The Stories Behind History’s Most Iconic War Photos

H/T War History OnLine.

Calling these photographs iconic is an understatement.

For nearly two centuries, photographers have been using pictures to document the horrors of war. This has led to some of history’s most famous photos, yet many are unaware of the events that led up to them. Here are the real stories behind nine of the most iconic war photos ever taken.

The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855)

Early war photography was limited in scope, given the infancy of the technology, but that doesn’t mean the images aren’t any less jarring. British photographer Roger Fenton was sent to cover the fighting between Britain and Russia during the Crimean War. He wasn’t permitted to photograph the combat as it happened, but did cover its aftermath.

Empty dirt road
The Valley of the Shadow of Death. (Photo Credit: Roger Fenton / Wikimedia Commons)

The area pictured above was dubbed “The Valley of the Shadow of Death” by the British, due to the amount of shelling that occurred there. It was often covered with cannonballs fired during the fighting between the two sides.

While considered the “first iconic photograph of war,” some question its authenticity, as there’s a secondary photo of the same area without cannonballs strewn across the ground. After some investigation, it was determined soldiers likely gathered and placed them in ditches to reuse later.

Hitler visiting Paris landmarks (1940)

Adolf Hitler was conscientious of his public image, meaning few were privy to his personal life. One such person was Heinrich Hoffman, who, by 1940, was the only individual allowed to photograph the Führer. He was there in June 1940, when Hitler and his Nazi generals toured Paris‘ famous landmarks.

Hitler and other Nazi officials walking in front of the Eiffel Tower
Hitler touring the Eiffel Tower. (Photo Credit: Heinrich Hoffmann / Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0 DE)

This photo in front of the Eiffel Tower is one from Hitler’s first and only visit to the French capital. According to the Führer, the most impactful moment of the trip was a visit to Napoleon Bonaparte‘s tomb, after which he remarked, “That was the greatest and finest moment of my life.”

During the trip, he also ordered the destruction of two World War I monuments – of General Charles Mangin and Edith Cavell – as he didn’t want reminders of Germany’s prior defeat.

Warsaw Ghetto boy (1943)

The exact history surrounding this photograph isn’t known, but there are theories about the boy and the individual who took the photo. According to multiple sources, this image was likely captured by Franz Konrad, a Nazi photographer, and depicts those in the Warsaw Ghetto being rounded up and taken to concentration camps.

Polish Jews holding their hands up in surrender
Forcibly pulled out of bunkers. (Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

It’s speculated the young boy is Tsvi Chaim Nussbaum, who hid in a bunker during the final liquidation of the ghetto before being found by German soldiers. SS-Rottenführer Josef Blösche is pointing a submachine gun in his direction to keep the boy and the rest of the crowd in line.

This photo became one of the most famous of the Holocaust, and the boy came to represent its Jewish victims and the children who suffered at the hands of the Nazis. If he is actually Nussbaum, he survived the war and went on to become a doctor in New York.

Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima (1945)

Arguably the most recognizable photograph from the Pacific War is Joe Rosenthal’s Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. The image was snapped by the Associated Press photographer atop Mount Suribachi on February 23, 1945, and is a symbol of America’s resolve during their fight against the Japanese.

Soldiers raising the American flag on Iwo Jima
Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima. (Photo Credit: Joe Rosenthal / Wikimedia Commons)

On that day, US Marine commander Colonel Dave Severance was leading E Company, 2nd Battalion, 28th Marines, 5th Marine Division during the Battle of Iwo Jima. The fight was important, as the US needed the island’s strategically-placed airstrips.

After defeating the Japanese, Severance sent his company to the top of Mt. Suribachi to plant the American flag, an action initially photographed by Sergeant Louis Lowery. However, Secretary of the Navy James Forrestal wanted the flag as a memento, so the commander sent a second group up the mountain to install another flag. It was this effort that Rosenthal captured on film.

V-J Day in Times Square (1945)

Many are aware of this photograph by Alfred Eisenstaedt, taken in Times Square on August 14, 1945. It depicts a US Navy sailor kissing a stranger (a dental assistant) on Victory Over Japan Day – better known as “V-J Day” – in New York City.

Sailor kissing a woman in Times Square
V-J Day in Times Square. (Photo Credit: Alfred Eisenstaedt / Getty Images)

President Harry Truman was anticipated to announce the end of the war that evening, and a spontaneous celebration occurred in Times Square. According to Eisenstaedt, he was unable to collect the names of those he was photographing, given the speed at which everything was happening. All that’s known for certain is this image was shot south of 45th Street, looking north from where Broadway and Seventh Avenue converge, around 5:51 P.M.

Over the years, there have been attempts to identify the two individuals. Unfortunately, their names (and faces) remain under speculation to this day.

Flower Power (1967)

The March on the Pentagon was a large-scale demonstration against the Vietnam War on October 21, 1967. More than 100,000 protestors attended a rally at the Lincoln Memorial, after which 50,000 marched to the Pentagon. It was there The Washington Star photographer Bernie Boston snapped Flower Power, showing George Harris placing a carnation into the barrel of a soldier’s M14 rifle.

Men placing flowers in the stocks of military guns
Flower Power. (Photo Credit: The Washington Post / Getty Images)

The March on the Pentagon was organized by the National Mobilization Committee to End the War in Vietnam. Those who participated were met by soldiers from the 503rd Military Police Battalion, and it was at this point Harris stepped forward and started placing flowers in the M14 barrels.

The photo is seen as a symbol of the Flower Power movement, which began as a way to protest against the Vietnam War. The movement used non-violent objects, as opposed to violence, to share its opposition.

“Tank Man” (1989)

The violence in Beijing in 1989 shocked the world. The student-led protests aimed to bring democracy to China, and many held firm, despite being faced with armed troops who fired at those blocking the military advance into Tiananmen Square. On June 4, 1989, the Chinese government declared martial law and sent the People’s Liberation Army to occupy central Beijing. Thousands were killed and even more injured.

Lone male protestor blocking four tanks in the middle of the road
“Tank Man.” (Photo Credit: Archive Photos / Getty Images)

The most iconic image of the incident was taken the next day, when an unknown man stood in front of a row of tanks leaving Tiananmen Square. He continually shifted his position as the tanks tried to manoeuvre past him. Sadly, there is no reliable information regarding the fate of the protestor, as China has censored the image and the accompanying events.

Kuwaiti oil fires (1991)

With Iraqi forces retreating from Kuwait following the International Peacekeeping Coalition’s invasion in 1991, Saddam Hussein ordered the destruction of the country’s oil fields. It’s reported between 605 and 732 oil wells, along with an unspecified amount of oil-filled areas, were destroyed by the Iraqi military.

Fighter jets flying over burning oil fields
F-16A, F-15C and F-15E fighter jets flying during Operation Desert Storm. (Photo Credit: U.S. Air Force)

While the fires began in January and February 1991, the first wasn’t extinguished until April, and the last wasn’t capped until November 6. While concrete figures aren’t available, it’s believed between four and six million barrels of crude oil were burnt per day, along with between 70 and 100 million cubic meters of natural gas.

This image, taken by the US Air Force, shows F-16A, F-15C and F-15E fighter jets patrolling Kuwait during the fires. The smoke not only caused a Royal Saudi Air Force C-130H to crash, but provided the Iraqi forces a smokescreen during the Battle of Phase Line Bullet.

