George Washington Carver in a rare new 1937 color Kodachrome film from The National Archives

George Washington Carver in a rare new 1937 color Kodachrome film from The National Archives

The National Archives

The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) is the nation’s record keeper. Of all documents and materials created in the course of business conducted by the United States Federal government, only 1%-3% are so important for legal or historical reasons that they are kept by us forever.

Many people know the National Archives as the keeper of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. But The National Archives also hold in trust for the public the records of ordinary citizens.

The National Archives was established in 1934 by President Franklin Roosevelt, but its major holdings date back to 1775. They capture the sweep of the past: enslavement ship manifests and the Emancipation Proclamation; captured German records and the Japanese surrender documents from World War II; journals of polar expeditions and photographs of Dust Bowl farmers; Indian treaties making transitory promises; and a richly bound document bearing the bold signature “Bonaparte”—the Louisiana Purchase Treaty that doubled the territory of the young republic.

Ground for The National Archives’ first building was broken in 1931 and President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone in 1933 with the staff moving in to work in 1935. The building reached capacity in the late 1960s, and many records were moved to off-site storage and regional archives. After years of planning, in 1993 a new archives building was completed.

In a democracy, records belong to the people, and for more than seven decades, NARA has preserved and provided access to the records of the United States of America. Those valuable records are preserved and are available to the public.

The 1937 color film of George Washington Carver

This film was shot in 1937 by Dr. C. Allen Alexander, an African American surgeon from Kalamazoo, Michigan. Dr. Alexander wrote a letter in 1981 offering the film to the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri, part of the NPS.

Thanks to the care given by Dr. Alexander, and later the NPS, the film is indeed in excellent condition.

Though many of the earliest Kodachrome films suffer from severe color fading, the stock used for this film was manufactured once Kodak had perfected the Kodachrome chemistry. We see color that is as vibrant as the day it was processed.

The film includes scenes of Dr. Carver in his apartment, office, and laboratory, as well as images of him tending his flowers and displaying several of his paintings. At one point we see Dr. Carver exiting an elevator that was installed as a gift from his friend Henry Ford.

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Video: Color film of George Washington Carver

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1937 Dr. George Washington Carver at Tuskegee University

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