“Power in the Pen”
Silent Spring: 1962

     In three successive issues of The New Yorker magazine in June of 1962, a series of  articles under the title “Silent Spring” began appearing.  The covers of those New Yorker editions — June 16th, 23rd and 30th,  and one story page — are shown at right.  The articles were written by “reporter at large” Rachel Carson, a scientist and published author.  Carson by then had worked at the U.S. Department of the Interior and had written earlier best-selling nonfiction books on the biology of the sea and coastal environments – including the award-winning The Sea Around Us of 1951.  But the articles she offered in the New Yorker that June of 1962 were more hard-hitting than anything she had previously written.  This time, Rachel Carson was sounding an alarm and delivering a critique. 

     Her articles offered disturbing accounts of how synthetic chemical pesticides – then used widely in agriculture and sprayed elsewhere for insect control – had become, in her words, “elixirs of death,” contaminating the environment, killing wildlife,  and threatening human health.  Carson’s articles were excerpted from a forthcoming book, also called Silent Spring; a book that would have a profound impact on society, environmental science, and public understanding of the natural world.  Within one month of The New Yorker series, Carson and her book were making news and creating an uproar in the chemical industry.  On July 22nd, 1962 a front-page New York Times story on the book used the headlines: “Silent Spring is Now a Noisy Summer; Pesticide Industry Up in Arms Over New Book; Rachel Carson Stirs Conflict – Producers Cry ‘Foul’.”  The book itself, however, had yet to be released, with a publication date set for late September 1962.

Rachel Carson shown here in a 1950s photograph alongside the cover of her landmark 1962 book, “Silent Spring.”
Rachel Carson shown here in a 1950s photograph alongside the cover of her landmark 1962 book, “Silent Spring.”
     Silent Spring targeted the dangers of chemical pesticides but it was also a masterful story about the natural world.  In some ways, it was one of the first books on ecology to permeate popular culture.  Though it was an indictment of chemical abuse, it also told the story of the web of life and the nuances of biology and life-sustaining ecological systems.  Chemical pesticides had intruded on these systems, and according to Carson, upset “the balance of nature.”  She would show how that was happening, why it should be halted in some cases, and how other alternatives might offer better solutions.  At the very least, Carson would argue, much more oversight and “look-before-we-leap” caution were in order.  She and her book took on some very powerful interests, as the chemical industry, for one, was then at the center of economic growth; a popular and positive force in society, making all manner of new, chemically-derived goods – from plastics to pharmaceuticals – providing “the good life” and feeding the world.  But Carson was not only railing at the chemical industry; her critique also shook up establishment science and much of agriculture as well.  Still, despite these formidable bastions of the status quo, Carson and her book would set in motion forces that helped broaden society’s perspective on new technology, while laying the groundwork and popular support for modern-day environmentalism and environmental protection.

     What follows here – in this 50th anniversary year of Silent Spring’s publication – is a partial recounting of the book’s history, including pressures brought to bear on author and publisher, how society received Silent Spring, and how it helped change thinking and advance public understanding of ecology.  First, some background on Rachel Carson – an unlikely and reluctant crusader – and how she came to the pesticide issue.


Rachel Carson

1929: College graduate Rachel Carson aboard boat at Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts.
1929: College graduate Rachel Carson aboard boat at Woods Hole Biological Laboratory, Massachusetts.
     Rachel Carson was born in western Pennsylvania in May 1907.  The youngest of three children, Carson had a rugged upbringing in a simple farmhouse near the Allegheny River town of Springdale, northeast of Pittsburgh.  As a young girl, she spent time in the outdoors of rural Pennsylvania encouraged by her mother.   She had also spent time by the sea during summer visits to the coast of Maine.  And as her biographer Linda Lear reports, Carson once found a fossil shell while digging in the hills above the Allegheny River which made her curious about the creatures of the oceans that had once covered the area.  But Lear also notes that the town of Springdale was sandwiched between two huge coal-fired electric plants, leaving the area as something of a grimy wasteland, its air and water fouled by industrial pollution.  According to Lear, Carson once observed “that the captains of industry took no notice of the defilement of her hometown and no responsibility for it” – a perspective Carson would carry into her later years.

Early 1930s: Rachel Carson photo from Johns Hopkins University.
Early 1930s: Rachel Carson photo from Johns Hopkins University.
     After Carson graduated from Parnassus High School, she enrolled in the Pennsylvania College for Women in Pittsburgh, now Chatham College.  It had been her plan to become a writer, starting out in English composition.  But biology had always fascinated her and in her junior year, she switched to that field.  Following college graduation, Carson spent six weeks in the summer of 1929 at Woods Hole, Massachusetts, becoming a novice investigator in zoology.

     That fall, she began graduate study at Johns Hopkins University, where she would also teach for a time, returning to Woods Hole in subsequent summers.  By1931 she worked in zoology at the University of Maryland, remaining there for five years.  She completed her Master’s degree at Johns Hopkins in 1932 then did some post-graduate work at the Marine Biological Laboratory at Woods Hole.

1941: First edition of Rachel Carson’s “Under The Sea Wind,” published by Simon & Schuster.
1941: First edition of Rachel Carson’s “Under The Sea Wind,” published by Simon & Schuster.
     Carson wanted to continue her study and pursue a Ph.D, but there was little money available to her during the Depression and family responsibilities also called, as her father and sister died, leaving her to help support her mother and two school-aged nieces.  She was hired part-time by the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries in Baltimore to write radio scripts during the Depression and supplemented her income writing articles on natural history for the Baltimore Sun and the Atlantic Monthly

     By 1936 at the age of 29, she had become a junior aquatic biologist at the Fisheries Bureau, only the second woman to be hired by the Bureau for a full-time, professional position.

     Writing became a part of what Carson did in her job at the Fisheries Bureau and also for outside publications.  In September 1937 she published an article entitled, “Undersea,” in The Atlantic Monthly magazine.  This led to her first book in 1941, Under the Sea-Wind, described by Carson as a series of descriptive narratives building in sequence on the life of the shore, the open ocean, and the sea bottom.  The book featured the sanderling, a common sea bird, facing the rhythms of nature and an arduous migration.  The book was published by Simon and Schuster.  However, arriving in bookstores the day after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, it received little notice.  Back at the Fisheries Bureau, meanwhile, she rose to chief editor of publications in 1949.

Rachel Carson, 1944, U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
Rachel Carson, 1944, U.S. Bureau of Fisheries.
     During the late 1940s, in her quest to learn more about the sea, she sought to be taken on a trip aboard the Albatross III, a Fisheries Bureau research vessel at Woods Hole.  Her request was denied as women then were not allowed on research ships. 

     She then contacted the Fisheries Bureau director in Washington and in 1949 was granted permission for a ten-day cruise in the rough waters of the George’s Bank off coastal Maine.  That cruise helped Carson in writing what would become her second book, The Sea Around Us.  Meanwhile, in 1950, Carson had something of a personal scare as a confirmed breast tumor was found and removed, with no further treatment then called for.

     Carson continued to work on her new book about the sea.  However, getting to the final product wasn’t easy.  A proposed article from the book’s research was rejected by numerous magazines, including the Saturday Evening Post and National Geographic.

1951: Rachel’s Carson’s “The Sea Around Us” became her first bestseller, winning several book awards.
1951: Rachel’s Carson’s “The Sea Around Us” became her first bestseller, winning several book awards.
     Carson’s work on this book eventually came to William Shawn at The New Yorker, who saw its quality and decided to run much of it as a serial in 1951 under the title, “A Profile of the Sea.”  The full book was published in July 1951 as The Sea Around Us.  It soon reached the national bestsellers list for non-fiction that September, remaining on the list for 86 weeks, 39 of them at No. 1.  By December 1951 the book was selling more than 4,000 copies a day.  Carson had shown herself to be a writer of some considerable talent, able to take dry scientific material and turn it into interesting reading suitable for the general public.  The Sea Around Us was also excerpted in Reader’s Digest.  The book sold over 250,000 copies in 1951 and received numerous awards, among them: the Gold Medal of the New York Zoological Society, the John Burroughs Medal, the Gold Medal of the Geographical Society of Philadelphia, and the National Book Award.  Eventually, this book would be published in 30 languages.

     “If there is poetry in my book about the sea,” she wrote upon receiving the National Book Award, “it is not because I deliberately put it there, but because no one could write truthfully about the sea and leave out the poetry.”  A film version of The Sea Around Us was also produced as a documentary in 1953, which won the Oscar award that year for Best Documentary.  Carson, however, was not happy with the result and would never sell film rights to her work again.

1951: Rachel Carson, Woods Hole dock at Sam Cahoon's Fish Market, just after  publication of “The Sea Around Us.” Photo E. Gray, Lear Collection.
1951: Rachel Carson, Woods Hole dock at Sam Cahoon's Fish Market, just after publication of “The Sea Around Us.” Photo E. Gray, Lear Collection.
     During July and August of 1951, while on leave from the Bureau of Fisheries, Carson retreated to Woods Hole where she would respond to the queries she was receiving about her popular book, but also to do some research at Woods Hole that would later appear in her third book, The Edge of the Sea.  By 1952, she left her position at the Bureau of Fisheries, spending time at Southport Island, Maine and Woods Hole, investigating the beach, tide pools and coastal ecology there for The Edge of the Sea.  She returned to Woods Hole in summer 1952 to continue research and also bought land and built a cottage on the Sheepscot River near West Southport on the coast of Maine, where she and her mother had visited years earlier.

1955: "The Edge of the Sea."
1955: "The Edge of the Sea."
     Meanwhile, in 1953, her earlier book, Under the Sea-Wind, was republished and also became a bestseller.  Her third and final book on the sea and sea coast, The Edge of Sea, was excerpted in The New Yorker and published in 1955.  On the home front at this time, Carson continued to raise her adopted niece and provide care to her elderly mother. She also later adopted her five year-old grandnephew Roger Christie, son of her niece, Marjorie Christie who had died in 1957.  Carson moved to Silver Spring, Maryland that year to begin raising Roger, and would share summers with him exploring the rocky coast of Maine.  These outings figured in a 1956 magazine article, titled “Help Your Child to Wonder,” later expanded and published as a book.  But by the late 1950s, Rachel Carson was being pulled into something of a new calling.  She and other scientists became worried by what they were learning about synthetic chemicals used throughout the environment.

“Go-Go Chemistry”
1940s-1950s

1955: "Synthetics...why they spell a better life for you." - Union Carbide.
1955: "Synthetics...why they spell a better life for you." - Union Carbide.
     Following World War II, “Better Living Through Chemistry” became one of the touchstone phrases and advertising slogans that told of a beneficent new chemistry that was making life better.  Numerous chemical and oil companies – Mobil, Dow, DuPont, Stauffer, Shell, American Cyanamid, Union Carbide, and others – were all enthusiastically engaged in the new chemical cornucopia.

     The 1955 magazine ad at right – one of a number of Union Carbide’s  “giant hand” ads from that era – touts the benefits of “synthetics” in building the good life.  In July 1950, during a Dow Chemical Company open house for the media, the Detroit Free Press gave a gushing review of Dow’s “hidden house of wonders,” describing an amazingly inventive company turning out all manner of products for America’s every need:  “The clothes you are wearing, the ice cream you had for lunch, your wife’s permanent wave, the pharmaceuticals in your medicine chest, your children’s toys and your automobile all most likely have ingredients in them which came from Dow.”  Indeed, by 1958, Dow was the fourth largest chemical company in the U.S., turning out an array of several hundred chemical and plastic products.

June 1947 Dow Chemical ad for “Dow DDT.”
June 1947 Dow Chemical ad for “Dow DDT.”
     Chemical pesticides produced by Dow and other companies were among the “wonder” products helping subdue insects and weeds, raise farm productivity, and increase food production for a hungry world.  One of the first popularly known pesticides was DDT, an insecticide invented by the Swiss in 1939.  DDT was used with much success in combating a typhus epidemic in Italy in 1943, as well as by the U.S. Army in fighting mosquitoes and malaria in the Pacific during WWII.  By late 1944, DDT was receiving rave reviews in advance of its first domestic applications.  By 1945, chemical companies were also selling herbicides such as 2,4-D, first sold to home gardeners, then to farmers, ranchers, utility companies, and railroads.  Pesticide advertising and government brochures helped spread the word.  One DDT ad from Dow Chemical Company in 1947 announced: “Freed From Flies, Stock Thrives—Most Pests Surrender to Dow DDT.” By the spring of 1948, some chemical companies were also selling another war research herbicide known as 2,4,5-T.  Beyond the farm, DDT and other pesticides sprays were used to fight mosquitos and any number of other pests, some sprayed aerially or by trucks moving through residential communities.

Cover of a March 1947 brochure on DDT from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Cover of a March 1947 brochure on DDT from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
     Throughout industry and government in the post WWII era there was a confident certainty about the efficacy and beneficence of the new products flowing from modern chemistry; little attention was paid to the possibility of any problems.  Some observers of that period, such as Cathy Trost, author of Elements of Risk, say the cavalier approach to new products was just part of the culture, the generally-accepted industrial and social creed of the times:

…There was little room in the 1950s for the advocates of the slow, thoughtful approach in any portion of life—business, science, or politics.  The country was so firmly in control of itself and had tied technology so tightly to patriotism that to be skeptical, to be Robert Oppenheimer working to “retard” the hydrogen bomb program or an “alarmist” scientist warning of potential dangers of radioactive fallout, was to be a traitor.  Nationwide publicity linking cigarettes to heart disease for the first time in 1954 was countered by advertisements that pointed out reassuringly that “More Doctors Smoke Camels Than Any Other Cigarette.”  “The deadliest sin was to be controversial,” observed William Manchester in describing a generation that wanted “the good, sensible life” and that was “proud to be conservative, prosperous, conformist and vigilant defenders of the American way of life.”  The largest group of college undergraduates were business majors, and industry leaders were lionized (General Motors president Harlow Curtice was Time’s Man of the Year in 1956).  A free market, left to its own devices, was thought to be the most efficient path to productivity.  In 1957 the Soviets simultaneously launched Sputnik 1 and the space race by taunting Americans with the specter of Russian superiority.  Obeisance to technocracy took on patriotic as well as religious overtones.

     It was generally in the context of this world view that Rachel Carson stepped forward with her research on pesticides and what effect these chemicals were having on the natural world.


1945: Rachel Carson looking for raptors at Hawk Mountain, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
1945: Rachel Carson looking for raptors at Hawk Mountain, Berks County, Pennsylvania.
Reluctant Crusader

     Rachel Carson did not set out to write a book about pesticides or do battle with the chemical industry.  Rather, events of that era had drawn her into the fight, both professionally as a scientist and personally as a lover of the natural world.  In her marine studies with the Bureau of Fisheries, she had begun to gather data on the effects of DDT and other pesticides on marine life.  Since abnormalities often show up first in fish and wildlife, biologists were among the first to see the ill effects of chemicals in the environment.  Carson had also learned about  various predator and pest control programs that were freely spreading pesticides in the environment with little regard for consequences beyond the target pest.  In one of her earliest forays on the chemical issue, Carson had proposed an article to Reader’s Digest on evidence about DDT’s environmental damage, but the magazine turned her down.  Carson at the time was still focused primarily on the ocean and costal environments, and writing her books on those topics.

National wildlife artist Bob Hines and Rachel Carson search out marine specimens in the Florida Keys around 1955. The two spent time in the field for the USFWS visiting Atlantic coast refuges gathering material for agency publications. Hines’ drawings also appear in “The Edge of the Sea.”
National wildlife artist Bob Hines and Rachel Carson search out marine specimens in the Florida Keys around 1955. The two spent time in the field for the USFWS visiting Atlantic coast refuges gathering material for agency publications. Hines’ drawings also appear in “The Edge of the Sea.”
     By January 1958, however, Carson’s friend, Olga Huckins, sent her a copy of a letter she’d written to to the Boston Herald, complaining about DDT spraying and that many birds had died on her private, two-acre bird sanctuary in southeastern Massachusetts.  There had been aerial spraying of pesticides in that area to kill mosquitoes in December 1957 and Huckins hoped that Carson would be able to find someone in Washington who could help stop further spraying.  The following month, in February 1958 Carson wrote to New Yorker editor E.B. White suggesting that he write an article about the dangers of pesticides.  He, in turn, suggested that Carson write the article.  “I think this whole vast subject of pollution, of which this gypsy moth business is just a small part, if of the utmost interest and concern to everybody,” White said in his reply to Carson.  “It starts in the kitchen and extends to Jupiter and Mars.  Always some special group or interest is represented, never the earth itself.”

     With that, Carson then huddled with Paul Brooks, her editor at Houghton Mifflin and then, William Shawn at The New Yorker.  She agreed to start work on what might be a magazine piece and possibly something suitable for a chapter in a book on the same subject.  That was all she had in mind at the time.  She then set out to complete the work by the summer of 1958.

1951: DDT headlines in the “Dallas Morning News” reporting on a Texas scientist testifying in Congress.
1951: DDT headlines in the “Dallas Morning News” reporting on a Texas scientist testifying in Congress.
     Rachel Carson wasn’t the only scientist concerned about the effects of pesticides on the environment.  Others had also raised red flags about DDT, some from its earliest days of use.  Among those first concerned was Edwin Teale, who wrote in March 1945: “A spray as indiscriminate as DDT can upset the economy of nature as much as a revolution upsets social economy.  Ninety percent of all insects are good, and if they are killed, things go out of kilter right away.”  In 1948, the American Medical Association warned that chronic toxicity to humans of most new pesticides , including DDT, was “entirely unexplored.”  But such warnings rarely surfaced outside scientific circles.  Congress, too, had held hearings on the safety of food additives in 1950 and 1951, during which DDT residues in food became a concern, resulting in some new registration and testing requirements for chemicals.  But DDT and other pesticides continued to be used in any case.

Aerial pesticide spraying over livestock, 1950s.
Aerial pesticide spraying over livestock, 1950s.
DDT spraying, beach area, in the 1950s.
DDT spraying, beach area, in the 1950s.

     In 1957, landowners on Long Island, New York – including Robert Cushman Murphy, a retired ornithologist at the American Museum of Natural History, and Archibald Roosevelt, a son of former President Teddy Roosevelt – had brought a lawsuit to stop the spraying of DDT to kill gypsy moths in their area.  Their lawsuit had some success, but the case went all the way to the Supreme Court which refused to hear it, although Justice William O. Douglas dissented in that decision, feeling the alarms that had been raised by experts warranted the court’s taking the case. 

     Rachel Carson had followed the proceedings of this case and was the beneficiary of a windfall of documents and scientific contacts that resulted.  She was also following the Department of Agriculture’s “fire ant eradication program” which began in 1957 and used two potent insecticides, dieldrin and heptachlor, in a spraying campaign that wildlife experts would later call a fiasco. 

     Carson had also written a letter to the editor, published in the spring of 1959 in The Washington Post, that attributed a recent decline in bird populations—she called it the “silencing of birds”—to pesticide overuse.  In late 1959, a great national furor also arose after cranberries were found to contain high levels of the herbicide aminotriazole, as the sale of all cranberry products was halted.  Carson attended the ensuing FDA hearings and came away dismayed by the testimony and tactics of the chemical industry – which contradicted the scientific data she was finding.

     “The more I learned about the use of pesticides, the more appalled I became,” Carson later wrote. “I realized that here was the material for a book.  What I discovered was that everything which meant most to me as a naturalist was being threatened, and that nothing I could do would be more important.”  Carson corresponded and met with other scientists who were documenting the environmental effects of pesticides in their own fields.  Her connections with government scientists sometimes yielded confidential information.  She also went into the federal agencies and national research libraries to do her digging, such as the Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health, and letter writing to other scientists as well.

July 1961: Rachel Carson seaside, examining specimen in jar.  Life photo, A. Eisenstaedt.
July 1961: Rachel Carson seaside, examining specimen in jar. Life photo, A. Eisenstaedt.
     Carson became the right messenger at the right time, and one who could see the larger picture unfolding in many different corners of the environment, and knew how that story could be told, using the scientific information she could access and compile.  She carefully sourced her work, as she and her editor fully expected the book would get close scrutiny by scientists and critics.  She had scientists review her chapters as she went.  In May 1962, before The New Yorker series ran, Carson attended the White House Conference on Conservation where Houghton Mifflin distributed proof copies to selected delegates.  Carson had also sent a proof copy to U.S. Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, who had recently argued against the court’s refusal to hear the Long Island DDT spraying case.

     Carson was a careful writer and would later explain that writing was hard work for her, sometimes working in long with difficult material before it was typewritten.  By March 1960 a good portion of her book was finished in rough form, but that’s when she had a medical set back.  An earlier breast tumor had actually been malignant, leading to a mastectomy in April 1960.  Carson, in fact, was plagued by recurring personal illnesses, including arthritis, an ulcer, staphylococcus infections, and a continuing battle with cancer.  Still, even as she battled these medical problems, with setbacks in her writing, she persevered through early 1962, working toward completion of the book.  After consultation with her editor and agent, she settled on a title for the book – which earlier had been “The Control of Nature,” later changed to “Man Against the Earth,” and then changed again to something else.  Paul Brooks, her editor at Houghton Mifflin, suggested using “Silent Spring, ” which he had proposed initially for the book’s chapter on birds.  But “Silent Spring” suited the overall theme Carson was trying to get at, with chemicals not only “silencing spring” but also throwing the “balance of nature” out of kilter.

     In early June 1962, the first of Carson’s articles appeared in The New Yorker magazine.

 

Initial Reaction

July 1962: New York Times front-page story and headlines on Rachel Carson’s then-forthcoming book, “Silent Spring.”
July 1962: New York Times front-page story and headlines on Rachel Carson’s then-forthcoming book, “Silent Spring.”
     Among the earliest reactions to Carson’s Silent Spring as it appeared in the New Yorker, and prior to the full book’s publication, was the front-page story that ran in the New York Times on July 22, 1962.  “The $300,000,000 pesticides industry has been highly irritated by a quiet woman author…,” began that story, which proceeded to report how that industry and the agricultural establishment were “up in arms” over what Carson had to say about their chemicals.

     P. Rothberg, president of the Montrose Chemical Corporation of California, an affiliate of the Stauffer Chemical Company and then the nation’s largest producer of DDT, was quoted in the New York Times saying that Carson wrote not “as a scientist but rather as a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature.”  Carson’s New Yorker series had caught the attention of Chemical Week, one of the industry’s trade magazines, as soon as those pieces appeared.  On July 14th, 1962, that magazine ran an editorial noting that Carson’s articles could not be dismissed as a “the work of a crank,” but that her technique was “more reminiscent of a lawyer preparing a brief…than of a scientist conducting an investigation.”  Some chemical companies had assigned staff to reading the New Yorker articles line-by-line to find possible flaws.  But one company, Velsicol Chemical Corporation, went straight to the ramparts.

Velsicol Chemical sent a letter to “Silent Spring’s” publisher.
Velsicol Chemical sent a letter to “Silent Spring’s” publisher.
     Louis A. McLean, the company’s secretary and general counsel, wrote to Carson’s publisher, Houghton Mifflin, suggesting they may want to reconsider the book’s publication, then scheduled for the end of September.  Velsicol’s five-page registered letter arrived at Houghton Mifflin on August 2, 1962 and noted, in particular, the book’s “inaccurate and disparaging statements” about two pesticides – chlordane and heptachlor – then solely manufactured by Velsicol.  Houghton Mifflin then decided to have the book reviewed by an independent toxicologist on the points raised by Velsicol.  The reviewing toxicologist found Carson’s statements accurate.  The publisher then informed Velsicol that the book would be published as planned.

     Meanwhile, other reaction to the Silent Spring stories in The New Yorker had been positive.  In Washington, Congressman John Lindsay (later to become mayor of New York and a presidential candidate), wrote to Carson telling her he found The New Yorker pieces to be “a persuasive contribution to public awareness of the dangers of our present pest control policy.”  Lindsay inserted a portion of the one of the New Yorker articles into the Congressional Record.

President John F. Kennedy, shown here at an earlier January 15, 1962 press conference, did acknowledge Carson’s book at a later press conference, August 29, 1962.
President John F. Kennedy, shown here at an earlier January 15, 1962 press conference, did acknowledge Carson’s book at a later press conference, August 29, 1962.
     President John F. Kennedy, known to be a reader of The New Yorker, was questioned by a reporter during an August 29, 1962 press conference. In his question, the reporter noted: “there appears to be a growing concern among scientists as to the possibility of dangerous long-term side effects from the use of DDT and other pesticides.  Have you considered asking the Department of Agriculture or the Public Health Service to take a closer look at this?”  Kennedy answered, “Yes, and I know they already are.  I think particularly, of course, since Miss Carson’s book, but they are examining the matter.”  A few days later, a special panel of experts was set up to see whether government agencies were doing all they could to reduce or eliminate human and wildlife dangers of pesticide programs.

     Also in late August 1962, the CBS television network announced that it was planning to run a show on the book the following year for its “CBS Reports” documentary news show.  Newspaper and magazine stories had also appeared reacting to The New Yorker series.  In Business Week magazine, a September 8th story used the title, “Are We Poisoning Ourselves?”  In Atlantic City, New Jersey, at a September 12th gathering of chemical industry officials and government scientists, Dr. C. Glen King, head of the Nutrition Foundation, charged that “one-sided” books like Silent Spring was whipping up public sentiment “bordering on hysteria.”  Silent Spring, meanwhile, had yet to reach the book stores.

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Method & Message
Book and Author

     Rachel Carson began Silent Spring with a short two-page “Fable for Tomorrow,” describing a fictional pastoral place of productive farm fields, fish-filled streams, and abundant wildlife.  But this bucolic scene is suddenly and mysteriously transformed into a desolate place, as Carson describes:

“…There was once a town in the heart of America where all life seemed to live in harmony with its surroundings…  Then a strange blight crept over the area and everything began to change…  There had been several sudden and unexplained deaths, not only among adults, but even among children…  There was a strange stillness…  The birds for example – where had they gone?…  On the farms the hens brooded, but no chicks hatched…  Anglers no longer visited [the streams], for all the fish had died…  [A] white granular power still showed a few patches; some weeks before it had fallen like snow upon…the fields and streams…”

“Elixirs of Death”
Chapter 3

     “For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.  In the less than two decades of their use, the synthetic pesticides have been so thoroughly distributed throughout the animate and inanimate world that they occur virtually everywhere.  They have been recovered from most of the major river systems and even from streams of groundwater flowing unseen through the earth. Residues of these chemicals linger in soil to which they have been applied a dozen years before.  They have entered and lodged in the bodies of fish, birds, reptiles, and domestic and wild animals so universally that scientists carrying on animal experiments find it almost impossible to locate subjects free from such contamination.  They have been found in fish in remote mountain lakes, in earthworms burrowing in the soil, in the eggs of birds — and in man himself. For these chemicals are not stored in the bodies of the bast majority of human beings, regardless of age. they occur in mother’s milk, and probably in the tissues of the unborn child…”
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Excerpt from the beginning of Chapter 2 in Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, 1962.

     This description, Carson told her readers, was indeed fictional, but the very damages described in the fable had actually occurred in separate instances all across America.  Carson then went about showing her readers, chapter-by-chapter, “what has already silenced the voices of spring in countless towns in America.”  She proceeded to show how pesticides were taking their toll on air, land and water, birds and fish, farmers and farmworkers, and public health.  Her chapter titles pointed the way, and some did not mince words.  They included, for example: “Elixirs of Death”(excerpt at right), “Surface Waters and Underground Seas,” Realms of The Soil,” “Earth’s Green Mantle,” “Needless Havoc,” “And No Birds Sing,” Rivers of Death,” Indiscriminately From The Skies,” “The Human Price,” “The Rumblings of An Avalanche,” and more.

     She showed how insufficiently tested pesticides were being widely released into the environment, killing hundreds or even thousands of beneficial species; how the chemicals concentrated or “bio-magnified” through the food chain from plants and earthworms to birds, fish, and larger predators.  Carson also showed that the progression in chemical making had gone well beyond pesticidal substances made from minerals in earlier times, and were now man-made substances that were chemically synthesized in the laboratory, and that this might be a problem for the biological world and the human body:

…The chemicals to which life is asked to make its adjustment are no longer merely the calcium and silica and copper and all of the rest of the minerals washed out of the rocks; . . . they are the synthetic creations of man’s inventive mind, brewed in laboratories, and having no counterpart in nature. To adjust to these chemicals would require time on the scale that is nature’s; it would require not merely the years of a man’s life, but the life of generations.  And even this, were it by some miracle possible, would be futile, for the new chemicals come from our laboratories in an endless stream; almost five hundred annually find their way into actual use in the United States alone [Note: today it’s more like 1,000s annually].  The figure is staggering and its implications are not easily grasped—500 new chemicals to which the bodies of men and animals are required somehow to adapt each year, chemicals totally outside the limits of biologic experience…

     Still, Carson was careful to say early on in her book, and often repeated in later public appearances, “it is not my contention that chemical insecticides may never be used.  I do contend that we have put poisonous and biologically potent chemicals indiscriminately into the hands of persons largely or wholly ignorant of their potentials for harm…”

1962: Rachel Carson with microscope on porch at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland.
1962: Rachel Carson with microscope on porch at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland.
     The genius in Carson’s book – then and now – is that it mixed good science with good story-telling, using specific, real-world examples to make her points, some of which illustrated larger concepts, such as how food-chains and ecological systems work. 

     In Chapter 8 – “And No Birds Sing” – Carson included the story how DDT spraying of elm trees on the campus of Michigan State University in the mid-1950s to fight Dutch Elm disease was also killing a large number of robins.  That spraying was aimed at eradicating the bark beetle which spread Dutch Elm disease.  However, the trees’ DDT-coated leaves fell to earth, where they were eaten by earthworms who absorbed the DDT.  The worms in turn, were eaten by the robins, a number of which died of DDT poisoning. 

     Similarly, in Chapter 9 – “Rivers of Death” – Carson used the Miramachi River of New Brunswick Canada to show how a DDT spraying to protect balsam forests from the spruce budworm also killed the aquatic insects that young salmon fish in the river depended upon for food.  So then by Chapter 12 – “The Human Price” – she then describes the larger biological systems that society depends upon, she writes:

…For each of us, as for the robin in Michigan, or the salmon in the Miramichi, this is a problem of ecology, of interrelationships, of interdependence.  We poison the caddis flies in the stream and the salmon runs dwindle and die. . . . We spray our elms and following springs are silent of robin song, not because we sprayed the robins directly but because the poison traveled, step by step, through the now familiar elm leaf-earthworm-robin cycle.  These are matters of record, observable, part of the visible world around us.  They reflect the web of life-or death-that scientists know as ecology…

     All in all, Carson’s book was, and still is with few exceptions, a taut 260 pages of reporting with engaging stories, some from everyday people who were dealing with chemical problems in their communities to which Carson would add scientific information and/or further explanation.  Her book also had plenty of documentation, with more than 50 pages of mostly scientific citations to support her reporting.

 _________________________________________________


Publication & Reviews

Book-of-the-Month Club edition of “Silent Spring” included a “report” insert by Supreme Court justice, William O. Douglas.
Book-of-the-Month Club edition of “Silent Spring” included a “report” insert by Supreme Court justice, William O. Douglas.
     By the time Silent Spring was published in late September 1962, advanced sales had already reached 40,000 copies.  The New Yorker series also resulted in more than 50 newspaper editorials and numerous news accounts and other stories.  The book became an instant best-seller, and soon appeared on the New York Times’ bestseller list where it would remain for many weeks.

     Silent Spring had also been selected by the Book-of-the-Month Club for October 1962, which meant at least another 150,000 copies in sales.  Book-of-the-Month-Club selection also meant that Silent Spring would reach rural and Main Street America, an audience well beyond those who read The New Yorker.  The Book Club edition also included a special “report” from U.S. Supreme Court Justice, William O. Douglas introducing the volume.

     As Silent Spring arrived in book stores that fall, more news stories and book reviews appeared.  CBS television newsman, Eric Sevareid, who would later host and narrate a TV show on the book, published a piece in the Los Angeles Times on September 23rd entitled, “Pests vs. Men: The Big Battle Is Raging Again; Is Pesticide Use Tinkering With Nature Balance?” 

     Other publicity on the book included a positive editorial in The New York Times.  Excerpts of the book were also published in the National Audubon Society’s magazine, Audubon, as well as various newspapers and magazines. Her book was attacked as “biased,” “emotional” and “alarmist.” Others called it a hoax, science fiction, and in a league with “The Twilight Zone” TV show. Carson herself was labeled a communist, hysterical woman, a nature nut, and worse. A Chicago Daily News review stated: “…Silent Spring may well be one of the great and towering books of our time.  This book is must reading for every responsible citizen.”  But not all the reviews and publicity were glowing.

     In fact, critical reviews appeared in popular mainstream magazines of the day, including Time, Newsweek, Life, and The Saturday Evening Post.  One Time magazine review of September 28, 1962 deplored Carson’s “oversimplifications and downright errors…Many of the scary generalizations–and there are lots of them–are patently unsound.”  Another late September 1962 review by Edwin Diamond appearing in the Saturday Evening Post, stated: “Thanks to an emotional, alarmist book called ‘Silent Spring,’ Americans mistakenly believe their world is being poisoned.”  In Chemical & Engineering News of October 1, 1962, under the title, “Silence, Miss Carson,” Dr. William J. Darby, a nutritionist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, wrote: “Her ignorance or bias on some of the considerations throws doubt on her competence to judge policy.”  Darby suggested that the public could be misled by Carson’s book.  He also added at the end of his review: “The responsible scientist should read this book to understand the ignorance of those writing on the subject and the educational task which lies ahead.”

Monsanto’s “Desolate Year” insect plague story, was sent out to thousands of reviewers, editors and journalists to counter “Silent Spring.”
Monsanto’s “Desolate Year” insect plague story, was sent out to thousands of reviewers, editors and journalists to counter “Silent Spring.”
     Life magazine’s reviewer said of Carson and Silent Spring, “there is no doubt that she has overstated her case,” but also pointed out that the chemical manufacturers were just as one-sided in the other direction.  And while there were some instances where Carson had strayed or made a weak point or two, those who had carefully reviewed her work found these too little to quibble about, and did not detract from her larger purpose.  LaMont Cole, a professor of ecology at Cornell, wrote in Scientific American: “Errors of fact are so infrequent, trivial, and irrelevant to the main theme that it would be ungallant to dwell on them.”

     The chemical industry, meanwhile, had been planning their fight against Carson and book even before The New Yorker series had appeared, as word of the book had leaked out early on.  Through the summer and fall of 1962, the chemical industry continued its attacks on the book and Carson.  The National Agricultural Chemical Association (NACA) doubled its budget and distributed thousands of copies of negative book reviews for Silent Spring, and also issued warnings to newspaper and magazine editors that favorable reviews of the book could result in diminished advertising revenue.  NACA reportedly spent more than $250,000 in their campaign against the book.  The Monsanto Chemical Co. published a short story titled “The Desolate Year” – an answer to Carson’s “Fable for Tomorrow” chapter.  In the Monsanto version, the failure to use pesticides results in an insect plague that devastates America.  Five thousand copies of “The Desolate Year” were sent out to book reviewers, science and gardening writers, magazine editors, and farm journalists.  “This was, for us,” said one Monsanto man, “an opportunity to wield our public relations power.” 

Monsanto was one of the chemical companies to actively campaign against “Silent Spring.”
Monsanto was one of the chemical companies to actively campaign against “Silent Spring.”
     In November 1962, the Manufacturing Chemists Association began mailing out monthly feature stories to news media that stressed the positive side of pesticide use.  In 1963, The Nutrition Foundation, a trade group then comprised of 54 companies involved in food, chemical, and agriculture-related industries, began sending out Silent Spring “fact kits” that essentially contained materials, letters and book reviews that were critical of the book and/or Carson.  These kits went out to a wide array of colleges and universities, researchers, state agricultural experiment stations, the membership of the American Public Health Association, librarians, state and county public officials, and nursing and women’s organizations.

     In the chemical industry, a few scientists became especially visible in the attack on Silent Spring.  One scientist from American Cyanamid, Robert White-Stevens, stated: “If man were to follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the earth.”  White-Stevens made 28 such speeches by the end of 1962, charging, among other things, that Silent Spring was “littered with crass assumptions and gross misrepresentations” and that Carson was “a fanatic defender of the cult of the balance of nature.”

     Another former Cyanamid chemist, Thomas Jukes, also became a critic of Carson and Silent Spring.  George C. Decker, an entomologist at the Illinois Natural History Survey and Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station who had been a frequent consultant to the chemical industry, called the book a “hoax” and “science fiction,” to be read, he said, “in the same way that the TV program ‘Twilight Zone’ is to be watched.”  Other attacks on Carson were more personal, questioning her character or her mental stability; some called her a communist, an hysterical woman, a nature nut, and more.

LaMont Cole of Cornell gave an important positive review of  "Silent Spring” in Scientific American magazine.
LaMont Cole of Cornell gave an important positive review of "Silent Spring” in Scientific American magazine.
     Throughout the onslaught, Carson remained steadfast and confident in her findings, though somewhat above the fray, choosing not to debate every last detractor, in part because she was then receiving treatments for her battle with cancer.  She did, however, take comfort in a series of positive reviews from nationally and internationally known scientists, including: Loren Eiseley, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania; LaMont C. Cole, professor of ecology at Cornell University; biologist Roland C. Clement of the National Audubon Society; and zoologist Robert L. Rudd of the University of California, among others.  And in the court of public opinion, Silent Spring appeared to be doing quite well.

      By year’s end 1962, and after less than three months on the market, Silent Spring had sold well over 100,000 copies and continued to appear on the New York Times’ bestsellers list, where it would remain for 31 weeks.  In addition, in state legislatures by that date more than 40 bills had been introduced aimed at governing the use of pesticides.  But the fight over pesticide policy in Washington, D.C. was just beginning. In 1963, Carson and Silent Spring would receive still more national attention and some important affirmation.


CBS Reports

Sample “CBS Reports” title card screenshot
Sample “CBS Reports” title card screenshot
     On April 3, 1963, the CBS television network ran a one-hour telecast on Rachel Carson and her book in its highly-regarded documentary series, “CBS Reports,” the news program made famous by Edward R. Murrow.  The title of that show was “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson.”  Portions of the show with Carson on camera were filmed at her home in Silver Spring, Maryland, with CBS newsman, Eric Sevaried as host.  But even before the program aired, a letter writing campaign, orchestrated by the chemical industry, was directed at CBS urging the network not to air the program.  When that failed, several advertising sponsors – Standard Brands, the makers of Lysol, and Ralston Purina, a major producer of livestock feeds– withdrew their advertising prior to the broadcast.  The show still went on the air in any case. 

Eric Sevareid, who became a notable newsman in his own right, hosted the April 1963 show on “Silent Spring.”
Eric Sevareid, who became a notable newsman in his own right, hosted the April 1963 show on “Silent Spring.”
     In the TV report, Sevareid offered some basics on the issue, noting the rise of the postwar pesticide industry and that each year by then some 900 million pounds of pesticides were being used.  Sevaried also read from newspaper and report excerpts and noted that Silent Spring had touched off a controversy:  “In Silent Spring Miss Carson stresses the possibility that pesticide chemicals may be working to harm man in ways yet undetected – perhaps contributing to cancer, leukemia, genetic damage.  In the absence of proof, her critics concede that these are possibilities but not probabilities and they accuse Miss Carson of alarmism.  Yet few scientists deny that some risk may be involved.”  Film footage included shots of planes applying pesticides to agricultural fields and kids walking along a street behind a mosquito-fogging truck.  During the program, an array of government officials appeared, including: Luther Terry, U.S. Surgeon General; George Larrick, Commissioner of the U.S. Food & Drug Administration; John Buckley, Director, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Research Center; Page Nicholson of the U.S. Public Health Service; Wayland Hayes, a toxicologist with the Public Health Service; and Arnold Laymond, Chief Toxicologist, Food & Drug Administration.  A number of the federal officials stated the chemicals were important and helped curb disease and save lives.  But some of the public officials seemed to confirm points made by Carson.  Dr. Page Nicholson, water pollution expert, Public Health Service, wasn’t able to answer how long pesticides persist in water or the extent to which pesticides contaminated groundwater supplies.

Rachel Carson being interviewed at her home by CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid.
Rachel Carson being interviewed at her home by CBS correspondent Eric Sevareid.
     Carson appeared several times, as in one scene shown at right with Sevareid in her study with shelves of books behind her.  At the time, Carson was undergoing radiation therapy and was in a weakened state.  Some may have noticed a change in her hair style, as during this filming, and other public appearances, she wore a wig due to her treatments.  But her message came across nonetheless.

     “It is the public that is being asked to assume the risks,” she said at one point.  “The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts….”  She further explained that “we still talk in terms of conquest.  We still haven’t become mature enough to think of ourselves as only a tiny part of a vast and incredible universe.”  Man’s attitude toward nature, she continued, “is today critically important simply because we have now acquired a fateful power to alter and destroy nature…”

Rachel Carson on “CBS Reports,” 1963.
Rachel Carson on “CBS Reports,” 1963.
     During the show, Carson read selected passages from her book to illustrate how widespread pesticide use was on farms, forests, and home gardens; how the chemicals were “non-selective” in the damage they did, killing good and bad insects as well as birds and fish; and how some lingered in the environment for long periods.  “All this,” said Carson, “though the intended target may be only a few weeds or insects.”  Carson emphasized that “the major barrage of chemicals being laid down on the earth” had unknown consequences.  “We have to remember that children born today are exposed to these chemicals from birth, perhaps even before birth,” she said during the interview.  “Now what is going to happen to them in adult life as a result of that exposure?  We simply don’t know.”

Robert White-Stephens of the American Cyanamid Co. as he appeared on “CBS Reports,” April 1963.
Robert White-Stephens of the American Cyanamid Co. as he appeared on “CBS Reports,” April 1963.
     Robert White-Stevens, the American Cyanamid scientist who had already been speaking on Silent Spring around the country, also appeared on camera during the “CBS Reports” show.  He was interviewed in a laboratory setting, in white lab coat surrounded by beakers and other lab equipment.

“When pesticides, registered pesticides, are used in accordance with label instructions and recommendations, then there is no danger to either man or to animals and wildlife,” he stated at one point. Of Carson and her book he said: 

“The major claims in Miss Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring, are gross distortions of the actual facts, completely unsupported by scientific experimental evidence and general practical experience in the field. If man were to faithfully follow the teachings of Miss Carson, we would return to the Dark Ages, and the insects and diseases and vermin would once again inherit the Earth.”

White House report on pesticides of May 15, 1963 helps vindicate Rachel Carson.
White House report on pesticides of May 15, 1963 helps vindicate Rachel Carson.
In the telecast, with Carson and White-Stevens cast as the primary focal points, Carson came across as the more rational messenger, and certainly not the “hysterical woman” she was portrayed to be by some of her critics. The show was seen by 10-to-15 million TV viewers, and was especially important for those who had not read the book or had little knowledge of the pesticide issue.

     Several weeks later, on May 15, 1963, Carson and Silent Spring received further affirmation when the President’s Science Advisory Committee (PSAC) released a report entitled, “The Use of Pesticides.” 

The PSAC report, which had been instigated in part by Silent Spring, and reportedly urged along by President Kennedy, was the result of eight months of wrangling by the government’s top scientists and regulators, who held a series of meetings with Carson, industry representatives, and Department of Agriculture officials. 

     The PSAC report concluded that while pesticides were scrutinized thoroughly for their agricultural effectiveness, they generally were not given the same level of review for environmental and public safety.  And for many pesticides in use, the PSAC report found there was little knowledge of chronic effects over a lifetime. 

The report also acknowledged that “until publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, people were generally unaware of the toxicity of pesticides.”  The PSAC report recommended that pesticide residues be tracked and monitored in the environment – in air, water, soil, fish, wildlife, and humans.  Importantly, the report also stated that “elimination of the use of persistent toxic pesticides should be the goal.”“Until publication of Silent Spring by Rachel Carson, people were generally unaware of the toxicity of pesticides.”
                  – PSAC Report, 1963.

     On the day following the report’s release, the headline in The Christian Science Monitor newspaper declared, “Rachel Carson Stands Vindicated!”  In that evening’s CBS news telecast, commentator Eric Sevareid referring to the report, said that Carson had succeeded in her stated goals, one of which was “to build a fire under the government.”  Dan Greenberg, writing for Science magazine, found the PSAC report to be a temperate document, carefully balanced in its assessments of risks versus benefits, but that it “adds up to a fairly thorough-going vindication of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring thesis.…”  Greenberg added that “Carson can be legitimately charged with having exceeded the bounds of scientific knowledge for the purpose of achieving shock; but her principal point—that pesticides are being used in massive quantities with little regard for undesirable side effects—permeates the PSAC report and is the basis for a series of recommendations…”


Before Congress

June 1963: Rachel Carson testifying, U.S. Senate.
June 1963: Rachel Carson testifying, U.S. Senate.
     In June 1963, on two separate occasions, Carson testified before Senate committees holding hearings on the pesticide-related issues – once on June 3rd at Senator Ribicoff’s hearings before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee of Government Operations, and then three days later on June 6th before the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce.

     In her appearances before the two committees, Carson generally called for establishment of a “pesticide commission” or some type of independent regulatory agency to protect people and the environment from chemical hazards.  In her testimony, Carson asserted that one of the most basic human rights was the “right of the citizen to be secure in his own home against the intrusion of poisons applied by other persons.”  In her appearance at Senator Ribbicoff’s hearings, Carson called for strict control of aerial pesticide spraying,  reduction and eventual elimination of the use of persistent pesticides, and more research devoted to non-chemical methods of pest control.

     Some of what Carson had to say before the Senate Commerce Committee on June 6th is offered below in rough transcription:

“…The most disturbing of all such reports however concerns the finding of DDT in the oil of fish that live far out at sea… Oil from some of these marine fish contains DDT in concentrations exceeding 300 parts per million… All this gives us reason to think deeply and seriously about the means by which these residues reach the places where we are now discovering them… No one can answer this question with complete assurance…Upper atmosphere may be carrying chemical particles and the pesticide contamination of such remote places may be the result of a new kind of fallout…. If we are ever to solve problem of contamination we must begin to count the many hidden costs of what we are doing…A strong and unremitting effort must be made to eliminate pesticides that leave residues…No other way to control rapidly spreading contamination…”

Rachel Carson, 1963 hearings.
Rachel Carson, 1963 hearings.
     Before both Senate committees, Carson acquitted herself with a high degree of professionalism, presenting her arguments carefully and rationally, demonstrating again that earlier charges of “hysteria” and being an “emotional woman” had no basis in fact.  Still, that did not stop some at those same hearings from leveling remarks at Carson.  Dr. Mitchell R. Zavon, a professor of Industrial Medicine at the University of Cincinnati, and a consultant for the Shell Oil Company, stated: “Miss Carson is talking about health effect that will take years to answer.  In the meantime, we’d have to cut off food to people around the world.  These peddlers of fear are going to feed on the famine of the world…”

     Carson’s appearances before the congressional committees were among her last in public.  In December 1963, she received some national recognition with her induction into the American Academy of Arts and Letters and she also received the National Audubon Society Medal. 

Paperback editions of “Silent Spring” sold through the 1960s
Paperback editions of “Silent Spring” sold through the 1960s
     By the close of 1963, the more vitriolic attacks on Silent Spring had begun to subside.  The book was now available in paperback editions, adding to its circulation.  However, in Carson’s personal life she was losing her battle with cancer.  On April 14, 1964, less than a year after she had testified before Congress, Rachel Carson died in Silver Spring, Maryland.  She was 56 years old.  Carson biographer, Linda Lear, has noted one poignant story about Carson in her final days:

…Shortly before her death, Sierra Club director David Brower played host to Carson in California, fulfilling a dream of hers to visit Muir Woods and see the Pacific Ocean.  Brower recalls that he took Carson down to the shore at Rodeo Lagoon where he first gave her several handfuls of Pacific beach sand which she examined minutely commenting on the different colored crystals.  Then as Brower pushed Carson in her wheelchair around a beach cove they came upon the biggest flock of brown pelicans he had ever seen.  The birds had only recently been near extermination.  Brower later said it was as if the pelicans were there that day to thank Carson…

     Carson’s funeral service was held in Washington, D.C.’s National Cathedral and among her pallbearers were Stewart Udall, U.S. Secretary of the Interior and U.S. Senator Abraham Ribicoff.

     Only weeks before Carson’s death, the U.S. Public Health Service had announced that the periodic huge fish kills on the lower Mississippi River over the previous four years had been traced to toxic ingredients in three kinds of pesticides.  The chemicals had drained into the river from neighboring farm lands.  Yet even today, more than 50 years after Carson’s warnings, there is still abundant evidence of chemical toxicity in the environment and beyond.  In recent years, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia has been tracking chemicals found in human blood and urine.  The Fourth National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, for example, issued in 2009, measured some 212 chemicals in humans, 75 of which CDC measured for the first time.


Rachel Carson’s Legacy

1961. Rachel Carson at the seashore. Life photo; A. Eisenstaedt.
1961. Rachel Carson at the seashore. Life photo; A. Eisenstaedt.
     In 1962, there was no “environmental movement” to speak of – at least not as that term came to be understood in more modern times.  There was, of course, and had been since the days of John Muir, Teddy Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot and others, a conservation movement.  And while conservation had its champions and feisty warriors, the primary focus was about conserving and managing natural resources, often for the purpose of sustaining industrial growth, as in sustained timber yields and soil conservation for agriculture.  Some of the latter efforts had grown out of the Dust Bowl era and New Deal programs of the 1930s.  Another wing of conservationists focused on parks and wildlife, setting aside special places for permanent protection.  But building popular concern for an environmental ethic and a broader defense against environmental and ecological threats – that was something quite new.  And it was Rachel Carson who helped lay the groundwork for that with Silent Spring.

     Although birds and wildlife were a prominent focus in Silent Spring, Carson made clear the connection between what happens in the environment and all of life – all the way to humans.  Moreover, Carson was the first to signal, in a popular way, a new kind of pollution, the unseen kind; the chemical toxicity that could infiltrate biology at the cellular and molecular levels, and along with it, bring cumulative and generational harms to birds, fishes and us.  Carson’s ecological tableaus showed that “we’re- all-in-this-together;” that the fate of beneficial insects was also our fate.  Silent Spring “set the table” as well for a new kind of thinking about the environment, so that soon-to-come major incidents such as the burning of the Cuyohaga River, the Santa Barbara oil spill, and recurring smog alerts would each add weight and galvanizing force to embedding a more permanent environmental ethic in society.  And by linking environmental and human health in her story, Carson helped elevate the political standing of environmental issues; she helped popularize and politicize environmentalism.

Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” helped create the EPA in 1970.
Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” helped create the EPA in 1970.
     Silent Spring produced tangible results, too.  Of the 12 pesticides mentioned in her book eight were eventually banned in the United States – DDT, chlordane, dieldrin, aldrin, endrin, toxaphene, pentachlorophenal, and benzene hexachloride.  Two more remain severely restricted – heptachlor and lindane.  And one, parathion, is considered severely hazardous.  In the wake of Silent Spring, new environmental organizations were born as well.  In 1967 the Environmental Defense Fund took form following the Long Island fight against DDT and soon went national, bringing lawsuits to “establish a citizen’s right to a clean environment.”  And not least, in 1969, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was passed, which not only established the White House level Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), but also required that all major federal actions that could affect the environment first conduct “look-before-you-build” environmental assessments – known as environmental impact statements.  By April 1970, the President’s Commission on Executive Reorganization issued a report recommending the establishment of an independent federal agency to deal with environmental matters.  A plan for that agency was submitted to Congress in July 1970, and by December that year the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created.  Carson and Silent Spring were not the sole actors in all of this certainly, but they provided a critical and timely push.

Frank Graham’s “Since Silent Spring” was published in 1970.
Frank Graham’s “Since Silent Spring” was published in 1970.
     Numerous honors have since come to Rachel Carson, some beginning a few years following her death.  In Maine, the Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, consisting mostly of coastal salt marsh, was dedicated in 1970.  More journalists took up the pen for environmental causes as well, including some already established nature writers such as Frank Graham who didn’t want Carson’s hard work to go for naught.  Graham wrote Since Silent Spring in 1970, the first book to bring the story of how and why Rachel Carson wrote Silent Spring, as well as what had happened in those first eight years after the book’s publication. 

     In 1972, Paul Brooks, Carson’s editor at Houghton Mifflin published The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work.  In July 1973, CBS rebroadcast its 1962 CBS Reports TV show, “The Silent Spring Of Rachel Carson.”  By June 1980, President Jimmy Carter awarded Rachel Carson the Presidential Medal of Freedom, inscribed in part: “…she created a tide of environmental consciousness that has not ebbed.”  The following year, a Rachel Carson postage stamp was issued in her honor, part of the Great Americans Series.

1981: Rachel Carson stamp.
1981: Rachel Carson stamp.
     As for Carson’s book, one year after its release, Silent Spring was published in 15 countries, and would also have an impact on pesticide oversight in those countries.  By October 1987, after being in print for 25 years, Silent Spring had sold some 165,000 hardback copies and 1.8 million paperbacks.  In 1991, Rachel Carson’s former residence in Silver Spring, Maryland, was named a National Historic Landmark, and today houses the Rachel Carson Council, a pesticide watchdog group. 

     A number of conservation areas, trails, schools, and landmarks have been named in Carson’s honor – a 650 acre conservation park in Montgomery County, Maryland; a bridge in Pittsburgh; an estuary in North Carolina; an elementary school in Sammamish, Washington; among others. 

     In 1993, the documentary “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” was produced for the PBS American Experience series, with actress Meryl Streep narrating the voice of Carson. And through the 1990s, several books on Carson appeared, including Linda Lear’s 1997 biography, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature.

