Epic History

Exploring American history, one epic record from the National Archives at a time

Run by the Foundation for the National Archives
Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury! Born August 22, 1920, as a celebrated science fiction and fantasy author, Bradbury became an icon of 20th-century literature.
Upon graduating from high school during the Great Depression, he didn’t have the money to attend college, so he relied heavily on public libraries to satisfy his desire to read, and eventually write. In 1951, Bradbury rented a typewriter at UCLA’s Powell Library and wrote 25,000 words of a story called ‘The Fireman.’ His total cost ended up being $9.80, since the fee to rent the typewriter was twenty cents per hour. Two years later, that story would be expanded and published as ‘Fahrenheit 451.’

Ten years ago, Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts, the highest recognition given for achievement in the arts, from President George W. Bush, as seen here.

Happy birthday, Ray Bradbury! Born August 22, 1920, as a celebrated science fiction and fantasy author, Bradbury became an icon of 20th-century literature.

Upon graduating from high school during the Great Depression, he didn’t have the money to attend college, so he relied heavily on public libraries to satisfy his desire to read, and eventually write. In 1951, Bradbury rented a typewriter at UCLA’s Powell Library and wrote 25,000 words of a story called ‘The Fireman.’ His total cost ended up being $9.80, since the fee to rent the typewriter was twenty cents per hour. Two years later, that story would be expanded and published as ‘Fahrenheit 451.’

Ten years ago, Bradbury received the National Medal of Arts, the highest recognition given for achievement in the arts, from President George W. Bush, as seen here.

In the late summer of 1988, the forest in Yellowstone National Park was ravaged by the worst wildfire in the park’s history. Starting as a number of small “contained” fires in the early summer months, the blazes were whipped into a massive conflagration by unusually strong winds and fed on drought-stricken trees.

At its peak, over 9,000 firefighters, including more than 4,000 U.S. military personnel, worked to combat the fire. Only the cool, wet weather of late autumn brought relief, but not before 793,880 acres, or 36 percent of the park, were damaged. Today, the park continues to recover from the devastating effects of this fire.

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Show us how you make your mark on fashion! In celebration of the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” exhibit and the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are offering one stylish history fan the chance to win a VIP prize package.
Submit a photo of your own #SignatureStyle  at archivesfoundation.org/signaturestyle to enter to win 2 tickets to DC Fashion Week Opening Night at the National Archives, 2 VIP reserved seats to “First Ladies Fashion” with Tim Gunn at the National Archives, and a year-long membership for two in the Foundation’s Young Founders Society!
Submissions will be accepted through 11:59pm EST on September 1, and the top 10 entries will be posted on Facebook and Tumblr on September 2 for public voting. The winner will be chosen by cumulative likes on Facebook and notes on Tumblr, and announced when voting closes on September 17!
For full rules and regulations, go to archivesfoundation.org/signaturestyle

Show us how you make your mark on fashion! In celebration of the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” exhibit and the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are offering one stylish history fan the chance to win a VIP prize package.

Submit a photo of your own #SignatureStyle  at archivesfoundation.org/signaturestyle to enter to win 2 tickets to DC Fashion Week Opening Night at the National Archives, 2 VIP reserved seats to “First Ladies Fashion” with Tim Gunn at the National Archives, and a year-long membership for two in the Foundation’s Young Founders Society!

Submissions will be accepted through 11:59pm EST on September 1, and the top 10 entries will be posted on Facebook and Tumblr on September 2 for public voting. The winner will be chosen by cumulative likes on Facebook and notes on Tumblr, and announced when voting closes on September 17!

For full rules and regulations, go to archivesfoundation.org/signaturestyle

Happy National Aviation Day - and Orville Wright’s birthday! Born August 19, 1871, Orville and his brother Wilbur invented and built the world’s first successful airplane, which they tested and flew themselves.
In 1903, the Wright brothers filed a patent for their flying machine, which came to the National Archives as part of the records of the Patent and Trademark Office some years later. However, since then, the patent has gone missing. Learn more about lost and stolen documents, and how you can help.
Image: “The Wright Brothers test fly their aircraft on Fort Myer’s parade field. This series of test flights resulted in the Army purchasing its first aircraft. In the first flight, Sept. 9, 1908, Orville Wright kept the plane aloft 71 seconds. The second flight resulted in a crash that left Wright severely cut and bruised and his passenger, Army LT. Thomas Selfridge dead — the first powered-aviation fatality. (Exact date shot UNKNOWN), 09/08/1909”

Happy National Aviation Day - and Orville Wright’s birthday! Born August 19, 1871, Orville and his brother Wilbur invented and built the world’s first successful airplane, which they tested and flew themselves.

