Site search

Site menu:

Find Out More

Archives

Categories

Contact Us

Subscribe to Email Updates

I am an American

September 17 marks the annual celebration known as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day.

On the morning of June 18, 2014, in the Rotunda of the National Archives Building First Lady Michelle Obama congratulated a room full of 35 new American citizens and their families. Her speech marked the culmination of a process that individuals have taken part in since the founding of this nation—becoming naturalized citizens of the United States of America.

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

First Lady Michelle Obama, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson, and new citizen Juan Cua Monroy lead the new citizens in the Pledge of Allegiance in the National Archives, June 18, 2014. (Photo Credit: Jeff Reed, National Archives)

Naturalization is the process by which a non-citizen acquires citizenship. Over the course of U.S. history, the process of naturalization has been subject to differing degrees of pomp and circumstance.

In 1940, Congress passed a resolution authorizing the President to issue an annual proclamation designating the third Sunday in May as “I Am An American Day.” Many towns and cities celebrated the new holiday with special ceremonies recognizing newly naturalized citizens.

In 1952, Congress re-named the holiday and moved it to September 17, but its purpose remained the same. Now called “Citizenship Day,” it commemorated the signing of the Constitution on September 17, 1787, and recognized “all who, by coming of age or by naturalization, have become citizens.”

The 1952 law also urged proper observance of the day and “for the complete instruction of citizens in their responsibilities and opportunities as citizens of the United States and of the State and locality in which they reside.” As of 2004, observance of the day, now formally called “Constitution Day and Citizenship Day” also includes educational programs and materials for Federal employees and public educational facilities.

Both “I Am An American Day” and “Citizenship Day” made special naturalization ceremonies central to the celebration of American Citizenship. In doing so they contributed to a larger post–World War II effort to elevate the process of becoming an American from a routine court procedure to dignified ceremony that recognized and celebrated the significance of citizenship.

Since the 1970s, the National Archives has commemorated Citizenship Day with naturalization ceremonies in its Rotunda. The first documented naturalization ceremony occurred on September 14, 1978, when 30 individuals were sworn in as U.S. citizens in front of the Charters of Freedom.

A particularly exciting naturalization ceremony occurred in the Rotunda of the National Archives on September 17, 1987, a day that not only marked the occasion for 30 individuals to become Americans but was also the 200th anniversary of the signing of the Constitution.

Some of the nation’s newest citizen’s swear allegiance to the United Sates in a naturalization ceremony held in the National Archives, undated. (Photo Credit: Hugh Talman, National Archives)

Some of the nation’s newest citizen’s swear allegiance to the United Sates in a naturalization ceremony held in the National Archives, undated. (Photo Credit: Hugh Talman, National Archives)

The naturalization ceremony culminated five days of spectacular celebration that included a run by 200 Army personnel who carried a copy of the Constitution from the steps of the National Archives to Fort Monroe in Virginia and an 87-hour vigil in the Rotunda in which all four pages of the Constitution were on display (at that time only the first and last pages were on permanent display).

The National Archives has continued to hold naturalization ceremonies, and they have become favorite events for many Archivists, including the current Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero.

Featured speakers and noted guests have included celebrities, sports icons, current and past Presidents, the Archivist of the United States, and most recently our First Lady.

The National Archives has also held naturalization ceremonies in December to commemorate the adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Becoming a United States citizen is an momentous event. Taking the Oath of Allegiance in front of the documents that created this nation only amplifies its significance. First Lady Michelle Obama summed up this feeling in her recent remarks at the ceremony at the National Archives:

It’s amazing that just a few feet from here where I’m standing are the signatures of the 56 Founders who put their names on a Declaration that changed the course of history. And like the 50 of you, none of them were born American—they became American.


On Exhibit: The Judiciary Act of 1789

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789. (National Archives Identifier 1501550)

An Act to Establish the Federal Courts of the United States, 09/24/1789.
(National Archives Identifier 1501550)

Continuing our celebration of the 225th Anniversary of the First Congress the National Archives is displaying the original Judiciary Act of 1789.

For three months beginning September 17, 2014, you can see the landmark piece of legislation in the Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

Article III of the U.S. Constitution established the Supreme Court but gave Congress the authority to create lower Federal courts at its discretion. One of the first actions the First Congress took was to establish a Federal court system.

