This Week in History

I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke

The year is 1886, and a pharmacist in Atlanta, Georgia decided March 29th would be a good day to make history. The pharmacist’s name was John Pemberton, and he made history by brewing the first batch of that bubbly beverage: Coca-Cola.

Apparently, Pemberton (who was wounded in the Civil War) had a taste for morphine, and his addiction led him to experiment with coca. Eventually he was marketing coca-infused wine for ladies with “nervous dispositions.” Since, Pemberton wasn’t the only addict floating around the Atlanta area, the government in Fulton County decided to enact prohibition laws to nip that problem in the bud. Ever the enterprising fellow, John went about adapting his coca beverage into a non-alcoholic drink, and Coca-Cola was the result.

Photo by KB35 via Flickr.

Now, the easiest way to celebrate Coke’s birthday is to scoot on over to the vending machine and have one for yourself. But, I’m not much of a soda pop drinker, so I thought I would offer up some museum offerings for carbonated beverage enthusiasts.

  • The World of Coca-Cola is one of Atlanta’s top tourist attractions, and it’s filled to the brim with Coke memorabilia, a loveable polar bear mascot, a bar where you can sample Coca-Cola products, and an opportunity to experience the bottling process.
  • Elizabethtown, Kentucky is home to the Schmidt Museum of Coca-Cola Memorabilia. The real selling point is the on-site soda fountain.
  • Celebrate another Coke landmark in Vicksburg at the Biedenharn Coca-Cola Museum, which marks the site where Pemberton’s invention was first bottled.
  • The Soda Museum (formerly known as Butch’s Coca-Cola Museum) in Marietta, Ohio has a Coke memorabilia collection dating back to the 1920s.
  • Finally, although not specifically dedicated to Coca-Cola, the Museum of Beverage Containers and Advertising in Millersville, Tennessee is quite the destination. They boast to having the world’s largest collection of beer and soda cans.

This Week in History

This Week in History: The State of Lobsters

Photo by brentdanley via Flickr.

1820 was an eventful year. King George IV took the throne in England, the Venus de Milo was found, Susan B. Anthony and Florence Nightingale were born, Daniel Boone died, and there was a revolt in Guatemala. However, on this date in 1820, there was a momentous event that changed the course of American history: the Missouri Compromise. This compromise essentially outlined where slavery would and would not be allowed in the western territories. In order to maintain the fragile balance between slave states and free, Maine gained statehood as a member of the anti-slavery contingent.

Maine is a land known for its cold winters, delicious lobster, and, as I can personally testify, a rather bloodthirsty swarm of mosquitoes. Pay a visit to Maine and you might find yourself along rocky coastline or pine-filled forests, in populated Portland or on a remote island. There are blueberry fields and microbreweries, and more than a fair few writers have called this easternmost state home.

The Pine Tree State is more than just pretty scenery, fresh seafood, and Stephen King stories, though. It also happens to be home to some impressive – and occasionally odd – museums. So, in honor of Maine’s 191st birthday, here are some of the state’s museums that should be on your “to visit” list…

Portland Museum of Art. Photo by pov_steve via Flickr.

  • Get better acquainted with the state’s history at the Maine State Museum.
  • Despite the fact that 90% of Maine is covered in forest, the water and the seafaring way of life are an integral part of the state’s identity. Learn more about it at the Maine Maritime Museum or the Maine Lighthouse Museum.
  • Speaking of the water, a visit to the Mount Desert Oceanarium is in order. It houses the Maine Lobster Museum and a lobster hatchery.

Photo by shelley ginger via Flickr.

  • Many writers have called Maine home at some point in their careers, including Annie Proulx, Stephen King, Lois Lowry, and Edna St. Vincent Millay. Pay homage to the state’s literary past with a visit to the Wadsworth-Longfellow House.
  • When winter lasts as long as it does in Maine, you might as well make the most of it. The Ski Museum of Maine seeks to capture the snowy athletic pursuits through vintage memorabilia and artifacts.
  • Maine started out as an exclave of Massachusetts, which means there is some Revolutionary War history in these parts. Swing by the Burnham Tavern Museum for a dose of tri-cornered hat history.

