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“The Posner Affair”

Continuing our celebration of American Archives Month, today’s post comes from Christina James, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

As the inscription on the west side of the National Archives Building reads, the National Archives is home to “the chronicles of those who conceived and builded the structure of our nation.” Primarily thought of as a place where history is preserved, one can easily overlook the ways in which historical events have directly affected the National Archives.

Ernst Posner, undated. (Records of the National Archives)

Ernst Posner, undated. (Records of the National Archives)

During World War II, the National Archives found itself under attack by the Senate Subcommittee on Independent Agencies regarding ties between the National Archives and German archivist, Ernst Posner. A short chapter in National Archives history, this incident is recorded in the Personal Files of Solon J. Buck as “The Posner Affair.”

Born in Berlin in 1892, Ernst Posner was a German citizen who had served in World War I and later became an archivist at the Prussian State Privy Archives. Prior to the start of World War II, Posner eagerly sought to leave Germany and hoped to relocate and secure an archival position in the U.S. He first met Solon J. Buck in 1938 while visiting and lecturing in the United States. Shortly after his return from this trip, Posner was arrested and imprisoned following the Nazi Kristallnacht attacks on Jews in Germany. A Christian of Jewish descent, Posner spent six weeks in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

After being released, Posner managed to return to America where he secured a position teaching archival administration at American University. Through his friendship with Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck, Posner alerted the National Archives of the importance of safeguarding records for defense purposes shortly before the United States entered World War II. The issue caught the attention of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who requested that necessary actions be taken to ensure records were protected.

Posner’s ideas inspired and influenced the American Council of Learned Societies’ Committee on Protection of Cultural Treasures in War Areas and led the National Archives to prepare a comprehensive directory of the archival facilities in war-torn Europe.

Dr. Solon Justus Buck, Second Archivist of the United States, ca. 1941. (Records of the National Archives)

Dr. Solon Justus Buck, Second Archivist of the United States, ca. 1941. (Records of the National Archives)

On his way to becoming a naturalized American citizen, Posner’s German heritage raised suspicions of many government officials. On February 16, 1944, Archivist of the United States Solon Buck appeared before the Senate Subcommittee on Independent Agencies for a hearing regarding funding for the National Archives. Solon Buck described the hearing as “devoted entirely to an attack upon Dr. Posner and [himself].”

Senator Kenneth McKellar questioned Posner’s relationship to the National Archives and demanded to know why Posner had been given a desk in the offices of the National Archives Building. Buck held that the attack was “utterly unjustified.” Nevertheless, McKellar saw Posner as a threat to the United States and suspected that he was involved in plots which would make the United States and the Archives more susceptible to bombing. These alleged plots included the switch to cardboard records boxes from steel ones.

Letter from Solon Buck to Justice Roberts, 2/29/1944. (Records of the National Archives)

Letter from Solon Buck to Justice Roberts, 2/29/1944. (Records of the National Archives)

Buck appeared before the Subcommittee again the next week and was later visited by an investigator of the Civil Service Commission. The suspicions deeply troubled Buck, leading him to resign from the Subcommittee on Archives and Libraries of the American Commission for the Protection and Salvage of Artistic and Historic Monuments in Europe. Posner also resigned from his recently appointed position as secretary to the Commission’s Committee on Books and Manuscripts, pending a thorough investigation of his “activities and loyalty.”

Throughout this attack and investigation, Solon J. Buck stood by and defended Ernst Posner. The suspicions surrounding Posner and Senator McKellar’s attack on Posner as an “alien from Germany” constituted what was arguably the worst attack by a Senate committee in the history of the National Archives. Despite the personal attack on Buck and Posner, Ernst Posner’s contributions to the National Archives led the government to ultimately recognize the importance of archival institutions both at home and abroad.


Rita Moreno, first Hispanic actress to win the Academy Award

Concluding our celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, intern in the National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications.

English Version: 

Rita Moreno has inspired many people throughout her celebrated career as an actress and stage performer. As the first Hispanic actress to win an Academy Award in 1961, she opened the door for hopeful Latinos in the entertainment industry. Moreno is also one of a select group of performers to have won all four of the most prestigious show business awards, two Emmys, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. This is known as the EGOT.

Her films include some of the most influential and popular musicals Hollywood has ever produced, including West Side Story (1961), Singin’ in the Rain (1952) and The King and I (1954). In 1955 Moreno received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

She has earned two of America’s highest honors the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush in 2004 and the National Medal of the Arts from President Obama in 2009 for her wide-ranging body of work and success in the entertainment industry.

