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So long, farewell! Remembering a von Trapp family singer

Agathe's picture from her Declaration of Intent document. Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)

(Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)

Agathe von Trapp passed away on December 28, 2010. She is best remembered as Liesl, the eldest daughter in the film The Sound of Music.

But Agathe was not pleased with the portrayal of her family in the film, especially the character of her father, whose stern demeanor was very different than the kind father she knew. In 2004 she eventually published her autobiography, Agathe von Trapp: Memories Before and After The Sound of Music, complete with her own sketches illustrating family life.

The National Archives also holds proof that von Trapp family were not exactly as portrayed in movies. In our holdings in Waltham, Massachusetts, are the passenger list of the SS Bergensfjord, which sailed from Norway in 1939. From that same trip is a Record of Aliens Held for Special Inquiry—the von Trapp family ran into a little problem reentering the United States.

According to Joan Gearin’s Prologue article, “They were held at Ellis Island for investigation by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, apparently because when asked by an official how long they intended to stay, instead of saying ‘six months,’ as specified on their visas, Maria exclaimed, ‘Oh, I am so glad to be here—I never want to leave again!'” Fortunately they were released after a few days, and the family continued to tour.

Agathe will be buried in Vermont in the family cemetery with her father, stepmother, and sister Martina. To learn more about the true life of the Von Trapp Family Singers, read our Prologue article Movie vs. Reality: The Real Story of the von Trapp Family, written by a fan of both the von Trapp family and historical fact. Agathe would have approved.

This photo was taken in the tiny town of Helen, Georgia, in 1975. The cast, shown here, were performing "The Sound of Music."

This photo was taken in the tiny town of Helen, Georgia, in 1975. The cast, a mix of professional and local actors, were performing "The Sound of Music." (ARC Identifier 557722)

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Comment from Jery Simmons
Time January 3, 2011 at 10:25 am

Great DOCUMERICA photograph! I’ve never seen this one before.