Today’s post is written by archivist Shane Bell of the National Archives at Atlanta.
The so-called golden age of piracy ended in the early 18th century, decades before the first shot of the American Revolution. During what is often referred to as the Second War for Independence, however, the last significant era of this practice, legally termed “privateering,” occurred during the War of 1812. This second and final armed conflict with Great Britain is perhaps most often associated with the Battle of New Orleans, the U.S.S. Constitution, and “The Star Spangled Banner.” But there was another component to this war. It involved the “militia of the sea,” enterprising entrepreneurs and adventure seekers hoping to make their fortune on the open ocean at the expense of the enemy.
Privateer License/Letter of Marque for the Rapid, Privateer Rapid vs Schooner Cometa, Mixed Case Files 1790-1860, box 9, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Savannah); Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives at Atlanta.
To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 last spring, The National Archives at Atlanta held a workshop, displayed records, and created a finding aid for documents related to the war. What they found interspersed among customs and court records was ample evidence of this last great gasp of piracy. Or, “privateering” as they would have called it! In practice the difference is slight, but legally, it could mean the difference between life and death. Although the likes of Henry Morgan and Blackbeard were long gone by 1812, other characters appear in the records. John Peter Chazel, Hugh Campbell, and Herman Perry sailed their speedy schooners and brigs up and down the east coast in search of merchant vessels laden with goods. As the evidence in our records show, they often found them.
Deposition of David Beck, David Beck vs Peter Bouisseren, Mixed Case Files 1790-1860, box 35, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Savannah); Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives at Atlanta.
As part of an intern project to capture information about legal plunder on the high seas during the War of 1812, intrepid pirate hunter… I mean “privateer” hunter Olivia Carlisle documented over 200 cases of Libel for Salvage, Smuggling, and Prize of War. Thanks to her efforts, we now have a guide to these activities as they played out in southern ports such as Savannah, GA, Elizabeth City, NC, and Mobile, AL. Among the usual round of court documents the files sometimes also contain Letters of Marque, crew lists, vessel registries, and depositions. We also discovered evidence that American ships did not only prey on British merchants. They also captured Swedish, Spanish, Portuguese, and Russian ships.
One amazing little boat, and perhaps the most prolific southern privateer in the war, bore the perfect name: Saucy Jack. The Jack was the capturing vessel in over a dozen documented cases and by all accounts had an amazingly successful string of luck during the war. Or was it perhaps by the skill of her captain and crew? We might never know. We know tantalizingly little about this boat, but through the records of the Federal Courts and U.S. Customs, some of her deeds as an American privateer vessel live on.
Saucy Jack Commission, Saucy Jack vs Schooner Weazel and Cargo, Mixed Case Files 1790-1860, box 23, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia (Savannah); Records of the District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21, National Archives at Atlanta.
As part of The National Archives at Atlanta’s First Friday Freebie series, we will again commemorate the 2nd year of the War of 1812 with a presentation of records related to the war. This will be held Friday, June 7th at 12:00 at The National Archives at Atlanta. The event is free and open to the public. Pirate….I mean, “privateer,” themed refreshments will be served. We welcome all who want to come explore the War of 1812 and learn more about the American militia of the sea!
TAGS First Friday Freebie
, Herman Perry
, Hugh Campbell
, John Peter Chazel
, militia of the sea
, National Archives at Atlanta
, Olivia Carlisle
, Saucy Jack
, Shane Bell
, War of 1812
Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher.
Elizabeth Hamer, the chief of the National Archives Exhibits and Publications staff, maintained a very detailed daily diary of everything she and her staff did between 1946 and 1951. While conducting research for an article on the 1946 accessioning and exhibiting of Adolf Hitler’s Last Will and Testament by the National Archives, I consulted her diary to learn about the exhibiting aspects of the story. In the course of looking through the diary I ran across an entry for May 27, 1946 (see image), regarding a visit by men from Twentieth Century-Fox Film Corporation and the thirty-eight year old Hollywood actress, the French-born Annabella, to the National Archives in conjunction with the filming of the movie 13 Rue Madeleine. Ms. Hamer incorrectly noted the name of the film in pencil as 12 Rue Madeleine. At the time Annabella was a well-known actress, married to Hollywood-heartthrob Tyrone Power, whom she had met when she came to Hollywood in the late 1930s.
