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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Classes, Teachers, Workbooks – School in the CCC

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was established by Congress in early 1933 as part of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.  As the country faced the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl in the 1930’s, several government initiatives were developed to provide relief. This relief was often accomplished through job creation. Although many of the programs resulting from the New Deal (particularly those established later in the decade) were rather controversial, the work undertaken frequently resulted in significant and enduring gains for the American people. Programs like the Federal Writer’s Project and the Federal Theater Project produced and documented much of the United State’s culture at the time, and the work that survives today serves as invaluable evidence of our shared experience and history.

The CCC fits the New Deal mold well. The program was designed to create vocational opportunities for single, unemployed young men between the ages of about 17 and 25. The idea was to create disciplined environments rife with constructive and beneficial undertakings to prevent these young people from falling into violent or otherwise disorderly activities. As the CCC’s name implies, the vocational opportunities centered on conservation efforts – and the program was certainly a success. From the early 1930’s through the early 1940’s, the CCC employed approximately 3 million young men in natural conservation projects including forest management and flood control. The National Park’s Service benefited immensely from their work, the results of which are still enjoyed today.

Click here for more photos!

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Spotlight: Construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway

This week’s post highlights photographs from RG 30, Records of the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR). These images come from series 30-RW and depict the construction of the Blue Ridge Parkway from the clearing of land to paving. The series begins with images from 1931 depicting the construction of Skyline Drive, a scenic road that connects to the parkway. There is extensive coverage of bridge construction, ditches, and other drainage features of the road. There are views of the Panorama Hotel Tea Room, Monticello, and the Knights of the Golden Horseshoe marker. A large portion of the negatives were taken by a W. D. Stanton who often photographed from various vantage points to get the best view of his subject.

The Blue Ridge Parkway, spanning 469 miles, is the longest road planned as a single unit in the United States. The plans for the first proposed section of Skyline Drive were approved on June 9, 1931 by the National Park Service and the BPR. Construction of the parkway began in 1935 and was eventually funded by the federal Public Works Administration as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. Although the location is unknown for the majority of the negatives, road signs and project signs provide location hints.

Are you the descendant of someone who helped construct the parkway? Let us know in the comments!

Note: The images used in this blog post will be available to download from the catalog in the coming weeks. This series is currently being processed by staff.

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Lighthouse Drawings in celebration of National Lighthouse Day

National Lighthouse Day is August 7 and to celebrate, we’re highlighting some architectural drawings and maps relating to lighthouses from our holdings of the Records of the United States Coast Guard, Record Group 26.

Among these drawings are plans for the lighthouse at Alcatraz Island.  Yes, there’s more than a prison there!  The lighthouse at Alcatraz Island was the first lighthouse on the Pacific Coast, with the original building being completed in 1854.  The drawings below depict the second tower and dwelling as they were built in 1909, after the original building was torn down after suffering damage during the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

One of the more famous lighthouses in the United States, and also the tallest, is the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras, NC.  Its cylindrical shape with the lantern at the top and spiral stripes painted down its sides provide an iconic look at the architecture of many coastal beacons.  The stripes act as a daymark for ships to identify the lighthouse along the coast.  Keepers, and visitors today, had to take 257 steps to reach the balcony, which is similar to a 12-story building.

Drawings depicting the Spectacle Reef Lighthouse, MI show the design and plan for the stonework.  The stones were laid in multiple courses following specific patterns, with the plans including details for placement of bolts and basic directions for incisions needed to cut the stones.

The lighthouse plans within our holdings also give us a closer look into the lives of lighthouse keepers.  In the days before automation, the keepers most well known duty, was to manage the lantern.  They not only had to light the lamps, but they needed to tend to basic cleaning and maintenance using the proper tools.

Keepers weren’t just there to tend to the lens only.  They also had to maintain other buildings around the light station and keep things running smoothly.  At the light station at Destruction Island, WA, a tramway system would allow them to load supplies from ships offshore to move around to other buildings on the island, such as the fog signal.

Keepers also lived at the light station with their families.  The plans for the station at Marrowstone Point, WA include elevation plans for the fog signal, floor plans for the dwelling and a map showing the proximity of the buildings to one another.  They also include plans for the privy, which was a bit of a walk from the dwelling, reminding us today of an everyday modern amenity that we take for granted.

There are many interesting drawings of lighthouses and of all of the various details that surround them.  Do you have a favorite lighthouse?  Have you visited any of these treasures and been able to make a climb to the top?


