Thursday, February 22, 2024

The best states for going solar in 2024

housing development with solar panels in Muller
RoschetzkylstockPhoto // Canva

The best states for going solar in 2024

This year began with major wake-up calls about the environment: extreme cold weather linked to climate change, winter weather advisories in every single state, and nearly half of Americans at risk of dangerous cold and wind — all within the first two weeks.

More Americans are looking for ways to reduce their climate impact. Installing rooftop solar panels is one way to cut dependence on fossil fuels, which are burned to generate more than 60% of the country's electricity.

There are financial benefits, too: In every state, homeowners can potentially generate significant proportions of their electricity from a rooftop solar system. It does depend in part on the property itself, such as which way the roof is aligned or how much tree cover it has. Of course, it also depends on how much sun the area gets. And how much of a financial return you can expect will be influenced by the state's retail electricity market and local solar initiatives.

The ConsumerAffairs Research Team analyzed data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Energy Information Administration, and the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency, along with other sources, to determine which states are the best for solar energy. A breakdown of all the solar data for each state can be found below, as well as a full methodology for more details on how we calculated each state's Solar Score.


Key insights

  • Hawaii tops our list of the best states to go solar, thanks to high retail electricity prices.
  • While Indiana, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Alabama rank at the bottom of our list, federal solar incentives may still make it worthwhile for homeowners in these states to go solar.
  • Arizona, New Mexico, and California have the highest potential for solar energy of all states, meaning solar energy falls more intensely on those states than elsewhere.
  • Half of all states, plus Washington D.C., have no statewide programs that help homeowners afford rooftop solar installations.

Top five best states for going solar

Various factors help determine whether a state is a good place for homeowners to go solar with rooftop panels. Low installation costs and high retail energy prices can drive people to look for alternatives, and residents in states with more peak sunlight hours can produce more power with fewer panels. State laws and regulations can encourage people to go solar or discourage them.

We evaluated data in each of these categories and assigned points based on their relative importance to come up with each state's Solar Score. Along with the 50 states, we included Washington D.C., in our rankings.

1. Hawaii — Solar Score: 75.14 out of 100

High retail electricity prices are a key reason Hawaii is such a good place for people to install solar panels on their roofs. The potential savings are so clear that they more than make up for the state's limits on net metering eligibility and relatively low compensation rates for excess power generation. Through a program pairing rooftop solar with grid-connected batteries in customers' homes, Hawaii was able to shut down its last coal-fired power plant and replace the energy with solar power.

Hawaii has the nation's highest rate of existing rooftop solar capacity — far above that of California, which comes second in that category. The quick adoption rate has kept installation costs low — the 14th-lowest in the nation.

2. Nevada — Solar Score: 56.87 out of 100

Nevada is a pro-solar state in terms of both regulations and economics. As far back as 1997, the state allowed net metering for rooftop solar customers, but it dramatically cut back its payment rates and raised participation fees in 2015.

That didn't last long, though: In 2017, Nevada reinstated net metering under largely similar terms as before the 2015 changes. That long-term sustained support for solar energy has led to the state having more solar jobs per capita than any other.

The state is boosting rooftop solar in other ways, too. Consumer protection officials in Nevada are taking steps to protect customers who purchase residential rooftop solar systems against unscrupulous sales pitches, and a statewide nonprofit has applied for up to $250 million in federal Solar For All funding.

3. Delaware — Solar Score: 54.94 out of 100

Delaware has relatively low installation costs, reasonably competitive solar potential, and solar-friendly policies, including net metering and power purchase agreements. Its policies are also solar-friendly: In 2021, the state made it easier for people to support community solar projects. And in 2022, the state government launched a two-year program to give free solar panels to low-income homeowners.

But a major obstacle is in the technical details. One electric utility, the Delaware Electric Cooperative, which serves 20% of the state's residential customers, has blocked new rooftop solar installations from being connected to the electricity grid in large swaths of the state, saying its equipment can't handle any more incoming energy.

4. Arizona — Solar Score: 54.56 out of 100

Arizona has the highest average solar potential of any state and relatively low rooftop solar installation costs. It also has generally solar-friendly policies and a personal tax exemption to help defray the costs of installing rooftop solar systems. Along with legalized power purchase agreements, those circumstances have all helped make Arizona the state with the third-most rooftop solar capacity per capita in the country.

But some clouds may be on the horizon. In October 2023, the state's utility regulator, the Arizona Corporation Commission, reconsidered the rules under which homeowners are compensated for the excess electricity their solar panels generate. That's despite the fact that citizens, solar-industry companies, and even two of the three largest electric utilities in the state have supported keeping the existing rules in place. The process has not yet been completed.

5. California — Solar Score: 53.76 out of 100

California has relatively high retail electricity prices and great solar potential. Its rooftop solar rebate program has also been a factor in making California the state with the second-most rooftop solar installed per capita. The state has rules that prevent local or private restrictions on installing solar panels, as well as rules that protect homes from being shaded by neighbors.

But as with Arizona, the situation is shifting. New rules on how much credit homeowners can get for electricity produced on their roofs took effect in April 2023. Those changes have dramatically reduced the attractiveness of rooftop solar systems for homeowners and residents of multifamily and apartment dwellings. The solar installation industry projects that the current drop-off in installation numbers will continue. And in early January 2024, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed cutting climate-related funding, including incentives for rooftop solar installations.

The five worst states for going solar

The places where going solar can be most challenging for homeowners are states that tend to have relatively low electricity costs and few existing installations. The states at the bottom of the list either ban or do not have clear rules about power purchase agreements, which can help homeowners reduce or even eliminate the cost of installing solar panels.

Going solar in these states can still be worth the money and effort — and can certainly have a positive impact on the environment — but homeowners may find themselves in an uphill battle as they make the switch to rooftop solar.

