Mexican AmericaResources and Credits
This section contains educational materials to supplement your journey through Mexican America as illustrated by the collections of the National Museum of American History.
The glossary explains some of the terms used to talk about the history and peoples of Mexico and the American West and Southwest.
The national borders of Mexico have changed radically between the start of the Aztec Empire in the 14th century and the present. See Mexican maps from the collections of the University of Texas Libraries.
Scenes and figures from postcards commemorating the American West and Southwest from the Victor A. Blenkle Postcard Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
- Colonia outside of El Paso (circa 1920)
- David Crockett
- Greetings from San Antonio, Texas (The Alamo)
- Mexican Home, New Mexico (circa 1925)
- Old Spanish Days (circa 1925)
Historical scenes and figures from Mexico from the Victor A. Blenkle Postcard Collection, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
- Avenida A Tijuana (circa 1910)
- Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (circa 1925)
- Calle del Comercio Ciudad Juárez (circa 1925)
- Mexican Market Scene (undated photograph)
- Taxco, Guerrero (circa 1910)
- Temple of Quetzalcoatl, Teotihuacan (circa 1910)
Other Smithsonian Institution projects about the peoples of Mexico and their descendants, culture, and environment.
For additional information on the history of Mexico, Mexican Americans, and the diverse peoples of the American West and Southwest, please see the bibliography.
Esta sección contiene materiales educativos a fin de complementar el recorrido a través de la América Mexicana ilustrado por objetos provenientes de las colecciones del Museo Nacional de Historia Americana.
Pulsando sobre el enlace que se observa a continuación se puede acceder a un glosario donde se explican algunos de los términos usados para referirse a la historia y a los pueblos de México, tanto como del oeste y sudoeste de América.
Los límites nacionales de México han cambiado radicalmente entre los comienzos del Imperio Azteca en el siglo XIV y el presente. Pulse el siguiente enlace para ver mapas de México de las colecciones de las Bibliotecas de la Universidad .de Texas.
Pulsar los siguientes enlaces para ver tarjetas con escenas y figuras, y fotos conmemorativas del oeste y sudoeste americano de la Colección de Postales Victor A. Blenkle, Archives Center, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
- Colonia en las afueras de El Paso (ca. 1920)
- David Crockett
- Saludos desde San Antonio, Texas
- Hogar Mexicano, Nuevo México (ca. 1925)
- Viejos Tiempos Españoles (ca. 1925)
Pulsar los siguientes enlaces para ver escenas y figuras históricas de México.
- Avenida A Tijuana (ca. 1910)
- Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe (ca. 1925)
- Calle del Comercio Ciudad Juárez (ca. 1925)
- Escena de un Mercado Mexicano (foto sin fecha)
- Taxco, Guerrero (circa 1910)
- Templo de Quetzalcoatl, Teotihuacan (ca. 1910)
Pulsar los siguientes enlaces para ver otros proyectos de la Institución Smithsonian acerca de los pueblos de México y sus descendientes, su cultura y su entorno.
Para mayor información sobre la historia de México, los mexicoamericanos y los diversos pueblos del oeste y sudoeste americano, por favor pulsar sobre el enlace de bibliografía a continuación.
The Mexican America object group is a collective effort of the staff of the National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center: Division of Home and Community Life; Division of Information Technology and Communications; Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment; Division of Politics and Reform; New Media Program; Program in Latino History and Culture; Office and Museum Management and Services; and Registration Services.
Special thanks to Diana Taggart and Michelle Sánchez.
El grupo de objetos América Mexicana es un esfuerzo conjunto del personal del Museo Nacional de Historia Americana, del Centro Kenneth E. Behring: División de Vida en el Hogar y la Comunidad; División de Tecnología Informativa y Comunicaciones; División de Música, Deportes y Entretenimiento; División de Política y Reforma; Programa de Nuevos Medios de Comunicación; Programa de Historia y Cultura Latinas; La Oficina de Gestión y Servicios de Museo; y la Oficina de Servicios de Adquisiciones.
Un agradecimiento especial a Diana Taggart y Michelle Sánchez.
"Mexican America - Resources and Credits" showing 7383 items.
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- This record comes from another Smithsonian unit: National Air and Space MuseumNo Image Available
- Physical Description
- Engine intake fairing and hardware from the proper left side of the Horten HO 229 V3. Fairing was removed from the frame for conservation.
