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About eight months after the atomic bomb was detonated over Hiroshima the Jesuit Rev. John A.Siemes contributed his well-known first-hand account of the devastation that he found there hours after the event. Siemes also published his story in the Irish Monthly, volume 74 (#873, pp 93-104) in 1946. This 10-page account in this version evidently is not very widely kept in libraries worldwide, as WorldCat locates only two copies (one at "New York State Library" and another at the Peace Collection of Swarthmore). There are full-text versions of it online, though there are differences in the telling of the story--Yale University has this as a full-text version posted at their Avalon Project here: http://avalon.law.yale.edu/20th_century/mp25.asp It is well worth a read.
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In the 100+ or so posts in the Atomic/Nuclear Weapons history thread there are a number that address somewhat Outsider-y notions and imaginary insights into the weapons. There are some that prophesy the advent of the bomb, and some that initiate the creator in its creation. The pamphlet below (published in DeRidder, Louisiana, in 1947, a town of 4,000) is one such example--the atomic bomb so far as I can tell exists only allegorically, as in the greed bomb, that would destroy us all. Still, it has a mushroom cloud on the cover, and so it qualifies as an atomic-bomb-in-popular-culture item.
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One thing is for certain--the design of this Civil Defense ("trained helpfulness") pamphlet issued by Bell Telephone of Pennsylvania was very determined, and obvious, and provocative, and it may have been the best thing about this publication. It is not clear to me how much of the plans for reacting to a nuclear attack ("an atomic Pearl Harbor") were implemented or implementable when this work was printed (ca. 1950?), but the plans were certainly orderly--and so they seem in the maps of action.
Here's one interpretation of an action plan for Armageddon in a large city--it is a bare-bones, comforting plan,even though it looks like half of the map is missing (though it isn't); it is really just a suggestion about the course of action after an attack:
All it shows, really, is that something is going to happen.
Here's another vision of action, this taking place in a small Pennsylvania town "100 miles away" from bombed centers:
There are no plans for the population to go anywhere, though there are plenty of plans for convoys going to the bombed areas. Also there's plenty of expectation, what with a hospital, temporary hospital, mass care center, and a golf course dedicated to mass care for evacuees--there would be plenty of people being removed to the town (as hospitals "prepare(d) extra beds").
There wasn't much in this pamphlet about what to actually do in the event of an (ultra) emergency, though you were told that people would respond to calls--telephone calls. As a matter of fact the phone features largely in this pamphlet:
Maybe it was all about selling telephones--as in would you be ready to receive The Big Call if it was made?
Earlier in this blog in 2010 there appeared a post called "Atomurbia: Responding to Atomic Threat by Moving Everyone Everywhere, 1946"--it turned out to be very popular, being about the dispersal of the U.S. population centers to thwart nuclear attacks. (I'll repeat: it was about the plan to redistribute the population and industry and appropriate infrastructure of the United States of America.)
It was of course (as Somerset Maugham would say in "The Three Fat Women of Antibes") an Enormous Situation, involving (basically) moving everyone everywhere. The term was "dispersion", and the planners of such plans meant it--and I've come across it again--unexpectedly--in another issue of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists for September 1951.
You may recall that this is the journal that keeps a doomsday clock ticking off the minutes on its front cover showing the advance or retreat from the Midnight of Armageddon. On this issue the clock is at three minutes to midnight, though I think that the greatest distance from the zero hour was ten minutes to the hour--so for decades the clock has been very close to striking the doomed hour without much relief.
In this issue of the Bulletin nearly every article is dedicated to the idea of dispersion (at that point under the auspices of the National Security Resources Board) and the creation of a federal program to directly oversee dispersion (the National Defense Dispersal Administration (NDDA)). And people are talking about moving around cities and people and industry as though it wasn't that big a deal, though I must admit I haven't seen any cost or time estimates in this source. Moving the populations centers of the U.S. to a more "garden city" idea involves so much effort and expense it seems almost impossible to contemplate actually paying for all of it. (And we haven't begun to talk about how people and essential personal are actually 'enticed" to leave their surroundings, nor is there any talk about the property rights of the owners of all of that land that is to be built on.)
