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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Women in Police Work, 1922

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

In May 1922, the British embassy in Washington contacted the Department of State at the direction of authorities in London. The British (“His Britannic Majesty’s Government”) wanted to know about the work of women police in the United States and the embassy asked the Department to obtain that information. Specifically, the British wanted details on:

(1) whether, where women are employed, they form an integral part of the ordinary police establishment, or a distinct organisation under separate control.

(2) their status and powers in so far as these differ from those of the regular police.

(3) The scope and nature of the duties on which they are employed, and whether they are expected to undertake all branches of police work or whether they are only employed for special and limited purposes, or on work that would not normally be performed by male police officers.

(4) Whether it is possible, at this stage, to form any estimate of the value of their services and if so, the directions in which their employment has proved most beneficial.

The Department acknowledged the request and set about securing the information. To do so, it contacted the U.S. Department of Justice and the governors of California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and the Board of Commissioners of Washington, DC. Why it picked those officials is not clear. In each case, the Department forwarded a copy of the British inquiry with the request for information responsive thereto. Subsequently, at the suggestion of the superintendent of the Pennsylvania State Police, the Department sent similar inquiries to the heads of public safety in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Reproduced below are the substantive responses received by the Department. They include reports from the police in Oakland, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, to which the California governor’s office had forwarded the request. These letters paint a varied picture of women in law enforcement work in the United States of 1922.

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Letter from the Albert Ottinger, Assistant Attorney General, to the Secretary of State, June 27, 1922. [811.105.30.1]

Continue reading

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Records of the Foreign Affairs Agencies in the National Archives Bearing on the History of United States Relations with Africa-IV: Records on Microfilm or Online

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

At the 1969 National Archives Conference on the National Archives and Foreign Relations Research, the proceedings of which were published in 1974,[1] Morris Rieger, a longtime National Archives staff member, contributed a paper entitled “Sources in the National Archives Bearing on the History of African-American Relations.” Since that time, the National Archives has accessioned a huge volume of additional records, rendering his important essay out of date.

This is the fourth, and final, part. It updates those portions of Rieger’s essay dealing with the availability of records on microfilm or online.

The holdings of the National Archives bearing on the history of American relations with Africa are very rich—so much so that in the brief space avail­able it is possible to attempt only an overview.

From the very nature of archival sources it should be clear that the National Archives contains no separate collection of materials on Africa; rather, such materials are located among the records of federal departments and agencies. The Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies, of course, take first place among them. Many records have been issued on various National Archives Microfilm Publications and, as of this date, a few are available online.

III. RECORDS ON MICROFILM OR ONLINE

RG 59: General Records of the Department of State

For the central files records from the 1789 to 1906 period, all of the diplomatic and consular despatches are available on various National Archives Microfilm Publications. So, too, are the notes exchanged between the Department of State and foreign diplomatic and consular personnel in the United States. The entirety of the Numerical and Minor Files, covering the period 1906-1910 are on microfilm and online through the National Archives Catalog. Many segments of the Central Decimal File on U.S. relations with various countries and colonies and on the internal affairs of those countries and colonies have been microfilmed as separate microfilm publications. Continue reading

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Records of the Foreign Affairs Agencies in the National Archives Bearing on the History of United States Relations with Africa-III: Records of Agencies Other Than 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.

At the 1969 National Archives Conference on the National Archives and Foreign Relations Research, the proceedings of which were published in 1974,[1] Morris Rieger, a longtime National Archives staff member, contributed a paper entitled “Sources in the National Archives Bearing on the History of African-American Relations.” Since that time, the National Archives has accessioned a huge volume of additional records, rendering his important essay out of date.

This is the third of four parts. It updates those portions of Rieger’s essay dealing with the records of foreign affairs agencies other than the Department of State. It includes discussion of the records of agencies not represented in the National Archives in 1969.

The holdings of the National Archives bearing on the history of American relations with Africa are very rich—so much so that in the brief space avail­able it is possible to attempt only an overview.

From the very nature of archival sources it should be clear that the National Archives contains no separate collection of materials on Africa; rather, such materials are located among the records of federal departments and agencies. The Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies, of course, take first place among them.

  1. RECORDS OF AGENCIES OTHER THAN THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE

Numerous temporary agencies established during World War I, World War II, and the Cold War dealt with affairs in Africa within the specific framework of their own functions. The records of those agencies in the National Archives reflect this.

The propaganda agency of the United States during World War II was the Office of War Information (OWI). The records of that agency now constitute RG 208: Records of the Office of War Information. Its Mediterranean-Africa Region Informa­tional File contains OWI “outpost,” monitoring, intelligence, and research reports from and about the region. There is also on file documentation of OWI policies with respect to Africa and copies of news stories and record­ings of broadcasts directed there.

