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New Web Exhibit on Center Market

"Front View of 7th Street Entrance to Center Market" October, 1922. (National Archives Identifier 7851122)

“Front View of 7th Street Entrance to Center Market” October, 1922. (National Archives Identifier 7851122)

In 1797, President George Washington designated two acres in the heart of Washington City for use as a public marketplace. For the next 134 years, Center Market was a Washington D.C. landmark on Pennsylvania Avenue, until it was demolished in 1931 to make way for the National Archives Building.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on Center Market, which is available in the Google Cultural Institute.

Throughout its history, Center Market was loud and lively. The marketplace was filled with crowds of people and transportation of all kinds. Street vendors or “hucksters,” farmers, and market men sold fruits, vegetables, and live animals to city-dwelling Washingtonians. The market attracted middle-class ladies, community leaders, businessmen, and social reformers.

"Plan on the Center Market and the Washington Market Company", 1869. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

“Plan on the Center Market and the Washington Market Company,” 1869. (Records of the U.S. Senate, National Archives)

In its earliest days, Center Market was no more than a collection of ramshackle wooden sheds. Bordered by the Washington Canal, the swampy land earned it the nickname “Marsh Market.”

Early Washingtonians recalled hunting wild ducks in the wetlands near the market and purchasing live fish right from the Canal.

As the city of Washington D.C. grew, so did complaints about the dirt and disorder of the public market.

A group of investors formed the private Washington Market Company in 1870 and hired prominent architect Adolf Cluss to design a modern and lavish new market facility fronting Pennsylvania Avenue.

The ornate Center Market building attracted thousands of customers a day. Streetcar lines from all corners of the city converged at the market.

Designed to appeal to middle-class marketers, the market building was thoroughly modern and hygienic. The facility boasted high ceilings with ventilated skylights, electric lighting, cold-storage vaults, and a spacious café.

"A Birds-Eye View of Part of the Fruits and Vegetable Section of Center Market," February 18, 1915. (National Archives Identifier 7851107)

“A Birds-Eye View of Part of the Fruits and Vegetable Section of Center Market,” February 18, 1915. (National Archives Identifier 7851107)

The interior of Center Market feature over 600 modern market stalls featuring elaborate displays and high quality goods such as cured meats, baked goods, and flower arrangements.

Center Market’s exterior was just as bustling and crowded as its interior. Farmers’ wagons, trucks, and automobiles lined the curb outside of the market selling fresh country produce.

For a nominal fee, street vendors, or “hucksters,” could sell wares outside of Center Market. Hucksters packed the streets around the market, hawking seasonal goods, greenery, and even preparing food at open-air restaurants.

Center Market returned to public ownership in 1921, managed by the Department of Agriculture. However, this arrangement was short-lived. The red brick Victorian market building was incompatible with the 1901 Senate Park (McMillan) Commission Plan’s vision of a unified city of white marble and monuments. Despite protests from the city and the community of Washington D.C., Center Market was demolished in 1931.

On May 17, 1931, the Sunday Star printed a eulogy to the market: “The great focus of interest, the one-time social center, place of endless entertainment, is gone and can never be restored…Another generation will have no concept of the significance of the site on which they stand.”

Center Market is no longer standing, but traces of its significance can be found in the photographs and documents stored in the National Archives.

To learn more about Center Market, visit the new “A Capital Market” exhibit on Google Cultural Institute.

To see more historical photos of Center Market visit our Flickr page.


New Web Exhibit on the Freedom Train

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

A souvenir postcard from the Freedom Train. (National Archives Identifier 18520032)

For 18 months in the late 1940s, some of the nation’s most important historical documents toured the country in a traveling museum called the Freedom Train.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on the Freedom Train, which is available in the Google Cultural Institute.

Viewed by more than 3.5 million Americans, the Freedom Train stopped in cities in each of the 48 states (Alaska and Hawaii were not yet states at this time).

The Freedom Train was intended to increase awareness of the need to preserve important documents as well as to allow Americans throughout the country to see these documents.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

The American Heritage Foundation was created to design, protect, and operate the train and its contents.

A committee containing members from the National Archives, the Library of Congress, and other government agencies planned and designed the exhibit.