As much as Frank L. Wright's "Broadacre City" seems to be a lead balloon so far as actual implementation goes for size and scope, this type of "dispersion" idea would be of gargantuan, orders-of-magnitude bigger/costlier than what Wright was talking about. At least in this department Wright was thinking in terms of a utopia; the dispersion business was more like a dis-utopian-dystopia, or something, no matter how these authors attempted to green-up and de-slum their proposal.
I am mostly making this post for the image at the top of this post(from page 268 of the Bulletin), which fits nicely with those others posted in the earlier Bulletin article (reproduced in the link above).
So, grazing my way through a random issue of America's magazine, LIFE, for August 28, 1950, I was struck by the profound amount of unhappy welcome-to-your-stinking-future-you-poor-stinking-sod articles contained in its heavy and mostly colorful pages, all packed into a quarter-inch thick package.
The issue starts out with a waxy portrait of MacArthur, followed by two big pages of freckly boys modelling Peter Pan Peanut Butter and Ice Cream Dixies, then a big splashy two-page ad for soles for your shoes, then contrasting color combos in a Glidden paints ad, a Swank tie-clip-ruler-mechanical-pencil, Vaseline cream hair tonic, then bits for DeSoto and Chrysler, and Ford. Ads done, there's a two-pager on an old lost film starring Babe Ruth, and a big/weird coverage of people flocking to a far-removed farmlet because the woman living there claimed to see the Virgin Mary.
Then comes the rain: it starts with a story on an unexpected best seller for civil defense ("Atomic Handbook a best seller"), followed by:
A hand-drawn illustrated page on how to protect yourself from nuclear extermination if the bomb catches you unawares on the way to work;
the effects of an underwater detonation in the harbor of a large unnamed (ahem, New York) city illustrated by a very forceful two-page drawing;
a story on the opinions of New Yorkers on the building of a skyscraper when there is such an imminent possibility of an attack by the Soviets (who had developed their own Fat Man type atomic weapon in the autumn of 1949 and which was announced as confirmed by Truman in early 1950, so the threat as it was was new)
then comes a story of bombing patterns in Korea
then a short account of a vicious Korean battle at No Name Ridge
These tales are then interrupted by a full page ad for Old God cigarettes, with a pack of them floating on a lily pad in a pond.
The salvo is opened again with:
a long story on Viet Nam, and the French involvement, and the components of the Foreign Legion fighting there, and how much they need the help of the U.S. to stop this fight for the control of Asia by The Communists, and that it may be a "matter of days" in which we needed to act
then a big spread (which will get a blog post of its own) on ramping-up the U.S. air force components for the continuation of the new war in Korea.
That is where the bad news almost stops, mostly, the rest of the magazine filled out by fluff and stuff, with a lot of ads. Some of the ads are very puzzling, and some are just disturbing, like the big stretching crotch-shots for jockey underwear for men, and a bra ad featuring a model with Indian headdress saying "How how how", and a terrifically unsavory racist ad for Dumont televisions featuring a cartoon-clownish minstrel figure for no good reason whatsoever. Reeling in the back of the mag are a bunch of big red ad for bacon and pork and Big Red Meat, PBR, mustard, razor blades, a few movies, and lots of people smoking cigarettes.
But just when you thought you made it out of the issue pops up two final stories--a boring thing on "War and Politics", and a picture essay "Iowa Town Dies a Slow Death".
The back cover features a flat cover ad for unfiltered Camel ciggies, decorated with Nanette Fabray in a cabbage leaf dress, which loudly states "Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels". Giving the devil its due they also state that that (quoted?) nugget was for a 30-day trial. Certainly after x-years millions wouldn't have this complaint because they wouldn't have any throats anymore, being dead from cigarette-induced cancers and all, so the statement was shown to be not necessarily untrue.
August 28, 1950.
All that reading done, you were supposed to keep your eyes on the skies but not let it interfere with your eyes on the prize, which was spending money, and to have you hopefully go out to get some peanut butter that you could put on your new tv, while you and your honey watched it in your new sparkling white underwear, slathered in vaseline hair creme, drinking a PBR, smoking several brands of cigarettes, and thinking about the Parkay margarine-slathered big meat products in the refrigerator. Just make sure to wash your house after the series of Joe-1 Soviet nukes annihilate the rest of your city.