Seeing the reference to the movie brought back memories of having seen it numerous times on television. It is a World War II spy thriller, released in January 1947, starring Annabella, James Cagney, and Richard Conte. The film deals with “077” (used instead of OSS-Office of Strategic Services) agents infiltrating into German-occupied France. The title of the film refers to the address in Le Havre, France, where, in the movie, a Gestapo headquarters was located.
One of the things I especially liked about the movie is how it begins and ends: at the National Archives. At the beginning of the film the National Archives Building (Archives I) is shown, followed by a scene of a stack area, and then a scene of a file cabinet, where a staff member reaches in and pulls out a folder labeled “13 Rue Madeleine.” The movie ends with the file folder going back into the cabinet, the story having been told. This was all accomplished in very dramatic, very patriotic manner.
About the same time I was looking at Ms. Hamer’s staff daily diary, I learned that the actor George Clooney had acquired the movie rights to Robert Edsel’s book, The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History, with the intention of directing and starring in the movie version.
I thought it would be wonderful to have Mr. Clooney’s movie open and close in the same manner as 13 Rue Madeleine, even if an archives stack area was recreated and the scenes were shot on a Hollywood film set. Instead of a file cabinet, a shelf or two of archival boxes of the records of the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives officers (i.e., the Monuments Men) that Mr. Edsel used in writing his book could be shown, with a box being pulled off the shelf and opened at the beginning of the movie and the box being closed and placed back on the shelf at the end of the movie. I traveled with the Archivist, David Ferriero, to Dallas last spring to receive from Mr. Edsel, head of the Monuments Men Foundation, the very kind donation to the National Archives of two Hitler photo albums showing looted art. However, I did not take the opportunity to bring up the subject with Mr. Edsel, even when he showed the Archivist and me a recent photo of him with George Clooney. Perhaps Mr. Edsel will see this blog post and pass my idea along to George Clooney. And then, perhaps, Mr. Clooney will visit the National Archives and Miriam Kleiman of the Public Affairs staff will get her wish to show him around as she offered in her blog post about the book and the movie.
George Clooney’s film The Monuments Men is scheduled to open in theaters on December 18, 2013.
TAGS 13 Rue Madeleine
, Elizabeth Hamer
, George Clooney
, Greg Bradsher
, James Cagney
, Miriam Kleiman
, Richard Conte
, Robert Edsel
, The Monuments Men
Today’s post is written by Chelsey MacBride-Gill, a College Park volunteer.
While processing the records of the American Expeditionary Forces (10th Division HQ), I came across an unusual letter from a concerned citizen Thomas Hartman, dated October 12, 1918. Most of the papers in the folder simply stated that a soldier was absent without leave (AWOL) and ordered to report to the nearest military authorities or that a guard should be sent to accompany the man back to camp. In contrast this was a hand-written letter to the commanding officer of Camp Funston, Kansas about two local men who were AWOL in the town where Mr. Hartman lived–Raymond, Kansas. The small hand-drawn flag on the bottom of the letter made me curious.
Letter from Thomas J. Hartman to Major General Wood, October 12, 1918. RG 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, HQ 10th Division, 220.712.
On April 6, 1917, Congress approved President Woodrow Wilson’s decision to declare war on Germany. The Congressional Research Service has reported that over 4 million men served, more than 200,000 were wounded, and over 110,000 servicemen died during World War I.
Service flags have evolved over time. The Service Flag (also known as the Blue Star Banner or Sons in Service Flag) was created in 1917 by Army Captain Robert L. Queisser of the 5th Ohio Infantry in honor of his sons who were serving in WWI. A silver star is for those who have been wounded, or contracted a serious illness or injury in a war zone. A gold star represents a service member who has died.