Photo by dpstyles via Flickr.

  • If you are looking for something off the beaten path, pay a visit to the Umbrella Cover Museum on Peak’s Island.
  • If 600 umbrella covers isn’t obscure enough for you, perhaps a trip to the International Cryptozoology Museum is more your style. Bigfoot, mermaids, and other (mythical) beasts are on display for your enjoyment.

 

This Week in History

Happy Birthday Papa!

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No, it’s not my Dad’s birthday. That was a couple of weeks ago, and I sent him a card that cracked a joke about him being old. Rather, today is Papa’s birthday: the legendary Ernest Hemingway was born July 21, 1899. If he were alive today, he would be 101 111 and way more deserving of an “old guy” joke than my dad.

Hemingway is a fascinating man. Bullfighting aficionado, Nobel Prize winner, deep sea fisherman, war correspondent, world traveler and, of course, writer are just a sampling of the activities he undertook in his full life. Hemingway was a complicated man. Opinionated, irascible, prone to wanderlust, passionate and narcissistic are some of the characteristics that made him a man with many friends, many enemies and many wives. Reading his life story is arguably more captivating than some of his books, although they are pretty good too.

That said, here are some museum-related ways you can celebrate Papa’s birthday…

  • Hemingway was born and raised in Oak Park, Illinois. He was an energetic, active and popular student at Oak Park River Forest High School (just a few blocks from my own high school alma mater). Swing by the Hemingway Museum and Birthplace on Oak Park Avenue for an illuminating look at the childhood years of this larger than life man, then I would highly recommend grabbing an Oberweis milkshake just two blocks south of the museum.
  • Key West was home to Hemingway for over 10 years. A Farewell to Arms was written during his tenure here and his island friends make appearances in To Have and Have Not. Sloppy Joe’s bar is an essential stop on your Hemingway Key West itinerary, but even more important is Papa’s house on Whitehead Street. Take a tour of the home and marvel at the six-toed cats that roam the property.
  • Havana, Cuba was one of the many places that Hemingway called home. Check out his favorite room at the Hotel Ambos Mundos, where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and which is preserved as a museum. Just outside of town is Papa’s homestead Finca Vigia, also a museum and the writing venue for such works as The Old Man and the Sea, A Moveable Feast and Islands in the Stream.
  • Bullfighting was one thing Hemingway was particularly passionate about. He encountered the sport during his travels to Spain. Want to check it out for yourself? Head to the Bullfighting Museum of the Royal Cavalry Order of Ronda or Madrid’s Museo Taurino.
  • Want to see Hemingway’s Paris? Then take a stroll along the Left Bank of the Seine, stop in St. Germain, visit Montparnasse, drink at Harry’s New York Bar near the Opera, and consider countless other hangouts reminiscent of Paris between the wars.

And, if you find yourself unable to pay a visit to any of these Hemingway haunts, you can always just head down to your local bar. Drinking was possibly Papa’s favorite pastime. However, heed the man’s advice: “Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.” What can we say? The man had a way with words.

This Week in History

Around the World in 80 Days…Or Less

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Using the popular Jules Verne novel, Around the World in 80 Days, as inspiration, a spitfire investigative journalist by the name of Nellie Bly approached her editors at New York World with a challenge. What was this challenge? Why, she would try to complete an around-the-world trip in 80 days, or, if she could manage it, in fewer.

So began Nellie Bly’s record-breaking journey around the world. In spite of days of delays and other travel complications, she arrived back in New York City in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes. Her journey was followed with great anticipation: crowds awaited her in Topeka, Kansas, cheers erupted upon her visit to Chicago’s Board of Trade, and fellow travelers in Hong Kong were aware of her pursuit before she even touched down. Even though she was on a deadline, she managed to fit in a visit to Jules Verne at his home in France. Her modes of transportation were as varied – train, ocean liners, carriage, catamaran, and rickshaw – as her destinations – London, Calais, Amiens, Brindisi, the Suez Canal, Aden, Colombo, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canton, Yokohama, San Francisco, Topeka, Chicago, and New York. Even though George Francis Train bested her time by a few short hours just months after her journey, Nellie Bly’s trip was a truly momentous adventure.

