The Posters to End All Wars

I Want You for U.S. Army is one of about 40 posters that will go on view beginning Aug. 2 in “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War.” The poster was made in 1917 by James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960). The Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens.

I Want You for U.S. Army is one of about 40 posters that will go on view beginning Aug. 2 in “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War.” The poster was made in 1917 by James Montgomery Flagg (1877–1960). The Huntington Library, Art Galleries, and Botanical Gardens.

World War I marked the beginning of modern warfare, the collapse of empires, and the passing of ordered societies in which everyone knew their place. The Great War, which started July 28, 1914, was also a seminal moment in which graphic arts converged with patriotic fervor to arouse all citizens to action. “Your Country Calls! Posters of the First World War” brings together 40 international examples from The Huntington’s collection, including the most famous American recruiting poster of all time: Uncle Sam pointing at the viewer and saying, “I Want You for U.S. Army.” The exhibition opens on Aug. 2 to coincide with the week’s 100th anniversary of the start of the war.

Treat 'em Rough / Join the Tanks United States Tank Corps, United States, 1918, August William Hutaf (1879–1942), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Treat ‘em Rough / Join the Tanks United States Tank Corps, United States, 1918, August William Hutaf (1879–1942), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Poster art had been used earlier to rally support for causes, but as David Mihaly, Jay T. Last Curator of Graphic Arts and Social History for The Huntington, observes, “What is new is the organized, mass distribution of posters during World War I.” Government agencies and private charities in combatant countries raised a volunteer army of artists, most very well known, to produce designs—startling in their variety—that were seen everywhere people looked: on walls, in windows, on public transportation, and in popular magazines. Messages urged not only enlistment, but service on the home front, including investment in the war effort and humanitarian aid.

I Want You for U.S. Army was designed by celebrated illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, who adapted his 1916 Leslie’s magazine cover for the iconic message and used himself as a model for Uncle Sam (the Roman nose is the giveaway). “Like many, I thought this poster originated in World War II,” says Mihaly. It was so effective that it served active duty in the Korean and Vietnam Wars.

Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?, United States, 1917, Laura Brey (dates unknown), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Enlist / On Which Side of the Window Are You?, United States, 1917, Laura Brey (dates unknown), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Artists famous for their depictions of animals created powerful symbols. For example, a ferocious cat, claws bared, leaps out from August Hutaf’s poster, Treat ‘Em Rough!, luring men to join the U.S. Tank Corps. (The exhibition’s gallery guide folds out into a reproduction of this poster that is perfect for decorating your wall.) A more subtle approach to recruiting is seen in Laura Brey’s Enlist: On Which Side of the Window are You?, in which a well-to-do young man gazes out a window as soldiers march by.

Brey is one of only a few women artists who designed war posters, but women contributed significantly to the effort in other ways. Mihaly notes, “Women working in munitions factories started decades before World War II icon “Rosie the Riveter.” Adolf Treidler’s For Every Fighter a Woman Worker suggests equality and poses a woman worker in such a way that a triangle turns into a “V” for victory. American industrial might is also the theme of William Dodge Stevens’ Teamwork Builds Ships, which focuses not on the vessel, but on the strength and heroic stature of the men building it. (For more on this poster, see the article Riveting Images in the Spring/Summer 2014 issue of Huntington Frontiers.)

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker, United States, American Lithographic Co., ca. 1918, Adolph Treidler (1886–1981), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

For Every Fighter a Woman Worker, United States, American Lithographic Co., ca. 1918, Adolph Treidler (1886–1981), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Winsor McCay, famous for pioneering the full-page comic strip Little Nemo in Slumberland, used his cartoon style to explain Liberty Bonds in If You Can’t Enlist—Invest. America is represented by a sword-wielding super hero, who foreshadows Captain America, using the Liberty Loan as a giant shield against menacing invaders. One of the most emotionally arresting posters is Joseph Pennell’s That Liberty Shall Not Perish from the Earth, in which New York City burns around a decapitated Statue of Liberty. The design helped raise $6 billion in the most successful American bond drive of the war.

Mihaly culled from more than 700 posters and ephemera of the period in The Huntington’s possession. He says he’s hard pressed to choose favorites. “You get attached to all of them. They all have fantastic stories.” He’ll be sharing some on a curator’s tour on Aug. 28. The exhibition runs through Nov. 3, 2014.

If You Can't Enlist—Invest / Buy a Liberty Bond, United States, ca. 1918, Winsor McCay (ca. 1867–1934), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

If You Can’t Enlist—Invest / Buy a Liberty Bond, United States, ca. 1918, Winsor McCay (ca. 1867–1934), color lithograph. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

New Rooms with Views

The reopening of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art includes new installations of works from The Huntington collection, including Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread) (1979), at right. It is featured in this room with loans from the Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

The reopening of the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art includes new installations of works from The Huntington collection, including Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread) (1979), at right. It is featured in this room with loans from the Rauschenberg Foundation. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

This Saturday, visitors can wander for the first time through five new rooms in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. The new section, previously used for storage in the Lois and Robert F. Erburu Gallery, adds 5,400 square feet of gallery space to display The Huntington’s growing collection along with important loans.

