Young Teddy in the Wilds

teddy-roosevelt2Those looking for a preview of some of the themes we’ll talk about in Unit 2 might be interested in reading this excerpt of Douglas Brinkley’s recent book on Teddy Roosevelt, The Wilderness Warrior. (Here is a link to the NY Times excerpt.) Roosevelt’s administration (1901-1909) took dramatic action to preserve national parks, setting a precedent for the twentieth-century efforts to set aside public lands. But this chapter is about Teddy’s early years, in which he loved nature so much that, Brinkley reports, he once saw a picture of a fox in a book and called it “the face of God.” That’s way before he saved that Teddy bear. This excerpt shows how Teddy, born the year before Darwin published On the Origin of Species, grew up along with acceptance of the theory of evolution, developing the appreciation for nature that he carried into the Oval Office. As TR himself would have said, Bully!

John Held–1920s Cartoonist

John Held  illustrated this Life Magazine cartoon “Insatiable Neckers.”  Along with Norman Rockwell, he was perhaps the most well-known “drawer” in the 1920s.

The Haymarket Riot, Truth and Truthiness

Timothy Messer-Kruse became interested in US history textbook claims that no evidence linked the bombing and subsequent conviction and execution of seven defendants in the 1886 rally in support of working men. He did a lot of digging and found out otherwise. (He has now published two books on the Haymarket Riot.) He went to Wikipedia, which has been widely (but not uniformly) praised for the way in which it builds knowledge through crowdsourcing, to edit its entry for “Haymarket Affair.”   Interestingly, he got a good scolding for his effort. It seems that his sources and proof didn’t match popular wisdom.    You can read his account  here, in The-Undue-Weight-of-Truth.

The End of History?

Some say that President Reagan’s demand that Soviet Union leader Mikhail Gorbachev  “Tear down this wall!” marked the end of the Cold War, signalling “the end of history.”   Tear Down this Wall

America’s Flying Saucer

The United States’ confidence in its absolute technological superiority after World War II along with constant pressure to outmatch the technological advances of its Communist rivals produced some curious results. The Avrocar is a fine example of one such curiosity. Originally initiated by Avro Canada for the Canadian Air Force, the project was picked up by the US military. Both the Army and the Air Force made Emakova claim to the project. The two services had different visions for the future of the design, and the subsequent research was done with little collaboration. The Air Force wanted a vertical takeoff aircraft that could reach supersonic speed and evade enemy radars. On the other hand, the Army was interested in using the Avrocar as a hovering troop carrier and reconnaissance craft. Initially, Avro set out to design a vehicle that would be able to fulfill both sets of specifications at once, but the task proved to be too difficult. Field tests on prototypes exposed several serious flaws with the design, including instability and overheating. These problems proved the design to be unsuitable for Air Force use, but the Army hung on to its hopes to use the Avrocar as a sort of a hovering Jeep (since its inability to gain altitude would not be a serious problem for ground forces). When Avrocar’s structural flaws turned out to be unresolvable and it became clear that the design was a dead end for both services, the US government cut the funding for the project and closed it down, leaving the United States with what might be the world’s only design for an operational (albeit unstable) flying saucerEmakov2



Sydney and Daren

Mattel, the famous toymaker and creator of Barbie, has been making dolls with different shades of skin color for years.  In 1967, it introduced Barbie’s cousin Francis, who looked just like Barbie, but she was painted brown. In 1969, Barbie got a black friend, named Christie. And in 1980, Mattel started manufacturing a black Barbie.  But, she looked almost exactly like the white Barbie.  FinallyIn 2009, Mattel decided that it needed to “diversify.”  It created six dolls that looked more African American for a line called So In Style.  But that was just the beginning.  This Wall Street Journal article gives a glimpse of how complicated doll-making can become.  Note, though, that the “freakishly skinny” doll body remains, well, “freakishly skinny.”

Grace and Trichelle. from Mattel