Guide to the Charter Heslep Papers

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Overview of the Collection

Creator: Heslep, Charter, 1904-1963.
Title: Charter Heslep Papers
Dates: 1932-1963 ( inclusive )
1950-1963 ( bulk )
Quantity: 0.75 cubic feet, including 165 photographs (2 boxes)
Collection Number: MSS Heslep
Summary: The Charter Heslep Papers are primarily comprised of materials dating from Heslep's time as an employee of the Atomic Energy Commission. The collection includes correspondence, speeches, ephemera, photographs, and sound recordings relating to Charter Heslep's work with the AEC, with emphasis on his efforts to televise U.S. nuclear tests on behalf of the Commission.
Repository: Oregon State University Libraries, Special Collections & Archives Research Center
Contact Information: Special Collections & Archives Research Center
121 The Valley Library
Oregon State University
Corvallis OR
Telephone: 541-737-2075
Fax: 541-737-8674
Languages: Materials in English. 

Historical Note

Charter Heslep was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1904. In 1929, he took a position at the Washington Daily News where he later became managing editor. In 1941 he was appointed night news editor for NBC in Washington. During World War II, Heslep served as chief radio news censor for the Broadcasting Division of the Office of Censorship. In 1946, he became manager of the Mutual Broadcasting Company's Washington division. In 1949 he left MBC to become Assistant to the Director of the Atomic Energy Commission. Heslep was an official observer to several nuclear bomb tests at both the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds. He was also recognized as a ghostwriter for many public officials including President Eisenhower, Admiral William D. Leahy and members of the Atomic Energy Commission. Charter Heslep died in 1963 at the age of 59.

Content Description

The Charter Heslep Papers document Heslep's work as a member of the Atomic Energy Commission. The bulk of the collection is comprised of materials relating to Heslep's participation as an official observer in several nuclear weapons tests including detonations in Operations Crossroads, Upshot-Knothole, Tumbler-Snapper, Teapot, and Redwing. Notably, the Heslep Papers contain extensive correspondence between Heslep and his wife, Margaret, describing recording and broadcasting preparations for the Upshot-Knothole, Tumbler-Snapper, and Redwing tests. The collection also includes certificates of participation from Operations Teapot and Redwing, and photographs of the Nevada Test Site and the Pacific Proving Grounds, Heslep in his role as official observer, and assorted nuclear detonations.

The collection also contains speeches authored by Heslep on various topics such as nuclear energy, television and radio, and the practice of ghostwriting. Ephemera related to Heslep's position at the Atomic Energy Commission, including event programs and publications, can also be found in the Heslep Papers. In addition to photographs of military tests, sites, and personnel, the collection also contains photographs of Heslep at the Washington Daily News, Atomic Energy Commission and International Atomic Energy Agency events, and assorted sites and individuals associated with nuclear weapons and atomic energy during the 1950s and 1960s.

Use of the Collection

Restrictions on Access :  

The collection is open for research.

Preferred Citation :  

Charter Heslep Papers (MSS Heslep), Oregon State University Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center, Corvallis, Oregon.

Administrative Information

Arrangement :

The Charter Heslep Papers are arranged into five series: I: Correspondence, 1950-1957; II: Speeches, 1950-1963; III: Ephemera, 1945-1961; IV: Photographs, 1932-1961; V: Sound Recordings, 1958-1961. Materials are arranged chronologically within series.

Acquisition Information :  

Materials were purchased by the Oregon State University Special Collections in 1990 as part of the History of Atomic Energy Collection. The Charter Heslep Papers were separated from the larger collection in 2013 and are now held by the OSU Libraries Special Collections & Archives Research Center.

Related Materials :  Related Materials

Related collections on nuclear history in the United States include the Barton C. Hacker Papers, Barton C. and Sally L. Hacker Nuclear Affairs Collection, History of Atomic Energy Collection, and the Ava Helen and Linus Pauling Papers. Volumes from the library of Charter Heslep are located in the History of Atomic Energy Collection.

Additional materials relating to Heslep can be found in the Charter Heslep Papers at the University of Wyoming American Heritage Center and the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum.

Separated Materials :  Separated Materials

Radioisotopes and Radiation: Recent Advances in Medicine, Agriculture, and Industry by John H. Lawrence, Bernard Manowitz, and Benjamin S. Loeb (1964) has been transferred to the History of Atomic Energy Collection. The volume includes a letter from Glenn T. Seaborg to Margaret heslep dated October 29, 1964.

