Type-A bureaucrat who professionally pushes papers in the Middle East. History nerd, linguistic geek, and devoted news junkie.
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Beware the Christmas Cannibal of France

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A butcher, a man with a whip, and a jolly bishop walk into a bar. This is not, in fact, the opening line of a twisted joke—it’s preparation for the biggest day of the year in Nancy, an elegant city in France’s Lorraine region.

St. Nicholas Day is celebrated across many European countries on December 6 or the weekend following it. Each evening in Nancy from late November till early January, a lights display projects a story onto the opulent façade of the Hôtel de Ville. The expectant crowd watches as three children knock on the door of a local butcher, only to be chopped up into little pieces and left to cure in a salting pot. Falling snowflakes are replaced with chunks of veal.


You might be wondering what this gruesome scene has to do with St. Nicholas, who is the predecessor of Santa Claus. Often throughout Europe, St. Nicholas is said to be accompanied by an evil nemesis designed to frighten children into good behavior. Germany has Hans Trapp, Holland has Zwarte Piet, and Austria is best known for the Krampus, a horned beast that charges the crowd with threatening roars.

In the Lorraine region of France, St. Nicholas’s companion is called Père Fouettard, meaning Father Whipper or Father Flog. He has a bit of a kinky vagabond look, wearing ragged clothes, donning a straggly black beard, and carrying a whip and chain. He’s also a butcher, and he attempts to eat children.

How did St. Nicholas get paired with a whip-wielding cannibal? The answer starts over 1,500 years ago with the origin of Santa Claus and evolved over the centuries thanks to a miraculous medieval battle in France, a heavy sprinkle of rumors, and some extraordinary embellishments.


It’s widely believed that St. Nicholas was from present-day Türkiye. He was likely the bishop of Myra, born towards the end of the 4th century in Patara. It’s said he performed miracles as an infant and during his life. The bishop died on December 6, 343. It was believed his body produced an oil that held healing properties, which scientists think was actually water from the damp tomb. In the 11th century, merchants from Italy launched a quest to retrieve his body. They were successful: The bishop’s remains were exhumed and brought to Bari.

Word spread, and people all over Europe wanted a piece. During the first crusade (1096–99), a lord of Lorraine raided St. Nicholas’s tomb in Italy, severed the tip of his finger, brought it back to his French homeland, and built a church to house the relic in Saint-Nicolas-de-Port. The saint therefore became highly revered throughout Lorraine.

A few centuries later, St. Nicholas is thought to have saved the people of this region during battle. In 1476, Charles the Bold laid siege to the city of Nancy. Charles had been overtaking much of France, so it should have been an easy win. Food within the city was running out, and many citizens resorted to eating rats. “It's thought many of the inhabitants turned to cannibalism during the siege, out of desperation,” adds Nadia Hardy, a historical guide in Nancy. But René II, Duke of Lorraine, prayed for victory over St. Nicholas’s severed phalange, now over a millennium old. Miraculously, Nancy won the battle. St. Nicholas became the hero of the story and the region’s patron saint.


But what of his whipping, child-eating nemesis? The story of Père Fouettard comes from another battle in Lorraine. In 1552, Charles V, King of Spain and Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, laid siege to the neighboring city of Metz. Citizens created a grotesque effigy of Charles V, which they paraded through the streets before publicly burning it. Made by whip-weidling tanners, the effigy became known as Père Fouettard (Father Whipper), an enemy of St. Nicholas.

At some point along the way, the figure gets mixed in with a sprinkle of cannibalism. Another legend tells of a butcher named Pierre Lenoir (or Peter Black), who chopped up three unfortunate children. He left them to marinate in a barrel for seven years before he received a knock at the door, and a surprise visitor: a hungry St. Nicholas, who the butcher recognized instantly. Loathe to feed human flesh to such a holy man, he claimed he had no food left. St. Nicholas placed three fingers on the salting barrel and resurrected the children, who, far from experiencing any profound trauma one might expect, felt as though they’d been awoken from a deep slumber.

“It’s likely that the stories of the butcher and Père Fouettard merged over time,” Hardy explains. Today in Nancy, the two characters are inextricably intertwined. Every December, not only is there a projection of the tale, the townspeople also reenact the story.


