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Tag: strange facts

Is West Virginia Constitutional?

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

Subpoena of West Virginia (Records of the Supreme Court, ARC 597545)

On the creation of new states, the Constitution is pretty clear. Article IV, Section 3, reads that “no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State … without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress.”

It appears that someone forgot to tell West Virginia about this. In 1863, the Mountain State carved itself out of the northwestern corner of the Commonwealth of Virginia, raising the question: Is West Virginia unconstitutional?

Breaking up is never easy, especially when a Civil War is under way. While the Virginia government in Richmond seceded from the Union in the spring of 1861, up in the town of Wheeling, delegates from the northwestern part of the state got together to counter-secede. These delegates said the government in Richmond had no right to leave the Union, and as such they now constituted the state of Virginia. Thankfully, to keep things from getting too complicated, they agreed to call themselves New Virginia, or more fancifully, “The Restored Government of Virginia” (Kanawha was another name under consideration).

By 1862, through some questionable electoral processes, the “Restored Government of Virginia” had written up a new Constitution and applied for statehood. After a few edits—Lincoln insisted they insert a provision … [ Read all ]

Facial Hair Friday: By Request

Horace Greeley, ca. 1860-ca. 1865, ARC 526061

Horace Greeley, ca. 1860-ca. 1865, ARC 526061

At least three colleagues here at the National Archives and one commenter have mentioned Horace Greeley as a candidate for the spotlight here at Facial Hair Friday. And upon looking him up and letting out a strangled gasp, I had to agree that his facial hair is indeed worthy of a blog post.

I’m not sure that Greeley’s hair is even, well, facial. It’s more like neck hair run amok. Is it a beard or a neck-beard “neard”?

In a recent FHF post, we posted a table that showed the bearded candidate had a better chance of winning when pitted against a clean-shaven candidate.

In 1872, Greeley even ran as a Presidential candidate against the heavily bearded Grant, but suffered a landslide loss. In the tabulation, we did not count Greeley’s facial hair as a beard, since it did not cover his chin.

Might Greeley have more political success with a different whisker style? Should we have counted his “neard” as a beard?

Despite Greeley’s eccentric appearance, he was also a well-respected editor who launched the widely read The New York Tribune.  “According to this article, he “opposed slavery as morally deficient and economically regressive” and supported the Emanicipation Proclamation (on display at the National Archives from November 11 to 14).… [ Read all ]

Censorship and the C*** W**

Clement Vallandigham, the only man exiled by Abraham Lincoln (111-B-3627)

Clement Vallandigham, was exiled by Abraham Lincoln. (111-B-3627)

Censorship has always been a delicate subject in American history. From John Adam’s Alien and Sedition Acts to the publication of the “Government Information Manual for the Motion Picture” during World War II, national security and the freedom of speech have always had a tenuous existence, especially in wartime. The Civil War was no exception.

During the Civil War, President Lincoln famously suspended habeas corpus to make it easier to deal with people “guilty of any disloyal practice.” There was also a congressional investigation over whether the government was censoring the telegraph in 1861. And then there was the case of Clement Vallandigham.

In the early years of the war, Ohio and much of the Midwest was outspokenly against the war. Fighting for states’ rights and a peaceful solution to a war that seemed to have no end, the Copperheads made their home here. Also known as peace Democrats, Copperheads wanted to reconcile with the South and pretend this whole Civil War thing never happened. Lincoln was famously terrified of “the fire in the rear”—dissension, that is, to his war policies, especially from the Copperheads.

In an effort to tamp out dissenting voices, Gen. Ambrose Burnside issued General Order No. 38 in April 1863. It declared martial law and forbade the “habit of declaring sympathies for the … [ Read all ]

What’s in your wallet?

The Department of Treasury building under construction in 1861

The Department of Treasury building under construction in 1861 (121-BC-9A)

During the Civil War in 1861, a nearly broke Federal Government came up with a clever way to get rich quick: print money. Prior to this the United States Treasury had never issued the paper dollars we have all come to recognize as U.S. currency, relying instead on coins and paper banknotes.

The mastermind of the paper currency was Salmon P. Chase, an aspiring politician and the Secretary of the Treasury. Not one to miss an advertising opportunity to boost his political career, Chase put his own portrait on America’s first greenback dollar bill (he also appears on the $10,000 bill, but that wasn’t his call) and emblazoned the currency with the words “In God We Trust.”

While Chase’s greenbacks helped pull the Government from the brink of financial ruin, a hastily created paper currency used throughout the Union (and much of the Confederacy) made it a target for counterfeiters. By the end of the Civil War, one in every three bills was fake. At some points during the war, a dollar bill was only worth 34 cents due in part to counterfeiting schemes.

Abraham Lincoln understood this problem. On April 14, 1865, President Lincoln created the Secret Service to purge the country of counterfeit bills. Later that night, Lincoln was shot.

Ironically, the Secret … [ Read all ]

Inside the Vaults – Discovering the Civil War

Part Two of Discovering the Civil War opens at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on November 10!

 Rarely seen footage of Civil War veterans, intelligence gathering with balloons, prosthetic limbs, two different Thirteenth Amendments, and the Confederate States of Mexico are just a few of the ways that the National Archives Experience is showing you the Civil War as you’ve never seen it.

Watch the latest “Inside the Vaults” video below, and then visit us at the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC, on November 10.

If you enjoy this video, don’t forget to ‘Like’ it down below on Facebook and share it with your friends.

[ Read all ]