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Prof. Boerner's Explorations

Thoughts and Essays that explore the world of Technology, Computers, Photography, History and Family.


Archive for April, 2010
by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Oscar Gustave Rejlander, the Swedish artist and photographer, was a participant in the early developments of the technology. Trained in the techniques of Fox Talbot, he became skilled at the use of both his artist’s eye and photographic medium to create complex photographs composed by superimposing multiple negatives onto a single print to create a “super” images.

And he did this in an era of paper negatives and glass plates and relatively slow processes. His choice of topics for his photographs often offended the Victorian sensibilities of the era. Only the purchase of one of his images by Queen Victoria for Prince Albert quieted his detractors!  GLB


“Photographers never have much incentive to show the world as it is.”
— William Leith

“Results are uncertain even among the more experienced photographers.”
— Matthew Brady

“There must be a reason why photographers are not very good at verbal communication. I think we get lazy.”
— Annie Leibovitz

“These days, most nature photographers are deeply committed to the environmental message.”
— Galen Rowell

“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

“They often ask me to shoot for them. But I say no. I think an old guy like me ought not take pages away from young photographers who need the exposure.”
— Helmut Newton

“We look at the world and see what we have learned to believe is there. We have been conditioned to expect… but, as photographers, we must learn to relax our beliefs.”
— Aaron Siskind

“Some photographers take reality… and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation.”
— Ansel Adams


This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.



Oscar Gustave Rejlander

Oscar_Rejlander Oscar Gustave Rejlander (1813 – 1875) was a pioneering Victorian art photographer. Rejlander was a Swede who studied painting in Italy. He settled in England in the 1840s, and inspired by one of Fox Talbot’s assistants he turned his energies to photography, round about 1855, living first in Wolverhampton, later in London.


His exact date of birth is uncertain, but was probably 1813. He was the son of Carl Gustaf Rejlander, a stonemason and Swedish Army Officer. He studied art in Rome where he saw photographs of the sights, and then initially settled in Lincoln, England. He abandoned his original profession as a painter and portrait miniaturist, apparently after seeing how well a photograph captured the fold of a sleeve. Other accounts say he was inspired by one of Fox Talbot’s assistants.

He set up as a portraitist in the industrial Midlands town of Wolverhampton, probably around 1846. Around 1850 he learned the wet-collodion and waxed-paper processes at great speed with Nicholas Henneman in London, and then changed his business to that of a photography studio. He undertook genre work and portraiture. He also created erotic work, using as models the circus girls of Mme Wharton, street children and child prostitutes – his Charlotte Baker series remains notorious.

Perfecting Photography

Alfred_Tennyson,_1st_Baron_Tennyson_and_family Rejlander undertook many experiments to perfect his photography, including combination printing from around 1853, which it is possible he may have invented. He was a friend of photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (better know by the nom de plume Lewis Carroll), who collected Rejlander’s early child work and corresponded with him on technical matters. Rejlander later created one of the best known & most revealing portraits of Dodgson.

His early work only slightly sullied his later reputation, and he participated in the Paris Exhibition of 1855. In 1857 he made his best-known allegorical work, The Two Ways of Life. This was a seamlessly montaged combination print made of thirty-two images (akin to the use of Photoshop today, but then far more difficult to achieve) in about six weeks. First exhibited at the Manchester Art Treasures Exhibition of 1857, the work shows two youths being offered guidance by a patriarch. Each youth looks toward a section of a stage-like tableaux vivant – one youth is shown the virtuous pleasures and the other the sinful pleasures. The image’s partial nudity was deemed ‘indecent’ by some – and those familiar with Rejlander’s more commercial work might also suspect that prostitutes had been used as cheap models. But the ‘indecency’ faded when Queen Victoria ordered a 10-guinea copy to give to Prince Albert.

Alfred_Tennyson,_1st_Baron_Tennyson Despite this royal patronage, controversy about The Two Ways of Life in strait-laced Scotland in 1858 led to a secession of a large group from the Photographic Society of Scotland, the secessionists founding the Edinburgh Photographic Society in 1861. They objected to the picture being shown with one half of it concealed by drapes. The picture was later shown at the Birmingham Photographic Society with no such furore or censorship. However the Photographic Society of Scotland later made amends and invited Rejlander to a grand dinner in his honour in 1866, held to open an exhibition that included many of his pictures.

The success of The Two Ways of Life, and membership of the Royal Photographic Society of London, gave him an entree into London respectability. He moved his studio to Malden Road, London around 1862 and further experimented with double exposure, photomontage, photographic manipulation and retouching. He became a leading expert in photographic techniques, lecturing and publishing widely, and sold portfolios of work through bookshops and art dealers. He also found subject-matter in London, photographing homeless London street children to produce popular ‘social-protest’ pictures such as "Poor Joe" and "Homeless".

YoungHallamTennyson He married Mary Bull in 1862, who was twenty-four years his junior. Mary had been his photographic model in Wolverhampton since she was aged 14.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson visited Rejlander’s Malden Road studio in 1863 and was inspired to set up his own studio. Around 1863 Rejlander visited the Isle of Wight and collaborated with Julia Margaret Cameron.

Some of Rejlander’s images were purchased as drawing-aids to Victorian painters of repute, such as Sir Lawrence Alma Tadema. In 1872 his photography illustrated Darwin’s classic treatise on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals.

He became seriously ill from about 1874. Rejlander died in 1875 with several claims on his estate, and costly funeral expenses. The Edinburgh Photographic Society raised money for his widow on Rejlander’s death, and helped set up the Rejlander Memorial Fund.

Rejlander’s ideas and techniques were taken up by other photographers and this, to some extent, justifies labelling him as the father of art photography.

Interpreting Life

His most famous photograph is allegorical; called "The two ways of life", it depicts a sage guiding two young men towards manhood. One looks with some eagerness towards gambling, wine, prostitution and idling, whilst the other looks (with somewhat less enthusiasm!) towards figures representing religion, industry, families and good works. In the centre appears the veiled, partly clothed figure symbolising repentance and turning towards the good.


Shown in 1857 at an exhibition in Manchester, it provoked considerable controversy. Victorians were quite used to the portrayal of nakedness in paintings and sculptures, but photographs were so true to life that even though the posing was discreet, this was too much. At one stage this photograph went to Scotland to be exhibited and, so the story goes, the picture was considered so controversial that the left hand side of the picture was concealed, only the right side being shown. However, there were others who saw in this picture a valiant attempt to use photography in a domain which up to that time painters had dominated, and when Queen Victoria purchased a copy for her husband (at ten guineas), this seemed to make his photograph respectable!

Such a picture would have required a large studio and an immense amount of light. What makes this photograph such a remarkable piece of work is that the event never took place, because it is a combination print using a number of negatives – no fewer than thirty. The groups were photographed individually, the models being strolling players.

The print itself is huge (30" by 16"). A reviewer in Photographic Notes (28 April 1857) described it as:

"….magnificent….decidedly the finest photograph of its class ever pronounced…"

In 1858 Rejlander read a paper to the Photographic Society, outlining the meaning of every figure in the photograph. Henry Peach Robinson, writing about him, found that his honesty and helpfulness sometimes went awfully wrong:

"With the generous intention of being of use to photographers, and to further the cause of art he, unfortunately, described the method by which the picture had been done; the little tricks and dodges to which he had to resort; how, for want of classic architecture for his background, he had to be content with a small portico in a friend’s garden; how bits of drapery had to do duty for voluminous curtains….

(He) thereby gave the clever critics the clue they wanted, and enabled the little souls to declare that the picture was only a thing of shreds and patches. It is so much easier to call a picture a patchwork combination than to understand the inner meaning of so superb a work as this masterpiece of Rejlander’s!"

Rejlander, a man who, Robinson said, was never known to use a word that would hurt the feelings of others, was clearly crushed by this reaction:

"the time will come when a work will be judged on its merits, not by the method of production….."

