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Throughout this past year, the National Archives and Federal agencies have been working to implement the Digital Government Strategy by improving digital services to better serve you.

We’ve worked toward specific milestones that improve access to government information and we launched to report on our progress.  We sought your ideas for improvement in August and now you can see our progress toward making available mobile apps and web APIs.

Mobile:  We’ve mobile optimized, released a mobile site for Presidential Documents, and a mobile app called “To the Brink: JFK and the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which makes available photos, documents, and recordings from the related exhibit.

Presidential Docs Mobile Site

To the Brink Mobile App

To the Brink Mobile App 

Web APIs: We’ve expanded the API to include the Public Inspection Desk and integration with  We’ve also included created an interactive dataset and API for Executive Orders from 1994 to 2012 on     

We continue to increase the records we make available on sites like Wikipedia and Flickr, which have robust mobile and web API capabilities.  These projects, in addition to our work on the Digital Public Library of America, greatly expand public access to government records.

Engaging Developers:  We launched to promote innovative uses of our data and tools in the public and private sectors.  We’re participating in the National Day of Civic Hacking on June 1-2, 2013, by sponsoring several challenges related to visualizing historical datasets and developing a mobile app for researchers to easily upload digital images of historical records.  We’re looking forward to see what innovative solutions might be developed by the public.

National Day of Civic Hacking

All of our efforts, however, are only a piece of the larger Federal Government effort to improve digital services.  You can check out other agencies’ developer hubs and new mobile services and APIs, including a new API for the State Department’s Office of the Historian Ebook Catalog, which contains all of the ebooks from the Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series.

The National Archives’ Online Public Access (OPA) system will be down for maintenance from May 10 to May 25, 2013. We are in the process of rolling out a new version of OPA that will bring the catalog up to date. After the updated system is rolled out, the catalog will be updated on a weekly basis. We apologize for the inconvenience and thank you for your patience as we work to improve the system!

You may wish to use the Archival Research Catalog (ARC) for your research during this period of downtime. The descriptions or catalog records will be available in ARC, although all digital images in ARC will be unavailable for this period. Please check out OPA after May 25th!

If you have any questions, please contact us at

Please bear with us as we bring you a new and improved online public access catalog!
["Aircraft Schools. Boys training as maintenance men at Aero Industries Technical Institute, 05/01/1940. National Archives Identifier 532186]


Today’s post comes from Stephanie Stegman, Volunteer at the National Archives at Fort Worth

The Fort Smith Criminal Case Files, 1866-1900 used to be difficult to search, but not anymore.  These Wild West court cases offer a glimpse of what life was like on the frontier between western Arkansas and the Indian Territory, which today is Oklahoma.  The National Archives at Fort Worth has a new website designed to guide you step by step through these colorful records.

Research Guide screenshot

The United States District Court for the Western District of Arkansas was unusual because from 1851 until 1896 its jurisdiction extended westward, beyond the state of Arkansas, and into Indian Territory.  Tribal courts heard cases involving crimes committed among their own members until 1885.  However, most of the criminal offenses that occurred in this large area of 74,000 square miles were tried at the federal district court level.  These cases include a large number of liquor violations and larceny, such as stealing horses, as well as instances of murder and mayhem that we commonly associate with classic Western television shows.

John Middleton

Acting Lt. Governor of Texas, Barnett Gibbs’s Proclamation for the Apprehension of John Middleton, 04/21/1885  (National Archives Identifier 5898031)

After a fire at the original court seat in Van Buren, the Western District of Arkansas moved to Fort Smith on the Arkansas River in 1871 and into the recently closed U.S. Army barracks building in 1872.  For the next twenty years, the court heard cases from Indian Territory, where the lawless often went to hide out and ran into other criminals as well as law-abiding citizens.  The Fort Smith court records mention not only the defendants, but also some of the victims, witnesses, U.S. marshals, deputy marshals, and other court employees.