A CBS newsreel that is part of a documentary series on WWI shows a woman sewing a sixth star onto a Service Flag with five stars, with a man raising the flag above his doorway. The headline reads, “They Expect Their Six Boys Home for Christmas. The Governor of South Carolina, Richard I. Manning, and His Wife Have Given 6 Sons to the Allied Cause.”
The Service Flag is now authorized by the Department of Defense with specifications about how it may be displayed and by whom. In 2011, Congress as well as President Obama supported the designation of May 1, 2011, as “Silver Star Service Banner Day.”
Back in October 1918, of the two AWOL men, Private Joseph L. Price was awaiting trial and Private Shipler was under investigation. One wonders if Mr. Hartman’s letter had greater impact because of his hand-drawn Blue Star Service Flag and what it meant.
“American War and Military Operations Casualties: Lists and Statistics, February 26, 2010. Table 1. Principal Wars in Which the United States Participated: U.S. Military Personnel Serving and Casualties.” Congressional Research Service. [http://www.fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/RL32492.pdf]
“Motion Picture Newsreel Films used for a Documentary Series on World War I, compiled ca.1908 – ca. 1930.” Record Group 4, National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD. (Local Identifier 200-CBS-WWU-233/ARC Identifier 89353)
Letter from Thomas J. Hartman to Major General Wood, October 12, 1918. RG 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces, HQ 10th Division, 220.712. National Archives at College Park, College Park, MD.
Text of the Senate Bill supporting “Silver Flag Banner Day.” “Bill Text, 112th Congress (2011-2012), S.RES.178.ATS.” [http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c112:S.RES.178]
“The Service Flag of the United States.” [http://www.usflag.org/history/serviceflag.html] Accessed April 25, 2013.
”United Service Flag“ poster. Each Star (290 in all) represents a United Employee now in the Armed Service of the United States,” ca. 1917 – ca. 1919. (ARC Identifier 512600, NWDNS-4-P-162) [http://www.archives.gov]
TAGS 10th Division
, American Expeditionary Forces
, Blue Star Banner
, Camp Funston
, Chelsey MacBride-Gill
, Robert L. Queisser
, Service Flag
, Sons in Service Flag
, Thomas Hartman
, volunteer finds
, World War I
What exactly is a “defendant jacket”? What does the charge “RLD” stand for? How do you find the records of a defendant if he or she had an alias or was charged with multiple co-defendants?
These are just some of the questions faced by archivists, researchers, and volunteers working with Fort Smith’s criminal case files from the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Arkansas (Record Group 21). Answers to these questions and more are now available on the “Research Guide to the Criminal Case Files of Fort Smith, Arkansas, 1866-1900.”
The court’s busy caseload and unusually large jurisdiction (74,000 square miles) make these records rich in stories from western Arkansas and the Indian Territory, today Oklahoma. The criminal case files from Fort Smith contain over 300,000 pages of court-ordered writs (arrest warrants, subpoenas, indictments, etc.) and other related court documents.
Yet, the court’s original filing system made these Wild West court cases difficult to search. Court papers from a defendant’s case file were stored in a pigeon-hole cabinet together with their co-defendants as well as other defendants with the same last name. Over time, when the pigeon holes became full, court employees transferred the contents to a numbered system of files or “jackets.” Thus, each defendant jacket contains multiple defendants and spans years. The “jacket number” became an important identifier to reference and to locate individual case files.
Two further potential problems for users were legal terminology and abbreviations found in the writs and other papers. Brushing up on your legalese will help you to identify the types of documents in a case file.