1. Indiana — Solar Score: 15.88 out of 100

Indiana has the highest rooftop solar installation costs, and its lack of statewide rebates to help offset those costs makes the economics of going solar less attractive in Indiana than any other state. Solar advocates call July 1, 2022, "the day Indiana rooftop solar died" because that's when the state's net metering policy expired. It was replaced by a system in which homeowners were paid much less for the excess power their rooftop panels produced. Solar installations in the state are down 67% since then, advocates say.

In late 2023, Indiana's electric utilities asked for a steep hike in residential electricity rates. Though regulators reduced the size of that increase, Hoosiers are still on track to see higher power bills in 2024.

2. Kentucky — Solar Score: 18.97 out of 100

The state government and several large cities in Kentucky see the opportunity for rooftop solar: They are all looking for funds from the federal Solar For All program. And in July 2023, a utility-scale rooftop solar array began operating on the roof of an Amazon warehouse at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport.

But Kentucky has no statewide programs to help residents pay the up-front costs of installing rooftop solar systems. It also bans power purchase agreements, which can be another way to cover those expenses.

3. Arkansas — Solar Score: 21.48 out of 100

With comparatively low residential electricity prices, no statewide aid to help cover installation costs and a ban on power purchase agreements, Arkansas's economic circumstances aren't positioned for residents to take advantage of the state's strong solar potential.

And conditions aren't getting better: Arkansas lawmakers in 2023 reduced the rate at which homeowners with rooftop solar panels will be compensated for the additional electricity their systems generate.

4. Tennessee — Solar Score: 23.33 out of 100

Tennesseans have some of the lowest electricity prices in the nation, which is no doubt part of the reason so few of them have rooftop solar systems installed already. With no state rebates or other programs and a low reimbursement rate for excess power generation, there are more barriers than opportunities for homeowners to put solar systems on their roofs.

There is some bright news: Under a new program negotiated with the Tennessee Valley Authority, some Nashville residents will become newly eligible to get credit for excess electricity generated from rooftop solar systems.

5. Alabama — Solar Score: 23.43 out of 100

Alabama's per-capita installed capacity of rooftop solar is the lowest in the nation, according to the Energy Information Administration data analyzed in this report. Part of that is no doubt due to high rooftop solar installation costs. Government policies aren't helping: The state outlaws power purchase agreements, does not protect properties from neighbors' shade, allows homeowners associations to ban solar panels, and only allows excess power to be purchased at wholesale rates, rather than at retail prices.

But it seems state officials and energy companies are interested in taking advantage of the state's high solar potential: They are exploring opportunities for large-scale solar projects.

See how your state stacks up

A breakdown of the factors used to calculate each state's Solar Score can be found here, showing how each state compares with others on residential electricity price, solar installation costs, solar potential and solar-friendly policies.

Going solar can be a good investment in any state. There's enough sunlight coming down everywhere in the U.S. to make rooftop-generated electricity cheaper, more reliable, and more climate-friendly than getting electricity from the grid. But navigating the maze of changing solar policies, incentives and costs can be complicated.

One particularly thorny solar policy, net metering, is being phased out in some states under pressure from utility companies that don't want to pay homeowners for the excess electricity they generate on their rooftops.

"As states develop successors to net metering, it's getting increasingly complicated," said Brian Lips, who manages the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency. State incentives for rooftop solar typically get lower and less available over time, he observed.

Federal incentives can also help encourage the switch to solar rooftops, but they, too, are changing quickly. Homeowners who install rooftop solar systems between now and the end of 2032 can claim a federal income tax credit of 30% of the system's cost. And recent federal laws have allocated $7 billion in funding for the Solar For All program to help pay for residential solar installs in disadvantaged communities. The funds will be distributed starting in late 2024.

Installing solar panels is a common way for homeowners to generate clean energy, but it isn't the only way. Some people buy solar-only electricity, or solar power along with a combination of other renewable sources through their existing power companies, third-party electricity providers or community solar projects.

The bottom line is this: There are lots of ways and plenty of reasons to go solar, but staying updated on the most recent solar regulations, policies and incentives can help you make the most of your green energy transition.


The ranking incorporates data on state electricity prices, installation costs, potential solar energy, existing solar capacity, and solar policies.

However, ConsmerAffairs did not factor in the cost of buying and installing a solar storage battery, which is a common add-on that allows residents to store extra energy the panels generate for use at night or during power outages.

Each state's Solar Score could reach a maximum of 100 points, with points assigned by the categories below.

Retail prices of residential electricity: 0 to 25 points
States' average retail prices of residential electricity for October 2023, according to the Energy Information Administration, were scored based on how close they were to the highest state's price. High retail electricity prices encourage people to seek other sources of energy.

Per-watt installation costs: 0 to 20 points
States' average per-watt installation costs for residential rooftop solar, according to and, were scored based on how close they were to the lowest state's price. Low installation costs reduce a barrier to installing rooftop solar. The data was collected by ConsumerAffairs in January 2024.

Potential solar energy: 0 to 10 points
States' average potential solar energy capture in kilowatt-hours per square meter per day were calculated based on annual average Global Horizontal Irradiance data from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory Solar potential as of 2018, averaged across each state's area according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing system. States' averages were scored based on how close they were to the highest state's average. Higher potential solar energy makes more energy available to capture from a given rooftop area. (In Alaska, NREL only measures solar potential in the southernmost parts of the state.)

Existing residential solar capacity: 0 to 5 points
States' existing residential solar capacity per capita was calculated based on the Energy Information Administration's October 2023 estimates, except in Alabama, where the most recently available data was from the EIA's 2022 data for December 2022 — and on the U.S. Census Bureau's 2023 population data for each state. States were scored based on how close they were to the highest state's per-capita installed capacity. This information indicates where consumers have found policies, market forces, and other factors favorable for rooftop solar in the past.