The theme of this famous print most will now find quaint, but his painstaking perseverance no-one can help but admire greatly. It had taken Rejlander and his wife no less than six weeks to produce it (one could only print by daylight) and the exposures were up to two hours, each very carefully done with masks.

Incidentally, there are two versions of this picture. In the second one the Philosopher is looking towards the side that shows virtue. We are not told why this second print was made, but given the nature of the subject it may well be that someone had pointed out to the poor couple that the Philosopher himself seemed more interested in vice than on virtue, so they felt obliged to have another go at printing it!

Another popular one is a self-portrait depicting Rejlander the Artist introducing Rejlander the volunteer. The double exposure is not so successful; in the centre, on the lower part of the floor, one can see a darker tone where he has evidently attempted to shade the print.

Expression_of_the_Emotions_Plate_IV Rejlander, in fact, produced a number of pictures on other themes, and Charles Darwin used him to illustrate his book entitled "The expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" (1872).

Some of Rejlander’s photographs are not very dissimilar from Surrealist photographs of the 1920s.

Rejlander was an inventive person. His studio was unusual; shaped like a cone, the camera would be in the narrow part, the sitters at the opposite end. The camera was in shadow so that the sitters were less aware of it. It is said that he used to estimate his exposure by bringing his cat into the studio; if the cat’s eyes were like slits he would give use a fairly short exposure. If they were a little more open than usual he would give extra exposure, whilst if the pupils were totally dilated he would admit defeat, put the lens cap on the lens and go out for a walk! This interesting man must surely be the first person to use a cat as an exposure meter!

A number of his pictures were bought by Prince Albert. However, Rejlander remained in poverty. In 1859 he wrote:

"I am tired of photography-for-the-public, particularly composite photographs, for there can be no gain and there is no honour, only cavil and misrepresentation."

He eventually returned to painting, but to little gain, and died in poverty.

The RPS has quite a large Rejlander collection of about 80 prints, some original albumen, some later platinum and carbon reprints and 57 wet collodion negatives.



Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Oscar Gustave Rejlander…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Robert Leggat: Oscar Gustave Rejlander

Brainy Quote: Photographers Quotes…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 George Washington, our first president, took the oath of office on this day in 1789. He gave his first inaugural address followed by a prayer. He moved forward with the mammoth task of creating a new government that was based upon democracy and the rights of the people. He had the responsibility to create the various organizations within the government as well as dealing with the many internal and international affairs of state. Thank you, Mr. Washington, for a job well-done.  GLB


“The Constitution is the guide which I never will abandon.”
— George Washington

“The administration of justice is the firmest pillar of government.”
— George Washington

“The basis of our political system is the right of the people to make and to alter their constitutions of government.”
— George Washington

“Some day, following the example of the United States of America, there will be a United States of Europe.”
— George Washington

“Over grown military establishments are under any form of government inauspicious to liberty, and are to be regarded as particularly hostile to republican liberty.”
— George Washington

“The foolish and wicked practice of profane cursing and swearing is a vice so mean and low that every person of sense and character detests and despises it.”
— George Washington

“The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”
— George Washington

“The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”
— George Washington

George Washington’s Presidency

Gilbert_Stuart_Williamstown_Portrait_of_George_Washington George Washington served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and as the commander of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War from 1775 to 1783. Because of his significant role in the revolution and in the formation of the United States, he is often revered by Americans as the “Father of Our Country”.

The Continental Congress appointed Washington commander-in-chief of the American revolutionary forces in 1775. The following year, he forced the British out of Boston, lost New York City, and crossed the Delaware River in New Jersey, defeating the surprised enemy units later that year. Because of his strategy, Revolutionary forces captured the two main British combat armies at Saratoga and Yorktown. Negotiating with Congress, the colonial states, and French allies, he held together a tenuous army and a fragile nation amid the threats of disintegration and failure. Following the end of the war in 1783, King George III asked what Washington would do next and was told of rumors that he’d return to his farm; this prompted the king to state, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” Washington did return to private life and retired to his plantation at Mount Vernon.

He presided over the Philadelphia Convention that drafted the United States Constitution in 1787 because of general dissatisfaction with the Articles of Confederation. Washington became President of the United States in 1789 and established many of the customs and usages of the new government’s executive department. He sought to create a nation capable of surviving in a world torn asunder by war between Britain and France. His unilateral Proclamation of Neutrality of 1793 provided a basis for avoiding any involvement in foreign conflicts. He supported plans to build a strong central government by funding the national debt, implementing an effective tax system, and creating a national bank. Washington avoided the temptation of war and a decade of peace with Britain began with the Jay Treaty in 1795; he used his prestige to get it ratified over intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. Although never officially joining the Federalist Party, he supported its programs and was its inspirational leader. Washington’s farewell address was a primer on republican virtue and a stern warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars. He was awarded the first Congressional Gold Medal with the Thanks of Congress in 1776.


George_Washington_1795 Portrait by Gilbert Stuart, 1795

The Electoral College elected Washington unanimously in 1789, and again in the 1792 election; he remains the only president to have received 100% of the electoral votes. At his inauguration, he insisted on having Barbados Rum served. John Adams was elected vice president. Washington took the oath of office as the first President under the Constitution for the United States of America on April 30, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City although, at first, he had not wanted the position.

First Inaugural Address

Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and of the House of Representatives:

Among the vicissitudes incident to life no event could have filled me with greater anxieties than that of which the notification was transmitted by your order, and received on the 14th day of the present month. On the one hand, I was summoned by my Country, whose voice I can never hear but with veneration and love, from a retreat which I had chosen with the fondest predilection, and, in my flattering hopes, with an immutable decision, as the asylum of my declining years–a retreat which was rendered every day more necessary as well as more dear to me by the addition of habit to inclination, and of frequent interruptions in my health to the gradual waste committed on it by time. On the other hand, the magnitude and difficulty of the trust to which the voice of my country called me, being sufficient to awaken in the wisest and most experienced of her citizens a distrustful scrutiny into his qualifications, could not but overwhelm with despondence one who (inheriting inferior endowments from nature and unpracticed in the duties of civil administration) ought to be peculiarly conscious of his own deficiencies. In this conflict of emotions all I dare aver is that it has been my faithful study to collect my duty from a just appreciation of every circumstance by which it might be affected. All I dare hope is that if, in executing this task, I have been too much swayed by a grateful remembrance of former instances, or by an affectionate sensibility to this transcendent proof of the confidence of my fellow-citizens, and have thence too little consulted my incapacity as well as disinclination for the weighty and untried cares before me, my error will be palliated by the motives which mislead me, and its consequences be judged by my country with some share of the partiality in which they originated.

Washington's_InaugurationSuch being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow- citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence.

By the article establishing the executive department it is made the duty of the President “to recommend to your consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.” The circumstances under which I now meet you will acquit me from entering into that subject further than to refer to the great constitutional charter under which you are assembled, and which, in defining your powers, designates the objects to which your attention is to be given. It will be more consistent with those circumstances, and far more congenial with the feelings which actuate me, to substitute, in place of a recommendation of particular measures, the tribute that is due to the talents, the rectitude, and the patriotism which adorn the characters selected to devise and adopt them. In these honorable qualifications I behold the surest pledges that as on one side no local prejudices or attachments, no separate views nor party animosities, will misdirect the comprehensive and equal eye which ought to watch over this great assemblage of communities and interests, so, on another, that the foundation of our national policy will be laid in the pure and immutable principles of private morality, and the preeminence of free government be exemplified by all the attributes which can win the affections of its citizens and command the respect of the world. I dwell on this prospect with every satisfaction which an ardent love for my country can inspire, since there is no truth more thoroughly established than that there exists in the economy and course of nature an indissoluble union between virtue and happiness; between duty and advantage; between the genuine maxims of an honest and magnanimous policy and the solid rewards of public prosperity and felicity; since we ought to be no less persuaded that the propitious smiles of Heaven can never be expected on a nation that disregards the eternal rules of order and right which Heaven itself has ordained; and since the preservation of the sacred fire of liberty and the destiny of the republican model of government are justly considered, perhaps, as deeply, as finally, staked on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.

