The Women of World War I in Photographs

The role of women in World War II has been immortalized through iconic images like Rosie the Riveter proclaiming “Yes We Can!” and WASPs earning their wings. Stories of women flooding the workforce in the absence of men dominate history books and films. But they were not the first, nor the last, to challenge their traditional roles in answering the call of Uncle Sam. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re taking a look at the role of women in World War I and their impact on the Women’s Rights Movement of the early 20th century.

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Suffragettes enrolling their willingness to aid their country when hostilities broke out between Germany and U.S. 165-WW-600-A1

At the outset of World War I in 1914 women were not allowed to serve in the military. They were not even allowed to vote nationwide. Prior to the U.S. entering the war, most women were relegated to domestic life as wives or servants. Some worked in textile manufacturing, retail, government, and education. Many wanted more and saw the war as an opportunity for women to prove their worth. The suffragist movement was in full swing as tensions with Germany escalated following the sinking of the passenger ship RMS Lusitania in 1915 and the interception of the Zimmerman Telegram in 1917. The United States entered the war in 1917, immediately drafting nearly 3 million men into military service and drawing unprecedented numbers of women into the workforce.

Women on the Home Front

As men were drafted into service in record numbers, women were called upon to fill their roles in factories. While their work was especially important in munitions factories, women played a vital role in industrial output building airplanes, cars, and ships.

 

Civilian Organizations

Women played a vital role in civilian organizations, from the American Red Cross to the Council of National Defense. They also became active in local organizations.

 

Military Organizations

Although women were not allowed to serve in combat, they contributed significantly to the medical effort. They also participated in telegraphy and stenography, camouflage painting, yeomanry, and munitions testing.

 

Suffrage

World War I had a profound impact on women’s suffrage. The National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) actively participated in the civilian and military organizations. The National Women’s Party (NWP) orchestrated the first ever White House pickets to demonstrate the disconnect between fighting a war to preserve democracy and denying that right to democracy to American women. By 1918 President Wilson contended, “We have made partners of the women in this war; shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a partnership of privilege and right? This war could not have been fought…if it had not been for the services of the women, services rendered in every sphere, not merely in the fields of effort in which we have been accustomed to see them work, but wherever men have worked and upon the very skirts and edges of the battle itself.

By 1920 the war was over and the 19th Amendment was passed, giving American women the right to vote. Many women returned to the home, struggling to make sense of their new-found role amidst a growing gender gap due to high casualties and a rising unemployment rate due to the return of troops and the closure of wartime factories. However, many women remained employed, demanding equal pay for equal work and paving the way for their daughters and grand-daughters in World War II and beyond.

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.

Posted in Digitization, Military, Photographs | 6 Comments

Map Minutes: Captured and Abandoned Property in the Post-Civil War South

Today we’re highlighting a small series called Maps of Captured and Abandoned Properties, NAID 960291, filed among the General Records of the Department of the Treasury, Record Group 56. Created after the US Civil War, the maps in this series provide intriguing but fragmentary evidence of property ownership transfers. Few in number, these records raise more questions than they answer– a perfect invitation to intrepid researchers in search of a project.

The first two maps show the positions of government farms in southeastern Virginia, and are attributed to the 1st and 2nd Districts Negro Affairs, Department of Virginia and North Carolina.

Continue reading

Posted in Cartographic Records, Maps | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Record of a Homecoming: Preserving Interviews with Doug Clower and John McCain

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

Sometimes you just never know what you’re going to find in a can, or in this case, four cans. What I did know is that it wasn’t going to be good, at least physically, because I could smell it from several feet away – that telltale smell of vinegar syndrome. Encountering vinegar syndrome is a lot like having a bag of salt and vinegar chips explode in your face, or getting an unintended tour of a vinegar distillation tank. The smell is merely a symptom, however; vinegar syndrome causes a whole host of preservation issues that can sometimes be fatal to a record.

Luckily, in this case, we were able to preserve the reels before they fully deteriorated. The reels contained interviews with former prisoners of war John McCain and Claude Douglas Clower, recorded after their release from North Vietnam. The two men were shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese in the fall of 1967 and spent more than five years as prisoners of war under horrific conditions. They were released as part of Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973. The interviews are unedited accounts of their experiences as POWs, their return journey, experiences with the press, and their gratitude at being brought home.

