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Archive for July, 2012

Striking Gold in the Records

A vial of gold found in the case file of Heine v. Roth in the National Archives at Anchorage (Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21)

People often refer to the National Archives as a “treasure trove” of history. Usually they’re referring to the wealth of knowledge documented in our billions of pieces of paper. But occasionally you come across something that would not be out of place in a real treasure chest.

At the end of the 19th century, thousands of gold-seekers headed to Alaska. Few found even enough gold to pay for the voyage north, but a little bit of the precious ore found its way into federal records at the National Archives in Anchorage.

The 1904 case of Heine v. Roth concerned waterfront property rights. George Roth had purchased land on the banks of the Chena River near Fairbanks and prospected for gold there. C. H. Heine also occupied land near the Chena and had filed a homestead claim on May 6, 1904, for 35 acres.

On July 15, 1904, Heine asked Roth to leave the property and had him arrested for trespassing when Roth refused. In court they argued over who had claim to the waterfront property, which was accessible only during low tide. Heine argued that Roth’s camp denied him access to the river. Roth argued … [ Read all ]

Disability History from the Presidential Libraries

First Page of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. Read the transcript: http://www.archives.gov/research/americans-with-disabilities/transcriptions/naid-6037488-americans-with-disabilities-act-of-1990.html

Today’s blog post is written by Susan K. Donius and Sierra Gregg. Susan K. Donius is the Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives and Records Administration. Sierra Gregg is a summer intern at the National Archives and a senior at Truman State University in Missouri, where she is studying Computer Science. This year, she was awarded a scholarship from the National Federation of the Blind

This year marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 1990, President George H.W. Bush signed the act into law on the White House South Lawn in front of an audience of 3000 people. On that day, America became the first country to adopt a comprehensive civil rights declaration for people with disabilities. The ADA was a landmark moment in history, designed to provide universal accessibility in the areas of employment, public service, public accommodations, and telecommunications. As President Obama noted in 2009 at the signing of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Proclamation, the ADA “was a formal acknowledgment that Americans with disabilities are Americans first, and they are entitled to the same rights and freedoms as everybody else:  a right to belong and participate fully in the American experience; a right … [ Read all ]

A letter to the President—in Braille

Letter in Braille from John Beaulieu to President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 10/1958 (ARC 594353)

This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The National Archives holds many records that relate to American citizens with disabilities. From personal letters to historic legislation, these records from the Presidential Libraries provide insight into disability history.

For the opening of the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives Building in 2004, public affairs specialist Miriam Kleiman was assigned to track down and bring to Washington some of the people mentioned in the exhibition. This is her account of her search for John Beaulieu.

I was intrigued by the letters from children in the “Dear Uncle Sam” section of the “Form a More Perfect Union” vault. One unusual letter in the stack interested me a great deal—a letter written in Braille to President Dwight D. Eisenhower by a young boy in the fall of 1956.

Thirteen-year-old John Beaulieu offered the President the following campaign stump speech: “Vote for me. I will help you out. I will lower the prices and also your tax bill. I also will help the negroes, so that they may go to school.”

The return address listed Perkins School for the Blind (Helen Keller’s alma mater) in Watertown, Massachusetts. After my Internet searches led nowhere, I called the Perkins School but was … [ Read all ]

In their own words: Adams, Franklin, and Vergennes (part IIc)

Adams's time Paris ended on a sour note. Portrait of John Adams (ARC 530963)

In the last post, we brought the Adams-Vergennes story up to their abrupt break in late July 1780. Adams departed for the Netherlands, where he hoped to raise additional funds for the United States war effort and make the United States less dependent on France.

Meanwhile, Vergennes appealed to Franklin and through Franklin to Congress, requesting that Adams be relieved of his ambassadorial duties. Vergennes supplied Franklin with the Adams correspondence, and Franklin forwarded it to Congress. Vergennes also made France’s wishes known to Congress through Ambassador Anne-Cesar, Chevalier de la Luzerne, in Philadephia.

In this letter, Franklin makes clear to Vergennes that Adams was not speaking for him or Congress:

It was indeed with very great Pleasure that I received the Letter . . . communicating that of the President of Congress and the Resolutions of that Body relative to the Succours then expected: For the Sentiments therein express’d are so different from the Language held by Mr Adams, in his late Letters to your Excellency as to make it clear that it was from his particular Indiscretion alone, and not from any Instructions received by him, that he has given such just Cause of Displeasure, and that it is impossible his Conduct therein should be approved by his

[ Read all ]

Working in the National Archives: Caves

Entrance to the National Archives in Lee's Summit, Missouri

Today’s guest post is by Dana Roark, archives technician at the Lee’s Summit Federal Records Center.

One of the most vivid memories I have of my first day at Lee’s Summit, a National Archives facility, was the drive in to my new workplace. As I rounded the corner of the driveway, I came face-to-face with the yawning black mouth of a limestone mine.

As you can imagine, I was a little intimidated as I slowly drove in. I was even more intimidated when I was first taken out into the stacks. I spent the first month (at least!) getting lost as I tried to navigate through the labyrinth of huge rooms. Thank goodness my supervisor took pity on me and drew me a map, or I would have never made it out of the office!

I am a Missouri girl from St. Louis and DeSoto,  a little town about an hour south of St. Louis. Missouri is known as the “cave state.” With over 4,500 known wild or natural caves, it has more caves than any other state.  We even had a cave in my backyard when I was growing up. It had been a favorite spot to sit reading during the summer and enjoying the natural air conditioning. I’d also done regular cave tours as a child for girl scouts, … [ Read all ]