tv American Artifacts CSPAN May 21, 2016 8:00am-8:31am EDT
[applause] >> each week, "american artifacts" takes you to museums and historic places to learn what artifacts reveal about american history. next we tour the innovation wing , of the national museum of american history in washington d.c. museum director john gray shows us some of his favorite objects, including an 1896 bicycle and elegant gold, silver, and jewels by the tiffany company. we also hear historical background from curator kathleen franz. john: welcome to the smithsonian
national museum of american history. it is wonderful to welcome you to our new floor that is looking at innovation and invention in america. to start with that, we have some -- modelsary pac-10 and examples of early invention and technical invention. even have apple one up here, which is quite extraordinary. he you will see as we walk you start to see all , these exhibitions that are focused on ways in which we have developed a new way of thinking. a new way -- here we have the value of money, which has the most extraordinary collection of gold and silver coins, paper. all of them are oriented in a
way to help understand the role of money. we end up with the bitcoin. you can see over time, how we understand value, trade, exchange, as we go forward. walk into part of the show where we have american enterprise talking about the social and cultural history which is really your history, of , capitalism, business, the common good. before we get to that, here is one of my most favorite objects, the tucker car, in mint condition. when it came out in 1948 and 1949, it was a total innovation. everything which i love, the front light, the centered front light that goes out, to the way in which it was styled and the ways in which it was operated. you can see within this the role of invention. you can also see within this the stories where some people were
very successful and created a market and some people weren't. and what important item to understand in america, the ways in which we, as people, have dominated how we understand one another. -- and in thisd, cart what is called the red , river cart, it is an extraordinary story of women out of canada bringing in pelts to the area around st. paul to trade. what they were doing was circumventing the hudson bay monopoly. the hudson bay monopoly didn't like that, so there was a lawsuit and ultimately the women prevailed. here we start out the show about american enterprise, talking about women who came across the border, which was undefined back then, in order to create their own livelihood. and so, you can start to see the ways in which we can tell the
stories of american business. and as we continue to walk through here, we start with the section that is called the merchant era. you start to realize how global trade existed from a time immemorial, and in america, the start of the country had an enormous amount of trade going on. it started with native people, into our colonial era, and past that. on the side over here, we have our appetizing wall, -- advertising wall, which shows from a period of time to today, when we developed the idea of how to promote product, and how to promote consumerism. and it start with some things that are stereotypical, then you go to the way identities developed. you then come into the corporate era, which is quite extraordinary, because you see the development of unbelievable businesses, some of them based
on consumerism. mr. wonderful peanut was on a fence post in iowa. you started to see how we promoted our own products. coming through here, we walk into the consumer era, and here is where we start to identify our current lives, whether it is the way cars are developed, or the ways in which energy got exploited, and actually had a greater impact. after that, we go into the global era. show,t of this overall there are numerous areas in which you can learn more about the country and things that have really affected us. and one of the most popular objects is right here -- the laffer curve. we see the concept that lower taxation can increase everyone's income. what is fascinating about this, when he drew this out, he was with dick cheney and rumsfeld.
