained copyright to the Kodachromes not retained by the military and published them during the war in nearly sixty magazines and the color supplements of Sunday newspapers including The New York Herald Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and The Chicago Daily Tribune. Here Errigo posed two actors as soldiers in a bomb storage facility at Camp Pendleton, California, admiring a portrait of a young woman while a pinup of Susan Hayward hangs nearby.
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Invention and Motion Pictures
A Sneeze Caught On Film
Thomas A. Edison began thinking about the development of motion pictures in 1888 after studying the successful motion-sequence still photographic experiments of Eadweard Muybridge and Étienne-Jules Marey. By early 1889, Edison had conceived the ambitious notion that it must be possible to record motion as perceived by the human eye and play it back in real time. His idea was to go beyond his predecessors, who had adapted the existing photographic equipment of the day to record brief sequences of motion, and invent an entirely new technology to do “for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.”
To turn his new invention into reality, Edison assigned responsibility for day-to-day development to one of his best assistants, a young Englishman named W. K. L. Dickson. By June of 1891, Dickson produced a series of successful experimental motion pictures that were shown to visiting groups at the Edison laboratory in New Jersey.
Over the next two years Dickson worked to perfect the two basic machines required for successful motion pictures: a device to record moving images, which he and Edison called the Kinetograph; and a machine to view the results, which they called the Kinetoscope. A major problem that slowed Dickson’s work in the beginning was the nonexistence in the commercial marketplace of another essential invention—motion picture film stock. After Eastman Kodak began supplying quantities of reliable film stock in the fall of 1893, the road to commercial development of the movies was opened.
The Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze is one of a series of short films made by Dickson in January 1894 for advertising purposes. The star is Fred Ott, an Edison employee known to his fellow workers in the laboratory for his comic sneezing and other gags. This item was received in the Library of Congress on January 9, 1894, as a copyright deposit from W. K. L. Dickson and is the earliest surviving copyrighted motion picture.
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American lithographic companies were quick to secure motion picture accounts, banking on the success of this new medium. These early stock advertisements often depicted audiences watching a projected image in a music hall or vaudeville theater, where in fact the first films were presented beginning on April 23, 1896 in New York City, with the presentation of six short films, two of them hand-tinted.
Included in the debut were Robert Paul’s “Rough Sea at Dover” taken in England; a scene from the theatrical production of “A Milk Flag,” a tableau vivant featuring Uncle Sam, John Bull, Venezuela and the Monroe Doctrine; and two dance films.
The first poster design pictures a generic film scene of a marching army—a popular short subject of the time—and allots space in the top border for film exhibitors like the American Entertainment Company to advertise. The second poster is an advertisement for Edison’s marvel, the Vitascope. Although the Vitascope was invented by C. Francis Jenkins and Thomas Armat, Thomas Edison was enlisted to supply the film and to manufacture the projector under his imprimatur.
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Mary Pickford in Through the Back Door
Mary Pickford (1892–1979), born Gladys Marie Smith, was queen of the American screen from 1909 to 1933. Together with D.W. Griffith, Douglas Fairbanks, and Charlie Chaplin, she established United Artists in 1919, and later, became one of the thirty-six founders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Her career encompassed approximately 236 films, including Through the Back Door (1921), which was co-directed by her brother, Jack Pickford. Mary Pickford wrote the script for the film, which is remembered for one of the best comic sequences of her career—a scene in which she plays a Belgian refugee maid who decides to scrub the floor by attaching brushes to her feet.
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No Talking, Please!
As middle class mass entertainments gained increasing popularity in the late nineteenth century, so did the impetus to instruct this new audience in the ways of appropriate public behavior. By the time the motion picture industry had achieved full flower in the 1910s, however, etiquette announcements like these were used mainly for their entertainment value.
