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Archive for February, 2013

The 19th Amendment on display at the National Archives

The 19th Amendment is on display from March 1 to March 8 at the National Archives Building in honor of the 100th anniversary of the 1913 woman’s suffrage parade in Washington, DC. We will also be screening the 2004 film “Iron-Jawed Angels” at noon on March 2.

Today’s guest post is from curator Bruce Bustard.

The original caption reads: Bastille Day spells prison for sixteen suffragettes who picketed the White House. Miss Julia Hurlbut of Morristown, New Jersey, leading the sixteen members of the National Womans Party who participated in the picketing demonstration in front of the White House, Washington, District of Columbia, July 14, 1917, which led to their arrest. These sixteen women were sent to the workhouse at Occoquan, Virginia on July 17, 1917, upon their refusal to pay fines of $25 each, but were pardoned on July 19, 1917. (National Archives, Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs, ARC 533766)

The 19th Amendment guarantees American women the right to vote. Achieving this milestone required a lengthy and difficult struggle; victory took decades of agitation. Beginning in the mid-19th century, woman suffrage supporters lectured, wrote, marched, lobbied, and practiced civil disobedience to achieve what many Americans considered radical change.

Between 1878, when the amendment was first introduced in Congress, and 1920, when it was ratified, champions of voting rights for women … [ Read all ]

Eisenhower and (Tank) Driver’s Ed

Today’s post comes from Christopher Abraham at the Eisenhower Presidential Library. He answers a question each week on Facebook. This week’s Ask an Archivist query comes from Pennsylvania.

“Did Eisenhower teach Patton how to drive a tank at Camp Colt in Gettysburg?” Anonymous

Captain George S. Patton knew how to drive a tank by the time Captain Dwight D. Eisenhower was in command of Camp Colt. In November 1917, Patton visited a French light tank training session in the forest of Compiegne where he drove a Renault tank and fired its gun. He was so interested in the machine that his instructors had to find a mechanic to answer his questions.

After taking a course at the army’s first tank school at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, Eisenhower was ordered in November 1918 to report to Camp Meade, Maryland. There he joined the 65th Engineers and organized what would become the 301st Tank Battalion. In March he was told that the battalion would go to France and that he would be in command. To his disappointment, he was sent to Camp Colt in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was placed in command of the Tank Corps. He was temporarily promoted to lieutenant colonel in October and was told he would leave for France in November to command an armored unit. The armistice was signed before he could … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Portrait of the Artist with a Mustache

This self portrait, with carefully groomed mustache in the center, is a glamorous photo of a hardworking, groundbreaking photographer. James Stephen “Steve” Wright was from a working-class family in Washington, DC. By the 1940s he was head of photographic operations for the Federal Works Agency.

But like many young black men at the time, he began at the very bottom of the career ladder, working at the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (FEAPW) as a messenger and chauffeur. However, unlike other young black men at time, Wright worked for FEAPW Administrator Harold Ickes, who fought battles over segregation and discrimination, and who hired like-minded people into his agency. Wright moved on to assembling newspaper clippings and eventually was recruited by the FEAPW photographic head Hyman Greenberg.

In an interview with Nicholas Natason, Wright recalled that “In those days, it was tough for a black man even to become a file clerk in the government . . . You had to mind your P’s and Q’s, because there were lower-level whites who resented the fact that you were doing photography at all and were waiting for you to stumble.”

But Wright was extremely good at his job; he was efficient, diplomatic and organized. As the New Deal picture units began to consolidate in the Federal Works Agency (FWA) photographic section, he traveled the country taking … [ Read all ]

“I am a little country boy eight years old.”

Today’s guest post is from Sherri DeCoursey, who used the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library to find a special piece of history for her father.

For as long as I can remember, a photo of FDR and a letter have hung side-by-side in the den of Mom and Dad’s home.  The yellowed letter, written by FDR’s secretary Missy LeHand, was in response to a letter my father wrote the President in 1941. My dad—Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson—was eight years old in 1941. Dad will be 80 in June of this year.

As familiar as that letter and the President’s photograph were to me, what I had never even pondered until last year was what my father wrote in his letter to FDR.

While visiting my parents in the fall of 2012, I looked at the framed letter and photograph and asked Dad what he included in his letter to the President. He couldn’t recall the details. Who could after 72 years? I continued to ponder what my father as a boy might have written.

What would an eight-year-old Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson write to President Franklin Delano Roosevelt? Perhaps about school? The farm? Family or friends? War? What it was like to grow up in Arkansas? Would any parts of Dad’s personality that I knew so well as an adult be emerging or evident when … [ Read all ]

George Washington Writes in the Margins

Today’s blog post comes from Susan K. Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

Last month, President Obama began his second Inaugural Address by saying, “Each time we gather to inaugurate a President we bear witness to the enduring strength of our Constitution.” President Obama’s words resonate as the anniversary of George Washington’s birthday approaches on February 22, popularly known as Presidents Day.

Over two centuries ago, on April 30, 1789, George Washington delivered his first Inaugural Address knowing that he had little to guide him in the job that lay ahead but the principles stated in the Constitution.  The Articles of the Constitution had been debated, discussed, and agreed upon just two summers earlier by the delegates of the Constitution Convention, and were still untested.  Nevertheless, Washington was a strong supporter of the Constitution and would look to it for guidance in his unprecedented role as President.

During Washington’s first year in office, Congress ordered 600 copies of the Acts of Congress to be printed and distributed to Federal and state government officials. The book compiled the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and other legislation passed by the first session of Congress.

George Washington’s personal copy of the Acts of Congress contains his own handwritten notes in the margins. The … [ Read all ]