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Celebrate July 4th with the National Archives in DC, nationwide, and online!

Join the National Archives in celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with special events in Washington, DC, at Presidential Libraries nationwide, and online!

You can see the full press release online here.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives in Washington, DC

The National Archives in Washington, DC, will celebrate the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of July program. C-SPAN host Steve Scully will return to serve as emcee for a fourth year, and Archivist David S. Ferriero will make remarks.

The free celebration will include patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors, and exciting family activities and entertainment for all ages. See here for more information.

If you can’t make it out to the nation’s capital, the festivities will be live-streamed on the National Archives YouTube channel.

July 4th at the National Archives is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation with the generous support of Signature Sponsor John Hancock. Major support provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Dykema.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives Presidential Libraries

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, IA

An Eastern Iowa Brass Band Concert at the West Branch High School will feature museum docent Richard Paulus as Samuel Adams reading the Declaration of Independence. This event is at 2 p.m.

For over 25 years, the Eastern Iowa Brass Band has been entertaining audiences throughout Iowa, the Midwest and even beyond. The 35-member band performs from a repertoire which features original works for brass band, as well as arrangements of well known orchestral and wind band literature. Featured soloists are frequently used in concert programs which also include marches, medleys, hymn tune arrangements, folk songs, Broadway show tunes and novelty features. Members of the EIBB come from all over Eastern Iowa. As the only brass band of this type in Iowa, the EIBB presents a truly unique musical experience.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, TX

The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum will offer free admission all day.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, MI

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum will participate in a city-wide celebration. The museum opens its grounds and allows visitors to watch the city fireworks. Admission fees still apply when visiting the museum.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, CA

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is hosting a day full of family-fun activities. This year’s celebration will include the Los Angeles Police Concert band performing our favorite patriotic tunes. There will be family entertainment, games, crafts, and more. Mingle with our Presidential and First Lady look-alikes.

All outdoor activities are free. Admission rates apply to view the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum, Air Force One Pavilion, and the library’s special exhibit, “Football! The Exhibition.”

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, TX

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum will once again host the annual “I Love America! 4th of July Celebration” in partnership with the College Station Noon Lions Club and the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.

The museum will open at 9:30 a.m. with free admission all day and will extend its hours to 8:15 p.m. The outside activities will begin with a flag-raising ceremony at 5 p.m. The Kids Zone will be open from 6 to 8:30 p.m. A musical program begins at 6 p.m. After a dusk hot air balloon glow, enjoy fireworks accompanied by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with the National Archives by sharing these patriotic graphics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more! This image is specially sized for Instagram.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with the National Archives by sharing these patriotic graphics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more! This image is specially sized for Instagram.

Celebrate the Fourth of July on Social Media

Join the conversation using the hashtag #ArchivesJuly4 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more!

Take a #ColonialSelfie

Snap a picture with a Founding Father at our July 4 celebration. If you aren’t in Washington, DC, be creative; your #ColonialSelfie can be with anything that was in fashion in 1776

Tell the World #ISignedTheDeclaration

Sign your name to the Declaration of Independence! Take a picture, tag it with#ISignedTheDeclaration, and share it with us on social media. If you attend our celebration in DC, look for the booth at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street, and add your John Hancock to the list. The booth will be moved inside to the Boeing Learning Lab at 11 a.m.

Share Your Patriotic Spirit

We’ve sized these images to make social sharing easy!