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An Early Film
In the late 1880s Thomas Edison predicted that he would invent a new technology to record motion and do “for the eye what the phonograph does for the ear.” He set his assistant, Englishman W.K.L. Dickson, to develop separate devices to record moving image (the “Kinetograph”) and play them back (the “Kinetoscope”). When reliable film stock became available in 1893, commercial development of movies took off. Popular stage performers came to the Edison labs to be filmed, including Eugene Sandow, “The Modern Hercules,” whose display of muscles, gymnastics, and flesh was popular with variety show audiences of the day.
W.K.L. Dickson (1860–1935). Souvenir strip of the Edison Kinetoscope. Paper prints on printed card stock, March 6, 1894. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit, 1894 (128A)
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An Early History of Motion Picture
Motion picture innovator W.K.L. Dickson and his sister Antonia wrote this pamphlet on the early history of film production, adapted from an article Antonia had published in Leslie’s Monthly. Published in 1895 by Edison’s concessionaire Raff and Gamon, this booklet was designed to stimulate sales of the Kinetoscope, the device Dickson had invented on which to play back early films. The design and artwork for the title page are by W.K.L. Dickson, who surrounded the title with scenes from Kintetoscope films, including boxers Corbett and Courtney (lower right); Buffalo Bill (to Corbett’s left); Annie Oakley (lower left); and Annabelle Moore doing her famous “Butterfly Dance” (two frames above Oakley).
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Women were among the most popular serial action stars in the early days of the cinema. Serialized action melodramas presented one chapter at a time in weekly installments over the course of several months. Battling dastardly villains each week, actresses such as Pearl White, Helen Holmes, and Marie Walcamp performed their own stunts in the face of countless perilous situations, managing hair-raising escapes from fires, floods, explosions, runaway trains, and mill saws, just in the nick of time. Serial queen Ruth Roland is seen here in yet another knock-down fight with an unscrupulous opponent.
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Stenberg Brothers’ Poster
The Stenberg Brothers, Georgy and Vladimir, are considered to be masters of the 1920s and 1930s Russian film poster. They embraced constructivism, which became the avant-garde of Soviet art in the turbulent era after 1917. The Stenbergs simulated the “magic realism” of photography and only on rare occasions did they use actual photographs in their work. Shown here is Mary Pickford (1893–1979), American matinee idol, in the Russian release of Little Lord Fauntleroy, here called “The Pretender.”
Georgy Stenberg (1900–1933). Vladimir Stenberg (1899–1992). Poster for the release of the Mary Pickford film Little Lord Fauntleroy. [Russian title: The Pretender] ca. 1927. Lithograph and offset lithography. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, GENPAC, 1999 (157.5)
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The Persistence of Vision
The principle of “persistence of vision” maintains that a visual imprint remains in the brain for a short period after the object is withdrawn from view. Still photography and optical toys were the first tools to fully exploit the potential for creating “motion” pictures following this principle. Photographer Edweard Muybridge developed the Zoopraxiscope, an optical toy designed to animate his human and animal locomotion photography, shown here.
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Eadweard Muybridge. “Camel in Motion.” Human and Animal Location: an Electro-Photographic Investigation. . . . 1887. Albumen silver print. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit (129B.1)
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Koster and Bial
On April 23, 1896, the Vitascope movie projector made its debut at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in Herald Square, New York City. The vaudeville circuit was a fitting venue because it not only provided a ready audience but also a source for film subjects including Annabelle, the “butterfly dancer” and the theatrical production of “A Milk White Flag.” During the premiere, film was projected onto a screen set within an gilt frame to create literally a “moving picture” for an amazed audience. This is an example of Koster and Bial’s stock poster that was designed to be overprinted with information about a specific attraction.
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Paper Print Deposit
Prior to 1912, films were registered for copyright as frame-by-frame photographs on a continuous roll of contact paper. Additionally, some producers submitted scenarios or shot lists for their motion pictures to be considered as copyrightable dramatic works, much as they would for a theatrical play. In 1905, the American Mutoscope and Biograph Company registered Wanted: A Dog, which producers described as a “comedy of American suburban life in eleven scenes.”
