Sunday, May 30, 2010

"Buckminster Fuller: Engineer, Designer, Thinker" from VOA.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: I’m Phoebe Zimmermann.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program PEOPLE IN AMERICA. Today we tell about an unusual man who had many abilities, Richard Buckminster Fuller.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: Building designer. Engineer. Inventor. Thinker. Poet. Not five people. Just one: Richard Buckminster Fuller. "Bucky" Fuller, as he was known, was one of the most unusual thinkers of the twentieth century. His aim in life was to make the human race a success in the universe.

Bucky Fuller spent most of his life searching for new ideas. He also searched for unusual connections between existing ideas. He described himself in these words: "A complete, future-thinking design-science explorer."

Fuller believed deeply in technology. Through technology, he said, people can do anything they need to do.

STEVE EMBER: R. Buckminster Fuller died in nineteen eighty-three at the age of eighty-seven. During his long life, he discussed his idea about technology and human survival. He called his idea "dymaxion." It came from three words. Dynamic, meaning a force. Maximum, meaning the most. And ion, which is an atom or group of atoms with an electrical charge.

Fuller explained the word dymaxion as a method of doing more with less. Everything he did was guided by this idea. He designed a dymaxion car, a dymaxion house, and a dymaxion map of the world. But he probably is known best for another invention -- the geodesic dome. A geodesic dome is a round building made of many straight-sided pieces.

Talking about R. Buckminster Fuller means using strange words. This is because Fuller himself invented words to describe his ideas and designs. His designs were way ahead of his time. They still are.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: R. Buckminster Fuller was born in Milton, Massachusetts, in eighteen ninety-five. Bucky could not see clearly, because his eyes did not point straight ahead. So, his world was filled with masses of color without clear shapes.

When he was four years old, he got eyeglasses to correct the problem. Suddenly, he could see the shapes of people's faces. He could see stars in the sky and leaves on the trees. He never lost his joy at the beauty he discovered in the world.

As a child, Bucky Fuller questioned everything. He was a very independent thinker at an early age. His refusal to accept other people’s ideas and rules continued as he grew older. One result was that he never completed his university studies. He was expelled two times from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He thought his time was better spent having fun than studying.

Yet Bucky Fuller was very serious about learning. He proved this when he joined the American navy during World War One.

STEVE EMBER: In the navy, he learned all about navigation, mathematics, mechanics, communications and electronics engineering. He loved this world of modern technology. Soon after he joined the navy, he designed new rescue equipment. It helped save the lives of some pilots during training. Fuller's good navy record won him a short-term appointment to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. It was there he first developed two ideas that were important for the rest of his life.

While studying warships, Fuller realized that they weighed much less than buildings, yet were able to do much more. He decided better designs could also help humans do more, using fewer materials.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: In nineteen seventeen, Bucky Fuller married Anne Hewlett. Their daughter, Alexandra, was born about a year later. Bucky was a very emotional man, as well as an intellectual one. He loved his little daughter. She was the wonder of his world. Then Alexandra became very sick. The medicine to cure her had not been invented yet. She died at the age of four.

Bucky Fuller blamed himself, although he had done everything he could to save her. His sorrow overcame him. He began to drink too much alcohol. Yet he continued to work hard.

Fuller was head of a company that made a light-weight building material. He was not a successful businessman, however. And the company began to fail. He was dismissed by the owners. It was nineteen twenty-seven. His wife had just given birth to another baby girl. They were living in Chicago, Illinois. He had no job and no money. He felt he was a complete failure.

STEVE EMBER: Bucky Fuller walked through the streets of Chicago along Lake Michigan. He stood silently on the shore. He considered killing himself. Then, as he explained later, he realized he did not have the right to kill himself. He said he had felt something inside him that day. He called it the Greater Intelligence or God. It told him he belonged to the universe. So Bucky Fuller decided to live. And he would live the way he thought best. He promised to spend his remaining years in search of designs that could make human existence on Earth easier. This began his great creative period.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: Fuller's first design was the dymaxion house. It was not built at the place it would stand. It was built in a factory, then moved. It did not cost much to build. And it did not look like a traditional house in America. Its roof hung from a huge stick in the center. Its walls were made of glass. It contained everything needed for people to live. Power came from the sun. Water was cleaned and re-used.

