Jedediah Hotchkiss: Mapmaker of the Confederacy

The Cartographic Branch holds numerous maps created by noted Civil War mapmaker Jedediah Hotchkiss. Born in Windsor, New York, Hotchkiss moved to the Shenandoah Valley in Virginia prior to the Civil War. He worked as a tutor and eventually founded and opened two schools. Although not professionally trained in geography or cartography, Hotchkiss studied map-making in his spare time and taught himself the skills necessary to create maps.

When the Civil War broke out in the spring of 1861, Hotchkiss’ students left his school to enlist. Hotchkiss, although not in favor of southern secession, eventually volunteered his services to the Confederacy. In the spring of 1862, Hotchkiss’ mapping skills were noticed by army commanders, and he was assigned as a topographic officer to General Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s corps. Jackson famously asked him “to make me a map of the Valley, from Harpers Ferry to Lexington, showing all the points of offense and defense in those places.” Over the next several months, Hotchkiss completed the map of the Shenandoah Valley, which ended up being over eight feet long. His knowledge of the Shenandoah Valley also made him a valuable resource during Jackson’s Valley Campaign, during which he provided information and reconnaissance about the terrain and roads.

The Cartographic Branch holds two maps by Hotchkiss showing troop movements and battles lines in the Shenandoah Valley during Jackson’s Valley Campaign in the spring and early summer of 1862. One of the maps shows the route of Jackson’s troops from May 15, 1862 until the battle of Winchester on June 25, 1862. This map covers a large portion of the Shenandoah Valley and shows towns, along with topography, roads, waterways, and the army’s marching route.


RG 109 VA-10, Hotchkiss Map of the Route of the Army of the Valley from Pendleton County to the Battle of Winchester.

A second map illustrates the battle of Winchester, Virginia on May 25, 1862 and shows battle lines and topography of the area around the town.


RG 109, VA-9,  Hotchkiss Sketch Map of the Battle of Winchester, Virginia

Hotchkiss continued to serve with Jackson’s Corps.The Cartographic Branch holds two maps created by Hotchkiss for Jackson showing the battle lines for the December 1862 Battle of Fredericksburg. The maps show the entire Confederate line of battle, but provides the most details of Jackson’s troops, who made up the right wing of the Confederate line. One of the Fredericksburg maps is a manuscript map and another is a cleaner, printed version of the same map.


RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G 131 – Hotchkiss manuscript map of Fredericksburg Battlefield.


RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G 131 – Hotckiss map of Battle of Fredericksburg

Following Jackson’s death, Hotchkiss continued to serve with the Confederate Army through the end of the war, providing maps and reconnaissance Jackson’s successors and others in the Army of Northern Virginia.  After the Civil War, Hotchkiss taught school for a while, but eventually became an engineer full time. He also published a number of articles and items relating to natural history and the Civil War.

Many of his maps were featured in post-war publications. He supplied 123 maps for inclusion in the Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, which was published in the 1890s. The Cartographic Branch holds a number of manuscript maps associated with the work, including one by Hotchkiss of the Battle of Cross Keys, which was fought June 8, 1862. It includes a label that states it should be returned to “Jed. Hotchkiss, Consulting Mining Engineer, “The Oaks,” 346 East Beverly Street, Staunton, Va.”


RG 94, Civil War Atlas Manuscript Maps, Plate 111, Map 2 – Battle of Cross Keys, Virginia

Hotchkiss’ map was refined and published in the atlas as Plate 111, Map 2. The Cartographic Branch holds a copy of the published version of the map and the atlas page on which is appeared.

RG94_PublishedAtlas_Plate111 - cropped

RG 94, Civil War Atlas Published Maps, Plate 111, Map 2. Map of the Battle of Cross Keys, VA, by Jedediah Hotchkiss. (Cropped image)


RG 94, Civil War Atlas Published Maps, Plate 111. The Hotchkiss map of Cross Keys appears in the top row of maps, near the center. (Note: This file is very large.)

