Special Thanks To: Todd Franklin

Hey kids! Pull up your bobby socks and get ready to duck and cover ’cause we’re visiting the American Museum of Atomic Energy! I’m sure you’ve heard about that little project during WWII called the Manhattan Project, right? You know, atomic bombs and such. The souvenir beanie above is telling the truth when it says, “Oak Ridge, Tennessee is the home of the atomic bomb. This “secret city” sprouted up during the war years and in its factories the atomic bomb was built. After the war, the town shifted to civilian control.

In 1949, Oak Ridge also became the home of the American Museum of Atomic Energy! This was the place to learn about the benefits of the all powerful atom. More importantly, it was the place where you could get a radioactive dime to take home as a souvenir!

In the brochure pictured above, it looks like those teenagers are having fun feeding the machine dimes. Boy, that sure beats getting a wooden nickel for a souvenir!

Unfortunately, the dime didn’t glow like my exaggerated example, but that’s how I like to imagine it when it came out of the machine. In reality, the radiation faded away quickly and the dime was supposedly safe to stick in your pocket. (Click here for more info on irradiated dimes and here for another photo.)

The museum was much more than radioactive dimes according to these excerpts from the brochure.

The Dagwood Splits the Atom exhibit looks like fun! Science is always better when explained by comic characters. Apparently this exhibit made the rounds to various fairs and museums. Click here and here to view the official comic.

Here you get to see a schematic model of plants that helped build the atomic bomb.

The first gas diffusion separation is on display. (You know, I really don’t know what any of this means, but it sure does sound interesting!

The Theatre of the Atom. I think this is where an audience member would get their hair zapped. Click here to see this gal get a new atomic hairdo!

The American Museum of Atomic Energy moved to a new location in 1975 and in 1978 the name was changed to American Museum of Science and Energy. Even though they don’t have a dime irradiator machine the place still looks like a fun family outing.

I leave with you this very cool photo of a vintage bowling shirt from Oak Ridge. I snapped this pic at the Bowling Hall of Fame back when it was located in St. Louis, Missouri.


In Which A Guy Named Dr. Seuss Put Play Into Learning And Creativity


All around the world the name Dr. Seuss is synonymous with The Cat In The Hat. First published in 1957, the book The Cat In The Hat remains a favorite in children’s literature with a number of adaptations for film, television, and the stage.

First Editions With Dust Jackets: The Cat In The Hat (1957) and The Cat In The Hat Comes Back (1958)

First Editions With Dust Jackets: The Cat In The Hat (1957) and The Cat In The Hat Comes Back (1958) – (Photo: The Ephemera Network)

The classic came about as a result of a story in a 1954 Life magazine article that addressed the question, why can’t Johnny read? Writer John Hersey suggested that children’s low reading levels were a result of – boredom. Dick and Jane were just not stimulating to a young mind. Children just couldn’t relate to the ‘abnormally courteous, unnaturally clean boys and girls.’ He suggested Theodor Geisel – aka Dr. Seuss – as a guy who could change that. The director of Houghton Mifflin’s educational division, William Spaulding, liked the idea. Handing over a list of 250 primary words Spaulding gave Geisel the now famous challenge – ‘Write me a story that first-graders can’t put down.’ Nine months later, Geisel handed over the manuscript and illustrations for The Cat In the Hat. The book is 1,702 words long, but it uses only two hundred and twenty different words. Dr. Seuss’ seminal work was so successful as a reading education tool that in 1997 the National Education Association declared March 3 – Seuss’ birthday – the date to celebrate reading during ‘Read Across America Day.’

Many observations have been noted about The Cat In The Hat‘s success – i.e. it stressed phonics as a reading teaching tool, by connecting interesting illustrations with words it amped up the use of storybooks to teach language skills rather than primers and textbooks, it even had deep social and political ramifications (for a bit darker take on The Cat In The Hat, Louis Menand’s 2002 New Yorker article, Cat People, is highly recommended.) But with all that said, it can be simplified with one word – fun.

So it was with the 1959 Revell ‘Dr. Seuss Zoo’ toy set. The Zoo consisted of four snap together models with interchangeable parts. It encouraged creativity by allowing kids (and adults) to make up any number of creatures by mix-and-matching the various parts. Shown below are the main characters – Roscoe The Many Footed Lion, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle, Norval The Bashful Blinket, and Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle. It’s easy to imagine the fun one would have creating different zoo characters with this toy set.

Dr. Seuss Zoo Toy Advert Published in Life Magazine - October 19, 1959

Dr. Seuss Zoo Toy Advert Published in Life Magazine – October 19, 1959 (Photo:

Dr. Suess Zoo Model, Roscoe The Many Footed Lion

Dr. Suess Zoo Model, Roscoe The Many Footed Lion (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Doctor Suess Zoo Model, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle

Doctor Suess Zoo Model, Tingo The Noodle Topped Stroodle (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Norval The Bashful Blinket

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Norval The Bashful Blinket (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle

Dr. Seuss Zoo Model, Gowdy The Dowdy Grackle (Photo: Jeff Pidgeon flickr)

So, what do we come away with when considering Dr. Seuss’ contributions to education and creativity? It’s pretty elementary – when it comes to developing the mind, nothing beats playful and compelling tools. And in today’s 21st century computerized world, that’s easier than ever.