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Air Force One and Presidential Air Travel

Today’s guest post comes from Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

The President of the United States must be ready to travel anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. Fortunately, modern Presidents have access to a variety of transportation options, including flying aboard Air Force One. Strictly speaking, the term “Air Force One” is used to describe any Air Force aircraft when the President is on board, but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to use the title to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting President to fly on an airplane when, in January 1943, he traveled aboard a Boeing 314 Clipper Ship called the Dixie Clipper to attend the Casablanca Conference in Morocco. Two years later, Roosevelt again flew abroad, this time aboard a converted military plane dubbed the Sacred Cow, to join Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference. The Sacred Cow did not have a pressurized cabin, so when it flew at high altitudes, oxygen masks were necessary for everyone on board. The plane was also equipped with an elevator that could accommodate President Roosevelt and his wheelchair for boarding and disembarking.

The Presidential plane has, from time to time, served not only as a mode of transportation, but also as a “flying Oval Office” upon which historic events have taken place. President Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947 — which established the United States Air Force as an independent branch of the Armed Services — while on board the Sacred Cow. Another notable moment in history took place on October 10, 1985: Ronald Reagan was midflight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., when he gave the order for Navy jets to intercept the plane carrying the men who had hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro.

President Harry S. Truman’s Presidential airplane, the Independence, in flight over an unknown location. 1950

President Harry S. Truman’s Presidential airplane, the Independence, in flight over an unknown location. 1950

 

The Presidential plane has also been the setting of lighter events and celebrations, such as on June 3, 1988, when the passengers of Air Force One celebrated the birthday of James McKinney — cake and all — in the air. McKinney was Director of the White House Military Office, whose duties (among others) includes maintaining and operating Air Force One. Cake was also on the menu when President Roosevelt celebrated his 61st birthday midflight on the Dixie Clipper, and again on March 16, 1974, when First Lady Pat Nixon celebrated her birthday while on board Air Force One.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt celebrates his 61st birthday on the Dixie Clipper while flying from Trinidad to Miami. 1/30/1943

 

In 1947, a DC-6 plane known as Independence took the place of the Sacred Cow, and with it came upgraded technology such as a radio typewriter and a pressurized cabin, which allowed for high-altitude flying without the use of oxygen masks. The Independence — named for Truman’s hometown in Missouri — featured an eagle painted on the nose, and an interior with a seating capacity of 24 (12 for sleeping).

President Eisenhower flew aboard two aircraft while in office, Columbine II and Columbine III, both named after the state flower of Colorado, and both four-engine, propeller-driven Lockheed Constellations. The original Columbine had been used by Eisenhower from 1951 to 1952, as commander of NATO in Europe. Columbine III remained the Presidential aircraft throughout Eisenhower’s Presidency, retiring on January 20, 1961, the day John F. Kennedy was sworn into office.

The Columbine II sits on the tarmac in D.C. awaiting the arrival of President Eisenhower. 2/23/1953. (Photo courtesy of the National Park Service)

 

The popular use of the term “Air Force One” to refer to the Presidential airplane began with the Boeing 707 purchased for use by President John F. Kennedy. This aircraft, with the tail number 26000, flew the President to Germany, where he delivered his famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech in West Berlin. On November 22, 1963, Lyndon B. Johnson took the Presidential Oath of Office aboard the same plane following the assassination of President Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Nearly 10 years later in 1972, President Richard Nixon made his historic visit to the People’s Republic of China, also on tail number 26000.

President John F. Kennedy arrives in Alameda, California. 3/23/1962

 

President Lyndon B. Johnson holds his grandson Patrick, who plays with the telephone as First Lady Lady Bird Johnson and Luci Johnson look on. 3/2/68

 

Arrival of Air Force One in Peking, China. 2/21/1972

Arrival of Air Force One in Peking, China. 2/21/1972

 

The next Air Force One to go into use (tail number 27000) is currently on display inside the Air Force One Pavilion on the grounds of the Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley, California. Used by Presidents Nixon through George W. Bush, Ronald Reagan flew in this plane more than any other President, logging over 660,000 miles in total. When he flew home to California after the inauguration of his successor, President George H.W. Bush, he again traveled aboard this plane. However, since it was no longer transporting a sitting President, it carried the name SAM (Special Air Mission) 27000 instead of Air Force One.

