The Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin – the Dollar of the Future?

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

A “Carter Quarter.” The “Edsel of coins.” From newspaper articles found in Record Group 104 Records of the U.S. Mint one gets a glimpse of the widespread dissatisfaction and derision heaped upon the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, minted for only a few short years between 1979 and 1981. Still occasionally found in change today alongside the newer Sacagawea and presidential dollars coins, the story of the ill-fated Susan B. Anthony dollar can be found in the Denver Mint records held by the National Archives at Denver.

Denver Mint

Photograph of the Denver Mint building, date unknown (NAID 293491)

Continue reading

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“We’re not as bad as we look”: Girls’ Education at the Albuquerque Indian School

Today’s post is written by Jennifer Eltringham, an intern at the National Archives at Denver.

The Albuquerque Indian School was founded in in 1881 during a push to assimilate Native Americans into mainstream American culture through education at off-reservation boarding schools. By removing children from their families and culture, educators hoped to “Kill the Indian, save the man,” as per the motto of Col. Richard Henry Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Until 1934, the teaching of Indian history and culture was forbidden in Indian schools.

Part of this mission involved “educating Indian girls in the hope that women trained as good housewives would help their mates assimilate” (Trennert, p. 272). At the Albuquerque Indian School, girls were trained in home economics – housekeeping, cooking, sewing, and other domestic arts. In addition, they practiced weaving and embroidery, creating items that were sold to interested parties or used at the school. By doing chores such as laundry and cleaning, girls spent a good part of their time in service to the school. Continue reading

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Malvin Whitfield: Ambassador for Track and Field

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

Malvin “Mal” Whitfield, a gold medal-winning track star of the 1948 and 1952 U.S. Olympic Teams died in November 2015.  He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery in June 2016.  Whitfield served in the Air Force from 1943 to 1948 and again from 1951 to 1953.  During World War II he was part of the group known as the Tuskegee Airmen and during the Korean War he flew 27 combat missions. Continue reading

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The Approach of World War II: A View from the U.S. Embassy in Poland

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

The Textual Records Division is in the midst of a large-scale project to identify and refile a large volume of “orphan” records. These are documents and files that have become separated from their proper filing location or were never properly identified.

I have been working with files from various Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State Continue reading

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A Flag for the United Nations

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Reference Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

John Kelly, a respected columnist for the Washington Post, recently (June 14, 2016) wrote about Brooks Harding’s “Four Freedoms Flag.”  Harding designed the flag to represent the countries fighting against Axis tyranny during World War II, commonly referred to as the “United Nations.”  Not surprisingly, Harding was not the only person interested in designing a flag for that cause.

In the records of the Department of State (Record Group 59) for the period of World War II preserved in the National Archives are almost 100 letters from Americans recommending the adoption of a flag for United Nations.  Continue reading

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The Unforgettable Calamity – 40th Anniversary of the Teton Dam Failure

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

“As I sit here and watch I can see it caving in. It is just coming apart, completely coming apart… my advice to people downstream that are living along the Teton River, get your belongings, get your belongings. Don’t push your luck. Look, look, there goes the whole side, there goes whole complete side of the north edge of the Teton Dam and the water is monumental – holy – great – what can I say? People downstream better get out…”

From this transcript of a live broadcast aired on Rexburg Idaho’s KRXK radio station one is jolted back 40 years to June 5, 1976, when correspondent Don Ellis watched as the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s nearly 75 year run of successful dam building crumbled before his very eyes. Years of panels, inquiries, investigations, and on-site excavations all worked to pinpoint the exact cause of the Teton Dam failure, to no definite end, but the hundreds of millions of dollars of property damage and 11 deaths attributed to the disaster remain undisputed. The story, from beginning to the tragic ending, can be found in the National Archives at Denver’s Record Group 115 Records of the Bureau of Reclamation holdings.

