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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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.

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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.


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.


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.

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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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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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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