- In 1943 the all-wing and jet-propelled Horten IX promised spectacular performance and the German air force (Luftwaffe) chief, Hermann Göring, allocated half-a-million Reich Marks to the brothers Reimar and Walter Horten to build and fly several prototypes. Numerous technical problems beset this unique design and the only powered example crashed after several test flights but the airplane remains one of the most unusual combat aircraft tested during World War II.
- Long Description
- In 1943, the chief of the German Luftwaffe (Air Force), Hermann Göring, allocated half-a-million Reich Marks to the brothers Reimar and Walter Horten to build and fly several prototypes of the all-wing and jet-propelled Horten H IX. Numerous technical problems beset the project and the only wing to fly with jet power crashed during its third test flight; nonetheless, the airplane remains one of the most unusual combat aircraft tested during World War II.
- The idea for the Horten H IX grew first in the mind of Walter Horten when he was serving in the Luftwaffe as a fighter pilot in 1940 during the Battle of Britain. Horten was the technical officer for JG (Jadgeschwader or fighter squadron) 26 stationed in France. The nature of the battle and the tactics employed by the Germans spotlighted the design deficiencies of the propeller-driven Messerschmitt Bf 109, Germany's most advanced fighter airplane in service at that time. Pilots had to fly across the English Channel or the North Sea to fulfill their missions, primarily escorting German bombers and attacking British fighters, and Walter Horten watched his unit lose many men over hostile territory at the very limit of the Bf 109's range. Often after just a few minutes in combat, the Germans frequently had to turn back to their bases or run out of fuel, and this lack of endurance severely limited their effectiveness. The Messerschmitt was also vulnerable because a single, liquid-cooled engine propelled it. One bullet could puncture almost any part of the cooling system, causing the engine to overheat and fail in just a few minutes.
- Walter Horten came to believe that the Luftwaffe needed a new fighter designed with performance superior to the Supermarine Spitfire, Britain's most advanced fighter. The new airplane required sufficient range to fly to England, the capability to loiter for a useful length of time and engage in combat, and then to return safely to base. He believed that a twin-engine aircraft enhanced all of these attributes.
- Reimar had experimented with piloted all-wing aircraft since 1933, using his skills as designer and aerodynamicist to overcome several of the limitations that had always plagued the all-wing configuration. The new fighter needed a powerful, robust propulsion system to give the airplane the highest speed, but also to absorb damage and continue to function. The Nazis were already developing the jet turbine power plant in great secrecy, but Walter's role as JG 26 technical officer gave him access to information about the work. Walter knew that jet propulsion would appeal to Reimar because he could add it to all-wing configuration more easily, and achieve far greater performance by doing so, than was possible with reciprocating engines.
- Reimar began to think seriously about the jet wing at the end of 1940. Fiercely independent and lacking the proper intellectual credentials, Reimar worked outside the mainstream German aeronautical community whenever he could. The authorities denied him access to wind tunnels to test his ideas, in part because of Reimar's youth and lack of advanced education, so he developed his designs using flying models and piloted aircraft. He had already successfully flown more than 20 aircraft by 1941 but a jet-propelled wing would be heavier and faster than any previous wing. To minimize the risk of experimenting with such an advanced aircraft, Reimar built and tested several interim designs, each one moderately faster, heavier, or more advanced in some significant way than the one before it.
- Reimar built the Horten H V b and H V c to evaluate the all-wing layout when powered by twin engines driving pusher propellers. He began in 1941 to consider fitting the Dietrich-Argus pulse jet motor to the H V but this engine had drawbacks and in the first month of 1942, Walter gave his brother dimensioned drawings and graphs that charted the performance curves of the new Junkers 004 jet turbine engine (this engine is also fitted to the following NASM aircraft: Messerschmitt Me 262, Arado Ar 234, and Heinkel He 162). Later that year, Reimar flew the H VII, which was similar to the H V but larger and equipped with more powerful reciprocating engines. The H VI sailplane also figured into the preliminary aerodynamic design of the jet wing after Reimar tested the sailplane with a special center section.