The National Archives also holds a number of other maps by Jedediah Hotchkiss, including a number of Virginia county maps within the RG 77, Civil Works Map File, including the following manuscript maps: G 180 (Augusta County), G 189 (Greene County), G 188 (Shenandoah, Page and Part of Warren Counties), G 187 (Rockingham County), G 190 (Rappahannock County), and the following photo-processed copies of maps: Published Maps, 1867, No. 21 (part of James City, York, Warwick and Elizabeth City Counties), and Published Maps, 1867, No. 22 (parts of Rappahannock, Madison, Greene, and Nelson Counties). Additionally, many more of Hotchkiss’ maps are scattered throughout the Civil War Atlas Published Maps and Manuscript Maps series. We invite you to visit the Cartographic Research room to view these maps!


Civil War Trust.  “Jedediah Hotchkiss.” Biography.

Library of Congress. “Postwar Mapping.” History of Civil War Mapping.

Woodworth, Steven E. “Jedediah Hotchkiss.” Encylopedia Virginia.

For additional information on Civil War Maps in the Cartographic Branch see:
A Guide to Civil War Maps in the National Archives, 1986.

Note: The Library of Congress also holds many of Hotchkiss’ maps, including his famous map of the Shenandoah Valley created for General Jackson. For additional information on the maps and to view them online, see the following link:



Posted in Cartographic Records, Civil War, Maps, Military, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

The Measure of a Screen: Motion Picture Aspect Ratios in the Archives

Take a look at the two movie screens in the photos below. Notice anything different?

The screen in the color image, photographed in 1998, is much wider than that in the 1946 black-and-white image. Each screen has a different aspect ratio.

Merriam-Webster defines motion picture aspect ratio as “the ratio of the width of a television or motion-picture image to its height.” An aspect ratio of 4:3 can refer to an image (or screen) that is four feet wide and three feet tall, or one that is twelve feet wide and nine feet tall. The image may be as large or small as you like, as long as the same ratio between the width and the height is maintained.

Continue reading

Posted in Digitization, Films, Motion Pictures, Space | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

When James McNeill Whistler Worked for the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey

Most of us know about James McNeill Whistler’s famous work “Arrangement in Gray and Black No. 1: The Artist’s Mother”, more commonly known as simply “Whistler’s Mother”, but my guess is that we know somewhat less about some of his other works.  For instance, did you know that in the cartographic holdings of the National Archives, in Record Group 23: Records of the Coast and Geodetic Survey, can be found one of his works?

The story of how James McNeill Whistler ended up working for Coast and Geodetic survey is a rather complicated one, involving an expulsion from school, wandering around somewhat aimlessly for a while, and, finally, catching the right person’s attention at the right time.  And all this this took place well before being one of the most significant figures in American art.

After a row with his chemistry professor at West Point over whether or not silicon was a metal, he was expelled from the program.  For a time after that, he lived in Baltimore with his brother or a family friend but never seemed to actually take on any work.  His family tried to persuade him to take on an apprenticeship in a locomotive factory, which he did not[1].  After deciding that the locomotive industry was not for him, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he met with then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis and asked to be re-instated in the program at West Point.  Davis informed him at a subsequent meeting that re-instatement was not possible but, that if he were to report to the Coast and Geodetic Survey, there would be a post available there.

As it happened, the man that he presented himself to at the Coast and Geodetic Survey was a friend of his father’s and he was offered the job.   According to the agency’s records, he was hired in November of 1854, for $1.50 per day.  In very short order, he discovered that he did not like office life and was frequently late for work, which he attributed to a very full social life.  The tardiness eventually because profound enough that his supervisor, out of regards for both Whistler’s talent and Whistler’s father, inquired as to whether his friend John Ross Key would be willing to stop by Whistler’s lodgings on his way in to work and see if he could get him to come along in[2].

Key would recall that Whistler was not overly suited for the job with the Coast and Geodetic Survey, saying:

“The accuracy required in the making of maps and surveys, where mathematical calculations are the foundation of projections upon which are drawn the topographical or hydrographical conventional signs, was not to Whistler’s liking, and the laborious application involved was beyond his nature, or inconsistent with it.[3]

Though he was told explicitly not to spoil the government-owned copper plates that maps were etched on with trivial sketches of things that did not pertain strictly to the hydrography and topography of the location being mapped, he saw the work as dull and did not listen.  He proceeded to add extra little flourishes and touches to the engravings.


