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Archive for 'Pennsylvania Avenue'

Temple of Our History

On February 20, 1933, President Herbert Hoover and First Lady Lou Henry Hoover left the White House by car just before 2:30 p.m. with an escort of nine motorcycle policemen. Their destination was the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, to lay the cornerstone of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. The event had not been widely advertised, and the trip down Pennsylvania Avenue went largely unnoticed.

The ceremony was attended by a small group of officials including Secretary of Treasury Ogden Mills, whose department was overseeing the construction project.

The cornerstone laying ceremony at the National Archives, February 20, 1933. (Records of the Public Building Service, National Archives)

The cornerstone laying ceremony at the National Archives, February 20, 1933. (Records of the Public Building Service, National Archives)

During the ceremony, the President dedicated the building in the name of the people of the United States. He proclaimed, “The building which is rising here will house the name and record of every patriot who bore arms for our country in the Revolutionary War, as well as those of all later wars. Further, there will be aggregated here the most sacred documents of our history, the originals of the Declaration of Independence and of the Constitution of the United States. Here will be preserved all the other records that bind State to State and the hearts of all our people in an indissoluble union.”

Hoover continued, “The romance of our history … [ Read all ]

Carting the Charters

Procession Transferring documents to the National Archives, December 13, 1952. (Records of the National Archives)

Procession transferring documents to the National Archives, December 13, 1952. (Records of the National Archives)

Visitors to downtown Washington, DC, on December 13, 1952, were treated to an interesting sight—armored vehicles escorted by a barrage of military and police personnel. It wasn’t a holiday or the Presidential motorcade or a visiting dignitary.

On that chilly December morning, passersby saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States going for a ride.

“The Charters of Freedom”—the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights—all have varied histories of transport and storage through 1952.

The Declaration of Independence, after it was signed on August 2, 1776, moved with Congress from city to city throughout the Revolutionary War. After the establishment of the new nation under the Constitution, the Declaration found itself in Federal buildings, abandoned gristmills, and private homes before it ended up in the Library of Congress in 1921.

The Constitution had a similar history—after the framers signed it, the Constitution passed into the custody of the Department of State in 1789 and moved as the Federal Government moved. Unlike the Declaration, which was displayed for many years, the Constitution spent much of its history in storage.

The Bill of Rights has an even thinner history between its creation in 1789 and 1938. It, too, traveled with the government as it moved about until the … [ Read all ]

Sleepover at the National Archives!

Feeling adventurous? Sign up for the Sleepover at the National Archives on August 2 and explore some of history’s most exciting frontiers!

The event is co-hosted by the National Archives and the Foundation for the National Archives.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Rotunda sleepover on August 2! “Explorers Night” will feature activities that take campers to the Arctic, Outer Space, and the American West.

It’s not too late to sign up for the Rotunda sleepover on August 2! “Explorers Night” will feature activities that take campers to the Arctic, Outer Space, and the American West.

Building off of our “History, Heroes, and Treasures” theme, this summer’s sleepover turns the spotlight on ”Explorers Night.” The sleepover will feature hands-on activities to help young explorers investigate—through scavenger hunts, dress-up, music, and more—some of the greatest adventures of all time. Campers will journey to the Arctic, visit Outer Space, and discover the American West as they explore the National Archives Museum’s treasured records in a unique after-hours experience.

Young explorers will have the opportunity to chat with famous pioneers like Matthew Henson, Meriwether Lewis, and Louise Arner Boyd about their incredible voyages into uncharted territory. They will also get the chance to learn about the life of an astronaut through artifacts straight from the National Air and Space Museum—like the “space toilet” and “living and working in space” discovery stations—and engage in fun activities with NASM staff members. The night will feature music from the Lewis and Clark era with special performances by David & Ginger Hildebrand from the … [ Read all ]

Now On Display: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Today’s post comes from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on, 07/02/1964. (The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on, 07/02/1964. (The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

On July 2, 1964, with Martin Luther King, Jr., directly behind him, President Lyndon Johnson scrawled his signature on a document years in the making—the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

The first and the signature pages of the act will be on display at the National Archives Rubenstein Gallery in Washington, DC, until September 17, 2014. These 50-year-old sheets of paper represent years of struggle and society’s journey toward justice.

The most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era, the Civil Right Act finally gave the Federal Government the means to enforce the promises of the 13th,  14th, and 15th Amendments. The act prohibited discrimination in public places, allowed the integration of public facilities and schools, and forbade discrimination in employment.

But such a landmark congressional enactment was by no means achieved easily. Indeed, developments within the civil rights movement were critical in motivating the bill’s movement through Congress. The push for legislation accelerated in May 1963, when nightly news broadcasts displayed footage of Eugene “Bull” Connor cracking down on demonstrations in Birmingham, Alabama.

In this atmosphere, President … [ Read all ]

Doors of Monumental Proportions

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, Historian of the National Archives.

On June 24 at noon, the National Archives celebrates its anniversary with a special film event: From the Vaults: 80th Anniversary of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance with doors closed, June 13, 1936, 64-NA-79, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance with doors closed, 6/13/1936. (National Archives Identifier 7820634)

If you have ever visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, you may have noticed two very, very large bronze doors that mark the original Constitution Avenue entrance to the building. Visitors enter through the Constitution Avenue entrance to view the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights as well as the many other exhibits the National Archives Museum offers.

Constitution Avenue Foyer, doors closed, Jan. 12, 1936, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Foyer, doors closed, 1/12/1936. (National Archives Identifier
7820616)

These bronze doors stand about 37 feet, 7 inches high and are 10 feet wide and 11 inches thick. Each weighs roughly 6.5 tons. The building’s architect, John Russell Pope, understanding the national significance of the structure, sought to design a public exhibition hall of monumental proportions. As a reminder to visitors of the importance of the building’s purpose, the public exhibition hall Pope designed—the rotunda—measures 75 feet high; the bronze doors leading into the exhibition hall match that in size and character.

Constitution Avenue Entrance and Pediment, Jan. 12, 1936, 64-NA-39, Records of the National Archives

Constitution Avenue Entrance and Pediment, 1/12/1936. (National Archives Identifier 7820626)

The doors were first opened on October 18, 1935. Then visitors to the National Archives … [ Read all ]