The expansion gives curators a total of 18 rooms to highlight works that date from the 18th century up to the late 20th century. As visitors move in and out of the rooms they can discover connections among objects within galleries while also tracing the notable transitions and milestones in art movements that are documented from room to room.

In another new room, photographs by Edward Weston (in background) are accompanied by decorative arts, including Footed Bowl, ca. 1945, by William Manker; Footed Vase, ca. 1967, by Edwin and Mary Scheier; Colemanite Blue, ca. 1965, by Faith Zink Porter; and Folded Bowl, ca. 1960, by Otto and Gertrud Natzler. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

In another new room, photographs by Edward Weston (in background) are accompanied by decorative arts, including Footed Bowl, ca. 1945, by William Manker; Footed Vase, ca. 1967, by Edwin and Mary Scheier; Colemanite Blue, ca. 1965, by Faith Zink Porter; and Folded Bowl, ca. 1960, by Otto and Gertrud Natzler. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. Photo by Tim Street-Porter.

One of the new rooms spotlights the work of Robert Rauschenberg and is anchored by The Huntington’s monumental 2012 acquisition, Global Loft (Spread) (1979), a complex work that incorporates pieces of fabric, found objects (three glue brushes), and appropriated images with acrylic paint on three conjoined wood panels. The remaining works in the gallery have been lent by the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation and explore the relationship between Rauschenberg’s printmaking practice and his paintings. The loans will be installed in ongoing six-month rotations.

“We’re thrilled to be part of this partnership with the Rauschenberg Foundation,” says Jessica Todd Smith, the Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art. Like Global Loft, many of the prints on loan feature appropriated imagery and found objects.

Smith hopes they will illuminate Global Loft in new and surprising ways. “There are hours’ worth of looking embedded in these prints,” she says.

Edward Henry Weston, Oceano, California, 1936, silver print mounted on board. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Edward Henry Weston, Oceano, California, 1936, silver print mounted on board. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © 1981 Center for Creative Photography, Arizona Board of Regents.

Another room spotlights the work of Edward Weston, who selected and printed for The Huntington 500 pictures concentrating on images that he had shot between 1937 and 1939, when he was on a Guggenheim grant. The new installation focuses on some of his finest landscapes of California and the West, including images of Death Valley, Yosemite, Point Lobos, and the Sierras.

“The installation marks the first time The Huntington has displayed photographs in its permanent installation of American art,” says Smith.

Like the Rauschenberg items, the Weston photos are sensitive to light and will be rotated on a regular basis.

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers.

Making It Real

Last fall, students from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena toured the permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” Photo by Roger Gray.

Last fall, students from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena toured the permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” Photo by Roger Gray.

With summer in full swing, a few highlights from the past school year still linger in the minds of soon-to-be 8th graders from Eliot Middle School in Pasadena. Last fall, as 7th graders, they toured “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World” in Dibner Hall of the History of Science, and in the spring they marveled at “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times: Highlights from the Huntington Library” in the Library’s Main Exhibition Hall.

Eliot, a visual and performing arts magnet school in the Pasadena Unified School District, is one of four partner schools with The Huntington and the first middle school. (The Huntington has a longstanding collaboration with Rockdale Elementary and fairly new relationships with Torres High School and Arroyo Seco Elementary, all of the Los Angeles Unified School District.) The experience of Eliot’s students and teachers demonstrates how the institution develops and nurtures relationships with schools that go way beyond a single field trip.

The Huntington wanted to partner with a middle school because “students are at the age when they start figuring out who they are,” observes Audrey Durden, The Huntington’s school programs and school partnerships manager. “If we can give them a vision of what’s available, hopefully they have a little bit more to ponder as they think about their future.”

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray adds, “For many of these kids it was their first experience with a lot of things outside a classroom setting.” He has a stack of student thank you letters to The Huntington to prove this, with remarks like “I had never seen a Venus flytrap” and “I had never seen that many old books with amazing stories before.”

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray in the school’s garden. Photo by Linda Chiavaroli.

Eliot science teacher Roger Gray in the school’s garden. Photo by Linda Chiavaroli.

Gray points out that in-school lessons have more relevance when students can connect them to experiences outside the classroom—what he calls “making information real.” In the case of his class, the visit to the natural history section of “Beautiful Science” translated directly to its study of ecosystems and mechanisms of evolution in the spring.

“When we visited in the fall,” said Gray, “Charles Darwin was simply a funny looking guy with a beard who kept interesting pictures of birds. However, by the time we studied Darwin in the spring, the students were better equipped to absorb Darwin’s importance and how he changed science.”

Gray’s students, inspired by the communication of ideas demonstrated in “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” have created Eliot Arts: Kingdom Plantae. They gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus, pressed and preserved them, and then depicted them as they applied their skills as observers and artists.

After their spring 2014 visit to “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” students  gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus and pressed and preserved them. Photo by Roger Gray.

After their spring 2014 visit to “Remarkable Works, Remarkable Times,” students gathered plants from around Eliot’s campus and pressed and preserved them. Photo by Roger Gray.

Teachers benefit from the partnership as well. “We have a fairly extensive school garden here,” said Gray, who has taken courses at The Huntington Ranch. “The garden aspect of The Huntington has been very helpful to me professionally and has given me hands-on experience in an area in which I didn’t have a great depth of knowledge.”