“I’ve watched the St. Nicholas parades ever since I was a child,” says the man playing Père Fouettard this year. (The performer asked to remain anonymous "to preserve the magic," as he says.) “I want my character to disgust people, not scare them.” The actor rubs dirt all over his face, attaches a long and dark beard, blackens out some of his teeth, and adorns a hooded brown cape. He makes a guttural growl like a dog and heads out to the festivities.

After the butcher, Père Fouettard, and St. Nicholas drink their pre-parade beverage (after all, it’s cold in Nancy in December), the event begins in town. During the reenactment, three local children visit the butcher and are depicted as being sliced, quartered, and salted. Salvation appears in the form of St. Nick astride a brightly lit carnival float, who resurrects the children. The butcher then morphs into Père Fouettard, doomed to follow St. Nicholas and dole out punishments to naughty children. He springs up in the crowd with his whip, giving out coal or sometimes turnips and potatoes.

St. Nicholas then climbs to the balcony of the Hôtel de Ville to greet the crowds. The mayor of Nancy presents him with a set of keys to the town, and the Christmas tree and Art Nouveau street lights crackle to life again. The butcher and Père Fouettard have both been overcome and must wait another year to scare the children of France into behaving.

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The Rosenbergs and Ted Hall

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I mentioned I’ve been reading about the Manhattan Project. Here’s a story, or pair of stories, that raise questions about legal and moral guilt and innocence, moral panic, and retrospective historical judgement, among other issues.

The trial and subsequent execution of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg was one of the great legal dramas/scandals in American legal history. At the time, two competing narratives regarding the Rosenbergs dominated debate.

According to the US government, Julius Rosenberg was the mastermind of an extensive Soviet espionage ring. As part of his work he had convinced Ethel’s brother, David Greenglass, a machinist at Los Alamos, to pass top secret information regarding the implosion mechanism for the plutonium bomb to Russia. Because of this information, the USSR managed to build a bomb years earlier than it would have otherwise: a development that among other things cost the lives of tens of thousands of American soldiers in Korea. From Judge Irving Kaufman’s sentencing statement:

I consider your crime worse than murder. Plain deliberate contemplated murder is dwarfed in magnitude by comparison with the crime you have committed. In committing the act of murder, the criminal kills only his victim. The immediate family is brought to grief and when justice is meted out the chapter is closed. But in your case, I believe your conduct in putting into the hands of the Russians the A-bomb years before our best scientists predicted Russia would perfect the bomb has already caused, in my opinion, the Communist aggression in Korea, with the resultant casualties exceeding 50,000 and who knows but that millions more of innocent people may pay the price of your treason. Indeed, by your betrayal you undoubtedly have altered the course of history to the disadvantage of our country.

According to the Rosenberg’s most ardent supporters, they were victims of a judicially approved anti-Communist and anti-Semitic lynch mob. Those supporters believed the Rosenbergs when they flatly denied that Julius was a spy. For millions of people in the US and around the world, the trial was America’s version of the Dreyfus affair, and the execution was simply the judicial murder of two innocent people, for the crime of being Jewish communists, in the wake of the panic that erupted when the USSR managed to build its own atomic bomb. For example, Jean-Paul Sartre called the trial “a legal lynching,” carried out by a “rabid” legal system, “sick with fear.”

The historical truth turns out to be far more complicated than either of these caricatures. Intercepted Soviet cables that the US government spent several years decoding make the following fairly clear, at least on my interpretation:

(1) Julius Rosenberg had been a spy for the Soviet Union for several years when, in 1944, he recruited David Greenglass to pass on some drawings related to the design of the implosion bomb to the Russians. Ethel Rosenberg knew about Julius’s activities in a general way, although the government’s claims that she actively participated in the Los Alamos conspiracy herself was probably false, and based on perjured testimony by Greenglass, who perjured himself to save his own wife from being charged (Ruth Greenglass certainly participated in the conspiracy).