RG 23: Records of the Coast and Geodetic Survey.  Map of Anacapa Island, California.  1854

The chart shown above comes from one of the two Whistler plates that are known to have survived, though another one is rumored to exist, as well.   The Coast and Geodetic Survey map located in the Archive’s holdings is entitled “Sketch of Anacapa Island” and dates to 1854.  Though the plate is signed by several engravers, Whistler’s name is not among them.  It is believed that he etched the far eastern end of the island because the lines in the etching resemble his previous work and because of the addition of two flocks of birds which add scientific value for the map[4].

By 1855, Whistler had left the Coast and Geodetic Survey and had moved on to Paris.

[1] Pennell, E.R. and J.  “The Life of James McNeill Whistler, The New and Revised Edition.”  Pg. 40.  J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1957.

[2] Pennell, E.R. and J.  “The Life of James McNeill Whistler, The New and Revised Edition.”  Pgs. 43-44.  J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1957.

[3] Key, John Ross.  “Recollections of Whistler While in the Office of the United States Coast Survey.”  Pg. 929.  The Century Illustrated Magazine, Vol. 92, No. 6, April 1908.

[4] Pennell, E.R. and J.  “The Life of James McNeill Whistler, The New and Revised Edition.”  Pg. 46.  J.B. Lippincott and Co., 1957.

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Spotlight: Dogs in Airbrush

Airbrushing was an early method of retouching and coloring photographs which can be traced back as far as the late 1800s. It is a unique process which creates a beautiful matte effect, causing images to look as though they are caught somewhere between photograph and painting. While the technology is still employed today, in the pre-Photoshop era airbrushing was a go-to method of altering and improving images.

At the National Archives, we do not alter, retouch, or manipulate the original records within our holdings. We preserve the materials that are sent to us by government agencies as invaluable historical records. We do, however, have some examples of airbrushed images in our holdings created by the agencies before transfer. For examples of airbrushing in the Still Picture Branch holdings, check out these images from RG 17-HD, the Bureau of Animal Industry!

Images depicting different stages in the airbrushing process:

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Y2K: The New Year’s Disaster That Wasn’t

“Since the Council began its work, the enormity of the year 2000 problem has become increasingly apparent. It is not just a Federal systems problem or an American problem, it is a global problem.”

-President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, May 5, 1998,

Humanity’s worst fears about a Y2K meltdown on January 1, 2000 never came to pass. This smooth transition to the 21st century wasn’t mere luck or an indication that our concerns were misplaced. Governments and businesses around the world proactively prepared their computer systems to seamlessly to the year 2000 rather than travel back to 1900. In particular, the United States Air Force worked hard to ring in the new digital year. This end-of-year post looks at some scenes from their preparations.

In the Center for Y2K Strategies, human and ferret joined together to get the job done. Misty, the pet ferret of Lieutenant-Colonel Randy Blaisdell, performed the task of pulling wires through the sub-floor. For her services to the country, Misty was rewarded  with Pop-Tarts. The Air Force has many Military Working Dogs. Is it time for a ferret unit?


Since its creation in 1941, Keesler Air Force Base in Biloxi, Mississippi has specialized in technical training in avionics and electronics. The base ran a turn-of-the-century simulation in May of 1999. This screen (framed in a lime-green monitor!) shows the standard Windows calendar and clocks. A success: it is now January 1, 2000. If it were January 1, 1900, the Air Force wouldn’t exist.


Meanwhile in Colorado, Peterson Air Force Base was home to a bank of computers tasked with preventing Y2K problems with the US’s and Russia’s missiles. Here, Second Lieutenant Tim Moore checks the computers as seen in the November, 1999 AIRMAN Magazine article entitled “Millennium Missiles.” As our computers, and more importantly our smart phones, switch from 2017 to 2018, here’s to everyone who worked to prevent Y2K disasters and glitches, ranging from nuclear war to sudden 100 year-old library fines.


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Cartographic’s Favorites of 2017

Co-written with Amy Edwards

The Cartographic Branch holds a wide variety of materials. While working with these documents for reference requests, projects, or research room requests, our staff comes across some very cool and significant documents. Today, we are featuring a few of our favorite records that we’ve come across this year. We hope that you enjoy them as much as we do!

