Publications

The list of selected staff publications may be searched by keyword or author and can be sorted by year.

“Food Culture, Supermarkets, and Packaging”
"Review Essay: A Winery Pastoral," Gastronomica: The Journal of Food & Culture 9, No. 3 (Summer 2009), 79-81.
“A Suggestion Concerning James Smithson’s Concept of ‘Increase and Diffusion,’” Technology and Culture 24 (April 1983): pp. 246–255.
Holidays on Display. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2007.

The warm glow exuding from animated store windows never ceases to arouse a feeling of nostalgic comfort in many Americans during the frigid months of the holiday season. In “Holidays on Display,” Bird examines what makes these windows, along with lighting displays and parade floats, have such a strong appeal to consumers. He does this through a photographic and textual history of all aspects of the display world. The book tracks the evolution of the outdoor lighting, animated windows, and parade floats that fill the streets of America with “holiday spirit.” Bird’s seamless use of text and more than 100 never-before-seen images produces a vivid and telling history of emotionally stirring display.

“A Spate of New Toys Invades America’s Living Rooms,” Smithsonian 20 (June 1989): pp. 82–85.
“Better Living”: Advertising, Media, and the New Vocabulary of Business Leadership, 1935-1955. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

A history of how big business learned to be both entertaining and persuasive when talking to the public. Examining the years from the Depression to postwar prosperity, "Better Living" follows the dissemination of a politically competitive claim of "more," "new" and "better" in industry and life. Beginning with the changes in business-government relations during the New Deal, this study looks at the ways in which politically active corporations and their leaders learned how to speak--when speaking was not enough.

“Advertising, Company Voice.” “Cavalcade of America.” “General Electric Theater.” In Horace Newcomb, ed. Encyclopedia of Television. Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 1997.
Paint by Number: The How-to Craze that Swept the Nation. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001.

A history of the popular hobby from the vantage point of the entrepreneurs who created the kits, the consumers who filled them in and hung them in their homes, the artists who made them, and the critics who reviled them.

“Enterprise and Meaning: Sponsored Film, 1939 1949,” History Today 39 (December 1989): pp. 24–30.
America's Doll House: The Miniature World of Faith Bradford. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2010.

One of the most popular exhibits at the Smithsonian Institution is a dollhouse. Sitting on the National Museum of American History's third floor is a five-story home donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a Washington, D.C., librarian, who spent more than a half-century accumulating and constructing the 1,354 miniatures that fill its 23 intricately detailed rooms. When Bradford donated them to the museum in 1951, she wrote a lengthy manuscript describing the lives of its residents: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll and their ten children, two visiting grandparents, twenty pets, and household staff. Bradford cataloged the Dolls' tastes, habits, and preferences in neatly typed household inventories, which she then bound, along with photographs and fabric samples, in a scrapbook. In America's Doll House, Smithsonian curator William L. Bird, Jr., weaves this visual material into the rich tapestry of Faith Bradford's miniature world. featuring vibrant color photography that brings every narrative detail to life, America's Doll House is both an incisive portrait of a sentimental pastime and a celebration of Bradford's remarkable and painstaking accomplishment.

Design for Victory: World War II Posters on the American Home Front with Harry R. Rubenstein. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998.

This study delves beneath the surface of colorful poster graphics, telling the stories behind their production and revealing how posters fulfilled the goals and needs of their creators. The authors describe the history of how specific posters were conceived and received, focusing on the workings of the wartime advertising profession and demonstrating how posters often reflected uneasy relations between labor and management.

“From the Fair to the Family,” in From Receiver to Remote Control: The T.V. Set. New York: New Museum of Contemporary Art, 1990, pp. 63–70.
“Television in the Ike Age,” in Keith Melder, Hail to the Candidate: Presidential Campaigns from Banners to Broadcasts. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1992.
"American Family Robinson," "Cavalcade of America," "Theatre Guild on the Air," in Christopher Sterling, ed. The Museum of Broadcast Communications Encyclopedia of Radio. Chicago and London: Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, 2003.
American Democracy: A Great Leap of Faith co-authored with William L. Bird, Jr., Lisa Kathleen Graddy, Grace Cohen Grossman, and Barbara Clark Smith, Smithsonian Books, 2017.
The Intellectuals Behind the First U.S. Navy Doctrine: A Centennial Reflection With Ryan Peeks. War on the Rocks. http://warontherocks.com (published December 1, 2017).

On the centennial of the promulgation of the first doctrine in U.S. Navy history, this article explores the intellectual creation of this brief, seven-page doctrine statement and its relation to the Navy's current approach to doctrine and strategy. 

When the Piper Cub Roamed the Battlefield War on the Rocks. http://warontherocks.com (published December 19, 2017).

Dr. Edgar Raines’s book, Eyes of the Artillery: The Origins of Modern U.S. Army Aviation in World War II, provides a solid foundation to explore the debate and circumstances surrounding the placement of aircraft within the Army ground forces and the contemporary role of light, fixed-wing aircraft over the battlefield. The book focuses on the institutional origins of the U.S. Army’s organic aviation in the field artillery’s Air-Observation-Post Program during World War II. During the war, organic aviation assigned to field artillery units provided observation for indirect fire missions, locating and targeting enemy forces beyond the visual range of ground-based observers. Organic aviation, however, was only established after a long period of bureaucratic infighting that reflected deeper disagreements between the Army Ground Forces and Army Air Forces about the role of new technology on the battlefield. Today, these themes are echoed in the debate about the Air Force’s contract for the OA-X light observation/attack aircraft. Support for and against the OA-X is typically drawn from the service-specific pages of Air Force history, but perhaps the origins of the Army's organic aviation program may provide valuable perspective on the incorporation of light, relatively low-technology aircraft into a war zone with a combined arms approach.  