The criminal case files (also called defendant jackets) have been scanned and are available online through

Sam and Belle Starr jacket on screen capture

These records tell sensational (and sometimes graphic) stories from the history of the American West with cases involving infamous outlaws: the “Bandit Queen” Belle Starr, the Dalton Gang, Crawford Goldsby (alias Cherokee Bill), and murderer-turned-silent-movie-star Henry Starr, to name a few.  Famous lawmen and jurists like the legendary black U.S. Deputy Marshal Bass Reeves and “Hanging” Judge Isaac C. Parker also make frequent appearances.

One researcher found 287 separate cases that mention Bass Reeves.  A former slave from Texas, Reeves had a distinguished career as a deputy marshal and served the federal district court for 32 years.  This number isn’t surprising, given his long career and his knack for capturing suspected criminals.  The men (and a few women) who were deputy marshals did the majority of the court’s work.  They served writs, gave testimony, and led posses as well as transporting and capturing or killing outlaws.

Oath of Office for Bass Reeves, 1889 (National Archives Identifier 6851120)

The National Archives at Fort Worth’s new research guide provides a description of these and other resources to explain the “who, what, when, and where” of the criminal case files.  In addition to case files, related court records also may help researchers to create a more complete picture of a particular case.  For a number of years, Fort Worth’s volunteers have worked to flatten documents, index records, and understand how these bits and pieces fit together.  Now all of these efforts are available online.

To learn more, visit the National Archives at Fort Worth’s website:

Starting on Friday, March 15, the National Archives will reduce public hours at two locations in the Washington, DC, area as part of actions it is taking due to sequestration.

These reductions will affect exhibit spaces and research rooms at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and research rooms at the National Archives at College Park, Maryland.

In the past, the National Archives offered extended hours for exhibit spaces from March 15 through Labor Day, when the building stayed open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.  We will no longer offer these extended hours. Exhibit spaces at the National Archives Building in Washington DC will remain open to the public from 10:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., seven days a week, year round. Please note that the last admission will be at 5:00 p.m.

Research rooms at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and the National Archives at College Park, Maryland, are normally open to researchers six days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. three days a week (Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday).  We will no longer offer these extended hours. The research rooms will remain open to researchers from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday, year round.

In announcing the reduced hours, the Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero said “We don’t take these reductions lightly. We are working hard to achieve our mission and minimize disruptions to the services we provide to the public.”

Thanks for your patience and understanding as we adjust our hours and work to serve researchers and visitors.

*Update: Please note the research rooms will still be open until 9:00 pm on Friday, March 15th. This will be the last day for extended hours. As of Saturday, March 16th, the research room hours will be 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.

Clock on Nicollet Mall

On South 9th Street on Nicollet Mall the Huge Clock provides the time and a Resting Place, 06/1973, National Archives Identifier 551447

Motown Was Not Afraid

by on February 14, 2013

So many songs, so many lawsuits.  As February brings a plethora of romantic tunes to the airwaves and to people’s hearts, a copyright case recalls how one of the most popular Motown creations was alleged to have been plagiarized from another source.

When Baby Love was sung by popular “girl group” The Supremes, it became a number one song in 1964.  It was written and produced by the prolific team of Holland-Dozier-Holland (H-D-H), a hit-making trio at the Detroit-based studio.

Record of baby love

Record of Baby Love recorded by The Supremes in 1964, used as an exhibit in the court case.

However, in 1966, Lorenzo Pack, head of New York-based Packson Music Publishing Company, sued Motown Record Corporation, (subsidiary) Motown Sales Corporation, and the Jobete Music Company for copyright infringement.  The civil action, case number 28687, was filed in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division, also located in Detroit.