(2) The marginal value of what Greenglass passed on to the Soviet atomic bomb project was probably zero (I would be very interested in Cheryl’s view on this). This was for two reasons. First, the Soviets got vastly more valuable technical information regarding the implosion trigger for the plutonium bomb from Klaus Fuchs and,Ted Hall. Fuchs and Hall were theoretical physicists who worked directly on the design of the trigger themselves, unlike Greenglass, who was very peripherally involved in the process, and knew nothing himself about the underlying technical issues. Greenglass wasn’t a scientist at all, let alone someone doing the very high level physics necessary to solve the puzzle of how to build an implosion bomb.

ETA: Two different kinds of bombs were built at Los Alamos. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima used uranium, or more precisely U-235, and had a (relatively) simpler “gun” triggering mechanism. The bomb tested at Trinity and then dropped on Nagasaki used plutonium, which was easier to manufacture than U-235, but required a much more complicated trigger. Indeed at the time of the Trinity test Robert Oppenheimer thought the chances of it working were no better than 50/50.

Second, Lavrentiy Beria, the paranoid psychopath that Stalin had put in charge of overseeing the Soviet analogue to the Manhattan Project, distrusted all foreign intelligence on principle, and apparently didn’t even pass on the information gathered by the Los Alamos spies to the Soviet bomb design team, except as a third party check on their work. This had some value — probably the most valuable secret the spies passed on was not any specific technical detail, but the fact that it was possible to build a plutonium-based implosion bomb at all: something that the Los Alamos team had to discover for themselves. But to the extent that the Soviets got any technical help from the espionage, it almost certainly came from what Fuchs and Hall passed on, rather than from whatever Greenglass stole.

Which brings us to the very interesting story of Ted Hall. Hall was the youngest scientist at Los Alamos: he was just 18 when he arrived in 1943. A naive kid who thought that it was unfair for the US to have a monopoly on the bomb when the Soviets were doing the lion’s share of the fighting against the Nazis, his contribution to the actual espionage at Los Alamos was almost surely orders of magnitude more significant than anything Julius Rosenberg’s spying provided.

By the time of the Rosenberg trial, the US government was, via the decoded cables, aware of Hall’s role in the spying. But he was never charged with anything. Why? (Fuchs was convicted of espionage in the UK and served nine years in prison). The answer, it seems, is that Hall’s brother Edward, also a physicist, was playing a key role in the development of the Minuteman missile program, and the Air Force lobbied furiously to avoid any prosecution of Ted, since this would make it impossible for Edward to continue his work on the project.

In sum, Julius Rosenberg was in fact guilty, but what he was guilty of bore no relation as a practical matter to the hysterical narrative put forth by the government prosecutors, and accepted by Kaufman and the rest of the legal system (Ethel by contrast almost certainly was innocent of the specific charges brought against her).

Meanwhile Ted Hall — a vastly more consequential spy — was given a get out of jail or the electric chair free card, because of the pure accident that his brother was valuable to the US military.

The saddest part of this story is that, because of their misguided idealism, the Rosenbergs were willing to be literal martyrs for the benefit of the monstrous Stalinist regime. The US government used the death penalty as leverage to get them to confess, as their death sentences would have been commuted if either Julius or Ethel had been willing to confess their guilt and implicate their co-conspirators. Another sad detail is that, after the executions, none of the many aunts and uncles of the Rosenbergs’ two orphaned toddlers were willing to adopt them.

In any event, it’s a fascinating chapter in American history, as are so many of the stories around the building and subsequent use of the atomic bomb. And what’s particularly fascinating to me is how the real story is so much more complex than the simplistic narratives that dominated the controversy at the time.

The post The Rosenbergs and Ted Hall appeared first on Lawyers, Guns & Money.

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Mining the Archive for Prospective Research

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Today’s post is in honor of National Miners Day, celebrated annually on December 6th. This blog is written by John C. Harris, Archives Technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia.


