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Archive for 'Rare Photos'

Inside the Treasure Vault

First page of George Washington's First Inaugural Address, 04/30/1789 (1634180). Item from Record Group 46: Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789-2006.

The National Archives has over 3,000 employees, but not all of them are archivists. There are educators, social media writers, preservationists, security personnel, and Federal Records Center workers. Some of us handle records all day, but for many of us, our jobs do not bring us into direct contact with the records.

That’s why it is so exciting to go inside the Treasure Vault, as we call the specially secured and fire-safe room that holds some of the most interesting and precious documents of the National Archives. Today, some of our staff from various departments took a special trip to Treasure Vault of the Center for Legislative Archives (CLA), which holds the records of the  U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

These treasures range in content and across time, from Clifford Berryman’s political cartoons (when CLA acquired them, the drawings were stored in trash bags) to a radar map showing Japanese planes approaching Pearl Harbor to the electronic records from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9/11 Commission).

But my favorite record from Congress? It was George Washington’s inaugural address. The two sheets were in a protective case, but when the archivist held them up in front of me, it was still thrilling to see the … [ Read all ]

“The pole at last!”

Marie Peary Stafford poses with the plaque at the base of the monument.

Marie Peary Stafford poses with the plaque at the base of the monument. (Peary Family Collection, 401.001.02, Donated Materials in the National Archives)

When Robert Peary wrote “The pole at last!!!” into his diary on April 6, 1909, he had no idea that his claim would be disputed for the next several decades by experts who doubted that he and Matthew A. Henson were the first men to reach the North Pole.

Marie Peary Stafford had no such doubts, but her mission was equally difficult to complete. In 1932 she headed to a remote part of Greenland to erect a monument to her father’s accomplishments.

Marie had been born in Greenland while her father was on an expedition there, and she was now returning to the remote country with her two sons. She had raised the money and had the plans for the monument—56 feet high with decorative marble Ps at the top—created by a Boston firm. They charted the schooner Morrissey, and when they sailed away from the dock, Matthew Henson was on the shore to wave them off.

The expedition was recorded by a cameramen hired to film the events, but Marie’s diary revealed that she struggle to maintain control over mounting problems.

In a her Prologue article detailing Marie’s journey, National Archives preservation specialist Audrey Amidon notes that the five … [ Read all ]

A Factory Fire and Frances Perkins

Demonstration of protest and mourning for Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911, By an unknown photographer, New York City, New York, April 5, 1911; General Records of the Department of Labor; Record Group 174; National Archives.

Demonstration of protest and mourning for Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire of March 25, 1911, By an unknown photographer, New York City, New York, April 5, 1911; General Records of the Department of Labor; Record Group 174; National Archives.

Today marks 100 years since the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire—a blaze that lasted 18 minutes and left 146 workers dead.

Among the many in New York City who witnessed the tragedy was Frances Perkins, who would later become FDR’s Secretary of Labor, making her the first woman to serve in a Presidential cabinet.

As Secretary of Labor, Perkins was instrumental in creating and implementing the Social Security Act—but she was also intensely interested in the safety and rights of workers. “I came to Washington to work for God, FDR, and the millions of forgotten, plain common workingmen,” she said.

Perkins had a degree from Mount Holyoke College, where her coursework included touring factories. She later earned a master’s degree in in social economics from Columbia University. She had been working as factory inspector in New York at the time of the fire.

The fire started in a wastebasket on the eighth floor, and the flames jumped up onto the paper patterns that were hanging from the ceiling.

In an oral history, blouse operator Mary Domsky-Adams recalled that “My own machine was located near the locked front … [ Read all ]

FHF: Merry Christmas … Or else

new-years-safetyWhile the holiday season is a time for togetherness and reflection, some holiday posters leave you wondering, “did Santa just threaten me?”

Yes, even bearded Old St Nick was recruited during World War II to keep the war factories churning, but what was intended as a rallying cry for safety instead appears like a masked threat: If you don’t celebrate Christmas the way Santa intended, then (wink, wink) “you’d better watch out.”

And what exactly is intended anyway? Are we to spend Christmas and New Years schmoozing with young metaphoric years and footless St. Nicks passing out safety flyers?

Then again, the War Production Board was never one to pull punches when it came to encouraging people to work. They would threaten, cajole, guilt, or resort to arming Santa Claus to ensure war production stayed top priority. Below are just a few of the thousand-plus war posters that prove war production—cartoons, facial hair or no—was no laughing matter.
 

collage[ Read all ]

Rare photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg

The first photo discovered of Lincoln at Gettysburg

The first photo discovered of Lincoln at Gettysburg

In 1952, the chief of the Still Photo section at the National Archives, Josephine Cobb, discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speaker’s stand at Gettysburg on the day of its dedication as a National Cemetery. Edward Everett would speak from that stand later in the afternoon for two straight hours. Moments later, a tall, gaunt Abraham Lincoln would stand up and deliver a ten sentence speech in two minutes. It was the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln delivered his famous speech 147 years ago today. His speech is revered as one of the greatest in American history, yet until Josephine Cobb looked closer at that Mathew Brady photo in 1952, it was thought that no photo existed of the Great Emancipator at Gettysburg on the day he delivered that address.

Based off the placement of people, the slight elevation of a few in the center left field of the photograph, and where the crowd was looking, Cobb bet that Lincoln would be in the photo. Photo enlargement later proved her theory true, making this the first–and possibly only–photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg.*

Cobb estimated that the photo was taken around noontime, before Edward Everett arrived, and about three hours before Lincoln delivered his famous address. Below is the original, uncropped photo.

The original uncropped photo of the speakers stand at Gettysburg

The original uncropped

[ Read all ]