Skip to main content

Posed And Candid

March 2023
1min read

This picture of a famous trio is very clearly posed —with all parties in their Sunday best, on chairs moved out on the lawn—but is matchless. Alexander Graham Bell, who spent much of his life working for the deaf, took on Helen Keller, both deaf and mute, and blind besides, and found her a great teacher, Annie Sullivan, the “miracle worker.” Here, in 1894, Bell is “talking” with his hand into Miss Keller’s right palm, while with the fingers of the other she “listens” to the lips of Miss Sullivan. It is a “conversation” that no one would have thought possible, among three brilliant people. It is only the beginning of their achievements, and it would melt a heart of stone.

Cameras followed this inventive man throughout his life, snapping away candidly as well as formally after photography became easier. Here he is again with young Helen Keller in 1901, jabbering away with her in hand signals to get her to feel the vibration of the wire to an experimental kite. She must feel it soar in the wind. The wire, alas, is too thin to register in this slightly blurred photograph. The great Bell collection is in the Library of Congress, beautifully organized.

Candid is a weak word for this picture; it is a double, even triple, stroke of luck for the photographer from George Grantham Bain’s news service, once the main source for news photographs in New York, now in the Library of Congress. The surprised celebrities in an open streetcar are matronly Emma Goldman, the avowed anarchist and former editor of that unsettling movement’s paper, The Blast , and her protégé Alexander Berkman, who is sitting in the background, wearing a straw hat and glasses. It is 1917, America has entered World War I, and Berkman and Goldman are on trial for advocating pacifism. The man in between them might be a court officer as escort (the police used ordinary transportation to move people about in that day). Both had done time before, Berkman for a failed attempt to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the steel magnate, Goldman for inciting to riot (1893) and advocating birth control (1916). For their antiwar efforts they were jailed from 1917 to 1919, when a rising young official of the Justice Department, J. Edgar Hoover, got them deported to their native Russia. It remained throughout his life one of the FBI chief’s favorite accomplishments. The deportees, quickly disenchanted with bolshevism, moved out as soon as they could, Berkman to France, Goldman to England, France, and Canada. She published several books, among them My Disillusionment in Russia (1923) and My Further Disillusionment in Russia (1924). But I have strayed from the photograph and its extra stroke of luck: if you will look at the advertising car card above our two pacifists, you will see one of James Montgomery (“Uncle Sam Wants You ”) Flagg’s recruiting posters.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "March 1988"

Authored by: Ivan E. Prall

You probably haven’t seen it, but it’s out by the tracks of the Chicago & North Western

Authored by: The Editors

The nation’s first subway system was launched here in 1897.

Authored by: Oliver Jensen

A man who has spent his life helping transform old photos from agreeable curiosities into a vital historical tool explains their magical power to bring the past into the present

Authored by: Hiller B. Zobel

Every one of the Founding Fathers was a historian—a historian who believed that only history could protect us from tyranny and coercion. In their reactions to the long, bloody pageant of the English past, we can see mirrored the framers’ intent.

Authored by: Richard C. Ryder

It was discovered in New Jersey in 1858, was made into full-size copies sent as far away as Edinburgh, and had a violent run-in with Boss Tweed in 1871. Now, after fifty years out of view, the ugly brute can be seen in Philadelphia.

Authored by: Benjamin Franklin

Only one man would have had the wit, the audacity, and the self-confidence to make the case

Authored by: Walter Karp

The early critics of television predicted the new medium would make Americans passively obedient to the powers that be. But they badly underestimated us.

Authored by: Jack Rudolph

On their weathered stone battlements can
be read the whole history of the three-century
struggle for supremacy in the New World

Authored by: Daniel Aaron

George Templeton Strong was not a public man, and he is not widely known today. But for forty years he kept the best diary—in both historic and literary terms—ever written by an American.

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

Often thought to have been a weak President, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or political fallout.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.

Native American peoples and the lands they possessed loomed large for Washington, from his first trips westward as a surveyor to his years as President.

A hundred years ago, America was rocked by riots, repression, and racial violence.

During Pres. Washington’s first term, an epidemic killed one tenth of all the inhabitants of Philadelphia, then the capital of the young United States.

Now a popular state park, the unassuming geological feature along the Illinois River has served as the site of centuries of human habitation and discovery.  

The recent discovery of the hull of the battleship Nevada recalls her dramatic action at Pearl Harbor and ultimate revenge on D-Day as the first ship to fire on the Nazis.

Our research reveals that 19 artworks in the U.S. Capitol honor men who were Confederate officers or officials. What many of them said, and did, is truly despicable.

Here is probably the most wide-ranging look at Presidential misbehavior ever published in a magazine.

When Germany unleashed its blitzkreig in 1939, the U.S. Army was only the 17th largest in the world. FDR and Marshall had to build a fighting force able to take on the Nazis, against the wishes of many in Congress.