With the recession, limited vacation time, and all that, it’s most likely not an option for you to follow in Nellie’s footsteps, however, you can catch some of her spirit in the following ways…

  • Newseum (Washington, D.C.): A 4-D film in the Annenberg Theatre allows you to go undercover with Nellie Bly as she uncovers the horrendous conditions of an insane asylum – the work that made her famous before the around-the-world trip.
  • Musee Jules Verne (Nantes, France): This museum reveals events and items that inspired the great author to write such books as Around the World in 80 Days, and subsequently Ms. Bly’s journey.
  • London Transport Museum (London, UK): London was Nellie’s second stop of her journey. Stop in at this museum for their collection on Victorian Transportation.
  • Sri Lanka National Museum (Colombo, Sri Lanka): Nellie gave enthusiastic accounts of her stay in Colombo, even comparing it to Newport, Rhode Island. Founded in 1877, this museum was around when Nellie passed through and houses art and artifacts that tell the story of the nation’s cultural history.
  • Suez Canal: The Suez Canal opened to shipping in November 1869, just 20 years before Nellie set out. Given its newness, it is no wonder she was so excited to see it when she reached Port Said and Ismailia. The opening of the Suez Canal – as well as the opening of America’s Transcontinental Railroad – revolutionized international trade and transportation. Without these events, Nellie’s journey might not have been possible.
  • Read Nellie’s Book, Around the World in Seventy-Two Days, which recounts her historic trip.

So, with that, real life adventurers and armchair travelers alike, let’s journey forth!

This Week in History

Scenes from Museums Past

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I’ve been learning a lot about the great history of Charleston, South Carolina, lately, and have been delighted by its colorful characters, extraordinary events, and generally rich culture. However, being the museum nerd that I am, I was pleasantly surprised to see the contributions Charleston has made in the development of American museums.

Most significantly, the Holy City is home to the first museum built in the United States. The Charleston Museum was founded in 1773 and still stands proud along the city’s Museum Mile. However, it is the story of Joel Roberts Poinsett and the little known National Institute for the Promotion of Science that we’ll be exploring here today.

Joel Roberts Poinsett, proud son of the South, was a man who wore many hats. Below are just a few of the accomplishments of Poinsett’s life:

  • Fluent in English, Italian, French, Spanish, and German.
  • Educated in medicine, the law, and military science.
  • Became the first ambassador to Mexico in 1825.
  • Served as Secretary of War from 1837 – 41.
  • Was both a South Carolina State Legislator and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
  • During his time in Mexico and South America, he was charged with exploring the potential of various revolutionary groups and even acted as an advocate for Greek independence.
  • On a trip to the Middle East in the early 1800s, he was shown some petroleum, which he believed could have a future as a fuel.
  • An avid botanist, Poinsett, during his time in Mexico, came across a winter plant that had been popular as far back as the Aztecs. Sending samples back to the U.S., the plant, which would become known as the poinsettia, has remained a holiday favorite ever since.

In spite of all of these noteworthy accomplishments, it is Poinsett’s role as co-founder of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science that should be of particular interest to museum lovers.

In 1838, the United States successfully secured their right to a bequest from the British chemist and naturalist, James Smithson. The money was to be given “to the United States of America, to found at Washington, an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.” With money in hand, Congress began the debate about the creation of a national museum.

Poinsett – a botanist, as we have already noted – was a strong advocate for a national museum. During his tenure as Secretary of War, he had naturalists accompany soldiers on exploratory expeditions. He believed that a museum would be the perfect venue for accumulated specimens, and an opportunity to showcase that America, though young, was fast on its way to becoming Europe’s cultural equal. Having put his ideas before Congress, Poinsett went about trying to find a way to secure the Smithson bequest to make his museum dream a reality.

In 1840, he co-founded the National Institute for the Promotion of Science. This organization was the force behind the collection of specimens and items on display at the Patent Office Building in D.C. The collection lacked appropriate funding and was perhaps a bit disorganized, but it put the idea of the “Nation’s Attic” into the minds of politicians and the public alike.

