Photography in History · Photojournalism

History in Pictures

I’m a big History buff so of course I’ve combined it with awesome pictures from the past.

Check out some neat images throughout time each week and learn a fun fact (cause who doesn’t like trivia!) 🙂

This week’s History in Pictures is:

Grand Central Terminal, circa 1935. Photograph by the New York City Municipal Archives.



Fun Fact Time!

Grand Central Terminal had a marvelous ceiling designed by French portrait artist Paul Cesar Helleu, executed by James Monroe Hewlett and Charles Basing, in the Main Concourse… an elaborately decorated astronomical ceiling… in 1912


Corps of astronomers and painting assistants worked with Hewlett and Basing to create the mural. The original ceiling was replaced in the late 1930s to correct falling plaster.
What you may not know…. there is a small dark circle amid the stars above the image of Pisces.
In a 1957 attempt to counteract feelings of insecurity spawned by the Soviet launch of Sputnik, an American Redstone missile was set up in the Main Concourse.

With no other way to erect the missile, the hole was cut so the rocket could be lifted into place.  Historical preservation dictated that this hole remain (as opposed to being repaired) as a testament to the many uses of the Terminal over the years.


By the 1980s, the ceiling was obscured by decades of what was thought to be coal and diesel smoke… via spectroscopic examination, turns out it was mostly tar and nicotine from tobacco smoke. A 12 year restoration effort, completed in 1996, restored the ceiling to its original design… but leaving a single dark patch above the Michael Jordan Steakhouse as a reminder to visitors of the grime that once covered the ceiling.

The starry ceiling is astronomically inaccurate in a complicated way too.

While the stars within some constellations appear correctly as they would from earth, other constellations are reversed left-to-right, as is the overall arrangement of the constellations on the ceiling. Orion is correct, but the Taurus and Gemini constellations are reversed both internally and in their relation to Orion.

One possible explanation is that the overall ceiling design might have been based on the medieval custom of depicting the sky as it would appear to God looking in at the celestial sphere from outside.
A more likely explanation is partially mistaken transcription of the sketch supplied by Columbia Astronomy professor Harold Jacoby. Though the astronomical inconsistencies were noticed promptly by a commuter in 1913, they have not been corrected in any of the subsequent renovations of the ceiling.

Leave your Reply, I'd love to hear what you think!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s