President George W. Bush with Medal of Freedom recipient Rita Moreno.  (National Archives Identifier: 7431430)

President George W. Bush with Medal of Freedom recipient Rita Moreno.
(National Archives Identifier: 7431430)

Born in Humacao, Puerto Rico, she moved with her mother to New York when she was six years old. At age 13 she made her Broadway debut in the play Skydrift. She was discovered by an MGM talent scout when she was 17 years old and was signed for a multi-year movie contract by Louis B. Mayer.

When she won the role of Anita in West Side Story, Moreno was thrilled to play a Puerto Rican heroine. It was only after she won the Academy Award for this role that she was finally recognized as a major talent in Hollywood.

Unfortunately, the Oscar didn’t open the door for more diverse roles and she was constantly struggling with ethnic typecasting. She then decided to take a seven-year break from Hollywood until she could find less stereotypical roles to play. She eventually returned to performing and has since starred on television programs such as, “The Love Boat” and the popular HBO series “OZ.”

At 82 years old she is still busy performing. Moreno’s latest roles have included the sitcom Happily Divorced and her auto-biographical one-woman show at the Berkeley Rep (theater) in Berkeley, California, Rita Moreno: Life Without Makeup. She has also lent her voice for the character of Mimi for the film Rio 2 in 2014. She was presented with the Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award in January 18, 2014.

En español:

Concluyendo nuestra celebración en el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, este artículo proviene de la interna Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, de la Oficina de Estrategia y Comunicaciones de los Archivos Nacionales.

Rita Moreno ha inspirado a muchas personas a lo largo de su exitosa carrera como actriz y artista de teatro. Como la primera actriz hispana en ganar un Oscar en 1961, Rita abrió la puerta para los latinos en la industria del entretenimiento. Rita Moreno es también, una de un selecto grupo de artistas, que han ganado a travez de los años los cuatro premios más prestigiosos del mundo del espectáculo, dos Emmys, un Grammy, un Oscar y un Tony. Esto se conoce como el EGOT.

Entre sus películas se incluyen algunos de los musicales más influyentes y populares que Hollywood ha producido, tales como West Side Story (1961), Singin’ in the Rain (1952) y The King and I (1954). Moreno recibió una estrella en el Hollywood Walk of Fame en 1955.

Por su amplia calidad de trabajo y éxito en la industria del entretenimiento Rita Moreno ha obtenido dos de los honores más altos de los Estados Unidos, la Medalla Presidencial de la Libertad por el presidente Bush en 2004 y la Medalla Nacional de las Artes por el presidente Obama en 2009.

El presidente George W. Bush con la receptora de la Medalla de la Libertad Rita Moreno. Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 7431430

El presidente George W. Bush con la receptora de la Medalla de la Libertad Rita Moreno.
Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 7431430

Rita nació en Humacao, Puerto Rico. Se mudó con su madre a Nueva York cuando tenía seis años de edad. A los 13 años hizo su debut en Broadway en la obra Skydrift. Fue descubierta por un cazatalentos de MGM cuando tenía 17 años de edad y firmó un contrato de varios años para distintas películas por Louis B. Mayer.

Cuando ganó el papel de Anita en West Side Story, Moreno estaba muy emocionada con la oportunidad de jugar una heroína puertorriqueña. Fue sólo después de que ella ganó el Oscar por este papel que finalmente fue reconocida como un gran talento en Hollywood.

Desafortunadamente, el Oscar no le abrió a Rita la puerta para más diversos papeles y estuvo constantemente luchando con el “typecasting” étnico de Hollywood. Decidió entonces hacer una pausa de siete años hasta que pudiera encontrar papeles menos estereotipados para jugar. Con el tiempo volvió a la actuación y desde entonces ha protagonizado varios programas de televisión tales como, The Love Boat y la popular serie de HBO OZ.

A los 82 años de edad continua actuando. Las más recientes roles de Moreno han incluido la comedia Happily Divorced y su monólogo autobiográfico en el teatro Berkeley Rep en Berkeley, California, Rita Moreno: la Vida sin maquillaje. También ha prestado su voz para el personaje de Mimi para la película Rio 2 en 2014. Recibió el Screen Actors Guild Life Achievement Award el 18 de enero de 2014.


Indian Treaties at the Museum of the Indian Museum

Almost 220 years ago, representatives of the United States and more than 1,600 people from Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy (Six Nations—Seneca, Cayuga, Onondaga, Oneida, Mohawk, and Tuscarora) gathered together near Canandaigua, New York (the Finger Lakes region) to discuss peace and friendship.