DVD cover for 1993 PBS TV special, “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” in the American Experience series.
DVD cover for 1993 PBS TV special, “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” in the American Experience series.
     In later editions of Silent Spring, prominent Americans and renowned scientists have added new commentary on the book and its history.  Former U.S. Vice President, Al Gore, wrote the introduction to the 1994 reissue of Silent Spring, and in 2002, eminent Harvard biologist and Pulitzer Prize winning author, Edward O. Wilson, wrote an afterward that included his expert observations on the fire ant problem, noting that Rachel Carson was right about that fiasco.

     Silent Spring, meanwhile, may never be out of print, and certainly in e-book form it will likely travel well into the future.  Print copies, nonetheless, continue to sell at a rate of about 20,000 or so a year.  The book has been included on a number of lists compiling the “100 most influential books of the 20th century,” and Carson has been named to various lists of “most influential people,”  including Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People of the 20th Century.”

     In 1993, when PBS ran its American Experience TV show on Rachel Carson, historian David McCollough’s introduction summed up Carson’s impact: “A single book changes history only rarely.  There was Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, and Ralph Nader’s Unsafe at Any Speed.  And then there was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. . . Rachel Carson changed our lives, changed the way we think about the world and our place in it.”

     See also at this website, “Environmental History,” a topics page with additional stories on environmental subjects involving air pollution, oil spills, toxic chemicals, river pollution, strip mining, and other issues. For additional stories on “Print & Publishing,” please visit that category page or go to the Home Page for further choices. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you.  – Jack Doyle

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Date Posted: 22 February 2012
Last Update: 29 August 2016
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Power in the Pen, Silent Spring: 1962,”
PopHistoryDig.com, Feburary 21, 2012.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of Paul Brooks’ book, “Rachel Carson: The Writer at Work,”1998, formerly published as “The House of Life,” 1972.
Cover of Paul Brooks’ book, “Rachel Carson: The Writer at Work,”1998, formerly published as “The House of Life,” 1972.
1992-1994 edition of “Silent Spring” with introduction by then U.S. Vice President, Al Gore. Click to read introduction.
1992-1994 edition of “Silent Spring” with introduction by then U.S. Vice President, Al Gore. Click to read introduction.
Craig Waddell’s book of essays on Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring,’ with  foreword by Paul Brooks, Carson’s editor at Houghton Mifflin, and afterword by her biographer, Linda Lear. Published in 2000.
Craig Waddell’s book of essays on Rachel Carson’s ‘Silent Spring,’ with foreword by Paul Brooks, Carson’s editor at Houghton Mifflin, and afterword by her biographer, Linda Lear. Published in 2000.
Paperback version of ‘Silent Spring’ published October  2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with introduction by Linda Lear and afterword by Edward O. Wilson. Click to read E.O. Wilson’s afterword.
Paperback version of ‘Silent Spring’ published October 2002 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt with introduction by Linda Lear and afterword by Edward O. Wilson. Click to read E.O. Wilson’s afterword.
Linda Lear’s 1997 biography, “Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature,” published by Henry Holt & Co. Click to read Chapter 1.
Linda Lear’s 1997 biography, “Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature,” published by Henry Holt & Co. Click to read Chapter 1.
“Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge,” edited by Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore, 2008.
“Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge,” edited by Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore, 2008.
“What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring,” Priscilla Murphy, Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2005.
“What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring,” Priscilla Murphy, Univ. of Massachusetts Press, 2005.
Mark H. Lytle, “Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement,” 2007.
Mark H. Lytle, “Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement,” 2007.
Peter Matthiessen (Ed.), “Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate... Rachel Carson,” 2007.
Peter Matthiessen (Ed.), “Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate... Rachel Carson,” 2007.
Paul Brooks, “Speaking for Nature: How Literary Naturalists from Henry Thoreau to Rachel Carson Have Shaped America,” 1983.
Paul Brooks, “Speaking for Nature: How Literary Naturalists from Henry Thoreau to Rachel Carson Have Shaped America,” 1983.
U.S. State Department's Bureau of Int'l Information Programs published "Rachel Carson: Pen Against Poison." Click to go there.
U.S. State Department's Bureau of Int'l Information Programs published "Rachel Carson: Pen Against Poison." Click to go there.
Jack Doyle, “Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical & The Toxic Century,” Common Courage Press, 2004.
Jack Doyle, “Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical & The Toxic Century,” Common Courage Press, 2004.

“Rachel Carson Papers,1921-1989,” Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, New Haven, CT.

“The Life & Legacy of Rachel Carson,” Rachel Carson.org.

“Rachel Carson,” Wikipedia.org.

Rachel L. Carson, Under The Sea-Wind, New York: Oxford University Press, 1941.

Edwin Way Teale, “DDT: It Can Be a Boon or a Menace,” Nature Magazine, March 1945

“The Sea Around Us,” Wikipedia.org.

Rachel Carson, “Why Our Winters Are Getting Warmer,” Popular Science, November 1951 (excerpt from Carson’s The Sea Around Us, about ocean currents and climate).

Rachel Carson, “The Edge of the Sea” (excerpts from earlier book, Under The Sea Wind), Life, April 14, 1952, pp. 64-68.

“New Elite of American Naturalists Heirs of a Great Tradition,” Life, December 22, 1961, p. 103.

“Pollution May Kill Us, Marine Biologist Warns; Rachel Carson Declares Man May Destroy Himself by His Vast Assortment of Wastes,”Los Angeles Times, June 13, 1962, p. A-2.

Rachel Carson,, A Reporter at Large,”Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, June 16, 1962, pp, 35-40.

Rachel Carson, A Reporter at Large,”Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, June 23, 1962, pp. 31-36.

Rachel Carson, A Reporter at Large, “III-Silent Spring,” The New Yorker, June 30, 1962, pp. 35-42.

Editorial, “The Chemicals Around Us,” Chemical Week, July 14, 1962, p. 5.

John M. Lee, “‘Silent Spring’ is Now Noisy Summer; Pesticides Industry Up In Arms Over a New Book; Rachel Carson Stirs Conflict — Producers Are Crying ‘Foul’,” New York Times, July 22, 1962.

“Nature is for the Birds,” Chemical Week, July 28, 1962, p. 5.

“Reponse to Criticism,” Chemical Week, August 11, 1962, p. 42.

Thomas Jukes, “A Town in Harmony,” Chemical Week , August 18, 1962, p. 5.

Louis Cassels, “Man’s Struggle Against Pests May Endanger Life; New Book Stirs Controversy Over Use of Insecticides to Protect Trees, Plants,” Los Angeles Times, August 19, 1962, p. E-8.

Val Adams, “‘C.B.S. Reports’ Plan a Show On Rachel Carson’s New Book,” New York Times, August 30, 1962, p. 42.

Marjorie Hunter, “U.S. Sets Up Panel to Review The Side Effects of Pesticides; Controls Studied–Kennedy Finds Work Spurred by Rachel Carson Book,” New York Times, August 31, 1962, p. 9.

Nate Haseltine, “Experts Studying Pesticide Dangers To Man, Wildlife,” Washington Post / Times Herald, September 1, 1962, p. A-4.

“Are We Poisoning Ourselves?,” Business Week, September 8, 1962, pp. 36-38.

Brooks Atkinson, Critic at Large, “Rachel Carson’s Articles on the Danger of Chemical Sprays Prove Effective,” New York Times, September 11, 1962, p. 30.

“Rachel Carson Book Is Called One-Sided,” New York Times, September13, 1962.

Walter Sullivan, “Chemists Debate Pesticides Book; Industry Fears Public Will Turn Against Its Products,” New York Times, September 13, 1962, p. 34.

“Monsanto Dissects Pesticide Criticism,” New York Times, September 22, 1962.

Eric Sevareid, “Pests vs. Men: The Big Battle Is Raging Again; Is Pesticide Use Tinkering With Nature Balance?,” Los Angeles Times, September 23, 1962, p. F-2.

Lorus and Margery Milne, “There’s Poison All Around Us Now; The Dangers in the Use of Pesticides Are Vividly Pictured by Rachel Carson,” The New York Times Book Review, September 23, 1962.

“Bird Haven Spurs a Pesticide War; Spray Casualties Brought Book That Caused Furor,” New York Times, September 23, 1962.

“Pesticides: The Price for Progress,” Time, September 28, 1962, pp. 45-48.

I.L. Baldwin, “Chemicals and Pests,” Science, September 28, 1962, pp.1042-1043.

Loren Eiseley, “Using a Plague to Fight a Plague,” Saturday Review, September 29, 1962, pp. 18-19, 24.

William Vogt, “On Man the Destroyer,” Natural History, September 1962, pp. 3-5.

Letters to the Editor (response to Silent Spring review), Time, October 5, 1962.

William J. Darby, “Silence, Miss Carson” (Book Review), Chemical & Engineering News, October 1, 1962, pp. 60-63.

“The Desolate Year,” Monsanto Magazine, October 1962, pp. 4-9.

“Bracing for Broadside,” Chemical Week, October 6, 1962, p. 23.

“The Gentle Storm Center: Calm Appraisal of Silent Spring,” Life, October 12, 1962, pp.105-106.

Ovid A. Martin, “Agriculture Defends Use Of Chemicals,”Washington Post/Times Herald, October 19, 1962, p. A-7.

“Review of Silent Spring,” The Economist (London), October 20,1962, pp. 248-251.

Robert L. Rudd, “The Chemical Countryside: A View of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” Pacific Discovery (California Academy of Sciences), Nov-Dec 1962, pp.10-11.

LaMont C. Cole, “Rachel Carson’s Indictment of the Wide Use of Pesticides” (Silent Spring Book Review), Scientific American, December 1962, pp.172-180.

Jean M. White, “Rachel Carson Hints Industry Filters Facts,”Washington Post / Times Herald, December 6, 1962, p. A-13.

“The Furor Over Pesticides,” Senior Scholastic, December 12, 1962.

Robert C. Toth, “Pesticides Study Found Difficult; U.S. Panel Trying to Assess Chemical Perils to Body, But the Facts Are Few; Poisons Work Subtly; Dangers in Compounds Must Be Scaled Against Their Benefits, Expert Says,” New York Times, December 7, 1962, p. 41.

Clarence Cottam, “A Noisy Reaction to Silent Spring,” Sierra Club Bulletin, January 1963, pp. 4-5,14-15.

John Davy, Weekend Review, “Menace in the Silent Spring,” The Observer (U.K.), February 17, 1963, p. 21.

Val Adams, “2 Sponsors Quit Pesticide Show; Withdraw From TV Report on ‘Silent Spring’ Book,” New York Times, April 3, 1963, p. 95.

Jack Gould, “TV: Controversy Over Pesticide Danger Weighed; ‘C.B.S. Reports’ Gives Both Sides of Dispute ‘Silent Spring’ Author Answers Her Critics,” New York Times, April 4, 1963, p. 95.

The Paley Center for The Media (video), The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson, CBS Reports, 1963 (show is offered in three video segments).

Daniel S. Greenberg, “Pesticides: White House Advisory Body Issues Report Recommending Steps to Reduce Hazard to Public,” Science, May 24, 1963, pp. 878-879.

The White House,  “Use of Pesticides,” Report of The President’s Science Advisory Committee, Washington, D.C., May 15, 1963, JFKlibrary.org.

“Pests and Poisons: Rachel Carson Before Senate Investigative Subcommittee,” Newsweek, June 17, 1963, p. 86.

“Biology: The Pest-Ridden Spring,” Time, Friday, July 5, 1963.

Rachel Carson, “Rachel Carson Answers,” Audubon, September 1963, pp. 262-265.

E. Diamond, “The Myth of the ‘Pesticide Menace’,” Saturday Evening Post, September 28, 1963, pp.16, 18.

“Rachel Carson Dies of Cancer; ‘Silent Spring’ Author Was 56,” New York Times, April 15, 1964.

Bruce H. Frisch, “Was Rachel Carson Right?,” Science Digest, August 1964, pp. 39-45.

Frank Graham, Jr., Since Silent Spring, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970.

K.S. Davis, “The Deadly Dust: The Unhappy History of DDT,” American Heritage, February 1971, pp. 44-47.

“Silent Spring,” Wikipedia.org.

“The Story of Silent Spring,” NRDC.org.

Paul Brooks, The House of Life: Rachel Carson at Work, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1972.

Frank Graham, Jr., “Rachel Carson,”EPA Journal, November/December, 1978.

Cathy Trost, Elements of Risk: The Chemical Industry and its Threat To America, New York: Times Books, 1984.

“‘Silent Spring’; A Plea From 1962,” New York Times, October 11, 1987.

Jules Janick, History of Horticulture, Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture, Purdue University, Reading 31-3: “Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Environmental Movement,”

Patricia H. Hynes, “Unfinished Business: `Silent Spring’ on the 30th Anniversary of Rachel Carson’s Indictment of DDT, Pesticides Still Threaten Human Life,” Los Angeles Times, September 10, 1992.

Linda J. Lear, “Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring,” Environmental History Review, Summer 1993, pp. 23-48.

Linda Lear, Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, New York: Holt & Co., 1997.

Linda Lear, Chapter One: “Wild Creatures Are My Friends,” Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature, at WashingtonPost.com.

Bill McKibben, “A Voice For the Wilderness” ( Review of Linda Lear’s Rachel Carson: Witness for Nature),Washington Post, Sunday, September 14, 1997.

Peter Matthiessen, “Environmentalist Rachel Carson, Time, Monday, March 29, 1999.

Michael Lipske, “How Rachel Carson Helped Saved the Brown Pelican,” National Wildlife, December 1, 1999.

Rachel Carson, Lost Woods: The Discovered Writing of Rachel Carson, Boston: Beacon Press, 1999.

Craig Waddell, Paul Brooks and Linda Lear, And No Birds Sing: Rhetorical Analyses of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 2000.

“Rachel Carson and the Fish and Wildlife Service,” FWS.gov.

“Rachel Carson at the MBL,” Marine Biological Laboratory, Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

“Rachel Carson (1907-1964),” Rachel Carson National Wildlife Refuge, Northeast Region, National Wildlife Refuge System, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Rachel Carson Institute, Chatham College.

“Rachel Carson: Other Resources,” Jennie King Mellon Library, Chatham College.

Commemorating Carson, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Silent Spring of Rachel Carson, SilentSpring Movie.com.

John H. Cushman, Jr., “After ‘Silent Spring,’ Industry Put Spin on All It Brewed,” New York Times, March 26, 2001.

Arlene Rodda Quaratiello, Rachel Carson: A Biography, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, 138 pp.

Jack Doyle, Trespass Against Us: Dow Chemical & The Toxic Century, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 2004.

Priscilla Coit Murphy, What a Book Can Do: The Publication and Reception of Silent Spring, University of Massachusetts Press, 2005 – 254 pages

Booklist Center, “100 Best Nonfiction Books of the Twentieth Century,” National Review, 2005.

“100 Most Influential Books of The Century,” Boston Public Library, 2005.

Douglas Allchin, “Historical Simulation, Debating Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, The President’s Advisory Committee on Pesticides, UMN.edu, 2006-2009.

Mark H. Lytle, Gentle Subversive: Rachel Carson, Silent Spring, and the Rise of the Environmental Movement, Oxford University Press, 2007, 288pp.

“Rachel Carson 100th Birthday: ‘Mother’ of Environmentalism Celebrated,” Washington Post, March 7, 2007.

Linton Weeks, “The CBS Report That Helped ‘Silent Spring’ Be Heard,” Washington Post, Wednesday, March 21, 2007, p. C-1.

Deborah G. Scanlon, “Summers in Woods Hole Spur Rachel Carson’s Love of Ocean,” Falmouth Enterprise, June 8, 2007.

Linda Lear, “Rachel Carson and the Awakening of Environmental Consciousness,” George Washington University.

Christian H. Krupke, Renée Priya Prasad, and Carol M. Anelli, “Professional Entomology and the 44 Noisy Years Since Silent Spring,” Part 2: Response to Silent Spring, American Entomologist, Spring 2007, pp. 16-26.

“Rachel Carson,” Bill Moyers Journal, PBS.org, September 2007.

Thalia Assuras, “The Price Of Progress” (video), CBSNews.com, September 19, 2007 ( video on Rachel Carson’s impact, with footage of early spraying and excerpts from 1963 “CBS Reports” show; run time: 9:43).

Frank Graham, Jr., “Nature’s Protector and Provocateur,” Audubon, Sept-Oct 2007.

Peter Matthiessen (ed.), Courage for the Earth: Writers, Scientists, and Activists Celebrate the Life and Writing of Rachel Carson, Boston/New York: Houghton Mifflin Co., 2007, 208 pp.

“DDT Blast from the Past: 1951,” Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, May 16, 2008.

Lisa H. Sideris and Kathleen Dean Moore (eds), Rachel Carson: Legacy and Challenge, Albany: Statue University of New York Press, 2008, 287 pp.

“Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and the Beginning of the Environmental Movement in the United States,” Indiana.edu.

Jamin Creed Rowan, “The New York School of Urban Ecology: The New Yorker, Rachel Carson, and Jane Jacobs,” American Literature, Volume 82, Number 3, 2010, Duke University Press, pp. 583-610.

A. Macgillivray, Understanding Rachel Carson’s  Silent Spring, Rosen Publishing, 2010, 128pp.

_____________________________________





 



“Beatles History”
12 Stories

Music History & Pop Rumor

“Paul-is-Dead Saga”

1969-2008

Rumor that Paul McCartney
died in auto crash touches
off media frenzy for “clues.”

Beatlemania & Music Biz

“Beatles’ D.C. Gig”

Feb-March 1964

The Beatles’ first-ever,
live U.S. concert was held
in Washington, D.C.

Beatles’ Song History

“Love Me Do”

1962-2012

Story of the song that
became the Beatles’ first
hit in the U.K. (#17).

Beatles’ First No.1

“Please Please Me”

1962-1964

The song with a unique
“Beatles’ sound” marked
beginning of their fame.

Music & Pop Culture

“Beatles in America”

1963-1964

New rock ‘n roll group
brings “pop explosion” in
music, business, culture.

Annals of Music

“Dear Prudence”

1967-1968

The history of a beautiful
Beatles’ song and a
productive retreat in India.

Video: TV Ad Clip

Nike’s “Revolution” Ad

1987-1988

Nike TV advertisement
uses classic Beatles song
to sell athletic shoes.

Music & Marketing

“Nike & The Beatles”

1987-1989

Nike finds ideal song
to promote athletic shoes,
but Beatles file a lawsuit.

Psychedelic Beatles

“Tomorrow Never Knows”

1966

Psychedelic influences
pervade Beatles song
on Revolver album.

Music & Sculpture

“Eleanor Rigby”

1966

Beatles music departs
from pop; ventures into
loneliness & old age.

Solo Beatles

“Watching The Wheels”

1980-1981

John Lennon sings about
his family life & time away
from the music biz.

Music, Money, History

“Michael & McCartney”

1980s-2009

Michael Jackson, Paul McCartney & The Beatles’
1960s song catalog.

 

Please Support
this Website

Donate Now

Thank You

Date Posted: 15 December 2011
Last Update: 1 September 2015
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Beatles History: 12 Stories,”
PopHistoryDig.com, December 15, 2011.

____________________________________

 

 

 



“The iPod Silhouettes”
2000-2011

Apple "silhouette"-style advertising for the iPod digital music player, circa 2003-2005.
Apple "silhouette"-style advertising for the iPod digital music player, circa 2003-2005.
     Steve Jobs and Apple, Inc. created a number of enduring cultural images with their Apple products and marketing through the years. And perhaps none of these is more visually memorable than the “dancing silhouettes” from the 2003- 2008 iPod and iTunes advertising campaign.

Initiated first with the iPod digital music player, the ads – which soon appeared globally in print, on TV and the web, and in various outdoor venues – proved to be one of the most effective marketing campaigns of the early 21st century. The dancing iPod silhouettes permeated the culture of their day and left their mark on the advertising industry as well.

     The silhouette ads were particularly notable for the evocative effect they had on culture, fashion, and “hipness”– reaching Apple customers and well beyond.  The distinctive marketing art used in these ads also helped Apple to sell tens of millions of iPods and also billions of songs through Apple’s iTunes music store.  And this advertising, in some ways, helped Apple move its business to another level, sending it in into the superstar stratosphere of the world’s most elite and profitable companies.

Another silhouette ad from Apple, this one touting "The new iPod -- The best just got better."
Another silhouette ad from Apple, this one touting "The new iPod -- The best just got better."
     In the year 2000, before the iPod player and the iTunes music store were a part of its business, Apple was having some hard times, as it had reported declining fourth-quarter revenues and profits as an economic slowdown hit computer sales.  Still, for that year, Apple had earnings of $786 million on nearly $8 billion in revenue.  It then ranked at No. 236 on the Fortune 500 list, between R. J. Reynolds Tobacco and the Pepsi Bottling Group, and well below companies such as IBM(#8), Hewlett Packard(#19), Intel(#41), and Microsoft (#79).  By 2011, however, Apple was No. 35 on the Fortune 500 list, three notches above Microsoft, with annual revenues of $65.2 billion and annual profits of $14 billion.  And a big part of the reason for this phenomenal rise was the sale of iPod music players and iTunes music.  Since October 2001, more than 300 million iPods of one kind or another have been sold worldwide and more than 10 billion songs have been sold via iTunes.

An iPod silhouette ad with the tagline: “10,000 songs in your pocket. Mac or PC.”
An iPod silhouette ad with the tagline: “10,000 songs in your pocket. Mac or PC.”
     The silhouettes advertising campaign proved to be a key component in Apple’s decade-long surge to the top of the world’s business elite – or at the very least, became the “tipping point” campaign that put Apple on the map in a new way.  The ads drew in millions of new consumers and pointed the business in a substantially new direction.  For it was the simple but powerful imagery of the free-spirited dancers in these ads that helped imprint “the Apple style” around the world. 

     The Apple silhouettes danced their way across the American cultural landscape and beyond, having a “pied piper” effect on many who saw them, sending legions straight into Apple stores and Apple websites.  By 2007 Apple dropped the word “computer” from its official corporate moniker, thereafter known simply as Apple, Inc.

     During the decade of the 2000s, Apple was able to build out its business in a new way, not only with the iPod and iTunes, but by the end of the decade, also with the iPhone and the iPad, rising upon the marketing success of the iPod.  As for the innovative advertising, Apple didn’t automatically hit upon the silhouettes campaign at the iPod’s creation, but eventually came to it after a few years into its music marketing.  That story – which offers both a compelling visual/cultural record and a very successful marketing tale – continues below.


Music in your pocket: 1960s Lincoln 6 Transistor Radio.
Music in your pocket: 1960s Lincoln 6 Transistor Radio.
Sony Sports Walkman of 1990s was used by joggers.
Sony Sports Walkman of 1990s was used by joggers.

Portable Music

     Portable music in modern times dates the 1950s and the early hand-held and pocket-size transistor radios.  First invented in 1954, billions of transistor radios were produced and sold through the 1960s and 1970s.  They were the first devices to allow people on the move to listen to music anywhere they went.  Then came the early cassette tape players in the mid-1960s.  The Sony Walkman compact cassette player soon became the ascendant model and very popular, dominating the market through the 1980s.  The Walkman, in fact, then defined the portable music market, selling 300 million units in two decades, as cassette sales overtook those of vinyl LPs recordings.  With the compact disc came portable CD players, such as the Sony Discman and others.  By the mid-1990s, however, a new form of digital music, made possible by MP3 files, began to substantially change the underlying nature of the music business.  Internet file sharing and peer-to-peer (P2P) networks for digital music files – regarded as an illegal practice – soon followed.  In June 1999 a file-sharing website named Napster emerged to become a dominant music power, and along with others such as Kazaa, facilitated illegal digital music sharing, upending the global music industry.

     The Apple Computer Co. around this time was just getting up off the mat after some hard times.  Former Apple founder, Steve Jobs, who had been fired from his own company after an inventive first run there during 1976-1985, had been re-hired at Apple in 1997.  Once he returned to the helm at Apple, Jobs soon revived the company’s flagging computer business and began planning a new course for the company.  Steve Jobs envisioned a music player and a music store as two satellite parts in a multi-faceted “digital hub” strategy built around the Macintosh desktop computer. Jobs envisioned a “digital hub” strategy with Apple desktop computers at the center and other peripheral devices — digital cameras, camcorders, MP3 players – plugging into and using the computer as editor, manager, and storage central, whether for photos, movies, or music.  Jobs instructed Apple programmers to come up with software for all of these activities.  The iPod music player grew out of this strategy, as did a plan for selling the music itself.  By January 2001, Jobs and Apple launched an early version of something they called iTunes for the Macintosh computer, a program that allowed Mac users to organize digital music files on their computers, convert audio CDs into compressed digital files, and play internet radio music.  iTunes would become a very successful music-selling business and a key component in the iPod’s success – but not at first.  There’s a bit more history before this occurs.


First generation iPod music player, 2001.
First generation iPod music player, 2001.
Birth of the iPod

     By early 2000, Jobs and Apple had also surveyed the field of existing MP3 music players and found them lacking.  Most fell into one of two categories: “big and clunky” or “small and useless.”  They were also not very user friendly.  So Jobs asked one of his top hardware guys, Jon Rubinstein, to see if Apple could come up with something better.  Rubinstein picked an outside engineer and music lover named Tony Fadell to be team leader, heading up a group of about 30 people.  Fadell, who had shopped his own idea for improved music players to other companies with no takers, was given the task of creating a digital music player that had to be ready by fall for the 2001 Christmas season.  The desired music player, Fadell was told, would need to have very fast computer connectivity to enable quick uploading of songs, and work seamlessly with Apple’s new iTunes software.  This music player would also need to be easy to use and be cleanly and attractively designed.  In building their first music player, Fadell and Apple engineers had the benefit of some “on-the-shelf” and Apple-acquired technology – a 1.8-inch hard drive from Toshiba, a battery from Sony, and microchips from Texas Instruments.  Still, amazingly, in about six months’ time, the first iPod digital music player was produced.  A freelance writer named Vinnie Chieco who was helping Apple on the project and had seen a prototype of the all-white music player, was reminded of a scene in the Stanley Kubrik movie. 2001:A Space Odyssey and the phrase, “Open the pod bay door, Hal!”  He suggested they call the music player a “Pod.”  Jobs, who had already named things iMac and iTunes, added the “i” to Pod, and so it was.

Steve Jobs on stage, October 23, 2001, introducing the first iPod digital music player.
Steve Jobs on stage, October 23, 2001, introducing the first iPod digital music player.
     On October 23, 2001, the iPod was unveiled by Steve Jobs at one of his technology-revealing, turtleneck-and-blue-jeans stage  presentations.  It was three months after the illegal file-sharing service Napster had been shut down.  The iPod was priced at $399, and with Jobs on the side of the music industry, he specified that every one be wrapped with a sticker reading  “Don’t Steal Music.”  

     Still, this was not the most propitious of times to launch a new consumer gadget, as the country was still reeling from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the economy was in recession.  Nonetheless, Jobs and Apple pushed forward.  “Music is a part of everyone’s life,” he explained to his audience of journalists, Apple engineers, and technology enthusiasts.  “And because it’s a part of everyone’s life, it’s a very large target market all around the world.  It knows no boundaries.”

Steve Jobs showing off the thinness of the new iPod music player, October 2001.
Steve Jobs showing off the thinness of the new iPod music player, October 2001.
     Jobs walked his audience through the virtues of the new device with the aide of a slide show on a giant screen behind him and why Apple was now targeting the music business.  Flashed on the screen during his talk were some bulky portable CD players.  The iPod, by comparison, was small and sleek, weighing about 6.5 ounces.  Roughly equivalent to the size of a deck of playing cards or a pack of cigarettes, the iPod would fit easily into a shirt pocket.  It was similar, in size, to an old 1950s transistor radio, but thinner and more elegantly designed.  Jobs called the iPod a “breakthrough digital device.”  It had a 5 GB hard drive – enough capacity to put “1,000 songs in your pocket.”  Critics, however, were not initially bowled over.  Some blanched at the high price.  Others suggested it as a ploy to sell more Mac computers.  Business Week said it wasn’t a good business strategy.

     The iPod, however, would prove to be in a category all its own.  It offered an innovative click-wheel scrolling device to fine songs quickly, had impressive battery life, lots of storage capacity, and a very fast download capability thanks to something called FireWire.  The Apple iPod, Jobs explained, could download an entire CD in under 10 seconds and 1,000 songs in less than 10 minutes.  “You can put your whole music library into your pocket,” he said at the time – a phrase that would become one of the new music player’s selling points.

     The advertising for the first iPod, however, wasn’t anything special.  In fact, a single TV commercial featured a geeky-looking guy in his apartment dancing and moon-walking to an techno-instrumental song “Take California” by the band the Propellerheads.  The message in the ad was simple: plug this thing into your ears and you’ll soon be enjoying your favorite music.  The ad showed the geeky guy easily downloading music from his Mac computer into his iPod, then putting the thing into his shirt pocket as he exited his apartment wired for sound on-the-move.  Message: you can take all your music with you.  This ad signed off with Apple’s earlier “Think Different” advertising slogan.  Jobs had favored a traditional type ad to introduce the new product, to show the download step and the iPod’s ease of use, and also its portability.  But this ad, while adequate for the moment, may have been confusing to some, showing it working with a Macintosh computer.  Still, after a few months on the market, by December 31, 2001, Apple had sold 125,000 iPods.  But this was just the beginning.


Bill Gates had helped Steve Jobs in 1997, but Jobs was reluctant at first to make iPods and iTunes compatible with Windows PCs.
Bill Gates had helped Steve Jobs in 1997, but Jobs was reluctant at first to make iPods and iTunes compatible with Windows PCs.
Windows & Oprah

     Early on in the iPod story, Jobs and Apple came to realization that what they had might be a lot bigger than just something for those who used Macintosh computers.  Mac users then constituted only a small part of the personal computer universe.  The overwhelming majority of the world’s personal computers then ran on Microsoft’s Windows software.  However, Steve Jobs and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, were not exactly bosom buddies.  Their companies had been rivals, but in 1997, Gates and Microsoft made a key $150 million investment in Apple at a crucial time after Jobs had resumed control.  Still, in this new realm of music-related business, Jobs was generally resistant to the idea of Windows compatibility for iTunes, as he had preferred an “Apple walled garden” of internal Apple-only technologies.  However, he eventually came around to the business imperative of the giant Windows market.  On July 17th, 2002, Jobs introduced second generation update of the iPod at MacWorld Expo in New York City.  It was now compatible with Windows computers, first through Musicmatch Jukebox – a temporary solution until Apple could write its own “iTunes-for-Windows” software (that would come in October 2003).  Jobs would later acknowledge that Apple “decided that the iPod was too big to keep in the Mac universe, which turned out to be the right decision.”  By October 2002, iPods were being sold in major retail outlets such as Best Buy, Dell, and Target.  And in December 2002, the iPod also had its first link with celebrity, as Apple issued limited-edition iPods featuring engraved signatures of pop music’s Madonna, skateboard star Tony Hawk, and singer-songwriter Beck.  By the end of 2002, Apple had sold 600,000 iPods.

Oprah gave away 350 iPod music players to her TV audience on a May 2003 show.
Oprah gave away 350 iPod music players to her TV audience on a May 2003 show.
     In late April 2003, Jobs and Apple released “third-generation”(3G) iPods and other new developments.  Among the most important technical change on the iPod was the switch from Firewire to USB which made the iPod compatible with vast numbers of Windows PCs.  That development helped boost sales well beyond the Mac universe.  iPod models by this time also came in a range of increasing capacities: 2,000 songs (10GB/$299), 3,700 songs (15GB/$399) and 7,500 song (30GB/$499).  In May 2003, Apple and the iPod received a little boost and PR from Oprah Winfrey as she named the iPod one of “Oprah’s Favorite Things” and gave away 350 of the music players – the 15GB/$399 version – to members of her TV show audience.  It was one in her series of product giveaway shows.  In this case, however, Apple donated the iPods for the Oprah giveaway.  Apple’s iTunes music store around this time also expanded its library of songs to some 200,000 with pricing at 99 cents per song or $9.99 per album.  Within a week, one million songs were sold.  By June 2003, Apple would ship out it millionth iPod, which Jobs would later acknowledge, “wouldn’t have been possible without the Windows market.”  Yet even selling a million iPods was a drop in the bucket in terms of the much bigger business yet to come.  And that’s when the silhouettes advertising campaign began to emerge as an important factor.

The tagline at bottom reads: “10,000 songs in your pocket. Works with Mac or PC. The new iPod.”
The tagline at bottom reads: “10,000 songs in your pocket. Works with Mac or PC. The new iPod.”


The Silhouettes

     The silhouettes advertising campaign for the iPod really didn’t take hold until the fall of 2003.  It was developed and coordinated by Apple’s ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day.  In the late 1960s, Lee Chiat and Guy Day formed the Chiat/Day agency in California, a firm that would later merge with TBWA in 1995. 

     Apple began working with Chiat/Day in 1981, and the agency quickly helped Apple grow its early computer business with some famous campaigns – the 1984 “Big Brother” Superbowl TV ad, the “Think Different” campaign in 1998, and also later advertising for the iMac computer and the “Get A Mac” campaign. 

     Lee Clow, Chiat/Day’s director, became a close friend to Steve Jobs, with Jobs giving Clow and his agency the artistic freedom to design Apple campaigns.  But Jobs himself often had his own ideas about advertising, and like all things at Apple, could be quite forceful in pushing his views and shaping Apple campaigns.  In the case of the silhouettes campaign, however, Lee Clow’s agency held its own.

iPod silhouette ad with yellow background.
iPod silhouette ad with yellow background.
     Sometime in 2003, the TBWA/Chiat/Day team of Lee Clow, James Vincent, a former DJ and musician, and art director Susan Alinsangan, came to a meeting at Apple with Steve Jobs to set the iPod advertising campaign.  They had worked up a sampling of poster art, photographs, and outdoor billboard proposals that they spread out before Jobs on the conference room table.  These samples offered a range of imagery, some of traditional photographic images on white background and others with silhouetted figures that emphasized the white iPods and their white wires.  Some of the photographic images offered stills commemorating musical moments of the past which were overlain with spoken-word poems about the importance of music.“…I moved $75 million of advertising money to the iPod… We outspent every- body by a factor of about a hundred.”           – Steve Jobs  Jobs was first attracted to some of the photographic images, but he saw that the ad agency team favored the silhouettes.  Jobs shook his head, not certain the silhouettes would work, according to Walter Isaacson’s account of the meeting in his book, Steve Jobs.  “It doesn’t show the product,” said Jobs, perhaps thinking that more computer-type imagery was needed.  “It doesn’t say what it is.”  At that point, James Vincent told Jobs the silhouette images could include a tagline such as, “1,000 Songs in Your Pocket.”  That apparently satisfied Jobs and he gave the go-ahead for the silhouettes.  And as Isaacson points out, even though Jobs at first had his doubts, he was soon “claiming that it was his idea to push for the more iconic ads.”

Row of outdoor iPod silhouette ad posters.
Row of outdoor iPod silhouette ad posters.
     In 2002, Apple had spent about $125 million on advertising for all of its products.  But Jobs decided that his company might sell as many Macintosh computers by advertising iPods as it would iPods themselves.  He also thought the iPod would position Apple as an innovative company and one appealing to youth. 

     “So I moved $75 million of advertising money to the iPod, even though the category didn’t justify one hundredth of that,” he would later tell Walter Isaacson.  “That meant that we completely dominated the [advertising] market for music players.  We outspent everybody by a factor of about a hundred.”


September 2003: iPod billboard in Los Angeles, CA.
September 2003: iPod billboard in Los Angeles, CA.
Campaign Begins

     In early September 2003, TBWA/Chiat/ Day, launched the iPod “silhouette” ad campaign featuring anonymous, black-silhouetted dancing figures holding white iPods with their free flowing connecting ear-bud wires, also white.  The figures were cast against brightly colored backgrounds of tropical-like colors – lime green, yellow, fuchsia, bright blue, and pink.  The first ads were placed on outdoor billboards in Los Angels, California.  By September 15th the ads were also running in newspapers.  By October, iPod silhouette ads were appearing in music and sports magazines, and a number of others, including Entertainment Weekly, MacWorld, Wired, and Newsweek.  The silhouette print ads used taglines such as “Welcome To The Digital Music Revolution” and “10,000 Songs in Your Pocket.”  The campaign also included posters in public places, building broadsides, and “wrap advertising” used on buses, trains and subway cars.

     The print ads were followed by TV spots that put the same silhouetted figures in motion, each backed with very energetic and danceable rock, pop, and hip hop music.  The first television spot featured silhouetted dancers and performers  wearing iPods while moving to the music of  a group named the Black Eyed Peas.  Their song “Hey, Mama,” was used in the TV ad, shown at right.  

     The Black Eyed Peas — a hip hop/rap/pop group from Los Angeles — were not well known at the time, and the iPod TV spot helped improve their notice. 

     The iPod silhouette TV spots at this time also included the tagline, “Now for Windows” or “iPod+ iTunes.”  Two other TV ads followed using different groups and their songs –  “Are You Gonna Be My Girl,” by Australian rock band Jet (shown below),  and another featuring “Rock Star” by N.E.R.D.

 

     The silhouette ads soon became ubiquitous and were beginning their rise to iconic status.  Helping to do that was the sharp contrasting imagery of the white iPod unit, white earbuds, and the connecting, free-flowing white wires.  This “whiteness” turned out to be a marketing masterstroke, focusing attention on the product in a unique way, while also becoming an iconic part of the image. 

     In production, however, the white earbuds and white wires were a happy accident, and were only white and not black because the iPod itself was white.  In the ads, it was the white color that detailed and set off the gadget — the thing to be coveted and acquired.  One observer would later say that Apple had “stolen” the color white – or at least hi-jacked it to good commercial advantage.  In 2003, Apple also ran versions of the silhouette ads on the web at music sites and elsewhere, aimed in part at those illegally downloading music, trying to coax them over to iTunes, using taglines such as “Download Music,” and “Join the Digital Music Revolution.”

Cover of an Ad Age magazine special report in December 2003 on Apple becoming “Marketer of the Year” for its iPod and iTunes ad campaign.
Cover of an Ad Age magazine special report in December 2003 on Apple becoming “Marketer of the Year” for its iPod and iTunes ad campaign.
     The silhouette TV ads featured a number of different music genres and artists to appeal to as large a base as possible.  Some of the silhouette ads used the closing tagline “iPod+iTunes.”  The ads were soon doing as much to promote the sale of digital music through the iTunes music store as they were the iPods themselves.  By September 2003, iTunes downloads had surpassed 10 million songs.

     In October 2003, when Steve Jobs announced the availability of Apple’s iTunes-for-Windows software and also gave a screening of the first silhouette TV ads, he was joined in his presentation with on-screen visits from music artists, including Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones, Bono of U2, and hip-hop’s Dr. Dre.  U2’s Bono called the iPod and iTunes “a very cool thing for musicians and music.”   After three months of  silhouettes advertising, iPod sales were up by 50 percent over that of the previous quarter.  In the U.S. by then, the iPod also had the biggest market share of all MP3 players.

     Apple, meanwhile, was doing a full-court press, pushing for a media “buzz effect” on its iPod + iTunes music and marketing.  By December 2003, according to one account, the Apple publicity machine has secured 6,000 iPod and iTunes stories in major publications worldwide.  Advertising Age magazine would name Apple “marketer of the year” based largely on the success of its iPod advertising campaign.  The cover of a special Ad Age report featured Apple (shown above), also mentinong a story on the ‘museum styling” of Apple’s brick-and-motor retail stores, which were also coming on around that time.   By the end of 2003 Apple had sold over two million iPods, and iTunes more than 50 million songs.

     In 2004, between January and August, Apple reportedly spent $49.6 million on the iPod “silhouette” campaign, with ads and posters out everywhere.  Duke University that fall, 2004, began handing out iPods to all incoming freshmen.  One TV spot released in 2005, titled “Wild Postings” (shown at left), used the silhouette style in part and was cast using street scenes in an urban setting.   The song in the ad was “Ride” by The Vines.  The ad’s “story”  involved a man leaving a building and walking along an urban street, passing a wall of iPod silhouette posters along the way.  The iPod silhouette ads were by this time  familiar to many.  In the TV ad, as the young man passes the posters with his iPod playing, the poster figures come to life and dance inside their frames.  But when the young man hits the stop button on his iPod and looks around momentarily, the figures freeze, coming to life once again as he hits “play” and resumes his walk.


The Urban Ad

iPod silhouette billboard ad, New York City.
iPod silhouette billboard ad, New York City.
Aug 2005: Large posters of iPod dancers adorn buildings above shoppers in Hong Kong.
Aug 2005: Large posters of iPod dancers adorn buildings above shoppers in Hong Kong.
Illuminated iPod poster ad at Chicago bus stop kiosk, June 2008.
Illuminated iPod poster ad at Chicago bus stop kiosk, June 2008.
2004: iPod ads on underground subway columns.
2004: iPod ads on underground subway columns.
2008: iPod building broadside, Chicago, Illinois.
2008: iPod building broadside, Chicago, Illinois.
2007: iPod billboard ad at night, Berlin, Germany.
2007: iPod billboard ad at night, Berlin, Germany.
July 2006: iPod building broadside, parking lot, Toronto, Canada.
July 2006: iPod building broadside, parking lot, Toronto, Canada.
2004: Giant iPod silhouette ad on the side of a building, Osaka, Japan.
2004: Giant iPod silhouette ad on the side of a building, Osaka, Japan.
“Bus wrap” - iPod silhouette outdoor advertising.
“Bus wrap” - iPod silhouette outdoor advertising.
2003-2004: iPod outdoor advertising.
2003-2004: iPod outdoor advertising.
2007: Apple iPod silhouette outdoor ad, Boston, MA.
2007: Apple iPod silhouette outdoor ad, Boston, MA.
Apple iPod silhouette advertising on Japan Railway cars.
Apple iPod silhouette advertising on Japan Railway cars.

     Urban settings, in fact, became a particularly important part of the iPod silhouette campaign, as billboard ads, bus kiosk posters, building broadsides, bus and train “wraps,” hanging banners, poster walls, and other forms of outdoor and “guerrilla” advertising appeared throughout major cities.  Outdoor advertising has gone on for decades, of course, yet Apple’s silhouette campaign – featured in major cities including New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, London, Amsterdam, San Francisco, Shanghai Hong Kong, Toronto, Oska, and more – offered something of both a new look and a new intensity.  Some cities were simultaneously flooded with iPod billboards, posters and banners outside, while also running print ads and TV commercials in those markets, the message being, “iPod is everywhere.”

     iPod ads appeared in giant proportion on entire walls of huge buildings, and also in brightly-lit bus stop kiosks.  In the latter case, the sharply-illuminated iPod ads in their vivid tropical colors stood out as beacons in the darkness.  They offered a near luminescent quality, and could be seen at some distance, with curious, first-time onlookers no doubt drawn to them.

     In some cities, Apple made creative use of big spaces, as in train stations and other commuter locations.  In November 2003, one blogger, reporting on the scene at Philadelphia’s busy 30th Street Station of trains and subway system, noted: “There were two of those huge [wall size murals] in the lobby, and on the SEPTA platform they bought every single Viacom billboard.  The Amtrak platform was also covered pretty well.”  By March 2004, in Paris, iPod ads were used extensively in the St-Lazare train station, where iPod silhouette banners were suspended from the ceiling every few meters.  Elsewhere in the station, larger 10 foot-by-30-foot panels were used atop escalator platforms.  In Amsterdam, outside the Leidsestraat station, an enormous blue iPod billboard greeted commuters as they came and went at the station.

     In Canada, at the McGill subway terminal in Montreal, iPod silhouette ads were practically everywhere, at ticket stands, waiting platforms, and at turnstiles.  Stairways leading out of the station have also been converted into colored iPod murals, with the front of each step making up the canvas.  In Toronto, building broadsides and buildings and walls adjacent to parking lots were painted with huge iPod silhouette figures.  Toronto subway stations and subway cars were also painted with iPod silhouette figures.  By one account, the St. George subway station in downtown Toronto in 2004 had been turned into an “Apple dreamland.”  Toronto resident Jonathan Ta-Min, who photographed some of the station, noted that iPod ads adorned nearly every object in the station – posts, walls, stairs, and even newspaper recycle bins.  “It definitely brought a smile to my face,” said Ta-Min of the iPod advertising display.

     In the U.K., iPod ads appeared in Virgin’s music megastores, bus shelters, and throughout the London Underground.  By April 2004, in Japan and France, iPod TV spots also appeared, some around the time the time the iPod mini was shipping.

     Back in the U.S., iPod ads appeared in subway stations and on buildings in Boston, New York, Chicago, and a number of other cities.  One writer at AAPL Investors.net, who had posted photos of various iPod ads in Chicago, observed:

“Chicago is a music town — hot blues, cool jazz, hard rock and many cultural varieties.  So walking the town, where just about every street corner has a bus shelter, you are likely to be joined by colorful dancers groovin’ to their favorite tunes…”

“…In ads so iconic they require no copy more than the Apple iPod logo, we get to enjoy the art.  Art that makes a bus shelter or bare wall come alive.  Art that makes you smile.”


iPod Psych

     Apple and TBWA/Chiat/Day were in effect, insinuating Apple technology into the urban tableau as both fashion and must-have “cool” technology.  And their silhouette ads – from train stations and bus kiosks to magazine and TV ads – sent that message out perfectly and in some locations, incessantly, imprinting fashion and “coolness” onto the psyches of millions of potential consumers.  And this was especially the case for the young.

     Dr. Z. John Zhang, professor of marketing at the Univ. of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, commenting on the fad that iPod had created, said: “All MP3 players do the same thing, but nobody else has the ‘cool’ factor of iPod.  It’s a status symbol: You’re young, cool, and vigorous if you have one.”

     Others observed that the silhouettes conveyed to people that they could “be” the person in the ad, dancing, moving, singing, etc.,.  One analyst at AdWizard, looking at the effectiveness of the silhouettes campaign, summed it up this way:

“In advertising, we’re taught that the target audience is almost as important as the product itself.  It’s common practice to show a representative of the target audience.  Someone who the target audience can look at and picture themselves as being.  The idea is that if the target audience can imagine themselves in the ad, there’s a better chance of them purchasing the product.  The downside is that the ad may dissuade potential customers outside the target audience because the product is ‘not for them.’  But what Apple’s ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, did was allow the target audience put itself in their ads.  The silhouetted image is literally a blank canvass that anyone can be placed in.”

     Michael Shur and Tyler Reed, business students at the University of St. Thomas writing a paper on Apple’s iPod marketing, suggested a kind of Apple/iPod consumer psychology was at work with the silhouette ads, promoting a type of personality and a “way of being” as much as a product to buy:

“…Over time though, the iPod ads begin to formulate a theme which provides insight into Apple’s psychographic profile of a typical consumer.  The dancing loner, stylish, lost in her own world, white earbuds tucked safely in, grooving against bursts of vivid color.  These ads transmit a definite sense that there is a personality being promoted, a way of being as much as a thing to buy; a renegade, leading the charge, marching to the beat of her own drummer—which by the way [ in video ad form] is mixed to a completely unique soundtrack.  Further, the soundtrack on your own iPod will be better than anyone else’s (certainly better than non-iPod users), and besides, whether it is or not, you are in control of your own destiny; no one else is telling you what to do.  These ads have the effect of creating desire, awareness, brand loyalty, and oddly, satisfaction.”

     Then again, there have been some observers who felt that Apple was creating something a little too self-important.  This view was expressed in March 2004 by Seth Stevenson writing in Slate.com, who had also acknowledged and praised the artistic and marketing effectiveness of the silhouette ads.  He wrote, nonetheless:

“…My distaste for these ads stems in part from the fact that… the marketing gives me a sneaking sense that the product thinks it’s better than me.  More attractive, far more timeless, and frankly more interesting, too.  I feel I’m being told that, without this particular merchandise, I will have no tangible presence in the world.  And that hurts.  I’m a person, dammit, not a featureless shadow-being!…

…the iPod is designed and marketed to draw attention to itself, and I think (I realize I’m in a minority here) I prefer my consumer goods to know their place…”

     Still others would observe that the silhouettes advertising campaign was generally quite effective, taking a product that initially started out as “a gadget for geeks,” as Google Sites writer Justin D. Salsburey described it, and making it “one of the most universally desired products on the market…”  That was no mean feat, given society’s proclivity for niche markets and personal individualism. 

     The silhouettes campaign managed, nonetheless, to give the iPod an appeal that transcended age, ethnicity and social class while not exclusively catering to one group at the expense of others. In its later stages, the campaign also used a wide selection of musical genres in its ads – rock, hip hop, jazz, folk, Latin and other styles.


TBWA/Chiat/Day

     Apple’s ad agency meanwhile, TBWA/ Chiat/Day, soon began picking up awards for the iPod silhouette campaign.  In June 2004, it won $100,000 Grand Prize Kelly Award, given to ad campaigns that demonstrate creativity and effectiveness. 

     Mike Hughes, president of The Martin Agency in Richmond, Virginia and a Kelly judge, said of the silhouettes campaign: “It demonstrated to people that you don’t have to spend a lot of time talking about [product] features to get people to make a human connection with your product… Also, one of the core values for Apple is design.  To reinforce that without ever talking about it, just by art direction, is an incredibly smart and effective device.”

     Apple’s engineers and its iPod team, meanwhile, were continually updating and improving the iPod with new versions.  In January 2004, the iPod Mini came out, which was smaller that the original iPod but with the same capacity and about the same price.  The Mini became popular with joggers and other active people and would further improve the iPod’s market share.  The iPod Mini came in five colors, offered 4GB of storage and featured a solid-state, touch-sensitive scroll wheel.


“Silhouette History”
Art & Advertising

1947: “Icarus” by Henri Matisse.
1947: “Icarus” by Henri Matisse.
     The details of “who came up with what” in the making of the iPod silhouette campaign is perhaps only known by a few insiders at Apple, its advertising agency, and contract artists.  But clearly, the campaign did its job and was a smashing success.  Yet, as some observers have noted elsewhere, there is “silhouette style” history in art and advertising, some of which may have had an influence on the iPod silhouettes campaign, if only subconsciously.  One blogger, Lexie Brown, writing in 2010, noticed some similarities between the iPod silhouettes and the work of artist Henri Matisse, and especially as seen in some of his cut-outs, such as Icarus from 1947.  Matisse, this blogger noted, was quite influential with the paper cut-out technique he developed, characterized by bold, simplified shapes and pure, bright colors.

1990s TV ad: “A Diamond is Forever.”
1990s TV ad: “A Diamond is Forever.”
     Another writer, Seth Stevenson of Slate.com, was reminded of a mid-1990s campaign for DeBeers diamonds, one in which a couple is shown as shadows, but only the jewelry – ring or necklace typically – is highlighted.  These ads ran regularly on TV for a time, and usually showed a man in shadow bearing the jeweled gift for his beloved as a classical soundtrack rich in strings swelled in the background, bringing the closing pitch: “A Diamond Is Forever.”

     The silhouette style, in fact, dates to early portrait techniques that became popular in the mid-18th century, cutting out portraits and profiles of subjects from black card paper.  But the term “silhouette” itself wasn’t used much until the early decades of the 19th century. 

1970s: “Mudflap Girl.”
1970s: “Mudflap Girl.”
     Silhouette images have been created in many artistic media and used for many purposes, from high-end photography to everyday road signs.  Of the more common variety, for example, is “mudflap girl” or “trucker girl,” an iconic silhouette of a shapely woman sitting on the ground and leaning back on her hands, with hair blowing in the wind.  The image was created in the 1970s by Bill Zinda of Wiz Enterprises, and modeled from an exotic dancer, to promote a line of truck and auto accessories.

     Apple’s ad agency, TBWA/Chiat/Day, was the lead group on the iPod silhouettes campaign, which also used a variety of subcontractors.  The TV ads were created by TBWA/ Chiat/Day art director Susan Alinsangan and Tom Kraemer, the same team that originated the print campaign, which also involved artists Alex Brodie and Stefan Sonnenfeld of Company 3 of Santa Monica, California.  Brodie and Sonnenfeld were also involved in the TV ads, as were director Dave Meyers of @radical.media, Chris Davis of Cosmo Street, and Glenn Martin of Nomad, and others.  Lee Clow, Duncan Milner, and Eric Grunbaum of TBWA/Chiat/Day were also principals in the campaign.  Among other artists who worked on the silhouette campaign was Casey Leveque of Rocket Studio in Santa Monica.


iPod Breakout

Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the cover of Newsweek magazine, July 26, 2004, as the iPod phenomenon began to take off in a big way.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs on the cover of Newsweek magazine, July 26, 2004, as the iPod phenomenon began to take off in a big way.
     By July 2004, when Newsweek put Steve Jobs on its magazine cover holding an iPod with the tagline, “iPod, Therefore i Am” the iPod revolution was fully in progress.  Steve Levy’s story inside the magazine, titled “iPod Naiton,” captured the cultural moment and the tsunami in progress with his lead paragraph:

Steve Jobs noticed something earlier this year in New York City.  “I was on Madison,” says Apple’s CEO, “and it was, like, on every block, there was someone with white headphones, and I thought, ‘Oh, my God, it’s starting to happen’.”  Jonathan Ive, the company’s design guru, had a similar experience in London: “On the streets and coming out of the tubes, you’d see people fiddling with it.”  And Victor Katch, a 59-year-old professor of kinesiology at the University of Michigan, saw it in Ann Arbor.  “When you walk across campus, the ratio seems as high as 2 out of 3 people,” he says…

     Apple and its super-product, the iPod, had moved to a new level of public notice and economic power, and the silhouettes campaign – which by then had washed over large swaths of urban territory – was part of the reason why.  With the release of the iPod 4G in 2004, Apple launched additional silhouette TV commercials.  Among these were commercials featuring: Gorillaz’s “Feel Good Inc,” Daft Punk’s “Technologic,” Feature Cast’s “Channel Surfing,” Stereogram’s “Walkie Talkie Man,” and Ozomatli’s “Saturday Night.”  iTunes downloads also surpassed 100 million songs in 2004.  Yet more was still ahead as the iPod advertising campaign, and Apple’s involvement in the music industry, began to snowball in a new way.


