Preparing for the release of “On the Beach”

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

In 1959, United Artists released the major motion picture On the Beach, based on the 1957 novel of the same name by Nevil Shute.  Both the book and the movie depict a post-apocalyptic world resulting from a nuclear war.  As the first major movie about nuclear conflict, it threatened to stir up international sentiment against war and nuclear weapons.

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On the Beach (1959) (c) United Artists

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Concrete and Canyons: Senator Robert Kennedy’s 1967 Family Vacation

Today’s post is written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver.

Nearly 50 years ago on June 29, 1967 an airplane landed at Hall’s Crossing near the upper end of Utah’s Lake Powell. On hand to meet the plane was San Juan County Commissioner Calvin Black who presented two Navajo blankets to the distinguished guests who disembarked, Utah Senator Frank Moss and New York Senator Robert Kennedy.

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Senator Moss and Senator Kennedy being greeted at the Hall’s Crossing Airstrip.

After the presentation, Moss led his large party of guests including Senator Kennedy and his wife Ethel, seven of their 11 children, and Eunice Shriver along with several of her children on a tour of Lake Powell, taking in Rainbow Bridge National Monument and Glen Canyon Dam before the Kennedy’s continued on a four day, 90 mile raft trip to Phantom Ranch at the base of the Grand Canyon. This family vacation, by virtue of Kennedy’s status and the locale, can today be relived within the records held by the National Archives at Denver.

To preface the trip, let’s go back nearly 120 years ago. Rainbow Bridge, a 290 foot tall, 275 feet wide rock span that neighboring Indian tribes had long considered sacred, was designated a National Monument in 1910 by President Taft but was remote enough that only hardy travelers made the trek, including former President Teddy Roosevelt shortly after the dedication. That would all begin to change in the 1950’s when the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation became involved in the area.

The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation was established in 1902 and is the federal agency responsible for the massive water management projects, including the famous Hoover Dam, that dot the western United States. Outside some specialized holdings such as films, electronic files, still pictures, and oversized maps held at the National Archives at College Park, the entirety of Record Group 115, Records of the Bureau of Reclamation, are held here at the National Archives in Denver and this is where the photographs detailing the Kennedy family’s trip can be found. Continue reading

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World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part III: The American Commission to Negotiate Peace

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

This third, and last, part describes records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

The American Commission to Negotiate Peace, headed by President Woodrow Wilson, represented the United States at the peace conference in Paris at the end of World War I. The records of the Commission were deposited in the U.S. embassy in Paris at the end of the proceedings. They were eventually packed up in about 100 packing cases and sent to the Department of State for preservation. They now form the larger part of Record Group 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

Some of the records had been arranged according to an ad hoc modification of the filing system used by American diplomatic and consular posts but others were unarranged and in a chaotic state. Because of the lack of organization, in the early 1930s, the Department undertook a comprehensive effort to reorganize and index the records. In doing so, the Peace Conference Section of the Division of Communications and Records followed the filing system used for the Department of State’s central record keeping system of the time. Those records were arranged in nine subject classes according to a pre-determined decimal subject classification scheme using a system of country numbers and subject numbers to create a file number. The subject classes found in the Commission records are:

Class 0: General. Miscellaneous

Class 1: Administration

Class 3: Protection of Interests

Class 4: Claims

Class 5: International Congresses and Conferences

Class 6: Commerce

Class 7: Political Relations of State

Class 8: Internal Affairs of States (This class is further divided into file categories on political affairs; public order, safety, health, and works; military affairs; naval affairs; social matters; economic matters; industrial matters; communication and transportation; navigation; and other internal affairs.)

To provide for the unique documentation and subjects dealt with at the peace conference, the Peace Conference Section staff established numerous new file categories in Class 1. The broad outline of the subjects of those files is:

  • Principal Councils and Conferences
  • Committees and Commissions
  • Organization and Functions
  • National Delegations [other than U.S.]
  • American Delegation
  • Questions Considered by the Conference

In general, the files of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace include minutes and reports of the various committees, councils, commissions, field missions, and plenary sessions; telegrams and dispatches between the Department and the Commission; minutes of meeting of the post-treaty Conference of Ambassadors; and memorandums, publications, pamphlets, and other materials. Also in the files are many documents not related to the work and activities of the Commission. President Wilson and Secretary of State Robert Lansing continued to handle many issues relating to other aspects of U.S. foreign relations while at the conference and documents reflecting those activities were filed with those of the Commission.

The following is a document and enclosure from the files.  “Nguyen Ai Quac” is an earlier alias used by Ho Chi Minh:

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Click the image to see an English translation.

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Nguyen Ai Quac to Secretary of State of the United States, Letter with enclosure, June 18, 1919, file 851G.00/1, General Records, RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

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World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part II: The Inquiry

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

This second part, of three, describes records from The Inquiry.

