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Archive for '- World War I'

The American Flag

Today’s post, in honor of Flag Day, comes from Alex Nieuwsma, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlights the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlighted the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles, June 14, 1918. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as the National Flag of the United States of America. Through its many changes and iterations, the American flag has come to represent the physical geography of the nation by including as many stars as states, as well as a remembrance of the nation’s origins as seen in the 13 red and white stripes.

The American flag also serves as a reminder of what America and her citizens represent: liberty, equality, and justice.

Designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the flag was originally intended to be used as a naval sign. However, growing nationalism around the world during the 18th century led many countries to establish a national flag, the United States included. It is unclear how or why Congress selected Hopkinson’s design for this honor.

The involvement of Betsy Ross in the design and creation of the first American flag is largely fictitious. It is likely that her grandson, William J. … [ Read all ]

The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

Original Coke Bottle Patent,  November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Original Coke Bottle Patent, November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same.

To distinguish its product from competitors, in 1915 the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition among glassmakers to design a new bottle that was distinctive in both look and feel.

The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, sought inspiration from Coca-Cola’s ingredients. However, the bottle’s fluted contour shape was instead modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The Coca-Cola Company adopted the Root Glass Company’s bottle design in 1916, but the original prototype was never manufactured because it was top-heavy and unstable.

The first commercial “Coke” bottles debuted with a wider base and slimmed-down, contoured shape. This silhouette became so unmistakable that in 1961 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave it trademark status.

See the original patent in person at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 4 through July 29, 2015, in the West Rotunda Gallery and from October 29 through December 2, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery.

And check out the post, “Inventing in Congress: Patent Law since 1790” to learn more about the history of patent law in the … [ 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 ]

On Exhibit: sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s lifeboat storage mechanism

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

To honor the pivotal role its sinking played in turning U.S. popular opinion against Germany during World War I, a sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s lifeboat storage mechanism is now on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Sketch Showing Lifeboats Stowed and Secured on Board the RMS. Lusitania, 12/6/1917. National Archives Identifier 17369675

Sketch showing lifeboats stowed and secured on board the RMS Lusitania, 12/6/1917. (National Archives Identifier 17369675)

Built in England, the RMS Lusitania was the pride of the Cunard Line’s fleet. Lusitania completed 201 Atlantic ocean crossings between her maiden voyage in September 1907 and May 1915, holding the record for the fastest time between 1907 and 1909.

The Lusitania left New York for the final time on May 1, 1915, under good weather, but that did not mean she was entering calm waters.

Although technically still neutral in 1915, the United States continued to conduct commerce with the Great Britain, a practice that put the Lusitania at risk. Fearing passenger boats would be used to ship war material, the German government approved unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1915.

After sighting her on May 7, 1915, off the coast of Ireland, the German submarine U-20 fired a single torpedo at the ship at 3:10 p.m. It was a direct hit.

A secondary explosion rocked the Lusitania shortly after … [ Read all ]

Enemy Aliens in Kansas City

Today’s post comes from Kimberlee Ried, public programs specialist at the National Archives in Kansas City, MO.

After war was declared by Congress in April 1917, non-naturalized “enemy aliens” were required to register with the Department of Justice as a national security measure. A Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917, meant that “all natives, citizens, denizens or subjects of the German Empire” age 14 and older who were “within the United States” needed to register as “alien enemies.”

The National Archives at Kansas City has a collection of the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits for the state of Kansas. These documents are full of valuable information for researchers.

Alexander Walter was born May 18, 1828, in Hanover, Germany. He was also a Civil War veteran who lived in the National Military Home in Leavenworth, KS. He had to fill out this registration form in 1918—at the age of 90.

Alexander Walter was born May 18,1828, in Hanover, Germany. He was also a Civil War veteran who lived in the National Military Home in Leavenworth, KS. He had to fill out this registration form in 1918. (Page three of registration form, National Archives at Kansas City)

(Page three of Enemy Alien Registration Affidavit, National Archives at Kansas City)

 

The registrations occurred from November 1917 to April 1918.  Initially the registration included only men; the regulations stated, “females are not alien enemies.” However, an act of April 16, 1918, extended the definition of “enemy aliens” to include women age 14 and older. This was followed three days later by a Presidential proclamation that included women of American birth who were married to enemy … [ Read all ]