Bono, lead singer and front man for the Irish rock group U2.
Bono, lead singer and front man for the Irish rock group U2.
Bono,U2 & Apple

     Sometime in 2004, Bono, the lead singer for the Irish rock band U2, came to Steve Jobs with something of a novel proposal.  At the time, U2 was one of the world’s best known rock bands, but the music business was then changing, and getting new material noticed wasn’t always a sure thing.  U2 had been working on a new album and they had one particular song in the album, titled “Vertigo,” a song with a featured segment by U2’s lead guitarist known as “The Edge.”  The song, in Bono’s view, was especially good, but it needed exposure to make it a hit. 

     This was a time, it should be remembered, when MTV — the music television cable channel that helped promote rock music through short videos — had mostly stopped showing promotional rock videos.  And YouTube at this point wasn’t yet invented.  The avenues for getting new music out were limited.  And that’s why Bono came to talk with Steve Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, California.  He suggested to Jobs that U2 appear in an iPod TV commercial, and that U2 would do the commercial at no charge to Apple.  This was unusual since it normally worked the other way around: i.e., companies would court and pay artists to appear in commercials. 

Bono performing in screenshot from U2 iPod ad, 2004.
Bono performing in screenshot from U2 iPod ad, 2004.
     Apple at this point was using mostly unknown and “indie” bands in its iPod ads, or those with niche followings.  U2, on the other hand, was a band with a huge global following.  Jobs, who was no stranger to the music scene and music personalities, knew that Bono’s proposal wasn’t a casual offer.  He would later explain to biographer Walter Isaacson: “They [U2] had never done a commercial before.  But they were getting ripped off by free downloading, they liked what we were doing with iTunes, and they thought we could promote them to a younger audience.”  Indeed, U2 was known as a band that didn’t “sell out;” a band that had turned down multi-million-dollar commercial offers. 

     Still, the proposal Bono made to Jobs didn’t take off immediately, with both sides having their doubts, as the devil is always in the contract details.  Jobs, for one, immediately raised the fact that silhouettes advertising campaign used only anonymous forms in its ads.  No faces were seen.  And this was part of the campaign’s psychology, to put the viewer – and potential “Apple life-style customer” – in that anonymous place.  So wouldn’t putting a celebrity in that silhouette space be wrecking one of the key selling pillars of the campaign?  Bono suggested the campaign might naturally evolve to “silhouettes of artists.”

     A series of meetings and conversations then ensued with Jobs, Bono, other members of the band, business people, and TBWA/Chiat/Day.  As the makings of deal went forward, although U2 would not be paid for the ad, Bono and U2 would get a special edition iPod from which they would get royalties.  The ad was filmed in London and it showed the band in partial silhouette with cut-aways to iPod dancers in the normal silhouette style.  But as the filming proceeded there were second thoughts on both sides, as Bono and band worried they might still get an adverse reaction from their fan base for doing the ad, while Jobs worried about some of the generous economics in the deal and the precedent it might be set for other artists in the future.  But with a little help from James Vincent at TBWA/Chiat/Day and Jonny Ive at Apple, the requisite compromises and adjustments were made and the deal held.

 

     In late October 2004, Jobs rented a theater in San Jose for the debut of the U2 TV commercial and unveiling of the U2-edition iPod in its special black-and-red color scheme.  Jobs was joined on stage by Bono and The Edge.  The final TV spot featured Bono and band performing the song “Vertigo” with Bono and band partially silhouetted against fuchsia, green, yellow, and blue backgrounds.  Although shaded in the ad, U2 members Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, and Larry Mullen were still partly visible.  In cutaway frames focused on the dancers, iPods and silhouetted figures with flowing white wires appeared.  In the band segments, Bono’s microphone cord and The Edge’s guitar wires are also white, retaining the series’ artistic trademark.  The U2 special-edition iPod, meanwhile, shipped to customers with a $50 coupon toward the download of iTune’s The Complete U2, a collection of 25 years of U2 albums.  Within days of the U2 endorsement, Apple’s stock reached a 52-week high of $53.20 per share, adding $2 billion to the company’s overall market value.  In the end, Apple spent $20 million worldwide to promote the U2 silhouette spot.  But the collaboration seemed to work well for both parties.

San Jose, 2004: Bono, The Edge and Jimmy Iovine on stage with Steve Jobs receiving U2 special-edition iPods.
San Jose, 2004: Bono, The Edge and Jimmy Iovine on stage with Steve Jobs receiving U2 special-edition iPods.
     “Thanks to a smart decision to cross-promote two well-known entertainment brands…” wrote Thomas Mucha of Business 2.0, “each side contributed an edgy dose of cool to the advertising effort.”  The cross-promotional deal also granted Apple exclusive rights to sell “Vertigo” on iTunes and all the songs from the U2 album, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb for the first few weeks following its release.  The album went to the top of the iTunes chart, selling 840,000 copies in its first week alone, nearly twice that of the group’s previous U.S. album release in the same period.  It also debuted on the Billboard albums chart at No. 1 and kept selling well for weeks thereafter.  The album would go on to be the fourth best-selling album of 2004 with more than 9 million copies sold.  In 2005, the album and its singles won nine Grammy Awards; “Vertigo” won best rock song. 

U2's Bono in screen shot from iPod TV ad.
U2's Bono in screen shot from iPod TV ad.
     Explaining why U2 had chosen the iPod for its first endorsement, Bono told the Chicago Tribune: ‘‘We looked at the iPod commercial as a rock video.  We chose the director.  We thought, how are we going to get our single off in the days when rock music is niche?  When it’s unlikely to get a three-minute punk-rock song on top of the radio?  So we piggy-backed this phenomenon to get ourselves to a new, younger audience, and we succeeded.’’  Also asked by the press if he had made a deal with the devil, Bono responded, in part, as follows: “The ‘devil’ here is a bunch of creative minds, more creative than a lot of people in rock bands.  The lead singer is Steve Jobs.  These men have helped design the most beautiful art object in music culture since the electric guitar.  That’s the iPod.  The job of art is to chase the ugliness away.”  The iPod, meanwhile, had something like a 90 percent share of the digital player market by the end of 2004.


Evolving iPod & Ads

2005: iPod Shuffle model did away with the navigation window, featuring all-random play.
2005: iPod Shuffle model did away with the navigation window, featuring all-random play.
     Back at Apple, meanwhile, the iPod line of music players was going through another change.  One feature in the iPod – that which played songs randomly from stored songs – was called the shuffle.  The shuffle had become quite popular among iPod users who didn’t always take time to build their own playlists and others who simply liked to be surprised by randomly selected songs.  In fact, articles in The New Yorker, Wired and The Guardian had specifically praising this feature.  Steve Jobs at one point surprised his iPod team, then working on a new version and struggling with the size of the navigation window.  Jobs suggested just getting rid of the navigation screen altogether, especially since all the songs in the player were selected by the user in the first place.  All that was really needed was a skip button to move on to another song if the one selected wasn’t desired.  And with that, the iPod Shuffle was born in January 2005, the first model sold for under $100.

2005: Screen shot from iPod Shuffle TV ad featuring the song "Jerk It Out" by The Caesars. Click to view on YouTube.
2005: Screen shot from iPod Shuffle TV ad featuring the song "Jerk It Out" by The Caesars. Click to view on YouTube.
     New iPod silhouette ads followed, some  with silhouette dancers performing on moving floors of the crossing double arrow symbol that represented the “shuffle” icon.  The dancers wore the very visible elongated white iPod Shuffle models with wires dangling from their bodies.  One of the TV commercials in this series featured the song “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars.  Both print and TV ads in this series used appropriate shuffle language, with taglines such as “Embrace Uncertainty,” “Life is Random,” and “Enjoy Uncertainty.”  By April 2005, it was revealed that none other than the President of the United States, George Bush, had an iPod.  An article in the New York Times by Elisabeth Bumiller noted that among tunes the President had stored on his player were “Brown Eye Girl” by Van Morrison and “Centerfield” by John Fogerty.

2005: Screen shots from Apple iPod TV ad featuring rap singer Eminem. Click to view on YouTube.
2005: Screen shots from Apple iPod TV ad featuring rap singer Eminem. Click to view on YouTube.
     In September 2005, Steve Jobs shocked some of his fans by killing off the successful iPod Mini in favor of the iPod Nano, which among other features offered a color screen for viewing photos.  A month later, the fifth generation iPod was released following another redesign, yielding a slimmer profile and a larger screen for videos.

     As the iPod technology continued to evolve and change at Apple, so did the iPod silhouette advertising campaign.  Some of the ads began to move away from the solid-color backgrounds and completely silhouetted figures to more mixtures of color schemes and recognizable faces, especially when featuring artists in the ads, as occurred more frequently following the U2 commercial.  But for some of the artists used, like rap songster, Eminem, Jobs had to be coached on the music, as he acknowledged rap wasn’t among his favorites.  Still, in October 2005, at the release of the fifth-generation iPod during a press event, Jobs showed a new silhouette TV commercial featuring Eminem singing “Lose Yourself.”  In this ad, the artist used a white microphone against background colors of fiery yellows and oranges.  A dancer in this ad could also be seen with white iPod wires.  Near the end of 2005, in November, some new outdoor ads in the yellow-orange silhouette style were prepared by TBWA/Chiat/Day, including one called “Stripey T-Shirt” featuring a break dancer (shown in “Sources” below).  By year’s end 2005, Apple had sold more than 20 million iPods for the year, more than five times the number it had sold in 2004.

     In January 2006, the big news at the Macworld conference in San Francisco was Steve Jobs unveiling of the iPhone.  But silhouette ads carrying the “iPod + iTunes” tagline were still holding forth in outdoor venues, and could be seen across the land.  A few TV ads in the silhouette style came out as well.  One featured jazz musician, composer and trumpeter Wynton Marsalis and his quartet doing the song “Sparks.”  In this ad, like others featuring musical artists, the camera shots alternate between the artists and iPod-attired dancers.  The ad is done using classy, shades-of-blue silhouettes.  Marsalis’ trumpet is white and his drummer uses white drumsticks, while in other frames traditional silhouette figures dance with their white-wired iPods.  The ad was first shown during Steve Jobs’ presentation at the San Francisco Mac World conference in January 2006.  Marsalis and his quartet were also live artist guests at the Apple conference in San Jose, October 2005.  Prior to that, Marsalis had also visited with Jobs at his home in Palo Alto, and when he visited, he found Jobs absorbed in his technology intent on showing Marsalis the latest iTunes features.  “After a while,” Marsalis would later explain of the meeting with Jobs to Walter Isaacson, “I started looking at him and not the computer, because I was so fascinated with his passion.”

     As of March 2006, according to Forbes magazine, Apple had spent more than $100 million marketing the iPod to digital media lovers around the globe.


Bob Dylan Ad

2006: Bob Dylan in Apple iPod+iTunes TV ad singing “Someday Baby.”  Click to view on YouTube.
2006: Bob Dylan in Apple iPod+iTunes TV ad singing “Someday Baby.” Click to view on YouTube.
     Then in mid-2006 came an Apple deal with Bob Dylan; a deal hatched and overseen by Steve Jobs himself who had a special fondness for Dylan’s music.  Sometime in 2005 Jobs came up with the idea that iTunes should sell a special digital boxed set of all Dylan’s music – an immense trove of more than 700 songs.  Jobs thought iTtunes could sell the set for $199, which brought objection from Dylan’s label, Sony, and its CEO, Andy Lack who felt that price cheapened Dylan’s music, referring to the artist as a “national treasure.”  Lack also objected to the power Apple was gaining in establishing price.  Still, Jobs persisted, but Lack managed to block him for a time.  By 2006, however, Lack was no longer CEO at Sony, and Jobs came back at Dylan with the offer, including an iTunes +iPod TV ad hyping Dylan’s latest album, Modern Times.  But Jobs also ran into resistance internally at Apple among some younger staff who wondered whether Dylan was still “cool” enough to do such an ad.  Jobs hawked the making of the ad himself, rejecting one version, with Dylan having to re-film a second spot that Jobs approved.

Dancer in the Bob Dylan iPod TV ad holding an iPod while listening & dancing.
Dancer in the Bob Dylan iPod TV ad holding an iPod while listening & dancing.
     In August 2006, the 30-second iPod TV commercial appeared.  It departed from the solid-color background of the older ads and featured a partially shadowed but recognizable Bob Dylan sitting on a stoll singing “Someday Baby” from his Modern Times album.  The camera cut back and forth a few times between Dylan singing and a female dancer attired in a newsboy cap with her white iPod and free flowing white lanyards. 

     With this ad, Apple was apparently able to attract baby boomers and their college-age kids, as Dylan’s Modern Times hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts in its first week, topping rival albums, including those of artists Christina Aguilera and Outkast.  Dylan had not had a No. 1 album since Desire in 1976.  Madison Avenue’s Advertising Age magazine described the new chemistry as follows: “The iTunes spot wasn’t just a run-of-the- mill celebrity endorsement deal in which a big brand signs a big check to tap into the equity of a big star.  This one flipped the formula, with the all-powerful Apple brand giving Mr. Dylan access to younger demographics and helping propel his sales to places they hadn’t been since the [President Gerald] Ford administration.”  By mid-September 2006, Apple had 88 percent of the legal music download market in the U.S., and the iTunes music stored had surpassed 1.5 billion downloads.


Later 2000s

2007: Screen shot from “iPod + iTunes” TV ad with The Fratellis. Click to view on YouTube ad.
2007: Screen shot from “iPod + iTunes” TV ad with The Fratellis. Click to view on YouTube ad.
     In January 2007, iPod music players accounted for fully one half of Apple’s revenues.  Apple was then selling the players at a rate of 20 million a year.  There were also more iPod and iTunes ads in the works, some now featuring a reverse color scheme with colored silhouettes on a black background, and others with colored silhouettes against multi-colored backgrounds. 

     This style was visible in two January 2007 iPod/iTunes TV ads that featured an “indie” band from Glasgow, Scotland named The Fratellis.  The two spots, titled, “Party Animated” and “Party Color,” were set to the Fratellis’ song “Flathead” taken from their debut album, Costello Music

     Later that year, former Beatle Paul McCartney starred in a non-silhouette “iPod + iTunes” ad, walking along while strumming a mandolin, performing his song “Dance Tonight”, as animations of shapes and colors appeared around him. 

     In May 2007, Apple released another in its silhouette TV ad series for the iPod+iTunes campaign, this time with a Puerto Rican flavor.  Dancers of all ages could move to the sounds of the song “Mi Swing Es Tropical”, by Nickodemus & Quantic.  By early September 2007 the iPod Touch came out, utilizing the revolutionary touch interface first developed for the iPhone.  Within four years’ time, the iPod Touch would account for half of all iPod sales.  In mid-November 2007, an “iPod + iTunes” TV ad in the silhouette style featured artist Mary J. Blige performing an excerpt of the song, “Work That” from her album Growing Pains.  The ad ran just ahead of the album’s December 18, 2007 release, but was available for pre-order on iTunes while the single was immediately available.  Apple’s use of songs in their television ads – both of the silhouette and non-silhouette varieties – proved to be a good deal for artists, old and new.  Little-known artists who were used in the ads sometimes found instant fame.  Established artists, too, like Dylan or U2, reaped good returns and sometimes new fans or renewed interest. 

2008: The rock band Coldplay in screenshot from their Apple iPod+iTunes TV ad. Click to view on YouTube.
2008: The rock band Coldplay in screenshot from their Apple iPod+iTunes TV ad. Click to view on YouTube.
     Another popular rock group who did a shadow-style ad for Apple, was the group Coldplay, appearing in an iTunes commercial that aired in May 2008.  The ad was used to promote the group’s new album on iTunes, Viva la Vida, performing a selection from the song of that name in the commercial.  The Coldplay ad featured the band in a slight silhouette effect against a dark background while using brightly-colored effects.  No iPods were shown in the commercial.  In April 2008, a new iPod ad was released in the more original style with iPod-attired silhouette dancers, but with animated backgrounds and more detailed silhouettes.  The song was “Shut Up and Let Me Go” by the U.K. band, The Ting Tings.  It would be the last one to use the signature silhouette style with dancers in their white-wired iPod regalia.  iTunes, meanwhile, had become the No.1 music retailer in the U.S.  By June 2008, some five billion iTunes songs had been sold.

April 2008: Last of the silhouette ads; Ting Tings doing “Shut Up & Let Me Go.”  Click to view on YouTube.
April 2008: Last of the silhouette ads; Ting Tings doing “Shut Up & Let Me Go.” Click to view on YouTube.
     In addition to the silhouette ads used throughout the decade, Apple also ran non-silhouette ads to pitch various iPod and iTunes products, and in later years, more videos, video games, and also the iPhone and iPad.  By late March 2010, the big news was Apple’s release of the iPad, its trend-setting tablet computer.  Some 15 million would be sold by the end of the year.  But “new & improved” iPods continued to come as well.  In September 2010, new versions of the iPod Touch, iPod Nano, and iPod Shuffle were released.  Apple by this time had sold 275 million iPods and held 77 percent of the MP3 player market.  Its closest competitor was SanDisk, accounting for just 8 percent of the market.  In digital music sales, Apple’s iTunes music store then accounted for 70 percent of all U.S. music downloads, with Walmart and Amazon each claiming a 12 percent share.

2010-2011: Billboard ads and building broadsides announcing availability of Beatles music on iTunes ran in major cities, this one along Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, November 2010.
2010-2011: Billboard ads and building broadsides announcing availability of Beatles music on iTunes ran in major cities, this one along Sunset Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, November 2010.
     In 2010, Apple was still adding to its iTunes music store, and importantly for Steve Jobs, Apple finally got the right to sell the Beatles’ music on iTunes.  That came in November 2010.  Apple ran a series of billboard and poster ads in major cities through early 2011 touting the availability of the Beatles’ music.  Apple also ran five TV ads on the Beatles’ music at iTunes, some showing old period photographs and video clips as the music played.  Each of the TV ads were named for the featured song: “I Want To Hold Your Hand,” “Yesterday,” “Here Comes the Sun,” “All You Need is Love,” and “Let It Be.”   Two million Beatles songs were sold in the first week they were available on iTunes.  Apple, of course, wasn’t slowing down on its ad spending.  In fact, for the first ten months of 2010, Apple boosted its U.S. ad spending by 13.6 percent, according to Kantar Media, rising to about $220.2 million.  Some analysts, however, were then predicting a decline in iPod sales going forward, as more competitors arose and other devices, including the iPhone and the iPad, incorporated the music function.

iPod silhouettes advertising helped establish Apple as a major player & trend setter in the digital music industry.
iPod silhouettes advertising helped establish Apple as a major player & trend setter in the digital music industry.
     Apple, in any case, was deeply ensconced in the digital music industry by 2010, with every indication there was much more music business ahead, whether the enabling devices be iPods, iPhones, iPads, or new devices yet to be conjured. 

Apple also continued to experiment with new music features such as iTunes LP.  Inspired by the 1970’s-style album covers, iTunes LP offered some musical “extras”  to  iTunes customers, providing  album liner notes, lyrics, artwork, and exclusive photos and video. 

And it also appeared likely there would be new arrangements to come from Apple in terms of music storage with what is called the iCloud.


The Silhouette Sell

     Looking back on Apple’s business in the 2001-2010 period, it is clear that the iPod digital music player and the iTunes digital music store helped change the music industry and music culture the world over.  And for Apple, its move into the music business – essentially, a completely new business direction – turned out to be more of an economic mainstay than its founding computer business.The iPod silhouettes ad campaign appears to have played a very central role in sending Apple rocketing into the big business pantheon.  As for the advertising, it appears the iPod/iTunes silhouettes campaign – and its progeny – played a very central role in sending Apple rocketing into the big business pantheon.  For it was that campaign’s imagery and social messaging that were readily absorbed by consumers and the culture in quite dramatic ways, helping increase sales initially of Mac computers and iPods, and later, many, many more iPods and lots of iTunes digital music.  What first appeared as a modicum of iPod sales in the 2002-2004 period soon became more tsunami-like in the 2005-2010 period.  iPods sold generally below 1 million units per year during 2002-2004.  But between 2005 and 2011, Apple was selling 20 million or more iPods a year, and during the peak years from 2007 through 2010, annual sales of iPods ran at 50 million or more each year.  Likewise, Apple’s stock value soared: in March 2003 it was $7 per share.  By July 2008 it was $180 per share. Between 2005 and 2011, Apple sold 20 million or more iPods a year, peaking during 2007 – 2010, when it sold 50 million or more each year. During that 2003-2008 period, Apple’s share value increased a spectacular 2,500 percent, making Apple stockholders very happy indeed.  There is no doubt that the iPod became the main driver in Apple’s phenomenal success during that period, providing the swelling coffers that enabled the company to continue doing great things through 2011.  And while there were numerous factors involved in that successful business run, built upon great feats of engineering and design with hundreds of people playing key roles, it is clear that the advertising and marketing campaign conveyed a certain something about Apple products and Apple style – call it “coolness,” “hipness,” “joie de vie,” or whatever – that gave those products and the company a winning edge in both the marketplace and popular culture.  And for that, iPod’s dancing silhouettes of the 2003-2008 period will surely remain distinguished stars in the annals of advertising for some time to come.  They are no doubt dancing still; out there somewhere in the musical ether grooving to their favorite tunes.

     See also at this website, “Apple Rising, 1976-1985,” on Apple’s founding and early history with Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, covering the early computer biz, early Apple advertising, etc., up through Jobs being fired from his own company. For other stories on music and/or technology, please see the category navigation bar at the top left corner of this page.  Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle.

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Date Posted:  9 December 2011
Last Update:  4 August 2016
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The iPod Silhouettes: 2000-2011,”
PopHistoryDig.com, December 9, 2011.

____________________________________





Sources, Links & Additional Information

May 2003: Steve Jobs on Fortune magazine cover with rocker Sheryl Crow, in prescient story that hints of bigger things to come with Apple & music.
May 2003: Steve Jobs on Fortune magazine cover with rocker Sheryl Crow, in prescient story that hints of bigger things to come with Apple & music.
1984: Steve Jobs in earlier photo with friend & advertising guru Lee Clow, whose firm helped craft brilliant marketing campaigns for Apple, including the iPod silhouettes.
1984: Steve Jobs in earlier photo with friend & advertising guru Lee Clow, whose firm helped craft brilliant marketing campaigns for Apple, including the iPod silhouettes.
2007: iPod banners & posters, So. Station, Boston, MA.
2007: iPod banners & posters, So. Station, Boston, MA.
2005: iPod silhouette billboards, Taipei, Taiwan.
2005: iPod silhouette billboards, Taipei, Taiwan.
Apple iPod billboard ad in evolving silhouette style.
Apple iPod billboard ad in evolving silhouette style.
2008: iPod billboard, Chinatown, New York, NY.
2008: iPod billboard, Chinatown, New York, NY.
iPod silhouettes are used widely on iTunes gift cards.
iPod silhouettes are used widely on iTunes gift cards.
June 2008: iPod silhouette ad, Chicago bus kiosk.
June 2008: iPod silhouette ad, Chicago bus kiosk.
2004: Steve Jobs showing off the iPod Mini.
2004: Steve Jobs showing off the iPod Mini.
Sept 2006: Giant iPod silhouette display at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
Sept 2006: Giant iPod silhouette display at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco, CA.
June 2008: iPod building broadside, Chicago, Ill.
June 2008: iPod building broadside, Chicago, Ill.
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May 2004: Giant iPod silhouettes on building broadside, Santa Monica Blvd, Los Angeles.
April 2007: Giant Apple iPod ad adorns construction scaffolding, Lafayette St., NY, NY.
April 2007: Giant Apple iPod ad adorns construction scaffolding, Lafayette St., NY, NY.
Nov 2003: Giant iPod silhouette wall posting at the 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Nov 2003: Giant iPod silhouette wall posting at the 30th Street Station, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
iPod silhouette building ad using multi-colored style.
iPod silhouette building ad using multi-colored style.
iPod ad draws notice against a gray Toronto skyline.
iPod ad draws notice against a gray Toronto skyline.
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2007: iPod silhouette-style ad on Seattle, WA bus.
Lee Clow, global director of TBWA/Chiat/Day, posing with one of his agency’s Apple iPod silhouette ads.
Lee Clow, global director of TBWA/Chiat/Day, posing with one of his agency’s Apple iPod silhouette ads.

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__________________

iPod T.V. Ads – Sample List
(debut, iPod vintage, ad type, song, artist)

2001, first iPod ad, “Take California,” Propellerheads (not a silhouette ad), You Tube.com.

2003, iPod+iTunes, Now for Windows: “Hey Mama,” Black Eyed Peas, YouTube  .com.

2003, iPod 3G, “Rock Star (Jason Nevins Remix), N.E.R.D., YouTube.com.

2003/2004 iPod, “Are You Gonna Be My Girl?,” Jet, YouTube.com.

2004, iPod 4G, iPod + iTunes,”Channel Surfing” by Feature Cast, YouTube.com.

2004, iPod 4G, iPod + iTunes, “Walkie Talkie Man” by Stereogram, YouTube .com.

2004, iPod 4G, “Saturday Night” by Ozomatli, YouTube.com.

2004, iPod + iTunes, “Vertigo” by U2, You Tube.com (2 minute version).

2004, iPod + iTunes, “Vertigo” by U2, You Tube.com (30 second version).

2005, iPod 4G, “Technologic” by Daft Punk, YouTube.com.

2005, iPod 4G, “Ride” by The Vines, You Tube.com.

2005, iPod Shuffle 1G, “Jerk It Out” by The Caesars, YouTube.com.

2005, iPod 4G, “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz, YouTube.com.

2005, iPod + iTunes, “Lose Yourself” by Eminem, YouTube.com.

2005, “Sparks,” Wynton Marsalis, You Tube .com.

2006, iPod 5G, iPod+iTunes, “LoveTrain,” Wolfmother, YouTube.com.

2006, iPod & iTunes, “Someday Baby,” Modern Times album, Bob Dylan, You Tube.com.

2007, iPod + iTunes, “Mi Swing Es Tropical,” Quantic and Nickodemus, You Tube.com.

2007, iPod, “Flathead,” The Fratellis, You Tube .com.

2007, iPod + iTunes, “Dance Tonight,” Paul McCartney, YouTube.com.

2008, iPod + iTunes, “Shut Up and Let Me Go,” The Ting Tings, YouTube.com.

2008, iTunes, “Viva la Vida,” Coldplay (silhouetted artists wwith white wires), YouTube.com.

____________________________




“Ray Sings America”
1972-2011

Ray Charles performing “America the Beautiful” at Fenway Park prior to a Boston Red Sox baseball game, April 2003.  AP photo.
Ray Charles performing “America the Beautiful” at Fenway Park prior to a Boston Red Sox baseball game, April 2003. AP photo.
     There is probably no more soulful a version of “America The Beautiful” than the one by legendary bluesman Ray Charles.  

Also an accomplished jazz, gospel, and country-and-western virtuoso, Ray Charles shone through movingly whenever he performed “America The Beautiful” — as he did in many of his performances generally.  But with this song in particular his spirited interpretation often moved listeners to tears and/or deep patriotic feeling.

     Charles’ version of the song, or part of it, was featured in a 2011 TV advertisement that ran during the 2011 World Series.  It was used as the soundtrack for a Chevrolet ad touting the car company’s 100th anniversary.  The 60-second ad, offered below, shows a sequence of hand-held family-album photos of older Chevrolet car and truck models juxtaposed against more recent American scenes and iconic moments.  With Charles providing the requisite “American” music in the ad, Chevy was trying to imbue itself and its models with a sense of American history — and viewers of the ad with a patriotic feeling.  They may well have succeeded.  Chevrolet has a long history of trying to associate its name and products with American patriotism, and with Ray Charles singing “America the Beautiful” in this ad, they were certainly hitting some persuasive notes.  But the story that follows here is more about Ray’s history with this particular song than it is about Chevy’s cars and trucks.

     The Ray Charles version of  “America the Beautiful” is a much-loved song by many Americans, and is generally regarded as something of a classic.  His version of the song  dates to the early 1970s when he and friend Quincy Jones, the music producer,  first recorded it.  Since then, and over the last 40 years, Charles’ version of  “America The Beautiful” has had periods of notable popularity and political use.  During his career, Charles performed the song numerous times, and in later years, often in prime-time televised venues such as presidential conventions, 4th-of-July gatherings, the SuperBowl, World Series, and other major events.  More on the history of these performances and the Ray Charles song in a moment.  First, a brief look at “America the Beautiful’s” origin and creation.

 

1890s

“Purple Mountains…”

Professor Katharine Bates was inspired by America’s beauty.
Professor Katharine Bates was inspired by America’s beauty.
     “America the Beautiful” was first published as a poem by Katharine Lee Bates in 1895.  Bates was a professor of English Literature at Wellesley College in Massachusetts who in the summer of 1893 visited Pike’s Peak in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains.  There she was struck by the views of the mountains and landscape laid before her, which helped inspire the opening lines of her poem.  Bates had traveled across the country that summer, visited the World’s Columbian exposition in Chicago, and crossed the American agricultural heartland on her way to Colorado.

Statue of Katherine Lee Bates on grounds of  Falmouth, MA library.
Statue of Katherine Lee Bates on grounds of Falmouth, MA library.
     Her poem first appeared under the name “America” in the July 4th 1895 edition of The Congregationalist, a church periodical.  The poem was later revised by Bates in 1904 and 1914.  Separately, Samuel A. Ward, a church organist and choirmaster, had earlier written some music for other purposes.  In 1910, his music and Bates’ poem were combined and published as the song “America the Beautiful.”  The song caught on with the American people and became popular.

     However, another American song, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” would become the national anthem.  That song had been written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key after Key had witnessed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812.  By 1889, the song was in official use by the U.S. Navy, and by 1916, also by the President. It was made the national anthem by a congressional resolution in March 1931. 

However, over the years, some have argued that “America the Beautiful” would serve as a better national anthem, and periodically the song has been proposed to replace “The Star-Spangled Banner” as National Anthem. And for some, the Ray Charles version of “America the Beautiful” makes a persuasive case for making that song the National Anthem.


1972

Ray’s Version

Cover art for CD of the Ray Charles album, “A Message From the People,” 1972.
Cover art for CD of the Ray Charles album, “A Message From the People,” 1972.
     Ray Charles had become a popular rhythm and blues artist by the 1960s, with a number of hit songs topping the music charts of that day.  In 1972 Charles was with the ABC recording company, and had set out to record an album of songs about America and its people, which later became, A Message From The People.  It included ten songs, among them, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” “Abraham, Martin and John,” and “America The Beautiful,” all produced by Quincy Jones. 

On that album, Charles sang “America the Beautiful” in a slow, rocking tempo, removing and/or reordering some verses, and emphasizing sections of the song that focus on the bravery of  American heroes. “Then I put a little country church backbeat on it and turned it my way,” said Charles of the song in one interview.  On the 1972 album cover, shown at right, the cover art includes sketches of martyred American leaders – Robert F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and John F. Kennedy — seen in light background.

45 rpm single of “America the Beautiful” – “arranged & adapted” by Ray Charles.
45 rpm single of “America the Beautiful” – “arranged & adapted” by Ray Charles.
     Of the album, Charles explained that he approached it with the intention of including songs “about some of the wrongs of our country” but also “wanted to show what was beautiful and great” about it.  The album was recorded on the ABC/Tangerine label (Tangerine being Charles’ label that ABC distributed).  It was released along with a single of “America the Beautiful.”  The album hit No. 52 on the Billboard albums chart in 1972, but Charles’ version of “America the Beautiful” did not attract much attention at the time.  He did, however, perform the song on national TV in 1972, appearing on the The Dick Cavett Show in September that year – a performance that can be found on DVD and on YouTube.  Thereafter, and gradually over the years, Charles began performing the song more often during his concerts, depending on the audience and context.  By 1984, however, the Charles version of “America the Beautiful” received some major national exposure.


1980s

Republican Convention

1981 Inauguration.  First Lady Nancy Reagan and President Ronald Reagan with Ray Charles after his performance.
1981 Inauguration. First Lady Nancy Reagan and President Ronald Reagan with Ray Charles after his performance.
     A victim of racial prejudice during his life and musical career, Ray Charles had supported the civil rights movement in the 1960s and also provided financial support to the work of Dr. Martin Luther King.  But Ray Charles was also his own man politically and often hard to pigeonhole.  At times he called himself a Hubert Humphrey Democrat (moderate-centrist), but he also became involved with the Republicans.  In the early 1970s, he appeared in performance at Richard Nixon’s White House.  In 1981, he played at President Ronald Reagan’s inaugural festivities.  And as a spokesman for disability issues during the early 1980s, he worked with Reagan who signed a proclamation on behalf of the disabled.  Reagan helped launch the National Organization On Disability’s Ad Council campaign which featured Ray Charles in its ads.  The Reagans also appeared briefly with Charles after he performed at some Country Music Association events in 1983, one of which was held at the White House.

President and Nancy Reagan with Ray Charles after President Reagan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Dallas, Texas. August 23, 1984.
President and Nancy Reagan with Ray Charles after President Reagan’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Dallas, Texas. August 23, 1984.
     By August 1984, as President Reagan and vice president, George H.W. Bush ran for their second term, Ray Charles appeared and performed at the Republican Party National Convention in Dallas, Texas.  Charles appeared at least a couple of times performing.  He sang “God Bless America” at one point, and during the week of the convention, NBC-TV also did a special focus piece, with interview, on his music and career. At the convention, Charles also appeared arm-in-arm with the President Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan on August 23rd after Reagan had made his acceptance speech. But the high point of Charles’ involvement at the 1984 convention came on August 23rd when he sang “America the Beautiful” to close convention in a rousing, emotional finale that was seen by millions on television. An extensive NBC clip of that performance, introduced by NBC anchorman at the time, Tom Brokaw, is available at NBCuniversalarchives.com. The high point of Charles’ involvement at the 1984 convention came on Aug. 23rd when he sang “America the Beautiful” to close convention in a rousing, emotional finale seen by millions on TV. A similar TV excerpt of that performance at this website — “Ray At The 1984 RNC” — shows delegates in the audience waving flags and placards. During this and other network segments of the Charles performance, there are camera shots of President and Nancy Reagan and Vice President Bush and wife Barbara, on stage admiring Charles’ performance, and occasionally singing along as he played his piano. As Charles sings his song, the camera cuts back-and-forth between Charles, the president’s party on stage, and delegates in the audience, with close-up shots of various people in the audience – of groups of convention attendees swaying back and forth, of a man in a cowboy hat waving an American flag, of the President’s daughter Maureen Reagan, and others. At the end of the performance, President Reagan and Vice President Bush shake hands with Charles. After his convention appearance in 1984 convention, Charles also played at Reagan’s Inaugural Ball in January 1985, and would visit Reagan a couple of times that year at the White House related to work involving the Red Cross and/or disability issues. In 1986, the Reagans attended a Kennedy Center national awards ceremony which featured Charles as one of the honored artists that year. Meanwhile, at the Democrat’s National Convention in 1988, a Jesse Jackson video concluded with the Ray Charles version of “America the Beautiful.”


Ray Charles shown on CD cover for 2005 album featuring “America the Beautiful” and other songs for Madacy Records.
Ray Charles shown on CD cover for 2005 album featuring “America the Beautiful” and other songs for Madacy Records.
Popular Appeal

     Regardless of politics, the Ray Charles version of  “America the Beautiful” has grown on people over the years, with many finding it especially moving.  On the web, for example, one blogger writes: “Hearing his rendition of ‘America The Beautiful’ never fails to move me to tears.”  That kind of comment is not unusual.  In fact, some regard the Charles version as the singular version, and in class all its own. 

     Ed Bradley, the late 60 Minutes correspondent, called it “the definitive version…an American anthem – a classic, just as the man who sang it.”  Others have suggested that Congress should “retire” the song in Charles’ honor.  Another writes that Charles’ performance of the song “is an awesome, noteworthy, modern, musical achievement” for which Charles should be “forever honored.”

     Still others have gone somewhat deeper into how Charles sings the song – namely how he would often lead his performance with the less-well known second verse:

Cover of CD for 2002 album, “Ray Charles Sings For America,” Rhino/Wea.
Cover of CD for 2002 album, “Ray Charles Sings For America,” Rhino/Wea.

O beautiful for heroes proved
in liberating strife
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life

America, America
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine

     According to some accounts, the poem’s original author, Katherine Bates, was making some pointed critique in this verse of the materialistic and self-serving robber barons of the 1890s, and was urging America to live up to its more nobler self and ideals.  She was also honoring the memory of those who died for their country.  Charles too, in his selection of the second verse as lead, is making this emphasis as well and more, as Newark Star-Ledger columnist Charles Taylor explains in a 2004 article for Salon.com:

“…Think about what that reordering does, what it means to hear those words before the familiar ‘O beautiful, for spacious skies…’  Beginning with images of sacrifice and death, then moving on to a prayer that asks — with no guarantee of being answered — that those sacrifices not be in vain, Ray Charles implies that America must earn the verse that follows.”

     In his performances, Charles would often get to the first verse of the poem somewhat later, explaining to his audience as he went:  “…And you know when I was in school we used to sing it something like this…,” then singing the familiar verse.Charles’ version of the song “teaches… a new humility.”
                           – C. Taylor, Salon.com
.  Charles Taylor, in Salon.com, continues making his point:

“…So the purple mountains’ majesty above the fruited plains are introduced as a legend we hear as children.  They are not, in this [Ray Charles] version, God’s bounty there for our taking, but the reward of a collective dream, a dream all the sweeter, all the more worth working toward because it will never fully be realized.  God may or may not reward that striving, but as Charles sings it, the striving is where the concrete beauty of the country lies.”

“‘America the Beautiful’ is the least boastful of patriotic songs, and even so, Ray Charles’ version teaches it a new humility. ….”


After 9/11

“America The Beautiful” poster showing the fourth and final verse of the song.
“America The Beautiful” poster showing the fourth and final verse of the song.
     Charles’ performance of the song struck a special resonance with many across America after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.  One observer commenting at SongFacts.com– “Jay from New York city” – explains his reaction upon hearing the song shortly after 9/11:

“On September 13, 2001, the radio station I listened to went back to playing music after nearly two days of news reports.  This was the first song I heard that morning after getting into my car, and it almost moved me to tears. Charles begins with what is traditionally the third verse:  ‘Oh beautiful for heroes proved in liberating strife, who more than self their country loved, and mercy more than life.’  Given the events of two days earlier, it was incredibly powerful and almost eerily poignant. I have only rarely heard this song — it is not the type of song that is typically played on the radio — but I feel that Charles’ rendition is the definitive version of the song, and it provided for me a musical memory I will never forget.”

“Music really and truly is my bloodstream you know  — my breathing, my respi- ratory system. And as long as the public is willing to listen to me, there ain’t no retiring until the day when they put me away.”
                        -Ray Charles

     In Sept 2002, Charles produced another “American songs”  album — Ray Charles Sings For America, by Rhino records.  This compilation, coming a year after the terrorist attacks, was a collection of American tribute songs with a few new tracks from Charles, including a spoken version, “Ray Reflects On America” and “God Bless America Again.”  The collection also includes “America The Beautiful.”  The following spring, on Friday, April 11, 2003, Charles sang “America The Beautiful” at Fenway Park in Boston at the Red Sox opening day baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles, though the game was later rained out.


In Ray Charles’ birthplace of Albany, Georgia, a revolving, illuminated, bronze statue of Charles seated at a baby grand piano (by sculptor Andy Davis) is the centerpiece of the Ray Charles plaza and park.
In Ray Charles’ birthplace of Albany, Georgia, a revolving, illuminated, bronze statue of Charles seated at a baby grand piano (by sculptor Andy Davis) is the centerpiece of the Ray Charles plaza and park.
     Also in 2003, at what may have been his final performance in public, Charles  sang “Georgia On My Mind” and “America the Beautiful” at a televised gathering of journalists in Washington, D.C.  In 2004, New York Times writer Bob Herbert, describing Ray Charles’ style and impact as part religious, wrote: “Listen to the way he transforms ‘America the Beautiful’ from an anthem to a hymn…” 

Ray Charles, at age 73, passed on in 2004.  However, he leaves behind a giant musical legacy for the ages, of which “America the Beautiful” is just one part — though an important and enduring interpretation that will continue to move people for many years to come.

Ray’s version of the Beatles song, “Eleanor Rigby,” is included as a full audio file in that story. See also the “Annals of Music” page at this website for additional stories in that category. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle.


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Date Posted: 5 November 2011
Last Update: 25 August 2016
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Ray Sings America, 1972-2011,”
PopHistoryDig.com, November 5, 2011.

____________________________________




Sources, Links & Additional Information

Cover of “Ray, Rare Genius” CD, 2010.
Cover of “Ray, Rare Genius” CD, 2010.
2006 CD featuring Ray Charles & Count Basie.
2006 CD featuring Ray Charles & Count Basie.
Ray Charles’ early recordings, 1949-1952.
Ray Charles’ early recordings, 1949-1952.

Stuart Elliott, “Chevy Turns to Pictures to Celebrate a Centennial,” New York Times, October 19, 2011.

Ray Charles, “America The Beautiful,” in performance, Dick Cavett Show, Sept. 18, 1972.

“Ray Charles Albums,” RayCharles.com.

“Ray Charles,”Wikipedia.org.

“America The Beautiful by Ray Charles,” SongFacts.com.

“Ray Charles Bio,” SwingMusic  .net.

“Ray Charles Sings ‘America the Beautiful’ to Close GOP Convention,” NBC Nightly News, August 24, 1984.

Tom Shales, “Battle Hymn Of the Republicans,” Washington Post, August 24, 1984, p. B-1.

Philip H. Dougherty, “Advertising; Campaign Set to Aid Disabled,” New York Times, April 19, 1985

Ray Charles, “America The Beautiful,” in performance, McCallum Theater, 1991.

Jon Pareles and Bernard Weinraub, “Ray Charles, Bluesy Essence of Soul, Is Dead at 73,” New York Times, June 11, 2004.

Charles Taylor, “The Genius Hits the Road,” Salon.com, Friday, June 11, 2004.

Bob Herbert, “Loving Ray Charles,” New York Times, June 14, 2004.

“An Appreciation of Ray Charles,” The Charlie Rose Show, Interviews with Phil Ramone, Marcus Roberts, Anthony Decurtis, June 14, 2004.

“Ray Charles At Republican Party Convention in 1984,” Ray Charles Video Museum, May 30 2010.

CBS Evening News, “The Deaths of Ronald Reagan and Ray Charles – June 2004 (4:45),” YouTube.

Rebecca Leung, “The Genius Of Ray Charles,” CBSNews.com, February 18, 2009.

“Ray Charles,” in Holly George-Warren and Patricia Romanowski (eds), The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll, Rolling Stone Press, New York, 3rd Edition, 2001, pp. 165-167.

____________________________



 





“See The U.S.A.”
Video:1952

 


Note: This 1:33 minute video shows Dinah Shore singing the famous
“See-The-U.S.A.- in-Your-Chevrolet” jingle. In the piece, she sings the
entire song, adding her famous goodbye kiss at the finish. This ad
appears to be from the early 1950s — likely the fall of 1952, as the
Chevy models featured are for the 1953 model year. On YouTube
and elsewhere, there are several other Dinah Shore videos that she
made on behalf of Chevrolet.



Short Story
See related story at this website on the history of Dinah Shore and her
1950s & 1960s involvement with General Motors and Chevrolet, and
how she helped make Chevrolet a household word and America’s best-
selling car. See story at, “Dinah Shore & Chevrolet, 1951-1963.”



Video Source
The original source for this video is found at YouTube.

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this Website

Donate Now

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Date Posted: 23 March 2009
Last Update: 4 November 2011
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

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“Google & Gaga”
2011

     In May 2011, an upbeat and energetic Google TV ad starring pop music phenom Lady Gaga began running on mainstream TV channels, drawing lots of attention and praise.  In the ad, Gaga and her fans are featured in what is essentially a 90-second music video that uses her upbeat song, “The Edge of Glory,” as its soundtrack.  But the ad, which is quite well done, also provides a window on the technology powerhouse that is Google and how that company is changing — both in terms of its public image and how it may use its powers in the future.  More on that part of the story a bit later.  First, the video, and following that, a more detailed look at the ad, isolating some of its screenshots below to provide a somewhat “slower” look at its elements and composition.



The Google Ad

Lady Gaga jogging on the Brooklyn Bridge, Google ad.
Lady Gaga jogging on the Brooklyn Bridge, Google ad.
Google’s logo for its “Chrome” internet browser.
Google’s logo for its “Chrome” internet browser.
Lady Gaga attending to decorative details.
Lady Gaga attending to decorative details.
This fan-submitted video on YouTube titled “want to be a monster,” appears in the Gaga-Google ad.
This fan-submitted video on YouTube titled “want to be a monster,” appears in the Gaga-Google ad.
Shots of Lady Gaga on the Brooklyn Bridge are interspersed with fan videos in Google’s Chrome ad.
Shots of Lady Gaga on the Brooklyn Bridge are interspersed with fan videos in Google’s Chrome ad.
Another fan-submitted YouTube video covering Gaga’s song in the Google Chrome TV ad.
Another fan-submitted YouTube video covering Gaga’s song in the Google Chrome TV ad.
Lady Gaga sends internet messages in Google TV ad.
Lady Gaga sends internet messages in Google TV ad.
Lady Gaga fan in the Google ad singing to his dog.
Lady Gaga fan in the Google ad singing to his dog.
Shot of search query for “gaga fans” in Google ad.
Shot of search query for “gaga fans” in Google ad.
Lady Gaga dancing with others in Google ad.
Lady Gaga dancing with others in Google ad.
Lady Gaga appears to be scrolling on hand-held device in this screenshot from Google’s Chrome ad.
Lady Gaga appears to be scrolling on hand-held device in this screenshot from Google’s Chrome ad.
Lady Gaga sends encouragement to her fans.
Lady Gaga sends encouragement to her fans.
Lady Gaga in her own “paws up” pose.
Lady Gaga in her own “paws up” pose.
Gaga continues her workout on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Gaga continues her workout on the Brooklyn Bridge.
Gaga and black guy dancing in Google ad.
Gaga and black guy dancing in Google ad.
Gaga message: "Unleash your inner monster!"
Gaga message: "Unleash your inner monster!"
Gaga in pensive moment in Google Chrome ad.
Gaga in pensive moment in Google Chrome ad.
Guy in Google ad showing off Gaga-like costume.
Guy in Google ad showing off Gaga-like costume.
Handicapped guitarist playing Gaga cover song.
Handicapped guitarist playing Gaga cover song.
Lady Gaga in closing frames of Google ad.
Lady Gaga in closing frames of Google ad.
In the final frames of the ad, clicking on the Chrome icon yields a display of other Google icons,  each representing other web possibilities.
In the final frames of the ad, clicking on the Chrome icon yields a display of other Google icons, each representing other web possibilities.

     Ostensibly, this TV commercial — which was also posted as a YouTube video – is an advertisement for Google’s  “Chrome” internet  browser. For those who may not know, a browser is a piece of software that enables internet users to do many wondrous and varied things on the web, from viewing websites to sharing videos and more.  Other companies — Google competitors — also offer browsers, such as Microsoft’s “Explorer” or Mozilla’s “Firefox.”  Interestingly, however, in market research Google discovered that many people had no idea of what a browser was, nor did they realize they had a choice of browsers and could download a different browser than those pre-loaded on phones, laptops and PCs.

     Google’s Lady Gaga ad, however, is more than just a marketing pitch for the Chrome browser; it’s actually more like a celebration of the internet and its many powerful possibilities, casting Google and its tools in a very positive light.  Not least,  of course, is that Google also wins the implied endorsement of Lady Gaga — and as Google is hoping, millions of her fans as well.  Google also gets a share of brand-name affirmation here.  But the ad, in any case, is quite entertaining and captivating, even for those who see it by accident – and even for those not knowing a thing about Google, Chrome, Lady Gaga, browsers, or the internet.

     Lady Gaga, of course, is the star of this commercial and, in a showcase of web interactivity, so are her fans, whom she affectionately calls “Little Monsters.”

     The ad opens with a shot of Google’s Chrome logo, and then moves to a frame showing a message from Lady Gaga being typed into the Chrome browser with the title, “listen up, little monsters!”  The scene then cuts to Lady Gaga jogging on New York’s Brooklyn Bridge with Manhattan in the background.  Gaga is attired in a black leather bra and shorts with black hoodie, looking a bit like a female version of Rocky Balboa.  The camera cuts back and forth between Gaga’s workout on the bridge and her fans’ videos several times during the ad.

     For some viewers, and even her ardent fans, Lady Gaga has not often been seen apart from her stage acts or other highly-managed public appearances where she is typically dressed in some exotic new costume and engaged in an extravagant music production.  And non-fans  may only know her from magazine covers or TV appearances.  So to see the pop star cast as an average person jogging in the real world  may provide a new perspective.

     Back in the video, Gaga is shown in one frame with two assistants in a dressing area as the scene cuts quickly through a series of fan-generated YouTube videos – a guy doing “monster”-like facial makeup; a female fan with guitar singing the Gaga tune; a black guy in a stairwell singing; a couple of kids dancing in their bedroom, and more.  A fan in a white wig appears next doing an acoustic ukulele cover of Gaga’s song, followed by other imitators, prompting a Gaga typed-in message, “You are ALL beautiful.”

     Then come more dance scenes from fans on YouTube – a couple of kids in their bedroom, a guy in his kitchen, a middle-age lady outside her home, and a fan holding up a Gaga’s CD, Born This Way.  A Gaga query on YouTube follows, yielding more video clips, including one guy who looks to be in his 30s singing the Gaga tune to a little black dog he is holding.  Gaga clicks on several more choices to view them, then types, “You’re all superstars. You inspire me!”

     More frames whiz by; one with a girl dancing with abandon as her father scoots by to one side, not sure of what he’s seeing.  Then comes a quick shot of Gaga and a black guy dancing, then Gaga alone, boxer style, jumping side-to-side with feet together, all in sync with the music.

     A few frames later Gaga appears to be sitting alone or riding in car viewing a hand-held device of some kind, presumably surfing the web or reading her mail.  Then comes the message, “PAWS UP!,” followed by fans showing their best “claw pose,” then Gaga doing the same in a deadpan pose.

     Back on the Brooklyn Bridge briefly, Gaga is seen doing some footwork, Manhattan behind her in a bright blue-sky day as the music beats away.  More fan videos follow – among them, the “Lady Gaga Dance Squad” in a mirrored studio, followed by a young guy on a rooftop smiling and making his best Gaga-like dance moves; then cut to Gaga again, in her hoodie, dancing side-by-side with a black guy.  Another typed message to fans: “Unleash your inner monster!”

     Then come more YouTube videos of dancing Gaga fans, including one couple who appear to be performing on an inside window sill with some abandon; a guy alone in a hallway shaking his butt in sync with the music; Gaga back on the bridge putting down a few wild steps; then another Gaga message – “this is our moment” – followed by Gaga in a quiet, pensive cool-down moment back on the bridge looking out over the city.

     More scenes follow of Gaga’s dancing inter-cut with fan videos, including a guy twirling around with a giant floral decoration on his shoulder, and another of a handicapped young man performing a Gaga song on an electric guitar with a prosthetic aid.  Then cut to Gaga in a salmon-beige-colored dress who appears to be performing somewhere, followed by a YouTube fan video from a teenage boy titled, “Gaga Wear” — i.e,  Gaga-inspired “clothing”  he made — part of which appears to be a cork-type facial decoration this kid wears across his eyes, along with a wavy red-ribbon material as a shirt.

     Then back to Gaga on the Brooklyn Bridge, dance-running and skipping, followed by a scene of about 30 young elementary school kids in a studio room dancing and jumping to the song and then a shot of a teenage girl in a YouTube video twirling around in her bedroom alone amid falling confetti.

     A screenshot of Gaga’s sign-off message appears: “Stay Strong Little Monsters!”  Close-up shots of Gaga back on the bridge follow, her face filing the screen, one of her throwing a kiss to fans Dinah-Shore style, and another, smiling.

     A final sequence of frames then appears, one with the words, “Lady Gaga, Mother Monster,”  followed by another that reads, “The web is what you make of it.”  Then there’s a click sound as the cursor hits the Chrome logo, sending out a little explosion of other Google icons in a concentric array around the Chrome icon, each representing other Google tools and/or web possibilities.

     The 90 seconds in this ad race by quickly, but on the whole the ad leaves the viewer feeling pretty buoyant and upbeat, if only for the music and the energy of all those dancing fans.

