Spotlight: Baking in WWI

Ever wonder what people of the past were munching on? Well, in WWI, due to food rationing efforts, they were munching on some classic desserts made with unusual ingredient substitutions. Check out some of those experimental recipes below, courtesy of RG 4-G: the U.S. Food Administration.

























Unfortunately, not all of the experimental recipes survive today. Here is a slideshow of several delicious desserts for which we only have pictures.

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Anyone care to share their favorite recipes for these treats? Or, should anyone be daring enough to try out one of these WWI era recipes, let us know how they turn out!

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Universal News: The Chicago Cubs vs. the Detroit Tigers in the 1945 World Series

The Cubs are in the playoffs and could make it to the World Series. Is this their year? They haven’t won the World Series since 1908 and haven’t played in a World Series since 1945. Some people have attributed the World Series drought to a curse by Billy Sianis, who was ejected from Wrigley Field for bringing his goat to game 4. The Unwritten Record takes a look back to 1945, the last World Series the Chicago Cubs played. Universal News covered the first and last games of the series. The footage was released to theaters October 4th and October 11th.

Game one, played in Detroit October 3rd, 1945, is shown in Universal News Vol. 18, Rel. 439, story 5. According to the release sheet, we see “The Chicago Cubs tee off on the Detroit Tiger’s ace pitcher, Hal Newhouser, for four runs in the first inning, then garner three more in the third, to salt away the game which they finally won 9 to 0”.

The final game of the series, played in Chicago, is shown in Universal News Vol. 18, Rel. 441 story 7. The outcome wasn’t great for Cubs fans: On October 10th, the Tigers took the series four games to three by beating the Cubs 9 to 3 in game seven. The release sheet states: “The Detroit American League pennant winners rout the Windy City’s Cubs in the 7th game, 9 to 3, to take the World Series. The flag winner was decided in the first inning when the Tigers pushed five runs across to take a commanding lead. More than 330,000 paid almost a million and a half dollars in admissions to make it the richest World Series in history.”

Also included in the Universal News production files is an original program for the games, narration scripts, and other related paraphernalia. A program from the series gives the names and photographs of the players from both teams. The last page of the program pays tribute to the 347 members of the Cubs organization who served during World War II, including four men who perished.

1945 World Series program for games hosted in Chicago:


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Home Movie Day 2016: Preserving the Films of Albert M. Breen

In honor of Home Movie Day, we’re featuring a collection of home movies recently preserved by the Motion Picture Preservation Lab and providing some tips for how to care for your home movies. Home Movie Day is an annual event to raise awareness of the importance of home movies and encourage their preservation. This year’s Home Movie Day is October 15th, but your local event may be held at any time throughout the year. (See the Center for Home Movies website to find a HMD near you.)

Albert Breen’s Home Movies

Home movies usually end up in the National Archives’ holdings because they were collected by a federal agency (think UFO sightings in the Project Blue Book films). This includes the most famous home movie of all time—the Zapruder film, which captured the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on a succession of tiny 8mm frames. Home movies don’t have to be historically significant to be important, however. Many would argue that these films, which document the mundane aspects of family life, from birthday parties to outdoor barbecues, make up an important part of our nation’s cultural history, as well as serving as a precious family record.


Home movies capture the ordinary moments, but that does not mean they are unimportant. (Still from Albert Breen Home Movies, Reel 17)

The family of Albert Breen donated his home movie collection, shot over three decades, to the National Park Service in the late 1990s, and it recently came to the National Archives for long-term preservation. In addition to shots of children and grandchildren at play, the films feature the Breen family’s many trips to national parks around the country, from Skyline Drive to Sequoia National Park.

Albert M. Breen was born in Brecksville, Ohio, in 1894 and lived his adult life in the suburbs of Cleveland, working as the vice president and treasurer of Richman Bros. Co. Breen started filming black and white reversal in 1929 and switched to color with the advent of Kodachrome in 1935. The last reel in the collection was shot in 1963. Breen was clearly a serious hobbyist, and edited his films to include descriptive intertitles with his initials embedded in the frame.


