Day 69: FDR Rides a Dirigible, 1918
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting president to ride in an airplane, an occasion marked by a very long overseas flight to attend the 1943 Casablanca conference. FDR’s distant cousin, Theodore, was the first president ever to fly, a trip that took place back in 1910 shortly after he had left the presidency.
FDR may have set an additional aviation first – we think he may have been the first president to fly on-board a dirigible airship (also known as a blimp or zeppelin)!
During World War I, serving as Assistant Secretary of the Navy, FDR traveled to Europe to inspect US Navy facilities. Several weeks into his trip, on August 17th, 1918 he visited a base in Paimboeuf, Western France where he was offered a ride aboard a French-built airship.
Considered too vulnerable for use on the front, airships were primarily used for scouting missions and mine clearance throughout Western Europe during the war. The use of airships later declined as airplane technology advanced and after several high profile accidents. FDR was serving his second term as president when the infamous Hindenburg crashed in New Jersey in 1937.
FDR writes about the flying experience in his log of the trip saying:
I tried my hand at running the lateral stearing[sic] gear and also the elevating and depressing gear. The sensation is distinctly curious, less noise than an areo.[sic] and far more feeling of drifting at the mercy of the wind.
Executive Order No. 2017, 8/8/1914
Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service
National Archives Identifier: 11036311
With this order, Woodrow Wilson gave the Treasury Department full authority of Customs Offices to help enforce neutrality laws dues to the conflict in Europe during World War I. It comes from a file about European war, German refugees, deportation of Italians, and alien deportations from 1914–1915. (via DocsTeach)
This document was recently digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2014 Summer Workshop in Washington, DC. The teachers found and described over 50 documents relating to operations at Ellis Island, public opinion about immigration, and immigration policy reforms.
Read more about their efforts at Education Updates » Teachers Digitize Immigration Documents in Washington, DC
Return from Vacation Summer 1914: Brand Whitlock in Belgium
When news of the assassination the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand reached Brand Whitlock at his villa in Bois-Fleuri, he rushed back to Brussels.
"Everyone’s Diplomat," U.S. Minister to Belgium Brand Whitlock
U.S. National Archives
Once war broke out, the most pressing duty in the early days was to care for the thousands of panicked and stranded U.S. citizens in Brussels and throughout Belgium now wishing to return to the United States. In an August 2, 1914 letter, Whitlock described the scene at the U.S. Embassy:
“It has been a day of exciting and terrible rumors, to which, however, we pay little attention, for we have been kept busy every minute by the Americans, of all sorts and conditions, who are pouring into Brussels from all over the Continent, in panic, demanding to know how they are to get home, many of them utterly helpless, so frightened are they: in many instances the women are calmer, braver than the men.”1
In addition to aiding stranded U.S. citizens, as representative of a neutral country, Whitlock took over embassy operations and the diplomatic affairs of several belligerent countries, including Britain, Germany, Denmark, Austria-Hungary, and Japan. Thus, U.S. diplomats in Belgium became everyone’s diplomats, working on behalf of citizens of each of these countries, many of whom were stranded and far from the protection of their own governments.
Whitlock’s visions of peace and quiet were shattered. According to one of Whitlock’s biographers, however, “writing was unimportant to Whitlock when human lives and dignity were in jeopardy, and he was once more the practical politician and dedicated humanist rather than the man of letters.”2 Torn from the peaceful solitude of his writing desk, Whitlock quickly rose to the challenges of wartime diplomacy.
Brand Whitlock and Allan Nevins, The Letters and Journal of Brand Whitlock (New York, London: D. Appleton-Century Company, Inc., 1936) Retrieved from http://www.ourstory.info/library/2-ww1/Whitlock/bwTC.html. ↩
David D. Anderson, Brand Whitlock (New York: Twayne Publishers, 1968), 84. ↩
James Montgomery Flagg (June 18, 1877 – May 27, 1960)
Illustrator James Montgomery Flagg, most famously known for his I Want YOU for the U.S. Army Uncle Sam recruitment poster, was born on June 18, 1877.
The “Human Squirrel” drops by to celebrate the 110th anniversary of Times Square and #SquirrelWeek!
The “Human Squirrel” who did many daring “stunts” in climbing for benefit of War Relief Funds in New York City. He is shown here at a dizzy height in Times Square. Times Photo Service., ca. 1918
Happy 110th Birthday, Times Square!
Originally named Longacre Square, it was officially renamed Times Square on April 8, 1904 in honor of the New York Times.