Besides the ordinary objects submitted to your care, it will remain with your judgment to decide how far an exercise of the occasional power delegated by the fifth article of the Constitution is rendered expedient at the present juncture by the nature of objections which have been urged against the system, or by the degree of inquietude which has given birth to them. Instead of undertaking particular recommendations on this subject, in which I could be guided by no lights derived from official opportunities, I shall again give way to my entire confidence in your discernment and pursuit of the public good; for I assure myself that whilst you carefully avoid every alteration which might endanger the benefits of an united and effective government, or which ought to await the future lessons of experience, a reverence for the characteristic rights of freemen and a regard for the public harmony will sufficiently influence your deliberations on the question how far the former can be impregnably fortified or the latter be safely and advantageously promoted.

To the foregoing observations I have one to add, which will be most properly addressed to the House of Representatives. It concerns myself, and will therefore be as brief as possible. When I was first honored with a call into the service of my country, then on the eve of an arduous struggle for its liberties, the light in which I contemplated my duty required that I should renounce every pecuniary compensation. From this resolution I have in no instance departed; and being still under the impressions which produced it, I must decline as inapplicable to myself any share in the personal emoluments which may be indispensably included in a permanent provision for the executive department, and must accordingly pray that the pecuniary estimates for the station in which I am placed may during my continuance in it be limited to such actual expenditures as the public good may be thought to require.

Having thus imparted to you my sentiments as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign Parent of the Human Race in humble supplication that, since He has been pleased to favor the American people with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquillity, and dispositions for deciding with unparalleled unanimity on a form of government for the security of their union and the advancement of their happiness, so His divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend.

First Term as President

The 1st United States Congress voted to pay Washington a salary of $25,000 a year—a large sum in 1789. Washington, already wealthy, declined the salary, since he valued his image as a selfless public servant. At the urging of Congress, however, he ultimately accepted the payment, to avoid setting a precedent whereby the presidency would be perceived as limited only to independently wealthy individuals who could serve without any salary. Washington attended carefully to the pomp and ceremony of office, making sure that the titles and trappings were suitably republican and never emulated European royal courts. To that end, he preferred the title “Mr. President” to the more majestic names suggested.

Washington proved an able administrator. An excellent delegator and judge of talent and character, he held regular cabinet meetings to debate issues before making a final decision. In handling routine tasks, he was “systematic, orderly, energetic, solicitous of the opinion of others but decisive, intent upon general goals and the consistency of particular actions with them.”

Washington reluctantly served a second term as president. He refused to run for a third, establishing the customary policy of a maximum of two terms for a president, which later became law by the 22nd Amendment to the Constitution.

Domestic issues

Washington was not a member of any political party and hoped that they would not be formed, fearing conflict and stagnation. His closest advisors formed two factions, setting the framework for the future First Party System. Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton had bold plans to establish the national credit and build a financially powerful nation, and formed the basis of the Federalist Party. Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, founder of the Jeffersonian Republicans, strenuously opposed Hamilton’s agenda, but Washington favored Hamilton over Jefferson.

The Residence Act of 1790, which Washington signed, authorized the President to select the specific location of the permanent seat of the government, which would be located along the Potomac River. The Act authorized the President to appoint three commissioners to survey and acquire property for this seat. Washington personally oversaw this effort throughout his term in office. In 1791, the commissioners named the permanent seat of government “The City of Washington in the Territory of Columbia” to honor Washington. In 1800, the Territory of Columbia became the District of Columbia when the federal government moved to the site according to the provisions of the Residence Act.

In 1791, Congress imposed an excise on distilled spirits, which led to protests in frontier districts, especially Pennsylvania. By 1794, after Washington ordered the protesters to appear in U.S. district court, the protests turned into full-scale riots known as the Whiskey Rebellion. The federal army was too small to be used, so Washington invoked the Militia Act of 1792 to summon the militias of Pennsylvania, Virginia, and several other states. The governors sent the troops and Washington took command, marching into the rebellious districts. There was no fighting, but Washington’s forceful action proved the new government could protect itself. It also was one of only two times that a sitting President would personally command the military in the field. These events marked the first time under the new constitution that the federal government used strong military force to exert authority over the states and citizens.

Foreign affairs

George_Washington_P1190516 Statue of Washington in Paris, France

In 1793, the revolutionary government of France sent diplomat Edmond-Charles Genêt, called “Citizen Genêt,” to America. Genêt issued letters of marque and reprisal to American ships so they could capture British merchant ships. He attempted to turn popular sentiment towards American involvement in the French war against Britain by creating a network of Democratic-Republican Societies in major cities. Washington rejected this interference in domestic affairs, demanded the French government recall Genêt, and denounced his societies.

Hamilton and Washington designed the Jay Treaty to normalize trade relations with Britain, remove them from western forts, and resolve financial debts left over from the Revolution. John Jay negotiated and signed the treaty on November 19, 1794. The Jeffersonians supported France and strongly attacked the treaty. Washington and Hamilton, however, mobilized public opinion and won ratification by the Senate by emphasizing Washington’s support. The British agreed to depart their forts around the Great Lakes, the Canadian-U.S. boundary was adjusted, numerous pre-Revolutionary debts were liquidated, and the British opened their West Indies colonies to American trade. Most importantly, the treaty delayed war with Britain and instead brought a decade of prosperous trade with that country. This angered the French and became a central issue in political debates.

Farewell Address

Washington’s Farewell Address (issued as a public letter in 1796) was one of the most influential statements of American political values. Drafted primarily by Washington himself, with help from Hamilton, it gives advice on the necessity and importance of national union, the value of the Constitution and the rule of law, the evils of political parties, and the proper virtues of a republican people. While he declined suggested versions that would have included statements that morality required a “divinely authoritative religion,” he called morality “a necessary spring of popular government”. He said, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Washington’s public political address warned against foreign influence in domestic affairs and American meddling in European affairs. He warned against bitter partisanship in domestic politics and called for men to move beyond partisanship and serve the common good. He warned against ‘permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world’,[54] saying the United States must concentrate primarily on American interests. He counseled friendship and commerce with all nations, but warned against involvement in European wars and entering into long-term “entangling” alliances. The address quickly set American values regarding religion and foreign affairs.


After retiring from the presidency in March 1797, Washington returned to Mount Vernon with a profound sense of relief. He devoted much time to farming.

On July 4, 1798, Washington was commissioned by President John Adams to be Lieutenant General and Commander-in-chief of the armies raised or to be raised for service in a prospective war with France. He served as the senior officer of the United States Army between July 13, 1798, and December 14, 1799. He participated in the planning for a Provisional Army to meet any emergency that might arise, but did not take the field.

On December 12, 1799, Washington spent several hours inspecting his farms on horseback, in snow and later hail and freezing rain. He sat down to dine that evening without changing his wet clothes. The next morning, he awoke with a bad cold, fever, and a throat infection called quinsy that turned into acute laryngitis and pneumonia. Washington died on the evening of December 14, 1799, at his home aged 67, while attended by Dr. James Craik, one of his closest friends, Dr. Gustavus Richard Brown, Dr. Elisha C. Dick, and Tobias Lear V, Washington’s personal secretary. Lear would record the account in his journal, writing that Washington’s last words were “‘Tis well.” Modern doctors believe that Washington died largely because of his treatment, which included calomel and bloodletting, resulting in a combination of shock from the loss of five pints of blood, as well as asphyxia and dehydration.

Throughout the world, men and women were saddened by Washington’s death. Napoleon I ordered ten days of mourning throughout France; in the United States, thousands wore mourning clothes for months. To protect their privacy, Martha Washington burned the correspondence between her husband and herself following his death. Only three letters between the couple have survived.