The discovery extends to Eliot households too. Students and teachers can return to The Huntington at any time with their families.

In addition to collecting plants, the students applied their skills as artists and observers. Photo by Roger Gray.

In addition to collecting plants, the students applied their skills as artists and observers. Photo by Roger Gray.

What happens now for Eliot-Huntington? Teachers have been attending workshops this summer, and families new to Eliot in September will be introduced to The Huntington at a Family Day. During the 2014–15 school year, field trips will continue, including a special project with 7th grade students.

“We look forward to many years of partnership to inspire and challenge the middle school students,” said Durden.

But why wait until next year?

“I liked the museum,” wrote one of Gray’s students last spring. “It is so cool. I will go there on summer break.”

Linda Chiavaroli is a volunteer in the office of communications at The Huntington. She is a Los Angeles-based communications consultant.

The Spirit of 1776 and 1924 and 1979…

A modest pocketbook made in 1776 is but one of many artworks at The Huntington that together tell a “full, rich story” about the history of art in the United States. The pocketbook was made by Elizabeth Fellows in 1776 and is a promised gift of Jonathan and Karin Fielding. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

A modest pocketbook made in 1776 by Elizabeth Fellows is but one of many artworks at The Huntington that together tell a “full, rich story” about the history of art in the United States. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

With the arrival of Independence Day weekend, The Huntington is counting down the days to the opening of expanded gallery space in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. Come July 19, you can visit five new rooms that will allow for the display of nearly 100 more works.

“Our goal is to tell a full, rich story about the history of art in this country,” says Kevin Salatino, Hannah and Russell Kully Director of the Art Collections at The Huntington. “This expansion should delight, and in many cases surprise, our visitors with a number of remarkable new acquisitions. We’re in an exciting moment for The Huntington’s art collections, and particularly for the continuing evolution of American art, whose story we’re able to tell now with greater depth and breadth.”

Art Director Kevin Salatino wrote about the recent acquisition of George Bellows’ Summer Fantasy (1924) in the most recent issue of Huntington Frontiers.

Art Director Kevin Salatino wrote about the recent acquisition of George Bellows’ Summer Fantasy (1924) in the most recent issue of Huntington Frontiers.

That story is also covered in a companion book, American Made: Highlights from The Huntington Art Collections, which features more than 100 works in full-page illustrations, including the pocketbook above, made in 1776 by Elizabeth Fellows. The books are already available from The Huntington Store. The pocketbook was on display recently in the exhibition “Useful Hours: Needlework and Painted Textiles from Southern California Collections.”

Many of the other highlights from the book have long been on permanent view in the Scott Galleries. Since the opening of the galleries in 1984, The Huntington has displayed American works from the 18th to the 20th century. But in recent years there has been a steady increase in acquisitions spanning the 20th century, including the acquisitions of Summer Fantasy (1924), by George Bellows; For W.A. (1969), by Tony Smith; Global Loft (Spread) (1979), by Robert Rauschenberg; and Free Floating Clouds (1980), by Sam Francis.

Click here to watch a video about Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

Click here to watch a video about Robert Rauschenberg’s Global Loft (Spread), 1979. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. © The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation/Licensed by VAGA, New York. Photography © 2014 Fredrik Nilsen.

The expansion of the galleries showcases these new strengths with the five new rooms focusing on these areas: the early 20th-century landscape, with works made from 1900 through the 1920s; photographs, with an emphasis on The Huntington’s rich Edward Weston holdings; paintings, sculpture, and decorative arts made in the 1930s; geometric abstraction and Pop Art; and The Huntington’s painting by Rauschenberg, whose interest in becoming an artist was inspired by a visit to The Huntington in 1946, rounded out with important loans from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.

“While our display has always included some works from the 20th century, now we are able to explore important themes in greater depth,” said Jessica Todd Smith, Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art at The Huntington. “We will be sharing with visitors a solid representation of pre- and postwar American art, with major works from some of the most innovative and influential artists of the period.”

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers.

Add Dame to Her Name

Before Hilary Mantel published the Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall (2009 ) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), she had written nine novels, including A Change of Climate (1994), An Experiment in Love (1995), and The Giant, O’Brien (1998).

Before Hilary Mantel published the Man Booker Prize–winning Wolf Hall (2009 ) and Bring Up the Bodies (2012), she had written nine novels, including A Change of Climate (1994), An Experiment in Love (1995), and The Giant, O’Brien (1998).

British author Hilary Mantel has been named Dame of the British Empire in Queen Elizabeth’s annual birthday honors, announced earlier this month. The Huntington, as home to her literary archive, celebrates and congratulates Dame Hilary. Followers of Verso will recall reading about her two most recent novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, which have attained enormous success in their account of the life and career of Thomas Cromwell, statesman and advisor to King Henry VIII. Both novels won Britain’s prestigious Man Booker Prize (back-to-back wins by a writer are unprecedented), and both were recently produced on stage by the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford. The two plays currently are being performed in London’s Aldwych Theatre, and television productions will be on view in the United States early next year.

Hilary Mantel. Photo by Jerry Bauer.

Hilary Mantel. Photo by Jerry Bauer.

