One summer evening in the early 1950s, a group of Los Alamos locals gathered at the home of Harold and Beverly Agnew for cocktails. In addition to Harold Agnew—who later became director of Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory (now Los Alamos National Laboratory)—the guest list included Agnew’s mentor, Nobel laureate Enrico Fermi; physicist David Hall; and George Sawyer, principal of Los Alamos High School.
At some point during the party, and at Harold Agnew’s behest, the attendees coated their feet in colorful paint, then stepped onto a white-painted Masonite panel.
“My dad had prepared the board beforehand,” Harold’s daughter Nancy Chapman recalled to Los Alamos Historical Society curator Don Cavness. “The paint was applied to feet with a little hard rubber roller that my dad used for linoleum block prints that he made for Christmas cards.”
Although the exact year of the party isn’t known, it must have taken place between John Agnew’s birth in 1949 and Enrico Fermi’s death in 1954. John Agnew later donated the panel to the Los Alamos Historical Society. Today, the framed artwork can be seen inside the Hans Bethe House, which is part of the Los Alamos History Museum. ★
Special thanks to Los Alamos Historical Society (LAHS) curator Don Cavness, LAHS archives and collections technician Tina Moore, and LAHS archives and collections assistant Kaity Burke for their valuable contributions.
For more on David and Jane Hall, listen to: