Spotlight: Celebrating Black History Month

Photos for this blog post were selected and scanned with the assistance of Kaitlyn Crain Enriquez.

The United States celebrates Black History Month in February. First established as Negro History Week by African-American historian Carter G. Woodson in 1926, Black History Month was formally designated by president Gerald Ford in 1976:

“Freedom and the recognition of individual rights are what our Revolution was all about. They were ideals that inspired our fight for Independence: ideals that we have been striving to live up to ever since. Yet it took many years before ideals became a reality for black citizens.

The last quarter-century has finally witnessed significant strides in the full integration of black people into every area of national life. In celebrating Black History Month, we can take satisfaction from this recent progress in the realization of the ideals envisioned by our Founding Fathers. But, even more than this, we can seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.

I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.”

Here, the Still Picture Branch has assembled photographs from the National Archives’ holdings that represent African American life and achievements over 130 years of American history. While the following photographic selections are by no means a comprehensive view of African American history, we have attempted to show a range of images that document the African American experience.

Nineteenth Century

 

1900-1945

 

1945-1992

A wide range of federal agencies are represented in these photos, including the National Park Service, the various branches of the military, the United States Department of Agriculture, the Women’s Bureau, NASA, the United States Information Agency, and the Environmental Protection Agency. To find out more about the images, search for the item number in our online catalog.

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African-American Filmmaker William Greaves on Booker T. Washington & Frederick Douglass

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

William Greaves was a prominent African-American filmmaker and producer, working from the 1960s through the 2000s. Greaves began as an actor, becoming a member of The Actors Studio in 1948. He won an Emmy Award for the groundbreaking TV newsmagazine series Black Journal and is perhaps best known for his films Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (1968) and Ali, the Fighter (1971). Greaves’ career led him everywhere from the National Film Board of Canada, to Africa, to India and around the world. One of the stops along the way was with the National Park Service, where he made films about prominent African-Americans Frederick Douglass and Booker T. Washington.

Frederick Douglass: An American Life was released in 1985. The film was available for purchase, along with Booker T. Washington: The Life and the Legacy at museum gift shops at NPS sites that are historically tied to anti-slavery movements – such as Harpers Ferry National Historical ParkThe film may have also been part of public programming at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Washington, DC.

Booker T. Washington: The Life and the Legacy was released in 1986 and may also have been incorporated into public programs at the Booker T. Washington National Monument in Hardy, Virginia.

These films are part of the Harpers Ferry collection from the National Park Service.  NARA received the Harpers Ferry materials in the winter of 2012/2013. William Greaves’ films were discovered this winter by one of our Motion Picture Archivists identifying titles within the collection. The film was then delivered to the Motion Picture Preservation lab where the copies went through condition assessment, archival arrangement, and digitization.

NARA is home to other William Greaves films, including the USIA film Wealth of a Nation and NASA’s Space for Women. As part of that discovery we established a relationship with Mr. Greaves wife, Louise, who we’re fortunate to be in contact with and have been able to provide her with digital copies and material for her husband’s archive. You can learn more about William Greaves at http://williamgreaves.com.

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Hidden Women Update: WWI Camouflage in Action

You may remember our July 2016 post about the Women’s Reserve Camouflage Corps, made up of women artists who developed camouflage for use by American troops in Europe during World War I. The website Atlas Obscura also featured the story and photos in October 2016.

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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 photos held by the National Archives show women designing and testing the camouflage in New York City parks, but what did that camouflage look like in the theater of combat? Thanks to Flashes of Action, one of many films digitized as part of a donor-funded digitization project, we now have the answer.

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Football Photographs at the National Archives

With the NFL playoffs underway, millions of fans will crowd around their television sets, eat buffalo wings, and cheer for (or against) the remaining Super Bowl contenders.  Yet football has played an important part in American culture far beyond the National Football League.  Photographs at the National Archives reflect the pervasiveness of football in United States history, ranging from overseas army bases to Japanese internment camps, and from local towns to large cities.  The following images represent some of the Still Photo Branch’s most popular series.