There was a lot of scary stuff in this issue, which certainly helped to put the "if"into "life" in the high summer of 1950--then again, as a summer of fear, there was a lot of it to go around, and with some good reason.
See here for a good article on the Life article on this town, "Bradgate, the Town that Wouldn't Die", at iagenweb.com (Iowa Genealogy)
Here's another maim-and-blame piece of provocative semi-future/tomorrow speculation from Mechanix Illustrated (of all places) in February, 1950, hosted by the wonderful Modern Mechanix website (where the entire War-of-the-Worlds-like article is included). So February 1950 was pretty early in the development of the brand-new atomic Cold War. The Soviets had been experimenting since 1946 (thanks in large part to "intelligence received" from agents working in the U.S.) and in August 1949 successfully detonated their first atomic weapon. This came several years before most experts thought possible, with the weapon (called RDS-1, or "First Lightning", or in the West, "Joe 1"), which was a Fat Man/implosion device, generating a yield of 22kt. The news of the test took a few months to filter out to the rest of the world--as the U.S. had previously initiated a bomb/detection plan employing the B-29 Superfortress--with President Truman making an announcement regarding the test on September 23, 1949. The Soviet had hoped to keep their experimentation "quiet" so that they could have a few more years of catch-up while developing a hydrogen bomb, but that didn't work out for the evidently surprised Russians.
In any event this image fits nicely with the other 15 or so depicting a mostly pre-1960 NYC in ruins. (Check the GOogle search box at left for NYC destroyed/attacked.)
The illustration below was for the story, "Red Alert. What if an H-Bomb Hit L.A?"which appeared in the Los Angeles Times 12 March 1961, and made no doubt for some very sobering contemporary wake-up-and-die reading. If you were living anywhere in the country at the time and had never seen a representation of your city in ruins, and you encountered such a story and images before coffee, you might remember that missing cup for the rest of your life. The dramatization and mapping was done by Harlan Kilby, and it portrayed the destruction of the city and millions of people in the event of detonation of a 10 megaton nuclear weapon--it gave the reader a vague notion of what city-eating looked like, the bomb 'flattening" everything in a 3-mile radius of its central zone and killing everything in 28 square miles.
(A little earlier, in 1960, there appeared a work by Harrison Brown and James Real called Community of Fear, which was a sci-fi kill-'em-up that used a kill zone with a 25-mile radius. For more on this film see Kenneth D. Rose One Nation Underground: The Fallout Shelter in American Culture, page 61.]
[Image via the Library of Congress]
Anyway, waking up to this in 1961 must have been an eye-opener.
The Chicago Daily Tribune covered the Hiroshima bombing of 6 August with a number of different articles, including statements from the Enola Gay crew members, explanations of how atomic bombs "worked" from the physics aspects, President Truman's bearing on the proceedings, news of a number of other B-29's ready and waiting to be sent on missions with similar bombs, and so on. That "so on" doesn't actually include that much coverage at this stage, amounting probably to two or three full pages of text. There were no pictures yet though there were reports of images made from the aircraft showing 4 square miles of total devastation at Hiroshima.
The only illustration to speak of was this--a very graphic graphic to be sure, which under the circumstances, I suspect was to be expected.
I will not go down under the ground Because someone tells me that death's comin' round; I will not carry myself down to die When I go to my grave my head will be high --
CHORUS: Let me die in my footsteps Before I go down under the ground.--Bob Dylan, "Let Me Die in My Footsteps", 1962
Why they were more often called "Fallout Shelters" and not the more demonstrable "Bomb Shelters"? I suspect that was so because the former implies that unless you're a corpse or incinerated that you've survived the initial blast and concussion and fire and firestorm of swirling sharp trash and now need to come to grips with the blast's aftermath, so "fallout shelter" it must be.
And in the many pictures and plans for survival pods that I have seen I cannot recall one that included a non-white member of the community. The maps I've seen showing locations of fallout shelters for Manhattan have a smattering of shelters at the top of Central Park/110th St, but not all that many for Harlem. (I've never seen an official map of the placement of the shelters, just reconstructions thus far.) No doubt there were many shelters in Harlem--I just don't know how many or in what regard they compared to other areas downtown for percentage of people who could be accommodated. Perhaps a bigger and more obvious question would be what sort of rules there would be in the deep South for the use of shelters, and whether in 1962 if they would be segregated or not.