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John McCain waiting for the rest of the group to leave the bus at airport after being released as POW. 428-N-1155665

There are many reasons why vinegar syndrome happens – oftentimes it’s because acetate based film and soundtracks have been stored in hot and humid conditions, but it’s also kicked off by films with vinegar syndrome that are stored in close proximity. Vinegar syndrome is auto-catalytic meaning that the process is continuous, irreversible, speeds up over time and, for lack of a better term, is contagious to the films around it.

In addition to being incredibly stinky, vinegar syndrome can cause the film to become brittle, soft and sticky, or as hard as a hockey puck. The film is also likely to shrink horizontally and vertically, the emulsion may separate from the base, and plasticizer crystals can form.

Curlyfilm3

A magnetic soundtrack with vinegar syndrome. This films is shrunken and curly, and therefore difficult to handle. The film’s plasticizer has also created a crystalline pattern on the surface and will shed during transfer or handling.

 

On this day, all four of the magnetic sound reels in front me were a level 3 on the Acid-Detection Strip Scale. There are three levels with three being the worst – this means that the reel is facing imminent loss through shrinkage, warping, and handling issues, and should be copied right away.  These reels were severely warped and had a shrinkage level of 2.2%, so it was going to be a challenge to preserve them.  

I inspected the reels–a mix of full coat magnetic track intercut with single stripe magnetic tracks– while wearing a respirator. The respirator wasn’t just to prevent the smell from reaching me – it protected me from irritation in my nasal passages, throat, and lungs while I was working on the soundtracks.

In order to save the content of the film I was going to need to transfer the reels on our Sondor OMA E and ingest the output signal into our digital audio workstation where we capture a WAV file using Wavelab. After that step is completed we create a new optical track using our MWA LLK5 optical sound laser film recorder printed out onto new, stable, polyester film stock.  You can learn more about this process in detail from a previous blog post.

Listen to the preserved interviews here:

This item is sound-only. Although there was likely a picture, we do not have it in our holdings.

Posted in Audio Recordings, Motion Pictures, Preservation | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Symphony in F: An Industrial Fantasia for the World of Tomorrow

Before the Super Bowl became the showcase for ambitious advertisements that would be seen and enjoyed by millions, we had the World’s Fair. At World’s Fairs, industry could show off its wares in increasingly elaborate displays. Symphony in F, part of the Ford Collection, fits into this category of advertainment.

Symphony in F uses glorious Technicolor and stop-motion animation to show how a car is made, from the harvest of lumber and other raw materials, to when the final product rolls off the assembly line. A musical score by Edwin E. Ludig, who also composed the score for Ford’s Rhapsody in Steel (made for the 1934 Chicago World’s Fair), accompanies Symphony in F.

The film was exhibited in the Ford Exposition Building at the 1940 season of the New York World’s Fair, as part of a program that included a fashion show that combined “the latest in fashions with the newest in motorcar design,” and A Thousand Times Neigh, a live-action ballet depicting the history of transportation. (Sadly, we do not have a complete film record of the ballet, but a snippet survives in the Ford film Scenes from the World’s Fair for 1940.) The animated portion of Symphony in F features one of the highlights of the Ford exhibit, a 152 ton turntable that used carved figures to demonstrate how 27 raw materials were harvested and turned into products to be used at the Ford plant. According to Scenes from the World’s Fair, the turntable was floated in 20,000 gallons of water.

Stills from Scenes from the New York World’s Fair for 1940. See the Ford Exposition Building starting at 3:48

The Ford Collection is chock-full of films that are well-shot and technically competent examples of early educational works and industrial process films. Symphony in F stands out as a rare example of the Ford Motor Company pursuing artistry to communicate an idea. When considered as a record of the World’s Fair, it also encapsulates the optimism of Twentieth Century progress that was the theme of these events.

For more films of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, see our blog post “World of Tomorrow.”

For more on the Ford Collection, see our blog post on the film Mirror of America, and Phillip W. Stewart’s article “Henry Ford: Movie Mogul?”

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World War I Combat Artists – Harry Townsend

Guest blogger Jan Hodges became interested in World War I combat art as a result of her involvement as a volunteer in a holdings maintenance project for Record Group 120, American Expeditionary Forces (AEF) documents at the National Archives at College Park. This article is the last posting in the series about World War I Art and Artists.

111-SC-86629

Local Identifier: 111-SC-86629: Mr. Harry Townsend, Artist, New York, commissioned captain in Engineering Reserve Corps, as official artist. April 1918.

