In my first year on the job, I have become a fan of the daily horoscopes in the Washington Post. My favorite so far:
Many feel limited by the work they do. You won’t be in this category today, though. Your work expands you. You’ll be excited by what you learn, and you feel privileged to do what you do.
I feel both excited and privileged to serve as the Archivist of the United States. On December 2, 2010, I had the opportunity to express this in my State of the Archives Address. Take a moment to watch the video of the event or read the text of my speech.
President Lincoln issued a Proclamation of Thanksgiving in October 1863, which is well known for setting the precedent of our national holiday. Since 1863, we have celebrated Thanksgiving every year as a nation.
Another Proclamation of Thanksgiving was issued a year later by President Lincoln. October 1864 was a pivotal time during the Civil War. Atlanta had fallen to General Sherman a month before and Lincoln was not yet reelected.
Portion of page 1 of Lincoln’s 1864 Proclamation of Thanksgiving
The 1864 Proclamation begins, “It has pleased Almighty God to prolong our national life another year…”
Portion of page 1 of Lincoln’s 1864 Proclamation of Thanksgiving
On page 4 of the Proclamation, Lincoln states, “And I do farther recommend to my fellow-citizens aforesaid that on that occasion they do reverently humble themselves in the dust and from thence offer up penitent and fervent prayers and supplications to the Great Disposer of events for a return of the inestimable blessings of Peace, Union, and Harmony throughout the land, which it has pleased Him to assign as a dwelling place for ourselves and for our posterity throughout all generations.”
Portion of page 4 of Lincoln’s 1864 Proclamation of Thanksgiving
On this Thanksgiving, I encourage you to view the original… [ Read all ]
Every day at the National Archives, we fulfill veterans’ requests for copies of their military records that document their service to our country. The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, MO is an office of the National Archives, which has over 80 million permanent records and receives over 5,000 requests for military records every day.
In celebration of Veterans Day, we created a video that helps explain the process of applying for military records. Watch the video to learn more about this important service we offer to veterans and their families.
On one of my first trips as Archivist of the United States, I visited the NPRC. I learned about the employees who do this work, the importance of the records in our holdings, and the process to fulfill requests for copies of records. I got a tour of the VIP vault, where the records of well known individuals are kept, including Elvis Presley, Clark Gable, Ronald Reagan, and General George S. Patton.
During my tour of NPRC, I did not expect the staff to present me with the records of my time in the Navy as a hospital corpsman during the Vietnam War. It was a very thoughtful gesture by the staff of the NPRC.
A portion of the cover of my military service records … [ Read all ]
Last Wednesday, I celebrated the 235th birthday of the U.S. Navy at the USS Constitution Museum at the Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. It was a fun event full of hometown pride and spirited debate. I brought with me Senior Archivist Trevor Plante and original records from the National Archives to discuss the Revolutionary origins of the U.S. Navy. The crowd, mostly from Beverly and Marblehead, Massachusetts, had a great time discussing and debating their hometown claims to being the “birthplace” of the U.S. Navy.
On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the outfitting of two ships for “intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.” This date marks the first Congressional action and, therefore, is celebrated as the “birthday” of the U.S. Navy.
Although the birth date is clear, there is still much debate and hometown rivalry surrounding the “birthplace” of the U.S. Navy. The claims are numerous: Philadelphia, where the Continental Congress passed the Act of October 13, 1775; Machias, Maine, where two small ships armed with woodsmen capture the British schooner Margaretta in June 1775; Providence, Rhode Island, because their delegates to the Continental Congress were the first to propose a resolution to build and equip an American fleet in October… [ Read all ]
Today we celebrate the 223rd anniversary of the signing of the Constitution of the United States. On this date in 1787, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution.
At the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C., where the Constitution is on permanent display in the Rotunda, there is a celebration planned.
If you aren’t in D.C. today, you can learn more about some other remarkable documents that lead up to the signing of the Constitution in the video below.
Also, take a look at our set of photos on Flickr to see some important images about the document and the day:
Last Wednesday, I visited the Huntington Library in California to receive the original Nuremberg Laws on behalf of the U.S. Government. The laws were signed by Adolf Hitler and issued by the Third Reich in 1935. The Nuremberg Laws will become part of the National Archives Gift Collection.
The Nuremberg Laws were the anti-Semitic laws in Nazi Germany that stripped away their citizenship, forbid marriage to Germans, and created the swastika flag. The laws led to the death of six million Jews and millions of others in concentration camps. By 1942, much of the world, civilian and soldier alike, had been affected by these four typewritten pages.
Historian Peter Lowenberg describes the significance of the Nuremberg Laws:
The Nuremberg Laws represent a major step in the increasing marginalization of Jews from German life. In order to carry out the program of the Final Solution, the target group first has to be marginalized, and removed from the code of citizenship. This is a critical moment. This legally excludes them. The next step is humiliation — Kristalnacht, 1938 — then the wearing of yellow stars, then deportation, and then finally the death camps.
The laws should have been used as evidence at the Nuremberg Trials as proof of the war crimes committed by… [ Read all ]
On Saturday, July 31, I boarded a ferry headed to Angel Island to attend a commemorative event marking the 100th anniversary of the Angel Island Immigration Station. The event featured new outdoor exhibits, information booths, and performances relating to the experience of immigrants at Angel Island. I spoke about the National Archives and the Angel Island immigration records that can be found in the National Archives at San Francisco.
Archivist David S. Ferriero Addressing Visitors at Angel Island
(Photo Courtesy of National Archives at San Francisco)
From 1910 to 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station served as an entry point for immigration on the west coast. The number of immigrants that came through Angel Island are believed to be somewhere between 300,000 and 1 million. The Asian American experience at Angel Island was made very difficult by the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and subsequent measures which barred immigrations on the basis of both race and class. Immigrants experienced detention, quarantine, interrogation, and even deportation.
During my visit, I saw the recently restored immigrant barracks, which preserve 200 poems carved into the walls by Chinese immigrants. Their poems reflect the stress of weeks, months, or years on Angel Island.
Actors performed dramatic re-enactments of two stories developed from early Chinese Exclusion-era Federal immigration files… [ Read all ]
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