Financial programs: 0 to 15 points
States' rebates, grants, loans, tax credits, and deductions were determined from the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) maintained by the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center. States got 3 points for each type of program, of which there were five. (A sixth type mentioned by DSIRE, a personal tax exemption, is not in place in any state.) These programs reduce the upfront cost of installing rooftop solar systems. DSIRE data was updated in November and December 2023.

Residential power purchase agreements: -10 to 10 points
States' laws and rules on residential power purchase agreements were determined from DSIRE data from November 2023. States got 10 points for allowing them and lost 10 points for banning them. States whose policies DSIRE had not identified or evaluated were given 0 points. These agreements can reduce or eliminate homeowners' up-front costs of installing rooftop solar systems.

Net metering: 0 to 10 points
States' laws and rules on net metering were determined from DSIRE data from November 2023. States with no rules got 0 points. States that required at least some utilities to use net metering got 10 points. States that required at least some utilities to use other methods to compensate customers for the energy their panels produced got 3 points. States whose regulations are in transition between net metering and other compensation got 7 points. These rules affect the amounts by which ongoing energy production can reduce homeowners' electricity bills.

Excess power payment rates: 0 to 3 points
States' laws and rules on excess power payment rates were determined from DSIRE data from November 2023. States that guaranteed payment at retail rates got 3 points. States that guaranteed payment at wholesale rates got 1 point. States that had a rate between retail and wholesale got 2 points. States that had no guaranteed rate got 0 points. These rules affect the amounts by which ongoing energy production can reduce homeowners' electricity bills or earn them additional money.

Solar access and solar easements: 0 to 2 points
States' laws on solar access and solar easements were determined from DSIRE data from November 2023. States that prevent local or private restrictions on installations of solar panels — called solar access laws — got 1 point. States that allow homeowners to seek protections of their property from being shaded by neighboring property — called solar easements — got 1 point. States that have both provisions got 2 points. States with neither got 0 points 

This story was produced by ConsumerAffairs and reviewed and distributed by Stacker Media.

Friday, February 16, 2024

Candidates’ aging brains are factors in the presidential race − 4 essential reads

Joe Biden and Donald Trump are two of the three oldest people ever to serve as president. AP Photo
Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

The leading contenders in the 2024 presidential election are two of the three oldest people ever to serve as president. President Joe Biden is 81. Former President Donald Trump is 77. Ronald Reagan took office at 69 and left it at age 77.

Both Biden and Trump have faced criticism about what can appear to be obvious signs of aging, including questions about their memory and cognitive abilities.

Scholars writing for The Conversation U.S. have discussed various aspects of how aging affects people’s brains. Here we spotlight four articles that collectively explain why there is cause for concern, why there is no clear statement to be made about any specific person’s cognitive power as they age, and ways people can preserve their brain power into their golden years.

1. Decline in thinking can come with age

Brandeis psychology professor Angela Gutchess, who studies brain activity to understand human thought, said there is a body of work documenting a cognitive decline in aging people:

Past behavioral data largely pointed to loss in cognitive – that is, thinking – abilities with age, including poorer memory and greater distractibility.”

But her work has also found that “aging brains can reorganize and change, and not necessarily for the worse.”

2. Some people age faster than others

Aging is an individual experience, explained Aditi Gurkar, a geriatric medicine scholar at the University of Pittsburgh:

Although age is the principal risk factor for several chronic diseases, it is an unreliable indicator of how quickly your body will decline or how susceptible you are to age-related disease. This is because there is a difference between your chronological age, or the number of years you’ve been alive, and your biological age – your physical and functional ability.”

Gurkar’s work has been focused on the latter, noting that some people with the same chronological ages can have very different cognitive and physical abilities. Key factors include the strength of a person’s social connections, as well as their sleeping habits, water consumption, exercise and diet.

As University of Pittsburgh geriatric scholar Aditi Gurkar notes in her TED Talk, aging is not just a number.

3. Even cells age differently inside the body

Ellen Quarles, who teaches cellular and molecular biology of aging at the University of Michigan, explained that aging is so individualized that it varies even at the cellular level:

There is no single cause of aging. No two people age the same way, and indeed, neither do any two cells. There are countless ways for your basic biology to go wrong over time, and these add up to create a unique network of aging-related factors for each person that make finding a one-size-fits-all anti-aging treatment extremely challenging.”

4. There is a way to preserve abilities

Brian Ho and Ronald Cohen, University of Florida scholars who study brain health in aging people, have found that physical activity makes a real difference in cognition:

People in the oldest stage of life who regularly engage in aerobic activities and strength training exercises perform better on cognitive tests than those who are either sedentary or participate only in aerobic exercise.”

Specifically, they found:

“(T)hose who incorporated both aerobic exercises, such as swimming and cycling, and strength exercises like weightlifting into their routines – regardless of intensity and duration – had better mental agility, quicker thinking and greater ability to shift or adapt their thinking.”

Whether it’s for Biden and Trump or anyone else, these scholars advise staying active, deepening connections with family and friends and recognizing that not everyone ages the same way.

This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jeff Inglis, Politics + Society Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Are you seeing news reports of voting problems? 4 essential reads on election disinformation

Published in The Conversation
A voter emerges from a voting booth in New Hampshire in January 2024. AP Photo/David Goldman
Jeff Inglis, The Conversation

In certain circles, the 2020 presidential election isn’t over – and that seems to be at least a little bit true. In recent weeks, official reviews of election records and processes from the 2020 presidential election have reported findings that might be used to spread rumors about voting integrity.