Construction of the dam had been authorized by Congress 12 years earlier on September 7, 1964. Planned on the Teton River, a tributary of Henry’s Fork of the Snake River in southeastern Idaho, the earth-filled embankment dam and reservoir were to be the main features of the Teton Basin Project, designed for flood control, power generation, and supplemental irrigation for nearby farmland in the upper Snake River Valley. The contract for construction was awarded December 13, 1971, and despite pending environmental lawsuits (which were eventually dismissed) work commenced in February of the following year.

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All phases of the dam specifications were scheduled to be completed in May 1977 but by October 1975 the embankment was essentially finished. Workers then began the slow process of filling the reservoir.


Aerial photograph looking downstream taken 16 days before the disaster, showing the nearly full resovoir (NAID 28894692)

water level chart

Bureau of Reclamation memoranda book compuling the Teton Dam Resovoir level and capacity, the last entry being the day of the failure (NAID 2199668)

In the early morning of June 5, 1976, workers discovered two leaks in quick succession within the wall of rock that served as the dam abutment on the right side. Noted as no cause for concern, it wasn’t until a wet spot on the dam wall itself was discovered around 9:00 a.m. that serious alarms were raised. Quickly turning into a mud stream, by 10:30 a.m. it was flowing to the point that witnesses reported the leak sounding like a waterfall. Jerry Dursteller, an employee of the Gibbons and Reed Company which had been contracted to build the dam’s feeder pipeline and pump canal, arrived on scene at 10:00 a.m. and immediately began taking photographs. His collection of images, seen in whole within our collection, show the worsening of the leak.

Dursteller ran out of film at 11:50 a.m. and his last picture shows the gaping hole reaching the crest of the dam. On the reservoir side witnesses reported a small two foot diameter whirlpool had grown quickly to 20 feet in diameter, indicating an increasing volume of water leaking through the dam. A warning from project officials to local sheriff’s offices was soon elevated from ‘Prepare for Flooding’ to ‘Evacuate Everyone Downstream’ as there was nothing left to do, the dam was going to fail. At 11:57 over 250,000 acre feet of reservoir water, equivalent to 81.5 billion gallons, broke through the Teton Dam and rushed downstream.

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Wilford, Idaho was the first town hit, followed thereafter by Sugar City which reported a 15 foot high wave of water at 1:00 p.m. The rushing, debris laden water was making its way to the area’s largest town, Rexburg, where it would continue the destruction.

While talk of rebuilding the dam has arisen over the decades, no serious push has been made as the scars are still borne by the land and people of the area. Today the Teton River flows lazily through the earthen and cement ruins of the dam, which while stabilized after the disaster were never completely removed. In nearby Rexburg, a local museum still displays exhibits that chronicle what they call “the unforgettable calamity.”

Newspaper headline

Salt Lake Tribune, June 6, 1976, featuring front page photographs of a couple posing in their flood ravaged home and another of a man pulled to safety via a backhoe (NAID 2199668)

Facts and statistics used come from “Teton Dam (A Preliminary Report for the Independent Panel for Review of Teton Dam Failure) Revised August 5, 1976”, Teton Dam Records Related to Dam Failure (NAID 2199668), in RG 115 Records of the Bureau of Reclamation series; with additional information coming from the Bureau of Reclamation’s website on the Teton Basin Project

For further reading on the Teton Dam disaster within the National Archives, the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Library & Museum has documents online relating to the administration’s response to the disaster

If you find yourself in the southeastern area of Idaho, the Teton Flood Museum has since been renamed the Museum of Rexburg.

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Drafting a Guide: American Jewish History Resources

Today’s post is written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

In 1957, archivist Nathan Reingold distributed a memo to each custodial unit at the National Archives asking for their staffs’ help in tracking down records relating to American Jewish history.

Nathan Reingold at NYU, 1947 - from

Nathan Reingold at New York University, 1947 (from

RG 64, P 71 - Reingold Memo to All Branches, July 1957

Memorandum from N. Reingold to all Branches, July 19, 1957, Regarding Resources for American Jewish History in the National Archives.