again, a vibrant part of our history that clearly influenced all of our politics, economic decisions today, represented right there. and behind that is milton friedman's briefcase. as you come through this extraordinary exhibition, you can learn more about not only the country, but you can let about what affects you every day. so, we leave american enterprise and we go into an educational area, and we call it "object project." these objects literally changed the way people live and behave. and there are numerous ones, from a refrigeration unit, that changed the way we eat and how women could behave, because they could prepare food and put it in their. to bicycles -- a real
constructive way is to think of the innovation of bicycles, because it changed mobility for everybody, particularly for women, and it changed the way that they dressed and were able to navigate a different kind of world. and one of the most beautiful objects, and certainly something everyone will come see is the , way tiffany, with silver and jewels, decorated this bicycle, that then became symbolic for women, particularly this in one, their quest for mobility and how they could identify their own independence that developed over a periods of time. period of time. here we have spark lab. the reality of invention is people doing the actual work. our spark lab takes children of all ages and actually can teach them and have them experiment where they developed the understanding of how to invent. whether it is around sound, music, lighting, electricity, it
that is an enormous place of creativity for us. you have to think about what it means for you to be an inventor and who are these inventors? so here we actually have a studio, a workshop of ralph baird, who actually invented pong, which was the first interactive tv program. and look at today how many interactive programs there are. through this, you can learn about how you preserve your intellectual rights through patent models and you can learn , about how technology started in one place, and then grew and grew in america. what i love is his sweater. he was a real human being who escaped from germany, came and found himself as one of the great inventors of all kinds of things in his america. and so, what we are trying to do here is explain how america, and actually the world, has seen innovation and invention, and
how it has been captured from the start of this country into today and continues to be such a major component of how we live, how we think, and how we act. now, you really get the excited privilege of listening to curators about individual objects. it is the kind of experience you will have when you visit this wonderful wing of innovation. kathleen: i'm kathleen franz. i am the business history curator at the national museum of american history at the smithsonian institution. we are here in the object project today, looking at some of the amazing objects that have come out of storage and that you can interact with. i am here with the tiffany bicycle. it is a super-blingy example of a safety bicycle that was introduced in 1895 by tiffany and company for christmas, for the holiday market and for the
, very distinguished and wealthy buyers. this was not a common bicycle used by everyone. but the form that it is, two two wheels of about the same size, is something that was new on the market, but aimed at a more middle-class consumer. -- a more middle-class audience. objects can tell us different stories. and this bike is packed full of stories. i will share a couple of them with you. one is that the viking was a craze in the 1880's and 1890's. so, bikes come first, then automobiles. and they overlap a little bit, but bicycles really paved the way, literally, to better roads in the u.s. so, bikers formed clubs and groups and they go out in their spare time, and the bike across the countryside, and they realized that the roads in the 1880's leave something to be desired. so they form good road clubs. that eventually developed into highway systems and paved roads,
so that comes out of bicycling. -- that comes out of biking. it is also these bikes that are innovation from the earlier version, which was the high wheel bicycle, where the rider basically sits on top of one big wheel with a small supporting wheel. those were ridden by men, mostly for sport and mostly to test themselves. and to test bicycles. when these come along, it really opens up biking to both men and women. that is a another one of the important stories we tell here is this was a moment in the 1880's, 1890's, where middle-class women are starting to embrace this idea of suffrage and moving outside the , boundaries of the home and taking on new roles in public. and the bike really allows for that and it becomes a symbol of women's independence. just to get on this bike, you had to wear shorter skirts,
sensible shoes. it was an instrument in helping to change women's fashion. it made them more mobile as well. it also becomes a symbol for women's suffrage. and people leading that movement point to the bike as one of the things that gives women a new kind of mobility and independence. lastly, if we look closely at the object itself, why is it so fancy? well, tiffany was trying to cater to its market of every wealthy people. the 1890's is a moment in american history when a lot of wealth becomes concentrated into the hands of a few americans. and they have a lot to spend. the vanderbilts, the carnegies, those folks. and they are buying lavish things to show off that wealth. this definitely shows off your wealth. this was bought for a wealthy woman in montgomery, alabama. it also has a lot of decoration.
you can tell when you walk up, this is not your average bike. we are in the corporate era of american enterprise, and thinking about inventors, and innovation and i am here with , thomas edison and what the creepy babyl "the doll." [laughter] these are two of edison's inventions. one is the lightbulb, which really made his career. it is the thing we know most about edison. the incandescent bulb was invented in 1879 and really changed the landscape of american cities and life. this doll was a real failure. and one of the interesting things about edison, a man known as the wizard of menlo park for his more than 1000 patents and his many successes, he also had a tremendous failure along the way.
and it was this doll, which was remarkable for its time because it was a talking doll. when it's invented in the 1890's, it is one of the first applications of recorded sound in children's toys. can see here, this is basically a very small phonograph with a wax cylinder. which is also edison and several other people's inventions. it is a shrunk down to fit inside the doll. a child would crank this from the back and it would same one nursery rhyme. and you can hear it through the perforated chest of the doll. these dolls would have had hair. they would have had clothing on. ours is a little bit stripped down. the problem with this -- actually, there were several problems. one of them was it was incredibly expensive.