In 1903, the Wright brothers filed a patent for their flying machine, which came to the National Archives as part of the records of the Patent and Trademark Office some years later. However, since then, the patent has gone missing. Learn more about lost and stolen documents, and how you can help.

Image: “The Wright Brothers test fly their aircraft on Fort Myer’s parade field. This series of test flights resulted in the Army purchasing its first aircraft. In the first flight, Sept. 9, 1908, Orville Wright kept the plane aloft 71 seconds. The second flight resulted in a crash that left Wright severely cut and bruised and his passenger, Army LT. Thomas Selfridge dead — the first powered-aviation fatality. (Exact date shot UNKNOWN), 09/08/1909

100 years ago today, the Panama Canal officially opened, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for maritime traffic. The ambitious project of creating a 48-mile-long canal took many years and cost thousands of lives. France began the project in 1881, but had to stop due to engineering problems and rampant disease. The United States took over in 1904, and finally completed it a decade later. The Canal greatly reduced transit time between the oceans, from weeks to hours. The U.S. War Department steamship Ancon made the first passage through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914, and the Canal is still in use today. Image: "Open for Business, 08/15/1914" by Clifford Berryman

100 years ago today, the Panama Canal officially opened, connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans for maritime traffic.

The ambitious project of creating a 48-mile-long canal took many years and cost thousands of lives. France began the project in 1881, but had to stop due to engineering problems and rampant disease. The United States took over in 1904, and finally completed it a decade later.

The Canal greatly reduced transit time between the oceans, from weeks to hours. The U.S. War Department steamship Ancon made the first passage through the Panama Canal on August 15, 1914, and the Canal is still in use today.

Image: "Open for Business, 08/15/1914" by Clifford Berryman

Freedom Summer or the Mississippi Summer Project was a time of great intrigue and courage.  Black and White Americans who witnessed the horrors of Jim Crow, attempted to change America for the better.  Freedom Summer is primarily recognized by three key events: the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP); the establishment of Freedom Schools along with the registration of Black voters; and the brutal murder of three civil rights workers.

On June 21, 1964, three civil rights workers investigated the burning of a Black church, where a civil rights rally took place days earlier.  James Chaney, 21 year-old Black Mississippi college student, and two White New Yorkers from the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Andrew Goodman, age 20 and Michael Schwerner, age 24 were arrested and placed in jail for “speeding” by the local police.  The men were released after dark into the hands of the Ku Klux Klan….

ourpresidents:

Lauren Bacall
September 16, 1924 - August 12, 2014
Today, we honor the singular Lauren Bacall, who died yesterday at the age of 89.  She was involved in one of the most infamous incidents of Harry S. Truman’s Vice-Presidency.
On February 10, 1945, Mr. Truman attended a stage show for servicemen at the Washington Press Club canteen, and sat down to play the piano. During his performance, someone boosted Ms. Bacall onto the top of the piano, and she sat there seductively while Mr. Truman played and photographers snapped away. Mrs. Truman was not amused.
-from the Truman Library 

ourpresidents:

Lauren Bacall

September 16, 1924 - August 12, 2014

Today, we honor the singular Lauren Bacall, who died yesterday at the age of 89.  She was involved in one of the most infamous incidents of Harry S. Truman’s Vice-Presidency.

On February 10, 1945, Mr. Truman attended a stage show for servicemen at the Washington Press Club canteen, and sat down to play the piano. During his performance, someone boosted Ms. Bacall onto the top of the piano, and she sat there seductively while Mr. Truman played and photographers snapped away. Mrs. Truman was not amused.

