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Tag: washington

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 ]

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 ]

NPRC helps solve headstone riddle at Arlington National Cemetery

Photograph of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 05/30/1961 (306-SUB-MON-166)

Photograph of Arlington National Cemetery on Memorial Day, 05/30/1961 (306-SUB-MON-166)

When Washington Post reporter Christian Davenport uncovered the headstones of American veterans lying in a murky stream bed at Arlington National Cemetery this month, NARA’s National Personnel Records Center was solicited to help identify one of the partially legible grave markers.

Officials at Arlington National Cemetery were unsure how the stones got into the creek, to whom they belonged, and how old they were. It was possible the stones were engraved incorrectly and the discarded stones were used to line the stream bed. But it was also possible that these were the headstones of fallen veterans.

One headstone in particular offered some clues. With a design that was discontinued in the late 1980s, it offered some time frame as to when the markers arrived in the stream bed.

More important, there was a partially legible name on the marker. If the name could be associated with a veteran, it could explain where the headstones came from, when they were put there, and also help restore honor to one of America’s fallen heroes. The headstone only showed the rank of a Navy captain, and the name J (or L) Warren McLaughlin.

At the National Archives, veterans’ records from the 20th century are stored at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC), located in St. Louis, MO.

The … [ Read all ]

Expo 2010, meet Expo 74

The World Expo 2010 in Shanghai, China, opened this month and expects to attract 70 million visitors.

If you are not going to China, you can still visit the World Expos of the past, here in the National Archives.

Since the 1876 exposition in Philadelphia, the United States has hosted over a dozen expos. The growing concern for the environment in the early 1970s (the first Earth Day in 1970, establishment of the EPA in 1971) made it appropriate that the theme of Expo 74 in Spokane was “Celebrating Tomorrow’s Fresh New Environment.”

One of the EPA’s DOCUMERICA photographers, Charles O’Rear, took pictures of the preparations for the Spokane Expo, and several of these are online in the National Archives Archival Research Catalog.

The DOCUMERICA photography project was described in the Spring 2009 issue of Prologue, and an album of selected DOCUMERICA images is on the National Archives’ Flickr photostream.

"Passengers enjoy the view in the observation car aboard Expo '74 as the passenger train passes through the Cascade Mountain range enroute from Spokane to Seattle" (412-DA-13666)

"Passengers enjoy the view in the observation car aboard Expo '74 as the passenger train passes through the Cascade Mountain range enroute from Spokane to Seattle" (412-DA-13666)

[ Read all ]