The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library: The 30-Year Journey

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Emily Niekrasz, an intern in the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

Photograph of Harry S. Truman in his Office at the Truman Library, July 1961. (National Archives Identifier 6233777)

Photograph of Harry S. Truman in his Office at the Truman Library, July 1961. (National Archives Identifier 6233777)

In the 1960s, if one called the Harry S. Truman Library, the former President himself may have answered.

Although Truman was apprehensive about constructing a “shrine” to himself—especially while he was still living—he understood the importance of preserving his Presidential papers for future scholars and administrations.

However, because the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library was the only precedent, the Presidential Libraries Act was still not law. The slow process of construction and planning a library meant that Truman’s papers were without a permanent home for years.

In January 1953, most of Truman’s papers were moved in 12 trucks from Washington, DC, to the Jackson County Courthouse in Kansas City, MO, where the archival process of sorting through his papers began.

Even after the move, however, the President and First Lady Bess Truman continued to be overwhelmed by the volume of records.

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt, February 18, 1953 (National Archives Identifier 4708859)

Letter from Harry S. Truman to Eleanor Roosevelt, February 18, 1953 (National Archives Identifier 4708859)

On February 18, 1953, President Truman wrote to Eleanor Roosevelt that there were papers and significant items in two places in Kansas City and in an office in the Federal Reserve Bank Building.

Truman continued, “I don’t know whether we will ever get on top of it or not.”

While the Trumans struggled to manage papers at home, archivists attempted to organize papers while coping with yet another upcoming move.

In the fall of 1954, because new judges were added to the courts in Kansas City, the Truman papers were forced to relocate to the Memorial Building in Independence, MO.

Archivist Philip D. Lagerquist recalled, “It wasn’t really a satisfactory place, because rooms were lined with wood, and we were right next to the furnace room.”

Nearly two years after their first move from Washington, DC, Truman’s Presidential papers still had no home.

Photograph of Harry S. Truman Library, ca. 1960 (National Archives Identifier 12170023)

Photograph of Harry S. Truman Library, ca. 1960 (National Archives Identifier 12170023)

Between April 22 and 24, 1957, after almost two and half years in the Memorial Building, the majority of Truman’s papers were moved into the new Truman Library. While the museum opened to the public on September 15, 1957, Truman’s Presidential papers could not be accessed until May 11, 1959—six years and four months after their original move.

Still, though many of the White House files were transferred to the National Archives for public use, documents that Truman regarded as his personal papers remained under his control until his death.

Although Truman may have been active in the progress of the library—providing tours and working with students—by keeping many of his office’s most significant documents closed to the public, he ensured that the institution’s focus was not on him but rather the historical atmosphere during his Presidency.

Photograph of Truman with a School Group at the Harry S. Truman Library, 2/27/1962. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Photograph of Truman with a School Group at the Harry S. Truman Library, 2/27/1962. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Following President Truman’s death in 1972, Benedict K. Zobrist, newly appointed Director of the Harry S. Truman Library, worked to maintain good relations with the Truman family and to accession and process any materials not originally donated to the library.

Raymond Geselbracht, former special assistant to the director of the Harry S. Truman Library, wrote that the first director of the library “thought the papers that Truman kept in his office suite were probably not very important and would disappoint historians when they were opened for research. This proved wrong.”

Within Truman’s office files were significant papers on policy, particularly foreign policy, and even many personal writings.

Photograph of Bess Wallace Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Earl Warren, Herbert Hoover, Basil O’Connor and Harry S. Truman at the Dedication of the Harry S. Truman Library, 7/6/1957. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Photograph of Bess Wallace Truman, Eleanor Roosevelt, Earl Warren, Herbert Hoover, Basil O’Connor, and Harry S. Truman at the Dedication of the Harry S. Truman Library, 7/6/1957. (Harry S. Truman Library)

Soon, the research room in Independence was bustling with researchers.

Upon Mrs. Truman’s death in 1982, the library inherited yet another round of invaluable materials.

Now, the National Archives not only possessed documents from his early life, but also 1,300 letter exchanges between the former President and First Lady, found in the Truman home at 219 North Delaware Street in Independence.

Geselbracht concludes, “Truman’s life passed suddenly from being one of the most poorly documented among Presidents to one of the best documented.”

