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Archive for November, 2013

A night of music in honor of President and Mrs. Kennedy

The National Archives presents a musical tribute on December 3 in honor of President and Mrs. John F. Kennedy’s commitment to the arts, celebrating their legacy of musical performances in the White House.

On November 13, 1961, Pablo Casals performed the Mendelssohn Trio in D minor at the White House.  Kenneth Slowik (cello), James Stern (violin), and Lura Johnson (piano) will present that program on Tuesday, December 3, at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

“We wanted to honor the memory of President and Mrs. Kennedy with a special tribute to their outstanding commitment to the performing arts, and our William G. McGowan Theater is a wonderful venue to recreate the historic Pablo Casals performance,” said Susan Clifton, producer for Public Programs at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Following the performance, Kenneth Slowik, Artistic Director of the Smithsonian Chamber Music Society, will lead a discussion with Col. John R. Bourgeois, Director Emeritus, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band; Leslie Jones, Curator, White House Historical Association; and Edith Mayo, Curator, Smithsonian Museum of American History.

President John F. Kennedy and Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Muñoz Marín speak with cellist Pablo Casals after his performance at a state dinner. (Kennedy Library, ST-273-3-61)

President John F. Kennedy and Governor of Puerto Rico Luis Muñoz Marín speak with cellist Pablo Casals after his performance at a state dinner. (Kennedy Library, ST-273-3-61)

Pablo Casals, considered one of the greatest cellists of all time, was born in El Vendrell, … [ Read all ]

Tasty tidbits for your Thanksgiving table

The best thing about Thanksgiving is gathering around the table, stuffing your faces with turkey, and enjoying the pleasant and agreeable conversation with your extended family. Right? Well, to keep the happy conversation flowing, here’s some fun facts about Thanksgiving to keep your family distracted from explosive topics (you know what they are at your house) while they digest that second slice of pumpkin pie.

We associate Thanksgiving with the Pilgrims, but the holiday wasn’t official until October 3, 1789, when President George Washington issued a proclamation naming Thursday, November 26, 1789, as an official holiday of “sincere and humble thanks.” The nation then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.

George Washington's October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 10/03/1789 General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299956]

George Washington’s October 3, 1789, Thanksgiving Day Proclamation, 
General Records of the United States Government, 1778 – 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299956]

 

It’s the sesquicentennial of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving declaration. One hundred and fifty years ago, he declared Thanksgiving a national holiday, and asked that those being thankful also “commend to His [God's] tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged.” The President declared that Thanksgiving would be commemorated each year on the fourth Thursday of November.

The third and final page of President  Lincoln's Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106)., 10/03/1863, Page 3 General Records of the United States Government, 1778 – 2006 [National Archives Identifier 299960]

The third and final page of President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation of October 3, 1863 (Presidential Proclamation 106).  [National Archives

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“The whole world mourns his passing”

Today’s blog post comes from Corinne Porter, curator at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

November 22, 2013, marks the 50th anniversary of the death of President John F. Kennedy. On that day in 1963, the news of President Kennedy’s tragic death shocked the world and plunged the United States into mourning.

Although five decades have passed, the memory of the day remains vivid to the generation of Americans that lived through the experience. Many of you may know a relative or neighbor who can recall in detail where they were when they heard the tragic news.

In the days and weeks following the death of President Kennedy, the White House received a flood of condolence mail—over 800,000 letters in the first six weeks, a figure that would eventually rise to over 1.5 million letters.

Letter from Patricia Hall to Jacqueline Kennedy, November 23, 1963

Letter from Patricia Hall of Australia to Jacqueline Kennedy, November 23, 1963 (Kennedy Presidential Library)

 

Condolences arrived from around the world. Men, women, and children from diverse backgrounds—social, economic, political, ethnic, racial, and religious—wrote to Jacqueline Kennedy and her children. They declared their shock and disbelief, supplied words of support and encouragement, shared their memories of President Kennedy, and expressed what he meant to them. They also sought to assure the Kennedy family that John F. Kennedy and his legacy would be remembered.

Many correspondents acknowledged that they … [ Read all ]

National Archives documents on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History

The design drawings for the Medal of Freedom in the temporary case at the Smithsonian's Museum of American History

The design drawings for the Medal of Freedom in the temporary case at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History

Some of our documents made a special trip across Constitution Avenue today, traveling from the National Archives Building to our neighbor on the Mall, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.

Tonight, the museum is hosting a dinner for this year’s sixteen recipients of the nation’s highest civilian honor: the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Over the past fifty years, the award has been given to 500 people. President Kennedy re-established the Medal of Freedom as the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1963, eighteen years after it was first established by President Truman.

Although President Kennedy was killed just two weeks before the planned award ceremony, President Johnson went forward with the first award ceremony. Marian Anderson was among the first 31 recipients. He also awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom posthumously to President Kennedy.

You can watch tonight’s ceremony live online.

Karen Hibbitt, registrar at the National Archives, and conservator Lauren Varga accompanied the documents and prepared the display, and they will remain there during the event to ensure the safety of the documents.

Registrar Karen Hibbitt arranges the documents for the display case.

Registrar Karen Hibbitt arranges the documents for the display case.

The featured documents are Executive Order 11085 and a set of design drawings. On February 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy signed … [ Read all ]

Spielberg Film Festival: Lincoln

Steven Spielberg is being honored by the Foundation for the National Archives for his film legacy, which has brought history to life on the big screen. The National Archives is celebrating the award with a film festival. Lincoln is the last film to be screened. Join us tonight, November 18, at 7 p.m. Tickets are free and distributed an hour before the screening. For details on the award, go here.

Among the official Civil War records preserved by the National Archives is a series of telegrams sent by President Lincoln during his Presidency, including this “bull-dog” telegram to General Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant earned the nickname “Unconditional Surrender” Grant during the Civil War after his 1862 victory at Fort Donelson in Tennessee. For his proven military skills and for his bulldog determination to destroy the Confederate armies, President Lincoln picked Grant in March 1864 to be Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army, making him commander of all Union forces.

In June of that year, Grant set out to capture Petersburg, Virginia, the hub of a railroad system that carried food and supplies to the Confederate capital city of Richmond and to Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army. Although the Union’s initial assaults failed to capture the city, they did sever some of these railroad lines. By July both Confederate and Union forces had dug in … [ Read all ]