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Monuments Men & The Holocaust-Era Assets Collection

February 6, 2014 by | Comments Off

In theaters February 7th, The Monuments Men movie features George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, and Matt Damon in roles that reflect the true story of how thousands of art treasures looted by the Nazis were saved from destruction in the final months of World War II.

Hundreds of thousands of records documenting this effort were created in the 1940s through the work of the real-life monuments men. They are available under Looted Valuables in Fold3’s Holocaust-Era Assets Collection.

Looted Art - PicassoDuring the Nazi occupation of countries in Europe before and during the war, paintings, sculptures, tapestries, and many other cultural treasures were stolen from private collections, Jewish homes, and prominent European museums. The Nazis kept the stolen assets as their own or housed them in German museums. As the end of the war neared and the fall of the Third Reich became inevitable, the Allies paired military personnel with scholars who understood the significance and value of the art. The two diverse groups cooperated to ensure that precious items were not destroyed by the Germans, nor bombed by the Allies.

The documents in the Roberts Commission files on Fold3 include information on monuments and looted artwork, and the measures taken to protect them. There are aerial photographs like this one of Florence; card files about the artwork, like Dürer’s “Feast of the Rose Garlands” from Czechoslovakia; geographic working files created after discovering items from the Louvre in good condition; and personnel cards like this one for George Stout, the man tasked “to head salvage work.” He’s played by Clooney in the movie which is based on Robert M. Edsel’s book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves, and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History.

Looted Art - RembrandtThe Ardelia Hall Collection provides a supporting group of records from the four collecting points in Marburg, Munich, Offenbach, and Wiesbaden that include property reports, photos of looted art, masterpieces, and book plates from stolen books, as well as descriptive cards of ceramics, etchings, sculpture, and paintings by Picasso and Rembrandt. More cards, many with photos, can be browsed beginning here.

These and other Holocaust-Era Assets publications, digitized in partnership with the National Archives, represent an astounding collection documenting European cultural history and the role the United States played in protecting that history. Each record has a very real story to tell. Each document represents one piece of an historic account that includes the provenance of great works of art, where they were discovered after the war, how they were repatriated, and the many people and institutions that supported the extraordinary task of saving Europe’s cultural heritage from destruction.

January 1839 Daguerreotype Announced in Paris

January 2, 2014 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

One hundred seventy-five years ago, in January 1839, members of the Academy of Sciences in Paris were shown a unique photographic process that literally changed the world as we see it. The inventor, Louis-Jacques-Mandé Daguerre, called his discovery the “daguerreotype.” It was the first commercially successful form of photography.

Later that year, a British inventor, William Henry Fox Talbot, announced his calotype process, making 1839 the year photography was popularized. Some controversies regarding who was first ensued. Daguerre did not claim a patent in France but gave the French government the rights to the process as a gift “free to the world,” although an agent later filed a patent in England on Daguerre’s behalf. As can be imagined, the early history of photography was rife with similar designs, claims to fame and compensation, and many other related intrigues that go hand-in-hand with an invention of such universal significance.

Today, most of us recognize daguerreotypes and may be fortunate to own such historic likenesses of our ancestors. As early as the 1840s, there were daguerreotype studios in the United States. Many early photographs using the daguerreotype process can be viewed online at the Library of Congress and in images like these of Maria Weston Chapman and Daniel Webster in the Boston Public Library Collections on Fold3.

According to the Library of Congress, there were over seventy daguerreotype studios in New York City by 1850. One of those studios was owned by Mathew B. Brady, one of the most notable photographers of the 19th century. By the 1860s, daguerreotypes had been replaced by processes that would allow Brady and his team of photographers to go out into the field where they took remarkable and haunting battlefield images during the U.S. Civil War. The results are available in the Civil War Collection on Fold3.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year from Fold3

December 20, 2013 by | 1 Comment

Happy Holidays & a Happy New Year from Fold3

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays.

In an effort to bring a little “home” into their holidays, soldiers fighting on foreign shores in 20th-century wars added traditional touches to their celebrations. Please enjoy a slideshow of Christmas and Hanukkah traditions from the front lines.

Click Here to view the slideshow.

The Storming of Fort Niagara

December 10, 2013 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

Fort Niagara, located on the eastern bank of the Niagara River at Lake Ontario, was an early French fortress captured by the British in July 1759. It became a Loyalist base during the American Revolution, but was ceded to the United States at the end of the war, although not completely controlled by American troops until 1796.

At about the midpoint of the War of 1812, the fort once again became a British stronghold. After only seventeen years under American control, Fort Niagara was re-captured by the British two hundred years ago this month, on December 19, 1813. As a strategically important U.S. garrison on the Canadian border, anyone commanding the fort controlled river and portage access between two Great Lakes—Ontario and Erie. It was a critical portal to Ohio, Michigan, and the American Midwest.

During the War of 1812, the British were garrisoned across the river at Canada’s Fort George. Tensions were obviously high between the two forts, occupied by opposing armies, and they frequently exchanged artillery fire. The Americans succeeded in capturing Fort George in May 1813 yet abandoned it in early December, burning the fortress and the surrounding town. Although in ruins, Fort George was quickly reoccupied by British forces, giving them a prime position to attack the American garrison across the river. Late on the night of December 18,, five hundred British troops crossed the river south of Fort Niagara, marched north, raiding and burning villages en route, surprising the American defenders, and easily taking the fortress before dawn on the 19th. They held it for the duration of the war.