Now, such a request isn’t made (or granted) lightly in view of the tremendous reference burden felt by every custodial unit on a daily basis. But over the next year, reference reports from all of these units found their way to Reingold; archivists sent long and detailed listings of relevant records relating to Jewish involvement in many aspects of America’s story. Below is a sample of the responses.

From the textual records holdings:

RG 64, P 71 - Leo Pascal Reference Report, page 1

First page of Reference Service Report, September 30, 1957, regarding American Jewish history records in NLT record groups.

From the motion picture holdings:

RG 64, P 71 - Robert Wells Reference Report on Motion Pictures

Memorandum from NMP to Mr. Reingold, September 25, 1957, Regarding resources for American Jewish history in the National Archives.

. . . and from the photographic holdings:

RG 64, P 71 - Josephine Cobb Reference Report, page 1

First page of Reference Service Report, September 18, 1957, regarding photographs pertinent to a study of the Jewish peoples.

Reingold made good use of his colleagues’ work and produced a short article about Jewish American history resources at the National Archives, which was published in the journal of the American Jewish Historical Society in 1958.

Pages from Article re Am. Jewish History in the National Archives, 1958

“Resources on American Jewish History in the National Archives” By Nathan Reingold. (A copy of the article is attached below)

But he didn’t stop there. Reingold began compiling all of this material into what he hoped would become a Reference Information Paper, several of which the Archives had already published. He created two drafts, based on comments from his colleagues. At that point, other priorities intervened, and Reingold’s project went no further. However, he saved all of his material, including the drafts (the final draft is attached below).

RG 64, P 71 - Memo re Final Draft of RIP, April 1958

Memorandum from NBE to NIR, April 28, 1958, regarding Reingold’s draft of the Reference Information Paper (RIP) on American-Jewish History in the National Archives.

Even though the intended Reference Information Paper on American Jewish history resources at the National Archives was not published, Nathan Reingold could take pride in knowing he created a comprehensive and still useful guide! One which has been preserved among the holdings of the National Archives in Record Group 64. To see for yourself, click on the links below:

“Materials in the National Archives Relating to American-Jewish History,” Final Draft

“Resources on American Jewish History in the National Archives” by Nathan Reingold, 1958

These, and related material, can be found in the series Records Compiled by Nathan Reingold Relating to American Jewish History Resources, 1957 – 1958 (NAID 7595464) RG 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, 1789 – ca. 2007.


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Danny Thomas Goes to Lebanon, 1962

Today’s post was written by David Langbart, Reference Archivist at the National Archives in College Park.

Danny Thomas was a major mid-20th Century entertainment star of radio, screen, and television.  He is most known for his television show that ran for 13 years (1953-65) under the names Make Room for Daddy and The Danny Thomas Show.  After that, he starred in a number of short-running television shows.  In addition to being a performer, he also successfully produced a number of other TV shows, including The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and The Mod Squad.  To some, Danny Thomas is best known as the father of Marlo Thomas, star of the TV series That Girl.

 Thomas’s most lasting contribution, however, is the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.  Before he found success as an entertainer, Thomas vowed that if he became successful that he would open a shrine to St. Jude Thaddeus, the patron saint of lost causes.  After becoming a star, with the help of Dr. Lemuel Diggs and close friend Anthony Abraham, he established St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1962.

Thomas’s parents were immigrants from Lebanon.  He was born in Deerfield, Michigan, and grew up in Toledo, Ohio.  In 1962, at the invitation of the Lebanese government, Thomas and his wife Rosemarie visited that country.  They received an enthusiastic, bordering on riotous, welcome.  The U.S. embassy in Beirut sent the following report on the visit.

[During his brief visit to Lebanon from April 26 through May 3, television star Danny Thomas by his warmth, cheerfulness and patience throughout an exhausting round of activities won the hearts of the Lebanese, who in turn captured his…

…The Embassy believes it would be appropriate for the Secretary to send a letter to Mr. Thomas commending him for his outstanding contribution to our foreign relations…]

The records contain no evidence that Secretary of State Dean Rusk sent the recommended letter to Mr. Thomas.

