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!


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)


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


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)


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


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)


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)


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


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)


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


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)


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)


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


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)


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



  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.


  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.


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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Visualizing Pearl Harbor 75 Years Later

Tomorrow marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. In remembrance of the event, we are presenting related maps, photographs, ship plans, and films held by NARA’s Special Media Division.

2806072-2016-001 (1)

Manuscript color Map of Pearl Harbor after the Attack (NAID  29032720).  Prepared by the Joint Intelligence Center, Pacific Ocean Areas to illustrate the locations of roads, railroads, airfields, buildings, storage tanks and positions of unnamed ships in the harbor.

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Posted in Aerial Photography, Architectural and Engineering Drawings, Cartographic Records, Films, Graphic Materials, Maps, Military, Motion Pictures, Photographs, Ship Plans | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

General Douglas MacArthur’s Strategic World War II Maps

General Douglas MacArthur served as the commander of the U.S. Army Forces in the Far East during World War II. During the war, MacArthur led the campaign in the Pacific theater for the Army. In 1966, the Department of the Army published two volumes of reports of MacArthur’s involvement in the war. These reports describe and illustrate numerous battles in Japan and the Philippines that MacArthur helped plan. Alongside the reports, maps and charts were also included, adding a visual dimension to the battles fought in the Pacific. Many of these maps can be found in the Cartographic Branch here at the National Archives.



RG 496, General MacArthur Report Maps, Vol. 1, Plate 58: Leyte Assault, 20-25 October 1944 (compilation materials and completed map)

We have most of the completed and published maps that appear in the volumes, but the majority of what we have are other compilation materials. Included are illustrations and designs that show different aspects and sections of what would become the final map. Some of these items are hand-drawn designs while others include painted portions. Some also include plastic sheets that highlight particular parts of the map, such as troop movements and army locations, which would be overlaid on the base map in the published version. By looking through the folders, one can get a sense of how the pieces fit together and how they were used to highlight aspects of each map. Comparing the compilation materials with the published maps gives a greater sense of how they were created to show the whole story.



RG 496, General MacArthur Report Maps, Vol. 1, Plate 130: Aerial Bombardment of Japan (compilation materials and completed map)

The MacArthur report maps highlight some of the most significant battles of the war. They give insight into how MacArthur approached situations in the Pacific and how he planned for action. Included are strategic maps for the Battle of Manila, the Leyte Assault, the re-taking of Bataan and allied landings in Japan. Many maps show the disposition of enemy forces and their movements. By providing information about how these battles were planned, the maps present a very detailed and informative look at how MacArthur and the allied forces approached the war.


Vol. 1, Plate 112: “Downfall” Plan for the Invasion of Japan, 28 May 1945

Even for researchers who have a strong understanding of this campaign, these maps highlight aspects and details of the Army’s planning that many will find useful. In total, there are approximately 2,400 items included in the series covering a significant portion of the war. Keeping in mind that the maps originate with MacArthur himself, they represent an important part of the story of World War II and they help to paint a complete picture of the war. You can learn more about this series in the National Archives catalog here.

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“Who Has Given More Than The Indian?”

The following photo essay and accompanying poem were recently discovered in an accession of Indian Health Service records. The work appears to be attributed to Mr. Allan Cayous. The content and captions are all original to the author and the intended order of presentation has been preserved in this blog post to the best of my ability.

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World War II Veteran Lloyd Heller Shares Details About Production of 1943 Tank Training Film

In August, an e-mail came to motion picture archivist Carol Swain’s inbox asking about a World War II training film called Security on the March. Richard Herde contacted the Motion Picture unit looking for information about a film his 100-year-old uncle, Corporal Lloyd Heller, had helped make while serving as a tanker in the United States Army. As luck would have it, Heller remembered the exact title of the film, which made it much easier to find, and a beautiful 35mm negative was preserved here at the National Archives. The motion picture preservation lab scanned Security on the March and made a DVD so that Heller could view the film for the first time in over 70 years.

Security on the March (1943) is an instructional film that teaches viewers the safest way to evade detection while traveling in tanks. For example, a tanker should never leave his goggles on the top of his head during the day, or light a cigarette at night. Either could lead to discovery by planes flying overhead.