Plan for the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse


RG 26: Lighthouses, North Carolina, Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

The Cartographic Branch holds a variety of lighthouse drawings. The drawing above shows the First Order Lighthouse for Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.  Note that the iconic black and white striping is missing from this illustration, which is dated 1869. Our collection also holds many additional plans and drawings related to the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.

Sketch of Montauk Point Light


RG 26: Lighthouses, New York, Montauk Point Light, “A View of the Light House on Montauk Point.”

Another lighthouse drawing that caught our eye was a hand drawn and handcolored sketch of the Montauk Point Light in New York. The sketch illustrates not only the lighthouse itself, but also shows the light keeper’s house, two detailed boats, and some cows in the foreground. This is only one of countless beautiful sketches and drawings that can be found within our holdings.

Plan for Dry Dock from the Grice Drawings


RG 45: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment, “Grice Plans” Drawing 85, Plan for Dry Dock.   

The Cartographic Branch holds many interesting drawings and plans related to ships. This drawing illustrates the plan for a dry dock and is date April 1863.  The ship that is most visible on the left hand side is noted as being the U.S.S. Pennsylvania. This drawing is part of the “Grice Drawings” series of ship plans, which was digitized earlier this year. All of the drawings are available to view and/or download at the following link: Drawings of Ship Construction and Equipment.

Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail


Record Group 45: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment, “Ware Drawings,” Free Trade, Sailor’s Rights Sail. 

This drawings features a sail design for a naval vessel. The design was a strong and recurrent theme during the War of 1812.  “Free trade” referred to the protection of American commerce while “Sailors’ Rights” referred to a desire for the end the British impressment of American sailors. Drawings from this series were also digitized this year and are available at the following link: Drawings of Naval Vessels and Equipment. Additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.” 

Master Plan Cover for Great Smoky Mountains National Park


RG 79: NPS Master Plans, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 1938.

Another favorite here in the office and on the blog this year were the many unique and ornate National Park Service Master Plan covers that the Cartographic Branch holds within Record Group 79. The 1938 plan for Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of many that is hand colored and quite visually impressive. See our blog post: Planning America’s Best Idea: Master Plans for National Parks for more covers and also the history behind the Master Plans.

Plan for the U.S.S. Constitution


RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships,  The U.S.S. Constitution.

Ship plans are some of our most requested items. This drawings is of the U.S.S. Constitution. Originally designed and constructed in 1794, it appears that Charles Ware created an illustration of the vessel sometime later during his tenure at the Boston Navy Yard.  This also appears to be the case for the illustration of the U.S.S. Congress, also designed in 1794 and constructed the following year.  Note that this drawing of the U.S.S. Constitution is located in RG 19: Records of the Bureau of Ships, 1940-1966, rather than RG 45 with the main series of Ware Drawings. Again, additional information about the Charles Ware Drawings can be found on our previous blog post, “Lynxes and Alligators and Ships, Oh, My! The Ships of the Ware Collection.” 

Plan for Fort Dupont


RG 77: Fortifications File, Drawer 169, Sheet 91

Fort plans are also quite popular. The Cartographic Branch holds plans for many major and minor fortifications important in our history. This plan is for Fort Dupont, which was constructed by Union forces during the Civil War to help protect Washington, DC against attacks. Along with providing the overall layout of the fort, this drawing includes some cross-sections highlighting gun positions and other elements of the fortification that are better viewed from the side. These help the viewer to better understand this fort and its design.

Drawing of the C.S.S. Nashville


RG 19, Dash Files, 81-12-2G, The C.S.S. Nashville

Cartographic also holds ship plans related to the Civil War. Our holdings include plans for both Union and Confederate vessels. The drawing of the Nashville features a side view of the ironclad naval vessel. In the background, a Union ironclad is visible. Additionally, a mine appears in the water near the Nashville, potentially posing a threat to the vessel.  

Map of Le Bonhomme, France


RG 120, Entry 403, Le Bonhomme, 9/3/1918.

The Cartographic Branch also holds a variety 20th century maps, including many from World War I and World War II. It is difficult to choose a favorite when there are so many. The map of Le Bonhomme in France appears to be pretty average but it is the unique connection to a photograph within the holdings of the Still Pictures Branch which makes this map a favorite of 2017. Staff members discovered photographs showing French cartographers creating a map and were able to match the map in the photographs to the finished map, as the Cartographic Branch holds a printed copy.  For more information on this unique connection and to see the photographs, please see the blog post “Maps of the Great War: Army Cartography in World War I.” 

