Impending Disaster: Footage of the Lusitania’s Departure from New York

One hundred years ago, in the midst of the First World War, the RMS Lusitania left New York for Liverpool, England with nearly 2000 passengers and crew members aboard. In the film below, passengers arrive in a flurry of a cabs and board the ship. Less than a week later, most of them were dead, victims of Germany’s escalating wartime tactics.

Footage of the Lusitania as she departed from New York May 1, 1915. Intertitles have been extended for increased readability. (111-H-1221)

On May 7, 1915, just off the coast of Ireland, the ship crossed paths with a German U-boat and was struck by a torpedo. 1,191 passengers and crew would lose their lives. 128 were Americans, including writer Elbert Hubbard, who is seen in the featured film at 3:00. Many attribute the sinking of the Lusitania with increased hostility toward Germany in isolationist America. The United States entered World War I two years later.

For more on the Lusitania, see posts on our sister blog, Prologue, including a piece about the ship’s difficult-to-launch lifeboats that resulted in increased fatalities, and an interview with the Lusitania’s captain, William T. Turner, following the sinking of the Titanic in 1912.

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Happy Birthday, Ulysses S. Grant!

This post was written by Mark Meader. Mark is an Archives Specialist with the Motion Picture, Sound and Video branch. He participated in historical reenactments for over forty years, including over twenty years as a Union private in Civil War reenactments.

There is a scene in Frank Capra’s film “Mr. Deeds Goes to Town” where Longfellow Deeds (Gary Cooper), a small town poet who has inherited 20 million dollars, stands in awe of Grant’s Tomb in New York City, the largest mausoleum in North America. When Babe Bennett (Jean Arthur), a reporter who is reporting his antics of being a hick in a big city asks what Deeds sees in the huge structure, he says “I see a small Ohio farm boy becoming a great soldier. I see thousands of marching men. I see General Lee with a broken heart, surrendering, and I can see the beginning of a new nation, like Abraham Lincoln said. And I can see that Ohio boy being inaugurated President – things like that can only happen in America.”

Grant was a typical rural Midwesterner, wrote Pulitzer Prize winning author Bruce Catton: five feet eight, stooped, unmilitary in his gait, with creased horizontal wrinkles across his brow giving him a faintly harassed look. Somewhere in that man was a proud, shy little West Point graduate who put on the best uniform he had to go back to his Ohio hometown on furlough, and was laughed at by the livery stable hangabouts for a dude. After that Grant preferred to wear the plain uniform of a private soldier, with officers’ insignia sewn to the shoulders. The man who directed so much bloodshed was made queasy by the sight of red meat, and had his cooked black, almost to a crisp. When he prepared for his day’s rounds he took two dozen cigars, which were tucked away in various pockets. He had the look about his eyes of a man who had come way up from very far down, a stubborn, taciturn bulldog-tough man who did not know when to quit, yet forbid his beloved wife, who quaintly spoke of him as “Mr. Grant”, to have an operation that would cure her crossed eyes because they were so dear to him.


Grant poses in front of a tent in Cold Harbor, Virginia.
Image cropped. See full image at catalog link. 111-B-36 (NAID 524455)

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio in 1822, the son of a tanner. At the age of 17 he was given an appointment to West Point, the Military Academy of the United States, by his Congressman, Thomas Hamer, whose letter of appointment mistakenly listed him as Ulysses S. Grant of Ohio. Grant kept the name, and his friends at the academy nicknamed him “Sam” because his first initials were U.S. like Uncle Sam. He served in the Mexican War, although he opposed the idea of a large country such as the United States fighting a small country like Mexico. A brave soldier, he fought both under Generals Zachary Taylor at Monterey and Winfield Scott at Mexico City, where at Chapultepec Grant hoisted a disassembled small cannon to a bell tower to suppress enemy fire when it was reassembled. After the war, his marriage to Julia Dent in 1848, at which future Confederate General James Longstreet was his best man, was an island of stability in a military world of constant assignments to outposts all over the country. Because of one of these to Fort Humboldt in the California Territory was without his family, he started to drink and was forced to resign his U.S. Army commission of Captain.

