Their War Too: U.S. Women in the Military During WWII. Part I

March is Women’s History Month, a great time to highlight  important contributions made to our country by women. This year, we are focusing on the role women played in the United States Military during World War II in a two-part blog post. Part I  highlights recruitment films from the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Coast Guard Women’s Reserve (SPARS), and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP). Part II will highlight films from the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve and the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES).


During World War II, women’s service to their country was not limited to the factory floor.  It is true that millions of women were hired to work in factories and thousands were hired to work on farms through the Women’s Land Army program, but their options did not end there. The size of the global conflict was unprecedented and once the United States entered the war, its citizens had to mobilize quickly. The sheer volume of people needed called for the expansion of the role of women. Because of these factors, the roles women played during World War II far surpassed their involvement during previous conflicts. They were recruited for service in the United States military for the first time.

After Pearl Harbor,women signed up for the armed services by the hundreds of thousands; their numbers totaling approximately 350,000 by war’s end. They served in each branch of the military in separate units. The Army established the Women’s Army Corps (WAC), the Marines Corps created the Marine Corps Women’s Reserve, the Coast Guard’s Women’s Reserve were known as the SPARS, and the Navy recruited women into its reserve known as the Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Another group of women served the military but were not recognized as service members during the war. This group, the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP), served in the Army Air Corps.

Continue reading

Posted in Military, Motion Pictures, U.S. Army, U.S. Army Air Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, U.S. Marines, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized, women in the military, women's history, World War II | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic (Photos)

This post was written in collaboration with Kevin Quinn, Sarah Lepianka, and Katherine Stinson – Archives Technicians in the Still Photos Branch.  

The 1918 Influenza Pandemic, also known as the Spanish Flu, was one of the deadliest events in human history.  While fighting between the Allied Powers and the Central Powers raged on in Europe, the disease knew no borders.  Conservative estimates place the worldwide death toll at 30 million people, with reported cases in large cities and remote regions of the world alike.*

Traffic cop in New York City wearing the gauze masks. Local Identifier: 165-WW-269B-7A


Photographs held at the National Archives illustrate the pervasiveness of the disease and the unsuccessful attempts to inhibit its spread.  All images in this blog come from the American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs, which have been digitized in full as part of the Wartime Films Project.

More photos from the Spanish Flu can be viewed on the National Archives Catalog, as well as additional documents on the “Deadly Virus” online exhibit.




*Due to lack of records, estimates of the number of deaths attributed to the flu range anywhere from 30 to 100 million people.

Posted in Digitization, Photographs, World War I | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ironclad Navies: The USS Monitor and CSS Virginia during the Civil War

March 9 marks the famous meeting of the Civil War ironclad ships the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia. The Cartographic Branch holds numerous plans and maps relating to the Battle of Hampton Roads and to the Civil War ironclads and ships involved in the battle. This post highlights some of the records relating to this noted engagement.

Following the firing on Fort Sumter by Southern forces in April 1861, the United States Navy evacuated the Gosport Navy Yard in Portsmouth, Virginia. Retreating forces set fire to the USS Merrimac (Merrimack), which had been at Gosport for engine repairs and not seaworthy at the time of the evacuation. In May 1861, Confederate forces, now in control of the navy yard,  raised the partially burned frigate and began converting the ship into an armored vessel, or ironclad. They repaired the ship and reinforced it with 2-inch iron plating cast at Tredegar Ironworks in Richmond, Virginia. In February 1862, the ship was launched and re-christened the CSS Virginia.

The Cartographic Branch holds numerous ship plans relating to the original USS Merrimac and the later ironclad, the CSS Virginia. Reference reports for both ships, listing the available plans, are available in our research room and at the following link: Reference Report: USS Merrimac/ CSS Virginia. Below are two examples of plans relating to the CSS Virginia that are within the holdings of the Cartographic Branch. The first is a color drawing showing a profile view of the ironclad. The second blueprint drawing shows the gun desk arrangement for the Merrimac. 


Sketch of the CSS Virginia (outboard profile), RG 19, DASH 81-12-2B, NAID: 12007683



Gun Deck for the CSS Virginia (formerly USS Merrimac), RG 19, DASH 76-2-45

In response to the construction of a Confederate ironclad, the US Navy also began working on plans to build an ironclad of their own. The Navy put out a call for proposals for such a ship, and received numerous designs. Eventually, after lengthy consideration, plans moved forward to build a ship proposed by Swedish immigrant John Ericsson. Ericsson’s design was very different from past proposals, which attached iron plating to the exterior of a traditional warship, similar to the CSS Virginia. Ericsson’s design instead sat low in the water, almost fully submerged, leaving only 18 inches of deck above the water line. It also contained a novel revolving turret, which contained two cannons. Because the entire turret could be rotated independently of the ship, the two cannons could be rapidly aimed and fired at enemy ships or targets. This was a great advantage over other ships, which had to be steered so that their guns pointed in the correct direction of the target. The USS Monitor, as Ericsson’s ship was named, launched in late January 1862.