     The Google ad, however, has multiple purposes, the most important of which is to show Google products as web enablers – whether search, e-mail, video posting, blogging, and more.  Each frame has Gaga or her fans making use of a Google product, whether it’s the Chrome browser, Google search, G-mail, or YouTube.  Gaga is shown as an artist who relies on the web and how she uses it to communicate directly with her fans around the world, building one of the world largest fan bases in the process.  As Google itself has explained of this ad:

“This film celebrates Lady Gaga’s special and unmediated relationship with her fans, the Little Monsters.  The making of this film is a demonstration of the power of the web in its own right.  The entire project, beginning with Lady Gaga’s shoot in NYC on May 8th [2011], to shipping materials to the television networks for air, took 10 days.  Within hours of the release of her new single “Edge of Glory” on May 9th, fans began uploading videos on YouTube, making the song their own by dancing to it, singing it and playing it on all kinds of instruments.  Lady Gaga then posted a message on her website asking for more videos to be used in the film project.  Fans responded within minutes and uploaded hundreds more videos.  Back in the editing room, in real time as fan videos streamed in, editors were putting them into the film.  The film was completed on May 18th in time to air during Lady Gaga’s performance on the season finale of Saturday Night Live, and to also live on the web.”

     Gaga’s guest appearance on NBC’s Saturday Night Live that evening helped pull in millions of viewers who also saw the Google ad premiere.  With Justin Timberlake hosting and Lady Gaga as the musical guest, SNL garnered its highest ratings for a season finale in seven years.  Nielsen reported that the show averaged a 7.0 rating in major local markets — meaning about 7 percent of homes with televisions watched the episode — up from a 5.8 rating for the same episode the previous year.  And Lady Gaga did her part that night as well, alerting her followers via Twitter that there was something special coming that night beyond the show:  “To everyone watching TimberGagaSNL tonight, I have a GLORIOUS surprise!  Watch the commercial breaks little monsters.  This is our moment!”   The next night, Sunday May 22nd,  the Google ad with Lady Gaga was seen by millions more, as it ran during the 2011 Billboard Music Awards,  broadcast live on the ABC television network.

     For those not experienced with the web there is a quite a lot going on in this ad that will be missed or not fully understood.  But Google is primarily targeting young people with the ad, and specifically the “Lady Gaga market” – i.e, her 10 million-plus loyal fan base.  Still, given the quality of this ad, gains beyond the Gaga market have already arrived and more will come.  As of October 2010, for example, the YouTube posting of this ad on Google’s Chrome page has received a steadily rising share of visitors, with more than 4.2 million pageviews.

     The net effect of the ad appears to be more emotional and impressionistic than it is hard-core marketing – and for Google, that is not a bad thing.  All in all, strung together as it is,  the ad offers a kind of celebration of  human potential.  A positive feeling seeps out of it; even dare say a bit of viewer pride on behalf of those portrayed, as each of the clips shows someone with an inspired bit of spontaneity, or otherwise letting loose with their inner creative selves in some form, be that through dance, art or music. And all of that expression is given voice by way of the web and web tools like Google Chrome.  Of course, that’s what good advertising is supposed to do: make us feel something with creative arrangements of sight and sound.  Still, kudos to Google and their team for this ad and the others in this series, which is further explored below.


More Human

     The Lady Gaga ad, however, is one of a series of ads Google has used since May 2011 to promote its Chrome browser.  These ads, like the Gaga ad, are also part statement on Google the brand and part statement on the technology’s potential – even if not the intention.  And for Google, this series of ads also took the company into new territory, as they began presenting the company with a much more human face.

     Google, it must be remembered, is a geek-born entity and proud of it – no knock there, as their engineering focus has certainly changed the world for the better.  Secondly, Google is primarily about selling advertising, not using it.  For most of the company’s short existence – founded in 1998 – it had not really seen the need to do major mainstream advertising about itself or its wares.  Google grew to fame by that old tried-and-true method, word of mouth.  What little advertising the company did was mostly on-line, and not well known beyond that, and certainly not on prime-time television.

     Then in early 2010, for the Super Bowl, Google ventured into the more mainline advertising arena with “Parisian Love,” an ad that tells the story of an American exchange student falling in love with a woman in Paris. 

     This “story,” however, is “told” entirely in 30 seconds using Google’s search page as the sole visual, with a series of typed-in search queries as storyline – e.g., “how to impress a French woman,” “what are Truffles?” “Churches in Paris,” and finally, sometime after the honeymoon, “how to assemble a crib.”  The final screenshot says simply: “search on.” 

     This Google ad uses a spare piano score as background and makes its point about the power and possibilities of search in modern life, but also importantly includes the human element in its storyline. Google’s “Parisian Love” Superbowl ad of 2010 told a love story in 30 seconds using only Google’s search page and a series of typed-in queries as the storyline. It was really Google’s first foray into more mainstream TV advertising, and the forerunner of the ads it launched in May of 2011, including the Lady Gaga Chrome ad.

     Google appears to have become more involved with mainstream advertising around 2007 when it hired former Ogilvy advertising executive Andy Berndt to build a new creative unit internally.  A year later, the company added Robert Wong, formerly an Arnold advertising director who had also worked at Starbucks.  Today, Google’s Creative Lab is a 50-person shop – powered in part by younger creatives whom Google has recruited and is schooling as it goes – that works closely with Google marketing and outside ad agencies such as Bartle Bogle Hegarty ( who worked on the Gaga ad), Cutwater, and Johannes Leonardo, among others.  Robert Wong, creative director of the Lab, has stated that among the Lab’s main tasks are: to “remind the world what it is that they love about Google;” to communicate the company’s innovations, intentions and ideals; and to “manage and steward” the brand.


“Dear Sophie”

Screenshot from "Dear Sophie" Google Chrome ad.
Screenshot from "Dear Sophie" Google Chrome ad.
     Google’s first round of Chrome ads — which come across more like “internet potential” ads than browser ads — appeared with two spots in early May 2011.  And most importantly, these ads, like the Lady Gaga ad, with their emotional content, also cast the company in a more human light.  The first of these, “Dear Sophie,” features a father creating a scrapbook for his far-too-cute Asian baby daughter as she grows up, principally using Google’s e-mail service, Gmail, sending her notes, photos and videos as she grows, also employing Google tools such as Picasa and YouTube to upload and store her photos.  This video/ad, which is based on a true story, has the father creating a Gmail login for his daughter, composing messages for her which appear on screen for the viewer to read during the ad, some of which are quite touching.  The viewer also sees a series of Sophie birthday photos, Sophie in ballet class, Sophie losing teeth, etc. as Dad writes his tender notes to her.  “Kudos to Google for having us reaching for the tissues at 13 seconds in,” wrote one reviewer.

Journalist Dan Savage appeared in a May 2011 Google TV ad about the “It Gets Better Project."
Journalist Dan Savage appeared in a May 2011 Google TV ad about the “It Gets Better Project."
     The second Google Chrome ad, titled “It Gets Better,” also began appearing on mainstream TV in May 2011.  It features Dan Savage, a journalist who writes a syndicated column and does radio commentary offering advice on human relationships and sex.  Savage made an inspiring YouTube video about gay bullying, telling gay teens who were being bullied that, in fact, it does get better and they are not alone.   He also founded the “It Gets Better Project” in September 2010, and with that project,  encouraged others from all walks of life to make their own YouTube videos encouraging  and supporting gay teens.  Google’s  TV ad tells that story, showing how the “It Gets Better Project” website soon had more than 10,000 user-created videos, some quite moving, such as that from “Gay Cop, Gay Vet” saying, “you are perfect and wonderful just the way you are.”  Google’s TV ad includes snippets from some of those videos, and in the process, also shows how easy it is to use the Chrome browser and other Google tools to create, upload, and share videos.  But like the Sophie and Gaga ads, it is the human dimension in this Google ad that carries the day and leaves the more powerful message.

Lady Gaga wanted to be involved with the company that was sending out “It-Gets-Better” messaging.

     The ads first aired during the TV shows “One Tree Hill” and “Glee” in early May 2011 on a Tuesday evening.  Wrote reviewer Jennifer Bergen from Geek.com: “After watching two commercials from Google advertising its Chrome browser, I’m pretty choked up, and I kind of want to give someone a hug.”

     Lady Gaga, in fact, decided to do her Google Chrome ad after she had seen “It Gets Better.”  The Google ad team met her backstage after a concert to show her some samples of what they were doing, and according to her manager, Troy Carter, “It Gets Better” had an emotional impact on Gaga.  She decided then she wanted to be involved with the company that was making those kinds of statements.  And so they teamed up for the ad, which Gaga did for free; that is, Google did not pay her.  But Gaga is obviously reaping benefit from the ad, reaching beyond her normal fan base and getting more publicity and exposure in a broader arena.  Google’s Creative Lab developed the ad campaign along with ad agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty (BBH).

Teen idol Justin Bieber also appeared in a Google TV ad.
Teen idol Justin Bieber also appeared in a Google TV ad.
     In addition to the Gaga ad, Google also involved another entertainer in its ad series, teen idol Justin Bieber.  The Bieber ad shows how YouTube postings were used when Bieber was very young to help him gain exposure and subsequent success.  The ad also displays how the internet is a continuing asset to Bieber’s career. 

     Ads like those for Bieber and Gaga are potentially “two-fers” for Google – i.e., gaining ground with a target audience, whether Gaga or Bieber fans, the gay/lesbian community, or some other specific audience.   And they also reach a more general mainstream TV audience.  Some of the ads also remain on line at YouTube and are often shared and embedded on numerous websites where they continue to be viewed as well.

     Google has since made other similar TV ads — one showcasing a young couple in the restaurant business and another using the popular “angry birds” video game as a hook.  Yet clearly, Google’s messages using more human themes and emotional content have received popular notice and have taken the company to a new level of public appreciation, consistent in one sense with its guiding moto of  “don’t do evil.”

“The Edge of Glory”
Lady Gaga: May 2011

     In a May 2011 interview with New York Times writer Jon Pareles, Lady Gaga was asked about her song, “The Edge of Glory,” which is used, in part, in the Google Chrome ad.  The exchange  between them went as follows:

Q: Can you tell me more about “The Edge of Glory”?

A: I wrote that song about my grandpa when he passed away, and it means a lot to me. And Clarence Clemons played saxophone, and I listened to him growing up so it represents my youth. The song was about how when my grandma was standing over my grandfather while he was dying, there was this moment where I felt like he had sort of looked at her and reckoned that he had won in life. Like, I’m a champion. We won. Our love made us a winner. They were married 60 years. And then we left and he died. And I thought about that idea, that the glorious moment of your life is when you decide that it’s O.K. to go, you don’t have any more words to say, more business, more mountains to climb. You’re on the cliff, you tip your hat to yourself and you go. That’s what it was for me in that moment when I witnessed it.

And then, as I began to write the song, I thought about, you know, living on the edge of your life in a way that when you reach that moment it is glorious. The lyric is it’s hot to feel the rush, to brush the dangerous, being unafraid to fall deeply in love, being unafraid to go out all the way to the brink of your imagination.

Q: It has a long, long coda.

A: The coda is full-out. It’s so sexy, and it’s like the sax is singing for me, I don’t need to sing, I just need to throw on an emerald green dress and twirl around on a street corner.


Gaga Ad a Hit

     Lady Gaga’s TV ad for Google meanwhile — now on You Tube at four-million plus visitors and climbinghas obviously struck a chord with many of her fans.  But it has also reached beyond her fan base, provoking some  thoughtful commentary in a few places.  For example, author Grant McCracken writing in his blog at the Harvard Business Review observes:

…In part, the Chrome ad is a message from Lady Gaga to her fans… [It ] is an explicit call to arms, asking fans to embrace their otherness, their eccentricity, their most exuberant, expressive selves.

…Kids dancing like maniacs in the kitchen.  People find their way out of conventional selves into more vivid ones.  Life as a reckless pursuit of the sublime.  That is what America is for.  Or to use the more solemn language of Daniel Bell, the great American sociologist, this is our expressive individualism, the right of every American to be whoever they want to be.  This is one of the faces of American liberty…

…I know some readers believe that Lady Gaga is bad news.  I was giving a talk to a roomful of [business] managers about contemporary culture the other day, and someone asked darkly what I thought of the “dissoluteness.”  I got what he was saying.  If you are a CFO for a large company, Lady Gaga’s videos and that Chrome ad looks like an affront to civic virtue and private decency.  The gender bending, the embrace of the other, the extravagant makeup, it all looks like trouble, an end to civilization as we know it.

I understand the alarm… The good news, anthropologically speaking, is that there is no danger.  Lady Gaga and her fans are “monsters” only in the sense that they depart from the soft rules of social life, the ones that govern self-expression.  They are not threatening to break the hard rules of social life, to commit crimes against the person or the state.  We may treat the liberty Lady Gaga urges on her fans as a “thing indifferent.”  It does not remove people from goodness or decency.  It does not put the body politic at risk.  It does not signal immorality, or the collapse of public order…

_______________________________________________

“Ms. Germanotta”
2005-2011

Photo of Stefani Germanotta prior to her “Lady Gaga” stardom.
Photo of Stefani Germanotta prior to her “Lady Gaga” stardom.
     Lady Gaga, whose real name is Stefani Germanotta, began performing in the rock music scene of New York City’s Lower East Side around 2005.  She rose to prominence in 2008 after her debut studio album, The Fame, achieved international popularity, rising to No. 1 in six countries, topping the Billboard Dance/Electronic albums chart, and also hitting to No. 2 on the Billboard 200 albums chart.  Since then, she has rocketed to superstardom, and has sold an estimated 13 million albums and 51 million singles, making her one of the best-selling music artists worldwide.  In the U. S., she is among the best-selling digital artists, with nearly 30 million digital singles sold so far.  Her second studio album released in 2011, Born This Way, powered by three singles “Born This Way,” “Judas” and “The Edge of Glory,” has topped the charts in many countries.  “Born This Way” became the fastest-selling iTunes song in history, selling one million copies in five days.

Flare magazine, 2009.
Flare magazine, 2009.
Gaga performing, 2009.
Gaga performing, 2009.
Roling Stone, 2010.
Roling Stone, 2010.
Vogue, March 2011.
Vogue, March 2011.

     Although she has developed her own singular style, artists said to have influenced her are dance-pop stars like Madonna and Michael Jackson and “glam rock” singers such as David Bowie and Freddie Mercury.  Gaga has developed a penchant for controversial showmanship and sometimes over-the-top outfits.  Yet, in the fashion world, she has become a welcomed player and something of an economic stimulus.  With her rise to stardom she has appeared on the covers of numerous magazines, was named to Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2010, and is listed among the highest-earning celebrities by Forbes,  taking in some $90 million in 2010.

     Life, however, wasn’t always so kind to Stefani Germanotta.  In high school, according to a Rolling Stone interview, Gaga was teased mercilessly.  “Being teased for being ugly, having a big nose, being annoying,” she explained… “‘Your laugh is funny, you’re weird, why do you always sing, why are you so into theater, why do you do your make-up like that?’ . . . I used to be called a slut, be called this, be called that, I didn’t even want to go to school sometimes.”  Gaga today, has become a champion to kids being bullied or shunned, and her music, with songs like “Born This Way,” helps some kids get through those tough times.

May 2010: Lady Gaga on the cover of “The Time 100” with Ivory Coast soccer star Didier Drogba and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
May 2010: Lady Gaga on the cover of “The Time 100” with Ivory Coast soccer star Didier Drogba and former U.S. President Bill Clinton.
     Lady Gaga’s public reception to date has been mixed, receiving scathing critiques from some writers such as Camille Paglia, who has called her a “manufactured personality.”  Others see her as a necessary pop culture change agent.  At least one U.S. college course is titled “Lady Gaga and the Sociology of Fame.”  Among her heroes are the former Beatle John Lennon and German poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

     In recent years, Lady Gaga has injected herself into the political arena, taking up issues such as, “don’t ask, don’t tell,” gay and lesbian rights generally, and teen bullying.  In her political work on behalf of overturning the U.S. military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy – which had prohibited gay and lesbian service members from serving openly because of their sexuality – she released three YouTube videos urging her fans to contact their Senators in an effort to overturn the policy.  In September 2010, she also spoke at a Servicemembers Legal Defense Network rally in Portland, Maine.

     Gaga has also contributed to the fight against HIV and AIDS.  She teamed up with MAC Cosmetics to launch a line of lipstick under her Viva Glam Gaga line, the proceeds from which are donated to HIV and AIDS prevention worldwide – and according to Forbes magazine, $202 million so far from lipstick and lipgloss.  Gaga has also become quite involved with her music business and related internet technologies.

_______________________________________

“Gaga @Google”
March 2011

Lady Gaga visit at Google, headquarters, March 2011.
Lady Gaga visit at Google, headquarters, March 2011.
      Lady Gaga and Google had hooked up prior to her May 2011 involvement with the Chrome ad.  In March 2011, Google hosted a live Lady Gaga visit at the “GooglePlex,”as the company’s Mountain View, California headquarters is sometimes called.  This session was one in a long line of talk show-like programs that Google has sponsored in recent years, bringing in celebrities, politicians,  authors and others.  Each of these sessions is filmed, posted online, and archived for YouTube.  The Gaga event, billed as “Google Goes Gaga,” was part of the company’s “Musicians@Google”series.  Gaga made the visit just before a scheduled performance in Oakland for her Monster Ball tour.  She was also there, in part, to promote her album, Born This Way.

Lady Gaga at “Googleplex” session in Mountain View, CA, with Google V.P. Marissa Mayer, March 2011.
Lady Gaga at “Googleplex” session in Mountain View, CA, with Google V.P. Marissa Mayer, March 2011.
     Before Lady Gaga actually sat down to talk with Google’s Marissa Mayer, V.P. of consumer products, Gaga was introduced by a short video on a large screen in the room.  The 30-second video showed various Google tools at work on Lady Gaga’s rising career: charting the rising surge of Gaga search queries, her followers, a sampling of fan-inspired YouTube videos, and a Google translations program working on Gaga lyrics in various languages.  That video, or something like it, could also serve as a stand-alone Google ad.

     Sitting with Mayer on stage, the pop star talked about a range of subjects including being bullied as a kid, her vocal training, dealing with the paparazzi, and being a woman working in the pop music business.  She also mentioned the millions of fan and search hits she gets on Google, and the millions of views her videos get on YouTube

Lady Gaga with Google co-founder Larry Page, a photo she uploaded to the web the day of her visit in March 2011.
Lady Gaga with Google co-founder Larry Page, a photo she uploaded to the web the day of her visit in March 2011.
     During the Google session, Gaga also took questions from Google employees, some of whom dressed up in Gaga-like costumes for the event.  Mayer also fielded questions for her via Twitter and Google Moderator during the session.  Gaga had earlier asked fans to submit questions through Twitter and YouTube.  More than 54,000 video questions were submitted and more than 220,000 YouTube users voted on which questions should be used in the Google session.

     At Google that day, Gaga also met briefly with Google co-founder Larry Page, whom she calls “Larry Google.”  After her visit, she sent a Twitter message to her followers, also posting a photo of her and Page taken that day.  “Just left Google,” she tweeted, “what a genius team.”

     Stay tuned; the Google-Gaga relationship may be just getting started.


Entertainment Networks

     Google’s advertising and networking, especially around entertainment superstars like Lady Gaga, also highlights a new kind of business and communications model that appears to be taking form, not only with possibilities at Google, but throughout the technology-entertainment community.  Simple advertising campaigns, as the Gaga TV ad and others like it now show, can very quickly generate and build a connection to millions of fans – fans who are responsive to related messages and possibly much more.

Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album helped set a digital sales record at Amazon.com, where fan response to a promotional special crashed the company's servers.
Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” album helped set a digital sales record at Amazon.com, where fan response to a promotional special crashed the company's servers.
     Lady Gaga, for example, is huge in social media – approaching 35 million followers on Facebook, and more than 10 million on Twitter.  On YouTube, her videos have received more than 1 billion views.  And others on the web have seen first-hand the power of Gaga’s fan base.  On May 23, 2011, Amazon .com, in a heavily-publicized move to promote its music service, offered digital copies of Lady Gaga’s latest album, Born This Way for 99 cents.  Gaga’s fan base went “gaga” over the deal and crashed Amazon’s servers on the first day of sales.  Gaga would proceed to sell 1.1 million copies of the album in the U.S. during its debut week, the most for any artist since 2005.  Lady Gaga is also no stranger to endorsement deals, some of which will live on the web, such as her deal with internet game company Zynga to add a “GagaVille” to that company’s wildly popular FarmVille social game.  She also has involvements with Polaroid and Starbucks, is a Best Buy Mobile partner, a sponsor for Monster energy drink, and has her own Beats-branded headphones, a perfume line, and more.  She has also had various promotional or other deals with iTunes, HBO, Livestream, VEVO, and Amazon Cloud Player.  Going forward, new kinds of celebrity and entertain- ment networks–and really quite valuable business hubs as well–appear to be distinct possibilities. Gaga’s team of managers and marketers are among the best and most web-savvy in the business, and understand the importance of integrating social and traditional media and keeping current with their fan base

     Gaga and her managers have also been investigating other high-tech possibilities – and related business opportunities – for better ways to manage their powerful fan base.  In 2010, after Apple began a music-based social network called Ping, Steve Jobs arranged for a meeting with Lady Gaga and her business manager, Troy Carter.  Reports on that meeting, held at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, California, indicate that Lady Gaga quizzed Jobs about Ping’s design, and both she and Carter expressed concerns about the lack of Ping’s integration with other social networks like Facebook.  Carter, in fact, came away thinking about a new kind of platform for entertainers that could help them manage their fan base across all major social networks.  That idea has since become a new start-up company called Backplane, which will help to build platforms and communities of interests on the web around specific interests, such as those for musicians and sports teams – platforms that will work with Facebook, Twitter, and other such sites.

     Carter, 38, has been Gaga’s manager for four years, and he knows first-hand how the internet has helped Gaga’s fan base grow.  “There was a time when radio stations wouldn’t play Gaga’s music, because it was considered dance,” he explained in a June 2011 New York Times interview.  “Outside of live performances, the internet became our primary tool to help people discover her music.”  Carter’s new venture, meanwhile, Backplane, has raised more than $1 million from a group of investors led by Tomorrow Ventures, the investment firm of Google’s chairman, Eric E. Schmidt.  Lady Gaga is also a major shareholder in Backplane with a 20 percent stake.  Google, from its perch at the center of search and information technology, will have powerful new opportunities in social networking, advertising, film production, and entertainment. Observes Gary Briggs, a vice president at Google, who worked with Lady Gaga’s team on the Chrome TV commercial: “Troy and Gaga are doing things with communications and fan relationships that we haven’t really seen before.”

     Google, meanwhile, has already begun to create special features with some of its web tools.  In May 2011 it launched a music chart for videos called the YouTube 100 that charts song popularity in user-generated and professional music videos.  Google is also building its own social networking site, known as “Google+,” which opened to the general public in late September 2011 and has surpassed 50 million users since then.  Still, it has a ways to go to catch Facebook at 750 million users.  However, Google has noticed that celebrities like Hollywood actor Ashton Kutcher helped Twitter reach stratospheric numbers of new members.  After Kutcher’s high-profile usage and large number of followers made news — he soared to 1 million followers very quickly — Twitter received lots of press and new users.  Google+ has already announced it will verify celebrity pages on its new site so celebrities will be confident of their identities, a policy that will also help to thwart the rise of imposter pages.  Lady Gaga, and/or other high-profile luminaries may well be in line to help Google boost enrollment at its new Google+ site.  Going forward, whether at Google or elsewhere, new kinds of celebrity and entertainment networks – and really quite valuable business hubs as well – appear to be distinct possibilities.

     In any case, the old media-entertainment complex is changing pretty dramatically these days, with internet technology increasingly paramount.  And Google it seems, from its perch at the center of search and information technology, will have powerful new opportunities in advertising, social networking, film production, and entertainment.

     Additional stories at this website on the history of media, celebrity, and advertising are listed at those category pages, with others found in the Archive or on the Home Page.  Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please consider making a donation to help support this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle.

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Date Posted: 13 October 2011
Last Update: 10 September 2013
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Google & Gaga, 2011,”
PopHistoryDig.com, October 13, 2011.

____________________________________


 


Sources, Links & Additional Information

Lady Gaga on the October 2011 cover of Harper's Bazaar without makeup. "Whether I'm wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I'm always the same person inside," says she, 25 years old.
Lady Gaga on the October 2011 cover of Harper's Bazaar without makeup. "Whether I'm wearing lots of makeup or no makeup, I'm always the same person inside," says she, 25 years old.
Lady Gaga throwing a kiss to fans, Google Chrome ad.
Lady Gaga throwing a kiss to fans, Google Chrome ad.
2010: Gaga speaking to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
2010: Gaga speaking to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell."
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September 2010: Lady Gaga on the cover of Vanity Fair.
Stefani Germanotta, before her Lady Gaga days.
Stefani Germanotta, before her Lady Gaga days.
 

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“The U.S. Post Office”
1950s-2011

“Coastal Post Office” by artist Stevan Dohanos published by the “Saturday Evening Post” magazine on August 26th, 1950.
“Coastal Post Office” by artist Stevan Dohanos published by the “Saturday Evening Post” magazine on August 26th, 1950.
     In this day and age of Facebook, Twitter, and e-mail, when information travels at the speed of light, the U.S. Post Office system seems a quaint and costly anachronism – and an easy target for government budget cutters.

Yet despite the changes that have come to the system in recent decades — and the sometimes carping about rising postage, slow service, or overpaid workers — the U.S. Post Office is still highly regarded in the American community.

Whether remote rural outpost or big-city neighborhood branch, the local U. S. Post Office is still a much-loved part of the American scene, and a key community institution. And over the years, in the nation’s cultural tableau and social register, the local Post Office has been portrayed fondly as a valued place and integral part of the community.

     Take, for example, how the Saturday Evening Post magazine portrayed a local post office scene on one of its covers from August 26, 1950.  This rendering, shown at right, by artist Stevan Dohanos (1907- 1994), is titled “Coastal Post Office.”  It portrays the “Menemsha Post Office” – an actual place on Martha’s Vineyard Island, MA.

Detail from Stevan Dohanos’ “Coastal Post Office.”
Detail from Stevan Dohanos’ “Coastal Post Office.”
     Dohanos depicts this post office as something of a busy community hub in 1950, with people coming and going.  A line of patrons is queued up, extending out through the entrance doorway, each person awaiting his or her turn at the postal services window.  Outside, a local artist has set up a display of one of his paintings, being admired by two onlookers.  A couple of other locals are simply biding their time at the front of the building, one leaning on a cane, and another siting on the porch. 

     A close-up portion of Dohanos’ painting  displayed at left reveals a bit more detail about the postal patrons and the services being offered — a woman reading her mail on the way out; signs in the post office window announcing, “Skiffs Rented” and “Home Baked Goods,” and another higher up for a local “bake” of some kind on “Friday.”  True to form, and as suggested by Dohanos in this rendering, the thousands of local post offices that stood across mid-20th century America were active community hubs — and many remain so today. Thousands of post offices that stood across mid-20th century America were and still are active community hubs. Then and now, they have been and continue to be important gathering places and information centers, offering multiple services beyond just the mail, also as Dohanos relayed of Menemsha in 1950.

     Those were surely the halcyon days of the U.S. postal system; a time when letter writing, mail, and the local post office were all a more central part of everyday American life.  Yet still today, the U.S. Post Office system is a major player in American communities and the American economy.  In 2010 it had revenues of $67 billion, which if it were a private company, would place it at roughly No. 29 on the Fortune 500 list.  The U.S. post office system has more domestic locations – i.e., some 31,800 post offices – than Walmart, Starbucks, and McDonald’s combined.  And despite the system’s current financial woes and the rapidly changing nature of information culture, the long-standing community place known as the local post office is still a welcomed and valued presence in many communities.

Recent photo, Menemsha Post Office.
Recent photo, Menemsha Post Office.
     Artist Stevan Dohanos, meanwhile, were he alive today, might be pleased to know that the Menemsha Post Office – which is actually located in the town of Chilmark, Massachusetts on the southern end of Martha’s Vineyard Island – appears to be still operating today as a combination grocery story and Postal Service substation.  It’s open for business mid-May thru mid-September, Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. 

     The structure, shown at left, appears somewhat differently than it did in the time Dohanos did his rendering more than 60 years ago, but the resemblance is still there.  A story about its local operation and one of its long-time postmasters and store owners appears as a link in “Sources” below.  It is not known, however, if the Menemsha Post Office is on the latest list of targeted post office closings.

A Stevan Dohanos illustration, “Rural Post Office at Christmas,” provides the seasonal cover art for the Saturday Evening Post of  December 13, 1947.
A Stevan Dohanos illustration, “Rural Post Office at Christmas,” provides the seasonal cover art for the Saturday Evening Post of December 13, 1947.
     Another post office rendering by Stevan Dohanos for The Saturday Evening Post  appeared on the cover of the magazine’s December 13, 1947 issue.  This one, entitled “Rural Post Office at Christmas,”  shown at right, depicts a wintry scene with a rural resident, likely a farmer, who has parked his truck out front with a cow riding in back and a dog in the cab.  The farmer is carrying several packages – Christmas presents, no doubt – to the entrance of the red brick post office building.  The overhead sign at the building’s entrance says “Post Office, Georgetown.”  It is believed the model for this rendering was the actual Georgetown, Connecticut post office which in those years was located on North Main Street in that town from about 1920 to sometime in the 1950s, when it then moved to a new location.

     A somewhat crisper portion of this Dohanos painting, displayed below, reveals a bit more detail in the scene.  A sign on the ground at the corner of the post office building features a Santa Claus on the move with mail sack over his shoulder, also bearing the seasonal admonition: “Don’t Delay, Mail Today.” 

Through the doorway, an older man in a white shirt can be seen, likely the postmaster waiting to help with the packages. Behind the postmaster, and beyond the doorway, rows of postal boxes can be seen. Also visible through the window at left, and tacked to a wall, are various notices and announcements. 

Prints of this particular Dohanos painting – both in its Saturday Evening Post edition, and as the painting by itself – can be found for sale online.  The painting used for the Saturday Evening Post cover was offered for sale at Sothebys in March 2010 with an estimated price of between $15,000 and $20,000.

Detail from "Rural Post Office at Christmas," S. Dohanos.
Detail from "Rural Post Office at Christmas," S. Dohanos.
     At the Saturday Evening Post, Stevan Dohanos – along with J. C. Leyendecker and Norman Rockwell – was one of the magazine’s most prolific and popular cover artists, doing more than 100 covers there as well as others for story composition. 

     Dohanos also worked for Esquire and Medical Times magazines and provided advertising art for Caterpillar, Four Roses Whiskey, Maxwell House coffee, Pan Am airlines, Cannon Towels, Olin Industries, John Hancock Insurance, and others.  In addition, Dohanos illustrated WWII posters, did Christmas Seal art, film art for White Christmas, and also wall murals for a number of federal buildings from West Virginia to the Virgin Islands.

“Wanted Posters,” cover scene title for the February 21, 1953 Saturday Evening Post, by artist Stevan Dohanos.
“Wanted Posters,” cover scene title for the February 21, 1953 Saturday Evening Post, by artist Stevan Dohanos.
     Another Dohanos rendering of post office activity in the American community came on the cover of the February 21, 1953 edition of The Saturday Evening Post.  Entitled “Wanted Posters,” the scene shows a group of three young boys in their cowboy attire, complete with hats and six-shooter guns, looking up at the latest FBI wanted posters on a wall in the post office lobby.  The “most wanted” posters have been regular fare in many post office lobbies for decades, and have typically included unflattering mug shots of the nation’s most notorious criminals. 

The boys in this rendering appear somewhat in awe of what they are viewing and reading.  They have apparently taken a break from their play, and wandered into the free and open lobby of the local post office, deciding to take a look at the posted information on the nation’s real criminal element. They are not likely contemplating a try for the reward money, but perhaps they may add to their play fantasy by what they read. And who knows, maybe one of them might even be inspired to go into criminal justice work.  

But surely, such cold and stark “money-on-your-head” public postings must have helped make real for this young band of play bandits that a life of crime might not be all that glamorous. Meanwhile, the postal worker at the stamp window in this scene is watching the boys with seemingly amused approval.

Detail from “Wanted Posters” reveals that one of the offenders is wanted for “mail fraud” the other “bank robbery.”
Detail from “Wanted Posters” reveals that one of the offenders is wanted for “mail fraud” the other “bank robbery.”
     The FBI’s “most wanted” poster program came about after a reporter for the International News Service asked the FBI in 1950 for the names and descriptions of the “toughest guys” the Bureau wanted to capture.  The resulting story generated so much publicity and had so much appeal that then FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover began the “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives” program.  The program at post offices, however, has done its share, as at least 14 of the “Ten Most Wanted” FBI criminals between 1950 and 1999 were apprehended as the result of folks recognizing the criminals from postings they saw at their local post offices.


Mailmen & The Mail

“Mailman,” is the title of the cover art for the May 13th, 1944 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, by Stevan  Dohanos.
“Mailman,” is the title of the cover art for the May 13th, 1944 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, by Stevan Dohanos.
     Other Saturday Evening Post covers by Stevan Dohanos featuring postal themes  includes his “Mailman” cover  for the May 13th, 1944 edition.  This illustration shows an umbrella-covered mailman slogging through an early spring rain making his appointed rounds, bulging mailbag in tow.  And today, more than 60 years later, there are thousands of letter carriers that continue to make their daily rounds, rain or shine.

     The U.S. Postal Service currently has something on the order of 570,000 full-time workers, making it the country’s second largest employer.  All of these folks are not letter carriers, or course, as many work in various other parts of the mail system.  Still, only Wal-Mart employs more people in the U.S. than the Postal Service.  And the U.S. mail system still handles an enormous amount of “product.”

     As of 2010, the U.S. Postal Service was delivering an average 560 million pieces of mail each day; more than 170 billion annually, accounting for about 40 percent of all global mail.  However, in recent years, the composition of the U.S. mail bag has been changing in major ways.  In the late 1970s, for example, Congress prevailed upon the Postal Service to allow private companies to carry letters needing urgent delivery.  As a result, Federal Express and the United Parcel Service (UPS) built enormously valuable businesses on what was once Post Office turf.  Today, UPS and FedEx have respectively 53 and 32 percent of the American express and ground-shipping market, while the Postal Service has about 15 percent.

“Mailman” detail – What’s in the U.S. mail sack today?
“Mailman” detail – What’s in the U.S. mail sack today?
     Then came e-mail in the 1990s, which has since devastated first-class mail – the primary funder of most U.S. mail operations and the Postal Service’s most profitable form of mail.  With e-mail’s ascendancy, “old-fashioned,” physical-form letter-writing declined fairly dramatically, pushing first-class mail volume way down, declining from 103.7 billion pieces in 2001 to 78.2 billion pieces in 2010.

     By 2005, junk mail had surpassed first-class mail for the first time.  Yet junk mail, per piece, is only a third as valuable as a first-class letter.  And junk mail rises and falls with the vagaries of the economy.  Recently in the U.S., when times were flush with booming real estate sales and easy credit, banks deluged mailboxes with mortgage deals and credit-card offers.  But when the recession hit in 2006-2010, total mail volume plunged 20 percent.


Stamp Collecting

Stevan Dohanos did this “Stamp Collecing” cover for the Saturday Evening Post of  February 27, 1954.
Stevan Dohanos did this “Stamp Collecing” cover for the Saturday Evening Post of February 27, 1954.
     Back at the Saturday Evening Post in the 1950s, artist Stevan Dohanos did another postal-related cover illustration, this one depicting a father and son engaged in stamp collecting, shown at right.  Stamp collecting then and now, is a fairly huge global enterprise.  There are some 200 million stamp collectors world wide, 25 million of those in the U.S.  The first U.S. postage stamps were authorized by Congress in 1847, with Benjamin Franklin and George Washington appearing on some of the earliest known issues in July 1847.  Commemorative stamps have also been issued in the U.S. since 1893, when a set of 16 were issued to celebrate the 400th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s arrival in the New World (1492-1892).  Those were $1 stamps and the first one depicted a scene entitled “Isabella pledging her jewels” — to finance Columbus’s first expedition.  Since then the U.S. commemorative and postage stamp universe has expanded broadly to include many different categories of stamps along with collectors who partake of them — stamps of presidents, statespersons, and politicians; stamps of famous places, historic events, and famous battles; stamps of birds and other wildlife; stamps of sports figures, film stars, and celebrities of all stripes; and more.  Among notable stamp collectors have been, for example, Franklin Roosevelt, who also designed several American commemorative stamps while he was U.S. President.  Libertarian author Ayn Rand revived her childhood interest in stamps to become an avid collector in later life.  And even some rock stars such as Freddie Mercury, lead singer of the band Queen, and John Lennon of The Beatles, were childhood stamp collectors.

“Stevan Dohanos”
1940s-1960s

Photograph of Artist Stevan Dohanos at work, undated.
Photograph of Artist Stevan Dohanos at work, undated.
     Stevan Dohanos, it turns out, was not just a casual observer of the American postal scene.  In later life he would become quite involved with art for U.S. postage stamps and would also do some post office wall murals during his career. Born in Lorian, Ohio. Dohanos was the son of Hungarian immigrants.  A childhood admirer of Norman Rockwell, Dohanos’ own talent was noticed by his family and those he worked with at a local steel mill.  After a two-year home study course in art, he enrolled at the Cleveland Art School as a ful-time student, graduating to become a commercial artist in Cleveland.  He later settled in the Westport, Connecticut area and began submitting his work to The Saturday Evening Post, his first cover appearing there in the March 7, 1942 edition, depicting a WWII search-light team.  During the next fifteen years he became one of the Post’s regular cover artists, his work categorized as “American realist,” influenced by Edward Hopper.  He also painted some wall murals for the government during the Great Depression.

“Legend of James Hamilton--Barefoot Mailman” (mural study, West Palm Beach Post Office), 1940, S. Dohanos, panel 2.
“Legend of James Hamilton--Barefoot Mailman” (mural study, West Palm Beach Post Office), 1940, S. Dohanos, panel 2.
     Dohanos, it turns out, also had a role depicting some of the lore surrounding “remote delivery” mailmen. Postal carriers, especially in the early years of the postal system in the late nineteenth century, were often known for their heroics delivering mail in difficult and out-of-the way places. In 1939 the Treasury Department’s Section of Fine Arts contracted Dohanos to paint six murals depicting the “Legend of James Edward Hamilton, Mail Carrier” in the West Palm Beach, Florida Post Office. (The murals now hang in the new West Palm Beach post office on Summit Blvd). Hamilton was one of the “barefoot mailmen,” letter carriers who worked a remote stretch of rural Florida in the 1880s – a 68-mile roadless and part-by-boat route from Palm Beach to Miami, much of it by beach walking.  The round trip of 136 miles from Palm Beach to Miami and back took six days.  Hamilton mysteriously disappeared on the route, either drowned, taken by alligator, or some say, murdered.  In conducting his work on the murals, Dohanos corresponded with Charles W. Pierce, postmaster in Boynton Beach, Florida who had also been one of the carriers on the “barefoot route,” which ended in 1892 after a rough road was installed.  Pierce first used the term “barefoot mailman” in conversation with Dohanos, the term then applied to the murals Dohanos produced.  In 1943, the novel, The Barefoot Mailman, by Theodore Pratt, was based on the story of James Hamilton, and a film followed in 1951 starring Robert Cummings and others.  Some of the studies for the Dohanos post office wall murals are now in the Smithsonian’s American Art Museum and have also been displayed at the Library of Congress.

Stevan Dohanos helped design this 1967 JFK stamp.
Stevan Dohanos helped design this 1967 JFK stamp.
     In 1959, Dohanos was asked by the U.S. Post Office to design a stamp commemorating the 10th anniversary of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  In the 1960s, after the Saturday Evening Post ceased to use artist illustrations on its covers, Dohanos took a position as chairman of the National Stamp Advisory Committee where he helped design and select art for postage stamps.  Dohanos worked with stamp art during the administration of seven U.S. presidents and nine postmaster generals, and he knew from his own experience how much the public display art work meant to its creators.  “Artists are always interested in seeing their art reproduced,” he said at one point during his Stamp Advisory Committee years.  “Imagine seeing your work reproduced four and a half billion times.”  Dohanos designed 46 stamps for the U.S. Postal Service, including one honoring John F. Kennedy in 1967.  Among others he designed were those commemorating the statehood of Alaska and Hawaii, another on the Food for Peace Campaign in 1963, and one featuring duck decoys with the caption, “Folk Art U.S.A.”  As a design coordinator Dohanos also oversaw the art work for more than 300 other stamps.  In 1984, the Postal Service’s Hall of Stamps in Washington was dedicated in his honor.  He died of pneumonia in 1994 at the age of 87.

     Stevan Dohanos’ paintings today can be found in the collections of the Avery Memorial of Hartford, The Cleveland Museum, New Britain Museum of American Art, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and the Whitney Museum of American Art.


“The End of Mail” cover story illustration, Bloomberg Business Week, May-June 2011.
“The End of Mail” cover story illustration, Bloomberg Business Week, May-June 2011.


     Today’s magazine cover art featuring the U.S. Postal system has not been in the tradition of those old Saturday Evening Post covers capturing community bustle at a picturesque post office in a coastal town, or of Christmas cheer a-coming in December’s mail.  Rather, today’s magazines are now focused on the financial side of the story, as Bloomberg Business Week did with its May-June 2011 cover story displayed at left. 

     Yet for millions of Americans there is still something of the Stevan Dohanos and Saturday Evening Post imagery and vitality that survives in today’s real world postal system – and a longing among many that something like it should survive into the future.  But how to do that has been the major problem facing Congress and country in recent years, as a variety of bills proposing major changes have been offered and debated.  And as this is written in September 2011, more than 3,600 U.S. Post Offices across the land have been slated for shut down.

Yvonne Rennolds stops by the Arrow Rock, Arkansas post office in August 2011 to get her mail and bring postmaster Tempe McGlaughlin a container of pasta salad. The post office is among those slated for closing.  Sarah Hoffman.
Yvonne Rennolds stops by the Arrow Rock, Arkansas post office in August 2011 to get her mail and bring postmaster Tempe McGlaughlin a container of pasta salad. The post office is among those slated for closing. Sarah Hoffman.
     The U.S. postal system it would seem — as Stevan Dohanos’ historic renderings remind us – is about more than just money.  The post office, especially at the community level, is also about social connection – people-to-people and community-to-government.  Like Facebook and Twitter, the local post office is a kind of social networking –  the actual on-the-ground physical network that is out there working every day, connecting people to government, or at least extending that opportunity.  These brick-and-mortar places then, are a kind of connective national tissue.  Post offices still help to “bind a nation together” – words from the founding language and Congressional debate to justify the system.  So what sense is there in tearing apart this connective tissue?

Kim Billington of Waverly, WA, a city council member, at her town's post office which serves 100 residents in southern Spokane County. Billington says the post office is the only building in town that is staffed every day.  Photo, AP.
Kim Billington of Waverly, WA, a city council member, at her town's post office which serves 100 residents in southern Spokane County. Billington says the post office is the only building in town that is staffed every day. Photo, AP.
       Those American small towns and remote rural regions now targeted for post office closings will surely become future assets; places that can and will absorb future growth.  Why disconnect them now? 

     Paring down far-flung networks and centralizing services may seem an efficient accounting at the moment.  Yet if it costs the nation citizen connectedness today and imposes a future capital replacement cost tomorrow, isn’t that really a false economy?  Rather, if a network of connectedness exists out there now, why take it apart?  Why dismantle something that connects people to their government, is in place now, and can serve the future?

Some 60 post offices may close in Mississippi...
Some 60 post offices may close in Mississippi...
     Would it not be better to rebuild and repurpose this network – or even expand or combine it with other government services, old and new – but at all costs, keeping it in place?  Why not refurbish these places and bolster their networking capability by adding community services – from worker training counseling and housing assistance, to energy conservation outreach and computer training?  Surely with all that the government is doing now – or should be doing – to help American communities and lift local economies, there ought to be a way to keep and revitalize today’s national network of local postal locations.

     Additional stories at this website on magazine history and magazine cover art can be found at the “Magazine History” topics page, which includes, for example: “FDR & Vanity Fair,” (cover art & politics); “Murdoch’s NY Deals” (New York magazine history); “Remington’s West” and “Christy Mathewson” (John Hancock magazine ads); and “Rockwell & Race” (cover art & civil rights). See also the “Politics & Culture” page for stories in that category. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. — Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  29 September 2011
Last Update:  29 December 2016
Comments to:  jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The U.S. Post Office, 1950s & Today”,
PopHistoryDig.com, September 29, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

Stevan Dohanos wasn’t the only cover artist at the Saturday Evening Post who did postal- or mail-related cover art. This one, titled  “Letter From Overseas,” by artist John Falter, appeared May  8, 1943.
Stevan Dohanos wasn’t the only cover artist at the Saturday Evening Post who did postal- or mail-related cover art. This one, titled “Letter From Overseas,” by artist John Falter, appeared May 8, 1943.
December 8, 1945:  “Post Office Sorting Room” by artist John Falter for the Saturday Evening Post.
December 8, 1945: “Post Office Sorting Room” by artist John Falter for the Saturday Evening Post.
February 22, 1936: “Reading Her Mail at the Greenville Post Office,” by artist Ellen Pyle for the Saturday Evening Post.
February 22, 1936: “Reading Her Mail at the Greenville Post Office,” by artist Ellen Pyle for the Saturday Evening Post.
February 18, 1922: “Sorting The Mail,” by artist Norman Rockwell for the Saturday Evening Post.
February 18, 1922: “Sorting The Mail,” by artist Norman Rockwell for the Saturday Evening Post.

“Stevan Dohanos,” Artist Gallery, Curtis Publishing.com.

“S. Dohanos,” AmericanIllustration.org.

“Stevan Dohanos Biography,” Ilustration -House.com.

“Stevan Dohanos,” Wikipedia.org.

Stevan Dohanos, selected Saturday Evening Post covers, FullTable.com.

“The Saturday Evening Post, Stevan Dohanos,”  MyMags.com.

“U. S. Postal Service,” Wikipedia.org.

“Barbara F. Seward” (with photo), The Martha’s Vineyard Times, January 2011.

“Barbara Seward, Last Menemsha Postmaster,” The Vineyard Gazette, January 14, 2011.

Devin Leonard, “The U.S. Postal Service Nears Collapse,” Bloomberg Business Week, May 30-June 5, 2011.

Sandra Taylor Smith and Mark K. Christ, “Arkansas Post Offices & Treasury Dept.’s Section Art Program, 1938-1942,” Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1500 Tower Building, 323 Center Street, Little Rock, AR 72201.

Lot 171, Stevan Dohanos, “Georgetown Post Office (Don’t Delay, Mail Today),” American Paintings, Drawings & Scuplture, Catalogues, Sothebys, March 2010.

“History of Georgetown, Connecticut,” HistoryofRedding.com.

“U.S. Presidents on U.S. Postage Stamps,” Wikipedia.org.

Panel 2, Legend of James Edward Hamilton–Barefoot Mailman (mural study, West Palm Beach, Florida Post Office), 1940, Stevan Dohanos, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

“Barefoot Mailman,” Wikipedia.org.

Stevan Dohanos, Artwork Sampler, American Art Archives.

“Chronological Listing of the FBI’s ‘Ten Most Wanted Fugitives’,” FBI.gov.

“Stevan Dohanos, A Stamp Designer And Illustrator, 87,” New York Times, July 6, 1994.

Eleanor Charles, “Illustrator’s Works in Retrospective Opening Today,” New York Times, Connecticut Weekly Desk, Sunday, November 10, 1985, Section 11CN, p.32.

William Zimmer, Art; “Illustrator’s Show: ‘Images of America’,” New York Times, December 8, 1985.

Robert Hood, “Rural America Feels the Sting of Post Office Closings,” MSNBC.MSN.com, July 12, 2011.

Carly Mallenbaum, Postal Service lists 3,700 branches for possible closing,” USA Today, July 27, 2011.

Susan Meeker, “Grimes Community Hub on List of Possible U.S. Postal Service Closures,” Colusa County Sun-Herald  (California), Friday, July 29, 2011.  

Harry R. Weber/ Associated Press, “Rural America Worried About Post Office Closings,” Detroit News, July 31, 2011.

Monte Whaley, Photos by RJ Sangosti, “New Raymer Post Office Closure Would Shut down Tiny Town’s Community Hub,” The Denver Post, July 31,2011.

Clarke Canfield and Renee Elder, Associated Press, “Post Office Closings Threaten Appalachian Trail Hikers,” USA Today, August 1, 2011.

Sarah Hoffman, “Small-town Residents Saddened by Prospect of Post Offices Closing,” ColumbiaMissourian.com,  Aug 3, 2011.

Melissa Shriver, “Post Office Closure in Chambersburg,” ConnectTri-States.com, September 8, 2011.

“Save the Post Office,” SaveThePost Office.com, Re: Closures, Consolidations, Suspensions, Stories, Analysis, Opinion.

Monica Hesse, “In a Post-Postal World, Christmas Still Delivers,” Washington Post, December 22, 2011, p. A-1.








 



“Rockwell & Race”
1963-1968

Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
Norman Rockwell’s painting of six year-old Ruby Bridges being escorted into a New Orleans school in 1960 was printed inside the January 14, 1964 edition of Look magazine.
     In June 2011 at the White House, Norman Rockwell’s 1963 painting, The Problem We All Live With, depicting a famous school desegregation scene in New Orleans, began a period of prominent public display with the support of President Obama. The White House exhibition of Rockwell’s piece, which ran most of 2011, drew national attention to an iconic moment in America’s troubled civil rights history.

     Rockwell’s painting focuses on an historic 1960 school integration episode when six year-old Ruby Bridges had to be escorted by federal marshals past jeering mobs to insure her safe enrollment at the William Frantz Elementary School in New Orleans.  Ruby was the first African American child to enroll at the school, and the local white community – as elsewhere in the country at that time – was fiercely opposed to the court-ordered desegregation of public schools then occurring.  Rockwell’s rendering focuses on the little girl in her immaculate white dress, carrying her ruler and copy book, as the four U.S. marshals escort her.  The painting also captures some of the contempt of those times with the scrawled racial epithet on the wall and the red splattering of a recently thrown tomato.

Norman Rockwell at work, mid-career.
Norman Rockwell at work, mid-career.
     Rockwell’s portrayal first appeared to wide public notice in January 1964 when it ran as a two-page centerfold illustration on the inside pages of Look magazine.  The painting ran as an untitled illustration in the middle of Look’s feature story on how Americans live, describing their homes and communities. 

     The context of the Ruby Bridges scene rendered by Rockwell had been heavily reported in print and on television in November 1960, with the anger of the mobs that day burnished deeply in the public mind.

Magazine readers viewing Rockwell’s piece in 1964 would likely recall the unhappy context of young school children being heckled and needing federal protection.

July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office.  White House photo, Peter Souza.
July 15, 2011: President Obama with Ruby Bridges (girl in painting), Rockwell Museum CEO, Laurie Moffatt, and behind Obama, Rockwell Museum President, Anne Morgan, viewing Rockwell’s painting at the White House near the Oval Office. White House photo, Peter Souza.
     In 2011, President Obama had a hand in bringing Rockwell’s original painting to the White House, as did others, according to the Washington Post, including Ruby Bridges herself, the Norman Rockwell Museum which owns the painting, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA), and U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA).  Some quiet lobbying helped bring the painting to the White House, suggesting it be displayed there at the 50th anniversary of Ruby Bridges’ admission to the Frantz school.  “The President likes pictures that tell a story and this painting fits that bill…,” explained a statement in the White House blog.  “In 1963 Rockwell confronted the issue of prejudice head-on…”  However, at the time of the painting’s White House display, some reporting had erroneously stated the Rockwell piece had initially appeared on the cover of the January 14th, 1964 Look magazine.  That is a forgivable mistake given the fact that so much of Norman Rockwell’s work frequently did appear on magazine covers, most notably at the Saturday Evening Post.  But the error raises an important question, nonetheless.  Why didn’t the Rockwell painting of the famous civil rights incident run on the cover of Look magazine or some other magazine?

Norman Rockwell, circa 1940s.
Norman Rockwell, circa 1940s.
     Well, therein lies a whole other tale, or at least a part of the story not often told – about how depictions of race and civil rights evolved in American art and popular magazines during those times.  By way of presenting some of that story here, the article that follows will look at the history of Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges piece; three other works he did related to race and civil rights; and how Rockwell, his magazine sponsors, and popular magazine publishing dealt with race and civil rights in the 1940s-thru-1960s period.  First, some background on the artist.


Norman Rockwell

     Born in 1894, Norman Rockwell grew up in New York city, and as a boy dreamed of becoming an artist.  By the time he was ten he was drawing constantly.  He soon dropped out of high school and enrolled in art school, first at the National Academy School, but by 1910, at the prestigious Art Students League.  After graduation he did some of his first work for Boy’s Life magazine.  In 1916, Rockwell did his first cover for Saturday Evening Post, then one of America’s premiere weekly magazines.  For nearly the next fifty years, he would continue making much-loved Saturday Evening Post covers, most depicting everyday scenes of 20th century Americana.  Rockwell in fact, would do more than 320 covers for the Saturday Evening Post through 1963.  But that’s only part of his story.

1929: Girl & Doll's Heart.
1929: Girl & Doll's Heart.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1949: Game Called, Rain.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1954: Girl in The Mirror.
1958: The Runaway.
1958: The Runaway.

     Rockwell’s cover subjects for the Post ranged across American daily life – from a young boy in a doctor’s office awaiting a curative needle or teenage girls gossiping at a soda fountain, to a rookie baseball player reporting to play his first game or a worn-out politician at the end of a hard day of campaigning.  Some of Rockwell’s covers dealt with aspirational themes and democratic values.  In 1942, in response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made his famous “Four Freedoms” series, each of which also ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover – Freedom of Speech (Feb 20, 1943), Freedom of Worship (Feb 27, 1943), Freedom from Want (March 6, 1943), and Freedom from Fear (March 13, 1943). 

