Intellectual Property

Surplus Commodities and 1940s Hats


loc archive

The Library of Congress just announced that it has put up 3,000 public-domain photos on Flickr and enabling tagging by all comers. It's a pilot project that could someday be extended to the 14 million photos in the collection.

Eventually photos like the one above, which are currently labeled something like "Distributing surplus commodities, St. Johns, Ariz." will be findable by searching "America at war," "poverty," "food aid," "pine boxes" and "1940s hats."

Plus, people who just want to enjoy a little retro beauty or take in a slice of American life can do so easily.

Among other things, this means that the Library of Congress has heeded the call of David Weinberger, Internet deep thinker and author of Everything Is Miscellaneous. When reason spoke with Weinberger last year, he compared old-style photo archives to photo sharing sites. The old archives lock photos away in temperature-controlled vaults listed under one or two inadequate key words, viewed only by the intrepid. Online photo sharing sites offer everything to everyone, good and bad, to view and tag as they please. Looks like we might get the best of both worlds at last.

NEXT: Former Congressman Mistakes Americans for Soviets

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  1. 808 x1024 on the first one I checked

    I feared these would be extra lo res

    They could do worse with my tax dollars.

  2. Sweet boneless christ that's cool.

  3. Wow, golly gee, that's just peachy keen and cool! I love it when Reason brings us these neat-o things just like BoingBoing, but infused with a libertarian sensibility.

    Of course, were I running one of flickr's competitors I might be a bit peeved, but don't worry about that.

    Dynamism, away!

    P.S. See this.

  4. Disproportionately color photos. All the FSA stuff was in color.

    There are some good ones at the end from Bain News Service, ballplayers, war and such.

    Bring on the 14 million.

  5. There is a site I came across the other day "100 years of photography" or something like that, that has a bunch of photos from the 10's, 20's, and 30's, many of which are from New Deal program photographers, or their city antecendants.

  6. Thanks Kerry, I love this stuff. Americana, particularly Roadside Americana is the hot ticket. It's a slice of where we came from and will never be again.

  7. I love it when Reason brings us these neat-o things just like BoingBoing, but infused with a libertarian sensibility.

    While I have no beef against the Library of Congress, I still fail to see how this is infused with libertarian sensibility. It's definitely cool, but I don't see how it relates to libertarianism.

  8. The Libertarian in me says "close the Smithsonian down" or "transfer it to a private entity". The golly gee kid in me, who likes wow, neato, cool stuff says "My tax dollars have been wasted on worse thing than America's attic" or "let's put axing the Smithsonian on the bottom of the to do list". I suspect I'm not the only libertarian who feels that way.

  9. I know it's Library of Congress not the Smithsonian, but I think the LOC gets a free pass, doesn't it?

  10. Everyone has a government program that they feel meets the definition of a public good that is the proper role of government.

    It just takes a little backward rationalization to come up with how it is consistent with a libertarian world view.

    The flip-side is also true...I can come up with a libertarian argument against any government program.

    As someone who is a political moderate/pragmatist...I like programs like this that have a good result.

  11. Ah here's the site I was talking about above.

  12. I'd be happy if the Smithsonian and Library of Congress held a deaccession sale tomorrow.
    No minimum, no reserve, no buyers premium, and bundle the crap into box lots.

    That ain't gonna happen, so I commend them for making digital facsimiles of their holdings available to anyone.I appreciate their choosing a service like flickr rather than some academic or other institutional gatekeeper.

  13. Is there anyone left on the planet who still believes Reason is a legitimate outlet of libertarian journalism?

    The story of Reason's betrayal of the most popular and influential libertarian in our lifetimes has been widely disiminated. Nick, Matt and Radley are fast becoming pariahs and they well deserve to be.

    I think Ron Paul's future is a lot brighter than Reason's.

  14. Man this is cool.

  15. Joe: At least one: me.
    I don't think being libertarian requires never criticizing Ron Paul or how his campaign is run, even if he wins the presidency. And I'm a fan of Ron Paul.