Nearly 30 years after President Truman’s papers were first moved in 1952, the collection, now including his personal and private papers, was now complete.

To learn more about President Truman and his papers, plan your visit to the Harry S. Truman Library and Museum in Independence, MO.

And for more information about President Harry S. Truman, visit the library’s website and explore the numerous online resources.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum dedication, July 6, 1957.

The Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum dedication, July 6, 1957.

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The Challenge of Digital Records for Archivists

Press Secretary Larry Speakes Working at a Computer in his Office

President Ronald Reagan’s press secretary, Larry Speakes, works at his computer in July 1985.

October 10 is Electronic Records Day, and October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from John Laster, Director of the Presidential Materials Division at the National Archives.

It is American Archives Month! This is an opportunity to celebrate our profession—all that we have accomplished and the exciting challenges that await us in the future.  For me, there is nothing more exciting—or daunting—than the challenges that digital records pose for archivists.

As the Director of the Presidential Materials Division, I see firsthand the issues playing out when born-digital Presidential records are transferred every four or eight years and then again through the following steps of the lifecycle as these records are searched, reviewed, and made available.

Digital records are nothing new, but with each passing year they become more prevalent and intertwined in our professional lives. With Presidential records, we have gone from receiving basic email created by the Reagan administration to preparing to accept a wide range of information from social media sites used by President Obama’s Office of Digital Strategies. The variety of electronic records created grows. And the volume grows. The Clinton administration created less than 4 terabytes while the George W. Bush administration generated nearly 80 terabytes.

I have been asked to reflect on the challenges that digital records pose for archivists. Many meetings of professional organizations contain important and nuanced discussions of this topic. A simple Google search reveals a wealth of interesting and thought-provoking pieces devoted to this issue. Born-digital records can challenge our archival assumptions about series, arrangement, and even description. But for most of us, theoretical discussions have to be balanced by the practical question of how we can do our work.

Using absolute terms can be dangerous. But I think it is safe to say that there has never been a time when archivists have had to depend so heavily on non-archivists in order to do our work. We rely on IT professionals to help us ingest electronic record and to help us develop ways of preserving, reviewing, and releasing those records in an electronic format. This presents us with one of the biggest challenges we face. Our Information Technology Office has a strong understanding of what we archivists need. However, working with IT professionals outside of the agency requires that archivists learn to speak their language in order to ensure that the services they provide are the ones we need.

So what do we need? We need to receive the records. But even this seemingly simple task is complex.

Transferring records has moved well beyond hardware being passed from creators to archivists.  There is the challenge of sheer logistics—there is a certain amount of physics involved just in getting digital content transferred in an appropriate amount of time. Formats also pose challenges, but we need to make sure we capture the data and can preserve it forever. Under the terms of the Presidential Records Act, anything that rises to the level of record is transferred to the Archives as permanent. This obligates us to figure out how to ingest (or transform appropriately before ingest) a wide variety of formats being used by the records creators.

While we strive to keep up with developments and changes in the ways records are being created, we nonetheless need to analyze formats to determine their suitability for transfer and ingest. Format analysis and planning for export and transfer require a significant amount of attention on the part of archivists and information professionals working on these tasks. Since we strive to preserve and access the data and not the systems, proprietary formats can sometimes prove a challenge to export and ingest. We never want to be in a situation of perpetuating proprietary formats.

Search and accessibility challenge us as well. Traditional searches of electronic records will return a word or phrase with 100% reliability, which can be useful at times. But when you must search common words across a large body of records, say the approximately 200 million emails NARA received from the George W. Bush administration, finding needed documents can become daunting. For instance, Boolean searches are often inadequate for the many subject-based requests received under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act. Taking advantage of strides made in the e-discovery field requires integration with the tools and systems that we do have in order to make search and access as seamless as possible.

We must continue to seek ways to integrate new and better technologies into our work here at the National Archives and Records Administration, such as technology that will allow us to speed the redaction of personally identifiable information (PII) or identify advisory information that must be withheld. Technology is key if NARA hopes to be able to review such large volumes of born-electronic records in order to make them available to the public.

The challenges of born-digital materials loom large over the archival profession. We have a tremendous opportunity, however, to study and use the flexibility of archival theory to adequately preserve and provide these records to an increasingly interested public. It is an incredibly exciting time to be an archivist!