Detailed Description of the Collection

Series I:  Correspondence, 1950-1957

Series I is composed predominantly of letters to and from Charter's wife, Margaret, between 1950 and 1958. Their correspondence includes personal and family news, descriptions of Heslep's work on behalf of the Atomic Energy Commission, and extensive correspondence dating from Heslep's observation of nuclear tests in Nevada (1952 and 1953) and the Marshall Islands (1956). Notably, Heslep provides detailed descriptions of activities surrounding the Tumbler-Snapper Charlie test, the Upshot-Knothole Annie test, and the Redwing Lacrosse and Cherokee tests--the first thermonuclear drop--including setup of broadcast relays, weather reports, the detonations of nuclear devices, and life at Camp Mercury and aboard the USS Mount McKinley. The series also includes several letters to the Heslep children, a telegram regarding a cancelled meeting with Harry S. Truman, correspondence granting clearance for Heslep to attend the Eniwetok-Bikini Atolls tests, and a letter to Captain H. G. Rickover describing plans for Heslep to author a book on nuclear submarines.

1.1 Family Correspondence, 1950
1.2 Family Correspondence, 1951
1.3 Family Correspondence, 1952
1.4 Family Correspondence, 1953
1.5 Family Correspondence, 1954
1.6 Family Correspondence, 1956
1.7 Family Correspondence, 1957
1.8 Professional Correspondence, 1953-1956

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Series II:  Speeches, 1950-1963

This series is comprised of speeches authored and given by Charter Heslep during his time at the Atomic Energy Commission. Topics include the defensive applications of radio and television, the role of the Atomic Energy Commission, the history of nuclear weapons in the United States, and the role of ghostwriting in the public sphere.

1.9 "The Atom Business," American Association of University Women, Richmond, VA, 1950
1.10 "Radio's Role in Defense," Tennessee Broadcaster Association Dinner, Nashville, TN, 1950
1.11 "Mobilizing Radio and Television," Cnference on Station Problems, Norman, OK, 1951
1.12 Mimeographed typescript of untitled speech before the NATO Information Program Group II, 1954
1.13 "The AEC Can Talk," American Women in Radio and Television, Kansas City, MO, 1954
1.14 Speech Material on First Experimental Central Station Nuclear Power Project, 1954
1.15 "The Geneva Story," Radio Television News Directors Association, Denver, CO, 1955
1.16 "Some Aspects of the Impact of the Nuclear Age in the United States," United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Paris, 1958
1.17 "Ghosting: A Necessity, Not a Sin," Conference on College Composition and Communication, Washington, D.C., 1961
1.18 "Atoms for Peace: Program or Propaganda?" Springfield College, Springfield, MA, 1963

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Series III:  Ephemera, 1945-1961

Series III is comprised of several items of ephemera collected by Heslep during his career. The series includes programs from nuclear energy-related events and a press kit from Atomos en Accion, an exhibition on nuclear science and technology held in Peru in 1961. The kit includes correspondence, an organizational chart, and promotional materials relating to Heslep's attendance as a representative of the Atomic Energy Commission. The series also contains a report by Charles L. Dunham on a nuclear energy symposium held in Argentina, an account of reporter Paul Harvey breaking into restricted military property, an article on Heslep from the Augusta Herald, articles written by Heslep on the televising of nuclear tests, several certificates of participation from Oak Ridge Laboratories, Operation Teapot, and Operation Redwing, and a news sheet printed on board the USS Mount McKinley.

1.19 Program from the Atomic Age Dinner of America United for World Organization, Inc., 1945
1.20 Certificates of Participation in Atomic Tests, 1950-1956
1.21 "Paul Harvey Incident" Materials Compiled by Radio Reports, Inc., 1951
1.22 "Charter Heslep in Augusta," The Augusta Herald, 1952
1.23 "They Said It Couldn't Be Done: The Story of the First Live Televising of an Atomic Detonation", 1952
1.24 "It Couldn't Be Done - But T-V Men Did It," The Quill, 1952
1.25 Program from the ground breaking ceremony for the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, 1954
1.26 "B-52 Makes America's First Bomb Drop," Port & Starboard Press, Amateur news sheet printed on board the USS Mount McKinley., 1956
1.27 Program from the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission Annual Honor Awards Ceremony, 1956
1.28 "Chronology of Important Events in the Atoms for Peace Program", 1958
1.29 "Trip Report: Second Inter-American Symposium on the Peaceful Application of Nuclear Energy, Buenos Aires, Argentina," Charles L. Dunham, 1959
1.30 "Atomos en Accion" Press Kit, 1961