We do not hold a production file for Security on the March, but Lloyd Heller was able to fill in some of the details about how the film was made. His own involvement began when he and another soldier were the first to finish a grueling hike while in training at Camp Cooke in California. The two were given the option of two plum assignments: running the Golden Gate Bridge marathon or making a training film in Hollywood. The two men rolled dice, agreeing that whoever rolled the higher number would get to choose. Heller rolled an eleven, and said that “of course” he chose Hollywood.

What followed were 28 “long, hot” days on the Warner Brothers lot, with Heller serving as gunner in the command tank. While we never see him on film, Heller’s tank is the third in the column. Heller and the rest of the soldiers working on the production lived in a tent city on the Warner Brothers lot for the month of July. While there, he was able to see Hollywood and spotted several movie stars.

Lloyd Heller’s photographs from the production of Security on the March
(Courtesy of Richard Herde)

After completing the film, Lloyd Heller shipped out to Europe, where he earned three battle stars as a member of the 6th Armored Division, 68th Tank Battalion. He participated in the invasion of Normandy, and received a Purple Heart for injuries sustained in the Seige of Bastogne, during the Battle of the Bulge. He spent seven months in the hospital, and was released the day after the war ended.


Lloyd Heller visiting the World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. on an Honor Flight, June 2014. (Photo courtesy of Richard Herde)

See Lloyd Heller speaking about his war experience in this television interview. Thank you to Mr. Heller and Richard Herde, who contacted us and answered our questions about the film.

*Updated 11/11/2016 with addition pictures from the production of the film.

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Projections of America: Tuesday in November and the 1944 Election

During World War II, films were a vital part of the war effort. Films trained, entertained, and informed our troops, and films distributed information to the American public who, before the advent of television, had a serious movie-going habit. Very early on, the Office of War Information (OWI) also established an overseas branch, which would do the work of explaining America to war-torn countries that had experienced years of anti-American propaganda and totalitarian regimes. In some cases, European cities were liberated for mere days before American films were projected onto screens. Some of the films were classic Hollywood entertainment, while others were government productions that presented a vision of American life, ideals, and values. One such film was Tuesday in November, a film about the 1944 election and the United States’ system of government.

On its face, Tuesday in November is a straightforward educational film. We see citizens of a fictional California town vote and serve as election officials. An animated primer explains the branches of government. The townspeople argue politics and then set their animus aside at the conclusion of the election. We also see President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and opponent Thomas E. Dewey cast their ballots. Above all, the film places citizen participation at the center of America’s democracy. The electoral process depicted is undeniably idealized, but the film still works remarkably well as a lesson in civics.

Stills from Tuesday in November (1944) demonstrate the United States’ electoral process.

Tuesday in November was part of the OWI’s “Projections of America” series shown to towns and cities liberated by the Allies during World War II. The films covered a wide range of topics, including the Swedish diaspora in America, a town adjusting to an influx of refugees, and the story of a Jeep, told from the popular vehicle’s perspective. The films were made by well-regarded screenwriters and documentarians such as Alexander Hammid and Irving Jacoby. Robert Riskin, the Oscar-winning screenwriter of many of Frank Capra’s classics, oversaw the films’ production.

While the “Projections of America” series was made by the Office of War Information, the United States Information Agency and the State Department used the films for overseas screenings long after the OWI was dissolved in 1945. They ended up scattered across several record groups, but now many of them have been digitized. Swedes in America (starring Ingrid Bergman), Steel Town, Valley of the Tennessee, The Town, The Cummington Story, and Hymn of the Nations can be viewed by clicking on the embedded links.

For much more on Robert Riskin and the film series, see the recent documentary Projections of America.

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Photographs of Military Mascots in WWI


“John Bull” – the mascot of the 77th Aero Force. 165-WW-472A-49

Years before the United States Marine Corps officially adopted the bulldog as its mascot or the United States Military academy adopted the mule, many military regiments adopted mascots and pets. Some were donated by local groups and many were found.

Many of these mascots had jobs, whether utilitarian or ceremonial. Pigeons carried messages, dogs helped to lay telephone wires, and mules carried supplies and soldiers. However, most of the mascots provided kinship and comfort to the soldiers and were noted to significantly boost their morale.

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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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