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Facial Hair Friday: Sir Frederick Bruce

Today’s blog post comes from Katrina Wood, a summer intern with the Public Affairs Office.

Sir Frederick Bruce

Sir Frederick Bruce, British diplomat and Minister to the United States at the end of the Civil War. (111-B-1510; National Archives Identifier 525715)

As I took a self-guided tour of Embassy Row in Washington, DC, and paused at the statue of Winston Churchill at the British Embassy on Massachusetts Avenue, I thought of all the diplomats and representatives who have made homes in Washington.

Sir Frederick Bruce was a highly valued diplomat in Queen Victoria’s service. Somewhat surprisingly, he seems to be portrayed in a fashion slightly more casual than his lengthy political and diplomatic career would suggest.

Sir Frederick held posts from colonial secretary and consul-general to envoy extraordinary and chief superintendent of British trade in China. He was a native of Scotland, born in Broomhall, Fifeshire.

In 1865, when Sir Frederick was the British Minister in China,  he received a new assignment as Minister to the United States. He arrived in New York only one week before the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln and never officially met the President.

The diplomat did not survive the President  very long. Sir Frederick died in Boston on September 19, 1867. His obituary in the New York Times praised him for performing his ministerial functions “faithfully and earnestly, but with no … [ Read all ]

Death Takes No Holiday: Full Military Honors at Arlington in 2014

[Today’s post comes from Rod Ross, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives. While researchers come to Rod every day to learn from his knowledge of congressional records, he recently had to consult an Archives colleague for an unusual task outside the office.]

Arlington National Cemetery (330-CFD-DF-SD-03-18020; National Archives Identifier  6606577)

Arlington National Cemetery (330-CFD-DF-SD-03-18020; National Archives Identifier 6606577)

Sometime in 2014—because Arlington National Cemetery has a substantial backlog, causing delays of eight or nine months—I expect to attend a funeral of someone I barely knew in life, Odis Frederick Quick (1916–2013).

I live in an apartment house in Southwest Washington, DC. Not long ago, I received an email asking me if I knew Odis Quick, who “lives or lived” in the building. The writer was renting an apartment in the coop but wanted to buy. She had seen mail piled up in front of a unit and wondered if it might be available.

On Saturday, August 17, I asked at the front desk if they knew the status of the Quick apartment. The woman there did indeed know.

Odis Quick had died in a hospice in mid-May, and his body had been taken to a funeral home, where it remained. Mid-May to mid-August—that’s unbelievable, I thought. The woman at the desk said that a fellow resident in my building, Bob McIntosh, had been with Odis in the … [ Read all ]

Constitution 225: There’s a “fifth” page the public has never seen

 

The Constitution Resolution, sometimes called the "fifth page" of the Constitution, will be on public display for the first time on September 14-19, 2012, in Washington, DC.

Millions of people have passed through the Rotunda of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, to see the original parchments that are our Charters of Freedom. They pause to look at the faded writing on the Declaration of Independence, the bold opening words “We the People” on the Constitution, and the straightforward enumeration of our Bill of Rights.

This year, for the first time, visitors will be able to see what is sometimes referred to as the “fifth page” of the Constitution—the Resolutions of Transmittal to the Continental Congress. A special display for the 225th anniversary of the Constitution in September, will feature this document. “It’s up there with the Constitution in terms of value,” says curator Alice Kamps.

The resolutions spell out how the new Constitution would be adopted by the United States and how the new government would be put into effect.

Instead of seeking the consent of Congress and the 13 state legislatures, the delegates to the Constitutional Convention proposed that the Constitution “be laid before the United States in Congress assembled” and then submitted  to  special ratifying conventions elected by the people in each of the states. Once nine states had ratified … [ Read all ]

Striking Gold in the Records

A vial of gold found in the case file of Heine v. Roth in the National Archives at Anchorage (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)

People often refer to the National Archives as a “treasure trove” of history. Usually they’re referring to the wealth of knowledge documented in our billions of pieces of paper. But occasionally you come across something that would not be out of place in a real treasure chest.

At the end of the 19th century, thousands of gold-seekers headed to Alaska. Few found even enough gold to pay for the voyage north, but a little bit of the precious ore found its way into federal records at the National Archives in Anchorage.

The 1904 case of Heine v. Roth concerned waterfront property rights. George Roth had purchased land on the banks of the Chena River near Fairbanks and prospected for gold there. C. H. Heine also occupied land near the Chena and had filed a homestead claim on May 6, 1904, for 35 acres.

On July 15, 1904, Heine asked Roth to leave the property and had him arrested for trespassing when Roth refused. In court they argued over who had claim to the waterfront property, which was accessible only during low tide. Heine argued that Roth’s camp denied him access to the river. Roth argued … [ Read all ]

A Civil War Widow’s Story

Tintype of Adelia Springer and her daughter. (Widow’s Certificate #63958, Civil War and Later Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents, Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, RG 15)

Intriguing discoveries are made all the time in the National Archives. This tintype of a woman and child doesn’t look like the typical federal record, let alone one associated with military records. But it was found in one of the 1.28 million Civil War Widows Certificate Approved Pension Case Files. Since 2007, a team of volunteers has been working on a project to digitize these records and make them available online, and from time to time, unexpected treasures turn up.

The file of one widow, Adelia M. Fish, holds quite a story. Her first husband, Joseph Springer served as a private in Company A, Seventh Michigan Cavalry, and died at Andersonville Prison in October 1864. She had four children under the age of 16 when she applied for her pension in June 1865.

In July 1872 Adelia married Jason B. Webb, and she was dropped from the pension rolls. Webb left their home in Battle Creek, MI, in the fall of 1872, and Adelia never saw him or heard from him again. Presuming him dead, she married a third time to Washington A. Fish in 1883. Adelia had no children by … [ Read all ]