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Series IV:  Photographs, 1932-1961

Series IV is comprised of both color and black and white photographs relating to Heslep's work as a news reporter and member of the Atomic Energy Commission. The collection contains photographs of nuclear test preparations and explosions including images of Operation Trinity; Operation Tumbler-Snapper's Charlie test; Operation Upshot-Knothole's Annie, Nancy, Ruth, Dixie, Ray, and Grable tests; Operation Plumbbob's Priscilla and Fizeau tests; Operation Greenhouse; and Operation Redwing. The collection also includes photographs of test dummies and buildings, portions of the Nevada Test Site including "News Nob" and Camp Mercury, and photos of work aboard the USS Mount McKinley, an observer ship in the Pacific Proving Grounds during the Redwing tests.

The series also includes photos of Atomic Energy Commission events, meetings of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Joint Congressional Committee on Atomic Energy, an Oak Ridge National Laboratory conference, Britain's first plutonium factory, Brookhaven National Laboratory, protests surrounding the Rosenberg espionage hearings, and other events and people relating to nuclear science and history. The series also contains numerous career photographs of Heslep in his position at the AEC, the Washington Daily News, and the Mutual Broadcasting Company as well as headshots and studio portraits.

1.31 Operation Trinity, 1945
1.32 Operation Tumbler-Snapper, 1952
1.33 Operation Upshot-Knothole, 1953
1.34 Operation Plumbbob, 1957
1.35 Nevada Test Site Unidentified Nuclear Tests, undated
1.36 Nevada Test Site, 1952-1953
1.37 Operation Greenhouse, 1951
1.38 Operation Redwing, 1956
1.39 Pacific Proving Grounds Unidentified Nuclear Tests, undated
2.1 Career Photographs, 1932, 1937
2.2 Career Photographs, 1945-1949
2.3 Career Photographs, 1950
2.4 Career Photographs, 1951
2.5 Career Photographs, 1952
2.6 Career Photographs, 1953
2.7 Career Photographs, 1954
2.8 Career Photographs, 1955
2.9 Career Photographs, 1956
2.10 Career Photographs, 1957
2.11 Career Photographs, 1958
2.12 Career Photographs, 1959
2.13 Career Photographs, 1960
2.14 Career Photographs, 1961
2.15 Career Photographs, undated
2.16 Headshots and Studio Portraits of Charter Heslep, 1932, 1952-1959

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Series V:  Sound Recordings, 1958-1961

This series is composed of two sound recordings, "Peaceful Use of the Atom" and "Atoms for Peace: 1946-1961".

2.17 "Peaceful Use of the Atom" Reel 1, January 16, 1958
2.18 "Peaceful Use of the Atom" Reel 2, January 16, 1958
2.19 "Atoms for Peace: 1946-1961", February 8, 1961

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  • Personal Names :
  • Heslep, Charter, 1904-1963.
  • Corporate Names :
  • Brookhaven National Laboratory.
  • International Atomic Energy Agency.
  • Mutual Broadcasting System.
  • National Broadcasting Company.
  • Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
  • U.S. Atomic Energy Commission.
  • Washington Daily News Publishing Company.
  • Subject Terms :
  • Atomic bomb--Marshall Islands--Testing.
  • Atomic bomb--Testing.
  • Ghostwriting.
  • Hydrogen bomb--Testing.
  • Nuclear weapons--Testing.
  • Operation Crossroads, Marshall Islands, 1946.
  • Operation Greenhouse, Marshall Islands, 1951.
  • Operation Plumbbob, Nev., 1957
  • Operation Redwing, Marshall Islands, 1956.
  • Operation Teapot, Nevada, 1955.
  • Radio broadcasting.
  • Television broadcasting.
  • Geographical Names :
  • Marshall Islands.
  • Nevada Test Site (Nev.)
  • Form or Genre Terms :
  • Audiotapes.
  • Photographic prints.

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