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Spotlight: Race Horses

This week’s images are from RG 17-HD. They are mounted prints depicting beautiful race horses from the early 1900’s! Accompanying metadata is limited to the captions, which are included with the images below. These captions, affixed to the mounts and written in Spanish, appear to include the date that the photographs were taken and the names of the equestrian subjects. Care to take a crack at translating them?













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Cracking the Glass Ceiling: Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm

In this week of firsts, we consider the women who first ran for major party nominations in the United States: Margaret Chase Smith and Shirley Chisholm.

Margaret Chase Smith

Margaret Chase Smith won her first seat in the House of Representatives in a special election after her husband, Clyde Smith, died in 1940. One week later, she was already fighting to serve as more than a placeholder when she went up against four male rivals for the primary nomination to retain her seat. She won that battle, and served four terms in the House. Smith moved on to the Senate in 1949 as the first woman elected to both houses of Congress. At that time, Smith was the only woman in the Senate. Although other women were appointed or elected to fill vacancies resulting from deaths, it was another decade before another woman was elected to the Senate and served a full term.


“Senator Margaret Chase Smith” Local Identifier: 306-PS-50-2756 (NAID: 6802716)

As a senator, Smith quickly claimed the national spotlight when she publicly condemned McCarthyism on June 1, 1950. In her “Declaration of Conscience” speech, Smith decried the baseless accusations that were being lobbed about the Senate and defended “basic principles of Americanism” such as “the right to criticize” and “the right to hold unpopular beliefs.” Smith also disparaged the Truman administration and called instead for unity in issues of national security. The speech led many to speculate that she could be a vice-presidential candidate.

A day in the life of Senator Margaret Chase Smith as she considered whether to run for president.

When Margaret Chase Smith decided to run for president in 1964, it was with apparent reluctance. Her principles dictated that she not miss time on the job as a senator, nor would she accept donations for her campaign. In addition, she planned to staff her campaign with only volunteers and would not run ads on television or radio. Clearly this was not a winning strategy, and so Smith’s run for president was largely symbolic. Despite that, Smith won nearly thirty percent of the vote in Illinois, one of two states where she actively campaigned. She also won votes in Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas, where she had no campaign presence. At the national convention in July, Smith became the first woman to have her name put forth for the nomination of a major party, and garnered the votes of 26 delegates.

The lead story in this Universal newsreel shows Senator Smith announcing her run for president at the Women’s National Press Club on January 27, 1964.

Barry Goldwater ultimately won the Republican nomination in 1964, and was defeated by Lyndon Baines Johnson in a landslide. Margaret Chase Smith continued to serve in the Senate until her defeat in the 1972 election. In total, Smith served more than 32 years in Congress.

Shirley Chisholm

Before being elected to the New York State legislature in 1964 (only the second African-American woman to serve in that body), Shirley Chisholm spent nearly two decades in early childhood education. That experience drove much of her political career as she fought for the creation of the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), federal funds to support childcare, and defending the national school lunch program from a veto by President Gerald Ford.

Shirley Chisholm, shortly after her election to Congress in 1968. (306-PSC-68-3539)

Shirley Chisholm, shortly after her election to Congress in 1968. Local Identifier: 306-PSC-68-3539 (NAID: 7452354)

In 1968, Shirley Chisholm became the first African-American woman elected to the House of Representatives. Chisholm was controversial from the start; in her first speech on the floor, she spoke against the war in Vietnam and vowed that she would not vote to approve military funding.

Just as Margaret Chase Smith’s political career was coming to an end, Shirley Chisholm launched her own historic run for the White House. Chisholm was the first black woman to run for the Democratic nomination. Her campaign was divisive, as prominent feminists and black activists backed the seemingly more-electable George McGovern over Chisholm. Chisholm frequently said that she faced more discrimination for her sex than for the color of her skin. Still, Shirley Chisholm’s name appeared on the primary ballots of twelve states and she won ten percent of the delegates at the national convention.

In this clip, from a longer film called Accomplished Women (1974), Shirley Chisholm states that she would be surprised if there were not a woman president within 25 years.

George McGovern won the Democratic nomination and was defeated by Richard Nixon. Shirley Chisholm served seven terms in the House of Representatives before retiring to private life.

For more records featuring Shirley Chisholm, see “Unbought and Unbossed: Shirley Chisholm and the 1972 Presidential Run,” from Rediscovering Black History.