Snapshots of the “Crossroads of the World” from the 1910s, 1940s, 1970s, 1980s and 2000s:
- New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square., 08/14/1945. National Archives Identifier: 520697
- A view of the neon lights of Broadway. The United Services Organization (USO) GEN Douglas MacArthur Memorial Center, located in Times Square at 45th Street and Broadway…01/01/1983. National Archives Identifier: 6367334
- Peace rumor, New York. Crowd at Times Square holding up Extras telling about the signing of the Armistice. The Government report that the news was not true did not stop the celebration. National Archives Identifier: 533477
- TIMES SQUARE, 08/1973. National Archives Identifier: 554298
- Sailors attached to USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7) gather together for an impromptu group shot while on liberty in Times Square during Fleet Week 2002.05/22/2002. National Archives Identifier: 6640589
- V-J Day in New York City. Crowds gather in Times Square to celebrate the surrender of Japan., 08/15/1945. National Archives Identifier: 531350
Robert Frost: March 26, 1874 - January 29, 1963
Born 140 years ago today, iconic American poet Robert Frost’s World War I draft registration card is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
World War I Draft Registration Card for Robert Frost;
From the series: Draft Registration Cards, 1917 - 1918
Robert Frost Poster;
From the series: Propaganda Posters Distributed in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, ca. 1950 - ca. 1965
(H/T to queenslibrary for the reminder!)
Captain Harry Truman
Officers, 129th Field Artillery, at regimental headquarters at Chateau de Chanay near Courcemont, France, March 1919. Captain Harry Truman, second row, third from right.
From the series: Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754 - 1954
Letter from Hooper Alexander, U.S. Attorney, to the Attorney General, 3/15/1918
General Records of the Department of Justice. National Archives Identifier: 6120950
During World War I, espionage and sedition acts were adopted that resulted in nearly 1,000 convictions. The Espionage Act of June 15, 1917 defined espionage and, in section 12, denied the use of the mails to newspapers, periodicals, and other materials that were unpatriotic, critical, or treasonous. Many publications were scrutinized. Justice Department officials investigated The Finished Mystery, a pacifist book published by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and warned bookstores and newsstands in Atlanta against carrying it. On March 14, 1918, the Attorney General telegraphed Hooper Alexander, the U.S. Attorney for Atlanta, to enforce the book ban. Alexander replied the next day that he would give warning to any sellers who had copies of the book.
The “Hello Girls”
"American telephone girls on arrival for "hello" duty in France. They all can speak both English and French., 03/1918"
During World War I, over 400 women were enrolled in the U.S. Army Signal Corps to operate telephone* switchboards in France. Despite the sometimes hazardous conditions of their service, they were denied veterans status after the war ended. It would take 60 years until a bill was signed by President Carter granting them veterans status in 1978.
Read more about the “Hello Girls” at the Signal Corps “Regimental” History Site - The Hello Girls
* Today is also the anniversary of Alexander Graham Bell’s patent for “Improvements in Telegraphy”, aka the telephone.
Happy Birthday John Barrymore!
Stage and film actor John Barrymore was born on this day in 1882. He was 36 years old when he filled out this World War I Draft Registration card, and employed as an actor at the Plymouth Theatre in New York City.
World War I Draft Registration Card for John Blythe Barrymore
From the series: Draft Registration Cards 1917 - 1918
Female Factory Office Workers Volunteering to Pack Bandages for the American Red Cross, New Britain, Connecticut, 02/10/1919
From the series: American Unofficial Collection of World War I Photographs
On February 9, 1918, 90 year-old Civil War veteran Alexander Walter had to register—as an enemy alien:
Alexander Walter was also a Civil War veteran who lived in the National Military Home in Leavenworth, KS.
He was born May 18,1828, in Hanover, Germany. He had to fill out this registration form in 1918—at the age of 90.
After war was declared by Congress in April 1917, non-naturalized “enemy aliens” were required to register with the Department of Justice as a national security measure. A Presidential Proclamation of November 16, 1917, meant that “all natives, citizens, denizens or subjects of the German Empire” age 14 and older who were “within the United States” needed to register as “alien enemies.”
The National Archives at Kansas City has a collection of the Enemy Alien Registration Affidavits for the state of Kansas. These documents are full of valuable information for researchers.
To learn more, go to today’s post on the Pieces of History blog.
Women at work in a lumber yard, 1919:
"Labor. [African-American] women at work in lumber yards. [African-American] women, dressed in men’s clothes, lifting heavy pieces of lumber., 02/05/1919"
From the series: General Photographic File, from the Records of the Women’s Bureau