tv Cities Tour at Historic Sites CSPAN November 25, 2016 4:00pm-4:56pm EST
everything from key west to charleston. admiral nimitz is here. he find base has moved to smaller quarters. he doesn't want to bounce around. so he selected this large home sitting vacant. nimitz is here, sees the large house sitting empty, is impressed by all the top research by the u.s. navy. so he gets home to washington to learn the president of the united states has a hacking cough that he can't seem to shake. he immediately speaks up and says i have the perfect vacation venue. it's warm. i'm sure, mr. president, you would like key west. he came strictly for a week of r and r. he's relaxing with his friends. they are resting, swimming,
soaking up the sun. and the president is writing to his wife saying what a fabulous place this turned out to be. the cold has disappeared in just a week's time. as he leaves key west after that first week he promised our city commissioners whenever i get tired i will be back. 12 weeks later he's back. so each november and december and each february and march the president would take up residence a week, two weeks, three weeks, a month at a time. and it becomes literally the functioning white house of the united states. president truman on his first vacation to key west is invited by the navy to go out on a captured german sub. so he and his 16 closest staff go out on this captured german sub. the captain of the sub is a
missouri native. of course as fate would have it they submerged to 450 feet and the sub springs a leak. the logs are on our official website. they weren't the least bit concerned. they had a missouri captain. they knew he would look out for them. after time, the instruments reengage, they slowly go to the surface. they open the hatch and his staff scrambles. they all see him with soaking wet trousers. and he said i see you are
sitting in your lack of presentation. the navy had not putney money into fixing the place up. by 1949 the president had been here four times. following the defeat of tom dewey the navy realized the president would be coming back much more often. they hired the premier interior decorator of miami beach, heygood lassiter. it reflects 1949. he wanted to create a timeless venue, something that would be acceptable to the guests that would be coming to the see the president. and he picked colors that were popular at the time. celedon green walls, taupes, grays, tomato red. it had admirals living in it from 1953 to 1974. many of the things done for
truman were discarded. it was our job to the restore the house as it was. they didn't have to tell us who it was from. so we found this fabric and it turned out to to be a waiverly print. we happened to find a scrap on ebay. we needed 187 yards to complete the task. the paintings on the ball i had been led to believe were stolen until one day we found a location that they had been loaned by the naval academy. well, the naval academy had no idea what i was talk building. so finally we found a list of collection from the truman library. we approached the naval academy for the paintings. they informed me they were worth a million dollars and we were definitely not the president so
we weren't getting them. they shot high resolution scans so the paintings are exactly as they are when president truman was here in the house. so is the little white house is is a very, very pure restoration to the time when president truman was using it as his white house. at the moment we are in president truman's living room, library. during the the daytime it was his office. and every evening it became a movie theater. he has a staff of 59. seven are playing poker. so what do you do with the rest of them? they ran first run films here in the living room. now, there's many neat things about the little white house. the living room is somehow iconic in the number of pieces that are actually connected to president truman. ♪
his piano is in the corner. rarely did the president have the piano here in key west. he had instead that piano came on board the presidential yacht, uss williamsburg. that's the way it was when the president was president. he was an extremely talented musician. at the age of 6 they found he had an incredible musical talent. he enrolled in music lessons for the next 10 years. they expected him to become a concert pianist. then he drops out saying he is not quite good enough. we believe he dropped out of the lessons to save the family the cost of the expense. but he regularly played the piano. he played mozart from memory. he is an extremely fine pianist.
the presidential yacht was decommissioned. president eisenhower found it a luxury he didn't need. boeing a navy vessel, all the artifacts were scattered. 1964, so about 10 years later, admiral lou kern put out a directi directive, i want the piano. it was shipped back to key post, had it restored, and he was surprised to find it back in the the little white house. this is where the president came to the relax. now, the president told everyone he was on vacation, working vacations but on vacation in key west. it turns out it was all a lie. harry would get up on vacation at 7:00 in the morning, read a
newspaper, come down stair, have a glass of orange juice with shot of bourbon. he would then good out walking 10 blocks, 120 paces a minute. that's cardio if ever i heard of it. and then he would take up his position at this little desk. every day or every other day, large mail bags would arrive via currier. they would contain legislation and sometimes books. he would literally run the country from this desk. after, he would insist they all go swimming. because it was important his staff rest. well, his staff or working like fiends thinking, well, at least the president is relaxing. the president was doing exactly the same thing. because at night he would take a stack into his bedroom and think at least my staff is resting.
