DC -- Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office -- Exhibit: Standard Placards:
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CBMSOP_120412_01.JPG: Clara Barton Lived and Worked Here:
In 1997, the US General Services Administration (GSA) discovered clothing, papers, and other nineteenth century items in the attic of 437 Seventh Street, NW. This discovery brought attention to a suite of rooms on the third floor that had served as Clara Barton's home, storeroom, and office. The rooms and artifacts, including a sign identifying Room 9 as the Missing Soldiers Office, provide new insight into Clara Barton's experience of the Civil War and her efforts to relieve the suffering of Union soldiers and their families. GSA maintains a preservation easement on the third floor. Work is underway to conserve these spaces and open them to the public as a museum.
Hundreds of Socks:
Among the artifacts found in the attic above Clara Barton's rooms were 171 whole socks, as well as nearly 100 carefully severed sock tops and bottoms. Why save dirty and worn socks? Harsh weather conditions and constant walking took a toll on soldiers' feet. Fresh socks were needed to prevent blisters, frostbite, and gangrene. Unprepared for the war, the Union Army could not keep the troops adequately supplied. Charitable organizations, such as the Sanitary Commission, exhorted women to knit socks for soldiers. Perhaps Clara Barton collected these used cotton socks on the battlefield, bringing them home to wash, mend, and eventually redistribute to troops.
"It was a kind of a tent life, but she was happy in it."
-- Frances Vassall, close friend of Clara Barton
Even in the turbulent war years, Clara Barton strove to make her quarters as attractive and functional as possible. Evidence of her activities can be seen in the large room created by removing dividing walls to accommodate battlefield supplies; the mail slot cut into the office door to accommodate the volumes of correspondence for the Missing Soldiers Office; and the number 9 painted on the door, corresponding to the sign directing visitors up the steep stairs to the third story. The white striped wallpaper still hanging in her small personal chamber and the trove of colorful paper remnants found in the attic tell of her love of pattern and skill at creating "home" wherever she went.
21,000 Families Received Letters:
In early spring 1865, the closing days of the Civil War, Clara Barton found herself inundated with requests from families anxious for word of their missing loved ones. In response, she established the Office of Correspondence with Friends of the Missing Men of the U.S. Army (Missing Soldiers Office). But how did Barton and a handful of clerks manage to provide information to over 21,000 families in the span of less than four years, using nineteenth-century technology and operating out of her rooms in this building? Although Barton and her assistants wrote an astonishing 41,855 letters, even more was accomplished using form letters. Preprinted for a variety of purposes, 58,693 form letters were sent as part of a highly efficient information exchange. In addition, 1,500 names were printed on large sheets titled, "Roll of Missing Soldiers." These rolls were posted throughout the country, with the request that information be sent to the office at 437 Seventh Street. By the end of 1868, five editions were published and 99,057 copies distributed.
In cooperation with the General Services Administration (GSA), the National Museum of Civil War Medicine is developing an interpretive program to operate a museum focused on Clara Barton's period of occupancy in GSA's preservation easement species. The museum is scheduled to open in 2011.
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Generally-Related Subject Description: "I have an almost complete disregard of precedent, and a faith in the possibility of something better. It irritates me to be told how things have always been done. I defy the tyranny of precedent." -Clara Barton (1821 to 1912)
Clara Barton's life of service has been a role model for generations of nurses, teachers, social workers, doctors, and allied health professionals. A new generation of executives and public servants value the leadership and strong work ethic she exhibited with profound dedication to her cause. She cared little for personal comforts, instead choosing to comfort others.
In her time, Barton was called a philanthropist. Although that term today often connotes someone who has money and gives some of it to help others, in the 19th century it had a more direct meaning: one who for love of his fellow men exerts himself for their well-being. Her work during the Civil War is a striking example of true philanthropy: how one individual can make a difference in the lives of others.
"What she did in nursing is incredibly important and we don’t want to diminish that at all. But to say that Clara Barton is a nurse is a gross understatement of her importance. The fact is that she was a relief organizer at a time when women didn’t do that. At a time when women found that they had to get men involved in order to be taken seriously, Clara Barton bucked that system." George Wunderlich, Executive Director, NMCWM
Clara Barton’s Missing Soldiers Office was originally rediscovered by Richard Lyons of the General Services Administration (GSA) in 1996, when the building was scheduled for demolition. Located on 7th street, NW, Washington D.C., the site is the location where Clara Barton lived during and immediately after the Civil War. She used this property not only as a place to live, but also to store the supplies she received for her work on the battlefield, and later as an office to handle correspondence concerning missing soldiers.
2012 photos: Equipment this year: My mainstays were the Fuji S100fs, Nikon D7000, and the new Fuji X-S1. I also used an underwater Fuji XP50 and a Nikon D600. The first three cameras all broke this year and had to be repaired.
Trips this year: three Civil War Trust conferences (Shepherdstown, West Virginia; Richmond, Virginia; and Williamsburg, Virginia), a week-long family reunion cruise of the Caribbean, my annual two-week trip out west for the San Diego Comic-Con (plus side trips to Zion, Bryce, the Grand Canyon, etc), and a week-long family reunion in the Wisconsin Dells (with lots of in-transit time in Ohio and Indiana)..
Ego strokes: I had a picture of Miss DC, Ashley Boalch, published in the Washington Post. I had a photograph of the George Segal San Francisco Holocaust memorial used as the cover of Quebec Francais (issue 165). Not being able to read French, I'm not entirely sure what the article is about but, hey! And I guess what could be considered to be a positive thing, my site is now established enough that spammers have noticed it and I had to block 17,000 file description postings for Viagra and whatever else..
Number of photos taken this year: just below 410,000.