  16. Joe, not everyone at reason jumped hard on Paul with both feet. I know it seems that way, but if you look closely, it's not the case. Look more carefully at Weigel and Jesse, for instance.

  17. Look more carefully at Weigel and Jesse, for instance.

    Oh we are.....

    Sullum is behaving a bit counter-revolutionary as well. There is going to be a lot of criticism and self-criticism at the next cocktail Party.

  18. I'd be happy if the Smithsonian and Library of Congress held a deaccession sale tomorrow.
    No minimum, no reserve, no buyers premium, and bundle the crap into box lots.

    Every time my very liberal family starts carping about how "Bush is destroying the arts," as if the federal funding of arts is the only way art could exist, I suggest that the Smithsonian could charge $1 for admission. I get some grumbling from them, but even they have to admit it's not a bad idea. Of course, that is why it will never be implemented.

    It gets millions of visitors every year and this token cost would go a very long way to deferring the overhead and who knows, maybe they won't suck so hard on the public teet. Heck, NYC museums charge $10 and up. It took me 30 minutes to get through the Natural History line the last time I was there, so I don't see that as a deterrent to attendance.

  19. J sub -- I can confirm your suspicion. Philosophic considerations aside, in a practical manner it's not as natural for certain government activities like museum operation to explode into massive levels of regulation, expenditure, privacy invasion, and entitlements. So, even if a rigorous libertarianism requires acknowledging that government-run museums are bad, I think it would be particularly imperative on a rigorous libertarian to agree with your sense of prioritization.

  20. Thanks. Just what I need: another excuse to sit in front of the computer wasting time.

  21. The story of Reason's betrayal of the most popular and influential libertarian in our lifetimes has been widely disiminated.

    I think that's a little melodramatic. Reason has stated why they believe Paul handled this problem poorly. They have done so in good faith and reminded us, in the process, that loyalism is the cornerstone of the two dominant political parties and a good thing, practically and morally, to avoid.

    Nick, Matt and Radley are fast becoming pariahs and they well deserve to be.

    You are a silly person.

  22. (Totally OT)

    I don't expect they'll be airing this spot in Germany anytime soon.

  23. Malto, Bruno Ganz is fucking amazing.

    Now someone needs to take that clip and subtitle it as "Ron Paul Newletter Editorial Meeting"

  24. Oh, I've seen that clip around here, only the subtitles are based on (who else...) Lord Hugo.

  25. I would like Shane Brady's opinion on this article! His thumbs up could make or break this piece.

  26. I think that's a little melodramatic. Reason has stated why they believe Paul handled this problem poorly.

    If that's all they did, no one but a few mindless conspiracists on the fringes would have cared. But instead Reason kept bringing this up. Over and over again. It's been over a week now and there were still three stories related to this posted on H&R today. The media has moved on, but Reason keeps beating this pile of dog food that was once a dead horse.

  27. If that's all they did, no one but a few mindless conspiracists on the fringes would have cared. But instead Reason kept bringing this up. Over and over again. It's been over a week now and there were still three stories related to this posted on H&R today. The media has moved on, but Reason keeps beating this pile of dog food that was once a dead horse.

    I'm so glad that commenters here have resisted the urge to drag the dead horse into unrelated threads.

  28. Ugh....back to the pictures. I think my libertarian sensibilities could deal with a "Library of Alexandria" sort of depository of information predicated that it is equally accessible by all.

  29. by Phil Manger
    I guess we should have expected it.

    The Beltway libertarians, those polished public intellectuals at Cato and Reason, have been falling all over themselves the past few days in an effort to distance themselves from Ron Paul following the "outing" of his old newsletters last week by The New Republic. Not that they were ever that close to begin with. The Cato gang never liked Dr. Paul, and the folks at Reason only warmed up to him after his campaign began to catch fire on the internet. Now, their blogs are full of I-told-you-sos, denunciations, and warnings of dire consequences for libertarianism.

