Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Archive for 'Uncategorized'

The Hello Girls Finally Get Paid

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, who is an archivist at the National Archives at St. Louis, where she manages the collection of archival civilian personnel records.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. Along with the men who were recruited to fight, women were eager to assist with war efforts. Such was the case with Isabelle Villiers. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1894, she acted on her patriotic pride and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force in May 1917.

For eight months, Isabelle Villiers (Yeoman, 1st class) worked as a confidential secretary in the office of Commodore A.L. Key at the Boston Navy Yard. However, after reading an announcement in the newspaper calling for telephone operators, she decided she could better serve her country overseas.

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers from her civilian file at the National Archives at St. Louis

The war, which had already raged since 1914, had taken its toll on European infrastructure. General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, had devised a solution for the poor communication on the war front. War had destroyed the existing French telephone system and he felt that telegrams were too slow and expressionless. Furthermore, General Pershing wanted to establish direct communication between troops on the front line and the general-in-command as well as between allied units.

While servicemen … [ Read all ]

On Exhibit: The American Debate about Alcohol Consumption During World War II

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

In March 2015 the National Archives opened “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” a new exhibit that explores the complex love-hate relationship between America and alcohol.

The exhibit’s curator, Bruce Bustard, has written, “These two different views of alcoholic beverages run throughout American history. Sometimes they have existed in relative peace; at other times they have been at war.”

Some of the documents not only represent the war of opposing views regarding Prohibition, but they also highlight the debate over alcohol consumption within an even larger conflict—World War II.

On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the repeal of the 18th Amendment, ending the prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States. Although the American government concluded its legal war on alcohol, the American people remained divided.  This friction—documented in the exhibit—continued throughout World War II.

"Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy." Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

“Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

One such document is a 1943 petition to Congress for the return to Prohibition, titled “Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” By associating alcohol with Hitler—at the height of World War II—it is evident that the 19 petitioners, both men and women, considered alcohol an evil.

Within the opening of their appeal, the authors … [ Read all ]

Strategically Important: West Point

Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak, archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.

The Continental Army and Gen. Samuel Parsons first occupied the land at West Point, New York, owned by Steven Moore, in the winter of 1778. The fort was crucial in defending New York, the Hudson River, and the lines of communication to the northeastern states. The new American government continued to lease the property from Moore after the Revolutionary War.

During the First Congress, the House of Representatives received a petition, the fourth sent by Moore, to receive compensation for damages to his property. The House forwarded the claim to the Treasury Department. On June 10, 1790, the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, reported back to the House that a permanent military post should be established at West Point. Hamilton believed this purchase was “expedient and necessary,” as guarding the Hudson River was essential to the “public safety.” On June 15, a committee appointed to look into the matter reported out HR 76, which authorized the purchase of the land from Moore.

Page one of the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the petition of Stephen Moore advocating the retention by the U.S. of West Point as a military post, June 10, 1790; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Page one of the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the petition of Stephen Moore advocating the retention by the U.S. of West Point as a military post, June 10, 1790; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Page two of the Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the petition of Stephen Moore advocating the retention by the U.S. of West Point as a military post, June 10, 1790; Records of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Page two of the Report of

[ Read all ]

Sinking of the RMS Lusitania

Today’s post comes from Zach Kopin, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Last month I wrote a blog post on the sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s lifeboat launch system, which is on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The National Archives, however, holds another document related to the famous sinking of the Lusitania: the log book of U-20, the submarine that fired the torpedo that sunk the ship.

Cover page from the U-20’s log book, in the original German, 1915. (Archives Identifier 785591)

Cover page from the U-20’s log book, in the original German, 1915. (Archives Identifier 785591)

The onset of the First World War saw the widespread use of weapons that had seen only limited combat in previous conflicts. In addition to machine guns and airplanes, gas and tanks, World War I was the first major conflict that saw the widespread use of submarines. The Germans, especially, relied upon a large fleet of Unterseeboats to harass British shipping.

In November 1914 the British blockaded the North Sea, restricting all shipping, including food and medical shipments. In retaliation the German High Command contemplated something unthinkable in the past: sinking all enemy ships regardless of military status. Imperial Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on November 4, 1914.

Concerned over the international response to this declaration, the German Embassy in Washington, hoping to avoid controversy, published notices specifically warning American passengers not to travel aboard the Lusitania and … [ Read all ]

Location, Location, Location: Settling on a Capital City

Today’s post comes from Judith Adkins, an archivist at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Senate Resolution that Congress should meet in Philadelphia, May 24, 1790. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Senate Resolution that Congress shall meet in Philadelphia, May 24, 1790. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

While the First Congress met for its two sessions in New York City, delegates from Pennsylvania longed to move the seat of government back to Philadelphia, home of the Continental Congress.

On May 24, 1790, Senator Robert Morris of Pennsylvania offered a resolution, “That Congress shall meet and Hold their next Session in the City of Philadelphia”—the first overture on the issue during the second session.

Three days later, Congressman Thomas Fitzsimons, also from Pennsylvania, introduced an almost identical resolution in the House of Representatives.

Debate ensued.

That spirited discussion was recorded in the Annals of Congress, the predecessor publication to today’s Congressional Record. Representative Elbridge Gerry worried that Congress would become “a political shuttlecock, bandied about between two rival cities.” Some in Congress argued for keeping the government in New York until a permanent residence had been determined.

Other members insisted that Philadelphia be made the permanent seat of government. And still others proposed Baltimore or Wilmington as temporary homes.

In late June, the House and Senate reached a compromise: the permanent capital would be located along the Potomac River, satisfying the fervent … [ Read all ]