My Girl Scout history stories often have unusual origins.
I stumbled upon the story of Crown Princess Martha of Norway while I researched the Girl Scout Little House in Washington DC.
I had searched “Little House” through the US Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division and a photo of her 1939 visit popped up.
When a related photo appeared on eBay, I purchased it. I usually do not waste money purchasing an overpriced reprint of an image that may be downloaded for free from the Library of Congress.
But if the photo offered for sale is an original, that’s another matter entirely. Vintage press service photos typically have a long caption that includes the date and names of the individuals. As the image is copied and widely distributed across the Internet, those details are usually lost. This is literally a rare chance to attach names to faces.
I purchased this photo, which appeared in part 1 of this series without the caption.
The caption noted that it was from a Girl Scout birthday party held at the Norwegian Embassy in Washington DC in 1945. End of story, right?
The Archives and History Committee of the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital (like all councils) frequently receives donations. Old uniforms, badge sashes, and handbooks are typical, but photos, scrapbooks, and other one-of-a-kind items also appear. Sometimes the donor contacts the council office first, but others just arrive. A council staff member acknowledges receipt, then transfers it to the archives.
A few months back, I opened a large mailing envelope forwarded by staff and found several folded sheets of typewritten paper. A Post-It note was attached:
The obvious answer, of course, was to send it to the Girl Scouts.
The papers were folded around a smaller envelope, which I discovered contained photos. Specifically, 16 extremely well preserved photographs of the Norwegian Embassy event!!! The typed pages contained captions for each photo.
Nothing I’d found to date reflected the size of the event–over 400 girls attended!!
Here is a selection to enjoy:
Norwegian Ambassador Wilhelm Morgenstierne addresses the 400 girls present:
Many of the activities related to a service project helping a Norwegian Girl Guide troop that was meeting at a castle in Scotland. The Girl Scouts sent a scroll and gifts to the troop.
Sharing birthday cake with friends:
Talking to Princess Ragnhild and Prince Harald (on right, third photo)
Leaving the Embassy … with memories to tell their own children and grandchildren.
The donated photographs appear to have been professionally taken. A note on the page of captions says:
These are file pictures which could be used to help build up the feature. The Norwegian Embassy has cabled to see if they can get pictures of the troop there but don’t know when they can get the pictures or even if they have uniforms in war-weary Scotland.
The moral of this story? Don’t toss photos found in grandma’s attic!
©2021 Ann Robertson, writer, editor, and Girl Scout historian