"If there are shelters in the black belt, no one knows where they are..." --Dr. Nathan Hare, "Can Negroes Survive a Nuclear War", in Negro Digest, May, 1963, pp 26-33. Full text at Afrocentric News, here.
This issue of LIFE magazine is a classic, with a number of pages and a few big image splashes dealing with the possibility of building mass shelters for clumps of the population, preparing for the Soviets to start launching thousands of warheads our way. The people gathering here are remarkably calm, wearing sports coats and ties, and hats, with enough reserve to be holding the door open for the next person. Cars that pulled off the highway reacting no doubt to air raid sirens are neat and orderly, adding to the tidy and ship-shape scene that was so important to sear into the creative futuro-vision of Americans waiting for the Great Bad Thing to occur. Images like this created the impression that no matter how many megatons could fall, there is a guy, in a hat, and coat, and tie, at the door, holding it open, for you.
[Source for this and for the image following all from Drexel University: http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~ina22/+301/$301-texts-Life-shelters.html]
Here's an example of a calm, composed, considerate, commendable. concretized community, enjoying their ample and regulated spacing, hanging out and waiting to not-die:
"A WELL-PLANNED COMMUNITY SHELTER: Neat concrete box, reinforced and buried under earth or a highway, would reduce fallout radiation to a thousandth of that outside and would give occupants some protection from blast. Useful as a recreation or meeting hall in normal times, it could shelter 500 persons in event of attack. Stocked with food, water. first aid and sanitary equipment, it also has ventilating system to draw fresh air from filtered intake (center foreground). A source of oxygen not dependent on outside air would give protection against firestorms. Space-saving tiered bunks rely on "hot bunk" system, with sleepers taking turns." LIFE magazine, January 12, 1962
Some people were asked in a man-on-the-street fashion about shelters--this barber thought it was a money scam:
And this cabbie thought that if he couldn't ride out The Big One in his basement, then, well. "the hell with it":
I am certain that in all of the posts I've made in this blog that I've never considered atomic explosion tourism--vintage, semi-antique, see it-while-it-happened tourism. I'm not talking about going out to the Jounada del Muerto to see Trinity, or taking a bus to Chernobyl, or checking out the sites ad the corner of Trinity and Oppenheimer, as we would now--but witnessing an actual explosion, then. And there were plenty of opportunities to witness one, especially if you were in Vegas,and more so if you took the trouble to disrupt your activities to search for the mushroom cloud rising 5 miles away.
And in the case of the leaflet below, you could take a bus for three bucks and have a clearer view of the detonation.
Just be sure to remember your tie.
[Source: Nevada Public radio, KPNR--see here for a few more examples.]
[In which me meet exceptional coverage of a mammoth day-old event and what must be the first map of NYC under atomic attack.]
The news coverage of the 6 August 1945 bombing of Hiroshima was covered in spectacular (all things and time considered) detail in the 7 August issue of the daily newspaper, PM.1The entire issue of 12 pages (with no advertisement2) was dedicated to the event—I have no idea, really, how they were able to put together this amount of good tough data so very quickly, nimbly and intelligently, as the bomb was detonated at Hiroshima only the day before.
This item is available for purchase via the blog's bookstore, here.
It is odd how well the case is covered, and it is positively issued on the day after --it isn't the case that it was issued for the week of 7 August and released on 13 August, which I thought was a possibility of explaining the deep coverage. But there's no mention of Nagasaki (which would come in two days), so I am certain that the coverage was all accomplished within 24 hours of the use of the weapon. The newspaper distinguishes itself by not screaming something about the “Jap city” being wiped out (as so many other newspapers did), with its front page summarizing beyond the bomb.(“It Will End all War—Or all Men” and “It Will Revolutionize Human Life” as sub-heads; the first being accurate, while the second being nearly so.)