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Creating a Presidential Library

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Alan Lowe, Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum

Dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, November 6, 1997. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Dedication of the George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, November 6, 1997. (George Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

My introduction to Presidential transitions came in a bit of a baptism of fire. I had transferred from the Ronald Reagan Library to Washington, DC, in early 1992 to work in the Office of Presidential Libraries.

Later that year, Bill Clinton defeated George H. W. Bush, and suddenly we had to quickly plan a Presidential move. The day after the election, I was detailed along with others to the White House.

From then until inauguration day, I worked with terrific NARA, White House, and Department of Defense colleagues to inventory, box, palletize, and move a huge amount of material out of the White House complex.

Some of my previous experiences at Reagan helped—while working there as an archivist, I was part of that team as we moved from our temporary facility in Los Angeles to the permanent library in Simi Valley. But still I had a lot to learn in the pressure-filled, exhilarating atmosphere of a Presidential move.

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum dedication, November 18, 2004. (Photo Courtesy of the William J. Clinton Foundation)

The William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum dedication, November 18, 2004. (Photo Courtesy of the William J. Clinton Foundation)

These lessons were very useful later when I was part of the team that helped plan President Clinton’s materials move to Little Rock. Luckily we had plenty of time to get ready, so we started over a year before the actual move was to commence.

This time, rather than working at the White House, my effort was in part directed toward helping put together the overall plan for the effort. But I especially focused on finding a temporary facility in Little Rock.

I spent a lot of time crawling around buildings trying to find one suitable for the collections and for our staff members, working very closely with my NARA colleague Steve Hannestad.

We finally found a used car dealership that was renovated to be a very good temporary home for the library. The seemingly infinite number of details involved in a Presidential move can be a bit overwhelming.  As with everything, the key to success was organization and teamwork—and keeping a good sense of humor.

Director Alan Lowe joins the movers during the records transition at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum's temporary quarters in Lewisville, TX.  (Photo courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Director Alan Lowe joins the movers during the records transition at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum’s temporary quarters in Lewisville, TX. (Photo courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

I left NARA in 2003 to start up the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy in Knoxville, TN. When I was asked to come back to be Director of the George W. Bush Library, one of the biggest reasons I couldn’t resist the offer was I knew I would be part of building a Presidential library from the ground up.

The materials had already been moved to a temporary facility in Lewisville, TX, just north of Dallas. So a great deal of my focus upon arriving in Texas in April 2009 was placed on the design of the permanent facility and of the museum.

I worked very closely with the architectural and exhibit design teams, and of course with our foundation, NARA colleagues, and President and Mrs. Bush. It was a very exciting time, and thankfully the team worked extraordinarily well together.

The building on the campus of Southern Methodist University near downtown Dallas is everything we hoped it would be. And I am very proud of the museum which I think, in a very interactive way, does a great job of telling the fascinating story of an extremely consequential time in American history.

President Barack Obama joins former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Jimmy Carter on stage during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, TX, April 25, 2013, . (Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, National Archives)

President Barack Obama joins former Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Jimmy Carter on stage during the dedication of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, TX, April 25, 2013. (Photo by Paul Morse, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library, National Archives)

Of course, constructing the facility was just part of the job. In those first years in Lewisville, we put together an amazing staff, started working on the collections, and created terrific partnerships in the community, especially with SMU.

Finally in late 2012, we were ready to start moving into our new home, with a plan of dedicating the facility early the next year.

Our move started in November 2012 and took until early March to complete, given the enormous volume of records and artifacts.

At the same time, we were hard at work installing the permanent museum exhibit. This all led to our formal dedication on April 25, 2013, featuring Presidents Carter, Bush 41, Clinton, Bush 43, and Obama.

Alan Lowe, Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, stands with former President George W. Bush in the Oval Office replica at the museum, August 2, 2013. (Photo by Jo Steck, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

Alan Lowe, Director of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in the Oval Office replica at the museum, August 2, 2013. (Photo by Jo Steck, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, National Archives)

I have been fortunate during my career at NARA to see Presidential transitions from several different angles—from planning and executing moves out of the White House, to designing library facilities and museums and eventually opening them to our visiting public, students, and researchers.

