Another Beyond-the-Box Program of
Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making
Perspectives on Our History Through Technology

Inquiring Fingers, Inquiring Minds
Exhibit Catalog

September 22 - November 26, 2003
Rosenthal Library Barham Rotunda - Side Case and 2nd Floor Display Cases
-- as of Oct 20th, the entire exhibit is outside RO 230 / Auditorium --

Queens College - CUNY
DuMont TV 1953

The mission of Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making is to enhance the educational experience at Queens College through an interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of technology development.

To accomplish this, Voices of Old Technology collects, preserves, documents, displays and interprets selected technologies and related materials.  The collection emphasizes, but is not limited to, office and educational technology. Related items collected from Queens College and other CUNY sources highlight the history of the College and the University as well.

Voices of Old Technology programs have included exhibits, a panel discussion, and The Tech Muse newsletter columns and web sites.  Our first Tech Muse web site debuted in the Summer of Y2K /Summer 2000, and our first exhibit opened in Rosenthal Library in January 2001.  Following the philosophy of "When in Doubt, DON'T Throw it Out,"  our exhibits include discarded "old junk," which we hope encourages further understanding, thought and discussion.

Each exhibit has its own character, and the types of items displayed in each are partly a function of the exhibit space.  We hope you will enjoy the web pages for our January 27 - March 4, 2003 Exhibit, and the accompanying February 10th "One Day Special Bonus Exhibit."  We have also posted a list of all our exhibits.

We are especially grateful to friends

and to many retirees, alums and others for their support, encouragement, and donations of great treasures to the collections.

This catalog was designed for the web, and meets web accessibility standards.

Introductory Panel
Separate Display Case (Currently Outside RO 230 Auditorium)

Rotunda View Toward Reference Desk Display Case as Moved and Installed Downstairs

We wouldn't put this discarded old metal Queens College fan in our office waiting rooms today.  The wide openings and metal blades could easily hurt inquiring little fingers.  New designs protect those fingers.

But should we try to "protect" inquiring minds?  And how do we help students discover their creative potential?  There has long been a tension between a perceived need to protect our freedom by curtailing it, and the importance of encouraging learning, questioning and creativity.  We hope to highlight this tension in our exhibit, and to encourage discussion.

Some of the items in this exhibit illustrate how communications technologies of another period were used.  Some exhibit items were located by using new technology research tools.  We will change some of the items in this exhibit in the next few weeks in order to show a wider variety of related topics.

In the May 29, 2003 kickoff of the Queens College Oral History Pilot Project, some of the Class of 1953 alums we interviewed spoke about their experiences here in the McCarthy era.  They told us about being told not to sign anything because it would affect their future.  They told us about being pressured to take their names off petitions they had signed.  They told us about their professor being taken from class for questioning. And there was more.  How do you suppose experiences such as these influenced the intellectual atmosphere of the period?

The exhibit as it appears now was designed partly to complement the major Barham Rotunda exhibit at the time - "McCarthyism at Queens College." When our exhibit was first installed, it began upstairs next to "McCarthyism…" and continued downstairs.  It is now completely housed downstairs in order to accommodate the needs of a new major exhibit upstairs.

[Text from original installation: Our exhibit begins in the display case to the right of the main Rotunda cases, and continues downstairs in the cases outside Rosenthal 230.  The elevator and the stairs near the Café and the Armstrong Archives will lead you there. Be sure to view the important neighboring exhibit "McCarthyism at Queens College" in the main Rotunda cases before continuing to the downstairs portion of our exhibit.]

1) Hunter Fan - etched "Queens College B + G   275" - discarded 2002.
These and similar wall and floor fans were all over campus for many years.

2) American Area Studies Program Description / QC Bulletin 1952-53, p 35.  Hortense Powdermaker is listed as a member of the Administrative Committee for this program.

"... The goal of this concentration is not the encouragement of a narrow nationalistic point of view.  It is rather directed at achieving an objective appraisal of our own way of life.  From such informed objectivity may come sound opinions about international as well as  national well-being..."
3) Tonka Toys Commemorative Lunchbox. "Since 1947 ... designed for child development"; Hasbro, 1999; Series #1.  Children today are offered a different Tonka experience than what was available to earlier generations --- they do their Tonka projects on the computer.  Is one way better than the other, or are they just different?