he wrote a letter to his cousin ethel. he said it is a farce. i'm signing my name 200 to 600 times a day on vacation. the work of the president never ends. it follows you no matter where you go. which kind of brings back this iconic symbol, the buck stops here. harry truman made it quite famous because he believed all responsibility ends at the president's desk. the onlier person the president of the united states can-can pass responsibility to is god. it comes from the wild west. in the wild west a bone handled knife, a buck knife was placed in front of a dealer. when it wasn't your turn or you didn't want the responsibility, you passed the buck to the next dealer. that's who indicated the deer. well, harry truman being a poker player would know that. and so the buck stops here is
the sign that ended up on his desk. this is one of multiple copies the president received. the original of course is at his library in independence, missouri. the one thing, though, that people rarely get to see is the back of the sign. the pack of the sign says i'm from missouri. why is that important? it reminded harry truman don't ever get a swelled head. don't think you're better than the people that elected you. because one of days you'll be going back home. and harry every, ever lost that concept. he never forgot who he was nor where he was going. and he w and he was always one of us. at the moment we are in the harry s. truman little white house. if you're old new, you might call it a florida room. this is where the president relaxed with his staff after
hours. probably one of the most iconic things in the house is this poker table. it was made in our cabinet shop as a gift from the navy back in 1949. the president had already been here four other vacations prior to that. so the president relaxed by playing poker with his closest staff. they played cards from 7:00 to 11:00 every night. this was a team building exercise. this was all about camaraderie and had nothing to do with winning or losing money. we are fortunate that two of truman's staff are still living. ken heck her and george ellesy. he made 8 of 11 trips to key west. he said when they boarded the plane to washington they threw $50 a month. he would save part of the winnings so if they ran it of money, the banker advanced you money.
he didn't feel anyone ever lost more than $20 playing cards with the president. president truman regarded the big white house has the great white scale. he felt he was con standpointly under everyone's eye. by coming to key west, he could come with his closest staff, let down his hair. sometimes they would let their beard grow for a couple days. they certainly at times used off collar stories. and they certainly could have a grass of bourbon and visit back and forth without any scrutiny from the press. we know for a fact that he shared his decision not to run for reelection with his closest staff sitting at this table. for the next six months not one person read the story. president truman shared that information with them so they would have the opportunity to leave government service and get a job before everyone else left
government service. he was close can with his staff. he had great fun with his staff. though he personally did not like fishing, he would go out fishing with his staff, to get on the biggest fish. a sportswear company sent a case of hawaiian shirts to the president with the thought if the president is wearing our shirts we're going to sell a lot of shirts. so he wore the free shirts the first year and organized the loud shirt contest. that was the official uniform of key west. it was hunt all year long for the craziest tropical shirt you can find. so the president was often seeing wearing these loud shirts. the press corps. followed suit.
they were known as the one wore club because the press was always, please, mr. president, just one more. if you go to when we were allowed to go to the big white house, the white house is very formal and very presidential. the little white house reminds many visitors of their mom's house, perhaps their favorite aunt. it is very humble furnished. it is a very subtle elegance about it. but i think the number one think is we will go, i can live here. this feels like my house. so it really is the people's house in so many ways. it is not a house, by any means, that -- they get it.
harry truman was human. harry truman was one of us. # it and certainly would have been so out of keeping with his character had they had guilded furniture. it would have been inconceivable to harry truman to have anything like that. >> to mark the centennial of the national park service, american history tv is featuring historic sites and national parks from c-span's city tour. for more information, check out c-span.org/citiestour. you're watching american history tv all weekend and on holidays too only on c-span3. this past august, american history tv marked the centennial of the national park service. we asked members of congress which in your state has special meaning to you and why?