A still from Albert Breen’s home movies shows the custom intertitles Breen edited into his films.

The Motion Picture Preservation Lab recently preserved this collection of 31 reels of 16mm film. Nearly half of the reels had high shrinkage, and a quarter were suffering from vinegar syndrome, a form of deterioration in which the film base breaks down and leads to a number of physical problems. The lab made new polyester film elements for all of the reels with high shrinkage and vinegar syndrome. All of the reels were inspected and transferred to archival film cans.

The lab has digitized three of the reels for access.

Reel 1, shot in 1929, depicts the Breen family close to home, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and at the family farm in Brecksville. The little girl in the film is probably Breen’s daughter, Gladys.

Reel 8, shot in 1935, contains Breen’s first use of color film (beginning at about 5:00). Unfortunately, the first batches of Kodachrome were not very stable, so the color is mostly faded. The reel covers the family’s trip to Yellowstone Park, where they get uncomfortably close to a family of bears, as well as trips to Pikes Peak and other locations in Colorado.

Reel 17 was shot in 1949. The reel begins with Breen’s granddaughter, Judith, playing outdoors, and continues with footage of trips to the Grand Canyon, Zion National Park, Bryce Canyon, Rocky Mountain National Park, Painted Desert, and Santa Fe, New Mexico.


Preserving Your Home Movies

Even for the well-meaning family historian, home movies often become forgotten family artifacts that stay hidden in basements and attics. Experiencing an old photo album is as simple as opening the pages. A scanner or even a smart phone allows easy sharing with relatives. Films, however, require equipment to be viewed, which is a significant barrier to access for an individual who may not know what happened to the family projector or who worries that a machine may damage them. So how can you ensure that your home movies will be viewable for decades to come?


First and most important when it comes to preservation is proper storage. At NARA, we store film in climate-controlled vaults that were specifically designed for film. Of course, most people don’t have a film vault in their houses, but if you want your films to last longer, store them on the main floor of your house, which likely has the most stable temperature and humidity levels throughout the year. Typical storage places in your home, like basements and attics, are terrible for film. The heat and humidity common in these spaces cause film to deteriorate more rapidly than if they are stored in a climate-controlled space. Worse, if your basement floods, the films may be unrecoverable.

Viewing Home Movies

While it is still possible to view home movies with a projector and screen, the way they were originally seen, you should approach this with caution. Be sure that your films are not highly shrunken or damaged, and that your projector is clean and in good working order. Finding a Home Movie Day event in your area is a good way to get a quick assessment of your films and perhaps see one screened.


For longer-term access, you probably want to have your films digitized. While you should be skeptical of any company that claims that they will “preserve” your home movies by transferring them to DVD, this is an easy access format will enable you to view and share your films with others. Just remember that the original film will probably last longer than any format you transfer to, so continue to protect it for the future. You will also need to migrate the copy to newer formats from time to time.

Already transferred your home movies to VHS in the 1990s? Digitize those now or you won’t be able to view them much longer—VCRs are officially obsolete. You could also spring for a new digital transfer of the film originals, but you still need to maintain the data in multiple places and keep up with new formats to ensure that your files are preserved and accessible for years to come.

For much more on how to view and preserve your home movies, check out the recommendations from the Center for Home Movies.

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Spotlight: War Time Candies

Imagine a world where no one could give chocolates to their valentine, or send holiday cookies to their family, or hand out candy to adorable trick-or-treaters, or indulge in some after dinner Thanksgiving pie. Imagine a world where every cherished culinary tradition is threatened – especially those traditions which include sweets.

Well, such a world is not as far away as one might think. During WWI, rationing efforts did affect how the American public ate. The availability and consumption of sugar was put under particular duress. Thankfully, however, where there’s a will there’s a way. And there is always a way to satisfy one’s sweet tooth. See how in this week’s images from from RG 4-G: the U.S. Food Administration!