The Cartographic Branch holds numerous plans related to the USS Monitor and monitor class ironclad ships. A reference report for plans relating to the USS Monitor is available in the research room and at the following link: USS Monitor Reference Report. The following are a few examples of plans relating to the USS Monitor and Ericsson’s monitor class ironclads.


Side elevation and top view of “Ericsson Battery of two Guns of 12 inch Calibre.”  RG 19, DASH, 26-8-20.


“Top view and Longitudinal Section of Impenetrable (Impregnable) Floating Battery.” RG 19, DASH, 26-8-21.


“Screw Ram on the ‘Monitor’ system.” Plan by J. Ericsson. 1862. RG 19, DASH,  26-8-17. NAID: 17370268


“Sketch of Original Monitor.” 1917. RG 19, DASH, 26-8-18A. NAID: 17370270

The two ironclads met in battle on March 9, 1862. This marked the first engagement between two ironclads. On March 8, the CSS Virginia got her first test of power, steaming toward Union ships located in the Hampton Roads area. She engaged with two warships, the USS Cumberland and the USS Congress. The Virginia rammed the Cumberland with a metal ram, creating a large gash in the side of the hull and causing the ship to sink. The Congress ran aground, preventing a ram attack. However, the CSS Virginia shelled the USS Congress forcing the stranded and wrecked ship to surrender. Additionally, in the confusion, the nearby USS Minnesota also ran aground. The Virginia fell back to her wharf, planning to return the following day to finish off the Union fleet. The Virginia proved the success of iron versus wood, and the iron plating proved effective in protecting the ship from shot and shell.

That night, the Union Navy’s new ironclad, the USS Monitor, entered Hampton Roads and took up a position next to the stranded USS Minnesota. On the morning of March 9, the Virginia headed back to finish off the Minnesota, but instead encountered the Monitor. The two ironclads engaged in a close rang artillery fight, each having little effect on the other due to their armored designs. The Virginia tried unsuccessfully to ram the Monitor, but the Monitor, a lighter and quicker ship, managed to avoid the ram. Both ships eventually withdraw, leaving the engagement between steam powered ironclad ships a draw. The map below shows the site of the battle of Hampton Roads and depicts the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (labeled as the Merrimack), along with other ships in the area.

RG77_CWMF_G443_vol12_p10 -- zoomed

Close up of map showing the Hampton Roads area and depicting the March 9, 1862 battle between the USS Monitor and the CSS Virginia (formerly the Merrimack). RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G443, Vol. 12, p. 10.


Full Map showing the Hampton Roads area.  RG 77, Civil Works Map File, G443, Vol. 12, p. 10.

Both the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor suffer unfortunate fates during the next few months of the Civil War. In early May 1862, Union forces approached Norfolk, forcing the Confederates to abandonthe city and destroyed the navy yard. Without a home, the Virginia’s commander attempted to lighten the ship and travel up the James River to the safety of Richmond, but this plan proved unsuccessful. The Confederates instead were forced to scuttle the ship on May 11, 1862, blowing her up rather than allow the Union forces to capture the ship.

In late 1862, after supporting numerous military operations near Norfolk and Richmond, the USS Monitor received orders to move south to Beaufort, North Carolina. On December 30, 1862, off of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the Monitor encountered a bad storm. In the rough seas, the Monitor, whose deck was only 18 inches above the waterline, began to take on water, flooding the engine room. Around midnight, her engines flooded completely and her pumps stopped working. All hopes for saving the struggling ship were gone and the ship was abandoned. Forty-seven men were rescued from the sinking USS Monitor. Sixteen were lost, swept overboard, unable to reach the rescue boats, or trapped inside the sinking vessel.