Fuller then designed and built the dymaxion car. It looked a little like the body of an airplane. It had three wheels instead of four. It could go as fast as one hundred eighty kilometers an hour. It carried up to twelve passengers. Several companies were interested in building and selling Fuller's house and car. But his designs were so different, so extreme, that banks were not willing to lend money for the projects. So the dymaxion house -- which could have provided low-cost housing for everyone -- was never built. And the dymaxion car -- which could have provided safe, pollution-free transportation using little gasoline -- was never produced.

STEVE EMBER: Bucky Fuller did not give up his idea of doing more with less. He had an idea for another building design. It would provide the most strength with the least amount of material. He began looking for the perfect shape.

Fuller found it in nature. It appeared in the shapes of organic compounds and metals. The main part of his design is a four-sided pyramid. To create a building, many pyramids are connected to each other. The connecting piece has eight sides. Together, these two shapes create a very strong, light-weight rounded structure. The structure can be covered with any kind of material. And it can stand without any supports inside. Fuller named this structure the geodesic dome. It covers more space with less material than any other building ever designed.

PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: After a number of experimental geodesic domes were built, industry began to understand the value of the design. Today, there are about one hundred thousand different large and small geodesic domes in use around the world. However, no one yet has acted on one of Fuller's ideas for the geodesic dome. There are no limits to the size of a geodesic dome. So Fuller proposed using them over cities or over areas that had severe weather. A geodesic dome that size would make it possible to have complete control over the environment inside it.


STEVE EMBER: Most of Bucky Fuller's inventions did not earn him much money. A lot of what he did earn he spent traveling around the world. He told anyone who would listen about his ideas for human life on this planet. He called the planet "Spaceship Earth." Humans, he said, are astronauts on Spaceship Earth. They are traveling one hundred thousand kilometers an hour around the sun. He said the Earth is like a large mechanical device that will survive only if people living on it know how to operate it correctly.

People must live on Earth just as astronauts live in a spaceship. They must use their supplies wisely, and re-use them.

Buckminster Fuller said humans are able, through planning and wise use of natural supplies, to feed and house themselves forever.


PHOEBE ZIMMERMANN: This VOA Special English program, PEOPLE IN AMERICA, was written by Marilyn Rice Christiano. It was produced by Lawan Davis. Our engineer was Sulaiman Tarawaley. I’m Phoebe Zimmerman.

STEVE EMBER: And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for another PEOPLE IN AMERICA program on the Voice of America.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

"Visit an Aquarium" by Voice of America.

I'm Steve Ember. And I'm Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.

For thousands of years, people have wanted to explore the world under the sea. Such activity was not possible until modern times. Today, divers can survive for hours underwater and photograph fish and other sea creatures.

Not everyone can swim with fish in the ocean. But they can enjoy underwater life in another way -- by visiting an aquarium.


Experts do not really know when people began keeping fish as pets. But they say that people have been interested in fish for thousands of years. Some say the ancient Sumerians were the first civilization to keep fish in ponds more than 4,000 years ago. The Chinese kept and studied carp and goldfish more than 1,000 years ago. The ancient Romans kept eels as pets. And the Greek philosopher Aristotle made what is believed to be the first known study of sea life, including sharks and dolphins.

Experts say that keeping fish at home in small water tanks called aquariums is extremely popular today. And everyone seems to enjoy visiting huge public aquariums that have opened around the world.

By the middle of the 1800s, science had shown that plants, fish and other sea creatures could survive together under water. So it was no longer necessary to change the water in a tank for fish to live there. This led to the building of the first public aquariums.

The first one opened in London, England in 1853. In the next 15 years, other aquariums opened in Europe and the United States. By 1928, there were about 45 public aquariums.

Today, millions of people visit aquariums in more than 30 countries. Steve Feldman is an official with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Silver Spring, Maryland. He says his organization has recognized and approved 41 aquariums in the United States. About 58 million people visit these places each year.


One of the most famous aquariums is in Monterey, California. Officials say the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been recognized as the finest aquarium in the United States. It is in a building that used to be a kind of factory called a cannery. This was where workers prepared fish and placed them in cans to be sold.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium shows visitors the underwater life in the bay. Scientists at the aquarium also study the animals and work to help many survive.

