I was curious how it was determined that Lebanon, Kansas was the geographic center of the contiguous US. I thought like maybe they measured the amount of land on every side and had it try to match the amount on the opposite side or something that makes sense and at least sounds a little official.

Turns out, “in 1918, the Coast and Geodetic Survey found this location by balancing on a point a cardboard cutout shaped like the U.S. Incredibly, this method was accurate to within twenty miles.”

That is is both very underwhelming and better than any hoity-toity scientific way of figuring it out.

EDIT: I’d like to thank everyone for pointing out that this is in fact a scientific way of figuring it out. Pardon me for thinking balancing a cardboard cutout of the US sounds pretty bullshitty. Fuck y'all.

The PAGEOS (PAssive Geodetic Earth Orbiting Satellite) during a test inflation in a blimp hangar at Weeksville, NC, USA, 5 August 1965. 

The satellite was a 30,5 m (100’)-diameter inflatable sphere made of 0.5-mil thick aluminized polyethylene terephthalate (PET) plastic. As a “balloon” it carried no instrumentation, and merely served as a reflective tracking and photographic target. 

It was in a near-polar orbit with an altitude of about 2600 miles, much higher than the more familiar and similar ECHO satellites. 

It was launched in 1966, and in 1975 it broke up into many small pieces (some of these are still in orbit, and useful for observing solar radiation pressure because of their extremely light weight).


Thomas Alexander Harrison     (1853-1930)

Thomas Alexander Harrison was born and raised in the Germantown area of Philadelphia. When he was a young man he spent six years working for the United States Coastal and Geodetic Society, for whom he surveyed the New England, Florida, and Pacific coastlines. This experience guided his interest in art, which began at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts for a brief period in 1872, towards marine painting, and he would become well known for his horizontal wave seascapes.

After his Survey job ended in 1877, Harrison commenced his studies in earnest, starting with the San Francisco School of Design and ending at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. In 1881 he exhibited at the Paris Salon, and also became friends with Jules Bastien-Lepage. The latter introduced Harrison to plein-aire painting, which he took to immediately and was soon recognized as the leading artist at the colony of Pont-Avon in Brittany. Though he was frequently back in the States, and an active member of arts organizations in Philadelphia and New York, he maintained his ties to Paris—where he died in 1930.

The artist won numerous prizes across the United States and in Paris. Harrison’s works can be found in prestigious institutions such as the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, IL; the Dallas Museum of Art in Dallas, TX; the Corcoran Gallery of Art and The White House in Washington, DC; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Academy of Design Museum in New York, NY; and the Musee D’Orsay in Paris.