Annual Birthday Party for the Declaration of Independence

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the History Office at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

For almost a half-century, the National Archives has held an annual birthday party on July 4, at the document’s home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

This timeline marks the significant milestones in Archives Fourth of July celebrations:

  • 1776: Representatives to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was printed on July 4, and John Carlisle, a friend of George Washington’s and successful merchant, read it aloud on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • 1952: The Library of Congress, which  held the Declaration from 1924 through 1952, transferred the document to the National Archives. The first Independence Day it was on display at the Archives was July 4, 1953.
  • 1969: The National Archives Fourth of July became more extensive. A special exhibit opened to the public. In the early afternoon, the U.S. Army Band played a concert on the Constitution Avenue side of the Archives.
  • 1970: Visitors listened to the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda.
  • 1976: Celebrations reached new levels when the Declaration turned 200 years old and the Archives established its annual July 4th event. On July 2, 1976, President Gerald Ford spoke in the Rotunda to honor the Bicentennial, saying, “The Declaration is the Polaris of our political order—the fixed star of freedom. It is impervious to change because it states moral truths that are eternal.” That July 4 the National Archives had a four-foot cake on the steps overlooking the National Mall. Also for the Bicentennial, the Charters of Freedom (the collective name  for the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) went on round-the-clock public view for the first time, ending on July 6.
  • 1977: The National Archives created the National Bicentennial Time Capsule, which will be opened on July 4, 2075.
  • 1990: The Declaration’s 15th annual birthday party included a reading of the document, Revolutionary-era music, a simulation of musket fire on Constitution Avenue, and a parade.
  • 2001: The 225th birthday of the Declaration marked the last day until July 4, 2004, that the Declaration would be on display for the holiday.
  • 2002–2003: The National Archives’ Fourth of July festivities took place at Union Station in Washington, DC, while the National Archives Rotunda underwent renovations.
  • 2009: The National Archives exhibited a rare print on parchment of the Declaration of Independence—made from the original copperplate engraved by William J. Stone in 1823—which was on loan from David M. Rubenstein.

Small details change each year, but annual traditions remain the same and grow even stronger. The reading of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary-era music, and various children’s activities will likely continue past the opening of the National Bicentennial Capsule in 2075.

The National Archives will be commemorating the Declaration’s 239th birthday this year. Celebrations will include a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a performance by the Fife and Drum Corps, and visits from costumed interpreters of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among other activities.

For more information see our calendar of events.

Visitors at the July 4,1970, Ceremony in the Rotunda. (National Archives Identifier 4477182)

Visitors at the July 4, 1970, ceremony in the Rotunda. (National Archives Identifier 4477182)

The Hello Girls Finally Get Paid

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, who is an archivist at the National Archives at St. Louis, where she manages the collection of archival civilian personnel records.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. Along with the men who were recruited to fight, women were eager to assist with war efforts. Such was the case with Isabelle Villiers. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1894, she acted on her patriotic pride and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force in May 1917.

For eight months, Isabelle Villiers (Yeoman, 1st class) worked as a confidential secretary in the office of Commodore A.L. Key at the Boston Navy Yard. However, after reading an announcement in the newspaper calling for telephone operators, she decided she could better serve her country overseas.

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers from her civilian file at the National Archives at St. Louis

The war, which had already raged since 1914, had taken its toll on European infrastructure. General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, had devised a solution for the poor communication on the war front. War had destroyed the existing French telephone system and he felt that telegrams were too slow and expressionless. Furthermore, General Pershing wanted to establish direct communication between troops on the front line and the general-in-command as well as between allied units.

While servicemen were tasked with laying lines in the field, General Pershing felt that women would best serve as telephone operators. In order to recruit quality telephone operators, General Pershing issued an appeal for 150 women who had past telephone operating experience and who were fluent in both English and French. This appeal was published in newspapers throughout the United States in late 1917.

With an understanding of both languages, former experience as a telephone operator, and a college education, Isabelle Villiers felt compelled to apply. After receiving a discharge from the U.S. Naval Reserve Force on January 7, 1918, and two months of training in Lowell, Massachusetts, Isabelle set sail for France in March 1918 as a part of the initial group of U.S. Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators.

“Hello Girls Here in Real Army Duds” was published on March 19, 1918, in Stars and Stripes cheerfully announcing this first group of 33 arrivals.