Mantel’s accomplishments with her two Cromwell novels are eminently Dame-worthy in themselves, but the honor afforded her by the queen also stems from her entire body of work, stretching back nearly 30 years and encompassing novels, essays, and memoirs. Her novels Eight Months on Gazzah Street and A Change of Climate draw on her own experiences living in Saudi Arabia and South Africa, where her geologist husband was stationed. In An Experiment in Love, winner of the Hawthornden Prize, Mantel follows three girls as they begin university life, exploring women’s ambitions and desires. A pair of novels, Every Day is Mother’s Day and its sequel, Vacant Possession, are wickedly hilarious satires of familial relationships, while Fludd is a humorous look at a down-at-the heels Catholic Church in a dismal English village where, to the consternation of the priest, mysterious things happen.

Two historical novels that preceded Mantel’s Cromwell fiction are A Place of Greater Safety, about the French Revolution (it won the Sunday Express Book of the Year Award), and The Giant, O’Brien, the story of the real Charles O’Brien who came to London to earn money as a freak on display. Mantel’s 2005 novel, Beyond Black, featuring a medium who appears harmless but who is capable of unleashing terrible psychic damage, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize.

Mantel explored her own background in her memoir Giving Up the Ghost, revealing how her own habits of introspection and self-examination, together with her rather unorthodox upbringing, informed the themes of her fiction.

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) drew on the author’s own experiences living in Saudia Arabia

Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988) drew on the author’s own experiences living in Saudia Arabia.

Asked her reaction to being named a dame, Mantel noted that she is thrilled and honored, as well as gratified to know that the merit she saw in her own writing is also perceived by others. But, she says this honor in no way signals the culmination of her writing career, noting that she feels “very energized,” has a lot of new work before her, and looks ahead to her “most exciting writing years” still to come. For the near future, all of us can look ahead to the publication of The Mirror and the Light, the third and final volume in her account of Thomas Cromwell, and The Huntington can anticipate receiving the manuscripts and drafts for this novel, to join the other manuscripts in the archive of her papers.

Sara S. “Sue” Hodson is curator of literary manuscripts at The Huntington.

Strangers No More

Photographers Paul Caponigro (left) and Bruce Davidson (right) meet for the first time at a new exhibition of their work at the Yale Center for British Art. Exhibition co-curator Scott Wilcox (center) says of the pair: “Davidson is a photojournalist and exponent of gritty street photography while Caponigro practices a pure, formalist approach to photographing landscape. If Davidson seeks to capture a specific moment in time, Caponigro dwells on the timeless phenomena of nature in relation to the enduring man-made structures of antiquity, such as Stonehenge.”

Photographers Paul Caponigro (left) and Bruce Davidson (right) meet for the first time at a new exhibition of their work at the Yale Center for British Art. Exhibition co-curator Scott Wilcox (center) says of the pair: “Davidson is a photojournalist and exponent of gritty street photography while Caponigro practices a pure, formalist approach to photographing landscape. If Davidson seeks to capture a specific moment in time, Caponigro dwells on the timeless phenomena of nature in relation to the enduring man-made structures of antiquity, such as Stonehenge.” The show runs until Sept. 14 at Yale and will open at The Huntington on Nov. 8.

“One man lives in the city, the other in the woods,” writes Huntington Curator of Photographs Jennifer A. Watts about photographers Bruce Davidson and Paul Caponigro.

“One is drawn to the strife and tumult of life,” she continues in “Strangers in a Strange Land,” an essay from the exhibition catalog Bruce Davidson/Paul Caponigro: Two American Photographers in Britain and Ireland, published by Yale University Press. “The other craves serenity and the contemplative forms of nature. Exceptional craftsmen, they still use film and develop black-and-white prints by hand. They are now in their eighties. They have never met.”

Until now.

The pair met for the first time this week at the Yale Center for British Art’s preview of the exhibition, co-curated by Watts and Scott Wilcox, chief curator of art collections and senior curator of prints and drawings at the Yale Center for British Art. The show opens today in New Haven and will be on view there through Sept. 14, 2014. It will then go on display in The Huntington’s MaryLou and George Boone Gallery from Nov. 8, 2014, to March 9, 2015.

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932), Stonehenge, 1967, gelatin silver print. © Paul Caponigro, photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Paul Caponigro (b. 1932), Stonehenge, 1967, gelatin silver print. © Paul Caponigro, photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

“This is the first exhibition to pair these influential contemporaries who followed overlapping yet distinct creative paths,” says Watts. “Britain and Ireland are the countries to which each man embarked on significant creative journeys in the course of refining their art.”

Although they led parallel careers, neither worked in isolation from other photographers. Caponigro’s evocative landscapes show the influence of Ansel Adams, Edward Weston, and Minor White. Davidson’s urban scenes recall the documentary styles of Henri Cartier-Bresson and Diane Arbus.

Caponigro credits photographer Dorothea Lange for helping to change the course of his career in the mid-1960s, when he won a Guggenheim Fellowship. He passed on a trip to Egypt and instead went to England and Ireland, in part at Lange’s urging. “Ireland became my Egypt and the stones became my temples,” he said.

