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Archive for August, 2011

March on Washington: A. Philip Randolph

This coming Sunday is the dedication of the new Martin Luther King, Jr., National Memorial on the National Mall. It’s also the 48th anniversary of the March on Washington, when King gave his famous “I Have a Dream” speech to the assembled thousands.

As I looked at the program from the day and then at some group photographs, I started to wonder about the other men who were part of the events. I picked a name from the group—A. Philip Randolph—and searched our Online Public Access engine. I quickly realized I knew nothing of a man who had been active in civil rights and labor for a long time before August 28, 1963.

Mary Graves Reyneau painted Randolph’s portrait as part of a series called “Portraits of Outstanding Americans of Negro Origin,” commissioned by the Harmon Foundation. The original 22 portraits were exhibited at the Smithsonian and later around the country. The depiction of Randolph was displayed in the company of portraits of Mary McLeod Bethune, Thurgood Marshall, and W.E.B. DuBois two decades before the March on Washington.

Randolph was an influential man who had organized the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in 1925. The Pullman Company began to negotiate with the unionized porters in 1935, but it was not until 1937 that a contract was reached. Randolph was used to hard work and to waiting for results—but he was also skilled at organizing and rallying.

In 1946, Randolph … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: A mustache, a funny man, and a President

Julius Henry Marx–better known by his stage name Groucho Marx–passed away on August 19, 1977. He left behind a legacy of humor on stage, radio, and film. I was not able to find to find any images of him in our holdings, which was disappointing as his trademark mustache was a fine candidate for Facial Hair Friday.

However, I did find something unexpected. Groucho had been corresponding with President Truman.

What would a funny man and a President have in common? Well, it turns out that the young Harry Truman was an avid vaudeville fan, attending shows at the Orpheum Theatre and the Grand Opera House whenever he was Kansas City. He even took his future wife Bess to vaudeville shows on dates. Truman especially enjoyed the Marx Brothers, later recalling that he never missed a chance to see them when they were in town.

So Truman was a fan of the famous brothers, but how did he come to correspond with Groucho (and later Harpo Marx)?

It started with the displaced persons, the survivors of the Holocaust who had lost their homes and families and were now living in temporary camps. Truman had issued a directive in 1945 to allow some of them to immigrate to the United States. In 1946, Groucho Marx–the son of Jewish immigrants–sent Truman a newspaper clipping of an article claiming Truman had failed to … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Last week’s photo may have sparked some of our funniest captions yet! As soon as we started reading about the ill-fated Florence in Apple Jacks, cereal killers, and the Shotz Brewery, we knew choosing a winner would be tough.

So we turned to Denise Henderson, who blogs about her finds in the records over at The Text Message. She also is the Review Team Lead for Online Public Access.

Congratulations to Ryan! Ironically, our guest judge Denise does not like breakfast or breakfast cereal–but she does like her fellow hometown girl Betsy Ross, and so she went with Ryan’s reference to the floppy-hatted, flag-sewing symbol of freedom. Ryan, check your email for a 15% discount to the eStore and check out our merchandise.

And despite the witty suggestions of our captioneers, the original caption confirms this to be a rather mundane scene: “Kellogg Company. Women inspecting filled boxes of cereal before boxes go to sealer., 08/22/1934.”

This week’s photo seems to involve multiples–but this time it’s girls instead of cereal boxes. Give us your funniest caption below! … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Please Pass the Leftovers

The National Archives current marquee exhibit, “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”, is drawing some good crowds and public press. It’s showing in our main building in downtown Washington through Jan. 3, 2012.

It’s all about how the Government has tried through the decades to dictate, or influence, what we should eat and why we should eat something from each food group each day. And dear Uncle kept changing the food groups. For a while, we had the food wheel, then came the food pyramid. Now we have the food plate — each of them divided into groups we were supposed to eat from each day.

One food group always left out is “Leftovers.”  We have no guidance on how much leftovers to eat each day.

When I was growing up in rural Missouri, leftovers were a staple at the supper table. Of course, there were leftovers from Thanksgiving and Christmas–turkey sandwiches, turkey salad, turkey soup, and so on. Or just plain turkey all over again. 

We ate a lot of leftovers at our house. But I remember especially Mom’s tuna casserole.  Not many leftovers on that. She always made one when I came home from college on weekends. By the time I left a day or so later, there wasn’t a morsel to be found.

Actually, casseroles and other things like that, such as lasagna or baked rigatoni, often taste better left … [ Read all ]

Potatriots: Our winner!

It’s finally time to announce the randonly chosen winner of our Potatriots contest! But first, a big thank you to the visitors who participated in our Potatriots activity–and a big thank-you to our staff and interns who put out those potatos, pipe cleaners, and historic backgrounds every day.

We had lots of fun posting our Potatriots online at the National Archives Flickrstream, and we enjoying recognizing (and guessing) what records and events were being recreated with potatos. From visitors to National Archives staff contributions, we were impressed with your creative endeavors!

But there can be only one winner–congratulations to Amanda R!

Amanda, age 12, was inspired to make her Potatriot scene after visiting Colonial Williamsburg and seeing a public reading of the Declaration of Independence. Well, that’s one of our favorite documents here at Pieces of History, and so we were delighted to see its public reading recreated in potato form.

The Foundation for the National Archives will be sending Amanda a special “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” prize chosen from the Archives Shop. We hope she cultivates the heirloom mini-tomatoes in her prize and her love of history!

Would you like a chance to win something from the National Archives? Are you a history buff? The folks behind @discovercivwar on Twitter are running a challenge right now. Participate in the August 2011 contest by naming as many … [ Read all ]