October 16, 1957 – Margaret Mead Collects Schoolchildren’s Sputnik Drawings

Margaret Mead and Rhoda Metraux look at children’s drawings of Sputnik 1. Photo: Arthur Herzog, Library of Congress.

On October 16, 1957, 13-year-old Kathryn Leonard of Saratoga Springs, New York, completed a school assignment – draw an image of the recently launched Soviet satellite, Sputnik 1.  Her drawing survives, and was collected and included in a project by American anthropologist Margaret Mead, famous for her earlier studies of sexuality and the adolescent experience of teenage Samoan girls.  Horrified by the 1945 atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Mead set out in the 1950’s to study American perceptions of science and space exploration.  Mead and her partner, Rhoda Metraux, decided to study “images of the scientist” among American students.  After the launch of Sputnik 1, they expanded their project to include children’s reactions to the history-making event.  Essays and drawings were collected from across the United States, and also around the world.  Mead and Metraux also conducted interviews and administered questionnaires for their collection, which is currently held in the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.

The driving force behind Mead’s research was her desire to find a “model for living in a radically changed world, a world in which human beings could destroy themselves.”

Sputnik drawing by student Kathryn Leonard. Image: Library of Congress

 

October 15, 1957 – Bridge and Cinnamon Coffee Bars

Cinnamon Coffee Bars; Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1957. Photo: Annacia at Food.com

On October 15, 1957, housewives across America may have anticipated a fun Tuesday afternoon playing bridge with the girls.  Ladies would have gathered in multiples of four around card tables in the living room for chat, a friendly rubber or two, and light refreshments.  Then, as now, a little something sweet was always welcome with a good cup of hot coffee.  Everyone had their favorite cookie recipes but having company over was often a fun time to try something new.  The 1957 edition of the Betty Crocker Cookbook included a recipe for a double-your-pleasure coffee-accompanying cookie, “Cinnamon Coffee Bars“.  Most bridge guests probably “bid” for this treat, rather than “passed”.

Cinnamon Coffee Bars

1/4 cup shortening, or softened butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup hot coffee
1 1/2 cup flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
For the Glaze:
1 cup sifted confectioner’s sugar
1/4 t salt
1/2 t vanilla
1 T water

Preheat the oven to 350°F.  Cream together shortening or butter, brown sugar and egg, then stir in coffee.  Stir in flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon.  Blend in raisins and walnuts.  Spread mixture in a greased 9 x 13 inch pan and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.  Mix together ingredients for glaze.  Cut cake into bars and frost with glaze while warm.

October 14, 1957 – Happy Birthday, Mr. President!

President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Photo: White House, Pubic Domain

On October 14, 1957, United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower celebrated his 67th birthday with his loving wife, Mamie, by his side.  Possibly their son John and daughter-in-law Barbara, and grandchildren David, Barbara, Susan, and Mary were able to join in the festivities.  Dwight and Mamie’s first son, Doud (Mamie’s maiden name), had died of scarlet fever in 1921 at age 3.

Born David Dwight Eisenhower in 1890 in Denison, Texas, President Eisenhower was the third of seven sons for David  and Ida Eisenhower.  Finances were always tight for David, a college-educated engineer, and Ida, a homemaker and deeply religious woman.   The Eisenhowers moved to Abilene, Kansas early in the future President’s life and he worked for two years after graduating from Abilene High to help pay for his brother Edgar’s college education.  When it came time for Dwight, as he was called, to attend college, he chose West Point, and changed his name to “Dwight David” when he entered the prestigious Army academy in the fall of 1911.  Eisenhower enjoyed sports and was a good athlete.  While he didn’t make the academy baseball team (“one of the greatest disappointments of my life, maybe my greatest”), he played football and was a starting running back and linebacker from his sophomore year onward.  Eisenhower graduated in 1915 and served in a wide variety of roles and theaters during his Army career.

Eisenhower trained early in tank warfare, served in the Panama Canal Zone, marked time during the 1920’s and early ’30s, then served in the Philipines before assignment to high commands during World War II.  He was ultimately named Supreme Allied Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in Europe, planning and carrying out Operation Overlord, the D-Day invasion of Normandy.  His ability to work with difficult personalities and maintain strong relationships gained him respect and greater responsibility.  Eisenhower found a way to stay on positive and constructive terms with such military and political luminaries as Gen. George Patton, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, British Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery, French Gen. Charles de Gaulle, Soviet Marshall Georgy Zhukov and Soviet Premier Josef Stalin.