We hope that you have enjoyed a look at some of our favorite items from the holdings of the Cartographic Branch. We invite you to share your own favorites from our holdings in the comments section below, and also invite you to explore our collections to make discoveries of your own! Our catalog is as great place to start!

Posted in Architectural and Engineering Drawings, Cartographic Records, Maps, Military, Photographs, Ship Plans, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, World War I | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Favorite Film Finds of 2017

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 continue an annual tradition, we’ve identified a handful of films that were digitized in 2017 and found their way to our list of favorites.


Rock Creek Park Puppet Show, 1979 (79-HFC-229)

Here in the lab we have a fondness for government films starring puppets, probably because the examples we hold go so far off the rails. The newest addition to our list of marionette productions, Rock Creek Park Puppet Show, came down this year for inspection as a new accession.

In the film, a possibly sociopathic child becomes angry at a sentient rock after he trips over it. He beats the rock with his butterfly net, and then injures his foot when he kicks it. When the rock explains that it was actually here first, the child responds in disbelief, “For a talking rock, you sure do lie a lot.”

The film then switches gears and becomes an animated geology lesson, but happily returns to the puppets. The child, now apparently fascinated, asks the rock to talk to his friends. The rock declines and decides to take a 75,000 year nap instead. The child responds, “Well, who cares anyway? I’ve got better things to do than waste my time talking to rude rocks.” The rock gets the last laugh, quite literally, with the film closing out on bright flute music and the rock’s demonic chuckle.

Reconnaissance Pilot, 1943 (342-SFP-125)

Reconnaissance Pilot is a slick World War II training film starring William Holden. We’ve written about the Air Force’s First Motion Picture Unit before, but only came across this title when we were putting together a presentation on the unit. In the film, William Holden is Lieutenant Packaday Cummings, the son of World War I ace fighter pilot. Although he is disappointed with his assigned role, over the course of the three-reel film, Lt. Cummings learns that his work as a reconnaissance pilot can have a greater impact than if he were a fighter.

Holden was one of many Hollywood actors and technicians who served in the First Motion Picture Unit during the war. He is best known for his star turns in the 1950s, notably in Sunset Boulevard, Stalag 17, and Bridge on the River Kwai.

Japanese Bride in America, 1952 (306.5604)

After World War II, many GIs stationed in Japan married Japanese women. While at first U.S. immigration laws made it difficult for the women to move to the United States with their husbands, the 1952 McCarran-Walter Act removed legal barriers. Japanese Bride in America was produced that same year by the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ Civil Affairs Division, likely to be shown to Japanese women and their families.

The film is the story of Miwako, who moves to Cleveland, Ohio, with her husband and must learn to adjust to American life. For the most part people are welcoming, but Miwako struggles to feel comfortable, especially with the English language. The film does not gloss over how hard it is to adapt to a new culture, but Miwako gradually begins to fit in, particularly after she and her husband start a business making and selling bamboo housewares.

For more stories of women like Miwako, read “The Untold Stories of Japanese War Brides” by Kathryn Tolbert in The Washington Post.

Shelley & Pete (…& Carol), 1980 (235-EDU-20)

This 1980 film is pure Afterschool Special, produced in the mold of the made-for-television movies ABC began broadcasting in 1972. The topic here is teen pregnancy and its effect on teen life and relationships. Shelley is a cheerleader and Pete has dreams of sailing around the Caribbean Sea, but everything changes when Carol is born.

Our readers in Washington, D.C., may recognize the name of the actor who played Pete. Tucker Echols was a longtime on-air reporter for radio station WTOP’s Washington Business Journal.

Men of the Forest, 1952 (306.824)

There are three things to know about Men of the Forest: It features an African-American family in rural Georgia, it was made by the United States Information Agency for overseas audiences, and we’ve seen nothing else like it in our holdings.