Pack claimed his 1962 song I’m Afraid was copied in part by H-D-H.  Pack, a former prize fighter, was questioned in painstaking detail about how he and co-writer Harper Evans came to compose the song together, with the opposing lawyer wondering how they were able to write the melody with only one of the men being able to read music “a little bit.”  The retired pugilist explained that the two sang the song back and forth and wrote as much as they could until they were satisfied with it.  Subsequently, they took the song to a musician who was able to formally write the music on “onion skin.”

Further, in Pack’s deposition he claimed he recorded I’m Afraid around 1962-1963, but did not release it immediately because he felt it was not quite complete.  He waited a few months to go back to overdub the original.  However, Packson Music ended up never releasing the song, even though it was recorded in a studio with several instruments, a lead singer, and backup singers.  Moreover, it turns out there were 100 copies of the sheet music printed, but none were sold.

So that begs the question, if the song was not released, and the sheet music was not sold, how could H-D-H copy it?  Pack claimed he played the song for and showed the music to a couple different companies in or around the famous Brill Building in New York, where many in the music industry were located.  However, under intense questioning by one of the defendants’ attorneys, George Schiffer, Pack was unable to name most of the people who heard his song, although he was certain the wife and the sister of Berry Gordy, founder of Motown, were two of them.

The terse Schiffer finally asked Pack how I’m Afraid and Baby Love are similar.  Pack claimed the first two bars of the songs are the same, the rhythmic structure is identical, the chord changes are similar, and that “there is an infringement in the melody.”  Pack said he heard Baby Love on the radio and when he was humming it, “it struck me that ‘Baby Love’ was ‘I’m Afraid.’”

Baby love record image

Exhibit used to compare the two songs named in the court case.

In addition to a few musicians who analyzed the songs and said they were dissimilar, there were depositions from those at Motown who, too, refuted Pack’s claims.  Arranger Hank Cosby said Brian Holland, Eddie Holland, and Lamont Dozier brought him the song and that they had “very specific ideas about the whole arrangement and the sound they wanted to produce.”  Cosby also said that “as an arranger of many years experience and a professional musician, it is obvious that the two songs…are very different….  The structure or form of the songs is not at all the same.  I’m Afraid is in the old fashioned thirty-two (32) bar form.  Baby Love is in the twelve (12) bar form.  This form gives an entirely different feeling than a normal thirty-two (32) bar song.  It would be much more emphatic and direct.”

Cosby concluded by stating that the only way the two songs are similar is they use a “two note theme.”  But those themes have been used in numerous popular songs such as Till the End of Time, Dancing Cheek to Cheek, and It Might As Well Be Spring.

In April 1967, depositions were given by Holland, Dozier, and Holland.  Lamont Dozier put it succinctly saying, in addition to his never having met Pack, “I had never heard the composition performed in any way and it was never sung to me by anyone.  I have never seen…sheet music or any other written form of the composition I’m Afraid….  In no way was the song Baby Love based on anyone else’s ideas or suggestions.”

Brian Holland went into more detail about the creation of Baby Love.  “When we write a song, we try to express real feelings about a real situation….  In writing the song for the Supremes it was obvious that we were writing for pretty young girls, of whom one is the so-called lead singer….  Therefore, in writing Baby Love, we pictured a simple story about a girl whose boyfriend has left her and who loves him very dearly and who would like the boy to come back.  The music…fits this simple story.”

The “Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law” from October 1967 by Judge Talbot Smith stated that the song entitled I’m Afraid is “dissimilar in every material respect” from Baby Love except that they each use a “two-note motive” for their melodies, and that is common in “musical literature.”  Also, “the Court further concludes that there was no evidence that the writers of Baby Love had access to the musical composition I’m Afraid.”

In the “Judgment,” from December 1967, Judge Smith ordered in favor of the defendants “dismissing the action with costs and disbursements to be taxed by the Clerk in favor of the Defendants and against the Plaintiff.”

Within a couple weeks of the dismissal, the plaintiff filed an appeal.  Whether that case uncovered any more interesting testimony remains to be seen.  But given the facts of the original case, Motown would have no cause to be afraid.

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