Batter Up: World War I Amputees Play Ball


One-armed baseball team, Walter Reed Hospital. June 20, 1919. 165-WW-255A-20

Long before Pete Gray or Jim Abbott stepped up to the plate, veterans of World War I recovering at military hospitals throughout the United States formed amputee baseball teams. Elbert K. Fretwell, Director of Recreation in Hospitals in the Department of Military Relief with the American Red Cross, insisted that the best recreation for recovering soldiers was their traditional activities modified for everyone to be able to enjoy, and the soldiers seemed to agree. One player at Fort Des Moines exclaimed, “Gee, I’m glad I can still swat the old pill!”¹


One-armed baseball team, Walter Reed Hospital. “Out at Second.” 165-WW-255A-22

The Department of Military Relief organized field days, where veterans from different hospitals competed. Fretwell wrote, “At Fort McHenry and Walter Reed, the one-armed baseball teams defeated their opponents — two-armed teams that played with one arm tied behind their backs. At Fort Des Moines Field Day, June 17, there was a hot game between the one-armed and the one-legged team.”²


As we tune in to the Invictus Games, Fretwell’s comments resonate:

It is an expression of the desire of the American people to provide everything that is practicable in the way of reconstructive recreation for our sick and wounded soldiers, sailors, and marines — our own men who for their Country stood ready to give if necessary their last full measure of devotion.³

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.


1. Fretwell, Elbert K. “Recreation in Hospitals.” Carry On: A Magazine on the Reconstruction of Disabled Soldiers and Sailors. June 1918-July 1919.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

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Happy Mother’s Day from the National Archives!

To the women who play with us:

Teach us:

Keep us well and well-fed:

Who work:


And to mamas of pets:

Happy Mother’s Day

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Aftermath of Disaster: RMS Lusitania in Photographs

In the early afternoon of May 7, 1915, the RMS Lusitania made her way towards Liverpool, England. Six days earlier she’d left New York City on her 202nd transatlantic voyage, carrying 1,265 passengers and 694 crew members from all over the world, including nearly 150 Americans.


Lusitania leaving New York. Steaming out of the harbor. 165-WW-537F-5

The mood aboard Lusitania during the voyage was one of resigned anxiety. On April 22, 1915, just two weeks before Lusitania’s departure, the Imperial German Embassy placed an advertisement in American newspapers warning of the threat to passenger ships entering the declared war zone off of the British Isles. On the evening of May 1, the day of Lusitania’s departure, the Washington Times reported, “Cunard line officials laughed at passengers’ fears and said the Lusitania could show her heels to any submarine.” Still, the Cunard Line took precautions at the suggestion of the British Admiralty, advising that Lusitania not fly flags in the war zone, paint her funnels to avoid detection, and consider a zigzagging maneuver. Captain William Turner also took precautions at sea, closing the ship’s watertight doors, ordering a blackout, and preparing the lifeboats to be launched if necessary.

Shortly after 2:00 PM on May 7th, 11 miles off the southern coast of Ireland, the Lusitania crossed paths with German submarine U-20, commanded by Captain Lieutenant Walther Schwieger. According to his diary, Schwieger followed the Lusitania, hoping for her to turn to her starboard side in order to secure a favorable shot. By 3:10 PM, Schwieger had a “clear bow shot.” He set an angle of intersection at 90 degrees and ordered the torpedo fired. He reported:

Shot struck starboard side close behind the bridge. An extraordinarily heavy detonation followed, with a very large cloud of smoke (far above the front funnel). A second explosion must have followed that of the torpedo (boiler or coal or powder!). The superstructure above the point of impact and the bridge were torn apart; fire broke out; light smoke veiled the high bridge. The ship stopped immediately and quickly listed sharply to starboard, sinking deeper by the head at the same time. It appeared as if it would capsize in a short time.¹

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Spotlight: Submarine Chasers

In 1916, after 2 incidents with German submarines off the east coast of the United States, the U.S. Navy recognized an urgent need for a new kind of vessel, one heavy enough for weather at sea, but nimble enough for antisubmarine maneuvers. The result was the 110 foot submarine chaser.


Outboard Profile

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Majestic Mount Rainier: Finding My Park in the Archives

This year the National Park Service is celebrating its Centennial and encouraging Americans to “Find Your Park.” Even though I now reside on the opposite side of the country, I know my park will always be Mount Rainier National Park in Washington State.

Mount Rainier in the 1967 film "What is a Mountain?"

Mount Rainier in the 1967 film “What is a Mountain?”

Growing up outside Seattle, my family took advantage of summer weather to visit many of the national parks in the Pacific Northwest, but the one I most remember is Mount Rainier. Even in warm weather, we would find fields of snow near the lodge and visitor center at Paradise. From that vantage point, we used binoculars to search for Camp Muir, the overnight shelter used by mountain climbers attempting the summit. On our own less-strenuous hikes, we would look for the waterfalls that spring up during the summertime, fed by melting snow and glacial ice. Continue reading

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Dr. Paul Owen: The First PHS Optometrist

Paul Owen grew up in Jacksonville, Florida in the mid-20th century. He attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, Oregon, where he earned his Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and then his Doctorate in Optometry (O.D.). In 1966, Dr. Owen became the first optometrist in the Public Health Service commissioned Officer Corps. Prior to this, any necessary optometry care was provided by contracting physicians.


