Reader responses to our January/February issue

January/February 2017 Cover
January/February 2017 Cover Smithsonian Magazine

From the Editors The January/February cover illustration by Arthur E. Giron proved to be a kind of Rorschach test, appearing to some readers as the likeness of President Trump and to others as Prince Charles. The story of the Greek warrior actually rendered in the image was recommended by the New York Times and applauded by readers. Barbara Sloan called it “a fascinating piece of archaeological and anthropological study.” The article’s timeline generated historical debate, but Richard Niemi appreciated the annotations of “significant personages and events from China, India and the Middle East to give us the proper context of world history.” Joseph W. Clark praised Kadir Nelson’s Barack Obama portrait as “so accurate it becomes startling,” while others questioned historian Joseph J. Ellis’ assessment of the former president’s legacy. Kathleen Daye found inspiration in the lives of Homer Cummings and Harold Israel (“Salvation”): “The depth of research and masterful storytelling were impressive.”


These stories (“Salvation,” “Exoneration,” “Suspicion”) stand out as testimonies to the ongoing need for compassion and humanity. Injustice is a tragedy we must always be prepared to rise against.

Sky Sinclair Hiatt, Charlottesville, Virginia

Suspicion” hit home, especially the picture of Kiyoshi Katsumoto at his residence in El Cerrito, California. As a member of El Cerrito High School’s class of 1957, I realize that my Japanese-American classmates had either been born in or were incarcerated with their families in the internment camps shortly before we began our time together as classmates, and not a word was ever spoken.

Graham Thatcher, Rapid City, South Dakota

Simple Start-Up

Hand-cranking a multi-cylinder internal-combustion engine not only takes a lot of strength but is dangerous (“Ask Smithsonian”). The crank can “kick back” and cause serious injury. Given the different average upper-body strength of men and women, it can hardly be surprising that electric cars were very popular among women prior to the availability of the electric self-starter, introduced in 1912.

William B. Jones, Norfolk, Virginia

Fixing Nixon

I wonder how Richard Nixon became “the country’s new vice president” in 1957 (“Salvation”). He was known as “the New Nixon” in 1968, but I believe he was the old Nixon, and the country’s old vice president, from 1953 to 1961.

Michael K. Stone, San Anselmo, California

Futile Hunt

Fighting poachers is a losing battle (“The Elephant Detective”). Consumer demand will always be satisfied. If demand is not eliminated, wild elephants are doomed.

Dale Gibby, Columbus, Indiana


Some readers thought the Battle of Thermopylae in “The Golden Warrior” timeline was misplaced. However, in addition to the battle in 480 B.C., there was a Battle of Thermopylae in 191 B.C. between the Roman Army and the Seleucid king Antiochus III.

Some readers objected strongly to our writing that 120,000 Japanese- Americans were sent to relocation centers when the United States entered World War II, but there was “no wholesale incarceration” of Italian- Americans or German-Americans (“Suspicion”). Loyal Americans in all three groups were unfairly deprived of liberty and property in the name of national security. The numbers of Italian-Americans and German-Americans interned were about 10,000 and 11,000, respectively.


In “All That Jass,” we erred in citing the members of the Original Dixieland “Jass” Band who recorded “Livery Stable Blues”: Larry Shields played clarinet and Tony Sbarbaro was on drums.

In “Wave Catchers” (December), we referred to the electromagnetic “pull” between two electrons. A better word would have been “force.”

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This article is a selection from the March issue of Smithsonian magazine

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