Liberian militia commander Joseph Duo (2003)

Joseph Duo was a militia commander loyal to the Liberian government. This image, taken by Chris Hondros, shows the moment after he grabbed his rocket launcher and fired. It detonated amid a group of rebels, causing the militia leader to leap in joy. The photo came to define the strife within Liberia.

Joseph Duo jumping in the air while holding a grenade launcher
Joseph Duo, Liberian militia commander. (Photo Credit: Chris Hondros / Getty Images)

Hondros once said, “Sometimes a picture captures things that people respond to. This is a picture of fighting that shows some of the uncomfortable realities of war. One of those is that [some] people in war enjoy it – they get a bloodlust.”

While Duo shares he was celebrating because he was defending his country, he now doesn’t like looking at the photo, saying, “It gives me the memories of war.”

The 8 Greatest Comebacks in Military History

H/T War History OnLine.

A military comeback is an opportunity rarely given to commanders. The chance to switch the tide of battle to one’s favor is incredibly rare, and equally difficult to do, often requiring the alignment of random factors like weather, or significant external help.

This list features 8 important comebacks that had major implications on their respective wars or political climates.

Battle of Stirling Bridge

Battle of Stirling Bridge
A Victorian depiction of the battle. The bridge collapse suggests that the artist has been influenced by Blind Harry’s account. (Photo Credit: C Hanley, History Of Scotland / Wikipedia / Public Domain)

On 11 September 1297 Scottish forces defeated the English near the River Forth, during the First War of Scottish Independence. Scottish King John Balliol had recently surrendered to the English and was undermined by King Edward I of England. Scottish nobles overthrew Balliol and allied with France, resulting in King Edward invading Scotland.

In 1297 William Wallace and Andrew de Moray led a revolt against the English, who battled each other over a bridge near Stirling. The outnumbered Scots managed to defeat the British forces, the first major Scottish victory in decades.

Battle of Saratoga

Battle of Saratoga
Battle of Saratoga. General Arnold was wounded in the attack on the Hessian Redourt. (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The Battle of Saratoga is considered to be a pivotal moment in the American Revolutionary War against the British. The British planned to cut off New England from the mid-Atlantic colonies by sending large amounts of surplus troops into Albany. While the three British armies were en route to Albany, one of them, led by Sir William Howe, abandoned the plan and instead attempted to invade Pennsylvania.

The army led by General John Burgoyne battled Continental forces at Freeman’s Farm and Saratoga, suffering heavy losses while waiting for reinforcements from an army that would never arrive. The defeat of British forces led to France officially becoming America’s ally.

The Defeat of the Spanish Armada

Spanish Armada Defeat
Contemporary Flemish interpretation of the launching of English fire-ships against the Spanish Armada, 7 August 1588 (Photo Credit: Royal Museums Greenwich Collections / Public Domain)

In 1588 Spain sent their formidable Armada to Great Britain with the hopes of invading the country and overthrowing Queen Elizabeth I to remove Spain’s then-rival. However, Britain’s faster ships were able to successfully battle Spain’s Armada along their southern coast.

The Armada was devastated by Britain, with Spain losing 15,000 troops. The victory solidified Britain as a global force to be reckoned with.

Prussia during the Seven Years War

Seven Years War
The Battle of Fehrbellin was a battle at Fehrbellin of the Seven Years’ War between Swedish and Prussian forces fought on 28 September 1758, historical illustration. (Photo by: Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

In 1756 Prussian King Frederick the Great invaded Saxony, kicking off the Seven Years War, which saw Prussia and Great Britain face off against Austria and France. The Anglo-Prussian alliance was outnumbered by the combined forces of Russia, France Sweden, and Austria.

Just as it looked like Prussia would be defeated, Russia switched sides when Tsar Peter III ascended to the throne in 1762, sending reinforcements to Frederick. The war ended shortly after Russia’s change of allegiance.

Battle of Gettysburg

Battle of Gettysburg
July 1863: US Civil War 1861-65. A wide view of a portion of the Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, 1-3 July 1863. An 1884 color illustration. (Photo by Stock Montage/Stock Montage/Getty Images)

The Battle of Gettysburg was part of the Confederate’s invasion of the North which was hoped would earn the South recognition from foreign nations. The battle was fought between June 1 and June 3 1863 and came just weeks after the Confederate success at Chancellorsville in Virginia. The Confederate forces, led by Robert E. Lee, clashed with Union troops at the town of Gettysburg, with the battle initially leaning in the South’s favor.

But after a few days of savage battles that claimed thousands of lives, Union forces held their ground and emerged victoriously. Overall, the Battle of Gettysburg resulted in over 35,000 casualties.

Battle of Thermopylae

Battle of Thermopylae
The Battle of Thermopolye. Leonidas attacks. BPA 2 #2274 (Photo Credit: Bettmann / Getty Images)

The Battle of Thermopylae is one of the most famous battles in history, fought in 480 BC between King Leonidas I of Sparta and the Achaemenid Empire of Xerxes I. Leonidas was massively outnumbered by Persian forces, so he utilized a bottleneck that the Persians were forced to pass through. Days into the fight, a local resident betrayed the Greeks when they revealed a path that could be used by the Persians to outflank the Greeks.

Realizing they were about to be attacked from the rear, Leonidas instructed his forces to retreat, while leaving a small group of Spartan warriors who fought to the death.

Battle of Midway

Battle of Midway
Mikuma cruiser during the midway battle, japan, second world war, 1942. (Photo by: Marka/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

The Battle of Midway took place between June 4 and June 7, 1942, and just like the Battle of Saratoga, it was a turning point for the belligerents involved. The Japanese aimed to lure US aircraft carriers into a trap and knock these powerful assets out of the war while capturing Midway, which would allow Japan to extend its reach across the Pacific.

If successful, the trap would be another in a series of Japanese victories in the early stages of the Pacific War.

However, US cryptographers had cracked Japanese communications weeks before, so the US knew where and when the Japanese would strike. The ensuing clash claimed four Japanese aircraft carriers, 3,000 men, and 300 aircraft. In return, the US lost 360 men and 145 aircraft. It has gone down as one of the greatest naval battles ever.

Battle of Waterloo

Battle at Waterloo
Center of the British army in action at Waterloo 18 June 1815, the last battle of the Napoleonic Wars. After W Heath. (Photo by Universal History Archive/Getty Images)

This battle took place on 18 June 1815 and brought about the end of the Napoleonic Wars. In 1814 Napoleon was forced to abdicate the throne after butting heads with powerful European countries. However, Napoleon briefly returned to power in 1815 and began the Hundred Days campaign. A large coalition of European nations formed to stop Napoleon, although he still emerged victorious over them a number of times.

This would change at the Battle of Waterloo, which saw Britain and their allies finally stop Napoleon. They were aided by poor weather which slowed Napoleon’s movements. Napoleon abdicated four days later.

Who Really Invented the Electric Guitar?

H/T Popular Mechanics.

After 80 years, we still don’t really know.

The Rich History of a Favorite Dessert


My favorite cheese cake is cherry followed by strawberry cheese cake.

Cheesecake is a beloved dessert around the world. While many assume that it has its origins in New York, it actually dates back much further. Let’s go back over 4,000 years to ancient Greece! Sit back, grab a creamy slice of cheesecake and learn all about this dessert’s rich history.

