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The National Archives turns the big 8-0 on June 19. You may have thought the Archives was older considering our country is almost 250 years old, but it wasn’t until 1934 that President Franklin Roosevelt signed the National Archives Act (48 Stat. 1122) creating the National Archives as an independent agency. What, you might ask, was happening to the records before the establishment of the Archives?

Our records go back farther than 1934. Fortunately, agencies were keeping records, but in myriad places and under varied storage conditions. In 1935 the first records started arriving at the Archives and haven’t stopped. In fact, we have so many records that there are now 40 facilities across the nation to house all of them!

64-NA-69_a

“Photograph of State Department Records Being Received at Archives, 1936” (Local Identifier: 64-NA-69 / National Archives Identifier: 3493230)
Part of “Historic Photograph File of National Archives Events and Personnel, 1935 – 1975″ (Local Identifier: 64-NA / National Archives Identifier: 518146)

 In 1949, the Archives lost their independent status and was moved under the General Services Administration (GSA) by President Harry Truman. Our name also changed to the National Archives and Records Service (NARS). (You can see an in-depth timeline of the history of the Archives here.)

So where did “NARA” come from? In the 1970s GSA started discussing changing to subject based arrangement of records without regard to the original creators or collectors. This may not sound like a big deal, but it goes against archival principles, like provenance or respect des fonds, and tends to get archivists riled up. Prior to the French Revolution archivists tended to group records along subject lines regardless of who created them or where they came from. After the Revolution this idea of respecting the original groupings of records grew and is now a universally accepted principle of archival management. National Archives employees concerned about the deviation from this principle created a group to fight this in 1980 and on October 19, 1984 the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was established as an independent agency once again.

While we’ve been through several iterations, we celebrate June 19, so come visit and say “hello”! Check out the videos below about the National Archives through the years…

…including this one produced by the United States Air Force.

Your National Archives (Local Identifier: 64-GENERAL-10 / National Archives Identifier: 12065)

64-NA-1RG 64

“Photograph of Constitution Avenue Entrance, 1935″  (Local Identifier: 64-NA-1 / National Archives Identifier: 3493226)

This next video documents the dedication of the National Archives at College Park, often referred to as Archives II. It was built after the iconic National Archives facility in Washington, DC (pictured above) ran out of storage space. Archives II is where you can do research on our audiovisual holdings.

Archives II Dedication Ceremony, 05/12/1994 (Local Identifier: 64-GENERAL-47 / National Archives Identifier: 12072)

This newsreel shows a variety of record types held at the National Archives and preservation techniques used in the 1940s.

The Archives, 1940 (Local Identifier: COL-COL-122 / National Archives Identifier: 89855)



What are you doing with your summer? Ever thought of building your own submarine? This week, we’re featuring a homemade submarine, built by amateur inventor Byron Connett in the early 1930s. The underwater vessel was only ten feet long and 34 inches high. The inaugural voyage lasted 45 minutes and covered one mile.

From the release sheet:

HOME-MADE SUBMARINE TESTED. Wolf Lake Ind.- A queer fish-like underwater boat, capable of traveling 15 miles an hour and remaining under water  for forty-five minutes, is put through its trial runs by its builder, Byron Connett, who worked three years to complete it.

submarine3

Amateur inventor Byron Connett launches his homemade submarine.

You may view the rest of the incomplete newsreel, which also includes footage of the funeral of Japan’s Admiral Togo and a devastating fire, here.

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.



This week’s guest post is from Gene Burkett and Jan Hodges, volunteers at NARA in College Park, MD. They are co-leads, along with Warren McKay, on the Record Group 120, World War I Project. They believe that the Project, which has been in progress for more than four years, may wrap up before they retire from volunteer work.

 Background The cover of the book caught our eyes – a painting of American soldiers from World War I resting in the woods.  Colors in the painting are subdued; mostly beiges and whites, with tinges of red. The small splash of red on the arm of the soldier in the foreground hints of a wound, blood seeping from a bandage perhaps.

