June 11, 2013
To commemorate the unification of the Hawaiian islands under a single ruler, floats, trolleys, marching bands and dancers parade through the streets of Hawaiian towns every year for King Kamehameha Day, June 11. In downtown Honolulu, thousands of residents celebrated the day a little early Saturday, June 8, with the annual King Kamehameha Floral Parade. The event included a float with a giant red aloha shirt, princesses on horseback representing each island and riders from the Sons of Hawaii motorcycle club.
The first European to set foot on the islands, Captain James Cook, was killed in 1779 as he tried to take a local leader hostage. The islands would remain free awhile longer, though not united. King Kamehameha fought for nearly 20 years to bring the islands under his rule, succeeding in 1810. He created a single legal system and protected the territory’s newfound status by prohibiting land ownership from non-Hawaiians while still opening trade to Europeans and Americans. But just one year after his death in 1819 Christian missionaries and European traders arrived in force, bringing with them disease that devastated the native population, as well as a new economic order.
American colonists quickly took control of the sugar-based economy and in 1898 the country annexed Hawaii. The territory’s final ruler, Queen Lili’uokalani, relinquished the throne and Hawaii’s sovereignty only after an American invasion. She believed eventually the injustice would be corrected. Writing in 1893 she said, “I do, under this protest, and impelled by said forces, yield my authority until such time as the Government of the United States shall, upon the facts being presented to it, undo the action of its representative and reinstate me in the authority which I claim as the constitutional sovereign of the Hawaiian Islands.”
Set against this history, King Kamehameha remains a figure of pride for the islands, a reminder of a unique past. In a ceremony in D.C. celebrating the sovereign Sunday, June 9, Senator Mazie Hirono told the gathered crowd, “He laid the foundations for modern Hawaii by protecting the traditions and culture of his ancestors even as the kingdom grew and interacted with Western nations. His strong leadership during this period of great change inspires us all to work together to ensure our shared traditions and history can be celebrated for generations to come.”
August 28, 2012
As the 2012 presidential campaign gains steam with party conventions, round-the-clock television ads and the usual up-tick in party-affiliated rhetoric, it becomes necessary to remind ourselves of the timelessness of such divides. In his 1796 farewell address, George Washington warned against the dangers of political factions: “The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”
We have yet to heed his advice.
Political history curators Larry Bird and Harry Rubenstein of the National Museum of American History have spent decades collecting the ephemera of our two party system, putting ideologies aside in the spirit of assembling the most valuable mementos for American history students of the future. Attending both conventions every four years, Bird and Rubenstein (known as “Harry and Larry”) preserve materials that best represent the atmosphere of the presidential campaigns, from the red, white and blue confetti that rains down at the end of speeches, to the dapper buttons of the candidates’ devotees.
In celebration of the work that Harry and Larry embark on every year, we’ve assembled a few tokens of presidential campaign memorabilia from the Smithsonian collections.
August 24, 2012
It’s long been advised to learn from the past, and this weekend, we bring to you a selection of recently digitized finds from the collections at the Smithsonian Libraries. We figure you might learn a tip or two on party going. This pamphlet, entitled The 1917 Party Book, has everything you need to know to make sure your night out is a memorable one.
Parties are great, but costume parties are even better. Don’t show up to your social engagement unprepared! Let these costumes and party ideas guide you through this Friday’s soiree, from birdcages to matching “Pats.”
August 14, 2012
Are video games making us violent? Is all that screen time playing Angry Birds bad for us? Are we becoming lazy and inferior beings? Concerns about how we spend our leisure time are so 21st century, but an 1889 catalogue of Milton Bradley’s finest toys and games reveals the anxiety is rooted in history. Playing games has had a bum rap for generations and game makers had to fight “a deep-rooted prejudice against all such pastimes.”
Great minds like Thomas Jefferson worried about the harmful effects of such activities. The third president once mused:“Almost all these pursuits of chance [i.e., of human industry] produce something useful to society. But there are some which produce nothing, and endanger the well-being of the individuals engaged in them or of others depending on them. Such are games with cards, dice, billiards, etc. And although the pursuit of them is a matter of natural right, yet society, perceiving the irresistible bent of some of its members to pursue them, and the ruin produced by them to the families depending on these individuals, consider it as a case of insanity, quoad hoc, step in to protect the family and the party himself, as in other cases of insanity, infancy, imbecility, etc., and suppress the pursuit altogether, and the natural right of following it.”
Gateway temptations have long been plentiful.