Of approximately 1,750 applicants, 450 women were trained and 233 ultimately sent overseas to serve as telephone operators. Colloquially dubbed “Hello Girls,” these women were primarily stationed in England and France (and in Germany after the Armistice was signed); some were stationed to work on the front lines in locations such as Saint Mihiel and Souilly, France. Not only did telephone operators work close to the front lines, they wore blue U.S. Army uniforms and were subject to military rules, including the possible penalty of courts-martial for wrongdoing.

Original caption reads: American telephone girls on arrival for "hello" duty in France. They all can speak both English and French., 3/1918. (National Archives Identifier 530718)

Is Isabelle Villiers in this photo? We don’t know–let us know if you can find her! Original caption reads: American telephone girls on arrival for “hello” duty in France. They all can speak both English and French., 3/1918. (National Archives Identifier 530718)

Isabelle was assigned as a supervisor to posts in Paris and Tours, France. She completed her duty on April 21, 1919, and returned to Reading, Massachusetts. She immediately submitted her claim for the $60.00 bonus granted to members of the American Expeditionary Forces only to be denied because the work of telephone operators was not considered to be within the provisions of the Revenue Bill of 1918.

Although women served in a military capacity for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, after the war was over it was decided that technically only men could be members of the U.S. Army.

Following their service, Isabelle Villiers and many other telephone operators received a certificate for ‘Exceptional Meritorious and Conspicuous Services’ signed by General Pershing along with a letter stating that the “Signal Corps deeply appreciates and is justly proud of the manner in which its civilian employees have performed their duties.”

In 1930, a fellow telephone operator named Merle Egan Anderson started the fight for U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators’ military benefits. Finally, more than 60 years after the operators served, benefits were approved in 1977 and awarded in 1979 to approximately 50 survivors, including Isabelle Villiers. These brave women were designated the first female veterans of the United States Army.

The official personnel folder of Isabelle Villers and other World War I telephone operators is open to the public.  Please visit to learn more about requesting these and other official personnel folders of former civil servants.

On Exhibit: The American Debate about Alcohol Consumption During World War II

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

In March 2015 the National Archives opened “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History,” a new exhibit that explores the complex love-hate relationship between America and alcohol.

The exhibit’s curator, Bruce Bustard, has written, “These two different views of alcoholic beverages run throughout American history. Sometimes they have existed in relative peace; at other times they have been at war.”

Some of the documents not only represent the war of opposing views regarding Prohibition, but they also highlight the debate over alcohol consumption within an even larger conflict—World War II.

On December 5, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the repeal of the 18th Amendment, ending the prohibition on the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States. Although the American government concluded its legal war on alcohol, the American people remained divided.  This friction—documented in the exhibit—continued throughout World War II.

"Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy." Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

“Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” Petition to Congress, 1943. (National Archives Identifier 16764619)

One such document is a 1943 petition to Congress for the return to Prohibition, titled “Alcohol—Hitler’s Best Friend, America’s Worst Enemy.” By associating alcohol with Hitler—at the height of World War II—it is evident that the 19 petitioners, both men and women, considered alcohol an evil.

Within the opening of their appeal, the authors claimed that alcohol and women were to blame for the downfall of France. They also argued that Japanese saloonkeepers provided free liquor for servicemen at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack.

The signers went on to quote Gen. John J. Pershing, who believed that the United States Government should ban liquor from the nation, close saloons, punish drinkers, and “if necessary, death to the seller.”

On the other hand, in another document, “Morale is a lot of little things,” the wartime context aided those in favor of consumption, particularly the brewing industry.

In the 1944 advertisement, the Brewing Industry Foundation took the voice of a fictional World War II soldier, away at war, who wrote a letter home.

“Morale is a lot of Little Things,” 1944. Courtesy of the J. Walter Thompson Archives at the Duke University Library.

“Morale is a lot of little things,” 1944. Courtesy of the J. Walter Thompson Archives at the Duke University Library.

In this letter, the soldier missed a lot of “little things,” including: his hammock, his orchard, his pet sleeping beneath him, the sounds of the brook where his children are playing, and his beer.

