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Tag: Christmas

Merry Christmas from Space!

Telegram from Gordon Schorb, December 12, 1958, Eisenhower Presidential Library

Once upon a time, space was quiet. This was before satellites had cluttered the orbit of the earth, beaming TV shows and text messages and GPS coordinates.

Before 1958, space was very quiet.

On December 18, 1958, the Air Force placed the first communications satellite, a Project SCORE relay vehicle, into orbit.

And then, on December 19, the sound of the a human voice was transmitted through space. It was the voice of President Eisenhower, broadcasting a message of peace to the world below.

This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America’s wish for peace on earth and good will to men everywhere.

Press release from the White House, December 19, 1958. Eisenhower Presidential Library.

 

Fewer than 100 people knew about the project, called SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment). The goal was to put an Atlas missile into orbit and to show that communications satellites could transmit messages to Earth. It was a huge technological breakthrough and a milestone in the space race.

Sputnik 1 had been successfully launched in 1957 and had an … [ Read all ]

The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times

 

Roosevelt addresses the crowd at the Christmas tree lighting ceremony from the White House South Portico on December 24, 1941. Churchill can be seen on the right. (FDR Presidential Library)

The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941. FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.  But after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the ceremony would take place at all. With firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.

Plans for this “more homey” event had been set in motion the previous December. A few days before the ceremony, the Roosevelts had an idea. At the 1940 tree-lighting ceremony, FDR raised the issue to the crowds gathered on the Ellipse, “Next year the celebration must take place on the South End of the White House, where all can see the tree,” and “all you good people” would be invited to the gardens of the Executive Mansion to hear the President deliver his message.

A few months later, FDR wrote a memo to Col. Edward Starling,  the head of the … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: That’s not a real beard, Santa!

Personnel on the USS Lexington, December 1944 (ARC 520912)

I was going to try to find another bearded man to feature, but it’s practically Christmas Eve, and let’s face it, Santa Claus has the most famous beard (and reindeer) of all.

It’s like a giant cloud of fluffy white snow around his chin. It’s his defining characteristic. In the middle of July when there’s an older gentleman on the beach sweating under a large white beard, we just know that’s really Santa on vacation.

We have lots of pictures of the jolly old elf in our holdings. Santa Claus was a popular figure for World War II advertisments to encourage citizens to buy war bonds. No word on whether his snowy-white beard was the deciding factor in buying them, but I bet it made buying them more like a Christmas gift and less like a patriotic duty.

But my favorite image of Santa Claus from our holdings is the one above.

The original captions reads: “Personnel of USS LEXINGTON celebrate Christmas with make-shift decorations and a firefighting, helmeted Santa Claus, 12/1944.”

These young men were away from home over the holidays in 1944, but they still managed to bring the spirit of St. Nick to their ship during wartime. Someone took the time to make paper chains and paper tree, and hang a hand-drawn sign. And what else embodies the Christmas spirit like making your fellow serviceman … [ Read all ]