Other Events on this Day:

  • In 1789…
    George Washington takes office as the first U.S. president
  • In 1803…
    The United States concludes negotiations with France for the Louisiana Purchase, doubling the size of the young republic for $15 million.
  • In 1812…
    Louisiana becomes the eighteenth state.
  • In 1939…
    Lou Gehrig plays his last game with the New York Yankees, ending his streak of 2,130 consecutive games played.
  • In 1939…
    Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first president to appear on TV as he opens the World’s Fair in New York City.
  • In 1975…
    The last Americans evacuate Saigon as South Vietnam surrenders to the Vietcong.

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: George Washington…

Wikipedia: George Washington’s First Inaugural Address…

Brainy Quote: George Washington Quotes…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 Robert Howlett was one of the leading British photographers of the mid-19th century. He was dedicated to developing the photographic process, moving from the albumin sensitized glass plates to the use of the wet collodion plate process for his images. He was commissioned by Prince Albert to document the new frescos in the palace, documented the Crimean War and the building of the Great Eastern steamship. His contributions to the art and science of photography were cut short by his untimely death due to Typhus at the age of twenty-seven.  GLB


“All gardening is landscape painting.”
— William Kent

“An author knows his landscape best; he can stand around, smell the wind, get a feel for his place.”
— Tony Hillerman

“But I’ll try to immerse myself in as many of the formal characteristics of site as possible in the landscape.”
— Richard Serra

continue reading…

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 One of the nightmares of recent history was the Vietnam War. I was in college in 1965 when President Johnson issued his proclamation that called up the military for deployment in that narrow strip of jungle in southeast Asia, Vietnam. It was still so vivid in my mind that when I went into Vietnam in the mid-1990s for a summer teaching assignment that I woke up in the middle of the night to write a long letter to my wife expressing my emotions.

The present post gives an overview of our commitments in Vietnam from President Kennedy to President Ford. Due to space limitations, we hit only the highlights and omitted our prior experiences in that country under President Eisenhower. The most important point, the image that many of us still have on our minds, is the evacuation of the American Embassy in Saigon and our withdrawal from Vietnam to allow the North Vietnamese to overrun the south.

This was a day of infamy for our generation. It is the shadow over our commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan today. When will we learn?  GLB


“The war in Vietnam I thought a dreadful mistake.”
— Stephen Ambrose

“To win in Vietnam, we will have to exterminate a nation.”
— Benjamin Spock

“These men were wrongfully rejected, the veterans. The fighting man should never have been blamed for Vietnam.”
— Neil Sheehan

“Vietnam helped me realize who the true heroes really are in this world. It’s not the home-run hitters.”
— Willie Stargell

“Vietnam is often called our only uncensored war, but that only means that the government wasn’t vetting the pictures and words.”
— Bruce Jackson

“There have been two popular subjects for poetry in the last few decades: the Vietnam War and AIDS, about both of which almost all of us have felt deeply.”
— Thom Gunn

“Vietnam was a lie but at least there was a political agenda. It was the domino theory. Iraq is about nothing but George Bush’s ego laced with imperialist ambitions. And it was helped by your government.”
— Donald Sutherland

“Throughout the 20th century, the Republican Party benefited from a non-interventionist foreign policy. Think of how Eisenhower came in to stop the Korean War. Think of how Nixon was elected to stop the mess in Vietnam.”
— Ron Paul

The End of the Vietnam War: 1975

Bruce_Crandall's_UH-1D The Vietnam War, also known as the Second Indochina War, the Vietnam Conflict or the American War, was a Cold War military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from November 1, 1955, to April 30, 1975 when Saigon fell. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between the communist North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of South Vietnam, supported by the United States and other anti-communist nations.

The Viet Cong, a lightly-armed South Vietnamese communist-controlled common front, largely fought a guerrilla war against anti-communist forces in the region. The North Vietnamese Army engaged in a more conventional war, at times committing large units into battle. U.S. and South Vietnamese forces relied on air superiority and overwhelming firepower to conduct search and destroy operations, involving ground forces, artillery and airstrikes.

The United States entered the war to prevent a communist takeover of South Vietnam as part of their wider strategy of containment. Military advisors arrived beginning in 1950. U.S. involvement escalated in the early 1960s, with U.S. troop levels tripling in 1961 and tripling again in 1962. U.S. combat units were deployed beginning in 1965. Operations spanned borders, with Laos and Cambodia heavily bombed. Involvement peaked in 1968 at the time of the Tet Offensive. After this, U.S. ground forces were withdrawn as part of a policy called Vietnamization. Despite the Paris Peace Accords, signed by all parties in January 1973, fighting continued.

The Case-Church Amendment passed by the U.S. Congress prohibited use of American military after August 15, 1973 unless the president secured congressional approval in advance. The capture of Saigon by North Vietnamese army in April 1975 marked the end of Vietnam War. North and South Vietnam were reunified the following year.

The war exacted a huge human cost in terms of fatalities (See: Vietnam War casualties), including 3 to 4 million Vietnamese from both sides, 1.5 to 2 million Laotians and Cambodians, and 58,159 U.S. soldiers. By this war’s end, the Vietnamese had been fighting foreign involvement or occupation in various wars for over a hundred years.

During John F. Kennedy’s administration, 1961–1963

When John F. Kennedy won the 1960 U.S. presidential election, one major issue Kennedy raised was whether the Soviet space and missile programs had surpassed those of the U.S. As Kennedy took over, despite warnings from Eisenhower about Laos and Vietnam, Europe and Latin America “loomed larger than Asia on his sights.” In his inaugural address, Kennedy made the ambitious pledge to “pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.”

In June 1961, John F. Kennedy bitterly disagreed with Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev when they met in Vienna over key U.S.-Soviet issues. The Legacy of the Korean War created the idea of a limited war.

Although Kennedy stressed long-range missile parity with the Soviets, he was also interested in using special forces for counterinsurgency warfare in Third World countries threatened by communist insurgencies. Although they were originally intended for use behind front lines after a conventional invasion of Europe, Kennedy believed that the guerrilla tactics employed by special forces such as the Green Berets would be effective in a “brush fire” war in Vietnam.

The Kennedy administration remained essentially committed to the Cold War foreign policy inherited from the Truman and Eisenhower administrations. In 1961, the USA had 50,000 troops based in Korea, and Kennedy faced a three-part crisis—the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion, the construction of the Berlin Wall, and a negotiated settlement between the pro-Western government of Laos and the Pathet Lao communist movement. These made Kennedy believe that another failure on the part of the United States to gain control and stop communist expansion would fatally damage U.S. credibility with its allies and his own reputation. Kennedy determined to “draw a line in the sand” and prevent a communist victory in Vietnam, saying, “Now we have a problem making our power credible and Vietnam looks like the place,” to James Reston of The New York Times immediately after meeting Khrushchev in Vienna.

In May 1961, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson visited Saigon and enthusiastically declared Diem the “Winston Churchill of Asia.” Asked why he had made the comment, Johnson replied, “Diem’s the only boy we got out there.” Johnson assured Diem of more aid in molding a fighting force that could resist the communists.

Kennedy’s policy toward South Vietnam rested on the assumption that Diem and his forces must ultimately defeat the guerrillas on their own. He was against the deployment of American combat troops and observed that “to introduce U.S. forces in large numbers there today, while it might have an initially favorable military impact, would almost certainly lead to adverse political and, in the long run, adverse military consequences.”

The quality of the South Vietnamese military, however, remained poor. Bad leadership, corruption, and political promotions all played a part in emasculating the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN). The frequency of guerrilla attacks rose as the insurgency gathered steam. While Hanoi’s support for the NLF played a role, South Vietnamese governmental incompetence was at the core of the crisis.

