By Kayla Piper and Christopher Wills
You never know what you’ll find on a deep dive into the ALPLM’s collection.
The National Archives and Records Administration recently held an “archives hashtag party” on social media. It invited museums and libraries around the country to post material from their collections on the theme “Under the Sea.” That led us to take a look at some of the ALPLM’s holdings related to water. We thought you might enjoy seeing just a little bit of what we found.
This bucket, for instance, is a link to one of Americas best known naval commanders, Admiral David Farragut. The bucket was used to put out fires on Farragut’s flagship, the USS Hartford. Farragut led naval forces in the Battle of New Orleans and the Siege of Vicksburg, among other engagements. He is best remembered for shouting “Damn the torpedoes!” as he ordered ships forward despite danger during the Battle of Mobile Bay.
The Domain of the Golden Dragon is an unofficial award given to sailors who cross the International Date Line. This one went to Harold Jaeckle, who served on the SS Lew Wallace, a World War II “liberty ship” that carried troops. Other seagoing milestones include Northern Domain of the Polar Bear (for crossing the Artic Circle) and the Order of Magellan (for sailing around the world).
The USS Maine was commissioned in September of 1895 and operated for around two years before sinking in Cuba on February 15, 1898, after a mysterious explosion. Military tragedies often inspire songs, and the sinking of the Maine was no exception. This song tells of a woman whose fiancé was one of the 260 or so who died. “Strike down the cowardly fiends who slaughtered the crew,” it says. The cause of the accident was immediately debated, and a board of inquiry ruled the ship was sunk by a mine. This ruling exacerbated tensions between the US and Spain, and war soon broke out. Later studies concluded the explosion was caused by a fire in the ship's coal bunker.
"The Ship of State" was a campaign composed by E.W. Locke for the youth organization known as the Wide Awakes, which organized political events in support of Abraham Lincoln in 1860. The song describes America as a battered ship coming into port. "She carries now a sorry crew, and needs a new commander. Our Lincoln is the man," it says.
Scrapbooks sometimes provide human-scale glimpses of world-shaking events. A scrapbook kept by Morton Barker, a World War II U.S. Navy veteran, shows life aboard the World War II cargo ship USS Titania – from standing watch to visiting plenty of officers’ clubs. Morton Barker was born December 20, 1919, in Springfield, Ill. After his service, Morton Barker worked at Barker Lubin Co. specializing in land acquisition and financing new homes. He also served as a chairman of three different banks. Barker passed away September 24, 2005.
Shortly after she entered the service in 1907, the USS Minnesota started a circumnavigation of the globe as part of the "Great White Fleet." The fleet consisted of 16 battleships traveling around the world to showcase American sea power. The Minnesota later patrolled the coast of Mexico during the Mexican Revolution and was used to train naval personnel during World War I. At one point during the war, she was heavily damaged by a mine. The Minnesota was repaired and resumed training duties until she was decommissioned in 1921.
During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration published this and other posters encouraging Americans to change their diets. The goal was to stretch food further so more could be sent overseas for the war effort. Americans were told to go meatless and wheatless and to eat more corn and fish. Americans were also encouraged to plant victory gardens and to can fruits and vegetables. The poster was designed by Charles Livingston Bull, a top wildlife artist of his time.
Piper is an Illinois College student and intern at the ALPLM. Wills is the ALPLM communications director.