For instance, this document below comes from the case file of Bandit Queen Belle Starr and her co-defendant/husband Sam Starr. On the reverse side, the printed Latin word CAPIAS tells us it is an arrest warrant. Issued July 31, 1882, the warrant shows Deputy Marshal L.W. Marks found the pair two months later near Bird Creek in the Cherokee Nation and arrested them on September 21, 1882. [Online catalog identifier 7064406]
Legal abbreviations like “RLD” often appear in sentencing records. RLD stands for “retail liquor distributor.” Selling liquor in the Indian Territory was illegal, and this plus other liquor-related crimes were frequent at the Fort Smith federal district court. [Online catalog identifier 7064465]
Charges that came before the court’s long-serving “Hanging” Judge Isaac Parker ranged from illicit liquor distilling, which came with a fine and a six-month stay in the federal jail in the courthouse’s basement, to capital crimes like murder and rape. Regardless or the crime or the date of the trial, the first stop for researchers looking at cases from the Fort Smith court is the criminal case files on Ancestry.
Search for Eliza Alexander OR Mary Young, and you will get defendant jacket #214, which shows Eliza Alexander (alias Mary Young) indicted for adultery in 1889. Interestingly, charged with her, William J. Cooper, is not listed as a co-defendant; he has a separate file (defendant jacket #216). During their trials, both were found guilty. Eliza received four months in the Fort Smith federal jail (later reduced to 93 days). William was sent to the state penitentiary in Little Rock, AR for a longer term of eighteen months. [Online catalog identifiers 7063615 and 7063616]
However, since co-defendants share a case file, usually searching under the name of one defendant will yield documents with the names of their co-defendants. A good example is the infamous Dalton Gang, which consisted of brothers Grat, Bob, and Emmett Dalton and their friends. They appear multiple times in Fort Smith court records before the shoot-out in Coffeyville, Kansas in 1892, which left only Emmett alive and headed to the penitentiary. [Online catalog identifier 7064463]
Obviously, this process is a little confusing. In a pre-digital age, volunteers and staff at the National Archives at Fort Worth created several helpful guides to make searching for information easier: a defendant name index (with aliases), a victim name index, and a list of deputy marshal oaths. They compiled related records, like the court’s Sentence Record Books, to help give a more complete picture of the case files, which can contain just a single page or 60 plus pages. Thanks to a collaborative effort years in the making, the digitized images from the case files now can be used alongside these older resources.
Links to all records and indices can be found on the National Archives at Fort Worth’s new research guide website.
, arrest warrants
, Belle Starr
, Bird Creek
, case files
, Cherokee Nation
, Dalton Gang
, defendant jacket
, Eliza Alexander
, Fort Smith
, Isaac Parker
, L.W. Marks
, Little Rock
, Mary Young
, RG 21
, Sam Starr
, Stephanie Stegman
, U.S. District Court
, William J. Cooper
Today’s post is written by College Park archivist Kylene Tucker.
As part of my ADP (Archivist Development Program) rotation with the FOIA staff, I reviewed the FBI case file of Hunter S. Thompson from the Denver Field Office. The file covers 1965-1971 when Thompson lived in Colorado briefly, moved to California, and then returned to Woody Creek, a small town outside of Aspen, Colorado. Thompson, often associated with gonzo journalism, gained national prominence after publishing a book about the year and a half that he had spent with the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang, entitled Hell’s Angels (1966).
Much of the material in the file concerns Thompson’s race for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado in 1970. Initially, Thompson did not consider himself a serious candidate for the position, but instead, a foil for the candidates for county commissioner and coroner. Thompson believed that the more absurd his positions appeared, the more palatable the other two candidates would seem by comparison. To the dismay of some town leaders, Thompson gained a slight lead over his competition and garnered national attention. The documents in the file explain his positions and his “Freak Power” platform. Included is a Washington Post article entitled “Hippies May Elect Sheriff,” which argued that the population of young, relative newcomers to Aspen were swaying the election in Thompson’s favor. Thompson’s campaign promises included ripping up the pavement in Aspen’s downtown area and laying sod on the streets as well as changing Aspen’s name by referendum to “Fat City” to dissuade those who would exploit the area and its image. In the end, Thompson lost the election for sheriff.