I have found that those first few years are absolutely critical in determining the success of the library. Safely transferring the records and artifacts, and then making sure the building and museum are well done, of course, are all vitally important elements for success.

But so are hiring a great staff and establishing excellent relationships with the President, with the foundation, and with other partners. None of those things can wait for the permanent library. They are all a critical part of ensuring a good transition and of creating a Presidential library that will be a vital part of its community and a successful part of the National Archives.

Learn more about Presidential Libraries.

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The Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library: Paving the way

October is American Archives Month! We’re celebrating the work of archivists and the importance of archives with a series of blog posts about the Presidential libraries. The records created by Presidents while in office will become part of the National Archives, and eventually will be used by researchers. Here’s how it happens! 

Today’s post comes from Meagan Frenzer, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

The Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, located in Hyde Park, NY, was conceived and designed by President Roosevelt while he was still in office.

FDR's sketch of his vision for a presidential library at his home in Hyde Park, NY, April 12, 1937. (FDR LIbrary)

FDR’s sketch of his vision for a Presidential library at his home in Hyde Park, NY, April 12, 1937. (FDR LIbrary)

The library holds the President’s personal and family papers, the papers covering his public career at the state and national level, Eleanor Roosevelt’s papers, as well as those of many of their friends and associates.

FDR speaking at the dedication of the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, June 30, 1941. (FDR Library, National Archives)

FDR speaking at the dedication of the FDR Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY, June 30, 1941. (FDR Library, National Archives)

Before President Roosevelt’s administration, records of the Presidents were considered private property, which they took with them upon leaving office. Previous Presidents’ materials and collections remained in collections at their estates.

President Roosevelt hoped to make his papers and other items available to the public, however, while also keeping the entire collection in one location.

The plan was for the library to function as a center for the study of the New Deal and the American government in World War II.

Thus, President Roosevelt proposed the creation of a Presidential library, which would then be donated to the United States Government, along with his papers.

The Presidential library system is now under the control of the National Archives, founded during Roosevelt’s administration.

FDR built his new library on a 16-acre section of his mother’s home in Hyde Park.

Eleanor Roosevelt opening the Franklin D. Roosevelt papers at Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, March 17, 1950. (National Archives Identifier 196619)

Eleanor Roosevelt opening the Franklin D. Roosevelt papers at Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Park, New York, March 17, 1950. (National Archives Identifier 196619)

As nation’s first Presidential library, it also holds papers donated by Harry L. Hopkins, Frances Perkins, Henry Morgenthau, Jr., and others who were critical figures during Roosevelt’s Presidency.

During its creation, the library encountered a legal battle over the rights to Roosevelt’s materials.

The decision was made that the collection could not be accessible to the public until it had been evaluated for “sensitive information” concerning World War II and other diplomatic discussions.

A committee diligently processed the collection, and on March 17, 1950, the first batch of  FDR materials were opened to the public.

After First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt’s death in 1962, her enormous collection of papers was added to the library.

The facilities expanded in 1970 to accommodate the First Lady’s materials and the increasing number of visitors.

The 2010-2013 renovation at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, August 2011 (FDR Library)

The 2010-2013 renovation at the FDR Presidential Library and Museum, August 2011 (FDR Library)

By May 2010, a new renovation began that attempted to preserve the library’s historical appearance while bringing the building up to National Archives’ standards for the long-term preservation of historic collections.

After renovations, the library held a rededication ceremony on June 30, 2013, 72 years after FDR’s original dedication in 1941.

With the creation of his library, President Roosevelt set a precedent for the donation of Presidents’ papers. His actions paved the way for the Presidential Libraries Act of 1955 and the Presidential Records Act of 1978, which together solidified the transfer process of presidential materials and creation of Presidential libraries.

Each President after President Roosevelt, and Hoover who was President before him, followed this tradition of constructing privately built libraries where their papers are housed after leaving office.

For more information visit the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum website.

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The Big Move: From the White House to Our House

For this year’s American Archives Month, we’ve decided to highlight a lesser known role the National Archives plays in promoting democracy: the transition of Presidential records into Presidential Libraries.