Eventually, the National Institute for the Promotion of Science failed to secure the funds of the Smithson bequest. However, by setting the precedent for a national museum, Poinsett’s group was the predecessor to the Smithsonian Institution as we know it today.

This Week in History

This Week in History: Modern Art Overachiever

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History seems to be full of those individuals that have crammed the accomplishments of several lifetimes into one. Strangely enough, I am not always a fan of the works they accomplish (Hemingway comes to mind), but am left in awe of a life lived fully.

July 13, 1946, marked the end of a life such as this. Alfred Stieglitz – photographer, modern art promoter, gallery owner, magazine editor, curator, and overall perfectionist – was an overachiever, leaving a profound mark on the art world and on American art in particular.

When I sat down to do this “This Week in History,” I had come across Stieglitz’s name several times before. I figured now was as good a time as any to find out more about the man. An hour and a half later, I found myself firmly engrossed in the man’s story and works. Here are a few facts that I learned…

  • While studying mechanical engineering in Berlin, he by chance found himself in Hermann Wilhelm Vogel’s chemistry class. Turns out Herr Vogel was much more than a chemistry professor, he was also a photography pioneer. From this point onward, Stieglitz found a passion in the newborn art of photography that would stay with him for the rest of his life.
  • In 1893, he married a woman named Emmeline Obermeyer, who was 9 years his junior. This was only the beginning of a trend in Stieglitz’s life: an enchantment with younger women.
  • In 1896, Stieglitz succeeded in uniting New York’s two photography clubs – the Society of Amateur Photographers and the New York Camera Club – into the Camera Club of New York, which is one of the oldest arts organizations in New York City. He also served as editor of the club’s publication, Camera Notes.
  • It could be argued that Stieglitz had some issues with delegating responsibility. He curated exhibitions, ran galleries, served as editor for multiple publications, discovered new artists, ran clubs, and continued work as a photographer, oftentimes simultaneously. The force with which he threw himself into his work would often result in breakdowns and retreats to his home on Lake George for much needed rest.
  • His gallery 291 (previously known as the Little Galleries) was groundbreaking in many ways. He used the space to stage exhibitions of art and photography that were meant to challenge peoples’ notions of and reactions to art as well as force people to recognize photography’s place among other artistic media.
  • Stieglitz served as honorary vice-president of the Armory Show, which in 1913 served as a watershed moment for modern art.
  • In 1916, Stieglitz was shown some work by a young artist. So enamored with the artist’s work, he went ahead and displayed the art in his 291 Gallery without asking permission or even informing the artist. The artist, upon hearing their works were on display, marched into 291 and gave Steiglitz a piece of their mind. The artist in question? Georgia O’Keeffe. The two maintained a passionate relationship for the rest of Stieglitz’s life. Upon his death, O’Keeffe personally handled the task of compiling Stieglitz’s works and correspondence.

So, where can you find Stieglitz’s work? Try these places…

The National Gallery of Art (Washington, D.C.) One of the most extensive Stieglitz collections, including Georgia O’Keeffe – Hands (1919) seen below.

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Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York City)

Museum of Modern Art (New York City)

Philadelphia Museum of Art (Philadelphia, PA)

Art Institute of Chicago (Chicago, IL) Including A Venetian Canal, 1897 (Seen below). Make sure you also see the extensive Georgia O’Keefe collection.

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Boston Museum of Fine Arts (Boston, MA) including several portraits of Georgia O’Keeffe.

Library of Congress (Washington, DC)

Fisk University (Nashville, TN)

Yale University (New Haven, CT) is home to many of Stieglitz’s manuscripts and correspondence.

George Eastman House (Rochester, NY)

This Week in History

This Week in History: North Star State from 1858

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May 11th marks the 151st birthday of the great state of Minnesota. The second northernmost state in the Union (with Alaska rather obviously taking the title on that one), the land of “somewhat clouded water” has quite a bit to offer residents and visitors alike.

Let’s start with some quick facts about Minnesota.