From the Smithsonian Libraries, a recently digitized collection of catalog materials (which also include medical journals waxing poetic on the location of the human soul), we present an amusing sampling:
But enough with children’s games, how is a lady to entertain? A further search in the collections reveals helpful game playing tips from the Chicago Corset Company, which in 1887 offered women a how-to for throwing the liveliest, most rocking affair of parlor and lawn games, wearing, of course, the company’s latest hot-seller the, “Health Preserving Corset.”
In its Handbook of Games and Pastimes, women were admonished for wearing the competitor’s corset. By doing so, “she is preparing herself to be a dumpy woman.” The new corset with elastic material promises to maintain “the dainty waist of the poets” without contributing to the “perishing of the muscles that support the frame.” Unlike men, who simply suffer from slovenly stooping, the text tells us, women lose height “by actual collapse.” Yikes!
Once instructed on the virtues of new corset models, the properly swaddled lady of leisure is free to play lawn tennis, learn to read palms and stage elaborate themed productions, such as: two young lovers trying to become intimate while a sleeping old woman waits nearby; Pocahontas and John Smith courting each other; or a soldier preparing for war. The guide offers step-by-step instructions for each role-playing game and, as a thoughtful reminder, the company advertises its Misses’ Corsets, to help “train your daughters to a healthy and symmetrical body.”
A game and corset for every age!
July 17, 2012
Right when D.C. needs her most, NBC’s “Parks and Recreation” heroine Leslie Knope appears. At least, that’s the hope. DCist, among other outlets, reported last week that the critically-acclaimed show about small town government in Knope’s beloved Pawnee, Indiana, will be heading to D.C. this week to film part of its season five opener.
Viewers will remember that the on-and-off-again relationship between Knope (Amy Poehler) and Ben Wyatt (Adam Scott) took another hit when Wyatt decided to take a position in D.C. as a campaign adviser. NBC has only confirmed that scenes could be filmed Thursday and Friday but not whom those scenes would include or where those scenes would be shot. Poehler and Scott seem the obvious choices, but local fans are hopeful lovable curmudgeon and manliest of all the men, Ron Swanson (Nick Offerman) will also make an appearance.
If Knope does make it to D.C., it would be a dream come true for a woman whose office includes framed photos of Madeleine Albright, Nancy Pelosi and Hillary Clinton. With so much to see here in just two days, we narrowed our list down to five Knope must-sees.
1. Li’l Przewalski: Though no horse could ever replace the dearly departed Li’l Sebastian, Pawnee’s favorite mini-horse, the National Zoo’s diminutive band will help Knope feel right at home. The Przewalski’s horses, named after the Polish scientist who first described the species (and pronounced sheh-val-skee), grow to be just four feet tall.
2. Votes for Women pennant: The collection of First Lady artifacts, including Michelle Obama’s inaugural ball gown, is worth a visit for anyone, but we know Knope is more interested in being the first lady president, not the president’s First Lady. A big fan of voting in general, Knope should visit the American History Museum to see pennants, buttons and signs from the suffrage movement and maybe take some notes for her own presidential campaign gear.
3. Waffle literature: That’s right, in the great treasure trove that is the Smithsonian Libraries, there are scores of documents about the creation of the waffle iron. Because Knope is such an avid and serious waffle-fan (Her position statement includes the line, “A Knope presidency will be a waffle-based presidency, and everyone has to deal with that.”), she’ll want to sift through papers about Cornelius Swarthout’s 1869 patent that made Troy, New York the waffle capital of the world.
4. Clearing the Right of Way, Indiana mural: While this mural on view at the American Art Museum doesn’t have the bloodshed or aggressively offensive material Knope may be used to in Pawnee’s city hall, it does depict another sort of patriotic moment in Indiana’s history. Commissioned by the Works Progress Administration, Joe Cox completed this mural study for the post office in Garrett, Ind. of muscular loggers clearing land for the railroad. Though it hasn’t been confirmed, the mustached man far left could very well be Ron Swanson’s relative.
5. Madeleine Albright swag: Some look to Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis as a style icon, but the true trendsetter of Leslie Knope’s Washington will always be Madeleine Albright, whose pins alone warranted their own exhibit at the Smithsonian. After a generous donation to the American History Museum, Knope and other Albrighters can view the former Secretary of State’s red wool dress and Ferragamo pumps worn the day she was appointed to office, as well as several pins including her Liberty Eagle pin–patriotic and one-of-a-kind, just like Knope. She can even pick up her own replica while in town.