On April 7, 1789—just one day after the Senate reached a quorum for the first time—the Senate appointed a committee to prepare a bill organizing the judiciary of the United States.

After two months of work, the committee reported the first bill ever introduced into the United States Senate—S. 1, a bill to establish the Judicial Courts of the United States, what would become known as the Judiciary Act of 1789.

The bill’s principal author was Senator Oliver Ellsworth of Connecticut. A key member at the Constitutional Convention, Ellsworth would eventually become Chief Justice of the United States in 1796.

President George Washington's Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

President George Washington’s Nomination of Judges, Attorneys, and Marshalls, September 24, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Major provisions of the bill included setting the number of Supreme Court justices at six, creating 13 federal court districts, and creating the office of the Attorney General to represent the United States before the Supreme Court. It also created a United States Attorney and United States Marshal for each judicial district.

On September 24, 1789, President George Washington signed the Judiciary Act of 1789. That same day he nominated the first Chief Justice and Associate Justices of the Supreme Court as well as district judges, United States Attorneys, and United States Marshals.

The Federal judiciary system that Congress created back in 1789 is essentially the same structure as we still have today.

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.


National Hispanic Heritage Month/Mes de la Herencia Hispana

Today’s post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, intern in the Office of Strategy and Communications at the National Archives.

AFIS billboard posters. Hispanic Heritage Month. Defense Billboard #81, 01/01/2000. (National Archives Identifier: 6507500)

AFIS billboard posters. Hispanic Heritage Month. Defense Billboard #81, 01/01/2000.
(National Archives Identifier: 6507500)

National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated from September 15 to October 15 in celebration and recognition of the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America. Hispanics have had a profound and positive influence on our country through their strong commitment to family, faith, hard work, and service. They have enhanced and shaped our national character with centuries-old traditions that reflect the multiethnic and multicultural customs of their community.

This celebration started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was later expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence on September 16 and September 18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.

Mexican painting, Humboldt fragment III, ca. 1871 - ca. 1907. (National Archives Identifier: 523581)

Mexican painting, Humboldt fragment III, ca. 1871 – ca. 1907.
(National Archives Identifier: 523581)

The term Hispanic and Latino, refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race. On the 2010 Census form, people of Spanish, Hispanic and/or Latino origin could identify themselves as Mexican, Mexican American, Chicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or “another Hispanic, Latino, or Spanish origin.”

According to this Census, 50.5 million people or 16% of the population are of Hispanic or Latino origin. This represents a significant increase from 2000, which registered the Hispanic population at 35.3 million or 13% of the total U.S. population.

Share with us in this special annual tribute by learning and celebrating the generations of Hispanic Americans who have positively influenced and enriched our nation and society.

En español:

El post de hoy viene de Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, Interna en la Oficina de Estrategias de Planificacion y Comunicaciones en los Archivos Nacionales.

AFIS cartel publicitario. Mes de la Herencia Hispana. Cartel de Defensa #81, 01/01/2000. (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6507500)

AFIS cartel publicitario. Mes de la Herencia Hispana. Cartel de Defensa #81, 01/01/2000.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 6507500)

El Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana se celebra desde el 15 de Septiembre hasta el 15 de octubre en celebración y reconocimiento de las historias, culturas y contribuciones de los ciudadanos estadounidenses cuyos ancestros vinieron de España, México, el Caribe, Centro y Sur América. Los hispanos han tenido una influencia profunda y positiva en nuestro país a través de su firme compromiso con la familia, la fe, el trabajo duro y el servicio. Ellos han mejorado y dado forma a nuestro carácter nacional con tradiciones centenarias que reflejan las costumbres multiétnicas y multiculturales de su comunidad.

Esta celebración se inició en 1968 como la Semana de Herencia Hispana durante la presidencia de Lyndon Johnson y más tarde fue ampliado por el presidente Ronald Reagan en 1988 para cubrir un período de 30 días a partir del 15 de septiembre y finalizará el 15 de octubre. Fue promulgada como ley el 17 de agosto 1988 con la aprobación de la Ley Pública 100-402.

El día del 15 de septiembre es importante ya que es el aniversario de la independencia de los países latinoamericanos Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras y Nicaragua. Además, México y Chile celebran su independencia el 16 de septiembre y el 18 de septiembre, respectivamente. También, el Día de Colón o Día de la Raza, que es el 12 de octubre cae dentro de este período de 30 días.