    Typical of these was David Boaz, Cato's executive vice-president, who told the world that "...over the past few months a lot of people have been asking why writers at the Cato Institute seemed to display a lack of interest in or enthusiasm for the Paul campaign. Well, now you know." Even Radley Balko, a Reason editor and former Cato policy analyst whose research on police misconduct made him one of the few shining lights among the Beltway libertarians in recent years, has joined the lynch mob. You can find links to dozens of other similar comments here.

    Interestingly, all of them say they don't believe Dr. Paul is really a racist, and most of them say they believe him when he says he didn't write the articles in question. In fact, their real target seems to be something they call paleolibertarianism, a branch of libertarianism that has its center of gravity at the Ludwig von Mises Institute. And the man they really seem to loathe is the institute's president, Llewellyn H. Rockwell Jr. Ron Paul is merely collateral damage.

    I should point out at this point that I really have no firsthand knowledge of any of the details of the mutual animosity that exists between the Beltway libertarians and the paleos. I only know that it exists and that it runs deep. I was a libertarian activist from the mid-'60s until the early '80s. I then decided to get a life and, except for an occasional blog post or attendance at a meeting, I was pretty much out of it for the next quarter century. It was my son who urged me to support Ron Paul in his run for President. (I didn't deliberately raise him to be a libertarian. Do you suppose it's genetic?) I did a lot of Googling of Ron Paul's name, and...well, here I am.

    So, what about those newsletters? According to The New Republic article, the newsletters reveal "decades worth of obsession with conspiracies, sympathy for the right-wing militia movement, and deeply held bigotry against blacks, Jews, and gays". Actually, that's a gross overstatement. It's more like a careless phrase or choice of words here and there - sometimes very careless, and sometimes even mean.

    What the newsletters remind me of is the "gold bug" marketing in the early '70s. The "gold bugs" - those who believed that the dollar was destined to continue to lose value - were a mixed bag: conspiracists, libertarians, John Birchers, survivalists (of both the Left and the Right), racialists, and some who just wanted to turn a quick profit. Following the dollar's devaluation in 1971 a number of businesses and newsletters appeared on the market to capitalize on the uncertainty of the times. They sold their wares, whether precious metals or newsletter subscriptions, by instilling fear and serving up red meat to the gold bugs. I remember attending one precious metals "seminar" in 1974. A black couple was sitting near me. When the speaker got to the part about riots in the cities and a breakdown of civil authority, I could see that the couple were extremely uncomfortable. They left before the end of the presentation.

    For whatever reason, Ron Paul has a very bankable name in that market. The International Harry Schultz Letter, the granddaddy of all the gold bug newsletters, prominently features a plug from Dr. Paul on its webpage. So it would make sense that a newsletter bearing Paul's name, aimed at gold bugs or their like, would be profitable.

    So, did Ron Paul write that awful stuff posted on TNR's website? I'm a former writer and editor and also a former college professor who got to be pretty good at sniffing out plagiarism in student papers, and I have to say I very much doubt it. It isn't at all like Ron Paul's style of writing (you can go to the Mises Institute website, where there is an extensive archive of Dr. Paul's writings, if you don't believe me), and there's nothing in his voting record over 10 terms in Congress to suggest those are his views. I don't find it at all implausible that someone would use his name to sell subscriptions to a newsletter written and edited by others.

    But I agree with Alex Wallenwein and Bill Westmiller that we need to know who did write that objectionable material so that we can move on. Otherwise, this stuff will come up again and again.

    However, I am not so naive as to think that this will mollify the Beltway libertarians. In their writings on this controversy, I've detected a barely suppressed undercurrent of glee, as if they're trying to keep from shouting "Aha! Gotcha now!" They say they are concerned about what all this is doing to the reputation of libertarianism - although, it seems to me they're more concerned about what it's doing to their own standing in Georgetown - but I think they doth protest too much.