Cheesecake Travels the Globe

The first “cheese cake” may have been created on the Greek island of Samos. Physical anthropologists excavated cheese molds there which were dated circa 2,000 B.C. Cheese and cheese products had most likely been around for thousands of years before this, but earlier than this goes into prehistory (that period in human history before the invention of writing) so we will never really know. In Greece, cheesecake was considered to be a good source of energy, and there is evidence that it was served to athletes during the first Olympic games in 776 B.C. Greek brides and grooms were also known to use cheesecake as a wedding cake. The simple ingredients of flour, wheat, honey and cheese were formed into a cake and baked – a far cry from the more complicated recipes available today!

The writer Athenaeus is credited for writing the first Greek cheesecake recipe in 230 A.D. (By this time, the Greeks had been serving cheesecake for over 2,000 years but this is the oldest known surviving Greek recipe!) It was also pretty basic – pound the cheese until it is smooth and pasty – mix the pounded cheese in a brass pan with honey and spring wheat flour – heat the cheese cake “in one mass” – allow to cool then serve.

When the Romans conquered Greece, the cheesecake recipe was just one spoil of war. They modified it including crushed cheese and eggs. These ingredients were baked under a hot brick and it was served warm. Occasionally, the Romans would put the cheese filling in a pastry. The Romans called their cheese cake “libuma” and they served it on special occasions. Marcus Cato, a Roman politician in the first century B.C., is credited as recording the oldest known Roman cheesecake recipe.

As the Romans expanded their empire, they brought cheesecake recipes to the Europeans. Great Britain and Eastern Europe began experimenting with ways to put their own unique spin on cheesecake. In each country of Europe, the recipes started taking on different cultural shapes, using ingredients native to each region. In 1545, the first cookbook was printed. It described the cheesecake as a flour-based sweet food. Even Henry VIII’s chef did his part to shape the cheesecake recipe. Apparently, his chef cut up cheese into very small pieces and soaked those pieces in milk for three hours. Then, he strained the mixture and added eggs, butter and sugar.

It was not until the 18th century, however, that cheesecake would start to look like something we recognize in the United States today. Around this time, Europeans began to use beaten eggs instead of yeast to make their breads and cakes rise. Removing the overpowering yeast flavor made cheesecake taste more like a dessert treat. When Europeans immigrated to America, some brought their cheesecake recipes along.

Adding Signature Ingredient

Cream cheese was an American addition to the cake, and it has since become a staple ingredient in the United States. In 1872, a New York dairy farmer was attempting to replicate the French cheese Neufchatel. Instead, he accidentally discovered a process which resulted in the creation of cream cheese. Three years later, cream cheese was packaged in foil and distributed to local stores under the Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand. The Philadelphia Cream Cheese brand was purchased in 1903 by the Phoenix Cheese Company, and then it was purchased in 1928 by the Kraft Cheese Company. Kraft continues to make this very same delicious Philadelphia Cream Cheese that we are all familiar with today.

New York Style Cheesecake

Of course, no story of cheesecake is complete without delving into the origins of the New York style cheesecake. The Classic New York style cheesecake is served with just the cake – no fruit, chocolate or caramel is served on the top or on the side. This famously smooth-tasting cake gets its signature flavor from extra egg yolks in the cream cheese cake mix.

By the 1900s, New Yorkers were in love with this dessert. Virtually every restaurant had its own version of cheesecake on their menu. New Yorkers have vied for bragging rights for having the original recipe ever since. Even though he is best known for his signature sandwiches, Arnold Reuben (1883-1970) is generally credited for creating the New York Style cheesecake. Reuben was born in Germany and he came to America when he was young. The story goes that Reuben was invited to a dinner party where the hostess served a cheese pie. Allegedly, he was so intrigued by this dish that he experimented with the recipe until he came up with the beloved NY Style cheesecake.

More Variations in America

New York is not the only place in America that puts its own spin on cheesecakes. In Chicago, sour cream is added to the recipe to keep it creamy. Meanwhile, Philadelphia cheesecake is known for being lighter and creamier than New York style cheesecake and it can be served with fruit or chocolate toppings. In St. Louis, they enjoy a gooey butter cake, which has an additional layer of cake topping on the cheesecake filling.

Cheesecake Around the World

Each region of the world also has its own take on the best way to make the dessert. Italians use ricotta cheese, while the Greeks use mizithra or feta. Germans prefer cottage cheese, while the Japanese use a combination of cornstarch and egg whites. There are specialty cheesecakes that include blue cheese, seafood, spicy chilies and even tofu! In spite of all the variations, the popular dessert’s main ingredients – cheese, wheat and a sweetener –remain the same.

No matter how you slice it, cheesecake is truly a dessert that has stood the test of time. From its earliest recorded beginnings on Samos over 4,000 years ago to its current iconic status around the world this creamy cake remains a favorite for sweet tooths of all ages.

9 Delicious Facts About Oysters

H/T Mental Floss.

Raw oysters either you love them or hate them.

I personally enjoy smoked oysters.

Some people think oysters are slimy and taste far too salty. For others, they’re a delicacy. Oysters may provoke a love-hate response, but they also have impressive ecological properties, and the leftover shells have been used in some surprising ways. Here are 9 fascinating facts about the bivalve.


Oysters first appeared over 200 million years ago, when the earliest dinosaurs roamed Pangaea. Evidence of human oyster consumption dates back to about 164,000 years ago, according to a 2007 paper in Nature describing human ancestors’ first modern behaviors. A 2013 study found that Stone Age people in Denmark ate so many oysters that piles of the discarded shells show a marked decrease in the bivalves’ size over the years.


Pickled oysters were liberally consumed by London’s poor. They were sold as bar snacks and by stalls on street corners, and for those who couldn’t afford beef or mutton, oysters made up the protein in soups and stews. Oyster pie was also a popular dish with the lower classes.


The oyster-free Firth of Forth, ScotlandGEORGECLERK/ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES

Covering more than 150 square kilometers (about 58 square miles), the oyster bed of the Firth of Forth on Scotland’s east coast, near Edinburgh, was a veritable gold mine of shellfish. Historians estimate that 30 million oysters could be harvested from it annually in the 1700s, to be sold in London and Europe. Sadly, over-harvesting meant that the oyster bounty from the Firth of Forth couldn’t last. By the late 19th century the beds were badly depleted, and only around 1200 oysters were harvested per year. Today there are no native oysters in the Forth.


Speaking of Edinburgh, remnants of oyster shells found in walls have offered clues to Edinburgh’s culinary past. Residents of the Scottish capital reportedly put away 100,000 oysters daily during the 17th century, and walls containing oyster shells were uncovered during work on tenement buildings in the city. The shells, which appear to have been used as a filler between stone and brick, most likely came from a tavern located in the basement of the building, as oyster shells were typically left to pile up on floors.


Oysters glean nutrients from seawater as it passes through their gills. They can filter more than 50 gallons of water a day, leaving a cleaner environment. But oysters can also be contaminated by substances in the water, and they developed a dangerous reputation in early 20th century England thanks to increasing water pollution. In 1902, the Dean of Winchester attended a mayoral banquet where oysters were served. The shellfish had been harvested from the Hampshire village of Emsworth, where a sewage spill had occurred, and the dean and several other guests died of enteric fever following the dinner. The food poisoning scandal devastated the oyster trade in Emsworth, leaving many jobless.


The Baltimore area came to dominate the American oyster industry in the 19th century, with 90 percent of the country’s oyster packing industry—more than 100 companies—located in the Maryland city. Whole oysters were shipped by railroad from Baltimore to inland cities on ice. Later, canning extended the oysters’ shelf life and allowed them to be shipped greater distances cheaply. The packers developed a particular kind of oyster knife known as the Chesapeake stabber, with a straight, sharp, thin blade meant to separate the shells through the oyster’s lip. Today’s champion shuckers still use the Chesapeake stabber in their trade.