First Lady Betty Ford and President Gerald Ford inside Air Force One after Sara Jane Moore’s assassination attempt. 9/22/1975

First Lady Betty Ford and President Gerald Ford inside Air Force One after Sara Jane Moore’s assassination attempt. 9/22/1975

 

President Jimmy Carter with White House staff aboard Air Force One. 7/20/1977

President Jimmy Carter with White House staff aboard Air Force One. 7/20/1977

 

President Ronald Reagan sitting with the crew in the cockpit of Air Force One. 3/16/1982

President Ronald Reagan sitting with the crew in the cockpit of Air Force One. 3/16/1982

 

There are currently two Boeing 747 airplanes designated as Air Force One, and both are equipped to allow the President to conduct official business while in flight, including secure communications, medical supplies, a conference room, and a Presidential suite. Today’s Air Force One can also refuel while in flight. Guests of the President — whether they be foreign dignitaries, White House staffers, or members of the press — can attend meetings, rest, or enjoy a meal from the galleys, which can feed up to 100 people at a time.

President George Bush is welcomed by Military Personnel to Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10/28/1990

President George Bush is welcomed by Military Personnel to Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10/28/1990

 

President William J. Clinton speaking on the telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from his office on Air Force One. 9/9/1993

President William J. Clinton speaking on the telephone to Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin from his office on Air Force One. 9/9/1993

 

Air Force One landing At Buyant-Ukhaa Airport in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. 11/21/2005

 

Learn more about the Presidential Libraries and Museums of the National Archives at http://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries/

 


The burning of Washington

August 24, 2014, marks the 200th anniversary of the British burning of Washington during the War of 1812.

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart. (National Archives Identifier 532933)

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart.
(National Archives Identifier 532933)

In August 1814, British forces occupying the Chesapeake Bay began to sail up the Patuxent River in Maryland. Fearing an attack on the capital, Secretary of State James Monroe offered to scout the British position and report back to President James Madison. Monroe, accompanied by cavalry, left Washington and rode into southern Maryland.

On August 19 and 20, the British landed troops at the port town of Benedict, Maryland, and started advancing north. By August 22, it became clear to Monroe that the British intended to invade Washington. He quickly dispatched a messenger with a note to Madison, saying: “The enemy are advanced six miles on the road to the Woodyard, and our troops retiring. Our troops were on the march to meet them, but in too small a body to engage. . . . The enemy are in full march for Washington. Have the materials prepared to destroy the bridges.”

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

In the postscript, Monroe added: “You had better remove the records.”

Before Congress created the National Archives, it required each executive department to keep its own archives. Congress gave the Department of State the important task of safeguarding the nation’s early state papers—treasured documents including the records of the Confederation and Continental Congresses, George Washington’s papers as Commander of the Continental Army, the Declaration of Independence, and the Constitution.

When word of the invasion reached the Department of State, clerks John Graham, Stephen Pleasonton, and Josias King took up the task of saving the valuable archives in the department’s custody. The clerks bought coarse linen to make bags into which they stuffed the archives and loaded them into carts. The documents they packed included the books and papers of the State Department; unpublished secret journals of Congress; General George Washington’s correspondence; the Articles of Confederation; and the papers of the Continental Congress.

Along with these early records, the clerks also bagged up the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Bill of Rights.

According to Pleasonton, whose account was taken 34 years afterwards, the clerks first took several document-loaded carts to a vacant gristmill on the Virginia side of the Potomac River, located a couple of miles above Georgetown. The mill, however, sat near a foundry that made munitions for the war, and the clerks feared it might become a British target.

Pleasonton decided to find another location. After obtaining wagons from nearby farmers, the clerks moved the documents to Leesburg, Virginia, about 35 miles outside of Washington. There, they locked the valuable documents into a cellar vault of an abandoned house and gave the keys to Leesburg’s sheriff for safekeeping.

Map of Maj. Gen. Ross’s route, with the British Column, from Benedict, on the Putuxant River, to the City of Washington, August 1818. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, National Archives)

Map of Maj. Gen. Ross’s route, with the British Column, from Benedict, on the Putuxant River, to the City of Washington, August 1818. (Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, National Archives)

While the state papers were being carted to safety, the British forces advanced to Bladensburg, Maryland. The Americans’ feeble attempt to hold back British troops at the Battle of Bladensburg ended in swift defeat. The British invaders then marched, unimpeded, into the city from the northeast, intent on destroying as many public buildings as possible.

