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Tag: new york city

Lucy Ridsdale and the Titanic Tragedy

Today’s post comes from Christopher Zarr of the National Archives at New York City.

At first glance, some of our records may not grab your attention.

Take for instance, two documents labeled Exhibit C and D. Exhibit C is a ticket from 1912 for excess luggage, and Exhibit D is a claim coupon to pick up one’s bags upon arrival. Compared to a Presidential speech or an act of Congress, these small items seem out of place for the National Archives.

While they might not seem too important to us, to Lucy Ridsdale this luggage ticket and coupon represented her whole life. To her, they were proof that when she boarded a steamship bound for the United States, she brought five trunks of objects that she had accumulated throughout her 50-plus years on earth.

Lucy Ridsdale was born around 1860 in Yorkshire, England.  For  25 years, Lucy ran a nursing home. When she boarded a train bound for the port city of Southampton on April 10, 1912, she was prepared to live out the rest of her days in the United States. It wasn’t her first visit to the U.S., but it would be her last. Lucy had relatives in Marietta, Ohio, and Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and she intended to enjoy retirement with her family.

So, it is not surprising that she brought everything she owned with her. Bringing … [ Read all ]

RMS Titanic: Letters from a Lost Liner

A detail from the claim submitted by Florence Gwinn, the widow of William Gwinn.

Today’s guest post was written by William B. Roka, a longtime volunteer at the National Archives in New York City. You can follow them on Facebook as they launch “Titantic Tuesdays” in the weeks leading up to the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

Since I’m a total history nerd, I was ready to do a little dance when I was allowed to examine some of the Titanic documents in the National Archives as part of my work as a volunteer researcher. But I was disappointed when I saw that most of the documents looked very mundane.

This collection documents the court cases brought after the ship sank. The Titanic’s owner, the Ocean Steam Navigation Company (better known as White Star Line), did not want to pay in full the hundreds of claims for compensation filed by survivors and relatives of victims of the sinking. But as I trudged ahead with my work, I soon realized how wrong I was.

As I examined the claims, I saw that each one had a story to tell. One in particular stuck in my mind. William L. Gwinn was a sea postal clerk working for the U.S. Postal Service (see widow’s claim below). At first I thought he was a regular passenger … [ Read all ]

9/11: The World Series and a President’s pitch

This post is part of a series on September 11. As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.

Today’s blogger is Alan C. Lowe, who has served as the Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library since April of 2009.

In 2001, it was so fitting that the World Series included the New York Yankees in a duel with the Arizona Diamondbacks. The city of New York and indeed the entire nation were still reeling from the attacks of September 11. As devastated as we were, as much resolve as we had, we still sought some normalcy, some sign that the world was not completely different. The World Series, the championship of our national pastime, helped start the healing.

President George W. Bush was asked to throw out the first pitch in Game 3 of the Series, the first game of that championship to be held in New York, played on October 30. At the Bush Library, we have the ball that the President threw, the jacket that he wore, and even the pitching rubber that he stood on at the mound. The jacket was a gift from New York City Fire Commissioner … [ Read all ]

Fat Man, Little Boy, A Packet of Jell-O

A search for “Rosenberg” in the Open Public Access system of the National Archives brings up a strange and poignant collection of documents: a passport picture of a family with the mother clutching a tiny infant, childlike sketches of shapes, a smiling couple, and an empty Jell-O box.

In September 1949, the White House announced the Soviets had successfully detonated an atomic bomb. The secrets behind the construction of Fat Man and Little Boy—the atomic bombs that had devasted Nagasaki and Hiroshima—were in the hands of the Soviets.

In 1950 the FBI arrested Emil Julius Klaus Fuchs, a German-born British atomic scientist. Although Fuchs did not know his American contact, the FBI eventually identified Harry Gold, a Philadelphia chemist. And in turn, this led to David Greenglass, a U.S. Army soldier and Soviet agent who had been assigned to Los Alamos, NM, where the bombs were built.

In June 1945, Greenglass had given material in to Anatoli Yakovlev, former Soviet vice-consul in New York City. And according to the FBI, Julius and Ethel Rosenbergs had been instrumental in persuading and assisting David Greenglass, brother of Ethel Rosenberg, in passing the secrets to Yakovlev.

But what about the Jell-O box?

Like a ”Best Friends” necklace, pieces of the Jell-O box could be matched, and the spies would be able to confirm their identities.

The Greenglasses were living in Albuquerque when a man came to their home, introduced himself … [ Read all ]

Teddy Roosevelt and Abraham Lincoln in the same photo

History is full of strange coincidences, and the Civil War is no exception. In the 1950s, Stefan Lorant was researching a book on Abraham Lincoln when he came across an image of the President’s funeral procession as it moved down Broadway in New York City. The photo was dated April 25, 1865.

At first it appeared like one of any number of photographs of Lincoln’s funeral procession, until he identified the house on the corner as that of Cornelius van Schaack Roosevelt, the grandfather of future President Teddy Roosevelt and his brother Elliot.

The coincidence might have ended there, but Lorant took a closer look. In the second=story window of the Roosevelt mansion he noticed the heads of two boys are peering out onto Lincoln’s funeral procession.

Lorant had the rare chance to ask Teddy Roosevelt’s wife about the image, and when she saw it, she confirmed what he had suspected: the faces in the windows were those of a young future President and his brother. “Yes, I think that is my husband, and next to him his brother,” she exclaimed. “That horrible man! I was a little girl then and my governess took me to Grandfather Roosevelt’s house on Broadway so I could watch the funeral procession. But as I looked down from the window and saw all the black drapings I became frightened … [ Read all ]