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Archive for June, 2010

Happy belated Juneteenth, everybody!

Rebel Defenses of Galveston and Vicinity, Surveyed and Drawn by order of G. L. Gillespie, Brevet Major & Chief Engineer, Miliary Division of the Gulf, Under the Direction of Lt. S. E. McGregory, Comdg. Topl. Party, Oct. 1865. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 77-CWMF-Q111)

Rebel Defenses of Galveston and Vicinity, Surveyed and Drawn by order of G. L. Gillespie, Brevet Major & Chief Engineer, Miliary Division of the Gulf, Under the Direction of Lt. S. E. McGregory, Comdg. Topl. Party, Oct. 1865. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, 77-CWMF-Q111)

Juneteenth is actually June 19, the day on which word finally made it to Galveston, Texas, that the Civil War was over and that Abraham Lincoln had freed the slaves. As the story goes, these 250,000 slaves were the last to hear the good news.

It was Union Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger who read General Order No. 3 to the people of Galveston:

“The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of personal rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and hired labor. The freedmen are advised to remain quietly at their present homes and work for wages. They are informed that they will not be allowed to collect at military posts and that they will not be supported in idleness either there or elsewhere.”

The day is now celebrated as the day of African American emancipation in many communities throughout the country, … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Tribute to Mathew Brady

05-0922aWith his goatee and mustache, photographer Mathew Brady himself is an excellent addition to Facial Hair Fridays. In fact, he is the reason we have so many follicle follies to celebrate.

There are 6,066 photographs by Brady and his associates in the National Archives collections. Many of the images we’ve looked at and been inspired by come from Record Group 111, Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer. The negatives for these images were purchased for $2,840 by the War Department in 1874, when Brady’s fortunes had taken a turn for the worse, and he could not pay the bill to store them.

But before and during the Civil War, Brady was a successful and well-known photographer with several studios.

He also changed the way Americans viewed war. Although there are no action shots (the subjects had to be still, making it a process for the patient), the photographs of the battlefields, both before and after, and the wounded being operated on and recovering outside and in hospitals, made Americans see war as they never had before.

He and his associates in his studios photographed many famous civilians, including Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Walt Whitman, and Clara Barton. There are also photographs of groups of officers, looking dapper [ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

We here at Prologue’s Pieces of History understand that history can be a very solemn study. Understanding past conflicts and pouring over the details of a battle, while exhilarating, can also be a trying, somber process.

But for all the wars and historic events that are cataloged in the National Archives, one thing is true: they often result in really funny photos, especially when pulled out of context.

And that’s why we want all you hard-working researchers and history aficionados to take a quick break and exercise your funny bone. We’ve compiled a growing number of awkward, strange, silly, and downright weird still images from our collection, and we’d like you to come up with funny captions for them.

Post your captions in the comment box below, and then our expert panel of judges (with occasional special guest judges) will announce who won the contest when we post a new photo next Thursday.  Every winner will get 30% off a one-time purchase from the National Archives e-Store, too.

UPDATE:  Our first guest judge is the Archivist, David S. Ferriero!

Insert your caption!

Insert your caption!

Here’s a caption to get you started:

“Oompah, loompah, doompa dee do…”

[ Read all ]

Mother–she isn’t quite herself today

Petition for Naturalization - Alfred Hitchcock

Petition for Naturalization - Alfred Hitchcock (RG 21, National Archives Pacific Region, Riverside)

Few individuals had a more, ah, peculiar relationship with their mother than Norman Bates in the movie Psycho, which premiered 50 years ago today in New York City. The movie was a one-of-a-kind in terms of suspense and shock, but it was just another in an illustrious career of one man: Alfred Hitchcock.

The Englishman was first lawfully admitted for permanent residence in 1939 and petitioned for US citizenship at the ripe age of 55, information that is preserved in the documents of the National Archives.

The writer and director is often lauded as one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, having produced over 50 feature films in a career spanning over half a century.  Of his films, many have left an indelible mark on his adopted home country: whether it’s making us look over our shoulders in hotel showers or dodging planes in the Midwest.

All in all, Sir Alfred led a career that any mother would be proud of, save perhaps one.

What’s your favorite Hitchcock movie moment?… [ Read all ]

What should I read next?

Boy reading a magazine at the Manzanar Relocation Center (538076)
Boy reading a magazine at the Manzanar Relocation Center (538076)

Four times a year in Prologue magazine, we feature an interview with an author who has written a book that draws on the holdings of the National Archives.

So, far I have learned about the naval aspect of the Civil War and the unexpected connection that Fort Wool has with several Presidents. Our summer issue will feature this book about the Civil War–era correspondence between Walt Whitman, his soldier brother, and their family.

Now I need to read something for the fall issue. Has anyone read something good recently that features our documents?

I confess—I’d like to read something that doesn’t focus on the Civil War or the military. I’m also interested in learning about the rest of the country—please help me find something that isn’t based in the East Coast.

Of course—I’m happy to take all suggestions if it was a good book! Please leave the title—and maybe why you liked it—in the comments. [ Read all ]