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Tag: Truman

The Father of Flag Day

Today’s post comes from Emma Rothberg, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC. June 14 marks the annual celebration known as Flag Day. 

On June 14, 1885, Bernard J. Cigrand placed a 10-inch, 38-star flag in a bottle on his desk at the Stony Hill School in Ozaukee County, Wisconsin. The 19-year-old teacher then asked his students to write essays on the flag and its significance to them. This small observance marked the beginning of a long and devoted campaign by Cigrand to bring about national recognition for Flag Day.

While many communities celebrated June 14 as Flag Day in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the day was not nationally recognized until 1916. In that year, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for the first nationwide observance of Flag Day.

Later, in 1949, President Harry Truman signed an act of Congress designating June 14 as National Flag Day. The act also requested that the President issue an annual proclamation calling for its observance and for the display of the flag of the United States on all Federal Government buildings.

But why June 14? Cigrand didn’t choose a random summer’s day. He chose this date because on June 14, 1777, the Continental Congress approved the design of a national flag by in this resolution:

Resolved, that the Flag of … [ Read all ]

A big cheese for the Big Cheese in 1837

In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.

Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:

Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already.  As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain.  The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.

Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where the absent members had gone. There was a big cheese to be eaten at the White House to-day, and the appetites of members had driven them there to partake in the treat. To

[ Read all ]

Executive Order 9981: Equality in the military

Cast your vote for Executive Order 9981 to be displayed first in the new “Records of Rights” gallery. Polls close on November 15!

Today’s post comes from Tammy Williams, archivist at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library

President Harry S. Truman spent his entire young adulthood in Missouri, a border state during the Civil War. Both of his sets of grandparents owned slaves. Many voters and politicians believed that Truman would carry his region’s prejudices to the White House and would do comparatively little to advance the cause of civil rights. And so Truman’s decision to issue Executive Order 9981 to provide for equality of treatment and opportunity in the military surprised many people.

What led President Truman to this decision? As African American soldiers returned to the United States from fighting overseas in World War II, they hoped to return to a more equitable society. However, many soldiers experienced openly hostile reactions from white Southerners as they wore their uniforms in their hometowns.

Two such cases made national headlines. In Aiken, South Carolina, a bus driver kicked Sergeant Isaac Woodward off a bus for allegedly being disruptive, and a police officer beat him and gouged out his eyes, blinding him. In Monroe, Georgia, a group of white men dragged two soldiers and their wives from a car and shot them.

In September 1946, shortly … [ Read all ]

White House Reunions: Presidential Library Dedications

Today’s blog post comes from Susan Donius, Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries at the National Archives.

It’s not often that several Presidents are together at one time, but on April 25, the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum will be dedicated to the American public. Although many dignitaries from around the world will attend, all eyes will likely focus on the gathering of men who have called the White House home. In addition to George W. Bush, guests of honor will include current Commander-in-Chief Barack Obama, and former Presidents William J. Clinton, George Bush, and Jimmy Carter.

The first Presidential Library and Museum was conceived and built under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s direction from 1939 to 1940 in Hyde Park, NY. The official FDR Library dedication was a small, quiet affair, with close friends and family attending the ceremony. Over the years, the ceremonies have grown larger, and dedications have become notable for the atmosphere of nonpartisan goodwill and respect among former Presidents.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum was dedicated on July 6, 1957, in Independence, MO. During Truman’s Presidency, Herbert Hoover offered his services to help with post–World War II humanitarian efforts. Despite being Presidents from opposing parties, the two forged a working relationship that eventually grew into a strong friendship. At the Truman Library dedication, Herbert Hoover delivered remarks … [ Read all ]

Application Denied!

Today’s blog post was written by Sam Rushay, a supervisory archivist at the Truman Presidential Library.

In the late summer of 1945, Frances Sarah Curtis of Mt. Rainier, MD, applied for a White House pass. Curtis, a Treasury Department employee in the Bureau of Public Debt (BPD), had worked in the White House File Room for 10 days in June before returning to the Treasury Department.

Perhaps hoping for a permanent White House job, Curtis applied for a pass.

The U.S. Secret Service conducted a standard background investigation of Curtis. She did not receive a White House pass. Two reasons were given. The first reason was because she owed $100 in unpaid tuition to the Wilcox College of Commerce in Cleveland, OH, where she had taken secretarial courses from 1937 to 1939.

The second, more damaging, reason was the presence of her name on the mailing lists of the American Peace Mobilization (APM) and the Current Events Club, formerly the Council Education Alliance. The investigators note in the report that these “groups are considered Communistic in nature.” She had also contributed money to the APM. And while there was no evidence that she had ever attended any meetings, there also was “nothing to indicate that she was not active” with these groups. Known Communists had attended these meetings, although evidence suggested that Curtis herself … [ Read all ]