American Mutoscope and Biograph Co. Wanted: A Dog. Typescript scenario, 1905. Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit, 1905 (130A.4)
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Hoyt’s Milk White Flag
On April 23, 1896, the Vitascope movie projector made its debut at Koster and Bial’s Music Hall in Herald Square, New York City.
The vaudeville circuit was a fitting venue for the first public projection of moving image, because it not only provided a ready audience but also a source for film subjects including Annabelle, the “butterfly dancer” and scenes from theatrical productions like the popular A Milk White Flag.
Cast members were invited to Thomas Edison’s studio in West Orange, New Jersey, to recreate a scene.
The two posters on display here promoted the 1896 stage production.
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Art Wood Collection of Cartoon and Caricature
Wilma Flintstone and Betty Rubble appear about to apply those popular foot-breaks in this animation cel. “Yabba dabba do!” and “Wilma!” became part of the American lexicon thanks to The Flintstones, the animated version of the popular television sitcom The Honeymooners. It rolled onto TV screens on September 30, 1960, and ran for six seasons. Hanna-Barbera Productions had a breakthrough in their popular animated show that resulted in other networks being willing to take a risk to produce cartoons for adults. The Flintstones have remained a mainstay of syndicated American television since 1966, a testimony to the show’s success.
Hanna-Barbera Productions. Betty Rubble Driving and Wilma Flintstone Riding in a Car, [between 1960 and 1966]. Tempera drawing on acetate film. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Gift of J. Arthur Wood, Jr. 2004 (130.10b) [Digital ID# ppmsca-09907]
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Snoopy looks as though he were dancing on ice in this animation cel created by Bill Melendez, the exclusive animator of Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters. Born in Mexico, Bill Melendez grew up in the United States and began his animation career with Disney Studios in 1938. In 1964, Melendez teamed up with Charles Schulz to create several motion pictures and television specials based on the Peanuts characters, garnering several awards.
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Technology and Transportation
Taking to the Road
Providing Americans with unprecedented mobility to visit family and friends or tour the countryside, automobiles wholly transformed leisure. These vehicles quickly became symbols of modernity, especially in the graphic arts.
Edward Penfield was an artist famous for the posters he designed for magazines, including Harper’s and Collier’s, and later as a successful commercial illustrator. Penfield, like his contemporary, French artist Henri Toulouse-Lautrec, brought the bold outlines and simple compositions found in Japanese art to his graphic design.
These drawings are from the Cabinet of American Illustration, a collection of 4,000 original works by the nation’s best illustrators. The last drawing is from the Library’s extensive poster collection housed in the Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
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Edward Penfield (1866–1925). Automobile Calendar for 1906. New York: Moffat, Yard, & Company. Offset color lithograph. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Mrs. Edward Penfield, 1933 (133.3)
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Raymond Loewy, one of the principal inventors of modern industrial design, redefined the look of everything from logos to locomotives. For many years Loewy served as the principal designer for the Studebaker Corporation, and in 1961 they called upon him to design a new automobile to save the company. These twelve sketches were sent from Loewy’s Paris office to help in the effort, which resulted in the “Avanti,” a rare instance in which the merits of a product caused it to survive the failure of the company which produced it.
Loewy’s relationship with the Pennsylvania Railroad began in the early 1930s, when he approached railway president Martin W. Clement and voiced his desire to design locomotives. The T-1 design was the last steam engine the Pennsylvania Railroad used before switching to diesel-powered engines.
Drawing on his extensive experience in the design and operation of the automobile, Loewy succinctly sketched the basic elements of this “safety car” design for Cornell University, in order to arrive at a design solution that was both attractive and secure.