After World War II, the Department of State handled international propaganda and public diplomacy activities, and records on those functions will be found in the records of that agency described above. To consolidate all the foreign information activities of the U.S. Government into one program, the United States Information Agency (USIA) was established on August 1, 1953.  Records of that agency constitute RG 306: Records of the United States Information Agency. In addition to records of executive direction, there are records of functional offices (examples include the Information Center Service and Press and Publications Service) and geographic offices such as the Office of Near East, South Asia, and Africa. Continue reading

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Records of the Foreign Affairs Agencies in the National Archives Bearing on the History of United States Relations with Africa-II: Records of the Department of State, part 2

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

At the 1969 National Archives Conference on the National Archives and Foreign Relations Research, the proceedings of which were published in 1974,[1] Morris Rieger, a longtime National Archives staff member, contributed a paper entitled “Sources in the National Archives Bearing on the History of African-American Relations.” Since that time, the National Archives has accessioned a huge volume of additional records, rendering his important essay out of date.

This is the second of four parts. It updates those portions of Rieger’s essay dealing with the records of the Department of State (Foreign Service Post files, specialized record groups, and records of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace). It includes discussion of the records not in the National Archives in 1969.

The holdings of the National Archives bearing on the history of American relations with Africa are very rich—so much so that in the brief space avail­able it is possible to attempt only an overview.

From the very nature of archival sources it should be clear that the National Archives contains no separate collection of materials on Africa; rather, such materials are located among the records of federal departments and agencies. The Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies, of course, take first place among them.

  1. RECORDS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE, part 2

The third major group consists of the field records of the department, which constitute RG 84: Records of Foreign Service Posts of the Department of State. In general, the post files provide the same kinds of information concerning American relations with Africa as do the headquarters records; indeed, much of the documentation found in post files consists of the overseas copies of documents found in headquarters files. They often, however, contain additional documentation of research value that had not been transmitted to Washing­ton with the reports to which they relate. The information on Africa is found in concentrated form among the files of the diplomatic posts in European metropole capitals and the records of American embassies and lega­tions in independent African countries in those of U.S. consular posts throughout the continent. The National Archives now has in its custody rec­ords of diplomatic posts in the metropoles as follows: Belgium; France; Germany; Great Britain; Italy; Portugal; and Spain. Also available are records of U.S. embassies and legations in all the countries in Africa as well as the consulates opened in Africa even before the coming of independence. The earliest diplomatic posts are Egypt; Ethiopia; Liberia; Morocco; and the Union of South Africa. The dates of these diplomatic and consular records range from the late eighteenth and the early nineteenth century to the 1970s: those of Tunis, for example, begin in 1795, of Zanzibar in 1834, of Capetown in 1835, and of Monrovia in 1856.  Also included in this record group are the records of the U.S. Mission to the United Nations (USUN). Given that many issues relating to Africa have come before the UN, the records of that mission will include records of interest. Continue reading

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Records of the Foreign Affairs Agencies in the National Archives Bearing on the History of United States Relations with Africa-I: Records of the Department of State, part 1

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

At the 1969 National Archives Conference on the National Archives and Foreign Relations Research, the proceedings of which were published in 1974,[1] Morris Rieger, a longtime National Archives staff member, contributed a paper entitled “Sources in the National Archives Bearing on the History of African-American Relations.” Since that time, the National Archives has accessioned a huge volume of additional records, rendering his important essay out of date.

This is the first of four parts. It updates those portions of Rieger’s essay dealing with the records of the Department of State (treaties and headquarters records). It includes discussion of the records not in the National Archives in 1969 and an expanded discussion of records on the domestic civil rights struggle.

The holdings of the National Archives bearing on the history of American relations with Africa are very rich—so much so that in the brief space avail­able it is possible to attempt only an overview.

From the very nature of archival sources it should be clear that the National Archives contains no separate collection of materials on Africa; rather, such materials are located among the records of federal departments and agencies. The Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies, of course, take first place among them.

  1. RECORDS OF THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE, part 1

Department of State records pertaining to relations with Africa are found in five major groupings. The first of these, the treaty series, covers the period from 1778 to 1995 and includes treaties with African states or with European states dealing with African territories or Africa-related matters, together with associated documentation and maps. These records are found in RG 11: General Records of the U.S. Government. There are several major categories of Africa-related treaties: (1) “peace and friendship” treaties (all with the various Barbary States between 1786 and 1836); (2) commer­cial treaties (with Muscat and Zanzibar, 1833; Madagascar, 1867 and 1881; Orange Free State, 1871; Egypt, 1884; Congo Free State, 1891, and Ethiopia, 1903 and 1914); (3) antislave trade treaties (two with Great Britain, in 1842—the Webster-Ashburton Treaty—and in 1870; and one in 1890 with the European powers multilaterally—the Statute of Brussels);  (4) treaties defining United States rights in the post-World War I Afri­can mandates (seven between 1923 and 1925 with the mandatory powers: England, France, and Belgium); and (5) treaties delineating the formal U.S. relationship with countries in Africa since their independence. Other important treaties include that of 1884 recognizing the flag of the International Congo Association (which soon afterwards became the Congo Free State), the Algeciras Convention of 1906 regarding Morocco, and the 1919 Versailles multilateral agreement regulating the liquor traffic in Africa. While the treaties themselves are found in RG 11, the documentation relating to the negotiation of the treaties will be found among the records of the Department of State described below. Continue reading

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