Pintura mexicana del fragmento de Humboldt III, ca. 1871 - ca. 1907. (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 523581)

Pintura mexicana del fragmento de Humboldt III, ca. 1871 – ca. 1907.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 523581)

El término hispano y latino, se refiere a  personas de Puerto Rico, Sur y Centro América y de otra cultura u origen español, independientemente de su raza. En el formulario del Censo de 2010 la población de origen Española, hispano y/o latino podían identificarse como mexicanos, mexicano americano, chicano, puertorriqueño, cubano u “otro origen hispano, latino o español”.

Según este censo, 50.5 millones de personas o el 16% de la población son de origen hispano o latino. Esto representa un aumento significativo desde el año 2000, que registró la población hispana en 35.3 millones o el 13% de la población total de EE.UU..

Comparte con nosotros este especial homenaje que se celebra anualmente mediante el aprendizaje y la celebración de todas las generaciones de Hispano Americanos que han influido positivamente y han enriquecido  a nuestra nación y sociedad.


Jackie Kennedy: Queen of Camelot and Style Icon of the 1960s

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 1960s: The Times (and Fashion) They Are A’ Changin

Mrs. Kennedy in the Diplomatic Reception Room, 05 December 1961. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Mrs. Kennedy in the Diplomatic Reception Room, 05 December 1961. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

When John F. Kennedy became President of the United States at the age of 43, he became not only the youngest President elected but arguably one of the funniest, intelligent, and charismatic. The charm and optimism that he and his family embodied captivated the American public in an entirely new way, and his term—though tragically cut short—was affectionately known as Camelot. If President Kennedy was the King Arthur of this golden era, however, there is no doubt that Jacqueline Kennedy was the trendsetting queen.

First Lady Jackie Kennedy, along with her husband, firmly believed that the White House was a place where America’s thriving culture was to be promoted, showcased, and celebrated. Her respect for the arts was also reflected in her own signature style as she became a symbol of sophisticated fashion.

Although Jackie discouraged the excessive focus on her appearance in the media, her unique and refined wardrobe certainly set a new standard during her time in Washington. She quickly became an international style icon, influencing the fashion of not only women across America, but around the world—and continues to do so today.

In this photograph of a presentation of a silver pitcher to the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Jackie is pictured in one of her distinctive looks: a bold red ensemble of a boxy jacket with a straight skirt.

Jackie’s own personal fashion icon was Audrey Hepburn, which is why the First Lady’s style typically reflected Hepburn’s old Hollywood glamour. Jackie was known for wearing classic, tailored suits and ladylike dresses in strong, solid colors—especially pink, yellow, red, and ivory.

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Feeds Horse in India, 19 March 1962. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Feeds Horse in India, 19 March 1962. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Her daywear generally consisted of simple sleeveless dresses, wrist-length gloves, and strands of pearls or a brooch. Around the White House, it was common to see Jackie in high-waist trousers with a trim blouse, turtleneck, or cashmere sweater. She almost always topped off her daytime look with her iconic black, oversized sunglasses—a trend that has yet to go out of style.

When she was traveling to foreign countries—like India—she was mindful to dress according to the custom of the host nation.

For eveningwear, Jackie usually went for the sleeveless, single-colored dress with a bateau neckline—one that runs horizontally, front and back, across the collarbone.

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visit with members of the American Ballet Theatre, 22 May 1962. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

President John F. Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy visit with members of the American Ballet Theatre, 22 May 1962. (John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

She also could be found at nighttime events wearing long sheath dresses or off-the-shoulder gowns. Jackie is pictured at a White House dinner here with a white dress and matching elbow-length gloves.

Perhaps her most recognizable outfit is the watermelon-pink suit with her trademark pillbox hat that she wore the day her husband was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.

This iconic pink suit was designed as an exact replica of the Chanel suit with Chanel fabric, but made in the U.S. to avoid political criticism. Despite the bloodstains from the tragic motorcade, Jackie insisted on keeping the suit on for the swearing in of Lyndon B. Johnson later that day.

The suit is currently housed in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland, although the pink hat has disappeared before the rest of the outfit made its way to the Archives.