Davidson followed the example of Robert Frank, the Swiss-born photographer who gained fame in 1958 with The Americans but had also shot the gritty life of coal miners in Wales in the early 1950s. Davidson’s photographs of Welsh miners in 1967 pay homage to Frank as well as to photojournalist W. Eugene Smith. In the exhibition catalog, Watts explains how Frank and Smith each journeyed to Wales after reading Richard Llewellyn’s novel How Green Was My Valley (1939), which took a Welsh mining village as its subject.

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933), London, 1960, gelatin silver print. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos, photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Bruce Davidson (b. 1933), London, 1960, gelatin silver print. © Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos, photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Watts begins her essay about Davidson and Caponigro with an epigraph from the Llewellyn book: “It has always seemed to me that there is something big to be felt by a man who has made up his mind to leave the things he knows and go off to strange places.”

The exhibition and accompanying catalog show how Davidson and Caponigro embraced the “strange places” of Britain and Ireland and made them their own.

Click here to watch “Still Looking,” a film featuring both photographers and produced exclusively for the exhibition. Created in early 2014 by Huntington filmmaker Kate Lain, the film is a series of evocative moments with Davidson and Caponigro on location in their respective homes in New York City and Maine.

The exhibition catalog is available at the Huntington gift shop. Published by Yale University Press, it includes essays by Watts and Wilcox and 140 photographs by Davidson and Caponigro.

Thank you to Yale @RTbooks, the art and architecture blog of Yale University Press, for reproducing today’s blog post. Visit its site to learn more about this book and and other titles offered by the press. 

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers magazine.

Dyeing to Learn More

In a recent workshop for docents, yarn was dyed with natural pigments extracted from plants in the Herb Garden. (From left: basil flowers, calendulas, onion skins, madder roots, anemone petals, dahlias, and oxalis flowers.) The dyeing session was part of the docents’ preparation for a Fiber Arts Day presentation that will be held in the garden on Saturday, June 21. Photos by Lisa Blackburn.

In a recent workshop for docents, yarn was dyed with natural pigments extracted from plants in the Herb Garden. (From left: basil flowers, calendulas, onion skins, madder roots, anemone petals, dahlias, and oxalis flowers.) The dyeing session was part of the docents’ preparation for a Fiber Arts Day presentation that will be held in the garden on Saturday, June 21. Photos by Lisa Blackburn.

With its tidy beds of colorful flowers and leafy plants, the Herb Garden might not look like a classroom. But, in fact, that’s precisely what it is. It’s where school children discover where the minty flavor in their toothpaste comes from and where salsa gets its kick. It’s where many adults see hops, flax, and cotton bolls for the first time. It’s where garden docents unlock the mysteries of herbal folklore for visitors and share practical tips for growing and using herbs at home.

The Herb Garden is also a place where docents themselves come to learn. Ongoing training adds to the knowledge that docents can share with visitors and school groups, but there’s no denying that it enhances their personal enjoyment of the Huntington experience at the same time.

A recent workshop on dyeing with natural plant pigments is a perfect example. The session was organized as a way to prepare docents for a June 21 public program where members of local craft guilds will demonstrate the fiber arts of spinning, weaving, and dyeing. Huntington docents will be on hand throughout the daylong event to talk about relevant plants in the garden.

Dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) is one of the traditional dyeing herbs than can be found in the garden. It produces a soft yellow tint.

Dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria) is one of the traditional dyeing herbs than can be found in the garden. It produces a soft yellow tint.

Gardener Kelly Fernandez, who oversees the Herb Garden, led the morning workshop. It was part of a new volunteer enrichment plan she recently introduced that combines the docents’ bi-monthly meetings with hands-on activities. “Instead of having our meetings in the Botanical Auditorium, we meet in the Herb Garden,” said Fernandez. “This gives us a chance to look at, smell, and touch the plants we’re talking about. The dye and fiber workshop was a perfect opportunity to try out this new approach to learning about the Herb Garden.”

Fernandez and a group of 21 docents gathered in the half-acre garden on a morning in late May, baskets in hand, ready to tackle the first order of business: identifying and collecting a variety of herbs that can be used for dyeing cloth. A section of the Herb Garden is devoted to these plants. Some of them have very long histories as dyes, such as indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) and woad (Isatis tinctoria), which both produce rich blue pigments; madder (Rubia tinctorum), whose roots are ground to extract a red tint; and dyer’s chamomile (Anthemis tinctoria), which bears bright yellow flowers that yield a soft yellow hue. And then there are nasturtiums (purple), calendulas (gold), dahlias (beige), anemones (purple), basil flowers (cream), and a veritable rainbow of others. Even onion skins can be used, producing shades that range from burnished gold to deep orange.

The roots of the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum), when ground and steeped in simmering water, yield a pinkish-red dye.

The roots of the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum), when ground and steeped in simmering water, yield a pinkish-red dye.

“What color does this make?” asked one of the volunteers, fingering the dark bronze leaves of a Royal Purple Smoke Tree.

“We’ll soon find out!” replied Fernandez, and the group took up their baskets and headed indoors to the classroom.