For instance, election officials in Virginia’s Prince William County announced on Jan. 11, 2024, that 4,000 votes from the 2020 presidential election had been miscounted. None of them changed the results. Those miscounts gave Donald Trump 2,327 more votes than he actually got, and Joe Biden 1,648 votes fewer. Errors in counting turned up in other races, too, with both parties’ candidates for U.S. Senate being given fewer votes than they actually received, and a Republican who won a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives actually won by a slightly larger margin than previously reported.

An audit of South Carolina’s 2020 voting records released in mid-January found no fraud and no indication any election results could have been different with the errors that were identified. But the report did recommend election officials cross-check lists of registered voters with other state lists more frequently than they have done in the past. Death reports and prison inmate rolls can help them determine who should remain eligible to voter and who should be removed from voting lists, the report said.

The Conversation U.S. has published several articles about the systems protecting election integrity. Here are four examples from our archives.

A Trump campaign poll watcher films the counting of ballots at the Allegheny County, Pa., elections warehouse
A Trump campaign poll watcher films the counting of ballots at the Allegheny County, Penn., elections warehouse in 2020 in Pittsburgh. Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

1. Changing numbers are evidence of transparency, not fraud

The news reports of election audits came, originally, from election officials themselves, who specified they were below the small margins that would have triggered recounts. The reports also offered explanations for what had happened and how to fix it in the future – and included statements that at least some of the problems had already been fixed for upcoming elections.

That’s an example of what Kristin Kanthak, a political scientist at the University of Pittsburgh, was talking about when she explained that election results that change over time aren’t inherently a problem:

(T)his doesn’t mean the system is ‘rigged.’ Actually, it means the system is transparent to a fault,” she wrote.

2. Easier voting is not a threat to election integrity

Erecting obstacles to voting will not prevent the problems that do exist in the election system, for the simple reason that the flaws are not a result of easier voting methods, such as early voting and voting by mail.

Grinnell College political scientist Douglas R. Hess observed that the COVID-19 pandemic was a massive test of whether a secure election could be held with a lot of accommodations that made voting easier, and safer from the spread of disease.

As he wrote,

“(E)arly voting and voting by mail are targeted for restrictions in many states, even though both reforms are popular with the public, worked securely in 2020 and have been expanded in many states for years without increases in fraud. Likewise, the collection of absentee ballots – a necessity for some voters – can be implemented securely.”

3. It’s possible for election workers to be both partisan and fair-minded

For many years, elections have been run by people who were members of one political party or the other but behaved in good faith to run fair elections, wrote Thom Reilly, a scholar at Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs.

But both the facts and the rhetoric have changed, he explained, noting that a significant share of the electorate is not a member of either party – so the people who supervise elections, who are typically party members, are “an increasingly partisan set of officials.”

Even so, many of them work hard to conduct fair elections. Yet, he wrote,

(W)idespread misinformation and disinformation on election administration is hobbling the ability of election officials to do their job and has created fertile ground for mistrust.”

A woman with gray hair helps a man with gray hair cast a ballot at a voting machine.
A poll worker helps a voter cast a ballot in the Kansas primary election at Merriam Christian Church on Aug. 2, 2022, in Merriam, Kan. Kyle Rivas/Getty Images

4. Beware those who aim to confuse or mislead

Political disinformation efforts are particularly intense around elections, warn scholars of information warfare Kate Starbird and Jevin West at the University of Washington and Renee DiResta at Stanford University.

Situations to watch out for are those in which “lack of understanding and certainty can fuel doubt, fan misinformation and provide opportunities for those seeking to delegitimize the results,” they wrote.

Specifically, look out for:

Politically motivated individuals (who) are likely to cherry-pick and assemble these pieces of digital "evidence” to fit narratives that seek to undermine trust in the results. Much of this evidence is likely to be derived from real events, though taken out of context and exaggerated.“

They provide a reminder to keep your wits about you and be sure to double-check any claims before believing or sharing them.

This story is a roundup of articles from The Conversation’s archives.The Conversation

Jeff Inglis, Politics + Society Editor, The Conversation

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Monday, November 13, 2023

25 photos that changed the course of history

Collage of 9 iconic photographs.
John T. Daniels; Charles Levy Arthur; Tsang Hin Wah; NASA; Lewis Hine; Joe Rosenthal; John Dominis;Sam Shere // Getty Images
Read the original, including images:

25 photos that changed the course of history

In an era where any novice with a smartphone can take professional-quality photographs, suffice it to say people are taking a lot of pictures. By one estimate, nearly 2 trillion photographs are captured each year—and more than 55,000 every second around the world. Although photographs have become ubiquitous in an age of selfies and social media, they still possess their timeless power to transport us to faraway places, introduce us to compelling people, and—in many instances—even alter the course of history.

Stacker collected 25 examples of images that changed the course of history, whether by advancing technical abilities of photography that enabled more people to engage in it, or by recording moments, items, people, and events that were made more significant because there were images for people to share.

Prior to its widespread use, photography was a technological puzzle. The effort involved chemistry, physics, metallurgy, and all manner of optical devices. Over the years, the equipment got smaller, lighter, and easier to use. By the late 1970s, tens of millions of cameras were sold around the world every year. Since then, the advent of digital photography and the spread of the aforementioned camera-equipped smartphones have put cameras into the hands of more than two of every three people on the planet, according to an industry analysis by Statista.

Photographs and the people who make them have helped billions of people better understand our world and what lies beyond it. Keep reading to discover 25 images that helped shape human perception and understanding of the last 200 years.

View from the Window at Le Gras - Joseph Nicéphore Niépce (c. 1827)

The oldest surviving photograph ever taken took eight hours to expose and shows a view of buildings and trees from a window on the photographer Joseph Nicéphore Niépce's estate.

It marked the beginning of a technological and chemical revolution that led to several other methods of registering images based on chemical reactions that occurred when light hit a specially prepared surface.