On November 11, 1794, more than 50 chiefs and sachems, including Cornplanter and Red Jacket, signed a treaty. The treaty returned substantial tracts of land to the Haudenosaunee, which it had lost a decade earlier, but restricted the Haudenosaunee from making any further land claims for themselves. George Washington’s agent, Timothy Pickering, signed for the United States.

This fall and for the next six months, an even greater number of people will be able to see the treaty at the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) in Washington, DC. On September 21, the museum opened the exhibition “Nation to Nation: Treaties Between the United States and American Indian Nations.”

Eight treaties negotiated between 1790 and 1868 between the United States and Native Nations form the core of the exhibition. The original treaties are permanently housed just across the Mall at the National Archives, and one original will be rotated in the exhibition every six months. The Canandaigua Treaty, which has never before been exhibited, will be shown for the first six months.

From left: Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Oren Lyons; Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief Sidney Hill; Suzan Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), guest curator of the “Nation to Nation” exhbition; Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Jim Gardner, Executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Programs, and Museum Programs at the National Archives, welcome the Treaty of Canandaigua to the museum. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian)

From left: Faithkeeper of the Turtle Clan of the Onondaga Nation of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Oren Lyons; Tadodaho of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy Chief Sidney Hill; Suzan Shown Harjo (Cheyenne and Hodulgee Muscogee), guest curator of the “Nation to Nation” exhibition; Kevin Gover (Pawnee), director of the National Museum of the American Indian; and Jim Gardner, Executive for Legislative Archives, Presidential Programs, and Museum Programs at the National Archives, welcome the Treaty of Canandaigua to the museum. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian)

 

At least two original treaties were prepared and signed at Canandaigua. The Haudenosaunee original is kept at the Ontario Historical Society and displayed on Treaty Day every year. The United States original was brought back to Philadelphia, the U.S. capital at that time. Previously, President Washington had established the precedent of handling agreements with Indian nations in the same way as those with any foreign nation; such agreements were therefore subject to the ratification requirements laid out in the Constitution.

The President sent the agreements to the U.S. Senate for its advice and consent, and on January 9, 1795, the Senate gave its approval. The President proceeded to ratify the treaty 12 days later. To signify ratification, two separate pieces of parchment were attached to the existing treaty (also on parchment), the latter reading in part:

Now, Know Ye, that I having seen and considered the said treaty do by and with the advice and consent of the Senate of the United States accept ratify and confirm the same and every article and clause thereof. In testimony whereof, I have caused the seal of the United States to be here unto affixed and signed the same with my hand.

The Secretary of State, Edmund Randolph, signed as witness, and a paper wafer of the Great Seal of the United States was applied next to Washington’s signature.

Earlier, under the Articles of Confederation and the Confederation Congress, the national government had had great difficulty in setting a stable and effective Indian policy. In 1789, as the United States Government struggled to get on its feet with the new Constitution, George Washington’s Secretary of War Henry Knox wrote in a report:

The Indians, being the prior occupants, possess the right of the soil. It cannot be taken from them unless by their free consent, or by the right of conquest in case of a just war. To dispossess them on any other principle, would be a gross violation of the fundamental laws of nature, and of that distributive justice which is the glory of a nation.”

A few years later, Washington himself was sympathetic in his expressed policy toward treatment of Indians in a letter to his Attorney General Edmund Randolph:

It is my wish and desire that you would examine the Laws of the General Government which have relation to Indian affairs, that is, for the purpose of securing their lands to them; Restraining States or Individuals from purchasing their lands, and forbidding unauthorized intercourse in their dealing with them. And moreover, that you would suggest such auxiliary Laws as will supply the defects of those which are in being, thereby enabling the Executive to enforce obedience.

Letter from George Washington to Edmund Randolph, October 10, 1791 (General Records of the Department of State. RG 59)

Letter from George Washington to Edmund Randolph, October 10, 1791 (General Records of the Department of State. RG 59)

 

Sadly, Washington’s policy was soon overwhelmed after the Louisiana Purchase Treaty in 1803, followed by Manifest Destiny, multiple wars, and Indian removal to reservations in the west under Andrew Jackson beginning the 1830s.