Amidst the era of New Deal regulation and reform, Congress aimed to regulate the coal industry. The Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935 established the Bituminous Coal Commission (BCC) as well as the Bituminous Coal Labor Board (BCLB) to regulate the coal industry by establishing marketing and production standards, investigating violations of those standards and enforcing penalties, as well as levying a tax on non-code members–operating outside of the authority of the BCC and BCLB  to incentivize participation in the commission.1 Within a year, coal lobbyists challenged the constitutionality of the act, which resulted in a Supreme Court ruling which dissolved the BCC.2

Despite the initial blow which eliminated the BCC, Congress ratified the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act in 1937 and established the Bituminous Coal Division (BCD). In large part, the new agency mirrored its predecessor except for two distinctions: first, the tax imposed on coal produced by mines operating outside of the BCD increased from 15 percent to 19 1⁄2 percent; and second, it did not provide the governing boards of the BCD’s districts–made up of agencies of the producers–the power to determine the price of coal. Instead, the producers’ agencies could suggest prices to the regulators within the BCD who had the final say in determining the minimum price standards.3

The National Archives at Philadelphia preserves the records created by the BCD–and its successor agency, the Solid Fuels Administration for War (SFAW)–from their field offices located in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. These records reveal how the BCD and SFAW worked to fulfill their mission by regulating the marketing and sale of coal and recorded labor disputes as part of its effort to regulate the hours and wages of workers.

Summary of Documents and Potential for Research

Record Group 222 and 245 contains records created by the three field offices of the BCD that operated in Altoona, Pennsylvania, Bluefield, West Virginia, and Fairmont, West Virginia. The arrangement of these documents into series pertaining to the three field offices and their further placement within sub-series ranging in subject matter from correspondences with active and inactive Bituminous Coal Code Members, analysis and reports of coal and mining preparations, as well as reports on code violations are primed to be mined and provide a foundation of primary sources upon which an array of research opportunities can be developed. The records are capable of supporting a comparative analysis of the different region’s mines adherence to the BCD’s and SFAW’s regulations, their operating priorities, and their contemporaneous insights into the coal industry between the years 1937 to 1948. Those industry insights can simultaneously provide an opportunity to evaluate the regulatory power of the BCD and SFAW by examining the violations that occurred and how the agency’s responded to enforce the code. One might even use the records to contextualize, then dispute or confirm, Eugene V. Rostow’s 1941 thesis provided in the Yale Law Journal that “the Bituminous Coal Act of 1937 is an experiment which has failed…it should not be renewed.”4

To portray the strength of the records and data contained in RG 222 and RG 245 held by the National Archives at Philadelphia and their prospective use in research, examples of records from the collection which indicate the efforts of the agency to fulfill its mission are highlighted below. Specifically, a survey of the records created by and about the Consolidated Coal Company under the jurisdiction of the District One field office in Altoona, Pennsylvania will exemplify how the Bituminous Coal Division and Solid Fuels Administration for War accomplished their goal as outlined in the preamble of the legislation, and indicated in the record, of regulating and enforcing fair marketing rules, and eliminating unfair methods of competition.5 6

Part 1: BCD Marketing Rules and Coal Analysis Files

Among the most prevalent records found in the collection are those made in regard to the mines’ compliance with Section VIII Rule X of the Marketing Rules and Regulations which directed mining companies procedures in the creation of their coal analyses files.7 These reports, found in the series Coal Analysis Reports, 1940–1943, contain information like the name of a mine, the size of the coal analyzed, and the geological seam from which it originated. Their value to potential research is found in the proximate analyses that indicate key characteristics of coal. The characteristics evaluated in these reports included: the ash yield, or the incombustible material in coal; fixed carbon, the amount of carbon that remains in coal after combustion occurs; moisture, how much moisture content was found in the coal; and volatile matter, the compounds that will be converted to gas in coal during combustion.8 These properties contribute to the overall quality of coal, which determined how it was valued by the marketing arm of the company, and became a core component of commercial sale contracts between mines and their customers. Therefore, these reports helped to ensure that the quality of coal sold by a mine would not be misrepresented in the marketing.