Oysters (not snails) RockefellerSBOSSERT/ISTOCK VIA GETTY IMAGES

In 1889, a snail shortage drove the son of the founder of the famed New Orleans restaurant Antoine’s to get creative with an appetizer. He substituted oysters for snails, and Oysters Rockefeller was born. In this dish, instead of being served raw, the oysters are baked in the half shell along with spinach, butter, breadcrumbs, and herbs. Why “Rockefeller”? The story goes that a patron commented that the oysters tasted as rich as their namesake.


The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana launched an oyster shell recycling program in 2014, the first such initiative in the state. The shells are returned to the water to restore oyster reefs, which protect shorelines from erosion and storms. The oysters’ rough, ridged shells provide extra surface area to absorb wave energy better than dykes and levees; plus, the reefs provide a place for baby oysters to anchor themselves. The program has collected more than 4000 tons of shells so far.

In New York City, the Billion Oyster Project is restoring 100 million oysters to New York Harbor to mitigate the effects of storm surges. Organizers hope that the oyster beds will reduce flooding and provide a cleaner environment (through their filter feeding) for other species.


Oysters are particularly rich in zinc—which is known to be vital for sexual function in men—and have been thought of as aphrodisiacs for centuries. (Not to mention their resemblance to female genitalia.) Renowned seductor Giacomo Casanova supposedly ate multiple oysters for breakfast daily, suggesting he viewed the mollusks as “the nectar of the gods.” These days, scientists remain unconvinced that there is a clear relationship between oysters and libido.


H/T Today I Found Out.

A bit of tire history.

Today I found out making tires black, instead of the natural white color of rubber, produces a much stronger and longer lasting tire.

Originally rubber tires were white, which is the natural color of rubber.  In the early 1900s, Binney & Smith began selling their carbon black chemicals to Goodrich Tire Company, as it was found that the use of carbon black in rubber manufacturing significantly increased certain desirable qualities for rubber meant to be turned into tires.  (Binney & Smith would later switch to making school products, and, eventually, re-name their company after their most popular product, Crayola Crayons.)

In any event, carbon black works as a reinforcing filler in rubber, which increases the durability and strength of the rubber.  Specifically, adding about 50% by weight of carbon black increases the road-wear abrasion of the produced tire by as much as 100 fold and improves the tensile strength of the tire by as much as 1008%.  For the uninitiated, the tensile strength is the amount of force needed to pull something to its breaking or bursting point.

Adding carbon black also helps conduct heat away from certain hot spots on the tire; specifically, in the tread and belt areas, which can get particularly hot at times while driving.  This reduces thermal damage on the tire, further extending its lifespan.

From a purely cosmetic standpoint, black tires are also much easier to keep looking clean, which also makes them desirable over natural white rubber tires.  However, in modern times, white wall tires or fully white tires are sometimes thought as more luxurious, particularly on classic cars.  However, when fully black tires first came out, they were considered the more desirable tire for their prestige and tended to only be found on high end luxury cars.

Carbon black itself is simply nearly pure elemental carbon in colloidal particle form.  It is classically made by simply charring any organic material.  Examples of this are Ivory Black, made by charring ivory or bones, and Lamp Black, made from the soot of oil lamps. Carbon black for industrial use today is typically produced as Furnace Black and Thermal Black.  Furnace Black is produced using heavy aromatic oils.  Thermal Black is produced using natural gas, generally methane, injected into a very hot furnace where, in the absence of much air, carbon black and hydrogen are produced.

Bonus Facts:

  • Rather than using carbon black in shoes, the more common additive to the rubber is fumed silica, which has similar reinforcing properties as carbon black, but leaves the rubber white.  The downside of using silica-based additives on automotive tires is that they have much worse abrasion wear properties than tires with carbon black.  However, they do offer better handling on wet surfaces and have a lower rolling loss, which increases fuel efficiency.  Because of this, there are some tires that are starting to be made with silica-based additives, instead of carbon black, but this is still relatively rare.
  • Around 70% of all carbon black pigment used in the word today is used for tires.  Another 20% goes into belts, hoses, and other such rubber items.  Most of the remaining 10% go into black coatings for items, as well as inks and toner in printing.
  • Carbon black is not the same thing as activated carbon or soot.  Carbon black has a much higher surface area to volume ratio than soot and also has much less polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon in it.
  • Despite research indicating carbon black may be a carcinogen, it is used in certain food coloring.
  • Binney & Smith, which later became Crayola, is not only credited for making tires black, instead of white, but also is the company that originally created the red paint color that is now traditional on barns, which was a red oxide pigment.
  • No one knows exactly where the word “tire” derives from.  The leading theories are that it either derives from “attire” or from “to tie”.  The earliest tires were simply bands of iron or other metal.  The application of the metal band on the wooden wheels was accomplished by heating the metal tire, then placing it over the wooden wheel.  Next, they would douse it in cold water, which would cause the metal to rapidly contract and secure itself to the wheel, with the outer ring “tying” the wheel together, hence the proposed “tie” origin.
  • Binney & Smith’s “carbon gas blacks” earned them a gold medal in chemical and pharmaceutical arts.  The company was originally founded in 1864 and produced types of Charcoal and Lamp blacks.
  • The first practical pneumatic tire was developed by John Boyd Dunlop, who was originally a veterinarian.  He created the tire to help his son who suffered from headaches when riding his bike.  The rubber tire made for a much smoother ride for him on rough roads than wooden wheels.
  • Around 1 billion tires are made annually.
  • The earliest available carbon black product used for commercial purposes was “lamp black”, produced by the Chinese over 3500 years ago.  However, these early forms of carbon black were relatively impure compared to modern carbon black.

A Brief History of the Rubber Band


The rubber band has a very interesting history.

Cheap, reliable, and strong, the rubber band is one of the world’s most ubiquitous products. It holds papers together, prevents long hair from falling in a face, acts as a reminder around a wrist, is a playful weapon in a pinch, and provides a way to easily castrating baby male livestock… While rubber itself has been around for centuries, rubber bands were only officially patented less than two centuries ago. Here now is a brief history of the humble, yet incredibly useful, rubber band.

It has only recently been discovered that Mesoamerican peoples (which includes Aztecs, Olmecs, and Mayans) were making rubber (though they didn’t call it this) three thousand years ago. Mixing milky-white sap known as latex from the indigenous Hevea brasiliensis trees (later called Para rubber trees) with juices from the morning glory vines, they could create a solid that was, surprisingly, quite sturdy. The civilizations used this ancient rubber for a variety of purposes, from sandals to balls to jewelry. In fact, while Charles Goodyear is generally credited with the invention of vulcanized rubber (a more durable and non-sticky rubber compound via the addition of sulfur and heat), it seems that the Aztecs were simply varying the ingredient proportions (between the latex and the morning glory juice) to create different variations in strength.

When Spanish explorers arrived in South America in the 16th century, they discovered for themselves the many uses of this elastic, malleable sap. When the French explorer Charles de la Condamine “discovered” it in the 1740s, he called it “caoutchouc”, a French word, but a variation on the South American word for latex. In attempting to figure out what it was exactly, Condamine came to a wrong conclusion – he thought it was condensed resinous oil. The name “rubber” was only attributed to this latex material when, in 1770, the famed British chemist Joseph Priestley (who also discovered oxygen) noted that the material rubbed pencil marks right off paper, thereby inventing the eraser and giving the “rubbing material” a name. By the end of the 18th century, the material was forever known as “rubber.”