- Walter Horten used his personal connections with important officials to keep the idea of the jet wing alive in the early stages of its development. At the beginning of 1943, Walter heard Göring complain that Germany was fielding 17 different types of twin-engine military airplanes with similar, often mediocre, performance, but spare parts were not interchangeable between any two of these designs. He decreed that henceforth he would not approve for production another new twin-engine airplane unless it could carry 1,000 kg (2,210 lb) of bombs to a 'penetration depth' of 1,000 km (620 miles, penetration depth defined as 1/3 the range) at a speed of 1,000 km/h (620 mph). Asked to comment, Reimar announced that only a warplane equipped with jet engines had a chance to meet those requirements.
- In August Reimar submitted a short proposal for an all-wing aircraft that came close to achieving Göring's specifications, who then issued the brothers a contract, and demanded the new aircraft fly in 3 months! Reimar responded that the first Horten IX prototype could fly in six months and Göring accepted this schedule after revealing his desperation to get the new fighter in the air with all possible speed.
- Reimar designated each of his major wing designs with Roman numerals. When the H IX became an official Luftwaffe experimental project, each prototype received a Versuch (test or experiment) sub-designation, abbreviated V, and followed by a number, as in H IX V1 for the first prototype Horten jet wing. The third prototype was designated the H IX V3 (pronounced 'aach-nine-vee-three'), however this apparently changed when Horten handed over the incomplete airframe to the Gothaer Waggonfabrik (or Gotha) company late in the war. In September 1944, Göring had selected Gotha to mass-produce the Horten jets, and the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (German Air Ministry, or RLM) had designated this production project 8-229. Had the war continued, Gotha would have finished and tested the Ho 229 V3 (formerly the H IX V3), but to avoid confusion, I use the H IX V3 designation.
- All versions of the H IX resembled each other in overall layout. Reimar swept each half of the wing 32 degrees in an unbroken line from the nose to the start of each wingtip where he turned the leading edge to meet the wing trailing edge in a graceful and gradually tightening curve. There was no fuselage, no vertical or horizontal tail, and with landing gear stowed (the main landing gear was fixed but the nose wheel retracted on the first prototype H IX V1), the upper and lower surface of the wing stretched smooth from wingtip to wingtip, unbroken by any control surface or other protuberance. Horten mounted elevons (control surfaces that combined the actions of elevators and ailerons) to the trailing edge and spoilers at the wingtips for controlling pitch and roll, and he installed drag rudders next to the spoilers to help control the wing about the yaw axis. He also mounted flaps and a speed brake to help slow the wing. When not in use, all control surfaces either lay concealed inside the wing or trailed from its aft edge. Parasite or form drag was virtually nonexistent. The only drag this aircraft produced was the inevitable by-product of the wing's lift. Few aircraft before or after the H IX have matched the purity and simplicity of its aerodynamic form but whether this achievement would have led to a successful and practical combat aircraft remains an open question.
- Building on knowledge gained by flying the Horten V and 'VII, Reimar designed and built the piloted glider version, the H IX V1, which test pilot Heinz Schiedhauer first flew 28 February 1944. This aircraft suffered several minor accidents but a number of pilots flew the wing during the following months of testing at Oranienburg and most commented favorably on its performance and handling qualities. Reimar used the experience gained with this glider to design and build the jet-propelled H IX V2.
- Wood is an unorthodox material from which to construct a jet aircraft and the Horten brothers probably preferred to use aluminum but Reimar certainly was capable of designing the outer wing panels to be built with wood and the center section with welded steel tubes, having designed and built nearly all of his wings this way. Reimar's calculations showed that he would need to convert much of the wing's interior volume into space for fuel if he hoped to come close to meeting Göring's requirement for a penetration depth of 1,000 km (620 miles). Perhaps Reimar lacked either the expertise or the special sealants to manufacture such a 'wet' wing from metal. Whatever the reason, he believed that an aluminum wing was unsuitable.
- As they developed the H IX, the Horten brothers measured the wing's performance against the Messerschmitt Me 262 jet fighter. According to Reimar and Walter, the Me 262 had a much higher wing loading than the H IX and it required such a long runway to take off that only a few airfields in Germany could accommodate it. The H IX wing loading was considerably lower and this allowed it to operate from airfields with shorter runways. Reimar also believed, perhaps naively, that his wing could take off and land from a runway surfaced with grass but the Me 262 could not. If this had been true, a H IX pilot would have had many more airfields from which to fly than his counterpart in the Messerschmitt jet.
