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Archive for October, 2011

Facial Hair Friday: The Death Mask of Walter Q. Gresham

Pat Anderson, archivist, holds the death mask of Walter Q. Gresham.

Today’s featured facial hair is especially appropriate for the approaching Halloween weekend. It’s the plaster cast of a beard, taken of the deceased Walter Q. Gresham, who was Secretary of State at the time of his death in May of 1895.

This  death mask—complete with a few beard hairs stuck in it—may seem like an oddity now, but at the time it was a mark of reverence for a beloved official. The cast was made so that sculptors could later create a permanent likeness of the deceased.

And Walter Q. Gresham seemed a likely candidate for a commemorative statue. He was enormously popular.

Gresham held several important positions, serving as a general in the Union Army during the Civil War, U.S. Postmaster General, a Federal appellate court judge, Secretary of the Treasury, and finally, President Grover Cleveland’s Secretary of State in 1893.

An article in the May 29, 1895, edition of the Washington Post covered the events in detail. Gresham was the first member of the Cabinet to have a funeral in the East Room of the White House and the second man to have the troops ordered out for his funeral. The Government Printing Office was ordered closed as a mark of respect. Flags across the city—including foreign embassies and consulates—were lowered to half mast for 10 days.

After … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Innovative as a wedding planner, Mary Ellen McKinna’s idea of tying glass bottles to the bumpers of newlyweds’ cars became much more practical with the invention of plastic a year later.

We enjoyed the many old fashioned names that our captioners suggested: Ellie Mae, Mildred, Ethel, and Frances! I wonder what the subject of our photo would say in response to the captions that suggest she is in the clutches of an OCD attack or is cooking up something  explosive?

This week’s judge knows something about cooking up crazy ideas! Like an archives-loving Dr. Frankenstein, Stephanie Greenhut brings history to life on DocsTeach, a web site where  teachers can create and use lesson plans featuring National Archives documents.

Choosing a caption was hard work; Stephanie’s colleagues wondered why she was laughing so hard at her desk. But through her tears of amusement she was able to make a decision. Congratulations to Ryan! Check your e-mail for a code for 15% off in the eStore!

So, what exactly is she doing? The answer is far more mundane. According to the original caption: “Millville, New Jersey – Glass bottles. A wash and tie girl tying stoppers to bottles. This is one of the few unskilled jobs for women in the glass factory. A wash and tie girl takes the bottle from the stopper grinders, washes it with automatic sprayers and ties the stopper to … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Halloween BBQ

If you really want to be scared by food, don’t miss “Food Frights” on Thursday night at 7 p.m. at the National Archives Building! David Gregory of NPR will moderate this discussion about how America’s government became involved in food safety and how food safety will look in the future. One of our panelists is Chef José Andrés (our Chief Cuinary Adviser for the exhibit). Here he is talking to the USDA representatives about food safety at our Food Day Open House. Don’t miss it on Thursday night—it’s free!

Today’s post will consider the two of most terrifying documents in the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit: the recipes from the Manual for Army Cooks, the 1879 edition.

These recipes are so frightening that you may want to consider making them for a Halloween party. Or, just frighten your guests by telling them the instructions for the second recipe below.

Vegetarians, look away now.

The manual includes instruction on preparing a “Baked Rabbit” that include this little preamble: “The cleft in the lip of a young and fresh rabbit is narrow, the ears so tender they can be easily torn; the claws are smooth and sharp. Old rabbits are the reverse of this.”

Certainly, the process of skinning a rabbit may make an urban dweller like me uncomfortable, but what it is particularly disturbing is the idea that the Army cook was familiar with skinning … [ Read all ]

Say cheese, Mr. President: White House photographers at the Truman Library

White House Photographer Cecil Stoughton took this iconic photo of Lyndon B. Johnson's swearing in ceremony after John. F. Kennedy was assassinated. (ARC 194235)

Only 43 men in the history of the United States have held the title of President.

That’s a fairly small group , smaller than your average NFL team. But smaller still is the group of professionals who have held the title as the President’s chief photographer. To date, only nine men have served as the official White House Photographer.

Cecil Stoughton, hired by John. F. Kennedy to be the official president's photographer, also captured private moments of the president's life. Here, JFK and his daughter Caroline share a quiet moment aboard the Honey Fitz during a weekend in Hyannisport, MA. (ARC 194267)

President John F. Kennedy first appointed photographer Cecil Stoughton in 1960 in the role of White House Photographer. In the nearly 50 years following that first appointment, Presidential photographers have served as visual historians of the President’s daily life.

These photographers captured rare glimpses inside the White House and the historic moments of the Presidents they served. In addition to iconic images that enter the public’s memory of the President, private moments are captured as well.

On October 21, 2011, the Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO, is excited to share the works of these photographers with  the exhibition “The President’s Photographer: … [ Read all ]

Food Day Open House

World War I poster (ARC 512501)

In the “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” exhibit, curator Alice Kamps notes that American citizens have demanded that food be safe, cheap, and abundant. From the records in the exhibit, you can see how the Federal Government has responded to these needs over the past decades.

But food isn’t just a historic record. We continue to talk about food in blogs, books, and television, whether we are concerned about obesity, eating locally, factory farms, better school lunches, or contaminated melons.

The National Archives is participating in Food Day and offering a forum for food-related questions and discussion. Join us for a Food Day Open House on Monday, October 24.

Stop by to talk with representatives from several Federal agencies, nonprofits, and companies:
Think Food Group
Center for Science in the Public Interest
Mars Inc.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
American Farmland Trust
FRESHFARM Markets
Foundation for the National Archives

And don’t miss Alice Kamps, the curator of “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?”, who will be available to talk with visitors from 11 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.

And there’s a rumor that Chef José Andrés of ThinkFoodGroup might stop by, so keep an eye on his twitter feed (@chefjoseandres)! When he’s not researching and reinterpreting historic American recipes for his new restaurant America Eats Tavern, he’s also the Chief … [ Read all ]