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Archive for '- Presidents'

“The whole world mourns his passing”

Today’s blog post comes from Corinne Porter, curator at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

November 22, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy. On that day in 1963, the news of President Kennedy’s tragic death shocked the world and plunged the United States into mourning.

Although five decades have passed, the memory of the day remains vivid to the generation of Americans that lived through the experience. Many of you may know a relative or neighbor who can recall in detail where they were when they heard the tragic news.

In the days and weeks following the death of President Kennedy, the White House received a flood of condolence mail—over 800,000 letters in the first six weeks, a figure that would eventually rise to over 1.5 million letters.

 

Condolences arrived from around the world. Men, women, and children from diverse backgrounds—social, economic, political, ethnic, racial, and religious—wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy and her children. They declared their shock and disbelief, supplied words of support and encouragement, shared their memories of President Kennedy, and expressed what he meant to them. They also sought to assure the Kennedy family that John F. Kennedy and his legacy would be remembered.

Many correspondents acknowledged that they were just one of the “little people,” and that they did not expect the First … [ Read all ]

National Archives documents on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

Some of our documents made a special trip across Constitution Avenue today, traveling from the National Archives Building to our neighbor on the Mall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tonight, the museum is hosting a dinner for this year’s sixteen recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Over the past fifty years, the award has been given to 500 people. President Kennedy re-established the Medal of Freedom as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, eighteen years after it was first established by President Truman.

Although President Kennedy was killed just two weeks before the planned award ceremony, President Johnson went forward with the first award ceremony. Marian Anderson was among the first 31 recipients. He also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to President Kennedy.

You can watch tonight’s ceremony live online.

Karen Hibbitt, registrar at the National Archives, and conservator Lauren Varga accompanied the documents and prepared the display, and they will remain there during the event to ensure the safety of the documents.

The featured documents are Executive Order 11085 and a set of design drawings. On February 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed Executive Order 11085, establishing the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Institute of Heraldry, U.S. Army, then created design drawings for the medal for President and Mrs. Kennedy to review. … [ Read all ]

Spielberg Film Festival: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg is being honored by the Foundation for the National Archives for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival. Lincoln is the last film to be screened. Join us tonight, November 18, at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and distributed an hour before the screening. For details on the award, go here.

Among the official Civil War records preserved by the National Archives is a series of telegrams sent by President Lincoln during his Presidency, including this “bull-dog” telegram to General Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant earned the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant during the Civil War after his 1862 victory at Fort Donelson in Tennessee. For his proven military skills and for his bulldog determination to destroy the Confederate armies, President Lincoln picked Grant in March 1864 to be Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army, making him commander of all Union forces.

In June of that year, Grant set out to capture Petersburg, Virginia, the hub of a railroad system that carried food and supplies to the Confederate capital city of Richmond and to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army. Although the Union’s initial assaults failed to capture the city, they did sever some of these railroad lines. By July both Confederate and Union forces had dug in … [ Read all ]

Spielberg Film Festival: Saving Private Ryan

Steven Spielberg is being honored by the Foundation for the National Archives for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival, and Saving Private Ryan is the first film to be screened. Join us tonight, Friday, November 15. For details on the award and the times of the free screenings, go here.)

In Spielberg’s film Saving Private Ryan, a squad of Army Rangers search for Pfc. James Francis Ryan (played by Matt Damon) who is the last surviving brother of four servicemen. Seems like something that could only happen in the movies?

Unfortunately, history is stranger, and sadder, than fiction. Many stories of lost and missing brothers can be found in our records.

Twenty-three sets of brothers were killed on the USS Arizona during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The photo below shows a service jacket and salvaged service record, with Navy envelope, for William Wells. Wells enlisted at Kansas City, MO, on January 1, 1940, and died December 7, 1941, at Pearl Harbor after achieving the rank of Signalman 3rd class. His brother, Raymond Virgil Wells, was also on the Arizona and died that day.

Sometimes the decision to preserve these kinds of records means not treating them. According to Michael Pierce, a preservation technician, more … [ Read all ]

Records of Right Vote: Americans with Disabilities Act

Today is the last day to vote! Do you want the Americans with Disabilities Act to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery? Vote now! 

Today’s guest post was written by Amber Powell, archivist at the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library.

At the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (known as the ADA) on July 26, 1990, President George H.W.  Bush said, “Three weeks ago we celebrated our nation’s Independence Day.  Today we’re here to rejoice in and celebrate another ’Independence Day,’ one that is long overdue. With today’s signing of the landmark Americans for Disabilities Act, every man, woman and child with a disability can now pass through once-closed doors into a bright new era of equality, independence and freedom.”

The ADA proved to be a comprehensive declaration of equality, expanding federal civil rights laws to include disabled Americans. The legislation prohibits discrimination in employment, public services, public accommodations, transportation, and telecommunications.

Introduced in Congress on April 28, 1988, the ADA progressed through numerous drafts and revisions. The final bill was a product of the negotiations between President George H.W. Bush and Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, with input from business organizations, disability rights groups, and concerned citizens. Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on the Handicapped, … [ Read all ]