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E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Hanford Engineer Works photographs and films

1943-1948
 Collection
Identifier: 1974-389

Abstract

The Hanford Engineer Works in Hanford, Washington, was constructed between 1943 and 1945 to create the plutonium 239 and uranium 235 used in the atomic weapons needed for World War II. Sponsored by the Army Corps of Engineers, E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company acted as the prime contractor. This collection contains two captioned albums, one of the Medical Division between 1943 and 1945, and the other of Hanford Yuletide Carnival in 1943. The films are various format copies of "War construction in the desert", created to document the building and running of the Hanford Engineer Works. Also included is a film of African American workers dancing in one of the mess halls and a farewell party of DuPont executives in 1948.

Dates

  • 1943-1948

Creator

Extent

3 Linear Feet

General Physical Description

1 album : black ; 11.5 x 9.25 in. containing 78 photographic prints : b&w ; 3 x 5 in. or smaller. 1 album : brown ; 11.5 x 9.25 in. containing 39 photographic prints : b&w ; 8 x 10 in. 1 photographic print : b&w ; 6.75 x 10.5 in. 9 reels : si., col. ; 16mm. 1 reel : si., b&w ; 16mm. 2 videocassettes (Beta-SP). 2 videocassettes (HDCAM). 3 videocassettes (VHS).

Historical Note

The Hanford Engineer Works in Hanford, Washington, was constructed between 1943 and 1945 to create the plutonium 239 and uranium 235 used in the atomic weapons needed for World War II. President Franklin Roosevelt (1882-1945) authorized the Army to become involved in the atomic bomb project in 1941. In 1942, the Manhattan Engineer District (MED) was established within the Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) to oversee the project which would later be known as the Manhattan Project. General Leslie Richard Groves, Jr. (1896-1970) was placed in command and selected E.I. du Pont de Nemours & Company as the prime contractor. Originally the plant was to be built at Oak Ridge, Tennessee, where DuPont already had a plant. However, due to its proximity to Knoxville and the need for more land to construct the plant and an entire town, it was decided the plutonium plant should be created in a more isolated and larger area. After representatives from the USACE and DuPont searched Northern California and the Pacific Northwest, Hanford Washington was agreed upon as the construction site.

In 1943, Colonel Franklin T. Matthias (1908-1993) was made site manager of Hanford. The Hanford Engineer Works was constructed from March 1943 to February 1945. In less than two years, the site included over 51,000 workers and 1,200 buildings had been created. Roads, railroads, water, electricity and sewer systems also had to be built to run the plant and for all the employees to utilize. The Hanford camp was built to house the workers who worked on the initial site and the Richland Village was constructed for the workers and their families who would operate the plant once it was built. Due to the physical isolation of the plant and the confidential nature of the government's mission there, the plant was responsible for the medical and social affairs of the workers. The work force was mostly laborers brought in from outside the eastern Washington area. Recruiters focused on male workers that were not likely to be drafted, either over age thirty eight or having a family. Wives and children were allowed to live at the site, and amenities such as churches, stores, recreational facilities, gymnasium, bowling alley, library and softball diamond were constructed. Most living quarters were segregated by sex and race as were mess halls and taverns.

In 1945, the plutonium created at the Hanford Engineer Works was used in the Trinity Test in New Mexico as well as the atomic bomb dropped in Nagasaki, Japan. The Hanford site continued to produce plutonium throughout the Cold War era and eventually stopped production in 1988. Environmental cleanup began to reduce contamination after forty years of plutonium production and was estimated to take over thirty years.

Scope and Content

This collection consists of two captioned albums: one from the Hanford yuletide carnival, a two week event which was held to encourage workers not to leave the site for Christmas visits back home and one documenting the Medical Division showing the on-site hospital and clinics for workers and their dependents.

The "Hanford yuletide carnival 1943" album includes images from musical, theatrical, and sporting events held during the Christmas season and views of the Hanford site decorated for the holidays. Some of these photographs show the racially mixed workforce employed at Hanford Engineering Works. The album also includes two copies of the program from the fourteen day event.

The "Photographic history medical division 1943-1945" album is organized by: Buildings (exteriors) includes floor plans; Hospital Facilities (interiors) includes operating rooms and different wards; Industrial Medical Section Hospital Unit No. 1 includes the first aid section and mobile unit; Health Center Hospital Unit No. 2 images relate to public health issues include prenatal class, venereal disease testing, and bacteriology lab; Business Unit includes clerical offices, kitchen, laundry.

A group portrait is included of the first aid nursing staff at Hanford Engineering Works. It is a larger version of a photograph that appears in the "Photographic history medical division" album. The photograph includes a group of nurses in uniform and a few men, with the first aid facilities behind them.

The film in this collection includes three reels of 16mm silent, captioned film entitled "War construction in the desert", created to document the building and running of the Hanford Engineer Works. Reel 1 includes new employees, safety, statistics about power-steam, roads, and railroads. Reel 2 includes a "typical girl's and a typical man's day," recreational activities, the commissary, the hospital facilities. Reel 3 includes excavation statistics, process building construction, and personnel. Another version of "War construction in the desert", where smaller segments have been edited together to create the film is missing two segments. These two segments are included in two smaller reels, "Camp construction/construction shop" and "Patrol/fire/transportation. The collection contains three video format copies of this film in VHS, Betacam SP and HDCAM. The HDCAM format cannot be viewed at this time.

The collection also contains a black and white film of African American workers dancing in one of the mess halls in 1945. The original housing for this film was labeled "The Black Bottom" which was a popular African American dance in the 1920s. Also included is a film of a farewell party of DuPont executives in 1948. Lastly, included is a very short clip of water churning over a rock and a trim of this shot. It is unclear as to the origin of this film.

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for research.

Film material is housed in cold storage and must reacclimate prior to viewing (Film Cans 1-10). Please contact the Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department at least 48 hours in advance of research visit.

Language of Materials

English


Additional Information

Related Names

Creator

Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Title:
E. I. du Pont de Nemours & Company, Hanford Engineer Works photographs and films
Status:
Online
Author:
Lisa Kruczek
Date:
2017
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
English
Script of description:
Latin

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Audiovisual Collections Repository

Contact:
PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA
302-658-2400