Photos from the U.S. Army Signal Corps:

 

Photos from the War Relocation Authority:

 

Photos from the United States Information Agency (USIA):

 

Photos from DOCUMERICA: The Environmental Protection Agency’s Program to Photographically Document Subjects of Environmental Concern:

 

The photos above are available in the National Archives Catalog.  Follow the Unwritten Record for more highlights from our special media holdings.

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A Look at Inauguration Day Through the Years: Inaugural Photographs and Facts

Photos for this blog post were collated and scanned with the assistance of Michael Bloomfield.

With regard to the inauguration of a president, the United States Constitution only stipulates the date and time of the inauguration, as well as the words of the Presidential Oath of Office. Given this lack of detail, traditions surrounding the U.S. Presidential Inauguration have grown and evolved since Washington’s 1789 inauguration. In a look back at past inaugural ceremonies, the NARA Still Picture Staff presents photographs and facts covering Inauguration Day celebrations and traditions throughout the years.

George Washington is the only president to be inaugurated in two different cities. The first United States Presidential Inauguration occurred on April 30, 1789, when Washington took the oath of office on the Balcony of Federal Hall in New York City. Washington’s second inauguration took place in the Senate Chamber of Congress Hall in Philadelphia on March 4, 1793.

Edit note: George Washington is the only elected president to be inaugurated in two different cities. Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, and Lyndon Johnson were each inaugurated in different cities after taking over office due to a President’s death.

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148-GW-197: The Inauguration of George Washington as President. Federal Hall, New York City, April, 1789. From the paining by Alonzo Chappel.

The Residence Act of 1790 called for the construction of a permanent capital city for the United States of America along the banks of the Potomac River. Ten years later the United States Government officially moved from Philadelphia to Washington D.C. and in 1801, Thomas Jefferson became the first president to be inaugurated in Washington, D.C. Below is a photo of Abraham Lincoln’s first inauguration, which is the earliest photograph of an inauguration ceremony that the NARA Still Picture Unit holds.

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111-BA-1444: Lincoln’s 1st Inauguration

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DM-Reece-M95: Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration

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64-M-164: Lincoln’s 2nd Inauguration

Traditionally, retired/retiring presidents have attended the inaugurations of their successors. However, Andrew Johnson and Ulysses S. Grant had a mutual dislike for each other. As a result, Johnson did not attend Grant’s inauguration ceremony.

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111-BA-1444: Ulysses S. Grant’s 1st Inauguration

Although Ford’s Model T was introduced in 1908, president-elects continued to ride to the inauguration ceremony in the traditional horse and carriage. Warren G. Harding broke this tradition in 1921 when he became the first president to ride to and from his inaugural ceremony in an automobile.

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111-SC-73497: Taken 3/4/1921. President Warren G. Harding delivering his inaugural address.

Administering the oath of office is typically done by the Chief Justice of the United States, which is a tradition that arose out of Washington’s second inauguration. William H. Taft, who served as Chief Justice after his presidency, is the only former president to take and administer the  the Presidential oath office. Taft administered the oath to Calvin Coolidge in 1925 and again in 1925 to Herbert Hoover.

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80-HAS-3A-1: President Coolidge delivering address. Taken 3/4/1925

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111-SC-91405: Mr. Hoover leaving the White House for the Capitol accompanied by President Coolidge. Senator Moses (left) and Representative Snell are in the front seats. Taken 3/4/1929.

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111-SC-91414: President Hoover delivering his inaugural address. March 4, 1929.

Prior to George Washington’s second inauguration, the Continental Congress established March 4th as the official inauguration date. March 4th remained the official inauguration date until the enactment of the 20th Amendment in 1933, which moved the date of inauguration from March to “noon on the 20th day of January.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt’s second inauguration in 1937 was the first inauguration ceremony to occur on January 20th.