While living in Colorado, Thompson was part of the bi-monthly publication The Aspen Wallposter. The case file contains two of these publications, namely no. 4 and no. 7. The publications were of particular interest to the FBI because of their comments on law enforcement and the FBI director, J. Edgar Hoover. The no. 7 edition alleges that a “good friend” of President Nixon and some “freelance FBI agents” stopped the distribution of the original No. 5 edition by threatening workers at the printing plant and stealing the copies.
The remainder of the file includes Department of Motor Vehicles records and FBI memorandums establishing Thompson’s place of residence. By February 1971, the FBI saw no further need for investigation into Thompson and placed the file in a closed status. The last few documents of the file refer to an anonymous letter alleging that Thompson had a criminal record in his hometown of Louisville, Kentucky.
, case files
, Freak Power
, Hunter S. Thompson
, J. Edgar Hoover
, Kylene Tucker
, The Aspen Wallposter
, Woody Creek
Today’s post is written by Dr. Greg Bradsher and is a continuation of yesterday’s post.
On October 31, 1984, Leonard retired from the National Archives and the next day began turning over to Jim Hutson copies of all the documents he had collected. For the next fifteen months, in his 1952 DeSoto, Leonard traveled the same ground he had in the 1950s and 1960s. He revisited all the state archives and all the state historical societies and most of the other major repositories in the original thirteen states and Vermont. He went to some places he had not previously visited.
The result of the project was the publication in 1987 of Supplement to Max Farrand’s The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787.
It was around that time I told Leonard that in a report I had written I had been forced to cite him as the exception to the rule. In 1986, while working in the Planning and Policy Evaluation Branch, I was given the assignment of contacting a dozen or so archival institutions to obtain information about their “clean research room” policies. The National Archives and Records Administration was in the process of writing its regulations and wanted to be able to respond to any criticisms, particularly from Congress, that its policies were not that much different from the state institutions. So I made the calls. One of the questions I asked was whether researchers were allowed in the stacks. The response was always the same: no. But some institutions qualified their response by indicating they had made an exception for Leonard. Thus, as I informed him, he had become an asterisk in my report, wherein I explained he had been the exception to rule. He just smiled.
From 1989 until 1993, Leonard made five solitary walks across the British Isles. He bedded down at night in a sleeping bag he carried on his back. Upon returning home after one of these hikes, he told me that while plodding along the English countryside he had been listening to a transistor radio and heard a question raised about whether Elvis Presley’s gravestone at Graceland was copyrighted. So he changed course and headed for the small town with the radio station that had broadcast the Elvis question. Not long afterward, he was on the air, entertaining the listeners with tales of Elvis. I doubt that Leonard ever met Elvis, but who knows; his sister, Hilda, lived for a while in Memphis.
Leonard is no longer with us, having passed away five years ago, at age 95. I miss his good sense, humanity, kindness, humor, and intellect. I feel privileged to have known him and trust these posts will prompt younger colleagues to read some of his works, all of which are entertaining, informative, and thought provoking. A good starting point is his luncheon address of October 16, 1987, entitled “From Maine to Georgia with Camper and Camera,” that can be found in Constitutional Issue and Archives.
Have you ever considered a career in archival work? This week, we’re publishing a two-part post by Dr. Greg Bradsher remembering one of NARA’s archivists.
The National Archives and Records Administration has been very fortunate to have among its ranks many “giants” of the archival profession. It has also had its share of interesting characters. Leonard A. Rapport was both. Of course Leonard would have never considered himself a giant in his profession. Interestingly enough, as Leonard himself pointed out in a 1987 address, “I survived the 35 years and a day without ever having an archival course, in or out of the National Archives.” Yet, his impact on the archival profession has been substantial. He was the first recipient of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) Award for Lifelong Service to the Archival Profession.
