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Archive for May, 2012

Constitution 225: No quorum, no Constitution!

Resolution passed by the Confederation Congress authorizing the Constitutional Convention, February 21, 1787.

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is the first in a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document.

Eleven years after the Declaration of Independence announced the birth of the United States, the survival of the young country seemed in doubt. The War for Independence had been won, but economic depression, social unrest, interstate rivalries, and foreign intrigue appeared to be unraveling the fragile confederation.

On February 21, 1787, the Continental Congress resolved that “it is expedient that on the second Monday in May next a Convention of delegates who shall have been appointed by the several States be held at Philadelphia for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles of Confederation.”

The original states, with the exception of Rhode Island, collectively appointed 70 individuals to the Constitutional Convention, but a number did not accept or could not attend.

On May 14, 1787, the Federal Convention convened in the State House—now known as Independence Hall—in Philadelphia.

Almost no one showed up.

Only delegates from two states, Pennsylvania and Virginia, were present on that first day. This meant that the members met and adjourned each day until May 25, when the convention obtained a quorum of seven … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest—May 10

"The Reagans catch members of Congress BEFORE they put on their suits and makeup."

The clothes must make the man! Last week’s photo caption contest winner featured Spring Fashion Week and canvas jumpsuits; this week’s winner pokes gentle fun at what our congressmen might look like before they are suited up for work.

Duke Blackwood, the Director of the Ronald Reagan Library and Museum, took on his guest judging duties with a good humor that may make even the stoniest-faced terra-cotta warrior crack a smile.

Congratulations to Logan! Check your email for a code for a 15% discount in the National Archives eStore.

The original caption of the photo reads: “Photograph of the Reagans standing with the Terra Cotta figures in Xi’an, China” (April 29, 1984. ARC 198547). President Reagan’s 1984 trip to China marked only the second time a U.S. President visited since President Richard Nixon’s historic trip in 1972. Reagan met with Chinese President Li Xiannian in an attempt to resolve diplomatic differences between the U.S. and China. He also toured historical and cultural sites in Beijing with First Lady Nancy Reagan, including the Terra-cotta Army of Qin Shi Huangdi, the first emperor of China. The terra-cotta soldiers were found in a massive burial site, intended to protect the emperor in the afterlife.

Our last photograph featured orderly soldiers below the ground, so this week we thought we’d take to the … [ Read all ]

Sometimes an “S” is just an “S”

Today’s blog post was written by Tammy Kelly, an archivist at the Harry S. Truman Library.

When future President Harry S. Truman was born on May 8, 1884, his parents decided to name him Harry, after his mother’s brother Harrison Young. But what about a middle name? Harry’s parents could not come to a decision—should Harry’s middle name be Shipp, in honor of his paternal grandfather, Anderson Shipp Truman? Or should it be Solomon, in honor of his maternal grandfather, Solomon Young?

In the end, they entered his middle name as simply S, which led to a never-ending controversy and questions about Harry S. Truman’s middle name.

When Harry S. Truman wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt in 1945, Truman's signature includes the period (ARC 4708753).

Many people tried to give Truman a middle name. When Truman took the oath of office upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt on April 12, 1945, Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone delivered the oath as “I, Harry Shipp Truman.” When Truman repeated it back, he made the subtle correction, “I, Harry S. Truman.”

In this press release, Truman runs his signature together and the "S" can barely be seen (ARC 200612).

Truman often received mail addressed to “Harry Solomon Truman,” “Harry Simpson Truman” and “Harry Shippe Truman.” In 1955, on a visit to Eugene, Oregon, to raise money for … [ Read all ]

The Crossroads of the Genealogy World

(Courtesy of NARA Staff)

Pennsylvania Avenue is synonymous with iconic destinations and extraordinary events. From the White House to the United States Capitol, the notable institutions that line the street have hosted many of America’s most momentous occasions. Last month, the National Archives Building at 700 Pennsylvania Avenue continued this tradition by holding its Eighth Annual Genealogy Fair.

The fair, which was free to the public, took place April 18-19 on Pennsylvania Plaza in front of the Archives. Throughout the two-day event, the National Archives showcased Federal records that can be used as resources for family history research. In addition, staff members and exhibitors provided information for both experienced genealogists and novices.

This year’s fair featured the addition of three large classroom tents for informational lectures. These sessions included workshops on records relating to immigration, land, naturalization, military, online resources, and more.

When visitors were not viewing exhibits and attending sessions, they were primarily discussing the recent release of the 1940 census in digital form. Many visitors revealed that they are now using social media and web tools to locate their relatives.

If you are interested in helping to index the 1940 census, join the online indexing project and start creating a name index for the 1940 census today. To start, find census maps and descriptions to locate an enumeration district. Then browse census … [ Read all ]

Sisters in Fate: The Lusitania and the Titanic

Today’s guest post was written by William B. Roka, a longtime volunteer at the National Archives in New York City. You can follow “Titantic Tuesdays” on Facebook as they post records and images in remembrance of the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.

The beginning of Captain Turner's testimony about the conditions of the ice near the Titanic, one day before the fateful sailing of the Lusitania. “In the Matter of the Petition of the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, Limited, for Limitation of its Liability as owner of the steamship TITANIC”; Admiralty Case Files Records of District Courts of the United States, Record Group 21; National Archives at New York City.

On the morning of May 1, 1915, Pier 54 on the Hudson River was awash with people, luggage, and cargo. A great transatlantic liner was readying to sail back to England. There was somewhat ominous tone to the activities: small notices about war zones had appeared in various newspapers.

The captain of this great vessel had spent the day before at the New York City offices of Hunt, Hill & Betts. He had been asked to testify by lawyers involved in the limitation of liability case related to the Titanic disaster, which was dragging into its third year.

He was asked a series of questions about the size and design of ships on the Cunard Line, … [ Read all ]