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127-PR-FDR-528286: Inaugural Parade, March 4, 1933

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208-N-303443: Standing in a driving rain, U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt takes the oath of office on January 20, 1937.

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208-PU-171C-13: 1941, Roosevelt’s 3rd Inauguration

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208-PU-171C-21: Scene from FDR’s 1945 Inauguration

President Harry Truman’s 1949 inauguration was the first inauguration to be televised.

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208-PU-202D-11:Vice President Harry S. Truman is sworn in as President of the United States by Chief Justice Harlan Stone in the White House at 7:09 PM on April 12, 1945, just hours following the sudden death of President Roosevelt.

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80-G-706749: The inauguration ceremony of President Harry S. Truman and Vice President Alben W. Barkley at the Capitol in Washington, D.C.

Franklin D. Roosevelt served three full presidential terms and was elected to a fourth term. After his death, the 22nd Amendment was passed by Congress, which limited the number of terms a president can serve. Dwight D. Eisenhower was the first president to be inaugurated under the new term limits.

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79-AR-1839-1-A: Scene from Eisenhower’s Inauguration.

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80-G-477632: Mr. Dwight D. Eisenhower is sworn in as President of the U.S. to succeed President Harry S. Truman by Chief Justice Fred M. Vinson.

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79-AR-1839-1-R: Scene from Eisenhower’s Inaugural parade.

In 1961, John F. Kennedy became the first and only Roman Catholic to be sworn in as president.

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79-AR-6280-A: John F. Kennedy’s 1961 Inauguration

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79-AR-6280-J: Kennedy’s Inauguration Parade

The role of the First Lady during the inauguration ceremonies has evolved throughout the years. In 1809, Dolley Madison became the first First Lady to attend an inauguration. It wasn’t until 1965, when Lady Bird Johnson held the family Bible during the presidential oath of office, that a First Lady was given an active role in the inaugural ceremony.

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551-PRES-1-1: Lyndon B. Johnson’s Inaugural Parade

There are no guidelines as to where an inauguration takes place, including whether it occurs indoors or outside. Luckily, between 1789 and 1993, 35 inaugurations have been able to enjoy clear weather. However, Ronald Reagan’s first and second inauguration both hold records related to the weather. His first inauguration, which occurred on Jan. 20, 1981, holds the record for being the warmest inauguration day at 55°.  His second inauguration, January 21, 1985,  is the coldest on record at 7°.

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330-CFD-DN-SC-83-02723: Ronald Reagan’s Inauguration

Bill Clinton’s second inauguration was the first to be live-streamed on the Internet.

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330-CFD-DF-SD-02-00807: Bill Clinton’s 1st Inauguration

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The Mighty Soo: Construction of the Locks at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan

When the Soo Canal was completed at Sault Ste. Marie in 1855, the journey through the rapids of the St. Mary’s river went from seven weeks of arduous portaging to seven minutes through the newly constructed State Locks.1 Over the next century, four locks would be constructed, repaired, and replaced, leading to more tons of freight passing through the Soo Locks in the mid-20th century than the Panama, Suez, and Manchester canals combined.2

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Spotlight: Tinseled Trivia

Co-authored by Beth Fortson, with assistance from Audrey Amidon and Corbin Apkin.

Happy Holidays from the Unwritten Record blog team! For this holiday season we’ve put together some of our best Christmas tree themed special media. From RG-95 we bring you a 1968 film, The Cultured Christmas Tree. From RG-16 we bring you a series of images of the Christmas tree industry. And from RG-241 we bring you patents for artificial Christmas trees and Christmas tree accessories!

And, just to keep things lively, we’ve tossed in some Christmas tree tinseled trivia, too! So gather up your friends and family, put their knowledge to the test, and find out who’s the shining star among you. Don’t forget to share the wonderful records we’ve found with everyone once the victor has been declared!

