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Tag: Center for Legislative Archives

The Oath of Office: The First Act of the First Congress

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, Archives Specialist 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 the First Congress met in New York City in March of 1789, they faced an enormous undertaking. The new Constitution had just been ratified, and Congress was the first part of the new Federal government to meet and take shape. Ahead of them lay numerous important and urgent tasks: they needed to create the Treasury, War, and Foreign Affairs departments; the Federal judiciary; and a system of taxation and collection. They also needed to determine patent and copyright laws, rules for naturalization, the location of a new capital city, administration of the census, amendments to the Constitution, and much more.

But before the members of Congress could get to all of this pressing business, there was something more important they needed to do—so important that it was the first bill introduced in the House of Representatives, and the first act signed into law by President George Washington.

An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths, June 1, 1789. Records of the General Government, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 596341

An Act to Regulate the Time and Manner of Administering Certain Oaths, June 1, 1789. Records of the General Government, National Archives. National Archives Identifier 596341

“An Act … [ Read all ]

History Crush: Charles Sumner

Charles Sumner, from the Encyclopedia Britannica

Valentine’s Day is the perfect time to launch our new “History Crush” series. Staff from across the National Archives will share which historic person in our holdings makes their heart beat a little faster! Our inaugural guest post comes from Natalie Rocchio, who is an archives specialist at the Center for Legislative Archives in the National Archives.

Since starting at the Center for Legislative Archives, I’ve been crushing on a certain former statesman from Massachusetts . . . and no, he’s not a Kennedy.

 My history crush is Senator Charles Sumner, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1833. He was a world traveler (it’s said that he spoke at least three languages fluently!). He was a gifted orator and a well-known pacifist. As a member of Congress, he worked to end slavery in America and ensure civil rights for African Americans. 

Sumner began his political career in 1848. He was elected to the Senate in 1851 as a member of the Free Soil Party and later reelected as a member of the Opposition, Republican, and Liberal Republication Parties from 1855 to 1874.

In 1856, he delivered a speech called “Crime Against Kansas” during the Kansas statehood debate in which he denounced slavery and attacked other senators who supported the institution. On May 22, after the Senate had adjourned for the day, … [ Read all ]

Ten years later: Handling 9/11 Commission records

A worker stands at Ground Zero, October 3, 2001, in New York City. (Photo by Paul Morse, George W. Bush Presidential Library; ARC 5997364)

This post is part of a series on September 11. As the nation’s record keeper, the National Archives holds many documents related to the events of September 11. In this series, our staff share some of their memories of the day and their thoughts on the records that are part of their holdings.

Today’s blogger is Kristen Wilhelm, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.

People are always telling me where they were on September 11, 2001. It’s an occupational hazard of mentioning that I work at the National Archives and process the records of the 9/11 Commission. I’ve stopped mentioning that last part. I think that’s best. Nothing says “stay away from the dame at the dessert table!” like mention of a national tragedy. Except for the people who are convinced it didn’t happen. Those I attract like bees to honey.

For those of you I haven’t scared away (don’t feel awkward, I’m used to it), I’ll share a little of my experience with these records. It’s time for it, I suppose, with the 10th anniversary almost here. Anyone who knows me knows I’m what my grandmother always called “a smart aleck.” To the chagrin … [ Read all ]

Inside the Treasure Vault

First page of George Washington's First Inaugural Address, 04/30/1789 (1634180). Item from Record Group 46: Records of the U.S. Senate, 1789-2006.

The National Archives has over 3,000 employees, but not all of them are archivists. There are educators, social media writers, preservationists, security personnel, and Federal Records Center workers. Some of us handle records all day, but for many of us, our jobs do not bring us into direct contact with the records.

That’s why it is so exciting to go inside the Treasure Vault, as we call the specially secured and fire-safe room that holds some of the most interesting and precious documents of the National Archives. Today, some of our staff from various departments took a special trip to Treasure Vault of the Center for Legislative Archives (CLA), which holds the records of the  U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.

These treasures range in content and across time, from Clifford Berryman’s political cartoons (when CLA acquired them, the drawings were stored in trash bags) to a radar map showing Japanese planes approaching Pearl Harbor to the electronic records from the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks on the United States (the 9/11 Commission).

But my favorite record from Congress? It was George Washington’s inaugural address. The two sheets were in a protective case, but when the archivist held them up in front of me, it was still thrilling to see the … [ Read all ]