Kennedy advisers Maxwell Taylor and Walt Rostow recommended that U.S. troops be sent to South Vietnam disguised as flood relief workers. Kennedy rejected the idea but increased military assistance yet again. In April 1962, John Kenneth Galbraith warned Kennedy of the “danger we shall replace the French as a colonial force in the area and bleed as the French did.” By 1963, there were 16,000 American military personnel in South Vietnam, up from Eisenhower’s 900 advisors.

The Strategic Hamlet Program had been initiated in 1961. This joint U.S.-South Vietnamese program attempted to resettle the rural population into fortified camps. The aim was to isolate the population from the insurgents, provide education and health care, and strengthen the government’s hold over the countryside. The Strategic Hamlets, however, were quickly infiltrated by the guerrillas. The peasants resented being uprooted from their ancestral villages. In part, this was due to the fact that Colonel Pham Ngoc Thao, a Diem favourite who was instrumental in running the program, was in fact a communist agent who used his religious label to gain influential posts and damage the ROV from the inside.

The government refused to undertake land reform, which left farmers paying high rents to a few wealthy landlords. Corruption dogged the program and intensified opposition.

On 23 July 1962, fourteen nations, including the People’s Republic of China, South Vietnam, the Soviet Union, North Vietnam and the United States, signed an agreement promising the neutrality of Laos.

Lyndon B. Johnson expands the war, 1963–1969

Bombing_in_Vietnam A U.S. B-66 Destroyer and four
F-105 Thunderchiefs dropping
bombs on North Vietnam

Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), as he took over the presidency after the death of Kennedy, initially did not consider Vietnam a priority and was more concerned with his “Great Society” and progressive social programs. Presidential aide Jack Valenti recalls, “Vietnam at the time was no bigger than a man’s fist on the horizon. We hardly discussed it because it was not worth discussing.”

On November 24, 1963, Johnson said, “the battle against communism… must be joined… with strength and determination.” The pledge came at a time when Vietnam was deteriorating, especially in places like the Mekong Delta, because of the recent coup against Diem.

Johnson had reversed Kennedy’s disengagement policy from Vietnam in withdrawing 1,000 troops by the end of 1963 (NSAM 263 on Oct. 11), with his own NSAM 273 (Nov. 26) to expand the war.

The military revolutionary council, meeting in lieu of a strong South Vietnamese leader, was made up of 12 members headed by General Duong Van Minh—whom Stanley Karnow, a journalist on the ground, later recalled as “a model of lethargy.” Lodge, frustrated by the end of the year, cabled home about Minh: “Will he be strong enough to get on top of things?”. His regime was overthrown in January 1964 by General Nguyen Khanh.

Vietconginterrogation An alleged NLF activist, captured
during an attack on an American
outpost near the Cambodian
border, is interrogated.

On 2 August 1964, the USS Maddox, on an intelligence mission along North Vietnam’s coast, allegedly fired upon and damaged several torpedo boats that had been stalking it in the Gulf of Tonkin.

A second attack was reported two days later on the USS Turner Joy and Maddox in the same area. The circumstances of the attack were murky. Lyndon Johnson commented to Undersecretary of State George Ball that “those sailors out there may have been shooting at flying fish.”

The second attack led to retaliatory air strikes, prompted Congress to approve the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, and gave the president power to conduct military operations in Southeast Asia without declaring war. In the same month, Johnson pledged that he was not “… committing American boys to fighting a war that I think ought to be fought by the boys of Asia to help protect their own land.”

An undated NSA publication declassified in 2005, however, revealed that there was no attack on 4 August. It had already been called into question long before this. “The Gulf of Tonkin incident”, writes Louise Gerdes, “is an oft-cited example of the way in which Johnson misled the American people to gain support for his foreign policy in Vietnam.” George C. Herring argues, however, that McNamara and the Pentagon “did not knowingly lie about the alleged attacks, but they were obviously in a mood to retaliate and they seem to have selected from the evidence available to them those parts that confirmed what they wanted to believe.”

“From a strength of approximately 5,000 at the start of 1959 the Viet Cong’s ranks grew to about 100,000 at the end of 1964…Between 1961 and 1964 the Army’s strength rose from about 850,000 to nearly a million men.” The numbers for US troops deployed to Vietnam during the same period were quite different; 2,000 in 1961, rising rapidly to 16,500 in 1964.

Vietcongsuspect A Marine from 1st Battalion,
3rd Marines, moves an alleged NLF
activist to the rear during a search
and clear operation held by the
battalion 15 miles (24 km) west
of Da Nang Air Base.

The National Security Council recommended a three-stage escalation of the bombing of North Vietnam. On 2 March 1965, following an attack on a U.S. Marine barracks at Pleiku, Operation Flaming Dart, Operation Rolling Thunder and Operation Arc Light commenced. The bombing campaign, which ultimately lasted three years, was intended to force North Vietnam to cease its support for the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam (NLF) by threatening to destroy North Vietnam’s air defenses and industrial infrastructure. As well, it was aimed at bolstering the morale of the South Vietnamese. Between March 1965 and November 1968, “Rolling Thunder” deluged the north with a million tons of missiles, rockets and bombs.

Bombing was not restricted to North Vietnam. Other aerial campaigns, such as Operation Commando Hunt, targeted different parts of the NLF and Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) infrastructure. These included the Ho Chi Minh Trail, which ran through Laos and Cambodia. The objective of forcing North Vietnam to stop its support for the NLF, however, was never reached. As one officer noted “this is a political war and it calls for discriminate killing. The best weapon… would be a knife… The worst is an airplane.” The Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force Curtis LeMay, however, had long advocated saturation bombing in Vietnam and wrote of the Communists that “we’re going to bomb them back into the Stone Age”.

Vietnamization, 1969–1972

Vietnampropaganda Propaganda leaflets urging the
defection of NLF and North Vietnamese
to the side of the Republic of Vietnam

Severe communist losses during the Tet Offensive allowed U.S. President Richard M. Nixon to begin troop withdrawals. His plan, called the Nixon Doctrine, was to build up the ARVN, so that they could take over the defense of South Vietnam. The policy became known as “Vietnamization”. Vietnamization had much in common with the policies of the Kennedy administration. One important difference, however, remained. While Kennedy insisted that the South Vietnamese fight the war themselves, he attempted to limit the scope of the conflict.

Nixon said in an announcement, “I am tonight announcing plans for the withdrawal of an additional 150,000 American troops to be completed during the spring of next year. This will bring a total reduction of 265,500 men in our armed forces in Vietnam below the level that existed when we took office 15 months ago.”

On October 10, 1969, Nixon ordered a squadron of 18 B-52s loaded with nuclear weapons to race to the border of Soviet airspace in order to convince the Soviet Union that he was capable of anything to end the Vietnam War.

Nixon also pursued negotiations. Theater commander Creighton Abrams shifted to smaller operations, aimed at communist logistics, with better use of firepower and more cooperation with the ARVN. Nixon also began to pursue détente with the Soviet Union and rapprochement with the People’s Republic of China. This policy helped to decrease global tensions. Détente led to nuclear arms reduction on the part of both superpowers. But Nixon was disappointed that the PRC and the Soviet Union continued to supply the North Vietnamese with aid. In September 1969, Ho Chi Minh died at age seventy-nine.

The anti-war movement was gaining strength in the United States. Nixon appealed to the “silent majority” of Americans to support the war. But revelations of the My Lai Massacre, in which a U.S. Army platoon went on a rampage and raped and killed civilians, and the 1969 “Green Beret Affair” where eight Special Forces soldiers, including the 5th Special Forces Group Commander were arrested for the murder of a suspected double agent provoked national and international outrage.

The civilian cost of the war was again questioned when the U.S. concluded operation Speedy Express with a claimed bodycount of 10,889 Communist guerillas with only 40 U.S. losses; Kevin Buckley writing in Newsweek estimated that perhaps 5,000 of the Vietnamese dead were civilians.