- Successful test flights in the H IX V1 led to construction of the first powered wing, the H IX V2, but poor communication with the engine manufacturers led to lengthy delays in finishing this aircraft. Horten first selected the 003 jet engine manufactured by BMW but then switched to the Junkers 004 power plants. Reimar built much of the wing center section based on the engine specifications sent by Junkers but when two motors finally arrived and Reimar's team tried to install them, they found the power plants were too large in diameter to fit the space built for them. Months passed while Horten redesigned the wing and the jet finally flew in mid-December 1944.
- Full of fuel and ready to fly, the Horten H IX V2 weighed about nine tons and thus it resembled a medium-sized, multi-engine bomber such as the Heinkel He 111. The Horten brothers believed that a military pilot with experience flying heavy multi-engine aircraft was required to fly the jet wing and Scheidhauer lacked these skills so Walter brought in veteran Luftwaffe pilot Lt. Erwin Ziller. Sources differ between two and four on the number of flights that Ziller logged but during his final test flight, an engine failed and the H IX V2 crashed, killing Ziller.
- According to an eyewitness, Ziller made three passes at an altitude of about 2,000 m (6,560 ft) so that a team from the Rechlin test center could measure his speed from the ground using a special instrument called a theodolite. Ziller then approached the airfield to land, lowered his landing grear at about 1,500 m (4,920 ft), and began to fly a wide descending spiral before crashing just beyond the airfield boundary. It was clear to those who examined the wreckage that one engine had failed but the eyewitness saw no control movements or attempt to line up with the runway and he suspected that something had incapacitated Ziller, perhaps fumes from the operating engine.
- Walter was convinced that the engine failure did not result in uncontrollable yaw and argued that Ziller could have shut down the functioning engine and glided to a survivable crash landing, perhaps even reached the runway and landed without damage. Walter also believed that someone might have sabotaged the airplane but whatever the cause, Walter remembered "it was an awful event. All our work was over at this moment." Ziller's test flights seemed to indicate the potential for great speed, perhaps a maximum of 977 km/h (606 mph). Although never confirmed, such performance would have helped to answer the Luftwaffe technical experts who criticized the all-wing configuration. At the time of Ziller's crash, the RLM had scheduled series production of 15-20 machines at Gotha.
- Horten had planned to arm the third prototype with cannons but the war ended before this airplane was finished. Unbeknownst to him or Walter, Gotha designers substantially altered the V3 airframe as they attempted to finish it. For example, they used a massive nose wheel compared to the unit fitted to the V2, and Reimar speculated that the 1,000 kg (2,200 lb) design bomb load may have influenced them, but he believed these alterations unnecessary.
- The U. S. VIII Army of General Patton's Third Army found the H IX prototypes V3 through V6 at Friedrichsroda, Germany, in April 1945. Horten had designed airframes V4 and V5 as single-seat night fighters and V6 would have become a two-seat night fighter trainer. The V3 was approximately half finished and nearest to completion of the four airframes. Army personnel removed it three days later and shipped it to the U.S., and the incomplete center section arrived at Silver Hill (now the Paul E. Garber Facility, Suitland, MD) about 1950. There is no evidence that any wing sections were recovered at Friedrichsroda, however members of the 9th Air Force Air Disarmament Division found a pair 121 km (75 miles) from this village, and these wings might be the same pair now included with the H IX V3.
- In 1983, Reimar wrote in Nurflugel: Die Geschichte der Horten-Flugzeuge 1933-1960 (Herbert Weishaupt, 1983) that he had planned to sandwich a mixture of sawdust, charcoal, and glue between the layers of wood that formed large areas of the exterior surface of the H IX jet wing to shield, he said, the "whole airplane" from radar, because ""the charcoal should absorb the electrical waves. Under this shield, then also the tubular steel [airframe] and the engines [would be] "invisible" [to radar]"” (p. 136, author translation). Reimar was describing a process for reducing the radar energy reflected from the wing, lowering its radar cross-section, or RCS, so that the jet wing would be more difficult to detect by an adversary using radar, and therefore able to carry out its mission with greater stealth.