Coal Analysis Report Chart
Consolidated Coal Company Inc. to the National Bituminous Coal Commission, Coal Analysis Report N.B.C.C. Form no. 231 – ST, January 15 1938; Analysis Files, 1937-1943 (NAID: 636954, HMS Entry ID: PH-6550); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.
Correspondence re Coal Mines
Consolidated Coal Company Inc. to the Bituminous Coal Division, Data for Consolidated Mine #119, November 20, 1940; Analysis Files, 1937-1943  (NAID: 636954, HMS Entry ID: PH-6550); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.
Coal Mine Analysis
Consolidated Coal Company Inc. to the Bituminous Coal Division, Report of Analysis Used, May 24, 1943; Analysis Files, 1937-1943 (NAID: 636954, HMS Entry ID: PH-6550); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

Thousands of marketing analyses like these make up a core component of the BCD records. While they provide important understanding into how coal was marketed and priced in contracts for a researcher digging into the operating procedures of the industry, these records can prove helpful to environmental researchers as well. Years worth of data within these proximate analyses indicate how the makeup of coal mined from specific sites may have changed over time. While the three examples from Consolidated’s Mine #119 from the years 1938, 1940, and 1943 appear to remain relatively stable, other coal samples, derived from a different mine, may not be. To the researcher looking into geological phenomena, significant changes in these characteristics of coal might correlate with an event that significantly altered the trajectory of the carbon cycle. Therefore, if significant changes to those characteristics are to be found, these data sets may be a clue to the history of the formation of the landscape.

Part 2: BCD Investigations into Violations and Washington Charges

In addition to the BCD’s task of reviewing how coal was marketed by its producers, the agency also sought to eliminate “unfair methods of competition” in part by establishing minimum prices and maintaining a “cost-floor” for sale of bituminous coal. According to Waldo E. Fisher and Charles M. James, the goal of this was “to improve the position of the industry and enable it to pay the wages and meet the terms of employment arrived at under collective bargaining. The Act thus provided for the establishment of a minimum price structure for bituminous coal which would return to producers an income equal to their costs less capital charges.”9 However, this price floor and how it was maintained was a contentious matter as indicated in records contained in the series Violations – Washington Charges, 1937 – 1943.

On occasion, disputes arose when the enforcement of marketing standards, such as the quality of coal, led to penalties that resulted in coal sales that resulted in a profit less than the guaranteed-by-law effective minimum price.

Coal Company Correspondence
R.J. Queenin, Chief of Finance Division at Department of Treasury to Consolidation Coal Company, Inc., Memo, May 23, 1941; Violations – Washington Charges, 1937 – 1943 (NAID: 636958, HMS Entry ID: PH-6551); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

According to the above memo from the Treasury Department, this was the case in 1941 when Consolidated Coal Company was penalized for violating a federal contract by selling substandard coal with a high ash content to Saint Elizabeth’s Hospital in Uniontown, D.C. The penalty incurred by Consolidated led to a penalized sale that netted less the guaranteed price minimum.

After failing to reconcile the dispute with the Treasury Department, Consolidated Coal Company sought to recover the cost of the contested penalty. They did so by calculating the difference between the guaranteed price minimum and the price of the penalized sale which provided them with the net loss. The company then used that price to determine an amount of substandard coal which could be sold at a standard quality price to afford them to make back the cost of the original penalty. However, the BCD scrutinized this action as an attempt by Consolidated to evade the price provisions of the Bituminous Coal Act. A litany of memos were exchanged between the BCD’s Director, Branch Managers, Compliance Coordinators, and Consolidated’s executives and an investigation ensued. On January 13, 1942, Compliance Coordinator Issac M. Bradburn was sent to Consolidated’s #10 Mine in Eckhart, Maryland to conduct a check report and investigate the matters of the dispute. To do so he completed the following Check Report (Form B.C.D. No. 339).

Coal Company Report / Visit
Isaac M. Bradburn, Compliance Agent at Bituminous Coal Division to Bituminous Coal Division, Check Report Form B.C.D. 339, January 13, 1942; Violations – Washington Charges, 1937 – 1943 (NAID: 636958, HMS Entry ID: PH-6551); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

The case files within the Violations series contain critical primary sources to determine how the BCD carried out its regulatory practices. Specifically, they indicate what kind of code violations occurred in the mining industry and contain data to evaluate the power of the BCD. These Check Reports in particular indicate specific infractions by mines, outline the review processes conducted by BCD agents, and shed light on how enforcement was determined.

In his investigation, Compliance Coordinator Bradburn reviewed the records of shipments made to St. Elizabeth Hospital, documented the process by which coal is sifted and separated to ensure its quality, and interviewed the Division’s Manager to learn that generally “fines” (perhaps a reference to the fine content such as the excess ash found in the disputed shipment) are typically removed from shipments. However, he was unable to determine whether such a process had occurred when the coal was loaded to be shipped to St. Elizabeth Hospital.