For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium cared for 19 penguins from New Orleans, Louisiana. They were rescued after hurricane Katrina struck the area in 2005. These penguins were kept until they were ready to be returned to the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium also works to save the sea otter. Aquarium workers rescue lost or hurt young sea otters and prepare them to survive in the wild. The ones that cannot be released are kept in the aquarium and entertain visitors by swimming quickly and playing tricks in the water.

Visitors especially enjoy watching them play with objects in the water. When sea otters find new objects, they smell them, hold them, play with them and hit them against other hard objects. The otters hit their toys against the walls of the tank in front of the happy visitors.

At the center of the Monterey Bay Aquarium is a huge tank more than eight meters high. It is one of the tallest aquarium exhibits in the world.

The tank holds more than one million liters of seawater and many different kinds of fish. It also holds more than 100 kinds of plants. Officials say the tank was built in the center of the aquarium because it would get the most sunlight each day. All this sun helps the plants grow -- about ten centimeters every day. An official says the Monterey Bay Aquarium was the first aquarium in the world to show a living kelp forest.

A kelp forest is a kind of ecosystem established around colonies of a seaweed plant called kelp. Kelp can extend between two and thirty meters or more from the sea floor to the surface of the water. These plants provide homes to many fish and other sea animals.

The aquarium is also an education center. Workers help visitors and especially children understand sea creatures and their importance in the world. Children and adults can see many sea creatures being fed and watch a movie about underwater life. They can even touch some of these creatures in small tide pools. Workers make sure visitors touch the rays, crabs and sea stars very carefully.


One extremely large public aquarium opened in Atlanta, Georgia in 2005. The Georgia Aquarium says it is the largest in the world. It has more than 100,000 sea animals in 30 million liters of water. These include two whale sharks -- the world's largest fish.

The Georgia Aquarium is divided into 60 different environments called habitats. The largest holds more than 22 million liters of water. It was especially designed for the whale sharks and the thousands of other animals that live in the ocean. The second largest habitat was designed to copy the natural environment of beluga whales.

Building large public aquariums is very costly. Most of the money to build the Georgia Aquarium was provided by businessman Bernard Marcus. He and his wife gave 250 million dollars to help pay for the building. The total cost was 290 million dollars. Reports said that more than one million people visited the Georgia Aquarium in the first six months that it was open.


Another aquarium re-opened in 2005 in Camden, New Jersey. The Adventure Aquarium first opened in 1992. It spent about 50 million dollars to expand its building and improve its exhibits.

Visitors can watch a hippopotamus in the West African River Experience area of the Adventure Aquarium. Reports say the Adventure Aquarium is the only one in the country that has two hippos.

One exciting area of the aquarium is the shark tunnel. Visitors can watch 26 dangerous creatures up close without fear. The tunnel is suspended in the middle of the shark tank.

Even more exciting for visitors is the chance to get in the water and swim with the sharks! Swimmers wear special clothes and must follow a few rules. For example, they must not make the sharks angry or make any quick movements. Swimming with the sharks costs more than 100 dollars.


Another aquarium that provides education and adventures with sharks is the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. The Baltimore Aquarium has more than 10,000 sea animals. It opened in 1981.

Its shark adventure includes a tour with an expert to learn about these ancient creatures and how the aquarium workers feed and care for them. Children can even sleep near the sharks overnight. Children sleep in the viewing area as sharks sleep nearby, behind protective glass.

The National Aquarium in Baltimore also presents a dolphin show. It shows how young dolphins learn and develop the skills they need to survive.

Aquariums provide the public with many chances to experience life under the sea. These fun and educational places can be found in most areas of the world. Visiting an aquarium is a good way for children to learn about sea creatures. They might even want to start an aquarium at home and join the millions of people around the world who keep fish as pets.


This program was written by Nancy Steinbach. It was produced by Mario Ritter. I'm Barbara Klein. And I'm Steve Ember. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English.


