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Archive for August, 2014

Air Force One and Presidential Air Travel

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

The President of the United States must be ready to travel anywhere in the world on a moment’s notice. Fortunately, modern Presidents have access to a variety of transportation options, including flying aboard Air Force One. Strictly speaking, the term “Air Force One” is used to describe any Air Force aircraft when the President is on board, but since the middle of the 20th century, it has been standard practice to use the title to refer to specific planes that are equipped to transport the Commander-in-Chief.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first sitting President to fly on an airplane when, in January 1943, he traveled aboard a Boeing 314 Clipper Ship called the Dixie Clipper to attend the Casablanca Conference in Morocco. Two years later, Roosevelt again flew abroad, this time aboard a converted military plane dubbed the Sacred Cow, to join Winston Churchill and Joseph Stalin at the Yalta Conference. The Sacred Cow did not have a pressurized cabin, so when it flew at high altitudes, oxygen masks were necessary for everyone on board. The plane was also equipped with an elevator that could accommodate President Roosevelt and his wheelchair for boarding and disembarking.

The … [ Read all ]

The burning of Washington

August 24, 2014, marks the 200th anniversary of the British burning of Washington during the War of 1812.

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart. (National Archives Identifier 532933)

James Monroe. Copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart.
(National Archives Identifier 532933)

In August 1814, British forces occupying the Chesapeake Bay began to sail up the Patuxent River in Maryland. Fearing an attack on the capital, Secretary of State James Monroe offered to scout the British position and report back to President James Madison. Monroe, accompanied by cavalry, left Washington and rode into southern Maryland.

On August 19 and 20, the British landed troops at the port town of Benedict, Maryland, and started advancing north. By August 22, it became clear to Monroe that the British intended to invade Washington. He quickly dispatched a messenger with a note to Madison, saying: “The enemy are advanced six miles on the road to the Woodyard, and our troops retiring. Our troops were on the march to meet them, but in too small a body to engage. . . . The enemy are in full march for Washington. Have the materials prepared to destroy the bridges.”

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

Letter from James Monroe to President James Madison, August 22, 1814. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

In the postscript, Monroe added: “You had better remove the records.”

Before Congress created the National Archives, it required each executive department to keep … [ Read all ]

Hats Off to the Tri-Corner Hat

Today’s post comes from Marisa Hawley, intern in the National Archives Strategy and Communications office.

As part of the “six weeks of style” celebration to recognize the Foundation for the National Archives’ partnership with DC Fashion Week, we are showcasing fashion-related records from our holdings. This week’s fashion theme is the Revolutionary War: Fashion during America’s Fight for Freedom

Perhaps one of the most iconic—and easily recognized—pieces of clothing from the colonial era is the tri-corner hat, or more simply known as the tricorn. Although the style originated in Europe, it is now associated with the American Revolutionary War and our nation’s fight for freedom.

St. Leger, Barry (bust). (National Archives Identifier 530964)

St. Leger, Barry (bust). (National Archives Identifier 530964)

In 17th-century America, hats with tall crowns and wide brims, like the steeple hats worn by the Puritans, started to go out of style. They were thought to spoil the appearance of and look precarious atop a wig, which was the newest fashion trend for men at the time.

The tri-corner, however, had three sides of the brim turned up, either pinned or buttoned in place to form a triangle around the wearer’s head—“like a mince pie,” to quote the vernacular of the time. This style then allowed the wearer to show off his latest wig fashion underneath, and thus his social status.

Also, the tricorn was smaller in size due to … [ Read all ]

Six weeks of style with the National Archives

Get ready to put your best fashion foot forward—and take a step back into the trends of the past—with the National Archives!

This fall, the Foundation for the National Archives is partnering with DC Fashion Week to host the opening night. This semiannual event was originally created to spotlight the nation’s capital as a dynamic center of international fashion. The National Archives’ current exhibition, “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” highlights the many ways people have made their mark on American history—from signature styles to signatures on groundbreaking laws.

Now celebrating its 10th year anniversary, DC Fashion Week continues to serve as DC’s premier apparel trade show. Featuring the collections of emerging U.S. and established international designers alike, DC Fashion Week will showcase major upcoming trends for spring and summer 2015.

The opening night event for DC Fashion Week will be held on Wednesday, September 24, at 7 p.m. in the National Archives Rotunda, with the fashion show starting at 7:30 p.m. This event is free and open to the public, but RSVPs are required. Tickets will be available through DCFW later this month.

More information regarding opening night will be posted on our various social media platforms in the coming weeks.

To help us get into a fashion frame of mind for this exciting event, the National Archives will be celebrating with six weeks … [ Read all ]

Truman, Bacall, and That Photograph

By Jim Worsham

Harry S. Truman had been Vice President of the United States for only a few weeks when he showed up on February 10, 1945, at the National Press Club in Washington, DC.

He had agreed to take part in a show for some 800 servicemen. For his part of the show, Truman sat down at an upright piano to demonstrate his talent at the keyboard.

Soon, he was joined by the popular 20-year-old actress Lauren Bacall, who was there as part of a Hollywood contingent taking part in the show. She perched herself atop the piano, Hollywood-style. (Today, we call these photo-ops or publicity stunts.)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

Lauren Bacall on Piano with Vice President Harry S. Truman, February 10, 1945. (Harry S. Truman Library and Museum)

The crowd cheered. Cameras clicked away. The photos (there were a number of different poses) appeared everywhere.

“I was just a kid. My press agent made me do it,” Bacall, who died this week at age 89, said later of her Hollywood publicists.

Truman, however, appeared to be enjoying it, “which he was,” writes David McCullough in his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of the nation’s 33rd President.

But Truman might have thought differently about it later.

Why? Mrs. Truman, often referred to by Truman as “the Boss,” was not amused.  McCullough writes: “Bess was furious. She told him he should … [ Read all ]