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This post was written by Heidi Holmstrom. Heidi works in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, which is responsible for performing conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives.

This month the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC opened a brand new exhibit, Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American HistoryThe exhibit contains many records from NARA’s holdings, including films digitized right here in our Motion Picture Preservation Lab!

Spirited Republic highlights how the United States government’s policies towards alcohol have changed over time, including the period from 1920 to 1933 when the sale of alcohol was prohibited by law. The end of Prohibition is covered extensively in the Universal Newsreel collection. Here we present to you a motion picture timeline of the United States as it transitioned from “dry” back to “wet”.

alcoholtrainCitizens ride on carts loaded with alcohol prepared for shipment at the end of Prohibition.  (Still from Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 197)

The 21st Amendment to the Constitution, ending Prohibition, was proposed by Congress on February 20, 1933. Prior to full repeal of the 18th Amendment, President Roosevelt signed the Cullen-Harrison Act, which amended the Volstead Act to allow the manufacture and sale of beer with a 3.2% alcohol content. Previously, the Volstead Act had prohibited the sale of any beverage with an alcohol content above 0.5%. The signing of the Cullen-Harrison Act on March 22, 1933, led to much rejoicing . . . even among Congressmen.

Throughout 1933, individual states convened ratifying conventions to take up the proposed 21st Amendment. By the time of this November 9, 1933, newsreel release, 30 states had already ratified the amendment and its adoption was all but assured. It was on target for ratification by December 5th, with legal alcohol to begin flowing on December 15th. But as you can see from this newsreel, many people were already getting a head start . . .

On December 6, 1933, Universal released this celebratory newsreel story as repeal became law. Alcohol shipments shifted into high gear and revelers openly toasted its return. (Sadly, we do not have the narration for this film, but jump ahead to 49 seconds in the video to hear a rousing drinking song.)

The repeal of Prohibition was a great blow to the Temperance movement that inspired it, but though their voice was muted, these organizations did not disappear. A 1937 newsreel contained a story about the national convention of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union, whose members stated their firm belief that Prohibition would return to the United States.

BONUS NEWSREEL! How do you make the perfect gin fizz? In 1935 Louisiana Senator Huey Long was featured in a newsreel about this New Orleans specialty. Even though he professes to be “strictly on the water-wagon,” Senator Long samples a New York bartender’s take on a gin fizz not one, but three times to confirm it’s the real deal. Before taking the first sip, he reminds the bartender that the only reason he’s doing this is “to help you out . . . I wouldn’t touch a drop of it if I wasn’t trying to help you find out if you’ve mixed it right!”

Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History may be viewed in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC. The exhibit runs through January 10, 2016.

This post was written by Criss Kovac. Criss is the supervisor of the National Archives Motion Picture Preservation Lab. 

The Restoration

Nine From Little Rock was commissioned by George Stevens, Jr., head of the United States Information Agency (USIA), and directed by Charles Guggenheim. The film won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short on April 5th, 1965. To mark the 50th anniversary of winning the Oscar, The National Archives has completed a full digital restoration of the film.

Nine from Little Rock follows the students who integrated Central High School in 1957, focusing on their dreams and aspirations for the future. The desire of the USIA for the film, as outlined in a transmittal memo dated September 1, 1964, was to demonstrate “America’s commitment to freedom of the individual and justice under law,” and to document “the role of the Federal government in upholding the law protecting minorities, following the Supreme Court decree declaring racial segregation in public school education to be unconstitutional.”  The USIA’s specific target audiences for Nine From Little Rock were international youth programs and universities that followed race concerns in the US. The film was screened in nearly 100 cities outside of North America.

