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Archive for August, 2012

Constitution 225: The President

Portrait of George Washington, 12/31/1820 (ARC 192421)

 

Today’s post was written by National Archives volunteer Paul Richter. It is part of a series tracing the development of the Constitution in honor of the 225th anniversary of this document on September 17, 2012.

The President of the United States is one of the most famous positions in the world. But the first draft of the job description was profoundly different from what it has become today. When the Constitutional Convention took up debate about the role of President, they had not yet named the position. In his notes, Madison refers to the position by various terms, including “Executive Magistrate,” “Nat’l Executive,” and simply “the Executive.”

Naming convention was not the only source of debate. The delegates wavered between a term in office lasting six or seven years before finally agreeing on four years. They considered electing the President by either a popular vote or through appointment by the legislature before developing the Electoral College as a compromise between the two.

The convention resolved early on that one person should be vested with the power of the executive branch. As the list of executive responsibilities grew, the delegates also provided for subordinate members of the executive branch, including the Vice President and the cabinet. These provisions form the foundation for most of today’s Federal agencies, including … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Presley, Presley is our cry!

Letter from from Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson to President Eisenhower (ARC 594359)

Do sideburns set your heart aflutter? It’s been 35 years since Elvis Presley died, but judging from the media coverage and chatter on Twitter with #ElvisWeek, his fan base is still enthusiastic. But the some of the most passionate fan letters about the bewhiskered singer can be found in the National Archives.

In 1958, Linda Kelly, Sherry Bane, and Mickie Mattson in Montana were beside themselves (“we will just about die!”) at the idea of Elvis having to take a razor to his sideburns as part of his patriotic duty when he was drafted into the Army in March 1958. They wrote to President Eisenhower, but unfortunately their favorite singer still had to serve—and groom himself according to Army regulations. The letter is now a part of the holdings of the Eisenhower Presidential Library.

Fans also bypassed the President and sent pleas directly to the First Lady, hoping she would be more sympathetic to their cause. But this letter to Mamie Eisenhower did not end up in the Eisenhower Presidential Library records. Instead, the First Lady’s office sent the letter to the Army, with the notation “Respectfully referred for appropriate handling.”

The letter went into Elvis’s Official Military Personnel File, or OMPF, where it became a part of the National … [ Read all ]

Korean War exhibit in Seoul features National Archives images

Truman Library Director Mike Devine stumbled upon this Korean War exhibit while visiting his wife in Seoul, South Korea. The images used in the exhibit are from NARA holdings.

When Harry S. Truman Library Director Mike Devine flew to Seoul, South Korea, the last thing he expected to see was an enormous outdoor exhibit featuring photos from the holdings of the National Archives.

“In the last decade or so, we’ve had quite a number of researchers from Korea to the Truman Library to copy thousands and thousands of images. Still, I was surprised to see this in this big outdoor exhibit,” Devine said. “As I got closer, I was like, ‘Hey! That’s our stuff!’”

The outdoor exhibit was not co-sponsored by the National Archives but was the work of a private group. It showed the United States and United Nations support for the Republic of Korea in the aftermath of the North Korean invasion in June of 1951. The exhibit features more than 150 images from the Truman Library and other National Archives facilities.

The exhibit was held just outside Seoul's large governmental center.

The exhibit is on Seoul’s main thoroughfare in the city’s governmental center. Also displayed are the flags of the 67 nations that supported the people of Korea during the 1950–53 war and its immediate aftermath. It was sponsored by World Peace and Freedom United and is intended to … [ Read all ]

Hats off to Bess Truman!

Bess Wallace Truman, age 13, in elaborate straw hat (ARC 6233736)

Today’s guest post comes from Tammy Kelly, archivist and hat aficionado at the Truman Presidential Library.

I admit it—I love hats. I have several vintage hats in my closet, but I find them challenging to wear because sometimes, I just don’t know how to wear them. People no longer wear hats on a regular basis, and you have to be careful how you wear them so that you avoid looking like you’re wearing a costume to work.

Bess Wallace Truman lived during a time when women regularly wore hats when going out in public, and as the granddaughter of a prominent family in Independence, MO, she always wore nice clothes. Mary Paxton Keely, her childhood friend, recalls that “Bess wore what the rest of us did; the difference was that she always looked more stylish than anyone else we knew.” She goes on to say that “Bess always had more stylish hats than the rest of us did, or she wore them with more style.”

One of the earliest photographs (above) of Bess wearing a hat demonstrates this interesting sense of style—it looks like she’s wearing a flag or a model ship on her hat! Sadly, this hat is not the museum collection of the Truman Library. The library has about 55 hats … [ Read all ]

The Greatest Athlete of the First Half of the Century

Jim Thorpe was stripped of his Olympic gold medals in 1913, but it was not because of illegal drugs, cheating, or bribery. It was because of baseball.

Thorpe was a Native American from Oklahoma. He went to the Sac and Fox Indian Agency school in Stroud, OK, but dropped out. Later he attended the Carlisle Indian Industrial School in Carlisle, PA, where he was coached by “Pop” Warner, one of the most influential coaches of football history. But Thorpe’s skills went beyond football. He ran track and field and played lacrosse and baseball. In 1912, Thorpe led Carlisle to a 27–6 victory over Army, whose team included a young Dwight Eisenhower.

Photograph of Jim Thorpe, ca. 1910 (ARC 595347)

In 1912, Thorpe competed in the Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden. He was part of both the decathlon and pentathlon teams. For the pentathlon, he competed in the long jump, javelin throw, 200-meter dash, discus throw, and 1500-meter run. In the decathlon, Thorpe earned 8,412 points and established a world record. Thorpe won gold medals in both events. When he returned home, there was a ticker-tape parade in his honor in New York City.

In addition to the track and field events in Stockholm, Thorpe also played some baseball in 1912. It was the first time baseball was included in the Olympics, and the exhibition game … [ Read all ]