Beginning in 1970 American troops were being taken away from border areas where much more killing took place and instead put along the coast and interior which is one reason why casualties in 1970 were less than half of 1969’s totals.

Exit of the Americans: 1973–1975

The U.S. began drastically reducing their troop support in South Vietnam during the final years of “Vietnamization”. Many U.S. troops were removed from the region, and on 5 March 1971, the U.S. returned the 5th Special Forces Group, which was the first American unit deployed to South Vietnam, to its former base in Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Under the Paris Peace Accord, between North Vietnamese Foreign Minister Lê Ðức Thọ and U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and reluctantly signed by South Vietnamese President Thiệu, U.S. military forces withdrew from South Vietnam and prisoners were exchanged. North Vietnam was allowed to continue supplying communist troops in the South, but only to the extent of replacing materials that were consumed. Later that year the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to Kissinger and Thọ, but the Vietnamese negotiator declined it saying that a true peace did not yet exist.

The communist leaders had expected that the ceasefire terms would favor their side. But Saigon, bolstered by a surge of U.S. aid received just before the ceasefire went into effect, began to roll back the Vietcong. The communists responded with a new strategy hammered out in a series of meetings in Hanoi in March 1973, according to the memoirs of Trần Văn Trà.

As the Vietcong’s top commander, Trà participated in several of these meetings. With U.S. bombings suspended, work on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and other logistical structures could proceed unimpeded. Logistics would be upgraded until the North was in a position to launch a massive invasion of the South, projected for the 1975–1976 dry season. Trà calculated that this date would be Hanoi’s last opportunity to strike before Saigon’s army could be fully trained.

Although McGovern himself was not elected U.S. president, the November 1972 election did return a Democratic majority to both houses of Congress under McGovern’s “Come home America” campaign theme. On 15 March 1973, U.S. President Richard Nixon implied that the U.S. would intervene militarily if the communist side violated the ceasefire. Public and congressional reaction to Nixon’s trial balloon was unfavorable and in April Nixon appointed Graham Martin as U.S. ambassador to Vietnam. Martin was a second stringer compared to previous U.S. ambassadors and his appointment was an early signal that Washington had given up on Vietnam. During his confirmation hearings in June 1973, Secretary of Defense James R. Schlesinger stated that he would recommend resumption of U.S. bombing in North Vietnam if North Vietnam launched a major offensive against South Vietnam. On 4 June 1973, the U.S. Senate passed the Case-Church Amendment to prohibit such intervention.

The oil price shock of October 1973 caused significant damage to the South Vietnamese economy. The Vietcong resumed offensive operations when dry season began and by January 1974 it had recaptured the territory it lost during the previous dry season. After two clashes that left 55 South Vietnamese soldiers dead, President Thiệu announced on 4 January that the war had restarted and that the Paris Peace Accord was no longer in effect. There had been over 25,000 South Vietnamese casualties during the ceasefire period.

Gerald Ford took over as U.S. president on 9 August 1974 after President Nixon resigned due to the Watergate scandal. At this time, Congress cut financial aid to South Vietnam from $1 billion a year to $700 million. The U.S. midterm elections in 1974 brought in a new Congress dominated by Democrats who were even more determined to confront the president on the war. Congress immediately voted in restrictions on funding and military activities to be phased in through 1975 and to culminate in a total cutoff of funding in 1976.

The success of the 1973–1974 dry season offensive inspired Trà to return to Hanoi in October 1974 and plead for a larger offensive in the next dry season. This time, Trà could travel on a drivable highway with regular fueling stops, a vast change from the days was Ho Chi Minh Trail was a dangerous mountain trek. Giáp, the North Vietnamese defense minister, was reluctant to approve Trà’s plan. A larger offensive might provoke a U.S. reaction and interfere with the big push planned for 1976. Trà appealed over Giáp’s head to first secretary Lê Duẩn, who approved of the operation.

Trà’s plan called for a limited offensive from Cambodia into Phuoc Long Province. The strike was designed to solve local logistical problems, gauge the reaction of South Vietnamese forces, and determine whether the U.S. would return to the fray.

On 13 December 1974, North Vietnamese forces attacked Route 14 in Phuoc Long Province. Phuoc Binh, the provincial capital, fell on 6 January 1975. Ford desperately asked Congress for funds to assist and re-supply the South before it was overrun. Congress refused. The fall of Phuoc Binh and the lack of an American response left the South Vietnamese elite demoralized.

The speed of this success led the Politburo to reassess its strategy. It was decided that operations in the Central Highlands would be turned over to General Văn Tiến Dũng and that Pleiku should be seized, if possible. Before he left for the South, Dũng was addressed by Lê Duẩn: “Never have we had military and political conditions so perfect or a strategic advantage as great as we have now.”

At the start of 1975 the South Vietnamese had three times as much artillery and twice the number of tanks and armoured cars as the opposition. They also had 1,400 aircraft and a two-to-one numerical superiority in combat troops over their Communist enemies. However, the rising oil prices meant that much of this could not be used. They faced a well-organized, highly determined and well-funded North Vietnam. Much of the North’s material and financial support came from the communist bloc. Within South Vietnam, there was increasing chaos. Their abandonment by the American military had compromised an economy dependent on U.S. financial support and the presence of a large number of U.S. troops. South Vietnam suffered from the global recession which followed the Arab oil embargo.


Other Events on this Day:

  • In 1854…
    Ashmun Institute (now Lincoln University), the first college for African American students, is established in Chester County, Pennsylvania.
  • In 1898…
    The first American cancer lab is established at the University of Buffalo.
  • In 1913…
    Gideon Sundback of Hoboken, New Jersey, patents the first modern zipper.
  • In 1945…
    U.S. troops liberate the Dachau concentration camp in Germany.
  • In 1975…
    American officials evacuate Saigon as North Vietnamese troops close in on Sough Vietnam’s capital

Dates and events based on:

William J. Bennett and John Cribb, (2008) The American Patriot’s Almanac Daily Readings on America. (Kindle Edition)

Background information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Vietnam War…

Brainy Quote: Vietnam Quotes…

by Gerald Boerner

Saved by the bell, or more specifically, by HP… The Palm WebOS will live to see another day. It looks like HP will be moving its Ipaq away from the Windows Mobile platform to WebOS. Personally, I welcome the change, as I have been using Windows Mobile on my Ipaq and T-Mobile cell phone for a couple of years now and it does not seem to be a good match in terms of performance and so forth.

It will be interesting to see how this acquisition will work out. But with the technologies and patents held by Palm make it a valuable asset. How it will integrate is another story that will play out soon. Check out the article at:


BREAKING: HP to Acquire Palm for $1.2 Billion

palm_pre Ending weeks of speculation about its future, Palm has been acquired by Hewlett-Packard for $1.2 billion, the companies announced this afternoon.

The survival of webOS and its parent company had come under question in recent weeks, with some analysts suggesting that shares of Palm were essentially worthless. Things only got worse when RadioShack decided to stop selling Palm’s two flagship devices: Pre and Pixi.

Now it appears that Palm and its mobile operating system have lived to fight another day, with CEO Jon Rubinstein saying in a statement that “HP’s longstanding culture of innovation, scale and global operating resources make it the perfect partner to rapidly accelerate the growth of webOS.”

The move puts HP squarely back in the smartphone game (they currently sell the Windows Mobile-powered iPAQ) — a space pioneered in many ways by Palm during the 1990s but since taken over by the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google, and Research in Motion. Even HP’s biggest rival in the PC space — Dell — is gearing up to launch an Android-powered smartphone later this year.

by Gerald Boerner

Way back when I was enthralled with Apple’s innovations, they brought out a great video extolling the virtues of Alan Kay’s Dynabook, an intelligent tablet computer with a virtual assistant that would keep track of appointments, when to teach classes, what topics need to be prepared for future classes, and even initiate phone calls. At the time, we all thought that such a device was just a twinkle in Kay’s eye, not something that could become a reality.