In the near-vacant city, British troops vandalized and set fire to the unfinished Capitol Building. British troops then marched up Pennsylvania Avenue, burning and looting the White House and nearby government buildings including those housing the Departments of State, War, Navy, and the Treasury. A few miles southeast, over at the Navy Yard, the commandant had ordered clerks to torch ships and ammunition to prevent the British from procuring them. The collective blaze could reportedly be seen as far away as Baltimore.

"Capture of the City of Washington," August 1814. (National Archives Identifier 531090)

“Capture of the City of Washington,” August 1814. (National Archives Identifier 531090)

The attack, coupled with a devastating storm on August 25, destroyed most of Washington’s public buildings. In addition to the extensive physical damage, the attack struck a great emotional blow to the nascent city. Government officials questioned whether Washington should remain the capital and called to abandon the remote outpost.

In Congress, members debated whether the capital should move to someplace “with greater security and less inconvenience” than Washington. Ultimately, Congress decided to remain in the city and appropriated funds to repair and rebuild the White House, Capitol, and public offices on their present sites.

Transfer of Charters of Freedom to the National Archives, 12/13/1952. (National Archives Identifier 5928179)

Transfer of Charters of Freedom to the National Archives, 12/13/1952. (National Archives Identifier 5928179)

Even though the British occupation destroyed some of our nation’s most important documentary heritage, Congress’s plans to rebuild the city did not include provisions for a national archives. Over the next hundred years, many of the nation’s most valuable state papers continued to endure poor storage conditions, lack of suitable space, constant shuffling around the city, and a near-constant threat of fire.

Miraculously, many of the state papers survived until their eventual transfer to the National Archives, where the records are now properly preserved and accessible to the American public.

The National Archives will exhibit a charred remnant of the White House and a letter regarding the bombardment of Fort McHenry in the East Rotunda Gallery from September 11 – November 3, 2014. 


Hats Off to the Tri-Corner Hat

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is the Revolutionary War: Fashion during America’s Fight for Freedom

Perhaps one of the most iconic—and easily recognized—pieces of clothing from the colonial era is the tri-corner hat, or more simply known as the tricorn. Although the style originated in Europe, it is now associated with the American Revolutionary War and our nation’s fight for freedom.

St. Leger, Barry (bust). (National Archives Identifier 530964)

St. Leger, Barry (bust). (National Archives Identifier 530964)

In 17th-century America, hats with tall crowns and wide brims, like the steeple hats worn by the Puritans, started to go out of style. They were thought to spoil the appearance of and look precarious atop a wig, which was the newest fashion trend for men at the time.

The tri-corner, however, had three sides of the brim turned up, either pinned or buttoned in place to form a triangle around the wearer’s head—“like a mince pie,” to quote the vernacular of the time. This style then allowed the wearer to show off his latest wig fashion underneath, and thus his social status.

Also, the tricorn was smaller in size due to the folded brim and was more easily tucked under the arm when entering a building, a gesture that displayed the proper social etiquette of the time.

Jones, John Paul (bust), 1781. (National Archives Identifier 512987)

Jones, John Paul (bust), 1781. (National Archives Identifier 512987)

The style of the tricorn ranged from the very simple to extravagant hats embellished with feathers and trim. Hat brims themselves could also be left plain or dressed with a variety of trims. Although the most common trim was a worsted wool hat braid in black or white, there were also brocades, metallic, and silk trims in various colors depending on personal preference. Black, grey, and “tobacco,” or tan, were popular choices for the hat’s body color.

At the height of its popularity, the tricorn hat was worn by not only the aristocracy but also by common civilians and members of the military. It was typically made of animal fiber and fashioned with the point facing forward.

For soldiers who often rested a musket or rifle on their left shoulder, however, the tricorn was usually worn with the front corner directly above their left eyebrow for better clearance. The most common military version had a brim of five inches in the back and four inches in the front.

Washington, George, the Virginia Colonel (3/4 length), 1772. (National Archives Identifier 532861)

Washington, George, the Virginia Colonel (3/4 length), 1772. (National Archives Identifier 532861)

On August 20, 1776, supreme commander Gen. George Washington issued general orders that included instructions detailing the use of cockades. A cockade is a rosette, feather, or knot of ribbon usually worn on a hat as part of a uniform or as a badge of office.