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Spotlight: American Cities

This week’s images are streetscapes of American cities from 1917 and 1918. Images were pulled from RG 4-G: U.S.Food Administration. Do you recognize any of these places? Can you imagine walking along these streets during WWI?



Unknown City (4-G-29-75)


Palace Hotel, Cincinnati, Ohio (4-G-29-29)


Sign Day, Washington, DC (4-G-29-110B)


Red Cross Headquarters, Chicishaw (sic), Oklahoma (4-G-29-47)


Colonial Theater, Richmond, Virginia (4-G-29-76)


Unknown City (4-G-29-7)


Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio (4-G-29-66)


City Hall, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (4-G-29-3)


Balto (sic), Maryland (4-G-25-3)


Slate St., Albany, New York (4-G-25-2)


N.Y. City – Longacre Sq (4-G-26-6)



Kress & Co., Houston (?), Texas (4-G-29-108)

For more on WWI era food rationing, see “Spotlight: War Time Candies” and “Spotlight: Baking in WWI.

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Spotlight: The Making of Coffee

Coffee is a morning staple for many of us. The gurgle of the coffee pot; the ceramic warmth of a favorite mug; the rich aroma of caffeinated bliss… Yes, whether we make it ourselves or buy it from our friendly neighborhood baristas, coffee is culturally pervasive. And it has been for generations. But have you ever wondered about the life of coffee before it gets stuffed in our kitchen cupboards, brewed on our counter tops, or poured into our paper cups exclaiming “Caution: Contents Hot!”?

From the 1940’s Department of Agriculture (RG 16-G) I present – the story of coffee.


“The picking of coffee by hand requires skilled and rapid stripping from the branches. 1949”




Coffee harvest. The pickers select the ripe red cherries leaving the green, immature fruit on the tree for later harvest. Finca Moca, Guatelon, Guatemala. Mitchell. 10-19-48″




Coffee drying in concrete patio is turned at intervals to expose all beans to the sun. Finca Chocola. Guatemala. Mitchell. 13-17-45″




Coffee cherries demonstrate variation in yield of individual trees. Measured harvests of 60 blocks of 100 trees each proved that the yield varies from one tenth of a pound (left) to fifteen pounds (right) of dry coffee per tree per year. Janie Cowgill in the picture. Instituto Agropecuario Nacional, Chocola, Guatemala. 12-1-49″




Coffee flower is pollinated by Dr. William H. Cowgill, U.S. Dept. Agr.-OFAR, assigned to the cooperative agricultural station as head of the Department of Horticulture, Instituto Agropecuario Nacional, Chocola, Guatemala. Mitchell. 12-1-49″




Coffee trees are being grafted in trials to determine the most effective method of improving coffee plantations through grafting. This is the second step – the scion is placed  in a cut on the side of the rood stock. The graft is then taped and covered with paraffin.  Instituto Agropecuario Nacional, Chocola, Guatemala. 12-1-49″




Coffee cutting rooted in a trial to determine the best way of producing desirable planting stock by this method. These cuttings, of mature wood, were set in the beds in January, 1949.  Instituto Agropecuario Nacional, Chocola, Guatemala. 12-1-49″




Coffee trees, closely planted three rows wide, in rotation with Crotalaria spectabilis for cover and soil improving crop. Instituto Agropecuario Nacional, Chocola, Guatemala. Mitchell. 12-1-49″




Coffee tree, one of a group selected for high yielding characteristics, is inspected by Thomas Villanova (left) and Ford M. Milam. Senior Villanova is in charge of coffee improvement work at the cooperative agricultural station. Mr. Milan, of the USDA, OFAR, is assigned to the station in El Salvador. Centro Nacional de Agronomia, Santa Tecla, El Salvador. Mitchel. 11-10-49″




Coffee samples from various areas are being tested for taste and aroma by Sr. Aldo Cabella. Oficina Central de Cafe, Guatemala City, Guatemala. Mitchell. 4-3-47″



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Spotlight: The Pilgrimages of Gold Star Mothers and Widows

This past Sunday marked the 81st observance of Gold Star Mother’s Day in the United States.  On June 23, 1936, a joint congressional resolution was passed that designated the last Sunday in September as Gold Star Mother’s Day – a day to honor, support, and show gratitude to Gold Star Mothers and their families. Today, a gold star symbolizes a son, daughter, husband, or wife who died in the line of duty while serving in the United States Armed Forces.