In 1819, Englishmen Thomas Hancock was in the stagecoach business with his brothers when he attempted to figure out better ways to keep his customers dry while traveling. He turned to rubber to develop elastic and waterproof suspenders, gloves, shoes, and socks. He was so enamored with the material that he began to mass produce it, but he soon realized he was generating massive amounts of wasted rubber in the process. So, Hancock developed his “Pickling machine” (later called a masticator) to rip up the leftover rubber into shreds. He, then, mashed the malleable rubber together, creating a new solid mass, and put it into molds to design whatever he wanted. One of his first designs were bands made out of rubber, though he never marketed or sold them, not realizing the practically of rubber bands. Plus, vulcanization hadn’t been discovered yet (which we will discuss in a moment), so the bands would soften considerably on hot days and harden on cold days. In short, these rubber bands simply weren’t very practical at this stage of the game, in terms of many of the types of things rubber bands would later be used for. Hancock didn’t patented his machine or the shreds of rubber it produced, instead hoping to keep the manufacturing process completely secret. This would end up being a rather large mistake.

In 1833, while in jail for failure to pay debts, Charles Goodyear began experimenting with India rubber. Within a few years, and after he got out of jail, Goodyear discovered his vulcanization process. Teaming with chemist Nathaniel Hayward, who had been experimenting with mixing rubber with sulfur, Goodyear developed a process of combining rubber with a certain amount of sulfur and heating it up to a certain point; the resulting material became hard, elastic, non-sticky, and relatively strong. A few years later, in 1844, he had perfected his process and was taking out patents in America for this process of vulcanization of rubber. He then traveled to England to patent his process oversees, but ran into a fairly large problem – Thomas Hancock had already patented the nearly identical process in 1843.

There seems to be conflicting reports on whether Hancock had developed the vulcanization process independently of Goodyear or if, as many claim, that he had acquired a sample of Goodyear vulcanized rubber and developed a slight variation on the process. Either way, Hancock’s patent stopped Goodyear from being able to patent his process in England. The ensuing patent battle dragged on for about a decade, with Goodyear eventually coming to England and watching in person as a judge proclaimed that, even if Hancock had acquired a sample prior to developing his own process for this type of rubber, as seems to have been the case, there was no way he could have figured out how to reproduce it simply by examining it. However, famed English inventor Alexander Parkes claimed that Hancock had once told him that running a series of experiments on the samples from Goodyear had allowed him to deduce Goodyear’s, at the time, unpatented vulcanization process.

But in the end, in the 1850s the courts sided with Hancock and granted him the patent, rather than Goodyear, quite literally costing Goodyear a fortune; had they decided otherwise, Goodyear would have been entitled to significant royalties from Thomas Hancock and fellow rubber pioneer Stephen Moulton.

Though he had a right to be bitter over the ruling, Goodyear chose to look at it thusly, “In reflecting upon the past, as relates to these branches of industry, the writer is not disposed to repine, and say that he has planted, and others have gathered the fruits. The advantages of a career in life should not be estimated exclusively by the standard of dollars and cents, as is too often done. Man has just cause for regret when he sows and no one reaps.”

Goodyear, though eventually receiving the credit he deserved, died in 1860 shortly after collapsing upon learning of his daughter’s death, leaving his family approximately two hundred thousand dollars in debt (about $5 million today).

The patent dispute with Goodyear also had a profound, ultimately negative, effect on Hancock as well. As he was entangled in the time-consuming mess for years, others began to reap the benefits on Hancock not patenting his masticator process nor patenting the seemingly useless bands that they created. Specifically, in 1845, Stephen Perry, working for Messers Perry and Co, Rubber Manufacturers of London, filed a patent for “Improvements in Springs to be applied to Girths, Belts, and Bandages, and Improvements in the Manufacture of Elastic Bands.” He had discovered a use for those rubber bands – holding papers together. In the patent itself, Perry distances himself and his invention from the ongoing vulcanized rubber dispute by saying,

“We make no claim to the preparation of the india rubber herein mentioned, our invention consisting of springs of such preparation of india rubber applied to the articles herein mentioned, and also of the peculiar forms of elastic bands made from such manufacture of india rubber.”

While the rubber band was invented and patented in the 19th century, at this point it was mostly used in factories and warehouses, rather than in the common household. This changed thanks to William Spencer of Alliance, Ohio. The story goes, according the Cincinnati Examiner, that in 1923, Spencer noticed the pages of the Akron Beacon Journal, his local newspaper, were constantly being blown across his and his neighbors’ lawns. So, he came up with a solution for this. As an employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad, he knew where to acquire spare rubber pieces and discarded inner tubes – The Goodyear Rubber Company also located in Akron. He cut these pieces into circular strips and began to wrap the newspapers with these bands. They worked so well that the Akron Beacon Journal bought Spencer’s rubbers bands to do the deed themselves. He then proceeded to sell his rubber bands to office supply, paper goods, and twine stores across the region, all the while continuing to work at Pennsylvania Railroad (for more than a decade more) while he built his business up.

Spencer also opened the first rubber band factory in Alliance and, then, in 1944 the second one in Hot Springs, Arkansas. In 1957, he designed and patented the Alliance rubber band, which ultimately set the world rubber band standard. Today, Alliance Rubber is the number one rubber band manufacturer in the world, churning out more than 14 million pounds of rubber bands per year.

So, next time you are shooting a friend with this little elastic device, you can thank the Mayans, Charles de la Condamine, Thomas Hancock, Charles Goodyear, and William Spencer for the simple, yet amazingly useful rubber band.

Remembering a Daring Escape Beneath the Berlin Wall

H/T Atlas Obscura.

This article proves people will risk life and limb to escape the horrors of communism.

Nearly 60 years after he fled East Berlin, Andreas Springer shares a story of risk, freedom, and the deepest tunnel beneath the Cold War’s most infamous border.

Many escape tunnels were dug under the Berlin Wall in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, including the famous Tunnel 57.

Many escape tunnels were dug under the Berlin Wall in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, including the famous Tunnel 57. ABTHORP/MIRRORPIX/GETTY IMAGES

“I WAS A BEAN IN a saucepan,” says Andreas Springer, smiling. Now 78, he has only recently begun speaking openly about a night more than half a century ago. In October 1964, Springer, then just 21, was one of the last people to escape East Germany via Tunnel 57, the deepest and longest subterranean passage beneath the Berlin Wall. His story is a real-world Cold War thriller, complete with code words: In the secret network of people helping escapees flee to West Berlin via the tunnel, men were “beans,” and women “peas.” The innocuous code belies the high stakes of Springer’s escape and subsequent events at Tunnel 57 that left one man dead and others scrambling for their lives.

Today, 55 Strelitzer Strasse is just another apartment building in Berlin’s trendy Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood. There is little trace of what happened here in 1964, when an outhouse in its backyard hid the entrance to Tunnel 57. Started in April 1964 by 35 West Berlin students, Tunnel 57 was more than 30 feet below ground and stretched for nearly 500 feet. It brought dozens of East Berliners to the West, including young Andreas Springer.

Springer, born in 1943, grew up in the Berlin suburb of Dreilinden. In the early 1960s, he had hopes of becoming a graphic designer and applied to three art schools but was summarily rejected. “I was a Catholic, I wasn’t with the Young Pioneers, not part of The Free German Youth, and I had three brothers in the West. It was too much!” says Springer, referring to the discrimination inherent in the East German system.

