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Archive for 'Pennsylvania Avenue'

Merry Christmas from Space!

Once upon a time, space was quiet. This was before satellites had cluttered the orbit of the earth, beaming TV shows and text messages and GPS coordinates.

Before 1958, space was very quiet.

On December 18, 1958, the Air Force placed the first communications satellite, a Project SCORE relay vehicle, into orbit.

And then, on December 19, the sound of the a human voice was transmitted through space. It was the voice of President Eisenhower, broadcasting a message of peace to the world below.

This is the President of the United States speaking. Through the marvels of scientific advance, my voice is coming to you from a satellite circling in outer space. My message is a simple one. Through this unique means, I convey to you and all mankind America’s wish for peace on earth and good will to men everywhere.

 

Fewer than 100 people knew about the project, called SCORE (Signal Communications by Orbiting Relay Equipment). The goal was to put an Atlas missile into orbit and to show that communications satellites could transmit messages to Earth. It was a huge technological breakthrough and a milestone in the space race.

Sputnik 1 had been successfully launched in 1957 and had an onboard radio-transmitter. The satellite in the SCORE project used a tape recorder to store and forward voice messages—it was the first satellite … [ Read all ]

The Election isn’t over yet…

If you thought the Presidential election was over and all the votes were counted, you’re wrong.

The formal election is Monday, December 17, when “electors” meet in their respective state capitals to cast their votes for President and Vice President.

Although the names Barack Obama and Mitt Romney appeared on the November ballot, you were really voting for a slate of “electors” who pledged to vote for their party’s candidates on December 17. But, based on the popular election results, it’s no mystery how the electoral votes will go.

Collectively, the electors are known as the Electoral College. They were created by Article II of the Constitution to choose the President and Vice President. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, the Founding Fathers didn’t think the voters (then only white males) were informed enough to make wise decisions.

No Federal law requires electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states require electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote.

Today, it is rare for electors to disregard the popular vote by casting their electoral vote for someone other than their party’s candidate. Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: Flight to Freedom

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

Before the Emancipation Proclamation freed the slaves, many men and women in bondage ran away from their owners to freedom. These escape attempts were dangerous, and not all of them were successful. Abolitionists sometimes helped slaves in their flight to freedom, like these two men in the case of the escaping slave Jane Johnson and her children.

Jane Johnson and her two young sons were enslaved by John Hill Wheeler, the U.S. ambassador to Nicaragua. While on his way to South America, Wheeler brought Jane and her sons to New York and Philadelphia. Once the three slaves were in Philadelphia, abolitionists William Still and Passmore Williamson helped Johnson and her two sons escape to Boston.

Wheeler petitioned the court to have Williamson return his slaves. In the Writ of Habeas Corpus commanding Williamson to return Jane and her sons, Williamson stated that he was unable to do so:

Passmore Williamson the defendant in the within writ mentioned for return thereto respectfully submits that the within named Jane, Daniel and Isaiah . . . are not now nor was, . . . in the custody, power or possession of, nor confined nor restrained their liberty by him the said Passmore Williamson. Therefore he cannot have the bodies of the said Jane, Daniel and Isaiah,

[ Read all ]

The 1941 Christmas Tree: A Bright Light in Dark Times

 

The Roosevelts had planned for a “more homey” lighting of the National Christmas tree on December 24 in 1941. FDR had directed that the tree be moved from the Ellipse to the White House grounds, just next to the South Lawn Fountain.  But after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, there was some doubt that the ceremony would take place at all. With firm backing from the President, the tree-lighting went forward, and thousands came to the White House to share a bright moment of hope during dark and uncertain times.

Plans for this “more homey” event had been set in motion the previous December. A few days before the ceremony, the Roosevelts had an idea. At the 1940 tree-lighting ceremony, FDR raised the issue to the crowds gathered on the Ellipse, “Next year the celebration must take place on the South End of the White House, where all can see the tree,” and “all you good people” would be invited to the gardens of the Executive Mansion to hear the President deliver his message.

A few months later, FDR wrote a memo to Col. Edward Starling,  the head of the Secret Service detail: “I was not fooling and I think the proper place for the tree is right next to the fence at the south end of the White House … [ Read all ]

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 ]