Correspondence re Coal Mine visit
Dan H. Wheeler, Acting Director at Bituminous Coal Division to Albert L. Brown, Manager of Sales at Consolidation Coal Company, Inc. Memo, January 12, 1942; Violations – Washington Charges, 1937 – 1943 (NAID: 636958, HMS Entry ID: PH-6551); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

As indicated in the above memo, ultimately, Acting Director Dan Wheeler, ruled that under Section X, Rule 1 of the Marketing Rules and Regulations the actions of Consolidated were permissible. His statement concluded, “You should handle this matter as an allowance for substandard preparation or quality under Section X only if you can do so in good faith.” The investigation was not a unique circumstance. The BCD reviewed and ruled on a range of charges brought against the coal mines. Sometimes the charges were dismissed. In the most extreme cases, the BCD delivered cease and desist orders to the mines in violation of the code and subjected them to the full 19 ½ percent tax until the mines operations could be re-evaluated and reinstated as a code member. Other case files from the Violations – Washington Charges, 1937 – 1943 series, which consist of charges, investigations, transcripts, and verdicts can be used to determine the regulatory practices of the BCD.

Part 4: BCD/SFAW and Labor

In addition to the regulation of marketing practices in the bituminous coal industry, the BCD and SFAW also monitored labor disputes. According to Fisher and James, another key provision of the BCD legislation was that workers, “shall have the right to organize and to bargain collectively with respect to their hours of labor, wages, and working conditions through representatives of their own choosing, without restraint, coercion, or interference on the part of the producers”10 

In 1943, the Bituminous Coal Division was absorbed by the Solid Fuels Administration for War. Much like its predecessor, this new agency regulated and advised the conglomeration of fuel industries, including producers of every quality of coal, in the production, pricing, transportation, and distribution of its resources as part of the war effort and operated until May 1947.11

The Teletypes, 1943-1947 series contains messages from the field offices to the headquarters in Washington D.C. which reveal daily updates on direct action of miners in their efforts to bargain for enhanced working conditions at the mines. In addition, these messages provide insights into the effect that the workers’ efforts had on the mining operations and the responses of the corporations.

Telegram re strike at coal mine
Gingery SFAW, Altoona to Dougherty SFAW, Washington Teletype, August 6, 1946; Teletypes, 1943-1947 (NAID: 636953, Entry ID: PH-6549); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.
Telegram re work stoppage at coal mine
Gingery SFAW, Altoona to Dougherty SFAW, Washington Teletype, August 7, 1946; Teletypes, 1943-1947 (NAID: 636953, Entry ID: PH-6549); Altoona; Records of the Bituminous Coal Division, Record Group 0222; National Archives and Records Administration, Philadelphia, PA.

For example, the above teletypes between the SFAW field office in Altoona and headquarters in Washington document an August 6th 1946 strike at Consolidated Coal Company’s Mine #123. The record discloses that 118 workers struck that day, ceasing operations in response to a dispute over the rotating system of day shifts to night shifts. And although the strike lasted only one day, as indicated in the following day’s teletype report, the miners’ action disrupted operations that typically produced 670 tons of coal daily. If a researcher was to look into changes in operations by a particular mine, these teletypes might reveal the role of the laborers in determining that change.

The RG 245 holdings at the National Archives at Philadelphia contains five years worth of these daily updates. And while this example–selected to supplement the survey of records from the Altoona field office regarding Consolidated Coal Company–does not clearly indicate the strike’s effect on the operations of shift work rotations at the #123 mine, these reports can provide evidence on a range of research topics. Still yet, many other teletype reports indicate the demands of the strike, and if those demands were met or not before the workers went back into operation. While the previous records can be used to determine the power and influence of the BCD and SFAW’s over the mining industry, these teletypes, in part, record power of organized labor, and can measure the BCD and SFAW’s commitment to provide the freedom of association to the miners working under the agency’s jurisdiction.