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Raymond Loewy (1893–1986). Preliminary studies for Studebaker “Avanti” automobile - Study 2 - Study 3 - Study 4 - Study 5 - Study 6 - Study 7 - Study 8 - Study 9 - Study 10 - Study 11 - Study 12. Fluid marker on paper, March 22, 1961. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
Raymond Loewy (1893–1986). Design sketch for T-1 Locomotive Pennsylvania Railroad. Color lithograph, 1937. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1990 (135.13)
Raymond Loewy (1893–1986). Preliminary design for Cornell-Liberty Safety Car [designed for the Cornell Aeronautical Research Laboratory and the Liberty Mutual Life Insurance Company]. Graphite, colored pencil, and ink drawing, September 11, 1956. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1990 (135.14)
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Shown is a sheet from the sketchbook of the renowned industrial designer Raymond Loewy. The Library of Congress received more than a thousand pieces from his files, revealing the designer’s creative process throughout his career. The sheet shows the trials and rejections as Loewy created a new logo for Standard Oil Company. From the eighteen design ideas on the page, Loewy highlighted his final choice with an “okay.”
Raymond Loewy (1929–1986). Design Drawing for a logo for the Exxon Corporation. Drawing on tracing paper with marker, 1966. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Purchase, 1990 (133.8)
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A Colonial Road Atlas
Irish-born engineer and surveyor, Christopher Colles produced what is considered the first road map or guide book of the U.S. It uses a format familiar to modern travelers with each plate consisting of two to three strip maps arranged side by side, covering approximately 12 miles. Colles began this work in 1789, but brought the project to an end in 1792 after obtaining relatively few subscriptions. But in that time, he compiled an atlas covering approximately 1,000 miles from Albany to Williamsburg, and is invaluable today for understanding the developing road network in the new nation.
Christopher Colles. “Annapolis to New Kent Court House,” in A Survey of the Roads of the United States of America. New York: 1789. Additional images: Page 1 - Page 2 - Page 3 - Page 4 - Page 5 - Page 6 - Page 7 - Page 8 - Page 9 - Page 10 - Page 11 - Page 12 - Page 13 - Page 14 - Page 15 - Page 16 - Page 17 - Page 18. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress
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On the Road
“The love of the great outdoors grows with each new automobile,” states May Southworth in her book, The Motorist’s Luncheon Book. The trouble with the countryside in the early days of the automobile was a lack of eateries. To meet this need, writers such as May Southworth and Linda Hull Larned of One Hundred ‘Picnic’ Suggestions wrote recipe books specifically for the motorist. They included tips on how to heat one’s meal by placing it over the internal combustion engine and how to keep ants away from the picnic site.
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May E. Southworth. The Motorist’s Luncheon Book. New York: Harper Brothers, 1923. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Katherine Golden Bitting, 1939–1944 (132)
Linda Hull Larned (b. 1853). One Hundred ‘Picnic’ Suggestions. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1915. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress. Gift of Katherine Golden Bitting, 1939–1944 (131)
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The Erie Canal
Begun 1817 and opened in 1825, the Erie Canal was one of America’s earliest and greatest construction projects. Covering a total of more than 543 miles, its eighty-four locks accommodated a total rise and fall of 692 feet. New York City became America’s largest metropolis due, in large part, to its unrivaled access to the interior it gained through the canal. By the 1850s, student engineers were studying the canal’s construction. West Point Cadet Orlando Poe drew this plan.
Orlando Metcalfe Poe. Erie Canal Lock, plan, elevation, and section drawing. Graphite, ink, and watercolor on paper, 1855–1856. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. LC-USZC4-1954 (133.11)
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Washington Canal Lottery
In December 1795, the Maryland legislature authorized landholder Notley Young and Daniel Carroll of Duddington, among others, to hold two annual lotteries to raise the $52,550 required to cut a canal through Washington, D.C. As seen in the sampling above, numerous tickets were issued but, for the most part, on credit. The legislature demanded an accounting of the proceeds from the lottery managers but were told no money had been made.
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Patent Locomotive Engine
One year after the first railroad to carry general traffic opened in England, American architect and engineer William Strickland published this plan for a steam engine, which could pull twenty -seven wagons loaded with ninety-four tons at four miles per hour on a level grade. The engraving was issued, together with others about gas lighting, road and bridge building, and a range of other technologies to “awaken and animate the citizens of Pennsylvania, to promote and adopt those great and certain sources of national wealth and prosperity.” Railroads would become the primary transportation system for the United States and remain so until the construction of interstate highways in the mid-twentieth century.