He returned to his family and was unsuccessful at farming, bill collecting, and working in a tannery hide shop for his father-in-law in Galena, Illinois. Thought by most to be a ne’er-do-well, when the American Civil War began Grant surprised many when he helped raised a company of well-drilled recruits and went with them to fight for the Union. Because of his tough military training he was soon promoted to Colonel, then Brigadier General of Volunteers. Grant successfully campaigned against Paducah, Kentucky, then Forts Henry and Donelson in Tennessee. His demand for the unconditional surrender of Fort Donelson led to his being called “Unconditional Surrender” Grant by the press, and President Lincoln promoted him Major General. But then, Grant was accused of being a drunk when the Union Army of Tennessee’s encampments were initially captured at the Battle of Shiloh on April 6-7, 1862, even though the army under his personal command was able to defeat the Confederates the second day. The battle was the costliest in the history of the United States up to then, with over 23,000 casualties. Critics opposed Grant’s command, but President Lincoln overruled them, saying “I can’t spare this man, he fights.”


Grant at Civil War encampment. 111-B-5041 (NAID 529151)

Grant’s further successful campaigns resulted in the capture of the Confederate bastion of Vicksburg on the Mississippi River in 1863 and its entire army, which effectually split the Confederacy in half. His capture of Chattanooga Tennessee in 1864 gave the Union final control of the state and opened Georgia and the heartland of the Confederacy to successful invasion by General William T. Sherman.  President Lincoln promoted Grant to command of all the armies of the North, and Grant and the Union Army of the Potomac, with bulldog tenacity, latched onto Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia at the Wilderness in May 1864. They did not let go until the Lee’s Army surrendered at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, in April, 1865.

Because of his successful reputation of wartime service, Grant was elected as the Republican President in 1868 with his campaign slogan “Let Us have Peace.” Due to his difficulty in spotting self-opportunists, Grant’s two terms (1868-77) were riddled with scandals and there were many congressional investigations into corruption in his administration. Despite this, as President, Grant guided the South back into the Union, tried to protect the freed African-Americans and make them full citizens of the Nation, changed the government’s policy from Indian removal to living peacefully with Native Americans, and settled wartime claims with Great Britain.


President Ulysses S. Grant. 111-B-4065 (NAID 528217)

Upon leaving the White House, the Grants made a trip around the world that became a journey of triumphs, a highlight of the trip being an overnight stay and dinner hosted by Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. A visit to Europe and the Holy Land followed, and they returned to Rome where they were received by Pope Leo XIII. Continuing the trip through the Far East, they were cordially received at the Imperial palace in Tokyo by the Emperor and Empress of Japan, and Grant helped mediate a dispute between Japan and China over the Japanese annexation of the Ryukyu Islands. The world tour was costly, and Grant, having diminished his savings, needed money and a new home. Family business ventures followed that were not successful, and he ended up penniless and destitute. Grant wrote several well-received articles for The Century Magazine for $500, and the editor of the magazine suggested that he write his memoirs, as many others Generals, such as Sherman, had done. He started them in 1884, but was diagnosed with throat cancer. Grant continued writing his memoirs in a cottage on Mount McGregor NY, finishing it 5 days before he died on July 23, 1885. It was a critical and commercial success, and provided well for his family. Grant was eulogized by many in the press, who likened him to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. In his honor, President Grover Cleveland ordered 30 days of mourning for the Nation for this tanners’ son from Ohio, who had served his country well.

Information for this post came from the Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant and A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton, 1953. Grant’s memoirs are available to read online

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Photographs Relating to the Marshall Plan and Post-WWII Economic Recovery in France

In 1973 the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) transferred to the National Archives approximately 31,000 negatives and corresponding prints created by the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA) and its successor, the Mutual Security Agency (MSA), to document economic recovery in Western Europe after World War II under the Marshall Plan. After processing, this accession became series 286-MP “Marshall Plan Programs, Exhibits, and Personnel, 1948-1967” (National Archives Identifier 541771). During processing it was discovered that the French portion of the file was missing, which staff presumed would be an extensive and important part of the series. After consulting with the USAID, the exact location of the file was not determined and remained a mystery for over 10 years.