At the time, the Continental Army did not have a uniform, and these cockades served as identification among military personnel. Field officers were to don pink ones, captains to wear white ones, and subalterns were to attach green ones to their headwear. It was not until 1783 that an official “Union Cockade” was issued to be worn on the left breast.

The tricorn hat is more than just a historical fashion statement—it is a historic element of the character and pride of our Revolutionary Army. It only seems fitting that we take our “hats off” to one of our favorite headpieces in our nation’s history. Huzzah!

Examine more “signature styles” and history-making signatures in our current exhibition, “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

Post updated 8-18-2014


Six weeks of style with the National Archives

Get ready to put your best fashion foot forward—and take a step back into the trends of the past—with the National Archives!

This fall, the Foundation for the National Archives is partnering with DC Fashion Week to host the opening night. This semiannual event was originally created to spotlight the nation’s capital as a dynamic center of international fashion. The National Archives’ current exhibition, “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” highlights the many ways people have made their mark on American history—from signature styles to signatures on groundbreaking laws.

Now celebrating its 10th year anniversary, DC Fashion Week continues to serve as DC’s premier apparel trade show. Featuring the collections of emerging U.S. and established international designers alike, DC Fashion Week will showcase major upcoming trends for spring and summer 2015.

The opening night event for DC Fashion Week will be held on Wednesday, September 24, at 7 p.m. in the National Archives Rotunda, with the fashion show starting at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. Tickets will be available through DCFW later this month.

More information regarding opening night will be posted on our various social media platforms in the coming weeks.

To help us get into a fashion frame of mind for this exciting event, the National Archives will be celebrating with six weeks of style. Keep your eyes out every Monday for new Pieces of History posts that will share the stories behind some of our most fashionable—and fascinating—holdings here at the National Archives.

Every week will focus on a distinct decade or era of fashion with fun themes, from Revolutionary War: Fashion during America’s Fight for Freedom to Get Your 1970s Groove On. You can follow these themes more closely as we spotlight a different fashion-related record daily on the U.S. National Archives Tumblr blog.

Be sure to check out our Pinterest account throughout these next six weeks for fun, fashion-related postings as well! There will be a new Pinterest board that corresponds with the decade or theme featured on both Tumblr and Pieces of History that week.

We hope you are excited for our fantastic fashion records as we begin to showcase the numerous “signature styles” from the National Archives.

Photograph of First Lady Betty Ford with designers Donna Karan, Donald Brooks, Albert Capraro, Kasper, Kay Unger, Chester Weinberg; Liz Claiborne, Shannon Rodgers, Leo Narducci, Anthony Muto, and Calvin Klein, 03/29/1976. (National Archives Identifier 7347181)

Photograph of First Lady Betty Ford with designers Donna Karan, Donald Brooks, Albert Capraro, Kasper, Kay Unger, Chester Weinberg, Liz Claiborne, Shannon Rodgers, Leo Narducci, Anthony Muto, and Calvin Klein, 03/29/1976. (National Archives Identifier 7347181)

Post updated 8-18-2014


Truman, Bacall, and That Photograph

By Jim Worsham

Harry S. Truman had been Vice President of the United States for only a few weeks when he showed up on February 10, 1945, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

He had agreed to take part in a show for some 800 servicemen. For his part of the show, Truman sat down at an upright piano to demonstrate his talent at the keyboard.

Soon, he was joined by the popular 20-year-old actress Lauren Bacall, who was there as part of a Hollywood contingent taking part in the show. She perched herself atop the piano, Hollywood-style. (Today, we call these photo-ops or publicity stunts.)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

The crowd cheered. Cameras clicked away. The photos (there were a number of different poses) appeared everywhere.

“I was just a kid. My press agent made me do it,” Bacall, who died this week at age 89, said later of her Hollywood publicists.

Truman, however, appeared to be enjoying it, “which he was,” writes David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the nation’s 33rd President.

But Truman might have thought differently about it later.

Why? Mrs. Truman, often referred to by Truman as “the Boss,” was not amused.  McCullough writes: “Bess was furious. She told him he should play the piano in public no more.” (Of course, he did play in public from time to time.)

A postscript.

A few months later, Bacall would marry Humphrey Bogart in one of Hollywood’s most famous couplings, and Truman would become President of the United States for nearly eight years. Truman and Bacall never performed together again.