Boulevard Du Temple, Paris - Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre (1838)

Made by Louis-Jacques-Mande Daguerre, this daguerreotype—an image printed on a silvered copper plate—is believed to be the first photographic image including a living person. Because of the long exposure time required, what would have been a bustling street appears empty except for a person standing still in the lower left, getting his shoes shined by a crouching figure.

Lower Falls, Yellowstone National Park - William Henry Jackson (1871)

William Henry Jackson captured this striking image of the Lower Falls while on an expedition to explore northwestern Wyoming. Reports of what Jackson's group found—geysers, waterfalls, and other geologic wonders—were so incredible the public didn't believe them until photographic proof was made available.

Jackson's photographs of the Lower Falls and other natural wonders in the region helped persuade Americans and Congress to create Yellowstone National Park, the world's first national park.

The Horse in Motion - Eadweard James Muybridge (1877)

This set of photographic images truly paved the way for the film industry.

Eadweard James Muybridge's photos froze time in increments of 1/500th of a second. The photographer achieved this feat by capturing a series of images triggered on separate cameras by tiny threads broken by a moving animal or clockwork system. In addition to settling a controversy of the time—whether a horse ever lifted all its legs off the ground when galloping—Muybridge's work showed people the value of viewing sequences of images taken at short intervals.

Lodgers in Bayard Street Tenement, Five Cents a Spot - Jacob August Riis (1889)

Jacob Riis was an early investigative photojournalist whose 1890 book "How the Other Half Lives" documented the lives of people who lived in the slums of New York City. The book exposed the squalor of the city's tenement dwellings, including this room less than 13 feet long that was home to 12 men and women. The image sparked an investigation into housing conditions and is widely credited with sparking significant social reforms. Riis' legacy is that of being among the first to energize a social movement using photography.

The Wright Brothers First Flight - John T. Daniels (Dec. 17, 1903)

The Wright Brothers were the first to invent a flying vehicle. But to be believed, they needed proof—and proof, less than a century after the earliest recorded photograph, meant snapshots. The brothers set up cameras for all their tests and experiments, but timing was everything. Sometimes they got just a shot of the sky. This time—their first flight, at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1903—the timing was perfect, capturing the first flight that was powered, sustained, and controlled.

Sadie Pfeifer, Cotton Mill Spinner - Lewis Wickes Hine (1908)

Inspired by Jacob Riis, Lewis Hine was another photographer who worked for social justice. Hine visited farms, mills, and factories around the country during his work for the National Child Labor Committee, a group that sought to protect children from dangerous working conditions. He photographed children performing tasks they did every day, including Sadie Pfeifer. Pfeifer was 4 feet tall and likely around 9 years old when she was photographed in front of rows of spools in a cotton mill.

Riis' images helped lead to the passage of the country's first laws protecting child workers.

Migrant Mother - Dorothea Lange (March 9, 1936)

One of many iconic photographs made by Depression-era documentary photographer Dorothea Lange, "Migrant Mother" perfectly captures the impact of economic catastrophe on real people's lives. While working for the Farm Security Administration, Lange employed classical artistic principles to draw people's attention to her subjects and their meaning. Her techniques are on full display in this image of destitute pea-picker Florence Owens Thompson, a 32-year-old mother of seven at the time of the photograph.

The image ran in the San Francisco News within days of Lange creating it and quickly became synonymous with Depression-area destitution. Following the photo's publication, the U.S. government sent 20,000 pounds of food to the pea-pickers camp (where Thompson was living) in Nipomo, California.

The Hindenburg Disaster - Sam Shere (May 6, 1937)

The explosion of the Hindenburg in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on May 6, 1937, spelled the end of passenger travel by Zeppelin-style airships. That might not have been the case but for this image, as well as video taken of the tragedy.

Terrifying in its magnitude, and the presumed deaths of many aboard, the image was among the first to show a real failure of advanced technology, highlighting the dangers of the future's promise.

Raising The Flag On Iwo Jima - Joe Rosenthal (Feb. 25, 1945)

Millions saw this famous photograph in newspapers and magazines around the world at the time but also memorialized in bronze at the Marine Corps War Memorial in Washington D.C. It symbolized American fighting strength during the grueling Pacific campaign of World War II and a premature declaration of U.S. triumph over Japanese forces.

Among all the Pacific islands where the U.S. fought Japan, Iwo Jima was the first ruled directly by the Japanese government. Initially, this was seen as a harbinger of victories to come, but the war dragged on for bloody, deadly month after bloody, deadly month.

Historians reflected that the photo made the American public impatient for victory, and therefore more likely to support the terrible destruction of the nuclear attacks on Japan.

Liberation of concentration camps (1945)

As American troops rolled west across Germany in 1945, they encountered prison camps. The camps held horrors so shocking that Gen. Dwight Eisenhower, then the supreme commander of all Allied forces in Europe, insisted on bringing top military brass, journalists, photographers, American political figures, and others—including local residents—to see for themselves what had happened.

The goal for such documentation was to bear public witness, at the time and for all of history, to the horrors of the Nazi regime and the Holocaust.

Mushroom Cloud over Nagasaki - Lieutenant Charles Levy (Aug. 6, 1945)

Only a few people prior to Aug. 6, 1945, had ever seen a nuclear explosion. On that day, when the U.S. dropped the first-ever nuclear attack on Hiroshima, Japan, vast numbers of those who witnessed it died. Three days later, when the U.S. dropped its second bomb on Nagasaki, a member of the flight crew of a plane accompanying the one that dropped the bomb used his personal camera to reveal the massive power of the new weapons. His photograph recorded the 45,000-foot-high mushroom cloud rising over a city where as many as 80,000 people had just died—and many more would die in the coming years from the aftereffects of radiation exposure.

Many other photos of the attacks were censored, but Lt. Charles Levy's image spread worldwide and introduced the mushroom cloud concept.

