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Researchers Help

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    It gets such a bad rap, red tape. But it's been around for a long time.

    The National Archives' own Howard Wehmann weighed in on the subject,

    in a letter to the local paper.


                           Howard Wehmann's Red Tape History Lesson - Wash. Post, June 11, 1980.jpg

                                  The Washington Post, June 11, 1980



     That kind of puts red tape in perspective, doesn't it?


    Here is a popular little item in an old library supply catalog:


                   Gaylord Catalog - page 90 - Red Tape.jpg

                                                                     Gaylord, Inc. catalog, 1928



   It's dead useful for all sorts of jobs.

    When a stack of papers is just too fat for an Acco fastener, a bit of red tape can save the day!


                                 Red Tape and Acco Fastener Hybrid - from RG 64, P 39.jpg


    And the guvmint bought plenty of the stuff.


                                              Government Buys Red Tape, too - Wash. Post, March 6, 1944.jpg

                                                        The Washington Post, March 6, 1944



    How and when "red tape" came to connote bureaucratic hoop jumping is anyone's guess.

    But it sure took hold in the popular imagination.


   And the National Archives itself was accused of being a perpetrator.


                         Red Tape in Disposal of Govt. Papers - RG 64, P 67, file 1938 April - Sept..jpg

                             NAID 7582964, file "April - September 1938"



   Well, guilty as charged. But the National Archives couldn't (and still can't) be too careful

    when it comes to disposal of records.

   So the rest of the government just has to deal.


    But it's true that there is plenty of unnecessary "red tape" twining around our lives.


                            Red Tape in Allstate Ad - Life, Aug. 26, 1957.jpg

                                     Life, August 26, 1957



         Where did it go? Oh, it's around. I clipped this one from a 1921 report just the other day.


                                   Red Tape Clipped from report - RG 83, PI-104 30, file Plan of Organization and Operation, 1921.jpg

                                    NAID 567368, file "Plan of Organization and Operation"



    Well, look at that, will you?


                           Red Tape Lipstick - from Ebay.jpg

                                 Seventeen, October 1955



    Cutting that tape can certainly be satisfying.

   On a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia recently, this caught my eye.


   Red Tape Cutting for Williamsburg Tunnel, 1949.jpg



    Oh, brother.

                                    Red Tape Prevents Indian Govt. Action on Rats Eating Records - Collection MUNDN, file Misc. Letters and Writings, box 3.jpg

                                             Collection MUNDN, file "Misc. Letters and Writings"



    Now the National Archives uses white twill tape for binding records.

    It just doesn't have the same ring, though..


                                     Twill Tape.jpg.


       Looking for a different kind of Valentine's Day gift?


                                                    National Archives Store - Red Tape Products

75449573 hh.jpg75449885 hh.jpg75450201 hh.jpg75485469 hh.jpg


The 21,655 photographs in this series depict all aspects of Sandia National Laboratories' unclassified work on nuclear weapons testing between 1972 through 1992 at the Nevada Test Site (NTS). Photographs reflect Sandia National Laboratories' mission to ensure that the United States nuclear arsenal is safe, secure, reliable, and able to support the United States' deterrence policy.


View all of these photos in the National Archives Catalog: Photographs Related to Nuclear Weapons Testing at the Nevada Test Site, 1/1972 - 12/2012


The majority of photographs depict various equipment, personnel, and operations related to underground nuclear tests. In addition, other photographs in this series depict High Explosive tests at Nevada Test Site; Coal Gasification Experiment at Hanna, Wyoming; the Solar Power Project; Waste Disposal at Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Oil Shale Project at Rock Springs, Wyoming; as well as other non-nuclear tests and experiments.


Interested in more updates like this? Subscribe to our Catalog newsletter!

The National Archives at College Park (Archives II) will undergo temporary closures in the Researcher Registration Room 1000 and part of the ground floor security entrance to the research complex between December 8, 2017 and January 22, 2018.


Research Registration Room 1000

Room 1000 will be temporarily closed during a re-cabling improvement project. Due to the nature of the work, the project may be extended beyond January 22. The temporary location for researcher orientation and researcher cards will be conducted at a desk in the main ground floor lobby.


If you have an existing researcher card that has an expiration date between December 9, 2017 and the end of January 2018, it is recommended that you renew your card before December 9th.


Security Entrance to Research Complex

The ground floor security entrance to the research complex will have a temporary and only partial closure. Researchers will have full access to the research rooms but please anticipate longer wait times to enter and exit the research complex. The work will be done at the same time as Room 1000.


