Photographs of Construction, Facilities, and Community Life at Oak Ridge and Other Manhattan Project Sites, 1943 - 1946


Photographs of Construction, Facilities, and Community Life at Oak Ridge and Other Manhattan Project Sites, 1943 - 1946

With the exception of most of his medical photos (fate unknown), the bulk of the Oak Ridge photographic prints by the principal Clinton Engineer Works photographer, James Edward Westcott, are in Record Group 434, Series OR, along with a sprinkling of images by the founder of the photo lab at Oak Ridge, H.B. Smith, as well as assorted views of non-Oak Ridge subjects. For the most part, prints have been placed in plastic sleeves and organized (during the AEC period) in ring notebooks. An estimated 90% of the photos bear some handwritten or printed captioning, and for those that do not, basic information can in some cases be derived from the Oak Ridge negative log (see note under Finding Aids, below; see also series description for Record Group 434, Series ORN). Altogether, approximately 82% of the prints have corresponding negatives represented in Series ORN. Of the remaining 18%, some bear numbers corresponding to negatives in Signal Corps (Record Group 111, Series SC) and AEC (Record Group 326, Series G) series. While the vast majority of the Oak Ridge prints date from the prime years, or immediate aftermath, of the Manhattan Project, there are scattered images from 1947-1949 and later. The images reflect both the diversity of Westcott functions and the tight security restrictions under which he labored at all times. A substantial bloc of photos documents construction of the X-10, Y-12, S-50, and K-25 complexes, along with supporting infrastructure- access roads, railroad lines, water lines, water tanks, warehouses, and power stations. In addition to exterior views, numerous interior views depict the mechanical "guts" . . . for example, in the K-25 plant, such items as piping equipment, refrigeration room, cold trap vent, booster cell pumps, filter furnace, leak detecting rack, withdrawal alley, rack and tubing bundle assembly line. What is not shown is any of the facilities in an operating context; connections among the "guts," and connections between man and machine, are never made explicit. There is also extensive coverage of urban engineering at Oak Ridge, with exterior and interior documentation of the multiple types of residential housing- duplexes, cemestos, portable four-family homes, trailers, hutments, apartments, and dormitories. Ground-level views are supplemented by some 300 low-level aerial shots, taken by Westcott from a "Piper Cub" plane, showing the lay-out of residential neighborhoods, streets, shopping centers, town squares, and assorted municipal facilities. In his work for the Oak Ridge Journal, and later for the Public Relations Office, Westcott explored a considerable spectrum of social, cultural, and commercial life at Oak Ridge- activities at schools, churches, stores, outdoor markets, post offices, recreation rooms, dance halls, cafeterias, bars, soda fountains, swimming pools (and old-fashioned swimming "holes"), bowling alleys, theatres, concert halls. Included, for example, are views of meat counters and drug store counters, indicating worker adjustment to war-time shortages of such commodities as beef and cigarettes (Notebook 13); views of movie theatre patrons lined up under a marquee advertising a film about the atom bomb, "The Beginning Or the End" (" . . . a terrifying secret," as one sign exclaims in Notebook 45); views of war bond rallies and parades, the dedication of an Army Air Corps B-25 bomber ("Sunday Punch") officially sponsored by Oak Ridge construction workers, and V-J Day celebrations in the streets (Notebooks 12, 58). Included, as well, are numerous close-ups of billboard messages promoting loyalty and security themes (e.g., in Notebook 59, billboard picture of three monkeys, announcing "What You See Here, What You Do Here, What You Hear Here, When You Leave Here, Let It Stay Here!"). Worker political activity also receives some coverage (Notebook 20), with views of Oak Ridgers participating in state elections as well as union elections and rallies. Evident is the vigorous competition, during a National Labor Relations Board election, between AF-of-L and CIO organizers. While Westcott did not pursue any thoroughgoing examination of relations between whites and the approximately 3000 black workers at Oak Ridge, there are suggestions that certain