Original Caption: “Party “A” – May 14, 1931. Transfer from SS George Washington to tender at Cherbourg, France.” Local ID: 92-GS-126.

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The March of Time Outtakes: Dixie USA and Metropolis

One of five major newsreel companies, The March of Time produced and released newsreels that were shown in movie theaters, once a month, from 1935 until 1951. While making newsreels, The March of Time filmed multiple takes. The footage that was not released to theaters was saved as outtakes that are now preserved at the National Archives. Although outtakes were not used in the finished story, the footage is often of good quality and historical significance. The topics can range from the US government’s influence on agriculture since World War I to international concerns related to World War II, and from air raids to postwar re-conversion adjustments in business, industry, education, housing, entertainment and other areas.

Stills from outtakes of “Dixie, U.S.A.” and “Metropolis,” two 1939 episodes of The March of Time

Here are three examples from the March of Time outtakes from 1939. The footage is silent with multiple shots, however, the production quality is good and the subjects include shots of Richmond Virginia, Charleston South Carolina and New York City neighborhoods. The footage of Richmond includes street scenes and segregation signs. The New York City footage includes Chinatown, Harlem, Garment District, Little Italy, Jewish, Greek, and Syrian neighborhoods. Besides street life there are shots of Jewish-American Boy Scouts, the Harlem River Housing Project and the Queensbridge Housing Project under construction.

MT-MTT 691 O,X: “Outtakes from “Dixie, U.S.A”  (Richmond, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina )” April 1939. Shots of Richmond street scenes and segregation signs. Shots of Charleston street scenes, Charleston Lane and Battery Park

MT-MTT 710 FF,GG,HH: “Outtakes from “Metropolis 1939″ (New York City),”
July 1939, Chinatown, Jewish Section, Little Italy

MT-MTT 710 II,JJ,PP: “Outtakes from “Metropolis 1939″ (New York City)”  July 1939. Shots of Syrian, Spanish and Greek stores, Harlem, Garment District

In 1974, March of Time deeded the outtake collection to the United States through the National Archives, without restrictions. Users should be aware that some stories may contain other underlying intellectual property or proprietary use rights.

The footage is available for self-service in the research room at Archives II in College Park, Maryland. The catalog is available on microfilm and searchable DVD. The catalog is arranged by subject, title and numerically.

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The Women of World War I in Motion

As a follow-up to our Women’s History Month post The Women of World War I in Photographs, we wanted to highlight moving images that feature women serving. 

While working on a project aimed at digitizing a series of films from World War I held at the National Archives, I came across a two-reel set focusing on “patriotic activities” undertaken stateside during the war. Among the scenes that included Victory gardens and Free Milk for France parades was a section (beginning at about 9:46) that showed women at a military-style training camp. The footage shows women drilling in uniform, climbing out of trenches, bandaging wounds, and using signal flags.

I was fascinated, but unsure as to what exactly I was watching. Unfortunately, our production file has no details on the organization or the location of the camp depicted in the film. An Internet search brought up a 1916 article about the National Service School, an organization that prepared women to serve in case the United States entered the war. The uniforms pictured in the article seem to match those shown in the film exactly, and the activities described are similar. While we cannot be certain, it is possible that these scenes show the very first women arriving at the camp in Chevy Chase, Maryland, in 1916. According to the article, the women learned marching formations, flag signaling, and how to treat and serve the wounded.

