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Archive for January, 2013

Washington’s first Inaugural Address now on display

“My station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground.”
–George Washington in a letter, January 9, 1790

Today’s post comes to us from Michael Hussey, education and exhibition specialist at the National Archives. In  honor of the 2013 Inauguration, the first and last page of Washington’s first Inauguration Address are on display at the National Archives until January 31.

Unseasonably cold and snowy weather delayed the first Presidential inauguration, which had been scheduled for the first Wednesday in March 1789. Many members of the First Federal Congress were unable to arrive promptly in New York City, then the seat of government.

On April 6, 1789—over a month late—enough members had reached New York to tally the electoral ballots. George Washington won unanimously with 69 electoral votes. When notified of his victory, he traveled to New York City from his home in Virginia.

On April 30, 1789, George Washington took the Presidential oath on a second floor balcony of Federal Hall. Below, an enthusiastic crowd assembled in the streets. The President and members of Congress then retired to the Senate Chamber, where Washington delivered his first inaugural address.

Keenly aware of the momentousness of the occasion, Washington accepted the Presidency and spoke of his determination to make the American experiment a success. He humbly noted the power of the … [ Read all ]

LBJ Library opens new exhibits after multi-million dollar renovation

In honor of Lady Bird Johnson’s 100th birthday on December 22, 2012, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library unveiled a newly redesigned space to give visitors a new look at the 36th president. The library houses 45 million pages of historical documents, 650,000 photos, one million feet of film, 2,000 oral histories, and 5,000 hours of recordings from the public career of Lyndon Johnson and his close associates.

Following a massive year-long renovation, new exhibits have been installed on the three public floors of the library. Renovations were funded by private donations through the Lyndon B. Johnson Foundation.

“Renovations at Presidential Libraries allow us to keep our exhibits relevant and through technology, tell the history of our country in new, dynamic ways,” said Susan Donius, Director of the Office of the Presidential Libraries. ”Through these exhibits and dynamic education programs, we are able to reach new generations of visitors.”

The new exhibits also make the political and personal lives of Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson come alive for visitors. The newly redesigned Library experience includes:

  • A downloadable app and handheld guide which give visitors the choice of several different tours, including a tour in Spanish
  • Unprecedented access to private telephone conversations of the President
  • An interactive Vietnam War exhibit where visitors experience elements of the President’s decision-making process
  • The ability to join the conversation through social media as visitors tour exhibits
  • [ Read all ]

The Check is in the Mail: The Hunt for Abraham Lincoln’s Congressional Pay Records

Today’s blog post comes from David J. Gerleman, assistant editor of The Papers of Abraham Lincoln.

Abraham Lincoln’s two-year stint as a Illinois Whig congressman is one of the lesser-known periods of his eventful life. Had he remained in obscurity, it might have remained the crowning achievement of a fizzled frontier political career.

Having been tasked with looking through the records of the 30th Congress for the Papers of Abraham Lincoln, I have gotten to know Congressman Lincoln intimately. Well over a year was spent sorting through the sea of papers generated by Congress for the years 1847–49: handwritten draft bills, printed amended bills, engrossed bills, resolutions, joint resolutions, simple motions, yea and nay journals, petitions, letters, committee papers—all these and more had to be searched for traces of Lincoln. Among the wealth of congressional materials were volumes dedicated to recording minute expenses, such as the cost of firewood, stationary, and glue. There were records of how much paper folders, messengers, and cleaning women were paid, yet one vital component was missing—Lincoln’s pay and mileage records.

Ironically, it was Lincoln’s great rival, Stephen A. Douglas, who helped set off an intense search for pay records of the 30th Congress. While hunting through an odd cache of files in the Auditors of the Treasury Records in pursuit of a Lincoln document involving “Coffee Mill Guns,” … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: The 13th Amendment

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

The news of the Emancipation Proclamation was greeted with joy, even though it did not free all the slaves. Because of the limitations of the proclamation, and because it depended on a Union military victory, President Lincoln recognized that the Emancipation Proclamation would have to be followed by a constitutional amendment in order to abolish slavery.

After the Senate passed a bill for an amendment in April 1864, but the House of Representatives did not, Lincoln suggested that the bill be taken up by the Republican Party in its 1864 platform for the upcoming Presidential elections.

His efforts met with success when the House passed the bill in January 1865. On February 1, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln approved the Joint Resolution of Congress submitting the proposed amendment to the state legislatures. The necessary number of states ratified it by December 6, 1865.

The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution formally abolished slavery in the United States. It provides that ”Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

The struggle for complete freedom was far from finished even with the 13th Amendment. Two more amendments were added to the … [ Read all ]

Emancipation Proclamation: January 1, 1863

Today’s blog post comes from National Archives social media intern Anna Fitzpatrick.

On the first day of the new year in 1863, the Emancipation Proclamation went into effect, declaring freedom for slaves in parts of the Confederacy that had not yet come under Union control. Historian John Hope Franklin described the day:

[It] was a bright, crisp day in the nation’s capital. The previous day had been a strenuous one for President Lincoln, but New Year’s Day was to be even more strenuous. So he rose early. There was much to do, not the least of which was to put the finishing touches on the Emancipation Proclamation. At 10:45 the document was brought to the White House by Secretary of State William Seward. The President signed it, but he noticed an error in the superscription. It read, “In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my name and caused the seal of the United States to be affixed.” The President had never used that form in proclamations, always preferring to say “In testimony whereof I have hereunto set my hand. . . .” He asked Seward to make the correction, and the formal signing would be made on the corrected copy.

The traditional New Year’s Day reception at the White House began that morning at eleven o’clock. Members of the cabinet and the diplomatic corps were

[ Read all ]