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RG-16-G-87-2-399017: Shasta National Forest. Cutting red fir Christmas trees with short handled saw. Taken by Vance S. Brown – 11/30/37

CONIFER QUIZ: With a 2016 harvest of ~5.2 million trees, Oregon is the highest Christmas tree producing state in the U.S.A. The state with the second largest 2016 harvest produced ~3.5 million Christmas trees – can you guess which state that is? (Answer Key: 1)

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RG-16-G-87-2-FS-358181: Unloading truck load of Christmas trees to be assorted and tied in bundles for Shipment. Olympic Natl. Forest, Washington. Mortiboy 1937

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RG-16-G-87-2-463495: Olympic National Forest. Trees of one size are transported by conveyor to mechanical bailing and tying machine. Enroute they are inspected and tagged. Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

TREE TRUTH: On average, Christmas trees grow for 7 years before they are harvested at 6 or 7 feet tall. However, some trees take as few as 4 years and others take as many as 15 to reach this height! (Source Guide: 1)

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RG-16-G-87-2-368120: Loading car with Douglas fir Christmas trees for shipment to eastern points. Darby, Montana. Taken by K. D. Swan – 11/39

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RG-16-G-87-2-463500: Olympic National Forest. Baled trees being tallied out and loaded on trailer for direct haul to Portland Market. G. R. Kirk Co, yard near Shelton, Wash. Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

CONIFER QUIZ: Around 350,000 acres of land are currently producing Christmas Trees in the U.S.A. In total, there are about 350 million trees out there growing right now! Can you guess how many real trees are sold in the U.S.A. every year? (Answer Key: 2)

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RG-16-G-87-2-463505: Loading baled Christmas trees into freight cars at siding in G. R. Kirk Co. tree lot north of Shelton, Wash. (Tallyman and four loaders.) Taken by Frank Flack – 12/26/50

TREE TRUTH: Did you know that, with the proper permits, some National Forests will allow you to harvest your own tree?! (Source Guide: 2)

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RG-16-G-87-2-397117: A red spruce Christmas tree arrives from the White Mountains of New Hampshire at Washington’s Southwest Public Market. Tag reads: “Greetings from the White mountains of New Hampshire. This tree brings a Christmas message from the great outdoors. Its cutting was not destructive. Forest Products Association, Inc., Groveton, N.H.” Seal in lower left corner shows the Old Man of the Mountain profile – New Hampshire’s trademark. Taken by B. W. Muir – 12/39

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RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 224624

CONIFER QUIZ: In 1950, the first suburban shopping mall was opened in Northgate, Washington. That same year, the Christmas tree on display at the Northgate shopping mall (seen in the image below) was purportedly the tallest Christmas tree in the world. Can you guess how tall it was?  (Answer Key: 3)

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RG-16-G-87-2-465344: Northgate Christmas tree. Branches have been wired tight and 3,500 colored lights attached to this 212-feet high tree in Northgate, Wash., a shopping center just north of Seattle’s city limits. Claimed to be the tallest Christmas tree in the world, it successfully withstood winds of gale force. Wiring and branches were removed after use and trunk was lowered carefully and stored for the 1951 Christmas season. Purchased from commercial photographer – 12/50

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RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 255,902

TREE TRUTH: As of 2011, the estimated amount spent on real trees in the U.S.A. totaled $984 million. Households spent $46 on average. The average cost of an artificial tree, however, was $78, and the total spent in the U.S.A. on artificial trees reached over one billion dollars! (Source Guide: 3)

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RG-16-G-87-2-457542: A Christmas tree in use. Missoula, Mont. Taken by Ben M. Huey – 1/49″

CONIFER QUIZ: The tradition of the Christmas tree can be traced back to 16th Century Germany. By the 1700’s, German settlers had brought their holiday tradition to the their new homes in America. Throughout its history, the Christmas tree has taken many forms – including several real and artificial varieties. This year, an estimated 78% of households in the U.S.A. will be continuing the Christmas tree tradition. Can you guess how many of those trees will be real, and how many will be artificial? (Answer Key: 4)

