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Tag: December 13

A homecoming for six pages of parchment

Although the National Archives Building was nearly completed in 1935, the Rotunda sat empty.

Then, on December 13, 1952, an armored Marine Corps personnel carrier made its way down Constitution Avenue, accompanied by two light tanks, four servicemen carrying submachine guns, and a motorcycle escort. A color guard, ceremonial troops, the Army Band, and the Air Force Drum and Bugle Corps were also part of the procession. Members of all the military branches lined the street.

Inside the personnel carrier were six parchment documents. The records were in helium-filled glass cases packed inside wooden crates resting on mattresses.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were going to the National Archives.

In 1926, $1 million was appropriated for a national archives building, and in 1930 President Hoover appointed an Advisory Committee for the National Archives to draw up specifications for the building. John Russell Pope was selected as architect, and a year later, ground was broken. By 1933, the cornerstone of the building had been put in place by President Herbert Hoover. Staff were working in the unfinished building by 1935.

But despite this flurry of activity, the vault-like building did not house the founding documents that we call the “Charters of Freedom.”

The documents had been shuttled around to various buildings for various reasons. They started out in the Department of State, and as the capital moved from New York to Philadelphia to Washington, DC, these documents moved too. Eventually … [ Read all ]