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In April 1789, The First Congress had just begun under the new Constitution.

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 1, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate. Transcript.

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 1, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate. Transcript.

Many Americans felt uncertain about whether the Constitution would be an improvement over the Articles of Confederation, the nation’s first government. But some, like the mechanics and manufacturers in New York City who wrote this petition to Congress, were thrilled to have a new government that was intended to address the many problems that arose under the Articles. For Constitution Day on September 17, your students can get a sense of the economic problems that existed under the Articles of Confederation by reading this petition from citizens who were directly—and negatively—affected by them. The petitioners explained the economic problems they faced under the Articles, and then expressed their hope and confidence that the new Federal Congress would quickly address them.

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 2, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 2, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate

Direct your students to closely read the eighteenth century language to identify the petitioners’ concerns. At the beginning of the petition, the New Yorkers described their elation at the success of the Revolution: “They contemplated this event as the point at which a happy era was to commence, and as the source whence a new system of blessings should spring.” But they quickly realized that the central government under the Articles was too weak to prevent Great Britain from dominating trade. Despite America’s immense resources, attempts at manufacturing new items were hampered by lower British prices. The Articles gave the central government no power to tax the British imports, and the manufacturers in New York and elsewhere discovered that they could not compete: “They soon perceived with the deepest regret, that their prospects of improving wealth were blasted by a system of commercial usurpation, originating in prejudices and fostered by a feeble government.”

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 2, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate

Petition of mechanics and manufacturers of the City of New York, page 3, April 18, 1789; Records of the U.S. Senate

The petitioners believed that they could achieve commercial success if the government could tax imports to make their products comparable in price: “Wearied by their fruitless exertions, your Petitioners have long looked forward with anxiety for the establishment of a government which would have power to check the growing evil, and extend a protecting hand to the interests of commerce and the arts.” The new Constitution allowed them to feel optimistic about their chances for future economic success: “Such a government is now established. On the promulgation of the Constitution, just now commencing its operations, your Petitioners discovered in its principles the remedy which they had so long and so earnestly desired.” The petitioners then stated to Congress their confidence that it would act to resolve the problem they had described: “To your Honorable Body the Mechanics and Manufacturers of New York look up with confidence, convinced, that, as the united voice of America has furnished you with the means, so your knowledge of our common wants has given you the spirit to unbind our fetters and rescue our country from disgrace and ruin.”

The petitioners were correct to be confident in the new government—the second act passed by the First Congress was for the taxation of imports. (The first act was for an oath of office.) This act answered the New Yorkers call, and established support for a government strong enough to protect its own business.


The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225thAnniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents from this formative time via TumblrTwitter, and Education Updates. Follow #Congress225 for more documents you can use in your classroom. 

Today’s post comes from students Nicholas Iacovelli and Raven Troyer, who participated in National History Day’s “Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom” Student & Teacher Institute. It was originally posted on “The Voice of NHD.” For the past four years, volunteers at the National Archives at College Park, MD, have conducted research on military records related to fallen service men. On June 25th, the Normandy Institute student/teacher teams spent the day researching in the materials identified by our volunteers.Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom The Albert H. Small Student & Teacher Institute
On day five of the Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom Student and Teacher Institute, all of the student and teacher pairs visited the National Archives in Maryland to conduct more research on their silent heroes. We were welcomed by hardworking volunteers and helpful staff that made our research immensely easier. We were split into two groups – one group conducting research in the textual archives and the other in the photographic archives. After a couple of hours of research, students and teachers were treated to a hearty meal and a copy of a news reel from the 1940’s provided to us by the generous staff at the National Archives. After lunch the groups switched and continued their research on their respective heroes. Students and teachers also had the option to view various maps of the invasion at Normandy and even search for their silent heroes’ temporary graves. The contents of the textual archives varied from mission records to medical records from when they first enlisted or were drafted. Meanwhile, the photographic archives contained various pictures of planes, pilot crews, vehicles, and soldiers relative to our silent heroes.

Once students and teachers arrived back at the [George Washington University] Mount Vernon campus they were split up; students would run through a simulation on a European invasion and teachers began prepping for the trip to France. The simulation consisted of the students breaking up into various groups, three planning and one judging. The students who were tasked with planning had 15 minutes to come up with a good invasion plan to assist in the liberation of Europe. The students left with judging had to determine who came up with the best invasion plan based on a list of criteria. In the end, it was the plan that consisted of an invasion of Southern France via North Africa that won the judge’s votes. At the end of the day we all came out with a better understanding of our silent heroes’ military careers (thanks to the hard work of those at the National Archives) and the stressful process of planning the invasion of Europe.

You can learn more about National History Day’s “Normandy: Sacrifice for Freedom” Student & Teacher Institute on “The Voice of NHD” and on

Today’s post comes from Caela Murphy, summer intern in our Education and Public Programs Division.

Pacing the stage in a blue army coat and pantaloons, Meriwether Lewis issued a warning to participants during the orientation program for the National Archives’ second “History, Heroes & Treasures” overnight. There would be no eating outside of the food area, he said, as he had learned from experience that unwrapped food can attract bears to a campsite.

