Fallout Shelter Supplies Discovered in the U.S. Capitol Complex

Heather Moore and Dave McCloud showed us the cache of old medical kits.

Heather Moore, Photo Historian at the U.S. Senate Historical Office, contacted us about a huge cache of Cold War era medical kits she discovered in the attic of the Russell Senate Office Building. The medical kits–housed in large boxes–were loaded onto carts and about to be thrown out when she rescued them from destruction.

Facilities guru Dave McCloud escorted us into the bowels of the building to see the kits. Stored in dusty boxes marked with the CD logo and labeled “Survival Supplies Furnished by Office of Civil Defense, Department of Defense,” the contents of the medical kits had not been disturbed for fifty years.

Opening the time capsule.

Packed like a puzzle, the contents of the kits include a variety of medications, bandages, sanitary pads, soap, forceps, thermometers, syringes, and much more. The medication bottles had expiration dates from the mid-1960s. The kits also contain manuals, one called the “Family Guide for Emergency Healthcare.” In the event of nuclear attack, lawmakers and their staff would have had to get by with these supplies (presuming that anyone survived, of course).

A small sampling of the variety of supplies contained in the kit.

Although “This Unit Contains No Narcotics” is prominently written on all of the boxes, one of the first bottles I pulled out of the box was phenobarbital, a powerful sedative. The drug also wasn’t on the packing list, all measures presumably to deter thieving junkies.

Illustrations from a manual contained in the kit.

The medical kits are being offered free of charge to nonprofit museums and organizations. Contact districtfallout@gmail.com for more information.

One a fraction of the kits discovered. Many have already been scooped up by museums, including the Smithsonian.

This sign in the U.S. Capitol is located near the empty tomb in the bowels of the building, near the hall where the President walks out for inauguration ceremonies.

Unfortunately, folks we talked to in the capitol complex said many shelter signs were once posted on the interior, but almost all have been taken down in the past ten or twenty years. Heather led the way to a corner of the lower level of the Capitol building, where one of two known remaining interior signs remain.

Heather emailed us again with a new discovery: Civil Defense water barrels. Stay tuned for more updates.

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