In 1961, three forty foot trailer trucks left the National Archives in Washington, DC, headed for Abilene, Kansas, containing both the official and personal papers of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1/13/1961. (National Archives Identifier 12170067)

In 1961, three 40-foot trailer trucks left the National Archives in Washington, DC, headed for Abilene, KS, containing both the official and personal papers of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1/13/1961. (National Archives Identifier 12170067)

During the month we’ll be sharing stories from staff who have been involved with Presidential records moves.

We’ll also highlight some of our 13 current libraries.

After the President leaves office—at noon on January 20—the Archivist of the United States takes legal and physical custody of the President’s records.

Staff at the National Archives work closely with the White House to safely and efficiently move Presidential records (and Vice Presidential records and artifacts) from the outgoing administration to a temporary storage facility near the site of the future Presidential library.

Franklin D. Roosevelt’s was the first to have a Presidential library.

In 1938 Roosevelt decided he wanted a library with all the records of his administration to be built with private funds. He also wanted it to be run by the National Archives.

Congress approved FDR’s plan, and his library opened in 1941.

Subsequent Presidents followed suit, on a voluntary basis, until the 1978 Presidential Records Act required that Presidential records are property of the U.S. Government.

Currently, as President Obama wraps up his second term, our staff is busy preparing his records for transfer to his forthcoming library in Chicago. His will be the 14th library in the Presidential Library system.

You can learn more about the process of moving Presidential records in this Prologue article. And read this blog post to learn more about the Presidential Records Act.

Moving van outside the White House on January 20, 1993. (Clinton Presidential Library, National Archives).

Moving van outside the White House on January 20, 1993. (Clinton Presidential Library, National Archives).

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Papal visits to the United States

Pope Francis’s visit this September marks the 10th time a Pope has visited the United States.

Since the Federal Government is heavily involved in a papal visit, and the National Archives holds the records of the Federal Government, we have documents related to all these events.

The first Pope to visit the United States was Pope Paul VI, who met with President Lyndon Johnson at the Waldorf Astoria hotel in New York City. This was Paul VI’s only visit to the United States.

President Johnson's Daily Diary Entry, showing visit with Pope Paul VI, October 4, 1965. (National Archives Identifier192458)

President Johnson’s Daily Diary Entry, showing a visit with Pope Paul VI, October 4, 1965. (National Archives Identifier 192458)

 

Nearly 15 years passed before another papal visit. In 1979, Pope John Paul II came to the United States and became the first Pope to visit the White House. Pope John Paul II visited the United States a total seven of times.

President Jimmy Carter's Handwritten Notes on Meeting with Pope John Paul II, October 6, 1979. (National Archives Identifier 6207614)

President Jimmy Carter’s handwritten notes on meeting with Pope John Paul II during his first visit to the White House, October 6, 1979. (National Archives Identifier 6207614)

Pope John Paul II greets the waiting crowd at Kelly Air Force Base, September 10, 1987. (National Archives Identifier6427144)

Pope John Paul II greets the waiting crowd at Kelly Air Force Base during his fourth visit to the U.S., September 10, 1987. (National Archives Identifier 6427144)

hotograph of President William J. Clinton and Pope John Paul II Admiring the Crowd at Denver's Stapleton International Airport, August 12, 1993. (National Archives Identifier 3172769)

Photograph of President William J. Clinton and Pope John Paul II in front of a crowd at Denver’s Stapleton International Airport during the Pope’s fifth visit to the U.S., August 12, 1993. The Pope was in the U.S. for World Youth Day. (National Archives Identifier 3172769)

 

On April 16, 2008, on his 81st birthday, Pope Benedict XVI visited President George W. Bush at the White House. This was the most recent papal visit until this week.

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush Greet Pope Benedict XVI on His Arrival at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, April 15, 2008. (National Archives Identifier 7582808)

President George W. Bush and Laura Bush greet Pope Benedict XVI on his arrival at Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland, April 15, 2008. (National Archives Identifier 7582808)

Search our Online Catalog for more documents and photographs of papal and other dignitaries’ visits.

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Fifty Year Later: A Brief History of the Immigration Act of 1965

Today’s post comes from Rebecca Brenner, an intern in the History Office at the National Archives in Washington, D.C.

