Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

Tag: National Archives at Kansas City

Homestead Act still stirs excitement 150 years later

In the wake of the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act, the Exhibits Division’s senior registrar, Jim Zeender, and archivist Greg Bradsher flew out to America’s heartland to share a document that made it all possible.

A street flag honoring the 150th anniversary of the Homestead Act waves in Beatrice, NE.

Last month, they visited the Homestead National Monument of America, four miles west of Beatrice, NE, to install the exhibit. The Homestead Act of 1862 is a four-page document signed by Abraham Lincoln. Because it is written on parchment, the document is very sensitive to fluctuations in humidity. Great care was taken to ensure the case kept relative humidity steady as the Homestead Act traveled to Nebraska. This is the first time all four pages have been displayed.

We love the love the Homestead Act is getting in Beatrice, NE, as evidenced by this puzzle...

“The Homestead Act is an important document because it opened the way for settlement of the west,” Zeender said. “It was an engine for immigration to the west, even bringing in people from overseas.” The act granted most Americans the ability to claim 160 acres of undeveloped federal land west of the Mississippi River as long as the claimants were at least 21 years old, lived on the land for five years, and showed evidence of making improvements. Its passage allowed 270 million acres of … [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesday: Whale Surprise!

Recipes for Whale Pot Roast and Curried Whale from the Records of the U.S. Food Administration, RG 4 (National Archives at Kansas City)

Today’s guest post comes from Jennifer Audsley Moore, who is an archives technician and volunteer coordinator at the National Archives at Kansas City.

Whale: It’s what’s for dinner.

At least, that is how the U.S. Food Administration and U.S Bureau of Fisheries would have it. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration was established under the Lever Act to ration food and stabilize prices. With farmers and other industries mandated to comply with the act, certain food items such as sugar, wheat, and beef became difficult to procure.

But for the majority of Americans, participation in food rationing was more strongly suggested than mandatory. Advertisements designed to admonish Americans into forgoing sugar, beef, pork, wheat in the name of patriotism abounded. American soldiers fighting in France needed beef and sugar rations, and Uncle Sam needed the ships normally used to import sugar and other luxuries for the war effort.

So just what were Americans at home supposed to serve for dinner? Not beef. Not pork. Chicken perhaps? No. How about whale? Yes, whale.

Perhaps this might not seem far-fetched in Alaska or even New England (although in the Midwest we tend to identify the East Coast with clam chowder … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Prisons, Potatoes, Pipe Cleaners

You may have seen some of these beards and mustaches before! The mug shots of prisoners at Leavenworth Penitentiary have been featured here and here.

But the images above take facial hair to a whole new level! Staff at the National Archives at Kansas City got together and created Potatriot dioramas (inspired by this post). They kept the prisoners’ jumpsuits simple with black and white paper, but then took pipe cleaners and pens to interpret the facial hair, from beards to handlebar to stubble. Truly impressive! Click on the picture to enlarge, or admire the set on Flickr.

You can check out our full set of historic Potatriots dioramas on Flickr. And if you create your own Potatriots scene, send it to volunteer@nara.gov, and we will add it on Flickr!

Why do we hold the records of prisoners at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas? Find out in this Prologue article!… [ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Crimes against butter

Charles Wille was sent to the Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth in 1915 for crimes against butter. (ARC 596115)

The Federal Penitentiary at Leavenworth, Kansas, has housed some famous and infamous inmates, such as “Birdman of Alcatraz” Robert Stroud and Machine Gun Kelly. In the early 20th century, the prison took in some less likely felons—violators of the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.

How did trafficking in this popular butter substitute become a Federal offense? Well, almost immediately after New York’s U.S. Dairy Company began production of “artificial butter” in 1871, regulation began. Dairy interests pushed Congress to pass the 1886 act, which imposed a two-cent tax (per pound) on margarine and also required manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers of margarine to obtain margarine licenses.

By 1902, 32 states had bans on coloring margarine yellow to make it look more like butter. That same year, Congress increased the tax to 10 cents a pound for colored margarine but imposed a lesser tax of a quarter of one cent per pound on the uncolored stuff.

The exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” includes the story of felons convicted of violating sections of the Oleomargarine Act and sent to the Federal prison at Leavenworth. Some tried to pass the margarine off as butter; others tried to evade the tax by reusing tax stamps again and again.

Joseph Wirth (along with his

[ Read all ]

You can grow a mustache, but you can never leave

Did you catch Mugged! Facing Life at Leavenworth at the  National Archives at Kansas City this summer?

The exhibit may be closed now, but you can learn more about the prison, its inmates, and its records in this new article from Prologue. And it’s not too late to see some more mug shots from the exhibits. Check out the album on the National Archives Facebook page.

Located twenty-five miles north of Kansas City, the United States Penitentiary at Leavenworth opened its doors in 1895 as the nation’s first Federal penitentiary. Since it was a Federal prison, the National Archives at Kansas City has many of its records.

The prison is still in use today. While mustaches may not be in fashion for modern inmates, a hundred years ago there plenty of hats, facial hair, and startled expressions. Among the many featured mug shots of prisoners are many fine examples of facial hair: the three below feature mustaches.

Charles E. Billingsley, #7183. Billingsley was sentenced to seven years and five months for violating the National Banking Law in 1908. Mrs. Billingsley made every attempt to obtain a pardon for her husband by asking men of status to write to the warden of Leavenworth testifying to his character. Mr. John Thomas of the Code Commission of Oklahoma wrote, “I am not personally acquainted with Mrs. Charles Billingsley, but her letter is a cry from the heart of the disconsolate wife-the sorrow oppressed mother-who, in her loneliness seeks to ameliorate the condition of her life’s mate, now suffering the penalties denounced by law against those who violate its provisions.” Billingsley served until 1913. RG 129, National Archives at Kansas City.

Charles E. Billingsley, #7183. Billingsley was sentenced to seven years and five months for violating the National Banking Law in 1908. Mrs. Billingsley made every attempt to obtain a pardon for her husband by asking men of status to write to the warden of Leavenworth testifying to his character. Mr. John Thomas of the Code Commission of Oklahoma wrote, “I am not personally acquainted with Mrs.

[ Read all ]