Subscribe to email updates
Today’s post was written by Jessica Lee, a summer intern in the Reference Section, Civil records team at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
In a previous blog post, I wrote about an interesting fraud case I discovered in the records of the Fraud Order Case Files, 1894-1951 (NAID 2660896). That file pertained to the “White Wizard”, a man from Tacoma, Washington, who sold horoscopes though the U.S. Mail.
As with my previous blog, the name of the accused party stood out: “Prince Richard, Onikoyi of Ikoyi” of Lagos, Nigeria. My first thought was that this couldn’t possibly be anything like the infamous scam on the Internet, where a supposed member of a foreign royal family emails an individual asking for financial assistance in exchange for which said individual will supposedly receive even more money.
Upon delving into Fraud Case 8011 (by Order No. 39606 on January 17, 1949) more, I found myself returning to the saying “everything old is new again.”
To understand the procedures when dealing with mail fraud, the general charge against the named parties was “conducting a scheme or device for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.” Once the Postmaster General brought this charge against someone, postmasters were essentially forbidden to deliver any money orders, letters, and other mail matter to said party and were directed to return these materials and/or inform senders that the delivery of these materials has been forbidden.
In this instance, the Senior Trial Examiner assigned to the case, James C. Haynes, Jr., submitted a “Finding of Fact and Recommendations to the Postmaster General for the Issuance of a Fraud Order” on January 13, 1949. According to Haynes’ report, Prince Richard wrote to people in the United States and requested “that various sums of money and articles of clothing be sent him,” and in return he would “send items of jewelry and other articles of Nigerian production.” Prince Richard also claimed “that he is related to a Nigerian potentate, that his ‘palace grounds’ are at 107 Victoria Street, and that he has three stores in Nigeria which sell African products.”
Haynes went on to say that, based on evidence collected by the Office of International Trade of the Department of Commerce and by the American Consul General in Nigeria, Prince Richard was in reality “a sixteen-year-old youth who has no stores of merchandise as he represents, that he is in no sense related to Nigerian royalty, that his title of ‘Prince’ is but a figment of his imagination, … and that his correspondence with the persons solicited in the United States always ceases as soon as the money or articles sent to ‘Prince Richard’ have been received by him.” Based on Haynes’ recommendation, a fraud order against Prince Richard was issued by the Postmaster General several days later.
I found a similar fraud case (No. 8104, by Order No. 40903, issued on July 1, 1949) concerning one “Prince Bil Morrison” of Lagos, Nigeria was charged. Haynes wrote that Prince Bil Morrison “solicits various sums of money and articles of clothing to be sent him, in return for which he promises and pretends that he will send the donors items of Nigerian ivory, diamonds, and jewels.” This time, the perpetrator was “a fourteen year old Nigerian youth, who in no sense is entitled to the royal title of ‘Prince,’ but who used that title, according to his admission to Nigerian police officials, ‘just for fun’s sake’.”
Hayes further explained that Prince Bil Morrison was really “one of a number of young Nigerian school boys” and that the Nigerian police “have stated officially that this practice has become so widespread that in their opinion, only by notices in the American press will the public be made aware of the fact” that this was occurring. As happened in the case with Prince Richard, Haynes recommended that the Postmaster General issue a fraud order against Prince Bil Morrison.
Unfortunately, neither case file includes anything that indicates what may have become of either “prince”, but it is amazing that given the growth of Internet fraud in recent years, it looks like history does repeat itself.
Today’s post was written by Megan Dwyre, Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.
Several species of shark have been known to attack a swimming man. Your chances of encountering one of these are not great…– Extract from “Survival on Land and Sea.”
“Shark Attacks”, a 1944 survey conducted by the Coordinator of Research and Development, U.S. Navy, Emergency Rescue Equipment Section, explains that prior to December 14, 1942, the Navy considered sharks an insignificant danger to personnel. A survey of available records revealed “only two, or perhaps three, authentic instances of shark bite.” In addition, existing information suggested that sharks were wary of strange objects and would likely be driven away by loud commotions (e.g. explosions), which typically accompanied wartime events where men would be thrown into the sea.
The wartime shark attack cases that constitute Part 1 of the survey seem to suggest otherwise. They recount, often in graphic detail, the harrowing experiences of a few soldiers who were attacked by sharks and lived to tell the tale.
