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Today’s blogger is Megan Hamby, a summer 2013 intern in the Archives I Reference and Processing Sections who worked with Army records.
While processing a series from the Department of Veterans Affairs (Record Group 15), I came across a piece of correspondence from the Colorado State Medical Society to Dr. J.C. Cornell, Supervisor, United States Public Health Services (USPHS) District Office in Denver, that pertained to a court trial that was set to occur on October 28, 1920. The letter, dated October 15, 1920, contained a request for aid from the USPHS to supply a knowledgeable witness that would be able to testify for the value of smallpox vaccinations (see image of page one below). According to the letter, the “so called Colorado League for Medical Freedom or Colorado Medical Liberty League…is bringing legal action against the Denver School Board…to compel the Board to admit children to the schools who have not been vaccinated.” It went on to mention the witnesses who were willing to go on the stand to testify against vaccinations while Dr. F.B. Stephenson, who wrote the letter, was attempting to strengthen their case for the trial.
RG 15 (Department of Veterans Affairs); Correspondence and Other Records, 1918-1925 (NARA online Identifier 7423838); File: General Correspondence to the USPHS General Surgeon
The issue of vaccinations, which has been a heated topic of discussion even before the first smallpox vaccination was administered by Edward Jenner in 1796, has also been an issue in school systems for decades. Debates about government control over an individual’s rights to their own body and child rearing are just one side of the argument while the documented value of the vaccination and the eventual eradication of the smallpox virus are looked at by many within the world of medicine to outweigh the risks of the vaccine.
The witnesses that were called forward to testify against the vaccinations of children consisted of “a Chiropractor, an Osteopath, a Christian Scientist” and two doctors who, according to the letter, were not a “member of the County or State medical Society, nor of the American Medical Association.” While chiropractic and osteopathic practices were still fairly new at the time this letter was written and were both considered a form of alternative medicine, the lawyer defending the school board was on the hunt for witnesses to argue for the case of vaccinating children before they entered the school system and decided to turn to the United States Public Health Services for aid.
Having never been vaccinated, I found the letter to be of interest because it clearly shows that this topic has been an issue for quite some time. According to the Center for Disease Control website for school vaccinations requirements, there are exemptions made for those that do not wish to be vaccinated including medical proof of immunity and religious and philosophical beliefs. With many people attempting to fight based on their beliefs including such trials as Jacobson vs. Massachusetts and anti-vaccination movements, the situation addressed in the letter and the people involved are doing what they believe is in the best interest of the general public.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “School Vaccinations Requirements, Exemptions and Web Links,” http://www2a.cdc.gov/nip/schoolsurv/schImmRqmt.asp [accessed July 24, 2013].
Today’s post is written by David Langbart.
To a large degree, working with the records at the National Archives is a never-ending series of fascinating encounters with the original documentation of U.S. history. The following document, a memorandum of conversation (memcon) drafted by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in January 1954, gives an idea why (the attachment to the memcon is not imaged).
This document relates to U.S. policies and actions following President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech. Eisenhower gave the speech before the United Nations General Assembly on December 8, 1953, and it was followed by an active effort by American diplomats around the world to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.
The document was considered important enough by the Department of State’s Office of the Historian (HO) to include in the premier documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States.
While the document can be read in the volume (double click on the image to enlarge)
and on HO’s website, there is something inherently more interesting, at least to me, in seeing the original document (or a direct image thereof) with all the bureaucratic markings as well as Dulles’s initials and only partially legible handwritten annotation.
Source: Memorandum of Conversation by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, January 5, 1954, file: 600.0012/1-554, 1950-54 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.
Today’s blogger is Emily Hauser, a summer 2013 intern in the Archives I Reference Section who worked with Army records.
While writing descriptions of records of the Adjutant General’s Office (Record Group 94), I came across some very interesting documents created by the War Department concerning various budgets from 1920 in Washington, D.C. One of the charts I located (see image below) listed the expenses that the Quartermaster Corps estimated spending on things such as headstones for graves of soldiers ($50,000), and costs that the Medical Department estimated spending on artificial limbs ($50,000). To put this in perspective, in the 21st century a basic prosthetic leg costs around $2,000. An artificial leg that is considered “state-of-the-art” can cost over $30,000.