>> congressman hill and i representative central high school. i'm at the central high school museum here in little rock, the centerpiece of the civil rights of the south. this was the biggest school integration crisis following brown versus board of education decision. the national park service has this memorial here at central high school, one of the most beautiful high schools in our country. i'm an avid outdoorsman. so the park site that has the most meeting to me is the first national river in our country, the buffalo national river. i've been going there literally for about 55 years. i have many, many miles on the river and many happy memories at clothing america's first national river, the buffalo national river. teddy roosevelt led the charge to protect america's wild places and special places. he believed in the strenuous life.
now, more than ever our families need to get outdoors and enjoy america. that's the why if you're watching this show, i'm in acadia, maine hiking in the northeast participating in the 100-mile challenge. so i urge everybody in america this fall to support our centennial for the national parks and get outside, america. >> all day today, american history tv is marking the national park service centennial. and we talked with members of congress about the national parks and historic sites in their states. this is american history tv, only on c-span3. 100 years ago in august 1916, president will signed legislation to mark the national park service. we continue now with another stop on the c-span cities tour. this is american history tv on c-span3.
>> we are sitting in the former sales room for the ryans mart auction complex. originally this building didn't have a second floor. it was just a long, narrow building that was part of a complex of four buildings that made up ryans mart. we know charleston played a significant role in the transatlantic slave trade and africans coming into what is now the united states. 40% of all enslaved africans coming into this country in the 18th century entered through the port of charleston. but the transatlantic slave trade was abolished in 1908, but there was much smuggling. the majority who were sold here
were american born. in 1856 when we see the first slave sale here, 20-year-old woman named lucinda, this building wasn't even here. you'll notice this was an alley that led into the larger auction complex. there were three buildings there. the main building was a four story jail. that's where enslaved people were held before a sale. there was also a two-story structure that was used as a kitchen. there was also a smaller structure in the southwest corner of the lot that was described as a dead house or a morgue. if the slave trader knew there was an enslaved person in jail that was sick, they would remove that person to this other structure so as not to infect
the larger population. thousands were sold here between 1856 is and 1863. the largest slave sale that i know about that was advertised was 256 enslaved people. in today's dollars, a very enslaved man who is in the prime of his life, strong and able-bodied could be sold for in today's $35,000. of course if you had a special trade or a skill, you would be worth more. enslaved people had to be prepared for sale. especially if they had traveled from a great distance. if an enslaved person, let's say they were coming from richmond, virginia and coming here to ryans mart to be sold that could take weeks or something
traveling on a good day, 20 to 25 miles a day. so it could talk a long time. so by the time they got here to ryan's mart, they wouldn't be in any condition to be sold. they would be bruised with the shackles and chains they had been wearing. especially the men who were shackled the entire time. very thin, dirty. they were in no position to be sold on the auction block. a potential buyer wouldn't want to the purchase them. so arriving in a place like this, this auction complex, thomas ryan and then later z.b. oaks would have a staff of black and whiten slaved and free people here working to get those people who were coming to be sold ready for the auction block. enslaved people were fed very well before auction trying to fatten them up. they would also be provided soap
and water here at ryan's mart to wash themselves. and sometimes they would also be be given palm oil or some other kind of oil encouraged to rub that into their skin so that they could appear healthier and their muscles would look more defined and bulked you. all of that would happen. of course the last thing that had to the happen is people had to find out when that auction was going to happen. so ads would have been placed in the local papers. some of the larger slave auctions would be advertised throughout the southeast. if you were a slave trader in the south and someone said ryan's mart, they would know where you were talking about. enslaved people, you would think that they wouldn't have any agency. they wouldn't have any power in