4) Talking Computron, Video Technology, 1987; small electronic toy computer.  On the heels of new office and educational technologies come new toy designs related to those technologies.

Downstairs Cases Right Side Case
Photo by Judy Chiang
On Beyond-the-Box Thinking, Education and Democracy
Downstairs - Left Display Case

Many clips in this exhibit from The New York Times are from the exciting “New York Times Historical Database” (articles and pictures from 1851 to 1999, full text is in pdf format only). This database is accessible from on-campus computers through the Queens College Library web pages; select “online resources,” click “databases by title,” click "N," and then click "New York Historical."  For information about the proxy server for off-campus access, select "off-campus access" from the on-line resources page.  The NY Times places the citation information at the top of the article image.

Other items from the web are also presented with their web citations.

1) Exhibit Overview (repeated from the upstairs case) with picture of upstairs display case / fan.

2) Beyond-the-Box Pictures
"Think Out of the Boxes," ASPCA ad on Jewel Ave telephone booth, August 2003.
"Think Outside the Box Office," sign in a Loew's movie theatre, August 2003.
Swanson TV Dinner, introduced in 1954; picture of the box.  From "Our American Century - The American Dream: The 50s," Time-Life Books, Time Life, Virginia, 1998, p. 29.  The outside box was designed to look like a TV. The inside container was made of aluminum foil-type material, designed for a standard oven; definitely not compatible with today's microwaves.

3) circa 1918
"'Hey Fellows!' Your Money Brings the Book We Need When We Want It!" handout of the American Library Association's United War Work Campaign, Library War Service of the ALA, week of November 11, 1918.  Books are important to the war effort.
"Ask Loyalty Pledge at NYU," NY Times, March 27, 1918; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.
"Promulgate Loyalty Test," NY Times, June 2, 1918; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.
"Against Academic Restraints," Letters to the Times, NY Times, January 5, 1953; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web. Describes events at Harvard circa 1918.

4) First Day Covers
"Freedom to Speak Out - A Root of Democracy," December 8, 1977
"Liberty Depends on Freedom of the Press," Americana Series, November 13, 1975

With so much reliance today on email, does "the younger generation" know what First Day Covers are? Instructions about how to order a specific first day cover the way many collectors do is available at the bottom of some of the the Postal Service pages announcing release of a new stamp; see and select information about a specific new stamp.  See for a currently available example.

Things don't have to stay "the way they've always been."  Did you know that snail mail recipients used to pay for mail sent to them? This shouldn't be so strange to us; today, the standard is for both the caller and the recipient to pay for cell phone calls!  Information on Sir Rowland Hill and changes he initiated in England (1840) that created a prepayment system for mail is on the web at . US Postal Service history including movement into "high tech" systems is on the USPS site at

5) "'American' College in Queens Pledged," NY Times, May 28, 1937; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.

Paul Klapper, President-to-be of new Queens College:  "...To me, Americanism means uncompromising faith in our democratic institutions and our characteristically democratic process..."

6) "Theobold Warns of Radical 'Label,'" NY Times, October 12, 1949; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.

John J. Theobald's inauguration as QC President.  "...Theobald declared that the institution was more concerned with developing 'independent thinking' than with 'the mere amassing of information...'"

7) "The Queens College Democratic Oath," from QC Commencement Program, February 1953. Oath to be administered to graduates by Judge Charles S. Colden.

Part of QC's commencement ceremonies for many years, beginning with the first commencement in 1941; this oath was referred to in early Queens College Bulletins.

8) Copy of Loyalty Oath Form for National Defense Education Loan Program, Department of Health, Education and Welfare, Office of Education, Bureau of Higher Education, Washington DC; OE 4025 (rev 11-66).  From the QC Financial Aid Office files - copy completed by a student borrower (anonymous of course for this exhibit) and signed and notarized in 1971.

The National Defense Education Act of 1958 established funding for a new national student loan program for college students, and tied receipt of the award to the signing of a loyalty oath.  Title VII of that act was entitled “Research And Experimentation In More Effective Utilization Of Television, Radio, Motion Pictures, And Related Media For Educational Purposes.”