- When interviewed in the mid-1980s, Reimar further claimed that he had specifically used wood to build a substantial portion of the H IX because the material did not reflect radar energy. Asked to explain the background to these actions, the designer replied that "we made it of our own inspiration," without direction from the RLM, to mask the wing from detection during attacks on Allied ships equipped with air-search radar. Reimar had first written about RCS in the article, ""Ala Volante Caza "Horten IX"" (Flying Wing Fighter Horten IX), published in the May 1950 issue of Revista Nacional de Aeronautica (National magazine of Aeronautics published in Argentina).
- Following the heightened interest in all-wing aircraft after the public unveiling of the USA's Northrop B-2 bomber on 22 November 1988, and fueled by Reimar's recent claims, some writers extrapolated from the similarity of the B-2 to the H IX (both all-wing aircraft) to conclude that Reimar had designed the first stealth aircraft because he used an all-wing layout and purposefully reduced the H IX jet wing's RCS. Examples of this writing are Stealth Bomber - Invisible Warplane (Motorbooks, 1989) by Bill Sweetman, and David Baker's article, "In Valleys of Shadow - The Black World of Stealth (Part One)."
- They apparently did not believe that Reimar shaped the H IX solely for aerodynamic reasons, that the jet was simply one in a long line of all-wing Horten aircraft, and that there exists no physical or documentary evidence to support Horten's claims. His story is weak for several other reasons. Allied ships were equipped with air-search radar; however, these were low-priority targets for the Luftwaffe compared to the waves of heavy bombers that had pounded Germany day and night from the beginning of summer 1943. Germany needed vast numbers of interceptors capable of penetrating the screens of Allied fighters protecting the bombers, not long-range strike aircraft with low RCS. Oddly enough, neither Reimar nor Walter Horten mentioned to Allied intelligence specialists immediately after the war the RCS techniques that Reimar claimed in 1983 he applied to the H IX during the war, a peculiar omission in light of Reimar's strong interest in resuming his work with an Allied aviation firm. Finally, if the H IX was as speedy as Reimar estimated, why would the aircraft need to evade radar detection when it could outrun any Allied fighter?
- When Phase II at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center opened on 15 March 2011, the H IX V3 outer wing panels were on public view in the new workshop. NASM collections care specialists are working now to prepare to move the wing's center section to Phase II later in 2013.
- Wingspan: 16.8 m (55.4 ft)
- Length: 7.47 m (24.6 ft)
- Height 2.81 m (9.3 ft)
- Weights: Empty 5,067 kg (11,198 lb)
- Gross 8,999 kg (19,887 lb)
- Engines: (2) Junkers Jumo 004 B-2 turbojet, 900 kg (1,989 lb) thrust
- References and Further Reading:
- Horten, Reimar, and Selinger, Peter F. Nurflugel: Die Geschichte der Horten-Flugzeuge 1933-1960. Graz, Germany: Herbert Weishaupt, 1983.
- Myhra, David. The Horten Brothers and Their All-Wing Aircraft. Atglen, Penn.: Schiffer Military/Aviation History, 1998.
- ____. The Horten Ho 9/Ho 229 Technical History. Atglen, Penn.: Schiffer, 2002.
- ____. The Horten Ho 9/Ho 229 Retrospective. Atglen, Penn.: Schiffer, 2002.
- Shepelev, Andrei, and Ottens, Huib, Horten Ho 229 - Spirit of Thuringia. Hersham, England: Ian Allan, 2006.
- Horten H IX V3 curatorial file, Aeronautics Division, National Air and Space Museum.
- Reimar and Walter Horten Oral History Interviews [Myhra], National Air and Space Museum Archives.
- Russ Lee, 8/1/13
- Horten, Reimar and Walter
- Inventory Number
- Data Source
- National Air and Space Museum
- This record comes from another Smithsonian unit: Smithsonian Institution ArchivesNo Image Available
This is the second part of a three-part series on George C. Wheeler and the relationship of science and tourism in the Caribbean by the Archives' former Research Fellow, Blake Scott.