Andrew Jackson Message to Congress, December 6, 1830 (Records of the United States Senate, RG 46)

Andrew Jackson’s message to Congress, December 6, 1830 (Records of the United States Senate, RG 46)

AJ Indian Removal 109

Andrew Jackson’s message to Congress, December 6, 1830 (Records of the United States Senate, RG 46)

 

The main case in “Nation to Nation” will feature these original treaties:

September 2014–February 2015 Treaty of Canandaigua, 1794

March 2015–August 2015 Muscogee Treaty, 1790

September 2015–February 2016 Horse Creek Treaty, 1851

March 2016–August 2016 Treaty with the Potawatomi, 1836

September 2016–January 2017 Unratified California Treaty K, 1852

February 2017–July 2017 Medicine Creek Treaty, 1854

August 2017–January 2018 Treaty with the Potawatomi, 1809

In the National Archives, there are a total of 367 ratified treaties between the United States and various Native American nations. In the same series are handwritten and printed copies of treaties reached with one or more American colonies between 1722 and 1768. The treaties were kept at the Department of State until they were transferred to the National Archives in the late 1930s.


Survey of Federal Records

Continuing our celebration of American Archives Month, today’s post comes from Tom Ryan, an intern in the National Archives History Office.

Photograph of storage conditions of the Office of Indian Affairs records, 1935.  (Records of the National Archives)

Photograph of storage conditions of the Office of Indian Affairs records, 1935.
(Records of the National Archives, RG 64)

Do you ever wonder where records were stored before the National Archives was created in 1934?

Before 1934, the Federal Government lacked a uniform manner to handle its records. Congress enacted legislation requiring each Government agency to keep its own records and gave the State Department responsibility for most archival duties.

In 1934, Congress passed legislation creating the National Archives which also created the office of the Archivist of the United States.

The new Archivist’s first step was to determine which of the older Federal records the Archives would accession (take legal and physical custody).

The National Archives Act also created the National Archives Council, whose primary duties were advising the Archivist in determining which documents should be included in the Archives.

The council was chaired by Secretary of State Cordell Hull. In a speech to the council, Hull declared: “We should approach our duty in a manner that will save us from allowing this vastly important work to become routine.”

In the early days, the process of collecting government records was anything but routine. Before the council could establish rules regarding the acquisition of records, it was first necessary to survey existing Federal records from all over the United States.

The National Archives Division of Accessions took responsibility for surveying records in the Washington metro area; the Works Progress Administration (WPA)—a New Deal program—took over the task of surveying records outside of Washington, DC.

Photograph of poor record storage conditions in the White House Garage, 1935. (Records of the National Archives)

Photograph of poor record storage conditions in the White House Garage, 1935.
(Records of the National Archives, RG 64)

Archives staff in Washington surveyed 5,157,019 linear feet of documents. Of these, 40.61 percent were stored in areas exposed to hazards of fire; 43.89 percent were exposed to dirt; 8.9 percent were stored in the damp conditions; and 5.12 percent were infested with insects or vermin.

Overall, 55 percent of the records were kept in unsuitable storage conditions.

Particularly egregious was the condition of War Department files in the White House garage. Such conditions demonstrated the dire need for a National Archives.

Around the country, WPA workers surveyed the records. These workers were previously unemployed citizens from the states they were assigned to survey.

While they often worked under unfavorable conditions, the surveyors also found their jobs were an adventure. For example, Arizona WPA workers traveled on horseback where there were no roads in order to survey the records of the Supai Indian reservation.

Works Progress Administration surveyors inspecting records storage conditions in Massachusetts, 1936. (Records of the Work Projects Administration)

Works Progress Administration surveyors inspect records storage conditions in Massachusetts, 1936. (Records of the Work Projects Administration, RG 69)

Elsewhere, WPA staff faced heat in excess of 116 degrees Fahrenheit. When records surveyors were not braving hail and dust storms in Colorado, they were facing moldy rodent-infested, dungeon-like rooms never meant for storage in New England.

In one southern city, WPA workers found the employee in charge of the records room was using it to breed pigeons. To even begin to survey, the holdings workers had to spend four weeks cleaning up pigeon feathers and droppings.

Through their hard work, the surveyors were able uncover many items of lasting importance to the country.

WPA staff examined the records of more than 7,000 agencies located in over 5,000 buildings across the nation comprising more than 2,000,000 linear feet of records. If one were to set out all the surveyed records in a line, it would stretch about 380 miles.

Works Progress Administration report on the condition of records storage rooms ca.1936. (Records of the Work Projects Administration)

Works Progress Administration report on the condition of records storage rooms ca.1936. (Records of the Work Projects Administration,RG 64)


President Nixon and the Hispanic Strategy

Continuing our celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month, this post comes from Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, intern in the National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications.

English Version: President Nixon and the Hispanic strategy during his re-election campaign

President Nixon and the President of Mexico review the troops at the White House, 06/15/1972. (National Archives Identifier: 194436)

President Nixon and the President of Mexico review the troops at the White House, 06/15/1972.
(National Archives Identifier: 194436)

The United States of America is witnessing a growing Latin American voting demographic, and many might be surprised to learn that the first “Latino” President was, in fact, Richard Nixon. In 1969, his first year in office, he established the Cabinet Committee on Opportunities for Spanish Speaking People.

