Give Now

Charles Cushman’s America: All The World’s A Sunny Day

A new book by historian Eric Sandweiss reveals the man behind the camera.

  • Charles Cushman, Black Butte Near Mt. Shasta, 1954

    Image 1 of 5

    Photo: courtesy Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives/Digital Library Program

    Charles Cushman, Black Butte Near Mt. Shasta, 1954, P07240

  • Confectionary cart at Lexington & Dekalb. | Lexington at Dekalb

    Image 2 of 5

    Photo: courtesy Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives/Digital Library Program

    Charles Cushman, Lexington at DeKalb, 1949, P04280

  • Charles Cushman, Church and 21st Streets, San Francisco, 1952, P06508

    Image 3 of 5

    Photo: courtesy Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives/Digital Library Program

    Charles Cushman, Church and 21st Streets, San Francisco, 1952, P06508

  • Charles Cushman, El Paso's central district and the Franklin Mtns. from So. Santa Fe St.,

    Image 4 of 5

    Photo: courtesy Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives/Digital Library Program

    Charles Cushman, El Paso's central district and the Franklin Mtns. from So. Santa Fe St., P05485.

  • Charles Cushman, Judy Sargent and blonde friend stroll along lake shore, 1941, P02360

    Image 5 of 5

    Photo: courtesy Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection, Indiana University Archives/Digital Library Program

    Charles Cushman, Judy Sargent and blonde friend stroll along lake shore, 1941, P02360

Since 1972, the Indiana University Archives has been home to a set of thousands of color slides of the American landscape at mid-century. This collection of dilapidated storefronts, gleaming skyscrapers, factories belching smoke, and the occasional pin-up represents the pictorial legacy of Charles Cushman, a 1917 IU graduate who bequeathed his photographs to his alma mater.

Available online since 2003, the Cushman photograph collection is now the subject of new book by IU historian Eric Sandweiss, Carmony Associate Professor of History at Indiana University.

The Day in Its Color: Charles Cushman’s Photographic Journey Through a Vanishing America
Eric Sandweiss (Oxford Univesrity Press, USA, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover

Sandweiss reveals the enigmatic man behind this dizzyingly comprehensive portrait of America at mid-century in The Day in Its Color. Although frequently found himself with the day’s leading artists and progressives—John Steinbeck, for example, was his first cousin by marriage—Cushman himself could pass for the Man in the Gray Flannel Suit.

A Portrait Of The Artist

“Charles Cushman was a businessman, a financial analyst, and above all, in terms of his long-lasting legacy, a photographer–an amateur photographer, but one who was proud to remain exactly that.”

About 13,000 Kodachrome slides that Cushman took over three decades (1938-1969) in the cities he called home—Chicago and San Francisco—and while logging a half-million miles of car travel in between—were donated after his death in 1972 to the IU Archives. In 1989, another 1,500 slides were shipped to IU by Cushman’s widow, and stored at the School of Journalism.

Tapping Into The Treasure Trove

The “fair collection of interesting pictures”–as Cushman had labeled them–remained largely unexplored until the late 1990s, when IU Archivist Brad Cook and photographic historian Rich Remsberg—then part of the J-School staff—recognized that the two sets belonged to the same collection. Their discovery and subsequent collation of the slides paved the way for an initiative to digitize the collection and make it accessible online.

The Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection is a joint project of the IU Archives and the IU Digital Library Program, with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Event Information

The Day in Its Color: A Hoosier Photographer’s Journey

A show of prints made from digital scans of slides taken by amateur Hoosier photographer Charles Cushman in the mid-20th century, from the IU Archives.


Mathers Museum of World Cultures, 416 N. Indiana Ave, Bloomington

July 17 through December 21, 2012; Tues-Fri, 9 am-4:30 pm; Sat, Sun 1-4:30

free

Indiana University, Mathers Museum of World Cultures

Charles W. Cushman Photograph Collection

“It’s that body of work that captured my attention, as a historian of the landscape first,” explained Sandweiss, who was tapped to provide historical context for the website, “and then ultimately as somebody pursuing this particular gentleman on the other side of the lens, who turned out to be as important and as mysterious a part of the story as were the subjects of the pictures themselves.”

The Day In Its Color

Neither a fine artist nor a photojournalist, Cushman was a hobbyist intent on representing the everyday landscape around him. “With an eye attuned both to corporate balance sheets and spring time flowers,” Sandweiss writes, “and with a dedication rooted both in statistical thoroughness and obsessive wanderlust, Charles Cushman took pleasure, and found a sort of grace, in the process of gazing at his day in its color.”

The Day in Its Color: Charles Cushman’s Photographic Journey Through a Vanishing America
Eric Sandweiss (Oxford Univesrity Press, USA, 2012)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Yaël Ksander

WFIU's Arts Desk Editor, Yaël seeks out and shepherds the stories of artists, musicians, writers, and other creative people. In addition, Yaël co-hosts A Moment of Science, writes essays for A Moment of Indiana History, produces Speak Your Mind (WFIU's guest editorial segment), hosts music and news hours throughout the week, and lends her voice to everything from accounting courses to nature documentaries. Yaël holds a MFA in painting from Indiana University, an MA in art history from Columbia University, and a BA from the University of Virginia, where she studied languages and literature.

View all posts by this author »

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

Search Arts and Music

Stay Connected

RSS e-mail itunes Facebook Twitter Flickr YouTube

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Indiana Public Media Arts & Music:

Recent Books & Literature Stories

Books & Literature Events RSS icon

More Events »Submit Your Event »

Arts & Music is on Twitter

Find Us on Facebook

This Week on Poets Weave

Photograph: Father And Grandfather Fishing The Pier…

fishing for perch

O'Neill reads "Anniversary Poem for Ann," "Tectonic of Love," "Photograph: Father and Grandfather Fishing the Pier at Michigan City, and "One Month After."

Read more »

The Poets Weave is a weekly five-minute program of poetry reading hosted by local poet Christopher Citro.

More from The Poets Weave »

This Week on Earth Eats

Immigrants Reshape Midwest Ag, Croissants, Salmon Mousseline

radishes with sea salt

Croissants from Muddy Fork's brand new bakery. Books about claiming appetite with Vivian Halloran. Pickled radishes and salmon mousseline with Daniel Orr.

Read more »

Earth Eats is a podcast, radio program and blog of the freshest news and recipes inspired by local food and sustainable agriculture.

More from Earth Eats »

This Week on Focus on Flowers

Dark Hues

coleus

I just can’t seem to get enough of these dark-colored plants in my garden.

Read more »

Focus on Flowers is a weekly program about flower gardening hosted by master gardener Moya Andews.

More from Focus on Flowers »