    If the Beltway libertarians are really concerned about the reputation of libertarianism, let them take a look at what they're saying about Ron Paul over on the Left. Although they like his antiwar, pro-freedom message, a lot of the bloggers over there don't care for the fact that he's a libertarian. You see, they equate libertarianism with the Cato Institute. And to them, Cato is just another D. C. think tank laboring in the service of the corporate elites.

  30. Here is an anatomy of the spread of the smear campaign against Ron Paul just prior to and on the crucial "king-making" New Hampshire primary day, January 8th (all times are EDT; the polls closed at 8 pm EDT):

    January 7th, 7:33 pm - Matt Welch (Reason Magazine) discusses the plan to smear Ron Paul on New Hampshire primary day. In a later edit, Welch strikes out the actual TNR/Reason plan (to post the piece at midnight, the exact time the New Hampshire polls opened, and not post the actual newsletters until the afternoon of the primary) and substitutes "tommorrow afternoon". But he failed to strike out Reason's part in the plan: "More to come from here after the gong strikes midnight."

    January 8th, 12:01 AM - Jamie Kirchick's anti-Paul hit piece, many weeks in preparation at the request of his boss Marty Peretz at The New Republic, and featuring featuring many out-of-context quotes from Paul's old newsletter (which have long been public knowledge and which Paul long ago denied writing) and descriptions of Paul and his associates as "bigoted", "racist", "homophobic", and "anti-Semitic", etc. is posted at The New Republic.

    11:03 AM - Daniel Koffler (Pajamas Media, formerly at Reason)
    "A damning New Republic expose on Ron Paul shows the "libertarian" Republican candidate to be a racist, a homophobe and an anti-Semite. Will his diehard supporters continue to defend a man who called Martin Luther King a gay pedophile? Daniel Koffler, a former Paul sympathizer, has a compendium of the Texas congressman's creepiest hits, pulled straight from his decades-old newsletter."

    3:30 pm - Andrew Sullivan (The Atlantic, formerly editor of The New Republic) - "They are a repellent series of tracts, full of truly appalling bigotry."

    3:46 pm - David Wiegel (Reason) Wiegel praises Kirchick's piece as "explosive" and after a brief converstation with a harried Paul, grossly mischaracterizes Ron Paul's position as "Paul's position is basically that he wrote the newsletters he stands by and someone else wrote the stuff he has disowned."

    3:48 pm - Nick Gillespie (Reason) "I've got to say that The New Republic article detailing tons of racist and homophobic comments from Paul newsletters is really stunning. As former reason intern Dan Koffler documents here, there is no shortage of truly odious material that is simply jaw-dropping."

    4:43 pm - David Bernstein (Volokh Conspiracy/George Mason University) "'s disturbing in and of itself that the kind of people who write such things would want to associate themselves with Paul's name, and the kind of people who enjoy reading such things would subscribe to these newsletters because they admire Paul." Here's David's web page at GMU.

    (before 5 pm) - Arnold Kling (Econglog/George Mason University) - Repeats the worst quotes out of context and without explanation.

    5:17 pm - Dale Carpenter (Volokh Conspiracy/University of Minnesota) - "A damning indictment of Ron Paul."

    Oddly enough, all these people with the exception of the tardiest, Dale Carpenter, live or work near the Orange Line subway (Metro) west of the capitol building in Washington, D.C. On the Orange Line, with occasional short side trips on some other lines, you can get to The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Reason Magazine, George Mason University, The Federal Triangle, Cato Institute, Foggy Bottom, Dupont Circle (Red Line), and a number of other homes and work sites of beltway media, politicians, bureaucrats, and "libertarians." I don't know how many of these people actually ride the D.C. Metro, but for fun and convenience let's call this group of smear artists the "Orange Line Mafia". This group of media pundits and bloggers has developed a large following among actual libertarians because they are an integral part of D.C. social circles and darlings of the mainstream media, who often "link" to the blogs of these "libertarians" from their various media formats. Libertarians who watch or read MSM thus often first discover "libertarianism" on the net in the writings of The Atlantic, Reason, Cato, Volokh Conspiracy, and other Orange Line Mafia outlets, and think that they are representative of people who actually value liberty.