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson Signing the Immigration Act, 10/3/1965. (National Archives Identifier 2803428)

Photograph of President Lyndon B. Johnson signing the Immigration Act, 10/3/1965. (National Archives Identifier 2803428)

Fifty years ago on October 3, 1965, at the base of the Statue of Liberty, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Immigration Act of 1965 into law.

The act was an important milestone in American immigration history. It was a significant improvement from the National Origins Act of 1924, which barred Asian immigrants, limited Latin American immigrants, and established rigid immigration quotas for European countries.

These quotas, established in an era of post–World War I isolationism and xenophobia, lasted from 1924 through 1965:

  • Armenia: 124
  • Australia: 121
  • Austria: 785
  • Belgium: 512
  • Czechoslovakia: 3,073
  • Estonia: 124
  • France: 3,954
  • Germany: 51,227
  • Great Britain and Northern Ireland: 34,007
  • Hungary: 473
  • Irish Free State: 28,567
  • Italy: 3,845
  • Latvia: 142
  • Lithuania: 344
  • Netherlands: 1,648
  • Norway: 6,453
  • Poland: 5,962
  • Russia: 2,248
  • Sweden: 9,561
  • Switzerland: 2,081
  • Yugoslavia: 671

Aliens needed to apply for spots on the quota in their country of birth, regardless of where they and their family lived. Some quota waiting lists were a dozen years long, while others were not filled.

The Immigration Act of 1965 abolished this quota system and eliminated the formally racial character of immigration to the United States.

The act aimed for immigration law to distinguish between hemispheres of origin, instead of discriminating on the basis of ethnicity or race.

It also prioritized keeping families together, and put a preference on skilled workers.

According to records in the Center for Legislative Archives, the net effect of the final bill was to admit 320,000 people to the United States each year. This number included 120,000 from the Western hemisphere and 170,000 from the rest of the world, as well as 30,000 immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

On August 25, 1965, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the bill with a vote of 318-95.

On September 22, the U.S. Senate passed it with a vote of 76-18.

According to the Congressional Quarterly in October 1965, a combination of factors enabled its passage:

  • The Democratic majority in Congress supported the Johnson administration, which viewed quotas as discriminatory.
  • The general public was not as interested in the act as it was in civil rights or health care, and as a result, provided less opposition.
  • Special interest groups were willing to compromise with each other.

The National Archives holds many records related to the history of immigration. The Records of Rights exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, includes a compelling section on American immigration.

And on September 17, Constitution Day, the annual naturalization ceremony for new American citizens will take place in front of the Constitution at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

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Shaking Up History: Curator Bustard’s Artifact of Choice

Today’s post comes from Meagan Frenzer, graduate research intern for the National Archives History Office in Washington, DC.

On display in the “Spirited Republic: Alcohol in American History” exhibit at the National Archives in Washington, DC, is a silver cocktail shaker and six cups that once belonged to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. As Governor of New York and later, as President, Roosevelt used these items to mix drinks and entertain guests, even during Prohibition.

FDR's Chinese Cocktail Set. (National Archives Identifier 16917407)

FDR’s Chinese Cocktail Set. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Library; National Archives Identifier 16917407)

The sides and bottoms of the silver cocktail set, circa 1925, are adorned with a bamboo motif and Chinese characters. The items fit into a maroon leather box with blue velvet lining, though this item is not currently on display.

Senior Curator of “Spirited Republic” Bruce Bustard identified FDR’s cocktail set as one of his favorite items in the exhibit, due both to its elegance and historical richness. Bustard believes that this particular item best highlights the divide in American perceptions regarding alcohol.

The cocktail set represents this divide between those as close as husband and wife, or in this case, between President and First Lady.

For instance, President Roosevelt held a daily tradition, where he hosted an evening cocktail hour for his closest staff and friends called the “Children’s Hour.”

Roosevelt most likely used this cocktail set both during his “Children’s Hour” throughout his governorship and Presidency. According to daughter Anna Roosevelt Halsted, her father kept the shaker and cups with him in Hyde Park and the White House.

Named after Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “The Children’s Hour,” President Roosevelt’s rules for this hour were simple: No formal discussion of politics or government policy, and he mixed the drinks. The President supposedly made strong cocktails, where he experimented with different spirits, including absinthe.

The “Children’s Hour” played a large role in creating positive associations with the cocktail set for the President.  FDR came to look fondly on his cocktail, because it was connected to a time where the President could cast aside the burdens of his office and socialize with friends and associates.

