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Archive for 'News and Events'

The American Flag

Today’s post, in honor of Flag Day, comes from Alex Nieuwsma, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlights the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

Cartoonist Clifford Berryman highlighted the annual Flag Day with an American flag waving among the light and dark clouds caused by the gunfire of battles, June 14, 1918. (National Archives Identifier 6011429)

On June 14, 1777, the Second Continental Congress officially adopted the Stars and Stripes as the National Flag of the United States of America. Through its many changes and iterations, the American flag has come to represent the physical geography of the nation by including as many stars as states, as well as a remembrance of the nation’s origins as seen in the 13 red and white stripes.

The American flag also serves as a reminder of what America and her citizens represent: liberty, equality, and justice.

Designed by Francis Hopkinson, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, the flag was originally intended to be used as a naval sign. However, growing nationalism around the world during the 18th century led many countries to establish a national flag, the United States included. It is unclear how or why Congress selected Hopkinson’s design for this honor.

The involvement of Betsy Ross in the design and creation of the first American flag is largely fictitious. It is likely that her grandson, William J. … [ Read all ]

The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

Original Coke Bottle Patent,  November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Original Coke Bottle Patent, November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same.

To distinguish its product from competitors, in 1915 the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition among glassmakers to design a new bottle that was distinctive in both look and feel.

The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, sought inspiration from Coca-Cola’s ingredients. However, the bottle’s fluted contour shape was instead modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The Coca-Cola Company adopted the Root Glass Company’s bottle design in 1916, but the original prototype was never manufactured because it was top-heavy and unstable.

The first commercial “Coke” bottles debuted with a wider base and slimmed-down, contoured shape. This silhouette became so unmistakable that in 1961 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave it trademark status.

See the original patent in person at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 4 through July 29, 2015, in the West Rotunda Gallery and from October 29 through December 2, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery.

And check out the post, “Inventing in Congress: Patent Law since 1790” to learn more about the history of patent law in the … [ Read all ]

The Articles of Association: Liberty through Economic Independence

Today’s post comes from Alley Marie Jordan, graduate research intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, D.C.

In celebration of the Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary this year, the National Archives is exhibiting a seminal document on American political and economic liberties: the 1774 Articles of Association.

The Articles of Association, written by the First Continental Congress, addressed economic grievances imposed on the colonies. They asserted non-importation and non-exportation sanctions on Great Britain, Ireland, and the East Indies in reaction to the British Crown’s infamous 1774 Intolerable Acts.

The able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught. Illustrates the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party-—the Boston Port Bill and the closing of the port. Copy of engraving by Paul Revere, June 1774. (National Archives Identifier 535722)

“The able Doctor, or America Swallowing the Bitter Draught” illustrates the aftermath of the Boston Tea Party—the Boston Port Act and the closing of the port. Copy of engraving by Paul Revere, June 1774. (National Archives Identifier 535722)

In 1773, the Sons of Liberty, a secret society of American rebels, dumped a shipload of tea into the Boston Harbor, protesting “taxation without representation.”

The following year, two years before the start of the American Revolution, the British Crown responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing what the American Patriots called the Intolerable Acts.

The Intolerable Acts were a series of four legislative acts imposed by Great Britain on the colonies in order to punish them and to quell the rising rebellion.

The acts were composed of

  • The Boston Port Act, which closed the port of Boston
  • The Massachusetts
[ Read all ]

Sinking of the RMS Lusitania

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

Last month I wrote a blog post on the sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s lifeboat launch system, which is on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The National Archives, however, holds another document related to the famous sinking of the Lusitania: the log book of U-20, the submarine that fired the torpedo that sunk the ship.

Cover page from the U-20’s log book, in the original German, 1915. (Archives Identifier 785591)

Cover page from the U-20’s log book, in the original German, 1915. (Archives Identifier 785591)

The onset of the First World War saw the widespread use of weapons that had seen only limited combat in previous conflicts. In addition to machine guns and airplanes, gas and tanks, World War I was the first major conflict that saw the widespread use of submarines. The Germans, especially, relied upon a large fleet of Unterseeboats to harass British shipping.

In November 1914 the British blockaded the North Sea, restricting all shipping, including food and medical shipments. In retaliation the German High Command contemplated something unthinkable in the past: sinking all enemy ships regardless of military status. Imperial Germany declared unrestricted submarine warfare on November 4, 1914.

Concerned over the international response to this declaration, the German Embassy in Washington, hoping to avoid controversy, published notices specifically warning American passengers not to travel aboard the Lusitania and … [ 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 ]