Series 513-AS

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Universal News Presents “A Whirl with the Squirrels”

Squirrels have long been popular in American culture. In 1959 Jay Ward introduced us to Rocky the Flying Squirrel and today we have the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and her squirrel friends. The Washington Post even has an annual squirrel photography contest. So it’s no surprise that in 1953 the producers of the Universal Newsreel series were very pleased to offer an exclusive look at the trained squirrels of Mrs. Florence Hinton.

According to a magazine clipping in the newsreel’s production file, Florence Hinton had been an opera singer on tour when a little boy gave her two baby squirrels in exchange for tickets to her performance. She later brought the squirrels with her to a performance for children. Her audience was so delighted that she decided to train the squirrels “despite warnings from experts that it could not be done.” At the time of the newsreel, she had eight performing squirrels with an arsenal of tricks.

Universal cameraman Jimmie Lederer filmed Hinton and her squirrels at her home in Grover City, Calif., on October 19, 1953. At the bottom of the caption sheet that accompanied the film reels back to Universal he noted, “If not released in three weeks, she will let the other [news]reels who have asked for this story make it—SHE HAD LETTERS FROM ALL REELS IN LOS ANGELES….and will hold off!!!!” Universal wasted no time, running this exclusive story on October 22.

Other stories in this release include the dedication of the Falcon Dam on the US-Mexico border, a ticker-tape parade for retiring Army General Mark Clark, an Italian fashion show, and a demonstration of the Bongo Board. You can view the whole newsreel, and many more, on our YouTube channel.

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Faces of Counterfeiters Past: Mugshots from the United States Secret Service Collections

Last year marked the sesquicentennial of the establishment of the United States Secret Service, the federal law enforcement agency assigned to protect the nation’s highest elected leaders and investigate and prevent counterfeiting activities. However, when the agency was formed on July 5, 1865, their mission was not twofold but rather concerned with combating the illegal production, or counterfeiting, of money in the post-Civil War years. It wasn’t until after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, that the Secret Service began their protection duties.

By the end of the Civil War, between one-third and one-half of all the currency in circulation was counterfeit. Prior to a national currency, the ability of state banks to print their own currency led to a myriad of banknotes with various designs in circulation. By 1867, Congress had expanded the agency’s investigative duties to include any acts of fraud against the federal government.

As individuals were arrested for counterfeiting and other fraudulent activities, their photographs were taken and placed into albums where they served as a visual record of criminals for the Secret Service. Copies of the mugshots were sent to Secret Service headquarters in Washington, DC and then distributed to district offices across the country, including Cleveland, OH; Philadelphia, PA; and Pittsburgh, PA. The reverse side of the photographs provide varying levels of information about those arrested – from vital statistics, peculiar characteristics, and arrest information to simply the offender’s name.

In describing the offenders, the Chief of the Division (from 1888-1890), John S. Bell, urged agents to “take personal pride in carrying out the most minute details…” An example of this detail is observed in the description of George W. Shamen, “small creases on both cheeks; slow swinging walk; very quiet in his manner.” Also worth noting is the legitimate occupation of those arrested; a number of individuals held jobs as artists and printers which, without a doubt, assisted in the manufacturing of counterfeit notes and coins.

Photographs of individuals arrested for counterfeiting and currency offenses can be found in the following series: 87-CA, 87-PC, and 87-PCM. The photographs in these three series are of the carte-de-visite (CDV) format. A CDV consists of a thin photographic print mounted on a thick card support. Popular in the mid-to-late nineteenth century, the CDV was small in size, at 2 1/2 by 4 inches, and cheap to produce. Because these photographs were often taken by local photographers near where the persons pictured were arrested, it is not uncommon to see the reverse side of the card bearing the photographer’s logo or advertisement.

Another interesting series of mugshots can be found in 87-CS, Photographs of Criminals and Suspects, ca. 1914 – ca. 1925, and typically include a frontal and side view of the offender with identifying information on the back. Additional images may be found at the National Archives at Washington, DC within Record Group 351, Entry PI-186 138, Identification Books for the DC Metropolitan Police Department from 1883-1890.

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Spotlight: Eggs through the Ages

The annual Easter Egg Roll on the White House lawn – a longstanding American tradition.


Easter Egg Roll, White House Lawn. Ca. 1942 (RG 69-GU)

Maybe you’re planning to hunt them down, dye them brilliantly, roll them across the White House Lawn – or maybe you’re just hoping to get through the next two weeks with as few boiled eggs in your life as humanly possible. Whatever the case may be, it is hard to deny the importance eggs have in our diets year round. But where do these eggs come from before they reach our tables, our plates, and our lawns? Check out the story of eggs, as told by these 1920’s through the 1950’s images from the Department of Agriculture: RG 16-G.


First, eggs had to be gathered from the hens and hen houses.


Next, the eggs would be processed. This involved cleaning, weighing, checking to be sure no little chickens were growing within, grading, sorting, and packaging for distribution.


Once processed and ready for purchase, the eggs had to make it to market! Sometimes they were shipped to stores or purchased at auction, sometimes they were sold door-to-door or purchased direct from the farmers, sometimes they were sold at local markets or collected through co-ops.


But regardless of where they came from, eggs were – and continue to be – eggceptionally important.

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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.


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.



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.

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