I got to know Leonard the year I began working at the National Archives. At that point, I simply knew him as an expert on the appraisal of records. As the years went by I learned that he was knowledgeable about a whole variety of historical and archival subjects. Whenever he asked me what I was working on and I told him, he would proceed to tell a story about the subject, often involving himself. He seemed to know everything and everybody. And in some respects he did.
On one of my first encounters with Leonard he told me he was going at lunchtime to a Salvation Army clothing store near Union Station and asked if I would like to go with him. He explained that with the exception of his underwear, that was where he obtained all of his clothing, including the Army jacket he was then wearing. I agreed to go. On the walk to the store I told him I had recently seen on television the movie The Bridge at Remagen, based on the 1957 book of the same name by Congressman Ken Hechler. Leonard nonchalantly responded that for years he had tried to find Heckler a wife. Before I had a chance to ask a question on that matter, Leonard was off on another story.
Leonard, born in Durham, N.C., in 1913, studied at the University of North Carolina (UNC) with R.D.W. Connor, who in 1934 became the first Archivist of the United States. After graduating in 1935, Leonard worked for the UNC Press and wrote fiction on the side. One of his short stories was reprinted in Best Short Stories of 1937. From 1938 to 1941, he participated in the Southern Writers’ Project, interviewing colorful figures in North Carolina. Several of his oral histories were printed in A Treasury of Southern Folklore, First-Person America, and other publications.
He served in the Army from 1941 to 1948, serving as a lieutenant with the 101st Airborne Division. In 1948, he collaborated with Arthur Northwood Jr. to publish the well-received book, Rendezvous With Destiny: A History of the 101st Airborne Division. In October 1949 he joined the National Archives. Using the G.I. Bill, he received his master’s degree in history from George Washington University in 1957. The following year he became the associate editor of the Documentary History of the Ratification of the Federal Constitution and the Bill of Rights, a National Historical Publications Commission (NHPC) project.
During the next eleven years he worked in upwards of 200 repositories, filming thousands of pages of newspapers, imprints, and documents. He eventually bought a 1963 VW van whose previous owner had converted it to a home-made camper. In it Leonard carried a portable microfilm camera and film, as well as a small standard film camera, a portable dark room with developing supplies, two typewriters, a reference library, and a refrigerator for both bulk film and beer. During this project he took on the additional responsibility of searching for documents relating to two other NHPC projects, the documentary histories of the First Federal Congress and the First Federal Elections.
In 1969 Leonard returned to the National Archives. The following year Prologue published his article: “Printing the Constitution: The Convention and Newspaper Imprints, August–November 1787.” Then it was back to archival work, becoming the deputy director of the records appraisal staff. Maygene Daniels in her 1995 Society of American Archivists presidential address recalled: “I remember many happy hours, typically on Friday afternoons, in the old records appraisal offices, when Leonard would instruct us all on the fine points of the use of ‘that’ and ‘which’ in the English language. He would also read aloud portions of certain selected addresses of past SAA presidents from ‘the early days’…to illustrate various human foibles and foolishness.” She also noted that at one SAA annual meeting, “noting that all of the elected brass had name badges with enough ribbons to win the war in the Pacific, Leonard added one simple addition to his collection which many of you remember: ‘Best of Breed.’ After that, this organization eliminated all but a few ribbons on meeting name badges. As Leonard often observes, a bit of comedy may have more impact than a learned paper.”
Leonard’s output of literature during the 1970s included his Dumped from a Wharf into Casco Bay: the Historical Records Survey Revisited (1974) and Fakes and Facsimiles: Problems of Identification (1979), dealing with the forgery of manuscripts.
