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Archive for 'Pennsylvania Avenue'

Jefferson in Paris: The Constitution, Part I

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is the Senior Registrar in the Exhibits Division.

“It is impossible to increase taxes, disastrous to keep on borrowing, and inadequate to merely to cut expense.”

This is not a quote from the 2012 American  elections or the current fiscal cliff debate.  These are the words of Charles-Alexandre de Calonne, finance minister of France, describing the financial conditions of his country in 1786 to his king, Louis XVI.

The French monarchy was deep in debt due to continuous war expenditures, most recently from the American Revolution, when France supplied monies, ships, soldiers, and arms to the the struggling United States, not to mention its own naval engagements with the British Navy. The French people were poor and hungry, and there was great inequality among the classes. Attempts at reform failed, setting the stage for the bloody civil rupture known as the French Revolution, beginning with democratic ideas and ending in Napoleonic despotism.

With his experience in the Virginia House of Burgesses, the Continental Congress, and as Governor of Virginia behind him, Thomas Jefferson continued his practical education in world affairs in pre-revolutionary France. Across the Atlantic, the fledgling American government had its own problems, which though different, were … [ Read all ]

A White House Thanksgiving

This is what President Harry Truman had for Thanksgiving in 1947. (Click to enlarge.) What dishes are going on your table this year?

My favorite holiday is Thankgiving. No dispute.

After all, it’s a holiday that basically crafted entirely around the consumption of turkey. I’m not entirely sure that this is what Lincoln had in mind when he established Thanksgiving in 1863, but hey, it’s not called “Turkey Day” without reason.

But given that some people may want to give thanks without the hassle of cooking a turkey, we’ve selected a few recipes from our Presidential Libraries that would taste delicious with or without the traditional roasted bird. Many of these recipes could be served year-round: at picnics, for Sunday suppers, for potlucks, for anniversaries. After all, giving thanks and sharing meals with loved ones doesn’t come just once a year.

For starters:

George and Laura Bush’s Deviled Eggs

12 large eggs, boiled hard and peeled
1 tablespoon (plus) soft butter
1 tablespoon (plus) mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon Yucatan Sunshine Habanero sauce
Salt to taste

Cut eggs in half and set aside. Put egg yolks in food processor and add all ingredients. Process for 20 seconds or until mixture has blended. Check for taste and increase mustard, salt or Habanero sauce if desired.  Place mixture in piping bag with star tip and pipe into egg halves. Sprinkle with … [ Read all ]

Thanksgiving with the Presidents

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.

Did you know that before the 1940s, Thanksgiving was not on a fixed date but was whenever the President proclaimed it to be?

George Washington issued the first Presidential proclamation for the holiday in 1789.  That year he designated Thursday, November 26 as a national day of “public thanksgiving.”  The United States then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.   Seventy-four years later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November.

By the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on.  Tradition had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping.  Business leaders feared they would … [ Read all ]

Reagan and the “Turkey Bird”

Today’s post is by Duke Blackwood, Director of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Follow them on their Facebook page.

One normally doesn’t associate turkeys with flying.  However, in 1966 they became synonymous with flight during Ronald Reagan’s first race for political office—Governor of California. Covering such a large state was advance man Curtis Patrick’s nightmare, as Reagan was reticent to fly and preferred to drive. But it soon became a necessity for the candidate to fly.

Enter Mervin Amerine, a former B-29 Superfortress pilot turned turkey farmer who had three DC-3 aircraft capable of ferrying up to 48,000 live baby turkeys per plane to various destinations.

The DC-3 was a workhorse in World War II, which made it well suited for flying to remote campaign locations that often did not have paved runways.  Being a huge fan of Mr. Reagan, Amerine offered one of his planes to the campaign. Of course, only after he had cleaned it up and added 28 seats.

On a bright and beautiful day in the idyllic town of Calistoga, California, Patrick introduced Ronald Reagan to Amerine on a weed-infested gravel runway. With the press corps in tow, they all boarded this now-glistening aircraft for the inaugural flight to Angel’s Camp. Adding an air of sophistication was Mrs. Amerine, who served as the plane’s stewardess.

Buckled in for safety, all … [ Read all ]

To Choose a President

Today’s post originally appeared in the 2012 Summer Issue of Prologue magazine, and was written by Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero.

The Electoral College. Established 1787.

It isn’t really a college, and the electors aren’t tenured professors.

The electors are really voters, and their votes count in a very big way.

The electors were created by the Constitution to do only one thing: elect the President and Vice President of the United States. The Electoral College became part of the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787, when delegates assembled to devise something to replace the Articles of Confederation.

Some delegates wanted Congress to choose the President, but that would have upset the balance of power among the three branches of government. Others called for direct popular vote, but that would have left the decision in the hands of ill-informed voters who knew little about politicians outside their home state.

So they created electors. And they hoped the electors would be some of brightest and best informed people who would base their decisions on the candidates’ merit. (Each state gets as many electoral votes as it has members in the Senate and House.)

Today, the Electoral College’s activities are overseen by the National Archives. We delegate this duty to our Office of the Federal Register, which every … [ Read all ]