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Tag: declaration of independence

Top 14 Moments at the National Archives in 2013

Wow–what a year! Our editorial panel tried to limit this list to ten, but eventually we gave up and picked 14 instead. (For more great National Archives moments, check on out the Top 10 Innovative Moments of 2013.)

We also want to send a big thank you to the staff members of the National Archives across the nation, who worked so hard to make these moments possible. And a huge thank you to our partners, sponsors, researchers, visitors, and social media followers who share in our love of history. We are grateful to be able to make your history accessible to you in so many ways in 2013!

FOURTEEN

40th Anniversary of the Fire in the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis

If you have served in the U.S. military, your file is part of the holdings in the National Archives in St. Louis. Each year, staff respond to one million requests for direct military benefits and entitlements from veterans and their next of kin. In the Research Room, staff pulled more than 41,000 military personnel records.

And Preservation Programs in St. Louis responded to more than 200 daily requests for burned Army and Air Force records. The fire that swept through the sixth floor of the National Personnel Records Center on July 12, 1973, damaged and destroyed millions of documents. Each … [ Read all ]

Happy July 2, John Adams!

There wasn’t supposed to be a Fourth of July celebration in the vision of John Adams, one of our Founding Fathers and our second President.

But in that Philadelphia summer of 1776, having successfully argued for the Second Continental Congress to declare the United States independent of Great Britain, Adams was excited.

The day after the Congress approved the resolution declaring independence on July 2,  Adams penned one of the many letters he wrote home to his wife, Abigail. He wrote, in part:

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.

Adams got his pomp and parade and his bells and bonfires—and from one end of the continent to the other—but he was off by two days.

The Congress did indeed declare the United States independent on July 2, and Adams played no small part in it. The delegates debated Thomas Jefferson’s draft of the Declaration … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: Making the Constitution accessible

October is American Archives Month! To celebrate, we’re running a series of “spotlights” on the many locations that make up the National Archives. Today’s post features the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, and was written by Rick Blondo, management and program analyst at the National Archives.

The Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights are on permanent display in the Rotunda at the National Archives Building. But up until 2003, some visitors could not easily see these important documents or the documents displayed along with them.

The design of the original display cases, built in 1935, meant that items were displayed flat or nearly flat with the front edge of the cases about 40 inches above the floor. This height and angle made it nearly impossible for young children or people in wheelchairs to see the documents.

New display cases, installed as part of a building-wide renovation from 2000 to 2005, make those documents easily viewable by all visitors. During the renovation, we learned there was no accessible design standard for exhibit display cases containing original archival records. We consulted with experts and used a mock-up to test different heights and angles of display.

In 1999, volunteers tested and scored the original display cases and a mock-up. Three volunteers—two adults and one child—were in wheelchairs. The other eight volunteers—six adults and two children—were ambulatory

[ Read all ]

Descendants of the signers to read the Declaration of Independence on July 4

With Independence Day around the corner, we caught up with a few of this year’s speakers to get their thoughts on the Declaration of Independence, their connection to history, and celebrating at the National Archives.

Four descendants from the original signers will read the Declaration of Independence this year.

Three are members of the Society of the Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence and one is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). While the Declaration of Independence holds special value for all Americans, the document holds a personal significance for the descendants of the signers.

“I feel a great sense of pride in this beautiful document,” said Laura Haines Belman, who is related to three of the Founding Fathers. “I’m happy to know it and to be reading it. There are certain phrases that have their own lives: ‘We mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.’ As Descendants of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, when we gather three times a year in Philadelphia, the Declaration of Independence is read aloud at least twice a year. That phrase is something we all know—it just rings in the ears.”

Belman is descended from three signers: Samuel Chase of Maryland, William Ellery of Rhode Island, and Oliver Wolcott of Connecticut. Her son, John Chase Belman, will … [ Read all ]

In their own words: John Adams and Ben Franklin, Part I

This is part of a series, written by Jim Zeender, devoted to letters written by the Founding Fathers in their own words and often in their own hand. Jim is a senior registrar in National Archives Exhibits.

John Adams of Massachusetts and Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania crossed paths during “critical moments” in the earliest days of the republic. They met for the first time at the First Continental Congress at Philadelphia in 1774, the first joint meeting of 12 American colonies (Georgia did not attend). Both were supporters of independence, Adams most publicly and Franklin more behind the scenes, though both were equally masterful wordsmiths.

During the Revolutionary War, Adams and Franklin worked together in Paris to obtain French support for the American cause, sometimes clashing on how best to do so. ­And they successfully negotiated peace with Great Britain. They saw each other for the last time in 1785, when Adams left Franklin in Paris for his assignment as the first Minister Plenipotentiary to Great Britain from the United States. During the years in between, their relationship had its ups and downs.

Their most intimate experience probably happened during an unsuccessful peace mission in September 1776. The British forces had recently raced across Long Island (New York) and almost destroyed the American Army. The British commander, Adm. Lord Richard Howe, then offered peace. Congress sent Adams, Franklin, and … [ Read all ]