Benjamin Tanner, (1775–1848) after William Strickland (1788–1854). “C. Stephenson’s Patent Locomotive Engine” from Strickland, Reports on Canals, Railways, Roads, and other Subjects, made for the Pennsylvania Society for the Promotion of Internal Improvements. Philadelphia: 1826. Engraving with watercolor. Rare Book and Special Collections Division, Library of Congress (134.4)
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Postal Memory Maps
Frank H. Galbraith, a clerk with the Railway Mail Service, developed training maps in the late 1800s to assist company clerks sorting mail on the railroads in learning complex railway mail distribution networks for civil service examinations required by the Post Office Department. His hand-drawn pictorial maps were based on the premise of associating easily recognized cultural, historical and regional icons with post office names in order to create strong first impressions when memorizing spatial relationships along various rail lines. Galbraith focused on the mid-western railroad expansion, preparing maps for eight states, including this portion of Nebraska.
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Journey by Steamboat
Tourists discovered Florida’s tropical foliage and mild, sunny climate in the 1870s. Before train travel, visitors to Silver Springs in the state’s north-central region began their overnight journey by steamboat at Palatka, south of Jacksonville. They entered the Ocklawaha River and proceeded through a dense swamp forest to the crystal clear waters of the eight-mile “run” that ended at the famous springs. This stunning photograph was taken by George Barker, a prominent landscape photographer. He traveled to northern Florida in the 1880s to record the lush landscape and expanding tourist trade on glass plate negatives as large as sixteen by twenty inches.
George Barker (1844–1894). Silver Springs, Florida, From the Morgan House, Steamboat Approaching Dock. Albumen silver print, 1886. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress. Copyright deposit, 1886 (133.14a) [Digital ID# ppmsca-09548]
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Galbraith’s Railway Mail Service Map
This one of eight large-scaled pictorial maps of midwestern states showing routes and post offices of the Railway Mail Service. Designed by Chicago railway mail clerk Frank H. Galbraith to help employees of the Railway Mail Service quickly locate counties and post offices. The mail service numbered more than 6,000 employees, who traveled more than a million miles a year on the rails sorting mail. A printed title cartouche accompanied by a list of counties for each of the states by McEwen Map Company of Chicago is pasted on the maps.
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The Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe
During the last quarter of the nineteenth century, railroads spanned the boundless immensity of the American west. Vast networks of iron track bound together the rapidly multiplying cities and provided access to fertile lands, mineral wealth, and magnificent vistas. This detailed map of the central U.S. shows drainage, counties, cities and towns, roads, wagon trails, and the railroad network. The Atchinson Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad was chartered by the state of Kansas in 1859; the first 75 miles of line were not completed until 1871.
A Geographically Correct County Map of the States Traversed by the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad and Its Connections. St. Louis: Woodward, Tiernan, and Hale, 1880. Printed map. Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (133.15) [Digital ID: http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.gmd/g4051p.rr003210]
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By 1886 the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy had forged an operating system of 4,000 miles of rail track connecting Chicago to the Pacific coast via the Burlington Route. Earnings from passenger service increased, due in part to growing interest in train travel. The CB&Q Passenger Department’s publication program of promotional literature and tourist guidebooks capitalized on contemporary fascination with the Orient. This travel advertisement utilizes traditional Japanese themes to tempt travelers to choose a California excursion as the initial link to the Far East. The reference to the Mikado’s uncle may have been inspired by the popular Gilbert and Sullivan opera The Mikado, which premiered in London in 1885.
