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In an effort to provide information on recently declassified motion pictures and sound recordings the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch will publish a quarterly list of newly declassified records.

From July 1, 2014 through September 30, 2014 the following records were declassified.

Motion Pictures:

Local Identifier           Title

342-SFP-387 Operation of System 119-L

 

 

Sound Recordings:

Local Identifier           Title

No sound recordings were declassified during this quarter.

 

Descriptive information for declassified records can be accessed by searching for the item number, ex. “341-IR-38-56”, in NARA’s Catalog (OPA). You may also search on the Declassification Project Number (NND), if you know one. For example, searching on the declassification number “NND 64803” returns entries that are part of Declassification Project 64803. A list of declassified textual records can be found on the National Declassification Center’s web page.

Check out the post “From Top Secret Vault to Open Stacks: Declassification of Moving Images” to learn more about the declassification process. Lists of other recently declassified moving images and sound recordings can be located by clicking on the Declassification Quarterly Reports category on the left side of the blog.



At the beginning of the 20th century, dreams of flying morphed from science fiction to reality. From the Wright Brothers’ early expeditions in Kitty Hawk, to the World War I fighter pilots in Europe, the airplane generated excitement around the world. Yet despite intense interest and publicity, the airplane’s practicality was still in doubt. Although people were enthralled at the prospect of aviation, most had no intentions of leaving the ground. Luckily, the fears surrounding aviation were quelled by an unlikely government agency, the United States Postal Service.

De Havilland Plane, one of the first used to carry mail (28-MS-1C-63)

Early aviation was not for the faint of heart. Most aircraft did not have enclosed cabins, which subjected pilots to freezing temperatures and treacherous winds. Planes were not always equipped with wheel brakes, and small engines often led to disastrous results. Many pilots were forced to abandon ship while many others tragically went down with their planes. Serviceable runways were scarce and established airports with lights and radio services were even scarcer. These conditions made air travel, especially commercial flight, a dubious agenda.

Yet the prospects of flying were too great to ignore. Backed by government funding, the Post Office began an experimental air mail route from Washington D.C. to New York in 1918.  Additional funding was given to improve navigational aids, radio communication, and provide weather information. Through the 1920s, the original mail route expanded to incorporate “feeder routes” that connected major cities across the country.

Aerial view over Washington Monument (28-MS-1A-55)

The Post Office’s role in aviation changed when Congress passed the Air Mail Act of 1925. The Air Mail Act, also known as the Kelly Act, mandated that the Post Office contract out their air mail routes to independent companies. Senator Clyde Kelly, the bill’s congressional voice, hoped that airlines would reinvest profits earned from carrying air mail into establishing passenger services.

Many companies bid for the right to fly the mail.  By 1929, there were 44 separate companies flying 53 different routes. The Robertson Aircraft Corporation, for example, won the bidding for Contract Air Mail Route 2 from Chicago to St. Louis. Robertson’s chief pilot was a young aviator named Charles Lindbergh. During his time with the post office, Lindbergh was forced to bail out of his plane on two separate occasions.

Charles A. Lindbergh Loading Cargo, Lambert Field, St. Louis, 1925

Yet the large number of small mail carriers was not profitable and companies did not reinvest in commercial aviation services. In 1930 Congress passed another Air Mail Act.  The act gave the postmaster general the authority to grant contracts to large, well financed companies. Small companies morphed into giant corporations. The Robertson Aircraft Corporation merged with other small companies to form what would eventually become American Airlines. These giant conglomerates created more efficient mail delivery systems, and for the first time, efficient passenger services.

Air mail display at the Post Office in Manteca, California. Dec. 15, 1939. (28-MS-3B-5)

Yet the formation of huge airline companies raised suspicions. A scandal mounted in 1934 when the former Postmaster General, Walter Brown, was accused of colluding with the airlines. Democrats under Franklin Delano Roosevelt asserted that Brown, a Republican, created a monopoly within the aviation industry and favored Republican airline owners. As a result of the scandal, all government contracts were cancelled, and, for a brief time the United States Army carried the air mail.

The Army, however, was ill-equipped to carry the mail. Planes were unable to fly in inclement weather and many inexperienced pilots died in the attempt. The Army’s mail delivery system was short-lived.  Only a few months after the scandal, contracts were returned to the large airlines.