The wrecked Monitor remained lost until the 1970s. In 1973, a team from Duke University began searching for the location of the wreck. After a tentative identification, the team confirmed they had found the wreck 16 miles off of Cape Hatteras after a second visit to the site in the spring of 1974. Research on the wreck began and over the years, many artifacts were recovered from the USS Monitor. In 2002, the famous turret was raised from the sea floor. Today, the turret and artifacts related to the USS Monitor are housed at the USS Monitor Center at the Mariners’ Museum, located in Newport News, Virginia near the site of the battle of Hampton Roads. The Cartographic Branch holds a collection of oversize materials relating to the discovery, stabilization, research, and recovery efforts of the wreck of the USS Monitor. These records include maps, diagrams, and drawings related to the wreck site, underwater archaeology and research missions, scientific data and research, artifact recovery, and other aspects of the research surrounding the wreck site. Additional records related to these activities can also be found in the Textual, Still Pictures, and Motion Pictures holdings of the National Archives.


Photomosaic of USS Monitor wreck. RG 370, Records Relating the Discovery of the Wreck of the USS Monitor, Folder 1.


Civil War Trust. “Overview: Hampton Roads.” Articles.

Civil War Trust. “USS Monitor: A Cheesebox Raft.” Articles – Feature.

The Mariners’ Museum & Park. The USS Monitor Center.

NOAA. National Ocean Service. USS Monitor: Preserving a Legacy.

Posted in Cartographic Records, Civil War, Military, Ship Plans, U.S. Navy, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Moll Atlas: How the World Appeared in 1721

Among the many treasures tucked away in the Archives is a series of maps known simply as “The Moll Atlas” (RG 76, Series 30).  While the name might not initially scream “excitement”, the Moll Atlas is breathtaking for not only its complexity, but the sheer beauty of the maps themselves.  Unfortunately, this is not the entire series due to the fact that some of the maps were not able to be scanned and, as a side note, the shadowing that can be seen in the images below is due to the fact that the maps are no longer perfectly flat.  Over time, they have slightly warped in places and that is what causes the slight distortion that you see.

Herman Moll began work on “The World Described or, A New and Correct Sett of Maps” in 1707 and continued to work until it was completed in 1717.  This collection was famous even then and was still available for sale as late as 1796.  Originally published as a folio edition, this series took into account all of the known parts of the globe.  Moll seemed to be quite fond of filling in blank spaces on the page and so included “Advertisements”, “Explanations”, criticisms of other cartographers and their abilities, commentary on the weather and planning the length of stays in port for ships, and also interesting comments on the local flora and fauna of the regions.  There are also a myriad of panels depicting what he thought were the highlights of the area encompassed by the map.

According to the cartographer himself, the series is:

“A New and Correct Sett of MAPS: shewing, The Kingdoms and States in all the Known Parts of the Earth, with principal Cities, and most considerable Towns in the World.  Wherein the Errors of the ancient Geographers are corrected according to the latest Observations of Travellers, as communicated to the Royal Society of London, and the Royal Academy of Paris.  Each Map is neatly engraved on Copper by HERMAN MOLL, Geographer, and printed on two Sheets of Elephant-Paper, so that the Scale is large enough to shew the Chief Cities and Towns, as well as Provinces, without appearing in the least confus’d.  And to render these Maps more acceptable, there is engraved on several of them what is most remarkable in those Countries.”

I highly encourage those of you reading this blog to spend some time looking closely at the maps.  The artwork around the sides is truly fascinating and contains quite a bit of information about the region contained within the map.  Also, take some time to zoom in on the land masses themselves to see some very interesting notes about the local flora and fauna.  You won’t be disappointed.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Index page to the maps contained therein.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Dated 1712, this map shows the area that would eventually become the United States.  Note the giant blank areas in the upper northeast and the fact that California appears to be an island.





RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  A map of “Great Britain Called Scotland” dated 1714.  The engravings around the edges of the map appear to indicate some of the highlights of the country.


Rg 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  An incredibly complex map showing “The Seat of the War on the Rhine being a New Map of the Course of that River from Strasbourg to Bonn with adjacent counties”.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Map of Spain and Portugal, divided into kingdoms and principalities.  Dated 1711.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  This map, dated 1703, depicts the kingdoms that composed Spain at that time.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  “A Historical Map of the Roman Empire and the Neighboring Barbarous Nations”.  It is interesting to note that on the inset globes, giant areas of the world are simply missing due to lack of information.



RG 76: Series 30, The Moll Atlas.  Map of Italy with engravings showing fortifications around several cities.









Posted in Conservation, Digitization, Maps | 5 Comments

Stock Footage Spotlight: Historically Black Colleges and Universities in WWII

When scanning films in the National Archives Motion Picture Lab, we sometimes come across images that we want to learn more about. We recently transferred several reels of unedited footage depicting African American college students in various classroom settings. The posters on the wall indicated that the footage had been shot during wartime. The slates listed some names of schools and government agencies. Using that small amount of information, we began our search for the source of the footage.

