The Barefoot Photographer®

a photography blog

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A Trip to the National Archives

A couple weeks ago I attended a meeting at the National Archives southeast location near the campus of Clayton State University in Morrow.  The archives is home to many photographs and documents that are of interest to historians and genealogists.  After this visit (for a non-related topic) I contacted the archives using the link at their website.  The website had genealogy workshop information and I was interested in what was coming up – like I have time to do anything else!  When I emailed I also mentioned my photography skills, website, and asked if they were intereste d in having any photography workshops.  This email led to a meeting, and more.  The archives is hosting a holiday shopping day on Wednesday, November 28, from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  The shopping day will include many items – books, preservation supplies, copies of documents and more.  There will be a demo of 'ordering online' – an online feature for ordering reproductions of National Archives microfilm and other records.

The southeast region location is home to 24 million World War I draft cards.  Here is a link to some famous names found in that collection: 

In this list you will find Louis Armstrong, Ty Cobb, Douglas Fairbanks, Oscar Hammerstein, Duncan Hines, Harry Houdini, JC Penney, Babe Ruth and more.  Clicking on a link (the name) will show an image of the actual draft card, front and back.  The card for Harry Handcuff Houdini (yes it says his middle name is Handcuff) shows his occupation as an "actor manager film factory."  He was living in New York City and working in Hoboken, New Jersey.  His wife is named Beatrice Houdini – no interesting middle name for her.  Handcuff, as his friends would call him (no – not true – but it is funny), had blue eyes, black hair and was of medium height and build.  A very interesting thing to note that is written on his card – especially from someone known to get out of handcuffs, straight jackets and other types of confinement – he had a weak left hand.  Sinclair Lewis had to have a second card prepared for him – it seemed typed up by his publisher.  Mr. Lewis had red hair, gray eyes, and was a member of the Socialist Party (this part is not on the card, I just happen to know it).  Knowing his political affiliation it makes me wonder what had been on the first draft card and why it had to be replaced.  Oh, and Babe Ruth – his place of employment was Fenway Park and he listed his build as medium – ummm, I think I would have put him in the stout category – but maybe in June of 1917 he was still a medium.

There is an interesting exhibit of photos at the archives right now through November 17.  This exhibit is titled "The Great Nation Will Endure":  Photographs of the Great Depression.  The exhibit contains over 150 images taken between 1935 and 1942.  Some of the photographers on display are Dorothea Lange, Jack Delano, Gordon Parks, and Marion Post Wolcott.  As I toured this exhibit with Mary Tomlin, Public Programs Specialist, we talked about the despair seen on the faces of the people in the photos, their clothing, unclean conditions and how thin they were.  She led me to the one photo showing a person smiling.  It was a man, shirtless, sitting, and smiling at the camera.  A fresh tattoo on his arm showed his Social Security Number. 

On November 28, the shopping day, I will have a short workshop on how to make your Christmas Tree a "Family Tree."  For the past 6 years my Christmas Tree has been decorated with photos of family only.  The first year it was a big job – collecting the photos I wanted to use, scanning or photographing them to get them on the computer, sizing and printing to fit all the little frames I kept buying at Hobby Lobby – whew!  Now, each year I usually add a few photos as I find and collect more.  I think some of the oldest photos on the tree may be of my husband's great, great grandparents (the grandfather in the photo was an officer in the Civil War).  Another old photo is one of my great, great grandfathers –&n bsp;he received a land grant for service during the War of 1812.  The photos show family members, home places, and reunions all the way up to my children with their cousins at a rehearsal dinner a couple years ago.  I have the photos numbered on the back and a hand-written list of who is in what photo and what year it was taken (some of those years are very approximate).  When I met with Mary at the archives building last week – she had a great idea of adding photos of documents to the tree as well.  I found online the World War I draft cards for a couple ancestors and the World War II cards for others – those may be some of the first documents I add to my tree. 

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