We will post updates and have status information on the main phone line (301-837-2000) for Archives II. We appreciate your patience.


Please submit questions to Michael Knight, Branch Chief, Research Services, Research Room Operations at 301-837-0475 or

PLEASE NOTE: The following blog post describes upcoming changes to the records pull times and consultation hours for Archives 1 (Washington DC) and Archives 2 (College Park, MD) only. All changes went into effect on MONDAY, OCTOBER 2, 2017.


The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) at Archives 1 (Washington, DC) and Archives 2 (College Park, MD) added an additional pull time!  The new pull times will be 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM, Monday through Friday. Also, additional records may not be signed out after 5:15 PM.  However, records signed out at 5:15 PM or earlier may continue to be viewed.


Currently research consultation is available from 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM, Monday through Friday. The consultation room hours will be 8:45 AM - 4:00 PM, Monday - Friday.


The Innovation Hub at Archives 1 and the partners' digitization room (6050) at Archives 2 closes at 5:00 PM.  Electronic Records consultation is by appointment only between 9:00 AM - 5:00 PM.  Researcher Registration and phone coverage (1-86-NARA-NARA) at A1 and A2 is open until 5:00 PM.


After 4:00 PM, researchers will have on-site access to the services listed below at Archives 1 and Archives 2:




To summarize, beginning Monday, October 2, 2017:


Research Rooms Hours: 8:45 AM - 5:45 PM


Records Pull Times: 9:30 AM, 10:30 AM, 11:30 AM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, and 3:00 PM


Consultation Hours: 8:45 AM - 4:00 PM

You’ve visited the Textual Research room and submitted a pull request only to get back a yellow paper saying your request is available on Microfilm.


Don’t Panic! That means you don’t have to wait for another pull time. Instead you can head straight for the Microfilm research room (ground floor at Archives 1, fourth floor at Archives 2), which is self-serve!  That yellow slip probably came with an alpha-numeric publication number (e.g. M23 or A3340).  Bring the pull slip and yellow paper to the Microfilm Research Room, as that will help the research room staff find your records.


How to find your reels:

To find microfilm, you can either go through the main Archives Catalog or the Microfilm Catalog to see which National Archives sites hold that publication, as well as if that publication series has a descriptive pamphlet for you to use (and download).  Descriptive pamphlets allow you to narrow down which reels you’ll need. There are also finding aids in the research room to help you find what you are looking for.


***HINT!  Several older Microfilm Publications (usually of pre-1850s records) have been compiled into published collections, which will usually be noted in the descriptive pamphlet. Some of these, such as the Naval documents related to the quasi-war between the United States and France, 1797-1801, have also been digitized by various organizations.  The site HathiTrust may well be worth a quick check!


Once you know your publication and reel numbers, you’ll need to find their location. In College Park at Archives 2, we use a large binder, known as the Locator. It is arranged alphabetically by publication type, and lists publication number, series title, location (Cabinet/Drawer), if it was declassified, and if there is a descriptive pamphlet. Once you’ve found your publication in the cabinet, you can take out four reels at a time.


Meanwhile, in downtown DC at Archives I, you can pull one reel at a time. There, you'll use the Location Register in the Microfilm Room on the ground floor to find the location of the microfilm that you're looking for. The book is arranged by publication number as well as according to the Record Group number.


How to make reproductions:

In an effort to ensure that all researchers have access to the types of readers they need, we ask researchers to sign up for a reader time slot based on their particular microfilm reader needs (see our previous History Hub post for more information).


In downtown DC at A1, there are 15 functional Microfilm readers (9 for scanning, 4 for printing, and 4 for viewing).


Here in College Park at A2, our Microfilm Research Room has 14 Microfilm readers (2 for scanning to USB, 5 for printing, and an additional 7 for viewing/taking notes/photographs). Those two scanning machines are available on a sign-in, first-come first-serve basis, with each sign-in period lasting 45 minutes.  The scanners allow you to edit the microfilm image prior to saving. 


But if you are unable to use one of them, don’t worry!  Here are a couple tricks you can use to get the best image on non-scanning machines. You’ll need a smart phone or digital camera.