  • Hibbing, Minnesota is home to the bus industry in America, specifically the line that would become Greyhound Bus.
  • Both the Milky Way and 3 Musketeers candy bars were introduced in Minnesota.
  • Other things in Minnesota: the world’s largest ball of twine (in Darwin), the stapler, Rollerblades, the first children’s department in a library (Minneapolis Public Library), the Mayo Clinic, the world’s largest pelican, and the world’s largest urban sculpture garden.
  • Minnesota has the most recreational boats per person of any state in the nation and the most golf courses per capita.
  • Minnesota, with 90,000 miles of it, has more shoreline than California, Florida, and Hawaii combined.

Speaking of shoreline, you might have heard that Minnesota is the “Land of 10,000 Lakes.” Well, there are quite a bit more than 10,000 – the exact number I will leave for other people to debate – and a fair number of museums that touch on the state’s watery abundance. The Official Minnesota Fishing Museum and Education Center in Little Falls, the North Shore Commercial Fishing Museum in Tofte, the Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona, the Lake Superior Marine Museum Association and the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth are just a few. Lakes are not the only liquid attraction in the North Star State. The headwaters of the Mississippi River can be found in Lake Itasca, a noteworthy monument that you should probably visit in the summertime.

How about famous people? Minnesota is the birthplace of an impressive list of celebrities, industrialists, authors, musicians, and politicians.  Bob Dylan, Prince, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Judy Garland, Hubert H. Humphrey, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Garrison Keiller, Craig Kilborn, Jessica Lange, Winona Ryder, Josh Hartnett, the Coen Brothers, J. Paul Getty, Sinclair Lewis, Roger Maris, Walter Mondall, Jane Russell, John J. Hill, and Charles Schulz all hail from the Gopher State. Throughout the state you may stumble upon small museums erected in their birthplace or dedicated to their accomplishments (see the Judy Garland house in Grand Rapids or the Laura Ingalls Wilder Museum in Walnut Grove.)

Looking for a little history about the state as a whole?  Start with the Minnesota Historical Society, which is currently hosting a cartography exhibit entitled Minnesota on the Map as well as the MN150 exhibit exploring 150 things that make Minnesota the way it is. Most counties in Minnesota have historical societies of their own. Visit the Minnesota Association of Museums’ website for a complete listing of these institutions.

Here are a few other museums of note to check out if you find yourself Minnesota-bound:

This Week in History

This Week in History: All Roads Lead to Rome

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Photo taken by Spammo91.

It is believed that on this day (the 21st) in 753 B.C. Romulus and Remus founded Rome. Now, I am no mythology expert – even though I did win the Greek God Bee back in 9th grade – but here is the basic tale of these Roman rulers. Rhea Silvia was the only daughter of Numitor, king of Alba Longa. Numitor’s brother, Amulius, seized the throne and made Rhea a Vestal Virgin. Since this is a myth, we all know what happens next: Rhea goes wandering in the woods; gets raped by Mars; Rhea has twin boys; Amulius orders that Rhea, Romulus, and Remus be killed; but, Romulus and Remus survive and wind up downriver being nursed by Lupa (who may or may not have been a she-wolf). After their harrowing childhood, they grow up and defeat Amulius. Eager to start a city of their own, they return to the site of their childhood rescue. Standing on opposite hills of Rome, a flock of birds circles over Romulus’ head, and it is decided that he will be king. Rome begins. I’m clearly leaving out some details, so if you would like to know more, please consult Plutarch or Livy or here or here.

Now seeing as though Rome is a big place with much to see and the fact Romulus and Remus appear quite often in sculptures and art around the world, here are just a few places to find the men and the myth behind the founding of this great city.

  • Any Romulus and Remus exploration should begin with the basic iconography used when depicting the brothers. Often there is a she-wolf standing protectively over the two infants, who are often nursing from her. Fig trees, a woodpecker (named Picus), a cave, and one or two shepherds may also be featured in artworks featuring the siblings.