The process of extracting pigments from herbs is fairly simple, and Fernandez gave a quick overview of the steps before setting the volunteers to work. First, the plant material is chopped or ground with a mortar and pestle and placed in a pot of simmering purified water to steep for an hour. (The long steeping was skipped in the workshop because of limited time.) The liquid is then strained and cooled, and a mordant, or fixative, is added to bind the pigment to the yarn or fabric, which results in a deeper tint. White vinegar was used as the mordant in the workshop, but other natural mordants such as crushed acorns, oak galls, pomegranate rinds, or juniper needles can be used for varying results. Swabs of natural, undyed wool yarn wrapped around wooden dowels had been prepared in advance for the session, and these were dipped into the dye baths and then allowed to dry.

Kelly Fernandez led a workshop for docents on making natural plant dyes.

Kelly Fernandez led a workshop for docents on making natural plant dyes.

For docent Christene Lamanno, a licensed doctor of traditional Chinese medicine who specializes in herbs, part of the fun was seeing what colors emerged. “The results were exciting and sometimes unexpected, like when a green juice produced a yellow wool,” she said. The final assortment of dyed yarns ranged in color from creamy beige to a delicate mauve. And the Royal Purple Smoke Tree? Its bronze leaves produced a tint in a subtle shade of tea green.

The two-hour session was a vivid demonstration of how the garden can be used as a teaching tool. But Huntington volunteers also have access to another great educational resource: each other.

“The dyeing and weaving workshop is a great example of learning by sharing,” said Janeen Lee, an Herb Garden veteran who heads up a mentoring program for new docents. “We have members who are very knowledgeable and who only need a forum like this to get the rest of us enthused to learn and share with visitors.”

So if you’re “dyeing to learn” more yourself on the subject of natural plant dyes, come out to the garden classroom this Saturday and join the fun!

Docent Emma Ho’o grinds the leaves of a Royal Purple Smoke Tree, which will be steeped in water to extract the pigment.

Docent Emma Ho’o grinds the leaves of a Royal Purple Smoke Tree, which will be steeped in water to extract the pigment.

The docents will be sharing plenty of that enthusiasm during the Fiber Arts Day on Saturday, June 21, from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. They’ll be staffing a display table and giving informal tours of the Herb Garden while skilled craftspeople demonstrate the tools and techniques for carding and combing fibers such as cotton and linen, spinning the fibers into yarn or thread, weaving, and—of course—dyeing with natural pigments. The featured presenters will include members of the Southern California Handweavers’ Guild, the Bobbinwinders Guild, the Saturday Spinners Guild, and the South Coast Weavers and Spinners Guild.

Lisa Blackburn is communications coordinator at The Huntington.

A Garden Where Children Grow

A child-sized door beckons kids at the front of the Children’s Garden.

A child-sized door beckons kids at the front of the Children’s Garden.

Ten years ago, on Father’s Day weekend in 2004, the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden made its debut. As we mark this milestone anniversary, a look back at how the garden came into being seems fitting. When we first decided to create a space where small children could explore the wonders of nature, Helen Bing immediately offered support and became actively engaged with the project. And Jim Folsom, the Telleen/Jorgensen Director of the Botanical Gardens, took the project quite personally. He did the only reasonable thing to be done in such a situation: He and his wife packed up their own kids and went on a road trip across America, on a recon mission to visit other children’s gardens.

With his young daughter and son serving as his test subjects, Jim paid close attention to what they liked and what they ignored in gardens designed for children. He took note of what captured their imaginations and what fell completely flat. Whatever happened on that road trip must surely have been magical, because Jim came back inspired. Working in collaboration with kinetic sculptor Ned Kahn and landscape architect Todd Bennitt, he created an interactive landscape that was both unique and sublime, like nothing heretofore in existence.

Inside the Prism Tunnel, children can see how sunlight breaks into colored arcs and soft halos.

Inside the Prism Tunnel, children can see how sunlight breaks into colored arcs and soft halos.

The Children’s Garden opened to great acclaim and remains hugely popular, with a fan base that is literally growing every day. The garden has completely transformed The Huntington, and this anniversary has reminded me by how much. Several decades ago, children—while not actively discouraged—were not considered a primary audience. Those years of “children should be seen but not heard” are long gone, thankfully. It’s a pleasure to see so many moms and dads arriving every day with babies, toddlers, and young children all eager to explore. The degree to which our audience has become more and more diverse—and considerably younger—is incredibly satisfying.

Water is one of four elements of nature represented in the interactive features in the Children’s Garden, along with Fire, Earth, and Air. Children can use their hands to change the shapes of water bells, thereby altering the flow of the water.

Water is one of four elements of nature represented in the interactive features in the Children’s Garden, along with Fire, Earth, and Air. Children can use their hands to change the shapes of water bells, thereby altering the flow of the water.

The Children’s Garden serves as a source of joy and wonder. Kids get to splash in water, make music with pebbles, dance under rainbows, disappear into a swirl of fog, and hold the magic of magnetic forces in their hands. They might not realize it, but they’re learning about the building blocks of life: Nothing grows without light, water, earth, and air. These are the elements that serve as the core features of the garden. For their part, parents get to witness important steps in early-childhood development, because with each new experience a child is exposed to, the neurons in his or her brain are further shaped and trained. Providing a hands-on, multi-sensory experience in an environment that invites youngsters to touch, smell, see, hear, the Children’s Garden is a feast for a child’s hungry intellect.

Like water play, magnetic sand provides another tactile experience for children who can get a hands-on feel for the interaction of force fields.