  1. You can use one of many free (or inexpensive) scanning apps which you download on your phone.  These allow you to use your phone’s camera as a handheld scanner and save the image as a PDF. Many allow minor editing to be done in the app before you export the file.
  2. Even easier is to switch your camera or smart phone to a grey-scale or black and white filter.  Particularly on older microfilm readers, this produces a crisper image as well as eliminates much of the bulb bust-effect created by the light within the reader.  This is especially useful for handwritten documents that have been microfilmed. (Compare the below images)

bulb bust.jpgA photo taken of a Minolta reader, with no filter

bw.jpgA photo taken of a Minolta reader, with a Black/White filter



After that, you can use whatever photo-editing software you prefer to adjust the contrast, clarity, and brightness of your images to your liking. We also offer camera and smart phone stands for your convenience, and there are outlets at each station for your charging cables.


How to load a machine:


Staff in the Microfilm research room will be happy to show you how to load, unload, and use any machine. However, should you like a refresher course, please see the following YouTube tutorials:


Loading and operating a Minolta microfilm reader


Loading a PowerScan microfilm reader


Operating a PowerScan microfilm reader



General Tips:

  • Gently pulling the loading tray forward (whether on the Minoltas or scanners) allows the glass to lift so you can thread the film through without damaging it.


  glass minolta.jpg

Minolta feed tray pulled forward, and glass lifted




glass scanpr.jpgScanner feed tray pulled forward, and glass lifted



  • Please make sure you match your microfilm reel size to the same take up size (16 mm to 16 mm, 35mm to 35mm).
  • If you are working on a Minolta reader, there are two lens sizes available: #2 (9-16x zoom) and #3 (13-27x zoom).  The top knob (blue) controls your zoom, and the bottom knob (grey) controls your focus. If you need a different size lens, please let staff know.


Minolta Lenses


  • If using a ScanPro microfilm reader, there are three things you should double check:
      1. You have turned the scanner ON (indicated by a green light on front of machine) – or the program will not open.

                 2. You have plugged your USB into the dongle on the desk (shown below) – NOT into the computer itself. dongle.jpg

ScanPro USB dongle



                  3. You have told the scanner to save to your USB (or it will default-save to the computer and be very difficult for staff to retrieve)


When done with your microfilm:

When you are finished with your reel, pull the tray forward again.  This will allow you to ‘speed’ rewind.  Then remove the rewound reel and return it to its box.  We ask that researchers refrain from refiling their own microfilm reels, but instead place them on the cart provided.  Staff will refile microfilm reels to ensure they are returned to their correct locations.

The home front directed factory production, agricultural output, and local community energies to the war effort in World War I. President Woodrow Wilson stated that ‘it is not only an army we must shape and train, but also a nation.’ National sentiment leaned mostly to isolation, but by 1917, the U.S. became increasingly involved overseas, culminating in its war declaration in April 1917. Local, regional energies and dozens of civilian and government committees were formed to contribute to the war effort. Communities saw it as a point of patriotic pride by ingratiating themselves with home front activities.


Alongside the Council on National Defense, women's groups were pivotal in orchestrating home front activities. The Women’s Land Army of America placed thousands of volunteers on farms and ranches to compensate for the loss of labor. Thousands volunteered for the Red Cross and the Women's Committee, whose primary goal was registering member’s skills and directing food donations. The Woman's Committee worked in conjunction with the US Food Administration and its director, future US President Herbert Hoover. Woman's Committee chapters operated locally, orchestrating food drives and agricultural practices in their community. Local food production was essential and securing enough for the armed services meant coming up with creative solutions at home that would not put additional pressure on the economy.


womens committee cnd.jpg

(Meeting of the Woman's Committee with Council on National Defense, April 1918, )


One focus of the Woman's Committee was to educate children and participating in school activities. These primarily included teaching children how to start a local garden, run food drives, and taught them how to can food. Each of these taught children and their families how they could save and preserve their food supply. This allowed people to conserve and stretch their groceries further, which in turn a meant less food consumption. The Anti-Waste Campaign by the Food Administration collaborated with numerous local organizations to streamline the available food supply that was donated for the war effort and cut down on unnecessary food waste.

anti waste.jpg

(Firemen and members of the Community Canning Centre canning corn with the Food Administration, September 1917, )


Former NAWSA President Dr. Anna Howard Shaw was appointed Chairman of the  Woman's Committee and her connections with women's suffrage groups proved critical in coordinating home front logistics and having a ready supply of volunteers. Dr. Shaw’s efforts awarded her the Distinguished Service Medal, the first woman to receive the award. These interactions were not without some disagreements and compromises though. During the war, women's suffrage activism was largely suspended in order to support the war effort; suffrage organizations who participated in home front work received widespread acclaim during the war that later played a critical role in passage of the 19th Amendment.

dr anna howard shaw.jpg

(Dr. Anna Howard Shaw, former President of NAWSA and Chairman of the Woman's Committee of the Council of National Defense, circa 1918, )


Womens organizations in World War I played a crucial role on the home front and integrated the war effort into every community and home. Their grassroots organization and volunteer efforts were all a pivotal component of the United States' home front effort to secure victory for Allied forces in the Great War.