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Invention and Flight
In 1900, Wilbur Wright wrote to his father expressing the hope of “achieving fame and fortune” from his and brother Orville’s experiments in flight. Three years later, the brothers accomplished their first successful flight. As part of their systematic practice of photographing every prototype and test of their various flying machines, the Wrights persuaded an attendant from a nearby lifesaving station to snap Orville in full flight. After making three longer flights that day, the Wrights sent this telegram to their father, instructing him to “inform press.” In his diary, seen here, Orville kept a thorough account of their experiments. This entry details their second successful flight.
Orville and Wilbur Wright (1871–1948) requested a patent application for a “flying machine” nine months before their successful flight in December 1903, which Orville recorded in his diary. The craft soared to an altitude of 10 feet, traveled 120 feet, and landed 12 seconds after takeoff. After making two longer flights that day, the Wrights sent this telegram to their father, instructing him to “inform press.”
Earlier, in 1900, Wilbur Wright wrote to French aviation pioneer Octave Chanute (1832–1910) and expressed the belief that “flight is possible to man...[and] I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money if not my life”.
The papers of Wilbur (1867–1912) and Orville (1871–1948) Wright were given to the Library in 1949 by the executors of Orville Wright’s estate. Over the years the Library has received additional materials through gifts and transfers, and altogether the collection comprises diaries and notebooks, family papers, general correspondence, subject files, scrapbooks, and over 1,100 photographic images, including 300 original glass plate negatives.
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Orville Wright (1871–1948). Telegram to Bishop Milton Wright, December 17, 1903. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
Orville Wright (1871–1948). Receipt of petition, U.S. Patent Office, March 14, 1903. Manuscript Division, Library of Congress
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Wright Brothers National Memorial
Alfred Easton Poor received his early training in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania under famed architect Paul Cret. This dramatic nighttime rendering is an excellent example of Poor’s skill and is one of a set of presentation drawings submitted by the architect and his partner, William Perry Rodgers, to the 1930 competition for the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
Their wing-shaped monument, completed in 1932, features a beacon rising sixty feet above the ninety-foot sand dune in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the first flight of a power-driven airplane on December 17, 1903, took place.
Alfred Easton Poor (1899–1988). [Winning Design for the Wright Brothers National Memorial.] Kill Devil Hill, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Graphite and charcoal on paper, 1930. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress
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Amelia Earhart’s Palm Print
As a practitioner of palmistry, Nellie Simmons Meier believed that human character and destiny were revealed by the features of the hand. Meier had a special interest in the hands of famous people, and their prints and character analyses formed the basis of her 1937 bestseller, Lions’ Paws. She prepared Earhart’s print in 1933, four years before the famed aviator disappeared over the Pacific in her effort to fly around the world. According to Meier, Earhart’s large palm revealed a love of physical activity and a strong will.
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Igor Sikorsky’s Helicopters
One of aviation’s greatest designers, Russian-born Igor Sikorsky began work on helicopters as early as 1910. In this journal, he records his technical progress as of 1930. By 1940, Sikorsky’s successful VS-300 had become the model for all modern single-rotor helicopters. He also designed and built the first military helicopter, XR-4, which he delivered to Colonel Franklin Gregory of the U.S. Army.
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Lindbergh on the Future of Airliners
In this letter to friend and colleague Igor Sikorsky, Charles Lindbergh correctly predicts that trans-oceanic aircraft of the future will not only be very large but will be land-based rather than water-based. His prescient arguments and reasoning as to why “flying boats,” or seaplanes will be replaced by aircraft that fly to and from airports on land have proven to be impeccably accurate. Lindbergh test-flew the first Sikorsky S-42.
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S-42 Flying Clipper Seaplane
This brochure was prepared by the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation and contains all the plane’s pertinent drawings and data. The large aircraft had a range nearly three times that of Sikorsky’s earlier clipper plane and handled superlatively on its maiden flight. It was the first plane put into regular service by Pan American Airways in August 1934, and carried 42 passengers in unparalleled luxury.
Sikorsky’s majestic “flying boat” was used by Pan American Airways between the world wars on many of its pioneering international routes across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Pan American used this aircraft to make its first Newfoundland to Ireland flight in 1937, and soon after linked America to Asia.
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