Like water play, magnetic sand provides another tactile experience for children who can get a hands-on feel for the interaction of force fields.

As a flagship endeavor, the Helen and Peter Bing Children’s Garden continues to expand its role, providing the core experiences in botanical education that will lead children, as they grow, on to new discoveries in our Associated Foundation Teaching Greenhouse and Rose Hills Foundation Conservatory for Botanical Science. These activities further cultivate the very children who began their exploration as toddlers.

As a whole these encounters invite both school and family audiences to learn about plants, the environment, and stewardship through science and gardening. Soon to come in our offerings for families, a kitchen garden (or potager) will be developed to the north of the Children’s Garden, completing the context that provides learning and engagement for children of all ages.

And you thought they were just having fun!

This post originally appeared in the May/June Calendar as the President’s Message. Click here to learn more about the Children’s Garden.

Related video content:
“A Song of Pebble and Line,” a short piece featuring sights and sounds of the Children’s Garden

Steven S. Koblik is president of The Huntington.

“Several kinds of hairy mouldy spots”

Beautiful science of yesterday: An illustration of mold, from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, 1665. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Beautiful science of yesterday: An illustration of mold, from Robert Hooke’s Micrographia, 1665. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

The book had a sheepskin cover, and mold was growing on the sheepskin. Robert Hooke, a pioneering microbiologist, slid the cover under one of the world’s first microscopes. Mold, he discovered, consists of “nothing else but several kinds of small and variously figur’d Mushroms.” He described the mushrooms in his treatise Micrographia, a 1665 copy of which I found in “Beautiful Science: Ideas that Changed the World.” A permanent exhibition in The Huntington’s Dibner Hall on the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology, “Beautiful Science” showcases the physics of rainbows, the stars that enthralled Galileo, and the world visible through microscopes.

“[T]hrough a good Microscope,” Hooke wrote, the sheepskin’s spots appeared “to be a very pretty shap’d Vegetative body.”

How like a scientist, to think mold pretty. How like quantum noise, I thought, Hooke’s mold sounds.

Nicole Yunger Halpern at the entrance to The Huntington’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science.”

Nicole Yunger Halpern at the entrance to The Huntington’s permanent exhibition “Beautiful Science.”

Quantum noise hampers systems that transmit and detect light. To phone a friend or send an email—“Happy birthday, Sarah!” or “We have a new blog post”—we encode our message in light. The light traverses a fiber, buried in the ground, then hits a detector. The detector channels the light’s energy into a current, a stream of electrons that flows down a wire. The variations in the current’s strength is translated into Sarah’s birthday wish.

If noise doesn’t corrupt the signal. From encoding “Happy birthday,” the light and electrons might come to encode “Hsappi birthdeay.” Quantum noise arises because light consists of packets of energy, called “photons.” The sender can’t control how many photons hit the detector. The detector translates different numbers of photons into different amounts of current, which translate into different letters.

Beautiful science of today: A microresonator—a tiny pendulum-like device—studied by the group led by Kerry Vahala at Caltech.

Beautiful science of today: A microresonator—a tiny pendulum-like device—studied by the group led by Kerry Vahala at Caltech.

This spring, I studied quantum noise under the guidance of Caltech faculty member Kerry Vahala. I learned to model quantum noise, to quantify it, when to worry about it, and when not. From quantum noise, we branched into Johnson noise, “ASE” noise, beat noise, and excess noise. Noise, I learned, has structure. It exhibits patterns. It has personalities. I relished studying those patterns as I relish sending birthday greetings while battling noise. Noise types, I see as a string of pearls unearthed in a junkyard. I see them as “pretty shap[es]” in Hooke’s treatise. I see them—to pay a greater compliment—as “hairy mouldy spots.”

For further details about noise, see the full version of this article on Caltech’s “Quantum Frontiers” blog. With thanks to Bassam Helou, Dan Lewis, Matt Stevens, and Kerry Vahala for feedback. With thanks to the Huntington Library (including Catherine Wehrey) and the Vahala group for the Micrographia image and the resonator image, respectively.

Nicole Yunger Halpern is pursuing a Ph.D. in theoretical physics at Caltech. She blogs for Caltech’s Institute for Quantum Information and Matter. Quantum Frontiers welcomes readers of all levels of familiarity and unfamiliarity with physics.

California Conquest

If California Chrome wins this weekend, he will become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown. Above is Gallant Fox, Triple Crown winner from 1930. From William Woodward, Gallant Fox: A Memoir (New York: Privately printed, 1931).

If California Chrome wins this weekend, he will become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown. Above is Gallant Fox, Triple Crown winner from 1930. From William Woodward, Gallant Fox: A Memoir (New York: Privately printed, 1931).

If California Chrome wins the Belmont Stakes this weekend, he will become the first California-bred racehorse to win the Triple Crown. And if he succeeds, it will be his second triple of 2014, following three big wins at Santa Anita Park before the Kentucky Derby in May: the California Cup Derby (Jan. 25); the San Felipe Stakes (March 8); and the Santa Anita Derby (April 5).