Harry Townsend was a prolific sketcher, turning out dozens of drawings.  So much so that it was difficult to identify a theme that would do him justice and wrap up this series of posts on combat art for World War I.  However, one of Townsend’s sketches contrasts greatly with his other work.  In this drawing, an aviator is depicted in cartoon form, almost a caricature.  In many of his sketches soldiers are fully realized as he captured them going about the tasks of war.  The Great War was a dividing line between old and new warfare; the old map of Europe and the new. The contrasts are notable.

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Local Identifier: 111-SC-20120: An American Aviator in his “Teddy Bear” Costume.

World War I was a catalyst for change, bringing change to war itself.  Chemical warfare in the form of poisonous gas was introduced in 1915; artillery capacity was increased; airplanes were used for reconnaissance and to drop bombs; the British developed and deployed tanks. The ability to manufacture weapons in the hundreds and ammunitions in the tens of thousands created war on an industrial scale.  It is almost impossible to comprehend the number of men who died, most from artillery barrages.  A jagged scar runs through the heart of France, along the lines of abandoned and forgotten trenches. On either side it is dotted with cemeteries and memorials. An entire generation of young men was lost.  Not all who survived were whole. Nervousness and shell shock were common afflictions.  Because there was no penicillin, many men lost either their lives or limbs to infection from battle wounds.

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Local Identifier: 111-SC-31089: Sketch of One of Our Heavy Guns

The topography in Belgium and France changed. Small towns in France, such as Fliery, Lucy le Bocage and Fleury were blown out of existence.  Today they are little more than sign posts off the highway. In the case of Fleury the shattered walls of a church and a few scattered headstones are all that mark where the town once flourished.  Artillery leveled hills and mines gouged craters that still remain in France and Belgium.

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Local Identifier: 111-SC-20133: A Quiet Sector in Lorraine, Opposite Domevre.

The geography of Europe changed as the map was redrawn after the war.  Gone were German and Austro-Hungarian Empires. Monarchies fell; the Tsar was murdered, the Kaiser ousted; the Ottoman Empire eliminated.

Few parts of the world were untouched by the Great War. This was no longer a matter of France and Germany shooting at each other. The British Empire pulled in soldiers from Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and India into the conflict.  The Middle East was not spared. Conflict was brought to Arab countries.  With the end of the Ottoman Empire, the boundaries of countries in North Africa were redrawn and new ruling families installed by the victors of the Great War.  The United States which in 1914 had no intention of participating in the war, was eventually drawn in and emerged in 1918 as an international power.

111-SC-31085

Local Identifier: 111-SC-31085 Camouflaging a Light Tank under Observation in the Field

The war ground to a halt in November 1918, four years after men marched to meet the enemy in August with the promise and expectation that the war would be over before the fall; then by Christmas; then by next year; then by the following year. The war stopped, but didn’t end in 1918. It started again in 1939 and finally ended in 1945 when the Allies defeated Germany and Japan in World War II.

111-SC-31082

Local Identifier: 11SC 31082: “The Alert: The 147th Aero Squadron, American Expeditionary Forces

I’d like to acknowledge John D. Eisenhower and Byron Farwell for their comprehensive accounts of the battles of WWI and special thanks to Peter Krass for his in-depth examination of the artists and their experiences in WWI in Portrait of War.

The National Archives has custody of the original records of the combat divisions of the American Expeditionary Forces (Record Group 120) and the information contained in them is rich in detail.

More World War I Combat Art can be found online at the Smithsonian website: http://americanhistory.si.edu/collections/subjects/military?edan_start=0&edan_fq=topic%3A%22Combat+Art%22

Sources

National Archives. Still Pictures. Record Group 111-SC Army Signal Corps, WWI Combat Artists, by name.

National Archives. Textual Records, Record Group120, Records of the American Expeditionary Forces (World War 1), Entry 224, Correspondence Relating to the Eight Official Artists of the AEF, 1917-19

Eisenhower, John S. D. Yanks: The Epic Story of the American Army in World War I. Simon & Schuster. New York. 2001.

Farwell, Byron. Over There: The United States in the Great War, 1917-1918. W. W. Norton & Company. New York. 1999.

Krass, Peter. Portrait of War: The U. S. Army’s Combat Artists and the Doughboys Experience in World War I. John Wiley and Sons.  New York. 2006.