The Treaty of Ghent, signed to end the War of 1812, declared that captured territory be returned “status quo ante bellum,” meaning that anything captured by the British during the war was returned to the United States, including Fort Niagara. Although it has not been an active military post since 1940, the site is still in use today. The “French Castle,” built by France in 1726 still stands and “Old Fort Niagara” is now an historic site. Its importance in several wars over three centuries is revealed through reenactments, exhibits, tours, and events.

Explore the War of 1812 Collection on Fold3.

Commemorate the Gettysburg Address and Honor the Fallen by Planting a Tree

November 19, 2013 by | Comments Off

150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Address

President Abraham Lincoln was invited to speak at the dedication of the Soldiers’ Memorial Cemetery at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on November 19, 1863. Notable orator Edward Everett was the first to speak that afternoon and delivered a two-hour address that was very well received. Lincoln followed with what is now one of the most notable speeches in U.S. history, and one that lasted only two minutes.

Everett wrote to Lincoln the following day, “I should be glad, if I could flatter myself that I came as near to the central idea of the occasion, in two hours, as you did in two minutes.”

Despite Lincoln’s words within his Gettysburg Address, that “the world will little note, nor long remember what we say here,” his remarks endure. The text for the Gettysburg Address is easily found online and in print. Reading it aloud evokes a better understanding of Lincoln’s legacy, as it transports us back one hundred fifty years to when he humbly stated:

We have come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate—we can not consecrate—we can not hallow, this ground—The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

Today, on the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, we can all be part of creating a living legacy for those who gave “the last full measure” during our country’s most trying time. The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership is commemorating the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War with a simple yet eloquent plan—to plant one tree for each of the 620,000 soldiers who died, as a living memorial for their individual and combined sacrifices.

The trees will create a 180-mile alley along the Journey Through Hallowed Ground National Scenic Byway which stretches from Gettysburg to Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello in Charlottesville VA. Each tree represents a life and will be geotagged to allow visitors to learn the name and the story of each soldier. and Fold3 are proud to support the JTHG Partnership by providing access to digital records to participating classrooms for their use in researching soldiers’ stories. We invite you to get involved. Honor the service and remember the sacrifice of your ancestors who fought during the American Civil War by planting a tree and sharing their stories. Visit the Living Legacy Project for more details.

Introducing the Honor Wall

November 6, 2013 by | 7 Comments

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Unveiled this week in honor of Veterans Day, the Fold3 Honor Wall pays tribute to millions of men and women who served our nation, from colonial days to the present.

We invite you to visit the Honor Wall and help us pay tribute to America’s veterans by sharing your own memories, stories, and photos of a loved one. Whether you have family or friends serving now, or have ancestors who fought in the Revolutionary War or other conflicts in between, join us in commemorating them. With your help, the Honor Wall will keep their stories alive.

The Honor Wall hosts millions of names, yet it’s just the beginning of a monumental tribute that will grow through your contributions. We’ve redesigned the Fold3 Memorial Pages to include representations of service, along with life events, photos, stories, documents, and connections to family members.

Search for those you know—ancestors, friends, fellow service members, family members, or perhaps you! If you find who you’re looking for, add your own dedication. If you can’t locate a Memorial Page for someone,create one of your own and add it to the Honor Wall. It’s easy!

Just follow the prompts to choose the conflict in which someone served, then add more facts about the individual, including military service. The “Find more records” button will even give you links to possible matches to records on Fold3,, and

Once you’ve contributed to the Honor Wall, let others know. Choose the “Share” link at the bottom of any Memorial Page. Spread the word, and help us commemorate all of America’s heroes.

View sample Memorial Pages for ideas of how you can create or add to your family’s pages.

TMIH – JFK Assassination

November 1, 2013 by | Comments Off

Fold3 This Month in History

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, the 35th president of the United States, is an iconic tragedy seared into the consciousness of anyone living that day: November 22, 1963. Even those who weren’t born yet, or were too young to remember the event, know the history, have seen the headlines, or have watched video footage of how an assassin’s bullet shattered a man, his family, and a nation.

News spread quickly. Within hours, hurried accounts of the event were published in the papers.

“President Kennedy has been assassinated. He was killed today by a bullet in the head while riding in an open car through the streets of Dallas. His wife was in the same car, but was not hit. She cradled the President in her arms as he was carried to a hospital where he died.” (The Brownsville Herald)

“Lying wounded at the same hospital was Gov. John Connally of Texas, who was cut down by the same fusillade that ended the life of the youngest man ever elected to the presidency.” (Lake Charles American-Press)

“President Lyndon B. Johnson wears a somber expression moments after he was administered the oath of office in the cabin of the presidential plan at Dallas Love Field.” (The Bridgeport Telegram, photo caption)

There’s more, of course.

A brief account here cannot adequately commemorate Kennedy, describe the events of that day and the weeks that followed, nor describe the impact his assassination had on the country. This month, fifty years later, first-person accounts and moving tributes will fill our news feeds, make their way to television, and absorb our attention in private and public venues.

Fifty years later, we at Fold3 commemorate Kennedy’s legacy beyond his tragic and untimely death. We join the world in paying tribute to the life and memory of John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

Visit John F. Kennedy’s Fold3 Memorial Page.

Explore headline news from November 22, 1963, and the days that followed, on