In 1948, after the conclusion of the war and the occupation of Europe, Eisenhower revealed the depth of his commitment to God, calling himself  “one of the most deeply religious men I know”, although he remained unattached to any “sect or organization”.

Prior to his election in 1952, President Eisenhower served briefly as the President of New York’s Columbia University, and as Supreme Commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).  He and his 1952 running mate, Richard M. Nixon, beat Democrats Adlai Stevenson and John Sparkman to gain the White House in a landslide victory.  His philosophy was one of “dynamic conservatism”.  He retained New Deal programs, created the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, championed the creation of the Interstate Highway System, crafted the Eisenhower Doctrine after the Suez Crisis in 1956, and spearheaded the Civil Rights Acts of 1957 and 1960, declaring racial discrimination a national security issue.

President Eisenhower’s health became a troubling issue while in office.  He was hospitalized for several weeks in 1955 following a heart attack, and suffered from Crohn’s disease, which required more surgery and hospitalization in 1956 to relieve a bowel obstruction.  Fortunately, he recovered his health and continued to ably lead the country he loved.

Some quotes from this great American:

“A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.”

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed.”

“Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels – men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine.  As their heirs, may we never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion.”

“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid.”

“Humility must always be the portion of any man who receives acclaim earned in the blood of his followers and the sacrifices of his friends.”

“I can think of nothing more boring for the American people than to have to sit in their living rooms for a whole half hour looking at my face on their television screens.”

“I have only one yardstick by which I test every major problem – and that yardstick is: Is it good for America?”

October 13, 1957 – The Edsel Show Broadcast

Louis Armstrong; Frank Sinatra; Rosemary Clooney; Bing Crosby. Photo: CBS

On October 13, 1957, CBS aired a live (on the East Coast) broadcast of The Edsel Show, essentially a one hour “infomercial” promoting the recently released-but-doomed new Ford Motor Company brand.  The broadcast is now primarily famous not for the car, and not for the impressive list of musical talent involved, but for the fact that it is the oldest surviving television show on videotape (made for the three-hour air delay on the West Coast).

Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra hosted the star-studded evening which included musical performances by Louis Armstrong, Rosemary Clooney, “mystery guest” Bob Hope, and the Norman Luboff Choir.  The Edsel Show, a one-time special, replaced CBS’s usual Sunday night powerhouse, The Ed Sullivan Show.  “Edsel: The Show”, as opposed to “Edsel: The Car”, was ironically one of the year’s most successful and popular broadcasts.  The show served as Bing Crosby’s television breakthrough, after which he signed a two-special-a-year, highly-compensated contract with ABC.

The real star – the car! Photo: CBS

Rosemary Clooney reported in her autobiography, Girl Singer, an amusing (or embarrassing) moment on the day of the show.  “The only Edsel I ever saw was one they gave me to drive while I was rehearsing.  I came out of the CBS Building, up those little steps to the street where my purple Edsel was waiting, like the Normandie in drydock.  Mr. Ford was right behind me, heading for his Edsel.  I opened the door of my car and the handle came off.  I turned to him, holding it out to him.  “About your car . . . .”

October 12, 1957 – General George Kenney on the Mike Wallace Interview Show

General George Kenney. Photo: US Air Force

General George Kenney. Photo: US Air Force

On October 12, 1957, Mike Wallace opened his Interview television broadcast with the following dramatic words:

“Tonight we had planned to interview one of the great fighters of our time, Sugar Ray Robinson.  But because of the alarming turn in world events this week, Sugar Ray has consented to a postponement of his interview so that tonight we can go after the story of the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union for control of outer space.”

Instead of a champion of the boxing ring, Mike hosted a champion of World War II’s war on Japan: retired Air Force General George Kenney, Commander of Allied Air Forces under General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in the Southwest Pacific.  MacArthur said about Kenney: “General Kenney has no superior as an air commander.  His creative imagination and his brilliant leadership mark him as one of the unique figures in aviation.”  Wallace also credited Kenney with “a reputation as a fearless military analyst”.

The alarming world event Wallace was referring to was the recent successful launch of the USSR satellite, Sputnik 1.  Mike lost no time in getting right to the point with Kenney: How serious was the threat posed by Sputnik, and how should the United States – and the world – respond?