Well, with Apple’s most recent acquisition, we are finding out that reality may be close at hand… Check out the article at:


Siri Acquisition Brings Apple Much Closer to the ‘Knowledge Navigator’ Concept – Mac Rumors

knavigator In 1987, Apple produced a concept video demonstrating a future computer called the Knowledge Navigator. The tablet-like device offered the user a natural language interface, video conferencing, multIn 1987, Apple produced a concept video demonstrating a future computer called the Knowledge Navigator. The tablet-like device offered the user a natural language interface, video conferencing, multi-touch display and access to a global network of information.

While seemingly the product of an overactive imagination, Apple’s recent acquisition of Siri brings Apple a lot closer to that vision than ever before. Siri reportedly was born from the CALO artificial intelligence project which sought to fulfill a call for a "a cognitive computer system should be able to learn from its experience, as well as by being advised."

by Gerald Boerner

For some of us, we remember when… Grace and I finally sprung for a Canon ZapShot still video camera that stored 50 images onto a 2" optical disk. We were so jazzed at this that we showed it off at several conferences for local educators. It was a far cry from the Canon XTi that I use now or the Canon 5D that I use in… my Studio Lighting class… The folks today getting their first digital camera for $100 (with preview screen, memory card, and 12 Mpixels) don’t know what they missed. BTW, I still have the ZapShot and it works!


My First Digital Cameras | Digital Photography insights

Xapshot 150

Until the early 90s photography and computing managed to work together using a scanner to digitize prints. My first electronic still camera, the Canon Xapshot (left), wasn’t digital but it did record 50 images to a 2-inch disk. I’d view them on my TV, but I needed a capture board to transfer them to a computer. My first erasable shots were of retired San Francisco trolleys returned to active service one Labor Day weekend.

The Xapshot’s analog technology more closely resembled the way my VCR recorded video rather than my next camera, the Logitech Fotoman. Unlike the color Xapshot, the Fotoman stored up to 32 pictures in black and white, but they were digital, transferrable by cable to a serial port — which almost every PC contained. It took about 1.5 minutes to download each picture or 48 minutes to dump a full load from its internal memory. (Memory cards were still a way off.)

by Gerald Boerner

Our hats are off to the passing of the floppy disk… We remember when we used to boot up our computers with them. I remember when a floppy disk was a giant leap over using a cassette tape to store and retrieve programs files. We moved from 125 KB to 360 KB to 1.4 MB of storage capacity. At the time, this was a major s…tep up, but it pales in the face of a 4 GB or 8GB or 16 GB USB drive! And to think that the cost of a 4GB USB is about what we used to pay for a Floppy! RIP Mr. Floppy Disk…


RIP Floppy Disk

floppy-dead If you’re of a certain age, you probably have a history with floppy disks. The moniker dates back to your first forays into computer games and later came to signify those multicolored, hard plastic contraptions you used to store college papers or work presentations.

It’s probably been a dog’s age since you even thought about floppy disks — let alone had a drive on your computer that could support one — but floppies are actually still popular in India and Japan. Sony is the last manufacturer of 3.5-inch floppy disks, and while the company sold more than 12 million of them in 2009, Sony has just announced it will stop making floppies as of March 2011.

“Due to dwindling demand, Sony discontinued European production of 3.5-inch floppy disks in September 2009. The last European sale of a floppy disk took place in March 2010,” a Sony spokesperson said…

by Gerald Boerner

To all my Photoshop buddies… Just came across this video on the new "Content-Aware Fill" sneak preview of Photoshop CS5 which will be available very soon. This feature can "heal" those minor imperfections that we find in our own photographs and are essential to the process of photo-restoration for old photos… Enjoy… and let me know what you think…


Adobe Photoshop CS5: Content-Aware Fill Sneak Peek

PS_Content-Aware Fill Getting rid of annoying lens flares or an unwanted tree in Photoshop could get much less tedious with a new "content-aware fill" tool. Adobe’s sneak preview of the feature shows how formerly painstaking retouch jobs becomes as easy as watching a progress bar do its magic within seconds.

The tool can also do instant-fixes where users manually erase image artifacts or clean up areas in photos, such as removing divots from grass. Bryan O’Neil Hughes, a Photoshop project manager, narrates a demo that walks would-be users through cleaning up several images…

Even those ugly-edge panorama images stitched together from different photos can become one smooth rectangular image. Content-aware fill’s algorithms fill out the formerly nonexistent part of the panorama photo with the appropriate ground, sky and cloud patterns. Perhaps our inner dying artiste might feebly protest this assault on image authenticity, but our inner Photochopper has already begun salivating like Pavlov’s dogs.

by Gerald Boerner


JerryPhoto_8x8_P1010031 The middle of the 19th century was an exciting time. Our country was expanding its boundaries and fighting wars with Mexico. We were seeing the seeds of confrontation being sown between the slave-based economy of the southern states vs. the industrial economy of the northern states. We had the discovery of gold in California and the gold rush. AND, we had the development of the photographic process by Daguerre in France and Fox Talbot in the U.K.

While the daguerreotype was recording the mother load country in the Sierras by Carleton Watkins, Thomas M. Easterly was establishing himself in the Missouri area. Ordinary people could now afford to record their likenesses on polished metal plates in any of the many daguerreotype studios around the East coast of the US. Easterly brought this function to the mid-Western U.S..  GLB


“I have seized the light. I have arrested its flight.”
— Louis Jacques Mande Daguerre

“A good daguerreotype was as perfect a kind of photograph as was ever made.”
— Edward Steichen

“Anybody can direct a picture once they know the fundamentals. Directing is not a mystery, it’s not an art. The main thing about directing is: photograph the people’s eyes.”
— John Ford

“Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”
— Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph, is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.”
— Edward Weston

“Everything is a subject. Every subject has a rhythm. To feel it is the raison detre. The photograph is a fixed moment of such a raison d’etre, which lives on in itself.”
— André Kertesz

“I made a photograph of a garden in Kyoto, the Zen garden, which is a rectangle. But a photograph taken from any one point will not show, well it shows a rectangle, but not with ninety degree angles.”
— David Hockney

“I treat the photograph as a work of great complexity in which you can find drama. Add to that a careful composition of landscapes, live photography, the right music and interviews with people, and it becomes a style.”
— Ken Burns


This posting is intended for the educational use of photographers and photography students and complies with the “educational fair use” provisions of copyright law. For readers who might wish to reuse some of these images should check out their compliance with copyright limitations that might apply to that use.



Thomas Easterly: America’s Leading Daguerreotypist

Clements Library, University of Michigan
Permission must be received in advance, in writing, from the Director of the Clements before publication, duplication, or other use of this image. Thomas Martin Easterly (1809 – 1882) was a 19th century American daguerreotypist and photographer. One of the more prominent and well-known daguerreotypists in the Midwest United States during the 1850s, his studio became one of the first permanent art galleries in Missouri.

Although his reputation was limited to the Midwest during his lifetime, he is considered to have been one of the foremost experts in the field of daguerreotype photography in the United States during the mid-to-late 19th century.

Not much is known about Easterly’s youth, except that he taught calligraphy in New England before moving west to Missouri, where he lived by 1847. In St. Louis, he opened a daguerreotype studio on the corner of Fourth and Olive Streets, near where the St. Louis Arch stands today. It is unknown how Easterly learned the craft of producing daguerreotypes, but his mastery of the form is apparent even in his earliest known works.

In 1864-65, when Norton Townshend was based in St. Louis as a Medical Inspector, he often called on the Easterlys and referenced them in his diary and letters home to his wife. Townshend’s updates reveal the Easterlys’ personalities (Miriam was "enquiring," with a love of books, and Townshend called Thomas "intelligent" and "an excellent workman")1. Townshend also reported news of the Easterlys’ financial struggle, a result of the declining popularity of daguerreotypes and Easterly’s unwillingness to give up what he considered a "perfect and durable" process.

