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Archive for June, 2011

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Onions, Again???

How could we choose between captions about skunk cabbage, the effects of fiber, and manly weeping? We asked Mitchell Yokelson, Investigative Archivist at the National Archives and author of books on military history, to look into the matter.

Congratulations to Kim B! After careful investigation, Mitch found your succinct summary of the situation to be the funniest. Check your e-mail for a code for 15% off in our eStore.

What’s really happening here? World War I was sometimes called “The Chemist’s War,” and a mask could save a soldier’s life. The original caption reads “Soldiers trying out their gas masks in every possible way. Putting the respirator to good use while peeling onions. 40th Division, Camp Kearny, San Diego, California, 03/1918″ (111-SC-7045; ARC 530714).

Last week’s photo featured the face, but this week’s photo features the . . . legs. Give us your wittiest caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Pull out that sweet tooth!

This poster, created by the U.S. Food Administration, reminded citizens that their consumption of sugar drew resources away from the war (ARC 512526, ca. 1917-ca. 1919).

To celebrate our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” we are featuring a food-related blog post every Wednesday. Today’s post comes to us from the National Archives at New York City.

“Do you know that the money spent in the United States for candy in one year is double the amount required to feed Belgium for one year?” This statement is not from a modern anti-obesity polemic, but rather from the World War I pamphlet A Sugar Program: Household Conservation Policy to Meet the Sugar Situation for the Summer of 1918.

Why was there a sugar situation? When the United States entered World War I, ships were needed to transport soldiers and supplies across the ocean. Since much of the U.S. supply of sugar was imported, the war interrupted the supply chain of sugar.

Ships crossing over to the United Kingdom with supplies also faced the dreaded German U-boats, which sank large numbers of the Allied merchant fleet when Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare in 1917. This danger threatened to worsen the Allied food situation in Europe, which was already severe. The woman in the poster above is literally draining away resources that the Allies need to win the war.

To inform U.S. citizens on … [ Read all ]

“Not guilty by reason of….”

"President Reagan attends his first cabinet meeting after the assassination attempt," April 24, 1981 (Courtesy of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum)


In 2011, a lone gunman opened fire at a political event in Tucson, Arizona, killing six and severely wounding Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. In the aftermath of the tragedy, a federal judge ruled that the suspect charged in the Tucson shooting “was not mentally competent to stand trial.”

The attack and the later legal ruling were not an unprecedented event in American history. Less than three decades earlier on June 21, 1982, a federal court had found President Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin not guilty by reason of insanity.

President Reagan was wounded when a bullet ricocheted off the Presidential limousine, puncturing his lung and lodging itself within an inch of his heart.

Secret Service agents rushed the President to George Washington University Hospital, where doctors performed successful surgery to remove the bullet. He fully recovered and was able to return to the Oval Office less than a month later, on April 25.

So what happened to John Hinckley, Jr.?

On June 21, 1982, a jury found Hinckley not guilty by reason of insanity. Hinckley had a history of mental illness and had exhibited increasingly erratic behavior in the months leading up to the shooting.

The public response to Hinckley’s acquittal was overwhelmingly negative. As a … [ Read all ]

Lizzie Borden took a….trip

Lizzie Borden's application for a passport, June 4, 1890 (Click to enlarge)

On June 20, 1893, Lizzie Borden was declared innocent of the crime of murdering her father and stepmother.

The National Archives holds a little piece of her history from before the murders. A month before her 30th birthday, Lizzie Borden of Fall River, Massachusetts, had sailed for Europe.

In the late 1800s, more and more Americans ventured abroad. The well-off sailed to Europe to see the sights and acquire culture. Novelists such Henry James and Edith Wharton were traveling themselves and writing about Americans abroad.

Lizzie’s passport application for this trip, signed by her on June 4, 1890, is now in the National Archives. Passports were not required at that time, but the State Department issued almost 370,000 between 1877 and 1909. The National Archives holds passport applications from October 1795 to March 1925.

Photographs were not required for passports until the end of 1914, so on Lizzie Borden’s application, there is only a written “description of applicant.” Lizzie declared that she is five feet, three inches tall with grey eyes, light brown hair, and a “full” face. Her signature appears below the oath of allegiance, and she requests that the passport be sent to Thomas J. Borden of Fall River, a distant cousin.

Thomas Borden’s two daughters, Carrie and Anna, were among … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Vive le Goatee!

"Wearing a civilian hat salvaged along the way, a bearded GI amuses both GI's and French civilians as he tries to make himself understood with the aid of a French dictionary in the town of Orleans, France., 08/19/1944" (112-SGA-44(11702); ARC 531502)

In 1885, the French ship Isere arrived in New York City. On board the ship were the pieces of an enormous woman, a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States in recognition of many decades of friendship. These pieces (paid for by the French) were reassembled over four months on an enormous pedestal (paid for by the American people but mostly by Joseph Pulitzer). The statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World” was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

In honor of Lady Liberty’s arrival and the ideals of friendship and democracy, today’s featured facial hair comes to us from France. It’s still an American-grown goatee, though!

This image was taken August, 19, 1944, just as the Liberation of Paris had begun. The beaches of Normandy had been stormed several weeks earlier. These GIs were in the town of Orleans, France, and they were facing a language barrier. And so this young soldier is attempting to communicate with the French civilians by way of a French dictionary.

He’s abandoned his helmet and is wearing a hat at a jaunty angle (the original caption notes he is “wearing a civilian hat salvaged along … [ Read all ]