The film was photochemically preserved in 2007 to mark the 50th anniversary of the events in Little Rock and was screened in the McGowan Theater along with a program where John Lewis, George Stevens Jr., Carlotta Walls and Ernest Green (two of the Little Rock Nine) spoke at the event. [You can view the program on our YouTube Channel: Part 1, Part 2]

Selecting an appropriate film element for transfer was a challenge. The National Archives holds the 35mm negative for the first reel, but the second reel was never deposited with NARA. Both the 35mm original negative of reel one and a 16mm duplicate of the complete film were scanned for the project. The 35mm negative scan looked exceptional, while the scan from the 16mm lacked dynamic range. There was little to no detail in the dark region of the image and the light areas were completely washed out.  The mid-tones lacked depth and were very thin. But since there was no acceptable way to match the scan from the original 35mm negative to the 16mm negative without the shift being obvious between the two parts of the film, we used the 16mm duplicate for the restoration.

We scanned a 16mm fine grain master (print) using our Sondor Altra 2K. The raw files were ingested into the Digital Vision restoration suite where various automated restoration tools were applied (image noise/ grain reduction, flicker reduction, and basic dust and scratch removal). Exposure/ gamma corrections were applied scene by scene and manual dust/ dirt removal were applied frame by frame as needed.

Click through the slideshow to see stills from before and after the digital restoration of Nine from Little Rock.

In addition, the original 35mm tracks were scanned and restored. Using Pro Tools, the clicks, pops, ticks, and hiss were removed, background noise was reduced, and audio levels were adjusted to even out the levels, tone, and range. New 35mm optical tracks were made from the restored files to accompany the originals for preservation purposes.

The newly restored version of Nine from Little Rock is now available online. A screening of the film will be held in the McGowan Theater at the National Archives building in Washington, D.C. later this spring.


Where are they now?

Guggenheim’s film updates viewers on the accomplishments of the Little Rock Nine as of 1964. Here is what these pioneering students have done in the fifty years since the film was made:

Melba Patillo became a journalist and television reporter in San Francisco after earning her BA from San Francisco State, MA from Columbia, and PhD from the University of San Francisco.

Carlotta Walls graduated from the University of Northern Colorado and went on to become a real estate broker and is the president of the Little Rock Nine Foundation.

Elizabeth Eckford graduated from Central State University and returned to Little Rock where she was a probation officer and substitute teacher in Little Rock’s schools.

Gloria Ray graduated Illinois Institute of Technology and worked for Boeing, NASA, IBM, and co-founded Computers in Industry.

Minnijean Brown earned her BA from Laurentian University and her MA from Carleton University in Ontario Canada. She served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Workforce Diversity at the Department of the Interior during the Clinton Administration and taught social work at various colleges and universities in Canada.

Thelma Mothershed earned her BA and MA from Southern Illinois State and went on to teach in the St. Louis school system for 10 years and work as a counselor in the school system for 18 years.

Ernest Green, the first African American to graduate from Little Rock Central High, graduated from Michigan State University and became a successful investment banker and served as the Assistant Secretary for Employment and Training during the Carter Administration.

Jefferson Thomas earned the rank of staff sergeant and directed field campaigns in South Vietnam with the 9th Infantry Division. After returning he graduated from Los Angeles State College, managed his family’s business, worked for Mobil and the Department of Defense.  Mr. Thomas passed away in 2010.

Terrence Roberts went on to earn his BA from California State University, his MS from UCLA, and his PhD from Southern Illinois State in psychology. He is the CEO of his management consultant firm and has his own private psychology practice.

Guest blogger Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art as a result of her involvement as a volunteer in a holdings maintenance project for American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) documents at the National Archives at College Park. This article is part five of the series about World War I Art and Artists.


Local Identifier: 111 SC 153118: Capt. George Harding, E.R.C., one of the eight official artists appointed by the War Department. April 1918. Photographer: William S. Ellis, Phila, Pa.

The combat artists often rode together and sketched in the same areas, their paths crisscrossing the shell pocked land.  The subjects of their artwork changed as they moved with the American army from training areas to combat zones; from tranquil landscapes to destruction, wounded men, and the new technology of war.