Men of the Forest is about the Hunter family, centering on the youngest son, James. The film begins when James, on summer vacation and finally old enough to join his father and brother working in the woods, wakes up excited to start his day. James notices that other families have power saws and can cut more trees every day. James forges a plan for the Hunter family to save the needed funds so they, too, can have a power saw and with it, an opportunity to improve their lives. The Hunters scrimp and save; Mother gives up her sewing machine fund and the sons forgo treats on a trip to town. By the conclusion, the Hunters buy their power saw, and with the profit from the additional timber they cut, they buy Mother a sewing machine and fix up their home.

In theme and form, Men of the Forest echoes New Deal films like We Work Again or Power and the Land that show the value of labor and how technology can improve workers’ lives. Like many of the New Deal documentaries, Men of the Forest is beautifully shot. Unlike those films, Men of the Forest features a black family as the core protagonists. It would be hard to overstate how rare this is in government films. In fact, we haven’t seen anything like it before.

Men of the Forest came to the lab for inspection as part of a larger project to process the backlog of films from the United States Information Agency.


Every year we see so many great films that it’s hard to narrow it down to just five. Honorable Mentions for 2017 include Don’t Be a Sucker, Union and Community, and Endless Chain.

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How a Booklet of General Plans Helped Save 32 Trapped Sailors After the Attack on Pearl Harbor

Among the vast holdings of the National Archives, in Record Group 19: Alphabetical Series of Ship Engineering Drawings, are a type of ship plans known simply as “Booklets of General Plans”.  These plans are illustrations various vessels showing elements such as the starboard and portside views of boats, schematics of weaponry, and deck layouts including the numerous tiny compartments on each level of the ship.  These booklets are typically very detailed and consist of several plates, usually one for each deck of the ship.  These records are very popular and informative and researchers routinely request booklets of general plans for a variety of reasons ranging from using them as an aid in building a replica of the ship to finding a vessel that they themselves or a family member once served aboard to helping to resolves legal cases.

Never were these sets of plans more important than on December 7th and 8th, 1941.

The U.S.S. Oklahoma had been docked at Pearl Harbor awaiting an inspection which was supposed to occur on the morning of December 8th, 1941.  Originally the vessel was supposed to be at sea, but had come in to port specifically for the upcoming inspection.  Because of the impending inspection, many of the door and hatches on board were standing wide open when Pearl Harbor was attacked and, because of this, the ship flooded and capsized so quickly that many men never had time to abandon ship.   Within twenty minutes of being hit by the first torpedo, the Oklahoma lay nearly upside down in the water, masts buried in the mud, with men still alive and trapped in the upturned sections of the battleship.  After the attack was over and rescue operation was initiated, tapping could be heard coming from inside of the exposed section of hull and it became a race against the clock to cut the survivors free before they either suffocated or drowned.



A little after 8:00 am on the morning of December 7th, 1941, the Commander of the U.S.S. Maryland, E. Kranzfelder, was summoned back from Honolulu to Pearl Harbor by a telephone operator saying that that there was an emergency at the harbor and that he should return to his ship as soon as possible.  Upon arriving back aboard the U.S.S. Maryland, which was docked next to the Oklahoma, and seeing the devastation that lay before him, he went straight to the bridge for an update of the situation.  While there, he was contacted by a sailor on the Oklahoma (now capsized) informing him of an immediate need for cutting equipment and a request for any and all assistance that could be rendered.  The commander obtained permission from the Admiral to help with the rescue effort and began by obtaining the Booklet of General Plans for the Oklahoma.



It quickly became apparent there were going to be significant issue with cutting through the hull of the ship, since virtually the entire underside of the battleship was composed of fuel tanks and cutting through the hull with torches would pose a significant risk of fire if the hull was cut in the wrong area.  In Adding to the problem of where to cut was tapping of the trapped men which was echoed badly, causing rescuers to be unsure of exactly where survivors were trapped.  Commander Kranzfelder, in his official report to the navy would later describe the situation writing:

“Lines were rigged from the bilge keel at intervals along the bottom, telephone communication was established with the Maryland, an air supply line was quickly rigged from the Maryland to the Oklahoma, strainers were removed from main injections and over board discharge in an attempt to gain access to the engine room.  Contact was established with two men entrapped in the evaporator pump room through a small over board discharge connection in the hull.  Food and water were passed down to these men.  From information obtained from these men as to their location in the ship and with the aid of the Booklet of General Plans it was possible to determine the best locations to cut access holes in the bottom of the ship.”[1]



With the aid crew from several surrounding vessels and the schematics provided by the Booklet of General Plans of the Oklahoma, eventually, 32 survivors would be cut free from the wreckage of the ship.  They were rescued from the hold known as the “Lucky Bag” which was a small hold used for storing items like pea coats and small personal belongings, Radio Room No. 4, the Aft Steering Room, the No. 4 Turret Handling Room, and the Evaporator Pump Room (see illustration above to locate the aforementioned compartments).  Many others were trapped who were not able to be rescued in time to save their lives.