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Hidden Women: The Art of WWI Camouflage (Photos)

If you’ve ever read a Highlights magazine, you’ve likely played the hidden picture game–the one where children are asked to find out-of-place objects like pencils hidden in trees and candy canes hidden in striped dresses.  As I came across photographs from the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps, I was instantly reminded of the classic childhood time-killer.  Only this time, instead of searching for a misplaced golf club in an illustrated drawing, I found myself staring at a real photograph looking for hidden women.

A Living Rock. Women's Camouflage Reserve Corps, of the National League for Women's Service. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-13.

A Living Rock. Women’s Camouflage Reserve Corps, of the National League for Women’s Service. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-13.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, both men and women helped out in the war effort.  Women worked in factories, joined the Red Cross, and participated in a number of military organizations.  In New York City, a group of female art students joined the National League for Women’s Service and trained to serve in the Camouflage Department of the United States Navy.

Women’s Camouflage Reserve Corps sketching the landscape as basis for their camouflage work at Van Cortlandt Park, New York. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-23.

The women's reserve camouflage corps of the National League for Women's Service. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-1.

The women’s reserve camouflage corps of the National League for Women’s Service. Local ID: 165-WW-599G-1.

Allied forces used camouflage in two very distinct ways during in World War I.  The first, and more traditional way, was designed to conceal a soldier in their environment.  The “rock suit,” for instance, was designed to keep the wearer safe from detection at a distance of ten feet.  Similarly, the “observation suit” was designed so the wearer could blend in with the sky, and when needed, turn the suit inside out to blend in with snow and ice.  Female students studied the environment, and apparently tested the suits, in New York’s Van Cortlandt Park before joining the Allied forces in France.

Allied forces also utilized a technique known as “dazzle camouflage.”  Dazzle camouflage was not intended to obscure but to confuse.  Naval ships were painted in abstract patterns with bright colors to make it difficult for German U-boats to determine the speed and precise location of the ship.   Beginning in March of 1918, the United States Navy painted a total of 1250 vessels with the unique design.  Out of the 96 ships sunk by Germans after March 1918, only 18 of the ships were camouflaged.

In order to prepare for dazzle camouflage, artists in the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps practiced on a variety of subjects.  The young women camouflaged an ambulance and a tank on the steps of the New York Public Library, and a War Savings Stamps Booth at the intersection of Broadway and 43rd Street.  Most notably, the artists painted a full ship, the USS Recruit, in the middle of Union Square, New York.

The photos of the Women’s Reserve  are some of the most fun and unusual that I’ve come across at the National Archives.  Can you find all of the hidden women in the images below? Some are tougher than you might think!

NARA is currently completing a large-scale project to digitize photographs and films from World War I, including these photographs from 165-WW, American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, 1917-1918. Check back soon for updates on this project.

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Forensic Film Archiving: Who Raised the Flag on Iwo Jima?

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

We rely on film and photographs to tell stories every day – from the latest blockbuster, our favorite television series, videos we take and stream, to the cherished photos in our homes. But, sometimes what we see isn’t what’s really there. Such was the case of the misidentified Marine in one of America’s most iconic images – the seminal photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima on February 23rd, 1945. It’s an image that has been etched into our collective memory having appeared in textbooks, in popular media, and as the Marine Monument in Arlington, Virginia.

Photograph of Flag Raising on Iwo Jima

Joe Rosenthal’s photograph of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. (NAID: 520748)

As the nation’s record keeper it’s our responsibility to maintain what is in our custody for a myriad of reasons – including the ability to provide forensic evidence in an occasion such as this. It was our duty to help provide the information for those who are seeking clarity. The National Archives’ holdings includes photographs taken that day by Joe Rosenthal and others, and 16mm color footage shot by combat cameraman Sergeant William Homer “Bill” Genaust. In trying to determine the identity of the flag-raisers, the investigation included assessing the photographs and 4K scans of Genaust’s footage. The 4K scans are the highest resolution that our equipment can produce. You can see the footage in the Smithsonian Channel’s Documentary The Unknown Flag Raiser of Iwo Jima. Click here to see the complete unedited reel, which contains other scenes from the Battle of Iwo Jima.

Combat cameraman Sgt. Bill Genaust shot 16mm color footage of the flag-raising on Iwo Jima. Genaust died in battle nine days later.

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