After visiting Cuba, Wheeler sailed to Costa Rica. As soon as his ship docked in Puerto Limón, on June 12, 1924, he became a visiting employee of the United Fruit Company (UFCO). He would live and work with the company's white community of managers and 'skilled' workers. At the time, UFCO controlled vast tracts of land on the Caribbean coast of Central America, inspiring the now infamous phrase "banana republic." The circum-Caribbean, as historian John Soluri documents, had become synonymous with bananas in the minds of U.S. consumers. By the 1920s, the only fresh fruit eaten in greater quantities in the U.S. than the banana was the American apple. [John Soluri, Banana Cultures: Agriculture, Consumption, and Environmental Change in Honduras and the United States (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2005)]
Each morning Wheeler set out with his guide and colleague, Siggers, to collect termites and other "pests." UFCO depended on a legion of full-time and visiting scientists to protect its agricultural investments. Plant diseases and insects constantly threatened the Company's monoculture plantations. It was Wheeler's job, in particular, to study insects that damaged cacao trees and their fruit.
When Wheeler wasn't working in the field, however, he found time for recreation in Costa Rica's urban and rural environment:
June 22, Afternoon: Siggers, three Costa Ricans, and I tried digging into Indian graves – little success. Found a few fragments of pottery – one the head of a parrot, which I have kept. Later – Siggers and I collected in a cacao plantation behind the house.
June 26, Left Siguirres [Plantation] at 11:55 for San José. Beautiful ride. Railroad follows the Reventazón River. San José an attractive city. Cool. Stayed at Hotel Francés – very good, $5.00 per day including meals. Evening – Teatro América (2 colones) – Compania Cómica de Argentina – 'Mustafá' and 'Los Dientes del Perro.' The actors talk too fast; I could understand very little.
Although Wheeler was officially in Costa Rica as a scientist specializing in entomology, leisure activities were still part of his experience. He found time to rob Indian graves and attend risqué vaudeville shows. Depending on the moment, he could wear the hat of natural scientist, agronomist, tourist or adventurer.
Just shy of a month after leaving New York, Wheeler boarded another UFCO ship. He was headed for the main and final destination of his trip, the Barro Colorado Island Laboratory (BCI) in the Panama Canal Zone. The BCI Lab, built in the middle of the man-made Gatun Lake, was and still remains one the most important biological research stations in the Americas. When U.S. engineers flooded the lands, which would become the main waterway of the Panama Canal (1914), a small mountain of 476 ft. became an island sanctuary for nearby flora and fauna. The "natural" environment that Wheeler and hundreds of other scientists would study at BCI was the product of human engineering. The U.S. government's intervention on the Isthmus of Panama, beginning in 1903, created an outpost in Latin America not only for U.S. military and business interests, but also for U.S. scientists and leisure travelers.
In 1923, the governor of the Panama Canal Zone, Jay Johnson Morrow, evicted the few remaining Panamanian residents from the island-hill and decreed Barro Colorado a biological reserve for U.S. scientists. Wheeler visited the island the following year:
June 29, The Calimares [UFCO ship] docked early at Cristóbal [the Caribbean port of the Panama Canal Zone]. I went to the United Fruit Company office and tried to get Mr. Zetek on the telephone [BCI's manager]. He was in New York. Nor could I get Mr. Molino, his assistant. I took the [Panama Railroad] train to Cristóbal at 9:10, reached Frijoles at 9:54. Fare (first class) $1.05 - 21 miles - five cents per mile. Found John English the factotum of Frijoles, a very intelligent and friendly negro. He got a big cayuco (canoe hollowed out of log) for me with two men (Lindo, a negro, and Ernesto, a Panamanian) to row me with my baggage (two small trunks and a suitcase) across to the island for $1.50.
All the scientists were away, the laboratory in charge of an Indian (Leonardo or 'Chico' [boy]) of the Chiriqui tribe - friendly, intelligent, exceedingly strong. The laboratory is in a clearing some distance above the landing. It is reached by a long flight of 186 steps (wooden). The house is screened. Rain water to drink. Shower under the house. From the rear of the house, a trail leads back into a forest. I followed it for some distance in the afternoon. Captured a monstrous spider wasp (Pepsis).