A group of 27 Marines was hand selected to protect the Freedom Train on its tour, and a coalition of railroad companies ensured that the Freedom Train would travel across America as efficiently as possible.

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

Photograph of visitors looking at the Bill of Rights in the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167308)

The documents on board the Freedom Train came from many different sources. Most were already in the holdings of either the National Archives or the Library of Congress, but some documents were lent to the exhibit from private museums and personal collections across the country.

After the 133 documents on the Freedom Train were selected and their exhibits installed, the tour began. The train rolled from September 1947 until January 1949, with few breaks.

True to its name, the Freedom Train mandated that the admission lines for the exhibit were to be desegregated. Memphis, Tennessee, rejected this condition; in response, the Freedom Train did not stop there as scheduled.

Admission to the Freedom Train was free, but the American Heritage Foundation suggested donations and requested that all visitors sign the Freedom Pledge.

Photograph of the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167318)

Photograph of the Freedom Train Exhibit, October 20, 1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167318)

After a successful national tour, the Freedom Train arrived in Washington, DC, for President Truman’s Inauguration Week. At the end of the week, the scrolls of 3.5 million names signed under the Freedom Pledge were donated to the Library of Congress.

The American Heritage Foundation then dismantled the Freedom Train, donating the document cases to the National Archives and returning the documents on loan from other collections.

One year later, the National Archives opened an exhibit about the Freedom Train in its exhibition hall. Many of the original documents were displayed once again, allowing them to be seen by those who were unable to view the Freedom Train and those who wanted to see the documents again.

To learn more about the Freedom Train, visit the new Freedom Train exhibit on Google Cultural Institute.

To see more historical photos of the Freedom Train visit our Flickr page.

 


Celebrate July 4th with the National Archives in DC, nationwide, and online!

Join the National Archives in celebrating the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with special events in Washington, DC, at Presidential Libraries nationwide, and online!

You can see the full press release online here.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives in Washington, DC

The National Archives in Washington, DC, will celebrate the 239th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence with its traditional Fourth of July program. C-SPAN host Steve Scully will return to serve as emcee for a fourth year, and Archivist David S. Ferriero will make remarks.

The free celebration will include patriotic music, a dramatic reading of the Declaration by historical reenactors, and exciting family activities and entertainment for all ages. See here for more information.

If you can’t make it out to the nation’s capital, the festivities will be live-streamed on the National Archives YouTube channel.

July 4th at the National Archives is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation with the generous support of Signature Sponsor John Hancock. Major support provided by The Coca-Cola Company and Dykema.

Celebrate July 4th at the National Archives Presidential Libraries

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum, West Branch, IA

An Eastern Iowa Brass Band Concert at the West Branch High School will feature museum docent Richard Paulus as Samuel Adams reading the Declaration of Independence. This event is at 2 p.m.

For over 25 years, the Eastern Iowa Brass Band has been entertaining audiences throughout Iowa, the Midwest and even beyond. The 35-member band performs from a repertoire which features original works for brass band, as well as arrangements of well known orchestral and wind band literature. Featured soloists are frequently used in concert programs which also include marches, medleys, hymn tune arrangements, folk songs, Broadway show tunes and novelty features. Members of the EIBB come from all over Eastern Iowa. As the only brass band of this type in Iowa, the EIBB presents a truly unique musical experience.

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, Austin, TX

The Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum will offer free admission all day.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Grand Rapids, MI

The Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum will participate in a city-wide celebration. The museum opens its grounds and allows visitors to watch the city fireworks. Admission fees still apply when visiting the museum.

Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum, Simi Valley, CA

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Library is hosting a day full of family-fun activities. This year’s celebration will include the Los Angeles Police Concert band performing our favorite patriotic tunes. There will be family entertainment, games, crafts, and more. Mingle with our Presidential and First Lady look-alikes.

All outdoor activities are free. Admission rates apply to view the Ronald Reagan Presidential Museum, Air Force One Pavilion, and the library’s special exhibit, “Football! The Exhibition.”

George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, College Station, TX

The George Bush Presidential Library and Museum will once again host the annual “I Love America! 4th of July Celebration” in partnership with the College Station Noon Lions Club and the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.