Ensign George H. Gay’s Fateful Day, June 4, 1942 Naval History and Heritage Command. The Sextant. http://usnhistory.navylive.dodlive.mil/ (published May 24, 2017). 

Ensign George H. Gay, Jr. flew his TDB Devastator torpedo bomber into history on June 4, 1942 in the morning hours of the Battle of Midway.  Gay piloted one of 15 torpedo bombers of Torpedo Squadron Eight (VT-8) which took off from the carrier Hornet (CV8) to strike a blow against the Imperial Japanese Navy's Carrier Battle Group. Due to a variety of factors, VT-8 went in on its attack run unescorted. Japanese fighter planes shot down Gay and all of his compatriots, with Gay becoming the sole survivor of the attack. Although he and his unit failed to strike a blow, their sacrifice upset the delicate opeations of the Japanese carrier battle. Forced to maneuver and reverse course to doge the American torpedoes, the Japanese lost valuable time in launching and recovering aircraft. These delays thwarted strikes against the American carrier force and provided a critical window for American dive bombers to strike fatal blows against three of the four Japanese carriers. Gay witnessed the attacks while floating and concealed from Japanese view.   

"How Lucky I Am" The Words and Photography of Corporal William T. Perkins Jr. Marine Corps History 3, no. 2 (Winter 2017): 20-33.

Politically, the Vietnam War differed from other American conflicts through the juxtaposition and immediacy of television and communication satellites, enabling U.S. civilians to experience scenes of this conflict within hours from the serenity of their living rooms. Through the eye of the combat photographer, the ugly visage of battle could be tempered with the beauty of nature, cultural exchange, and innocence of youth. Sharing many of the same hardships as the fighters, the combat photographer's battle is to understand the situation and their subject matter, all to better capture in still or moving images a moment of clarity, compassion, valor, or humanity. One young American in uniform, Corporal William T. Perkins Jr., represented a typical 20-year old Marine in Vietnam. However, whereas most carried a rifle into battle, Perkins deployed to Vietnam as a combat photographer, armed with cameras to record his fellow Marines' efforts to support and defend the South Vietnamese people against the Communist Viet Cong and North Vietnamese forces. His photography is perhaps less notable compared to Perkins’ heroic actions which made him a posthumous recipient of the Medal of Honor, the only combat photographer so honored. Through his letters and personal photographs from the war, this article allows this young Marine’s voice to speak anew on the fiftieth anniversary of his death. Perkins's own writings provide a critical opportunity to observe his transformation into a Marine and a photographer, but also to perhaps understand the reasoning behind his images and frame his ultimate act of selflessness.

Top Ten Origins: Civil Defense, Nuclear War, and Duct Tape Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective. http://origins.osu.edu/ (published April 6, 2018). 

This brief article provides a ten point overview of the American civil defense effort, from 1949 to the present. In the twentieth century, the U.S. federal government established organizations to prepare the public for the possibility of such an attack. These efforts, broadly known as civil defense, consisted of all measures designed or undertaken to protect the civilian population from enemy attack. During World War II, civilian defense personnel rarely found their efforts in demand for anything beyond practice drills. At the time the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945, the United States had an atomic monopoly. But, as nuclear weapons and delivery systems increased in destructiveness and accuracy over the ensuing decades of the Cold War, civil defense efforts waxed, waned, and ultimately failed to provide a credible means to protect civilians from the effects of attack. Almost 75 years after the first use of an atomic weapon, American civilians still have few protective measures from nuclear attack. Civil defense’s lasting legacy is little more than faded fallout shelter signs and the wail of emergency sirens more commonly used for tornadoes than incoming nuclear attack.

History's Data for Tomorrow's Navy Center for International Maritime Security. http://cimsec.org/ (published April 25, 2017). 

In an era where the Navy is facing contested seas from challenges posed by China and Russia, history can unlock potential advantages with which to meet current and future threats. Gathering and preserving its operational records, in essence data, is critical. Unfortunately, in terms of such historical records, the Navy is in the Digital Dark Age. It retains only limited data and is losing access to its recent history – knowledge purchased at considerable cost. The Department of Defense and the Navy must consider a cultural and institutional revival to collect and leverage their data for potential catalytic effects on innovation, strategic planning, and warfighting advantages. This cultural transformation of collecting and preserving historical data within the Navy will be a long process, but leveraging its history to meet current and future problems will aid in maintaining global maritime superiority.

Item 86, "Woodblock Printing" Smithsonian Civil War, Inside the National Collection, 2013

Woodblocks were used to reproduce illustrations prepared in the field. The illustration for this woodblock was prepared on what is now referred to as Teddy Roosevelt Island on the Potomac River for the New York Illustrated News, ca 1863.

Item 44, The Wartime Patent Office with Pamela M. Henson, Smithsonian Civil War, Inside the National Collection, 2013

A history of the original U.S. Patent Office building and descriptions of a sampling of patent models now represented in the some 10,000 object collection of the National Museum of American History.

"John Wells: Hand Press Innovator" American Printing History Association website at: https://printinghistory.org/ 2016

John I. Wells his life, inventions, and letters patent

"Publishing the U.S. Exploring Expedition: The Fruits of the Glorious Enterprise" in Printing History (January 2008)

This article discusses the Congressional and east coast print production and printing of the volumes describing the findings of the U.S. Exploring Expedition (1838-42).

 

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