 

Posted in Graphic Materials, Photographs, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Indian School for Practical Nursing

By: Kelsey Noel

Several weeks ago, the Still Picture Branch received a particularly fascinating accession when a number of boxes arrived filled with records from the Indian Health Service. On any given day around here it is almost impossible not to encounter something fantastic and fascinating. Yet every now and then, something of particular interest stands out – and this time it was photos of the Indian School of Practical Nursing.

In 1935, the Kiowa Nurse Aide School was started in Lawton, Oklahoma. Although the first several decades of the 20th century saw the idea of nursing programs for Native American women begin to take root, the Kiowa School is seen as the Indian Service’s first substantive, structured approach to develop such a training program. Grown from an earlier (and quite successful) initiative to provide Native American women with a five-week program in nursing and health as applicable to households and communities, the Kiowa School consisted of nine-months of academic courses. Expanded to a twelve-month program in 1951, it became known as the Kiowa School of Practical Nursing that same year. Following the school’s 1955 move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, the name was changed once more to the Indian School of Practical Nursing. The school would maintain this moniker until it closed in 1974. The curriculum of the school was quite diverse – subjects included everything from dietetics to psychology. It was so successful that in 1952 a second Indian School for Practical Nursing was established in Alaska, but this school was not nearly as popular and closed after only nine years.

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Although the Kiowa School might be considered the most successful of early opportunities for Native Americans to train in the medical field, it was certainly not the only one. There were other nursing schools, such as the Sage Memorial Hospital School of Nursing which operated from 1930-1951.  The Indian Service also developed a scholarship program which enabled Native American high school graduates to study nursing at schools and hospitals which were not specifically dedicated to training Native Americans. Opportunities to study as dental technicians were also available, and by the 1970’s options were seriously diversifying – for example, the IHS School of Certified Laboratory Assistants and School of Radiologic Technology.

The Indian Health Service records received in this particular accession contain very little on other training opportunities, however, and indeed even records relating to the Indian School of Practical Nursing are limited. As is often the case, they provide only a tiny peek into a larger story. To make sense of such small glimpses it is usually necessary to investigate further – and sometimes the records are so fascinating it is just about impossible not to. So, if you are interested in researching this topic further, these records will be available upon request in the Still Pictures Branch very soon as part of The National Archives Record Group 513. Additional records can be found in the National Library of Medicine’s Indian Schools of Practical Nursing Collection.

Resources consulted for this blog include “American Indians At Risk,” (2014); “Native America in the Twentieth Century: An Encyclopedia,” (2014); “Caring and Curing: A History of the Indian Health Service,” (2009); “The Extraordinary Book of Native American Lists,” (2012), and “If You Knew the Conditions: A Chronical of the Indian Medical Service and American Indian Health Care, 1908-1955,” (2008).

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Film Preservation 201: Exploring A&B Rolls with “Jenny is a Good Thing”

Earlier we wrote about an Oscar-nominated film preserved at the National Archives (NARA) called Jenny is a Good Thing. It was produced in 1969 by the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, but for a long time we didn’t know where the original film reels were stored. In 2007, NARA archivists rescued over 3,000 government films from a defunct film lab. Fortunately, Jenny is a Good Thing was among them!

The Jenny reels recovered included internegatives, the edited soundtrack, and the jackpot—a set of A&B Rolls.

At this point, you’re probably wondering: “what are A&B Rolls and why are they so important?” A&B Rolls are usually assembled from the film that was exposed in the camera, so they are the most original, and therefore highest-quality, picture rolls that exist for an edited motion picture. (They’re more complex than some of our other topics, so we’ve designated this post as Film Preservation 201.) For a one-reel film like Jenny is a Good Thing, we had a picture A-Roll, a picture B-Roll, and a Soundtrack. That’s three rolls of film, but a projector can only handle one! To make the final single reel of film, you load up a film printer and print the A-Roll onto a new piece of raw film stock. Then you rewind the raw stock and print the B-Roll onto it. Rewind again, and print the soundtrack. Process the film stock and then you finally have Jenny is A Good Thing, containing all of the picture and sound the director intended.

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A&B Rolls on a film synchronizer.

If you look at the photo above, you can see a set of 16mm A&B Rolls being run through a film synchronizer. Where one reel contains picture, the other contains black leader. When copying the A-Roll, the black leader leaves space for the picture from the B-Roll, and vice versa. For straight cuts on 16mm film, this technique allows messy cement splices to be inserted on the black-leader side of the frame line so they are invisible in the viewing copy. You can also dissolve between the A-Roll and B-Roll by overlapping the picture (see above photo) and controlling the exposure. It is even possible to superimpose a title over an image by exposing the picture from the A-Roll and the words from the B-Roll.

