Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Subscribe to Email Updates

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Archive for August, 2011

Facial Hair Friday: From Russia With Love

Czar Alexander II of Russia, ca. 1860-1865 (ARC 526175)

When Russia sold the Alaska territory to the United States in 1867, Czar Alexander II did not take part in the negotiations. Could it be that he did not want to take time away from meticulously manicuring his royal mustache?

Czar Alexander II was a true man of the era, sporting mutton chops along with a full mustache. He would have had no problem fitting in with the negotiators of the Alaska purchase.

Americans Robert S. Chew, William Hunter, and Frederick W. Seward all brought a unique style of beard to the bargaining table. Secretary of State William H. Seward was one of the few renegades of the American contingent, preferring to remain clean shaven.

Although even Moscow’s top diplomats could not fill the mutton chops of a monarch, the Russian delegation made a manful attempt, with envoy Eduard de Stoeckl emulating the Czar’s handlebar mustache and plush sideburns.

When the war of the whiskers finally concluded, the two sides reached an agreement. On August 1, 1868, the United States wrote de Stoeckl a check for more than 586,000 square miles in the Alaska territory for $7.2 million.

At the time, the deal was with disapproval from some, who called the enormous piece of land “Seward’s Folly.” But in 1896, the discovery of gold made the recently acquired district far more … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

"Donkey: `I don’t even care if I am the official Democratic Party mascot – seriously, I LIKE IKE!'”

Congratulations to Andrew P, who won the approval of our guest judge Samuel Rushay, senior archivist at the Truman Presidential Library. Your caption gave us much-needed insight into the hearts of political mascots whose vote lies with other party. Check your email for a code to use for 15% in the eStore!

Sam recently appeared in our newest “Inside the Vaults” videos to talk about some unusual sketches that survived a trip through the jungle and eventually were accessioned by the Truman Library.

This photo doesn’t have any mysterious drawings, but our sharp-eyed readers did catch the writing in the corner that tells a little bit of the story of this record from 1952. The description reads: “Photo of Mrs. Nelles Olson Becker of St. Paul, Minnesota, with a donkey, entitled ‘Not for Republican Ears.’ Signed: ‘To President Truman- Best Always- Nelles Olson Becker.’ This photo was published in the St. Paul Sunday Pioneer Press.”

In today’s photo, we’ve got another special animal and human moment. Give us your funniest caption in the comments below!

[ Read all ]

Aunt Jemima, what took you so long?

Evidence from 1915 Court Case: Aunt Jemima Mills Company v. Rigney and Company

Today’s guest post for “What’s Cooking Wednesdays” comes from Acting Director Patrick Connelly with Education Specialist Christopher Zarr of the National Archives at New York City.

Sometimes walking down the stacks of the National Archives can be like walking down the aisles of your local supermarket. Names like Heinz, Anheuser-Busch, Hershey, Sara Lee, and Perrier line the shelves of the National Archives.

The only difference is that these brands aren’t for sale—they are a part of the holdings of district court records of the National Archives. Whether Good Humor and Popsicle are waging a different kind of cold war involving patents or, as in the following case, Aunt Jemima is accusing competitors of trademark infringement, food fights are common in the district courts.

Aunt Jemima has been adorning the tables of America’s breakfast nooks for well over a century. R.T. Davis Milling Company brought this racially charged image to life in 1890 when it hired Nancy Green to be the company’s spokesperson. Success even led the company to change its name to the Aunt Jemima Mills Company. Later purchased by the Quaker Oats Company in 1926, Aunt Jemima’s name and face helped sell milled oats, grains, and ready-mix pancake flour. Surprisingly absent (at least to me) from the product line was pancake syrup. It would take nearly 50 years, at least two lawsuits and even … [ Read all ]

Headhunters and diplomats in the Truman Library

Drawing of men parachuting from planes, John Paton Davies Papers, Truman Library

Today’s guest post is from Samuel Rushay, senior archivist at the Truman Presidential Library and Museum, who is featured in our newest “Inside the Vaults” video about the adventure of John Paton Davies.

“…I stood in the open door of that miserable [C-46, Curtis] Commando and decided—`Well, if nobody else is going to jump, I’ll jump.  Somebody had to break the ice.’  So I wheeled out and dove.” John Paton Davies (Excerpt from letter to Flossie [September 22, 1943], John Paton Davies Papers, Truman Presidential Library and Museum).

The date was August 2, 1943.

Twenty-one men, including John Paton Davies, second secretary of the American embassy in Chungking, China, and journalist Eric Sevareid of CBS, were aboard a C-46 transport plane.  Their mission was to carry supplies from India to China in support of Chiang Kai-shek’s forces fighting the Japanese during World War II. They were flying over the “hump,” as mountainous Burma was known, when engine trouble developed, a not uncommon problem for the newly developed C-46.

In The American Journey of Eric Sevareid by Raymond Schroth, when it became clear the plane was going to crash, Davies maintained a calm demeanor and remarked, “Just kids, kids running this thing” (he was 35 years old), and jumped. He was the first person to leave the … [ Read all ]

Patriotic posters and the debt ceiling

World War I Liberty Loan poster, ARC 512633

As the calendar turns to August and the summer heat sets in, no topic is hotter than the debt ceiling.

Congress has voted to increase the debt limit more than 100 times since it was first established. How did this get started? Part of the answer is in these nearly century-old posters.

To raise money for the costs of World War I, the Federal Government began issuing war bonds. When the first round was not as successful as hoped, artists were commissioned to make more compelling posters, and famous actors encouraged citizens to buy them. Purchasing war bonds came to be seen as a patriotic duty, and several more sets were issued during the war.

With the passage of the Second Liberty Bond Act in 1917, the Department of the Treasury began issuing long-term bonds in order to minimize the government’s interest costs. As a means of managing these new obligations, the legislation enacted a statutory limit on federal debt.

Liberty Loan poster, ARC 512718

Legislation passed over the next two decades created similar limits for other types of government-issued debt, including the bills and the notes issued by the Treasury.

By 1939, Congress eliminated these separate limits and established one aggregate debt limit. The nation’s cumulative debt at the time was $40.4 billion, approximately 10% below the … [ Read all ]