Andreas Springer looks at a book with a map of Tunnel 57.
Andreas Springer looks at a book with a map of Tunnel 57. JORDAN TODOROV

Two of Springer’s older brothers, Klaus and Ulrich, had visited Paris in early August 1961 and found themselves unable to return home, cut off from their family by the newly-built Berlin Wall. They settled in West Berlin, aware of their younger brother’s increasingly difficult situation. Dreilinden was close enough to the wall that it was considered a restricted area, leaving Andreas Springer isolated from his friends. He also faced growing pressure to join the army, and had regular run-ins with the state apparatus—“I got arrested by the border guards while picking mushrooms,” he recalls.

“My mother called me and said, ‘I’m worried about Andreas,’” says Klaus Springer. “‘He wanders through the Dreilinden forest every evening looking for a way to escape.’ My mother knew very well that if Andreas tried anything he would have been shot in an instant. That was a cry for help from her that I will never forget.”

His brothers thought to smuggle him out by car but scrapped the idea after another individual was caught during a similar escape attempt. The elder Springers came up with a new plan: In mid-1963, they set up an initial meeting between their brother and a West Berliner named Gerd who was able to move freely across the border and operated secretly as a guide for would-be escapees. Nothing happened for the next year. Then, on Sunday, October 4, 1964, Springer met Gerd again. He learned his escape would take place that night—no further details were provided.

“We didn’t mention to the people they had to escape through a tunnel, because we were afraid they wouldn’t go,” says Klaus von Keussler, one of the people who helped dig Tunnel 57. Von Keussler, then a law student, was also a runner for Tunnel 57. By 1964, he adds, East Germans had discovered several tunnels before they were operational, and people were increasingly hesitant to use them.

That evening Springer took Gerd to a restaurant called Ganymed with his last East German money. “I remember to this day that we had chicken fricassée on rice, and a bottle of Hungarian Tokaji Szamorodni wine. To me, this dinner felt like the last meal of a death row inmate,” Springer says.

About 40 minutes before midnight, the pair strolled down Strelitzer Strasse. Gerd left him with instructions to enter number 55, go to the backyard, and say the code word “Tokyo”—the 1964 Summer Olympics would kick off days later in the Japanese capital. Springer remembers his heart racing.

A plaque marks the route of Tunnel 57 below the Berlin Wall.
A plaque marks the route of Tunnel 57 below the Berlin Wall. IAIN MASTERTON/ALAMY

“I went down the row of houses on the left and thought, ‘Where the hell is number 55?’” Springer recalls, the memory still vivid. “It just wasn’t there! So I strolled to the next house. Lights on, then to the right, and then up the stairs. But no stairs led down to the courtyard. I went up to the third floor, waited a bit, and then went out. Just 30 feet away there was a border patrol in a small booth.”

Gerd had advised Springer that, in the event of a problem, he should wait 20 minutes and try again. So he hurried back to the park where he’d left a fashionable nylon coat from West Germany, put it on, and ruffled his hair in an attempt at disguise. He returned to Strelitzer Strasse. This time he found number 55 and entered the courtyard. He recalls a tense exchange with a stranger waiting for him.

“You shouldn’t have come with a rustling coat,” scolded a voice in the dark.

“This is my second try, I had to dress up,” replied Andreas.

“Take off your shoes and put them in your pockets!” whispered the stranger.

Andreas did as instructed and padded through the courtyard to a derelict outhouse. A door opened and another man pointed a flashlight to a hole in the ground.

“Feet first, I climbed down the hole,” says Springer. “I crawled forward like a bug on its back. After about 160 feet I was able to turn around. It was better now, moving head first and on all fours.”

The tunnel was only two feet high and three feet wide. When Andreas arrived at the exit he found himself at the bottom of a 30-foot shaft. A rope with a wooden board, resembling a swing, was lowered to him. He was pulled up to an abandoned bakery in West Berlin, finally safe. Less than an hour later, everything changed.

A refugee from East Germany is winched up to the exit of Tunnel 57 and into a disused bakery in West Berlin.
A refugee from East Germany is winched up to the exit of Tunnel 57 and into a disused bakery in West Berlin. FUCHS/THREE LIONS/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

Shortly after midnight, a West Berlin spotter—keeping an eye on number 55 with binoculars from the roof of a nearby building—alerted those manning Tunnel 57 to a problem. A car had stopped in front of number 55. The two people who got out and entered the building didn’t turn on the lights as members of the escape network knew to do. It was an East German border patrol. They had found out about the tunnel.

As the guards entered the backyard, “the helpers were immediately called back,” says Springer, who was still at the tunnel’s exit. Two of the men made it out of the tunnel, but a third could not be contacted. “He came back after a 475-foot sprint on all fours… gasping for air,” Springer recalls. Once the last helper was out, Springer and the others threw sandbags into the shaft to stop the East Germans from reaching them.

Meanwhile, in a West Berlin apartment, Springer’s brothers waited anxiously. At around 2 a.m., they heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs. “And when the door opened, I knew,” says Klaus Springer, remembering the sight of his little brother on his threshold. “The boy is still alive!”

It wasn’t until the following day that the Springers learned what happened immediately after Andreas left the bakery. Newspapers reported a shoot-out between the border guards and tunnel team. East German soldier Egon Schultz, just 21, was wounded and died on the way to the hospital.

“We were utterly shocked when we learned that Schultz was killed. He was only one or two years younger than we were,” says von Keussler. While East German propaganda blamed Shultz’s death on the tunnel helpers for years afterward, it was eventually proven that the young guard was killed by friendly fire.

As for Springer, he brushed aside mention of his risky escape even within the family. He achieved his dream of becoming a graphic designer and also a photographer—among his subjects was the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall.

“My brother Klaus once told me, ‘You never thanked us for what we did for you,’” says Springer. “I said ‘Klaus, you’re right. But saying thank you is easy. It’s too simple for what you did for me.’ The truth is, to this day I still get shaky thinking about that fateful night.”

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance

H/T Smithsonian Magazine.

It is mind boggling to think it has been 50 years ago that Disney World first opened.

Fifty years ago, Disney World’s celebrated opening promised joy and inspiration to all; today the theme park is reckoning with its white middle-class past.

It’s 1971 in America. Both the Cold War and the Vietnam War drag on. Richard Nixon is in the White House. In March, Frank Kameny becomes the first openly gay candidate for U.S. Congress. In May, anti-war and pro-peace activists effectively shut down Washington, D.C., and the Chicano Moratorium Movement begins an 800-mile march from the U.S-Mexico border to Sacramento, protesting racial discrimination and advocating for political reform. In August, the first official Women’s Equality Day is recognized. And in September, the Attica Prison Riot casts a spotlight on the rights of the incarcerated, particularly for persons of color.

But for those with time and money, October 1 marks the opening of a new vacation resort in central Florida, a place for escape.

When Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom opened its gates 50 years ago this month on 11-square miles near Orlando in Lake Buena Vista, the much-anticipated amusement park was an enticing prospect, promising a whole new “way of life,” where guests could “leave the world of today behind.”

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance
Roy O. Disney, brother of Walt and then C.E.O of the Walt Disney Company, stood elbow to elbow with Mickey Mouse to read from a bronze plaque, expressing the hope for Walt Disney World to “bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place.” Walt Disney World

Opening day was a low-key affair. Newspapers made predictions of first-day crowds that ranged from 30,000 to 200,000; but about 10,000 showed up, giving the new theme park’s employees time to work out the kinks.