1. The first people to keep fish as pets were the ________________ .

a: Chinese
b: Sumerians
c: Americans
d: French

2. A seaweed plant called kelp provides ________________ .
a: homes for fish and other sea creatures
b: food for dolphins and sharks
c: floating nests for sea birds
d: seasoning for many restaurant delicacies

3. The first aquarium opened in _________________ in 1853.
a: Paris, France
b: New York, U.S.A.
c: London, English
d: Monterey, California

4. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is in a building that was at one time a ______________ .
a: theater
b: soap factory
c: school
d: cannery

5. Two whale sharks, the world’s largest fish, are found at _______________ .
a: The Monterey Bay Aquarium
b: The Georgia Aquarium
c: The Adventure Aquarium in New Jersey
d: The National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland

6. The study of the world under the sea was not possible until ___________ could survive under water.
a: whale sharks
b: photographers
c: divers
d: scientists

7. Scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium cared for ________________ who were rescued after Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans.
a: 30 sea otters
b: 15 whale sharks
c: 19 penguins
d: 100 children

8. A huge tank is placed in the center of the Monterey Bay Aquarium so that it would get _________________ .
a: the most sunlight
b: the largest number of visitors
c: the most number of tips
d: the most water

9. Another name for this article could be “________________ .”
a: The Monterey Bay Aquarium
b: The History of the Aquarium
c: Aquariums on the East Coast
d: Keeping Fish as Pets

10. This story is mainly about ___________________ .
a: the amazing popularity of aquariums
b: the human fascination for the world under the sea
c: the growth of the marvelous aquarium
d: aquariums of the East Coast

There's a great aquarium in Golden Gate Park at the:

California Academy of Sciences

A Youtube video visit to the Monterey Bay Aquarium in HD. It's nice:

How to get to the Monterey Bay Aquarium:

View Larger Map

Saturday, May 15, 2010

"George Catlin" An important American artist, from Voice of America.

"A Native American Village" by George Catlin, 1827

This is Mary Tillotson. And this is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program EXPLORATIONS. A new exhibit of paintings is being shown at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery in Washington, D.C. Today, we tell about the man who painted them. His name was George Catlin. And in this first part of two programs, we tell how he became one of the most important artists in American history.


George Catlin loved people. He loved their faces. He loved to paint faces expressing feelings. He understood how to paint feelings. You can look at one of his paintings of a person and see pride, honor, respect, intelligence and humor. George Catlin is most famous for painting Native Americans.

In the eighteen thirties, George Catlin traveled into areas of the American West to paint and record the history of Native Americans. He learned more about the culture of Native Americans than most other white people of his time. George Catlin spent a good part of his life trying to show these people to the world.

George Catlin showed his paintings in Washington, D.C; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York City. Thousands of people came to see them. Thousands more came to see them in London, England and in the famous Louvre Museum in Paris, France. George Catlin probably did more than any other person to educate the public about the great people who lived in North America before Europeans arrived.

We begin our story just a few years after George Catlin was born, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He was born in seventeen ninety-six. His family soon moved to New York State near the great Susquehanna River.


George Catlin always said his early years were fun. He said he had to have a book in one hand because he was in school. In the other hand he most often had a fishing pole. When he was not reading or fishing, he was drawing the natural world he saw outside each day. George Catlin had little training in art. He mostly taught himself. However, his father made sure that he had a good education.

His father was a lawyer and he wanted George to be a lawyer too. George did as his father wished and became a lawyer. However he was not happy.

As a young man George Catlin was only happy when he was painting. He truly loved to paint. He decided to stop being a lawyer and become an artist. He moved into a small building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and began to paint pictures of people.

He was good at this and he loved the work. He painted very small pictures of people. The pictures are called miniatures. Women often wore this kind of painting tied to a ribbon around their necks. Soon, he moved to New York City. He painted miniatures and larger pictures. He was becoming a well-known artist. He began painting pictures of important people. One was the governor of the state of New York, DeWitt Clinton.

Life seemed good for the young artist. George Catlin was doing what he loved and he was making a living as an artist. However, he thought something was missing from his life and his work. He wanted very much to paint something that was important.

He wanted to give something to the world of art that would be different. But he had no idea what this could possibly be.

In the eighteen twenties, George Catlin saw something that would change his life forever. It was a delegation of Native Americans. About fifteen representatives from several tribes were passing through Philadelphia. They were on their way to Washington, D.C. to meet with the president of the United States.

George Catlin had never seen anything like these Native Americans. Their skin was the color of the metal copper. Their hair and eyes were dark black. They wore clothes made of animal skins. They seemed fierce and dangerous.

Within a few days, George Catlin made an important decision. He told his family and friends he would study and paint Native Americans. His family was opposed to the idea. They told him it was extremely dangerous. They told him he might be killed. George Catlin answered his friends and family. He said, “Nothing but the loss of my life will prevent me from visiting their country and becoming their historian.”