     During this period as well, his Rosie the Riveter cover for the May 29th, 1943 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and another depicting a “liberty girl” for the September 4th, 1943 edition, helped the government recruit female workers for the war effort during WWII.  Some of these paintings traveled around the country in the mid-1940s, shown in conjunction with the sale of government war bonds.  “The Four Freedoms” series reportedly brought in a tidy sum of $132,992,539 in war bond funds.  Rockwell also did poster art for the U.S. Office of War Information in conjunction with the war bond drives.

Norman Rockwell at work on a 1953 painting for Saturday Evening Post cover, “Soda Jerk.”
Norman Rockwell at work on a 1953 painting for Saturday Evening Post cover, “Soda Jerk.”
     While Rockwell’s name became practically synonymous with the Saturday Evening Post, he also did art for other publications, including: Ladies’ Home Journal, McCall’s, Literary Digest, Look, Country Gentleman, Popular Science, and others.  Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of some 80 magazines.  His work also appeared in numerous advertisements and he became well known for illustrating the Boy Scouts of America annual calendar. (Galleries of Rockwell’s covers for the Saturday Evening Post are found at a number of very good websites, a few of which are listed at the end of this article in “Sources, Links & Additional Information”).  In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell in particular — and other artists at the Saturday Evening Post as well — became chroniclers of American culture and America’s culture past as nostalgia.  Rockwell worked at the heyday of the Saturday Evening Post’s reign as a magazine powerhouse, when circulation reached 4-to-5 million copies a week, and when a Rockwell cover alone could boost non-subscription sales by 250,000.  For millions of magazine readers in those years, Norman Rockwell became a household name in America, even if many art critics at the time didn’t regard his work as “serious art.”


Civil Rights Subjects

“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
“Freedom of Speech” was one of a Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” series admired by African American activist Roderick Stephens, who urged Rockwell in 1943 to do a similar series to promote racial tolerance.
     Rockwell appears to have been first nudged toward civil rights as subject matter in June 1943 when Roderick Stephens, an African-American activist and head of the Bronx Interracial Conference, wrote to Rockwell urging him to do a series of paintings to promote interracial relations.  Stephens had been moved by Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” and was worried at the time that urban race riots would ensue in major cities like his own New York, touched off by the migration of southern blacks to major cities.  Race riots, in fact, had then already occurred in Houston, Los Angeles, and Detroit.  Although Stephens expressed his admiration to Rockwell for his “Four Freedoms,” he noted that two of the freedoms – “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” – were, for most blacks at the time, freedoms denied.  Stephens proposed that Rockwell do a series of paintings to be printed and circulated as posters, just as the “Four Freedoms” had been, to promote racial tolerance, featuring subject matter that would illustrate the contributions of blacks to American society and how they helped realize the Four Freedoms.  Stephens believed Rockwell was an artist who could make a difference at the time, and could help “advance racial goodwill by years,” offering art to point up what was then in American practice, a restricted conception of freedom.  Rockwell is believed to have replied to Stephens, but he never embarked on Stephens’ proposal, more or less rejecting the series idea, explaining to Stephens  the difficulties he had encountered creating the “Four Freedoms” series.  But there may have been more to it than that, as Rockwell was then laboring under restrictions imposed by The Saturday Evening Post.

Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
Dec 7 1946: “NY Central Diner,” Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell.
     Rockwell’s venturing into controversial material such as race and civil rights did not come until later in his career, after he had left the Post.  Like other artists of the 1940s and 1950s who did commercial art and magazine illustrations, Rockwell was bound by certain publishing covenants and restrictions, written and unwritten, that determined what could and could not appear in magazine covers and illustrations.  The Saturday Evening Post, for example, would only allow minorities to be shown in servile roles. 

     In a 1971 interview with writer Richard Reeves, Rockwell explained the unwritten rule laid down by his first editor at the Post: “George Horace Lorimer, who was a very liberal man, told me never to show colored people except as servants.”  Lorimer was Rockwell’s editor at the Post for his first twenty years there.  The Rockwell cover illustration at left from the December 7th, 1946 Saturday Evening Post illustrates the rule in practice.  The scene, which is also known as Boy in Dining Car, shows a young boy in a railroad dining car studying the menu with purse in hand, trying to determine the proper payment and tip for the black waiter.

Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
Rockwell’s “Full Treatment” SEP cover of May 1940 includes black shoe shine boy.
     In addition to the 1946 Post cover above, Rockwell also did other magazine covers and illustrations from the mid-1920s through mid-1940s that depicted African Americans in various roles, usually in minor or servile roles, and sometimes not facing the viewer.  Among a few of these Rockwell pieces, for example, are: The Banjo Player, an illustration for a Pratt & Lambert varnish advertisement appearing inside The Saturday Evening Post of April 3rd, 1926; Thataway, a March 17th, 1934 cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a young black boy pointing to the direction taken by a thrown rider’s horse; Love Ouanga, a June 1936 illustration for a short story in American Magazine depicting a beautiful, stylishly-dressed young African American woman in a church scene contrasted against more coarse and country dress of other farming and working African Americans also in the scene; Full Treatment, a May 18th, 1940 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a wealthy man being attended to by a barber, manicurist, and a black shoe shine boy; The Homecoming, a May 26th, 1945 cover for The Post depicting a returning military veteran arriving home to a scene of welcoming family and neighbors that also includes an African American worker; and Roadblock, a July 9th, 1949 cover for The Saturday Evening Post depicting a moving van that is blocked by a small dog in an urban alley scene with a variety on onlookers, including some black children.

     Continuing into the 1950s and early 1960s, publishing art and mainstream magazines generally were slow to portray African American success stories and the civil rights struggle.


Cover Art, 1950s

1947: Jackie Robinson.
1947: Jackie Robinson.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Dorothy Dandridge.
1954: Segregation story.
1954: Segregation story.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.
1955: Thurgood Marshall.

     During the 1950s and early 1960s, a time when the civil rights movement was struggling for recognition, the American art community – then involved with modern art and abstract expressionism – was generally not at the ramparts fighting racial discrimination.   Nor, for the most part, were America’s most popular magazines in that era featuring African Americans on their covers or doing prominent stories on civil rights.  In its May 8th, 1950 edition, Life magazine featured a photograph of baseball player Jackie Robinson on its cover, the first individual African American to be so featured by that magazine.  Robinson had become the first African American to break the color barrier in professional baseball three years earlier with the Brooklyn Dodgers.  Time magazine, for its part, had used an artist’s rendering of Robinson on an earlier cover in September 1947.  Back at Life, meanwhile, actress Dorothy Dandridge became the first African American woman to be featured on a cover at that magazine, for the November 1st, 1954 edition.  Dandridge was then appearing in her Academy Award-nominated best actress film role in Carmen Jones.  A few stories on segregation also appeared on major magazine covers in the mid-1950s.  On September 13, 1954, Newsweek ran a cover story on segregation in schools, showing a white and a black child in a Washington, D.C. school.  Time magazine put Thurgood Marshall on the cover of its September 19th, 1955 issue, Marshall then having risen to notice as chief counsel for the NAACP arguing the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education school desegregation case before the U.S. Supreme Court. (see “Brown vs Board…” sidebar, later below, for more details).

A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing  “Approved Killing” story tagline.
A portion of the January 24, 1956 cover of Look magazine showing “Approved Killing” story tagline.
     Look, another pictorial magazine similar to Life, and also popular in the 1950s, had rarely if ever used cover art that solely featured an African American.  There were black sports stars shown  on Look covers occasionally – such as Jackie Robinson, Joe Louis, and Sugar Ray Robinson – but usually as one among five whites in a framed, six-photo layout.  Look did give cover billing to a few articles on racial issues in the 1950s.  On the cover of its January 24th, 1956 issue, Look ran the title of an article by William Bradford Huie, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi.” 

     Although there was no mention of race in the title, and it ran on a somewhat incongruous cover featuring the U.S. teenager (partially shown at left), the “shocking story” inside was truly shocking.  It was the story of the August 1955 murder of Emmett Till, a 14 year-old Chicago boy who was savagely beaten, shot, and mutilated by white men in Mississippi while the boy was visiting relatives there.  Till, a brash kid who knew nothing about the realities of the South, made the mistake of whistling at a white woman at a local country store.  Later abducted from his relatives’ home, Till was brutally pistol-whipped and dumped into a river, his body tied to a heavy metal fan.

Click to read at PBS.org.
Click to read at PBS.org.
     Two white suspects – Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam – were later tried and acquitted by an all-white jury in less than two hours.  Their defense attorney had called on the jurors to honor their forefathers by not convicting white men for killing a black person.  Back in Chicago, Till’s mutilated body was displayed at an open-casket viewing.  No mainstream print publication in America at that time published the gruesome photos, although a few black-owned publications did, provoking outrage throughout African American communities.

     Inside the January 24th, 1956 Look magazine, the article by author William Bradford Huie covered the Till murder and he also interviewed the two suspects, Roy Bryant and J. W. Milam, who were paid $4,000 to tell how they killed Emmett Till.  In the article, the two suspects – then safe from conviction after having been acquitted in their friendly Mississippi trial – confessed to the crime.  A year later, in its January 22nd, 1957 edition, Look published a follow-up article on the killing, also by William Bradford Huie, entitled “What’s Happened to the Emmett Till Killers?”  That story reported that blacks in the local community stopped using stores owned by the Milam and Bryant families, putting them out of business, as both men were also ostracized by the white community.


'56: Slavery/Segregation.
'56: Slavery/Segregation.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1957: MLK bus boycott.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1961: Freedom Riders.
1963: Negro in America.
1963: Negro in America.

Cover Art ( cont’d)

     On September 3rd, 1956, Life magazine featured a cover story related to slavery and segregation – “Beginning A Major Life series – Segregation,” stated Life at the top of the cover.  Time magazine featured Martin Luther King on its cover February 18th, 1957, as King was then in the news for his leadership in the Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott.  Later that year, on October 7th, 1957, Time and Life both featured the school integration conflict at Little Rock, Arkansas with National Guard troops shown on their covers.  By the time of the Freedom Riders in 1961, a Newsweek cover story featured photos and quotes from three key players in the controversy: U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Mississippi Governor, John Patterson.  For its June 28th, 1963 edition, Life featured a cover photograph of the wife and child of slain civil rights activist Medgar Evers at his Arlington National Cemetery funeral. Evers, a Mississippi organizer, was shot in the back in his own driveway by a Ku Klux Klan member.  In July 1963, Newsweek published a special issue on “The Negro in America,” picturing an unnamed black man on the cover.  In smaller type on the cover, Newsweek further explained the focus of its series with the following: “The first definitive national survey – who he is, what he wants, what he fears, what he hates, how he lives, how he votes, why he is fighting … and why now?”  For its September 6th, 1963 issue, Life magazine featured a cover story on the historic August 1963 “march on Washington” with a photograph of two of its leaders, A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin, shown standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.  And as the civil rights movement received more national notice throughout the 1960s, along with urban unrest, more magazine covers followed.


13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
13 Feb 1960: Norman Rockwell, cover feature, Saturday Evening Post.
Rockwell & The Post

     Norman Rockwell, meanwhile, was experiencing change at The Saturday Evening Post.  By the early 1960s, the frequency of his covers there had slowed – down to a half dozen or so a year – and the magazine was experimenting with new formats.  Still, after more than 40 years of his cover art being featured for millions of Post readers, Rockwell was clearly an asset to the magazine.  In fact, for the February 13th, 1960 issue of the magazine and its cover story, he was the featured star and title subject.  The cover used his famous “triple self-portrait” and gave full billing to a beginning series of articles about him for the magazine taken from a new autobiography written with the help of  his middle son, Thomas Rockwell.  Shown at right, the cover taglines for that issue of the Post explained: “Beginning in this issue: America’s Best Loved Artist Finally Tells His Own Story… My Adventures As An Illustrator.”  Yet Rockwell was chafing at the Post by this time, and his days there were numbered.

1960: Window Washer.
1960: Window Washer.
1961: Artist at Work.
1961: Artist at Work.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1962: Art Connoisseur.
1963: Nehru of India.
1963: Nehru of India.

     Through the early 1960s, Rockwell continued doing Post covers.  In 1960, for example he did five more Post covers in addition to “triple self portrait,” shown above,  three of  which offered traditional subjects: “Repairing Stained Glass,” April 16, 1960; “University Club,” August 27, 1960; and “Window Washer,” September 17, 1960 (with the washer ogling the secretary).  Two more Rockwell covers that year were portraits of the 1960 presidential candidates – U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard M. Nixon.  The magazine by then had begun shifting to more portraits of famous people as cover material, and was also using more cover photography rather than illustrations or paintings.  Rockwell cover portraits, in any case, held their own at the Post, and included others in the early 1960s,  among them: Indian prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, January 19, 1963;  Jack Benny, entertainer, March 2, 1963; a serious portrait of President John F. Kennedy to accompany a cover story on his foreign policy challenges, April 6, 1963; and Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser, May 25, 1963.  Other more traditional Post covers by Rockwell in the early 1960s included: “Artist at Work,” Sept 16, 1961; “Cheerleader,” Nov 25, 1961; and “Art Connoisseur” of January 13 1962, showing a middle-aged man in a museum observing a Jackson Pollack-type painting (this issue also had cover billing for a story inside the magazine entitled, “The Little Known World of Our Negro Aristocracy.”).

Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
Rockwell’s “Golden Rule” appeared on Saturday Evening Post cover, April 1, 1961.
     One interesting departure for Rockwell from his normal Saturday Evening Post fare during the early 1960s – and a sign of  his more liberal inner concerns – came with the April 1st, 1961 cover that appeared under the title “The Golden Rule.”  This illustration actually had its genesis, in part, during the late 1940s when Rockwell had set out to do a painting honoring the United Nations (UN), an organization he admired and found hopeful for solving world problems.  For the UN painting, Rockwell had in mind something that would highlight the cultural, racial, and religious tolerance of the organization, and he had visited the UN Security Council Chamber for ideas and sketches.  His first efforts yielded a charcoal drawing of several major-nation delegates debating from their seats in a brightly lit foreground.  Behind the delegates, in the shadows, was a crowd of more than sixty people – a cross-section of men, women, and children from around the world, some in native dress.  But Rockwell had difficulty with the UN delegates agreeing to sit for the drawings, and he also had his own dissatisfactions with his art, so he set the project aside.  Some years later, in 1960, he resurrected the project, then changing its composition somewhat and using “the golden rule” as theme.  He also incorporated the phrase “Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You” directly into the painting using gold lettering.

Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
Rockwell at work on “Golden Rule,” 1960.
     The painting – which ran as a Saturday Evening Post cover on April 1st, 1961 – became a further expression of Rockwell’s inner values and interests, marking something of a turning point in his relationship with the Post, not the least of which was his depiction of people of color.  African Americans were also included in the painting and placed in prominent positions – one as a Ruby Bridges-type young girl in the foreground holding her schoolbooks to her chest, and another as a middle-aged black man in a white shirt in the upper right corner looking out at the viewer.  Art critics have noted that these African American depictions were positive portrayals that broke with the traditional servile stereotypes at the Saturday Evening Post.  And along with the other Asians and Africans shown, were Rockwell’s way of following his  conscience and “integrating” a Saturday Evening Post cover on his own.  Rockwell also incorporated a portrayal of his second wife, Mary, in the painting.  Mary was the mother of their three sons and had passed away in 1959.  She is shown in the right middle of the painting holding their grandson she never saw.  Rockwell is believed to have completed this painting in November 1960.  He was later presented with the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for the painting, a citation he treasured.

Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
Rockwell’s last cover for the Post, Dec 1963, an earlier JFK portrait.
     By late 1963, Rockwell was about to embark on a career change.  He was in his 60s by this time.  The cover art at the Saturday Evening Post pretty much continued to focus on Americana and everyday life as it had in the past.  Inside the magazine, however, there were contemporary stories of the day; the magazine was slowly changing.

     Still, Rockwell had become frustrated by the limits the Post had imposed upon his art, especially regarding political themes and social concerns.  By then he had begun thinking about and moving on to other subject matter.  So in December 1963, he ended his near half-century with the Saturday Evening Post. 

     Rockwell’s final cover for the magazine appeared in mid-December 1963.  It was actually an earlier portrait of John F. Kennedy he had done during the 1960 presidential campaign which the Post republished in a special memoriam issue that ran after Kennedy’s assassination.


Look magazine at about the time Rockwell signed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Look magazine at about the time Rockwell signed on, December 1963, then featuring Hollywood’s Cary Grant & Audrey Hepburn.
Rockwell at Look

     In December 1963, at the age of 68, Norman Rockwell signed on with Look magazine.  Look covers at the time dealt with contemporary subjects, celebrities, and general topics of the day, using mostly photographs.  A sample cover from December 1963 appears at left, this one also mentioning a civil rights story inside that edition. 

     Major circulation magazines in the early 1960s were beginning to feel the competition of television.  Collier’s had ceased publication in 1956, and even the Saturday Evening Post was feeling the heat.  Yet, Life and Look – the “picture magazines,” as they were sometimes called – remained strong, with solid advertising revenue.  Look by the mid-1960s would have some of its best years for sales and circulation. 

     When Rockwell began doing work for Look, Dan Mich was editor there. Mich was a supporter of thought-provoking journalism, and along with art director Allen Hurlburt, they gave Rockwell freedom to pursue his “bigger picture” interests, as he called them.  Look wanted to use Rockwell’s art as a compliment to current reportage and that gave Rockwell opportunity to pursue subject matter that interested him.

     Rockwell’s third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, a fervent liberal, was an influence on Rockwell’s work through the 1960s, as was his friend and psychiatrist Erik Erickson.  And Rockwell himself, despite being tagged “conservative” by association with his Saturday Evening Post covers, had his own internal guideposts and values, as already noted above.  Rockwell was clearly more liberal/progressive than many of his Saturday Evening Post followers might have realized.  Some who knew him described him as a “strict constructionist,” especially so when it came to American values.  No surprise then, if given a subject and a free hand where American ideals such as freedom and equality of opportunity were at stake, his brush would be on the right side of those concerns.

Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans,  November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
Ruby Bridges exiting the William Frantz school in New Orleans, November 1960, with U.S. marshals.
     And so it was with the Ruby Bridges episode from 1960.  Rockwell came to this particular controversy somewhat after the actual event had occurred.  The date of his painting, The Problem We All Live With, is 1963 and its use in the illustration in Look magazine appeared in January 1964.  So the Ruby Bridges painting was a studied affair for Rockwell; a project he had worked on for some time and given considerable thought to.  In November 1960, at the time of the actual incident, there had been television and news reporting of the event. Rockwell no doubt made use of this reporting and the news photographs of the event.  He also employed models to work from as he painted.

      Prior to the first integration actions in New Orleans – and there were two schools involved and several black students; three at another school – politicians in Louisiana, including the state’s governor at the time, segregationist Jimmie Davis, had maneuvered to prevent and forestall the integration.  In September 1960, the schools there opened initially as segregated.  By November, however, the courts had set a deadline to begin school integration, but parents did not know which schools would be involved

“Brown vs. Board…”
Landmark Case: 1954

Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
Ruby Bridges being escorted into school, November 1960.
     The racial integration of American public schools was triggered by a Kansas welder named Oliver Brown who wanted a better education for his children.  Brown had sought the opportunity for his daughter to attend a whites-only school that was closer to his home than the local school for blacks.  An earlier U.S. Supreme Court decision dating from 1896 had allowed for the establishment of racially-segregated schools, which the court had then deemed acceptable under the constitution, calling them “separate but equal.”  Yet most of these schools were not equal.  A long legal battle – a court fight consolidated with other similar cases using the name Brown vs. Board of Education – eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court, where the case was argued by Thurgood Marshall, chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (and who later became a Supreme Court justice).  The court unanimously ruled in Brown’s favor on May 17, 1954, and the case became a landmark ruling in ending segregation, not only in schools but throughout a wide variety of public venues.

A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
A federal marshal driving first grader Gail Etienne to McDonogh 19 school in New Orleans, November 14, 1960, one of four black children who entered two previously all-white schools in the city. Times-Picayune photo.
     Putting the new law into effect, however, would take years.  Initially, as Southern states and counties resisted integrating schools, federal marshals — and sometimes federal troops — had to be used to enforce the law, as in the case of Ruby Bridges in New Orleans.  In 1956, U.S. District Court Judge J. Skelly Wright ordered the desegregation of the New Orleans public schools.  After a series of appeals, Wright in 1960 set down a plan that required the integration of the schools on a grade-per-year basis, beginning with the first grade.  The New Orleans School Board then tested black kindergartners to determine the best candidates.  Six-year-old Ruby Bridges was one of six children selected; four agreed to proceed.  On November 14th 1960, Bridges integrated the William Frantz School (the other three children were assigned to the McDonogh 19 School).


Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges

Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
Sidewalk protest in New Orleans over school integration, November 15th,1960.
     Once it was revealed which schools in New Orleans were the ones chosen for the court-ordered integration, sidewalk protests ensued and white parents promptly removed their children from those schools.  However, at Ruby Bridges’ school – the William Frantz school — there were also two white parents who chose to keep their children in the school: a Christian minister’s five-year old daughter, Pamela Foreman, in kindergarten, and another white child, Yolanda Gabrielle, age six.  In addition to the jeering of Ruby, these white kids and their parents were also jeered and harassed, even beyond the school grounds.  Neighbor turned against neighbor and it got pretty ugly in those communities.

     Rockwell, no doubt knew about all of this and likely read news accounts of the protests.  On November 15, 1960, The New York Times reported the greeting Ruby and her mother received as they arrived that day: “Some 150 white, mostly housewives and teenage youths, clustered along the sidewalks across from the William Franz School when pupils marched in at 8:40 am. One youth chanted ‘Two, Four, Six, Eight, we don’t want to integrate’…”

Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
Detail from Rockwell painting: note “K.K.K.” on upper left wall.
     As four U.S. marshals arrived with Ruby and her mother, they walked hurriedly up the steps to the school’s entrance as onlookers jeered and shouted taunts.  On the sidewalk that day, assembled mothers and school students were yelling at police, some carrying signs, one held by a young boy that said, “All I Want For Christmas is a Clean White School.”  Another placard that day read: “Save Segregation, Vote States Rights Pledged Electors.” 

     The white parents kept up their boycott of the schools the entire year, and the protests and jeering continued periodically.  On December 2nd, 1960, for example, housewives demonstrated at the William Frantz school, one standing with a placard that read “Integration is a Mortal Sin,” citing a biblical scribe as source.

     Rockwell’s painting, of course, does not capture all of this, nor was it intended to.  His focus appears to be solely on the girl, placed at center, giving no special notice to the marshals, other than they were needed, as he portrays them as anonymous and headless, from mid-torso down.  The setting around the little girl is ugly and threatening, but she is innocent and perfect, as her white dress and ribbon-tied hair suggest.  As far as she is concerned, she is just going to school.

1962: Steinbeck book.
1962: Steinbeck book.
     One description of the 1960 New Orleans school integration protests that Rockwell may have read prior to or during his work on the Ruby Bridges painting was John Steinbeck’s observations of the episode, offered in his 1962 best-seller, Travels with Charley: In Search of America.  “Charley” was Steinbeck’s dog and traveling companion during his road trip around the United States.  Travels With Charley was published by Viking Press in the mid-summer of 1962, reaching No.1 on the New York Times nonfiction best- seller list October 21, 1962.  In part four of that book, Steinbeck recorded his reactions on coming to the New Orleans communities where the school integration controversy had flared, and he came away gravely saddened by what he saw.  In his book, Steinbeck offered a detailed account of Ruby Bridges’ arrival at the elementary school and her handling by the U.S. marshals:

“…The show opened on time.  Sound of sirens.  Motorcycle cops.  Then two big black cars filled with big men in blond felt hats pulled up in front of the school.  The crowd seemed to hold its breath.  Four big marshals got out of each car and from somewhere in the automobiles they extracted the littlest Negro girl you ever saw, dressed in starchy white, with new white shoes on feet so little they were almost round.  Her face and little legs were very black against the white…The little girl did not look back at the howling crowd but from the size the whites of her eyes showed like those of a frightened fawn.  The men turned her around like a doll, and then the strange procession moved up the broad walk toward the school, and the child was even more a mite because the men were so big…”

November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana;  one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
November 1960: Demonstrators during school integration in New Orleans, Louisiana; one holding sign that reads, “Integration is A Mortal Sin.”
     Steinbeck had come to New Orleans in part to see the “cheerleaders,” as he called those then protesting New Orleans’ school integration, and he describes what he found first hand, as he witnessed some of the protests:

“…No newspaper had printed the words these women shouted.  It was indicated that they were indelicate, some even said obscene. . . . But now I heard the words, bestial and filthy and degenerate.  In a long and unprotected life I have seen and heard the vomitings of demoniac humans before.  Why then did these screams fill me with a shocked and sickened sorrow?…”

     Steinbeck wrote that he knew “something was wrong and distorted and out of drawing” in what he had seen in New Orleans.  He had formerly counted himself as a friend of New Orleans; knew the city fairly well, had his favorite haunts there, and also had many treasured friends there – “thoughtful, gentle people, with a tradition of kindness and courtesy.”  Where were they now, he wondered – “the ones whose arms would ache to gather up a small, scared, black mite?”  Answering his own question, he wrote:

“…I don’t know where they were.  Perhaps they felt as helpless as I did, but they left New Orleans misrepresented to the world.  The crowd, no doubt, rushed home to see themselves on television, and what they saw went out all over the world, unchallenged by the other things I know are there….”

     Another influence on Rockwell at this time was likely Erik Erikson, a psychoanalyst at the Riggs Center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where Rockwell then lived and worked.  Erikson treated Rockwell occasionally for bouts of depression, was Rockwell’s friend, and also had a passion for civil rights.  Erikson was a colleague and mentor to a younger child psychiatrist named Robert Coles, who had begun working with Ruby Bridges and other children in the early school desegregation cases in 1961.  Coles had found that segregation had damaged the self-esteem of the little girls, and by 1963 he had written a series of articles beginning in March for The Atlantic Monthly magazine profiling Ruby Bridges’s experiences during integration of the Frantz school.  He also published The Desegregation of Southern Schools: A Psychiatric Study, a short book.  Erikson may well have made Rockwell aware of these at the time he was painting The Problem We All Live With.

Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964  focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities –  city, farm & suburb.
Look magazine’s cover story of January 14, 1964 focused on “How We Live” – American’s homes and communities – city, farm & suburb.
     It appears Rockwell began working on the Ruby Bridges painting sometime in 1963, also finishing it that year.  The editors at Look decided to use it in their January 14th, 1964 edition.  On the cover of that issue, a portion of which is shown at right, Look featured photos of American homes in various urban and suburban settings, along with a few family shots, billing its cover story as: “How We Live: Up in the city, Down on the farm, Out in the suburbs.  In homes packed with pride, prejudice and love.” 

     There was no special mention or billing of Norman Rockwell’s painting on the cover.  The illustration would be found in the middle of the magazine as a full two-page spread with no accompanying text.  In the table of contents it was billed under “art” with the title “The Problem We All Live With.”  It appeared amidst a series of articles with titles such as: “Their First Home,” “Down On The Farm,” and “Their Dream House Is On Wheels.”  One of the stories focused on Theodore and Beverly Mason, a black family living in a mixed community in Ludlow, Ohio.

Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
Detail from “The Problem We All Live With.”
     Rockwell’s former Saturday Evening Post fans, coming upon this painting in Look, may have been quite surprised.  In fact, the painting did elicit reaction from Look’s readers, as the magazine received letters from those who were deeply moved by it, as well as those who were angered by it.  Some analysts would later note that precisely because Rockwell was an artist dear to the hearts of many conservatives for his renderings of Americana and American values, that his “new” work on civil rights subjects may have made some of these same fans think twice about America’s racial problem at that time, helping them face up to racism.  Rockwell himself would later say of his change in subject matter: “For 47 years, I portrayed the best of all possible worlds – grandfathers, puppy dogs – things like that.  That kind of stuff is dead now, and I think it’s about time.”

March 23, 1965, Look cover.
March 23, 1965, Look cover.
     Rockwell appears to have been quite comfortable with what he offered in the Ruby Bridges painting.  In fact, in a letter he later wrote to the NAACP, Rockwell offered the illustration to the civil rights group, suggesting they reproduce the illustration as a poster to publicize their progress and accomplishments.  It is not known here what the NAACP made of this offer, or if the illustration was ever used as Rockwell suggested.  Rockwell, in any case, had more work to come on civil rights issues; work that would also be published by Look magazine, two of which are explored below. 

     Apart from Rockwell’s work, Look also published cover stories on civil rights issues in that period.  On March 23, 1965 the magazine featured “The Negro Now” story by Robert Penn Warren on its cover, describing its content with a series of questions, also on the cover: “How far has the Negro come?,” “What is the South ready to concede?,” “What happens next in the North?,” “Can we move forward without violence?,” and “Who speaks for the Negro now?”

 

Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
Rockwell’s “Southern Justice” painting of 1965, also known as “Murder in Mississippi,” depicting the killings of three civil rights workers murdered in June of 1964.
“Southern Justice”

     Another step that Norman Rockwell took with his civil rights painting in the 1960s, came when he ventured into depicting violence then occurring in the civil rights movement.  In 1964, he began work on a painting inspired by the murder of three young civil rights workers in Mississippi in June of 1964. 

     The three young men – James Chaney, a 21 year-old black man from Meridian, Mississippi; Andrew Goodman, a 20 year-old white Jewish anthropology student from New York; and Michael Schwerner, a 24 year-old white Jewish organizer and former social worker also from New York – were helping to register black voters in Mississippi.   Initially, the three men were reported missing. 

     Within days of their disappearance, the story made national headlines, as President Lyndon Johnson ordered a massive search.  However, it turned out that shortly after midnight on June 21, 1964, the three civil rights workers were murdered by local members of the Ku Klux Klan, aided in their plot by a local police chief.  All three were beaten and then shot, and their bodies not located until August 8, 1964, found buried beneath an earthen dam.

Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
Michael Schwerner, James Chaney and Andrew Goodman – the three civil rights workers who were murdered in Mississippi, June 1964. FBI photos.
     Rockwell began work on his “Murder in Mississippi” in 1964, a painting which later used the name of the Look article that it ran with, “Southern Justice.”  Rockwell typically worked on several projects at once, but with this project, he bore in on the work exclusively for five weeks straight.  The painting, which depicts the horror endured by the three young men as they were being beaten, uses a barren, isolated rural scene as its setting, likely at the end of some dirt road in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night.  The scene is lit only by an unseen torch.  One man is portrayed by Rockwell lying on the ground, presumably beaten, but trying, with one arm, to push himself up from the ground.  Another is standing in the glow of the attacker’s torch trying to help his colleague, who appears beaten and near death.  Analysts of this painting have noted that Rockwell, rather than actually showing the murderers in the scene, casts them instead as six ominous shadows approaching from the right, indicating that the young men are outnumbered, and also perhaps, symbolically, indicating the problem is a larger societal issue.

Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
Norman Rockwell’s rough study sketch of beaten civil rights workers as it ran with article in Look magazine, June 29, 1965.
     In considering this piece, the editors of Look were more taken with Rockwell’s initial sketch for the illustration and favored it over the finished painting, using it in the magazine.  The editors felt the coarser version offered a more powerful, emotional interpretation.  Rockwell at first disagreed with their choice but he did allow the sketch to be printed.  In the June 29, 1965 edition of Look, it ran as a single-page illustration alongside a one-page article by Charles Morgan titled, “Southern Justice,” which focused on “segregated justice” in the South, the Schwerner-Chaney-Goodman murders, other civil rights murders and beatings in the South, and the absence of black judges in Southern courts.  Rockwell’s illustration was captioned as “Philadelphia, Miss., June 21, 1964.”

      As with the Ruby Bridges episode, Rockwell no doubt learned of this civil rights story through the media accounts and newspaper reporting of that day.  On June 22, 1964, for example, the New York Times ran a front-page story on the incident using the following headlines and description: “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered….”  After the three workers were found dead, however, local officials in Mississippi refused to prosecute the suspected killers.  The U.S. Justice Department then charged eighteen individuals with conspiring to deprive the three workers of their civil rights (by murder).  Seven were found guilty on October 20, 1967, but with appeals, did not begin serving their 3-to-10 year sentences until 1970, with none serving more than six years.  Three other suspects had been acquitted, but no further legal action ensued in the case until pressure was brought decades later, in June 2005, when the state of Mississippi prosecuted and convicted Edgar Ray Killen – who planned and directed the killing – on three counts of murder.

May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
May 3, 1966: KKK cover.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.
June 14, 1966: Peace Corps.

     Look magazine, meanwhile, went on to do other stories on civil rights issues.  Less than a year later, on May 3, 1966, Look ran a cover story on the Ku Klux Klan showing a hooded Klansman on the cover wielding two flaming torches.  Rockwell had done some other work for Look in 1965 following his Southern Justice illustration.  For the July 27, 1965 edition of Look, Rockwell did an illustration to accompany an article on President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty program for the poor, entitled “How Goes the War on Poverty.” Rockwell’s illustration featured a “helping hand” clasped to another’s seeking help, superimposed over a background of diverse faces with a quote from President Johnson lettered into the painting: “Hope for the Poor, Achievement for Yourself, Greatness for Your Nation.”  In the following year, for the June 14, 1966 edition of Look, Rockwell did the cover art and four other pieces inside the magazine helping to illustrate a story on The Peace Corps – “J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy.”  Rockwell’s cover piece included a profile of John F. Kennedy and others who actually served in the Peace Corps (some of whom also modeled for Rockwell as he did the painting), including one African American female.  All were shown on the cover in profile looking left, with Kennedy in front (see cover above).  Rockwell had thrown himself into the Peace Corps project, actually visiting Peace Corps volunteers in action in Ethiopia, India, and Colombia during 1966 as he created several narrative scenes of them at work.  But Rockwell would also do more civil rights work the following year, also published in Look.

Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Look 1967: "Suburbia."
Story: Negro in Suburbs.
Story: Negro in Suburbs.


“New Kids…”

     The May 16th, 1967 issue of Look magazine was billed as “A Report on Suburbia” – with added tagline, “The Good Life In Our Exploding Utopia.”  Look’s cover for that edition also listed the line-up of suburban-related stories inside: “Parties and Prejudices,” “New Styles and Status,” Morals and Divorce, and “Teenagers in Trouble.”  One of the stories to follow was by Jack Star, entitled “Negro in the Suburbs.”  Mrs. Jacqueline Robbins, a young black housewife who then lived in the all-white Chicago suburb of Park Forest, Illinois with her chemist husband, Terry, 32, and their two sons, was quoted as saying, “Being a Negro in the middle of white people is like being alone in the middle of a crowd.”  A Rockwell illustration — entitled New Kids in the Neighborhood — ran in the middle of that article.  “Although Negroes are still a rarity in the green reaches of suburbia,” reported the Look article, “they are emerging from nearly all the large metropolitan ghettos with increasing frequency.”  In Chicago during 1966, the story explained, 179 Negro families moved into white suburbs – more than twice as many as in the previous year, seven times as many as in 1963…”

Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
Norman Rockwell’s “New Kids in the Neighborhood” ran as full two-page centerfold in Look magazine, May 17, 1967.
     Rockwell’s full, two-page illustration inside this suburban-themed issue focused on a “moving-in” day scene for a new black family freshly arrived in some unnamed white suburb.  In his painting, Rockwell uses black and white children as his focal point.  The two sets of children are standing in front of a moving van sizing one another up.  The two African American kids are presumably brother and sister.  The three white kids – two boys and a girl – are kids from the neighborhood.  Rockwell has included common elements for all the kids – the boys have baseball gloves, the girls each wear ribbons in their hair, and both groups have a pet.  For the viewer, meanwhile, there is little escape, as Rockwell involves them quite directly with the central question, essentially asking them to complete the picture; asking them to think about how the interaction between these kids, their parents, their community and the larger society will unfold.

Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
Child models used by Rockwell for “New Kids,” 1967.
     Students of Rockwell have noted that he often used kids in his illustrations, sometimes as neutral arbiters and non-judgmental conveyors of life situations – but also as a means of reaching out to mainstream audiences to prod, send a needed message of some kind, or raise a pointed question.  Rockwell’s two groups of kids in this painting might be seen as surrogates for the larger society, each group trying to decide what to do and whether or how to conquer that middle distance.  The issue in the New Kids painting, of course, is not only the relationships that may ensue between the kids in the weeks and months ahead, but also the larger slate of societal and democratic issues that integration then posed for the nation and its future.  The kids, in any case, are usually not the problem.  As Ruby Bridges has remarked from her own experience with integration in Louisiana, “none of us knows anything about disliking one another when we come into the world.  It is something that is passed on to us.”  Rockwell, it seems, also tried to convey some of that, featuring childhood innocence amid adult turmoil, or just letting children be children.  But Rockwell was also capable of more direct messages, using tougher themes and subject matter.


“Blood Brothers”

A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
A black and white copy of Norman Rockwell’s “Blood Brothers” painting which he later gave to CORE.
     In June 1968, during a conversation at a party, Norman Rockwell hit upon an idea for a painting.  Following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King in April that year, there had been rioting in more than 100 U.S. cities, with a number of people killed and injured.  Rockwell was thinking of a scene resulting from this urban unrest, and he called his editor at Look, Allen Hurlburt, to get preliminary approval and begin work.  What Rockwell began to sketch were two dead men on the ground – one black and one white – both bloodied and beaten,  found on a ghetto street after a riot lying parallel to one another, their blood co-mingling in a pool on the ground.  According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, “Rockwell hoped to show the superficiality of racial differences – that the blood of all men was the same.”  

Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
Norman Rockwell, 1968, in front of easel with his “Blood Brothers” painting as shown in photograph from Ben Sonder book, “The Legacy of Norman Rockwell.”
     Rockwell continued working on the project though June 1968 when Allen Hurlburt at Look suggested that Rockwell change the ghetto scene to a Vietnam battlefield scene.  Rockwell then had the two men in essentially the same position, now dressed in military uniform, presumably killed in action during the Vietnam War, their helmets cast beside them on the ground.  In war, of course, there was no discrimination; death and injury came to soldiers the same way, no matter if they were black or white.  At this point the painting began to be known as Blood Brothers.   However, later that fall, the editors at Look decided not to use the painting.

     Rockwell wasn’t happy with the decision, did some soul searching and talked with friends about the painting, but set it aside and moved on to other work.  But later that year, Rockwell received an invitation from the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), a civil rights group founded by students at the University of Chicago in 1942.  CORE was active in desegregation protests and sits-in from its founding, and became a leading civil rights group in the 1960s, especially in the South, and also helped sponsor the 1963 March on Washington and other events.  CORE wanted Rockwell to do an illustration for a Christmas card that the organization likely planned to use to send to its membership or perhaps for fundraising.  But Rockwell did not send the group a typical Christmas or Holiday-themed illustration.  Instead, he sent them the Blood Brothers painting.  CORE, in any case, was happy to have Blood Brothers.  However, it is not known how CORE used the painting or whether the group reproduced it for other purposes.  One account has reported that the painting is missing from the CORE collection.  The earlier studies and sketches Rockwell did for the painting are still held at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

Rockwell RFK sketches.
Rockwell RFK sketches.
     Rockwell, in any case, had been a very busy man in 1968.  He had done portraits of all the presidential candidates for Look magazine that year – President Lyndon Johnson and U.S. Senators Eugene McCarthy, Hubert Humphrey and Bobby Kennedy for the Democrats, and Ronald Regan, Nelson Rockefeller and Richard Nixon for the Republicans. 

     Also in 1968, Rockwell’s Right to Know – a painting of a diverse group of citizens addressing their government – was published in Look’s August 20th edition.  The 74 year-old artist had a number of other projects ongoing that year as well, including advertising work and illustrations for a children’s book.  He also found time that year to appear on the Joey Bishop Show and the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.


Belated Recognition

     Norman Rockwell continued painting through his 70s.  However, it was only in his latter years that his work began to be recognized for its artistic value.  During much of his professional life, especially during his Saturday Evening Post years, Rockwell’s work was dismissed by many art critics who regarded his portrayals of American life to be idealistic or too sentimental.  They did not consider him a “serious painter;” others believed his talents were wasted or put to frivolous purpose.  Yet time would work in Rockwell’s favor.

Norman Rockwell, later years.
Norman Rockwell, later years.
     Today, his body of work, stretching over more that 60 years, is highly regarded and continues to be studied by scholars while  thousands flock to Rockwell exhibitions wherever they appear.  During his lifetime Rockwell completed some 4,000 original works, some lost to fire.  In addition to his several hundred magazine illustrations and covers for Saturday Evening Post, Look, and other publications, he also did illustrations for more than 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; made annual contributions to the Boy Scouts of America calendars between 1925 and 1976; did illustrations for the Brown & Bigelow publishing and advertising firm between 1947 and 1964; completed numerous illustrations for booklets, catalogs, movie posters, sheet music, stamps, and playing cards; and also painted a few wall murals.  His portrait work in later years would involve a number of famous figures, among them, Judy Garland, Bob Hope, Arnold Palmer, Frank Sinatra, and John Wayne.  He also did a few unexpected pieces, such as a 1968 album cover portrait of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper for their rock-blues recording, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

     In 1969, having lived in Stockbridge, Massachusetts for last quarter of his life, he agreed to lend some of his works to the Stockbridge Historical Society for a permanent exhibition.  Word soon spread that his works were on display there and attendance grew annually, into the thousands.  By 1973, then in his late 70s, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his collection, placed initially in a custodianship that would later became the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge.  In 1977, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by then-President Gerald R. Ford, recognizing his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”  The following year, on November 8, 1978, Rockwell died at his Stockbridge home at the age of 84.  An unfinished painting remained on his easel.

Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for $4.95 million in 2002. Click for Rosie's story.
Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter” became a WWII & women’s rights icon. The original painting sold for $4.95 million in 2002. Click for Rosie's story.
     In July of 1994, the United States Postal Service issued a commemorative series of five Rockwell works including “Triple Self Portrait” and “The Four Freedoms.”  In 1999, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific.  It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”  Rockwell’s work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York city from November 1999 through February 2002. 

     Today, Norman Rockwell originals fetch millions at auction, and in recent years the values have been jumping.  Rockwell’s Rosie the Riveter painting, used for a Saturday Evening Post cover in 1943 shown at right, was sold twice in recent years – once in 2000 for $2 million, and when resold again in May 2002, escalated to $4.95 million. 

In May 2006, Rockwell’s Homecoming Marine sold for $9.2 million at auction. And in November 2006 at Sotheby’s in New York, his Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million. 

Collectors of Rockwell art today include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Smithsonian, The National Portrait Gallery, the Corcoran Gallery, George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and others.

1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
1994 U.S. postage stamp for Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom From Want.”
     The Norman Rockwell Museum  in Stockbridge, MA – with visitors now trending upwards of 160,000 annually – holds the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art, including some 574 original works as well as the Norman Rockwell Archives of photographs, fan mail, and other documents.  Rockwell’s Ruby Bridges painting – The Problem We All Live With – featured at the top of this story, is on display at the White House from June 22 – October 31, 2011.  Thereafter it is scheduled to rejoin the Rockwell museum’s traveling exhibition, “American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell.” 

For additional stories at this website on magazine history, magazine cover art, and magazine advertising, see “Magazine History,” a topics page with links to 18 stories. For civil rights history, see “Civil Rights Topics,” a directory page listing 14 stories in that category. Thanks for visiting – and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle


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Date Posted:  September 23, 2011
Last Update:  January 19, 2016
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Rockwell & Race, 1963-1968,”
PopHistoryDig.com, September 22, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
1940s: Norman Rockwell at work on a magazine cover.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
"Thataway" - March 1934 Saturday Evening Post cover; example of early "rule" on African American depiction.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 29, 1960: White parent, Rev. Lloyd Foreman (left) walks his five-year-old daughter Pam to the newly integrated William Frantz School where they were blocked by jeering crowd. At right is AP reporter Dave Zinman. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Nov 30, 1960: White parent Mrs. James Gabrielle, with police escort, is harassed by protestors as she walks her young daughter home after day in the newly integrated William Frantz school in New Orleans. Crowd wanted total white boycott. AP photo.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties,” SEP cover art of Sept 25, 1954, depicts father and son sitting on automobile running board as son departs for college, sold for 15.4 million dollars at Sotheby's auction in 2006.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace,” SEP cover art of Nov 24, 1951 and a fan favorite, depicts an older women and young boy giving thanks for their meal at a shared table amid busy scene in a working class restaurant.
Norman Rockwell’s "Truth About Santa" or "Discovery,” captures the complete surprise of a crestfallen young boy who has discovered Dad’s Santa suit. SEP cover, December 29, 1956.
Norman Rockwell’s "Truth About Santa" or "Discovery,” captures the complete surprise of a crestfallen young boy who has discovered Dad’s Santa suit. SEP cover, December 29, 1956.

DeNeen Brown, “Iconic Moment Finds a Space at White House,” Washington Post, Monday, August 29, 2011, p. C-1.

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Angelo Lopez, “Norman Rockwell and the Civil Rights Paintings,” EveryDay Citizen.com, February 11, 2008.

Kirstie L. Kleopfer, “Norman Rockwell’s Civil Rights Paintings of the 1960s,” Master of Arts Thesis, University of Cincinnati, Department of Art History of the School of Art, College of Design, Architecture, Art & Planning, Cincinnati, Oho, May 16, 2007.

“Killers’ Confession: The Confession in Look,PBS.org (Reprint of January 1956 Look article, “The Shocking Story of Approved Killing in Mississippi,”by William Bradford Huie).

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“Four Freedoms (Norman Rockwell),” Wikipedia.org.

“Building Bridges,” Teachers College, Columbia University, June 1, 2004.

Ken Laird Studios, “The Problem We All Live With” – The Truth About Rockwell’s Painting,” HubPages.com, 2009.

Leoneda Inge, “Norman Rockwell And Civil Rights,” North Carolina Public Radio, WUNC, Friday, December 17, 2010.

Andy Brack, “Rockwell Painting Nudged Nation,” LikeTheDew.com, January 18, 2010

Robert Coles, “In the South These Children Prophesy,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1963.

Robert Coles, The Story of Ruby Bridges. New York: Scholastic Press, 1995 [ Tells the story of Ruby Bridges’ first year of school through words & illustrations; for children, ages 4-8 ].

Ruby Bridges, Through My Eyes, New York: Scholastic Press, 1999.

“Ruby Bridges,” Wikipedia.org.

“‘Brown v. Board at Fifty’- When School Integration Became the Law of the Land,” Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

Claude Sitton, “3 In Rights Drive Reported Missing; Mississippi Campaign Heads Fear Foul Play–Inquiry by F.B.I. Is Ordered…,” New York Times, June 24, 1964, p. 1.

Joseph Lelyveld, “A Stranger In Philadelphia, Mississippi,” New York Times Magazine, December 27, 1964, p. 139.

William Bradford Huie, Three Lives for Mississippi, Jackson, MS: University of Mississippi Press, 2000 (first published in 1965).

Shaila Dewan, “Former Klansman Guilty of Manslaughter in 1964 Deaths,” New York Times, June 22, 2005.

“Look Magazine on ‘Suburbia’,” America on the Move, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Inst., Washington, D.C.

Louie Lamone (American, 1918–2007). Photographs for New Kids in the Neighborhood, Exhibitions: “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera,” Brooklyn Museum.

Laura Claridge, Norman Rockwell: A Life, New York: Random House, 2001.

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“Norman Rockwell, Cover Gallery, 1940s,” CurtisPublishing.com.

“Norman Rockwell Biography,1953 Through 1978,” Best-Norman-Rockwell-Art.com.

Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell, Artist and Illustrator, New York: Abrams, 1970. (includes reproductions of 600 Rockwell’s illustrations).

Norman Rockwell, My Adventures as an Illustrator: An Autobiography, Indianapolis: Curtis Publishing, 1979.

Anistatia R. Miller, “Norman Rockwell,” Illustration, 1994 Hall of Fame, Art Directors Club, 1994.

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G. Jurek Polanski, Review, “Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People” (at Chicago Historical Society, Feb 26 – May 21, 2000), ArtScope.net.

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Linda Szekely Pero, “Norman Rockwell, Year by Year – 1968,” Portfolio, Magazine of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Autum, 2004, pp. 8-14.

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Jack Doyle, “Rosie The Riveter, 1941-1945” (WWII & women’s rights icon), PopHistory Dig.com, February 28, 2009.

Ted Kreiter, “Norman Rockwell: Getting the Real Picture,” SaturdayEvening Post.com, 2009.

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“The Art of Rockwell” (Gallery), New York Times.com, February 2009.

CBS News, “Lucas and Spielberg on Norman Rockwell,” CBS.com, July 10, 2010.

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The Saturday Evening Post: Norman Rockwell Covers,” My-Mags.com.

Life Covers: Civil Rights,” Photo Gallery, Life.com.

See Also, These Stories:

Jack Doyle, “Dylan: Only A Pawn…, 1963” (Bob Dylan’s Medgar Evans song & other civil rights music, w/video link), PopHistory Dig.com, November 23, 2010.

Jack Doyle, “Strange Fruit, 1939” (Billie Holiday song history & bio), PopHistory Dig.com, March 7, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “Motown’s Heat Wave, 1963-1966″(Motown music history), PopHistory Dig.com, November 7, 2009.

Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005” (Brooklyn baseball statue of Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese), PopHistory Dig.com, June 29, 2011.

Jack Doyle, “When Harry Met Petula, April 1968″(television, music & civil rights history), PopHistoryDig.com, February 7, 2009.

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“The Jack Pack”
1958-1960

Rat Pack members without Joey Bishop, from left: Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin. Photo, Life magazine, 1960.
Rat Pack members without Joey Bishop, from left: Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Dean Martin. Photo, Life magazine, 1960.
     “The Jack Pack” was the name briefly attributed to a famous group of 1960s entertainers who supported U.S. Senator John F. “Jack” Kennedy (JFK) in his 1960 run for president.  “The Jack Pack” moniker was actually a variant of “The Rat Pack,” a nickname for a coterie of Hollywood stars and Las Vegas entertainers that included: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  In 1960, this group was temporarily dubbed “the Jack Pack” by Sinatra when they worked in various ways to support Kennedy’s election bid.  Kennedy had socialized with Sinatra and the group on occasion and liked the camaraderie, which later turned to political and financial support on his behalf.

     What follows here is Part 1 of a two-part story featuring “Jack Pack” history, primarily with Frank Sinatra at the center.  Part 1 covers Sinatra’s politics, the Rat Pack scene in Las Vegas,  and some of the group’s friends during Kennedy’s presidential run – mostly from 1958 through Kennedy’s election in November 1960.  Part 2 of the story picks up at JFK’s presidential  inauguration in January 1961, covering  selected Sinatra, Rat Pack, and Kennedy Administration history through JFK’s assassination in November 1963 — plus a few related outcomes beyond those years.  First, some background on the Rat Pack.

     In the late 1940s, film star Humphrey Bogart had a loyal group of friends and drinking buddies in an area of Los Angeles known as Holmby Hills.  Then Hollywood rookie, Frank Sinatra, who had moved his family into that area in 1949, became a nearby neighbor to Bogart, and then a member of his group.  Legend has it that Bogart’s wife and film star Lauren Bacall, saw the drunken crew of friends all together one night at a casino and remarked that they looked like a “rat pack.”

Life magazine “rat pack” photo, from left: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
Life magazine “rat pack” photo, from left: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, and Dean Martin.
     Sometime after Bogart passed on in 1957, Sinatra established his own inner group of cavorting buddies, all from Hollywood and the world of enter- tainment.  Sinatra’s “Rat Pack” – not initially called that at first – came about gradually from their work in Las Vegas and their Hollywood contacts.  The late-1950s-early-1960s “Rat Pack” era appears to have begun in Las Vegas in January 1959 when Sinatra and Dean Martin – then performing separately at The Sands lounge and casino – began appearing in each other’s acts.  Sinatra knew Joey Bishop from the early 1950s on the east coast, when Bishop performed at the Latin Quarter in Manhattan.  He later asked Bishop to open for him at Bill Miller’s Riviera club in Fort Lee, New Jersey, and soon thereafter Bishop was regularly opening for Sinatra, becoming known as “Sinatra’s comic.”  Bishop also began appearing in first-rate clubs even when Sinatra was not on the bill. 

Dean Martin, Sammy Davis & Frank Sinatra having a good time.
Dean Martin, Sammy Davis & Frank Sinatra having a good time.
     Sinatra was singing with Tommy Dosey’s band in 1941 when he first met Sammy Davis, Jr., then an aspiring dancer with the Will Mastin Trio.  They reconnected some time later after Sammy was discharged from the U.S. Army, and Sinatra would later help Davis in his career.  Peter Lawford and Sinatra had worked in a few films together in the 1940s, but Sinatra came to know him much better as Jack Kennedy’s brother-in-law.  More on that relationship a bit later.

     By the early 1960s in any case, the Rat Pack became known for its multiple-person stage acts – with all five of the principals on stage together, plus others occasionally.  The Sands, in fact, would sometimes advertise the horseplay on its outdoor marquee with billings such as: “Dean Martin – Maybe Frank – Maybe Sammy.” 

Others from Hollywood and the entertainment world would also occasionally appear and/or hang out with the Rat Pack group.  Shirley MacLaine, for example who starred with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1959’s Some Came Running, would also become a Rat Pack “associate” from time to time.

Dean Martin on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas, where Rat Pack performances drew large crowds of celebrities & VIPs from Hollywood and elsewhere.
Dean Martin on stage at the Sands in Las Vegas, where Rat Pack performances drew large crowds of celebrities & VIPs from Hollywood and elsewhere.
     The core group of the Rat Pack, however – consisting of Sinatra and his co-performing buddies – basically set up shop in Las Vegas during the late 1950s and early 1960s.  Las Vegas at the time was still growing, and the Rat Pack helped bring in the notice, the visitors, and the money.  The Rat Pack’s nightclub act evolved into an entertaining and popular song, dance and comedy act with a lot of cutting up on stage, a rolling bar of alcoholic beverages, along with a measure of social commentary thrown in from time to time. 