Press coverage was somewhat mixed. One local official announced to the readers of the Orlando Sentinel that the opening was the “greatest thing since Florida sunshine,” while the Pensacola News expressed concern for overtaxed highways and an end to the “peaceful existence [Orlando citizens] once enjoyed.”

Life Magazine dedicated the cover of its October 15, 1971 issue to the “carefully crafted vision of the American past,” which it called an “intricate, hokey, hugely expensive assemblage of lives and places that never were,” even as its glamorous cover shot was designed to showcase the park. Look magazine reported that the theme park was “thousands of acres of computerized fun.”

Whether they were lovers or critics of Disney World, planning a trip, or promising never to visit, few in America were unaware of its opening.

The President of the United States can be heard on the infamous White House tapes discussing with his chief of staff, H.R. Haldeman the day’s festivities. Haldeman updated Nixon on the park’s coverage in Time, Newsweek and Life. “They all tried to knock ‘em, but even the cynics can’t,” he said. “And the only reason these people are knocking them is that the streets are all clean and the kids are wholesome and have short hair and everybody smiles.”

Nixon was invited to the dedication ceremonies, but he sent Haldeman and press secretary Ron Ziegler (who had once worked at its West Coast counterpart, Disneyland, as a skipper on the Jungle Cruise ride) as his representatives. They presented Roy Disney with a flag that had flown over the White House. In a letter, accompanying the banner, the President emphasized “our faith in the American dream which is so much in evidence at Walt Disney World.”

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance
A pair of Mickey Mouse ears dating to Disney World’s 25th anniversary resides in the collections of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. NMAH

First day visitors themselves had nothing but praise for the theme park. One woman told TIME magazine“Oh, it just makes you want to cry…it’s all so happy here.” A Florida local told the New York Times: “We need a place like this because of the world situation… a place where we can come and relax and forget about all the bad things.”

And a place to forget bad things is exactly what visitors found. Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland were purposefully crafted to offer a sense of reassurance. “At every point in the design of Disney’s theme parks you feel safe, secure—you feel as though you know where you are in space,” wrote curator Karal Ann Marling, who organized the 1997 exhibition, “The Architecture of Reassurance,” for the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. The show explored how the built environment of the Disney theme parks translates directly into feelings of comfort for the visitor.

From scholars, to visitors, to the engineers who built the Disney theme parks and who Disney dubbed “Imagineers” the default for describing the parks was to talk about its orderliness, safety and cleanliness—a 1971 article exclaimed “spotlessness is next to Disneyness.”

Even in recent years, during the coronavirus pandemic, the sense of physical and emotional safety offered by the theme parks has continued to draw visitors, who might be reluctant to travel elsewhere. Walt Disney World closed in 2020 from March to July, and reopened with strict Covid precautions in place—including temperature checks at security gates, decreased capacity, mask-wearing, social distancing and stricter than usual cleaning schedules. In May 2021, an internal Disney study found that intent to visit Walt Disney World was similar to 2019 pre-pandemic levels. Many Disney fans who have ventured to the parks since their reopening report feelings similar to those of theme park journalist Tarah Chieffi, who visited in September 2020 and reported: “Disney’s safety measures made me feel comfortable enough to book future vacations there.”

Reassurance transcends Disney hospitality and permeates the theme parks’ stories and values. Disney’s narratives resound with the motif of a nation overcoming tough times and emerging triumphant, whether it is new locomotive technology bringing prosperity and injecting new life into a small town on Main Street U.S.A., or pioneers taming the frontier in Frontierland, or explorers discovering new successes in Tomorrowland.

In 1955 when Disneyland first opened in Anaheim, California, these narratives comforted white, middle-class Americans facing an uncertain future during the Cold War era. In Orlando in 1971, Disney’s army of “Imagineers” crafted similar themes as they updated attractions and expanded them on the far larger piece of property.

Disneyland’s creators were working from their lived white middle-class experience. But they left out the stories of many others. Even before it was officially opened, reporters at the Miami Herald leveled criticism at the park for being too “representative of the Middle American upbringing of Disney himself.”

“We need a place like this because of the world situation… a place where we can come and relax and forget about all the bad things.”

The question of how well Disney World’s narratives reflect the true diversity of America has continued to be asked at the park over its history.

Fifty years ago on October 25, the official dedication with all the pomp and circumstance of marching bands and celebrity appearances got underway. Roy O. Disney, brother of Walt and then C.E.O of the Walt Disney Company, stood elbow to elbow with Mickey Mouse to read from a bronze plaque, expressing the hope for Walt Disney World to “bring Joy and Inspiration and New Knowledge to all who come to this happy place.”

This past weekend, as similarly celebratory festivities got underway, audio speakers across the park repeatedly broadcasted the words of Roy Disney’s dedication speech, read by current Disney cast members. As if to recommit, Jeff Vahle, Walt Disney World’s president, and vice president Melissa Valiquette, both gave voice to Roy Disney’s wish of “Joy and Inspiration and Knowledge to all.”

To achieve that today, Disney World must reckon with an American population more diverse than ever before, and predicted to become only more so. What was reassuring to a larger population of whites in 1971, serves only as a reminder of the many challenges we face today across the spectrum of racial and wealth inequality, social justice and global climate change.

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance
In 1971, first-day visitors to the popular theme park (above: the entry gates) reported their delight. One woman told TIME magazine: “It’s all so happy here.” Walt Disney World

What happens to a place built on stories of reassurance for a white middle class when today those stories can feel offensive and hardly reassuring at all? In the case of the Disney parks, the answer is: you change, or you risk becoming culturally and economically irrelevant as guests look elsewhere for reassurance.

Since its founding, Walt Disney World has been able to both change and add to its narratives. In the past, cultural changes at the Disney Parks were subtle, noticeable only by avid Disney goers: the “Indian War Canoes” attraction was renamed the “Davy Crockett Explorer Canoes,” smoking was confined to smaller and smaller areas until it was finally banned altogether in 2019, the Aunt Jemima Pancake House Restaurant became River Belle Terrace. Changes have come and gone to Tom Sawyer Island’s depiction of a settler cabin, and the policy on fake guns included in attractions has evolved.

Beginning in the late 2010s, updates went from a trickle to a flow, with Disney acknowledging implicitly and occasionally explicitly that they were changing because certain pieces of “reassurance” in the theme parks were not so any longer—or perhaps never were. The changes in the parks being announced were grand enough to attract the attention of even the most casual Disney-goer, and even non-Disney fans.

2017 update removed a controversial bride auction scene from the fan-favorite ride “Pirates of the Caribbean,” due to its potential connotations of sex trafficking. A much-anticipated change was announced in 2020: a retheming or “plussing” of the “Splash Mountain” attraction, which had debuted in 1989, and featured racist characters from the 1946 film Song of the South, based on Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus folk tales. The ride initially side-stepped some of the criticism by featuring only the animal characters of the tales, but still featured Harris’ white version of a Southern Black dialect. Calls have been issued by fans and critics alike for its removal.

“We continually evaluate opportunities to enhance and elevate experiences for our guests. It’s important that our guests be able to see themselves in the experiences we create,” said Carmen Smith, a creative development and inclusive strategies executive at Walt Disney Imagineering, according to the Disney Parks Blog, after announcing that the ride would be re-themed to feature Tiana, Disney’s first African American princess.

“The Jungle Cruise,” arguably one of the most racially problematic rides at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, received its overhaul earlier this year as Imagineers re-themed it to “reflect and value the diversity of the world around us.”

