Sights of summer from Lab’s earliest days

Preserved images from 1940s feature early staff enjoying Los Alamos

July 20, 2021

0719 Summer Eleven
A 1940s Ford Super Deluxe Coupe, being driven on another summer adventure in New Mexico.

By Madeline Whitacre, National Security Research Center historian

Working at the Lab during World War II was serious business, but even these world-changing scientists and staff found time to play during the summer months.

The National Security Research Center (NSRC), which is the Lab’s classified library and also houses unclassified artifacts from Los Alamos history, recently rescanned candid footage from two of contributors to the Manhattan Project.

The Manhattan Project was the U.S. government’s top-secret effort to create the world’s first atomic bombs to help end the war. It was also the beginning of our Lab. In the early 1940s, scientists, engineers, military members and other staff came to Los Alamos in support of the wartime effort. Among them were two employees, Hugh and Marjorie Bradner, a physicist and secretary, respectively, who took home videos of their adventures in New Mexico.

Hugh and Marjorie met at Dorothy McKibbin’s office in Santa Fe and were married at McKibbin’s home in September 1943. Their videos span much of their time here, before they moved away in April 1946. These films, which are a part of the NSRC’s collections, offer a unique look at life in Los Alamos, including summertime activities, such as hiking, swimming, horseback riding, tennis, and more, among other year round leisure activities.

History captured and preserved

This footage has been digitally available for many years, but the scan was low quality. The original color film was recently rescanned by Laura Le, an archivist at the NSRC, and used to create the photos below.

“The NSRC Digital Collections Team digitizes important classified weapons media data that cannot be replicated today,” said Nanette Mayfield, team lead of the NSRC Digital Collections. “As the Digital Collections Team digitizes the NSRC classified collections, they occasionally come across unclassified media, such as these home movies.”

There’s more!

Check out some summertime scenes from the Bradner films below, and watch Part I and Part II of the rescanned film.

0719 Summer One
Taking a break in the shadow of a boulder.
0719 Summer Two
Hiking in the region near New Mexico can involve a great deal of climbing. Marjorie Bradner and friends hike a steep and rocky trail.
0719 Summer Three
Marjorie Bradner enjoys a horseback ride through the mountains.
0719 Summer Four
Marjorie Bradner at the lakeshore.
0719 Horseback
Early Lab staff members Marjorie Bradner, Charlotte Serber and Robert Serber are on horseback enjoying a shady trail.
0719 Summer Six
Enjoying the New Mexico summer sun.
0719 Summer Seven
Securing supplies for an outing on horseback.
0719 Summer Eight
Getting ready for a party in the sunshine.
0719 Summer Ten
Finding petroglyphs during a hike.
0719 Summer Twelve
Scanning the New Mexico landscape.
0719 Summer Thirteen
Observing the New Mexico landscapes.
0719 Summer Fourteen
Target practice in the wide open spaces of New Mexico.
0719 Summer Fifteen
Outdoor sports, such as tennis, were a popular way to spend time during the warm-weather months.
0719 Summer Sixteen
Summer sports are more fun with a bit of competition.