     The Rat Pack “schtick” was part Vaudeville, part Hollywood, and part “bad boys.”  It became a unique stage genre and vintage Las Vegas.  But it only lasted a few years before it burned out and was eclipsed by a fast-changing cultural scene.  In its day, however, the Rat Pack did the trick and fit the national mood.  Musically and culturally, it occupied the transition period between the first surge of rock `n roll in the 1950s by the likes of Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Buddy Holly – music which Sinatra initially derided – and the arrival of the Beatles in 1964.

Rat Pack stage act with rolling beverage cart, early 1960s.
Rat Pack stage act with rolling beverage cart, early 1960s.
     In addition to their stage act, the Rat Pack compadres also made films together – some shot in Las Vegas.  Ocean’s Eleven of 1960 was among the more famous of the Rat Pack films, but there were also nearly a dozen others.  Through the early-1960s period, Sinatra and his Rat Pack group reigned supreme in contemporary culture; they became the “cool guys” of their generation, bringing a good share of business to both the Las Vegas nightclub scene and Hollywood’s box office.  Their network of contacts, friends, and business partners ranged across Hollywood, Vegas, and beyond, including some underworld figures like Sam Giancana of Chicago and also various Hollywood stars such as Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, Angie Dickinson, and others.

Rat Pack film, "Sergeants 3," 1962.
Rat Pack film, "Sergeants 3," 1962.
     The “Rat Pack network” of that era could also be a potent fundraising and vote-getting machine, a fact not lost on Kennedy family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, an old hand when it came to Hollywood stars and the film business.  The Rat Pack in 1960 became intertwined with the Kennedy family – especially by way of Peter Lawford’s marriage to Jack Kennedy’s sister, Patricia.

     However, for some Rat Packers like Dean Martin, politics was a bit of a side show, not to be taken too seriously.  Martin, in fact, had met and caroused with a young Congressman Jack Kennedy in Chicago one night 1948 when he and Jerry Lewis were working as a comedy team at the Chez Paree club – a meeting that left “Dino” unimpressed. 

     But in 1960, Jack Kennedy and politics became very central to Rat Pack leader, Frank Sinatra.


Sinatra’s Politics

Frank Sinatra with then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy outside of The Sands hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Feb 1960, when Kennedy stayed there during a campaign swing.
Frank Sinatra with then-U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy outside of The Sands hotel in Las Vegas, NV, Feb 1960, when Kennedy stayed there during a campaign swing.
     Frank Sinatra, from his days as a young boy growing up in New Jersey, had been involved in politics by proximity if nothing else.  His mother had worked as a Democratic Party committee woman in New Jersey, and as a boy he marched in political parades.  But once he became famous as a young singer in the 1940s and caught the national limelight, politicians soon noticed and sought him out.  In 1944 he received an invitation to the White House from Franklin Roosevelt, then in his third term.  At the time, Roosevelt was under fire from conservatives in the press, especially the Hearst newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst.  Sinatra, too, had also received some unflattering ink from the Hearst papers.  At his meeting with FDR, the two shared stories with Sinatra giving the president some insight on the music business.  But Sinatra was awe struck by the White House attention and couldn’t believe how far he’d come.  Roosevelt, he told the press, was “the greatest guy alive today, and here’s this little guy from Hoboken shaking his hand.”

Sheet music cover for song “The House I Live In,” from the RKO short film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra, 1940s. Chappell & Company (1942).
Sheet music cover for song “The House I Live In,” from the RKO short film of the same name starring Frank Sinatra, 1940s. Chappell & Company (1942).
     Sinatra supported FDR and contributed to the Democratic Party.  He also appeared at the party’s rally at Madison Square Garden that campaign season.  He would also become a close friend to Eleanor Roosevelt and years later would invite her to appear on his television show.  Sinatra was also active in certain causes, particularly fighting racism and segregation. 

In 1945, he appeared in, produced, and won an Oscar for the 1945 short film and song, The House I Live In – a plea for ethnic and religious tolerance.  In the film role, Sinatra intercedes to protect a Jewish kid being attacked by a gang of bullies.  Sinatra appeals to them through the lyrics of the film’s song: “The faces that I see / All races and religions / That’s America to me.”  This short film was scripted by Albert Maltz, a person who would later come into Sinatra’s life when he became involved with Jack Kennedy. 

Sinatra would sing “The House I Live In” on various occasions during his career, and sometimes at political gatherings, as he did at a 1956 Democratic party rally in Hollywood.  Sinatra would also put his career at risk at times when he refused to play clubs and hotels that discriminated against blacks.  Actress Angie Dickinson, who sometimes cavorted with the Rat Pack, would later call Sinatra, “a very powerful, subtle force in civil rights…[and] not only in Las Vegas.”

Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Los Angeles political rally for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1955.
Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner at Los Angeles political rally for presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson, 1955.
     After World War II, Sinatra became publicly associated with left-wing groups and supported organizations that were later identified by Congress as Communist front groups during inquiries by the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC).  Though Sinatra was named in some committee documents, he was never brought before HUAC. 

The Hearst newspapers, however, gave him a rough time over his left-wing involvements. And Sinatra’s career, like others in Hollywood at the time, suffered. 

According to one account, Columbia records asked Sinatra to return advance money and MGM released him from a film contract.  He was also dropped from his radio show.  But Sinatra remained politically involved.

Frank Sinatra with former President Harry Truman (center) and toastmaster George Jessel in November 1957 at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and fundraiser, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles.
Frank Sinatra with former President Harry Truman (center) and toastmaster George Jessel in November 1957 at Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner and fundraiser, Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles.

     In 1947, he urged former FDR vice president Henry Wallace to run for President, which Wallace did as a Progressive Party candidate.  But in 1948, Sinatra also campaigned for the re-election of FDR successor, Harry S. Truman.  In 1952 and 1956, he supported the unsuccessful presidential bids of Democratic nominee Adlai Stevenson.  He campaigned for Stevenson in 1956, also the year he came into contact with the Kennedy family for the first time.  At the 1956 Democratic convention he sang the National Anthem, but remained at the convention to observe some of the politicking that occurred after Adlai Stevenson had thrown open the vice presidential nomination to the full convention.  A young new Senator, John F. Kennedy, was making a run for that spot.  Kennedy lost to Senator Estes Kefauver, but Sinatra had watched the Kennedy machine in operation on the convention floor.  From that point on Sinatra took an interest in the rising young senator he believed was heading places.  But it was British actor Peter Lawford, a subsequent “rat pack” member, who would help Sinatra become much closer to Kennedy and the Kennedy family.


Lawford-Kennedy

Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford, 1960s.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford, 1960s.
     Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford had known each other from working in Hollywood, dating to the 1947 musical comedy film, It Happened in Brooklyn, in which they both appeared.  But their paths crossed again in the early 1950s under somewhat less cordial circumstances.  Sinatra had been angered by a 1953 gossip column account of Lawford’s meeting with Ava Gardner, who Frank had recently broken up with.  Some bad blood reportedly flowed between the two over the incident.  Sinatra later discovered he’d overreacted to the Ava Gardner story, and he and Lawford more or less went their separate ways.  Lawford, meanwhile, married Patricia Kennedy in 1954, the sister of then U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy.

     In August 1958, at a dinner party at Gary Cooper’s home, Sinatra came to know Peter and Pat Kennedy Lawford somewhat better.  By New Year’s Eve 1958, the Lawfords were celebrating at a private party with Sinatra at Romanoff’s in Beverly Hills, a popular spot with Hollywood stars.The Lawfords soon had a regular bedroom at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs place, where they made frequent visits.  They were all together that night, seated at Sinatra’s table with Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner.  In July 1959, the same group would return to Romanoff’s along with Dean Martin and others at a Sinatra-sponsored 21st birthday party for Natalie Wood.  The friendship between Sinatra and Lawfords grew to the point where the Lawfords frequently visited Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate, making the 120-mile drive there from Los Angeles on many weekends.  In fact, the Lawfords had a regular bedroom at Sinatra’s place where they kept clothing for return visits.  Sinatra and the Lawfords also traveled to Europe together on vacation.  Pat Lawford was so charmed by Sinatra she middle-named her daughter “Frances.”  Sinatra also helped Peter Lawford land film work in Hollywood, including a role in the 1959 film Never So Few.  The two men also became partners in a Beverly Hills restaurant named Puccini’s and Lawford soon became a full-time member of Sinatra’s Rat Pack in Las Vegas.


Frank & Jack

Kennedy’s dramatic bid for the VP slot at the 1956 at the Democratic Convention – and his charisma –  had been seen by millions of TV viewers.
Kennedy’s dramatic bid for the VP slot at the 1956 at the Democratic Convention – and his charisma – had been seen by millions of TV viewers.
     Some sources date Frank Sinatra’s first meeting with Jack Kennedy to 1955 when Kennedy attended a Democratic Party rally where Sinatra had also appeared.  And in 1956, as mentioned earlier, Sinatra was quite taken with what he saw in the young Kennedy seeking the VP slot at the Democratic convention that year.  But through the Lawfords, Sinatra came to know Jack Kennedy more on a personal level.  The Lawfords owned a large beach front house in Malibu – the former mansion of Hollywood mogul Louis B. Mayer – a place, it would turn out, where “rat packers,’ Kennedy campaigners, and other political and Hollywood “glitterati” would gather occasionally for parties and other events.

     Jack Kennedy and Sinatra appear to have spent time together in the summer of 1958, whether at the Lawfords or elsewhere.  Some sources have Sinatra endorsing Kennedy for president as early as October 1958, though Kennedy was more than a year away from formally announcing his candidacy at that point.Sinatra visited Kennedy at his Mayflower Hotel “hide away” suite in D.C., and Kennedy, when traveling in the U.S. West, would sometimes visit Sinatra.  Sinatra was also quoted in the press about that time calling the young Senator “a friend of mine.”  Meanwhile, on trips east, Sinatra would sometimes visit Kennedy in Washington, D.C. at a “hide-away” suite that Kennedy kept at the Mayflower Hotel where he would have dinner parties for celebrities and private guests.  Likewise, Kennedy, when traveling west on political business, would sometimes visit Sinatra.  In early November 1959, after a Democratic fundraiser in Los Angeles, JFK and his aide Dave Powers were Sinatra’s guests at his Palm Springs estate for a couple of nights.  On that visit, before coming to Palm Springs, Sinatra and JFK had earlier attended a Democratic Party fundraiser in Los Angeles and had dined at Pucinni’s restaurant in Beverly Hills – the restaurant owned by Sinatra and Peter Lawford.  Kennedy and Powers stayed at Sinatra’s Palm Springs house for two nights on that visit.  Reportedly, after Kennedy’s stay there, Sinatra began calling the room JFK had used “the Kennedy room” and later had a nameplate put on the door noting “John F. Kennedy Slept Here.”  JFK’s father — clan patriarch and former Ambassador, Joseph P. Kennedy — also stayed at Sinatra’s place on at least one occasion during 1959-1960.  But JFK  at this point, in late 1959, was a recently re-elected U.S. Senator, not yet a formal presidential candidate.

 

JFK announcing his presidential bid, U.S. Senate Caucus room, January 2, 1960.
JFK announcing his presidential bid, U.S. Senate Caucus room, January 2, 1960.
Campaign Begins

     On Saturday, January 2, 1960 at the Senate Caucus room in Washington, D.C., Kennedy officially announced his candidacy for the Democratic presidential nomination.  Kennedy had already been campaigning, of course, meeting with party officials and traveling the country.  But after his formal announcement, and a January 14th speech at the National Press Club in Washington, Kennedy’s campaign would begin to target primary election states and other locations where he needed to improve his standing.  One early campaign stop Kennedy made was in New Hampshire, where the first primary election would be held in March.

     On Monday, January 25, 1960, Kennedy and wife Jackie, visited Nashua, New Hampshire, one of the state’s larger towns.  On that wintry afternoon, Kennedy walked down Main Street by himself and went into several local stores, shaking hands as he went.  One of the shop owners gave Kennedy a pair of golashes to wear, as it was pretty slushy in the streets that day.  It was a different era in primary politics then, as Kennedy had no entourage of body guards and handlers.  Local folks were meeting him face to face.  At one point, as he rounded the corner of Main and West Pearl streets in Nashua, continuing to shake hands, he made he way to one of the town’s downtown landmarks, Miller’s Department Store.  At about that point he was joined by his wife, Jackie, and put his arm around her and they continued down the street, arm-in-arm.

Kennedy headlines from Nashua, New Hampshire, January 1960.
Kennedy headlines from Nashua, New Hampshire, January 1960.
     There was a rally that day at the Nashua City Hall Plaza, with participants in winter coats holding Kennedy placards as the candidate told the crowd he was running for president.  Kennedy would also meet and be photographed with City Hall employees that day, and give a talk at the local Roatary Club as well.  The next day in The Nashua Telegraph newspaper, the Kennedy visit was front-page news, as would be the case in other towns and cities as Kennedy campaigned that year for his party’s nomination.  “Crowds Out To See Kennedy,” said the headline.  And from that point on, it was regular campaigning, sometime with his wife Jackie along, and/or other members of the Kennedy clan.


The Sands marquee at night during 1960 highlighting the Rat Pack group.
The Sands marquee at night during 1960 highlighting the Rat Pack group.

 

Las Vegas

     Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack, meanwhile, began filming the original Ocean’s Eleven movie, a film about a plot to rob several Las Vegas casinos.  While filming, Rat Pack members would also perform in the Copa Room at The Sands, doing two or more stage shows each night and sometimes partying with friends thereafter into the wee hours.  One famous run of their show – from January 26 through February 16, 1960 – was billed the “Summit at the Sands,” a title that played on an international summit meeting in Paris at the time between President Dwight Eisenhower, Russia’s Nikita Khrushchev, and French President Charles De Gaulle.  The Rat Pack “summit” was an “anything goes” stage act of song, dance, and cutting up that became quite popular.

     The Sands act with Sinatra and his Rat Pack drew high-rolling and well-known Hollywood royalty – actors, actresses, and producers such as: Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Kim Novak, Jack Benny, Cole Porter, Red Skelton, Lauren Bacall, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Gregory Peck, Cyd Charisse, Peter Lorre, and others.  Sinatra, who had been singing at The Sands since 1953, already had a Hollywood following.  “He drew all the big money people,” Las Vegas lounge singer Sonny King would later say of Sinatra.  “Every celebrity in Hollywood would come to Las Vegas to see him, one night or another.”  Sinatra and the Rat Pack, in fact, are given credit in some quarters for putting Las Vegas on the “big time” entertainment map, and helping spawn the frenetic economic growth and building boom that occurred there through the 1960s and beyond.  At one point in February 1960 – at the height of the Rat Pack’s “Summit” shows – the Sands had received eighteen thousand reservation requests for its two hundred rooms.


Kennedy Visit

JFK meeting Rat Pack members & others outside the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Feb 1960. From left, clockwise: film director Lewis Milestone (back turned) Dean Martin left of Milestone, shaking hands with JFK, Buddy Lester, Joey Bishop center, Sammy Davis, Jr., partially hidden by Kennedy's arm, Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra.
JFK meeting Rat Pack members & others outside the Sands Hotel, Las Vegas, Feb 1960. From left, clockwise: film director Lewis Milestone (back turned) Dean Martin left of Milestone, shaking hands with JFK, Buddy Lester, Joey Bishop center, Sammy Davis, Jr., partially hidden by Kennedy's arm, Kennedy, and Frank Sinatra.
     In early 1960, one of Jack Kennedy’s part-campaign/ part-recreation visits was to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he would hook up with his friend, Frank Sinatra.  On Sunday, February 7, 1960, the candidate and his entourage – including a young Ted Kennedy, then Western states coordinator for the campaign – were stumping through the American West for political support and fundraising before the big eastern primaries were to begin.  They set up shop in the Sands Hotel, holding press conferences there and fundraisers, but also taking in the stage shows of Frank Sinatra and friends during their stay.  Whenever Jack Kennedy came to a show, he was usually seated up front near the stage.  And Sinatra, at some point during the act, would single him out for recognition.  “Ladies and gentlemen,” he would say with microphone in hand, gesturing toward Kennedy, “Senator John F. Kennedy from the great state of Massachusetts, the next President of the United States.”  Sinatra would often add laudatory lines, calling him “one of the brightest persons here or anywhere…”  Kennedy would rise briefly to a standing ovation from the audience.

Judith Campbell, in earlier photo, who was in her late 20s when she first met John F. Kennedy.
Judith Campbell, in earlier photo, who was in her late 20s when she first met John F. Kennedy.
     There were also a few private gatherings at the Sands between the Kennedy campaign group, Sinatra’s Rat Pack group, and various Sinatra friends during JFK’s February visit.  On the evening of February 7, 1960, they gathered for dinner at Frank Sinatra’s table in the Garden Room.  Among Sinatra’s guests that evening was a woman in her late 20s named Judith Campbell, who was introduced to Senator Kennedy and his entourage.  Campbell was formerly married to actor William Campbell, and for a time had been seeing Frank Sinatra.  Campbell joined the group and sat next to Ted Kennedy.  Jack Kennedy sat directly across from her.  Campbell would later recall Teddy as a rosy-cheeked young man, “who was very good looking” and a great teaser, with “eyes that never stopped flirting.”  But Campbell, according to her own later account of that evening, was more taken with the charm, sophistication, and “plain likability” of Jack Kennedy.  The following day, Jack Kennedy invited Judith Campbell for lunch on the patio of Frank Sinatra’s suite at the Sands.  Kennedy would later rendevous with Judith Campbell in New York in early March prior to the New Hampshire primary.

Years later, there would be all manner of reports and allegations about Kennedy meetings with Campbell and other women, some of whom were introduced to Kennedy by Frank Sinatra and/or Peter Lawford, including Marilyn Monroe.

     Years later, there would be all manner of reports and allegations about Kennedy meetings with Campbell and other women, some of whom were introduced to Kennedy by Frank Sinatra and/or Peter Lawford, including Marilyn Monroe.  FBI files would also include reports of showgirls visiting and/or partying with Kennedy and his entourage at the Sands in February 1960.  Still other reports and books mention possible Kennedy-female liaisons at the Cal-Neva resort at Lake Tahoe, Nevada, a resort part owned by Sinatra and frequented by Rat Pack members and friends.  Some reports also note an effort by the Kennedy campaign in 1960 to “clean things up” after the Sands visit (and possibly others) to collect all available photographs, etc., lest they become public.  On the topic of JFK partying and female companions there is an extensive, but not always credible collection of books, magazine stories, and other sources found on-line and elsewhere.

JFK shaking hands with Jack Entratter, manager & entertainment chief at the Sands, February 1960.
JFK shaking hands with Jack Entratter, manager & entertainment chief at the Sands, February 1960.
     But on Kennedy’s February 1960 swing West, and during his stay at The Sands, he did quite well by most accounts.  Beyond the introduction to Campbell, Kennedy left the Sands, according to one account, with “satchels full of cash,” referring to fundraising gains made in part through Sinatra’s friends and connections, including the owners of the The Sands hotel and casino.  Frank Sinatra by this time was well on board to help JFK win his party’s nomination and the national election beyond.  He would work hard for Kennedy throughout 1960.  And while Hollywood and politics had certainly mingled before, this was something of a new mixture between nationally-popular entertainment titans and a rising political star.  Sinatra, in particular, pulled out all the stops for his new political friend, and apart from any personal advantage he stood to gain from the association, Sinatra appears to have sincerely believed that Jack Kennedy would be good for the country.


Record label for Kennedy campaign song, “High Hopes,” by Frank Sinatra, recorded, Feb 1960.
Record label for Kennedy campaign song, “High Hopes,” by Frank Sinatra, recorded, Feb 1960.
“High Hopes”

     Among other things, Sinatra lent his voice to the Kennedy campaign.  He refashioned one of his earlier songs for Kennedy campaign use – “High Hopes” – a song first popularized by Sinatra in the 1959 film, A Hole in the Head, a comedy directed by Frank Capra in which Sinatra, Edward G. Robinson, Eleanor Parker, Keenan Wynn, and others appeared.  The original song was written by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Sammy Cahn, who also helped to rework the new version for the Kennedy campaign.  The original “High Hopes” had been a hit song, featured with a children’s choir and lyrics that described animals doing seemingly impossible acts.  The song appeared on pop music charts of its day, was nominated for a Grammy, and also won an Oscar for Best Original Song at the 32nd Academy Awards — all of which made it a highly recognizable tune.

“High Hopes”
JFK Version, 1:49

Everyone is voting for Jack.
‘Cause he’s got what all the rest lack.
Everyone wants to back, Jack.
Jack is on the right track.

‘Cause he’s got High Hopes!
He’s got High Hopes!
1960’s the year for his High Hopes!

Come on and vote for Kennedy.
Vote for Kennedy,
and we’ll come out on top!
Oops! There goes the opposition, ker…
Oops! There goes the opposition, ker…
Kerplock!

K-E-double N-E-D-Y
Jack’s the nation’s favorite guy.
Everyone wants to back, Jack.
Jack is on the right track.

‘Cause he’s got High Hopes!
He’s got High Hopes!
1960’s the year for his High Hopes!

Come on and vote for Kennedy
Vote for Kennedy,
Keep America Strong
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Kennedy, he just keeps rolling along
Vote for Kennedy !
_______________________
Listen to full song at JFK Library.

Sinatra recorded a special promotional 45rpm version of “High Hopes” in February 1960 for use on the campaign trail, throughout key primary states, and into the general election.  This tune, with special “elect-Jack-Kennedy” lyrics, and backed by a chorus version of “all the way,” pretty much became the JFK campaign theme song. Frank Sinatra, however, wasn’t always available to make personal appearances on behalf of Kennedy — though he did his share. Still, his presence permeated the campaign nationwide by virtue of this campaign song. And on some occasions, “High Hopes” received a little bit of extra help.


Juke Box Fix

       Leading up to the West Virginia Democratic primary election in May, juke boxes in that state, which were controlled through an organized crime network,  were updated with copies of the “High Hopes” recording. 

     Kennedy aides also went through the state paying tavern and restaurant owners a small stipend to assure that the new jukebox version of “High Hopes” was played frequently.  Beyond West Virginia, the special recording was widely circulated and used during Kennedy’s election run, played at campaign rallies, on jukeboxes, and also heard in some TV ads.  The Sinatra song for JFK was heard all across the country.

     During the primary election season, however, Kennedy handlers became nervous about Sinatra and the Rat Pack becoming too overtly connected to the campaign, as Democratic rivals, including Hubert Humphrey and Lyndon Johnson, would try to cast those associations in a negative light. 

So, Sinatra and other Rat Packers did limited public campaigning for Kennedy during the primaries.  And not long after the New Hampshire primary– in which Kennedy had won the state’s Democratic Party nomination on March 8, 1960 – there came some controversy with Frank Sinatra.


The Maltz Affair


1950, photo from film clip, Albert Maltz.
     In February 1960, Sinatra planned to hire Albert Maltz to write the screenplay for a film he was making about an army deserter during WWII using the title, the Execution of Private Slovick.  But Maltz was one of the famous “Hollywood Ten” – alleged communist party members who appeared before the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in November 1947.  Maltz was one of those jailed in 1951 for contempt of Congress, refusing to tell the committee whether he had ever been a member of communist organizations.  When word of Sinatra’s plan to use Maltz was reported by the New York Times on March 12, 1960, the reaction, especially in some conservative corners, began to reach into Sinatra’s involvement with the Kennedy campaign.  Sinatra fought back, claiming his critics were hitting “below the belt.”  At one point he even took out an ad in the Hollywood trade papers saying he was his own man and could hire who ever he wanted.  General Motors, however, then a giant economic power, had been lined up to sponsor some of Frank’s TV specials, and threatened to withdraw over the Maltz connection.

Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley on Sinatra’s May 1960 “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special.
Frank Sinatra & Elvis Presley on Sinatra’s May 1960 “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special.
     One of Sinatra’s planned TV specials at the time was to “welcome home” Elvis Presley, the young rock ’n roll star whose earlier U.S. Army enlistment was then ending.  But Presley’s manger, Colonel Parker, also called Sinatra, saying Presley might have to pull out.  Then the Catholic Church, including a Boston cardinal, began suggesting that if JFK were perceived as soft on communism, this might cost him some Catholic votes.  With that, patriarch Joe Kennedy weighed in, telling Sinatra he felt the controversy would hurt Jack’s presidential bid.  In early April 1960s, Sinatra finally agreed let Maltz go, but he paid him in full.  Sinatra also had a bit of dust up with fellow Hollywood star and then Richard Nixon supporter John Wayne over the Maltz affair.  Wayne and Sinatra had attended a benefit dinner at the Moulin Rouge club in Los Angeles later that spring, and they nearly came to blows over Maltz, according to one account.  The incident arose over earlier negative comments Wayne had made about Kennedy and Sinatra’a hiring of Maltz.  Wayne reportedly told a reporter, “I wonder how Sinatra’s crony, Senator John F. Kennedy, feels about Sinatra hiring such a man.”  In any case, neither Kennedy nor Sinatra appeared mortally wounded by the Maltz affair.  Sinatra, for his part, was then having a good run on broadcast television.  His “Welcome Home Elvis” TV special – the final show in a series of four successful Sinatra TV specials – was broadcast in May 1960, and according to reports at the time it earned “massive viewing figures.”  That special, and others that preceded it, also typically included other Rat Pack members, Sammy Davis Jr., Joey Bishop, Peter Lawford, and at the Elvis show, Sinatra’s daughter, Nancy.


Wisconsin

Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy shown on Life magazine cover, March 28, 1960.
Hubert Humphrey and John F. Kennedy shown on Life magazine cover, March 28, 1960.
     Kennedy, meanwhile, in March and April of 1960, was facing a formidable challenger in the Wisconsin Democratic Presidential primary, fellow U.S. Senator Hubert Humphrey, a popular liberal from Minnesota.  The two senators had squared off in Wisconsin.  Both men had campaigned extensively in the state.  Kennedy used his family members and wife, Jackie, to help cover the state.  Kennedy sisters Eunice, Jean and Pat were there, as were brothers Bobby and Ted.  The March 28, 1960 edition of Life magazine did a feature piece on the two candidates spread over several pages with photos of their respective campaigns in the state.  There was also a small photo of Frank Sinatra included in Life’s story with the caption “voice Sinatra,” referring to his Kennedy “High Hopes” recording, but also mentioning that he did not appear in the state for Kennedy in person.  On April 5, 1960, the day of the primary election, Kennedy emerged the victor, beating Humphrey by a count of 478,118 to 372,034.  It was an important primary win for Kennedy.  However, Kennedy’s margin of victory in Wisconsin had came mostly from heavily Catholic areas, and that left party bosses unconvinced of his appeal to non-Catholic voters.  So the next primary state of West Virginia – a heavily Protestant state where Kennedy would also face Humphrey, but where anti-Catholic bigotry was said to be widespread – would be crucial.


Poster announcing April 26, 1960 campaign event with Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, during West Virginia primary.
Poster announcing April 26, 1960 campaign event with Senator John F. Kennedy and his wife, Jackie, during West Virginia primary.


West Virginia

     West Virginia turned out to be a critical state that Kennedy needed to win for the Democratic Presidential nomination.  Without a primary win there, he faced the prospect of a brokered convention decided by Democratic Party bosses where competing candidates such as Lyndon B. Johnson, Adlai Stevenson, and/or Hubert Humphrey might do quite well.  Initially, Kennedy thought he would not need to run in the West Virginia primary, as earlier polling in the state in 1958 had shown him to be well ahead of the likely Republican nominee, Richard Nixon.  It also appeared there would be no Democratic challenger to run in the primary.  But after Hubert Humphrey decided to run there, another Lou Harris Poll found Kennedy running well behind Humphrey.  Kennedy’s Catholic religion also became a factor in West Virginia.  But on May 8th, two days before the election, Kennedy’s campaign brought Franklin Roosevelt’s son into the state to help, and in a radio broadcast paid for by the campaign, FDR, Jr. asked JFK how his Catholicism would effect his presidency.  Kennedy replied that taking the oath of office required swearing on the Bible that the president would defend separation of church and state.  Any candidate that violated this oath, Kennedy said in the broadcast, not only violated the Constitution but “sinned against God.”Kennedy patriarch Joseph Kennedy reportedly asked Frank Sinatra to seek election help in West Virginia from Chicago mob leader Sam Giancana.  Kennedy also framed the religion issue one of tolerance versus intolerance, and this in particular, helped put Humphrey on the defensive, since Humphrey had long prided himself a champion of tolerance.  Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia primary.  In addition to Kennedy’s own deft maneuvering in that campaign, he reportedly also had other help.

     Kennedy patriarch Joseph P. Kennedy reportedly asked Frank Sinatra to seek election help in West Virginia from Chicago mob leader Sam Giancana.  Giancana allegedly helped spread cash around the state and also influenced certain unions to help get out the vote in the primary election.  In any case, Kennedy defeated Hubert Humphrey in the West Virginia primary with more than 60 percent of the vote, helping dispel doubts that he could win in Protestant territory and that Americans would support a Roman Catholic nominee.  It was Kennedy’s seventh victory in the primaries.  On the following day, Humphrey conceded and withdrew from the presidential race.  However, there were still other Democratic rivals who could challenge Kennedy at the convention.  Chief among these was U.S. Senator Lyndon B. Johnson of Texas.

U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson would announce his candidacy in July 1960.
U.S. Senator Lyndon Johnson would announce his candidacy in July 1960.
     Later that summer, in the week before the Democratic National Convention, former U.S. President Harry S. Truman said at a July 2nd, 1960 news conference in Independence, Missouri, that John F. Kennedy lacked the maturity to be President, and that he should decline the nomination.  Truman may have been trying to help some of the other Democratic candidates, such as Lyndon Johnson or Adlai Stevenson, who might fare better at a brokered convention.  Truman also had tangled with Joseph P. Kennedy in his political past, so there may have been some bad blood there as well.  But a few days after Truman made his remarks, Lyndon Johnson on July 5, 1960, announced that he would seek, and said he expected to win, the presidential nomination at the upcoming convention.  Johnson asserted Kennedy had less than 600 of the required 701 delegates needed for a nomination.  Johnson claimed he had at least 500.  Adlai Stevenson, the party’s nominee in 1952 and 1956, had also announced his candidacy about a week before the convention.  But Johnson was the bigger threat, and he challenged Kennedy to a TV debate which was apparently held during or leading up to the convention before a joint meeting of the Texas and Massachusetts delegations, and which most observers believed Kennedy won.  After that, Johnson was not able to expand his delegate support beyond the South.


Democratic Convention

John F. Kennedy arriving at the Democratic National Convention on July 9, 1960, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California.
John F. Kennedy arriving at the Democratic National Convention on July 9, 1960, at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, California.
     As the Democratic National Convention opened in Los Angeles, California at the Sports Arena in July 1960, Frank Sinatra and friends helped fill a “big donors” fundraising dinner on Sunday evening, July 10th at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.  Sinatra and Judy Garland performed that evening at the event.  More than 2,800 guests attended, with a number of Hollywood attendees recruited by Sinatra, among them: Milton Berle, Tony Curtis, George Jessel, Janet Leigh, Shirley MacLaine, Joe E. Louis, Mort Sahl, and others.  Then, as the convention got down to the business at hand, it was formally opened on Monday, July 11th, 1960.  On stage, and as part of the opening ceremony, was Frank Sinatra and some of his friends – Sammy Davis, Janet Leigh, and Tony Curtis, and Peter Lawford.  Also in attendance were Nat “King” Cole, Shirley MacLaine, Lee Marvin, Edward G. Robinson, Hope Lange, Lloyd Bridges and Vincent Price.  Some of these celebrities were introduced to the convention one by one.  However, when Sammy Davis, Jr. came forward, he was booed by the Mississippi and Alabama delegations.  Davis was devastated.  Choked up, he managed to sing through the National Anthem with Sinatra and others, but left the convention hall shortly thereafter.

Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt, undated. Photo, Brian Duffy.
Sammy Davis, Jr. and May Britt, undated. Photo, Brian Duffy.


Sammy Davis, Jr.

     Sammy Davis, as part of Sinatra’s team, had worked hard for Kennedy.  On the campaign trail, the Kennedy people would give Davis a list of rallies and cocktail parties in cities and towns where Davis would be playing. Davis would attend these gatherings, sometimes to sing a song or just mingle with the guests. He would later report that he enjoyed doing it and being involved in the excitement of the campaign. Yet politically, inside the Kennedy campaign, Davis was seen as a potential liability in some parts of the country, especially in the south.  And Kennedy needed southern Democratic support to win the election. The south at that time was still deeply mired in its segregated ways.  In fact, in 1960, most Southern states still had on their books anti-miscegenation laws, which prohibited marriage between whites and blacks. The Supreme Court would not strike down those laws until 1967.

Tony Curtis & Frank Sinatra share a happy moment with Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford at the Democratic  Convention, July 1960. Photo: Life/Ed Clark
Tony Curtis & Frank Sinatra share a happy moment with Patricia Kennedy Lawford and Peter Lawford at the Democratic Convention, July 1960. Photo: Life/Ed Clark
Earlier that year, Sammy Davis had become involved with Swedish actress and Hollywood movie star May Britt.  The two had fallen in love and made plans for marriage.  Davis, in fact, had announced in May 1960 that the couple would be married in mid-October 1960.  Frank Sinatra agreed to be Davis’ best man at the wedding.  A torrent of bad press, with all manner of ugly public and private displays of hatred and threats came at Davis for the pending biracial union between he and Britt.  Soon, Kennedy was being hit by some critics as approving interracial marriage.  Sinatra was being singled out as well.  Newspaper stories about Sinatra being Davis’ best man sometimes ran next to stories about Sinatra campaigning for Kennedy.  Reportedly, Joe Kennedy sent word to Davis to postpone the wedding.  In any case, Davis began to feel the pressure, and he knew that Sinatra was feeling it too.  He decided to postpone the wedding until November 13, 1960.  But at the Democratic Convention that July evening as he tried to sing the National Anthem after the southern booing, Sammy Davis was a deeply wounded man. “Delegates Boo Negro,” read one news headline in the New York Times the next day – accompanied by a smaller sub head that noted, “But Sammy Davis Jr. Is Also Applauded at Convention.”

Frank Sinatra & JFK huddle during a dinner at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
Frank Sinatra & JFK huddle during a dinner at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
     Interestingly, however, on July 10, 1960 — the day before Davis was booed — JFK appeared at a rally of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) that was held at the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.  Kennedy was cooly received there, but won the crowd over when later in his remarks he vowed to end segregation. 

     Two days later in the inner workings of the convention, Kennedy’s team did push through a civil rights plank calling for the end of segregation.  Martin Luther King, Jr at the time called it “the most positive, dynamic and meaningful civil rights plank that has ever been adopted by either party.” 

However, it would take another four years before some of those provisions would become law.

Patricia Kennedy Lawford, left, looks on as her brother, John F. Kennedy makes his remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, left, looks on as her brother, John F. Kennedy makes his remarks at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, July 1960.

Working The Floor

Meanwhile, back at the Democratic convention on the evening Davis was booed, Sinatra and other friends helped to work the floor of the convention for Kennedy delegates. He, Judy Garland, Kay Thompson, and others worked to persuade Democratic delegates to support Kennedy for the nomination.

On July 13th, Sinatra joined JFK and the Kennedy clan monitoring the early convention activity by TV from the Beverly Hills mansion of Joe Kennedy’s Hollywood friend, Marion Davis.  There were meetings and comings and goings there that day with labor leaders and party bosses from all over the country, preparing for the convention vote.  The formal casting of delegate votes for the candidates would occur the following day.

Jackie Kennedy reading about JFK’s nomination in the “Boston Globe” newspaper back home in Hyannis Port, MA, July 14, 1960. AP photo.
Jackie Kennedy reading about JFK’s nomination in the “Boston Globe” newspaper back home in Hyannis Port, MA, July 14, 1960. AP photo.
     On the evening of Wednesday, July 13, 1960, John F. Kennedy won his party’s nomination for President on the first ballot.  Wyoming’s 15 delegates gave him the two-thirds majority.  With 761 votes needed to nominate, Kennedy received 806.  U.S. Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson came in second with 409 votes.  Sinatra at that time was quite excited with JFK’s victory, reportedly back-slapping Peter Lawford and saying, “We’re on our way to the White house, buddy boy…”

     Back at the convention the next day at 9 a.m., Kennedy asked Lyndon Johnson to be his running mate, and to the surprise of many, Johnson accepted.  Johnson was not the preferred candidate of many in JFK’s camp, including his brother, Bobby.  But Johnson would prove to be an important pick on election night.  Meanwhile, after hours, as the political business of that day’s convention activities subsided, Peter and Pat Lawford threw a nomination party for JFK at their Santa Monica home, with Frank Sinatra and various other celebrities attending, among them, Marilyn Monroe.

A Jack Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson campaign poster for the 1960 presidential election.
A Jack Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson campaign poster for the 1960 presidential election.
     On a late Friday afternoon, July 15, 1960, Democratic Presidential nominee John F. Kennedy appeared before a crowd of some 80,000 people in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to deliver his formal acceptance speech.  At the time, the gathering was touted as the largest crowd ever to hear a political speech.  It was in this speech that the phrase “The New Frontier” was first used.  In his remarks, Kennedy cited the American West as the “last frontier,” saying “we stand today on the edge of a new frontier— the frontier of the 1960s.”  As the convention concluded, the Democrats had their ticket ready to do battle with the Republicans: Jack Kennedy for President and Lyndon Johnson for Vice President — “Leadership for The 60’s,” as one campaign poster put it.


Ocean’s 11

The Rat Pack film, “Ocean's 11,” premiered with a street party in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 1960.
The Rat Pack film, “Ocean's 11,” premiered with a street party in Las Vegas, Nevada, August 1960.
     As the Democrats made plans for their fall campaign, the Republicans convened their convention in Chicago, Illinois at the International Amphitheatre from July 25 to July 28, 1960, nominating Richard Nixon.  The attention of the Rat Pack, meanwhile, shifted to the premiere opening of their new film, Ocean’s 11.  Frank Sinatra had already attended a New York meeting in June with film director Lewis Milestone and Warner Brothers executives to plan a big August 1960 grand opening and film premier in Las Vegas.  That summer, Sinatra had also arranged to have a private showing of the film at his Palm Springs home for Jack and Jackie Kennedy.  In Las Vegas at the film premier that August, Sinatra and various Rat Packers were on hand to meet with the press to promote the film and also to do their stage act.

A 1960 "Oceans 11" movie poster billing Rat Pack members plus Angie Dickinson.
A 1960 "Oceans 11" movie poster billing Rat Pack members plus Angie Dickinson.
     All five of the Rat Pack core group appeared in the film – Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Joey Bishop.  A number of other stars also appeared, some briefly, among them: Angie Dickinson, Cesar Romero, Richard Conte, Buddy Lester, Shirley MacLaine, Red Skelton, and George Raft.  The plot of the film involves a group World War II veterans recruited by Danny Ocean (Frank Sinatra) and Jimmy Foster (Peter Lawford) to rob five different Las Vegas casinos in an elaborate New Years eve heist.  The film was among the top ten grossing films that year but was not widely cheered by all film critics.  Bosley Crowther of the New York Times,  writing in August 1960, observed: “A surprisingly nonchalant and flippant attitude toward crime — an attitude so amoral it roadblocks a lot of valid gags — is maintained through “Ocean’s 11…”.  Still, the film was popular because of its stars.  And over the years, it would become a signature “Rat Pack” film – remade in 2001with George Clooney, Brad Pitt and others.  Sinatra and his Rat Packers, in various combinations, would appear in at least nine other Hollywood films made between 1958 and 1970.  Sergeants 3, for example, another film with all five Rat Pack members, would come out in 1962.  Back at the 1960 Kennedy campaign, meanwhile, the effort was now focused on the fall contest with Richard Nixon and the Republicans.  Sinatra and friends would continue to help out where they could.


Fall Campaign

Frank Sinatra appearing at a gathering of Kennedy supporters at the home of Janet Leigh, September 1960.
Frank Sinatra appearing at a gathering of Kennedy supporters at the home of Janet Leigh, September 1960.
     As the general election campaign began, Sinatra persuaded some of his Hollywood friends to hold small receptions for prospective Kennedy supporters.  Sinatra was friends with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, both successful film stars who had been married to each other since 1951.  Leigh had co-starred with her husband in five films through the 1950s, including Houdini (1953) and had just appeared in the Alfred Hitchock classic Psycho, released in June 1960, in which she is murdered in one of Hollywood’s most famous shower scenes.  Leigh and Curtis had also attended the Democratic National Convention that July.

     In early September 1960, Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis agreed to use their home for a “Key Women for Kennedy” campaign event.  On September 7th, a crowd estimated at 2,000 turned out at Leigh’s place  for quite a successful gathering.  Ted Kennedy, then the western states coordinator for his brother’s campaign, was also on hand for the event.  Frank Sinatra, shown at left, appeared there as well.

     Out on the campaign trail, the issue of Kennedy’s Catholic religion had not gone away.  Many still feared that government under Kennedy would be unduly influenced by religious interests, and the issue was still seen as a distinct liability for the candidate.  As Kennedy made a campaign swing through Texas, he decided to take on the religion issue directly.  On September 12, 1960, he spoke before the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in Houston, Texas where he famously told his audience: “I am not the Catholic candidate for President.  I am the Democratic Party candidate for President who also happens to be a Catholic.  I do not speak for my Church on public matters – and the Church does not speak for me.”   Also that September, in Hawaii, which had only recently become a state, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford were on location filming The Devil at 4 O’ Clock.  While in the state, both did some campaigning for Kennedy, including one performance before an audience of about 9,000 at the Waikiki Shell.

Richard Nixon & JFK debate on television, 1960.
Richard Nixon & JFK debate on television, 1960.
     By late September 1960, the Presidential race was capturing mainstream public attention, as the first of the Kennedy-Nixon televised debates was broadcast nationally on Monday, September 26, 1960.  The debate was telecast from the studios of WBBM-TV in Chicago.  The one-hour debate demonstrated the power of image over substance, as Kennedy came across cool and collected, while Nixon, due in part to poor makeup and a recent illness, appeared tense and ill at ease on camera.  Although Kennedy was given the edge by many who watched the debate on TV, others who only listened on radio believed Nixon won.  Additional TV debates between the two would follow – one on Friday, October 7th from Washington, D.C.; a third on Thursday, October 13th with the candidates appearing on a split-screen telecast, Kennedy in New York and Nixon in Los Angeles; and a fourth on October 21st from New York.

Oct 31 1960: JFK tells Temple University students in Philadelphia he’d like to have a 5th TV debate with Nixon, who could “bring President Eisenhower along, too.” Photo: TSutpen.Blogspot.com
Oct 31 1960: JFK tells Temple University students in Philadelphia he’d like to have a 5th TV debate with Nixon, who could “bring President Eisenhower along, too.” Photo: TSutpen.Blogspot.com
     Through October 1960, Frank Sinatra continued to help Kennedy and the Democrats where he could, serving, for example, as a host for the Democratic Governor’s Ball in New Jersey in late October, and also appearing jointly with Eleanor Roosevelt in a radio appeal for Kennedy.  Sinatra and his Rat Pack friends weren’t the only Hollywood glitteratti helping Kennedy.  Singer Harry Belafonte appeared in one campaign TV ad. with Kennedy aimed at African-American voters.  In other radio and TV commercials, Lena Horne, Milton Berle, Gene Kelly, Ella Fitzgerald, Henry Fonda, and Myrna Loy also made pitches for Kennedy or performed on his behalf. The candidate, of course, was doing his share too, making appearances in major cities during the closing days of the campaign.  In late October, there were campaign stops in Philadelphia and New York.  On Friday November 4th,1960, Kennedy appeared at the Chicago Stadium for a big pre-election rally where more than 1.5 million people came out.

     Richard Nixon and the Republicans, meanwhile, were pulling out all the stops as well.  On Sunday, November 6th, Nixon ran 32-page advertising supplements in Sunday newspapers, and later that evening pre-empted the General Electric Theater on CBS-TV for a 30-minute appeal to voters.  On the day before the election, Monday, November 7th, Nixon appeared on ABC-TV for four hours (2-6 pm) in the first telethon in presidential campaign history, assisted by Hollywood celebrities Ginger Rogers, Lloyd Nolan, and Robert Young.  Kennedy appeared on ABC-TV that evening too, following Nixon, from 6:00-to-6:30 pm.  As election day approached, some polls had Kennedy leading by a slight edge, others had Nixon in the lead.  Most believed it was too close to call.


Election Night

Nov. 1960: JFK & aides watching returns on TV after the election. From left: artist Bill Walton, Pierre Salinger, unidentified man on stairs, Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, RFK. secretary Angie Novello, and campaign aide Bill Haddad.  Photo, Jacques Lowe.
Nov. 1960: JFK & aides watching returns on TV after the election. From left: artist Bill Walton, Pierre Salinger, unidentified man on stairs, Ethel Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, Jack Kennedy, RFK. secretary Angie Novello, and campaign aide Bill Haddad. Photo, Jacques Lowe.
     On the day before the election, Jack Kennedy spoke at city hall in Providence, Rhode Island before thousands of supporters, returning to his home in Boston following the speech.  On election day, November 8th, 1960, he and his then pregnant wife Jackie, voted at a branch library near their Boston home.  From there they joined Kennedy family members, friends and a few campaign staff at the family compound in Hyannis Port, Massachusetts, where several Kennedy homes were used in monitoring the election returns.

     Frank Sinatra, meanwhile, watched the voting on the West coast from the home of Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh, along with other Hollywood stars and movie people, including Bill Goetze, Billy Wilder, Milton Berle, Dick Shepherd and others.  The Curtis-Leigh home that evening served as a “clearinghouse” for Hollywood Democrats all around the country who had worked for Kennedy.  Calls that evening were coming in from Henry Fonda in New York, Sammy Cahn in Las Vegas, Peter Lawford in Hyannis Port with the Kennedy family, and also Sammy Davis, Jr., who was then performing at the Huntington Hartford Theater in Hollywood, but giving his audience updates on the election returns.

Peter Lawford & Pierre Salinger following teletype returns, election night, Nov 1960.
Peter Lawford & Pierre Salinger following teletype returns, election night, Nov 1960.
     In the voting that night, Illinois proved to be a crucial state, having 27 electoral votes.  Nixon had taken most of the state’s 103 counties, rural and suburban.  But Kennedy would take Cook County by a slender margin, and Chicago, where reportedly, Sinatra and Joe Kennedy had prevailed upon Sam Giancana for assistance.  Democratic Chicago Mayor Richard Daley was also believed to have been helpful on Kennedy’s behalf in Illinois.  Other states, including Texas, were also at issue with suspected election-night shenanigans on both sides.  The Nixon camp too, in downstate Illinois and elsewhere, had its share of suspected vote manipulations.

     On election night, as the early returns came in from large cities in East and Midwest – Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Chicago – Kennedy initially amassed a large lead in the popular and electoral vote.  It appeared he had certain victory.  However, after some early and premature TV declarations of Kennedy wins in selected states – and some retractions – an hours-long “too-close-to-call” contest set in, stretching late into the night.  As later returns came in – especially from the rural and suburban Midwest, the western states, and Pacific Coast states, Nixon began to catch up.  Some newspapers, including the New York Times, had even prepared “Kennedy elected” headline copy.  But the election was still too close to call.  Nixon made an appearance at about 3:00 a.m. that hinted toward concession, but he did not formally concede.  It would not be until the afternoon of the following day, Wednesday, November 9th,  that Nixon finally conceded and Kennedy claimed victory.

New York Times of November 10th, 1960 announcing JFK victory in presidential election. JFK shown with wife Jackie and family members at Hyannis Port, MA press event.
New York Times of November 10th, 1960 announcing JFK victory in presidential election. JFK shown with wife Jackie and family members at Hyannis Port, MA press event.
     Kennedy had defeated Nixon in one of the closest presidential elections of the twentieth century.  In the national popular vote Kennedy led Nixon by just two-tenths of one percent (49.7% to 49.5%), while in the electoral vote Kennedy won 303 votes to Nixon’s 219 (269 were needed to win). 

     Back on the west coast the next day, Frank Sinatra went to work at an MGM set in Hollywood where they were making the film, The Devil at 4 O’Clock with Spencer Tracy and others.  The film’s director was Mervyn LeRoy, a Republican, with whom Sinatra had made a friendly wager on the election outcome.  A photo reportedly exists of Sinatra riding atop a donkey with LeRoy leading them around the MGM lot, apparently a result of Sinatra winning the wager.  After the election, Rosalind Wyman, who served as the co-chair of the 1960 California Kennedy-Johnson campaign and Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles, singled out Sinatra for his campaign help, saying he went wherever he was needed.  Sinatra, of course, was elated with JFK’s victory, and looked forward to a continuing friendship with the president-elect in the years ahead.

JFK campaign button, 1960.
JFK campaign button, 1960.
     Part 2 of this story continues with Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford playing a major role in the Kennedy inaugural festivities of January 1961.  Part 2 also covers the changing relationship between Sinatra, JFK and the Kennedy family as the Kennedy Administration moved into governing the country.  Sinatra’s reaction to JFK’s assassination is also covered there, as well as Sinatra’s later turn toward the Republicans and what became of the Rat Pack members and a few of their friends beyond the 1960s. 

See also at this website, for example: “1968 Presidential Race–Democrats” and “1968 Presidential Race – Republicans,” both of which also focus on the Hollywood/politics mixture; “Barack & Bruce, 2008-2012,” covering Bruce Springsteen and other celebrity supporters of Barack Obama’s presidential bids; or visit the “Politics & Culture” category page for other choices. Additional Kennedy family stories can be found at: “Kennedy History–12 Stories: 1954-2013.” The 1960 campaign is also covered at, “JFK’s 1960 Campaign.” Stories with Frank Sinatra content include: ”The Sinatra Riots, 1942-1944,” “Ava Gardner, 1940s-1950s,” and “Sinatra: Cycles, 1968,” a Sinatra song profile. Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. —Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  21 August 2011
Last Update:  28 March 2017
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Jack Pack, 1958-1960,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 20, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

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John F. Kennedy, who was first elected to Congress in 1946, is featured on Time’s cover, December 2, 1957, as the “Democrat's Man Out Front.”
John F. Kennedy, who was first elected to Congress in 1946, is featured on Time’s cover, December 2, 1957, as the “Democrat's Man Out Front.”
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U.S. Senators John F. Kennedy, Hubert H. Humphrey, and Albert Gore Sr. in conversation during the 1956 Democratic Convention.
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Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra on stage during one of their performances, 1960s.
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John F. Kennedy and wife Jackie campaigning in Appleton, Wisconsin, March 1960. Photo, Jeff Dean.
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Ted Kennedy with sisters Eunice and Pat and Ethel Kennedy watching election-night returns at Hyannis Port, MA. AP photo/Henry Griffin.
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“Sammy Davis Jr. Weds; He and May Britt Married in His Hollywood Home,” New York Times, November 14, 1960.

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Rat Pack Photos.

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“The Jack Pack”
Pt.2: 1961-1990s

The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
The Rat Pack on stage together in a 1960s' performance.
     This is the second part of a two-part story on the history of Frank Sinatra and his Rat Pack and their dealings with the 1960 presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy, his inauguration in January 1961, and his early Administration. 

The “Rat Pack” was a nickname for a coterie of Hollywood stars and Las Vegas club entertainers that included Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford.  For a time in 1960, this group and some of their friends were dubbed “The Jack Pack” when they helped the Kennedy-for-President campaign. 

     Through the early 1960s, Sinatra and his Rat Pack reigned supreme in contemporary culture; they became the “cool guys” of their generation. They brought record-breaking crowds to the Las Vegas nightclub scene and made millions for Hollywood’s box office  through the movies they made. 

The Rat Pack’s network of contacts, friends, and business partners ranged across Hollywood, Las Vegas, and beyond, including movie stars such as Tony Curtis, Marilyn Monroe, Janet Leigh, Angie Dickinson, and Shirley MacLaine, and also some underworld figures such as Sam Giancana of Chicago.

“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
“Rat Pack” members early 1960s, from left: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop.
     Sinatra and the Rat Pack became intertwined with the Kennedy family in part through Peter Lawford’s marriage to Jack Kennedy’s sister, Patricia, and later through Sinatra’s friendship with U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy.  But the Rat Pack’s Hollywood and business network in the entertainment world also made it a potent force for fundraising and voter turnout, which soon become apparent in the 1960 presidential election and beyond.

     Part 1 of the story covers Rat Pack history and the group’s involvement with the 1960 Kennedy campaign, up to and including John F. Kennedy’s election in November 1960.  Part 2 of the story picks up here as plans for the 1961 Kennedy inauguration festivities are being made.  This part of the story will also cover Frank Sinatra’s falling out with JFK and the Kennedy family during the early 1960s, as well as what became of various Rat Pack members and friends and Kennedy family members in the years following the Kennedy election.


Washington Gala

Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
Jan 1961: Frank Sinatra escorting Jackie Kennedy to her box at the National Guard Armory for a pre-inaugural gala staged by Sinatra to help pay off JFK & Democratic Party campaign debt.
     In December 1960, Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford began planning a big, star-studded gala and party fundraiser to be staged at the National Armory in Washington, D.C. on January 19th, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration. 

Among the performers and notables Sinatra and Lawford would gather for this event were: Harry Belafonte, Milton Berle, Nat King Cole, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh, Ella Fitzgerald, Gene Kelly, Frederic March, Ethel Merman, Jimmy Durante, Mahalia Jackson, Bette Davis, Laurence Olivier, Leonard Bernstein, Fredric March, Sidney Poitier, Bill Dana, Kay Thompson, Roger Edens and others. 