As Wheeler points out, it was men of color who looked after U.S. visitors. They rowed the boats, constructed the houses, cut the trails, cooked the meals, and built and fixed the machines that allowed scientists and tourists to visit the island. This of course was the natural order of things according to most white-male scientists and colonial officials in the first decades of the twentieth century. The organization of the Barro Colorado Island Lab was predicated on a naturalized social hierarchy of race, class, and gender distinctions. Women were not allowed to spend the night on the island. Workers of color were assigned the most rigorous manual labor and segregated to the "Boy’s House," apart from the main sleeping and dining quarters. Educated white men, like Wheeler, sat on top of this social order. Leonardo, for example, the friendly and intelligent Chiriqui Indian he mentions in his journal, is repeatedly described as "chico," that is boy, in need of specific direction. "Since he speaks no English, I had to tell him in Spanish what to cook and how to cook it."
But workers often saw the situation differently. Fausto Bocanegra, a BCI employee in the 1940s and 1950s, explains that "when they got here, because of my knowledge, I was their teacher." Bocanegra and his "unskilled" colleagues, who lived in the island’s "Boy’s House," sometimes knew more about the tropical environment than their scientific guests. He remembered, one time, collecting specimens with a U.S. scientist. "I worked here almost a month with a hunter... [but] I was the hunter and he was my helper, because I caught the animals and he took what he wanted, with… permission from the Smithsonian."
Despite claims of racial, national, and educational superiority, U.S. scientists depended on local expertise. When we read about the history of U.S. scientists or explorers abroad, however, we normally learn about "Indiana Jones" or Roosevelt-type individuals roughing it in the jungles of Latin America to seek truth and knowledge. Rarely do we hear about these people's ordinary attributes and social dependencies. We learn even less about the social and ecological context that made the adventures of these white-male Americans possible.
Without UFCO transportation and funding, U.S. military intervention and engineering, and local knowledge and labor, George Wheeler would not have been able to reach his destinations and conduct scientific research. How – in light of those historical realities – do we make sense of the long-held claim that the Tropics were somehow more "natural" or "pristine" than other environments, or in the context of so much local knowledge, awaiting discovery? From Cuba to Panama, George Wheeler depended on a diverse group of people to produce his travel experience. Tourists, tour guides, steamship workers, UFCO plantation managers and workers, "unskilled" laborers, research assistants, and U.S. army personnel were part of an elaborate and asymmetrical social network connecting the U.S.-Caribbean world.
Retracing the journey of a scientist like Wheeler is crucial to understanding how future travelers would also navigate the region. How many of Wheeler's students, colleagues, and friends followed his footsteps and went on their own Caribbean adventure, depending on the same social and environmental order?
To learn about the educational experiences influencing Wheeler's tropical travels, see Part III of this article, "The Education of George C. Wheeler."
- Record Unit 9560 - Oral history interview with George C. Wheeler, 1989, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- The Tropical Travels of George C. Wheeler - Part I, The Bigger Picture blog, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Published Date
- Thu, 31 Jan 2013 12:00:00 +0000
- Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Data Source
- Smithsonian Institution Archives
- This record comes from another Smithsonian unit: Smithsonian Institution ArchivesNo Image Available
It is likely that the readers of this piece have never heard of Ruth Murray Underhill. If you are not familiar with Dr. Underhill’s life and work, her resume includes the following: social worker; european traveler; World War I Red Cross volunteer; Ph. D. , Columbia University; Supervisor of Education, U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs; Professor of Anthropology, University of Denver; author; and scholar. Intrigued? If so, read on, and I will try to convey the accomplishments of this remarkable Woman of the People.
Ruth Murray Underhill was born on August 22, 1884 into a Quaker family residing in Ossining, New York. Her father, Abram Sutton Underhill, practiced as a lawyer in New York City. Her mother, Anna Taber Murray, raised Ruth, her two brothers and one sister, on the family farm, instilling pacifist values, the benefits of honest labor, and personal enlightenment through education among Ruth and her siblings. The Underhill’s were a family of means, and Ruth enjoyed the benefits of a robust home library and family sojourns to Europe. Her formal education began at the Ossining School for Girls and continued at the Bryn Mawr College Preparatory School in Pennsylvania. Ruth enrolled in Vassar College in 1901, studying English and Comparative Literature, while also continuing her interests in human culture and languages. She was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and completed her curriculum with honors, receiving her A.B. degree in 1905. After a brief stint teaching Latin at a boy’s military academy in Ossining, Ruth moved to Boston and became a social worker for the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. Still yearning for knowledge and human experience, Ruth left for Europe in 1906, where she traveled extensively, studied social science and languages at the London School of Economics and the University of Munich, respectively.
