In honor of today's date of December 12, 2012, we searched our collection database for artifacts that relate to the number 12. We were a bit surprised with what came up.
Whether you're doing research or are just curious about historical artifacts, our online collections database is a great resource. Susan Tolbert is the project manager for the effort to make our collection accessible online as well as the deputy chair of the Division of Work and Industry. Tolbert said the goal of "making the collections accessible to the public" is an important part of the Smithsonian's strategic plan. Selecting objects to put online and writing descriptions can be a lot of work for museum curators but, Tolbert says, "Curators have said to me that it feels like they're re-discovering their collection. Some of us have been working on back-to-back exhibits, programs, or research, so being given the time to dig into our collections is a lot of fun."
We encourage you to visit our collections page and browse by subjects, object groups, or do a search. Here are 12 things we found for 12-12-12.
1. Dance card: The lucky owner of this dance card had a partner's name on all 12 lines for dances on this card from 1929. We hope she enjoyed the Staunton Military Academy's Final Ball in Staunton, Virginia!
2. Cher Ami: Cher Ami was one of the 600 birds flown by the U.S. Army Signal Corps in France during World War I. He delivered 12 important messages within the American sector at Verdun. On his last mission, he performed a valiant feat, despite being gravely wounded. He carried a message capsule from a battalion that has been isolated from other American forces. The message helped save 194 people.
3. Wooden Puzzle Assortment: These twelve interlocking "kumiki" puzzles from Japan were imported sometime after 1952. They belonged to Olive Hazlett, one of America's leading mathematicians during the 1920s.
4. The Dirty Dozen poster: An environmental advocacy group distributed this poster in 1974, which depicts 12 members of Congress, including both Democrats and Republicans, accused of voting on the side of commercial interests over environmental concerns.
6. Button, AIDS 12th Annual Walk, Washington: With less text than a tweet, buttons can send a powerful message.
Miguel Gomez is the director ofAIDS.gov, a program of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He shared the power of buttons related to the HIV and AIDS epidemic in this blog post: "I have over 500 buttons, and all of them are meaningful in some way or another," Gomez wrote. "But the one that memorializes an early AIDS vigil is my favorite. The button is black with white lettering. It says 'National AIDS Vigil, October 8, 1983' and shows a hand holding a candle, which makes up the 'I' in 'AIDS.' At that time, we still didn't know what caused AIDS.”
7. Portion of the staff of the Anglo American Telegraph Company, Limited: This image from the Archives Center is from 1872. Twelve men and one spotted dog seem to be posing outside a telegraph station in Hearts Content, Newfoundland.
Three other telegraph companies failed in a British-American venture to lay an Atlantic telegraph cable before the Anglo American Telegraph Company succeeded. We're not sure what role the dog played in that effort.
8. Howard University men's chorus: Twelve men of the Howard University chorus gather around a piano in this photograph by the Scurlock Studio. The Scurlock Studio was one of the premiere African American studios in the country and one of the longest-running black businesses in Washington, D.C.
9. Rosette Iron Mold: Swedish rossettes are sugar cookies that come in charming shapes formed by a mold like this one, which could make 12 cookies. Nordic Ware, a family-owned manufacturing firm in Minneapolis, Minnesota, produced many specialty baking and cooking items, including the "Bundt" pan.
10. Nancy Batchelder's Sampler: From the inscription of this sampler, we know that Nancy Batchelder was "aged twelve years" when she made it sometime between 1800-1825. Unfortunately, we don't know much else about the young seamstress.
11. Come into a beauty conference with 10,000,000 babies: Twelve adorable infants play, lay around naked, or flop on the floor crying in this Ivory Soap advertisement from 1930. The advertisement explains that babies are "among the most eminent living authorities" on selecting soap for sensitive skin and recommends Ivory because "it is pure."
12. Krispy Automatic Ring-King Junior Doughnut Machine: This is the Krispy Automatic Ring-King Junior, which made hot glazed doughnuts, producing 60 dozen doughnuts an hour for small retail operations beginning in the 1950s. You can see it in Food: Transforming the American Table, 1950-2000.
Give our collection search a try—you might find a couple dozen oddly interesting things!
A few hints for successful searching:
Erin Blasco is an education specialist in the New Media Department. Her favorite 12-themed artifacts not included in this post are a 12 pence coin from 1652, a fancy paperweight with a 12 rays in its base, and these candy-like pills for severe diarrhea, cramps, cholera morbus, colic, and more.