The soldier wrote, “It happens that to many of us these important little things include the right to enjoy a refreshing glass of beer. Cool, sparkling, friendly.”

This advertisement connected beer to a wholesome image, in which beer was consumed in moderation, and suggested that the very least the nation could do for the loyal soldier returning home was to have the “little things” waiting—including a refreshing, “friendly” beer. Instead of equating alcohol with foreign saloonkeepers, this advertisement linked beer consumption with patriotism.

Want to learn more about the relationship between the American people and alcohol consumption during wartime? Visit “Spirited Republic” on display through January 10, 2016, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.



The Great Seal: Celebrating 233 Years of a National Emblem

Today’s post comes from Meagan T. Frenzer, graduate research intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

On June 20, 1782, the Confederation Congress approved and finalized the first Great Seal of the United States.

The First Continental Congress in 1776 originally commissioned Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to create a national seal. As members of the First Great Seal Committee, these Founding Fathers intended to design a national emblem that reflected the independence and aspirations of the new nation.

This was no easy task. It took more than three committees and six years of congressional debate to complete the Great Seal.

It was Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, who submitted the final design for the Great Seal 233 years ago. Thomson’s design combined elements of submissions presented to the prior committees. His uncluttered, symbolic design fulfilled Congress’s expectations.

The face side of Thomson’s seal, also known as the “observe” side, displays a bald eagle with wings spread. The eagle clutches a bundle of 13 arrows (representing the 13 colonies) in its left talon and an olive branch in its right talon. Together, the items in the eagle’s talons stand for war and peace.

Charles Thompson's First Design, 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

Charles Thompson’s first design for the Great Seal (obverse side), 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

The eagle’s beak holds a banner that reads E pluribus unum. The Latin phrase roughly translates as “Out of many, one,” describing the formation of a single nation from 13 colonies.

On the eagle’s breast is a shield with 13 red and white stripes below a blue chief, or the upper region of the shield. The red and white chevrons stand for valor and purity, while the blue represents vigilance, perseverance, and justice.

A cloud floats above the eagle’s head and surrounds 13 stars forming a constellation. The formation of this constellation alludes again to the formation of the new nation.

The “reserve,” or back side, of the Great Seal contains a 13-step pyramid representing strength, while the Eye of Providence sits above the pyramid within a triangle. The year 1776 in Roman numerals rests at the base of the pyramid.

Inscribed above the Eye is the Latin motto, Annuit Coeptis, meaning “He [God] has favored our undertakings.” The inscription characterizes the favorable circumstances that bolstered the American cause for independence.

The scroll below the pyramid reads, Novus Ordo Seclorum, which is Latin for “A New Order of the Ages.” This phrase represents the beginnings of a new era for the United States.

The National Archives holds the first design of Thomson’s “observe” side, which features red and white chevrons as opposed to the vertical stripes used in the final design.

Additionally, the National Archives holds seal designs by Francis Hopkinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and designer of the American flag.

Francis Hopkinson’s First Observe Design, 1780. (National Archives Identifier 595254)

Francis Hopkinson’s first obverse design for the Great Seal, 1780. (National Archives Identifier 595254)

As a participant of the Second Great Seal Committee, Hopkinson’s work inspired the addition of the 13 stripes on the shield, 13 stars, and an olive branch in Thomson’s final designs.

The first engraved metal die of the Great Seal, based on Thomson’s design, was used from September 1782 to 1841. The National Archives holds the first die, along with other seal dies used from 1841 to 1909. Thomson had designed the reverse in case Congress wanted to impress the back surfaces of wax pendant seals but a die for the reserve was never cut.

Two hundred and thirty-three years later, the Great Seal of the United States still reflects the traits and principles that the government aims to uphold.

First Die of the Great Seal of the United States, 1782. (National Archives Identifier 596742)

First die of the Great Seal of the United States, 1782. (National Archives Identifier 596742)