Change of Holdings Report for Marshall Plan Accession

This started a 40 year search to locate and eventually recover the alienated French file. In 1984, the lost file was discovered by researcher Linda Christenson in the hands of a commercial photography company in Paris.   Christenson was researching for a traveling photo exhibit in France on behalf of the United States Information Agency (USIA).  The company had started maintaining and managing the collection at an offsite U.S. Embassy facility in 1971 after the photographic section at the U.S. Embassy closed and over the next 32 years moved the collection several times.  Part of the agreement between the ECA and the French company included providing free reproductions to the ECA, the US Embassy in Paris, and later the USIA.  From 1984 until 2013, the National Archives was unsuccessful in retrieving the files, but through the hard work of NARA’s Archival Recovery Team, Ed McCarter (formerly of the Still Picture Branch), Jeff Landou (Office of General Counsel), and Frank Cordes (National Archives Foundation) who acted as the French interpreter, and the support of the Marshall Foundation in Lexington, Virginia and the U.S. State Department and U.S. Embassy in Paris, the owner of the commercial company agreed to transfer the collection to the National Archives.  In June 2013, the NARA team traveled to Paris to survey and box up the collection for transport back to the United States. During pack up it was discovered that not only did the collection contain the French Marshall Plan photographs marked FRA, but a set of Marshall Plan photographs marked PAR for Paris, which also contains some images created and/or acquired by the United States Information Service (USIS) in Paris.


June 13, 2013. Recovery effort in Paris. View of the storage facility showing the drawers in which the Marshall Plan negatives were stored.


June 13, 2013. Recovery effort in Paris. View of the right side of the storage facility showing the larger file cabinets and drawers in which the Marshall Plan negatives were stored.

The boxes arrived at Archives II in College Park, MD in July 2013 and almost immediately three projects were started to digitize the negatives and corresponding indexes and caption lists, but only after the negatives were properly arranged and re-housed by Still Picture staff member Chanel Sutton. In the fall of 2013 the first batches of negatives were sent to the National Archives Photographic Lab for scanning using the appropriate tonal corrections. The scanning (22,913 negatives) and subsequent quality control work took 15-months to complete. The photographic lab had a rotating team of photographic technicians working on the project. The initial pilot workflow for the project was devised by Sheri Hill with Cecilia Epstein coordinating the workflow and PT Corrigan performing quality control on all batches. Most of the scanning and photographic adjustments were done by Amy Young, Cecilia Epstein, Jerry Thompson, Mimi Shade, Roscoe George, and Sheri Hill with assistance from student employee Chantise Hawkins and volunteer Jordan Murek. Also pitching in when workloads permitted were Carolyn Anderson, Carlita Earl, Lywanne Young, and Rebecca Sullivan.


Staff member Mimi Shade scans Marshall Plan negatives.

Scanning of the caption lists (2,000 pages of image-level captions), referred to by the French company as the “bibles”, also began in the fall of 2013. The work was performed by NARA’s Volunteer Office with volunteer Harry Kidd organizing the project. Scanning was performed by Harry and Denise Lynch.  At the same time, former Still Picture staff member, Pat Woolaver, created a spreadsheet derived from information in the subject index that precedes the image level captions.  This spreadsheet provides alphabetical access to the images at a group level rather than at the item level.  All of this data is currently being used to create file unit level descriptions for online access to the scanned images.

After completion of the scanning and index work, the Still Picture Branch finished processing of the original negatives along with the original caption lists, indexes and newly created digital images. This work not only included incorporating the negatives into the existing series and updating the series description, but performing the initial prep work needed on the index metadata and scans for transfer to the Digital Public Access Branch (VEO) for upload into the catalog. This work was mostly performed by former Still Picture staff member Julie Stoner. Final prep work and upload into the catalog is currently being performed by Gary H. Stern in VEO.


“The three main personalities at the opening ceremony [New Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers in Europe  (SHAPE) Headquarters in France] were (left to right) General Eisenhower, President Vincent Auriol, and Jules Moch, Minister of Defense”, July 23, 1951. Local Identifier: 286-MP-FRA-3127


, “Draped with French and American Flags, a 155mm. self-propelled gun, representing the millionth ton of aid to France, is unloaded from the “American Shipper” at Cherbourg.” May 9, 1952. Local Identifier: 286-MP-FRA-4537


“This is Europe” Broadcasts. In a series of thirteen half-hour broadcasts , the radio section of the ECA/OSR, in co-operation with Tele-Radio-Cine in Paris, presented some of the recovery story of the Marshall Plan countries.  “Anders Borie, film star and singer, added three of Sweden’s current hit songs to the program devoted to this country” ca. 1949. Local Identifier: 286-MP-PAR-248

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Mapping Appomattox

Yesterday, in honor of the 150th anniversary of the event, Mark Meader told us how the Civil War came to an end at Appomattox Court House. Today, we have a series of maps that show the movements of troops in the area.

This post was written by Ellen Mulligan. Ellen is an Archivist in the Cartographic and Architectural Branch.

