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Archive for July, 2014

An inaugural blunder

Today’s post is from David Steinbach, intern in the National Archives History Office.

William Howard Taft had unusually extensive experience with the Presidential oath of office. In 1909, Taft recited the text on the steps of the Capitol to become the 27th President of the United States.

Sixteen years later, as Chief Justice of the United States, Taft stood on the other side of the Bible and administered Calvin Coolidge’s swearing in.

By the time of Herbert Hoover’s inauguration ceremony in 1929, Taft should have mastered the oath. But the Chief Justice blundered nonetheless, substituting erroneously the phrase “preserve, maintain, and defend” for the traditional “preserve, protect, and defend.”

Taft could not blame lack of preparation. In the exhibit “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” currently open at the National Archives in Washington, DC, we see a particularly interesting letter from the Chief Justice to incoming President Hoover. The communication is dated March 1, 1929—three days before the inauguration. Taft described in great detail where the two men would stand, what text that he would recite, what Hoover’s response should be, and the logistics surrounding the Bible—all with the goal, as Taft asserted, that “you and I shall know what we are to do.”

Ironically, it was Taft, not Hoover, who made the false step.

Taft’s error may have gone overlooked were it not … [ Read all ]

New York’s First Senators: Late to Their Own Party

Today’s post comes from Dan Ruprecht, intern in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. The Center for Legislative Archives is marking the 225th anniversary of the First Congress by sharing documents on Tumblr and Twitter; use #Congress225 to see all the postings.

When Congress opened its doors under the new Constitution for the first time on March 4, 1789, at Federal Hall in New York City there were only eight senators present out of 22 expected. The senators from the host state of New York were not among them. The day before, the New York state legislature had adjourned without electing any senators.

In February and March, the New York State Senate, controlled by the Federalists, and the State Assembly, controlled by the Anti-Federalists, fought bitterly over their preferred candidates for the U.S. Senate. Since both parties expected to win a majority in each house in New York’s upcoming elections in April, they were content to allow its Senate seats to remain vacant.

Therefore, as the First Congress met in New York City, New York itself was not represented in the Senate. The state legislature remained in a deadlock for five months. It was not until July 16, 1789, that Federalists Rufus King and Philip J. Schuyler were chosen as New York’s senators.

Ten days later, on July 26, 1789, … [ Read all ]

John Russell Pope’s Lincoln Memorial designs

Today’s post comes from Christina James, intern in the National Archives History Office. 

Walking through our nation’s capital, you will inevitably come across at least one structure adorned with triangular pediments, massive columns, or a majestic dome. Many of Washington, DC’s most iconic buildings and monuments feature these elements and exemplify neoclassical architecture.

John Russell Pope, one of the most famous American neoclassical architects, believed that a democracy’s public buildings should be designed in the style of the ancient Greeks and Romans. Today, Pope’s designs are scattered throughout the city and include the Jefferson Memorial, the National Gallery of Art, and the National Archives.

However, one of the most recognizable neoclassical structures in the capital, the Lincoln Memorial, is not one of Pope’s designs. If Pope had been chosen to design the memorial, the National Mall would look very different.

The construction of a memorial to President Abraham Lincoln in Washington, DC, was first approved by Congress in 1911. The bill authorizing the construction created the Lincoln Memorial Commission to approve a site and a design for a memorial honoring the 16th President. The Committee was given a budget of $2 million dollars, the largest amount to ever be provided for a national memorial at the time.

Coming off of his enormously popular and celebrated design for the Temple of the Scottish Rite in Washington, DC, John … [ Read all ]

Roberto Clemente, A Legacy Beyond Baseball

Today’s post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, Intern in the Office of Strategic Planning and Communications at the National Archives. To find out more about our Bilingual Social Media Project.

Today the National Archives remembers baseball superstar Roberto Clemente. It has been many years since his death, but to this day Clemente is remembered as one of the greatest players and humanitarians of all time. Clemente has come to represent much more than just baseball where he played right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 to1972. His devoted following extends around the world. More than 40 schools and 200 parks are named in his honor in places ranging from Puerto Rico to Germany. The way in which this great baseball player died is a part of his legacy.

Clemente was flying from San Juan, Puerto Rico, his native homeland, to Managua, Nicaragua, carrying aid to the Nicaraguans who had been devastated by an earthquake on December 22, 1972. That trip exemplified how Clemente had been raised and lived, always helping others. In the final years of his life, his mantra was: “If you have a chance to make life better for others and fail to do so, you are wasting your time on this earth.”

Most people do not know that not only was Clemente a baseball player, he was also a … [ Read all ]

On exhibit: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

Today’s post comes from Darlene McClurkin, National Archives Exhibits staff member.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. The original resolution is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from July 15 to August 7, 2014.

Fifty years ago, the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution marked a major turning point in the Cold War struggle for Southeast Asia. Passage of the resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to expand the scope of U.S. involvement in Vietnam without a declaration of war.

By 1964, Vietnam had been torn by international and civil war for decades. U.S. military support for South Vietnam had grown to some 15,000 military advisers, while the North received military and financial aid from China and the Soviet Union.

In a late-night televised address on August 4, 1964, President Johnson announced that he had ordered retaliatory air strikes on the North Vietnamese in response to reports of their attacks earlier on U.S. Navy ships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

He then asked Congress to pass a resolution stressing that “our Government is united in its determination to take all necessary measures in support of freedom and in defense of peace in southeast Asia.”

The resolution stated that “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary … [ Read all ]