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Archive for September, 2010

The Mustache: Future of the South?


George Alfred Townsend, Samuel L. Clemens, and David Gray, ca. 1860–ca. 1865 (111-B-2167; ARC 526362)

When you think of Samuel Clemens, do you think of the celebrated jumping frog of Calaveras County? His house in Conneticut? A yankee in King Arthur’s court? Or do you think of his full, bushy mustache?

As a child growing up in New England, I felt more familiar with the world of Lousia May Alcott than Samuel Clemens. For me, the world of Huck Finn, rafts, and paddleboats on the Mississippi was a strange and mysterious one, just as the South felt like a distant place, which I imagined was full of alligators and droopy moss and mysterious iced drinks.

Of course, the South is much more than Mark Twain or any clichés. The National Archives holds many records from the region’s past.

But after Hurricane Katrina and the Deep Water Horizon oil spill, what’s in store for the South? Come hear speakers discuss the future of the region on October 5 at a day-long conference (no registration required!). Panels will tackle the relationship between culture and the land, the ecology of the gulf coast, and the future of Southern culture and identity.… [ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

Pull my hoof

Pull my hoof.

Rick B. won our hearts and minds with his caption last week of a donkey with a dangerous back blast. Understated, eloquent, simple in its beauty. Kudos, Rick, you’ve won 30% off at the National Archives eStore. An honorable mention must also go out to M.G. Young‘s double entendre caption: “This recoil will kick your ass!”

What exactly is going on in this picture? Good question. The caption reads “recoilless rifle mounted on a mule” and the photo comes from Fort Leavenworth and the Department of Defense. That still doesn’t exactly explain why someone would mount a giant rifle on the back of a mule. No word if the equine saw combat.

Anyhoo, onto this week’s photo. Give us your funniest caption for this peculiar photo and you’ll win 30% off at our eStore and the gratitude of a nation.

Insert your caption!

Insert your caption!

[ Read all ]

The Peace Corps’ not-so-peaceful roots

Peace Corps volunteer Arthur Young near Mikumi, Tanganyika (Tanzania). Near Mikumi, Tanganyika, Great Ruaha Road Project (PX 65-2:77)

Peace Corps volunteer Arthur Young near Mikumi, Tanganyika (Tanzania). Great Ruaha Road Project. (John F Kennedy Presidential Library, PX 65-2:77)

It was 49 years ago today that President John F. Kennedy put pen to paper and established the Peace Corps. It was authorized by Public Law 87-293, an “Act to promote world peace and friendship through a Peace Corps.” But despite its name, peace may not have been the Peace Corps’ original purpose.

The program has its origins in a late-late night campaign speech given at the University of Michigan by then-Senator Kennedy. It was two in the morning on October 14, 1960. Despite the early morning hours, 10,000 students turned out. He challenged each of them—and the country—to serve abroad to help the free world (listen to the speech).

But peace was not on Kennedy’s mind when giving that speech.  The early morning speech doesn’t mention the word “peace” once. Instead he describes Americans serving abroad as a tool with which to defend a free society.  The Soviet Union “had hundreds of men and women, scientists, physicists, teachers, engineers, doctors, and nurses . . . prepared to spend their lives abroad in the service of world communism,” Kennedy exclaimed at a stump speech in California. America did not. The Peace Corps was the answer. A corollary may have been peace, but the intent was … [ Read all ]

Internet sensation discovered at the National Archives



Internet memes are a new phenomenon. What is an Internet meme? It’s a random, quirky, ‘thing’ that takes the Internet by storm and for the briefest of moments enters the American dialogue. Often times logging in millions of hits for no apparent reason, Internet memes are as whimsical as the Internet search itself. No one really knows where they come from or why a guy talking about a double rainbow draws us in. The simple fact is they do (please note this is an external link).

One Internet meme has logged over 24 million views on YouTube, and is a five second clip of a gopher turning his head to dramatic music. Spinoffs were made, YouTube links e-mailed, and now more people have watched “Dramatic Look” than watched the LOST Series finale (also an external link).

It seems that the Environmental Protection Agency captured the dramatic look long before YouTube subscriber Magnets99 did though, with the image above. This Siksikpuk was unavailable for comment according to its agent. For more on these EPA images, read our Prologue article on DOCUMERICA. [ Read all ]

Bring your big stick to “The Jungle”

Final page of a letter from Upton Sinclair to President Teddy Roosevelt (Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture)

Final page of a letter from Upton Sinclair to President Teddy Roosevelt (Records of the Office of the Secretary of Agriculture, RG 16)

It was 1906 when Upton Sinclair made the world vegetarian, at least for a little while. Sinclair’s novel riled the United States and its President, Teddy Roosevelt, by revealing the unsanitary conditions under which food was made.

Since 1879, over 100 bills had been introduced to regulate the food and drug industry. It only took five months after the release of The Jungle for one of those laws to pass. On June 30, 1906, President Roosevelt signed into law the Pure Food and Drug Act, effectively creating the Food and Drug Administration.

Roosevelt had read an advanced copy of The Jungle. But almost before he finished reading it—barely a week after its first publication—Sinclair was peppering the President with letters and recommendations on how to regulate the industry. Roosevelt was sympathetic to Sinclair’s desire to regulate the industry but despised the man’s zealotry. In an April 14, 1906, speech loosely aimed at the author, he described “muckrakers” as the men who cause more trouble than they cure. “Tell Sinclair to go home and let me run the country for a while,” Roosevelt said to Frank Doubleday at a later date. In a letter to journalist William Allen White later that summer, … [ Read all ]