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RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 994,248

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RG-16-G-87-2-162353: “The most beautiful tree in the world” Taken by W. I. Hutchinson – 1919 Colorado

TREE TRUTH: The most popular species of Christmas Trees include the Balsam fir, Douglas-fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir, Scotch pine, Virginia pine, White pine, Colorado blue and Norway spruce. What’s your favorite species of Christmas Tree? (Source Guide: 4)

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RG 241, Utility Patent Drawings, No. 424,916

 

ANSWER KEY:

  1. According to the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, North Carolina is the second largest producer of Christmas trees in the U.S.A.! Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Washington also all made their list of the top five tree producing states.
  2. The National Christmas Tree Association reports that between 25 and 30 million real trees are sold in the U.S.A. every year!
  3. The caption in the RG-16-G photo tells us that the tree displayed outside the Northgate shopping mall in 1950 was 212 feet tall!!
  4. A 2016 American Christmas Tree Association survey shows that this year, artificial trees will make up 81% of those on display in homes across the U.S.A. Only 19% of trees this year will be real.

SOURCE GUIDE:

  1. Information on the average length of time it takes a Christmas tree to grow was found on the National Christmas Tree Association’s website.
  2. The U.S. National Forest Service provides guidance on tree cutting in National Forests.
  3. The American Christmas Tree Association’s website includes a summary of the 2011 Nielsen report on Christmas tree purchasing trends.
  4. A list of the most popular species of Christmas trees can be found on the National Christmas Tree Association’s website.
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Christmas in Wartime: Battle of the Bulge

This post was written by Kaitlyn Crain Enriquez.

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111-SC-200483 “Officers of the 101st Airborne Division have Christmas dinner in Bastogne, Belgium, while the city is still under German siege. Brigadier General Anthony C. McAuliffe (fourth on the left) commanded the division during the siege.” Photo taken 12/25/1944

In December 1944, American forces had been spread across a 75 mile stretch of the Ardennes Forest. The Ardennes was considered to be a minimal fighting area, therefore, the troops that had been placed in the area were either inexperienced or had been moved there to rest. However, early in the morning of December 16th, 1944, American troops were caught off guard by a surprise counteroffensive attack, which included approximately 200,000 German troops and 1,000 tanks. Hitler had been planning the counteroffensive since September 1944 and had hoped to break through the American front lines. His ultimate goal was to split the Allied Armies in half. Hitler had also hoped to take control of the supply port in Antwerp, Belgium.

The Battle of the Bulge lasted six weeks, though it came to an apex during the Siege of Bastogne, which had begun on December 20th and lasted through December 27th. Bastogne was a key location for both the Allied and Axis armies. The Germans knew that they had to capture the city of Bastogne in order for their counteroffensive attack to be successful. Conversely, the Allied Armies knew that to successfully stop the German Army and to regain the upper hand, they needed to hold on to Bastogne. Unfortunately for the Americans, the German Army had already encircled them. Recognizing the predicament of the American troops, the German Army hand-delivered the following note to General McAuliffe on December 22nd:

To the U.S.A. Commander of the encircled town of Bastogne,

The fortune of war is changing. This time the U.S.A. forces in and near Bastogne have been encircled by strong German armored units. More German armored units have   crossed the river Ourthe near Ortheuville, have taken Marche and reached St. Hubert by passing through Hompre-Sibret-Tillet. Libramont is in German hands.

There is only one possibility to save the encircled U.S.A troops from total annihilation: that is the honorable surrender of the encircled town. In order to think it over a term of two hours will be granted beginning with the presentation of this note.

If this proposal should be rejected one German Artillery Corps and six heavy A. A.        Battalions are ready to annihilate the U.S.A. troops in and near Bastogne. The order for firing will be given immediately after this two hours’ term.