Noticed anything new about the Microfilm Research Room lately? This spring, we took care of some housekeeping, checked (and re-checked) our open access holdings, and gave the room a total overhaul!  So head on up to the fourth floor of our College Park facility (A2) and check it out!


Following up on multiple researcher comments and requests, we’ve moved around the Microfilm readers to allow researchers to have more desk space while using them, and shifted the finding aid shelves to make them more convenient to use (again – more desk space!).  We’ve also got new, adjustable chairs to go along with the new, higher desks .


The Finding Aid shelves, now on the opposite wall



We’ve also fully re-numbered and re-labeled the Microfilm cabinets. This ties in with the newly updated Microfilm locator.  The physical locations of microfilm series within the room have, for the most part, not changed, but to be on the safe side you should still double-check the locator. We ask that researchers refrain from refiling their own microfilm reels, but instead place them on the black cart provided.  Staff will refile microfilm reels to ensure they are returned to their correct locations.



One of two carts for returning microfilm reels



Another new change to Microfilm has to do with the fact that we are entering the summer busy season here at NARA. The increase in researchers is particularly noticeable in the Microfilm Research Room, as we only have 14 Microfilm readers (2 for scanning to USB, 5 for printing, and an additional 7 for viewing/taking notes/photographs).


In an effort to ensure that all researchers may have access to the types of readers they need to use, we ask that upon entering the Microfilm Research Room, researchers sign up for a reader time slot based on their particular microfilm reader needs (i.e. if you plan to only use a digital camera, please sign up for a viewer-only machine, not a scanning or printing machine).



The Sign-Up Sheets for Printing and Viewing Microfilm Readers

These time slots are for 45 minutes, and you may only sign up for one slot at a time.  As it gets close to the end of a time slot, you may check to see if the next slot is empty and if it is, sign up for the next slot. However, if someone has signed up after you, you will need to move to another reader (if available) or wait until the next open slot.  You may not sign up for multiple slots at one time.

This is the same policy we have with our two USB-scanning microfilm readers year-round.



The Sign -Up Sheets for the Scanning Microfilm Readers

Again, this is to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to view their documents and reproduce them as necessary, particularly for those researchers who may only be visiting us for a short while.




Coming soon:  A #ResearcherProTip post on microfilm tips and how-to’s, so you can maximize your effectiveness when using a technology that dates back to the nineteenth century ;-)

    If you’re a regular visitor to the History Hub, you’ll notice frequent suggestions to contact a particular reference office at the National Archives. As you can imagine, since the vast majority of the National Archives’ holdings are not available online, reference archivists are your gateway to the holdings of the National Archives, and reference requests are the keys. By the end of this post, the reference request process should be thoroughly demystified so that you can request with confidence!


    (If you’re interested in locating military personnel records, that’s a different process that this blog won’t cover. The National Archives has forms and guidance for requesting veterans’ records available online on NARA’s “Veterans' Service Records” page.)


    The most important thing any researcher can do is to start the request process by doing their due diligence- search the National Archives Catalog or check to see if books or articles on your topic cite National Archives sources. Is there a NARA blog post or Prologue article that talks about your subject? We’ve also provided some additional links at the bottom of this page that may be useful in starting your research. NARA resources will include contact information for the specific reference office responsible for the records in question. And of course, the History Hub is a great place to ask for help if you’re lost or overwhelmed!


    As you’re doing research, an essential question to consider is “How does my topic relate to the records of the U.S. government?  What federal entity would have been involved or interested?” For example: the National Archives generally does not hold vital records because they are usually created and held by local authorities. However, the National Archives may have records of the combat death of a soldier, or marriage records included in an immigration application. The difference is that these documents were created or collected as part of a function of the US federal government. This can be a helpful guide to narrow down specific agencies or record groups to search for your topic.


