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Archive for 'Pennsylvania Avenue'

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,
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National Archives War Memorial Plaque

National Archives Memorial Plaque (Photo courtesy of the National Archives History Office)

Photograph of National Archives Memorial Plaque, May 15, 2015. (Photograph courtesy of the National Archives History Office)

Hanging in the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance lobby of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, is a small plaque with the names of four men:

Ralph Leroy Dewsnup, Charles Edward Lewis, Julius Mayers and Augustus Julius Siko.

These four men were National Archives employees who died serving the United States during World War II.

In 1946 the National Archives created the plaque to honor these men and their service to our country.

The plaque’s dedication ceremony took place on January 29, 1947, in the Pennsylvania Avenue lobby, although now the plaque is displayed on a different wall than where it was originally unveiled.

The ceremony, attended by more than 100 National Archives employees, began with an invocation. Two National Archives staff members then performed a rendition of Kipling’s “Recessional.”

Bess Glenn, the employee association’s president, then unveiled the plaque.

Performance of "Taps" at War Memorial Plaque Dedication,, January 29, 1947. (Records of the National Archives)

Performance of “Taps” at War Memorial Plaque Dedication, January 29, 1947. (Records of the National Archives)

She remarked, “To give expression to our feeling of respect and admiration for these lost comrades, the employees of the National Archives have erected this memorial plaque. In honoring these four men we honor also all members of our staff who were in the armed services of our country.”

Following the unveiling, Archivist Solon J. Buck received … [ Read all ]

National Archives commemorates Memorial Day with video

To commemorate Memorial Day, the National Archives has released a short video about the importance of the holiday.

Timed for the 150th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s death and the upcoming sesquicentennial of the 1866 founding of the Grand Army of the Republic (the fraternal organization of Union Civil War veterans), the National Archives created the video “Memorial Day 2015: Why it Matters.”

The video features Rodney Ross, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC, with an introduction by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.

Ross demonstrates the importance of National Archives records to everyday Americans through the prism of a single National Archives document—a page from the muster roll of a Civil War soldier from his hometown of Batavia, Illinois.

Oscar F. Cooley's Compiled Military Service Record. (Records of the Adjutant General's Office, National Archives)

Oscar F. Cooley’s Compiled Military Service Record. (Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, National Archives)

The soldier, Union Pvt. Oscar F. Cooley, was killed in action during the siege at Vicksburg on June 8, 1863.

In the video Ross recounts his Memorial Day memories as a child growing up in Batavia, and shares an image of a statue from Batavia’s West Side Cemetery inscribed with the names of Batavians, primarily those with the 124th Illinois Volunteer Regiment, who fought for the Union in the Civil War.

Ross speaks at the Grand Army of the Republic Monument on Pennsylvania … [ Read all ]

The other FDR Memorial

Franklin Roosevelt Grave Site, April 12, 1953. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, National Archives)

Franklin Roosevelt Grave Site, April 12, 1953. (Photo from the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum, National Archives)

On April 12, 1965, a small group of people gathered at the triangular plot on Pennsylvania Avenue near the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

They were family and close friends of President Franklin D. Roosevelt and were assembled to dedicate a memorial to the late President on the 20th anniversary of his death.

The memorial was very much unlike the current FDR Memorial on the tidal basin. It was—and still is—a small and simple block of marble made from the same quarry as the FDR’s gravestone at Hyde Park, NY. The memorial was paid for by private donations that were not made public (although their names are sealed into the base of the stone).

The modest design was intentional—on September 26, 1941, Roosevelt had told his friend Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter:

“If any memorial is erected to me, I know exactly what I should like it to be. I should like it to consist of a block about the size of this (putting his hand on his desk) and placed in the center of that green plot in front of the Archives Building. I don’t care what it is made of, whether limestone or granite or whatnot, but I want it plain without any ornamentation, with

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On Exhibit: “Lady Hooch Hunter”

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

A new exhibit on America’s connection to alcohol is now on display at the National Archives. “Spirited Republic: Alcohol and American History” is about the United States’ love-hate relationship with the “demon rum.”

Daisy Simpson's Prohibition Unit ID, September 6, 1921. (National Archives Identifier 6238194)

Daisy Simpson’s Prohibition Unit ID, September 6, 1921. (National Archives Identifier 6238194)

Bruce Bustard, the exhibit’s curator, says the exhibit demonstrates the “changing attitudes of the American people about alcohol, and also looks at that through the records of the National Archives and Presidential Libraries.”

One of the most interesting people featured in the exhibit is Daisy Simpson. Simpson was one of the Treasury Department’s most famous Prohibition officers (called “prohis”).

Known as the “Lady Hooch Hunter,” Simpson quickly attracted attention—and press—with her spectacular busts of Volstead Act violators.

Passed on October 28, 1919, the Volstead Act implemented the 18th amendment to the Constitution of the United States, which established prohibition in the U.S.

The act empowered Federal, as well as state and local governments, to enforce Prohibition by limiting the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol.

The U.S. Government turned to the Treasury Department to play the part of the act’s enforcer, a role in which women were integral.

While women gained the equal right to vote 1920, gender-based assignment of tasks endured. Women worked in the … [ Read all ]