The editorial, “Thank God its OUR Bomb”, by Irving Brant, is a lovely piece of thoughtful interpretation in the opening moments of the nuclear age. He writes: “America must join and lead in a worldwide renunciation of this worldwide renunciation and prevention of war”,and “What will happen to industry, to society, when the power of all the coal mined in a year is compressed into an exploding fistful of atoms?” And further:“There is no escape.The split atom may shatter humanity, but not before then will it retreat into the physical void from which it came.The dust of creation is in our hands.We must master it.” Not bad stuff for having a few hours or so to think this through.
The other articles included “Bombs and Sabotage Stopped Nazi Experiment with Heavy Water”, “New Atomic Era Could Revolutionize Mankind’s Whole Manner of Life/Power Harnessed for Destruction Has Limitless Constructive Possibilities”, big two-page story “Stimson Reveals How Work on Bomb Was Organized”, “Bomb’s Death Range Believed to be 4 Miles”, “Four Scientists who Will Plan Postwar Uses of Atomic Energy”, “Harnessing of Atomic Power research Strengthens US Research”, “If a Piece of the Sun Were Placed on Earth”, “End Not Yet Truman Tells the Japanese”, and another 12 articles.
There’s another baffling article “Steel Tower Vaporized in First Test”, discussing the shot at Alamagordo—it must have been the case that there was an enormous amount of material divulged by the government in the hours after the explosion at Hiroshima .The work at Columbia is also chronicled, as is the personal life of the man in control, General Leslie Grove (and how completely in the dark his wife was, and so on).
One of the most interesting objects to me though is the small graphic on page 7 which shows what effect the Hiroshima atomic bomb would have if dropped on New York City—it was no doubt gigantically sobering to anyone who looked at it, and brought the power of the bomb and its destruction to a common, understandable point. I'm not an historian of the first newspaper coverage of the bomb, but it strikes me that this may well be the first graphic to depict the effects of an atomic bomb exploded over NYC.
In any event, the overall coverage of the event was stunning given the short amount of time to do the research, writing, and publication. Truly a great effort.
1. PM (1940-1948) was a left-wing newspaper funded by Marshall Field III, and was home to excellent reporting. See here for more details. Among the staff writers was I.F.Stone and staff photographers Margaret Bourke-White. Other contributors included Heywood Hale Broun; James Thurber; (the great) Dorothy Parker; Ernest Hemingway; Eugene Lyons; Ben Stolberg; Malcolm Cowley; Tip O'Neill;and Ben Hecht.
2. Actually, NO issue of PM had advertisements--it was entirely ad-free. (And even so it still came close to making money after 8 years.)
PM's stated mission:
PM is against people who push other people around. PM accepts no advertising. PM belongs to no political party. PM is absolutely free and uncensored. PM's sole source of income is its readers--to whom it alone is responsible.PM us one newspaper that can and dares to tell the truth.
Theodore Geisel (Dr. Seuss) was a cartoonist for PM (see here for his War cartoons) as was the great Crockett Johnson.
Perhaps nothing is obvious unless it is established or labeled so; perhaps the obviousness must be stated at least once before it can be officially, recognizably, the case. And perhaps the greater the obviousness is, the more the need to make it officially so. Perhaps nothing is so incredibly obvious that it can be studied and dissected and established.
This seems to be more the case in more recent history than in time more further removed: that millions of dollars can be spent “proving” that children do not like to be separated from their mothers, or that cars will go faster downhill than up, or that people will respond to proper medication better than not, and so on, so on into the night, just seem not to need a vastly-funded proof.
And so the case with nuclear warfare, people, and cities.
In this RAND report from 19561, the great issue seems to be laid to rest, once and for all: the problem with nuclear weapons being exploded in/over cities is that since cities are filled with people, people will be killed. And if those people in the cities are there because of professions that depend on city-settings, then more of those people will be killed than not.
This work is available at our blog bookstore, here.
But what this report was really about was the unfortunate aspect of the impact if nuclear warfare on leadership and working positions in significant and strategic industrial/business/government professions. And what the report finds is this: since the vast majority of these positions are located in cities (defined as 100,000 population and above), and since cities will be the major targets in a nuclear “exchange”, the overwhelming majority of these people will be killed, thus leading to strategic human resource vacancies post-war.