This selection of records represents just a fraction of a percentage of the entire record groups. With that in mind, this survey of analyses, reports and forms, and correspondences were selected to highlight records that indicate the Altoona field office’s work to fulfill the mission of the agency. Their inclusion here does not measure the agency’s success or failure, but instead they expose veins of potential research into the BCD, the SFAW, and the mines that operated under their jurisdiction until 1947.

In 1967, the first recorded preliminary inventory of the records was made to determine the composition of the collection. Since then, aspects of the collection have been housed in three NARA facilities: Philadelphia where the records highlighted in this piece are preserved, Kansas City which safeguards meeting minutes and the agency’s statistical records, and the Cartographic Division of NARA College Park which contains maps of the United States related to coal production.

Furthermore, according to NARAs Guide to Federal Records, research of Record Group 222 and 245 may be buttressed by an analysis of records from related records such as copies of publications of the Bituminous Coal Division in Record Group 287,and Record Group 150: Publications of the U.S. Government – Records of the National Bituminous Coal Commission, 1935-1936. If you’re Interested in learning more about the records of the Bituminous Coal Division and Solid Fuels Administration for War at the National Archives at Philadelphia? Feel free to email philadelphia.archives@nara.gov to discuss your research or make an appointment.


1 “Bituminous Coal Conservation Act of 1935” in United States Statutes at Large of the United States of America from January 1935 to June 1936 Concurrent Resolutions Recent Treaties and Conventions, Executive Proclamations and Agreements, Volume XLIX, Part 1, 1936. 74th Congress Session I, Chapter 824, p. 991-1011, https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/ll/llsl//llsl-c74/llsl-c74.pdf.

2 James W. Carter, a shareholder in Carter Coal Company (whose father owned, and was the namesake of the company) challenged the legitimacy of the BCC in the Supreme Court lawsuit Carter v. Carter Coal Co. In the case, the court referred to the Commerce Clause in the Constitution to determine the extent of Congresses regulatory power over the coal industry. In a five to four ruling, the Supreme Court ruled that the Bituminous Coal Conservation Act was unconstitutional. Among their justifications for their decision was the notion that the mining of coal–a critical part of the process which the BCC and its Labor Board regulated–was a local endeavor, not yet at the stage of interstate commerce and therefore subject to local regulations and out of the jurisdiction of Congress to regulate. Carter v. Carter Coal Co., 298 U.S. 238, 56 S. Ct. 855 (1936). https://casetext.com/case/carter-v-carter-coal-co-helvering-v-carter-tway-coal-co-v-glenn-tway-coal-co-v-clark/case-details.

3 Waldo E. Fisher and Charles M. James, Minimum Price Fixing in the Bituminous Coal Industry, (Princeton University Press, 1955), 43 – 44.  https://www.nber.org/system/files/chapters/c2882/c2882.pdf.

4 Eugene V. Rostow, “Bituminous Coal and the Public Interest,” The Yale Law Journal, Vol. 50, No. 4 (February, 1941), 543. https://www.jstor.org/stable/792629

5 “Bituminous Coal Act of 1937” in United States Statutes at Large Containing the Laws and Concurrent Resolutions Enacted During the First Session of the Seventy-Fifth Congress of the United States of America 1937 and Treaties, International Agreements Other Than Treaties, and Proclamations. Volume L, Part I, 1937. 75 Congress, Chapter 127, p. 72, https://tile.loc.gov/storage-services/service/ll/llsl//llsl-c75s1/llsl-c75s1.pdf

6 “Records of the Bituminous Coal Division [BCD],” Guide to Federal Records, Archives.gov, Accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/222.html

7 H.A. Gray, “Order amending order 333,” Federal Register, Vol. 6 No. 203, October 17, 1941, p. 5289. https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/FR-1941-10-17/pdf/FR-1941-10-17.pdf

8 “Proximate Analysis,” Kentucky Geological Survey Earth Resources–Our Commonwealth, uky.edu, Accessed August 30, 2023, http://www.uky.edu/KGS/coal/coal-analyses-proximate.php.

9 Fisher and James, Minimum Price Fixing, 39.

10 Fisher and James, Minimum Price Fixing, 41.

11 “Records of the Solid Fuels Administration for War [SFAW],” Guide to Federal Records, Archives.gov, Accessed August 30, 2023, https://www.archives.gov/research/guide-fed-records/groups/245.html

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Origin of South Caucasian Languages.