    Once you’ve done your research, checked the catalog, and determined what kinds of records you’re interested in, it’s time to write your request. Your reference request should be clear, concise, and specific about what information you are seeking. (See below for examples of specific information that may be required to locate records. Include the agencies involved in your request.)  Provide as much information as you know; federal organizations all maintain their records differently, so multiple types of information may be necessary to find records.  Keep in mind that archivists only have a limited amount of time to search for records and respond to requests, so tailor your request to give them the information they need.



Here are some basic guidelines for what to include:



Information to include if you’re researching an individual or doing genealogical research:

-Name of the individual

-Birth/death dates

-Relevant locations

-If military- branch of service, unit, service dates

-Federal agency or government organization that would have records relating to this person

Information to include if you’re researching a topic or an event:


-Locations and timeframes

-Organizations or federal agencies involved

-Names of relevant individuals (including the information listed above)


Information to include if you’re researching in a court case:

-The location of the federal or District of Columbia court where the case was filed

-Any case-related identifiers (plaintiff, defendant, case number, etc.)

-The year of the case or a general time frame



Records of the National Archives and Records Administration, NAID 29011058         



    If you think the records are located in a specific record group or entry, be sure to include that in your request, as well as the National Archival Identifier (NAID) from any catalog entries that you think are relevant. Why you need the information (e.g., for a VA claim) can be useful information for the archivist as well. It’s also extremely helpful to include resources and institutions you’ve already consulted.


   Once your request is submitted, expect it to take at least a few weeks to a month for archivists to research your request and send you a response. You may get a reply that the archivist was unable to find records that are responsive to your request, or that your topic would require extensive research, which needs to be done in person (either by you or someone researching on your behalf).  But, hopefully, the response will be that records were found that relate to your request! If that is the case, your response will include a price quote for reproduction fees (for more information, check out NARA’s reproduction fee schedule) and instructions for ordering copies of the records.


    These are the basics of the reference request process- for a more in-depth guide to doing research using the records of the National Archives, check out this Getting Started Overview. The National Archives also has several more specialized guides to doing research and requesting records on


Helpful National Archives Links

-National Archives FAQs

-NARA’s research topic guide

-NARA’s guide to military records

-NARA’s guide to genealogy research

-NARA’s guide to federal court records

-NARA’s guide to presidential records

-NARA’s guide to microfilm records

-NARA’s guide to FOIA requests


Happy researching!

I cringe every time I hear a story about a researcher spending money to travel to a National Archives facility only to find out the records they seek aren’t at that location, are unavailable for research, or that the reference staff are unable to assist the research in the short travel window they have available. This is a very frustrating scenario but it is easily avoidable by following two easy steps: searching the National Archives Catalog and then contacting us. Below I detail these steps you should take before arriving at one of our facilities to conduct research.


Search the National Archives Catalog

Go to the National Archives Catalog and search what you’re looking for. If you’re having trouble finding relevant results, try narrowing your search with the refine options on the left side of the screen or by conducting an advanced search. If you have any questions about how to use the Catalog, please contact the National Archives Catalog staff.


Once you’ve found records that interest you and you decide you have to come to a National Archives facility to view them, first confirm their availability by checking their Access Restriction(s) under “Details.” If “Unrestricted,” you should be able to view the records without issue. If “Restricted - Possibly,” “Restricted - Partly,” or “Restricted - Fully” then you may be unable to view them.


If you are interested in coming to view those records, bookmark the URL or note the National Archives Identifier (NAID) of the records. This will come in handy in the next step when you contact us.


Contact Us

Regardless of the Access Restriction(s) please contact the reference unit listed in the Catalog description under “Archives Copies.” It is very important that you contact us three or more weeks before any planned visit to give the reference staff enough time to do appropriate investigation and preparation. Some records are even stored offsite and require transfer to the research facility. If you don’t give them this time, they may be unable to help you when you arrive.


Reference staff will be able to inform you of the availability of the records and possibly prepare them for your visit if available for research. Give them either the URL you bookmarked or the NAID you recorded. Please note, not all facilities will prepare records in advance of your visit.


Even if you don’t find anything of interest, contact us. If you know which facility you need to contact, contact them directly (list of locations with contact information here). If you are unsure of which facility might hold records relevant to your interest, use the general contact us form. It’s possible the records you seek haven’t been described yet, or weren’t described in a way that corresponded to the keywords you entered in your search. A reference archivist will be able to help you further. Also, be sure to check our FAQs for answers to some of our most commonly asked questions.