it was $10 to $20 in the which 1890's, was more than the average family or average consumer could spend. it was a very high-priced item. but the worst thing was it just did not work. so when it was lost on the market, the crank fell off, best sound did not work, and if the sounded were, it was really -- it was a shrill, screaming nursery rhyme. not a very pleasant -- something that would put you to sleep at night. the sound was recorded by a woman worked in the edison factory in new jersey. the recording technology is not at all like we would have today. so, they would have to sing ministry run at a very high volume for the lack cylinder to pick it up and record it. it was like the screaming baby doll. [laughter] ♪
unfortunately -- the lin kathleen: firstly, edison only sold a very small number of these and ended up with almost 2000 in a warehouse in new jersey. he called them his little monsters, because they were one of his greatest failures and sort of plagued his dreams. but he bounces back. so that is why we have this story in american enterprise, to show you success and failure so , most entrepreneurs or inventors experience failure, it is just how they overcome it. this is also a nice parallel tupperrl popper -- earl 's story the inventor of , tupperware that you will hear about later in the collection. he had a lot of failures and one big success, which was tupperware. we are standing in front of the 1960 refrigerator, a beautiful aqua blue. it contains some brightly
colored tupperware. i am here to tell you a little bit about the back story on its namesake. earl tupper is a classic, independent american inventor. , he grew up thinking that he would become famous through inventions and that they would make him a millionaire. he was born in new hampshire and then he moved to western massachusetts, which was really a hub for inventors. his parents were small farmers and they lived a sort of hard life. this is his diary from the 1930's. he graduates from high school in 1925. he has a very active imagination and mind. he could not afford to go to college, but he thinks about becoming an inventor and he keeps a notebook, actually several notebooks, and we have
them at the museum. so this is an invention diary , and sketchbook where he is recording ideas. earl tupper, massachusetts. and i think this is fascinating. the first page starts with, "my purpose in life." he really outlines his goals for his career as an inventor, and then goes on and on. this diary is from the 1930's, as i said. and it really is -- he is inventing and trying to start a business inventing and probably the worst moment in american history, 1933, when 25% of americans are out of work. there are dozens of inventions in here. he tries all sorts of things, from personal care products like pocket combs to corsets, to a rumble seat protector.
so he is doing add-ons to cars, something that would keep you dry when you are sitting in your car. and that is one thing that he tries to patent, he protects the idea, and he tries to market it. and he runs into the same problems that most independent inventors phased, which were their capital to produce the invention to manufacture it. it tohe money to market , bring it to the markets so that people would buy it. and you see him struggle with those things throughout the diary. ok, so let me put this underneath my cart. i am going to bring out some of the other objects we have in a very large earl tupper collection. laters is his patent much for tupperware for the sealable bowls.
this is so now we have moved 1957, forward in time. shot thatproduct would have been done by the company of their early products. this is one tupperware was all white and not in colors yet. and then this is a pretty unusual and rare photograph of earl tupper, talking to probably an engineer about the production of tupperware and the many different forms it would come in. because they did not just make these, what they were called bowls.lere but he really expands into a line of specialized containers. some of which are actually behind me. a salad dressing container. and, my favorite, the
millionaire drink shaker, so you can make your cocktails and put them in the refrigerator without spilling. plastics are really a 20th century material, they are new. so, he has an early encounter with dupont the big plastics -- , and dupont makes a lot of things including gunpowder a -- in thisble period. and they have a subsidiary in massachusetts, and he works there for about a year. after world war ii, he gets a piece of polyethylene, which is a much more flexible plastic, and he actually invents, from that, an even more flexible and translucent plastic. this is all sort of post-world war ii just as the consumer , market is really taking off. and he sort of enters that market with this new product and with a new material. american consumers, housewives
and the women who did most of , the buying for the home, they were really skeptical about plastic containers. even after world war ii, they were much more inclined to use glass. it was easier to clean and they thought about plastics is fragile or brittle, or stinky, because the plastic itself had in odor. or that it was not easy to clean. and glass is all of those things. so tupper faced not just an , invention challenge, but a marketing challenge. how to get women to buy the plastic containers over the glass containers? earl tupper had a great product, but he did not have a great way to sell it. and a lot of it -- and a lot of independent inventors and company struggled with how to market goods, especially if they are new on the market. if the consumers have not seen them before. so what he does is he tries a number of selling venues.