One such case was that of Lieutenant Arthur George Reading, who survived a plane crash over the South Pacific in May 1943, only to spend the next sixteen hours in the water fighting away sharks – first with binoculars, then with his hands and feet. While trying to attract the attention of planes flying overhead, the crash’s other survivor, Aviation Radioman 1st Class Everett Hardin Almond, felt something strike his foot – he had been bitten. Lt. Reading recounted that, soon after, “there were more than five sharks around and blood all around us.” Realizing the wound was severe, Almond heroically offered his life jacket to Reading, although Reading refused to accept it. Sadly, Almond suffered a number of subsequent attacks and was killed. Reading recalled that by sunset that evening he had given up hope. Fortunately, around midnight he spotted a Yard Patrol (YP) boat, which came to his rescue.
Because many shark attacks followed ship sinkings, it is impossible to determine the exact number of shark-related deaths during World War II. Reading’s story, and the other cases contained in the report, likely provide only a glimpse of the horrors inflicted by this unsuspected foe.
The records cited above can be found in “Shark Attacks,” Coordinator of Research and Development, U.S. Navy, Emergency Rescue Equipment Section, 1944, Research Data: Shark Attacks (NAID 6946057), Subject Files, 10/30/1941-1954, Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force (Air Staff), Record Group 341.
 Extract from Survival on Land and Sea, reprinted in “Shark Attacks,” page 5.
 Technical Note No. 89-42, Navy Department, Bureau of Aeronautics, reprinted in “Shark Attacks,” pages 3-4.
 “Attack on Air Crash Survivors, South Pacific, May 1943. One Fatality,” Case 1, Part 1, “Shark Attacks,” pages 6-12.
Today’s post was written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and Dr. Sylvia Naylor, Archivists at the National Archives in College Park.
Dr. Alfred Hentzen, on the staff of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin, was mobilized into the German Army in mid-1942. While serving on the Intelligence Staff of a Panzer Division in North Africa, he was captured by the British on May 12, 1943, his fortieth birthday. Three years later, in London, he was interrogated by John M. Phillips, the head of the London Desk of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) Art Looting Investigation Unit and Denys Sutton, Secretary to the Commission for the Protection & Restitution of Cultural Material (the Vaucher Commission).
Hentzen told his interrogators that he worked on a special project in 1940 with Dr. Otto Kümmel, a specialist in East Asia art and the history of weapons. Born on August 22, 1874, Kümmel studied at the Universities of Freiburg, Bonn and Paris. He began his career in 1901 as a volunteer at the Museum of Applied Arts in Hamburg. During the next eighteen years he worked at the Zeughaus, Berlin; the Municipal collections of Freiburg; Museum of Ethnology, Berlin, of which he became the director in 1919. In 1932 he joined the Nazi Party and in 1934 he was appointed Director General of the Berlin State Museums. He also served as the Director of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum.
Hentzen said that in September 1940, together with Kümmel and Dr. Niels von Holst (Head of the branch office of the Kaiser Friedrich Museum) he arrived in Paris on a secret mission. Their aim was to compile a catalogue of those works of art taken by France from Germany during the Napoleonic Wars and those sequestrated by the French authorities at the outbreak of the war in 1914. This, he said, was an amplification of the research begun by Dr. Karl Wilkes of Düsseldorf and Dr. Rudolf Brandts of Bonn which had been published in 1939 as Denkschrift und Listen über den Unstraub der Franzosen im Rheinland seit 1794 (Memorandum and lists of the art theft of the French in the Rhineland since 1794). Their task, Hentzen said, had been commissioned by the German Ministry of Propaganda with a view to advancing German claims for restitution at the Peace Treaty with France. Their research work was mainly carried out at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and consisted of investigating catalogues of sales and museums and the gazette of the Hôtel Drouot, the large auction house in Paris that opened in 1852. Von Holst was responsible for the Napoleonic period; Hentzen for the 1914 period; and Kümmel for the general editing. Hentzen also went to Brussels in order to compile lists of Belgian and Dutch collections taken by the French. This research, which was later published in mimeographed form took three months to complete, and necessitated three visits to Paris.
The report, which was commissioned by the Reich Minister and Chief of the Reich Chancellery and the Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, was completed by Otto Kümmel on December 31, 1940. It lists art works and other historically relevant objects, including paintings, prints, textiles, coins, furniture, and other objects that they claimed fell into foreign hands since 1500 without German permission or based on questionable legal acts. The list did not include books, manuscripts, maps, sheets of music, archival materials, military trophies and weapons.
The report consists of three main parts:
- Part I lists works whose location is known. It is thereunder subdivided according to the significance of the works (works and collections of special artistic and historical significance, works of lesser prominence and works of local significance).