a situation like this. or maybe as they stood on an auction block, no power. they knew they were going to be sold. but there were things that they did the. for instance, if there was an enslaved man on the auction block and a potential buyer started bidding on him, a potential buyer who he knew of, he would start speaking up and say if you buy me i will work for you. i will work very hard for you, sir. and maybe start bragging about how strong he was or how skilled he was. and maybe even try to encourage that buyer to purchase his wife and child also. and so enslaved people did that. it wasn't because they were happy with their lot in life or happy about being enslaved or
content. this man was trying to keep his family together. and he was going to do anything and say anything to achieve that. the last advertised slave sale here at ryan's mart occurred in november 1863. and it wasn't until about 1936 that merriam wilson purchased the building. and she knew, and many people knew this was a place where enslaved people were sold. and she wanted to open this building as a museum. so she established the old slave mart museum in 1937. and it opened, i believe, in march of that year. so opened this building as the first african-american museum in the country. >> to mark the centennial of the
national park service, american history tv is featuring natural and historic sites as recorded by c-span's cities tour staff. all day today here on c-span3. >> on the fifth anniversary of the federal building in oklahoma city, frank peting dedicated a national memorial on the site where the building once stood. 168 people, including 19 children, died in the 1995 blast. >> on april 19th, five years ago, another spring wednesday like today, the flag of our nation was flying over the building. it is flying over our memorial today. and i know it flies proudly in all of your hearts. for those who perpetuated this act, we have one message. in america, you can speak and
write and vote and complain, but there is no right to maim and bomb and kill. [ applause ]. is and if you think you can bring that flag down, there is your answer. we have so many special guests today. it is a homecoming for many of you who came to oklahoma in 1995 and gave us your sweat, your tears and your support. we welcome home all of you. this is your home. we are all oklahomans today and we are all americans. may god continue to bless our beloved land. [ applause ].
>> my husband and i designed the outdoor memorial here. and that is everything you see in this space is kind of green park space. this project was given out as a competition. and we decided to participate in this competition because we felt it was a way we could contribute to the community and give them something that would help them. as part of that competition process, the memorial foundation, which was established here, seniority of the guiding force in creating this memorial, they sent out a mission statement or a set of guidelines to which we should follow when we were thinking about how to design this memorial. and there were a couple things that were really important. they gave us the whole boundary
of the perimeter. included in that was this section of 5th street which is now where our reflecting pool is. that used to be a regular street that just ran through the site. had he had opted, before we ever became involved, they had decided to the close off this street permanently and make it part of this memorial room. another thing that was really an important guideline is they wanted all the participants to create a design that would allow for the survivor tree to remain. and the survivor tree is located at the high point of the site. it was not a celebrated tree before this happened. it was just a tree in a parking lot. but after the bomb exploded, that tree took on sort of the symbolism of surviving because itself -- the tree itself is a survivor. it almost didn't survive that bombing. and because it was such a
dynamic symbol of resilience, the community started to rally under that tree together under its branches and became a real symbol for this place. this part of the site is where the building used to stand. this is the footprint basically of the building. those are the parking garage right behind. way of the things was to please remember those who were killed in this space. so we treated this really as a more sacred space. it is quieter. and we have lined the whole perimeter with these tall pine trees. they are very regional. and they grow to be almost 90 feet tall. and their job is to create this soft is green protective ejiofor
this site and for these nine rows of empty chairs. we saw them as these sentinels that are really protected. there's nine rows of chairs here. ichiro corresponds to one floor of the building. the chairs that are on that row really reflect the boom that were working or were visiting that floor of the building when the bomb went off. each chair has a name of a victim inscribed on it. and they are not big, bold black letters but lightly etched into the glass. we thought that was something more subtle but very beautifulment the chairs are made up of these glass bases and a bronze and granite seat and back. they are really designed to be at the scale of a person. there's something that we're all familiar with is a chair.