Emmett Till Funeral - David Jackson (Sept. 15, 1955)

This photo shows Emmett Till just months before white supremacists brutally murdered him in August 1955; at age 14, Till was killed by people who claimed he may have whistled at a white woman in a Mississippi town while on vacation from his home in Chicago.

His lynching and funeral became a key moment in the Civil Rights Movement, in part because his mother insisted on having an open-casket funeral so everyone could see what had been done to the teenager.  David Jackson's horrific image of Till's body, first published in Jet magazine and subsequently more widely distributed, shocked the nation into a deeper awareness of the brutality of racism. An all-white, all-male jury acquitted two white men of his murder in September 1955, but calls for justice continued for decades. The FBI closed the case in 2021—66 years after Till's death—upon concluding it could not prove the woman who had reported Till's alleged whistling had lied.

Guerrillero Heroico - Korda (March 5, 1960)

Cuban photographer Alberto Diaz Gutierrez, better known as Alberto Korda or simply Korda, is pictured here with a print of his iconic portrait of Ernesto "Che" Guevara, an Argentinian Marxist who fought alongside Fidel Casto in the Cuban Revolution. The image did not become famous until Guevara died in 1967, at which point it spread around the world on banners, T-shirts, college dorm posters, stickers, and many other printed materials. In many ways, the portrait is one of the earliest viral images, appearing in all manner of places and uses, peering ferociously into an uncertain future.

Burning Monk - Malcome Browne (June 11, 1963)

The Vietnam War gave rise to many protests, including this act of self-immolation by Buddhist monk Thich Quang Duc in Saigon in June 1963 in protest against the division of Vietnam into north and south. The image—and the act it depicted—shocked the world and reportedly prompted President John F. Kennedy to re-examine the U.S. role in Vietnam, which had until that point been relatively small and advisory. Within a few months, the U.S. backed a coup to overthrow the South Vietnamese government; by the end of 1964, Congress authorized President Lyndon B. Johnson to expand the U.S. military's role in the fighting.

Vietnam Execution - Eddie Adams (Feb. 1, 1968)

Eddie Adams won the 1969 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for his image of South Vietnamese Gen. Nguyen Ngoc Loan summarily executing Viet Cong fighter Nguyen Van Lem in Saigon on Feb. 1, 1968. Military analysts later determined that Adams had pressed the shutter on his camera when Loan pulled the trigger. The image, which Adams was conflicted about for the rest of his life, became a symbol of the war's brutality and was used by antiwar protesters in the U.S. to garner more support for ending the war.

Olympics Black Power Salute - John Dominis (October 16, 1968)

Athletes have long used their platforms to make social-issue stances. When U.S. sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos won gold and bronze, respectively, for the 200-meter race in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, they raised their black-gloved fists on the medal stand during the playing of the "Star-Spangled Banner" to show solidarity with the plight of Black people in the United States.

The silver medal winner, Peter Norman of Australia, did not raise his fist but supported their gesture. For the medal ceremony, he not only recommended they each wear just one glove—they only had one pair with them—but also a button saying "Olympic Project for Civil Rights" given to him by Smith and Carlos. All three found themselves banned from their nations' Olympic teams, just one consequence of their stands for equality.

Earth Rise - Bill Anders (Dec. 24, 1968)

When the astronauts aboard Apollo 8 orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve 1968, they were surprised and moved by a view of the partially illuminated Earth emerging above the lunar landscape. They scrambled to grab a camera containing color film before the angle changed too much.

Bill Anders got the shot of a fragile world in a sea of space, which sparked a massive environmental movement and is credited with inspiring the first Earth Day in 1970. It has been followed by other views from space to give perspective to those on Earth, including the "Pale Blue Dot" image taken from Voyager 1 in 1990, which was one part of the "family portrait" of six of the solar system's planets.

Man on the Moon - Neil Armstrong (July 20, 1969)

Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon, took this picture and also appears in it, reflected in the visor of Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin during the first lunar landing. Also reflected in Aldrin's visor are the "Eagle" landing module, where astronaut Michael Collins remained while the other two men walked on the Moon's surface, the U.S. flag they planted there, and even Earth itself as a little blue dot in the lunar sky.

Kent State Shooting - Howard Ruffner (May 4, 1970)

John Filo's iconic image of 14-year-old Mary Ann Vecchio screaming over the body of Jeffrey Miller, one of four people shot dead by the Ohio National Guard during protests against the Vietnam War at Kent State University, gave Americans a sense of the horror and tragedy clearly felt by witnesses, photographed here by Howard Ruffner.

Filo and Ruffner, like Miller, were students at Kent State. Vecchio was visiting the campus.

Napalm Girl - Nick Ut (June 7, 1972)

Known formally as "The Terror of War," a Huynh Cong "Nick" Ut photo of Phan Thi Kim Phuc and other children fleeing from a U.S. attack on their village in Vietnam drove home—again—the human cost of the Vietnam War.

Phan Thi, then 9 years old, was badly burned by napalm. Ut won the 1973 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography for the image, which he credits with drawing enough publicity to save Pan Thi's life. The little girl spent 14 months in hospitals and was used by Vietnam's communist leaders as an antiwar propaganda figure. In 1992, she was granted asylum by Canada and began a foundation to aid children who are victims of war. This image is of her speaking to an audience in Japan, with the famous image of her projected behind.

Princess Diana with AIDS patient - Anwar Hussein (April 9, 1987)

Among her many humanitarian efforts during her tragically short life, Princess Diana advocated for people with HIV and AIDS. In the 1980s, the virus and the disease were frightening, leading to ostracism of patients, in part because many people did not understand how the disease was transmitted. Health care workers were advised to take so-called "universal precautions" including gloves, masks, and even goggles while working with HIV/AIDS patients.