Another of her pillbox hats, however, is available for viewing in the National Archives online collection.

Examine more “signature styles” and history-making signatures in our current exhibition, “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures,” in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

To further explore Jacqueline Kennedy’s signature style, check out the First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy Collection online at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library website.

President and Mrs. Kennedy Deplane from Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, 11/1963. (National Archives Identifier 6816409)

President and Mrs. Kennedy Deplane from Air Force One at Love Field, Dallas, Texas, 11/1963. (National Archives Identifier 6816409)


The Name Speaks for Itself

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, front, September 11, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, front, September 11, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

Today’s post comes from Dan Ruprecht, intern in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. 

On September 11, 1789, President George Washington sent the first cabinet nomination under the new U.S. Constitution to the Senate. Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution gave the power to determine federal officers to both the executive and legislative branches:

[The President] shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law.

Washington’s message was brief and to the point: “Gentlemen of the Senate, I nominate. . .” followed by a list of names and their respective positions, establishing a precedent for brief nominations that continues today.

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, back, September 11, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

George Washington’s nomination of Alexander Hamilton and others, back, September 11, 1789. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

The President’s message did not list the credentials of the nominees nor did it include any comments from Washington regarding his choices; it simply listed the names.

It was then up to the Senate to debate each candidate’s ability and determine whether or not the nominee would receive the Senate’s consent.

This first nomination included Alexander Hamilton to be Secretary of the Treasury. On the same day the Senate received the President’s nomination, it unanimously consented to Hamilton’s nomination.

Hamilton, who had served with Washington in the Continental Army and in the Constitutional Convention, had also proven himself a brilliant administrator and thoughtful political theorist in his essays written for the Federalist Papers.

His term as the Secretary of the Treasury was a time of incredible productivity in which he created a national bank, founded the U.S. Mint, and established the Coast Guard.

Seventy-five years later, many of the same traditions remained regarding Presidential nominations. Like Washington’s message, President Abraham Lincoln’s nomination of Ulysses S. Grant was succinct.

In nominating Grant to the position of lieutenant general in the U.S. Army, Lincoln made a bold move. Only two men, George Washington and Winfield Scott, had held the rank of lieutenant general before Grant, and Scott’s was a brevet (honorary) appointment. Lincoln’s nomination made Grant the highest-ranking officer in the most important American conflict since the Revolution.

President Abraham Lincoln's nomination of Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army, February 29, 1864. (National Archives Identifier 306310)

President Abraham Lincoln’s nomination of Ulysses S. Grant to be Lieutenant General of the Army, February 29, 1864. (National Archives Identifier 306310)

 

The letterhead indicates that the nomination was sent from the “Executive Mansion.” Until President Theodore Roosevelt formalized the name “White House” in 1901, the White House was referred to as either the President’s House or Executive Mansion.

Another curiosity with regard to this particular nomination: the President wrote the note on lined paper that looks to be pulled out of a student’s notebook. Lined paper was first used in the United States around the mid-1800s, and it became incredibly popular—even for a formal nomination.

Unlike Washington’s nomination, which was written by his secretary and simply signed by Washington, Lincoln’s nomination of Grant is entirely in his own handwriting.

President Ronald Reagan's Nomination of Sandra Day O'Connor to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, August 19, 1981. (National Archives Identifier 595429)

President Ronald Reagan’s Nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to be Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States, August 19, 1981. (National Archives Identifier 595429)

President Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Sandra Day O’Connor to be an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court followed the familiar patterns of a Presidential nomination.

The cursive heading was meant to give the letter a sense of formality and personalization at a time when the message could have easily been all typed.

The Senate met O’Connor’s nomination with unanimous approval, but that did not mean she was without critics. Some senators believed that she lacked experience and constitutional knowledge, while others saw her as a weak supporter of feminist issues.

Her appointment was, in fact, the result of a campaign promise Reagan made in 1980 to nominate the first woman to the Supreme Court.

During O’Connor’s 24 years on the Supreme Court, she was joined by one other female Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg (after O’Connor’s retirement, two more women were appointed to the Supreme Court—Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan).

While the format of nominations has changed slightly over the years, Presidential nominations to any position, be it to the cabinet, the military, or the Supreme Court, have more or less remained the same: in a message to the Senate, the President allows his nominee’s name to speak for itself.

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.