that's something that we can relate to across many cultures and many ages. so we thought that was a good way to reach a lot of people. in the day you don't see the glass bases as much, especially from a little bit of distance. you don't see them. it seems these float because the glass is not so apparent. but at night the opposite comes true where the glass bases light up and they become the beacons of hope that remind us that good can-can come out of something so evil. >> there are different sized chairs? >> yes. there's two sizes. they are subtle, the difference. the smaller chairs are for the children. there were 19 children killed. 15 of those were in the day care. that's on the second floor. so most of those chairs are on the second row. and that really starts to speak
to me, to the tragedy of how this hit just across a whole range of people. what we're looking at here are the gates of time. and they really act as our formal entry markers into the memorial room. we have one to the east is marked 901. the gate to the west is marked 903. and they really reflect or reference the moment of the bomb, which was at 9:02. so we don't literally write that out, but we are just referencing that 9:02 is really when -- you know, that this whole outdoor memorial room is about. and those are acting as our edges. each gate is comprised of two walls. in between those walls, just a slight pause. it's almost like at a church, the slight pause before you
enter into the memorial room. he step away from the hustle bustle sounds of the city, a slice of sky, and you go into the memorial room. right in the middle of this whole room is a long reflecting pool, 313 feet long. this used to be a busy, active street. and now it is almost a void. we can't go there anymore. we have made it inaccessible. it acts as an organizing element to all the different players in this outdoor room. and it's also kind of a common edge to where we can all come meet. and we really saw this main element as a place for -- to remember. and those changed forever. the water is only three-quarters
of an inch deep. you won't know that until you get right up to the edge and look into it. we thought the music is soothing noise. it plays a big role on many sensory levels when you're experiencing memorial. the facade is the alley facade. when the bomb happened, it damaged the buildings around it so much they had to be demolished. what was left was this facade that it was really evident that something had happened. there were just these dark voids of space where the windows used
to be. when we designed this, we realized it was really important to keep that facade as much intact as it was the day that the bomb happened. because it gives us a back drop, a reminder almost of where we're coming from. it is is about recognizing the efforts of those who helped. and this area here specifically about the children who helped. and the kids did a number of things. they sent letters, and pictures, and drawings to the rescue workers right after this happened. we heard when they would have a break, they would go to these cotts and there would always be a letter or drawing there. and to kind of remind them or just give them some inspiration. the memorial received a lot of
tiles with these pictures of whatever the kids were thinking about and whatever message they pointed on the tile. we wanted to line the whole wall with the tiles so people would have an idea of what the contribution was. this was a strong area. interspersed is the big chalkboard slates. we collaged them like all the letters and pictures that the kids sent in. they are here almost to be an interactive the piece. it is a way that kids and adults can come and still leave the same kinds of messages for the
community. and we hardly ever see them blank. they are washed off by the rain, but there are always people coming to here. it is an important way of people letting other people know you're not alone. once we came here, we met the people and started interacting with the community. we started to really feel the responsibility we had taken on. we were very important to have a big team of people around us. we were fortunate we got to communicate with the people a lot. it was a process that the memorial foundation had in place. they wered to keep the community involved with this project and
keep them up to the date on on everything that was happening. so that was really good to us, that we were doing this as a partnership with the community. it felt very heavy. at the same time, when we were finished, on the day before dedication, we had to hand it over. we hoped we had done a good job and we would be delivering to the community something that they could find comfort in, a place where they could come to and really find some sense of peace 37. . 100 years ago this past august, president wood rewilson signed legislation creating the national park service. today we are featuring natural and historic sites visited by our c-span cities tour staff. this is american history tv only on c-span3. >> a lot of times i ask myself
why is it important to have an historic sure that a lot of of times you can read about it. it is amazing that this event that happened where i'm standing. to me that's the value of a historic structure. you get the personal moments of connection of people just walking around today and thinking their own thoughts and lives and suddenly they can jump back into it. we are in st. louis's old courthouse. it is no longer used for the courts today. # it is a very historic building that has been preserved to tell a little bit about st. louis's history. this is best known as the
courthouse where dread and harriet scott sued for their freedom. that suit went all the way to the u.s. supreme court which in 1857 decided they would be held as slaves. it was also a decision that was very broad. it said people couldn't be restricted from taking their slaves into federal territory. so it opened up all the western territories to areas of slavery. it was one of the deciding factors on leading the nation to a path of civil war. there were a lot of other things. john brown's raid on harpers
ferry. a lot of things that were going on in the late 1850s. but any one of those you could probably say, well, it's one of the places where the civil war really began, where the roots of the civil war are. so long before the first gun was fired at fort sumter in south carolina, a lot of things were leading the country on on the road toward civil war. one was the case that was originally heard in this building, the case of dread and harriet scott. a lot of time the story of the dread scott case because it is is a factor of civil war, the people themselves get lost in the story. he was from st. louis but had lived many other places. he was born in the late 1790s, early 1800 in virginia.
