Extended metaphor of the day.

27 03 2011

I just finished Linda Gordon’s prize-winning biography of the photographer Dorothea Lange. It’s very good. I think here subtitle, “A Life Beyond Limits” is actually a reference to this metaphor from the book’s introduction:

“Neither photography nor history simply reports facts. Historians and photographers choose what to include and exclude in the pictures they shape, frame their subjects so as to reveal, emphasize, relate, or separate different elements, and use interpretive techniques to do this. Some will argue, of course, that historians and documentarists have no business promoting their opinions, but that argument rests on the false assumption that it is possible to avoid doing so. History and documentary photography necessarily proceed from a point of view shaped by social position, politics, religious conviction, and the thousands of other factors that mold every human being.

This does not mean that it is appropriate for historians or documentarists to shape their creations as they please, regardless of the evidence. They must try to limit their own biases and must never manipulate evidence or select only the evidence that supports their perspective. When using examples to make a larger point, historians and photographic documentarists must look for the representative, the paradigmatic rather than the exceptional. Yet they must highlight what is most significant and remove detail that impedes the clarity of the main point; if they did not, no one would read a history book and photographs would be incomprehensible.”

Now apply that metaphor to one of Lange’s long-suppressed images of Japanese internment during World War II depicted above. Useful, isn’t it?


There were many images of Rosie the Riveter.

30 12 2010

I don’t mean to dishonor the dead as I’m sure that Geraldine Hoff Doyle, the recently deceased model for the now-iconic poster of Rosie the Riveter was a very admirable person. Nevertheless, historian that I am, I feel compelled to point out that there were, in fact, hundreds of different images representing Rosie the Riveter circulating during World War II. My favorite is the Norman Rockwell above which was a cover for the Saturday Evening Post, and therefore was undoubtedly seen by many more people during the war than the one we remember today.

So why is the one that Doyle modeled for the best-known now? It’s not because it was widely displayed at that time. The original of that one is at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and here’s how they describe it:

Artist J. Howard Miller produced this work-incentive poster for the Westinghouse Electric & Manufacturing Company. Though displayed only briefly in Westinghouse factories, the poster has become one of the most famous icons of World War II.

Now, notice the Washington Post‘s very deliberate phrasing in their obituary of Doyle:

For millions of Americans throughout the decades since World War II, the stunning brunette in the red and white polka-dot bandanna was Rosie the Riveter.

[Emphasis added]

My theory has always been that since Doyle’s Rosie is in the Smithsonian collection, the image could be duplicated by t-shirt makers, doll manufacturers, etc. without paying royalties. Rockwell’s, on the other hand, isn’t owned by the government so it hasn’t been distributed nearly as widely.

Wendell Willkie and the Gremlin.

8 10 2010

Oddly enough, I thought of looking for this one after reading this review of a new Bugs Bunny DVD collection. Anybody remember this?:

“Food for Fighters” (1943).

4 10 2010

Just heard about this one over the weekend:

Rosie the Riveter.

5 09 2010

Via Krugman:

Private Snafu in “Fighting Tools.”

26 08 2010

Thanks to AHA Today I found this at the National Archives YouTube page (but got the embed code elsewhere):

It’s particularly funny to hear Bugs Bunny’s voice cursing.

Two killer web sites for historic images.

14 12 2009

Ever since I switched over to PowerPoint lectures for my survey class (all images with minimal text, of course) a few years ago, I’ve been constantly on the prowl for better images than the ones I find using Google Images and little else. Last week in DC, I went to presentations on two government sites designed for teachers that I’ve just started exploring.

The first is Picturing America from the National Endowment for the Humanities. It covers about 40 historic images (including more than a few which can’t possibly be in the Public Domain). I just put three slides into my presentations using the disc I got from the presenters, but the images have to be up on the web site somewhere!

That site is probably best for secondary school teachers who want to add art to their classes, but Teaching With Historic Places from the National Parks Service definitely works at all levels. Here is the link to their lesson plans dealing with historic sites around the country, organized by time periods from pre-contact to the recent past. The key to understanding this effort is that the National Parks Service has one of the largest collections of historic materials in the whole government because every site it operates has stuff that goes with it. I’ve just started mining the images there (including the shot of the Battle of Midway above) but have barely scratched the surface. I get the feeling this one may turn out to be almost as good as finding another American Memory.

The aftermath of Hiroshima.

2 12 2009

Howard Zinn on “The Good War.”

21 04 2009

Dr. Seuss Goes to War.

13 03 2009


I had heard that the famed childrens’ book writer Theodor (Dr. Seuss) Geisel had been doing newspaper cartoons during World War II, but only today did I learn that so many of them were available online.

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