Ruston, Washington

“Children play in yard of Ruston home, while Tacoma smelter stack showers area with arsenic and lead residue,” August 1972, via The U.S. National Archives Commons on flickr.

The photo was taken by Gene Daniels for DOCUMERICA, an early photography program of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is shown here with its original caption.

From 1972 to 1977, the EPA hired over 100 photographers to “document subjects of environmental concern.” They created an archive of about 20,000 images.

In addition to recording damage to the nation’s landscapes, the project captured “the era’s trends, fashions, problems, and achievements,” according to the Archives, which held an exhibit of the photos, “Searching for the Seventies,” in 2013.

The Sunday porch: Estero, Florida


“Tent house on Koreshan property in Estero, Florida,” 1895, via Koreshan Unity Collection, Florida Memory Commons on flickr (State Library and Archives of Florida).

The Koreshan Unity was a late 19th and early 20th century utopian community whose members believed in a god that was both male and female, as well as in reincarnation, celibacy, collectivism, equality of the sexes, and cellular cosmogony.* It was founded by Cyrus Teed in upstate New York in the 1870s, and later there were also followers in Chicago and San Francisco. In 1894, the community began moving to a donated 320-acre property in Estero, Florida. During the next decade, it purchased over 5,000 additional acres and began building a settlement that “included a sawmill, cement works, bakery, machine shop, general store, art gallery, symphony, theater troupe, plant nursery and more,” according to USA Today. Its population peaked at 250 residents between 1903 and 1908; the majority were well-educated middle-class women, seven of whom managed the day-to-day affairs of the commune.

When Teed died in 1908 — and his body was not resurrected as he had promised — the commune began to decline; there were 10 members left in 1948. The last Koreshans deeded the site of its village to the state of Florida in 1961. It is now a state park.


*”Among the most interesting beliefs of Koreshan Unity was the cellular cosmogony, or the hollow earth,” according to Florida Memory.  “According to the cellular cosmogony, the earth was not a convex sphere but instead a hollow, concave cell containing the entire universe with the sun at its center and Earth’s populace living on the inside surface of the hollow cell.”

Nara, Japan


Kasuga-jinja (or Kasuga-taisha) Sanctuary and wisteria, Nara, Japan, Spring 1926, by Roger Dumas, via Archives of the Planet Collection – Albert Kahn Museum /Département des Hauts-de-Seine (all three photos here).

The Shinto shrine (first built in 768 A.D.) is famous for its thousands of bronze and stone lanterns. It is located on the edge of Nara Park, home to freely roaming deer said to be messengers of the gods.

Temple of lanterns, Japan, A68700X, Musee Albert-Kahn, Archives de la Planete

The autochromes above are three of about seventy-two thousand that were commissioned and then archived by Albert Kahn, a wealthy French banker and pacifist, between 1909 and 1931. Kahn sent thirteen photographers and filmmakers to fifty countries “to fix, once and for all, aspects, practices, and modes of human activity whose fatal disappearance is no longer ‘a matter of time.'”* The resulting collection is called Archives de la Planète and now resides in its own museum at Kahn’s old suburban estate at Boulogne-Billancourt, just west of Paris. Since June 2016, the archive has also been available for viewing online here.


*words of Albert Kahn, 1912. Also, the above photos (A 70 757 X, A 70 758 X, A 68 700 X) are © Collection Archives de la Planète – Musée Albert-Kahn and used under its terms, here.

My Chelsea list

While we’re all waiting for the Chelsea Flower Show to open next week and for pictures to emerge, here are a few things that I particularly liked when I visited the original Chelsea — the Chelsea Physic Garden — about a week and a half ago.

The four-acre London garden was founded in 1673 by the Worshipful Society of Apothecaries in order to grow medicinal plants and train their apprentices. It is the second oldest botanic garden in Britain, after the one at Oxford.

1. The Pond Rockery area (also shown at the top). The sides are planted in Mediterranean and alpine plants.

2. This giant fennel. It was a beacon in the Botanical Order Beds at about 8′ tall.

It did not have a label, but I have since looked it up — Ferula communes.

The species is part of the carrot family, Apiaceae. (Common fennel belongs to another genus, Foeniculum.)

This tamarix in the center of the beds was a star too.

3. The plant supports of bamboo, string, and shrub and vine cuttings.

4. This neat little kitchen garden arrangement and its beautiful cardoons.

And the nearby beehives.

5. This trunk of a Catalpa bignonioide, which is supporting a huge Rosa Brunoni or Himalayan musk rose.

The rest of the tree was cut off.  It may have died, but it may also have been too large for the space.

6. The greenhouse area.

Plants from the Canary Islands, Madeira, The Azores, and St. Helena.

7. This primrose display, which — with the giant fennel — made my “most desired” list that day (along with this).

8. My tea towel from the gift shop.

(And the café is excellent.)