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Archive for November, 2010

The hours before Dallas

Kennedy greets a crowd at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, on the day of his assassination (ST-525-8-63)

Kennedy greets a crowd at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas, hours before his assassination (JFK Presidential Library, ST-525-8-63)

In November of 1963, to seek support for New Frontier policies and with an eye on the 1964 elections, President John F. Kennedy set out on what was planned as a two-day, five-city tour of Texas.

Well before the President departed for Texas, advance men were dispatched from Washington to make on-the-scene preparations. Among them was Jeb Byrne, who had been serving as a political appointee in the General Services Administration since the Kennedy administration began in 1961.

Byrne, a ten-year veteran of wire service journalism who more recently had been press secretary to a Democratic governor of Maine, was assigned to Fort Worth. His mission was to make sure that the President’s stay in Fort Worth went off without a hitch.

In an account written for Prologue, the author relates how the President spent his time in Fort Worth. Byrne also details the challenges he faced as the Fort Worth advance man in making logistical arrangements, handling requests for access to the President, and navigating the shoal waters of the then-dominant Texas Democratic party.

Byrne draws his account in part from papers and other materials he kept from his duty in Fort Worth. He has donated those materials to the John F. Kennedy Library in … [ Read all ]

Rare photo of Lincoln at Gettysburg

The first photo discovered of Lincoln at Gettysburg

The first photo discovered of Lincoln at Gettysburg

In 1952, the chief of the Still Photo section at the National Archives, Josephine Cobb, discovered a glass plate negative taken by Mathew Brady of the speaker’s stand at Gettysburg on the day of its dedication as a National Cemetery. Edward Everett would speak from that stand later in the afternoon for two straight hours. Moments later, a tall, gaunt Abraham Lincoln would stand up and deliver a ten sentence speech in two minutes. It was the Gettysburg Address.

Lincoln delivered his famous speech 147 years ago today. His speech is revered as one of the greatest in American history, yet until Josephine Cobb looked closer at that Mathew Brady photo in 1952, it was thought that no photo existed of the Great Emancipator at Gettysburg on the day he delivered that address.

Based off the placement of people, the slight elevation of a few in the center left field of the photograph, and where the crowd was looking, Cobb bet that Lincoln would be in the photo. Photo enlargement later proved her theory true, making this the first–and possibly only–photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg.*

Cobb estimated that the photo was taken around noontime, before Edward Everett arrived, and about three hours before Lincoln delivered his famous address. Below is the original, uncropped photo.

The original uncropped photo of the speakers stand at Gettysburg

The original uncropped

[ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

kiteman5336621

Dave would do anything to earn frequent flier miles

As we all gear up for the single busiest flying day of the year, let’s remember that flying coach back in 1918 was a slightly less predictable affair, particularly if you were “Lieutenant Kirk Booth of the U.S. Signal Corps being lifted skyward by the giant Perkins man-carrying kite at Camp Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts. International Film Service.”

Many thanks to Elaine Schenot for reminding us just how desperate “Dave” and the rest of us can get when bonus miles are on the line. Elaine, you’ve won 30% off at the National Archives eStore, and our caption contest. Congrats!

To the rest of you, fear not, you’ve got another opportunity this week to take home the (discounted) bacon: we present you with an out-of-context image from our holdings, and you give us your funniest caption. The winner takes home 30% off at our eStore and is immortalized in the annals of our POH blog.

Insert your caption

Insert your caption

Here’s one for starters:

“Mr. President, this just came in from Turkey.”

[ Read all ]

The Venus Fixers: The Remarkable Story of the Allied Soldiers Who Saved Italy’s Art During World War II

Ilaria Dagnini Brey is the author of The Venus Fixers, an account of the Monuments Officers, who were assigned by the Allies to preserve and protect the artwork and monuments of Europe from looting and destruction. She is the featured Author on the Record for the Fall 2010 issue of Prologue. We invited her to do a guest post on a document from the National Archives that inspired her. Enjoy!

The Venus Fixers

Iliaria Dagnini Brey


Soldiers at work in the Temple of Neptune at Paestrum. National Archives, Record Group 239.

Soldiers at work in the Temple of Neptune at Paestrum. National Archives, Record Group 239.

I found this photograph one afternoon at the National Archives at College Park after hours of searching through folders, albums and boxes of images. It made my day.

What struck me most about the photograph was the combination of the military and the religious element in it—soldiers in a shrine, albeit an ancient one—and the resulting peaceful atmosphere of the image. The soldiers are intently at work and look almost like school students during study hall. The massive Dorian columns of the Greek temple seem almost protective of their quiet activity.

At first I thought, how clever to set up an office, as it were, in the cool shade of those ancient stones; and I thought how beautiful, that soldiers from overseas could feel so at home among some of the most ancient ruins of … [ Read all ]

The must-have Christmas gift of 1864

Sherman's telegram to Lincoln, offering him Savannah, Georgia, as a Christmas present (ARC 301637)

Sherman's note to Lincoln (ARC 301637)

Each year in America it seems there is one holiday gift that is heavy on demand and short on supply. In 1996, there was the Tickle-Me-Elmo fiasco. In 1983, it was the Cabbage Patch Doll. In 1864, the gift of the season was Savannah, Georgia, and one Union general was willing to do anything to obtain it.

On November 16, 1864, William T. Sherman set out from Atlanta, Georgia, with his eye set on capturing the southern port of Savannah. In his 300-mile march to the sea, Sherman wreaked havoc, employing total war and destroying a swath of land 40 miles wide in places. His intent? To break the psychological backbone of the Confederacy.

Sherman arrived outside Savannah in mid-December and conveyed the following message to its the man who had set up a defense of the city, Confederate Gen. William Hardee:

I have already received guns that can cast heavy and destructive shot as far as the heart of your city; also, I have for some days held and controlled every avenue by which the people and garrison of Savannah can be supplied, and I am therefore justified in demanding the surrender of the city of Savannah, and its dependent forts, and shall wait a reasonable time for your answer, before opening with heavy ordnance. Should you entertain

[ Read all ]