Diana's simple act of shaking hands with a patient with HIV/AIDS—sitting near him and personally touching him, without gloves—made a clear statement that despite their illness, people with these conditions were safe to be around and interact with. Her striking act of deep humanity helped shift public sentiment away from fear and toward compassion for people with HIV/AIDS.


Tank Man - Multiple photographers (June 5, 1989)

Student protests in the spring of 1989 grew across China, demanding the country's communist government provide greater political freedoms and higher standards of living to its people. Protestors' presence in Tiananmen Square, in the heart of Beijing—along with their pro-democratic activities and the sheer length of time they occupied a key civic and cultural landmark—sparked a military response in early June. As tanks rolled in—ultimately killing hundreds, at least—a lone figure carrying a couple of shopping bags, stepped in front of a line of tanks and just stood there. The tank tried to move around him, with the person moving to remain in front of it until two people, presumably police officers, took him away.

Four photographers captured similar versions of the scene: Eddie Cole, Stuart Franklin, Jeff Widener, and Arthur Tsang Hin Wah. No one has ever definitively identified the man who defied an armored column of troops, nor his fate.

Alan Kurdi - Nilüfer Demir (Sept. 2, 2015)

As the multi-year Syrian civil war dragged on into 2015, millions of people were driven from their homes by fighting.

Many escaped to Turkey, ultimately hoping to make it to Europe or North America. In overcrowded boats, the desperate refugees tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Greece. Many did not make it.

The body of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi, a Syrian Kurd, washed up on a Turkish beach after the small boat he and his family were in capsized. The photograph put a name and a child's face on what had been a faceless crisis far away from the U.S. and even many Europeans. It galvanized public attention on the Syrian refugee crisis and sparked donations and international political engagement in helping the refugees.

Black Hole - Event Horizon Telescope Project (2019)

Until 2017, nobody had ever seen a black hole. Albert Einstein predicted a black hole to be a collapsed star so extremely dense and with a gravitational field so strong that even light could not escape.

In 2017, an international collaboration of Earth-based telescopes focused its collective attention on the center of M87, a galaxy about 54 million light-years from Earth but large and bright enough that it can be seen through a small telescope on the ground. Putting all their data together formed an image released to the public in 2019 showing a ring of light emitted by matter moving around in an intense gravitational field, with a dark central area.

The perimeter of the black hole can be seen where the light stops and the darkness begins. It is confirmation of more of Einstein's work, a massive breakthrough in humanity's technical and conceptual abilities to explore the universe, and a reminder of how much more there is for people to explore and understand.

Monday, October 30, 2023

25 historic images of Route 66 in its early days

“Historic Route 66” Motel sign at dusk.
Nik Wheeler // Corbis via Getty Images
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25 historic images of Route 66 in its early days

With cars rapidly gaining popularity in the early 20th century, an American businessman in Tulsa, Oklahoma, had a vision of a network of highways connecting the whole country.

Starting small in 1901 as a businessman and county commissioner, Cyrus Avery was nominated in 1925 to the newly formed Joint Board on Interstate Highways, a federal agency tasked with coordinating, organizing, and numbering the country's road system.

Officially commissioned on Nov. 11, 1926, and first marked with roadside signs in 1927, Route 66—officially U.S. Highway 66—connected Chicago and Los Angeles, not coincidentally passing through Avery's adopted hometown of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Just 800 of its 2,500 miles were paved in the new route's first year.

Ahead of Route 66's 97th birthday, Stacker curated a slideshow highlighting the construction and early years of the iconic American road.

In Tulsa, highway supporters—including Avery—in 1927 formed the U.S. 66 Highway Association, an advocacy group to promote the new highway to drivers and tourists, as well as to policymakers who could approve funds for paving. The highway became nationally famous and earned the moniker "the Main Street of America."

A major boost to the road's popularity came from John Steinbeck's 1939 book "The Grapes of Wrath," in which the author nicknamed Route 66 "the Mother Road" and chronicled the fictional Joad family's trip along the highway from Dust Bowl Oklahoma to the fruit fields of California. In the economic boom following the Great Depression and World War II, families—lured by history, popular culture, and countless tourist attractions—piled into their vehicles and set out to explore Route 66.

The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 heralded the road's decline, as the smaller U.S. routes were supplanted by massive, multilane interstates. But nostalgia kept the myth alive and even resulted in a resurgence of attention. Much of the original Route 66 received a National Scenic Byway designation, with many stretches featuring tourist attractions, lodging, and food aimed at road-trippers exploring one of America's most iconic roads.

Keep reading to discover more history of the iconic Route 66.

Chicago's bronze lions

Historic Illinois transportation maps show that one end of Route 66 abutted the Michigan Avenue entrance of the Art Institute of Chicago. At the stairs leading up to the institute, a massive pair of bronze lions stare out. Sculpted by 19th-century American artist Edward Kemeys, they mark the historic start of the Mother Road.

Facing another day of the 'Bunion Derby'

In early 1928, in part as a publicity stunt to promote the new highway, Illinois businessman and promoter Charles C. Pyle announced a coast-to-coast footrace from Los Angeles to New York City running the length of Route 66 before shifting to other highways to get farther east. Nicknamed the "Bunion Derby" for the damage it was expected to cause its contestants' feet, the race began on March 4, 1928, and finished on May 26. It was won by Andy Payne of Claremore, Oklahoma, after 573 hours, 4 minutes, and 34 seconds of running, wearing through five pairs of running shoes over more than 3,400 miles.

A Santa Fe street scene

The La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is on the city's central plaza and claims to occupy the site of a hotel dating back to 1607. A luxurious hotel when its current building was built in 1922, generations of Route 66 travelers passed by with some almost certainly staying the night.