- Part II lists works whose whereabouts are unknown (and thus it is unknown if they still exist).
- Part III lists works owned by German nationals that were confiscated as a result of the World War and subsequent Versailles and St. Germain Treaties.
The description of each item on the list typically includes title/description of object, name of artist (if known), and location. For works in the possession of museums, only a catalog number is cited.
On May 5 elements of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, and the 7th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Infantry Division entered Berchtesgaden. As soon as the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment occupied Berchtesgaden, Technician Thrid Grade (T/3) George Allen, with the Counterintelligence Corps (CIC), 101st Airborne Division, proceeded there to open the Division (MIS) Counterintelligence office. He was soon assisted by CIC Special Agent Eric Albrecht, who had been sent to the division on detached service. On May 8, Albrecht found copy No. 1 of the Kümmel Report on the Obersalzberg, the mountainside retreat situated above Berchtesgaden, perhaps at or near the Berghof (Adolf Hitler’s residence). That same day, Capt. James J. Rorimer, the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Specialist Officer with the Seventh U.S. Army arrived at Berchtesgaden. Not long afterwards Albrecht gave Rorimer the recovered Kümmel Report.
In early 1946, Rorimer would leave military service and return to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Instead of sending the copy of the Kümmel Report to the Heidelberg Document Center operated by the Seventh U.S. Army, he took it home with him. Had he turned it over to the document center, which in turn transferred it to the Munich Central Collecting Point as a reference tool, or retained it as part of its captured records collection, the report would have subsequently been accessioned by the National Archives.
In 1949, Rorimer contacted Ardelia Hall, Arts and Monuments officer of the Department of State, about turning his copy of the Kümmel Report over to the Department of State. Following up on their conversations, Lawrence S. Morris, Acting Chief, Division of Libraries and Institutes, wrote Rorimer on April 28, 1949, that arrangements were being made to transfer the Kümmel Report. Morris informed Rorimer that the “report will remain in the custody of the Department of State or other appropriate government agency.” On April 28, Ardelia Hall requested that arrangements be made for an official Department courier to pick up the report from Rorimer.
Rorimer wrote Morris on May 2 that he had turned over to the Registrar’s office of the Metropolitan Museum the report for delivery to an official Department of State courier. According to the museum’s website a photostatic copy was made from the original typescript at the Department of State. It is this photostatic copy that can be viewed on line.
The exact date of transfer from the museum to the Department of State is not certain, but by March 1950 it was in the Department of State files. At the end of that month the Chief Curator of the National Gallery, John Walker, had his secretary call Ardelia Hall and ask that the Kümmel Report be “deposited in the National Gallery of Library of Congress.” Hall told the secretary that she had use for the report and believed it was not for public use.” Hall added that if Walker wanted to see it, she thought that might be arranged, but that she could not transfer it. The secretary said the National Gallery of Art was buying a photostat from the Metropolitan Museum.
On January 29, 1962 the original copy of the Kümmel Report was transferred from the Department of State to the Library of Congress, to whom we refer researchers when they request the report.
- John M. Phillips, Head, London Desk, OSS Art Unit and Denys Sutton, Secretary to the Commission for the Protection & Restitution of Cultural Material, Report on Preliminary Interrogation of P.W. Alfred Hentzen (ID668), Held at London on 22-23 June 1945, n.d., File: Personalities-Miscellaneous, Subject File, 1940-1946, NAID 1537311 Record Group 239, National Archives Microfilm Publication M-1944, Roll No. 89.
- Decimals 862.403/5-249 and 862.414/4-2949, Central Decimal File 1945-1949, NAID 302021, General Records of the Department of State, Record Group 59.
Today’s post was written by Jessica Lee. She’s a summer intern in the Archives 1 Reference Section, working with the Civil records team.
One of the projects I have been assigned this summer is to help create a finding aid for the
approximately 10,000 fraud cases housed at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC in Record Group 28 (Records of the Post Office Department), Entry 50, Office of the Solicitor: Fraud Order Case Files, 1894-1951 (NARA Online ID Number 2660896). In order to provide better access for researchers I have been noting the names of the parties who were charged, the date, and the location. Of the 540 cases I have gone through so far, some cases brought charges against only one person or company; while others charged well over two hundred. Because of the scope of this project, I do not have the luxury of time to flip through every file and learn about every case, but once in a while something in a folder will make me pause and examine it more closely. In one particular case, it was the name of the party accused in Case No. 6232 (by Order No. 7379 on June 24, 1935): “White Wizard,” of Tacoma, Washington, that drew my attention. To my disappointment, the accused party was not your friendly neighborhood Gandalf, nor even your unfriendly neighborhood Saruman.