Captain George Harding, like Harvey Dunn, wanted to be near the action and he spent as much time as close to the front lines as practicable.  He incorporated realism into his sketches, as contrasted with the heroism-infused drawings of Harvey Dunn.

111-SC-20112 Between shells at Chateau Thierry0001

Local Identifier 111 SC 20112: Between shells at Chateau Thierry. By Capt. George Harding. (Used in Collier’s Feb. 6, 1919).  Official War Drawing by American Military Artist.

Harding was with the troops as they fought their way through Chateau Thierry and the second battle of the Marne. Chateau Thierry was important because it was only fifty miles from Paris.  To the French it would have been a disaster to lose it to the Germans.

111-SC-31675 Traffic to Mon St. Pere

Local Identifier 111 SC 31675: Traffic to Mont St. Pere. The valley of the Marne at Mont St. Pere alive with artillery activity during American advance seen from part of town on hill. Capt. Geo. Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists

The second Battle of the Marne was initiated by the Germans, their last offensive strike of World War I. It was not a surprise to the Allies; they had intelligence of the planned attack. The French and the Americans made plans to defend the Marne River and deployed their troops strategically.  The French were unable to hold, but the American 38th Infantry Regiment of the 3rd Division held on, beating back a ferocious German assualt.

111-SC-20114 American troops entering a village

Local Identifier 111 SC 20114: American troops entering a village in pursuit of the enemy during the advance across the Marne, July 13, 1918, by Capt. George Harding (Used in Leslie’s, Jan. 25, 1919). Official Drawings by American Military Artist

“Mr. Chairman, “Marne” is a name indelibly inscribed on the pages of history.  It was at the Marne in September 1914, that the French under Joffre turned back the German hordes in their mad dash toward Paris; and it was at the Marne in July, 1918, on the selfsame ground that a single regiment of American Infantrymen, with some aid from the Artillery, once more stemmed the German tide and rolled it back in defeat; earning thereby for itself and its gallant colonel [Ulysses Grant McAlexander] the proud title “The Rock of the Marne.” Address to the 66th Congress by the honorable C. N. McArthur, representative from Oregon, on May 1, 1920.

111-SC-57018 American gun fire, early morning

Local Identifier 111 SC 57018:  American gun fire, early morning, opening of Verdun offensive. Captain George Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists.

Some of Harding’s drawings are titled “Verdun Offensive”.  The Battle of Verdun was fought in 1916, a German offensive that nearly broke the French lines. General Robert Nivelle’s command, often attributed to General Henri Petain, “Ils ne passeront pas” (they shall not pass), inspired the besieged and tired French soldiers to stand firm against the enemy. All of this long before the first American doughboy stepped onto French soil.


111-SC-57020 During Verdun drive

Local Identifier 111 SC 57020:  During Verdun drive a German plane got two Allied balloons in less than a minute. Captain George Harding. Drawings by Official American Military Artists.

So why Verdun?  Perhaps because it was close to the path American soldiers took from St. Mihiel to join the fighting in the Meuse-Argonne.  Perhaps because Verdun was a gateway from the East to the West. Or perhaps it was because the French victory at Verdun had made it a famous if not reverent memory to the valor of men.


The next combat artist to be featured in this series is Wallace Morgan.



National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives. Textual Records. Record Group 120. American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Combat Divisions, 3rd Division.

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.

Pershing, John J. My Experiences in the World War, Volumes I and II. Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York. 1931.

You might be surprised to learn that there was a moment in time when Ford Motor Company had one of the largest film studios outside of Hollywood. In April of 1914, when his company was barely a decade old, Henry Ford established the Ford Motion Picture Department. Along with motor vehicles, Ford began releasing films on a weekly basis, first a newsreel called The Ford Animated Weekly, and then The Ford Educational Weekly, which covered subjects of a less timely nature that could be exhibited longer. At its peak, the company newsletter, The Ford Times estimated that over 20 miles of film left their factory every week.