For NARA volunteers working on the records of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF), Record Group 120, the painting was an invitation to investigate the holdings at Archives II to see if records about the paintings and the artist were in the National Archives.

Dunn - Sunday Morning at Cunel - Color

Sunday Morning at Cunel, Harvey Thomas Dunn1

Dunn - Sunday Morning at Cunel - B&W

Local Identifier: 111-SC 57090 Drawing by Capt. Harvey Dunn. Sunday Morning at Cunel

The volunteers have been working to preserve the textual records of the American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) in World War I for nearly five years with more than thirty volunteers contributing to the project.  The work includes removing the records from the original boxes that are falling apart; removing old and rusty fasteners; and placing the documents into acid free folders and boxes.

Being able to handle and read the documents created by the army in World War I has created a lively interest in the Great War. During processing sessions, volunteers on the project have discussed weapons, the effects of the Spanish flu, General Pershing’s leadership, battles the Americans participated in, and even the terms of the armistice.

So armed with our scant bit of information, we headed to Still Pictures, where we were guided to RG 111-SC.  We found that the record group consists of thousands of photographs taken in World War I by the Army Signal Corps (SC).  The Army was careful to maintain a record of the artists’ work by photographing each piece before it was packed for shipment back to the United States. The pictures are approximately 5”x7” in size and while not in color, give the viewer a good sense of the towns the Army fought for or passed through and the daily lives of the soldiers. After considering all the photos for each artist, volunteers from the WWI Project selected the ones that appear in this and subsequent blog posts.

We found a box of textual files that pertained to the artists and their work.  Much of the material in the files is of the ordinary sort; requests for transportation and equipment, and so on.  However, there are one or two records that provide a bit more insight into the relationship between the artist and the Army.

After the United States declared war on Germany in early 1917, it entered into a period of intense preparation.  Thousands of men were conscripted, camps were built to house and train them, and the production of weaponry went into high gear.  The undertaking was immense and decisions about everything from how to form fighting units to the logistics of transport and supply occupied the leadership of the Army.

One decision was to send artists to cover the war in Europe. It was envisioned that the art would show brave American soldiers in battle, victorious over the enemy.  In short, it was to serve both as a tool of propaganda and an historical record.  In a statement issued to the press, the Army stated, “As part of its plan for making a complete official pictorial record of the American Army’s participation in the war against Germany, the War Department has a recommendation from General Pershing for special artists.” 2

Eight men were selected by a committee led by Charles Dana Gibson (famous for illustrations of “Gibson” girls).

William James Aylward - (1875 – 1956). Painter and illustrator.  His work had been published in Harper’s and in stories by Jack London and Jules Verne.

aylward, william james

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86627, Capt. William J. Aylward, E. R. C. one the eight official artists appointed by the War Department, April 1918

Walter Jack Duncan – (1881-1941) Illustrator for Scribner’s, McClure’s Magazine and Harper’s. His favorite medium was pen and ink.

duncan, walter jack

Local Identifier: 111 SC 153118: Capt. Walter J. Duncan, Engineers, G.H.Q. G-2-D. Official A.E.F. Artists, Vincennes, Seine, France. Photographer LT. C.C. Mayhew, S.C.

Harvey Thomas Dunn – (1884 – 1952) Painter and illustrator of articles for the Saturday Evening Post.

dunn, harvey thomas head shot

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86624: Capt. Harvey Dunn, One of the Official American Artists with the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Nov.1918.

George Matthews Harding – (1882 – 1959) Illustrator for the Saturday Evening Post.  He was both author and illustrator for stories that appeared in Harper’s.

Harding, George Matthews

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86630: 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.