The museum will open at 9:30 a.m. with free admission all day and will extend its hours to 8:15 p.m. The outside activities will begin with a flag-raising ceremony at 5 p.m. The Kids Zone will be open from 6 to 8:30 p.m. A musical program begins at 6 p.m. After a dusk hot air balloon glow, enjoy fireworks accompanied by the Brazos Valley Symphony Orchestra.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with the National Archives by sharing these patriotic graphics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more! This image is specially sized for Instagram.

Celebrate the Fourth of July with the National Archives by sharing these patriotic graphics on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more! This image is specially sized for Instagram.

Celebrate the Fourth of July on Social Media

Join the conversation using the hashtag #ArchivesJuly4 on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more!

Take a #ColonialSelfie

Snap a picture with a Founding Father at our July 4 celebration. If you aren’t in Washington, DC, be creative; your #ColonialSelfie can be with anything that was in fashion in 1776

Tell the World #ISignedTheDeclaration

Sign your name to the Declaration of Independence! Take a picture, tag it with#ISignedTheDeclaration, and share it with us on social media. If you attend our celebration in DC, look for the booth at the corner of Constitution Avenue and Seventh Street, and add your John Hancock to the list. The booth will be moved inside to the Boeing Learning Lab at 11 a.m.

Share Your Patriotic Spirit

We’ve sized these images to make social sharing easy!


Annual Birthday Party for the Declaration of Independence

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the History Office at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

The Fife and Drum Corps perform at the National Archives on July 4, 12013. (Photo by Jules Clifford)

For almost a half-century, the National Archives has held an annual birthday party on July 4, at the document’s home at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

This timeline marks the significant milestones in Archives Fourth of July celebrations:

  • 1776: Representatives to the Second Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. The Declaration was printed on July 4, and John Carlisle, a friend of George Washington’s and successful merchant, read it aloud on the streets of Philadelphia.
  • 1952: The Library of Congress, which  held the Declaration from 1924 through 1952, transferred the document to the National Archives. The first Independence Day it was on display at the Archives was July 4, 1953.
  • 1969: The National Archives Fourth of July became more extensive. A special exhibit opened to the public. In the early afternoon, the U.S. Army Band played a concert on the Constitution Avenue side of the Archives.
  • 1970: Visitors listened to the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence in the Rotunda.
  • 1976: Celebrations reached new levels when the Declaration turned 200 years old and the Archives established its annual July 4th event. On July 2, 1976, President Gerald Ford spoke in the Rotunda to honor the Bicentennial, saying, “The Declaration is the Polaris of our political order—the fixed star of freedom. It is impervious to change because it states moral truths that are eternal.” That July 4 the National Archives had a four-foot cake on the steps overlooking the National Mall. Also for the Bicentennial, the Charters of Freedom (the collective name  for the Declaration, Constitution, and Bill of Rights) went on round-the-clock public view for the first time, ending on July 6.
  • 1977: The National Archives created the National Bicentennial Time Capsule, which will be opened on July 4, 2075.
  • 1990: The Declaration’s 15th annual birthday party included a reading of the document, Revolutionary-era music, a simulation of musket fire on Constitution Avenue, and a parade.
  • 2001: The 225th birthday of the Declaration marked the last day until July 4, 2004, that the Declaration would be on display for the holiday.
  • 2002–2003: The National Archives’ Fourth of July festivities took place at Union Station in Washington, DC, while the National Archives Rotunda underwent renovations.
  • 2009: The National Archives exhibited a rare print on parchment of the Declaration of Independence—made from the original copperplate engraved by William J. Stone in 1823—which was on loan from David M. Rubenstein.

Small details change each year, but annual traditions remain the same and grow even stronger. The reading of the Declaration of Independence, Revolutionary-era music, and various children’s activities will likely continue past the opening of the National Bicentennial Capsule in 2075.

The National Archives will be commemorating the Declaration’s 239th birthday this year. Celebrations will include a reading of the Declaration of Independence, a performance by the Fife and Drum Corps, and visits from costumed interpreters of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin, among other activities.

For more information see our calendar of events.

