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Archive for September, 2010

What Franklin thought of the Constitution

The Scene at the Signing of the Constitution, oil painting (reproduction) by Howard Chandler Christy, 1940

The Scene at the Signing of the Constitution, oil painting (reproduction) by Howard Chandler Christy, 1940 (Architect of the Capitol)

All summer long, a group of men huddled in a stifling hot room in Philadelphia (Madison almost passed out from the heat) to develop the framework for a government that would govern the newly independent states of America.

There was debate, and there was arguing. There were grounds on which some delegates were immovable—Edmund Randolph, George Mason, and Elbridge Gerry refused to sign as there was no Bill of Rights in the original Constitution. And there were some issues that were so contentious they were glossed over with broad words—slavery was barely addressed even though 18% of the population was in bondage at the time (according to the 1790 census).

There were arguments about how the number of Representatives in the House should be determined, how treaties should be signed, how roads should be built, canals dug, tariffs weighed.

But by September 17, 1787, after four months of secret debate and compromise, an 81-year-old Benjamin Franklin closed the convention with these words:

I confess that there are several parts of this constitution which I do not at present approve, but I am not sure I shall never approve them: For having lived long, I have experienced many instances of being obliged by better information,

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The draft dodgers of 1944

Newspaper article from Rocky Shimpo: "Wyoming Draft Resistance Has Authorities Stumped", 03/10/1944 (ARC 292810)

Newspaper article from Rocky Shimpo: "Wyoming Draft Resistance Has Authorities Stumped", 03/10/1944 (ARC 292810)

Behind the barbed wire of the Japanese internment camp at Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, a few men received their orders to report for duty. It was 1944, and they had been drafted.

Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States feared follow-on attacks would be conducted by persons of Japanese descent living within its borders. FDR issued Executive Order 9066, ordering the military to relocate Japanese descendants into camps. Barely a month later, Congress passed Public Law 503 supporting the order. Over 120,000 people were removed from their homes to remote relocation camps. Two-thirds of them were American citizens.

While the Selective Training and Service Act of 1940 was quick to make nisei—U.S. citizens of Japanese descent—ineligible for service, by 1944 the war machine was turning at such a pace that nisei were again made eligible, despite the fact they were currently being held in internment camps against their will.

At the Heart Mountain Relocation Center in Wyoming, two men decided to protest.

Kiyoshi Okamoto had founded the Fair Play Committee, a group dedicated to supporting the Constitutional rights of interned nisei. Frank Emi led the group, which had hundreds of followers in the camp, and found its battleground in the draft: members of … [ Read all ]

Thursday’s Photo Caption Contest

"What's YOUR sleep number?"

"What's YOUR sleep number?"

We’ve all seen the commercials talking about sleep number beds, and we here at POH think RJ hit it on the nose. Apparently for this family, nine is their sleep number.

As to what this cozy family is actually up to, they’re sleeping through the London Blitz, which happened 70 years ago this month. The original caption reads a stark “Southeast air raid shelter.” You can see this photo—and other select photos from the Blitz—on our Facebook page.

This week’s photo was a mail-in from Mary Krakowiak, an Archives employee in College Park, MD, who found what has got to be one of the greatest photo caption photos in the entire National Archives. If you’ve stumbled across a photo ripe for out-of-context captioning, share it with us at prologue@nara.gov.

In the meantime, good luck with the photo below. Remember, if your caption wins, we’ll give you 30% off at the National Archives eStore and put your name up in lights on the blog! Good luck!

Your caption here!

Your caption here!

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The documents that built the Constitution

Just in time for Constitution Day on September 17, acting Chief of Reference at the National Archives Trevor Plante literally takes viewers inside the National Archives vaults to see some of his favorite rarely-displayed documents including the following:

  • The original text of the “Virginia Plan,” Edmund Randolph’s proposal for a national government that included three co-equal branches: “supreme legislative, judiciary and executive”;
  • A printed copy of the Constitution with George Washington’s handwritten annotations;
  • The final printed copy of the Constitution, which was delivered to the Constitutional Convention September 13, 1787, approved by vote on September 15, and then signed on September 17; and
  • The state of Pennsylvania’s ratification copy of the Constitution — unlike the four-page version of the Constitution on display at the National Archives in Washington, DC, the entire text is on one enormous sheet of parchment so it could be more easily transported.

“Inside the Vaults” is part of the ongoing effort by the National Archives to make its collections, stories, and accomplishments more accessible to the public. “Inside the Vaults” gives voice to Archives staff and users, highlights new and exciting finds at the Archives, and reports on complicated and technical subjects in easily understandable presentations. Earlier topics include the conservation of the original Declaration of Independence, the new Grace Tully collection of documents at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Presidential Library, … [ Read all ]

How to annoy Hitler

Photograph of Jesse Owens (306-PSE-80-746)

Photograph of Jesse Owens (306-PSE-80-746)

Each of the German victories, and there were a surprising number of these, made [Adolf Hitler] happy, but he was highly annoyed by the series of triumphs by the marvelous colored American runner, Jesse Owens. People whose antecedents came from the jungle were primitive, Hitler said with a shrug; their physiques were stronger than those of civilized whites and hence should be excluded from future games.
—Albert Speer Inside the Third Reich

Jesse Owens was the son of a sharecropper and the grandson of slaves. After winning four gold medals and embarrassing Adolf Hitler in Berlin, FDR would not call him to congratulate him, nor would Truman. But for a moment in history, the racism that pervaded in the United States fell behind the Olympian as he ran for glory for the Stars and Stripes.

Owens made history well before 1936. In 1935, his reputation was established as one of the greatest runners in history. In the span of 45 minutes and suffering from a back injury, the African American runner set three world records and tied a fourth at a track meet in Ann Arbor, MI. He was a sophomore in college.

On August 2, the first day of competition at the 1936 games, Germany took its first gold in the shot put—its first in the modern games. Hitler … [ Read all ]