Wallace Morgan – (1873-1948) Illustrated articles for New York newspapers, including the Herald and the Sun.  He worked mainly in charcoal, but used other media on occasion.

morgan, wallace - 2 head shot

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86625: Capt. Wallace Morgan , one of the eight official artists appointed by the War Department. April 1918

Ernest Clifford Peixotto - (1869 – 1940) Wrote and illustrated his own books.  He lived for a time in France and traveled through Europe and South America.  He had the distinction of being the oldest of the eight artists.

peixotto, ernest clifford

Local Identifier: 111 SC 155398: Capt. Ernest V. Peixotte , Engineers, G-2, Paris, Seine, France. March 1919. Photographer: Sgt. Chapman, S.C.

J. Andre Smith – (1880 – 1950) Etcher. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture.  He pursued painting in his spare time.

smith, j. (jules) andre

Local Identifier: 111 SC 153116: Capt. J. Andre Smith, Engineers, G.H.Q. G-2-D. Official artist. Vincennes, Seine, France. February 1919. Photographer: Lt. C. C. Mayhew, S.C.

 

Harry Everett Townsend - (1879 – 1941) Painter and illustrator for Harper’s and McClure’s.  Before being commissioned as a captain, Townsend created posters for the army.

townsend, harry everett

Local Identifier: 111 SC 86629: Mr. Harry Townsend, Artist, New York, commissioned captain in Engineering Reserve Corps, as official artist. April 1918. Photographer: Wm. Shewell Ellis

The men left successful careers in the U.S. to become captains in the Army Corp of Engineers.  After they arrived in France, they were attached to the Press and Censorship Division of the Intelligence Section. The artists were authorized by the American and French Commands to tour the battlefields and to paint or sketch what they saw.

The Artists in Europe

The artists were required to submit their work on a regular basis to the Army, as documented in the “General Policy Reference the Work of Official Artists.” 4 Artwork was sent to the HQ in France before being sent on to Washington D.C. where the incoming sketches were reviewed to determine if the artists were producing work that met the army’s requirements.

General Policy Artists0001

National Archives, Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I); General Headquarters: General Staff: G-2: Censorship and Press Division (G-2-D). Correspondence Relating to the Eight Official Artists of the AEF, 1917 -1919.

The eight men were in their thirties or forties when they joined.  They arrived in France in May 1918 and spent the next nine months roaming at will through the war zone.  They sketched new technology, such as balloons used for low level aerial surveillance of enemy activities, tanks, and airplanes.  Their depictions of towns and pastoral scenes plainly showed that, away from the front lines, life went on as it always had. Soldiers in battle scenes, marching, sitting around fires to get warm, and doing everyday chores were frequent subjects for the artists.

Pieces the artists submitted shortly after arriving in France were not universally appreciated by the Army.  In a letter sent to one of the artists, it was noted that “neither the magazine editors for whom the pictures were intended nor the officers of the General Staff appear to express very much interest in the pictures.  They do not serve either a military purpose nor propaganda purposes”.  5

The reason that the artwork were not war like was that the artists were experiencing life well behind the front line. As the American army’s participation in battles increased, the nature of the artwork changed, reflecting the new realities of the war.

Photos of the art work of each of the eight artists will be featured in subsequent posts.

Sources:

1. http://www.history.army.mil/html/artphoto/pripos/wwi-print/; (B&W) National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC-57090, Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

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

2, 4, 5: National Archives, Record Group 120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War I); General Headquarters: General Staff: G-2: Censorship and Press Division (G-2-D). Correspondence Relating to the Eight Official Artists of the AEF, 1917 -19.

References

  1. Cornebise, Alfred Emile. Art From the Trenches: America’s Uniformed Artists in World War I. College Station,Texas A&M University Press. 1991
  2. Hacker, Barton C. and Vining, Margaret. “Witnessing the Great War: American Artists on the Western Front 1918”. Conference, “War in Visual Arts”. University College Cork (Ireland), Sept. 2013
  3. 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.
  4. http://www.history.army.mil/html/artphoto/pripos/wwi-print/
  5. http://www.schoonoverstudios.com/howard-pyle-a-students/bios/133
  6. http://www.illustration-art-solutions.com/william-james-aylward.html.
  7. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walter_Jack_Duncan
  8. http://www.societyillustrators.org/

This post was edited and reformatted on June 23, 2014 to include additional photos and subject tags.