9) Cover and excerpt from House Committee on Un-American Activities Publication; "Committee Print - Guide to Subversive Organizations," revised December 1, 1961; excerpt shown is quoted from "Masters of Deceit" by J. Edgar Hoover:

"... Their assets usually consist of a few office supplies, a secondhand Mimeograph machine, and a mailing list..."
Then it was the mimeograph machine --- today it’s the computer.  Technology development continues to enhance access to "freedom of the press,” while at the same time creating a wide variety of new issues related to that freedom.

10) Talking Un-American Blues, 1952; excerpts from the information and lyrics on the web at , 8/24/2003.

Catchy songs and records can help highlight issues and spread the word for any cause.  This anti-HUAC "talking blues" piece includes a verse that begins with the familiar phrase of the period "Are you now or have you ever been..."

11) Excerpts from Address of Senator J. William Fulbright, The National Book Award, January 25, 1955, NYC.

"...In this hurried mechanical age, the artist and intellectual are among the few who have the serenity and the sense of perspective out of the fevered confusion which presently afflicts us..."
The full text of this speech by Senator Fulbright was requested by a then suspended Federal Civil Service employee --- one of the many federal civil servants suspended during the McCarthy period. This particular person was suspended for 3½ years.  She was then exonerated completely after costly legal representation and loss of salary.  No apology.

She later came to QC and quickly became a valued, talented and creative long-time member of the QC staff.

12) Zenith Royal 50 Pocket Radio; orange, circa 1961, open; note on diagram inside back cover: "Install 2 penlite batteries size AA this way; install 2 mercury batteries this way."

The two battery types are installed in exactly opposite directions, but can be used in the same device.

13) "Teaching for a Change," John Anthony Scott, Bantam Books, NY, 1972; back cover.  Partial text:

" help our children become thinking, feeling, responsive and responsible citizens equipped for survival in a challenging and changing world."

14) "Hollywoood - The Dream Factory," Hortense Powdermaker, Little, Brown and Co., Boston, 1950; copy of cover and excerpt from p. 321.  Queens College's very own Hortense Powdermaker again! Excerpt includes:

"...Still, the idea of the educational process as one which trains the student's capacity for critical and independent judgment is sincerely believed in by some, and given lip service by most educators..."

15) "Taking Charge of Your TV," video hosted by Rosie O'Donnell; The Family and Community Critical Viewing Project,a Partnership of the National PTA, National Cable Television Association, and Cable in the Classroom, 1996.

Introduction on box tells us to "...Use the TV as a tool for learning and inspiring creativity..."

Politicians Exploit (and Help Develop) Communications Technologies
Downstairs - Right Display Case

1) "The real problem is not whether computers think but whether people do," poster, 1997, Good Apple, GA 1622 Thinking. This copy had been in the window of Liquidators Books and Software Store on Kissena Blvd. until a few days before they closed.

2) McCarthy Telegram to Truman and Truman's draft response, 1950.    and ; both from the web August 7, 2003.  More from the National Archives web site about teaching with documents, including suggested teaching activities related to these documents, is at

The pink telegram is part of a message sent to President Truman by Senator McCarthy. Truman reportedly drafted the notes to its right and then probably (according to the web site) never sent it.  We show only page 1 of McCarthy's telegram to Truman; the full telegram is available on the above web site.

3) "TV Report to the Nation," from “The Year: Your Year in Pictures,” 1953 edition, Year Inc (Calif.) and Simon & Shuster (NY), 1953, p. 20. Eisenhower does live TV press conference in June 1953.

4) "Ike on TV," from The Unicorn Book of 1954,” Unicorn Books, NY, 1955, p. 370 - 371. Actor / producer Robert Montgomery becomes Ike's TV advisor.

5) "Controversial," from “The Year: Your Year in Pictures,” 1953 edition, Year Inc (Calif.) and Simon & Shuster (NY), 1953, p. 29. McCarthy "attacking Stevenson over a national television hookup."

6) "Recorded Hearing Barred by Benton," NY Times, May 6, 1952; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.  Wonderful picture of McCarthy's "tape recording machine."

7) "Eisenhower Staff Interprets McCarthy Speech as Attack," NY Times, November 6, 1953; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.  Who gets free airtime to respond to on-air charges?

