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Archive for September, 2011

Paging Dr. Bell to the President’s deathbed

Today in 1881, President Garfield died as the result of being shot at close range by an assassin. It took him nearly three months to die.

On July 2, after months of increasing agitation and several aborted attempts to shoot the President with a pearl-handled pistol, Charles Guiteau finally mortally wounded the President as he waited for a train in a mostly deserted waiting room. Guiteau was taken into custody as he left the station.

The bullet hit Garfield in his right side just above his waist, four inches from his spine. Although he could still move, he complained of pain in his legs and feet. After having his wound prodded by three doctors in less than an hour, Garfield was taken back to the White House in an ambulance. A group of policeman accompanied the carriage and lifted the wheels when they came to potholes in the room.

But Garfield’s ordeal was only just beginning. He was seen by Dr. D. W. Bliss, who also retained two surgeons who had been at Lincoln’s death, Surgeon General J. K. Barnes and Dr. Woodward, neither of whom had spent any recent time as physicians. Woodward even admitted at an early meeting that he knew nothing about gunshot wounds.

The most pressing problem was the location of the bullet, which the doctors believed had struck the liver and … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: A really big mustache—and bathtub

Oh, President Taft. It was your birthday yesterday, and I just had to feature you here on Facial Hair Friday.

You were one of the few Presidents that seemed to stick my brain when I was studying for the AP History exam. Important dates, key battles, our founding documents—I could barely keep those facts stuck to my teenage grey matter, but I always remembered you, Taft, because of your bathtub. Sadly, there was no question about your powder room fixtures on the exam.

When I joined the National Archives, the “BIG!” exhibit was in its final weeks. I walked through and saw the many big things we have in the National Archives (like a huge globe and the 13-foot-long Articles of Confederation), and then I turned the corner and there it was.

You see, the reason that I remembered Taft so well was that our teacher mentioned he had a bathtub specially made for him due to his size. Yes, kids can be cruel. (And Taft would have been familiar with this—remarks about his weight were something he was all too familiar with growing up.) And there in the middle of the exhibit was the bathtub.

The bathtub was a replica of the one Taft had built. Taft weighed 340 pounds and stood almost six feet tall. Two months after being elected, the USS North Carolina was outfitted for Taft for his trip to inspect the … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Did you miss us? We were on a brief hiatus, but we’re back with more bizarre and baffling photographs from our holdings, ready for your cleverest captions!

So who won the winning caption for our last photo? We turned to the newest member of our team, writer Victoria Yue (you may remember her post about waffles). After careful consideration, she went with Erica‘s conga line reference. Congratulations, Erica! Check your e-mail for a code for 15% off at our eStore.

Who says that Federal employees can’t have any fun? These ladies are the 1936  Bureau of Reclamation’s all-female basketball team. From the National Archives at Denver, source: 8NN-115-85-006 Photo Albums, 1903–1972, Columbia Basin box 156, image 988. (This image originally appeared on their Facebook page.)

This week’s photo has some careful consideration as well. What is man’s best friend thinking? Give us your wittiest caption in the comments below!… [ Read all ]

Ten years later: Handling 9/11 Commission records

This post is part of a series on September 11. As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.

Today’s blogger is Kristen Wilhelm, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.

People are always telling me where they were on September 11, 2001. It’s an occupational hazard of mentioning that I work at the National Archives and process the records of the 9/11 Commission. I’ve stopped mentioning that last part. I think that’s best. Nothing says “stay away from the dame at the dessert table!” like mention of a national tragedy. Except for the people who are convinced it didn’t happen. Those I attract like bees to honey.

For those of you I haven’t scared away (don’t feel awkward, I’m used to it), I’ll share a little of my experience with these records. It’s time for it, I suppose, with the 10th anniversary almost here. Anyone who knows me knows I’m what my grandmother always called “a smart aleck.” To the chagrin of my officemates, I clung to that wise-guy demeanor like a lifeline while working with these records because it was the only way I … [ Read all ]

9/11: The World Series and a President’s pitch

This post is part of a series on September 11. As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.

Today’s blogger is Alan C. Lowe, who has served as the Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library since April of 2009.

In 2001, it was so fitting that the World Series included the New York Yankees in a duel with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The city of New York and indeed the entire nation were still reeling from the attacks of September 11. As devastated as we were, as much resolve as we had, we still sought some normalcy, some sign that the world was not completely different. The World Series, the championship of our national pastime, helped start the healing.

President George W. Bush was asked to throw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the Series, the first game of that championship to be held in New York, played on October 30. At the Bush Library, we have the ball that the President threw, the jacket that he wore, and even the pitching rubber that he stood on at the mound. The jacket was a gift from New York City Fire Commissioner … [ Read all ]