Arctic explorers Matthew Henson and Louise Arner Boyd cut the captain off.

“Captain Lewis,” they begged, “not with the bear stories again!”

The Rotunda before lights out

More than 100 people gathered at the National Archives in Washington, DC, for the sleepover two weekends ago.

In keeping with the event’s “Explorer’s Night” theme, children ages 8–12 and their parents roamed the museum’s exhibit and theater levels, where various activity stations were set up. These included a craft project in which visitors created journals to document their expeditions, a board game that took players through the boons and obstacles that the members of the Corps of Discovery faced during their westward journey, a scavenger hunt in the museum’s Public Vaults, and more.Playing the Lewis and Clark board game

From dressing up as explorers for a photo shoot to determining what supplies they would need to pack for different kinds of expeditions, families were introduced to the triumphs and challenges of exploring in the West, the Arctic, and outer space.

The participants were not alone in their endeavors—Lewis, Henson, and Boyd were stationed throughout the museum to answer questions and regale guests with stories from their voyages. Later on in the evening, families assembled in the theater once more for “Reporter on the Spot,” a program that allowed children to interview the three explorers in front of a “live studio audience.”Reporter on the Spot

After listening to stories and watching Pixar shorts, visitors retired to the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom to go to sleep. In the morning, they packed up and made their way to the lower level for a special treat: chocolate chip pancakes cooked by David Ferriero, the Archivist of the United States. Families then received gift bags and began their journeys home—some were local, while others had come from as far away as California for the event.

Photographs from the event can be found on the National Archives Flickr page. The National Archives looks forward to its next sleepover, also focusing on exploration, coming up this October. For more information, check out the website of the Foundation for the National Archives.


History, Heroes & Treasures is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the support of John Hancock Financial; Ridgewells Catering; Control Video; American Heritage Chocolate; Mars, Incorporated; The Coca-Cola Company; Minute Maid; and DASANI.

We welcomed teachers to Atlanta for our Primarily Teaching summer institute from July 21–25. They explored the topic “FDR and the Tennessee Valley Authority: The Controversy of Progress”—a case study within the broader Leadership and Legacy in History theme across all of our workshops this summer.

Transmission Lines and Tower, with Cows in Foreground

Photograph of Newly Built Transmission Lines, from the Records of the Tennessee Valley Authority

Participants researched in the original records of the Tennessee Valley Authority, held in the National Archives at Atlanta. The records there document the story of the TVA, one of the first New Deal agencies, from its enactment to modern activities. The Primarily Teaching educators identified primary sources suitable for classroom use, that we then scanned and posted online.

Their efforts doubled our collection of TVA-related documents on!

photographs of dwellings before and after relocation.

Some documents described family relocations as a result of the TVA’s work, including photographs of dwellings before and after relocation.

The National Archives at Atlanta will further the study of the Tennessee Valley Authority records through their symposium, Valley of the Dams: The Impact & Legacy of the Tennessee Valley Authority, on Saturday, September 20, 2014. Check out their online exhibit, including a sampling of the TVA records demonstrating accomplishments, controversies, and progress through documents, maps, drawings, and photographs.

It’s been a great summer! We have over 130 newly digitized documents on, thanks to teachers in our Primarily Teaching summer institutes!


Primarily Teaching is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives, through the support of Texas Instruments.

Last week, educators visited the National Archives at Boston to explore and examine primary sources related to desegregating Boston Public Schools. It was part of our annual Primarily Teaching summer institute.

Educators At Primarily Teaching

Educators Attending Primarily Teaching in Boston, with Education Specialist Annie Davis

These educators-turned-digitization scholars identified classroom-appropriate documents from the 1970s civil action court case Tallulah Morgan et al. v. James W. Hennigan et al. As a result of their work, teachers, students, and anyone interested in Civil Rights can now investigate 30 documents from this important case—online for the first time!

Western Union Mailgram Document

Western Union Mailgram Urging Intervention by U.S. Marshalls on DocsTeach

In 1972, parents of African American children brought a class action lawsuit alleging that the Boston School Committee violated the 14th Amendment with a deliberate policy of racial segregation. The judge found that Boston schools had intentionally carried out a program of segregation and ordered the School Committee to formulate a desegregation plan. When the committee failed to present an adequate plan, the court assumed an active role and oversaw implementation of court-ordered desegregation in Boston public schools.

Staff at the National Archives at Boston scanned these finds and we’ve loaded them all onto so that they can be used in online student activities. See them all on DocsTeach!

Individual Teachers Working at Primarily Teaching in Boston

Boston is one of four Primarily Teaching locations this summer. All of the workshops fit within the national theme of “Leadership and Legacy in History,” matching that of National History Day in 2015. Educators at each location are exploring a specific case study, with original documents in our archival holdings, that fits within this broader theme.

The National Archives at Atlanta also held the Primarily Teaching summer institute for teachers last week. We’ll report on their findings next week!


Primarily Teaching is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives, through the support of Texas Instruments.