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The time and place of origin of South Caucasian languages,” by Alexander Gavashelishvili, Merab Chukhua, Kakhi Sakhltkhutsishvili, Dilek Koptekin, and Mehmet Somel (Sci Rep 13, 21133 [2023]), looks quite interesting, and it’s open access, so you can check it out freely. The abstract:

This study re-examines the linguistic phylogeny of the South Caucasian linguistic family (aka the Kartvelian linguistic family) and attempts to identify its Urheimat. We apply Bayesian phylogenetics to infer a dated phylogeny of the South Caucasian languages. We infer the Urheimat and the reasons for the split of the Kartvelian languages by taking into consideration (1) the past distribution ranges of wildlife elements whose names can be traced back to proto-Kartvelian roots, (2) the distribution ranges of past cultures and (3) the genetic variations of past and extant human populations. Our best-fit Bayesian phylogenetic model is in agreement with the widely accepted topology suggested by previous studies. However, in contrast to these studies, our model suggests earlier mean split dates, according to which the divergence between Svan and Karto-Zan occurred in the early Copper Age, while Georgian and Zan diverged in the early Iron Age. The split of Zan into Megrelian and Laz is widely attributed to the spread of Georgian and/or Georgian speakers in the seventh-eighth centuries CE. Our analyses place the Kartvelian Urheimat in an area that largely intersects the Colchis glacial refugium in the South Caucasus. The divergence of Kartvelian languages is strongly associated with differences in the rate of technological expansions in relation to landscape heterogeneity, as well as the emergence of state-run communities. Neolithic societies could not colonize dense forests, whereas Copper Age societies made limited progress in this regard, but not to the same degree of success achieved by Bronze and Iron Age societies. The paper also discusses the importance of glacial refugia in laying the foundation for linguistic families and where Indo-European languages might have originated.

And the introduction ends:

There is linguistic evidence that points either to possible structural relationship or to prolonged contacts between Kartvelian and Indo-European languages in the South Caucasus. This is supported by recently discovered genetic evidence of a ghost population in or near the South Caucasus, which acted as the link connecting the Proto-Indo-European-speaking Yamnaya with the speakers of Anatolian languages. In this context our findings will help reduce the search area for the homeland of Indo-European languages and provide more clarity about the nature of ties between Kartvelian and Indo-European languages.

Thanks, Dmitry!

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To Gesture Like a Native Speaker.

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Is Seeing Gesture Necessary to Gesture Like a Native Speaker?” by Şeyda Özçalışkan, Ché Lucero, and Susan Goldin-Meadow (Psychol Sci. 2016 May;27(5):737-47) is an intriguing study; the abstract:

Speakers of all languages gesture, but there are differences in the gestures that they produce. Do speakers learn language-specific gestures by watching others gesture or by learning to speak a particular language? We examined this question by studying the speech and gestures produced by 40 congenitally blind adult native speakers of English and Turkish (n = 20/language), and comparing them with the speech and gestures of 40 sighted adult speakers in each language (20 wearing blindfolds, 20 not wearing blindfolds). We focused on speakers’ descriptions of physical motion, which display strong cross-linguistic differences in patterns of speech and gesture use. Congenitally blind speakers of English and Turkish produced speech that resembled the speech produced by sighted speakers of their native language. More important, blind speakers of each language used gestures that resembled the gestures of sighted speakers of that language. Our results suggest that hearing a particular language is sufficient to gesture like a native speaker of that language.

Compare “Why people gesture when they speak” by Jana M. Iverson and Susan Goldin-Meadow (Nature Vol. 396 [19 November 1998], p. 228): “Gesture does not depend on either a model or an observer, and thus appears to be integral to the speaking process itself.”

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Learning the appropriate gestures that go with common commands/phrases in a foreign language is an underappreciated part of gaining fluency. In each language I've learned, you use a slightly different hand gesture to indicate "come here."
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Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Spot On

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Click here to go see the bonus panel!

This will be written one day when a traveler comes upon the ruins of Ohio.

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"This will be written one day when a traveler comes upon the ruins of Ohio."
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