Eventually, the Oklahoma was righted in the water using a series of hoists attached to the hull and to the shore that pulled the hull of the ship upright.  The ship was salvaged but was too badly damaged to be returned to duty.  After being stripped of armaments and superstructure, the hull was sold for salvage in 1946 but, while being towed back to San Francisco in 1947, sank during storm.

[1]Walin, Homer N.  Pearl Harbor: Why, How, Fleet Salvage and Final Appraisal.  Washington, D.C., Government Printing Office.  1968

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Celebrating the Bicentennial: Crafting the Old Ways

This is the second installment in our series about the United States Information Agency’s Young Film Maker Bicentennial Grant Films. In the previous post, we told you about the program and featured a trippy animated short. Today we have Sharon and Thomas Hudgins’ film Homespun and Stephen Rivkin’s Winter Count, both completed in 1975.


When the Young Film Maker Bicentennial grants were announced, Sharon Hudgins proposed a film about handweaving. She had completed an internship with the USIA in the summer of 1968, so she was aware of the type of films the agency would want, and she had been weaving for some time. With the grant, Hudgins could pursue her interests in filmmaking and handweaving simultaneously while she completed her Master’s project for the University of Texas-Austin Motion Picture and Television School.

Homespun, which was filmed by Thomas Hudgins at a historic plantation in South Carolina and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences in northern Georgia, covers the handweaving process from shearing the sheep, washing, carding, spinning, and dyeing the wool, to weaving on the loom. The soundtrack features the voices of women who work the wool and traditional songs arranged and performed by Edith Card.

A few years after Sharon and Thomas Hudgins completed Homespun, Sharon used leftover material—unexposed film, outtakes, tape recordings, and wool that was featured in the film—to create a woven art piece on a three feet by four feet wooden frame.

Sharon and Thomas Hudgins taught film, economics, and political science in Europe and Asia for the University of Maryland University College for two decades.

Winter Count

Winter Count, made by Stephen Rivkin while a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, is about the Plains tribes’ tradition of creating a pictographic history of their people, with a symbol representing each year. The film features an interview with Lydia Fire Thunder Bluebird of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) describing the significance of the winter count kept by her great-uncle, Moses Red Horse Owner.

In the interview, Fire Thunder Bluebird explains, “The winter count could only be understood by the one who put it down. When he would look at this symbol, he would remember many things from that year. With this, he could keep record of things that happened in our tribe.”


Lydia Fire Thunder Bluebird holds up the buffalo hide winter count kept by her great-uncle, Moses Red Horse Owner, and sister Angelique Fire Thunder. (Still from Winter Count)

After Moses Red Horse Owner died, Fire Thunder Bluebird’s sister, Angelique, took over the winter count. Red Horse Owner’s winter count was published as a book in 1969.

Stephen Rivkin went on to become an editor on dozens of Hollywood films.

Many thanks to Sharon Hudgins and Stephen Rivkin, who graciously answered questions about the making of their films.

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Spotlight: National Women’s Conference of 1977


Bella Abzug, Betty Freidan and Billie Jean King accompany torch relay runners into Houston.  Record Group: 220 Records of Temporary Committees, Commissions, and Boards, 1893-2008 Series: WC Photographs Used to Illustrate the Report, “Spirit of Houston: The first National Women’s Converence”, 1977-1978. 220-WC-30-H

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the National Women’s Conference held November 18-21, 1977 in Houston, Texas. This conference was the United States’ answer to the United Nations World Conference on Women held in 1975 in Mexico City. After the United Nations declared 1975 International Women’s Year, President Ford issued Executive Order 11832 creating a National Commission on the Observance of International Women’s Year to promote equality between men and women. The Houston conference was the culmination of several events held over the next few years and was organized by the commission.

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