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  • The Forum. Romulus is credited with creating the Roman Senate, so visiting the Roman Forum is a must-see. Wander among the ruins – which include the temple of the Vestal Virgins (of which Rhea Silvia was one) and the remains of the Senate.
  • Palatine Hill and the Lupercal. In 2007, archeaologists discovered a cave on this hill overlooking the Forum. It is widely speculated that this is the site where Romulus and Remus were nursed by the she-wolf, and its discovery implies that this “myth” might be more than just a great story. The Lupercal is extremely fragile and not open to the public, but you can get close enough (and if you buy a ticket to the Colliseum down below, admission to the Palatine Hill is included.)
  • Capitoline Museums. The foundation of this collection of museums around the Piazza del Campidoglio dates back to 1471, which makes it the oldest existing public collection in the world. Explore, you are bound to find a few references to Romulus and Remus – including an altarpiece from Ostia.
  • Musee du Louvre. Find the painting entitled “Romulus and Remus Given Shelter by Faustulus” by Pietro da Cortona.
  • Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Look for Romulus and Remus themed paintings and drawings by artists like Giambattista Fontana, David Gilhooly, Bartolomeo Pinelli, and Francesco Primaticcio.
  • Rijksmuseum. “Tiber with Romulus and Remus” by Tiziano Minio and “Rhea Silvia” by Heinrich Aldegrever.
  • Last but not least, there is a Romulus and Remus statue in Rome, Georgia, that was apparently a gift from Il Duce himself. That’s right, Mussolini donated the statue that stands at the entrance to the Municipal Building in 1929.

This Week in History

This Week In History: The Only Thing to Appreciate is Art Itself

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Happy Birthday NGA! On March 17, 1941, FDR took some time off from his Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations to officially open the National Gallery of Art. Officially established – in response to a gift by Andrew Mellon – back in 1937 by Congress for the people of the United States, the National Gallery is home to countless works of art and plenty of history.  While it would be easy to spend hours drinking in the art in the galleries, the presence of fountains, greenery, comfortable seating, a spacious bookstore and food court make the museum quite a relaxing place to spend an afternoon.

Here are some interesting factoids about this still young septuagenarian:

  • The NGA’s original structure (now known as the West Building) was designed by John Russell Pope. The same John Russell Pope that would later go on to design the Jefferson Memorial.
  • When the museum opened in 1941, it was the largest marble structure in the world. (Pat on the back to whoever can name the current one.)
  • The NGA’s West Building is built atop the former site of the 6th Street railway station, which counts the assassination of President Garfield in 1881 among its claims to fame.
  • The East Building, which is home to the museum’s modern collection, was designed by I.M. Pei and was opened by President Carter in 1978.
  • The NGA is not an official member of the Smithsonian Institution. Rather, it is one of at least 90 other Smithsonian “affiliate museums.” However, like other Smithsonian Institutions, admission is free.
  • The 1st major exhibition was “Two Hundred American Watercolors.”
  • In 1942, the most valuable items in the museum’s collection were evacuated to the Biltmore House in North Carolina for safekeeping. They were not returned to the NGA until 1944.
  • The Mona Lisa was exhibited at the NGA in 1963, playing host to heads of state and ordinary visitors alike.

In spite of its illustrious past – or perhaps in keeping with it – the NGA has taken great steps to make itself relevant in the present. By really embracing the Internet, visitors can find plenty of information online to help them either plan out their visit in advance or enhance their experience after they have left the galleries. Online resources include scavenger hunts that you can download and bring with you (one for every age group); visitor guides to help you tailor your visit; audio, video, and musical podcasts; educational resources for educators, parents, and kids; audio tours; online tours that you can explore by collection, artist, art work, or theme; and a section entitled NGAKids.

The National Gallery has opened its doors in more than a virtual sense. Its on-site programming includes: Food for Thought, which is described as “a seminar-style luncheon discussion of art history readings;” to gallery talks; an ice skating rink (winter) and Friday jazz concerts (summer) in the outdoor sculpture garden; films; Saturday teen art studios; and the Sunday concert series, which is now in its 67th season. There is always something going on at the NGA, so if you’re not really an art buff, there still might be an event that interests you. Check the museum website, collection, and  calendar for more details.

