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Archive for '- Declaration of Independence'

New Web Exhibit on the Freedom Train

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

For 18 months in the late 1940s, some of the nation’s most important historical documents toured the country in a traveling museum called the Freedom Train.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on the Freedom Train, which is available in the Google Cultural Institute.

Viewed by more than 3.5 million Americans, the Freedom Train stopped in cities in each of the 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states at this time).

The Freedom Train was intended to increase awareness of the need to preserve important documents as well as to allow Americans throughout the country to see these documents.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

The American Heritage Foundation was created to design, protect, and operate the train and its contents.

A committee containing members from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other government agencies planned and designed the exhibit.

A group of 27 Marines was hand selected to protect the Freedom Train on its tour, and a coalition of railroad companies ensured that the Freedom Train would travel across America as efficiently as possible.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit,

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Annual Birthday Party for the Declaration of Independence

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the History Office at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

For almost a half-century, the National Archives has held an annual birthday party on July 4, at the document’s home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

This timeline marks the significant milestones in Archives Fourth of July celebrations:

  • 1776: Representatives to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was printed on July 4, and John Carlisle, a friend of George Washington’s and successful merchant, read it aloud on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • 1952: The Library of Congress, which  held the Declaration from 1924 through 1952, transferred the document to the National Archives. The first Independence Day it was on display at the Archives was July 4, 1953.
  • 1969: The National Archives Fourth of July became more extensive. A special exhibit opened to the public. In the early afternoon, the U.S. Army Band played a concert on the Constitution Avenue side of the Archives.
  • 1970: Visitors listened to the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda.
  • 1976: Celebrations reached new levels when the Declaration turned 200 years old and the Archives established its annual July 4th event. On July 2,
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The Great Seal: Celebrating 233 Years of a National Emblem

Today’s post comes from Meagan T. Frenzer, graduate research intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

On June 20, 1782, the Confederation Congress approved and finalized the first Great Seal of the United States.

The First Continental Congress in 1776 originally commissioned Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams to create a national seal. As members of the First Great Seal Committee, these Founding Fathers intended to design a national emblem that reflected the independence and aspirations of the new nation.

This was no easy task. It took more than three committees and six years of congressional debate to complete the Great Seal.

It was Secretary of the Continental Congress, Charles Thomson, who submitted the final design for the Great Seal 233 years ago. Thomson’s design combined elements of submissions presented to the prior committees. His uncluttered, symbolic design fulfilled Congress’s expectations.

The face side of Thomson’s seal, also known as the “observe” side, displays a bald eagle with wings spread. The eagle clutches a bundle of 13 arrows (representing the 13 colonies) in its left talon and an olive branch in its right talon. Together, the items in the eagle’s talons stand for war and peace.

Charles Thompson's First Design, 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

Charles Thompson’s first design for the Great Seal (obverse side), 1782. (National Archives Identifier 595257)

The eagle’s beak holds a banner that reads E pluribus unum. The Latin … [ 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
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Carting the Charters

Procession Transferring documents to the National Archives, December 13, 1952. (Records of the National Archives)

Procession transferring documents to the National Archives, December 13, 1952. (Records of the National Archives)

Visitors to downtown Washington, DC, on December 13, 1952, were treated to an interesting sight—armored vehicles escorted by a barrage of military and police personnel. It wasn’t a holiday or the Presidential motorcade or a visiting dignitary.

On that chilly December morning, passersby saw the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States going for a ride.

“The Charters of Freedom”—the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights—all have varied histories of transport and storage through 1952.

The Declaration of Independence, after it was signed on August 2, 1776, moved with Congress from city to city throughout the Revolutionary War. After the establishment of the new nation under the Constitution, the Declaration found itself in Federal buildings, abandoned gristmills, and private homes before it ended up in the Library of Congress in 1921.

The Constitution had a similar history—after the framers signed it, the Constitution passed into the custody of the Department of State in 1789 and moved as the Federal Government moved. Unlike the Declaration, which was displayed for many years, the Constitution spent much of its history in storage.

The Bill of Rights has an even thinner history between its creation in 1789 and 1938. It, too, traveled with the government as it moved about until the … [ Read all ]