     Sinatra was responsible for personally recruiting many of the stars, some flying in from filming and performing locations abroad.  He and Lawford also convinced several Broadway producers to shut down for one night so actors such as Anthony Quinn, Ethel Merman and Laurence Olivier could attend. 

One account had it that Sinatra personally bought out the theater tickets for the performances of the Broadway plays in conflict so the those actors could partake in the Kennedy gala.

National Armory in D.C. hosted two inaugural events: the Pre-Inaugural Gala (Jan19th) & Post-Inaugural Ball (Jan 20th).
National Armory in D.C. hosted two inaugural events: the Pre-Inaugural Gala (Jan19th) & Post-Inaugural Ball (Jan 20th).
     Several thousand seats at the National Armory would be sold for $100 each and 72 ringside boxes for small groups were sold at $10,000 apiece.  “We’ve already sold out the 72 boxes,” Peter Lawford told Time magazine in early December.  Sinatra added, “This will be the biggest take in show-business history for a one-nighter.  We expect to raise $1,700,000 for the one night…”  In January, Sinatra and Lawford flew to Washington on Kennedy’s private Convair plane to begin work on the gala.  The Hollywood stars, producers, directors, conductors, and musicians involved were housed at the Statler-Hilton Hotel in Washington, reportedly taking over the top floor or so.  Sinatra also hired a Hollywood photographer named Phil Stern to document the entire enterprise, later giving each of the participants their own photo albums.

Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
Sammy Davis, Jr., 1960s.
     But in arranging the gala there was also some nastiness for Frank’s friend, Sammy Davis, slated to be one of the gala performers.  Davis had planned to take leave from his engagement at the Latin Casino near Philadelphia in order to perform at the gala. But given his recent mid-November 1960 mix-race marriage to Swedish actress May Britt, Sammy was still too hot politically for the Kennedys.  Reportedly, there had been discussions with Bobby, Jack and Peter Lawford on Sammy’s participation in the gala, concern being that Southern Democrats would object to Sammy and his new wife attending.  Three days before the gala, after Sammy had bought a new tux and his wife a new gown, he received a call from the White House.  It was Evelyn Lincoln, JFK’s personal secretary.  She told Sammy the president didn’t want him at the inauguration, a decision by the president described as being forced upon him by the politics of the moment, and counterproductive to fight.  Sammy said he understood.  Peter Lawford called Davis to try to smooth things over, but Sammy was crushed.

Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
Gene Kelly performing at JFK gala, January 19, 1961.
     On gala day, there was a snow storm in Washington, dumping eight inches on the city through the evening.  But the show went on.  There was singing, dancing, poetry, stage skits, dramatic readings, and tributes to the presidential and vice-president.

Gene Kelly danced; Sydney Poteir read poetry, and Pat Suzuki sang. Kelly sang “The Hat Me Dear Old Father Wore” and did an amazing dance routine. Fredric March did a recitation invoking God’s help to “give us zest for new frontiers, and the faith to say unto mountains, whether made of granite or red tape: Remove.” 

Bill Dana, famous in that era for portraying a fictional Chicano character known as José Jiménez, did a well-received comic routine with Milton Berle.  Nat King Cole sang and so did a young, 34 year-old Harry Belafonte, whose 1956 Calypso album had become the first long-playing album in history to sell over one million copies.

Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
Frank Sinatra & Peter Lawford enjoy a lighter moment at the 1961 gala for President-elect John F. Kennedy.
     Jimmy Durante sang a version of the “September Song,” a JFK favorite. Sinatra sang twice that evening, once with “You Make Me Feel So Young,” and also “That Old Black Magic,” putting a few new twists on the old standard with lines like: “That old Jack magic had them in its spell / That old Jack magic that he weaves so well…”  There was also a long biographical tribute sung to Kennedy describing his rise to power, using a parody of popular songs composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.  This skit began with Sinatra and Berle doing a send up of that era’s famous news team of Chet Huntley and David Brinkley.“…[I]t may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”
                                       – Todd Purdum
  “High Hopes,” was also used in this segment, now reworked by Sinatra with new lines that included: “Jack and Lyndon B /… Let’s follow their lead / They’re the men that our America needs!”

     Todd Purdum, writing a Vanity Fair retrospective on the famous JFK gala 50 years later, summed it up this way: “It was an only-in-America blend of high culture and low comedy, of schmaltz and camp, and it may have marked the moment when popular entertainment became an indispensable part of modern politics.”  In fact, Bette Davis said as much during the show in part of skit she did, reading from a script by radio dramatist Norman Corwin: “The world of entertainment—show-biz, if you please—has become the Sixth Estate…”

JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
JFK with Frank Sinatra at the pre-inaugural gala, Jan 19, 1961, the night before JFK’s formal inauguration.
     At one point near the show’s end, with an introduction from Sinatra, JFK rose to speak as a single spotlight shone on him.  “We saw excellence tonight,” Kennedy said, while  commending Sinatra and Peter Lawford for their work on the gala.  “The happy relationship between the arts and politics which has characterized our long history I think reached culmination tonight,” he said. 

     Of Sinatra’s role in the gala Kennedy said, “You can not imagine the work he has done to make this show a success.”  Kennedy called Sinatra “a great friend,” and added: “Long before he could sing, he used to poll a Democratic precinct back in New Jersey.  That precinct has grown to cover a country, but long after he has ceased to sing, he’s going to be standing up and speaking for the Democratic Party, and I thank him on behalf of all of you tonight.”

1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
1961: Inaugural dancing at the Armory.
     The gala would raise millions to help reduce the Democratic campaign debt, and despite the snow and difficult logistics, Sinatra had pulled off one of the greatest Hollywood-on-the-Potomac fetes the city had ever witnessed.


JFK’s Late Night

     Even though it was nearly 1:30 a.m. when the gala ended, and Jackie Kennedy had long since gone home as she was still recovering from the Cesarean birth of John Jr., JFK went to another party that night given by his father, Joseph Kennedy, at Paul Young’s restaurant in downtown D.C.  JFK didn’t get home until 3:30 a.m. 

     However the next morning, Inauguration Day, Kennedy was up at eight, reviewing his speech and preparing for a full slate of official and ceremonial meetings with outgoing President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and then on to Capitol Hill for his swearing in and one of the more memorable inaugural speeches in U.S. history.

President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
President John F. Kennedy delivering his inaugural address at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., January 20, 1961.
     On the evening of the inauguration, as the President and first lady were making the rounds to the various inaugural balls being held in Washington, Sinatra threw a party at the Statler-Hilton Hotel for all the cast and crew who had been involved in the preceding night’s gala.  The President, on a visit to the Statler-Hilton for one of the balls that evening, managed to slip away to join Sinatra’s party and mingle with the guests there.  Frank Sinatra was very pleased, and went home to California feeling pretty good about himself and his friend in the White House.


The Sinatra File

     Following the inauguration, the ties between Frank Sinatra and the Kennedy’s – especially those involving JFK and the White House – would gradually become strained and eventually would be severed.  But this would not occur for another year or so. 

FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover, center, meeting with JFK and Attorney General Robert Kennedy, January 1961.
     Sinatra had been monitored by the FBI stretching back to 1946 when he attended social gatherings in Cuba as a guest of some organized crime figures.  The FBI had an active file on Sinatra which continued for years (Sinatra’s full FBI file would not be released publicly until December 1998, ultimately revealing nothing criminal, subversive, or unpatriotic; a file filled with mostly unsubstantiated complaints and anonymous sources). 

     But in February 1961, within weeks of JFK’s inauguration, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover sent a pointed memo to the new U.S. Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy.  The memo detailed Sinatra’s extensive connections to organized crime figures.  Robert Kennedy would later impress upon his brother, the President, that he needed to distance himself from Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford & Robert Kennedy wait for helicopter en route to a Cedars-Sinai Hospital charity event in Hollywood, July 1961.
     Still, exchanges between the Kennedy family, Sinatra, and members of his Rat Pack continued through 1961 and beyond.  In early July, Sinatra and Peter Lawford joined U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy to attend benefit dinner for the Cedars-Sinai Hospital at the Beverly Hilton in Hollywood.  Another report had Sinatra, the Dean Martin family, Peter Lawford and family, Sammy Davis and May Britt, and Janet Leigh using the French Riviera home of Joseph P. Kennedy during a ten-day vacation in August 1961. 

     Then, in late September 1961, ten months after the election, Joe Kennedy threw a thank-you party for Frank Sinatra at the family’s Hyannis Port, MA compound.  At that point, JFK as president was still talking with Sinatra, as Sinatra would approach the president during the Hyannis Port visit to ask for a small favor.

Screenwriters in Hollywood had come to Sinatra about starring in a film, The Manchurian Candidate, based on a 1959 novel by Richard Condon.

Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
Frank Sinatra sought JFK’s help to lobby Arthur Krim to make this film.
     The Manchurian Candidate is a story about a Korean War hero, brainwashed by the Chinese Communists, who then returns home programmed to assassinate the president as part of a larger conspiracy to take over the White House.  In addition to starring the film, Sinatra also had business interests in its distribution.  However, the head of Universal Studios at the time, Arthur Krim, was queasy about the film project and its Cold War politics.  Krim was also then national finance chairman of the Democratic Party.  So, when Sinatra was visiting the Kennedys in Hyannis Port in September 1961, he told Jack Kennedy of the plan for the film and Arthur Krim’s reluctance to make it.  President Kennedy called Krim and the movie project went forward, with Krim later saying that Kennedy’s call had made the difference.

     Despite Kennedy’s help on the Manchurian Candidate, Sinatra’s access to the President and the White House would soon be ending.  Later in the fall of 1961, Sinatra visited the White House as part of a larger group that included Peter Lawford and others.  And during that year, press Secretary Pierre Salinger had been questioned by members of the press about Sinatra’s relationship with the president.  The inner circle around Kennedy – including Robert Kennedy and the President himself – became less comfortable having Sinatra around the White House.  But soon, J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI would provide some additional information on Sinatra.


Rat Pack Popularity

Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
Richard Gehman’s 1961 book helped to popularize the term “Rat Pack.”
     Meanwhile, the Rat Pack in 1961 seemed to gain in popularity and public notice. The first book arrived that year using the term “Rat Pack” in its title.  

A writer from Lancaster, Pennsylvania named Richard Gehman published a paperback volume with Belmont Books in New York titled, Sinatra and His Rat Pack. The book sold reasonably well and went into at least three printings according to one source.

In the fall that year, a late night talk show hosted by David Suskind featured a Rat Pack roundtable on one of its shows with a mix of journalists and Hollywood celebrities who debated the Rat Pack’s merits and maladies. Even a New Yorker cartoon appeared with a psychiatrist addressing the concerns of a middle-aged man lying on the treatment couch, with the psychiatrist saying: “What makes you think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and all that bunch are so happy?” 

     There were also continued stage and club performances of the Rat Pack as a group, or in various combinations.  Work on films with one or more members of the group continued as well, and Sinatra had a film or two of his own.  The Devil at Four O’Clock, a volcano disaster film with Sinatra and Spencer Tracey came out in October 1961.  Sinatra’s music continued to be popular.  Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Joey Bishop and Peter Lawford would have their notices as well.

President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
President Kennedy points to map of Laos at press conference in March 1961.
     The Kennedy Administration, meanwhile, had a full plate of activities in 1961.  In March, Kennedy announced the establishment of the Peace Corps.  The president also held a press conference that month to discuss communist involvement in Laos.  In April, in his first international and military crisis, U.S.-backed invasion of Cuba ended in disaster at the Bay of Pigs.  Kennedy appeared on TV taking full responsibility for the fiasco, an operation inherited from the Eisenhower Administration.  The Soviet Union that month put the first human in space, as cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin orbited the Earth in a Soviet spacecraft.  In May, speaking before the U.S. Congress, Kennedy committed the U.S. to landing a man on the moon by the end of the decade.  In June, Kennedy and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev held a summit in Vienna.  Cold war tensions escalated in August, as construction on what came to be known as “the Berlin Wall” began; an actual brick-and-block wall that would divide East and West Berlin with the purpose of preventing people from fleeing communist-held areas of the country for sanctuary in the west.  Elsewhere in the world, Kennedy Administration officials were working on foreign policy initiatives such as the “Alliance for Progress,” a joint U.S./Latin American economic development program.  In December  the President traveled to Columbia, Puerto Rico, and Venezuela.


Stay At Frank’s?

     As JFK’s presidential schedule for early 1962 was being plotted out, it was revealed he would be making a trip west to California in March of 1962.  Early on, it was decided Kennedy would have an overnight visit at Frank Sinatra’s Palm Springs estate on March 24th, 1962.  This planned JFK visit became a big event for Sinatra; a very prideful moment – much more than the pre-election partying the two had shared.Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more. . . He even had a helicopter landing pad installed.  This was now the President of the United States who was coming to stay overnight.  Sinatra had initially built this Palm Springs residence in 1954.  It included a main house, a movie theater, guest houses, a barbershop/sauna, two swimming pools, tennis courts, and a personal art studio.  But now, he would make improvements.

     Sinatra went all-out for the anticipated JFK visit – remodeling the house, adding new cottages, extra rooms, communications gear, and more to accommodate a president and his staff.  He even had a concrete heliport landing pad installed.  But within days of the planned visit – on March 22nd, two days ahead of the planned arrival at Sinatra’s – Peter Lawford was told by JFK and Bobby Kennedy to inform Sinatra that the President would not be staying at Sinatra’s place.  Lawford tried to convince the President and Bobby not to cancel the visit, to no avail.  It was then arranged that the President would stay at singer Bing Crosby’s place.  Lawford then called Sinatra, fabricating a story about how Sinatra’s place was more open and more vulnerable and that the Secret Service had instead approved Bing Crosby’s “more secure” place, backing up against a mountain.  Sinatra was stunned by the news, and tried appealing to Bobby Kennedy with no success.  At one point, Sinatra reportedly took a sledge hammer to the heliport he had built to vent his frustration, and he was quite unforgiving of Lawford and others even remotely connected to the cancellation.  From that point on, Sinatra and JFK pretty much parted ways.

JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
JFK, J. Edgar Hoover & Robert Kennedy.
     Bobby Kennedy and the President had both heard from J. Edgar Hoover about Sinatra and the fact that Sam Giancana – who Bobby’s Justice Department was then investigating – had stayed at Sinatra’s place.  Hoover had lunch with the President only a few days before his scheduled March 1962 trip West, and it is believed he discussed Sinatra and Judith Campbell with the President, among other things.  JFK knew Hoover played hardball and he wasn’t about to give him any more ammunition by staying with Sinatra.  But Sinatra was wounded badly by the cancellation.  Years later, Sinatra would say he would have understood if JFK had personally spoken with him about why, politically, he could not be seen with him, given his ties, etc.  Sinatra said he would have accepted that.  But Kennedy never did that, and Sinatra remained forever hurt by the slight.  JFK, meanwhile, had a pleasant visit at Bing Crosby’s place on March 24th, 1962, where guests at that time reportedly included Marilyn Monroe.


“Happy Birthday”

Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
Marilyn Monroe sings “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” May 19, 1962. Photo, UPI.
     Less than two months later, on May 19, 1962, Monroe made a famous public appearance singing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” to JFK at a Madison Square Garden event for the President’s 45th birthday.  It was a huge gala affair, with a number of Hollywood entertainers.  Monroe, who arrived late to sing the birthday greeting, was introduced by Peter Lawford.  Her appearance came toward the middle-end of the program, and she performed the song in her very best, most sexiest voice.  More than 15,000 people attended the JFK gathering, also a Democratic fundraising event, with many VIPs and politicians in the audience.  It was hosted by New York Mayor Robert Wagner with Jack Benny as emcee.  Among those performing were: Robert Merrill, Ella Fitzgerald, Danny Kaye, Henry Fonda, Maria Callas, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Durante & Eddie Jackson, Mike Nichols & Elaine May, Diahann Carroll, and Bobby Darin. Richard Adler, a composer and lyricist, famous for Broadway musicals such as The Pajama Game and Damn Yankees, produced the show.  Jerome Robbins, of The King and I and West Side Story fame, choreographed a big dance number.  Monroe, in addition to “Happy Birthday, Mr. President,” also continued her musical tribute to the president, adding a few lines of thanks — “for all you have done, the battles you have won” — to the tune of “Thanks for the Memories.”  Monroe wore a sleek, form-fitting, specially-designed dress for the occasion, made for her by designer Jean Louis.  Kennedy remarked at the podium later that evening that he could “now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet, wholesome way.”  Kennedy would later be photographed briefly talking to Monroe with brother Bobby and others at an after party.

Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at right.
Robert F. Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and John F. Kennedy in rare photo taken at private “after party,” May 19, 1962. Advisor Arthur Schlesinger, with glasses, is shown at right.
     According to some reports, Kennedy had first met Monroe at his sister’s house – Peter and Patricia Lawford’s Santa Monica beach house – sometime in 1959-1960 (although some reports say Kennedy knew Monroe as early as 1954-55).  Reportedly, other JFK and Monroe get-togethers occurred around the time of Kennedy’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in Los Angeles on July 12th and July 13th, 1960, including a dinner at Puccini’s restaurant in Beverly Hills, owned by Sinatra and Lawford, and also at a private party at the Lawford’s Santa Monica home the night of Kennedy’s nomination at the Los Angeles 1960 Democratic National Convention.  But Monroe’s appearance at the President’s birthday party in New York on May 19th, 1962 would be her last public appearance.

     Frank Sinatra, not long after the President’s cancelled overnight visit, began a world concert tour in a dozen or more cities to raise money for various children’s charities.  On that trip, Sinatra did concerts in China, Israel, Greece, Italy, London, Los Angeles, Milan, Tel Aviv and Japan and raised more than one million dollars for various benefits.  He returned to the U.S. in late June 1962.


Marilyn’s Fall

Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
Marilyn Monroe in happier times with Frank Sinatra & club manager Bert Grober, Cal-Neva Resort, 1959. Photo: D. Dondero, Reno Gazette.
     In late July 1962, according to author J. Randy Taraborrelli, Frank Sinatra invited Peter and Patricia Lawford for a weekend visit to his Nevada resort, the Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  Marilyn Monroe, a friend of the Lawfords and also of Frank Sinatra, joined them.  The Lawfords and Monroe traveled together and arrived by private plane.  Monroe, however, was not well by then, suffering from depression and taking medication.  Sinatra, in fact, upon seeing her, was shocked and angry about her condition and called her doctor on the spot to relay his concern.  But at one point during the visit, Monroe did some self-medication and Pat Lawford later found her in her room collapsed.  Sinatra, meanwhile, became worried over the incident, concerned she might die at his resort.  He told his valet, George Jacobs, to get Monroe out of the resort.  One guest who happened to be in the Cal-Neva lobby at the time reported seeing Peter and Pat Lawford on either side of Monroe helping to carry her out of the resort to a private plane that took her back to Los Angeles.

Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Marilyn Monroe, center, at Peter & Pat Lawford’s home in 1960-61, with Peter Lawford left and Frank Sinatra next to Monroe looking at a photograph. May Britt is standing at right.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.
Patricia Kennedy Lawford, now visible in another photo from that same time, is seen standing at left. Seated woman may have been Shirley MacLaine.

     Other accounts of that weekend at the Cal-Neva report that Dean Martin and Monroe’s former husband, baseball great Joe DiMaggio, were also at the resort.  DiMaggio had never been happy about some of Marilyn’s Hollywood friends.  Still other accounts have Peter Lawford telling Monroe at that point that all communication with JFK and Bobby Kennedy was to be cut off.  Monroe reportedly had been upset over some things JFK had said to her in private, and she had also seen Robert Kennedy.  Monroe that summer was also working on the film Something’s Got to Give, which was never finished.


August 1962

     After the Lawford’s returned home from their weekend visit with Sinatra, Peter Lawford called Monroe on August 4, 1962, concerned about her health.  He found that she was still not well, sounding quite depressed.  He later tried calling her again but couldn’t get through.  He then thought about going directly to her home.  However, he was advised, that as the President’s brother-in-law, he should  not go there. 

On August 5, 1962, Monroe was found dead in her Brentwood home.  She was 36 years old.  Her death was ruled to be “acute barbiturate poisoning” by Los Angeles coroner Dr. Thomas Noguchi  and listed as a “probable suicide”.

Late 1962

Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
Scene from “The Manchurian Candidate,” in which Frank Sinatra, as Korean War veteran Bennett Marco, attempts to help a fellow veteran who's been brainwashed.
     Through the remainder of 1962, Frank Sinatra continued his work.  In August and September he was busy making a filmed adaptation of the Neil Simon play, Come Blow Your Horn, which would not be in theaters until the following year.  In October 1962, Capitol Records released a new three-record set of his recordings – Sinatra, the Great Years.  A few weeks later, near the end of October, The Manchurian Candidate, the film Sinatra starred in and had gone to JFK for help with producer Krim, began playing in theaters.  JFK, in fact, had viewed the film at a special White House screening on August 29, 1962, the day a U-2 spy plane over Cuba would discover eight missile installations under construction– information that would lead, two months later, to the “Cuban missile crisis” and a showdown with the Soviet Union.

     By October 16th, a day the New York Yankees would beat the San Francisco Giants in game seven of the 1962 World Series, Kennedy was shown new U-2 photos revealing fully-equipped missile bases capable of attacking the U.S. with nuclear warheads.  Plans were drawn up for a possible U.S. invasion of Cuba.  A massive mobilization of military hardware began, and more than 150,000 active duty troops from the Marines, Army and Air Force were either positioned in Florida or put on high alert, while additional reservists were ordered to report for duty.

Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
Cuban “missile crisis” headlines, Oct 1962.
     On Monday, October 22, 1962, President Kennedy appeared on television to inform Americans of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.  He explained that a Naval blockade had been placed around Cuba to prevent any further Soviet deliveries. 

The President also stated that any nuclear missile launched from Cuba would be regarded as an attack on the United States by the Soviets and he demanded the missiles be removed from Cuba. 

     The “missile crisis,” as it came to be called, was the closest the world ever came to nuclear war in the 1960s.  In the end, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev turned his ships around.  The Soviets agreed to dismantle the weapon sites and, in exchange, the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba and remove its missiles from Turkey.


1963

April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
April 1963: Frank Sinatra hosts the Academy Awards ceremony, shown here escorting actress Donna Reed.
     Frank Sinatra hosted the Academy Awards ceremony in 1963.  Earlier that year, Playboy magazine ran an interview with Sinatra that revealed him to be quite well-informed on a range of domestic and international issues, and in which he mentioned the Kennedy Administration a few times in the context of policy issues. 

     Sinatra also recorded a new LP in April 1963, titled Sinatra’s Sinatra.  This was an album of Sinatra songs from the 1940s and 1950s, updated with new versions for Sinatra’s own label, Reprise.  The album did quite well, reaching No. 9 on the Billboard and U.K. album charts.  The film Come Blow Your Horn, in which Sinatra starred, was also a major box office success that summer, garnering him a Golden Globe acting nomination.

     President Kennedy that spring, among other things, visited Hollywood briefly for a Democratic Party fundraiser.  This affair, however, was a limited VIP gathering of about one hundred of Hollywood’s biggest stars, among them: Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Burt Lancaster, Charlton Heston, Gene Kelly, Dean Martin, Rock Hudson, Jack Webb and others.  “Instead of offering a formal speech the president table-hopped, impressing his guests with a wide-ranging knowledge of movies in general and their careers in specific,” explains Alan Schroeder of Northeastern University who has written on the presidency and Hollywood.  Kennedy was a life-long fan of Hollywood, and remained intrigued about its inner working and even its gossip.

June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
June 1963: JFK delivering his famous speech in West Berlin.
     Back in Washington, meanwhile, JFK had a full agenda of pressing issues, domestic and international, with both difficult and hopeful signs for the future.  In June 1963, Alabama Gov. George Wallace refused to allow two black students to enter the University of Alabama forcing Kennedy to use the National Guard to ensure the students’ safety.  On June 11, Kennedy gave a nationally-televised evening speech announcing a civil rights proposal, a speech that helped calm tensions while also putting front and center the “moral issue” then confronting the nation.  “It is as old as the scriptures and is as clear as the American Constitution,” he said.  “The heart of the question is whether all Americans are to be afforded equal rights and equal opportunities …[T]his Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free …”  Also in June, some eight months after the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy spoke at the American University commencement in Washington, D.C. urging a reexamination of Cold War stereotypes and calling for a strategy of peace.  In the final months of his presidency, the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was negotiated and signed.  June 1963 was also the month that President Kennedy arrived in the partitioned city of Berlin, Germany, delivering his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin.

August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
August 1963: Martin Luther King on the Mall in Washington, DC, “I have a dream.”
     In popular culture that July, the Beatles’ had become a sensation in Britain, but not yet in the U.S.  On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.  A few weeks later, on September 12, 1963 in New York’s Carnegie Hall, Frank Sinatra sang “Ol’ Man River” at a benefit gathering for Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.  Frank Sinatra’s son, Frank, Jr., who was sitting in the balcony for that performance, later observed: “Here was the greatest black leader in history watching this white man sing a song about slavery, and there were tears on his cheeks.”

     Elsewhere, however, Frank Sinatra had his problems.  In Las Vegas, Nevada, the state’s Gaming Control Board recommended in September 1963, that Sinatra’s casino gambling license be revoked for allowing Chicago crime boss Sam Giancana to visit Sinatra’s part-owned Cal-Neva Lodge at Lake Tahoe.  The Gaming Control Board had a published “List of Excluded Persons” who were not allowed in casinos even as customers, and Giancana was on that list.  Sinatra never understood the stigma of his friendship with Giancana and others like him, as he had been friends of theirs since the 1940s.  Still, Sinatra had to give up his casino license and sell his interests in the Cal-Neva and the Sands. ( Later, however, Sinatra would have his Las Vegas bona fides restored in 1981 when he applied for license as an entertainment consultant at Caesars Palace, listing President Ronald Reagan as a character reference and having Gregory Peck testify on his behalf.  The Gaming Commission voted their approval, 4-1 ).

Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
Nov 22, 1963: JFK, Jackie, and Texas Governor John Connolly in Dallas moments before shots were fired.
      Jack Kennedy, in November 1963, was scheduled to visit Texas to make a series of political speeches across the state.  On November 21, 1963, Kennedy flew to Texas making three visits that day in San Antonio, Houston, and Forth Worth.  The next day, as his car drove slowly past cheering crowds in Dallas, shots rang out.  Kennedy was mortally wounded and died a short time later.
 
Within hours of the shooting, police arrested 24 year-old Lee Harvey Oswald as the prime suspect.  Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson – with a shaken Jackie Kennedy beside him aboard Air Force One – was sworn in as President.  The nation went into deep shock and weeks of mourning.

An Era’s End

New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
New York Times front page, November 23, 1963.
     In late November 1963, Frank Sinatra was filming a scene for Robin and the 7 Hoods in a Burbank, California cemetery when he learned that Kennedy had been assassinated.  Stunned by the news, Sinatra reportedly became very quiet and took a series of long walks away from the set, thinking about the tragedy.  He also called the White House from the set, and spoke briefly to a staffer there.  He then returned to the waiting film crew and said, “Let’s shoot this thing, ’cause I don’t want to come back here anymore.”  After the scene was finished Sinatra went to his home in Palm Springs and, according to his daughter, Nancy Sinatra, “virtually disappeared” for three days while the Kennedy family and nation mourned.  Sinatra would later say of Kennedy: “For a brief moment, he was the brightest star in our lives. I loved him.”

Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
Washington Post front page, Nov 23, 1963.
     Kennedy’s assassination marked seminal changes for the nation’s character and its culture. America became a less innocent, more somber place. Numerous turning points, public and personal, followed. 

For the Rat Pack, Kennedy’s death also marked the end of an era. Rat Pack hijinks-type entertainment would gradually fade from the scene. By 1964, with the arrival of the Beatles, the music had changed as well.  Yet Frank Sinatra, for one, would hold his own. 

In 1965, Sinatra turned 50, but he still had years of hit music ahead of him.  In that year alone, he recorded the retrospective album, September of My Years and starred in the Emmy-winning television special Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music.  In early 1966 he scored a recording hit with the blockbuster single, “Strangers in the Night,” a song that would later win three Grammy awards.

Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years.  Date unknown.
Frank Sinatra shown in a room at his home that includes framed photos and other memorabilia from his Kennedy-era years. Date unknown.
     In July 1966 Sinatra married Mia Farrow, a short-lived relationship that ended in divorce less than two years later.  Back in Las Vegas, meanwhile, things were also changing.  In 1967, Howard Hughes became the owner of the Sands.  Frank Sinatra’s politics would change, too, but not right away.


Sinatra Politics II

     In the 1968 national elections, during the Democratic presidential primaries, a number of Hollywood celebrities became engaged in those contests, generally hoping to change national policy as the Vietnam War divided the country.  Paul Newman and others were backing Democratic candidates such as Senator Eugene McCarthy, Bobby Kennedy, or Hubert Humphrey, then Vice President to incumbent Lyndon Johnson who had decided not to run for re-election in a shocking announcement.  McCarthy appeared to have the early momentum, then Bobby Kennedy jumped in and was headed for victory before his tragic assassination in June 1968.  However, Kennedy had done quite well with Hollywood supporters.  But one entertainer noticeably absent from the Kennedy bandwagon was Frank Sinatra.

Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
Frank Sinatra backed Hubert Humphrey in the 1968 election.
     Sinatra’s go-round with the Kennedys in 1960 had left its mark, plus the fact that as Attorney General, Bobby Kennedy had initiated actions against the Las Vegas gambling scene where Sinatra had friends and interests.  In 1968, Sinatra supported Vice President Hubert Humphrey for the Democratic nomination.  The old Rat Pack was split among the Democratic candidates: Peter Lawford, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Shirley MacLaine had endorsed Robert Kennedy during the primaries; Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Joey Bishop backed Humphrey.  Sinatra had met with Humphrey in Washington in early May 1968, pledging to make campaign appearances for him.  In Oakland, California, on May 22nd, 1968, Sinatra headlined a gala supporting Humphrey and a delegate slate that opposed RFK in the California primary.  At the Oakland fundraiser, Sinatra gave an extensive live performance.  He also performed for Humphrey at an August 1968 gala at Cobo Hall in Detroit; appeared for Humphrey at the Houston, Texas Astrodome with President Lyndon Johnson; made a TV ad for Humphrey that fall; and re-stated his support for Humphrey on a live election-eve national telethon.  However, the Humphrey-Muskie ticket that emerged in that politically volatile season of 1968 was not enough to beat Richard Nixon.


Shift to Republicans

Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
Jan. 1971: Frank Sinatra with California Governor Ronald Reagan, Vikki Carr, Nancy Reagan, Dean Martin, Jack Benny (obscured), John Wayne & Jimmy Stewart.
     By 1970, however, Frank Sinatra began shifting his politics to the Republicans.  The first signs came when he spoke out in support of former actor Ronald Reagan, then running for re-election as California’s governor.  In fact, Sinatra urged his old Hollywood friend Reagan to move more to the center.  Sinatra, however, remained a registered Democrat who broke with Reagan on issues like abortion.  But in 1971, the Republicans nationally were being drawn to Sinatra’s potential star appeal.  A memo then circulating among  some of Richard Nixon’s presidential aides on Sinatra noted: “He has the muscle to bring along a lot of the younger lights.”  Nixon aide Charles W. Colson wrote of Sinatra: “If we are going to cultivate him, as I believe we should (I also recognize the negatives) then he should very shortly be invited to the White House to entertain.”

Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
Frank Sinatra’s April 1973 performance at the Nixon White House on Red Cab Records, 2010.
     In July 1972, prior to that year’s presidential election, Frank Sinatra announced his support for Richard Nixon. 

“The older you get the more conservative you get,” he explained to his daughter Tina, who at the time was working for the Democratic candidate George McGovern. Sinatra’s old Rat Pack pal, Sammy Davis, Jr., also supported Nixon in 1972. 

     In April 1973, a time when Sinatra’s “comeback album” Ol’ Blue Eyes Is Back had appeared, he was invited by President Richard Nixon to perform at the White House, the first president to do so.  Following a state dinner for Italian Prime Minister Guiulio Andreotti, Sinatra performed a number of his songs for more than 200 guests in the East Room of the White House. 

During Nixon’s presidency, Sinatra visited the White House several times.  He also supported Nixon’s moves to recognize the People’s Republic of China.

Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.
Frank Sinatra, left, campaignng with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, 1984.


For Ronald Reagan

     By 1979, when Ronald Regan ran for president, Sinatra campaigned for him, saying at one point he worked harder for Regan than he had since 1960 when he backed Jack Kennedy.  And as Sinatra had done for Kennedy 20 years earlier, in January 1981, he now also produced Reagan’s Inaugural Gala, lining up a slate of performers that included Johnny Carson, Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Charlton Heston.  “I don’t view the inaugural as political,” he said when asked about producing Reagan’s show.  “If Walter Mondale had won, and if he had asked me to do [his gala], I’d have been there.”  Sinatra also campaigned for Regan in 1984.  In fact, during October and early November of that election season, Sinatra went to Chicago, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Hartford, Westchester, New York, Washington, D.C., Sacramento, and San Diego doing Republican receptions and/or fundraisers on behalf of Reagan.

May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
May 23, 1985, Sinatra received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan. Cabinet member Jeane Kirkpatrick is seen in the background.
Throughout Reagan’s presidency, Sinatra made frequent trips to the White House, as well as serving on the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities.  In 1985, Reagan presented him with the Congressional Medal of Freedom at a White house ceremony.  It was, according to friends and family, one of the proudest days of his life.  Sinatra remained friends with both Ronald and Nancy Reagan, and later sang at the inaugural gala for George H.W. Bush as well.  And although he identified more with Republican presidents in his later years, Sinatra met Bill Clinton at a small dinner party in Los Angeles after Clinton became president.  At that meeting, Clinton later recalled, Sinatra spoke about his admiration for the Kennedys and his pride in having been a part of the Kennedy campaign and JFK’s White House years.

Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.
Flashback: Frank Sinatra, January 1961, at Carnegie Hall benefit concert for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, with Sy Oliver (left) conducting. Dean Martin and Sammy Davis also participated.

On Race…

     On July 4, 1991, Sinatra, at the age of 75, wrote an opinion piece that ran in the Los Angeles Times and summed up one of his life’s major social concerns – race relations:

“[W]hy do I still hear race- and color-haters spewing their poisons?… Why do I still flinch at innuendos of venom and inequality? Why do innocent children still grow up to be despised? Why do haters’ jokes still get big laughs when passed in whispers from scum to scum? …Why do so many among us continue in words and deeds to ignore, insult and challenge the unforgettable words of Thomas Jefferson, who drafted the Declaration of Independence’s promise to every man, woman and child — the self-evident truth that all men are created equal?”

     Sinatra passed away in 1998, ten years before the election of Barack Obama.  Yet, had he been around at the time, he might well have returned to the Democrats and supported Obama.

_________________________________________


Rat Pack Postscript
1960s-2008


1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
1965: Rat Packers D. Martin, S. Davis & F. Sinatra with Johnny Carson subbing for J. Bishop in St. Louis.
     The glory days for the Rat Pack had been mostly in the early-and-mid-1960s. Thereafter, there were occasional reunions, benefit shows, some continued film making, and revival tours involving one or more of the group. Some of these gigs involved guest participants, as with Johnny Carson in 1965, shown at left. A few of their later reunion attempts even  extended into the 1980s.  

As individual performers, however, the Rat Packers of the 1960s pretty much went their separate ways in later years. And for the most part, each fared moderately well, at least initially.

Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center.  Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
Feb 7, 1960: Peter Lawford & Sammy Davis, Jr. on stage at Four Chaplin’s Benefit, Las Vegas Convention Center. Photo, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
     Peter Lawford had appeared in the film the Longest Day in 1962 and two Rat Pack- related films with Sammy Davis –Salt and Pepper (1968) and One More Time (1970). He also had some continuing success on his own in film and on a television series in the 1970s. 

But things began unraveling for him after his divorce from Patricia Kennedy in February 1966.  They had four children together.

     Lawford, who liked the ladies and partying, married three more times after Pat Kennedy, each time to a woman half his age.

Lawford died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles on Christmas Eve 1984 of cardiac arrest complicated by kidney and liver failure after years of drug and alcohol abuse.

Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.
Best of Sammy Davis collection on 20th Century Masters CD, 2002.

     Sammy Davis had continued success in Las Vegas through the 1960s, as well as in film and on stage.  During his career, Davis appeared in 39 movies, four Broadway plays, and released some 47 albums and 38 singles.  His 1962 song, “What Kind of Fool Am I,” was Grammy-nominated for both song of the year and best male solo performance.  In the Broadway musical Golden Boy of 1964 he received a Tony nomination for best actor.  He would also host his own TV show on NBC in 1966 and had top music hits, such as “I’ve Gotta Be Me” in 1968-69 and “Candy Man” in 1972.  Davis also had film and TV roles through the 1970s and 1980s.  After reuniting with Sinatra and Dean Martin in 1987, Davis toured with them and Liza Minnelli internationally.  Davis, who suffered from throat cancer, succumbed to the disease in May 1990.  He was 64 years old.  At his death, Davis was in debt to the IRS and his estate was the subject of legal battles.  On May 18, 1990, two days after Davis’ death, the neon lights of the Las Vegas strip were darkened in tribute to him.

DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
DVD cover for collection of Dean Martin’s TV shows, 1965-1974.
     Apart from the performing and films he did with Sinatra and other Rat Packers, Dean Martin had his own successful film, singing, and TV career.  His 1964 song “Everybody Loves Somebody” was a million-selling top hit.  In fact, between 1964 and 1969 Martin released 11 albums that were certified “gold,” which at the time meant sales of more than 500,000 each.  All eleven of Martin’s albums were recorded for Reprise, a label founded by Sinatra in which Martin was an investor.  Martin also had a sizable holding of RCA stock.  He released his final Reprise album, Once In A While, in 1978.  Thereafter recording became less prominent in his career.  In television, The Dean Martin Show, a variety-comedy series in which he starred, ran from 1965 to 1974 for 264 episodes, often in the top ten.  Following that series, The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast, which he hosted for NBC, and during which Martin and friends would “roast” a celebrity, ran from 1974 to 1984.  A late 1980s tour with Sinatra and Sammy Davis was attempted, but did not go well.  Martin gave some of his last solo performances in Las Vegas at Bally’s Hotel in 1990.  A life-long smoker, he was diagnosed with lung cancer at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in September 1993.  Dean Martin died at home on December 25, 1995.  He was 78 year old.

Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
Joey Bishop, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin during a Rat Pack stage act in the 1960s.
     In the 1950s, Frank Sinatra asked comic Joey Bishop to become his opening act.  Soon thereafter, he was opening regularly for Sinatra and also began finding work in first-rate clubs even when Sinatra was not on the bill.  After becoming a member of the Rat Pack, he also became a Sinatra loyalist.  In mid-1960, Bishop received an invitation from then vice president Richard Nixon to perform at the Republican Convention, which he turned down.  Bishop would later acknowledge  Sinatra’s help in his his career, including roles in Rat Pack movies.  Bishop appeared in 14 films, including Ocean’s Eleven and Sergeants 3, and served as master of ceremonies at JFK’s inaugural gala.  However, Bishop felt he was more mascot than full-fledged Rat Pack member, revealed in a 2002 biography by Michael Seth Starr titled, Mouse in the Rat Pack.  Still, Sinatra regarded Bishop as central to the Rat Pack’s success, crediting him with writing most Rat Pack jokes and quips, material assumed to be ad-libbed, but much of which was actually scripted.  Bishop also went on to star in two of his own TV shows, a sit com on NBC (1961-65) and a late night talk show ABC (1967-1969), both called The Joey Bishop Show.  Regis Philbin got his start as Bishop’s sidekick on the later talk show.  Joey Bishop died of heart failure in October 2007.  He was 89 and at the time, the last surviving member of the 1960s Rat Pack.

Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
Frank Sinatra on the cover of Newsweek, September 6, 1965.
     For nearly three decades beyond his Rat Pack years, Frank Sinatra had a full recording, acting, and performing career.  His recordings alone — with some 296 singles and 69 albums – span almost 60 years.  He began his professional singing career in the 1940s with the Harry James and Tommy Dorsey orchestras.  Singers in the 1940s began to manipulate the microphone for detail and nuance, and Sinatra learned to do it better than most.  And throughout his career, Sinatra would become a master of rhythm, timing, and phrasing and also re-interpreting older standards.  By the mid-1940’s he had become a successful solo artist and had made his film acting debut.  He would win a Golden Globe and Academy Award for his 1953 performance in From Here to Eternity, and would later win other Academy and Grammy Awards for his music. 

Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
Frank Sinatra on 2008 U.S. postage stamp.
     In television, from the 1950s through the 1970s, he hosted both his own variety shows and various TV specials, winning an Emmy for the November 1965 special, Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music. In addition to other songs, Sinatra’s “My Way” of 1969 – a song written by Paul Anka with Sinatra in mind – became a blockbuster hit on the U.S. and U.K. music charts, especially in the U.K, where it stayed inside the Top 40 for 75 weeks, from April 1969 to September 1971.

     Sinatra flirted with retirement briefly in the early 1970s, but by 1973 had a gold-selling album and a television special.  He also returned to live performing Las Vegas and elsewhere.  Still recording in his later years, he recorded Duets in 1993, an album of old standards he made with other prominent artists which became a best seller.  Sinatra died May 14,1998, he was 82 years old.  Included among the many honors he received over the years were: Kennedy Center Honors in 1983, the earlier-mentioned Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1985, and a Congressional Gold Medal in 1997.  Sinatra was also the recipient of eleven Grammy Awards during his career, including the Grammy Trustees Award, the Grammy Legend Award and the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.  The U.S. Postal Service issued a 42-cent stamp in his honor in May 2008.

     Other stories at this website that deal with and/or touch upon the life of Frank Sinatra include: “The Sinatra Riots, 1942-1944,” “Ava Gardner, 1940s-1950s,” and “Mia’s Metamorphases, 1966-2010.”  Other Kennedy family stories include: “Kennedy History–12 Stories: 1954-2013,” “JFK’s 1960 Campaign,” and “JFK, Pitchman?, 2009.”  Beyond these, see also the various category pages, archive, or the Home Page for additional story choices. 

Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. —Jack Doyle

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Date Posted:  21 August 2011
Last Update:  29 May 2017
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “The Jack Pack, Pt. 2: 1961-2008,”
PopHistoryDig.com, August 21, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

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Jan 1961: Peter Lawford & Frank Sinatra at airport en route to work on JFK inaugural show. Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration.  Photo, Phil Stern.
Nat King Cole and Tony Curtis preparing for show at JFK inauguration. Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala.  Photo, Phil Stern.
January 1961: Frank Sinatra rehearsing for JFK Inaugural Gala. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan. 19, 1961: Jackie Kennedy stepping out into the snowfall en route to Inaugural Gala with JFK behind her.
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Ted Kennedy & family patriarch, Joseph P. Kennedy, on JFK Inauguration Day. (Paul Schutzer).
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
Jan 20, 1961: Frank Sinatra, JFK & Peter Lawford at one of the inaugural balls. Photo, Phil Stern.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
1961: President Kennedy walking with Defense Secretary Robert McNamara at Hyannis Port, MA.
July 8, 1961: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy attending benefit dinner for Cedars-Sinai Hospital at Beverly Hilton, L.A.
July 8, 1961: Frank Sinatra, Peter Lawford and U.S. Attorney General, Robert Kennedy attending benefit dinner for Cedars-Sinai Hospital at Beverly Hilton, L.A.
May 19, 1962: Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city.
May 19, 1962: Peter Lawford introducing Marilyn Monroe at JFK’s birthday gala in New York city.
JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage.  Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
JFK birthday cake being carried into hall as Monroe & Lawford leave stage. Photo, Life/Bill Ray.
August 6, 1962: New York Daily News front page, reporting on the death of Marilyn Monroe.
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1960s: Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Frank Sinatra performing together on stage.
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“Reese & Robbie”
1945-2005

Note to Readers: Recent historical research has cast doubt on where, when, and whether the 1947 “arms-around-the-shoulders” moment between Pee Wee Reese and Jackie Robinson, as described below and in many other accounts, actually occurred. Ken Burns in his April 2016 PBS Jackie Robinson film, and others, have challenged the accuracy of the story. ++ — j.d., 3/20/16


Brooklyn, NY sculpture of Pee Wee Reese left and Jackie Robinson, commemorating Reese’s May 1947 "arm-around-the-shoulders" support of Robinson during racial heckling by fans at a Cincinnati Reds game.  Photo: MLB.com.
Brooklyn, NY sculpture of Pee Wee Reese left and Jackie Robinson, commemorating Reese’s May 1947 "arm-around-the-shoulders" support of Robinson during racial heckling by fans at a Cincinnati Reds game. Photo: MLB.com.
     On May 13, 1947 a professional baseball game was about to be played at Cincinnati’s Crosley Field between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Cincinnati Reds.  A new ball player for the Dodgers named Jackie Robinson was taking infield practice with the rest of his mates before the game was about to start.  Robinson, however, wasn’t just any player.  He was the first African American to play on a professional baseball team.  Baseball then was still an all-white affair, as black ballplayers played in the “separate and apart” Negro League, as it was called.  Robinson, however, was chosen by Brooklyn Dodgers general manager, Branch Rickey, to be the first black player to play for a professional team in Major League baseball.  Robinson had been signed by the Dodgers in 1945 and had played for the Dodger’s minor league team a year earlier in Montreal, Canada.  He had made his major league debut with the Dodgers at Brooklyn’s Ebbets Field on April 15th, 1947.  So this game in Cincinnati was among the earliest of the Dodgers’ road games that year, with Robinson being introduced for the first time to fans beyond Brooklyn.  In Cincinnati that day, however, they were not particularly welcoming of Robinson.

The Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson monument is a work by sculptor William Behrends. Photo, Ted Levin.
The Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson monument is a work by sculptor William Behrends. Photo, Ted Levin.
     During the pre-game infield practice, the fans were heckling and taunting Robinson, who was then playing first base.  Robinson had also received death threats prior to the game, as he had elsewhere; threats that would continue to dog him for several years. 

Also taking infield practice that day was Dodger shortstop, Harold “Pee Wee” Reese, a veteran player and team captain. But Reese on this day walked diagonally across the field to join Robinson, where he began a conversation with the rookie and put his arm around Robinson’s shoulders as he spoke with him. 

Reese then, according to sportswriter Roger Kahn, “looked into the Cincinnati dugout and the grandstands beyond,” as the slurs and heckling were coming from both Cincinnati ballplayers and fans. Some were shouting out terms like “shoeshine boy” and “snowflake” and worse. Reese, however, did not call out at the taunters or the Cincinnati dugout. But he kept his arm around Robinson’s shoulder while talking to him, which soon helped quiet the crowd and defuse the hostility. It was a moment for many who saw it say they will never forget, as a hush fell over the field and stadium. For Robinson and Reese, the moment became an important bonding experience that helped forge a long friendship. Years later Robinson would tell Roger Kahn: “After Pee Wee came over like that, I never felt alone on a baseball field again.”

Pee Wee Reese, Brooklyn Dodgers, on a 1953 Topps baseball card.
Pee Wee Reese, Brooklyn Dodgers, on a 1953 Topps baseball card.
     Reese, in many ways, was an unlikely candidate to ally with Robinson’s strife.  He was born in 1918, in Ekron, Kentucky, and moved with his family to racially segregated Louisville when he about eight years old.  Louisville, not far away from Cincinnati, was then part of the old south; the south that had practiced institutionalized racial discrimination with all its outward manifestations of separate “colored” facilities.  As a boy growing up, Reese had seen and experienced racial discrimination.  His father had memorably marked one particular spot for him as a boy, pointing out a local tree where lynchings had occurred.  Reese, however, had little contact with blacks during his youth.  “When I was growing up, we never played ball with blacks because they weren’t allowed in the parks,” he would later explain.  “And the schools were segregated, so we didn’t go to school with them….”

     Reese was still finishing up his World War II military tour in the U.S. Navy in 1946 when Jackie Robinson was signed to the Dodgers’ baseball organization.  Robinson would begin his play that year with the Dodgers’ minor league team in Montreal, Canada.  But in 1947, when Robinson reported to the main Brooklyn Dodger’s spring training camp, Reese was the first Dodger to walk across the field and shake his hand.  “It was the first time I’d ever shaken the hand of a black man,” Reese would later say.  “But I was the captain of the team. It was my job, I believed, to greet the new players.”

Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers.
Jackie Robinson, Brooklyn Dodgers.
     Jackie Robinson made his debut in major league baseball when he stepped onto Ebbets Field that April 1947 day in Brooklyn, New York.  Branch Rickey had carefully selected Robinson for this day.  Rickey thought he had found in Robinson a candidate who could weather the storm of taunts and abuse that was certain to come to the first black player in major league baseball.  Rickey had the support of  Happy Chandler, baseball’s commissioner, at the time.  Chandler, in fact,  had stated that if African Americans could fight and die on Okinawa, Guadalcanal, and in the South Pacific during WWII, they could play ball in America.  There was also political support for Rickey in New York, as both the city council and Mayor Fiorello La Guardia’s Committee on Baseball backed a resolution against discrimination in professional baseball.  And in March 1945, the state of New York had passed the first state Fair Employment Practices law forbidding “discrimination because of race, creed, color or national origin.”  Jackie Robinson, meanwhile, was an exceptional athlete.  At UCLA, he had become the first ever to earn a varsity letter in four sports in one year – baseball, football, basketball, and track.  But Rickey selected Robinson not only for his athletic capability, but also for his character, competitiveness, and determination.  Robinson, however, was no patsy; he had a strong rebellious streak in him and a temper that could be provoked.

Jackie Robinson & Brooklyn Dodger’s general manager, Branch Rickey, shown in a 1948 photograph.
Jackie Robinson & Brooklyn Dodger’s general manager, Branch Rickey, shown in a 1948 photograph.
     Rickey knew the going would be tough for Robinson and he warned him early on that there would be few supporters for what they were about to do: “No owners, no umpires, very few newspaper men – and I’m afraid that many fans will be hostile,” Rickey told Robinson.  “We can win,” he said, “only if we can convince the world that I’m doing this because you’re a great ballplayer, a fine gentleman.”  

     Rickey wanted a candidate who had the guts not to strike back.  He asked Robinson to promise he would not fight back for his first three seasons – even though he would surely hear every imaginable kind of slur and insult.  However, Robinson’s first test at the major league level – he already had a season’s worth of taunts at the minor league level in 1946 – came not from fans, but from his own Brooklyn Dodger teammates. 

Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese, circa 1950s.
Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese, circa 1950s.
     A petition had been drawn up in early 1947 by a group of Dodgers that stated they would not take the field with a black man.  Pee Wee Reese, however, refused to sign it. Reese later downplayed his role in the refusal. “I wasn’t thinking of myself as the Great White Father,” Reese would later tell a reporter. “I just wanted to play baseball.  I’d just come back from serving in the South Pacific with the Navy during the Second World War, and I had a wife and daughter to support.  I needed the money.  I just wanted to get on with it.”

     But Pee Wee Reese became one of the most popular players of his day, known among fans and teammates as the “Little Colonel.”  Not only was he the Dodgers’ captain in those years, he almost appeared to be their manager on occasion, bringing out the line-up card to the umpires at the start of games, a practice usually reserved for managers.

Brooklyn Dodgers players on opening day, April 15, 1947, from left: John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson.
Brooklyn Dodgers players on opening day, April 15, 1947, from left: John Jorgensen, Pee Wee Reese, Ed Stanky and Jackie Robinson.
     Robinson, meanwhile, was stepping into a very visible and very contentious arena.  Blacks had struggled for decades against every imaginable kind of discrimination and indignity and had to use separate rest rooms, drinking fountains, and waiting areas; could not stay in most hotels or eat in public restaurants; and had designated seating areas on buses and trains.  In the late 1940s, segregation and discrimination were common throughout the U.S., north and south.  On Long Island, New York, returning WWII veterans in the late 1940s were snapping up Levittown homes, but not black veterans.  Developers refused to sell to African Americans.  In fact, in 1950 there were state laws and/or local ordinances in effect in 48 states and the District of Columbia that mandated racial segregation of some kind; laws requiring African Americans, Latino Americans, Native Americans, and/or Asian Americans to go to segregated schools, work at segregated jobs, and live in segregated parts of town.  Racially motivated violence still occurred throughout the country during the 1940s and 1950s,  as Congress had refused to pass an anti-lynching law to quell racial violence.  But soon the modern civil rights movement had a new spark – and as some would come to believe, a prime moving event pushing civil rights ahead – when Jackie Robinson took to Ebbets Field in April 1947.  Yet the indignities and prejudices would not yield overnight, and Jackie Robinson in the limelight, bore a heavy load over many, many games and too many years.

Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and pitcher “Preacher” Roe celebrating after beating the New York Yankees in game 3 of the 1952 World Series.
Pee Wee Reese, Jackie Robinson, and pitcher “Preacher” Roe celebrating after beating the New York Yankees in game 3 of the 1952 World Series.
     White fans, in particular, were upset that black fans would be coming to see Robinson play; coming into stadiums in which they had previously been denied admission.  Players from opposing teams also heckled Robinson mercilessly.  And on the field during games, he was purposely spiked and spit on, while pitchers sometimes threw at his head.  He also received hate mail and threats from fans, like those in Cincinnati.

     That first year for Robinson, his teammates, and the Dodger organization was a rough time.  Reese, who was also Robinson’s roommate when they traveled, did what he could to help buoy Robinson through the worst of insults and hard times.  But in the end, it was Robinson’s play that won the day and would gradually win fan support.  Still, under great pressure in that first year, Robinson’s play was outstanding, and he won the Rookie of the Year award.