In February 2012, the U.S. Postal Service honored Danny Thomas with a first-class stamp.  St. Jude’s Hospital is in the background.


Source: U.S. Embassy Beirut to Department of State, Despatch 592, May 8, 1962, file 032 Thomas, Danny and Rosemarie/5-862, 1960-63 Central Decimal Files (NAID 302021), RG 59: General Records of the Department of State, National

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Aiding the Jews of Europe, 1946

Today’s post is written by Alan Walker, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

Although the war was over, the agony of its survivors continued unabated. The United Jewish Appeal, established in 1939, now in the aftermath called upon the federal government to solicit support for its efforts overseas to help Jewish victims of the carnage.

In response, Archivist Solon J. Buck issued this circular to employees of the National Archives:

RG 64, A1 9C - Letter to All Employees, May 17, 1946 - United Jewish Appeal, Lewinson and Kahn

Letter From Solon J. Buck to All Employees, Issuances Entitled “Letter to All Employees,” 1938-1958 (NAID 3951627) RG 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration

Philip M. Klutznick with Nicola Guili, 1945

Public Housing Authority (PHA) Commissioner Philip M. Klutznick (Left) with Nicola Giulii, Chairman of the PHA of Los Angeles, 1945, from the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research.


Images of staff are from Identification Cards for Employees, 1941-1942 (NAID 7563237) RG 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration.

And the staff rose to the occasion, donating the equivalent of $3,300 in 2016 dollars. Here is the mention of it, in the employee newsletter Archiviews, in July 1946:

Success of UJA Drive - Archiviews, July 1946, p. 2

From Records Relating to Staff Organizations, 1935-1966 (NAID 7839999), RG 64, Records of the National Archives and Records Administration

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Today’s post is written by David Langbart, Archivist at the National Archives at College Park.

Ambassador (ret.) Peter Bridges was good enough to post a link to an interesting article by Robert Schmuhl in a comment on the earlier post about the Easter Rising in Ireland. In his article, Professor Schmuhl describes how Eamon de Valera changed his story about the reason behind receiving a reprieve from a death sentence for participation in the Easter Rising. Schmuhl recounts that in 1963, de Valera told a visiting President John F. Kennedy that he credited his American citizenship for saving him. In 1969, however, de Valera wrote that his U.S. citizenship did not save him, adding that “I know of nothing in international law which could be cited in my defence or made an excuse for American intervention, except, perhaps, to see that I got a fair trial.”

Intrigued by the changed story, I went back to the files to see what the contemporary documents say. This is what I found.


The files of the U.S. consulate in Dublin include a few documents relating to de Valera. In a May 5, 1916, memorandum, Consul Edward Adams reported the visit of a Maura Dixon on behalf of Mrs. De Valera. She brought with her a copy of a certificate of baptism for “Edward De Valera” (as he was then known) signed by Rev. T.J. Donlon, Assistant Rector of the Church of St. Agnes in New York City that stated that he was born on October 14, 1882, and baptized in that church. Adams concluded, “no evidence to the contrary obtainable at this time,” that de Valera was a U.S. citizen and I respectfully request that action in his case be delayed until definite knowledge thereof may be secured.”

On June 12, Adams wrote to General Sir John Maxwell, commander of British forces in Ireland after the Rising, and requested a written report on the disposition of the case of “Edward De Valera, American Citizen . . . arrested in connection with the recent rebellion.” He noted that he was making the request under instruction from the Department of State. On the following day, Adams received the following letter from Major I.H. Price of the General Staff:

. . . . I am directed by the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief to inform you that this man was “Adjutant” of the Dublin Brigade of Rebel forces, and was in command of a body of rebels which held the premises of Messrs. Boland’s, Ringsend, Dublin.

He was tried by Courtmartial and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to Penal Servitude for life.

