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Archive for 'Prologue Magazine'

An airing of grievances: A pension clerk’s appeal

Caption:  An appeal by Pension Office clerk C.L.H. accompanies the complex Whitehead pension file (File number WC #80024, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

An appeal by Pension Office clerk C.L.H. accompanies the complex Whitehead pension file (File number WC #80024, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

In honor of Festivus, this seems like the perfect document for the airing of grievances. This feature was originally published in Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives (Summer 2013).

At the National Archives, and almost any other archival institution, one of the principal rules for using original records is to keep the records in the same order in which they are given to you.

We benefit in our research from the care taken by unknown prior custodians of the records. Their work is usually invisible, but in the case of our featured document, a clerk’s voice breaks through from the 19th century.

At the back of the Civil War widow’s pension file based on the service of Pvt. Stephen Whitehead, a Pension Office clerk wrote:

These papers having been sorted with considerable care and for convenience arranged in something like their logical order, are now fastened together in the hope that the next man may escape the annoyance and drudgery that would be entailed were they chucked back in the promiscuous condition in which they were found.

Jany. 16, 1894.                              C.L.H.

 

The clerk’s frustration is understandable in light of the complexity of the Whitehead pension case. In 1860, … [ Read all ]

Fala and Barkers for Britain, 1941

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House Study, Washington, DC, 12/20/1941. (National Archives Identifier 6728526)

President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Fala in the White House Study, Washington, DC, 12/20/1941. (National Archives Identifier 6728526)

Today’s post commemorates National Dog Day, which celebrates dogs everywhere on August 26. Bow-wow!

Calling all dog lovers—arguably history’s best known Presidential pet was Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, Murray the Outlaw of Falahill (Fala for short), who was named after FDR’s famous Scottish ancestor, John Murray. He was given to Roosevelt in 1940 as a Christmas gift by his cousin Margaret Suckley. Not long after entering the White House, fame encompassed Fala’s life as he began to appear in political cartoons, news articles, movie shorts, and even FDR’s campaign speeches.

He was beloved by all White House staff, so much so that he was hospitalized after his first few weeks at the White House from being overfed by the kitchen staff. Due to this incident, FDR issued an order to his staff stating that Fala was to be fed by the President alone—talk about royal treatment. Furthermore, Fala was so well known that Secret Service agents called him “The Informer” because, during secret wartime Presidential trips, the dog was instantly recognized while out on his walks.

Fala Photographing the Photographers at the White House, Washington, DC, 04/07/1942. (National Archives Identifier 6728525)

Fala photographing the photographers at the White House, Washington, DC, 04/07/1942. (National Archives Identifier 6728525)

Aside from being President Roosevelt’s right hand man, Fala’s political side was put to good use in … [ Read all ]

Monuments Men Coming to the National Archives

A new movie due for release next month tells the story of a special unit of Allied soldiers in Europe at the end of World War II. They were charged with finding and savings works of art and other cultural artifacts that the Nazis had seized.

Officially, this unit was called the Monuments, Fine Art, and Archives (MFA&A) section, but unofficially, they were the Monuments Men. But you don’t have to wait until the movie, also called Monuments Men, is released to learn about them. Greg Bradsher, a senior archivist and a specialist in this period in history, tells one story of the Monuments Men in the latest issue of Prologue magazine.

Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II, April-May, 1945.

Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) Officer James Rorimer supervises U.S. soldiers recovering looted paintings from Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany during World War II, April-May, 1945.

Bradsher is a frequent contributor to Prologue and an archivist specializing in World War II intelligence, looted assets, and war crimes.
In his article, Bradsher provides an account of how U.S. soldiers found a cache of treasures and called in the Monuments Men.
The most unusual find was a group of four caskets—with the remains of Frederick the Great, Frederick William I, and President Paul von Hindenberg and his wife. What happened to them? Bradsher has the answer.

The movie has an all-star cast: Oscar … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Portrait of the Artist with a Mustache

This self portrait, with carefully groomed mustache in the center, is a glamorous photo of a hardworking, groundbreaking photographer. James Stephen “Steve” Wright was from a working-class family in Washington, DC. By the 1940s he was head of photographic operations for the Federal Works Agency.

But like many young black men at the time, he began at the very bottom of the career ladder, working at the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (FEAPW) as a messenger and chauffeur. However, unlike other young black men at time, Wright worked for FEAPW Administrator Harold Ickes, who fought battles over segregation and discrimination, and who hired like-minded people into his agency. Wright moved on to assembling newspaper clippings and eventually was recruited by the FEAPW photographic head Hyman Greenberg.

In an interview with Nicholas Natason, Wright recalled that “In those days, it was tough for a black man even to become a file clerk in the government . . . You had to mind your P’s and Q’s, because there were lower-level whites who resented the fact that you were doing photography at all and were waiting for you to stumble.”

Steve Wright, precedent-setting photographer for New Deal agencies and the Department of State, shown during his Federal Works Agency days.

But Wright was extremely good at his job; he was efficient, diplomatic and organized. As the … [ Read all ]

Striking Gold in the Records

A vial of gold found in the case file of Heine v. Roth in the National Archives at Anchorage (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)

People often refer to the National Archives as a “treasure trove” of history. Usually they’re referring to the wealth of knowledge documented in our billions of pieces of paper. But occasionally you come across something that would not be out of place in a real treasure chest.

At the end of the 19th century, thousands of gold-seekers headed to Alaska. Few found even enough gold to pay for the voyage north, but a little bit of the precious ore found its way into federal records at the National Archives in Anchorage.

The 1904 case of Heine v. Roth concerned waterfront property rights. George Roth had purchased land on the banks of the Chena River near Fairbanks and prospected for gold there. C. H. Heine also occupied land near the Chena and had filed a homestead claim on May 6, 1904, for 35 acres.

On July 15, 1904, Heine asked Roth to leave the property and had him arrested for trespassing when Roth refused. In court they argued over who had claim to the waterfront property, which was accessible only during low tide. Heine argued that Roth’s camp denied him access to the river. Roth argued … [ Read all ]