All of these techniques are demonstrated in our A&B Roll demo video below:

A&B Rolls may be reproduced both photochemically and digitally (we did an HD scan for Jenny is a Good Thing), but before reformatting, the rolls of film must be inspected and any necessary preservation work performed. Jenny was a particularly perplexing case, because at some point pieces of black electrical tape were placed on both sides of every splice. Before it could be printed or scanned, every piece of tape had to be removed and the oily black adhesive washed away with a film cleaning solvent.

Jenny is a Good Thing did not escape completely unscathed. If you watch the film, you can see slight color fading at the cuts, caused by the tape. However, the improvement over this video made from a faded print is stunning.

You can learn more about A&B Rolls by watching this 5-minute video and more about Jenny is a Good Thing by clicking here.

Follow our Film Preservation 101 series to learn about basic film preservation topics! More advanced topics to come with Film Preservation 201 . . .

Posted in Films, Motion Pictures, Preservation | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Nutrition for Body and Mind: “Jenny is a Good Thing” and the Head Start Program

Oscar season is always a special time of year for the National Archives’ Motion Picture Preservation Lab. It’s a chance for us to reflect on the numerous Oscar-winning films we preserve for the American people and to remember our own brush with Oscars glory (2013 Academy Award of Merit, accepted on behalf of all film lab employees by director Christopher Nolan—we “[turn] silver and plastic into dreams”).

Winning aside, you may have heard various actors and actresses say that it’s an honor just to be nominated. We agree, and we’re going to focus on one of those honored films today. Jenny is a Good Thing (1969) received a nomination in the Documentary (Short Subject) category at the 42nd Academy Awards. Directed by Joan Horvath, narrated by Burt Lancaster, and with musical contributions by Noel “Paul” Stookey (of Peter, Paul and Mary), Jenny is a Good Thing highlights the importance of nutrition education in the Head Start program.

Head Start was created as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s War on Poverty. On May 18, 1965, President Johnson announced Project Head Start, designed in order “to make certain that poverty’s children would not be forevermore poverty’s captives.” Head Start centers were to be places that would prepare children in poverty for school and position them for success in learning and life. The program was initially limited to the summer months, but soon expanded into a full-school-year schedule.

According to the companion discussion guide, Jenny is a Good Thing promotes the idea that in addition to offering basic nourishment, the Head Start nutrition program also provides “unique opportunities for program enrichment throughout the day, and a link through which communication and parent involvement can be initiated and strengthened.” For example, the film begins with a teacher opening a peapod and asking the children to describe what they find inside. What color are the peas? Are they flat or round? How do they taste? The exercise leads the children toward connecting a large vocabulary of descriptive words to their own experience and understanding of the world.

The film notes that many of the children coming to Head Start centers may not have had an opportunity to eat breakfast before arriving. The food they help prepare sustains them throughout the day and allows their focus to be on learning and development. Parents are brought in as special guests during mealtimes, helping to strengthen relationships between parents and teachers, and parent and child. The nutrition program even provides an opportunity for children to garden and grow the food shared at meals.

As we see the children preparing for a nap, Burt Lancaster delivers the fundamental argument of the film: “Nutrition, like every part of Head Start, works to break down poverty’s most corrosive effect: believing you are less than what you are. These children must learn that they are good because they exist. They must know they belong to a society that cherishes their existence.”

You can learn more about the preservation of Jenny is a Good Thing in the first installment of our new Film Preservation 201 series!

For more information about Oscar-winning films at the National Archives, click on the following titles:

If you are in the Washington, D.C., area, check out the 12th Annual Showcase of Academy Award–Nominated Documentaries and Short Subjects from February 24-28, 2016, in the National Archives’ William C. McGowan Theater!

Posted in Films, Motion Pictures | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

When a Workprint is the Only Print

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

It’s not uncommon for NARA to receive less-than-perfect material for films created by federal agencies. One of the types of elements we sometimes receive is called a workprint. Workprints are like a rough draft for a film. The editor would make all of the potential edits using workprints and then run it past the director for the final okay before editing the original negatives. Workprints sometimes have composite optical tracks or might be accompanied by separate optical or magnetic tracks.  