Adams reported the exchange verbatim to the Department.[2]

On October 2, Adams received an August 31 letter of gratitude from the Rev. Thomas Wheelwright, de Valera’s half-brother. It read, in part:

. . . . After the surrender he was sentenced to be shot, but this sentence was, I am told, at your intervention commuted to life-imprisonment.

Permit to express my gratitude to you for this favor, as well as for the great kindness you have shown his afflicted wife on various occasions. . . . .

Adams responded on February 2, 1917. His letter read, in part:

         As to the part taken by me in your brother’s case, I can only say that, beyond telephone messages, report on Mrs. De Valera’s statements, a request for information, etc., in his case, there is nothing for which you owe me any special gratitude. I simply did all I could in the trying conditions, under restrictions of Martial Law, -just as I did for others. Mrs. De Valera appeared grateful and came here to thank us for our interventions. . . .

In the meantime, in his November report, in the only positive statement of American intervention and its outcome, Consul Adams wrote:

In another instance, by intervention on the plea of Citizenship, made at the request of the wife of Edward DeValera who had been an officer in the revolutionary movement, a sentence of death was commuted to imprisonment for life. Mrs. DeValera afterward called at the Consulate to express her gratitude.[3]


The story reflected in the central files of the Department of State is somewhat different. There is no documentation to indicate that American officials in Washington made any approach or representations to British officials there. Nor are there any reports indicating that the U.S. consulate in Dublin or the embassy in London did the same. Those offices did make efforts to gather information, though, and that is reflected in the files.

The records show a considerable amount of Congressional and public interest in 1916. For the most part, the Department’s responses to those letters included language along the lines of:

It seems proper to add that the fact that Mr. De Valera may be an American citizen constitutes no reason for clemency in his case, or for a request by this Government for clemency on the part of the British Government. There appears to be nothing to indicate that his trial was not fair or that he was in any way discriminated against, and there would, therefore, appear to be no reason for action by this Department on behalf of Mr. De Valera.[4]

In 1923/1924, when de Valera was once again in prison and facing a death sentence, his mother, Catherine Wheelwright wrote to President Coolidge asking him to save her son as President Wilson had.[5] The records do not contain a response to Mrs. Wheelwright. When members of congress and other public officials wrote, the Department generally responded as follows:

. . . I beg to inform you that no evidence has been submitted to the Department which would substantiate the statement made that Mr. de Valera is entitled to the protection of this Government. The Department has no record of his ever having applied for an American passport. . . .[6]

A background memorandum from the Office of the Solicitor states:

. . . . If it is true, as alleged, that he was born in the State of New York, and if he has never obtained naturalization in a foreign state or taken a foreign oath of allegiance, he may still be regarded as a citizen of the United States, although by his political agitation in Ireland, he has undoubtedly placed himself in a position where he is not entitled to the protection of this government.[7]


Neither the files of the consulate in Dublin nor the Department of State include documentation that definitively demonstrate U.S. intervention based on de Valera’s U.S. citizenship. Clearly, however, people at the time believed that to be the case: Consul Adams, his half-brother, his mother, and perhaps others. Enough that it became accepted wisdom.


[1] Unless otherwise indicated, all documents discussing the work of the consulate come from the files of Consulate in Dublin, 1916 General Correspondence, Volume V, RG 84: Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State.

[2] Consulate Dublin to Department of State, Unnumbered Despatch, June 14, 1916, file 341D.1121 Valera, Eamon De/5, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[3] Consulate Dublin to Department of State, Despatch 182, November 29, 1916, file 841.00/33, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[4] Assistant Secretary of State Frank L. Polk to Rep. George Holden Tinkham, Letter, July 20, 1916, file 341D.1121 Valera, Eamon De/5A, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[5] Catherine Wheelwright to President Calvin Coolidge, Letter, September 22, 1923, file 341D.1121 Valera, Eamon De/45, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[6] Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes to Senator David I. Walsh, March 10, 1924, file 341D.1121 Valera, Eamon De/55, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[7] Office of the Solicitor Memorandum to Division of Western European Affairs, March 4, 1924, file 341D.1121 Valera, Eamon De/55, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.


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