Included are two dozen hand-colored photos from the early 1900s, which the National Geographic attributes to Eliza Scidmore. Some were published in National Geographic; others are from the Society’s archives and have never been shown before.
Proper labeling of photo credits was a murky practice a century ago. So it’s not clear which photos Eliza Scidmore might have taken herself and which she acquired from professional photographers or studios.
Scidmore was affiliated with National Geographic for nearly 20 years, after she joined the Society in 1890. She published about a dozen articles in the magazine.
Modernization of Warriors
The related exhibit at National Geographic offers a very different view of samurai than the images we have of feudal warriors from several centuries past.
Traditionally, the samurai were an elite class, skilled at fighting but also educated in arts like literature and poetry.
The samurai followed a code of conduct known as bushidō, or “way of the warrior.” It was loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. Nitobe Inazō introduced the concept to readers in the West in a book that became popular after the turn of the century.
After the Meiji Restoration in 1868, however, the samurai lost their status as a privileged class. Many sons of samurai families received a Western-style education to prepare them as diplomats, teachers and future leaders.
Not all samurai fared so well. Some had to enter service to survive — like Tatsu, whom Eliza Scidmore met at a hotel in Yokohama. He had, she said, “the face of a Roman senator, with a Roman dignity of manner quite out of keeping with his broom and dustpan.”
The National Geographic exhibit runs March 7 to Sept. 3, 2012, at National Geographic’s Explorer’s Hall in downtown Washington. Tickets ($8 for adults) are required for admission.