Normally after a complaint was filed, the Postmaster General would conduct an investigation.
If he deemed it appropriate, a charge of mail fraud would be brought against the accused. The general charge against the named parties was “conducting a scheme or device for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations, and promises.” Once charged with mail fraud, a “fraud order” would be issued. This directive would forbid postmasters from delivering any money orders, letters, and other mail matter to said party and then directed them to return these materials and/or inform senders that the delivery of these materials has been prohibited. At that point, an administrative hearing was usually held to determine the facts of the case and for the accused to present his side.
According to this case’s file, the “White Wizard” scheme was operated by S. Bannister, and involved “the sale of so-called horoscopes and answering of personal questions” via the mail. In one advertisement included in the file, White Wizard claimed to be a “nationally known psychologist and philosopher” who offered “[his] new Astrological Readings” at a “special low price” which would tell customers “the exact days and dates, month by month, when the planets are in favorable or unfavorable aspect for your business and social affairs.” Interested parties were instructed to send an “exact birth date” and the $0.50 cost of a complete reading. According to the government CPI inflation calculator, $0.50 in 1935 is the equivalent of $8.63 today.
The solicitor bringing this case forward, Karl A. Crowley, wrote that White Wizard, or the man behind it, “does not claim to have any supernatural powers, that questions submitted to him are answered solely from a common sense standpoint,” that “a good percentage of the questions are answered by his stenographers without any assistance from him,” and that “readings” were purchased “in quantities in advance,” one for each of the twelve signs of the zodiac. Crowley concluded that, because White Wizard did not (1) answer all questions submitted to him; (2) did not furnish correct answers; and (3) did not furnish a personal reading “prepared especially for each remitter,” he found this to be “a scheme for obtaining money through the mails by means of false and fraudulent pretenses, representations and promises” and so recommended a fraud order be issued.
Crowley also noted that White Wizard attempted to “justify his use of the mails in this scheme” by stating his security of “a third class permit under which he mailed the printed matter sent to remitters in this scheme,” but that White Wizard did not assert that he “asked for or obtained a ruling” from the post office as to “whether or not the scheme proposed to be conducted by him through the mails would be in violation of the postal fraud statutes.” Crowley went on to state that postmasters “are prohibited, by Section 602, Postal Laws and Regulations, 1932, from giving opinions in such matters,” and he was “satisfied that no such opinion was given the respondent.”
According to Crowley, on June 20, 1935, the day set for White Wizard’s hearing, no one appeared “in behalf of the respondent.”
All of the above information was submitted in Crowley’s memorandum to the Postmaster General, and on June 24, 1935, the Postmaster General issued Fraud Order No. 7379 against White Wizard.
The recent announcement that the United States and Cuba will establish embassies in each other’s capitals signifies the beginning of a second era of formal relations between the two countries. The first era lasted from 1902, when the U.S. sent its first diplomatic representative to independent Cuba, until January 1961, when the U.S. terminated diplomatic relations.
On January 3, 1961, in a 1 a.m. telegram, the U.S. embassy in Cuba reported receipt of a diplomatic note from the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Relations indicating that the size of the American diplomatic and consular presence in Habana must be cut to 11 persons within 48 hours. Daniel Braddock, the U.S. Charge d’Affaires in Cuba, reported that a staff of that size could not maintain a useful operation and recommended breaking relations. President Dwight Eisenhower held a meeting at 9 a.m. the same day to discuss how to respond to the Cuban note. Even though there was some sentiment to move with more deliberation, President Eisenhower decided to break relations and ordered Secretary of State Christian Herter to take that action as soon as possible.
Late in the day on January 3, Edwin Vallon, the head of the Department of State’s Office of Caribbean and Mexican Affairs, requested that the Cuban Charge d’Affaires Dr. Armando Florez-Ibarra, come to the Department. The following document describes what took place.
Memo of Conversation regarding Break in Diplomatic and Consular Relations between Cuba and the United States, Jan. 3, 1961
After that, the Department telegraphed the text of the note handed to Dr. Florez-Ibarra to the American Embassy in Habana.
Thus ended 59 years of formal U.S.-Cuban diplomatic relations.
- The memorandum and telegram are from Decimal 611.37 from the 1960-63 segment of the Central Decimal File (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
- A convenient source of more documentation is Foreign Relations of the United States, 1961-1963, Volume X: Cuba, 1961-1962 (Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1997).