Stills from Patriotic Activities show women arriving at the training camp, learning semaphore code, practicing first aid, and performing various military-style drills.

The camp shown in this film trained women in these tasks, and often ran like a military facility (thus the drilling, uniforms, and trenches).  The section begins with women coming into the camp, with a sign in the background proclaiming the area as the “Woman’s National Service Training Camp.” These volunteers filled out paperwork at tables, and then the scene switches to women in uniforms in squads, with some instruction in semaphore code shown. The trenches (for which I still have no explanation of their use in this endeavor) are the most interesting part, as squads are seen climbing out and heading to an unknown destination, some being assisted out by a soldier standing nearby. There is also footage of women applying bandages to wounded soldiers (one thinks of Clara Barton in a situation such as this, though not nearly as harrowing as the front lines of the Civil War). This footage serves as further evidence of the roles women have had during wartime in the United States, and proves at the same time how much society has changed in the 100 years since World War I, as women have gone from only serving stateside as private citizens to being active members of the U.S. military.

This film was digitized as part of a broader project to make available films and photographs of World War I and World War II. Check the National Archives Catalog for the films and photographs that have been digitized. For more examples of women’s World War I work on film, see Manufacture of Military Aeroplanes.

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Obsolete Instruction, or What to Do When Your St. Bernard Has a Hangover

The rumors would usually start at lunchtime.

“Did you hear we’re watching a movie today?”

The whispers and the excitement would grow during recess, and then came exclamations of joy and/or relief as we filed back into the classroom to find the projector set up. For the next twenty minutes (or longer with the inevitable technical difficulties) we’d sit in the darkened room, watching an animated movie about electricity or a cautionary tale about the dangers of marijuana.

Still from "Small Town Espionage" (263.3153). Students wait for the lights to dim before a classroom movie.

Students at a Soviet spy school prepare to watch a classroom film in the Red Scare propaganda film Small Town Espionage. View it on our YouTube channel

Watching educational films, on film, was a common experience for most Americans who attended school in the 20th Century. From the 1980s through the 2000s, schools cycled through several additional audiovisual technologies—VHS, LaserDisc, DVD—and today educational films can be streamed online for students (see the National Archives’ YouTube channel for some excellent content).

Educational films are associated with a particular aesthetic. Because producers were trying to make films relevant to The Youth of Today on a low budget, they very quickly became outdated. In the ‘80s, that meant watching dramas starring hippie kids in bellbottoms. There are also many unfortunate examples of producers in the ‘90s trying to incorporate that hip new thing known as “rap music” (this Smokey Bear PSA pokes fun at that trend).

In 2007, NARA accessioned a number of educational government films that had been stored at a now-defunct film lab. Two of our favorites, titled Route 1 and The Party’s Over, were part of a 1976 alcohol education series called Jackson Junior High and produced by The Northern Virginia Educational Telecommunications Association for the U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare.

These films are like a time machine back to a time when there were no open container laws and kids could apparently hang out in bars and liquor stores. Route 1 features a St. Bernard dog with a hangover and a song titled “Think About What You Drink About,” which provides advice on how to avoid a hangover when drinking.

The Party’s Over follows the drama of peer pressure that unfolds when Freddie and his friends crash Sarah’s slumber party and start passing around bottles of wine. Unfortunately, Sarah’s parents are out at a black-tie barbeque/swim party (seriously, was that a thing in the Seventies?) so she must deal with the intrusion on her own. Look for Richard Sanders (later Les Nessman of WKRP in Cincinnati fame) in a role as a middle school teacher.

The Jackson Junior High films were still being used in 1980 (see page 41 of this alcohol-education audiovisual guide) and were even broadcast on some PBS stations. However, when the Federal government passed the National Minimum Drinking Age Act in 1984, raising the drinking age to 21, much of the information in The Party’s Over became obsolete overnight. It’s unclear for how much longer the films would have been shown.

What are some of your favorite classroom films?

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