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Archive for May, 2011

History in a Cap and Gown

President Kennedy addresses the American University Commencement, receives honorary degree. Washington, D.C., American University, John M. Reeves Athletic Field., 06/10/1963 (Kennedy Library, ARC 194263)

We’re now in the middle of commencement season, and there’ll be many words of wisdom coming from the mouths of speakers: academicians, celebrities, inventors, authors, artists, business people, and political leaders.

Sometimes commencement speeches become historic.

President John F. Kennedy announced talks for a test-ban treaty in his commencement speech at American University in 1963, and a treaty banning nuclear testing above ground was signed later in the year. “In the final analysis,” Kennedy said, “our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson officially unveiled his “Great Society” in his commencement speech at the University of Michigan in 1964. “The challenge of the next half century is whether we have the wisdom to . . . advance the quality of our American civilization,” Johnson told the graduates. “For in your time we have the opportunity to move not only toward the rich society and the powerful society, but upward to the ‘Great Society.’”

Another historic speech was made at the Harvard commencement in 1947. President Harry S. Truman’s administration was preparing a plan … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Our very own beard!

If you visited the National Archives in Washington, DC, last year and waited in line on the Constitution Avenue side of the building on your way to see our Charters of Freedom, you may have seen a red cart with a big red umbrella and a sign that says “Ask the Question.”

And now, you may also see this man.

Christian Tenney tends The Cart—and his beard.

That’s right—fans of Facial Hair Friday can now see a fine example of facial hair standing right outside the National Archives. Christian Tenney works for the Foundation for the National Archives, helping tourists purchase gifts, souvenirs, and books as well as helping them find the entrance or the nearest bus stop.

I took this opportunity to “Ask the Question” (several questions, actually) about his prodigious beard, and I am happy to present answers to the questions you wish you could ask someone with an flowing beard:

First, he is not a Civil War reenactor (this is a common question, apparently).
Second, yes, the ladies do like the beard.
Third, he has not seen his chin since 2004, when he decided to start growing the beard and he no longer remembers what his face looks like.
Fourth, he does shampoo and trim the beard to keep it up to sartorial standards.
Fifth, yes, eating with a beard can … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest

Sidewalk airbags…because safety is our #1 priority

It was a tough choice between human-trails and anti-tree safety devices, but our team of judges finally had to go with Penny M, whose caption succinctly captures the importance of safety! We’ll email you a code to use for 15% a puchase in our eStore.

Although these do appear to be colorful elongated airbags, they are in fact part of an art installation. The photo is from the DOCUMERICA series, taken by different photographers sent out into the field by the Environmental Protection Agency. The full caption reads “D’Aug Days (pronounced dog) is a month long presentation of all the arts at downtown Cincinnati’s immensely popular public plaza, Fountain Square. Jonanthan Ahearn’s inflatable sculpture, 08/1973.”

This week’s image is not in sunny Cincinnati, but somewhere far creepier! Give us your best caption in the comments below.

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]

What’s Cooking Wednesdays: Eat your peas in NYC

World War I poster encouraging U.S. citizens to eat less wheat, ca. 1917-1919 (ARC Identifier 512442)

 

To celebrate our new exhibit “What’s Cooking, Uncle Sam?” we are featuring a food-related blog post every Wednesday. Today’s post comes from Christopher Zarr at the National Archives in New York City.

The National Archives maintains the primary source documents of the U.S. Food Administration (USFA). Thousands of documents illustrate the local sacrifices and quality of life on the home front during World War I. The documents of the National Archives at New York City detail the actions taken by the USFA in New York, New Jersey, and Puerto Rico.

The Federal Government tried to influence local neighborhoods. In the New York City market,  particular attention was paid to the multicultural nature of the city.

Pamphlets were translated for Jewish and Italian immigrants to explain “Why Shouldn’t We Eat What We Want?” and to support the benefits of drinking milk in “Food for Children.” The New York food board also created an exhibit at Grand Central Terminal to show why limiting wheat, meat, fats, and sugar would not be a detriment to your health.

Some of the most fascinating documents to come from our records are recipe pamphlets. Thousands of these recipe brochures were distributed throughout the city. With titles such as “Without Wheat” and “Potato Possibilities[ Read all ]

A record of valor

Pages 2 and 3 from a letter from Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts to the Secretary of War detailing Carney's actions, 11/09/1863 (ARC 594893) To read the document, click on this image for a larger version.

If you have watched the movie Glory, you saw a recreation of the assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, by the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry. But a real-life hero from that battle was Sgt. William Harvey Carney, who was awarded the Medal of Honor on May 23, 1900—37 years after the assault on Fort Wagner.

The Medal of Honor is the United States Government’s most prestigious decoration. Established through a Joint Resolution of Congress in July of 1862, the award is bestowed upon “a person, who, while a member of the armed services, distinguishes themselves conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of their life above and beyond the call of duty, while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”

Carney’s actions were detailed in the above letter by Governor John Andrew of Massachusetts to Secretary of War Stanton, calling Carney a “brave man,” detailing his determination to keep the flag upright during the attack, and recommending a 30-day furlough so that he could visit his family in New Bedford, MA.

On July 18, 1863,  Sergeant Carney led the 54th Massachusetts Colored Infantry to the rampart amid a barrage of gunfire and … [ Read all ]