I was saddened today to learn of the death of Tony Schwartz.
You might not immediately know the name, but many Americans — especially those who participate in or follow political campaigns — are undoubtedly aware of at least one piece of his work.
Schwartz was the creator of a famous and controversial 1964 TV ad for Lyndon Johnson, which showed a girl picking petals from a daisy and then a giant nuclear mushroom cloud. While the ad did not mention the Republican nominee, Barry Goldwater, by name, the narrator said that “the stakes (were) too high” to stay home on election day. Regardless, the implication was clear.
The ad itself and the techniques used still reverberate in American politics to this day.
But Schwartz’s legacy will prove to be much greater than a single ad. For more than five decades, he was an avid collector of audiovisual material, including a vast collection of urban folklore and soundscapes from New York City, which found a permanent home last year in the Library of Congress.
As Librarian of Congress James H. Billington said at the time:
The collection is a treasure trove of unpublished audio-visual material to be explored and discovered by researchers, scholars and patrons. By acquiring and preserving this collection for the American people, the Library of Congress will serve generations of historians, archivists, documentary producers and the general public seeking to experience the voices, sounds and images of post-war America.
My condolences to Schwartz’s family and loved ones. I hope at least there is solace in this important and permanent legacy that is now available to everyone.
(By the way, my apologies on the lengthy blogging absence.)