Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More



Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archive for April, 2011

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Although we were greatly amused by the suggestions of dam building, weather predictions, and rodent chili recipes, we eventually decided on Amy’s caption, which  combined the history of the Cilivian Conservation Corps with the Depression and managed to be funny!

Amy, check your email for your code for 15% off in our eStore!

So…are these Rodents of Unusual Size, groundhogs, or guinea pigs? Actually, they’re beavers. The tail of the beaver on the far left is being held up by a man wearing gloves. The caption for this photo reads: “Civilian Conservation Corps in Idaho, Salmon National Forest: Camp F-167, ‘CCC boys… ready to transplant Beaver from a ranch location where they were damaging crops to a Forest watershed location where they will help to conserve the water supply…’, ca. 1938.”

(Our own Archivist of the United States just blogged about his start at MIT, a school whose mascot is the beaver: “Nature’s Engineer”!)

There are no animals in this week’s photo…but something strange seems to be in the air. Tell us what’s going on in the comments below!… [ Read all ]

JFK’s Cold War Calculations

ar206454-bOn April 20, 1961, exactly three months after his inauguration, President John F. Kennedy addressed the American Society of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) regarding the Bay of Pigs invasion. In his speech, Kennedy addressed one of the most crucial decisions of his presidency—his choice not to provide air cover for the 1,400 men of the Cuban exile brigade at the Bay of Pigs.


Although planning for the invasion began under the Eisenhower administration, President Kennedy opted to approve the operation upon taking office. But the invasion was doomed as soon as the CIA-trained exiles landed ashore in Cuba. The Soviet-supplied Cuban military was well equipped and had overwhelming resources in terms of manpower.


Once failure appeared imminent, military personnel and CIA officials scrambled to persuade Kennedy to deploy U.S. air cover in hopes of salvaging the operation. The President, however, refused to approve the direct military intervention sought by the advisors who had fully endorsed the invasion’s initial provisions.


In the end, Cuban forces easily defeated the undermanned exile brigade within three days. To make matters worse for Kennedy, U.S. involvement was undeniable and media coverage made the failure a highly publicized national issue.


In the aftermath of the invasion, the President moved quickly to justify his decision to approve the invasion but not to provide air cover. Speaking before the ASNE, Kennedy [ Read all ]

“Panda”monium at the National Zoo

Springtime in Washington, DC, makes people think of cherry blossoms—and pandas. While keepers and panda fans anxiously wait for signs that the National Zoo’s Mei Xiang may be expecting a cub, we remember the first pandas to live at the zoo.

President Richard Nixon’s historic trip to China in February 1972 opened diplomatic and trade relations between the two countries and was one of the most successful achievements of his administration. The result that sticks most keenly in the popular memory, though, is the arrival of two chubby black and white furry goodwill ambassadors—Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing.

When pandas’ arrival date was set, President Nixon asked  First Lady Pat Nixon to head up the delegation to welcome the pandas to the National Zoo. [Listen to his telephone call to her. It's the last item in the list.] Mrs. Nixon had been captivated by the pandas at the zoo in Beijing and was delighted to officially accept the nation’s own pair.

On April 16, 1972, she officially accepted the gift of the People’s Republic of China and declared, “I think ‘panda-monium’ is going to break out at the zoo.” She was right. Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing were the top attractions at the zoo until their deaths in in the 1990s.

The video clip below is excerpted from film shot at the zoo ceremony. After Mrs. Nixon … [ Read all ]

Emancipation for DC

Today is Emancipation Day for the District of Columbia. Some of you might immediately wonder if this is related to DC’s current efforts to win representation and a vote, but it is a celebration for a different kind of freedom for the residents of DC.

Eight and a half months before he signed the Emancipation Proclamation, President Lincoln signed a bill ending slavery in the District of Columbia.

Lincoln had struggled with how to resolve the issue of slavery, even encouraging freed slaves to return to Africa. And of course, slavery in the nation’s capital was an even thornier issue—antislavery advocates spoke of “the national shame.”

The bill had some success. Over the next  nine months, the Board of Commissioners appointed to administer the act approved 930 petitions, completely or in part, from former owners for the freedom of 2,989 former slaves.

Although its combination of emancipation, compensation to owners, and colonization did not serve as a model for the future, the District of Columbia Emancipation Act was an early signal of slavery’s death. In the District itself, African Americans greeted emancipation with great jubilation. For many years afterward, Emancipation Day was celebrated with parades and festivals.

The D.C. Emancipation Act is currently at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. At, you can see a larger version and a transcription of the text and … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Congratulations to Holly! Our guest judge was archivist Joan Gearin, who thought your caption did add up. Check your email for your discount code to the eStore.

(We should note that Joan is the author of the most popular Prologue article ever written. Every time The Sound of Music is aired on television, “The Real Story of the Von Trapp Family” gets hundreds of hits.)

Joan is also an archivist for the National Archives in Boston, whose Facebook page explains this mysterious image.  “Did you know that during World War II Harvard University contracted with the US government to work on radar countermeasures? This image is of an antenna being tested ca. 1943. The National Archives at Boston holds the records of the Harvard Radio Labs documenting Harvard’s work on radar countermeasures, sonar, and other research on psycho-acoustics, electro-acoustics, and optics. RG 227 Records of the Office of Research and Development.”

There’s no antenna in this week’s photo. Whatever is going on is more…low-tech. Tell us what you think is happening in the comments below!… [ Read all ]