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance
A colorful map of the park, now held in the Smithsonian collections, details the adventures awaiting guests. NMAH

In April 2021, chairman Josh D’Amaro officially announced the addition of a new “Fifth Key” to Disney’s Four Keys—principles that guide Disney cast members in their work. The “Fifth Key” emphasized inclusion, representing a commitment to “work toward a world where we all belong–including a more diverse and inclusive Disney Parks, Experiences and Products.”

This was followed by announcements of more changes, including updates to the “Disney Look,” the code of appearance employees (known as cast members) abide by to allow for more gender-inclusive self-expression, and an update to park-announcement language that eliminated the phrase “boys and girls” in favor of the more inclusive “friends.”

Just ahead of the anniversary, decorative panels at the Main Street Confectionery debuted the story of the home-baking competitor Saul Fitz, who shares his baked goods with his partner Gary Henderson—the first-ever openly LGBTQ characters to appear in the Disney theme parks.

This doesn’t mean that Disney World doesn’t have more work to do. While new attractions are generally crafted with both an eye to diversity and an eye to technological adaptability that will make future changes easier, older attractions are often stuck in an outmoded narrative, appearing all the more out-of-date as Disney updates the rest of the park.

In the Magic Kingdom, History Was a Lesson Filled With Reassurance
Also held in the Smithsonian collections is a parking pass, adorned with the theme park’s iconic mouse ears. NMNH

The “Carousel of Progress,” an audio-animatronic stage show that debuted at the 1964 World’s Fair and details one family’s increasing ease of life due to new technologies over several time periods, is today glaringly white and heteronormative, even in the scene that attempts to depict the future.

At Epcot, the “American Adventure” attraction still starts its story of American history with the arrival of the Pilgrims. It seems likely that as Disney continues evaluating what changes are needed to fully live up to their goal of inclusion, these attractions will by necessity receive updates.

Yet even in this state of in-between, Disney World is perhaps emblematic of what is most reassuring in America, at the moment, as we deal with the effects of the dual pandemics of coronavirus and racism.

Disney has proven willing to look at itself, recognize its own contributions to historical harms, and strive to do better, sometimes failing, but learning along the way. Perhaps that is, at the moment, the most reassuring thing they can do.

The Little-Known History of Leggings

H/T Who What Wear.



As any true fashion girl like yourself understands, knowing the origin of your favorite trends makes wearing them all the more gratifying. And there’s arguably no bigger trend right now than leggings. We’re all well aware of the fashion cycle—everything comes back again. (Just take a look at the recent revivals of ’70s, ’90s, 2000s, and now ’80s trends.) But when it comes to leggings, it turns out they’ve been “coming back” for centuries. While researching the history of leggings, we were surprised to discover that the origin of the trend dates way back to the 14th century, and men were actually the first to wear them. But since the mid-20th century, leggings have been a closet staple for It girls and others who love them.

Given their lengthy tenure, we decided to take an in-depth look into the storied history of the legging craze, which was largely dictated by celebrities then just as it is today. (We’re looking at you, Gigi.)

Keep scrolling to get all the fascinating facts about the seven-centuries-long history of leggings and shop pairs inspired by each time period.

14th Century

Interestingly enough, the first known appearances of leggings were on men in 14th-century Scotland. Initially, the leggings they wore were two separate, hip-high, boot-like apparatuses made of either leather or chainmail, intended for both casual and military garb. They eventually evolved into thick garments, like tights, that men wore under their cotehardies during Renaissance times.

Leggings remained a predominantly male trend up until the 19th century when women began wearing iterations of their own.

History of leggings 14th century




The modern-day evolution of leggings really began in the 1950s. One of the original fashion girls, Audrey Hepburn, is as much associated the rise of capri pants as she was with her iconic cat-eye sunglasses. Hepburn donned the slim, waist-defining cropped black pants for 1954’s Sabrina, and many other women followed suit throughout the decade. While they weren’t quite the stretchy pants that come to mind today, they were a distinct departure from the wide-leg styles that were popular in the 1940s.

Audrey Hepburn black leggings



Who: Audrey Hepburn, 1954

Audrey Hepburn wearing leggings



Who: Audrey Hepburn, 1955


Following the invention of Lycra (aka spandex) by chemist Joseph Shivers in 1958 and the first Lycra leggings made in 1959, the fashion industry embraced the slim, stretchy pants in the ’60s, with designers like Mary Quant and Emilio Pucci even pairing them with the decade’s mod shift dresses.

Debbie Reynolds leggings



Who: Debbie Reynolds, 1965

The history of leggings



What: A model for fashion designer Mattli’s F/W 64 collection


Leggings became a full-blown trend in the 1970s. Thanks to some of the decade’s biggest celebrities like Debbie Harry, Olivia Newton-John (and her iconic final costume in Grease), and the stars of the popular Charlie’s Angels TV series, leggings took on a very Studio 54 vibe, which was quite different from the styles of the previous two decades. This iteration resembled shiny, high-waisted (often colorful) disco pants.

Debbie Harry style



Who: Debbie Harry, 1978

Jane Birkin Vogue



Who: Jane Birkin in Vogue, 1971

Olivia Newton-John leggings



Who: Olivia Newton-John, 1978

Shop the Look:
American Apparel Disco Pants



The transformation of the legging craze of the 1970s carried over into the 1980s when Madonna adopted them as one of her wardrobe staples, frequently wearing them on stage and infamously featuring them in her Like a Virgin video. The aerobics craze of the 1980s also fueled the fire—Jane Fonda made a leotard worn over leggings her signature look. During the ’80s, the capri length became popular, and leggings were often colorful and patterned in keeping with the bold look of the decade.

Madonna wearing leggings in the '80s



Who: Madonna, 1985

Leggings in the 1980s



What: Jean-Paul Gaultier runway, S/S 88


The legging trend started to cool down a bit in the ’90s. There was that iconic Cindy Crawford Life magazine shot (below), and jersey-knit versions popped up on Saved by the Bell from time to time, but baggier pants had become a trend for the decade. The now-polarizing stirrup leggings (which made an inevitable return in 2016) were perhaps the biggest takeaway from the decade.

Cindy Crawford Life Magazine



Who: Cindy Crawford, 1990

Leggings in the '90s



What: Vogue, 1990


After fading from relevance for a few years at the turn of the 21st century, leggings were back with a vengeance, as the decade’s biggest It girls started wearing capri versions of the trend again, often under dresses and skirts. Nicole Richie, the Olsen twins, Paris Hilton, and Lindsay Lohan were all on board. Toward the end of the decade, full-length liquid leggings replaced pants for the most part.

Ashley Olsen leggings



Who: Ashley Olsen, 2007

Lindsay Lohan leggings



Who: Lindsay Lohan, 2006

Rihanna wearing liquid leggings



Who: Rihanna, 2008

Present Day

Circa 2015, celebrities like Gigi Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, and Bella Hadid reintroduced leggings into our wardrobes. Like it or not, these athleisure-loving It girls have made them acceptable to wear as pants. Currently, the most popular iterations of the trend are high-waisted, streetwear-inspired styles and leather leggings, both of which enforce that it’s once again acceptable to wear leggings outside the gym. As long as the fashion world continues to embrace comfort, we don’t see the centuries-old trend fading anytime soon.

Gigi Hadid legings



Who: Gigi Hadid, 2016

Kendall Jenner, leggings



Who: Kendall Jenner, 2016

Bella Hadid, leggings



Who: Bella Hadid, 2016