On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood arrived at the University of Alabama to register for summer classes. Instead of a helpful low-level administrator guiding them through the process, it took the National Guard to ensure their enrollment– George Wallace, the governor of their state, was blocking the door. Wallace’s “Stand in the Schoolhouse Door” was the fulfillment of a campaign promise to prevent the desegregation of schools in Alabama. After hundreds of other qualified African-American applicants were denied admission, Hood and Malone were carefully selected to be the first break the color barrier. They were fully aware of the risk they were taking, but courageously showed up on that June day anyway to forge a path for other African-Americans to pursue an equal education. Vivian Malone graduated from the University of Alabama in 1965 and went on to a long career in public service. James Hood moved on to another school to finish his bachelor’s degree, but returned to the University of Alabama in 1995 to complete a doctorate.

From the release sheet:

ALABAMA STORY: NEGROES ENROLLED AS GOVERNOR YIELDS: The University of Alabama campus is under tight security guard as Governor George Wallace confronts a deputy U.S. Attorney. The Federal officers are armed with a proclamation urging the Governor to end his efforts to prevent two Negro students from registering. He stands firm and President Kennedy Federalizes the National Guard. When they move in, the Governor bows to Presidential authority and James Hood and Vivian Malone become the first two Negroes to be registered at the University. That night the President appealed to the Nation, saying the United States is facing a “moral crisis” and that it is the duty of all to uphold the law.

You may view the complete newsreel, which also includes a French airshow and a look back to D-Day, here.

UA3

Vivian Malone walks past a throng of reporters to register for summer classes at the University of Alabama.

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.



This week I’m highlighting color photographs taken as the Western Allies prepared for the invasion of Normandy (D-Day). The overwhelming majority of D-Day related color still film found in the National Archives document the pre-assault phase and not of the invasion area. Black-and-White photographs and other D-Day related documents from the National Archives can be found in our Online Public Access (OPA) system and in the new online exhibit “1944 – D-Day and The Normandy Invasion”.

111-C-1169Local Identifier: 111-C-1169, “American troops load onto LSIs at a port in Britain where barrage balloons have been anchored for protection against strafing and low level bombings.”

111-C-1197 Local Identifier: 111-C-1197, “These American troops are marching through the streets of a British port town on their way to the docks where they will be loaded into landing craft for the big assault.”

111-SC-1209 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1209, “Jeeps being driven into the open doors of an LCT at a port in Britain in preparation for D-Day.”

111-SC-1214 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1214, “Men and equipment are massed together in landing craft in preparation for the big assault on the European continent.  England.”

111-SC-1218 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1218, “This is the last roll call for the men before they board landing craft for the big assault on the European continent.”

111-SC-1219 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1219, “View of an LCT with American troops and equipment loaded aboard awaiting the signal for the assault against the continent.”

111-SC-1232Local Identifier: 111-SC-1232, “American troops at a British port descend into barges which will take them to troop ships from which they will launch the attack against Hitler’s Fortress Europe.  Note Barrage balloons in the background.”

111-SC-1237

Local Identifier: 111-SC-1237, “American troops at a British port descend into barges which will take them to troop ships from which they will launch the attack against Hitler’s Fortress Europe.”

111-SC-1247 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1247, “Trucks which will carry supplies to front line troops when the assault against Hitler’s Europe begins, are being loaded on an LST in a British port.”

111-SC-1248 Local Identifier: 111-SC-1248, “Medics and litter bearers going up the ramp of an LCT which will take them to France for the assault against Hitler’s Europe.”

111-C-1258 Local Identifier: 111-C-1258, “These American troops have loaded their equipment onto an LCT and are waiting the signal for the assault against the Continent.”

 

 

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