and he was born as a slave on a plantation owned by a family named blow. the blow family moved to alabama. and they took dread scott with them and tried to make a go of it there on another plantation which failed. so they moved to st. louis and actually bought a hotel and decided to try to do a different type of work to try to make their living. they found that they needed some ready cash and so they sold dread scott after they arrived here in st. louis in the 180s. 1830s. and a physician who was working with the u.s. army, dr. emerson. dr. emerson was posted at many different places. but two of them are the things that actually resulted in suit of the scotts later on.
one was forth armstrong, which is in the state of illinois, which was not supposed to have slavery because of the northwest origins. and another one what was then the territory of wisconsin, today minnesota, forth snelling. so dread scott was taken to those place as a slave, held in slavery there, even though slavery was technical illegal in those place, and then brought back to st. louis. while he was at fort snelling he met a william named harriet robinson, who was enslaved to another person, another officer at the fort. and dr. emerson actually purchased her and allowed the scotts to marry legally. it was unusual for slaves to have a legal marriage performed by a clergyman. so dread and harriet scott returned to st. louis. they had two children, both
daughters. and after a time, dr. emerson passed away. mrs. emerson was asked by the scotts whether they might be able to purchase their freedom from her. it was something, especially in urban slavery, it wasn't that unusual. but she refused. she was not interested in selling the scott family. so they decided, based on the fact that they had been taken to free territory and held as slaves and were still being held in bondage when they returned to st. louis, to sue for their freedom. so they entered this courthouse in 1846. each had their own petition. so it wasn't as though it was a joint thing. and it wasn't just dread. it was dread and harriet, who had separate petitions for their freedom based on slightly different circumstances. the case first came to the trial here in this building in 1847. there was some hearsay evidence
introduced. so it was a mistrial. they actually lost the first trial. and they asked for another trial, which the judge granted. in 1850, they came back and did the whole thing again. they were able to present the evidence successfully. and the jury of all white males, 12 white males, probably some of them slave owners, decided that dread and harriet scott should be free. so the verdict that was rendered in this building was actually to give them their freedom. but mrs. emerson obviously didn't agree, and she appealed that decision to the state supreme court, which had become very a little bit sized by 1852 when they rendered their verdict. and the slavery issue was heating up all over the nation. so the justice thes that were on the state supreme court, there were three of them. two of them were slave owners.
and they believed that the trend of the jurisprudence in missouri had been to free slaves and taken to free territory. they thought that was wrong. they felt slaves were property. and to take a person's property away just because a person had taken it to a certain area of the country was not a fair thing to do under the law. so they changed from the bench. they legislated, changing all the legal system had been saying up to that point in time in missouri. and they basically were saying that the scotts would be returned to slavery. so a new attorney named roswell field came along and talked to the scotts about a different strategy. he felt that they could take their case to the federal district court here in st. louis
because mrs. emerson had remarried a man named calvin chafy back in massachusetts and had transferred ownership from the scotts from herself to her brother john sanford he was a resident of new york state. so the scotts were being held in bondage by a man who lived in another state, a free state to boot. so field thought that the strategy would be the scotts could sus sue sanford and take to their residence. they lost in the federal court. but they appealed that case directly to the u.s. supreme court. and that was the case that was heard by the supreme court in 1856, and again in 1857 when they actually rendered their decision.