8) About Edward R. Murrow's "See it Now" report on McCarthy and McCarthy response.  The power of television was highlighted by Murrow's "See it Now" reports.
"Murrow is Favored in Reaction to Talk," NY Times, April 8, 1954; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.   "... listener reaction, expressed in telephone calls and telegrams..."
"Eisenhower Declares Murrow His Friend," NY Times, April 8, 1954; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.  Refers to McCarthy's "... twenty five minute kinescope..." reply to Murrow's report.

9) Pictures of Army - McCarthy Hearings
"McCarthy - Army Hearings," from “The Year: Your Year in Pictures,” 1954 edition, Year Inc (Calif.) and Simon & Shuster (NY), 1954, p. 8-9.  Full-page picture with camera, long table, and people with microphones.
"Big Sensation," from “The Year: Your Year in Pictures,” 1954 edition, Year Inc (Calif.) and Simon & Shuster (NY), 1954, p. 19. Big issue is a photo "doctored" an easy, low-tech way.

10) Sony - Dynamic Microphone; circa late 1960s.

11) Picture of a DuMont TV; part of an ad for DuMont Television, National Geographic, April 1953. Ad text (not shown) says the price is "from $199" and mentions "Provision for economical UHF adaptation."  This picture is part of the heading of this catalog.

12) Articles on Televised Hearings
"Televised Hearings - The Public is Entitled to this Service But Methods Could be Improved," NY Times, March 8, 1953; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.
"Cut in TV Studied to Speed Hearing on Army-McCarthy;" NY Times, May 3, 1954. from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.  "Hamming is denounced."
"Jenkins Predicts TV Ban," NY Times, June 19, 2954; from the New York Times Historical Database on the web.

"... Ray H. Jenkins predicted here today that such an event as the Army-McCarthy hearings would 'never' occur again... he doubted that any future Congressional hearings would be televised..."
13) First Day Cover, "Right of the People Peaceably to Assemble," Americana Series, November 24, 1975.

More on first day covers and postal history above, under Item 4 in the Downstairs Left Case.

14) "Microcomputers and Young Children," Issues for Educators, Sydney Schwartz and Daniel James Brovey; Volume 1, No. 1, 1985, Queens College School of Education, NY, 1985.

15)  Creativity / Flights of Fancy and NYC Subway Cars
Poster - "Redbird in the Air," NYC MTA / Arts for Transit poster of redbird subway car; balloon-type basket hanging below with children; John Blackford, artist; 2003.
"Crane moves NYC Subway Car into position to be pushed into the ocean off Cape May," Philadelphia Inquirer, New Jersey Edition, July 4, 2003.

This wonderful poster that seems to be hanging now in all NYC subway cars makes us think of the importance of encouraging “flights of fancy,” so important to the creative process.  The accompanying newspaper photograph (with interesting shadings as received by fax) shows a picture of a similar subway car at a similar angle, just before it was dropped into the ocean off New Jersey as part of the continuing program to turn these discarded old subway cars into artificial reefs.

According to an article in the NY Daily News of September 21, 2003 (available on the web as of September 25, 2003 at, "'The last of the bunch were ordered for the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park in Queens - featuring large side windows to offer fairgoers vistas of the fairgrounds and all their glory as the trains approached on the No. 7 line,' TA spokesman Charles Seaton said."  Talk about "flights of fancy"!  [Note: The last of the NYC Redbirds made it's final run to Flushing on November 3, 2003.]

Voices of Old Technology - A Museum in the Making

Y2K Bug Stuffed Animal

Curator: Syd Lefkoe
Member, Society for the History of Technology (SHOT)
Member, Oral History Association

Curatorial and Aquisitions Assistance by:
Jeff Castellan, Ellen Rondot, Nancy Williams

Our "Museum in the Making" is not an official museum of the College. 
Still in the "startup" stage, it is a 
Member, American Association of Museums (AAM)

Photos by Syd Lefkoe unless otherwise attributed

Technology and Web Accessibility for People with Disabilities
CUNY's Statement on Accessibility
Web Site of the CUNY University Faculty Senate Committee on Disabilities Issues

Bobby WorldWide Approved 508

© copyright 2003 by Syd Lefkoe

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