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This Week in History

This Week in History: Wild Wild West

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Happy Birthday Buffalo Bill! Born William Frederick Cody on February 26, 1846 near what is now Leclaire, Iowa, this little cowboy would grow up to capture the world’s imagination. Through his traveling “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” extravaganza, Cody brought both the mythologized and the actual Wild West to life. But Bill was more than just a showman, he was a hunter, conservationist, war hero, storyteller, a town builder and a businessman. He is quoted as saying about himself: “Wild Bill was a strange character…He was a Plains-man in every sense of the word.” Since that is sufficiently vague, let’s find out some more about him.

  • Buffalo Bill received the Medal of Honor in 1872. It was revoked in 1917 due to new rules governing the award, but restored to him in 1989.
  • He secured a contract with the Kansas Pacific Railroad to provide buffalo meat. Young Bill killed 4,280 buffalo in 18 months. That was enough to earn him the nickname, “Buffalo Bill”, which had belonged to another Bill before him.
  • He made his stage debut in Chicago in 1872, but he didn’t found his famous “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” until 1883 in North Platte, Nebraska. Famous names from his show include Wild Bill Hickock, Annie Oakley, and even Sitting Bull was in the cast. While Bill did showcase the more militant side of the Plains Indians during the show, he asked that the Native American families of the performers set up their villages on the fairgrounds to show the peaceful side of their culture as well.
  • Buffalo Bill was one of the founders of Cody, Wyoming, which is why it bears his name.
  • He was a conservationist. His concerns about irrigation and water conservation surrounding the Shoshone River led to a partnership with the federal government. The Shoshone Project was one of the first federal water development projects undertaken. The Shoshone Dam was later named the Buffalo Bill Dam. Also, in spite of his nickname, Cody was an advocate of a hunting season and placing controls on bison killing.
  • The K.A.A. Gent football team in Ghent, Belgium is nicknamed “De Buffalo’s.” This name started after Wild Bill’s show traveled through Europe in the early 1900s. The Buffalo Bills NFL team is also named after Cody.

So, where can you hunt down Buffalo Bill history in the present? Try these places:

  • Golden, Colorado: Here is where Buffalo Bill is buried (there is some controversy surrounding the events that led to his burial here, but I feel like there is controversy surrounding most famous people’s graves). Lookout Mountain is not only a gravesite, but a museum as well. And, if you are in the area on March 1st, you can join in on the Buffalo Bill Birthday Celebration. You’d better believe there is going to be cake.
  • North Platte, Nebraska: Cody Park Wild West Memorial features a statue given to the people of North Platte from the people of Great Britain in appreciation for the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West tour. However, the real draw here is Bill’s ranch, which he named Scout’s Rest Ranch, but is now known as Buffalo Bill Ranch State Historical Park.
  • Cody, Wyoming: The Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody houses 5 different museums. The Buffalo Bill Museum shares this space with the Plains Indian Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Draper Museum of Natural History, and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art. So, no matter your interests there is something there you’ll find interesting. Other top attractions include Old Trail Town, the Buffalo Bill Dam and Visitor Center, Tecumseh’s Miniature Village and Museum, and the Cody Murals. Here for details.  But if you’re looking for a little extra excitement, head to the Irma Hotel (which Buffalo Bill built) for nightly gun shootout re-enactments. Also, Yellowstone National Park is nearby so you may as well go pay Old Faithful a visit while you are in the area.
  • Chicago, Illinois: Buffalo Bill had asked to be included in the 1893 Columbian Exposition, but the fair committee turned him down. So, he did what any good businessman would do: he set up shop right next store. His Wild West show was a ranging success, sometimes enraging the fair organizers when visitors to the fair were drawn away. If you are in Chicago, you can still see some remnants of the fair. The Field Museum (which was originally named the Columbian Museum of Chicago when it was located on the fairgrounds, but later moved to the Museum Campus where it currently resides) and the Museum of Science and Industry are both identical to the same Fair building: the Palace of Fine Arts (the Field is a replica, while MSI is the renovated original).  The Chicago History Museum has plenty of artifacts from the Fair as well.

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