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Tag: california

A WASP’s Story

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, an archivist at the National Archives in St. Louis.

The year was 1943, and Elizabeth “Betty” Maxine Chambers was a young mother and a widow. Betty’s husband, Army pilot Lt. Robert William Chambers, had died in 1942 when his P-38F Lightening aircraft crashed at Mills Field in San Mateo, California. Undaunted, Betty applied to be among the first female pilots in the newly formed Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) program.

Elizabeth Chambers's WASP portrait from her official personnel folders (OPF).

Elizabeth ​”Betty” Maxine Chambers, WASP Class of 44-W-3. Photograph from her official personnel folders (OPF), held at the National Archives in St. Louis.

A native of Hollywood, California, Betty worked for the Walt Disney Company inking cartoon celluloid cells and for Universal Studios inking cells for “picture process work.” After the death of her husband, Betty and her baby moved in with her parents; she also acquired a more stable job as a telephone operator at Southern California Telephone Company.

Betty wanted more. Like more than 1,000 other women, she took to the skies to find it.

Betty and her comrades applied to an innovative civilian program designed to employ women to ferry wartime aircraft, serve as flight instructors, tow targets for live antiaircraft practice, transport cargo, and fly experimental aircraft. These female pilots relieved men from domestic duties so they could fight overseas in the war.

The WASP program … [ Read all ]

My name is Harvey Milk—and I want to recruit you.

Today’s blog post comes from Michael Hussey, education and exhibit specialist at the National Archives.

What do Sean Penn and Ronald Reagan have in common? Probably not a whole lot besides Harvey Milk.

In 2008, Penn played the role of San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk in the Academy Award–winning film Milk.

In 1978, former Governor Ronald Reagan, Supervisor Milk, President Jimmy Carter, and former President Gerald Ford all opposed a ballot initiative sponsored by California state senator John Briggs. The “Briggs Initiative” would have banned gay men and lesbians from being teachers or otherwise employed by California school districts.

Copy of the opening of Harvey Milk's speech that he sent to the White House. From the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library.

Milk, who had been elected to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977, gave a rousing speech at the city’s 1978 Gay Freedom Day celebration. In it, he challenged Briggs and others to reexamine American history.

On the Statue of Liberty it says, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to be free . . . .” In the Declaration of Independence it is written “All men are created equal and they are endowed with certain inalienable rights . . . .” That’s what America is. No matter how hard you try, you cannot erase those words from the Declaration

[ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum is located in Simi Valley, California—about 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles—and holds over 60 million pages of documents, 1.6 million photographs, hundreds of thousands of feet of audiovisual material, and 40,000 artifacts.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California (Reagan Library)

In the Air Force One Pavilion, you can tour Air Force One (tail number 27000). This airplane carried Presidents Nixon, Carter, Ford, Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush all over the world and the United States. This “Flying White House” was integral to Reagan’s presidency: he wrote many speeches, signed legislation, and relaxed while traveling in Air Force One.

Reagan putts a golf ball on Air Force One, November 16, 1985 (ARC 198571)

You can also visit an exhibit on Presidential motorcades. Vehicles include one of Reagan’s presidential limousines, Secret Service suburbans, and a Marine One helicopter that flew President Johnson.

Air Force One Pavilion (Reagan Library)

The Museum also features a reconstructed Oval Office, showing how President Reagan decorated using warm, earthy colors. He even displayed a collection of bronzed saddles.

The Oval Office in the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum (Reagan Library)

One of President Reagan’s greatest goals while in office was to end the Cold War. He held many diplomatic talks with Mikhail Gorbachev. … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Hang ten, Pat Nixon!

First Lady Pat Nixon talking with surfers near Border Field, CA, on August 18, 1971. (Nixon Presidential Library)

Some time ago, a Facebook fan expressed thanks that we would never combine our First Ladies Friday with our Facial Hair Friday. To which we replied, never say never! Of course, the facial hair in this photograph is not on First Lady Pat Nixon, but that scraggly surfer goatee is in very close proximity to Pat, so we are going to count it as a two-for-one.

The First Lady had just finished a land-grant ceremony at Border Field, CA, to create a new park area at the U.S.-Mexico border for the Legacy of the Parks Program. Border Field State Park is 15 miles south of San Diego, CA. When the U.S.-Mexico War ended in 1848, delegations from both countries began surveying the boundary at this location in 1850. Border Monument number 258 can be seen from inside the park, but it no longer can be reached because there are border fences on both sides. When the First Lady was there, there was only barbed wire, and she was able to reach out and greet the Mexican citizens who had gathered on the other side.

The park is in the Tijuana River National Estuarine Research Reserve. Threatened and endangered birds like the Western Snowy Plover and the Light-footed Clapper Rail now live … [ Read all ]

World War I food conservation: “Pan de la libertad”

Recipes for "Pan de la libertad para conservar el trigo." (Records of the U.S. Food Administration, RG 4, National Archives at San Francisco)

Recipes for "Pan de la libertad para conservar el trigo." (Records of the U.S. Food Administration, RG 4, National Archives at San Francisco)

“What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?,” our current special exhibition in Washington, DC, examines the Government’s effect on what Americans eat. Government influence was especially visible during wartime, when many food products were reserved for feeding the troops and our Allies.

During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration, headed by Herbert Hoover, urged the American people to voluntarily conserve food, especially wheat, meat, fats, and sugar. Recognizing that a successful program had to reach out to all Americans, the agency distributed printed materials in several languages, including Italian pamphlets in New York City, Chinese food conservation notices in Hawaii, and Spanish recipes in California.

The featured recipes for “pan de la libertad” (liberty bread), using corn, oat, and barley flour instead of wheat, were found in the files of the California State Food Administration, housed at the National Archives at San Francisco. According to a note at the bottom, recipes were translated into Spanish for counties with significant Spanish-speaking populations.

An all-out publicity campaign was waged to educate the citizenry about the need for food conservation and how … [ Read all ]