one is department stores. he places his product there and it falls flat. people are not buying it, because there is no one to tell you what the benefits of the product are. eventually, he figures out that stanley home products, director consumer sales, so somebody who knocks on your door and says, do you want to buy these products? and demonstrate them for you. these are salespeople that were really moving tupperware. one of them was brownie weiss, a woman who was a gifted salesperson, and a big personality. she came out of world war ii where she worked in an airplane factory, and then took up home sales as a way to support herself. earl tupper hears about her and eventually makes her vice president of the company, in charge of sales. and she moves the sales wing to florida.
and she really does several she things that are innovative. to is, she sells with women other women and she incorporates this kind of stay at home, domestic woman, who is a mother and a wife, or just a wife. as a way to make a little extra money on the side for things they might want to buy. and that gives women a tremendous incentive to sell. and she taps into that. she also creates other incentives. an annual conference where the top sellers get really fabulous coats and newur clothes. it really gets the sales force into the culture of tupperware. a lot of fun. these things were themed. they were like landing on the moon, space themed party. or caveman a party. so she makes it really, really fun. we have a couple of other sales literature things that were given out to the saleswomen.
so, here is a demonstration. this really hinged on the demonstration. again, women, who were the main shoppers for the home, were not necessarily sold on plastic containers, but if they got why they would keep food fresher longer in a sealed container, and why plastic has some benefits, then they would buy. here is a another piece of sales literature in our collection. it has a great color palette. and here are those fabulous products. and here is our millionaire drink shaker here in the refrigerator. you can own them in different colors, which was also a sales technique. so, that is why this story is in the consumer era section of "american enterprise." era that is 1945 to
the 1970's, and it is a moment when americans really have more money. there is a middle-class again. from the late 1920's through the 1930's, the depression, and through world war ii, americans did not have a lot of money to spend on consumer purchases. in the depression, people are out of work. during the war, there is rationing. people have more money but there are fewer things to buy. and now, finally, after world war ii, americans have a little bit more money in their pockets, and they are spending it on , and onon appliances things to fill the appliances and live the good life in america, which they associated with consumption. so you have seen only a small , part of our innovation wing today. but it is a permanent exhibition. there are more stories, more objects in american history to come down to visit us. thank you very much.
>> you can watch this and other "american artifacts" programs by visiting our website, www.c-span.org/history. history tv on c-span3, the september marks the opening of the smithsonian national museum of african american culture. beginning at 8:30, we are live for an all-day conference with scholars from across the country discussing topics including african-american religion, politics, and culture, preservation, and interpretation. eastern, the 1975 church committee hearings convened to investigate the intelligence activity of the cia, fbi, irs, and the msa. the commission hearings has two informants, mary jo cook, and how she penetrated and antiwar organization.
the burning him -- the birmingham policeman set of the beating up of the freedom writers? >> that is correct. >> that the birmingham police give you the time that they promised to give you to perform it? they promised 50 minutes with absolutely no intervention. >> on lectures in history, >> what that opportunity gave them. it was an opportunity to go to college. they saved some of that money and send themselves through college and sent siblings through college. lawyers.me doctors and one became the first female airlines. north they became principles. surgeons. politicians.
pilots. able to do that because they had access to professional baseball. >> marshall university professor cap williams on how women ate at the war effort in factories and military of delivery units. and the rise of women's baseball league, including the all-american girls baseball leak that was featured in the movie "a league of their own." sunday night at 10:00 on "road to the roadhouse -- white house: rewind." >> ladies and my name is jeremy ferraro. you toand before proclaim tonight america is a land where dreams can come true for all of us. [applause] the 1984 vice president acceptance speech of new york congresswoman geraldine aurora
at the democratic national convention in san francisco. she was the first woman to be nominated by a major party. for thethe complete american hiv weekend schedule, go to c-span.org. >> you are looking at the new smithsonian national museum of african american history and culture, which opens september 24 on the national mall near the washington monument and the white house. all today on c-span3's american history tv, we'll live from a conference hosted by the african american museum at the smithsonian's national museum of american history. the conference is the unit is the future of the african-american past. historians will talk about religion, politics, culture, historic preservation, and interpretation, and about how african-american history fits into the larger