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Tag: great depression

Thanksgiving with the Presidents

Today’s guest post comes from Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives. This post originally appeared on the White House blog.

Did you know that before the 1940s, Thanksgiving was not on a fixed date but was whenever the President proclaimed it to be?

George Washington issued the first Presidential proclamation for the holiday in 1789.  That year he designated Thursday, November 26 as a national day of “public thanksgiving.”  The United States then celebrated its first Thanksgiving under its new Constitution.   Seventy-four years later, in 1863, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday on the last Thursday in November.

By the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Presidency, Thanksgiving was not a fixed holiday; it was up to the President to issue a Thanksgiving Proclamation to announce what date the holiday would fall on.  Tradition had dictated that the holiday be celebrated on the last Thursday of the month, however, this tradition became increasingly difficult to continue during the challenging times of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt’s first Thanksgiving in office fell on November 30, the last day of the month, because November had five Thursdays that year. This meant that there were only about 20 shopping days until Christmas and statistics showed that most people waited until after Thanksgiving to begin their holiday shopping.  Business leaders feared they would … [ Read all ]

Archives Spotlight: Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

Happy American Archives Month! Throughout October, we’re running a series of “spotlights” on the many locations that make up the National Archives. You can visit the exhibits or use the research rooms.

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa, has an unusual location. It is within the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site, a 187-acre park administered by the National Park Service. The location is meant to preserve the wildlife and nature in the site and the Quaker community in which Hoover grew up.

Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum

The Herbert Hoover Presidential Library and Museum in West Branch, Iowa.

Permanent exhibitions are organized chronologically in a series of galleries that showcase Hoover’s fascinating life and accomplishments. They flow from Hoover’s orphaned boyhood and youth in Iowa, to his success as a global businessman, to his humanitarian efforts during World War I. There is a section that discusses the enormous cultural and technological changes in the Roaring Twenties, which then moves into Hoover’s time as Secretary of Commerce in the same decade, his Presidential campaign and election, his role in the Great Depression, and his post-Presidential life and work. There is also a gallery dedicated to Lou Henry Hoover and her role as First Lady.

Lou Henry and Herbert Hoover on the deck of their cabin at Camp Rapidan, Virginia. August 2, 1930. Herbert Hoover Library.

In … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: When Irish mustaches are smiling

Patrick Joseph Kennedy, circa 1900. From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston KFC 2706 (PC 245)

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

With all the hoopla over the upcoming release of the 1940 census on April 2, we haven’t really been thinking about facial hair all that much.

But then fellow National Archives staff member Jeannie (of the OurPresidents tumblr blog) sent me this photograph, and genealogy, facial hair, and St. Patrick’s Day all came together.

The mustachioed and bespectacled man to the left is Patrick J.  Kennedy, the grandfather of President John F. Kennedy and—like many Americans—the child of Irish immigrants.

His mustache, while of Irish descent, was grown in the United States.

JFK’s great-grandfather was Patrick Kennedy. He left his work as a cooper in his hometown of Dunganstown, County Wexford, and made his way to the United States and settled in Boston.

In 1849, Patrick married another Irish immigrant, Bridget Murphy, who also came from County Wexford. But after just nine years of marriage, Patrick died and left Bridget a widow with four small children. The youngest was Patrick Joseph “P.J.” Kennedy, JFK’s grandfather.

P.J. continued the family line by marrying Mary Augusta Hickey, whose parents were also orginally from Ireland. The couple lived in East Boston and their son, Joseph Patrick Kennedy, was born on September 6, 1888.  He was John F. Kennedy’s father.

Many Americans can trace their … [ Read all ]

Artists at work in the National Archives

A display of handmade gifts at the American Artisans Fair at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on December 2 to 6.

We’ve got lots of artists in the building today. If you visit the National Archives Building from December 2 to 6, you can partake of history and do your Christmas shopping and support local artists and support the programs of the National Archives!

The holiday fair is officially titled “The Way We Worked” American Artisans Fair. Local area artists were invited to participate. Chris DerDerian, the manager of the National Archives Shop, was inspired by the New Deal programs that put artists to work during the Great Depression. Between 1935 and 1943, citizens held 8 million jobs through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). While the WPA administered large projects like the creation of roads, it also administered projects in the arts.

“This first annual fair is to encourage visitors to the National Archives to support the work of today’s American artisans as they shop for meaningful contemporary gifts celebrating American history this holiday season,” DerDerian said.

I was curious about what exactly artists were hired to do during the 1930s, so I did a quick search in our Online Public Access database and discovered this delightful piece of administrative reporting from 1940: Report of WPA Activities of the Golden Gate International Exposition.

If you … [ Read all ]

Happy Birthday, National Park Service!

On this day in 1916, the National Park Service was formed within the Department of Interior.

[ Read all ]