Are you researching a topic related to environmental studies? If so, you can find many useful resources among these collections at the National Archives. Listed here are some of the many record groups that provide information about environmental issues.



Many state, local, and private archives also contain records that document important information about the environment. The National Archives’ National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has provided grants to several such institutions, and the collections those organizations have digitized are now freely available online. Two examples include:


  • The Aldo Leopold Foundation and the University Archives of the University of Wisconsin, Madison have digitized the papers of 20th century ecologist and philosopher Aldo Leopold. As they note on their website, “Aldo Leopold is considered by many to have been the most influential conservation thinker of the 20th Century. Leopold’s legacy spans the disciplines of forestry, wildlife management, conservation biology, sustainable agriculture, restoration ecology, private land management, environmental history, literature, education, esthetics, and ethics. He is most widely known as the author of A Sand County Almanac, one of the most beloved and respected books about the environment ever published. The Leopold Collection houses the raw materials that document not only Leopold’s rise to prominence but the history of conservation and the emergence of the field of ecology from the early 1900s until his death in 1948.” You can view the collection and find out more about Aldo Leopold here: Aldo Leopold Archives – UW Digital Collections


  • The University of Florida has digitized material several “archival collections related to the exploration, development, and conservation of the Everglades between 1879-1929. These collections include materials from two Florida governors who wanted to develop the swampy region, a governor's wife who advocated conservation of certain regions, and several individuals associated with development. Together, the approximately 100,000 pages in the collections document the vibrant turn-of-the-century debate about what to do with these lands that appeared useless and dangerous.” To browse the collection, visit: UFDC Home - America's Swamp: the Historical Everglades 


For more information about other NHPRC digitization grant projects, see:

     Food is essential to life and civilization. Countless struggles and conflicts can be traced to the availability and access to food, making it an absolute necessity. In war, the logistics required to feed the armed forces was a Herculean effort with impacts resonating from the government down to the local level. During World War I, the rationing of specific food stuffs and commodities were central to helping procure the necessary wartime materials. Unlike World War II however, ration stamps were not distributed, but instead, private individuals and volunteer organizations lead a grassroots campaign to reduce pressure on the national food supply. Here was the rise of some of the country’s first ‘victory gardens.’


            Charles Lathrop Pack, a businessman from Michigan, conceived of the idea of how to compensate the loss of manual labor recruited from agriculture while not putting additional pressure on the industry. Food production in Europe had essentially halted with the war and the United States was one of the few remaining industrial agricultural nations capable of the mass-production of foodstuffs. Pack believed that by having people cultivate their own gardens, it would prevent already stressed farms from having to replenish the rapidly decreasing food supply. In March 1917, Pack established the National War Garden Commission which embarked on a national campaign encouraging and educating people on the importance and function of maintaining a wartime garden. The fruits and vegetables they harvested would allow the government to ship more supplies overseas. Simultaneously, federal agencies such as the U.S. Food Administration oversaw the collection, shipment, and distribution of supplies from the United States to Europe.  Food Administrator and future U.S. President Herbert Hoover heavily promoted targeted campaigns to help reduce the reliance on foodstuffs sorely needed by the AEF; campaigns like ‘Meatless Meals’ and ‘Wheatless Wednesday’ deterred people from using so they could be donated to the Food Administration.



          (Charles Lathrop Pack speaking to the Champion War Gardeners and Canners in Bryant Park, Food Administration, Campaign, )


            Coinciding with these food programs, volunteer organizations assisted parts of the agricultural industry to help relieve the stress they endured with much of the labor force now overseas. A regional organization, the Women’s Land Army of America, trained and assigned volunteers to specific farms and ranches to help bolster the workforce. Nominally referred to as ‘farmettes’ volunteers consisted mostly of students, teachers, clerks, and other white collar workers who never worked on farms before. They were trained in agricultural basics and by 1918, they employed over 20,000 women. While not receiving any government assistance, they were supported by members of the Progressive Movement, like Theodore Roosevelt and President Woodrow Wilson and received much of their funding through university non-profits.




                              (Women's Land Army of America unit working the onion harvest at Erie College in Painesville Ohio, )


            Victory gardens sprang up all over the country and even after the war ended, they remained as community gardens. By the outbreak of World War II, the victory garden practice re-emerged and people again relied on each other to make sure soldiers and neighbors had enough food to win the war.