Because they were working elements, workprints were generally handled heavily. Some typical calling cards of workprints include tape splices between most scenes, heavy scratches, fingerprints, dirt, tears, markings from grease pencils used to indicate future edits, fades, or dissolves, and slugs. Not slugs like the slimy things in your garden, but rather a piece of blank film that is inserted into the image reel that is used to indicate where shots have been removed, need to be inserted, or to keep the picture in sync with the soundtrack.

In the case of an early 1960s United States Information Agency (USIA) film with the working title of The American NegroNARA received a mish-mash of elements. For the image reels 1, 3, and 5 we have 35mm prints and for reels 2 and 4 we have 16mm prints. For the audio, we have five reels of intercut full coat and single stripe magnetic track. We also received several reels of 16mm original negative outtakes.

We have no way to know whether or not the film was ever completed, so the most original and complete copy we have is the workprint and associated audio. All of the reels have vinegar syndrome, particularly the magnetic tracks. Recently, we digitized all of the reels for a reference request. We then digitally assembled them to present the film in the most complete state possible. You can see all of the hallmarks of a workprint in the digitized version–the way that the audio isn’t quite in sync throughout all of the reels, the incomplete scene at 10:15, the deep white emulsion scratches leaving jagged lines in parts of the image, the slug just before Robert F. Kennedy speaks and during the Little Rock footage, and the grease pencil markings marring the left side of the frame during the choir rehearsal.

The film is much like many of the USIA’s other films exploring racial issues in America at the time and was meant to be shown to international audiences. It contains interviews that may not be captured elsewhere with James Farmer, Roy Wilkins, Whitney Young, and Ralph Metcalfe. Farmer, Wilkins, and Young were considered to be among the “Big Four” civil rights leaders along with Martin Luther King, Jr. James Farmer was the initiator of the the 1961 Freedom Ride and co-founder of the Congress for Racial Equality. Roy Wilkins was the executive director for the NAACP between 1955 and 1977. Whitney Young was the executive director of the National Urban League between 1961 and 1971. Ralph Metcalfe was an Olympic Athlete and won silver medals in 1932 and 1936 and later went on to be a four-term US Congressman from Illinois. The film also describes the strides and challenges faced by African Americans in the areas of voting, housing, and education.

 

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Photos from the Nazi Archives

Please Note:  This post contains images of sensitive content

The National Archives has a large collection of seized foreign records. Within the Still Photos Branch, the vast majority of these records pertain to Nazi Germany. Notable series include photographs taken by Heinrich Hoffman, Hitler’s official photographer, and a number of albums from Eva Braun, Hitler’s long-time girlfriend.   In recent months, the Still Photos Branch added another small, yet important, series of seized foreign records: Photographs Obtained from the National Socialist German Workers’ Party Archives.

Negative Jacket from Nazi Archives, 242-NA

Negative Jacket from Nazi Archives, 242-NA

In 1934, the Nazionalsozialtische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, better known as the Nazi Party, established a central records center. Called the NSDAP Hauptarchiv, the archives collected records created by Nazi officials, as well as Nazi organizations such as the SS and Hitler Youth.   Under direct orders from Rudolf Hess, the Hauptarchiv also collected documents from other institutions that documented the rise of Nazism.  As such, the Hauptarchiv contained a significant number of records from the first four decades of 20th century Germany.

When the war ended in 1945, Allied troops confiscated many records of the Hauptarchiv. These records, along with others related to the Nazi party and affiliated associations, were eventually moved to the Berlin Document Center (BDC).  The BDC kept records in order to facilitate the denazification proceedings, prosecute war criminals, and govern post-war Germany.  The BDC remained under American control until 1994, at which point the German Federal Archives, Bundesarchiv, took legal custody of the records.

In May of 1995, the records were shipped from the Bundesarchiv to NARA.  While the vast majority of these records were textual documents, a single box of photographs was later transferred to the Still Picture Branch and remained relatively unknown until a recent project to re-house and describe the material.

The photographs in this series reflect the original holdings of the NSDAP Hauptarchiv. Some images date back to 1915 and document the German role in WWI. Other photos document Nazi leadership, including numerous photographs of Hitler at the Nuremburg Rallies. The most striking photographs, however, show prisoners at Dachau concentration camp and children with disabilities. The National Archives only received contact sheets of these photos, some of which can be viewed below.

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-3

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-3

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-2

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-2

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-1

Prisoners at Dachau, 242-NA-12-1

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All photographs from this series are now available upon request in the Still Photos Research Room.  See our catalog for more information.

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