'Okies' arrive in California

Traveling "the Mother Road" like the Joads in Steinbeck's novel, Depression- and Dust Bowl-era refugees from Oklahoma sought new opportunities in California. This famous image by iconic photographer Dorothea Lange is described in its Library of Congress record as "Depression refugee family from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Arrived in California June 1936. Mother and three half-grown children; no father."

The original western terminus

When Route 66 was first opened, its western end was at Seventh and Broadway in the heart of downtown Los Angeles. By 1947, when this image was taken, the route had been extended about 15 miles west to central Santa Monica. An unofficial "End of the Trail" marker was erected in 2009 on the Santa Monica Pier.

Outdoor basket-weaving

Route 66 connected many sections of rural America. Especially in the early days of the highway, travelers regularly passed by scenes of everyday life, like these basket-makers weaving white oak strips near Rolla, Missouri, in 1940.

First stop west of Texas

Seen here in 1956, downtown Tucumcari, New Mexico, was a key stopping point for travelers leaving West Texas. Today, the town is home to the New Mexico Route 66 Museum and thoroughly embraces its Route 66 heritage with public art and neon signs.

A desert rest stop

Service stations along Route 66 were essential stop points for motorists in need of fuel or food—particularly along western stretches through the desert in states such as Arizona. These businesses, along with others that sprung up to attract passersby, became key elements of the nation's growing car culture.

Overnight in Victorville?

About 100 miles east of the end of Route 66 was Victorville, with a downtown hotel and shops on the corner of D and 7th. That neighborhood is the subject of a yearslong revitalization effort to reclaim some of its former glory.

Maybe don't follow Bugs Bunny?

Halfway from Albuquerque to the Arizona state line is Grants, New Mexico, seen here in September 1950. Drivers who—like Bugs Bunny in several cartoon episodes—missed a tricky left turn in Albuquerque might have needed help getting back on the right road before reaching Grants. Today, the town is home to an art museum with Route 66 memorabilia as well as exhibits of more modern local art.

The wide-open road

Some of America's love affair with cars and the open road might be due to vistas like this one from New Mexico in 1940: No traffic in sight, a clear sky, mountains in the distance, and a lovely smooth strip of pavement just waiting to be driven.

Iceberg in the desert

Mac's Iceberg Cafe and Gas Station, found on East Central Avenue in Albuquerque, was a classic only-in-America, only-on-Route-66 roadside attraction designed to make a spectacle—and a must-stop destination—for tourists. Of course, ice cream and gas were major attractions of their own for weary travelers.

Heading east

During the early 1940s, the war effort brought people from all over the U.S. to California factories and shipyards. After the war, people headed back to where they came from—including the family pictured here, pulling a trailer behind their vehicle on their way from California to Minnesota less than two weeks after Japan surrendered.

Making connections

Finished in 1965, the Gateway Arch in St. Louis reflected the nation's urge for westward expansion. It was visible to anyone driving on Route 66 across the Mississippi River.

A namesake of the highway

Will Rogers, an Oklahoma native, was an early multimedia star known for performances in vaudeville and Broadway shows, movies, and radio spots, and for writing humorous and sharp political commentary in newspaper columns around the country. A member of the Cherokee Nation, he became known as the "Cowboy Philosopher" for his witty insights and clever sayings. The New York and Hollywood star drew attention around the world, which he traveled extensively before being killed in a 1935 plane crash in Alaska. Rogers was memorialized with a statue and museum in Claremore, Oklahoma, along Route 66.

Check out the Gila monster

The Tomahawk Trading Post outside Albuquerque offered many enticements to draw tourists in, including a live Gila monster. It was not nearly as large as the painted sign might have suggested.

A commercial thoroughfare

Though wildly popular with tourists, Route 66 was originally envisioned as a boost to commerce. Trucks like this one photographed in 1968 carried freight all along it for decades until wider, faster interstate highways were built.

Passing through the Duke City

The road was wide and busy as Route 66 travelers drove through Albuquerque in 1969. Gas stations, hotels, and fast food were all eager to attract customers on the Mother Road.

Souvenirs and novelties

The Jack Rabbit Trading Post near Joseph City, Arizona, was one of many roadside attractions along Route 66. It's still there, but sometime since this 1958 photo a different statue of a jackrabbit has been installed out front. Souvenirs like the one the child is wearing here often echoed stereotypes of the time period and highlighted the fact that the road passed through Indigenous lands.

On a corner in Winslow, Arizona

Native Americans found opportunity along Route 66—and still do—with an online tour guide to American Indians and Route 66 produced by the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association. In this photo from 1979 in Winslow, Arizona, a roadside stop displays and sells local Native American arts and crafts.

Through a harsh landscape

As Route 66 passes through the Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona, vistas open in front of the windshield and the true expanse of the American West becomes apparent.

The Boss loved it

Just along Route 66 in Amarillo, Texas, is the Cadillac Ranch, where 10 old Cadillacs are partially buried, hoods down, as monuments to car culture—and, as Bruce Springsteen had it in his 1980 song—a metaphor for how what once was valuable often becomes disposable. It's still there drawing tourists today.

Save a horse?

The Cowboy Motel in Amarillo, Texas, seen here in 1977, was one of many roadside lodgings that traded on kitsch and stereotypical Western themes to draw customers.

The Wigwam Village Motel

The Wigwam Village Motel in Holbrook, Arizona, pictured here in 1979, still offers travelers a chance to sleep in structures inspired by traditional Native American teepees—intentionally misnamed "wigwams" by the non-Indigenous architect who designed them. The motel is on the National Register of Historic Places because of its significance to Route 66 heritage.

The end of the road

From the late 1930s, Route 66 officially ended at the corner of Lincoln and Olympic boulevards in Santa Monica. But that wasn't a very dramatic location, so the unofficial end became the entrance to the Santa Monica Pier.

Story editing by Nicole Caldwell. Copy editing by Tim Bruns.