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Archive for August, 2010

Are you there Venus? It’s me, Earth

Twenty years ago today, NASA dropped by our neighbor Venus to say hello and snap a few pictures. The Magellan probe entered orbit, took a terrestrial map of Venus, and then did something very rude: it crashed into the planet. Not very neighborly.

Still, we gathered plenty of data from that crash (and it’s debatable whether the wreckage of the Magellan even made it through the thick atmosphere), data that was sent back to earth, processed by the folks at NASA, and then distributed to the whole world on a newfangled piece of equipment called the Internet.

It was 1994. AOL was tops, and the sound of dial-up was as common as a telephone ring (an actual telephone ring, not a ringtone).  NASA has since preserved its Magellan website as a snapshot in time, and it’s a hoot. You can view high-resolution images that are smaller than a camera phone snapshot these days  (though it’d be tough to get a camera phone to Venus).

For more on NASA, and resources at the National Archives relating to space exploration, be sure to have a look at the Space Exploration section of our website.… [ Read all ]

Leslie King, 38th President of the United States

Gerald Ford’s ascendancy to the office of the President of the United States marked several firsts. For one, President Ford was the first (and so far only) Eagle scout to reach the nation’s highest office. Then there is the name change: Gerald Ford was born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., making him the first President who had changed his last name (there’s been one other since, any guesses?).

Finally, Gerald Ford was the first (and so far only) President who was never actually elected to the office of the Presidency or Vice Presidency. Here’s the story.

Richard Nixon’s Vice President was originally Spiro Agnew, who resigned the office due to pending criminal charges.

In 1973, Nixon invoked the 25th amendment to nominate the House minority whip,  Gerald Ford, to become his Vice President. Congress confirmed Ford, and the Representative from the state of Michigan became Nixon’s new Vice President, marking another ‘first’ (the first use of the 25th amendment to appoint a Vice President).

On August 9, 1974–less than a year later–Richard Nixon resigned from the office of Presidency (another first!), and Gerald Ford assumed it, making Ford the only man to hold the office who was not elected on a Presidential or Vice Presidential ticket.

Similarly, Gerald Ford’s own Vice President, Nelson Rockefeller, was also appointed under the 25th amendment. This marked the second time in as … [ Read all ]

Your photos, then and now

Last week we asked our readers to share photos that match up with some old images we have in our library. We got two responses that really show just how much things have changed in Washington, DC. See our then and now photos, and share your own on our Facebook page!

Ford's Theatre in Lincoln's time. Washington, DC (66-G-22B-1).

Ford’s Theatre in Lincoln’s time. Washington, DC (66-G-22B-1).… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: The Brooklyn Bridge

It’s a nineteenth-century twist on six degrees of separations–except Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren isn’t connected to Kevin Bacon. Along with his mustache and soul patch, he’s two degrees of separation from the Brooklyn Bridge.

Warren was one of 12 children. His sister Emily came to visit him at his headquarter when he was commanding the Fifth Army Corps. Washington Roebling was one of Warren’s staff. He and Emily met, fell in love, and were married a year later.

Washington Roebling was the son of John Roebling, the designer of the Brooklyn Bridge. He and his new wife Emily were in Germany when he received the news that his father had died of tetanus. The couple returned to New York where Roebling took over the project as chief engineer.

Roebling may have survived the Battle of Gettysburg (where from a hot air balloon he saw the advance of Lee’s army) but the Brooklyn Bridge nearly killed him.

Roebling developed decompression sickness–”the bends”–from working in the watertight environment caissons for the bridge piers, where the atmosphere was compressed.

With her husband confined to bed, Emily began to manage the project. The Rensselaer website notes that she went beyond simple management: “She carried out all written communication and face-to-face interviews with contractors with a thorough grasp of the engineering.” On Roebling’s behalf, she addressed when the American Society of Civil … [ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

The original caption to last week’s photo seemed a bit tongue in cheek itself. “FEAF BOMBER COMMAND, JAPAN—As the words informing the world of the truce being signed in Korea reached the ears of military personnel in Korea and Japan, emotions were expressed in a variety of ways, ca. 07/1953″ Yes, this service man really was throwing up his arms and calling it quits, because the armistice ending hostilities in Korea had just been signed.

Fortunately, Rebecca had a different take with her caption, one that appealed to our guest judge and yours truly, since Pick Up Sticks was one of my favorite games (I know you’re all interested in my childhood). Congrats, Rebecca, not only for winning this week’s photo caption contest and giving our judge Michael Kurtz a laugh, but for being the first person in history to ever win a back-to-back caption contest here at Pieces of History. You’ve won 30% off at the eStore, and our undying devotion once again. The question is, can you make it a hat trick?

That will be up to Maureen MacDonald to decide. She’s our guest judge this week, recently returned from representing the National Archives at the International Archival Culture Exhibition in South Korea. So, show our world traveler that laughter transcends borders by posting your best caption below. And as always, happy … [ Read all ]