Historic Staff Spotlight: Evangeline Thurber

We are taking a look at past staff and their many contributions to the National Archives throughout its history. Today’s staff spotlight is Evangeline Thurber, who coauthored a major report on National Archives holdings in relation to World War I demobilization in preparation for the end of World War II.

Evangeline Thurber (née Evangeline Whitmore) was born in 1895 in Shelton, Nebraska. She received an A.B. from the University of California in 1921 and her M.S. in 1928 from Columbia University. 

Thurber worked at several libraries, including the Library of Congress, before coming to the National Archives on February 20, 1936, to work in the Division of Cataloging. Her coworkers were some of the earliest staff at the National Archives and included Esther S. Chapin, Dorothy Arbaugh, Helen Beach, Bess Glenn, Josephine Cobb, Dorothy Hill, and Clarissa Goold.

When Solon Buck became the second Archivist of the United States in 1941, there was a major reorganization of the agency, and Division of Cataloging was abolished. Former catalogers were transferred to the various records divisions, and Thurber became an associate archivist. She briefly worked in the Office of the Director of Archival Service but after six months moved to the Office of the Research and Records Description. That office was in charge of establishing record groups and creating finding aids for the new agency.

During her time in that office, she coauthored a Report on Demobilization, which was based on World War I–era records in the holdings of the National Archives. She, and her coauthor, James R. Mock, compiled a history of the planning the U.S. undertook to transition to peacetime as a guideline for post–World War II demobilization. 

In recognition of her work on the Report on Demobilization, Thurber received a salary adjustment for “outstanding value to the work or the National Archives.” Just a few days after her raise, she became an archivist in the Division of Veterans’ Records. 

During World War II, as staff went on leave for war purposes, she was temporarily promoted to an archivist in the Division of Justice Department Archives. When the previous occupant returned, Thurber returned to the Division of Veterans’ Records, where she worked for the remainder of her National Archives career. 

Thurber left the National Archives in 1946 and moved to New Orleans to work at the Navy Records Center. She kept in touch with many National Archives staff and wrote back with news of her subsequent moves to Florida, and later to California. Evangeline Thurber died on July 31, 1982, in Los Angeles, California, at age 87.

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