Air mail plane on display in Times Square, New York (28-MS-1C-115)

Had it not been for the Post Office and early air mail services, the commercial industry would not have prospered in the manner that it did. Government subsidies allowed airlines to build a customer base and gradually incorporate passenger service. The decision to invest in large airlines had lasting effects on the commercial airline industry. Furthermore, the consistency in which the air mail was delivered helped assure the public that flying was safe. During a time when imaginations soared, the Post Office was soaring along side.

The photos above all come from Record Group 28-MS. Records of the Post Office Department of Mail Services. In addition to the pictures from the Air Mail services, the Still Pictures division has a large number of photos pertaining to individual Post Offices, Post Office artwork, and Post Office construction.  The Motion Picture division has recently digitized a film from 1938 celebrating the 20th anniversary of air mail which can be viewed here.



For the release of a new short film about Austria’s Lipizzan horses, Universal-International, the maker of Universal News, staged a special publicity event at a drive-in movie theater.

From the release sheet:

“HORSE NIGHT” AT THE DRIVE-IN, CALIFORNIA – “Horse night” at the drive-in. An enterprising theatre manager sets up oats and rye on the rocks and invites the equine crowd in for a special showing of Universal-International’s short subject, “Stallions On Parade.”

horsedrivein-3

Movie-goers enjoy the drive-in with their horses.

You may view the complete newsreel, which includes stories about a deadly typhoon in Japan, daring parachuting tricks in France, the opening of the World Series, and others, on our YouTube Channel.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.

A Mitzvah to Serve

by on September 23, 2014


This post was written by Marcia Kolko. Marcia is an archives specialist in the National Archives Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch.

September represents one of the holiest months of the year for members of the Jewish faith, as it includes the High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. It is worth noting then, that the Motion Picture, Sound and Video Branch has within its holdings a 1969, color film entitled A Mitzvah to Serve.

Wikipedia will tell you that the Hebrew word “mitzvah” is often defined as a moral deed performed as a religious duty. A more cultural description of the word might be an act of human kindness. Either use of the word is apparent in this orientation film which presents the meaning, responsibilities and value of Jewish lay leadership in the armed forces. Scenes examine how American Jewish servicemen participated in (and, in the absence of a rabbi, often led) holiday and weekly religious services in Vietnam, as well as other postings around the globe. According to documents in the production file, the film was intended to recruit servicemen of all faiths to participate in the lay leadership program, as well as serve as a resource for Christian Chaplains who had “the prime responsibility for the spiritual life of Jewish soldiers.”

mitzvah-3

A Jewish lay leadership volunteer conducts a religious service for soldiers stationed overseas. (Still from A Mitzvah to Serve.)

In interviews throughout the film, soldiers relate how the services they attended strengthened their Jewish identity and provided a community for them in an otherwise gentile environment. The film’s title A Mitzvah to Serve is undoubtedly making a reference not only to the importance of volunteering for military service, but also to the responsibility and kindness of leading others at a religious gathering in the absence of a rabbi.



Long considered an essential accessory, this week’s featured Universal News story shows us the latest in hat fashions for the 1956-1957 winter season.

From the release sheet:

HAT FASHIONS
In New York, creations of the country’s foremost milliners for the November to January season are previewed. Ranging from chic miniature pillboxes to resplendent toques and turbans, the mood is appropriately festive.

hats-3

 A range of the latest hat fashions are modeled.

You may view the complete reel, which includes stories about Hurricane Flossie, and the death of athlete Babe Didrikson, known as the world’s greatest woman athlete, among others, on our YouTube Channel. The soundtrack for this reel no longer exists.

About the Universal Newsreel Collection at NARA:

The Universal Newsreel Collection is one of the most used motion picture collections at the National Archives and Records Administration. Universal Newsreels were shown in movie theaters twice a week, from 1929 until 1967, and covered a wide range of American life and history during that time period. Each release usually contained five to seven stories averaging two minutes in length.

In 1974, Universal deeded its edited newsreel and outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives (NARA), and did not place any copyright restrictions on its use (some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights).

While Universal disposed of many of the soundtracks, leaving the newsreels incomplete, supplementary material like scripts, shot lists, and event programs can be found in the production files, available for research at Archives II in College Park, Maryland.

Learn more about the Universal Newsreel Collection in this post and in this Prologue article. Watch other Universal Newsreels in our research room, in OPA, and on this playlist.

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