CLOSE
Original image
Getty

The Women Who Chained Themselves to D.C.'s Cherry Trees 

Original image
Getty

Among other things, Washington, D.C. is known for its thousands of beautiful cherry blossom trees, which flower spectacularly every March and April in an eye-popping explosion of blush-colored blooms. But on November 17, 1938, the gorgeous trees caused fireworks of a different sort.

The iconic trees have commanded attention for more than a century, with the first pair planted in 1912 by First Lady Helen Taft and the Viscountess Chinda, the wife of the Japanese Ambassador. A total of 3020 cherry trees of 12 varieties were eventually planted in the area, including East Potomac Park, the Washington Monument grounds, and the Tidal Basin. The trees grew and flourished for more than 20 years—and then the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Commission was formed, charged with planning the construction of the monument to our third president.

After much debate, the commission recommended that the Jefferson Memorial be erected on the Tidal Basin site where it stands today, which would require the removal of some of the cherry blossom trees. Washington society ladies, led by editor of the Washington Times-Herald Eleanor Patterson, immediately protested, horrified at the prospect of losing the natural splendor of the trees.

The media piled onto the problem, with one article estimating that nearly 600 trees would meet their untimely demises. President Franklin Roosevelt called the report "one of the most interesting cases of newspaper flimflam" he had ever come across. The trees, he promised, would be relocated—not chopped down.

Unconvinced by the president’s statement, 50 women marched on the White House on November 17, 1938, the day construction started, to deliver a petition to halt the wanton destruction of their beloved trees.

When that didn’t work, approximately 150 society ladies showed up to the construction site the next day, wearing furs and carrying chains. They snatched shovels from the workers’ hands, refilling freshly dug holes and even chaining themselves to the trees. They sang a version of Joyce Kilmer’s "Trees" poem and created their own chant: "Who is it wants these grand old trees displaced? Who is it wants our fair D.C. disgraced?"

"This is the worst desecration of beauty in the capital since the burning of the White House by the British," a woman chained to a tree declared.

Roosevelt remained unmoved by the protests: If the activists didn’t remove themselves, he said, "the cherry trees, the women and their chains would be gently but firmly transplanted in some other part of Potomac Park."

According to the National Parks Service, the women eventually left because they needed bathrooms; Roosevelt had the trees taken out in the middle of the night instead. The protesters may have lost the battle, but they would no doubt be pleased to know that the war eventually went their way—today, there are more than 3750 cherry trees in Washington.

Original image
IA Collaborative
arrow
Design
Lovely Vintage Manuals Show How to Design for the Human Body
Original image
IA Collaborative

If you're designing something for people to hold and use, you probably want to make sure that it will fit a normal human. You don't want to make a cell phone that people can't hold in their hands (mostly) or a vacuum that will have you throwing out your back every time you clean the house. Ergonomics isn't just for your office desk setup; it's for every product you physically touch.

In the mid-1970s, the office of legendary industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created a series of manuals for designers working on products that involved the human body. And now, the rare Humanscale manuals from Henry Dreyfuss Associates are about to come back into print with the help of a Kickstarter campaign from a contemporary design firm. Using the work of original Henry Dreyfuss Associates designers Niels Diffrient and Alvin R. Tilley, the guides are getting another life with the help of the Chicago-based design consultancy IA Collaborative.

A Humanscale page illustrates human strength statistics.

The three Humanscale Manuals, published between 1974 and 1981 but long out-of-print, covered 18 different types of human-centric design categories, like typical body measurements, how people stand in public spaces, how hand and foot controls should work, and how to design for wheelchair users within legal requirements. In the mid-20th century, the ergonomics expertise of Dreyfuss and his partners was used in the development of landmark products like the modern telephones made by Bell Labs, the Polaroid camera, Honeywell's round thermostat, and the Hoover vacuum.

IA Collaborative is looking to reissue all three Humanscale manuals which you can currently only find in their printed form as historic documents in places like the Cooper Hewitt design museum in New York. IA Collaborative's Luke Westra and Nathan Ritter worked with some of the original designers to make the guides widely available again. Their goal was to reprint them at a reasonable price for designers. They're not exactly cheap, but the guides are more than just pretty decor for the office. The 60,000-data-point guides, IA Collaborative points out, "include metrics for every facet of human existence."

The manuals come in the form of booklets with wheels inside the page that you spin to reveal standards for different categories of people (strong, tall, short, able-bodied, men, women, children, etc.). There are three booklets, each with three double-sided pages, one for each category. For instance, Humanscale 1/2/3 covers body measurements, link measurements, seating guide, seat/table guide, wheelchair users, and the handicapped and elderly.

A product image of the pages from Humanscale Manual 1/2/3 stacked in a row.

"All products––from office chairs to medical devices—require designs that 'fit' the end user," according to Luke Westra, IA Collective's engineering director. "Finding the human factors data one needs to achieve these ‘fits' can be extremely challenging as it is often scattered across countless sources," he explains in a press release, "unless you've been lucky enough to get your hands on the Humanscale manuals."

Even setting aside the importance of the information they convey, the manuals are beautiful. Before infographics were all over the web, Henry Dreyfuss Associates were creating a huge compendium of visual data by hand. Whether you ever plan to design a desk chair or not, the manuals are worthy collectors' items.

The Kickstarter campaign runs from July 25 to August 24. The three booklets can be purchased individually ($79) or as a full set ($199).

All images courtesy IA Collaborative

Original image
Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images
arrow
Space
NASA Is Posting Hundreds of Retro Flight Research Videos on YouTube
Original image
Bruce Weaver / Stringer / Getty Images

If you’re interested in taking a tour through NASA history, head over to the YouTube page of the Armstrong Flight Research Center, located at Edwards Air Force Base, in southern California. According to Motherboard, the agency is in the middle of posting hundreds of rare aircraft videos dating back to the 1940s.

In an effort to open more of its archives to the public, NASA plans to upload 500 historic films to YouTube over the next few months. More than 300 videos have been published so far, and they range from footage of a D-558 Skystreak jet being assembled in 1947 to a clip of the first test flight of an inflatable-winged plane in 2001. Other highlights include the Space Shuttle Endeavour's final flight over Los Angeles and a controlled crash of a Boeing 720 jet.

The research footage was available to the public prior to the mass upload, but viewers had to go through the Dryden Aircraft Movie Collection on the research center’s website to see them. The current catalogue on YouTube is much easier to browse through, with clear playlist categories like supersonic aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. You can get a taste of what to expect from the page in the sample videos below.

[h/t Motherboard]

SECTIONS

arrow
BIG QUESTIONS
More from mental floss studios