What a year! Here’s some of the highlights of the last 12 months of the National Archives that we shared on our blog. Thanks for reading in 2014–we’ll see you in 2015 with more pieces of history!
The National Archives turned 80
- The Historian of the National Archives, Jessie Kratz, shared the stories of an agency devoted to saving the stories of the United States. She wrote about the creation of the building, what our website looked like 20 years ago, and looked at the scary conditions that records were kept in before the creation of the National Archives. We also learned about the staff who first worked here, and archivist Alan Walker solved the mystery of the acetate foil lady.
We The Poets
- For American Archives Month, the National Archives teamed up with the Academy of American Poets. We published original poems inspired by the holdings of the National Archives. Poets looked at documents and photographs and then wrote on a wide range of topics, from “A Carpapalooza: An American Anthem” to “Much Tattooed Sailor Aboard USS New Jersey.” You can watch the all poets recite their work on our YouTube
Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, an archivist at the National Archives in St. Louis.
The year was 1943, and Elizabeth “Betty” Maxine Chambers was a young mother and a widow. Betty’s husband, Army pilot Lt. Robert William Chambers, had died in 1942 when his P-38F Lightening aircraft crashed at Mills Field in San Mateo, California. Undaunted, Betty applied to be among the first female pilots in the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.
A native of Hollywood, California, Betty worked for the Walt Disney Company inking cartoon celluloid cells and for Universal Studios inking cells for “picture process work.” After the death of her husband, Betty and her baby moved in with her parents; she also acquired a more stable job as a telephone operator at Southern California Telephone Company.
Betty wanted more. Like more than 1,000 other women, she took to the skies to find it.
Betty and her comrades applied to an innovative civilian program designed to employ women to ferry wartime aircraft, serve as flight instructors, tow targets for live antiaircraft practice, transport cargo, and fly experimental aircraft. These female pilots relieved men from domestic duties so they could fight overseas in the war.
The WASP program … [ Read all ]
Alan Walker, an archivist in the Textual Processing unit in the National Archives at College Park, MD, just solved a mystery that staff have wondered about for many years.
Mark down this auspicious date, for I shall reveal to you the identity of this longtime mystery woman. You’ve probably seen this photo many a time on the National Archives’s social media; it’s a great image of one of our forebears having rollicking fun with some acetate laminating foil.
Jackie Martin, a photographer with International News Photos, was at the Archives Building in 1946 to shoot photos for a planned story about the National Archives. I imagine she wanted to liven things up a bit, and the idea for draping our mystery woman in laminating foil arose from that. The original negatives for all of these photos are in her papers at Syracuse University.
But until now, we have not known the name of our foil-bedecked lady. So how did I solve the mystery?
Well, I was looking through more of the 64-NA photos that recently uploaded into the new National Archives Catalog, and I found this image.
Then I recalled seeing her … [ Read all ]
Tim Gunn will be at the National Archives on December 11, hosting “Deck the Halls: Holidays at the White House.” Join us in person or watch live on our YouTube channel. Details at the bottom of this blog post!
It was 40 years before his famous catchphrase, but Tim Gunn knew he needed to “make it work” if he wanted to get the Christmas tree decorated in time at the White House.
The future Project Runway star had recently begun teaching three-dimensional design at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, DC, when the call came in. The White House was asking for students to make original ornaments for the tree in the Blue Room.
But just like a challenge on Project Runway, there was a catch: they had one week.
In Gunn’s Golden Rules: Life’s Little Lessons for Making It Work, Gunn recalled that they were excited to have the opportunity—and intensely curious about how the White House had come to be in this situation. “We heard a rumor,” he wrote, “that the Jimmy Carter White House perceived the work of this original ornament maker to be “inappropriate,” and we had a wonderful time trying to imagine what in the world those ornaments had looked like.”
His second-year students … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on December 4, 2014, under - Presidents, The 1970s.
Tags: Blue Room, Christmas, Christmas tree, holiday tradition, Jimmy Carter, Make It Work, Project Runway, Rosalynn Carter, Tim Gunn, White House
Today’s post comes from Timothy Rives, deputy director of the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum. In honor of Veterans Day and those who have worn a uniform while serving their country, here’s the story behind the famous jacket now on display in our exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures.”
General Dwight D. Eisenhower considered the Army’s World War II military uniform to be restricting and poorly suited for combat. Instead he had a standard issue wool field jacket tailored to be “very short, very comfortable, and very natty looking.” The resulting “Eisenhower jacket” or “Ike jacket,” as it came to be known, was standard issue to American troops after November 1944. This “Ike jacket” was worn by Eisenhower.
Ike urged theater-wide adoption of the shorter jacket in a May 5, 1943, letter to General George C. Marshall, the Army Chief of Staff:
… [ Read all ]
I have no doubt that you have been impressed by the virtual impossibility of appearing neat and snappy in our field uniform. Given a uniform which tends to look a bit tough, and the natural proclivities of the American soldier quickly create a general impression of a disorderly mob. From this standpoint alone, the matter is bad enough; but