Students in a Howard University chemistry class during World War II.

Students in chemistry class during World War II. (still from 306-LSS-354)

During the Cold War, the United States Information Agency (USIA) kept up a busy schedule of filmmaking, producing hundreds of films to project for foreign audiences a positive image of the United States. Because many USIA films dealt with similar topics, it was not always necessary to shoot entirely new footage for every title. In order to support its film production operations, the USIA maintained a library of stock footage, which could be quickly pulled and cut into its film projects. That library of stock shots is now held in the USIA record group at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The library contains footage and outtakes from a number of films produced during the New Deal and World War II. You can find shots from Pare Lorentz’s The River and even his unfinished Ecce Homo. There is footage of Arturo Toscanini as he conducts 1944’s Hymn of the Nations. The footage of African American students was shot for a film titled Negro Colleges in War Time.

Negro Colleges in Wartime was produced during World War II by the Office for Emergency Management and the Office of War Information to highlight the contributions of African American institutions to the war effort. It includes footage from four schools: Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University) in Alabama, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University) in Virginia, Prairie View College (now Prairie View A&M University) in Texas, and Howard University in Washington, DC.

The USIA library stock shot film reels contain high-quality footage of the campuses and students in their classes, likely struck from the original film negative. We see students at Tuskegee preparing for service in the US Army Air Forces as well as women chemistry students at Howard learning skills needed for munitions work. Prairie View students study agriculture and learn to forge machine parts and tools. Hampton provides skills courses for war workers in nearby shipyards.

At the time, education in the United States was highly segregated. Historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) like those listed above provided educational opportunities that white schools denied African Americans. To learn more about the history of HBCUs, you can watch the documentary Tell Them We are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges & Universities which premiered on PBS’ Independent Lens on February 19, 2018. (The first 12 seconds of the trailer contain four shots from Negro Colleges in War Time!)

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Spotlight: Wedded In Service

This post was written in collaboration with Beth Fortson.

“I’d feel like a quitter if I left the service now.”
– Wren Josephine Mary Kennelly

This Valentine’s Day, the Still Picture Branch would like to share a photo story from the series 26-G. This series is the subject of one of our ongoing digitization projects and will soon be available to researchers everywhere through our online catalog. The photographs in 26-G come from the main historical file for the U.S. Coast Guard which heavily features photographs taken during WWII. 

This photo story depicts the union of a couple in love – both serving their countries on active-duty. In the spring of 1945, Women’s Royal Navy Servicewoman Josephine Mary Kennelly, 19,  married American Coast Guardsman Dominick Andriacci, 29, in Liverpool, England. Both bride and groom would return to their duty stations soon after their wedding. Dominick would go back to his Coast Guard ship, and Josephine back to her role with the Women’s Royal Navy Service.

With the issuance of “Code of Wartime Practices for the American Press”, many war topics were off the table allowing an influx of uplifting stories to take their place and galvanize support for the war effort. A story such as this was shared in local newspapers back home. The detailed captions included along with these wedding photos tell not only the story of Dominick and Josephine’s marriage, but also the story shared by many WWII war brides and their foreign serviceman husbands. That common story, of weddings planned on rationed sugar and fleeting moments of leave, continues to captivate us today, over 70 years later.










Posted in Digitization, Military, Photographs | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Gettysburg: Civil War Monuments, Nuclear Arsenals, and Dreams of Peace


Still taken from “Gettysburg 75th Anniversary” (Local Identifier: 79-HFC-320)

The Battlefield at Gettysburg is primarily known for two things.  First, over three days, July 1 through July 3, 1863 the bloodiest battle of the Civil War took place there.  Second, it was the site of The Gettysburg Address, the famous speech that President Abraham Lincoln delivered four and a half months after the battle on November 19.  Six other presidents, Rutherford B. Hayes, Theodore Roosevelt, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, and one vice president who would later become president, Lyndon B. Johnson, have also delivered speeches at the Battlefield.  Several of these speeches are among the holdings of the Motion Picture Sound and Video Branch here at the National Archives.

The 75th Anniversary

Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke at least twice at the battlefield.  His first address was on Memorial Day, May 30, 1934.  The second was an address for the dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial on July 3, 1938, which also commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.