Workers in the Ford Motion Picture Department film a scene for an educational film. (Still from Mirror of America)

Films produced by Ford covered a wide range of educational subjects, from demonstrating an industrial process such as making dolls in a factory to travelogues that brought faraway or exotic locales to a theater near you. By 1920, the Ford Times reported that their films received between ten and twelve million viewers in 7,000 theaters in the United States, plus circulation in foreign markets such as France, Mexico, and Japan.

This priceless historical record was not always in the public trust. In November of 1963 in a ceremony in Washington, D.C., William Clay Ford presented to the National Archives 1.8 million feet of historical footage created by Ford Motor Company. For the occasion of the donation, the Archives premiered Mirror of America, a film that highlighted the collection and Henry Ford’s interest in moving pictures. The film serves as an introduction to the films and also advertises the collection as open for research. (As one might expect, there is also a fair amount of homage to Henry Ford the man.)

64.28: Mirror of America

Mirror of America includes a wide swath of the Ford Collection, including notable personalities of the day such as Thomas Edison, Buffalo Bill Cody, and the humorist Will Rogers. The resulting film demonstrates how the collection is a “mirror” of American life from the middle 1910s through the 1920s. (The assessment holds true as long as one considers that the “mirror” is pointed only in directions that were of interest to the Ford Motor Company at the time.) The Ford Collection covers aspects of American history that are not present in government-produced motion picture records, which is why it was a valuable acquisition.


Cameras captured William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody (L) in 1916, a year prior to his death. (Still from Mirror of America)

The involvement of Archives’ staff was extensive, even if it was not as direct as the credits would have us believe. A report in the January 1964 edition of the National Archives’ newsletter Archi-Views describes the project and the opening night ceremony, detailing the efforts of National Archives’ staff. Before footage could be selected, the film lab had to copy the flammable nitrate reels onto acetate safety stock  (the cost of the work was covered by a $200,000 grant from Ford). With the footage preserved, Deputy Archivist Dr. Robert Bahmer, Karl Trever, and Robert Jacoby winnowed the nearly two million feet down to a few hundred scenes that would be used in the film.

Once the footage was selected, the technical work of the film production, including writing and editing, was completed by Jerry McMechan and John Hollowaty from Ford Motor Company’s film department.

Mirror of America premiered November 18, 1963, when William Clay Ford officially presented the Ford Collection to the National Archives. According to the article in Archi-Views, the film was entered in film festivals in Monte Carlo and Nigeria. The program for the premiere noted that the addition of the Ford Collection to our existing collections was “an invaluable gift to future generations of Americans.” At over 50 years old, the documentary still stands as the best introduction to the Ford Collection, showcasing the depth, breadth, and quality of the footage.

Background information for this post came from the accession file for Mirror of America. For much, much more on the history of the Ford Motion Picture Department and the Ford Collection at the National Archives, see Phillip W. Stewart’s article “Henry Ford: Movie Mogul?” in the Winter 2014 issue of Prologue.

Seventy years ago, Associated Press photographer Joe Rosenthal captured what is perhaps the most iconic image of the Second World War. Taken just days into the more than month-long Battle of Iwo Jima, the Pulitzer Prize winning photograph documented the raising of the flag on Mount Suribachi. The photo was later used as the model for the US Marine Corps Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.

Photograph of Flag Raising on Iwo Jima

Although not as well-known as Rosenthal’s photograph, there is also a moving image record of the flag-raising. Marine Sergeant William Homer Genaust shot 16mm color footage of the event. Sadly, Sgt. Genaust never left Iwo Jima. Nine days after filming the raising of the flag, he was hit by enemy fire. His body was never recovered.


Genaust’s footage was used in this edition of United News, a newsreel series produced by the Office of War Information and distributed to theaters both domestically and overseas. The original footage was color, but was enlarged and copied to black and white for use in the newsreel. Two other stories are featured on this newsreel, including updates from the war front in Japan and Germany.