It seems that 95% of aeronautical engineers in the U.S. would be killed in a nuclear war, which I guess would mean that it would be difficult to design new aircraft and such in the post apocalypse world. Of course these people would be killed because it was their industrial base that was being targeted and they were collateral damage, so there wouldn’t be any industrial base to produce the components necessary to build, say, a B-52. That part of the equation is not addressed here, though. Nor is there any sort of recommendation presented to fix the problem.
The RAND document just painfully points out the obvious, once and for all; no one really knew what to do with the information now that it was there, in black and white. Certain people could be evacuated, saved from the maelstrom; but saved for what? There were other evacuation plans that were completely doomed from the beginning, sheltering plans, Dr. Strangelove arrangements, but all of that would come into their pitiful being later on.
First, though, the bitter reality of what everyone already knew--one of the greatest of all obviousnesses–had to be make its appearance in print. And so it did.
1. The Concentration of Essential Personnel in American Cities. Margaret Bright Rowan. The RAND Corporation, May 1956. 72pp. 11x8 inches. RARE. No copies located in WorldCat/OCLC
ATOMIC BOMB. The Concentration of Essential Personnel in American Cities. Margaret Bright Rowan. The RAND Corporation, May 1956. 72pp. 11x8 inches. RARE. No copies located in WorldCat/OCLC $350.00
I've collected a sextet of films I found and posted on twitter at one point or another, collected here and placed on one soft pillow. They all seem to be made in 1950-1952, at the beginning of the Great Red Scare of the 1950's. There was a certain amount of fear and loathing about the USSR and the bomb beginning soon after the U.S. use of it in August 1945, though the Soviets didn't successfully test their first weapon until August 29, 1949 (called "Joe 1" in the United States). There was a slow march to the first air drop (1951) to the development of the first Soviet hydrogen bomb in 1954. There was a constant bombardment of popular culture by atomic threat beginning shortly after 1945, with atomic attacks, atomic super heroes, atomic villains, atomic mutants, atomic super races, and so on, and that all accelerated with Soviet nuclear weapons progress through the early/mid-50's. The films and public announcements below represent an early rush of film media to deal with the possibility of ....Atomic Attack.
Atomic Alert, ("elementary version"), 1951--a Bomb awareness film.
I don't often venture into the comic book world unless I'm looking for something, and in a hunt for atomic bomb references in comics <1955 I stumbled upon a reference to Dr. Lise Meitner. (A good short bio and summary of her work can be found here at the American Nuclear Society.) Seeing great physicists in comic books is evidently not common, as subsequent series of searches seem to indicate. The Meitner (1878-1968) mention in Wonder Woman, though, was pretty interesting. Meitner did get a lot of press coverage when she made her tour of the USA in 1946, which I guess led to the panel. She would have been more famous if she had been properly treated by the Nobel committee when they awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry of 1944 to Otto Hahn for work ("for his discovery of the fission of heavy nuclei") that she and Hahn had carried out jointly for years. But it didn't happen, for various reasons, and she really didn't get an official prize/award of recognition for her work until 1966 when she was given the Enrico Fermi award. She did receive an ultimate honor in 1997 when the chemical element with the atomic number of 109 was named (discovered in 1982) was named "Meitnerium" in her honor--the only non-mythological woman's name to be used in designating a chemical element. And she is featured on a few stamps, but outside the general physics community she sort of languished in obscurity for decades--odd since she was about the most significant woman in the history of 20th century physics.
[Source: found in the blog Shakeville, here.Wonder Woman, 1946.]
"Disintegration of Uranium by Neutrons: A New Type of Nuclear Reaction", by Lise Meitner and Otto R. Frisch; Nature, 143, 239-240, (Feb. 11, 1939). Full text here via Atomic Archive.
See below for the Meitner/Frisch paper from Nature 1939, and also the footnotes for papers cited (a number of which may be purchased via the blog bookstore id you were so inclined to own documents like this).
There's a sotto voce sub-series on the destruction of Manhattan in this blog's longer series on atomic/nuclear weapons. (There are a number of them--if you're interested search those terms in the Google search box at left.) I've found three more from 1951/2 that I've included below. At some point I'll gather all of the Destroyed Cities and makes a larger post of them.
[Source: 'We have now entered the Atomic Age', artwork by Lester Quade, in 1952.]