UFOs: Man-Made, Made Up, and Unknown

Today’s post comes from Joseph Gillette, an archivist on a cross-training assignment in the National Archives History Office. This is the last in a series concerning the Air Force’s Project Blue Book investigation. Part I addressed the challenges the National Archives faced in providing access to the records. Part II addressed general Air Force investigatory and analytical procedures, as well as sightings resolved as natural occurrences. This final part addresses sightings resulting from human causes . . . and a case still unidentified.

Swan Lake, NY, 1965

On September 27, 1965, a college student from New York City was in Swan Lake, NY, when he saw an unusual sight. Upon receiving the student’s report, Air Force investigators completed a standard survey form to collect basic information about the sighting and provide an initial possible explanation (to fulfill confidentiality agreements, personally identifiable information [PII] has been withheld):


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UFOs: Natural Explanations

Today’s post comes from Joseph Gillette, an archivist on a cross-training assignment in the National Archives History Office. This is the second in a series concerning the Air Force’s Project Blue Book investigation.


Close-up photo of UFO in Redlands, CA, 1958. (Records of Headquarters U.S. Air Force, National Archives)

From 1947 to 1970, the United States Air Force conducted investigations into the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout the United States. The purpose of the investigations was to assess the nature of these sightings and determine if they posed any potential threat to the U.S.

Three successive projects were created to carry out these investigations: Sign, Grudge, and Blue Book.

Blue Book was the longest and most comprehensive, lasting from 1952 to 1970. A 1966 Air Force publication gave insight into how the program was conducted:  Continue reading

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The Jefferson Memorial turns 75

On Friday, April 13, 2018, the memorial dedicated to Thomas Jefferson—our third President and principal author of the Declaration of Independence—turns 75.


The memorial’s architect, John Russell Pope (1874–1937), was also architect of the National Archives Building. While Pope lived long enough to see the opening of the Archives, he died before groundbreaking for the Jefferson Memorial had even commenced. His partners, Daniel P. Higgins and Otto R. Eggers, had to take over the memorial’s construction. Continue reading

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11 Bookmobiles that Make Archivists Want to Hit the Road

Librarians have different jobs than archivists. And the National Archives is not the Library of Congress (hi, neighbors!). But, librarians and archivists have a lot in common, and the Archivist of the United States had a long career as a librarian before crossing over to the other side of the stacks.

Like librarians, archivists love books–and we’d love to have any of these bookmobiles pull up in front of the National Archives Building on Pennsylvania Avenue. So until hipsters bring back the bookmobile (and we hope they do), get your mobile book fix from these historic photos.

Are you ready to join us? There’s plenty of room in our new Wanderbibliothek!


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INVASION! (of privacy)

Today’s post comes from Joseph Gillette, an archivist on a cross-training assignment with the National Archives History Office. It is part of a series concerning the Air Force’s Project Blue Book investigation.

Pages from RG341 NN-375-209

Offer of transfer of Air Force documentation related to Project Blue Book, March 31, 1975. (Records of Headquarters United States Air Force, National Archives)

In the mid-1970s, the National Archives prepared to absorb the records of the Air Force’s Project Blue Book, as well as its precursors, Project Sign and Project Grudge.

The purpose of these projects was to investigate the increasing number of unidentified flying object (UFO) sightings throughout America and determine their nature and any potential threat.

While Sign and Grudge were short-lived (1947–51), Blue Book lasted from 1952 to 1970. Meant to replace the previous projects, whose mandates and conclusions were considered tainted by predetermined bias, Blue Book was to investigate the UFO phenomenon with something approaching scientific rigor.

By the time Blue Book ended, America had gone through the tumult of the civil rights era and protests against the Vietnam War. Americans were increasingly skeptical of their government and, in particular, the military. Sensing the public’s mood, the Air Force was eager to release as much as possible from Blue Book.

Pages from RG341 NN-375-209-2

“Appraisal Report on Transfer Offer,” June 19, 1975. (Records of Headquarters United States Air Force, National Archives)

For the National Archives, ingesting and making publicly available such a collection of records created unique challenges. In particular, privacy agreements were typically included as part of the process of interviewing witnesses. The Air Force raised this issue in the initial offer of records.