Maps of the Appomattox area of operations of the Army of the Potomac between March 29 and April 9, 1865 are filed among the Civil Works Map File of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, in Record Group 77. Included is a large scale manuscript map in two pieces, with the notation “Turned into Engineer Bureau by Brev. Col. W.H. Paine,” and a reduced size photoprocessed copy annotated in color to show headquarters and routes of march of the 2nd, 5th, 6th and 9th Corps in pursuit of the Rebel Army.

Click on the images below to open in a new window and zoom:

s-RG 77 CWMF G170-1

RG 77 CWMF G170-1

s-RG 77 CWMF G170-1-1

RG 77 CWMF G170-1-1

s-RG 77 CWMF G170-1-2

RG 77 CWMF G170-1-1

Maps of Area of Operations, Army of the Potomac March 29 to April 9, 1865. Civil Works Map File G-170-1. Record Group 77. NAID 7491454

A second copy of the map showing routes of march is also available among the Collection of Colonel W. H. Paine Civil War Maps. While the National Archives is the repository of the official records of the federal government of the United States, donated materials have occasionally been accepted as “appropriate for preservation by the government as evidence of its organization, functions, policies, decisions, procedures and transactions.”

Among these donated materials are the papers of William Henry Paine, a topographical engineer who served as assistant to the Chief of Topographical Engineers, Army of the Potomac, from January 1863 to June 1865. Maj. Gen. G. K. Warren wrote of Paine’s service: “To his previous great knowledge of the country he added by constant laborious and oftentimes daring reconnaissances, and applied it in unfailing efforts to correct our imperfect maps and in guiding our columns on the marches night and day along the secret paths he had discovered.” (quoted in A Guide to Civil War Maps in the National Archives, 2nd Edition 1986, p.68).

Here, the map is accompanied by three copies of a map showing the retreat of the Confederate Army from Richmond and Petersburg and its capture by U.S. forces under Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant, engraved for publication in “Grant and his Campaigns.” These copies show edits made for printing, including a change from Rebel Army to Confederate Army.

s-Paine C-6-3Paine C-6-3

Paine C-6-4

Paine C-6-4

Paine C-6-5a

Paine C-6-5a

Paine C-6-5b

Paine C-6-5b

Maps from the Collection of Colonel W. H. Paine Civil War Maps, NAID 7368933

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The Civil War Ends at Appomattox Court House

This post was written by Mark Meader. Mark is an Archives Specialist with the Motion Picture, Sound and Video branch. He participated in historical reenactments for over forty years, including over twenty years as a Union private in Civil War reenactments.

People often think of history as just names, dates, places where “something” happened a long time ago. They rarely think of the emotions that accompanied such events, emotions that made it so memorable that the participants could never forget what occurred at this place or that. So it was with a small Virginia hamlet that started out as Clover Hill Tavern, a stagecoach stop in 1819, and grew to become Appomattox Court House, the county seat of Appomattox County. It consisted of five houses, several businesses off the main street, and a court house. It is also the only town in the United States where one wholly American army surrendered to another.


Appomattox Court House, Virginia. 111-BA-1895.

Union General Ulysses Grant had a migraine. He had suffered from it off and on ever since his pursuit had begun of Confederate General Robert E. Lee’s starving, threadbare Army of Northern Virginia, which had evacuated the defenses around Petersburg, Virginia on April 2, 1865. The 100,000 men of the Union Army of the Potomac had pursued the Confederates west where they hoped to obtain food and supplies and then join Confederate forces in North Carolina to keep the war going. Grant knew he had to prevent this to end the costly four-year Civil War. He had sent Lee messages offering terms of surrender, but Lee had only replied as to what these terms would be. Grant’s reply was to give little hope of prolonging the struggle, but to surrender Lee’s army to prevent the loss of another life. Then on the morning of April 9th a messenger from Lee presented a letter that asked for an interview in accordance with Grant’s offer. “I was still suffering with the sick headache; but the instant I saw the contents of the note I was cured,” he wrote in his memoirs.


General Ulysses Grant. 111-B-4503 (NAID 528631)

General Robert E. Lee knew that from the moment his army evacuated the defenses around Petersburg on April 2nd his soldiers could not survive without plentiful food to recover from the months of starvation in the trenches. He had watched his gallant army win battle after battle, or survive defeats intact since May 1862 against odds that would have destroyed another force, but now he knew the end was near. There were only some 28,000 soldiers remaining in the Army of Northern Virginia, and they were heading west towards Appomattox where supply trains waited for them. If they reached them and were fed, he would point the army south towards Confederate General Joseph Johnston’s Army of the Tennessee in North Carolina. But Union Army cavalry under General Philip Sheridan got there first, captured and burnt the trains, and blocked the way. When word of this reached Lee’s headquarters he knew the end was near. He and Grant had exchanged letters on the subject of surrender, and Lee suggested a meeting between the lines. When news of the arrival of three Union Infantry Corps to further block the way reached Lee on the morning of April 9th, he realized the retreat of his beleaguered army had finally been halted. He stated the inevitable, with such emotions few men have ever known. “There is nothing left for me to do but to go and see General Grant, and I would rather die a thousand deaths” he said to his aide.


