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Archive for June, 2012

Descendants of the signers to read the Declaration of Independence on July 4

Founding Fathers reenactors read the Declarations of Independence at NARA's July 4 celebration in 2011.

With Independence Day around the corner, we caught up with a few of this year’s speakers to get their thoughts on the Declaration of Independence, their connection to history, and celebrating at the National Archives.

Four descendants from the original signers will read the Declaration of Independence this year.

Three are members of the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and one is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). While the Declaration of Independence holds special value for all Americans, the document holds a personal significance for the descendants of the signers.

“I feel a great sense of pride in this beautiful document,” said Laura Haines Belman, who is related to three of the Founding Fathers. “I’m happy to know it and to be reading it. There are certain phrases that have their own lives: ‘We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’ As Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, when we gather three times a year in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence is read aloud at least twice a year. That phrase is something we all know—it just rings in the ears.”

Belman is descended from three signers: Samuel Chase of Maryland, William … [ Read all ]

Thursday Photo Caption Contest: June 28

“Are you sure this is the way out of Vietnam?”

We waded into your captions like a man driving a car into a lake! How to choose between splashy captions that referenced Secret Service men wearing floaties, the Aflac duck, James Bond, or water taxis?

Waterlogged with indecision, we turned to Liza Talbot, who in turn turned to the crew of the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library. Congratulations to John M. Dooley! Your caption was the winner, “chosen by majority vote by the entire archival staff at the LBJ Library,” according to Liza.

John, check your email for a 15% discount code at the National Archives e-Store!

So, is this car rated for water excursions? Well, it is an actual amphibious car. In this photo from 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson took a ride with friends in his Amphicar.  LBJ is steering his land-to-water vehicle into a lake at his ranch in Stonewall, Texas (4/11/65).

Today’s photograph features a vehicle and some unusual passengers, but no water in sight. Give us your best caption in the comments below!

Your caption here!

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In their own words: John Adams and Ben Franklin, Part IIa

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in Exhibits.

The leadership of John Adams in the independence movement and the publication of his “Thoughts on Government” in the same year (1776) made him an international figure, although today he is probably less famous than his cousin: patriot, beer brewer, and Boston tea party participant Sam Adams.

Adams was often described as vain or pompous, but the following diary passage from 1779 exemplifies a keen wit and self-deprecation.

When I arrived in France, the French Nation had a great many Questions to settle.

The first was—Whether I was the famous Adams, Le fameux Adams? —Ah, le fameux Adams?—In order to speculate a little upon this Subject, the Pamphlet entituled Common sense, had been printed in the Affaires de L’Angleterre et De L’Amérique, and expressly ascribed to M. Adams the celebrated Member of Congress, le celebre Membre du Congress. . . . When I arrived at Bourdeaux, All that I could say or do, would not convince any Body, but that I was the fameux Adams.—Cette un homme celebre. Votre nom est bien connu ici.—My Answer was—it is another Gentleman, whose Name of Adams you have heard. It is Mr. Samuel Adams,

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Thursday Photo Caption Contest: June 21

"Underdog Bess readies for the hand to drop, certain that, in this heat of the race, she shall be faster than Fido."

Nothing is sweeter than a girl and her dog . . . competing for treats? We enjoyed your captions suggesting the competition between a girl and her same-size canine companion, but like this little girl, the winner seemed just out of our grasp.

So we turned to guest judge Sarah Malcolm, who writes for the blog “In Roosevelt History” for the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library. Sarah has had experience with historic dogs: the blog has featured Fala’s Christmas stocking and little sailor hat!

Congratulations to Amanda! Sarah chose your caption as the winner! Check your e-mail for a treat—er, code for 15% in the eStore.

Although Fala might be the most famous of the Roosevelts’ dogs, this is a different Scottish terrier from decades before Fala joined the family. This photograph was taken in 1907. The dog, Duffy, is competing with Anna Roosevelt for a treat from the hand of FDR (who is standing over them, not yet stricken by polio).

It’s very, very hot in Washington, DC, today and so we couldn’t resist a picture that made us feel cool. Give us your wittiest caption in the comment below!

Your caption here!

[ Read all ]

In their own words: John Adams and Ben Franklin, Part I

Portrait of Ben Franklin (ARC 532834)

Portrait of John Adams (ARC 532843)

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in National Archives Exhibits.

John Adams of Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania crossed paths during “critical moments” in the earliest days of the republic. They met for the first time at the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia in 1774, the first joint meeting of 12 American colonies (Georgia did not attend). Both were supporters of independence, Adams most publicly and Franklin more behind the scenes, though both were equally masterful wordsmiths.

During the Revolutionary War, Adams and Franklin worked together in Paris to obtain French support for the American cause, sometimes clashing on how best to do so. ­And they successfully negotiated peace with Great Britain. They saw each other for the last time in 1785, when Adams left Franklin in Paris for his assignment as the first Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain from the United States. During the years in between, their relationship had its ups and downs.

Their most intimate experience probably happened during an unsuccessful peace mission in September 1776. The British forces had recently raced across Long Island (New York) and almost destroyed the American Army. The British … [ Read all ]