The U.S. government began preparing for the postwar settlement soon after its entry into the war in April 1917. In the fall of that year, President Woodrow Wilson directed the organization of a group of experts to collect and analyze data on the geographical, ethnological, historical, economic, and political problems of those areas likely to be the subject of the peace negotiations. This staff became known as “The Inquiry.” Most of the experts were lawyers, geographers, political scientists, and historians from American colleges and universities and learned societies. The Inquiry ceased as an independent organization in December 1918. After that, it was absorbed into the Division of Territorial, Economic, and Political Intelligence of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace which represented the United States at the peace conference in Paris. In many ways, The Inquiry was the forerunner to the famed Research and Analysis Branch of the Office of Strategic Services during World War II. The records of The Inquiry are now part of Record Group 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

Perhaps the most important records created by The Inquiry are the formal “Inquiry Documents.” President Wilson relied on those reports and studies for background information and used them when drafting the territorial propositions in his Fourteen Points and later used some of their suggestions in developing the peace treaties. Each of the documents was stamped “Inquiry Document” and given a sequential number.

Cover page of Inquiry Document 887:

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Inquiry Document 887, December 22, 1917, “Inquiry Documents” (Special Reports and Studies), Entry 4, RG 256: Records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

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World War I Foreign Policy Records, Part I: The Department of State

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

April 6, 2017 marks the centennial of United States entry into World War I. As part of its commemoration of that event, the National Archives and Records Administration has digitized and put online three sets of records constituting the most important files relating to the foreign policy aspects of the war and the subsequent peace conference. Those records consist of the so-called “World War I file” of the Department of State, the reports and studies of The Inquiry, and the central file of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace.

This first part, of three, describes relevant records from the central files of the Department of State.

The Department’s primary files on World War I and its termination are found in file “763.72” and its subfiles. That is the file on political relations between Austria (country number “63”) and Serbia (country number “72”), the initial belligerents in the war. As the war expanded, the Department continued filing documents under that file number and it became known as “the World War I file.” The records are from the Central Decimal File, part of Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State.

The World War I file was initially made widely available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M367: Records of the Department of State Relating to World War I and Its Termination, 1914-1929. They can now be reached online from here. The online arrangement matches the microfilm publication (see below).

The following document is the Department of State’s notification to American diplomatic posts that a state of war existed between the United States and Germany:

763.72[3697a.ONLINE

Department of State to All Diplomatic Missions except Petrograd, Telegram, April 6, 1917, File 763.72/3697a, 1910-1929 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, U.S. National Archives.

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What Women Use: Cosmetics, Hygiene Products, and Medicines

Today’s post was written by Laney Stevenson, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve gathered together some registered patent labels of beauty products created for and used by women, including cosmetics, hygiene products, and medicines, dating from 1878 to 1937. All of the labels are from Record Group 241, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, Case Files for Registered Product Labels, 1874-1940 (NAID 563415). These patent labels have been digitized and will soon be available in the National Archives Catalog.

Thomson’s Torso Corset and Thomson’s Unbreakable Corset Steels, 1878 – Corsets were one of the earliest mass-produced products for women and in the Victorian era were used to emphasize the hourglass silhouette that was in fashion. The corsets of the mid to late 19th century were stiffened with bone or steel and tightly laced in order to shape the body and create the desired narrow waist.

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Flowers of Petroleum, 1878 – This unique patent label featured a folding flap which opened to reveal a woman before and after using the product, which is described as “a beautifier of the hair” and “the only hope for the bald and gray.” Continue reading

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How Women Look: Standards of Beauty and Female Stereotypes in Product Advertising

Today’s post was written by Laney Stevenson, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve gathered together some registered patent labels representing standards of beauty for women in the first half of the 20th century as well as depictions of women reinforcing stereotypes commonly held at the time. All of the labels are from Record Group 241, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, Case Files for Registered Product Labels, 1874-1940, NAID 563415. These patent labels have been digitized and will soon be available in the National Archives Catalog.

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8208 – The Baroness Cigars – Schmidt & Co., 1901 (NAID 45648769)

The Baroness Cigars, 1901 – This label depicts a series of women in the style of Charles Dana Gibson’s creation of the “Gibson Girl.” She reflects the standards of feminine beauty from the turn of the century with her fine features, upswept hair, and demure gaze.

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42888 – Miss Sophomore Slip – The Durable Undergarment Company, 1933

Miss Sophomore Slip, 1933 – By the mid-1930s, the ideal female figure was small-waisted and slim-hipped to accentuate the elegant and form-fitting clothing styles. Of course, this silhouette was unrealistic for most women and was achieved with corsets, slips, and other undergarments.