Some interesting statistics in the record lay within the projected expenses of the Engineering Department. One such estimate includes the “Traveling Expenses of the President of the United States, (To be expended in his discretion and accounted for on his certificate only).” According to the record, it was estimated that $25,000 would be spent in 1920 to transport Woodrow Wilson on official business. This seems staggeringly inexpensive when compared to the $300,000 presidential limousine used today to transport the president.
RG 94 (Records of the Adjutant General’s Office), Photostatic Copies of Charts, Relating to War Department Appropriations, 1918 (NARA online catalog identifier 7408632), Document: “History Statement of Estimate of 1920 Appropriation for Sundry Civil Bill” (Portion)
Additional spending estimates of the Engineering Department included the “Care and Maintenance of Washington Monument” as well as “Care and Maintenance of Lincoln Memorial.” The War Department submitted for request an estimate of $15,820 for the care and maintenance of the Washington Monument. In comparison, after an earthquake in August of 2011, the Park Service spent $200,000 alone on the inspection of the Washington Monument. The record also states that in 1920, $4,580 was estimated for the care and maintenance of the Lincoln Memorial. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the $4,580 estimate in 1920 equates to approximately $53,472.42 in 2013.
A range of National Military Parks are also listed in the record, including but not limited to: Gettysburg National Park, Shiloh National Military Park, and Vicksburg National Military Park. According to the record, the combined estimated budget for the care of these parks in 1920 was approximately $105,435. Today, that amount equates to nearly $1,230,974. Talk about inflation! There certainly can be a lot taken from records such as these, even if simply used as a reflection of our past.
Fiore, Marrecca. “Advances in Prosthesis.” Fox News. N.p., 24 May 2007. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,275029,00.html>.
Harris, Paul, and Robin McKie. “Prospect of Barack Obama Show Causes UK to Clear Its Decks.” The Guardian. N.p., 28 Mar. 2009. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/29/obama-london-visit-uk-g20>.
Kaye, Jeffrey. “New High-tech Prostheses Being Developed for Amputees.” PBS News Hour. 19 Sept. 2006. PBS. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/july-dec06/amputees_09-19.html>. Transcript.
“Overview of BLS Statistics on Inflation and Prices.” Bureau of Labor Statistics. N.p., 1 May 2013. Web. 19 July 2013. <http://www.bls.gov/bls/inflation.htm>.
Ruane, Michael. “Washington Monument Closed Indefinitely.” The Washington Post. N.p., 26 Sept. 2011. Web. 18 July 2013. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/washington-monuments-elevator-damaged-in-earthquake/2011/09/26/gIQA55wazK_story.html>.
Today’s post is written by Michael Rhodes, an archives technician in the Archives’ National Declassification Center.
Fifty years after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, we are still piecing together the actions of his administration. From the Records of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Record Group 330), a report – probably one of several copies created – was declassified in 1999. After being processed by the National Declassification Center (NDC), the document was released to the public. Entitled “Department of Defense Operations During the Cuban Crisis” (NARA online catalog identifier 7365855), it chronicles the period from October 1 to November 21, 1962.
For people unfamiliar with the terms “declassification” or “declassified”, I refer you to President Obama’s Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information, which defines declassification as “the authorized change in the status of information from classified to unclassified.” In the case of this particular record, the original marking SECRET has been canceled. At the bottom of the first page is the declassification authority, represented by a project number assigned when the records were reviewed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD).
The NDC facilitates the review and declassification of Executive Branch records in the holdings of the National Archives. While examining a box of OSD files, I opened a folder labeled “CUBA.” Inside, among memos, press releases, transcripts, news clippings and photographs, I found this twenty-page report. Created to serve as an official record, it is divided into the following sections: The Quarantine, Contingency Planning, Logistics, Civil Defense, and Reserve Forces. Under each heading is a narrative account of the activities of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine units in the Western Hemisphere, positioned everywhere from Fort Hood, Texas to Guantanamo Bay.
The details of the U.S. military response to Soviet forces in Cuba and the Caribbean Sea are interesting in themselves. However, this document is important not so much for the record it provides of what happened, but rather for what did not happen. Today, we know that the Americans and the Russians were poised to attack each other with atomic weapons, both at sea and on land. Fortunately, a sequence of decisions, actions, and inactions largely avoided a war, much less a nuclear one.
This is page one of the full 20-page report. Please see the online catalog description to view the document in its entirety.
TAGS Air Force
, Cuban Missile Crisis
, Executive Order
, John F. Kennedy
, Michael Rhodes
, National Declassification Center
, RG 330
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