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Archive for June, 2010

NPRC helps solve headstone riddle at Arlington National Cemetery

When Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport uncovered the headstones of American veterans lying in a murky stream bed at Arlington National Cemetery this month, NARA’s National Personnel Records Center was solicited to help identify one of the partially legible grave markers.

Officials at Arlington National Cemetery were unsure how the stones got into the creek, to whom they belonged, and how old they were. It was possible the stones were engraved incorrectly and the discarded stones were used to line the stream bed. But it was also possible that these were the headstones of fallen veterans.

One headstone in particular offered some clues. With a design that was discontinued in the late 1980s, it offered some time frame as to when the markers arrived in the stream bed.

More important, there was a partially legible name on the marker. If the name could be associated with a veteran, it could explain where the headstones came from, when they were put there, and also help restore honor to one of America’s fallen heroes. The headstone only showed the rank of a Navy captain, and the name J (or L) Warren McLaughlin.

At the National Archives, veterans’ records from the 20th century are stored at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), located in St. Louis, MO.

The NPRC first heard of the issue from Doug Sterner who … [ Read all ]

Swiss you were here!

The New York Times called it “engrossing and eminently fascinating.” The Richmond Times Dispatch said “Discovering the Civil War” “isn’t your typical Civil War retrospective.” And the Neue Zurcher Zeitung called the National Archives’ newest exhibit, “einer grandiosen Ausstellung in Washington.”

Wait . . . was that German?

Yes, DCTW isn’t just making a splash in the United States, it’s big in Switzerland, too, and even got a mention in Der Spiegel, Germany’s largest paper.

Such international reviews only underscore part of what DTCW tells us about the Civil War: that it was an international affair. From the Confederate envoys sent to Europe to secure the blessing of the Pope to Chinese blockades of Confederate goods and ship raids by the CSS Alabama off the shores of South Africa, the Civil War was not just a domestic dispute.

Part one of “Discovering the Civil War” runs through September 2010. Part two, “Consequences,” opens November 2010.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Howe you doin’?

It’s Friday, and it’s time for facial hair! But it’s not entirely clear if Col. Howe qualifies, as his “beard” seems to extend upwards from his neck, skipping his chin entirely. What do you think?

[ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

Ladies and Gentlemen, what a contest! After long deliberation, the Archivist of the United States has settled on a winning caption from last week’s photo caption contest. Its author will win eternal fame, fortune, and a 30% discount from the Archives eStore. Congratulations to Marilyn R, who won with the following caption:

Project Runway: The War Effort

So just what were those gents doing with mattresses strapped around their waists? Great question. The original caption to the First World War–era photo, taken in April 1917 by the War Department, reads: “Recruits with their mattresses tied to them to serve as life preservers. Photo taken at Newport Naval Training Station, Rhode Island.” The local identifier is 165-WW-326B(1).

While mattress-clad recruits make a great photo op, there is plenty more of the strange and unusual in our still photo section just waiting for a good caption. So, on to this week’s photo. As a reminder, our expert panel of judges will announce the winner next week, and whoever gets the most giggles will earn 30% off at the Archives eStore, and the gratitude of a nation.

For starters:

“People were upset to discover what Bill meant when he said Prohibition would be a barrel of laughs.”

[ Read all ]

It’s not the Gulf, it’s the Schuylkill

Oil is washing up onto the shores of Louisiana and Florida. But these are not the only American shores to suffer environmental catastrophe from oil spills.

In 1972, Hurricane Agnes took an unusual turn over the East Coast. After passing over Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, the storm swung back over the Atlantic and regained strength. It moved back over New York state on June 22, and on June 23 the hurricane was hovering over Pennsylvania.

Heavy rain meant flooding, and the surge of water hit cities in upstate New York and Pennsylvania hard. For the Keystone State, there was $2.3 billion in damage caused by flooding and 50 deaths. Shamokin, PA, had 18 inches of rain.

The rising water damaged more than cities.

The flooding released 6 to 8 million gallons of oil into the Pennsylvania’s Schuylkill River, coating trees and riverbed grasses. In this photo from the Environmental Protection Agency (Record Group 412) Documerica Project, you can see the reddish brown sludge on the banks.

Has the river recovered? Thirty years later, the river is an important resource, with 10% of Pennsylvania’s population relying on the Schuylkill River for all or part of their water supply.

But even if the water is drinkable, the river remains in danger.

Oil spills are not a thing of the past. This month, a fire … [ Read all ]