     The mobilization of European armies in the opening months of World War I revealed the sheer size that the war would take. Armies numbering hundreds of thousands with the latest military technology were about to clash across Europe. As the United States witnessed these unfolding events, a small group of military officers, politicians, and other affluent individuals took to the public with a dire message; the US military was woefully ill prepared to defend itself, much less mount an expeditionary force to France. This push to improve the readiness of the US military including training and mandatory service was named the Preparedness Movement. Notables such as former Chief-of-Staff General Leonard Wood and former President Theodore Roosevelt argued that the US Army lacked the manpower, infrastructure, and sufficient training for defense. Former Secretaries of War Elihu Root and Henry Stimson publicly advocated for an increase in military spending and officer training schools. This enthusiasm for bolstering national defense was matched by a strong opposition. President Woodrow Wilson advocated for an armed neutrality rather than increase military spending.


     The Preparedness Movement initially gained traction with prominent industrialists and politicians who believed in mediating international affairs via strong military. The internationalism focus ran counter to isolationist groups who not only wanted to remain neutral, but claimed that some Preparedness Movement proposals would resemble European armies they wanted to avoid, e.g. Germany. This situation gradually changed in 1915 and 1916 with two events; the Pancho Villa raid across the US-Mexico border and the sinking of the Lusitania. US national defense was tested, showing how the military faced numerous obstacles in ensuring their protection. Wilson and his Cabinet embarked on implementing a few of the programs supported by the Preparedness Movement, including a larger navy. By June 1916, Congress passed then National Defense Act which expanded the Army and National Guard and implemented the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). With passage of the NDA, the Preparedness Movement achieved much of its objectives and dissipated.


     While controversial in its time, the Preparedness Movement pushed for the military readiness its members believed was crucial to ensure their protection and intervene abroad.




        (Woodrow Wilson in a Preparedness Parade in Washington D.C., June 1916, )

     Securing lines of communication are vital in every war and on every battlefield. If the enemy broke this security, they can quickly learn of impending attacks, logistical situations, and thwart their opponents at every opportunity. In World War I, German radio operators and code-breakers were adept in their monitoring and deciphering of enemy communications. Fortunately for the American Expeditionary Force, they discovered a valuable asset that pioneered an innovative and wholly North American trait in their military communications: Native American code-talkers.


                Choctaw Indians serving in France regularly spoke in their native languages within their group. One day, Colonel A.W. Bloor of the 142nd Infantry Regiment heard a conversation and realized something extraordinary; the Germans would have an arduous time trying to decipher messages if they were encoded in Choctaw. Native American languages possess uniqueness in that they are not typically written down and were relatively unknown to Europeans. Colonel Bloor decided to utilize these Choctaw soldiers in developing a military code using their specific dialects. An obstacle to this however was much of the US military vocabulary did not have a corresponding word in Choctaw dialects. This forced them to improvise certain words that related to their messages. Colonel Bloor described this process in a report to his commanding general’s headquarters:


It had been found that the Indian’s vocabulary of military terms was insufficient. The Indian word for “big gun” was used to indicate artillery. “Little gun shoot fast” was substituted for machine gun, and the battalions were indicated by “one, two, three grains of corn.”’


(You can read the entire report here on the National Archives Catalog:


Following training periods for developing a standardized Native American code, it was quickly implemented and Colonel Bloor noticed instantaneous results. German code-breakers who routinely decipher American messages were soon stumped by the innovative use of Choctaw dialects. Repeated surprises by AEF assaults seemed to confirm that the Germans could not understand the new Native American code-talkers. Captured German soldiers later stated that the use of Native American languages had completely confused them and they could not gain any useful information out of them.


                Despite their achievements in France, the Choctaw code-talkers were largely forgotten after the end of the war. The prominence of Navajo code-talkers in World War II overshadowed much of the Choctaw’s former accomplishments in encoding military messages. In the 1980s, they received posthumous honors from both the Choctaw Nation and France for their contributions and in 2008, President George Bush signed the Code Talkers Recognition Act which posthumously awarded every code-talker a Congressional Gold Medal.



     In World War I, the Meuse-Argonne was the scene of bloody fighting inflicted and sustained by the American Expeditionary Forces in France. Nearly two hundred-thousand casualties were suffered by the Allies, making it one of the deadliest battles ever fought by American soldiers. Shining through the fighting were courageous acts of bravery, valor, and sacrifice by those saving their comrades and leading troops against deadly odds. One of the most well-known of these heroes was Alvin Cullum York of Tennessee. During the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, Corporal York approached a German machine gun emplacement and killed its crew, survived a German bayonet charge, and captured 132 enemy soldiers, including the commanding lieutenant. His actions merited an immediate promotion to Sergeant and the Distinguished Service Cross. Later after an official review, the DSC was upgraded to the Medal of Honor, awarded personally by General John J. Pershing.  The international attention earned him a celebrity status following the war and became known by his sobriquet, Sergeant York.