All the serious civilian losses caused by this artillery fire would not correspond with the well known American humanity.

– The German Commander.

General McAuliffe replied the same day, writing:

To the German Commander,

N U T S !

– The American Commander

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Favorite Film Finds of 2016

This post was written with Heidi Holmstrom.

In the past year, staff in the motion picture preservation lab handled millions of feet of film. Films might come to us for inspection and repair, photochemical duplication, or digitization. To follow up last year’s list, we’ve identified a handful of films that were digitized in 2016 and found their way to our list of favorites.

Manufacture of Gas Masks (111-H-1204)

Over the past couple of years, in remembrance of the centennial of the conflict, the National Archives has digitized photographs and motion pictures related to World War I. The Stills unit digitized some 24,000 photographs from the Signal Corps, while the motion picture lab has slowly but steadily digitized the Signal Corps’ historical film collection. Compiled in 1936, the series includes other historical events, such as the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, but the bulk of the series is footage of World War I. We found this film compelling because it shows the entire process of the manufacture of the gas mask, an object of central importance during World War I.

 

The Hidden Army (111-WF-25)

The Hidden Army is a somewhat standard film about the involvement of American women in the war effort during World War II– but with a twist. In a fictional frame story, we see Adolf Hitler in a caged cell, writing his memoirs at the end of the war. Chapter 25 details how Germany’s underestimation of American women led to their defeat. One Nazi official in the film actually laughs at the suggestion that American women will step up to provide the nation’s labor. The Hidden Army was made by the Army Pictorial Service for “the men and women of industry,” ostensibly as a motivational film.

 

School for Assassins (306.2997)

If we could hand out an award for “Narrator of the Year,” it would go to the voiceover talent for the English-language version of the animated anti-communist film School for Assassins, produced in the 1960s for the United States Information Agency. This unsung artist steers us through the tragic story of two brothers at political odds in Latin America. Just listen to the way he spits out the phrase “school for assassins” in the closing line of the film. A+ work!

 

As the City Sleeps (306.8104)

As the City Sleeps is a fascinating peek into the lives of the workers who readied San Francisco’s Grand Central Market for a day’s customers. We digitized the film after receiving a request from the filmmaker’s son, who was hoping to surprise his father, Charles Larrance, with a copy of the film. As the City Sleeps features gorgeous nighttime photography and serves as a record of this significant San Francisco landmark.

 

Route One (235-ADA-2)

Route One is the only film we know of that allows you to see the world through the eyes of a hungover St. Bernard. The dog, named Patches, belongs to one of the students at Jackson Junior High, who is, coincidentally, learning all about alcohol in health class. This 1976 alcohol education film includes a folky song explaining how to avoid hangovers. There is also a bizarre animated sequence explaining the route alcohol takes into the bloodstream and how it affects the body. They don’t make alcohol education films like this anymore! Probably for good reason.

For more about the alcohol education films in the Jackson Junior High series, see this blog post from August.

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Polar Pack: Your Favorite Arctic Explorers in Trading Card Form

Beef up your knowledge of polar exploration by taking a look at these trading cards from Hassan Cork Tip Cigarettes found in the Brainard Collection of Arctic Exploration, DLB-AAThe set of 49 cards depicts portraits of explorers, scenes of Inuit life, expedition ships, and scenic landscape views. The reverse side of the cards provides biographical information, (often offensive) observations, and other information related to life in the Arctic. Included are the cards for famed explorers Robert E. Peary, Robert A. Bartlett, and Matthew Henson, the first African-American Arctic explorer.

These colorful cards were designed by the Italian-born artist, Albert Operti, and are based on watercolors, drawings, and studies made during his Arctic expeditions. A painter, illustrator, caricaturist, and scenic artist for the Metropolitan Opera House, Operti served as chief artist and New York Herald special correspondent on two expeditions with Robert E. Peary. Enjoy a sampling of images from the set below!

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