The 1980s for Leonard were just as busy and rewarding for him as were the previous decades. The American Archivist published his highly acclaimed article “No Grandfather Clause: Reappraising Accessioned Records” in 1981, which is still required reading in many archival courses thirty years later. The following year Leonard hiked the Appalachian Trail from Virginia to Asheville, North Carolina, to attend his 50th high school reunion. In 1984, the bicentennial program of the National Endowment for the Humanities gave a grant to a project sponsored jointly by the American Historical Association, the Library of Congress, and Project ’87, to collect and publish constitutional convention documents not published earlier by Max Farrand. Jim Hutson, head of the Library of Congress’s manuscript division was to edit the material and the Yale University Press was to publish them, as it had the Farrand edition in 1911. This was a project that Leonard knew back in the 1960s would sooner or later be attempted. He was prepared, as he had begun collecting copies of relevant documents back when he left the ratification project and returned to the National Archives.
To be continued tomorrow.
TAGS 101st Airborne Division
, American Historical Association
, Appalachian Trail
, Arthur Northwood
, G.I. Bill
, George Washington University
, Gregory Stone
, Jim Hutson
, Ken Hechler
, Leonard A. Rapport
, Library of Congress
, Max Farrand
, Maygene Daniels
, National Endowment for the Humanities
, National Historical Publications Commission
, Project '87
, R. D. W. Connor
, Society of American Archivists
, Southern Writers' Project
, The American Archivist
, University of North Carolina
, Yale University Press
This is the final post in a week-long series marking Administrative Professionals Week and written by Ketina Taylor (Archivist) and Jenny Sweeney (Education Specialist) of the National Archives at Fort Worth. Don’t miss their posts from day one, day two, day three and day four.
This week’s posts have highlighted the role of secretaries in the late 1950s and early 1960s by taking a glimpse into the Records of the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (RG 300). In many ways the information is outdated and at times even comical. The work secretaries performed, however, was vital to the running of private businesses and government agencies throughout the country. Pink collar jobs allowed thousands of women to join the workforce and provided a gateway for their daughters and granddaughters to enter into a wide variety of other professions.
A poem found in these records emphasizes the many roles secretaries play, the characteristics they must possess, and the lack of appreciation they receive for their work. According to the handwritten note at the bottom of the page, this poem was “mimeographed for handout at secretarial conference” (ARC ID 7280724).
Today, the important and relevant work that Administrative Professionals carry out is celebrated during Administrative Professionals Week. Please don’t forget to honor those individuals who handle the mountains of necessary administrative tasks in your office!
Double-click on the image below to enlarge:
This item was sent to the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training by the FAA and was used in secretarial training in Waco, Texas (online catalog identifier 7280704).
Today’s post is the fourth in a series marking Administrative Professionals Week and written by Ketina Taylor (Archivist) and Jenny Sweeney (Education Specialist) of the National Archives at Fort Worth. Don’t miss their posts from day one, day two and day three.
First two pages from the publication The Modern Secretary, produced by the School Department of the Royal Typewriter division (online catalog identifier 7280719).
The typical everyday world for the 1950s and 1960s secretary evolved around shorthand, dictation, memos, schedules, and business letters. Besides the telephone, the typewriter was the main tool of the trade for these office women. Pamphlets found among the records of the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (RG 300) highlight the importance of the typewriter as the tool that made women’s jobs easier and more efficient.
Companies such as Remington Rand and Royal McBee Corporation produced pamphlets clearly geared toward women readers. In Remington Rand’s pamphlet “A Brief History of the Typewriter,” the historical struggle for women to transition to office work is considered with the statement, “The female mind and constitution were considered ‘too frail’ to survive a six months course in typing! However, six Remington typewriters and six ‘strong women’ made short work of that theory” (online catalog identifier 7280709). “The Modern Secretary,” by Royal McBee, starts with the statement, “Heaven protects the poor working girl,” and continues with a brief history of the deplorable working conditions for female workers of the early 20th century. Triumphantly, the pamphlet states, “The emergence of the typewriter in American business was a major factor in the eventual emancipation of women. The typewriter gave women a chance to exhibit their ability and superiority in a job that had predominately been handled by men” (online catalog identifier 7280719). The underlying message of these pamphlets is for women to understand how the typewriter was responsible for their current success in a man’s business world.
Typing instructions from the publication The Modern Secretary (online catalog identifier 7280719).