Visitors at the July 4,1970, Ceremony in the Rotunda. (National Archives Identifier 4477182)

Visitors at the July 4, 1970, ceremony in the Rotunda. (National Archives Identifier 4477182)


The Hello Girls Finally Get Paid

Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, who is an archivist at the National Archives at St. Louis, where she manages the collection of archival civilian personnel records.

The United States entered World War I in April 1917. Along with the men who were recruited to fight, women were eager to assist with war efforts. Such was the case with Isabelle Villiers. Born in Boston, Massachusetts, in 1894, she acted on her patriotic pride and enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve Force in May 1917.

For eight months, Isabelle Villiers (Yeoman, 1st class) worked as a confidential secretary in the office of Commodore A.L. Key at the Boston Navy Yard. However, after reading an announcement in the newspaper calling for telephone operators, she decided she could better serve her country overseas.

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers

Photograph of Isabelle Villiers from her civilian file at the National Archives at St. Louis

The war, which had already raged since 1914, had taken its toll on European infrastructure. General John J. Pershing, Commander-in-Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces, had devised a solution for the poor communication on the war front. War had destroyed the existing French telephone system and he felt that telegrams were too slow and expressionless. Furthermore, General Pershing wanted to establish direct communication between troops on the front line and the general-in-command as well as between allied units.

While servicemen were tasked with laying lines in the field, General Pershing felt that women would best serve as telephone operators. In order to recruit quality telephone operators, General Pershing issued an appeal for 150 women who had past telephone operating experience and who were fluent in both English and French. This appeal was published in newspapers throughout the United States in late 1917.

With an understanding of both languages, former experience as a telephone operator, and a college education, Isabelle Villiers felt compelled to apply. After receiving a discharge from the U.S. Naval Reserve Force on January 7, 1918, and two months of training in Lowell, Massachusetts, Isabelle set sail for France in March 1918 as a part of the initial group of U.S. Army Signal Corps Female Telephone Operators.

“Hello Girls Here in Real Army Duds” was published on March 19, 1918, in Stars and Stripes cheerfully announcing this first group of 33 arrivals.

Of approximately 1,750 applicants, 450 women were trained and 233 ultimately sent overseas to serve as telephone operators. Colloquially dubbed “Hello Girls,” these women were primarily stationed in England and France (and in Germany after the Armistice was signed); some were stationed to work on the front lines in locations such as Saint Mihiel and Souilly, France. Not only did telephone operators work close to the front lines, they wore blue U.S. Army uniforms and were subject to military rules, including the possible penalty of courts-martial for wrongdoing.

Original caption reads: American telephone girls on arrival for "hello" duty in France. They all can speak both English and French., 3/1918. (National Archives Identifier 530718)

Is Isabelle Villiers in this photo? We don’t know–let us know if you can find her! Original caption reads: American telephone girls on arrival for “hello” duty in France. They all can speak both English and French., 3/1918. (National Archives Identifier 530718)

Isabelle was assigned as a supervisor to posts in Paris and Tours, France. She completed her duty on April 21, 1919, and returned to Reading, Massachusetts. She immediately submitted her claim for the $60.00 bonus granted to members of the American Expeditionary Forces only to be denied because the work of telephone operators was not considered to be within the provisions of the Revenue Bill of 1918.

Although women served in a military capacity for the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard, after the war was over it was decided that technically only men could be members of the U.S. Army.

Following their service, Isabelle Villiers and many other telephone operators received a certificate for ‘Exceptional Meritorious and Conspicuous Services’ signed by General Pershing along with a letter stating that the “Signal Corps deeply appreciates and is justly proud of the manner in which its civilian employees have performed their duties.”

In 1930, a fellow telephone operator named Merle Egan Anderson started the fight for U.S. Army Signal Corps telephone operators’ military benefits. Finally, more than 60 years after the operators served, benefits were approved in 1977 and awarded in 1979 to approximately 50 survivors, including Isabelle Villiers. These brave women were designated the first female veterans of the United States Army.

The official personnel folder of Isabelle Villers and other World War I telephone operators is open to the public.  Please visit http://www.archives.gov/st-louis/archival-programs/civilian-personnel-archival/ to learn more about requesting these and other official personnel folders of former civil servants.