The J. Paul Getty Museum sketch on Easterly summarizes his role in photography as:

A sometime calligrapher and writing teacher, Vermont-born Thomas Easterly learned the daguerreotype process in New York between 1841 and 1844, possibly from Charles and Richard Meade. In 1844 Easterly sailed from New York City to New Orleans, where he made photographs before returning to Vermont the following year. He did not remain for long: by October, he had entered into a daguerreotype studio partnership in Iowa. He and his partner operated as traveling photographers working throughout Iowa and Missouri for several years. Some scholars have credited Easterly with making the first photographs of Plains Indians.

After the dissolution of the partnership, Easterly moved to Saint Louis and took over a studio in 1848. He had a successful career for ten years, but his loyalty to the daguerreotype process after the introduction of the ambrotype, tintype, and paper photograph processes caused his business to falter. By 1860 Easterly had begun to sell farm implements in addition to continuing his daguerreotype practice.


Born in Guilford, Vermont, he was the second of five children born to Tunis Easterly and Philomena Richardson. He reportedly came from a poor background, his father being a farmer and part-time shoemaker, and was living away from home at age 11. Around 1830, he was living in St. Lawrence County, New York although little is known of his early years.

He began working as itinerant calligrapher and a penmanship teacher traveling throughout Vermont, New Hampshire and New York during the 1830s and 40s. By 1844, he had begun practicing photography taking outdoor photographs of architectural landmarks and scenic sites in Vermont. Among his earliest daguerreotypes, made a decade before outdoor photography was popular or profitable, those of the Winooski and Connecticut rivers are the only known examples to be self-consciously influenced by the romantic landscape paintings of the Hudson River School artists. He was also the first and only daguerreotypist to identify his work using engraved signatures and descriptive captions.


Miriam Easterly Easterly daguerreotype of
Miriam Bailey Easterly with
sewing basket, c. 1850.

In the fall of 1845, Easterly traveled to the Midwest United States and toured the Mississippi River with Frederick F. Webb as representatives of the Daguerreotype Art Union. The two gained some notoriety from their photography of the criminals convicted of the murder of George Davenport in October of that year. Iowa newspapers reported that Easterly and Webb had achieved a "splendid likeness" of the men shortly before their execution. Easterly and Webb continued touring on the Mississippi and Missouri rivers for several months before spending the winter of 1846-47 in Liberty, Missouri.

The following spring, Easterly and Webb went their separate ways with Easterly traveling on his own to St. Louis. He soon became popular for his portraits of prominent residents and visiting celebrities which were displayed in a temporary gallery on Glasgow Row. One of these portraits was that of Chief Keokuk taken March 1847. He also took a daguerreotype of a lightning bolt, one of the first recorded "instantaneous" photographic images, while in St. Louis. This was later recorded in the Iowa Sentinel as an "Astonishing Achievement in Art". Before retuning to Vermont in August 1847, the St. Louis Reveille described his as an "unrivaled daguerreotypist".

05602301 He was brought back to Missouri by John Ostrander, founder of the first daguerreotype gallery in St. Louis, in early 1848. Preparing for an extended "tour of the south", Ostringer asked Easterly to manage his portrait gallery. Esterly would continue running the gallery when Ostringer died a short time later. Many of his unique streetscapes depicting mid-19th century urban life were taken from the window’s of Ostringer’s gallery. In June 1850, he married schoolteacher Anna Miriam Bailey and settled in St. Louis permanently.

During the 1860s, improvements in photographic development caused daguerreotypes to become out of fashion. Easterly refused to acknowledge these changes believing the highly detailed daguerreotypes were far superior in terms of beauty or permanence urging the public to "save your old daguerreotypes for you will never see their like again". During the next decade, both his health and financial situation worsened. Despite the declining interest for pictures on silver, he was able to maintain his gallery until it burned in a fire in 1865. He was forced to move to a smaller location and continued working in near obscurity until his death in St. Louis on March 12, 1882. He had suffered from a long illness and partial paralysis in his final years and is thought to have been caused by prolonged exposure to mercury, one of the key ingredients used in the daguerreotype process.

On December 11, 1864, Townshend noted that:

"Mr. Easterly has not yet obtained any permanent employment neither have I been able to obtain any thing remunerative for him to do. He has just passed a circular offering to clean Daguerrotypes (sic), copy or change them into other styles. I hope he will be successful…"

Soon after writing this, Townshend attempted to find Easterly a position with the Quartermaster’s Department, but was unsuccessful. He was, however, able to help out with monetary loans, gifts of groceries, and perhaps just as importantly, books:

"I called on Mrs. Easterly both evening[s] & made her the offer of my Library ticket while I go to Kansas. I find she has a great taste for reading… Mr. Easterly is very intelligent but sees more & reads less."

Financial help became even more of a necessity after a fire broke out in Easterly’s studio in January 1865. Townshend reported that it "burned up a great many of Mr. Easterly’s pictures & machines &c. He was insured $500, but that will not cover his loss. The picture of Maggie Bailey is lost & I have no copy. Mr. & Mrs. E. feel very sad about it & Mr. E. seems almost discouraged" Surely such a setback must have been devastating to the already-struggling couple.

Easterly continued to produce his exceptional daguerreotypes through the 1870s, reportedly never working in any other format. However, the small income that the daguerreotypes brought in had to be supplemented: Thomas began selling farm equipment through newspaper ads and Miriam sold items she had sewn. In 1865, Townshend had helped her to evaluate a number of sewing machines:

"I spent the afternoon with Mrs. Easterly in a tour among sewing machines. We came to the conclusion that the Wilcox & Gibbs machines is the pleasantest & best machine… Our examinations grew out of an attempt of some one here to interest her and Mr. Easterly in some new cheap machine from the state of Maine[.] We concluded after a careful inspection that the new machine was of ‘no account.’"

In the late 1870s, Easterly suffered a "long and painful illness," possibly mercury poisoning, from which he died in 1882. Shortly after this, Miriam came to live with the Townshends in Columbus, Ohio. It is thought that the daguerreotypes in her collection passed down to Margaret Townshend’s daugher, Harriet, and onward down the family line. Others of the Easterly daguerreotypes that accompany the Townshend items are believed to have belonged to Margaret and Miriam Bailey’s sister, Linda Cahill. They capture all four of the Bailey sisters and in some cases their families, but focus particularly on Miriam Easterly, showing her in what may be her wedding dress, with flowers, and, in another image, accompanied by her sturdy sewing basket, which was so critical to the Easterlys’ livelihood.

easterlyflylarge After his death, his wife sold most of his personal collection to John Scholton, another noted St. Louis photographer. The Scholton family eventually donated the plates to the Missouri Historical Society where they remained for nearly a century before being rediscovered during the 1980s by art scholars studying pre-American Civil War photography.

Gallery of Images

[ You may view a gallery of Easterly’s images HERE. ]

Publications about Thomas M. Easterly

Dolores A. Kilgo, (1994) Likeness and Landscape: Thomas M. Easterly and the Art of the Daguerreotype. [ISBN: 1-883982-03-0]

This is a beautiful volume that masterfully illuminates the career of a little known but gifted daguerrean, Thomas M. Easterly. Historian Alan Trachtenberg called this book "simply the most accomplished and most important study of an American artist in photography yet produced." This beautiful volume was a finalist for the internationally recognized 1996 Kraszna-Krausz Photography Book Awards and received an Honorable Mention in the American Association of Museums’ 1995 Museums Publications Design Competition.



Background and biographical information is from Wikipedia articles on:

Wikipedia: Thomas Martin Easterly…

Web Sites and Blogs:

Getty Museum: Thomas Martin Easterly…

University of Michigan: Townshend and Easterly…

University of Michigan: Thomas Martin Easterly Gallery…

Brainy Quote: Photographic Quotes…