Southern traditions held sway. Photographs show clearly separate plant cafeterias (Notebook 13), teen clubs and recreation facilities (Notebook 48), post offices (Notebook 56), and residential areas (the Gamble Valley section, Notebooks 25, 57) for blacks. The voting scenes show a revealing pattern- blacks and whites participating together in the union elections, but only whites going to the polls for the state elections. Included among the "Miscellaneous" views (Notebook 43) is a particularly graphic reminder of segregation- privies marked "white" and "colored" at an Oak Ridge construction site. Photographs also document official visits to Oak Ridge by political, military, and scientific notables, among them Gen. Groves, Col. Nichols, Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Adm. Hyman Rickover, Secretary of War Robert Patterson, Tennessee Senators Estes Kefauver and Kenneth McKellar, Ohio Senator Robert Taft of the Senate Atomic Energy Commission Committee, AEC chairman David Lilienthal, and scientists J. Robert Oppenheimer, Arthur Compton, Glenn T. Seaburg, Vannevar Bush, Ernest O. Lawrence, and James Conant. Among the Oak Ridge ceremonies represented in the series is that marking a notable peacetime nuclear application- the August, 1946 sale of the first radio isotope, acquired by the Barnard Free Skin/Cancer Hospital of St. Louis (Notebook 58). The series incorporates some 200 non-Westcott views of contributing facilities outside Oak Ridge- the aforementioned Hanford and Los Alamos sites; the Argonne National Laboratory in Illinois, site of the nation's first nuclear reactor; the Alabama Ordnance Works; the uranium-producing Uravan Mines in Colorado; the DuPont Dye Works at Carney, New Jersey; and others. The Los Alamos material includes views -- black-and-white along with one color image -- of Trinity test operations, atomic fireball, and post-test "ground zero." (Notebook 40). Additionally, there are some 150 prints, from Corps of Engineers, Army Signal Corps, U.S. Strategic Bombing Survey, and other sources, documenting the immediate impact of the bombs that Oak Ridge helped to build -- destroyed buildings, landscapes of ruin, and radiation victims at Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Box 70). Accompanying these prints is a copy of a Corps of Engineers publication, Photographs of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, presenting some of the same images plus related items. Finally, Series OR features some 175 portraits of important figures in the history of atomic science (Notebooks 4-6). Drawn from a wide variety of general and scientific picture sources (ranging from Brown Brothers to the Curie Foundation), this assortment of original photos, photographic reproductions of art work, and photo-mechanical reproductions was gathered by the AEC for use in a three-part booklet series, Atomic Pioneers. The "pioneer" list stretches back as far as Pythagoras and Thales, moves through Marie and Pierre Curie, Max Planck, and Dmitri Mendelyeev, and reaches Albert Einstein, Max Born, Niels Bohr, Enrico Fermi, and other mid-20th Century giants. In addition to the pictures, Series OR also includes copies of the published booklets. Many of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki images and many of the non-Oak Ridge facility pictures in Series OR are duplicated in other Still Picture print series -- Record Group 111, Series SC; Record Group 80, Series G; Record Group 326, Series G; Record Group 243, Series G (Strategic Bombing Survey); and RecordGroup 77, Series AEC and MDH (Corps of Engineers). (There are, however, some Japanese victim closeups that appear to be quite unique to Series OR). A few of the post-war Oak Ridge images can also be found in Record Group 326, Series G. Additionally, duplicates of scattered Oak Ridge images from all years appear in the DOE Historian's Office file, Record Group 434, Series SF. For textual records illuminating the overall Manhattan Project public relations effort, including discussion of the pictorial role, see Record Group 77, Manhattan Engineer District Decimal File, 1942-1948, Section 000.71 (Interchange of Information). The Decimal File is in the custody of the Military Reference Branch (NNRM). See also the extensive Record Group 77, Oak Ridge textual files at the Southeast Regional Archives in Atlanta (index entry marked "Photographic Service Section").

10 linear feet, 4 linear inches

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