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Betty Ford, Dancer

April 8, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of Betty Ford’s birth. Today’s post comes from Nikita Buley, a former intern at the National Archives. 

Betty Ford was known as a vivacious activist for women’s rights. What many don’t know is that she was also a talented modern dancer.

Betty Bloomer Warren dances in “Fantasy,” 1945. At this point in her life, she was married to her first husband, businessman William Warren. (National Archives Identifier 187012)

Born Elizabeth Bloomer, the future First Lady always knew she wanted to be a dancer. At age 8, Betty started taking classical ballet classes in her home town of Grand Rapids, Michigan. Continue reading

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Betty Ford Danced To Her Own Beat

We’re wrapping up Women’s History Month. Today’s post comes from Anayeli Nunez at the National Archives History Office.

Photograph 2

Betty Bloomer (second from right), likely at Bennington College Summer School of Dance, 1938. (National Archives Identifier 187011)

In 1987, Congress declared March National Women’s History MonthToday we use this month to honor women, from the suffragists of the 19th Amendment to today’s proud supporters of the #MeToo movement. 

It’s also a fitting time to look at the life of First Lady Betty Ford, a strong advocate for women’s rights whose 100-year birthday anniversary is April 8, 2018.

Before becoming the First Lady, Betty Ford was Elizabeth Anne Bloomer, a young woman from Chicago with a passion for dancing. Her love for the performing arts took her all the way to Carnegie Hall in New York City. Continue reading

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Play Ball!


President Theodore Roosevelt dodges “amendments” to the proposed Hepburn Rate Act, by Clifford Berryman, 5/12/1906. (National Archives Identifier 306091)

Opening day of baseball is upon us, and believe it or not, the National Archives is full of records related to America’s favorite pastime.

For instance, within the Records of the United States Senate at the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC, there is a large collection of original Clifford K. Berryman cartoons, including cartoons related to baseball.

Berryman, a political cartoonist for the Washington Post (1891–1907), then the Washington Evening Star (1907–1949), lived his entire adult live in Washington, DC.

He was an avid sports fan and loved to draw baseball—especially his hometown baseball team, the Washington Senators (or Nationals depending on the year). Continue reading

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Change at their fingertips: Women’s petitions to Congress

March is Women’s History Month. Today’s post comes from Melanie M. Griffin from the National Archives Education and Public Programs Office.

Rediscovery #: 04172Job A1 09-137 First Americans

Petition to Congress from Susan B. Anthony, Matilda Joselyn Gage, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton of the National Woman Suffrage Association enclosing a copy of their constitution, 1873. (National Archives Identifier 306687)

Often when one thinks of the freedoms embedded in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, one doesn’t immediately think of the right to petition.

A petition is a plea from an individual or a group asking their government to do something. Today it can be an email or signed via the internet, but before the age of electronics, petitions were addressed with pen and paper.

Women in particular have helped shaped the history of the United States by their petitioning efforts. From the anti-slavery movement to woman suffrage, women have actively called for a change through petitioning.

The woman suffrage movement was the most significant achievement for American women during the Progressive Era. Since the formation of the union, women’s rights were neglected and dismissed.

Throughout the 19th century, not only did we see a fight for civil rights for blacks, but there was a relentless fight for equality for women.

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Eugenie Anderson’s Historic Firsts

Today’s post comes from John P. Blair with the National Archives History Office.


A portrait of Eugenie Anderson, ca. 1956. (Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

The observance of Women’s History Month prompts us to explore the lives and experiences of some of the many female trailblazers in our nation’s history.

One such woman, Helen Eugenie Moore Anderson, known as Eugenie, accomplished not only one, but several “historic firsts” for women within the field of U.S. international affairs.

Eugenie Anderson officially became the first female U.S. ambassador upon her appointment by President Harry S. Truman to lead the embassy at Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1949. Her success led to a second appointment in 1962, when President John F. Kennedy appointed her as the Minister to Bulgaria, thus becoming the first woman to serve behind the “Iron Curtain.”

Her contributions to the American political scene before her appointment strongly illustrate her commitment to liberal democracy and her advocacy of America’s leadership role in the world.

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