     Alvin York did not imagine the acclaim he received after returning from France. After all, he initially registered as a conscientious objector. York was brought up in a devoutly religious family and belonged to the Church of Christ in Christian Union denomination (CCCU) which forbade the use of violence. The Selective Service Act of 1917 required all able bodied men after the age of 21 to register for the draft and when York’s claim for CO status was denied, he appealed this decision on religious grounds. Conscientious objectors were not wholly exempt from military service in 1917 however as they were normally given non-combat assignments. When training began at Camp Gordon, Georgia, York routinely felt conflicted between his military duty and religious conscience on pacifism. Two of his commanding officers, Capt. Edward C.B. Danforth and Major G. Edward Buxton argued that his religious beliefs didn’t conflict with his duties as a soldier, citing Bible verses which eventually convinced York that his military service wouldn’t force him to compromise his morality. York was assigned to the 328th Infantry Regiment, 82nd Division and saw his first combat during the St. Mihiel Offensive. On October 8, 1918, Cpl. York led the charge on Hill 233 in the Meuse-Argonne that catapulted him to international renown and earned him the Medal of Honor.


     Following his homecoming, York immediately went back to work in his home state. In the 1920s, he founded the Alvin C. York Foundation for the purpose of providing educational and agricultural training for students in Tennessee (the agricultural school established by the foundation in 1926 now exists as a state operated high school, the Alvin C. York Institute). During the Great Depression, he joined the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1935 and oversaw the construction of the Cumberland Mountain State Park. When the United States entered World War II, he re-enlisted, but because he suffered from a myriad of health issues, he was not given a combat assignment. Instead, York was commissioned as a Major in the Army Signal Corps and inspected training camps during the war. Alvin York continued to campaign for proper education and training for everyone and on September 2, 1964, he died at the Nashville Veterans Hospital.


     Alvin York never lost his religious conviction while in the Meuse-Argonne and when asked by his brigade commander General Julian Lindsey what happened, he replied “A higher power than man guided and watched over me and told me what to do.”

   york-l (1).jpg

(Alvin York's draft card, World War I Selective Service Draft Registration Card, National Archives at Atlanta, note on Question 12 asking '               do you claim exemption from draft (specify grounds)' York answers 'yes, don't want to fight.')

Are you researching a topic related to business, trade, patents, advertising, etc.? If so, then you’ll find many useful resources at the National Archives. Some of our record groups and series that relate to these topics include:









Beyond the available federal records, though, there may be records held at the state or local level or held at a private institution that prove useful to your research. The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) | National Archives has awarded digitization grants to several organizations across the United States that hold such records, and many of those digital collections are available online for researchers to use freely.


Here are some of the digital collections related to business, trade, patents, and advertising in America that were made possible by NHPRC grant funding:


  • The California State Archives has digitized its collection of “Trademark Registrations and Specimens, Old Series, 1861-1900.” Some examples from the collection include: “Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, early California wineries' bottle labels, Kentucky bourbon distilleries labels, 19th century medicines and tonics, and the original trademark registered to Anheuser Busch for its Budweiser lager.” To read more about the project and to browse the scanned images, visit their website:


  • The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History (AARL), which is part of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System (AFPLS) worked with the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG), in order to digitize some of their collections that “document the role of African Americans in the development of educational institutions during a pivotal time in the history of race relations in the United States (1860 - 1950).” The records are primarily organizational and personal papers, and include advertisements, articles, broadsides, catalogs, ephemera, invitations, journals, leaflets, correspondence, photographs, and programs.” To find out more, visit their website:


  • Duke University digitized thousands of photographs and slides to add to their ROAD (Resource of Outdoor Advertising Description) database. The images are primarily of billboards, and they “document changes not only in advertising but also in the American landscape.” Check out the collection here:




For more information about digital projects funded by the NHPRC's digitization grants, see these posts:

Records about American Cities - Digitization Projects Funded by the NHPRC

Civil War Records - Digitization Projects Supported by the NHPRC

Digitization Projects Made Possible by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC)