Fortuitous Lineage

Today’s post is written by Robert Ripson, a Processing Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

1430 hours, 28 December 2016, quittin’ time and I am heading towards the sign out sheet and to begin an afternoon of chores. However, I decide to stop and chat with a coworker to enquire what new project they are working on. “An audit of digitized papers,” was the reply. I stoop over the open folder and begin to read the context of the letter: From the War Department, 5 August, 1847. “Sir, I would respectfully request you to inform this Department at your earliest convenience. . .” Signed W.L. Marcy, Secty. of War. This was just the beginning as I noticed a second signature on the bottom left of the page. It reads, J.L. Fenimore, Esq. Bank of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia. Pausing a moment, I re-read the name, pause again and think, no, it can’t be, this isn’t a relative. NO WAY!


Letter from W.L. Marcy, Secretary of War, to J.L Fenimore, August 5, 1847. As payment from the War Department is being readied, Secretary of War Marcy looks for fiscal assurances that money is available for disbursement.

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A Foreign View of Guns in the United States, 1928

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

In September 1928, the U.S. consul at Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario, submitted a report entitled “Canadian Press Comments Regarding Governmental and Individual Disarmament in the United States.”  The report included the text of an editorial from THE PORT ARTHUR CHRONICLE, a local daily newspaper.  Enclosed was the following clipping of the editorial.


Source:  U.S. Consulate Fort William and Port Arthur, Ontario, Report No. 98, September 21, 1928, file 811.113/117, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State.

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Lew Wallace: After the Civil War

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

An earlier post briefly discussed former Confederate general James Longstreet’s post-Civil War career in the Federal government. Among the positions he held was that of minister to Turkey (1880-81). His successor in that position also was a Civil War veteran – former Union Major General Lew Wallace. Wallace served as minister to Turkey from 1881 to 1885.

During the Civil War, Wallace led troops in western Virginia, helping to secure what became West Virginia for the Union. Serving under the command of U.S. Grant, his division helped capture Fort Donelson, Tennessee, in February 1862. At the battle of Shiloh, Tennessee, in April 1862, Wallace and his troops lost their way to the battlefield on the first day of fighting, thus incurring the ongoing ire of U.S. Grant, commander of the Union forces at that battle. Leaving Grant’s command, Wallace subsequently held other posts. Perhaps most notably, in July 1864, he led Union forces against those under the command of Confederate general Jubal Early at the battle of the Monocacy River outside Frederick, Maryland. Despite losing the battle, Wallace’s troops successfully delayed Early’s advance toward Washington during the third invasion of the North by troops under the direction of Robert E. Lee, allowing reinforcements from the Union forces outside Richmond and Petersburg to man the fortifications around the capital city. Wallace also served on the military commission established to prosecute the Lincoln assassination conspirators and headed the military court that tried the commandant of the Confederate prisoner of war camp at Andersonville, Henry Wirz.

After the war, Wallace resigned his commission and went to Mexico to assist the Mexican army. After returning to the United States in 1867, he made unsuccessful runs for Congress in 1868 and 1870.

While his quest for a diplomatic or consular posting did not culminate until 1881, the extant records indicate that Wallace began maneuvering for such an appointment in 1872. In June of that year he sent the following letter to President Ulysses Grant: Continue reading

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The President Says Thank You, 1948: The Marshall Plan

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

On June 5, 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall addressed the graduating class at Harvard University. In his speech, Marshall noted that World War II had caused “the dislocation of the entire fabric of European economy” with consequences for the U.S. economy, too. To stabilize the situation, he proposed a program of economic aid to European countries:

“It is logical that the United States should do whatever it is able to do to assist in the return of normal economic health in the world, without which there can be no political stability and no assured peace. Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos.”

This speech led to the establishment of the European Recovery Plan, also known as the Marshall Plan, and the establishment of a new agency, the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), to administer it. While the Soviet Union and other East Bloc countries ultimately did not participate in the Marshall Plan, they were invited to do so.

The Marshall Plan complemented the Truman Doctrine. President Harry Truman announced that initiative in a highly ideological March 12, 1947, speech to a joint session of Congress in which he requested approval for aid to Greece and Turkey as part of a global fight against communism.

Scholars continue to debate the origins and objectives of the Marshall Plan, which was a major departure in U.S. foreign policy. Whatever they may be, taking a broad suggestion such as that made in the speech and bringing it to fruition was no simple matter. It fell to the Department of State to make the vision a reality. Development of the policy surrounding such a major new initiative in U.S. foreign policy, securing passage of the necessary legislation (The Economic Cooperation Act of 1948, 62 Stat. 138) in the face of significant opposition, and setting up a new government agency took a tremendous amount of concentrated work on the part of the Department. All of those things took place within the relatively short span of 11 months, and the new Economic Cooperation Administration went into operation in May 1948. Continue reading

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The CCC . . . in Color!

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

In his first 100 days in office, President Franklin Roosevelt worked furiously to tamp down the widespread unemployment and economic unrest that gripped the United States back in 1932. Arguably the most famous legislation passed that spring was the Emergency Conservation Work (EWC) Act, creating the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) that ultimately put over 2,000,000 men to work during its nine years of existence.

The CCC projects were accomplished through a host of existing federal agencies as well as state and local municipalities. Records regarding CCC work done through federal agencies can be found in National Archives holdings nationwide. At the National Archives at Denver this includes the series “Narrative Reports of Individual CCC Camps, 1936-1938, (NAID 292847)” which details the work done in Department of Grazing camps in the west.

Found in Record Group 49, Records of the Bureau of Land Management, these narrative reports were compiled per period, the six month span of time that CCC enrollments were broken into, and chronicle the work, as well as sometimes the educational and recreational activities, of the enrollees through both text and photographs. Typically these photographs are black and white, but in 1937 Camp DG-32, out of Dalton Wells, Utah, had Arrow Photo Service of Minneapolis, Minnesota hand color select photographs, giving their narrative reports a distinctive feature not seen in others.


Dalton Wells Camp DG-32 was located about 15 miles northwest of Moab, Utah, due west of Arches National Park today. During World War II, the shuttered camp was turned into the Moab Relocation Center, housing Japanese internees deemed “troublemakers” from other internment camps. Today the site, off U.S. Highway 191, is marked with a plaque and all that remains of the camp are two stone pylons that once held the entrance sign.


View of Camp DG-32, with sheep grazing in foreground.

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“Cutting Capers on the Sands of North Africa”: A Soldier’s Art before, during, and after World War II

Today’s post was written by Jennifer Eltringham, a summer 2016 intern at the National Archives at Denver.

Albert Racine of the Blackfoot Tribe from Browning, Montana, enlisted in the U.S. Army in April of 1942, one day before his 35th birthday. When he left home to serve in World War II, however, he was not alone. He brought along a man with a mischievous grin, a large belly, and an even larger hat. Racine’s drawings of the Blackfeet figure Napi created a connection between Montana and troops overseas that resonated with the Blackfeet community in Browning and left an enduring mark. This juxtaposition between playfulness and seriousness would become characteristic of Racine’s legacy as an artist.


Albert Racine in Uniform (NAID 37489831).

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Detour Ahead: The Paving of the White House Driveway

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

The scourge of road trip vacations. The bane of work commutes. Chances are every person who drives has a recent complaint or two about road construction hindering their plans and it’s possible that 79 years ago President Franklin Roosevelt too had similar complaints when four months were spent paving the White House south driveway.

The National Park Service Denver Service Center is the main planning, design, and construction management office for the hundreds of National Park Service sites nationwide and the planning and project files from the office can be found in the National Archives at Denver’s Record Group 79, Records of the National Park Service holdings. It is here where one finds the report for the south White House grounds paving project as the White House and surrounding area are within the National Park Service’s purview as the President’s Park.


Map showing project location.

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James Longstreet: After the Civil War

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

After the Civil War, former Confederates moved forward with their lives. They returned to their homes, many in tatters, their plantations and farms, now without slaves, and their businesses, now in ruins. Over the following decades, many ended up working for the government of the country from which they had attempted to break. Among them was former Confederate Lieutenant General James Longstreet.

Born in South Carolina, although largely raised in Georgia, and an 1842 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, Longstreet fought in the War with Mexico and against Indians on the frontier. He resigned from the Army in June 1861, and joined the Confederacy. He led troops in critical battles in the eastern theater – First Manassas, the Peninsula Campaign, Second Manassas, Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. In October 1862, having led a wing of the Army of Northern Virginia under Robert E. Lee, he was made a Lieutenant General to lead the First Corps of that army. Detached with part of his corps to go west, he helped secure the September 1863 Confederate victory at Chickamauga Creek in Georgia. He then led an unsuccessful effort to capture Knoxville, Tennessee. He and his troops returned to Virginia for the spring 1864 campaign. He was seriously wounded by his own men during the Battle of the Wilderness in May 1864. Out of action for several months, he returned to duty in October to take part in the defense of Richmond and Petersburg. He was with the Army of Northern Virginia at the time of the surrender at Appomattox on April 9, 1865. Continue reading

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“In the Interest of the Efficiency of the Foreign Service”: Changes in U.S. Diplomatic Representation Abroad After the Election of 1944

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

An earlier post discussed President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s decision to request the formal resignation of all chiefs of U.S. diplomatic missions overseas (ambassadors and ministers), both career and non-career, after the election of 1940 and what led to that action. A similar directive went out after the election of 1944.

On November 10, three days after the election, Under Secretary of State Edward Stettinius, referring to the 1940 telegram, asked President Roosevelt if he wanted to follow the same practice. FDR “said he thought it would be wise.” As a result, the Department of State sent the following telegram:[1]


121.4 [11-1944.1] Circular to All Chiefs of Mission, Nov. 14, 1944

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Window into the Soviet Union, 1951/Introduction to CREST

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

Recently, I located the following 1951 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) report analyzing Soviet nylon stockings:


Technical Examination of Soviet Nylon Stocking, June 29, 1951, p.1.


Technical Examination of Soviet Nylon Stocking, June 29, 1951, p.2.

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