Kenney, his words and manner confirming him to be a principled man of demonstrated ability, succinctly and persuasively made the following points:

  • The successful launch of Sputnik 1 proves that the USSR has developed the rocket technology necessary to propel an ICBM into United States air space, posing a serious threat to the security of our nation.
  • America has been too complacent and apathetic about the Soviet ability to develop weapons and produce them in quantity.
  • The day the Soviet political and military staff decide they can win a nuclear war, they’ll pull the trigger.  They follow the teaching of Marx and Lenin, which confirm this world mission.  Khrushchev reiterates this point in every speech he makes.
  • A preventive first strike (Wallace repeatedly proposed this option) is not the answer.  Like the sheriff of our western heritage, don’t shoot the bandit on first sight.  Warn him he has so much time to get out of town, and if he doesn’t leave and reaches for his gun instead, beat him to the draw.
  • We are behind the Soviet Union in nuclear weapons development because the American public has not taken the threat seriously enough.

Kenney, while not eager to lay blame anywhere for the United States’ having fallen behind in the Cold War arms race, stressed that US leaders mostly followed the desires of the electorate, based on the average voter’s priorities.  “If the people of this country really want defense they can have it,” he asserted.  “All they’ve got to do it demand it.  The feeling in Washington is that they wanted the budget balanced, want taxes reduced, they want bigger Social Security benefits,  more pensions, better roads, and all kinds of things.”

Kenney went on to make insightful and cogent remarks on a variety of issues related to American military defense, the performance of key government and military officials, and recent scientific research.  He shared his views on the stance the United Nations should take with member nations headed by dictatorships and explained why, in his opinion, the Russian government newspaper Isvestia had labeled him a “high ranking lunatic”.

General Kenney concluded the interview with a glimpse of his personal integrity.  He explained why he chose not to work for defense contractors after his retirement from the Air Force – “they would expect me to be down in Washington to help them sell their stuff and I couldn’t do that if one of the competitors of the company that I was working for had a better missile or a better engine or a better airplane”.  Kenney, instead, chose to spend part of his retirement contributing his time and talents to a cause he felt passionate about – the Arthritis Foundation.

October 11, 1957 – Sputnik-Spotting With MIT’s IBM 704

IBM 704 Computer with Operator. Photo: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory

On October 11, 1957, the enormous IBM 704 computer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Computation Center produced the first “satisfactory orbit” calculations for the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Sputnik 1-spotting mission.  Operation Moonwatch, a group of amateur astronomers organized by Observatory Director Fred Lawrence Whipple, was working feverishly in Cambridge, Massachusetts since Sputnik’s October 4th launch to develop the mathematical models to accurately calculate and predict where the first man-made Earth satellite would appear in the sky at any given time.  If they could determine the position of Sputnik 1, they could derive its “orbital elements”, or “parameters required to uniquely identify a specific orbit” – scientist talk for “where exactly is the satellite now and where will be it be in five, ten, or fifteen minutes?”.

The IBM 704, introduced in 1954, was the first mass-produced computer with floating-point arithmetic hardware and core memory (instead of tubes).  Computer languages FORTRAN and LISP were first developed for use with the 704.  It was able to execute up to a speedy 40,000 instructions per second.

The astronomers had three targets to work with: the Sputnik 1 satellite with its radio transmitter; a detached nose cone from the satellite; and the satellite’s discarded booster rocket.  Early in the morning of October 11th, at around 7:00 AM, the state-of-the-art IBM 704 was able to lock on and calculate the critical Earth-orbit data for the booster rocket.

Being able to accurately locate objects orbiting the Earth and passing over the United States was of great national security interest.  The questions on everyone’s mind since the Soviet Union’s successful Sputnik 1 launch were: Would the Soviets send up an ICBM, now that they had the technology?  And: How soon?

October 10, 1957 – Ayn Rand’s Philosophic “Atlas Shrugged” Published

On October 10, 1957, Ayn Rand’s dystopian novel, Atlas Shrugged, appeared in American bookstores.  The fourth and final book by Rand, who cited Victor Hugo and Fyodor Dostoyevsky among her influences, explored the possible consequences on the fabric of society of a strike by its most creative and productive minds.  Rand called the thousand-page-plus book a mystery novel, “not about the murder of man’s body, but about the murder – and rebirth – of man’s spirit”.  Her goal for the book , she said, was “to show how desperately the world needs prime movers and how viciously it treats them”, while also showing “what happens to a world without them”.

