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Exhibition Not an Ostrich: & Other Images from America's Library

Science & Business

The Library of Congress holdings related to business and science range from the Alexander Graham Bell Family Papers to single views of modest establishments, such as Banana Burt’s Dairy Queen in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts. Photographs have recorded everything from the path of food from farm to market to home, the cutting down of giant Sequoia trees for lumber, the mass inoculations against the polio virus in 1952, and the sale of tofu hot dogs by Playboy Playmates in 2007.

Soon after the medium’s invention, photographs were used by businesses and individuals for promotional purposes. Abraham Lincoln and Harriet Tubman recognized photography’s value in advancing themselves and their ideas. Photographs of theatrical actors and actresses promoted their plays, and later, their movies. The 1926 Miss America found herself demonstrating a permanent hair wave machine that hints at the influence of Dr. Frankenstein.

The Library’s collection is also rich in portraits of nineteenth-century wage earners such as a seamstress seated at the then new Grover and Baker industrial sewing machine and a feather duster salesman in Chicago. There are portraits of business titans such as Bell at the opening of the long-distance telephone line from New York to Chicago in 1892 and of Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph and Morse code.