In eighteen thirty, George Catlin traveled to the city of Saint Louis, Missouri, near the Mississippi River. At that time Saint Louis was one of the last cities or towns you would find if you were traveling west. There was not much beyond Saint Louis but the Great Plains. There was nothing but wild, unexplored country. The country beyond Saint Louis could be extremely dangerous. Few white people had ever been further than Saint Louis.

However, George Catlin met someone who knew about the lands of the far West and had been there. He also knew many of the Native American tribes that George Catlin wanted to visit. That man was William Clark.

Twenty-six years before, William Clark was part of the famous team of Lewis and Clark who were the first white Americans to explore the far West. They had traveled from Saint Louis to the Pacific Ocean and back.

George Catlin immediately had a friend in William Clark. Mr. Clark liked his idea of painting and learning about Native Americans.

He did not think George Catlin’s idea was dangerous. He did his best to help. General William Clark was the United States Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He immediately took Mr. Catlin along on a trip up the Mississippi River to a place called Prairie du Chien.

Here George Catlin saw a gathering of Native American tribes. He saw their clothes. He watched them and learned about their culture. He listened to their language. This trip was important to George Catlin because it strengthened his idea and plans to learn about and paint pictures of Native Americans.

George Catlin quickly returned home to Philadelphia to raise money for his project. Within a year he traveled west again. This time he went north to Fort Union in an area called the Dakotas. Here he set up his painting equipment and began to paint.

He said of this experience: “I have this day been painting a picture of the head chief of the Blackfoot Nation. He is surrounded by his own warriors. He is an important man.”

The man George Catlin painted that day was named Stu-mick-o-sucks. He was chief of the Blood Tribe of the Kainai Blackfoot. George Catlin said the Blackfoot were a fierce and war-like tribe. They lived in the area that is now the border between the United States and Canada.

The beautiful painting of Stu-mick-o-sucks shows this fierce chief at the height of his powers. The chief of the Blood Tribe was about thirty years old when George Catlin painted his picture.

His face is a deep copper color. He has red paint on his jaw. His eyes are intelligent and watchful. His black hair hangs down to his shoulders. Part of his hair falls down between his eyes and is cut straight across. A head covering made of small feathers surrounds his hair. One large feather is worn to the right side of his head.

Stu-mick-o-sucks is dressed in his best clothing for this painting. It is clothing that he would wear for special ceremonies. On his chest is a round design made with several colors. The shoulders of his shirt are covered with pieces of cloth and hair to form other designs.

George Catlin captured in paint a man of honor and courage, a leader of his people. The artist had wanted to go west to paint Native Americans. With this painting and the many that were to follow, George Catlin succeeded. He had found his life’s work.


Join us again next week when we continue the story of George Catlin and his efforts to paint the people of the American West. If you have a computer that can link to the Internet, you can see Mr. Catlin’s famous painting of Blackfoot Chief Stu-mick-o-sucks and many others.

Use a search engine and type the name Renwick Gallery, R-E-N-W-I-C-K.

This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Steve Ember. And I’m Mary Tillotson. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.

Here's a short video about the careful art of conservation and restoration applied to George Catlin's work. His work is almost two hundred years old, and much of it has been damaged. The conservator tries to repair the painting by showing a great deal of respect for the artist's original intention.


1. George Catlin probably wouldn’t be interested in painting ______________ .
a: a portrait of a famous person
b: a new kind of boat
c: a Native American dance
d: a Native American princess

2. George Catlin was born ________________ .
a: in Saint Louis
b: near the Susquehanna River
c: in Pennsylvania
d: in London, England

3. In his childhood, George Catlin enjoyed _______________ .
a: studying law
b: painting miniatures
c: traveling to Paris, France
d: reading and fishing

4. George Catlin’s father was _______________ .
a: a lawyer
b: a famous artist
c: a museum curator
d: a friend of Native Americans

5. The word “Miniatures” refers to _________________ .
a: very small portraits
b: very small fish
c: the ribbons women wore when they were posing for portraits
d: a tribe of short Native Americans

6. George Catlin was born _________________ .
a: at the end of the 19th Century
b: at the beginning of the 19th Century
c: in the middle of the 18th Century
d: just before the end of the 18th Century

7. As professional painter in New York City, George Catlin ________________ .
a: was a total failure
b: was very successful and satisfied with his life
c: was successful, but felt that there was something missing from his life
d: was successful, but not enough to make a living at painting

