Group of people sitting in church pews. Call number: Z/2312.000, Series 3 (MDAH)

Group of people sitting in church pews. Call number: Z/2312.000, Series 3 (MDAH)

The Thomas Foner Freedom Summer Papers (Z/2312.000) were recently digitized. A New York native, Foner volunteered in Mississippi during the summer of 1964. He worked on voter registration in Canton and as a project leader in Philadelphia. His collection includes correspondence, a report on voter registration work in Canton, photographs, and newsclippings.

Tagged with:

Jim Pitts, state government records archivist (and retired U.S. Army officer), brings us this post on a little-known aspect of William D. McCain, the second director of MDAH.

William D. McCain. Call Number: PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, item 9, McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection (MDAH)

William D. McCain. Call Number: PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, item 9, McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection (MDAH)

The movie Monuments Men opens today. Interestingly, Mississippi had its own monuments man, Captain William D. McCain, who was the director of the Department of Archives and History before and after World War II. The exploits of the Allied officers and soldiers assigned to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commissions in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations have been largely unknown outside of the history, arts, archives, and library communities. With the release of this movie, based on Robert Edsel’s books Rescuing DaVinci, Monuments Men, and Saving Italy, their role in preserving Western heritage from the devastation of World War II and massive looting by Nazi leaders can come to full light.

McCain was called to active duty in March 1943 as first lieutenant and served in an antiaircraft artillery unit. In December 1943, he deployed overseas to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations where he was assigned as a historian with Headquarters, Fifth (U.S.) Army. He remained in that assignment until September 1944. He helped write the history of the Fifth Army during its operations in North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy. McCain was the author of From the Volturno to the Winter Line (6 October to 15 November 1943), one of a series of fourteen studies of World War II military operations. In February 1944, he was promoted to captain.

In September 1944, McCain was reassigned to the Fifteenth Army Group’s Allied Commission, which oversaw all civil military operations in the Italian peninsula. He joined the Subcommission for Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) as the regional records officer and archivist of the Lombardia area (northern Italy). McCain’s tasks were “ … to plan to take care of the archival deposits in northern Italy, to plan for the restoration of archival service in northern Italy, and to plan for the protection and return to Rome of the records of the ministries which had been removed northward as the Allied armies advanced … .” During the winter of 1944–1945, McCain worked with Italian state archivists to collect information on the archival depositories in northern Italy and make plans for their recovery, protection, and return.

During the spring and summer of 1945, as Allied armies surged north up the Italian peninsula, McCain worked to locate and inspect archival depositories and restore archival services in northern Italy. He also took it upon himself to supervise the restoration of various libraries in his area of operations. His work culminated in late August 1945, with a “great meeting in Milano” that settled all remaining matters of restoration and return of the archives. From September through November, the Italian state archives were transferred back to Rome in eleven thirty-five-truck convoys.

McCain departed Italy for the United States in September 1945. After completing his reports and performing other administrative duties, he was discharged from active service in December 1945 and returned to Jackson to resume his duties as state archivist. McCain continued his military service after World War II as an officer with the Mississippi National Guard in antiaircraft artillery units, including a twenty-month mobilization during the Korean War.


McCain was an assistant archivist at the nascent United States National Archives before becoming director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. His contacts with archivists at the national level, including Solon J. Buck, Archivist of the United States, resulted in his assignment as the archivist for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission.


William D. McCain, “Some Reminiscences of the United States Archivist in Italy, 1944–1945,” Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 34, no. 1 (1972), pages 1–28.  The two quotations are taken from pages 6–7 and 26.

William D. McCain papers, Z/0065.000 and Z/0065.001, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection, PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, MDAH.

For additional information on the Monuments Men:

The Monuments Men web site:

The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art:

Tagged with:


"Mare with Five Off Springs (at Camp*B)," Series 1695, item 16 (MDAH)

“Mare with Five Off Springs (at Camp*B),” Series 1695, item 16 (MDAH)

Series 1695: Parchman Photograph Booklet was recently digitized. The photographs of Parchman State Penitentiary were  taken during the administration of Superintendent C. E. Breazeale and bound in a loose-leaf booklet. The booklet was prepared under the supervision of Sgt. P. O. Miller, Identification Officer, to document improvements made on the buildings and grounds of the penitentiary’s agricultural facilities. Photographs show livestock, penitentiary officials, and inmates.


Mississippians at Pearl Harbor

On December 6, 2013, in Digital Archives, Photographs, by Amanda

Wreckage of USS Arizona, Library of Congress, call number: LC-USE62- D-OA-000189 [P&P]

Wreckage of USS Arizona, Library of Congress, call number: LC-USE62- D-OA-000189 [P&P]

December 7 marks the seventy-second anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. MDAH historian Mike Allard compiled this list of Mississippians lost that day using official Navy casualty lists, the American Battle Monuments Commission database, and local newspapers.

U.S.S. Arizona
Bond, Burnis L.—Wiggins, Stone Co.
Carter, Paxton T.—Hattiesburg, Forrest Co.
Chadwick, Charles B.—Rena Lara, Coahoma Co.
Dial, John B.—Hattiesburg, Forrest Co.
Fortenberry, Alvie C.—Magnolia, Pike Co.
Green, Glen H.—Paulding, Jasper Co.
Menefee, James A.—Jackson, Hinds Co.
Molpus, Richard P.—Meridian, Lauderdale Co.
Moody, Robert E.—Utica, Hinds Co.
Murphy, Jessie H.—Picayune, Hancock Co.
Oglesby, Lonnie H.—Jackson, Hinds Co.
Ruddock, Cecil R.—Pass Christian, Harrison Co.
Smith, Walter T.—Gunnison, Bolivar Co.
Thornton, George H.—Blue Springs, Union Co.
White, Volmer D.—Kokomo, Marion Co.

U.S.S. California
Clark, Cullen B.—Laurel, Jones Co.
Curtis, Herbert S. Jr.—Kilmichael, Montgomery Co.

U.S.S. Oklahoma
Davenport, James W. Jr.—Hattiesburg, Forrest Co.
Ferguson, Charlton H.—Kosciusko, Attala Co.
Johnston, Jim H.—Wesson, Copiah Co.
Jones, Jerry—Stonewall, Clarke Co.
Thornton, Cecil H.–Mississippi
Wade, Durrell—Calhoun City, Calhoun Co.

U.S.S. West Virginia
Melton, John R.—Liberty, Amite Co.
Mister, Joe E.—Grenada, Grenada Co.

Hickam Field
Denson, Eugene B.—Canton, Madison Co.
Gossard, James E. Jr.—Electric Mills, Kemper Co.
Joyner, Theodore K. Jr.—Canton, Madison Co.

Wheeler Field
Everett, James—Canton, Madison Co.
Price, John A.—McComb, Pike Co.

Tagged with:

WPA Scrapbooks Digitized

On August 21, 2013, in Digital Archives, Photographs, by Amanda
Page from Pictorial History: Mississippi Agriculture and Industry. Call Number: Series 443, MDAH.

Page from Pictorial History: Mississippi Agriculture and Industry. Call Number: Series 443, MDAH.

The Works Progress Administration Scrapbooks (Series 443) were recently digitized and added to the Digital Archives. Covering the period 1936–1941, the scrapbooks document a variety of topics, ranging from historic homes, the timber and dairy industry, cotton, Native Americans, trees, WPA projects, and more.