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Tag Archives: History

The Curious Story of a Cuban Missile Crisis Artifact

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On Monday morning, October 15, 1962, CIA photo interpreters (PIs) hovered anxiously over a light table at the National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC). The mood was urgent and foreboding. They peered down on 928 photographs of high quality—some of the best shots had a resolution of three feet. The images were just 24 hours old   …Continue Reading


The Desegregation of Airports in the American South

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The fact that transportation was a segregated business in the American South for many decades of the twentieth century is well known. Many older African Americans who grew up in the South painfully remember the time when black passengers had to sit in the back of busses or use separate train compartments; and when train   …Continue Reading


Pilot Error, Evidently

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    In the years before the invention of the flight data recorder, the “black box” that records essential flight data, an aircraft accident investigation could occasionally degenerate into a mere finger-pointing exercise, like this one from Russia during World War I — a group of aviation cadets at the Gatchina Military Flying School near   …Continue Reading


The Real Wright Flyer

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The Smithsonian literally has millions of objects in its vast collections.  Everything from specimens of flora and fauna from around the globe, to machines that have shaped the modern world, to cultural artifacts that reflect our rich diversity, to important works of art.  Even live animals at the National Zoo.  Every aspect of human endeavor   …Continue Reading


1909 Alexander Graham Bell Letter

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One hundred years ago, on May 14, 1909, Alexander Graham Bell wrote to Charles D. Walcott, then Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, detailing his plans to donate C. H. Claudy’s photographs of the Wright brothers’ 1908 Army Trials at Fort Myer, Virginia. This historically profound two-page letter speaks for itself In this short letter, Bell   …Continue Reading