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Weird Records from the Depths of the Archives

by on October 25, 2013


Halloween is right around the corner, and at the National Archives we are well versed in the creepiest, weirdest records of the Federal government. Here’s our list of favorites that are sure to make you shudder with fear!

 

What’s more dangerous- a poison bottle equipped with spikes or the poison itself?:

Patent Drawing for T. Newman's Poison Warning Bottle, 06/02/1908

Patent Drawing for T. Newman’s Poison Warning Bottle, 06/02/1908, NARA ID 7369165

 

 

In doubtful cases of actual death:

Drawing for a Life - Preserving Coffin, 11/15/1843 - 11/15/1843

Drawing for a Life – Preserving Coffin, 11/15/1843 – 11/15/1843, NARA ID 595517

 

But if you are buried alive, you’ll want someone to find you, right?:

Patent Drawing for J. G. Krichbaum's Device for Indicating Life in Buried Persons, 12/05/1882

Patent Drawing for J. G. Krichbaum’s Device for Indicating Life in Buried Persons, 12/05/1882, NARA ID 6277693

 

 

A fire mask that looks like it will do more harm than help:

Patent Drawing for C. McIntosh's Fire Mask, 05/01/1883

Patent Drawing for C. McIntosh’s Fire Mask, 05/01/1883, NARA ID 6277700

 

 

A rascal officer in front of a creepy house:

Photograph of John F. Kennedy as a "Keystone Kop", ca. 1925

Photograph of John F. Kennedy as a “Keystone Kop”, ca. 1925, NARA ID 595979

 

 

Some spooky visitors in the Oval Office:

Halloween Visitors to the Oval Office. Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. White House, Oval Office., 10/31/1963  http://research.archives.gov/description/194260

Halloween Visitors to the Oval Office. Caroline Kennedy, President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy, Jr. White House, Oval Office., 10/31/1963, NARA ID194260

 

 

Food safety is a big concern on Halloween.  Let’s hope this doesn’t show up in a trick or treat bag:

Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added a preservative. However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, meant that ketchup—and its rotting, explosive tomato ingredients—was now regulated. In the image above 1909, the company making “Squire Tomato Catsup” was prosecuted and fined $50 for making ketchup from “Decomposed Material.”

Early ketchup was made from fermented skins and cores. These fermenting tomato leftovers could explode and burst their containers, so benzoate of soda was added a preservative.
However, the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt, meant that ketchup—and its rotting, explosive tomato ingredients—was now regulated. In the image above 1909, the company making “Squire Tomato Catsup” was prosecuted and fined $50 for making ketchup from “Decomposed Material.”  See the Prologue Blog for the full story.

 

 

This kind of mystery meat is more trick than treat:

Postcards Regarding the Chicago Meatpacking Industry, 10/09/1907

Postcards Regarding the Chicago Meatpacking Industry, 10/09/1907, NARA ID 2657925

 

 

This creeping doll is just creepy:

Drawing of Creeping Baby Doll, 03/14/1871 - 03/14/1871

Drawing of Creeping Baby Doll, 03/14/1871 – 03/14/1871, NARA ID 595011

 

 

But not as creepy as this wall of “heads”:

Holyoke, Massachusetts - Paragon Rubber Co. and American Character Doll. Spraying face, hands, and arms (Jewish) A plus., 1936 - 1937

Holyoke, Massachusetts – Paragon Rubber Co. and American Character Doll. Spraying face, hands, and arms (Jewish) A plus., 1936 – 1937, NARA ID 518351

 

 

A very scary rodent trap:

Drawing of an Animal Trap by J. A. Williams, 12/26/1882

Drawing of an Animal Trap by J. A. Williams, 12/26/1882, NARA ID 6037260

 

 

Animals in the Archives make us squeamish, especially when they are a part of the record:

Letter from Charity Snider, with accompanying mole skin, from her Civil War Widow's Pension Application File. The paper bears the discoloration from the unusual enclosure. (WC843258, Record Group 15)

Letter from Charity Snider, with accompanying mole skin, from her Civil War Widow’s Pension Application File. The paper bears the discoloration from the unusual enclosure. See Prologue blog for the full story.

 

Many thanks to Today’s Document and the Prologue blog for their spooky contributions.  What is the creepiest, most skin crawling record you’ve found at the National Archives?  Let us know, and have a very spooky Halloween!


Comments

judie October 25, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Thank you with Halloween coming up this is great.Keep up the great work and glad everyone is back to work.Have a great weekend.

Christian October 25, 2013 at 1:37 pm

This is a great post! The fear of being buried alive (especially pre-embalming) was very real. Some coffins had bells that could be wrung… just in case. This blog should be a regular feature and not just for the Halloween season.

Phil Brooks October 25, 2013 at 1:59 pm

Back in the late ’70s, we considered putting the patent drawing of the life preserving coffin on exhibit. I don’t remember that we actually did exhibit it, though…. :-)

Ella Ann Hatfield October 25, 2013 at 2:27 pm

We used this as part of our Halloween display!
Could be a semi regular feature Halloween, Christmas, Valentines, related patents etc.

Daniela Menafro October 26, 2013 at 2:43 pm

very funny..thank you

Mary Mohler October 26, 2013 at 10:09 pm

I think that I know where to find a mole trap, and flea markets have almost everything around here.

Pam Eisenberg October 28, 2013 at 6:20 pm

Wonderful post – and these inventors were serious. Wonder what the folks in 2113 will think about some of today’s inventions.

Tim Duskin October 29, 2013 at 8:28 am

Those post cards go by too fast for you to be able to read them.

Mary (admin) October 31, 2013 at 1:32 pm

Hi Tim, You can click on the cards and the link will take you directly to see all 6 in our catalog.

Reid Foster November 13, 2013 at 5:28 am

Hi Mary, It’s funny archives, cann’t stop to read. Especially, I just love the mystery meat section. really, you nailed it. :-)
Reid Foster

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