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47205 – Squeeze Me Oranges and Grapefruit – International Fruit Corporation, 1935 (NAID 18573624)

Squeeze Me Oranges and Grapefruit, 1935 – The bobbed hair and youthful features of the 1920s continued to be a popular look for women well into the 1930s and her alluring gaze is an added enticement in this playful advertisement for citrus fruit. Continue reading

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Considerable Talent and Great Promise: the Early Years of Navajo Artist Beatien Yazz

Today’s post is written by Cody White, National Archives at Denver, with special thanks to Gwen Granados; National Archives at Riverside, John Seamans; National Archives at San Francisco, and Theresa Fitzgerald; National Archives at St. Louis

“…I had the pleasure of seeing some of the paintings of Beatin [sic] Yazz. He is a young Navajo of considerable talent and great promise.” A heady compliment in itself but even more so that it was delivered by a titan of the photography world, Ansel Adams. Adams was so impressed by the young Yazz’s work when he passed through the Navajo Nation in 1944 that three years later he felt compelled to write the Bureau of Indian Affair’s head of education a series of letters stating as much.

This correspondence was forwarded to the Southwest Area Office of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board and today can be found in Record Group 435 – Records of the Indian Arts and Crafts Board at the National Archives at Denver. But who was Beatien Yazz, who passed away in 2013 at the age of 84? Did his “great promise” come to pass? Given locally the Denver Art Museum’s considerable Native Arts Department holds several of his works and nationally the National Museum of the American Indian also has many paintings, textile samples, and pottery created by Yazz, the answer is probably yes. But that is the end of the story; for the beginning of his story we turn to Record Group 75 – Records of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and learn more about the early years of Beatien Yazz.

While generally a researcher can find the entirety of a BIA agency’s records within one National Archives field unit, the expansive nature of the reservation means Navajo records are actually shared between the National Archives at Denver and the National Archives at Riverside. The earliest mention of Beatien Yazz within the National Archives is found in the latter, in the form of a census card filled out only months after his birth on May 29, 1929 in which his name is listed as Hoska Ye Ta Das Woot. This name, along with the spelling of his father’s as Joe Tode, is repeated throughout the Southern Navajo Indian censuses taken in the 1930’s that can be found online at Ancestry.com. We know this is Yazz because of his census number; during this era name changes among the Navajo were common and as the census numbers assigned never did change, they are useful in tracking an individual. Continue reading

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What Women Want: Patent Labels of Products Marketed to Women

Today’s post was written by Laney Stevenson, Archives Technician at the National Archives at College Park.

In honor of Women’s History Month, I’ve gathered together some registered patent labels for products created for and marketed to women. All of the labels are from Record Group 241, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, Case Files for Registered Product Labels, 1874-1940 (NAID 563415). These patent labels have been digitized and will soon be available in the National Archives Catalog

Happy Housewife – A Cleansing Compound – A do-it-all product that reduces household toil and drudgery, leaving you filled with joy! Is it at all surprising this product was invented and named by a man?

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2821 – Golden Rule Washing Powder – Garrison, Long & Co., 1882

Golden Rule Washing Powder – “I wish there was some process to lighten this work; it takes me five hours to do this washing and I have only four in the family.” All this while wearing a corset! The reality of a woman’s life in 1882 is hard to comprehend. Continue reading

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Can a Souvenir Lead to the Slammer? The Denver Mint Weighs in on Elongated Coins

Today’s post is written by Cody White, Archivist at the National Archives at Denver and collector of elongated coins, having picked up over 600 in his travels across the United States.

Crushed penny. Pressed penny. Smushed penny. Squished penny. Regardless of the name, when you start to look, one sees them everywhere: at zoos and aquariums, museums of all kinds, gas stations, national parks and monuments, and even at National Archives locations such as the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum and the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Museum, and Boyhood Home. The ubiquitous free standing cabinet in which one inserts a penny, pre-1982 ones work best and tarnish the least due the copper content, and anywhere from one to four quarters into a slide, and out emerges a pressed souvenir. But given the penny is irrevocably damaged during the process, are these souvenirs that first appeared during the 1892 World’s Columbian Exposition even legal? In 1985 that very question was posed to the Denver Mint and so the answer can be found in Record Group 104, Records of the U.S. Mint, at the National Archives at Denver.

The Denver Mint is one of the oldest federal institutions in Colorado, first opening in the Colorado Territory as the Denver Mint Assay Office in 1863 to take advantage of the mining boom in the Rocky Mountains. For the next 46 years the office only assayed, melted, and cast gold and silver, but in 1904 plans were made to convert the office into a production mint. Two years later, in 1906, the new facility opened and is still in use today, making all denominations of coins. The mint also has a public relations office that fields questions from around the world regarding all aspects of the process, from how coins are made to how to order special sets, and some of that correspondence can be found in the series “Correspondence, Memorandums, and other Records, 1897-1994.” It is here where we find the legal question of elongated souvenir pennies posed.

Over Memorial Day weekend in 1985 Colorado resident Phyllis Egan visited San Francisco and took in the sights of Fisherman’s Wharf. While there she encountered street vendors pressing pennies into souvenirs and asked the vendor if pressing the penny in that way was legal, to which she was ignored. Bringing one home, a few days later Egan wrote to Rocky Mountain News Action Line columnist David Lewis to again inquire into the legality of the elongated coin.

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Letter from Phyllis Egan to David Lewis, May 28, 1985.

The Rocky Mountain News, a Colorado institution even older than the Denver Mint that Continue reading

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