8. George Catlin found his life’s work painting Native Americans. He was encouraged in this choice by _________________ .
a: his parents
b: the governor of New York, Dewitt Clinton
c: William Clark who had been part of the Lewis and Clark expedition
d: the leader of the Blackfoot Nation

9. Another name for this story could be “ _______________” .
a: Warlike Tribes in the Far Western United States
b: The Boyhood of George Catlin
c: A Famous Artist Finds an Exciting New Challenge
d: How Prairie du Chien Influenced George Catlin

10. This article is mainly about _________________ .
a: the important turn in the career of the artist, George Catlin
b: the difficulty of painting portraits of Native Americans
c: the influence of William Clark on the style of the young artist
d: how George Catlin persuaded Stu-mick-o-sucks to pose for him

George Catlin, Part Two.

"George Catlin Painted Native Americans" from Voice of America

"Crow Lodge of 25 Buffalo Skins" by George Catlin, 1830


This is Mary Tillotson. And this is Steve Ember with the Special English program EXPLORATIONS. Today we present the second part of our program about American artist George Catlin and his paintings of Native Americans.


Last week, we told how George Catlin had begun his working life as a lawyer. However, he was not happy with this work. He gave up the law and began painting, first in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and later in New York City.

He became a successful painter. He painted large and small paintings of people. But he still felt that he needed to paint something that was important.

George Catlin decided to paint Native Americans after he saw a delegation of Indians on their way to Washington, D.C.

By the year eighteen thirty, he had traveled to Saint Louis, Missouri. From there he traveled north into lands that few white Americans had ever seen. It was here that he met the first of the many American Indians he would paint.

George Catlin left many letters telling about his travels. He wrote that he often traveled alone, with only his horse Charlie. He carried his painting supplies and enough food for a few days.

He also carried a rifle for hunting. Between eighteen thirty and eighteen thirty-six, Mr. Catlin made five trips into areas of the West that were considered unexplored Indian country. He traveled many thousands of kilometers and visited fifty different tribes.

George Catlin painted almost everything he saw. He painted pictures of unusual land that no white person had ever seen before. He painted Native American men, women, and children. He painted their clothes, weapons and villages. He painted the people taking part in religious ceremonies, dances and the hunting of buffalo. He often painted three pictures in one day.

George Catlin tried to capture in paint the Native American people and their culture. For example, he painted many pictures of Indians playing a ball game. The game is played with a stick that has a small net at one end. The net is used to control the ball. This Native American game is still played in the United States and other countries today. It is called by the name the French gave it – lacrosse.

George Catlin also kept exact records of the people, places and events. Most of his paintings include the names of the people and when they were painted.

George Catlin began to have deep feelings about the people that he painted. He learned a great deal about them. He learned that they were honest. They were intelligent. They represented different cultures that had great value. George Catlin believed that many of the men he painted were great leaders in their own culture and would have been great leaders in any culture.

He believed the Native American Indians were people of great worth. He also understood that the Indians could not block or stop the westward movement of white PEOPLE IN AMERICA. He believed that the American Indian would quickly disappear.


"Buffalo Hunt in Wolf Masks"

George Catlin put together a collection of his many paintings. He called the display George Catlin’s Indian Gallery. He began showing the paintings in many cities in the United States. He also gave long speeches about the Indians he lived with.

He told those who came to his talks that he had never felt afraid while living in Native American villages. He said no one ever threatened him or stole anything from him. He tried to make people understand what a great people Native Americans were. He said huge areas of the country should be left for Native Americans to enjoy life as they always had.

Many people criticized George Catlin. Some said the people in his pictures did not really look as intelligent and brave as he had painted them. They said the religious ceremonies he painted were false and that Indians did not really have ball games. Some critics said George Catlin had invented these people.

The critics made George Catlin angry. He began to seek white Americans who had traveled in Indian country. He asked army officers, fur traders and others to sign documents that said the people and events he painted were real. The critics stopped saying his paintings were a lie.

"Choctaw Ball Sticks"

George Catlin took his collection of paintings to Europe. He also took many objects made by American Indians. The George Catlin Indian Gallery was popular in London, England and in Paris, France. French art experts praised his paintings. His paintings and speeches were popular. Many people paid money to visit his Indian Gallery, but he did not earn enough money. He soon had financial problems.