The McLean House, where the Civil War ended. 111-B-6333 (NAID 530400)

Wilmer McLean can truly be said to have a war begin and end on his property. A wholesale grocer and a retired major in the Virginia Militia, he was too old to return to active duty in 1861, but on June 21 the Union Army attacked the Confederate forces near McLean’s Yorkshire Plantation in Manassas, Prince William County,Virginia. Fighting spilled over his property and a cannonball fired by Union artillery dropped into his fireplace. When the battle was over, McLean decided to move because his commercial activities of supplying sugar to the Confederacy were centered mainly in Southern Virginia, and the presence of the Union Army in Northern Virginia made his work next to impossible. He was also determined to remove his family from such a dangerous area where a combat experience could easily reoccur, endangering them and his property.

In the spring of 1863, McLean and his family moved 120 miles south to Appomattox County, Virginia near a small crossroads community called Appomattox Court House. But on April 9th, 1865, the war came again to knock on his front door when a messenger from General Robert E. Lee requested the use of McLean’s home to meet with General Ulysses S. Grant. McLean reluctantly agreed. There the two Generals and their aides met, and Lee surrendered his army to Grant in the parlor of McLean’s house, effectively ending the American Civil War. The generous terms allowed the Confederate officers to keep their side arms, and the soldiers to keep their horses, which they would need for the spring plowing. When Lee left to announce the surrender to his troops, officers of the Union Army entered McLean’s house and began to take souvenirs, tables, chairs, and various other furnishings that they could get, handing the protesting McLean money as they made off with his property. Later, a disgusted McLean is supposed to have said ‘The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.”

McLean’s house is now part of Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument operated by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Footage of the historical reenactment staged for the 125th anniversary of the events at Appomattox Court House (see Reel 2 here). 79-HFC-23

And what of the weary men of both armies, what were their thoughts and emotions on that Palm Sunday of April 1865? As they sat and watched the Confederates wheel in line by regiments to face the oncoming last onslaught of the Army of the Potomac, one Union officer was surprised to see that there seemed to be more battle flags than soldiers in the Rebel ranks, so few men were left in the Army of Northern Virginia. He thought that the entire army had turned to poppies and roses in the April breeze. Then an officer in grey rode out with a white flag to confer with Union officers and the men in Blue saw the Grey and Butternut ranks begin to stack arms and rest. Many times these armies had paused to take a look at each other across the fields, before the battle. Now the Stars and Bars were about to be furled for the last time, and both sides realized that they would live to see Easter and experience its mysteries. One Union soldier sat and looked at the Confederates across from them, and thought that it seemed too bad that after all their bravery and fighting skill, it had come to nothing but surrender. Another Yankee from the 77th New Hampshire skirted around the picket lines and entered one of the rebel camps. There, he later recalled with a glow, that he was treated like one of them, no different than if he had been wearing grey. After four years of war, there was a stillness at Appomattox.


This post was updated to include the final paragraph, which was omitted when the piece originally published. Thanks to Laurel Macondray and Richard Green, who located the photos and films used in this post. Check out the next post for maps of Appomattox from the Cartographic Branch!
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Declassified Motion Pictures and Sound Recordings – 2nd Quarter

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.

This quarter’s list consists of one film, MB-1 Documentary showing testing of the Genie missile.

Local Identifier: 342-USAF-29521/National Archives Identifier: 68126


From January 1, 2015 through March 31, 2015 the following records were declassified.

Motion Pictures:

Local Identifier           Title

342-USAF-29521       MB-1 Documentary


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. 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.

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A Spirited Republic in Motion: Prohibition is Repealed!

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”.


Citizens 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.

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Restoring Nine from Little Rock

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.

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World War I Combat Artists: George Harding

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.


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. Local Identifier: 111 SC 153118.

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

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

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.

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.
Local Identifier 111 SC 31675

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

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.
Local Identifier 111 SC 20114

“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

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

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

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

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.

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Henry Ford’s Mirror of America

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.

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