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Archive for 'Pennsylvania Avenue'

Happy 80th Birthday National Archives

Today’s post comes from Jessie Kratz, Historian of the National Archives. June 19 marks the 80th Anniversary of the establishment of the National Archives. 

Eighty years ago on June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed legislation creating the National Archives. It was the culmination of a 25-year campaign by the historical community to create a National Archives building to house the national government’s records.

At that time, Federal records were scattered around the Washington area in inadequate and unsuitable storage facilities. They were neither organized nor accessible for public use.

War Department Records housed in the Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria Virginia before being transferred to the National Archives, September 1935 Records of the National Archives National Archives, Washington, DC

War Department Records housed in the Naval Torpedo Station in Alexandria Virginia before being transferred to the National Archives, September 1935, Records of the National Archives
National Archives, Washington, DC

Supporters of a National Archives argued that those records—the written evidence of our national life and achievements—must be preserved for future generations.

In 1926, Congress took the first major step in creating a home for the nation’s records by authorizing construction of an Archives building. It was part of a massive public buildings project to provide office space for government agencies in the Federal Triangle area of downtown Washington, DC.

The Archives building was well under way before Congress created the agency that would occupy it.

View of the construction of the National Archives Building, November 2, 1933 Records of the Public Building Service National Archives, Washington, DC

View of the construction of the National Archives Building, November 2, 1933
Records of the Public Building Service
National

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A big cheese for the Big Cheese in 1837

In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.

Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838. National Archives.

Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838 (National Archives at Kansas City). This patent shows a cheese press from around the same year as Jackson’s cheese giveaway.

Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:

Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already.  As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain.  The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.

Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where

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“A Signal Victory”: The Battle of Lake Erie

Our new Featured Document–Oliver Perry’s letter to the Secretary of the Navy–will be on display from September 10 to 19, 2014, at the National Archives in Washington, DCToday’s blog post was written by former student employee Meghan O’Connor.

Early in the War of 1812, the Americans lost control of Detroit and Lake Erie to the British and their Native American allies. The U.S. Navy sent 28-year-old Oliver Hazard Perry to Lake Erie to build a squadron and retake that important waterway.

On September 10, 1813, the Americans defeated the British on Lake Erie. Commodore Perry declared the naval battle “a signal victory.” In a war marked by early failures, this victory secured Ohio and the territories of Michigan and Indiana. It also provided a needed boost in national morale and marked a rare surrender of a complete Royal Navy squadron.

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813(National Archives)

Oliver Perry’s letter to Secretary of the Navy, September 10, 1813 (National Archives)

Letter from Commodore Oliver Perry to Hon. Wm. Jones, Secy. of Navy, September 10, 1813

With a crew that Perry once described as “a motley set, blacks, soldiers and boys,” the Americans met Britain’s powerful Royal Navy on Lake Erie. A flag flew above Perry’s ship, the Lawrence, emblazoned with the words “Don’t Give Up the Ship.” This battle cry was the dying command, in an earlier battle, of Perry’s friend … [ Read all ]

What are you doing on July 4?

Every year, we celebrate Independence Day on the steps of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. It’s a fun, free event for the whole family!

(And if you don’t like the heat, you can now watch the program live from inside the National Archives building. Email specialevents@nara.gov to reserve a seat in our air-conditioned theater.)

 

This year, Steve Scully of C-SPAN is our Master of Ceremonies. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will welcome the crowds. Our special guests George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Ben Franklin, Ned Hector, and Abigail Adams will read aloud the Declaration of Independence. This is your chance to boo and huzzah like the colonists of 1776!

Show your love of history with a National Archives temporary tattoo!

The 3rd United States Infantry “Old Guard” Continental Color Guard will present the colors, and the United States Air Force Band will sing the National Anthem.

After the program, you can go into the building and see the original Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda where it is on permanent display. (Look for the mysterious handprint!) And don’t miss the family activities in the Boeing Learning Center.

Here’s the schedule of events—stay and watch the parade afterwards!

10 a.m.–11 a.m.

Declaration of Independence Reading Ceremony

  • Presentation of colors by the Continental Color Guard*
  • Performance by the Fife
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White House Reunions: Presidential Library Dedications

Today’s blog post comes from Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives.

It’s not often that several Presidents are together at one time, but on April 25, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be dedicated to the American public. Although many dignitaries from around the world will attend, all eyes will likely focus on the gathering of men who have called the White House home. In addition to George W. Bush, guests of honor will include current Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, and former Presidents William J. Clinton, George Bush, and Jimmy Carter.

The George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum.

The first Presidential Library and Museum was conceived and built under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s direction from 1939 to 1940 in Hyde Park, NY. The official FDR Library dedication was a small, quiet affair, with close friends and family attending the ceremony. Over the years, the ceremonies have grown larger, and dedications have become notable for the atmosphere of nonpartisan goodwill and respect among former Presidents.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on July 6, 1957, in Independence, MO. During Truman’s Presidency, Herbert Hoover offered his services to help with post–World War II humanitarian efforts. Despite being Presidents from opposing parties, the two forged a working relationship that eventually grew into a strong friendship. At … [ Read all ]