Mr. Catlin returned to the United States. There were about five hundred paintings in his Indian Gallery. He offered to sell them to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Several people worked to have the United States government buy the paintings for the Smithsonian. However, Congress never approved a measure needed for the sale.

George Catlin found a buyer for his Indian Gallery. It was Joseph Harrison, a businessman in Philadelphia. Mr. Harrison bought the paintings but did nothing with them. For many years they were left in a room in his factory. Mr. Catlin was able to pay most of his debts from the money he earned by selling his paintings. He began painting again.

His new paintings were displayed at the Smithsonian Institution’s famous building called The Castle. For the last year of his life, he worked in a room in that building provided by the museum. George Catlin died in eighteen seventy-two. His famous Indian Gallery paintings were still in a room in Mr. Harrison’s factory. A fire at the factory almost destroyed them.


In eighteen seventy-nine, the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution was Spencer Baird. Mr. Baird knew the historic value of George Catlin’s paintings. The owner of the paintings, Joseph Harrison, had died. So Mr. Baird began to negotiate with Joseph Harrison’s wife, Sarah. He asked her to give the collection to the Smithsonian.

Mrs. Harrison agreed. She gave George Catlin’s famous Indian Gallery to the Smithsonian. The gift also included many Indian objects that Catlin had collected. These included maps, books, letters and other papers that told George Catlin’s story.

Sarah Harrison’s gift was one of the most important ever received by the Smithsonian. For more than one hundred twenty-five years, the public has been able to see George Catlin’s paintings. Art critics, art students and western history experts have studied and examined them.

Today, George Catlin’s Indian Gallery is on display at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s Renwick Gallery. The paintings have been carefully cleaned for this event. They look new and fresh, as if they were painted recently.

Art experts have praised and criticized George Catlin’s work. Some say he was not a good artist and could not paint the human body well. Others say this is because he painted very quickly. Most critics say his paintings of people’s faces are beautiful. They seem alive and real.

You can see many of George Catlin’s paintings on the Internet by using a search engine. Type the name Renwick Gallery, R-E-N-W-I-C-K.

George Catlin was afraid the American Indian would disappear from the Earth. That was one of the reasons he painted so many different tribes and different people. He wanted a record to leave for history.

George Catlin was wrong. The American Indian did not disappear. But his paintings provide a close look at the people, places, and events from a time that is now long gone.


This program was written by Paul Thompson. It was produced by Caty Weaver. I’m Mary Tillotson.

And I’m Steve Ember. Join us again next week for EXPLORATIONS, a program in Special English on the Voice of America.


1. George Catlin wasn't happy in his __________ career.
a. artistic
b. historian
c. law
d. painting

2. Today, George Catlin's paintings __________ .
a. are locked in a factory
b. are at the Smithsonian Museum
c. are damaged beyond repair
d. have all been sold to collectors

3. Although he was a successful portrait painter, George Catlin _______ .
a. wished he were a lawyer
b. felt something was missing
c. decided to quit painting
d. moved to London, then Paris

4. Mr. Catlin was impressed by a delegation of __________ passing through Philadelphia.
a. Native Americans
b. French diplomats
c. Mountain Men
d. Wild West Gunfighters

5. His most famous portrait was of __________ , chief of the Blood Tribe of the Kainai Blackfoot.
a. William Clark
b. Crazy Horse
c. Dewitt Clinton
d. Stu-mick-o-sucks

6. This remarkable painter created pictures of Native American dances, religious ceremonies, buffalo hunts, and __________ .
a. house construction
b. track meets
c. ball games
d. fashion shows

7. George Catlin could paint up to __________ paintings in three days.
a. four
b. three
c. nine
d. six

8. The starting place for travels into unknown territories during the 1830s was __________ .
a. San Francisco
b. Salt Lake City
c. Saint Louis
d. New York

9. Another name for this article could be " __________ ".
a. Portraits of Easterners
b. Photographs of the West
c. The First Painter of Native Americans
d. Tribes of the Mississippi

10. This article is mainly about a painter who __________ .
a. was very traditional
b. was fascinated by landscapes
c. wanted to document the lives and customs of Native Americans
d. was interested in athletics

Youtube video featuring the paintings of George Catlin:

George Catlin, Part One

George Catlin Virtual Exhibition at the Renwick Museum