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Archive for '- Great Depression'

Eleanor Roosevelt, what’s in your wallet?

Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884. She was the niece of former President Theodore Roosevelt, and later became the wife of future President Franklin D. Roosevelt (her fifth cousin).

She is known for her role as First Lady during the Great Depression and World War II. She was the first woman in that role to hold a press conference, and she was an advocate for minorities, the disadvantaged, and the disabled.

In her post–White House life, she served as chair of the Human Rights Commission for the United Nations General Assembly and as first chairperson of the President’s Commission on the Status of Women.

But to get a different sense of Mrs. Roosevelt’s many causes, interests, and associations, we can look inside her wallet.

Among the many cards and bits of paper, she had a license from the state of New York to carry a pistol, an expired card to the Newspaper Guild’s Press Club in New York City, a Diner’s Club Credit Card, a health insurance card, a “Bell System Credit Card” with instructions on how to make a collect call, a St. Christopher card for the patron saint of travel, and an air travel card.

The contents of her wallet—cards, photographs, bits of poems—at the time of her death in 1962 are now part of the holdings of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. You can … [ Read all ]

An Egg-centric White House Tradition

Today’s an eggs-ellent day in Washington, DC, for young people! It’s the annual White House Easter Egg Roll, where hundreds of children gather to roll eggs and play games on the South Lawn of the President’s House.

But the tradition did not start at the White House. It began on the lawns and terraces of the Capitol after the Civil War. Children of all races and backgrounds rolled eggs and played games on the turf around the Capitol.

But in 1878, children who arrived at the Capitol on Easter Monday were turned away.

Congress had passed a law to prevent these young citizens from taking such liberties on the grounds, and it became the “duty of the Capitol police hereafter to prevent any portion of the Capitol grounds and terraces from being used as playgrounds or otherwise.”

It’s not clear how the party was rolled over to the White House, but a newspaper clipping in Rutherford B. Hayes’s personal scrapbook shows he was the first President to officially allow the Executive Mansion to be used for egg rolling. (There were informal egg rollings there as early as Lincoln’s administration.)

The good times and egg rolling continued through the following Presidential administrations with a few brief interruptions. In 1917, during World War I, the egg roll was canceled until 1920 because of concerns of the waste of … [ Read all ]

A Factory Fire and Frances Perkins

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 doors, and I often looked with fear at the darkness that loomed through the half-glassed door, which made me feel as if some secret force were peering out from there. And it was before this door that the … [ Read all ]

Romance in the Records

I was worried I would never find love at the National Archives.

When Scribd.com approached my office about promoting Prologue magazine by creating a collection of romantic records for their Valentine’s Day “Eat Say Love” event, I was very doubtful. Would I be able to find enough romance in the records to put together a collection?

The answer, of course, is yes! (The answer is also to ask your colleagues for help!)  The National Archives holds the records of a nation, and that includes our love stories. From lovestruck teenagers to future First Ladies on honeymoon to Depression-era valentines, Americans have left the evidence of their feelings in the records.

You can see all our romantic documents in our collection “Romance through History,” but I’ve highlighted three images below that tugged or tickled my heartstrings.

Happy Valentine’s Day!… [ Read all ]

Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment

Yesterday we celebrated Thanksgiving, as usual, on the fourth Thursday of November. Today shoppers are hitting the stores for “Black Friday” super discounts to kick off holiday shopping.

But until 1939, Thanksgiving Day was traditionally the last Thursday in November. That year there were five Thursdays in the month, and concern about a shortened shopping season prompted President Franklin Roosevelt to break tradition and move the holiday a week back.  His action pleased retailers but rattled calendar makers. Read all about it in:

Prologue Magazine – “Thanksgiving: Another FDR Experiment”

[ Read all ]