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AMERICAN MOSAIC - Artistic Pandas / United States Dollar / Nellie McKay - 2004-03-18

Broadcast: March 19, 2004


Welcome to AMERICAN MOSAIC, in VOA Special English.


This is Doug Johnson. On our show this week, we have music from Nellie McKay. And we answer a question about the American dollar.

But first, some rare black-and-white animals are about to appear in color.

Artistic Pandas


More than one-thousand artists from around the country recently entered a competition in Washington, D.C. The winners will create artwork on one-hundred fifty plastic statues of pandas. As Gwen Outen reports, the animal art will appear on city streets and in other places.


The invasion of the capital is called “PandaMania. ” The statues will be shown from May through September. Later, they will be sold to raise money for the arts. The statues will be at least one-point-three meters high. That is around the size of a real panda.

Washington artist Di Stovall (die STOW-vahl) designed a small panda to give ideas to other artists. Mizz Stovall also worked on an earlier showing of painted animal statues in Washington.

The event in two-thousand-two was called “Party Animals.” It involved statues of donkeys and elephants. The donkey is the official animal of the Democratic Party. The elephant represents the Republican Party.

Mizz Stovall covered her statue with stars and stripes. Her “America the Beautiful” elephant brought the highest price. It sold for twenty-five-thousand dollars.

Anthony Gittens heads the District of Columbia Commission on the Arts and Humanities. He notes that the city has a long history with pandas – real ones, that is.

In nineteen-seventy-two, China sent two pandas to the National Zoo in Washington. This followed the historic visit by President Richard Nixon to China. Those pandas lived until the nineteen-nineties.

Now, Tian Tian and Mei Xiang are on loan to the zoo for one-million dollars a year. People often wait a long time to see them. If the crowds get too large, visitors can look for the artistic pandas on the street.

United States Dollar


Our VOA listener question this week comes from Sao Paulo, Brazil. Rodrigo Bueno Therezo asks about the history of the American dollar.

We found a good place to start: a book called "A History of Money," by Glyn Davies, a British professor who died last year. He wrote that during American colonial times, the British pound was in short supply. So the colonists had to find substitutes -- tobacco, for example, even foreign coins. Some colonies printed their own money. Britain was not happy. This became one of the causes of the American Revolution.

The colonists printed notes called Continentals to pay for the war. The value of some Continentals was based on the British pound. Others were based on the Spanish peso or dollar coin. The word dollar came from the German word "taler" (TAH-ler). That came from the name of a place where silver was mined and made into coins.

The United States declared its independence in seventeen-seventy-six. In seventeen-ninety-two, the nation chose the dollar as its unit of currency. One dollar equaled one-hundred cents. It still does.

The Constitution gives Congress the power to print money and set its value. In nineteen-thirteen, Congress created the United States central bank, the Federal Reserve, to supervise the money supply.

The Bureau of Engraving and Printing produces bank notes for the Federal Reserve System. The bureau began in eighteen-sixty-two as a six-person operation in the Treasury Department. Steam powered the presses. Today, money is printed twenty-four hours a day. Notes come in one, five, ten, twenty, fifty and one-hundred dollar amounts. Design changes have been made in recent years to improve security.

The United States Mint produces coins. The Associated Press reported just this week about a special coin. Coin collecting experts say they have identified a two-hundred-ten-year-old silver dollar. Some consider it the first silver dollar ever made by the United States Mint. The American Numismatic Association, a collectors group, says it plans to show the coin to the public as of next month.

Nellie McKay


Nellie McKay (muh-KYE) is a nineteen-year-old singer and songwriter with a grown-up sense of music. Her first album is called “Get Away From Me.” Shep O’Neal has more.


“Get Away From Me" is unusual for a first album. It comes recorded on two compact discs. Nellie McKay wrote so many songs, they could not all fit on one CD.

She sings jazz, pop, even a little rap. She also plays eight musical instruments, including the glockenspiel.

Nellie McKay was born in London. Her mother brought her to New York City when she was two. This song, “Manhattan Avenue,” is about the street where they lived.


Nellie McKay and her mother lived with a dog plus nine cats they rescued from the streets. One of her songs is about the death of a cat whose owner sounds just a little crazy. The song is called “Ding Dong.”


Nellie McKay sings about many subjects in the eighteen songs on her first album. Her sense of humor comes through in most of “Get Away From Me.” We leave you with a song called “Clonie.”



This is Doug Johnson.

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This program was written by Jill Moss, Jeri Watson and Caty Weaver. Paul Thompson was the producer. And our engineer was Vosco Volarich.

I hope you enjoyed AMERICAN MOSAIC. Join us again next week for VOA’s radio magazine in Special English