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I still remember the coloring book I received after a man from the power company came to my school and showed us a cartoon about a cat that is repeatedly “zapped” when it makes bad decisions around electricity. Like visits from the fire department and McGruff the Crime Dog, coloring books are a staple of public safety education for children.

Much to my delight, I recently learned that the early anti-drug education film Curious Alice was no exception. In its 1971 publication “A Guide to Drug Abuse Education and Information Materials,” the National Institute of Mental Health (the government agency that made the psychedelic cartoon) laid out its plans for elementary schoolers. An activity book was part of a planned educational package that included the film, posters, and pamphlets.

Unfortunately, I don’t think that the activity book made it into the permanent records of the National Archives. We were, however, able to obtain a copy via interlibrary loan. I scanned the booklet and am featuring some of the best pages in this post. You can download a PDF of the complete booklet here. The booklet contains a range of activities, from class activities like a drug abuse “science experiment” that utilizes a stalk of celery and a pantomime game where a suggested action is the caterpillar smoking his hookah, to individual activities like coloring pages and fill-in-the-blank worksheets.

The Best of the Curious Alice Activity Book

In this exercise, school children are presented with a set of drawings of cartoon characters using drugs. The child is expected to circle the drug and write its name on the line below the picture.
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Here’s the White Rabbit in connect-the-dot form:

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…and here are some of the best coloring pages. If you would like to color of one of these yourself, click on the image. It will open in a separate tab and you can print from there. If you want to share, take a picture and tweet it to @NARAMediaLabs.

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Since the Curious Alice booklet is not technically in the holdings of the National Archives, I’m rounding out this post with a public service announcement from the Everly Brothers. The same year that the National Institute for Mental Health released Curious Alice and the accompanying activity book, Don and Phil Everly filmed an advertisement warning the public about the dangers of amphetamines.

For more on early government anti-drug education, see my post on A Day in the Death of Donny B.



On October 2, 1967, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice. Marshall had a long history of fighting for civil rights in the legal system, most famously when he argued against school segregation in the Brown v. Board of Education case. Marshall served on the Supreme Court until 1991. He died in 1993.

From the release sheet:

JUSTICE MARSHALL Thurgood Marshall, great-grandson of a slave and the first Negro to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, tries on his official robes. President Johnson named him to replace retiring justice Tom Clark.

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Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall with his family.

You may view the complete reel, which includes stories about the start of the 1967 World Series, a train crash near the India-Pakistan border, 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.



As the Washington, D.C. area descends into playoff fever, The Unwritten Record takes a look back to the last postseason match-up between the Nationals and the Giants, the 1933 World Series contest between the American League’s Washington Nationals (also known as the Senators) and the National League’s New York Giants.* The action was covered in two Universal newsreels, released October 4th and October 9th 1933. The soundtracks for these reels no longer exist, but the footage and supplemental material in the production files have survived.

Game one, played in New York October 3rd, 1933, is shown in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 186. According to the release sheet, we see “Mel Ott’s first inning homer, Goose Goslin’s four sacker and that famous sixth inning slaughter of the innocents.”

Game three was played October 5th at Griffith Stadium in Washington D.C., with President Roosevelt throwing out the the first pitch. Washington beat New York 4-0. According to the cameraman’s “dope sheet,” Will Hays (most famous for the Hollywood production code that bore his name) was also in attendance. The story was covered as a “local” in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 187 and shown only in the Washington D.C. area.

The final game in the series shown in Universal News Vol. 5, Rel. 187. The outcome wasn’t great for Washington fans: On October 7th, the Giants took the series four games to one by beating the Senators 4 to 3 in extra innings in game five. The release sheet describes “unusual action pictures of the home run by Mel Ott that clinched the game after a delayed decision by the umpires.” The older gentleman in the stands that the cameraman settles on is Judge Kenesaw M. Landis, the first commissioner of baseball.

Also included in the Universal News production files are original programs for the games, narration scripts, and other related paraphernalia.

nyprogram-s1933 World Series program for games hosted in New York.

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1933 World Series program for games hosted in Washington, D.C.

Wondering who played? The programs offer photos of players and staff. These line-ups come from the New York program. Click to enlarge the images.

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The complete surviving newsreels of Vol. 5, Rel. 186 and Vol. 5, Rel. 187 may be viewed on our YouTube channel.

*The current Nationals team is, of course, not related to the 1933 team. That franchise moved to Minnesota to become the Twins in 1961.



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.

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