     “Thinking about the things that happened,” Reese would later say of Robinson’s ordeal, “I don’t know any other ballplayer who could have done what he did.  To be able to hit with everybody yelling at him.  He had to block all that out, block out everything but this ball that is coming in at a hundred miles an hour.  To do what he did has got to be the most tremendous thing I’ve ever seen in sports.”

 

“Pee Wee” Reese

Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
     Harold H. “Pee Wee” Reese began his baseball career in 1938 when he was signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, playing first with their Louisville Colonels minor league team.  He then went briefly to the Boston Red Sox who sold him to the Brooklyn Dodgers where he made his big league playing debut in April 1940. That year Reese hit .272 in 84 games sharing shortstop duties with player-manager Leo Durocher. 

By 1942, Reese made National League All-Star team at age 24. Then with World War II, he went off to serve in the U.S. Navy for two years. Back with the Dodgers in 1946, Reese was named to the National League All-Star team again, a distinction he would win in eight more consecutive seasons.

Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers, shown on 1957 Topps baseball card.
Pee Wee Reese of the Brooklyn Dodgers, shown on 1957 Topps baseball card.
     In 1947 and 1948, Reese led National League shortstops in double plays.  In 1949, Reese topped the National Leaguers with 132 runs scored as the Dodgers won the pennant.  He also led the National League that year in fielding average at .977.  In the 1949 World Series, the Dodgers lost to the Yankees despite Reese’s .316 series batting average.  In 1952, Reese led the National League in stolen bases with 30, and in the World Series that year compiled a .345 batting average with 10 hits, one home run and four RBIs.  In Game 3 of that World Series, Robinson and Reese pulled off a double steal, with both later scoring on a passed ball.

     In 1953 Reese again was an important player in the Dodgers’ National League pennant run, compiling a .271 batting average and scoring 108 runs.  The Dodgers went 105–49 that year but again lost the world Series to the Yankees.  In 1954, now 36 years old, Reese compiled a .309 batting average.  The following year he scored 99 runs as the Dodgers won their first World Series with Reese garnering two RBIs in Game 2 while also making some outstanding defensive plays.  By 1957, Reese was playing less as starter, and after moving with the Dodgers to Los Angeles in 1958 as a backup infielder, he retired.  In 1959, he coached with the Dodgers, a year they won the World Series.  After that, Reese enjoyed a broadcasting career for a time, working with CBS, NBC, and the Cincinnati Reds.  He later became director of the college and professional baseball staff at Hillerich & Bradsby, maker of Louisville Slugger bats.  Reese was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984.  Reese passed away in 1999.  At Reese’s funeral, Joe Black, another African American ballplayer who helped integrate baseball, spoke of how he and others had been moved by Reese’s support for Robinson when the insults were flying:

“…When Pee Wee reached out to Jackie, all of us in the Negro League smiled and said it was the first time that a white guy had accepted us. When I finally got up to Brooklyn, I went to Pee Wee and said, ‘Black people love you. When you touched Jackie, you touched all of us.’ With Pee Wee, it was No. 1 on his uniform and No. 1 in our hearts.”


Jackie Robinson

Among other things, Jackie Robinson had been a track star at UCLA in 1940.
Among other things, Jackie Robinson had been a track star at UCLA in 1940.
     Jackie Roosevelt Robinson was born in 1919 to a family of sharecroppers in Cairo, Georgia .  Robinson’s father left while young Jackie was still a toddler, and the family then moved to Pasadena, California where Robinson’s mother worked various odd jobs to support the family.  At John Muir High School, Robinson became a star athlete in several sports – at shortstop and catcher on the baseball team, quarterback on the football team, and guard on the basketball team.  In track he won awards in the broad jump and also won a junior boys singles tennis championship.

     Following high school, Robinson attended Pasadena Junior College, where he continued his athletic career excelling in basketball, football, baseball, and track.  After junior college, he transferred to UCLA, where he became the school’s first athlete to win varsity letters in four sports: baseball, basketball, football, and track. 

In 1939, he was one of four black players on the UCLA football team, a time when mainstream college football had only a few blacks in the game.  In 1940, Robinson won the NCAA Outdoor Track & Field Championship long jump event, baseball then being his “worst sport.”

Jackie Robinson in his U.S. Army officer’s uniform, was acquitted in a court martial for a “back-of-the-bus” incident & false charges.
Jackie Robinson in his U.S. Army officer’s uniform, was acquitted in a court martial for a “back-of-the-bus” incident & false charges.
     In 1941, Robinson played semi-professional football briefly with the racially-integrated Honolulu Bears in Hawaii, and had plans to continue with the Los Angeles Bulldogs of the Pacific Coast Football League.  However, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Robinson’s football career ended as he was drafted into the U.S. Army and assigned to a segregated Army unit in Fort Riley, Kansas.  At Fort Riley, Robinson and several other black soldiers applied for admission to an Officer Candidate School, but admission to the program was blocked until help came by way of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis and others.  Robinson was admitted to OCS school, and in January 1943 he was commissioned an officer, second lieutenant, in the U.S. Army.  Then came an incident on a military bus where Robinson was ordered to sit in the back of the bus, which he refused to do, leading to an arrest, some trumped-up charges, and a court martial, in which Robinson was acquitted in August 1944 by an all-white panel of officers.

Jackie Robinson with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League, 1945.
Jackie Robinson with the Kansas City Monarchs of the Negro Baseball League, 1945.
     By early 1945, while Robinson was serving as athletics director at Sam Houston College in Texas, the Kansas City Monarchs baseball team of the Negro baseball leagues sent him a written offer to play for the team.  Robinson accepted a contract roughly equal to $4,800 a month in today’s money.  In April 1945, Robinson also attended a tryout that the Boston Red Sox major league team had arranged for a few black players; a tryout that turned out to be a farce to appease an anti-segregation city councilman.  At the tryout, with largely Red Sox management in attendance, there were racial slurs and epithets hurled at the black players, leaving Robinson and others humiliated.

     Meanwhile, Branch Rickey of the Brooklyn Dodgers had been searching for a prospective black ball player to help break the color barrier in professional baseball, and in August after meeting with several prospects, he began meeting with Robinson.  Satisfied that Robinson would commit to not fighting back, Rickey signed him to a contract of roughly the equivalent of $7,300 a month in today’s money.  The deal was formally announced in late October 1945 that Robinson would be playing for the Dodgers’ Montreal Royals minor league team for the 1946 season.

Jackie Robinson at his first minor league game, Jersey City, N.J., April 18, 1946.
Jackie Robinson at his first minor league game, Jersey City, N.J., April 18, 1946.
     In his year with Montreal, Robinson faced racial difficulties from the start.  In spring training in Florida local hotels refused to lodge him. But it wasn’t just the hotels. In fact, some baseball parks in Florida at the time, typically eager to host spring training teams, refused to let the Montreal Royals use their parks. 

In March 1946 the Triple-A Royals were scheduled to play an exhibition against their parent club, the Dodgers. However, both Florida towns of Jacksonville and Sanford refused to allow the game to be played in their parks, citing segregation laws. Daytona Beach, however, agreed, and the game was played on March 17, 1946. 

The Dodgers, however, didn’t forget the incident, as the following year they shifted their spring training from Jacksonville, their previous spring training home, to Daytona.

Jackie Robinson at his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, April 15,1947.
Jackie Robinson at his Major League debut with the Brooklyn Dodgers, April 15,1947.
     Robinson, meanwhile, throughout his minor league season with Montreal, was taunted and heckled.  His play on the field, however, was superior, leading the league in batting and fielding with a .349 batting average and .985 fielding percentage, also named the league’s Most Valuable Player while helping set league attendance records.  More than one million people attended minor league games involving Robinson in 1946, a very large number at the time.  In fact, at one point in Montreal, after winning the league championship, Robinson was chased – in a good way – by a crowd of jubilant fans.

     Next came the big leagues.  But some of the Dodgers’ players weren’t happy to be playing with a black man, as some had signed a petition saying they would not play.  Rickey delegated team manager Leo Durocher to address the problem head on, which he did in a locker room speech. 

“I do not care if the guy is yellow or black, or if he has stripes like a … zebra,” he told his players.  “I’m the manager of this team, and I say he plays.  What’s more, I say he can make us all rich.  And if any of you cannot use the money, I will see that you are all traded.”

Example of hate mail Jackie Robinson received, May 20, 1950, Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: National Baseball Library.
Example of hate mail Jackie Robinson received, May 20, 1950, Cincinnati, Ohio. Photo: National Baseball Library.
     On opening day with the Dodgers at Ebbets Field in April 1947, Robinson did not have an exceptional playing debut, but more than 26,600 fans had come out, with about 14,000 of them black fans.  But Robinson soon had an early test of his pledge to Branch Rickey when the Philadelphia Phillies came to Brooklyn that April for a three-game series.  The taunts hurled at Robinson came from the players and the Phillies’ manger, Ben Chapman, most embellished with the “n” word.  “We don’t want you here, n____,” and, “N___, go back to the cotton fields.”  And worse.  Robinson nearly lost it with the Phillies, and was ready to throw in the towel then and there, but some of his teammates began rising to his defense, a positive  development that Durocher and Rickey were happy to see.

     There were also lots of incidents on the road, like that at Crosley Field where Pee Wee Reese interceded.  In August 1947 in St. Louis, Cardinals player Enos Slaugher purposely slid high into Robinson at first base, spikes first, slicing open Robinson’s thigh.  Still, even with this onslaught of taunts, rough play, and death threats, Robinson finished the 1947 season with a .297 batting average, 125 runs scored, 12 home runs, and a league-leading 29 stolen bases.  His performance earned him the inaugural Rookie of the Year Award, then a single award covering both leagues.  Robinson’s play that year also helped the Dodgers win the National League Pennant, then meeting the New York Yankees in the 1947 World Series, though losing to the Yankees in seven games.  The taunts and threats for Robinson, however, would continue for years.

Jackie Robinson appeared on “Time” magazine’s cover September 22, 1947.
Jackie Robinson appeared on “Time” magazine’s cover September 22, 1947.
     In 1948, Robinson played second base with a .980 fielding average.  He hit .296 that year with 22 stolen bases.  In one game against the St. Louis Cardinals in late August 1948, Robinson “hit for the cycle,” a rare batting feat of a home run, a triple, a double, and a single in the same game.  The Dodgers finished third in the league that year.  By this time, other black players had joined professional baseball, including Larry Doby who joined the Cleveland Indians in the American League in July 1947 and Satchel Paige, who also played for Cleveland.  The Dodgers, too, had added three additional black players.

     In 1949, after working with retired Hall-of-Famer and experienced batsman George Sisler, Robinson improved his batting average to.342.  He also had 124 runs batted in (RBIs) that year, 122 runs scored, 37 stolen bases, and was second in the league for doubles and triples.  Robinson became first black player voted into the All-Star Game that year, and also the first black player to receive the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award.  A popular song was also made in Robinson’s honor that year – a song by Buddy Johnson that was also recorded by Count Basie and others – “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?”  The song became a pop hit, with the Buddy Johnson version reaching No. 13 on the music charts in August 1949.  The Dodgers, meanwhile, won the pennant again, but also lost again to the Yankees in the World Series.

Jackie Robinson, once on base, was always a stealing threat, having very quick feet, a good sense of timing, and smart base running.
Jackie Robinson, once on base, was always a stealing threat, having very quick feet, a good sense of timing, and smart base running.
     By 1950, Robinson was the highest paid Dodger, making nearly $320,000 in today’s money. He finished the year with a .328 batting average, 99 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases. He also led the National League in double plays by a second baseman with 133. A Hollywood film biography of Robinson’s life, The Jackie Robinson Story, was released that year as well, with Robinson playing himself in the film. 

Branch Rickey, then with an expired contract and no chance of replacing Walter O’ Malley as Dodger president, cashed out his one-quarter ownership interest in the team and became general manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

In 1951, Robinson had another good year, finishing with a .335 batting average, 106 runs scored, and 25 stolen bases.  He also again led the National League in double plays made by a second baseman with 137. Robinson kept the Dodgers in contention for the 1951 pennant with a clutch hitting performance in two at bats in an extra inning game that forced a playoff against the New York Giants – that later game ending badly for the Dodgers with the famous Bobby Thomson home run giving the Giant’s the pennant.

Pee Wee Reese & Jackie Robinson featured on the October 1952 cover of “Sport” magazine turning a defensive “double play”.
Pee Wee Reese & Jackie Robinson featured on the October 1952 cover of “Sport” magazine turning a defensive “double play”.
     In 1952, Robinson had what became for him an average year, finishing with a .308 batting average, 104 runs scored, and 24 stolen bases.  Sport magazine that fall put Robinson and Reese on the cover, shown in “double play” action.  The Dodgers won the National League pennant in 1952, but lost the World Series to the Yankees in seven games.

     By 1953 Robinson began playing other positions, as Jim Gilliam, another black player, took over at second base.  Robinson’s hitting, however, was a good as ever, compiling a .329 batting average, scoring 109 runs, and 17 steals. The Dodgers again took the pennant and again lost the World Series to the Yankees, this time in six games. 

During the 1953 season, a series of death threats were made on Robinson’s life. Still, on the road, he would speak out and criticize segregated hotels and restaurants that poorly served the Dodger organization, including the five-star Chase Park Hotel in St. Louis, which later changed its practices. 

In 1954, Robinson had a .311 batting average, scored 62 runs, and had 7 steals.  His best day at the plate that year came on June 17th when he hit two home runs and two doubles.

Jackie Robinson’s steal of home in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series still angers Yogi Berra who claims Robinson was out. Photo: Mark Kauffman/SI.
Jackie Robinson’s steal of home in Game 1 of the 1955 World Series still angers Yogi Berra who claims Robinson was out. Photo: Mark Kauffman/SI.
     In 1955, Robinson missed 49 games and his performance slipped below his usual standard, hitting .256 that year with 12 stolen bases.  He was now 37, playing either in the outfield or at third base.  The Dodgers took the pennant that year and finally beat the Yankees in the World Series.  In the following year, 1956, Robinson hit .275, scored 61 runs, and had 12 stolen bases.  Around this time, he also began to exhibit the effects of diabetes.  After the season ended, the Dodgers started to arrange a trade of Robinson to their arch-rivals, the New York Giants.  However, the deal was never completed, as Robinson retired, announcing his retirement in a pre-arranged exclusive story in Look magazine.  Robinson had also arranged for a business position with the Chock-Full-o’-Nuts coffee company.

     Over ten seasons, Jackie Robinson had helped the Dodgers win six National League pennants, taking them to the World Series in each of those years, winning the Series in 1955.  He was selected for six consecutive All-Star games from 1949 to 1954, received the inaugural MLB Rookie of the Year award in 1947, and won the National League Most Valuable Player award in 1949.  But Jackie Robinson’s career, of course, was marked by much more than his outstanding play; as he became a powerful impetus for, and one of the most important figures in, the American civil rights movement that grew through the 1950s and 1960s.

Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson statue at the entrance of KeySpan Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. Photo: Ted Levin.
Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson statue at the entrance of KeySpan Park, Coney Island, Brooklyn, NY. Photo: Ted Levin.
     In the years following his retirement from baseball, Robinson was honored in innumerable ways for his pioneering role in breaking baseball’s color barrier.  He also became a tireless civil rights proponent in baseball and elsewhere, but especially pushing Major League Baseball to do more minority hiring in the managerial and front-office ranks. Jackie Robinson passed on in October 1972. He was 53 years old. 

Since then, Jackie Robinson’s life and legacy have since been commemorated on postage stamps and presidential citations; special anniversary commemorations and also having his playing numeral, 42, retired by all Major League baseball teams. 

In 1973, his wife Rachel created the Jackie Robinson Foundation, which has since awarded higher education scholarships to more than 1,200 minority students and is also involved in other baseball history and leadership development programs.

     In 1999, Time magazine named Robinson among the world’s 100 most influential people of the 20th century, while Sporting News placed him on its list of Baseball’s 100 Greatest Players. He was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal. Yet among all the Jackie Robinson commemorations and honors — and there are many others enumerated elsewhere — the 2005 Reese-Robinson sculpture in Brooklyn commemorating that moment in May 1947 when the two ballplayers made a powerful social statement by simply standing together, remains one of the more interesting and instructive honors, capturing a moment that stands out in baseball as well as the nation’s social history.


The Statues

Reese-Robinson sculpture in Brooklyn sits atop a pedestal with descriptive engraving about the 1947 incident in Cincinnati. Photo Ted Levin.
Reese-Robinson sculpture in Brooklyn sits atop a pedestal with descriptive engraving about the 1947 incident in Cincinnati. Photo Ted Levin.
     The Reese-Robinson sculpture is located at the entrance to KeySpan Park, home of the New York Mets’ Class A minor league baseball team, the Brooklyn Cyclones.  The likenesses of Reese and Robinson are eight-foot-tall bronze figures standing on an engraved pedestal with descriptive passages.  The sculpture is the work of William Behrends.  The monument was unveiled on November 1, 2005 by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Rachel Robinson, Dorothy Reese, and a number of other VIPs.

     The genesis of the project came about shortly after Pee Wee Reese’s death in August 1999, with some fans looking for a way to commemorate Reese’s playing career.  Stan Isaacs, a columnist with Newsday, suggested that instead of naming a parkway or highway after Reese, that a statue in Brooklyn honoring the famous Reese-Robinson moment in 1947 would be a fitting tribute to Reese.  Isaacs’ suggestion was subsequently mentioned during a TV broadcast of a Mets baseball game.  Then New York Post writer, Jack Newfield, picked up the idea, writing about it in several columns.  By December 1999, then Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani embraced the proposal and a committee was formed study the project.  Giuliani became one of the lead donors for the project, making a $10,000 gift after he left office.  The project then lapsed for a time following September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center.

Close-up of Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson sculpture. Photo: “Mets Guy in Michigan” website.
Close-up of Pee Wee Reese-Jackie Robinson sculpture. Photo: “Mets Guy in Michigan” website.
     Mayor Michael Bloomberg resurrected the project after taking office, with Deputy Mayor for Administration, Patricia Harris, taking lead on the project.  The KeySpan Park location was chosen, with the monument erected on public parkland, making it accessible to everyone.  Some $1.2 million was raised to build and maintain the monument, with 110 donors contributing – ranging from Ted Forstmann, senior partner of Forstmann Little & Co. and Bob Daly, former Chairman and CEO of Warner Brothers and former managing partner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, to the New York Mets and New York Yankees baseball teams and a group of students at P.S. 7 Brooklyn Abraham Lincoln school who contributed a portion of their collected pennies to the project.  The largest gift of $200,000, which helped complete the fundraising for the project, was made by Bob Daly, who had grown up in Brooklyn and had been a Dodger fan as a young boy, had been impressed by both players and Reese’s friendship with Robinson.

     On the pedestal of the sculpture are six panels, which include an engraved description with the following explanation:

“This monument honors Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese: teammates, friends, and men of courage and conviction.  Robinson broke the color barrier in Major League Baseball, Reese supported him, and together they made history.  In May 1947, on Cincinnati’s Crosley Field, Robinson endured racist taunts, jeers, and death threats that would have broken the spirit of a lesser man.  Reese, captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers, walked over to his teammate Robinson and stood by his side, silencing the taunts of the crowd.  This simple gesture challenged prejudice and created a powerful and enduring friendship.”

At the dedication ceremony for the Reese-Robinson sculpture in 2005 are, from left: Rachel Robinson, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dorothy Reese, and NY city councilman, Mike Nelson . Photo: Ted Levin.
At the dedication ceremony for the Reese-Robinson sculpture in 2005 are, from left: Rachel Robinson, NY Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Dorothy Reese, and NY city councilman, Mike Nelson . Photo: Ted Levin.
     At the dedication ceremony in November 2005, there were a number of speeches given by Mayor Michael Bloomberg, various baseball dignitaries, local officials, and Reese-Robinson family members.  They all had good things to say.

     “The Reese family is extremely proud to be able to share in the unveiling of this very special statue with the Robinson family,” said Reese’s wife, Dorothy.  “Pee Wee didn’t see Jackie Robinson as a symbol, and, after a while, he didn’t see color.  He merely saw Jackie as a human being, a wonderful individual who happened to be a great ball player.  My husband had many wonderful moments in his life, but if he were alive today, I know he’d say this honor was among the greatest in his life. I share in that sentiment.”

     “When Pee Wee Reese threw his arm around Jackie Robinson’s shoulder in this legendary gesture of support and friendship,” said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, “they showed America and the world that racial discrimination is unaccept- able.  Pee Wee and Jackie showed the courage to stand up for equality in the face of adversity, which we call the Brooklyn attitude.  It is a moment in sports, and history that deserves to be preserved forever here in Brooklyn, proud home to everyone from everywhere.”

     Jackie Robinson’s wife, Rachel, also spoke at the ceremony.  “The Robinson Family is very proud to have the historic relationship between Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese memorialized in the statue being dedicated at KeySpan Park,” she said.  “We hope that it will become a source of inspiration for all who view it, and a powerful reminder that teamwork underlies all social progress.”

     Additional baseball history at this website can be found at “Baseball Stories, 1900s-2000s,” a topics page with links to 14 baseball-related stories. For sports generally, see the “Annals of Sport” category page. And among other “statue-related” stories at this website are, for example: “RFK in Brooklyn,” “The Rocky Statue” (at the Philadelphia Art Museum), and “The Jackson Statues” (Michael Jackson). Thanks for visiting — and if you like what you find here, please make a donation to help support the research and writing at this website. Thank you. – Jack Doyle.


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Date Posted: 29 June 2011
Last Update: 8 January 2017
Comments to: jdoyle@pophistorydig.com

Article Citation:
Jack Doyle, “Reese & Robbie, 1945-2005,”
PopHistoryDig.com, June 29, 2011.

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Sources, Links & Additional Information

The late 1940s-early 1950s were the heyday of "stadium pins” or “pinbacks,” produced for sale at stadium concession stands to depict and support favorite players; collectables today. Jackie Robinson is shown in this 1947 Rookie-of-the-Year pin. According to one source, no player aside from Babe Ruth has been the subject of more pins than Jackie Robinson.
The late 1940s-early 1950s were the heyday of "stadium pins” or “pinbacks,” produced for sale at stadium concession stands to depict and support favorite players; collectables today. Jackie Robinson is shown in this 1947 Rookie-of-the-Year pin. According to one source, no player aside from Babe Ruth has been the subject of more pins than Jackie Robinson.
Newspaper coverage of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut by the black-owned “Pittsburgh Courier” (Wash., D.C. edition), Saturday, April 19, 1947.
Newspaper coverage of Jackie Robinson’s major league debut by the black-owned “Pittsburgh Courier” (Wash., D.C. edition), Saturday, April 19, 1947.
CD cover of Natalie Cole’s version of “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?,” 1994 release, Elektra.; also used in Ken Burns “Baseball” film.
CD cover of Natalie Cole’s version of “Did You See Jackie Robinson Hit That Ball?,” 1994 release, Elektra.; also used in Ken Burns “Baseball” film.
Sept 1953: Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese, center, in the Brooklyn Dodgers dugout. Look Collection, U.S. Library of Congress.
Sept 1953: Jackie Robinson & Pee Wee Reese, center, in the Brooklyn Dodgers dugout. Look Collection, U.S. Library of Congress.
Pee Wee Reese & Jackie Robinson turning a double play during March 1950 spring training in Vero Beach, FL. Photo Phil Sandlin, AP.
Pee Wee Reese & Jackie Robinson turning a double play during March 1950 spring training in Vero Beach, FL. Photo Phil Sandlin, AP.

Tim Cohane, “A Branch Grows in Brooklyn,” Look, March 19, 1946, p. 70.

“Sport: Rookie of the Year,” Time (cover story) Monday, September 22, 1947.

“Jackie Robinson’s First Year As a Dodger,” Look, January 6, 1948.

Jackie Robinson, “My Future,” Look, January 22, 1957.

Red Barber, 1947, When All Hell Broke Loose in Baseball, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1982.

Roger Kahn, The Boys of Summer, New York: Perennial Library, 1987.

Maury Allen, Jackie Robinson: A Life Remembered, New York: F. Watts, 1987.

Geoffrey C. Ward and Ken Burns, Baseball: An Illustrated History, New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994, pp. 285-300.

Ben Couch, “Robinson, Reese Now Together Forever; Statue of Former Brooklyn Dodgers Teammates is Unveiled,” MLB.com, November 1, 2005.

Rachel Robinson and Lee Daniels, Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait, New York: Abrams, 1996.

Jules Tygiel, Baseball’s Great Experiment: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy, New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Arnold Rampersad, Jackie Robinson,” New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997, 448pp.

“Pee Wee Reese,” Wikipedia.org.

“Baseball, the Color Line, and Jackie Robinson, “Online Exhibit, Library of Congress.

“Jackie Robinson Timeline,”MLB.com.

Ira Berkow, Sports of the Times, “Standing Beside Jackie Robinson, Reese Helped Change Baseball,” New York Times, March 31, 1997

“Rachel Robinson Recalls How the Late Pee Wee Reese Helped Jackie Robinson Integrate Baseball,” Jet Magazine, September 13, 1999.

Press Release, “Mayor Bloomberg and Brooklyn Borough President Markowitz Unveil Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese Monument,” Office of the Mayor, New York, NY, November 1, 2005.

Ted Levin Photos, “A Monument for Tolerance: Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese,” pBase.com, November 2005.

“Keyspan Park,” Mets Guy In Michigan, website.

Scott Simon, Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball,

Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2007, 176pp.

“Jackie Robinson,” Wikipedia.org.

“Jackie Robinson and Dr. Martin Luther King: They Changed America,” Padre steve’s World, January 18, 2010

“The Glory Days: New York Baseball, 1947-1957,”Exhibit, Museum of the City of New York.

“Remembering Jackie Robinson, 1946,” MiLB.com, 2006.

Roger Kahn, Letter to the Editor, “The Day Jackie Robinson Was Embraced,” New York Times, April 21, 2007.

Jonathan Eig, Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson’s First Season, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007, 336 pp.

Barry M. Bloom, “Jackie Robinson: Gone But Not Forgotten; Dodgers Legend Continued to Be a Force after His Playing Days,” MLB.com, June 4, 2007.

“Jackie Robinson: An American Icon,” DefinitiveTouch.com, October 31, 2009.




 



“The Love Story Saga”
1970-1977

Actors Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw in 1970 studio photo: Harvard ice-hockey star & hot head meets wise-cracking Radcliffe beauty in popular novel and Hollywood film, “Love Story”.
Actors Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw in 1970 studio photo: Harvard ice-hockey star & hot head meets wise-cracking Radcliffe beauty in popular novel and Hollywood film, “Love Story”.
     Shown at right is a 1970 photo of actors Ryan O’Neal and Ali MacGraw.  At the time, these two were the “easy-on-the-eye” film stars du jour; the star couple in Hollywood’s Love Story, a film that swept the nation off its feet in 1970-71.  Ali MacGraw stole the hearts of millions as Ms. Jenny Cavilleri, the bright and sassy working-class Italian kid from Providence, Rhode Island who goes off to Radcliffe and finds her rich Harvard Hunk. 

     There, in the undergraduate idyll, these two beautiful people, full of promise and intelligence, fall in love and begin their storybook life together – or so it seems.  But alas, the fates intercede in this too perfect union, providing a tragic and an unhappy ending.  Indeed, there are plenty of Kleenex moments in this film as the likeable and quick-witted Jenny is stricken with an unnamed cancer or leukemia, eventually succumbing to the disease in a heart-wrenching hospital scene one cold winter’s night. 

     This story, however – rising first as a best-selling novel – became commercial gold.  Though some would call it sappy by today’s standards, in the early 1970s both book and film were perfectly timed, and they permeated popular culture through and through.  Millions succumbed to the Love Story spell, in print and on screen.  Novel and film each made bundles of money.  The story’s success marks one of those moments in popular culture when a simple love story sweeps through society as something of a gale force phenomenon, often to the disdain of more highbrow literary and film critics.  What follows here is a recounting of the Love Story tale, novel and film, covering story recap, cultural and business impact, and some biographical follow-up on the principal players.


"Love Story," hardback edition, 1970.
"Love Story," hardback edition, 1970.
Erich Segal

     Love Story began its journey with a somewhat unlikely creator – a Yale University classics professor named Erich Segal.  Segal was born in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a rabbi.  At an early age, Erich Segal studied Hebrew and other languages, becoming fluent in German, French, Latin, and Greek.  He attended Brooklyn’s Midwood High School where Woody Allen was among his contemporaries. 

     At Harvard, Segal received a bachelor’s degree in 1958 and was both class poet and Latin salutatorian.  Two more Harvard degrees followed: a master’s in classics in 1959 and a Ph.D in comparative literature in 1965.  Erich Segal became a scholar of Greek and Latin literature, publishing books on the Greek writer Euripides and the Roman playwright Plautus before writing Love Story.  Outside of his scholarship, Segal was also something of a long-distance runner.  He first ran the Boston Marathon in 1955, and once finished in a respectable time of 2:56:30.  By the 1960s, he was still running ten miles a day.

Professor Erich Segal, 1970s.
Professor Erich Segal, 1970s.
     Segal became a professor of comparative literature at Yale University and throughout his career would also serve as a visiting professor at Princeton, Dartmouth, and other schools.  But Segal was not only an academic.  In the 1960s he became involved with screen writing.  In fact, by 1967, he wrote the screenplay – adapted from a story by Lee Minoff – for the Beatles’ hit 1968 animated film, Yellow Submarine.  He also collaborated on other screenplays through the late 1960s.  One of his own screenplays was about a romance between a Harvard University student and a Radcliffe College co-ed.  Yet this story initially went nowhere.  A William Morris literary agent, Lois Wallace, suggested to Segal that he turn the love story script into a novel – the novel that became Love Story.  Segal’s story was sold to Harper & Row publishers in New York, and it became a best-selling hardback in early 1970.  It was quickly followed by a paperback, which by then was also being used to tout the forthcoming Parmount film which had been in production even before the hardback was issued.  The film came out in mid-December 1970.  More on Segal and the marketing of both book and film a bit later.  First, an overview of the story, aided here by book-and-film storyline, plus screen shots from the film.


The Story

Nerdy librarian aide, Jenny Cavilleri, meets Harvard jock, “Ollie” Barrett IV in the Radcliffe library.
Nerdy librarian aide, Jenny Cavilleri, meets Harvard jock, “Ollie” Barrett IV in the Radcliffe library.
Jenny succeeds in getting Ollie to take her for coffee.
Jenny succeeds in getting Ollie to take her for coffee.
Love Story: Jenny Cavilleri at Harvard ice hockey game, cheering on new found friend, Ollie Barrett.
Love Story: Jenny Cavilleri at Harvard ice hockey game, cheering on new found friend, Ollie Barrett.
Jenny, inquiring about Ollie’s stay in the penalty box.
Jenny, inquiring about Ollie’s stay in the penalty box.
Ollie & Jenny on campus at Barrett Hall sign.
Ollie & Jenny on campus at Barrett Hall sign.
Jenny & Ollie in more intense conversation.
Jenny & Ollie in more intense conversation.
Ollie & Jenny becoming better acquainted.
Ollie & Jenny becoming better acquainted.
"Love Story" snow scene with Jenny & Ollie.
"Love Story" snow scene with Jenny & Ollie.
Love Story: Ollie & Jenny studying.
Love Story: Ollie & Jenny studying.
Ollie & Jenny on the road to meet Ollie’s folks.
Ollie & Jenny on the road to meet Ollie’s folks.
Jenny Cavilleri meeting Oliver Barrett (Ray Milland).
Jenny Cavilleri meeting Oliver Barrett (Ray Milland).
Despite his father’s disapproval, Ollie marries Jenny anyway.
Despite his father’s disapproval, Ollie marries Jenny anyway.
Ollie meets Jenny at her kids beach camp.
Ollie meets Jenny at her kids beach camp.
Ollie & Jenny talking at Jen's school.
Ollie & Jenny talking at Jen's school.
Love Story 1970: Jenny Cavilleri & her dad “Phil,” played by John Marley, attending Ollie’s graduation.
Love Story 1970: Jenny Cavilleri & her dad “Phil,” played by John Marley, attending Ollie’s graduation.
Jenny congratulating her husband on his law degree.
Jenny congratulating her husband on his law degree.
Ollie & Jenny facing Jen's prognosis.
Ollie & Jenny facing Jen's prognosis.
At Central Park skating rink cafe after their outing,
At Central Park skating rink cafe after their outing,

Love Story Theme

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Ollie & Jen crossing snow-covered park to hospital.
Ollie & Jen crossing snow-covered park to hospital.
Final screen shot of “Love Story” with a grieving Ollie (tiny figure just below “y”) staring into the deserted ice rink, where the story began with Ollie’s flashback.
Final screen shot of “Love Story” with a grieving Ollie (tiny figure just below “y”) staring into the deserted ice rink, where the story began with Ollie’s flashback.

     The featured romance in Love Story is that between Jenny Cavilleri, music major at Radcliffe College and Harvard ice hockey jock, Oliver “Ollie” Barrett, IV.  It all begins in the Radcliffe library.  That’s where the two first meet.  Jenny works there to help pay her college tuition.  Ollie Barrett has come to that library rather than Harvard’s because it’s quieter there and easier to find books.  Ollie is a somewhat cocky kid who comes from a wealthy, old line, upper crust New England family – a well-respected family with its own history of Harvard alumni.  Jenny is the only child of a widowed baker – a working-class Dad whom she calls “Phil”. 

At the outset of the film Jenny appears somewhat nerdy and very much into her music.  It’s Bach and Beethoven for her, music which is heard in the film’s score.  And as we learn from the narrator’s opening line, Jenny also loves the Beatles. 

The story is introduced in flashback mode by Ollie, who is shown in the film’s opening scene seated on a bench staring into a deserted New York city Central Park ice skating rink in a wintry, snow-covered setting.  This scene comes full circle as the film’s closing sequence (more on this later).

     Back at the Radcliffe library, meanwhile, it’s Jenny who makes the first move, displaying her snappy repartee with Ollie, who she labels “preppie” from the start.  Ollie is on the hunt for a book he needs for an upcoming history exam, so he heads over to the reserve desk to inquire about the book.  He opts for one of the two girls working there – the “bespectacled mouse type,” as he describes her – “Minnie Four-Eyes.”  Here’s their exchange:

Ollie:  “Do you have The Waning of the Middle Ages!”
Jenny:  “Do you have your own library?” she asked.
Ollie:  “Listen, Harvard is allowed to use the Radcliffe library.”
Jenny:  “I’m not talking legality, Preppie, I’m talking ethics.  You guys have five million books.  We have a few lousy thousand.”
Ollie:  [ to himself.  Christ, a superior-being type!  The kind who think since the ratio of Radcliffe to Harvard is five to one, the girls must be five times as smart.  I normally cut these types to ribbons, but just then I badly needed that goddamn book.]
Ollie:  “Listen, I need that goddamn book.”
Jenny:  “Wouldja please watch your profanity, Preppie?”
Ollie:  “What makes you so sure I went to prep school?”
Jenny:  “You look stupid and rich,” she said, removing her glasses.
Ollie:  “You’re wrong,” I protested.  “I’m actually smart and poor.”
Jenny:  “Oh, no, Preppie. I’m smart and poor.”
Ollie:  [ in narration:  She was staring straight at me.  Her eyes were brown.  Okay, maybe I look rich, but I wouldn’t let some ‘Cliffie—even one with pretty eyes—call me dumb.]
Ollie:  “What the hell makes you so smart?”
Jenny:  “I wouldn’t go for coffee with you.”
Ollie:  “Listen—I wouldn’t ask you.”
Jenny:  “That is what makes you stupid.”

     Ollie does take her for coffee, where the two continue their sharp repartee with Ollie becoming frustrated with her barbs and the fact, that apparently, she does not know that he, Ollie, is “big-man-on-campus” Harvard ice hockey star.

Ollie:  “Hey, don’t you know who I am?”
Jenny:  “Yeah,” she answered with kind of disdain.  “You’re the guy that owns Barrett Hall.”
Ollie:  “I don’t own Barrett Hall.  My great-grandfather happened to give it to Harvard.”
Jenny:  “So his not-so-great grandson would be sure to get in!”
Ollie:  “Jenny, if you’re so convinced I’m a loser, why did you bulldoze me into buying you coffee?” [ She looked me straight into the eyes and smiled.]
Jenny:  “I like your body.”

     After their initial get together over coffee, they soon begin their romance on the Harvard campus, she attending his hockey games, the two studying together, frolicking in the snow, and later, consummating their love.  

In one scene  they are walking across the Harvard campus, by then deep into their emotional tangle, taking measure of each other. They are talking about their relationship. Ollie has been more forthcoming at that point than Jenny, and he unloads on her for her smart-ass style:

Ollie: “Look, Cavilleri, I know your game, and I’m tired of playing it.  You are the supreme Radcliffe smart-ass – the best – you can put down anything in pants.  But verbal volleyball is not my idea of a relationship.  And if that’s what you think it’s all about, why don’t you just go back to your music wonks, and good luck.  See, I think you’re scared.  You put up a big glass wall to keep from getting hurt.  But it also keeps you from getting touched.  It’s a risk, isn’t it, Jenny?  At least I had the guts to admit what I felt.  Someday, you’re gonna have to come up with the courage to admit you care.”

     In that scene, they stop walking as she quietly replies, “I care,” leading to a kiss, then cut to Ollie’s dorm room and the couple making love.  Shortly later in the film, in a wintry montage, they end up playing in the snow, throwing snowballs and tossing a football at each other, and wrestling in the snow together.

     After several months together, Jenny tells Oliver that she has received a scholarship to study music in Paris the next year.  Ollie, afraid of losing her, decides to propose marriage.  Jenny after some thought, accepts the offer, and soon the couple is off to “meet the parents” — first, his.


Meet The Parents

     On the drive to the Barrett family place, Jenny is somewhat taken aback as they approach the estate, with its giant mansion and extensive grounds.  It is then she begins to realize just how truly wealthy the Barretts are. 

The family gathering to meet the bride-to-be becomes a tense affair, as Ollie’s father does not react well to Jenny’s background.  Father and son, already in a testy relationship, come to the brink when Ollie’s father tells him he will be disinherited if he marries Jenny. 

The drive back to campus is not a happy one.  Ollie later meets his father for dinner to try again, but this also ends badly as Ollie loses his temper.  Ties between father and son from that point on are pretty much severed.

     Jenny and Ollie continue to plan their wedding, traveling to Providence, Rhode Island to receive the blessing of Jenny’s Dad, “Phil.”  Here too, they upset tradition, informing Phil they are not planning a traditional ceremony, with church and God.  Phil is not entirely pleased, but he’s on their side in any case.

     Upon graduation, Oillie and Jenny marry against the wishes of Ollie’s father.  Ollie then plans to enter law school, while Jenny goes to work as a teacher.  The couple struggles to pay Ollie’s way through Harvard Law School.  They rent the top floor of a house near the law school.  Ollie had applied for financial aid, but his Barrett Hall fame and family wealth disqualified him.


“Love Means…”

     Along the way and in their marriage, the new couple have a few spats here and there, one coming after Ollie refuses to attend his father’s 60th birthday party.  Jenny has been trying to move Ollie to speak to his father, but after Ollie explodes, she leaves their apartment in tears. Guilt getting the best of him, Ollie searches the Harvard campus for Jenny, visiting the all the music rooms and other places she might be. Then, having arrived back home, he finds her sobbing on their outside porch steps in the cold without her keys.  As Ollie moves to apologize, Jenny stops him, delivering one of the film’s classic (and now much-parodied) lines: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

     Things get patched up, of course, and life goes on.  Scenes of beach visits and boating flash by, and another in winter of  Ollie selling Christmas trees on a city lot.  Jenny and “Phil,” meanwhile, do what they can to bring the Barrett father and son back together, but the Barrett men remain at war.  Ollie soon finishes his stint at Harvard Law, graduating third in his class.  Phil and Jenny attend the ceremony, and life for the young couple begins to change.

     Now a Harvard lawyer, Ollie takes a position at a respectable New York law firm, though one with at least part of its practice in civil liberties. The couple move to New York, and begin to plan for a family.  The two twenty-somethings try to have a child, but fail.  Jenny then has a series of tests.  


Devastating News

     One day, Ollie is called in to see Jenny’s doctor, who tells him that Jenny is dying.  The tests have revealed that Jenny has a serious and deadly disease, assumed to be some kind of leukemia, though never stated. Jenny does not have long to live. Ollie is devastated, and is shown in the film taking a long and dazed walk through the city on his way home. 

Reaching their apartment, he tries to act normal as he is greeted by an upbeat Jenny.  Ollie tries to hide the truth from Jenny, attempting a normal life. At one point he buys two airline tickets to Paris to surprise Jenny. But Jenny soon discovers the truth about her disease, and has suspected for some time.

     Somber and intimate scenes follow as the couple tries to deal with Jenny’s  prognosis.  She insists that he will be a “merry widower” and makes him promise that he will carry on in good form.  As the disease weakens Jenny, the couple tries to spend some happy time together. 

     At one point they have a brief outing in Central Park and stop at an outdoor public skating rink, where Ollie skates with the crowd as Jenny watches approvingly from the bleachers. After Ollie’s skating they stop briefly at a café near the rink where Jenny makes it known its time to go to the hospital. 

From the outdoor café they make their way slowly to the hospital across the park in the snow. A weakened Jenny moves with halting steps in Ollie’s arms as they go. The Love Story piano theme rises in the background as the camera pulls back high above the couple, slowly trekking through the snowy, winter scene — a season once of happier and playful times for the couple on the Harvard quad.

     With Jenny now in the hospital, Ollie makes a trip to Boston to see his father, asking him for $5,000 — money he needs to cover Jenny’s therapies. Ollie lies to his father saying he needs money for an affair which has led to a pregnancy. The father has no idea that Jenny is ill and in the hospital. Father and son still have their differences, but Ollie thanks his Dad for the check and heads back to New York.

     In a near-the-end deathbed scene at Mount Sinai Hospital, Jenny tells Ollie her illness “doesn’t hurt,” describing it “like falling off a cliff in slow-motion.” Jenny sees that Ollie is pained and tries to buck him up in her trademark sassy manner – “stop blaming yourself, you god-damn stupid preppie. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s not your fault… That’s the only thing I’m gonna ask you…” 

Jenny also assures him that he really didn’t “take away” her trip to Paris or her music career — “and all that stuff you thought you stole from me….”  But she does insist that he quit blaming himself or leave her bedside. She then asks him to hold her, beside her in bed, which he does.  Jenny then slips away.

     Afterwards in the hallway, Ollie speaks with Jenny’s father Phil briefly then leaves the hospital in a daze.  On his way out, he meets his own father who has rushed down from Boston, learning the real reason why his son had asked him for money. “Why didn’t you tell me?,” says the father.  “…I want to help.”  Ollie simply replies: “Jenny’s dead.”  His father begins to offer his condolences, saying “I’m sorry…,” at which point Ollie interrupts him, with tears in his eyes, quoting Jenny’s famous line: “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”  It is the last line of dialogue in the film.

     As a devastated Ollie walks across the street to a snow-covered Central Park, the camera slowly pans out for a few minutes as the “Love Story” piano theme plays in the background. Ollie is left sitting on a bench staring into the ice rink contemplating life without Jenny as the story comes full circle back to the scene where the film began.

     Love Story, however, also has an interesting publishing and box office history, as well as the twists and turns that befell its principle stars and creator, some of which follow below. First, the book.


The Book

     Love Story was first serialized in the Ladies Home Journal magazine in February of 1970.  About the same time, Harper & Row published the book in a slim 131-page hardback edition, releasing it for sale on February 14, 1970, Valentine’s Day.  According to Mel Zerman, a former Harper & Row executive who was interviewed in 2006 for The American Legends website, “Harper didn’t realize exactly what they had.”  The first printing was going to be in the low-to-normal range of 5,000-to-7,500 copies, which in retrospect, Zerman said, “was laughable.”  Harper later bumped up the print run to 57,000 hardbacks.  But even that wasn’t enough.  Television soon helped create a giant demand for the book.  According to Zerman:

“…The book burst on the scene one morning when Barbara Walters, who was a TV hostess, began her program by saying:  ‘I was up most of the night reading a book I couldn’t put down, and when I finished it, I was sobbing.  I cried and cried.’  That’s all the women of America had to hear.  By the time bookstores were opening all over the United States they were getting calls for a book called Love Story by someone you never heard of named Erich Segal.  Harper went crazy.  We were out of stock within hours….”

     By mid-May 1970, Love Story was No. 1 on the New York Times bestsellers list and by early 1971 there were 1 million hardbacks in print.  A paperback edition came out in 1970 too, with more than 4.3 million copies printed by mid-November 1970, then the largest print order in publishing history.  These copies sold so well that within a week another 600,000 were printed.  A month after the paperback was released, the hardbacks were still selling at 2,000 copies a week. One 1971 Gallup poll found that Love Story was read by one out of every five Americans; it would eventually sell more than 21 million copies. Erich Segal would later say that he set out to make people cry with the book, adding that if he could get women to cry, he knew it would be a commercial success.  As a New York Times No. 1 best- seller for most of 1970, Love Story became the year’s top-selling work of fiction in the U.S.

     Then came the film, released by Paramount on December 16th, 1970, as the book was still being widely read.  The film had the effect of selling more books and keeping Love Story on the bestsellers list.  According to one 1971 Gallup poll, the book was read by one out of every five Americans.  Love Story would eventually sell more than 21 million copies and was translated into more than 20 languages worldwide.  But not everyone was smitten by Love Story, especially literary critics.  When the book was up for the 1971 National Book Award, some judges threatened to resign from the award process unless Love Story was withdrawn from nomination.  “It is a banal book which simply doesn’t qualify as literature,” said novelist William Styron, the head judge of the fiction panel.  “Simply by being on the list it would have demeaned the other books.”  So, Love Story was rejected.

A paperback version of “Love Story,” with Ryan O’Neal & Ali MacGraw on the cover, was used to promote the film in 1970-71.
A paperback version of “Love Story,” with Ryan O’Neal & Ali MacGraw on the cover, was used to promote the film in 1970-71.
     Still, in popular culture Love Story was a big hit, and it rode atop the bestseller list for more than year.  In the process, Segal – already a rich man from 1968’s Yellow Submarine – was deluged with offers for movies, plays and more books.  Segal told a Time magazine reporter he was no wunderkind, but had worked hard and learned from past failures.  Segal’s new-found success put the 32 year-old squarely in the celebrity firmament and he became a hot property for a time.  But at the initial planning for the film – like the book’s uncertain publishing prospects – there were only modest expectations.


The Film

     Segal’s screenplay, in fact, had been turned down by every studio in Hollywood.  However, his agent, Howard Minsky of the William Morris agency, had faith in the story and really went to bat for Segal, convincing Paramount to take a chance on it.  Segal also had another supporter in his corner: Ali MacGraw.  She was a friend of Segal’s and was also then the wife of Paramount executive vice president, Robert Evans.  It was MacGraw who had discovered the Love Story screenplay, and even though several studios had turned it down, Evans agreed to produce it for his wife, casting her in the role as leading lady.  Evans thought the story might prove to be a small profitable film that might just buck the rough sex-and-violence trend then prominent in film.

     Still, there was no expectation the film would be a blockbuster hit.  In later interviews, Arthur Hiller, the film’s director, also acknowledged that the film was not originally conceived as a high-profile property.  It had a limited budget, and the producers had to use a number of existing locations as sets to save money.  One early problem that confronted the film’s producers was finding the male lead to play Ollie.  Initially, Ryan O’Neal had turned down the role, as did Robert Redford, Michael York, and Beau Bridges. At its film debut, Love Story received glowing reviews and set movie- house records all over the country. Eventually, O’Neal agreed to take the part.  Other actors in the film included Ray Milland, who played O’Neal’s father, and John Marley, Jenny’s father.  To prepare for their roles, O’Neal learned to ice skate and MacGraw took harpsichord lessons.

     When the film was released on December 16, 1970, it wasn’t known exactly what would follow.  The best-selling book had certainly set the stage.  And as it turned out, there was little to worry about.  The reviews that came in right before Christmas that year were quite flattering and enthusiastic.  “Love Story is probably as sophisticated as any commercial American movie ever made!,” wrote Vincent Canby of The New York Times.  “Perfection!  It is beautiful!  And romantic!” Time magazine’s review was a big booster, too:

Love Story is wrapped in glittering Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal just in time for holiday giving!  Ali MacGraw promises to become the closest thing to a movie star of the 40’s!  She is genuinely touching!  When a Radcliffe girl chooses to die on screen the Academy Awards can be heard softly rustling like ‘Kleenexes in the background!’  Ryan O’Neal gives the character of Oliver Barrett IV warmth and vulnerability!  Love Story…glows like gold!”

"Love Story" photo: Ryan O'Neal & Ali MacGraw at kids camp beach scene.
"Love Story" photo: Ryan O'Neal & Ali MacGraw at kids camp beach scene.
     On Christmas Day, when the film publicly opened across the country, it broke movie house records at 159 of 165 locations.  In three days it earned $2.5 million – more than it cost to make.  Love Story enjoyed the largest opening-week grosses in the history of American cinema at that time.  And within a week or two, by mid-January 1971, it continued to set records.  Arthur Hiller, the film’s director, later noted, “…The movie caught on like wildfire.  I remember driving past one theater where it was playing and seeing a line four blocks long!”  Love Story would become the No. 1 box office attraction of 1971.  And during its run, it continued to generate press.

     One Time magazine writer in January 1971 was quite taken with Ali MacGraw, and when she explained in one interview that she wasn’t quite “hungry enough” to be a star, or even a serious actress, he wrote:

“…She doesn’t have to be hungry or an actress.  She just has to stand there, and people buy tickets. The clean-boned, finishing-school face, the large, liquid eyes that cannot express doubt, the barely upholstered model’s body, the metallic purr….In two pictures, she has managed to suggest the incarnate campus heroine, full of itchy, bitchy resolve. … In short, she is the kind of girl a boy would want to take home even if his parents were there, but especially if they were not.”

Ali MacGraw and “the return to romance” Time magazine, January 11, 1971.
Ali MacGraw and “the return to romance” Time magazine, January 11, 1971.
     Time’s writer also suggested that MacGraw’s performance in Love Story might represent a return to something basic in the U.S. cinema: “To a fresh flowering of the romance and sentimentalism of the ’30s and ’40s.  To a time when pictures told a story, when you could go to the movies and take the family, when you could lose yourself in fantasy, when you got chills at the final fadeout….”  Movie critic, Roger Ebert, taking on those who felt the film a little too weepy, wrote:

“…I would like to consider, however, the implications of Love Story as a three-, four-or five-handkerchief movie, a movie that wants viewers to cry at the end.  Is this an unworthy purpose?  Does the movie become unworthy, as Newsweek thought it did, simply because it has been mechanically contrived to tell us a beautiful, tragic tale?  I don’t think so.  There’s nothing contemptible about being moved to joy by a musical, to terror by a thriller, to excitement by a Western.  Why shouldn’t we get a little misty during a story about young lovers separated by death?”

     Love Story won an Oscar for best music and was nominated in six other categories.  At the Golden Globe ceremony it took five awards, including Best Picture (drama), Best Director, and Best Screenplay for Segal.  At the box office, the film grossed more than $48 million (roughly $263 million in today’s dollars)Love Story out-grossed other popular films that year, among them, Patton, MASH, Catch 22 and Woodstock.. Of U.S. film’s released in 1970, Love Story was No. 1 at the box office, out-grossing other films that year including: Airport (No. 2) with Burt Lancaster; MASH (No. 3) with Donald Sutherland and Eliott Gould; Patton (No. 4) with George C. Scott; Little Big Man (No. 7 ) with Dustin Hoffman and Faye Dunaway; Ryan’s Daughter (No. 8 ) with Robert Mitchum; and Catch 22 (No. 10) with Alan Arkin.  Love Story’s gross was three times that of Warner Brothers’ Woodstock (No. 6), a popular film on the famous 1969 rock concert.  At the Academy Awards that year, Patton won Best Picture and George C. Scott, Best Actor.  Glenda Jackson won Best Actress for her role in Women in Love.  Paramount studios, meanwhile, then on the brink financially, was “saved” by Love Story’s very profitable box office, enabling the studio to live another day and turn out several other winners that decade, including Chinatown, The Godfather, and others.


Love Story Music

Cover of sheet music for Francis Lai's piano version of the "Theme From Love Story," with photo of Henry Mancini.
Cover of sheet music for Francis Lai's piano version of the "Theme From Love Story," with photo of Henry Mancini.
     Love Story’s Oscar-winning film score by Francis Lai became one of the most familiar movie love themes of that era.  Lai had done other popular film scores around that time, including A Man and a Woman of 1967.  However, his “Theme from Love Story” was quite the hit, reaching No.39 on the U.S. music charts.  The Love Story soundtrack album also did well, and spent six weeks at No. 2 on the Billboard album chart.  One of the tracks on the album, “Skating in Central Park,” which plays over a sequence of MacGraw and O’Neal romping in the snow and ice skating, was written by John Lewis of the Modern Jazz Quartet.  In fact, the Love Story soundtrack orchestra featured several jazz notables, including Milt Jackson (vibraphone), Percy Heath (bass), Connie Kay (drums), Bill Evans (piano) and Jim Hall (guitar). 

     Francis Lai’s simple melody for the Love Story piano theme, however, did not have lyrics, which was soon remedied after Carl Sigman, a lyricist, penned words for the song.  That theme then became “Where Do I Begin?,” and with singer Andy Willia