it is is interesting that sanford, his name is on the case. and he doesn't come into it until 1854 when they go to the federal court. and sandford is a key player in that we know the scotts were returned to slavery by the supreme court. yet they were set free in this room just a couple of months later. and the way that happened was that sandford died in new york state. and upon his death the ownership of the scotts reverted to his sister. and technically to her husband, dr. chafy who was from massachusetts. he was an abolitionist and a sitting member of congress at this time. so suddenly he finds that he's the owner of the most famous slaves in the united states just literally overnight. and he wanted to divest himself of the slaves as quickly as he
could before the press found out basically. what he did is he sold the scott family for a token dollar to one of the sons of the original family from the plantation where scott was born back in virginia. and taylor blow brought them into this courtroom and set them free in 1857. so the scotts achieved the freedom that they had fought so long to obtain while still provoking this incredibly important supreme court decision, which led the country on the road to civil war, which of course eventually freed all the slaves. dread unform did not live very long after the decision was rendered. he died probably of tuberculosis in 1858, so only a year after the case was decided. his wife lived on until 1876. so she would have seen the civil war and she would have seen freedom come along.
for a good share of their lives, the scotts lived here in st. louis. they died here. they're buried here. buried here so in many respects we can say the scott family was st. louisians, and their case started here, and with being set free. >> announcer: 100 years ago in august of 1916, is that wilson signed legislation creating the national parks service. to mark the crennel tentia, american history tv is features sites throughout the country. we continue with another stop on the c-span cities tour. this is american history tv on c-span3. it was in december of 1938 that two german scientists reply
the uranium atom. no one had done it until late 1938, then the germans did it. that just fueled the fire of fear. oak ridge national laboratory is a major research institution and oak ridge national lab has been around since right after the second world war, a and is a major and perhaps in some senses the premier research institute in the gyre united states. some people would content the world. it was started as part of the manhattan project in 1942. the manhattan project was the u.s. government as attempt to build an atomic weapon to drop
on german to end the second world ward, and resulted in the atomic weapons ultimate wli dropped on japan. out of that grew oak ridge national laboratory. this was set up originally in 1943, as clinton laboratorian and the purpose was to learn how to produce plutonium. a radioactive element that could split and release vast amounts of energy, but they didn't know much about plutonium. it was an artificial element, had to be created by man, and they knew nothing about the characteristics of plutonium. the building started in february of 1943. this facility, the graphite
reactor, as we know it today, was started in the spring of 1943, completed by november of 1943, and came online as the world's first operated nuclear reactor, and in this case used specifically to produce tiny, tiny amounts of plutonium, which were recovered and then shipped up to the metallurgical laboratory, which was part of the manhattan project in chicago, so they could be characterized up there, and other bits the plutonium that were produced here we are shipped out to los alamos laboratory in new mexico, where the bombs were actually designed and build by robert open hyper, and other famous physicists, ultimately tested out there in new mexico. the purpose of oak will this
national laboratory was originally to serve as a test reactor, which is where we are right now, to produce trace amounts of plutonium for a nuclear weapon. the government realized fairly quickly back in 1943 and '43 that oak ridge and east tennessee were not the places to produce vast amounts of plutonium for a weapon. plutonium in a highly toxic element, very, very carcinogenic, very dangerous if not handled properly. east tennessee was not the place to be produces. this reactor here -- it wasn't even called a reactor, but a pile, was designed to simply learn host how to produce
plutonium, not produce large amounts of it. originally the first reactor that was developed was that the university of chicago, and enrico fairmay was the principal scientist to develop that reactor. he did it in the squash court of stag field, which is where football used to be place at the university of chicago. they weren't playing football anymore, so that's where he ended up in the squash courts under the grandstands at stag field he produced the first reactor and proved it could be created and maintained. that's what you have to have in order to produce plutonium is a chain reaction, but the government said, no, this is not the place to be messing around with nuclear