-from the Truman Library 

todaysdocument:

Robin Williams (1951-2014)

Actor, Comedian, Friend to the USO and the troops

Comedian and actor Robin Williams shakes hands with US Army (USA) CHIEF Warrant Office Two (WO2) Davis, 4th Infantry Division (ID) at Kirkuk Air Base (AB), Iraq (IRQ). Mr. Williams is in Kirkuk as part of the USO (United Service Organization) tour traveling through Southwest Asia with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of STAFF (JCS) during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, 12/17/2003

Robin Williams, a comedian and an actor, performs for troops during a United Services Organization (USO) visit at the Base Exchange at Camp Victory, Baghdad, Iraq, on Dec. 14, 2004. (USAF PHOTO by SENIOR AIRMAN Christopher A. Marasky) (Released), 12/14/2004

Actor/Comedian Robin Williams entertains the crew of US Navy (USN) ENTERPRISE CLASS: Aircraft Carrier, USS ENTERPRISE (CVN 65), during a holiday special hosted by the United Service Organization (USO), during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, 12/19/2003

Actor/Comedian Robin Williams (center) visits with Ohio (OH), Air National Guard (ANG) Technical Sergeant (TSGT), Chuck Juhasz, during his visit to the 39th Medical Group (MG), Hospital at Incirlik Air Base (AB), Turkey, during Operation NORTHERN WATCH. USAF Lieutenant Colonel (LTC) Jerome Limoge, Surgeon, 39th Medical Group looks on, 10/14/2002

 

How Eroni Kumana Changed the Course of History…with a coconut.

jfklibrary:

Eroni Kumana, one of two Solomon Islanders who saved the life of John F. Kennedy during World War II, died on Saturday at the age of 93.

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(Eroni Kumana in 2009. Robert Craigie/JFK Library)

On August 2, 1943, while on night patrol under 26-year-old Navy Lieutenant John F. Kennedy’s command, PT 109 was hit and sunk by a Japanese destroyer. Two crew members died instantly; eleven others eventually swam to a small island. Kennedy rescued a badly burned crew member by holding the man’s life jacket between his teeth and towing him to safety.

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(The crew of PT-109. John F. Kennedy is seen at far right. JFK Library)

Over the next three days, Kennedy and his surviving crew members drank the milk and ate the meat of coconuts while Kennedy swam for hours over sharp corals in shark-infested waters searching for friendly boats.

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(Lt. John F. Kennedy in the South Pacific, circa 1943/ John F. Kennedy Library Foundation)

On August 6th -71 years ago today- Lt. Kennedy encountered two native islanders, Eroni Kumana and Biuku Gasa, serving as scouts for the Allies. He etched a message—”NAURO ISL/NATIVE KNOWS POSIT/HE CAN PILOT/11 ALIVE/NEED SMALL BOAT/KENNEDY”— onto the husk of a coconut and asked the two scouts to deliver it to the nearest allied base. Kumana and Gasa’s successful mission led to the eventual rescue of Kennedy and his crew on August 8, 1943. 

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Seen above, the coconut with John F. Kennedy’s inscription was turned into a paperweight, which the President kept on his desk in the Oval Office.

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Sixty-five years later, speaking with an American visitor to the Solomon Islands,  Eroni Kumana requested that a highly prized family heirloom—a piece of “Shell Money” or “Kustom Money”—be  placed at the gravesite of his “Chief,” President Kennedy, as a formal tribute. Made by hand out of giant clam shells, “Kustom Money” was used for many purposes, including for honoring one’s chief.

On November 1, 2008, at a ceremony held at Arlington National Cemetery, members of President Kennedy’s family gathered to receive Kumana’s tribute which was placed on the grave.

 After remaining on the gravesite, the “kustom money” was conveyed to the Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum where it will now be displayed as part of the museum’s permanent exhibits next to the coconut shell that led to the rescue of JFK and his crew.

Happy birthday, Ralph Bunche! A diplomat and statesman who was instrumental in the formation of the United Nations, Dr. Bunche worked as a UN mediator in a number of strife-torn regions, and was the first African American to win the Nobel Peace Prize.

His most notable contribution towards peace in violent situations was his work in the late 1940s as the UN’s chief mediator to secure a settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, between the new state Israel and Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan (modern Jordan), Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen.

While the 1949 Armistice Agreements Bunche developed did not solve the underlying bitterness between the two groups, Bunche was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1950 for his efforts.

Bunche is seen here at the 1963 March on Washington (top), and at the Arab-Israeli armistice talks in 1949 (bottom). For more information on the second photo, see the description on DocsTeach.