Throughout his Presidency, he appointed more Latinos than any preceding President, including John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He remained unsurpassed in those numbers until Bill Clinton’s Presidency in the 1990’s.

President Nixon taking the oath of Office during his second inauguration, 01/20/1973. (National Archives Identifier: 7268203)

President Nixon taking the oath of Office during his second inauguration, 01/20/1973.
(National Archives Identifier: 7268203)

Over four decades ago, Hispanics in the United States found themselves exercising more power in a Presidential campaign that at any other time in American history.

Seeking re-election, President Nixon reached out to the Latino community by discussing his strategy for funding education, health, small businesses and other programs in Latin American communities in areas like Texas, California, and in the Southwest. Some called it the Nixon Hispanic Strategy.

Nixon received 40 percent of the Latino vote, by most estimates, in the 1972 re-election.

Nixon was often joined in his campaign by some of his most prominent Latino appointees, including Cabinet Committee Chairman Henry Ramirez, U.S. Treasurer Ramona Banuelos, and Office of the Economic Opportunity head Phillip Sanchez.

Even today, after recent Presidents such as Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama made a substantial effort to appeal to Latin American communities, Presidents Nixon’s historic appointments still warrants a singular recognition.

Arrival ceremony for President Carlos Cieras Restrepo of Colombia, 07/12/1969. (National Archives identifier: 194637)

Arrival ceremony for President Carlos Cieras Restrepo of Colombia, 07/12/1969.
(National Archives identifier: 194637)

 

Continuando con nuestra celebración en el Mes Nacional de la Herencia Hispana, este artículo proviene de la interna Idaliz Marie Ortiz Morales, de la Oficina de Estrategia y Comunicaciones de los Archivos Nacionales.

En Español: El Presidente Nixon y la Estrategia Hispana durante su campaña de reelección

Presidente Nixon y el Presidente de México revisen las tropas, 15/06/1972.  (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 194436)

Presidente Nixon y el Presidente de México revisen las tropas, 15/06/1972.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 194436)

Los Estados Unidos está siendo testigo de un crecimiento demográfico en el voto latinoamericano, y muchos se sorprenderan al enterarse de que el primer Presidente “Latino” fue, de hecho, Richard Nixon. En 1969, durante su primer año de mandato, él estableció el Comité del Gabinete de las personas de habla hispana.

A lo largo de su presidencia, nombraría a más latinos que cualquier presidente anterior, incluyendo a John F. Kennedy y Lyndon Johnson. Permaneció insuperable en estos números hasta la presidencia de Bill Clinton en la década de 1990.

Richard Nixon tomá el juramento de Oficina durante su segunda inauguración como presidente, 01/20/1973.  (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 7268203)

Richard Nixon tomá el juramento de Oficina durante su segunda inauguración como presidente, 01/20/1973.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 7268203)

Hace más de cuatro décadas, los hispanos en los Estados Unidos se encontraron ejerciendo más poder en una campaña presidencial que en cualquier otro momento en la historia estadounidense.

Buscando la reelección, el presidente Nixon se acercó a la comunidad latina hablando de su estrategia para financiar la educación, la salud, las pequeñas empresas y otros programas en las comunidades latinoamericanas en áreas como Texas, California y en el suroeste. Algunos lo llamaron la Estrategia Hispana de Nixon.

Nixon recibió el 40 por ciento del voto latino, según la mayoría de las estimaciones de los analistas, en su reelección a la presidencia.

Nixon fue acompañado en su campaña por algunos de sus más prominentes designados latinos, incluyendo el presidente del Comité del Gabinete Henry Ramírez, Tesorero de los Estados Unidos Ramona Banuelos, y el jefe de la Oficina de la Oportunidad Económica Phillip Sanchez. La estrategia resultó exitosa, tanto para el Presidente y la comunidad latina.

Incluso hoy en día, después de que los presidentes recientes, como Bill Clinton, George W. Bush y Barack Obama han hecho un esfuerzo considerable para atraer a las comunidades de América Latina, las citas históricas del presidente Nixon todavía ameritan un reconocimiento singular.

Ceremonia de llegada de Su Excelencia Carlos Cieras Restrepo de Colombia, 07/12/1969.  (Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 194637)

Ceremonia de llegada de Su Excelencia Carlos Cieras Restrepo de Colombia, 07/12/1969.
(Identificador de los Archivos Nacionales: 194637)