  31. If a person cared about liberty, why would they be eager to mindlessly repeat smears about the most popular libertarian candidate in decades on the very day of the most crucial "king-making" primary in the United States? Yet that is exactly what a number of popular "libertarian" bloggers did that day. The Ron Paul Newsletters are voluminous and even a small fraction of them could not possibly be read in the very few hours that passed between the posting of the actual newsletters (the afternoon of the 8th) and the smear campaigners' posts (also the afternoon of the 8th). All of these "hit and run" blog posts, except Kirchick's original, must then be based on Kirchik's piece rather than on actual reading and analysis of the newsletters. Clearly the purpose of these posts was not to initiate a thoughtful discussion of the newsletters, it was to spin libertarian voters on the most crucial election day short of the November general elections.

  32. Semi-OT: Reason's bedmate is back!

    Observe the tortured attempt to call someone an anti-Semite!

    Marvel at the link to Reason's favorite far-left group!

    Will his bloodlust be sated, or will he turn on Reason contributors next, picking them off, one by one? Stay tuned.

  33. I'm not a libertarian (except on a lot of civil rights issues), so I don't have to go through contortions. This is an unalloyed good thing. The Library of Congress and Smithsonian are invaluable, and they do wonders to preserve our nation's heritage.

    The Library of Congress also has a collection of historical film clips. That's how I got to see "The Great Train Robbery" for the first time.

    I also got to listen to a speech by Calvin Coolidge, and you know what? It was the most boring speech I ever heard in my life. It's a good thing he didn't have television in his era.

  34. These professional photographs are boring. Distant shots of mining equipment?

    I prefer amateur shots taken from commodity Brownie cameras.

    The backgrounds of photos are usually more interesting to me than the intended subjects. One of the professional Flickr photos shows a cute young girl standing in front of a world map. This map has the 2D world sliced at the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean in the middle. An amateur Brownie photo would more likely show a not-so-cute boy or girl in front of a tilted map that sliced Asia in half, with the US/Canada and Western Europe featured at the center...more information about the time and place.

  35. The Library of Congress has a photo of a group of survivalists picking out guns at a miltiary surplus sale. They're all wearing Ron Paul T-shirts.

  36. "Carefully trained women inspectors check and inspect cargo transport innerwings before they are assembled on the fuselage, Douglas Aircraft Company, Long Beach, Calif."

    Discussion question: How many jokes can you come up with about this picture and caption?

  37. Why do I have feel guilty for enjoying the gallery or go through contortions to justify the library of congress? I used to really like hot dog bar day for my free school lunch but I don't have to argue that state-sponsored lunches are libertarian or that I wouldn't ax it tomorrow.

  38. Heck, NYC museums charge $10 and up. It took me 30 minutes to get through the Natural History line the last time I was there, so I don't see that as a deterrent to attendance.

    Detroit, for all of its faults, is home to one of the finest art museums in North America. The Detroit Intstitute of Arts has been weaned off the city teat, and is now self sufficient. The collection and museum still belong to the city, but operations are no longer funded by taxpayers. $8 to enter and worth double that. If your in town and don't visit the DIA, I have but one word for you, philistine.

  39. I wonder how frequently the exclamation, "Hey! I know that guy!" will occur as people sift through these photos.

  40. is anyone else fascinated by looking at old pictures? I dont know why but I always was very curious about how life was back then...

  41. Amazing stuff. There's a couple of shots of Jack Johnson that are destined for my game room. As soon as I have one that is.

    The thing that always gets me about old photos is how much tougher, and shorter, people used to look. Even the old ladies look like they could have kicked my ass.

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