Photo courtesy of Caitlin Hucik

One Union and one Confederate veteran unveiled the 47 ½ foot tall memorial.  In Roosevelt’s nine-minute speech he shared, “All of them we honor, not asking under which flag they fought then—thankful that they stand together under one flag now.”  There were more than 250,000 people who attended the 1938 dedication including more than 1,800 Civil War veterans, all of them at least in their 90s.  The following clip is from the Records of the National Park Service in the Harpers Ferry Collection.

 The 125th Anniversary

Fast forward 50 years to the 125th anniversary (catalog description for National Archives Identifier 75495622 forthcoming), which took place over three days, July 1 through 3, 1988.  Part of this three-day event included a 50th anniversary re-dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial. However for this re-dedication there would be no presidential speech.  Rather, a famous scientist, Dr. Carl Sagan, would give the re-dedication speech for the memorial, albeit with a smaller crowd of 30,000.  The speech, co-written with his wife Ann Druyan, juxtaposed the weapons of the Battle of Gettysburg with the weapons of subsequent wars highlighting the increased potential for destruction with each war.  Sagan used the platform he was given to call for nuclear disarmament highlighting the need to recognize our humanity as brothers and to work toward peace.  Sagan’s written speech ended with:

 And inscribed on this Eternal Light Peace Memorial…is a stirring phrase: “A World United in the Search of Peace.”

The real triumph of Gettysburg was not, I think, in 1863 but in 1913, when the surviving veterans, the remnants of the adversary forces, the Blue and the Gray, met in celebration and solemn memorial.  It had been the war that set brother against brother, and when the time came to remember, on the fiftieth anniversary of the battle, the survivors fell, sobbing into one another’s arms…It is time to learn from those who fell here.  Our challenge is to reconcile, not after the carnage and mass murder, but instead of the carnage and the mass murder.  It is time to act.

Above is silent footage, transferred from 16mm film, containing the end of Dr. Carl Sagan’s speech.  Below is audio transferred from 1/4 inch magnetic tapes. Sagan’s speech begins at  approximately one hour and twelve minutes.  Sadly the audio is missing one paragraph of the speech toward the end, most likely due to the tape ending and the lapsed time to get a new tape recording.  Otherwise, the entirety of the speech was captured.

By the late 1980’s, the Harpers Ferry Center was creating interpretative materials in a number of different media, including audio recordings for listening stations, slide shows, and videos and films for broadcast, loans, and exhibition in visitor centers. Initially, it appeared that the records relating to the 125th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg were limited to twelve ¼ inch sound recordings.  However, as the processing proceeded it was discovered that there were indeed moving image film rolls that accompanied the ¼ inch sound which were incorrectly identified on the shipping list. Original recordings could be used in multiple productions, which may be the reason these records were incorrectly identified, and it can take some research to bring them together.

Preserved in our holdings here at the National Archives are twelve ¼ inch audio reel-to-reel tapes and eleven 16mm, silent, color film reels.  Two of the twelve audio tapes contain most of Sagan’s 1988 speech as well as recordings of the activities of the three-day event, while three of the eleven film reels contain parts of Sagan’s speech.  The fact that we have these records in multiple formats highlights one of the challenges facing a special media archivist, as Criss Kovac, NARA’s Moving Image Preservation Lab Supervisor, explains:

One of the challenges in trying to synchronize motion picture film and separate audio on ¼ inch magnetic tape is that the recording equipment runs at different rates.  Motion picture film is captured at 24 frames per second while ¼ inch audio is generally captured at 7.5 inches per second.  Thirty six feet of 16mm film is the equivalent to one minute of running time and thirty seven and a half feet of ¼ inch audio is the equivalent to one minute of running time, so they don’t quite match up.  Over the course of time the audio begins to drift so that the audio occurs ahead of the image.  In order to rectify this, we can try to remove snippets of dead air to try to make the image and the audio synchronize.  But, if the event is a continuous speech with little, or no breaks and pauses, we’re unable to faithfully sync the two together.

NARA’s film lab synchronized the excerpts above using 1/4 inch audio tapes and 16mm film rolls.

These records of the 75th and 125th anniversaries of the Battle of Gettysburg intersect with our world today.  As we mark off another 30 years since the re-dedication of the Eternal Light Peace Memorial, the Cold War has ended and context has shifted, but Dr. Sagan’s speech and its call for nuclear disarmament remains valid. Similarly, The Eternal Light Peace Memorial and other Civil War monuments and symbols continue to evoke strong feelings and serve as catalysts for debate.

Posted in Audio Recordings, Civil War, Films, Gettysburg, Military, Motion Pictures, Preservation, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

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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