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Archive for 'petitions'

History Crush: Alexander Hamilton

Today’s “History Crush” comes from Jessica Kratz, an archives specialist with the Center for Legislative Archives. She’s been carrying a torch for one of our record-makers for quite some time!

Most of my colleagues are all too aware that Alexander Hamilton is my history crush. Maybe the gigantic replica $10 bill hanging in my office gives it away?

I’ve been fascinated by Hamilton for as long as I’ve studied American history. In school, most of my teachers touted the importance of founders like James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, but after reading the Federalist Papers, I became hooked on Alexander Hamilton. An orphan from the British West Indies who traveled alone to America as a teenager, Hamilton rose from his humble beginnings to become one of the most important men in our nation’s history.

I often wondered why Jefferson was so beloved while Hamilton, clearly brilliant with remarkable foresight, was so underappreciated. Were his negatives—he was born out of wedlock, philandered, promoted the benefits of child labor, and lost a duel—overshadowing his many accomplishments? Hamilton served in the Continental Army, Continental Congress, and Constitutional Convention; was the first Secretary of Treasury; and established the first National Bank, the U.S. Mint, and the Coast Guard.

Even Hamilton’s contemporaries scorned him—John Adams, for instance, called him “the bastard brat of a Scotch pedlar.” But Hamilton’s ability to frustrate … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption

Last week’s image may have sparked some of our best captions yet! Apparently a giant roll of paper makes our readers think of their experiences in the National Archives research room, Twitter, and toilet paper at the State Department.

But it reminded us of another enormous rolled document featured on Pieces of History: a 1954 petition from Hawaii. And so we asked conservator Morgan Zinsmeister, who worked on that outsized record, to choose a winner.

Congratulations to Jill! Morgan thought your caption was the one we should preserve as the winner.

So what is really happening here? It turns out we made the right connection in thinking of Morgan and his Hawaiian petition. This photograph is from the “Historic Photograph File of National Archives Events and Personnel, 1935–1975,” and it shows Archives employee Kay Brewington examining a large petition. (We admire her ability to crouch gracefully in that dress and those shoes!)

Today’s photograph also shows a woman hard at work under the glare of a bare lightbulb—but what is she teaching? Give us your best caption in the comments below!

 … [ Read all ]

Inspired by the Archives! Top Ten Tips for Writers

This post was written by Laura Brandt and originally appeared on the Facebook page of the Foundation for the National Archives.

Flexing your literary muscles this month but facing writers’ block? Don’t forget that the National Archives has a wealth of information to enhance your tale, whether you are writing a historical novel or are looking for inspiration for interesting characters or plot twists.

How about a tale of war, heroic birds, and desperate soldiers? During World War I, the U.S. Seventy-seventh Infantry Division attacked the Germans near Charlevaux, France. Only one unit penetrated enemy lines: Maj. Charles W. Whittlesay’s First Battalion of the 308th Infantry Regiment. The battalion was quickly surrounded by Germans—and then came under friendly fire from its own artillery. Whittlesay used his last carrier pigeon to send this three-sentence plea.

Or, what would it be like to be a White House photographer? White House Photographer Cecil Stoughton took this iconic photo of Lyndon B. Johnson’s swearing-in ceremony after John. F. Kennedy was assassinated–but maybe your White House photographer is with President Lincoln at Ford’s Theater, or is covering the President in 2024? Take a look at these photographs for more inspiration!

Are you struggling with character development? How about thinking about what your characters would keep in their wallets? Find out what Eleanor Roosevelt kept in hers…and don’t forget to … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Amnesty for this beard, 100 years later

This week saw the 150th anniversary of the first Battle of Manassas, with hundreds of reenactors and spectators ignoring the extreme heat and coming to the Virginia battlefield.

There was another, stranger Civil War anniversary today.

On July 22, 1975, the House of Representatives joined the Senate in voting to restore full American citizenship to Confederate General Robert E. Lee. The joint resolution made the restoration retroactive to June 13, 1865.

More than a hundred years earlier, Lee had signed his Amnesty Oath in Lexington, Virginia, on October 2, 1865, the same day he was inaugurated as president of Washington College. He swore to defend the Constitution and all laws that had “been made during the existing rebellion with reference to the emancipation of slaves.”

Lee died in October 1870.

Why did it take so long for his citizenship to be restored if he had signed an amnesty oath? According to this Facebook post from the National Archives at Boston, “Apparently Secretary of State William H. Seward had given Lee’s application to a friend as a souvenir, and the State Department had pigeonholed the oath.”

The document was filed away with the State Department records, eventually coming to the National Archives, where an archivist came across it in 1970, more than one hundred years later.… [ Read all ]

Aloha treatment for a 1954 Hawaii petition

The work the National Archives Preservation staff does every day is hardly “everyday.” A recent post about Hawaii’s petition for statehood on the Preservation Program’s Facebook page demonstrated this fact. This preservation project stemmed from a request from our Center for Legislative Archives. Each archival unit creates annual and long-term preservation plans, and the Center’s list named several petitions to Congress. One of these presented a challenge—a massive wooden spool 68 inches wide containing a roll of paper 16 inches in diameter.

This mammoth petition contains the names of 116,000 supporters of Hawaii statehood. Hawaii had been annexed by the United States in 1898 and became a U.S. Territory in 1900. Attempts at statehood over the next 60 years met opposition from both native Hawaiians and Congress. In the 1950s, the statehood movement gained momentum, and Hawaii became our 50th state on August 21, 1959.

This giant scroll came to the National Archives by way of the U.S. Senate. The Governor of Hawaii had presented the petition to the Vice President of the United States, who then (as President of the Senate) brought it before the Senate on February 26, 1954.

As an official document of the U.S. Senate, it eventually came down the street to the National Archives. It had been stored in a safe place, but over the years, the exposed outer … [ Read all ]