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Tag: letters

In their own words: Thomas Jefferson and the Storming of the Bastille

This post 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 Exhibits.

King Louis XVI of France, via Wikipedia.

On July 14, 1789, the U.S. Ambassador to France, Thomas Jefferson, was a witness to the events of  a day in Paris that is commonly associated with the beginning of the French Revolution. Jefferson recorded the events of the day in a lengthy and detailed letter to John Jay, then Secretary of Foreign Affairs.

The American Revolutionary War began as a conflict between the colonies and England. In time, what began as a civil disturbance turned into a world war drawing France, Spain, and the Netherlands into the hostilities. France would send troops, ships, and treasure to support the American effort.   During the war, one of the first priorities of the French government and its allies was to raise funds to fight the war.

When the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1783, France was virtually broke and on the edge of social catastrophe, the result of decades of war with England and other countries. The poor suffered hunger and privation. By 1789, revolution would come to France.

In 1785, Thomas Jefferson arrived in Paris to replace Benjamin Franklin, who was retiring … [ Read all ]

Inside the Vaults: George Washington and the Paparazzi

America is a celebrity-crazed nation, a place where movie stars, musicians, and even politicians are relentlessly pursued by the paparazzi. But you may be surprised to learn that our national fascination with fame predates Hollywood and the modern media.

The proof is in an original letter written by President Washington to his friend, Gov. Henry Lee of Virginia, on July 3, 1792.

In the letter, which is currently on display in the Public Vaults exhibition at the National Archives, President Washington complains about the persistent inquiries of portrait artists: “I am so heartily tired of these kinds of people that it is now more than two years since I have resolved to sit no more for any of them.” As National Archives curator Alice Kamps explains in the video below, 18th-century artists were the equivalent of the modern paparazzi.

In celebration of the 280th birthday of America’s first President, the National Archives has released this short documentary video, “George Washington and the Paparazzi.” The three-minute video is part of the ongoing “Inside the Vaults” series on our YouTube channel.… [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: Elvis has NOT left the building

The most popular photograph at the National Archives (ARC 1634221)

Are these the most famous sideburns in music history? They might be the most famous sideburns in the National Archives.

If you are a fan of Elvis, you’ve seen the photograph: Nixon and Elvis shaking hands in the White House. This is the most-requested image in our holdings. The quirky story behind the meeting of the King of Rock and Roll and the President of the United States is featured in this online exhibit.

But it’s not the only record we have of Elvis.

In December of 1957, Elvis was drafted for the U.S. Army. This career change was an upsetting event for fans. The Eisenhower Library has a letter from three girls in Montana who despaired over a possible shaving of  the singer’s sideburns: “You don’t no how we feel about him, I really don’t see why you have to send him in the Army at all, but we beg you please please don’t give him a G.I. hair cut, oh please please don’t!  If you do we will just about die!”

But their letter writing was in vain. On March 24, 1958, Presley signed his acknowledgement of service obligation and entered the Army. (Alas, his sideburns did not.)

Since Elvis served in the military, his file is part of the permanant holdings of the National Personnel … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: A Letter from Hairy Harry

The future President sports a rare mustache at Army Reserve camp. From the Harry Truman Presidential Library.

Today’s guest post comes from Tammy Kelly at the Truman Presidential Library.

This week’s Facial Hair Friday photo is a most unexpected person: Harry S. Truman, before he became President! At the Truman Library, we know of only two photographs of Truman wearing any kind of facial hair, so this is a rare photo, indeed.

What prompted this mustache? Truman was away from home.

Truman served as a captain of Battery D of the 129th Field Artillery during World War I. After his discharge, he joined the Army Reserves and participated in yearly training camps, usually held during the summer. Truman had always fancied himself a soldier, and by and large, he had enjoyed his time in the Army. Participating in the Reserves allowed him to continue to fulfill his dreams—and provided a convenient means to get together with “the guys” for a little politicking, poker playing, and tale-telling, as well as for the fresh air and exercise.

But while Truman enjoyed getting away from the stresses of his job, he also desperately missed his family. Whenever he was away from his wife, Bess, for more than a day or two, he wrote her a letter. The Truman Library has over 1,300 letters that Harry wrote to Bess over … [ Read all ]