California is no late arrival to the grand tradition of horse racing. Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin opened the first racetrack at Rancho Santa Anita in 1904, although it closed five years later and then burned down in 1912. In 1934, Charles H. “Doc” Strub opened Santa Anita Park next to the old Baldwin track. The new park would showcase victories by Seabiscuit (Santa Anita Handicap, 1940), Swaps (Santa Anita Derby, 1955), and, more recently, California Chrome (whose lineage can be traced back to Kentucky Derby Winner Swaps on his mother’s side).

Among items at The Huntington related to local racing lore are these playing cards showing scenes at Rancho Santa Anita and its owner, “Lucky” Baldwin (San Francisco: Alverson Comstock, ca. 1895).

Among items at The Huntington related to local racing lore are these playing cards showing scenes at Rancho Santa Anita and its owner, “Lucky” Baldwin (San Francisco: Alverson Comstock, ca. 1895).

This history is well represented in The Huntington’s book and manuscript collection, which includes the papers of Anita Baldwin, daughter of Lucky and namesake of her father’s rancho. A set of photographic playing cards from the 1890s features those early stables at Baldwin’s rancho. Also in the collection is a handwritten gatekeeper pass, signed by Baldwin, granting the holder access to the field.

Doc Strub, founder of the modern park in Arcadia, once owned a copy of The Tattersall Collection of Race Horse Portraits, a massive five-volume set compiled first by Richard Tattersall (1724–1795) and continued by the horse auction house that he founded in 1766. It illustrates and describes early English Thoroughbreds from 1720 to 1840. Strub donated the set to The Huntington in 1956.

Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin signed this gatekeeper pass, granting its holder access to the racetrack.

Elias Jackson “Lucky” Baldwin signed this gatekeeper pass, granting its holder access to the racetrack.

Until 1999, the 500 bound prints and descriptions from the Tattersall volumes were The Huntington’s most significant material on the history of Thoroughbreds. That’s when Cynthia Lasker donated the library of her late husband, Edward Lasker (1912–1997), a Los Angeles attorney and businessman who bred and raced Thoroughbreds for most of his life. Edward Lasker assembled one of the great private equine libraries in America. The 7,000-volume collection includes early printed books (mostly from the 16th to 18th century) as well as English and American sporting magazines, racing calendars and manuals, stud books, and works related to equestrian sports and personalities.

The massive Tattersall Collection of Race Horse Portraits measures nearly three feet by two feet and contains 500 prints and descriptions of English Thoroughbreds from 1720 to 1840. Santa Anita Park founder “Doc” Strubs donated the set to The Huntington in 1956.

The massive Tattersall Collection of Race Horse Portraits measures nearly three feet by two feet and contains 500 prints and descriptions of English Thoroughbreds from 1720 to 1840. Santa Anita Park founder “Doc” Strubs donated the set to The Huntington in 1956.

The Huntington’s Avery Chief Rare Book Curator, Alan Jutzi, displayed highlights from that collection in a Huntington exhibition in 2004, “‘The Noblest Conquest’: The Sport of the Horse in Europe and America from the Edward Lasker Collection.” The show’s title was taken from the words of French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc (later Count de Buffon), who called the horse “the noblest conquest man ever made.”

While Lasker may have found only modest success as a breeder, he achieved unparalleled success as a book collector, rivaled by the likes of Andrew Mellon (1855–1937), who also amassed a great collection of books on the history of the Thoroughbred.

The Lasker collection is proof that California Chrome is more than a West Coast novelty but the latest in a long line of horses to capture the public’s imagination, including Eclipse, a British Thoroughbred that went undefeated in 1769 and 1770. From Charles Vial de Sainbel, An Essay on the Proportions of Eclipse (London: Martin and Bain, 1795).

The Lasker collection is proof that California Chrome is more than a West Coast novelty but the latest in a long line of horses to capture the public’s imagination, including Eclipse, a British Thoroughbred that went undefeated in 1769 and 1770. From Charles Vial de Sainbel, An Essay on the Proportions of Eclipse (London: Martin and Bain, 1795).

Shortly after Cynthia Lasker donated the library, Jutzi paid tribute to her generosity at a Huntington reception, putting her husband’s life work in context:

“Serious horse racing and book collecting have a great deal in common—both have existed in Europe and America for a very long time, both have been genteel pastimes undertaken by ladies and gentlemen of wealth and sophistication, both require nurturing, patience, and lots of luck. But, racing varies from book collecting in that one is highly public and the other entirely private. Book collecting takes a contemplative personality; in my opinion, it is quite different from other sorts of collecting. You can’t wax a book and proudly drive it around town; you can’t frame it and exhibit it on the wall. Accumulating books for learning and pleasure is, however, a centuries-long aristocratic tradition, which still flourishes in modern times, but rarely with the acumen and sensibility of that displayed by Edward Lasker. He among a small handful of collectors I have ever known had the intelligence, energy, and funds to build a great library worth preserving together for posterity.”

This illustration of the Derby at Epsom, England, is by Hablot Browne, better known as Phiz, the illustrator of books by Charles Dickens. From Hablot Browne, The Derby Day (London: Messrs. Fores, 1866).

This illustration of the Derby at Epsom, England, is by Hablot Browne, better known as Phiz, the illustrator of books by Charles Dickens. From Hablot Browne, The Derby Day (London: Messrs. Fores, 1866).

Matt Stevens is editor of Verso and Huntington Frontiers magazine.