In the world of the novel, whose working title was The Strike, government is taking ever-increasing control over people and industry.  Individual creativity and contribution to commerce is discouraged, the country and people are stagnating.  Men and women of learning decide to withdraw their inventions, ideas, artistic creations, and abilities as leaders – to go on a “strike of the mind” rather than have their work appropriated and exploited by the government.  Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism is fleshed out in the story of heroine Dagny Taggert and mystery man John Galt.  Objectivism advocated for the use of human reason, individualism, and the market economy.  It set high value on man’s reason as necessary for survival, and on a code of ethics including rationality in practice, honesty, justice, independence, integrity, productiveness, and pride.  It was entirely opposed to Marxism, the Labor theory of value, fascism, socialism, and communism.  Any collectivism, with government control of society, was fatally flawed and would lead to societal melt-down.  A society which champions individual achievement and enlightened self-interest will produce the best living conditions – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – for all.

Atlas Shrugged was popular with the reading public.  It debuted on the New York Times Bestseller list at #6 and remained on the list for 21 weeks (spending six weeks in slot #4).  But reviewers were critical.  “An homage to greed”, “shot through with hatred”, and “nearly perfect in its immorality” appeared in print regarding what Rand considered her magnum opus.  Other commentators accused the book of being sophomoric and “remarkably silly”, asking “Is it a nightmare?  Is it Superman – in the comic strip or the Nietzschean version?”  Positive reviews, significantly fewer in number, applauded it as a “profound political parable”, comparing it to Uncle Tom’s Cabin in importance.

Controversy over Atlas Shrugged continues to this day.  The results of a poll of the 100 best novels of the twentieth century conducted by publishing company Modern Library in 1998 vividly illustrates the disparate view of the novel by the literary world and the general public.  While in survey results readers rated Atlas Shrugged #1, the Modern Library list-makers (made up of authors and scholars) refused to include the book at all.  Ayn Rand might find in this snub some confirmation of her unique and fervently-expressed views.

Intrigued by Atlas Shrugged, I decided to buy the Kindle version (what would Ayn Rand think of Jeff Bezos?) and take a another look. I made it all the way through the book’s approximately 1170 pages when I was in my twenties. Very little of its content had stayed with me. Hoping that – wondering if – I could get a sense of Rand’s message with abbreviated reading, I created my own 1957 Time Capsule Condensed Version. Atlas Shrugged is divided into three roughly equal-length sections: “Part One – Non-Contradiction;” “Part Two – Either-Or;” and “Part Three – A is A.” I decided to read the first chapters of each section and the novel’s concluding paragraph, four chapters in all. This amounted to 136 pages. It was a slog.

With condensed reading, it’s possible or maybe likely that I missed essential material and nuance. Rand’s style, however, doesn’t seem to involve nuance and she hammers her points home thoroughly and at great length. Her metaphors and symbols are reinforced to within an inch of their literary life. Her main point, in my own words, is that the highest human good is the full individual expression of each unique person’s excellence. A community of strong, committed, passionate, industrious people, each contributing their full share to the whole, would provide the best possible world to live in. Rand is a utopian and social engineer. In her view, the greatest drags on society are the individuals who just want to “get by.” They are happy with average, feel entitled to a share of the community’s goods just by virtue of belonging to the community, and don’t want to take undue risks, stir the waters, etc. Rand sees people like these as parasites and the innovators and achievers as heroes. She stresses that one of the greatest harms one person can do to another is to have pity on them, to indulge in charity, and sacrifice on their behalf. This is enabling behavior and holds the achievers back unfairly, while preventing the underlings from developing to their potential.

Here’s my $64,000 question: What about the people who, for reasons physical or mental or emotional, aren’t able to substantially contribute to the community? What happens to the fragile individuals who are dependent physically, emotionally, or socially on the grace of others? What would happen to a potential child of Rand’s main characters, John Galt and Dagny Taggert, if he or she were born with a disability?

This leads to my key objection to Rand’s philosophy. Each person in the community will have a unique talent and capacity to contribute. Who decides what each person’s talent and capacities are? Who decides whether each person is living up to their potential? Do you see it? We’re heading for tyranny. If each of us were discouraged from deciding for ourselves about charitable giving and supporting someone we feel is in need, then who decides which individuals are in need and gives us the go-ahead to help them? Taken to its logical conclusion, Ayn Rand’s worldview requires a society of perfect people, or a society of humans with a perfect, all-powerful ruler. Not going to happen. Just my opinion.