Ruth Underhill returned to New York in 1908 and found employment in social work. The outbreak of World War I led Ruth to volunteer for the American Red Cross, including service in Italy as a relief worker assisting Italian orphans. Following the war, and perhaps as a result of its harsh realities, Ruth’s interest in social work began to wane, as she discovered that her efforts did not impact society as much as she had hoped. She considered other options, which included returning to the family farm and embracing traditional female roles. Starkly independent, well-educated, ambitious, and eager to tread her own path, Ruth quickly realized that she would never be happy yielding to tradition. She contemplated how she could satisfy her desire for independence in a male dominated society, and began to concentrate on her writing. In 1920, Ruth published her first novel, White Moth, which featured a woman achieving a supervisory role in the business world; a bold rejection of conventional female subservience!
For a brief period, Ruth Underhill was married to one Charles Crawford, who she soon found to be “the wrong man.” Their marriage was quickly dissolved, without children. In the immediate aftermath of divorce, she began taking courses at Columbia University, where she met Ruth Benedict, then an Assistant Professor in Anthropology, who encouraged Underhill to pursue studies as an Anthropologist. Franz Boas, the “Father of Modern Anthropology,” was the chair of the Anthropology Department. Boas provided Underhill with a small stipend to study the Papago Indians (Tohono O’odham) . Underhill visited the Papago reservation in Southern Arizona four times during the period 1931-1933, living and working with Maria Chona, an elder Papago woman who, like Underhill, was fiercely independent, and shunned traditional female roles. In 1936, Underhill published, Autobiography of a Papago Woman, Maria Chona’s autobiography, and the first published history of a Southwestern Native American woman. Ruth completed her dissertation, "Social Organization of the Papago Indians," and received her Ph. D. in Anthropology in 1937.
While working on her dissertation, Ruth Underhill gained valuable experience at Barnard College as an Assistant in Anthropology under the tutelage of Gladys Reichard, an Anthropologist who spent more than twenty-five years studying Navajo culture and the roles of Navajo women. In 1934, Underhill and Reichard became involved with the Bureau of Indian Affairs Hogan School project, which taught the Navajo language to members of the Navajo tribe. Ruth was also tasked with teaching applied ethnology to Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) employees. Underhill was employed by the Soil Conservation Service from 1935-1937, where she conducted surveys concerning economic and social life among Southwestern Native American groups. Later in 1937, Ruth was transferred back the BIA and received the title Associate Super visor of Indian Education. Although she was now stationed in Sante Fe, NM, Ruth continued her work with the Papago, publishing A Papago Calendar Record in 1938 and Social Organization of Papago Indians in 1939.
As Associate Supervisor of Indian Education, Underhill traveled through the Southwest, assisting reservation teachers with the development of curriculum for Native American schools. Ruth was promoted to Supervisor of Indian Education in 1944, and transferred to Denver, CO. She retired from the BIA in 1948 and accepted a Professorship in Anthropology at the University of Denver, where she taught until 1952. Underhill traveled extensively in her retirement including a trip around the world in 1952 – 1953. Ruth returned to Denver, where she lived in a log cabin, and continued to write and serve as a consultant on Native American matters.
Ruth Murray Underhill died on August 15, 1984, one week prior to her 100th birthday, and two months removed from receiving a special recognition citation from the American Anthropological Association for her body of work as an Anthropologist. She published extensively throughout her life, and was a spokesperson for the rights of Native American women. Both the University of Denver and the University of Oregon hold archival collections of her papers.
- Women Anthropologists: Selected Biographies, edited by Ute Gacs ... [et al.] - Ruth Murray Underhill
- American National Biography Online - Ruth Murray Underhill
- Ruth Murray Underhill - University of South Florida, Anthropology Department
- Accession 90-105 - Science Service, Records, 1920s-1970s, Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Ruth Underhill Papers, University of Denver
- Ruth Murray Underhill Papers, University of Oregon
- Published Date
- Thu, 21 Mar 2013 11:00:00 +0000
- Smithsonian Institution Archives
- Data Source
- Smithsonian Institution Archives