These pamphlets also served as a platform to market the most current typewriters, accessories, and procedures for maximizing efficiency. The “Typewriter Family Tree” that is included in Remington’s publication allowed readers to see the evolution of the typewriter from 1872 to its most current models, which were electric and even noiseless in 1958 (online catalog identifier 7280709). Helpful hints for secretaries such as “How to Improve Manual/Electric Typing” and “How to Set Up a Business Letter” were also included in the Royal McBee publication (online catalog identifier 7280719).
Many people today have never typed on an actual typewriter. The introduction of the personal computer into both the office and home made the once-necessary tool of the business world obsolete. No doubt, secretaries everywhere are thankful they no longer have to fight with triplicate forms and carbon paper!
Illustration from a 12-page pamphlet entitled “A Brief History of the Typewriter,” produced by Remington Rand (online catalog identifier 7280709).
Today’s post is the third in a series marking Administrative Professionals Week and written by Ketina Taylor (Archivist) and Jenny Sweeney (Education Specialist) of the National Archives at Fort Worth. Don’t miss their posts from day one and day two.
The back cover of the November 25, 1960 issue of the publication PS for Private Secretaries (online catalog identifier 7280715).
Pill box hats, shorter hem lines, black liquid eyeliner, and a flush of color on the lips were all the rage during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Secretaries at the time were quite concerned with their appearances and felt it was part of the job to be well-dressed, coiffed, manicured, and refined. Evidence of the importance of secretarial fashion, personality, and good grooming can be found among the records of Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training (RG 300).
The popular newsletter P.S. for Private Secretaries, distributed by publisher Prentice-Hall, addressed how an overall pleasing personality was a requirement for the job. According to P.S., graciousness was the number one attribute for a secretary to possess. It was up to her to set the tone of the office and to treat everyone from the “president to messenger” with respect (online catalog identifier 7280712). Several articles were dedicated to the topic of office gossip. One article warned that although gossip provides a bit of spice to everyday conversation, it is important to know that it can easily turn to a malicious nature and this type of gossip must be avoided at all times (online catalog identifier 7280708).
May 10, 1961 issue of the publication P.S. for Private Secretaries from the secretarial and clerical training program in Region X — Dallas (online catalog identifier 7280712).
“Fashion Wise,” a column in P.S., covers the topic of how to buy a girdle with input from the Corset and Brassiere Council. It provided advice on how to assure a proper fit and how best to put on a girdle. The article concludes with a cautionary note, “When you’re properly fitted with the right girdle for you, you still can’t relax completely, however! No girdle can do all the work” (online catalog identifier 7280715). Another topic addressed sleeveless dresses and warned “anybody who has an upper arm problem had better start correcting it now.” The column provided necessary exercises to perform “which if you do faithfully—ought to do a lot for oversized arms” (online catalog identifier 7280712). “Fashion Wise” also gave pointers on what to do when you have a cold because “you don’t have to look as bad as you feel” (online catalog identifier 7280715).
The minutes of the Secretarial and Clerical Staff Training Program Committee meeting from May 8, 1958 in New Orleans tell the story of a training program titled “Good Grooming” that it offered to its members. Mrs. Joei Jahnsen, National Director of Teacher Training for the Nancy Taylor Schools (which, according to the minutes, was “the largest chain of modeling schools in the world”), presented the program. Mrs. Jahnsen provided valuable information on such things as: good posture, appropriate dress, choosing the right color and application of makeup, and the importance of highlighting one’s good points and correcting one’s faulty points (online catalog identifier 7280658). Each member received a “Nancy Taylor Personality Analysis Test.” The answers and explanations for the test are below. Would you have gotten these answers right? If not, you might want to consider your flaws and work on them to better yourself just as the members of the meeting were instructed to do (online catalog identifier 7280664)!
This document is from the secretarial and clerical training program in New Orleans, Louisiana and is from a May 8, 1958 training session on good grooming tips (online catalog identifier 7280664).