Despite the President’s feelings, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt might have held less-than-positive associations with the silver cocktail set.

Eleanor Roosevelt’s father and brother were both alcoholics. When she was young, her father became estranged from the family due to his alcoholism, and later died in a sanitarium after suffering complications from a fall during withdrawals.

These experiences with alcoholism pushed the First Lady away from alcohol. While she did not completely abstain from drinking, the amount was minimal.

The First Lady viewed her husband’s “Children’s Hour” as a waste of time better spent on pressing political matters. She rarely participated in the cocktail hour. Instead, she held time for tea with her associates. She shared her view on the “Children’s Hour” with the President in her nightly notes to him.

As Bustard noted, an artifact like FDR’s silver cocktail shaker can demonstrate polarizing viewpoints on alcohol consumption.

For President Roosevelt, the shaker was a cultural artifact that represented a time of day spent focusing on those closest to you in a less formal setting. To the First Lady, the silver cocktail set symbolized time and resources that could have been better spent effecting change.

To see FDR’s cocktail set or learn more about the history of alcohol in America, visit “Spirited Republic,” on display through January 10, 2016, in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

And for more information about President Franklin D. Roosevelt, visit Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum.

Take a virtual tour of the “Spirited Republic” exhibit.

Listen to exhibit curator Bruce Bustard on the Kojo Nnamdi show!

L-R Derek Brown, celebrity mixologist, Kojo Nnamdi, and Bruce Bustard.

L-R Derek Brown, celebrity mixologist, Kojo Nnamdi, and Bruce Bustard.

 

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New Online Exhibit: The Temple of our History

Photograph of the National Archives Building, Constitution Avenue and 7th Street, 12/25/1935. (National Archives Identifier 7820512)

National Archives Building, Constitution Avenue and 7th Street, 12/25/1935. (National Archives Identifier 7820512)

Opened in 1935, the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, was created to hold the nation’s most important and influential documents in American history.

The National Archives History Office has produced a new online exhibit on the National Archives Building, which is available in Google Cultural Institute.

In the 19th century, historians and elected officials began campaigning for a central archive to hold all of the Federal Government’s records. At that time, Federal records were in grave danger of permanent loss as a result of damage from improper housing.

Congress finally authorized the construction of the National Archives Building by passing the Public Buildings Act in 1926. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the legislation establishing the National Archives as an agency in 1934.

Photograph of the National Archives Building being constructed, 05/01/1934 . (National Archives Identifier 7368457)

National Archives Building being constructed, 05/01/1934. (National Archives Identifier 7368457)

Occupying a unique position in Washington—halfway between the White House and the Capitol— the National Archives Building was designed by celebrated architect John Russell Pope.

At the building’s cornerstone ceremony in 1933, President Herbert Hoover declared:

“This temple of our history will be appropriately one of the most beautiful buildings in America, an expression of the American soul. It will be one of the most durable, an expression of the American character.”

The National Archives Building is an architectural treasure in terms of both form and function.

It is one of the most ornate buildings in the Federal Triangle and is a prime example of neoclassical architecture.

Photograph of the bronze doors marking the National Archives Building’s Constitution Avenue Entrance, 06/13/1936.  (National Archives Identifier 7820634)

The bronze doors marking the National Archives Constitution Avenue entrance, 06/13/1936. (National Archives Identifier 7820634)

The building bears the largest pediments in Washington, DC, as well as the largest sliding bronze doors in the world.

The National Archives Building stands as a symbol for the nation of the power, purpose, and resilience of the United States Government and, as the inscription on the east side of the building reads, “our faith in the permanency of our national institutions.”

To learn more about the Building, visit the new online exhibit The National Archives Building: A Temple to our History exhibit on Google Cultural Institute.

You can also read a short history of the building on the National Archives History Office website.

To see more historical photos of the National Archives Building visit our Flickr page.

Photograph of the National Archives Building Constitution Avenue Entrance showing the annual Independence Day celebration banners (also shown is the statue Guardianship by James Earle Fraser), 2014. (Photograph by Jeff Reed, National Archives)

National Archives Building Constitution Avenue entrance showing the annual Independence Day celebration banners, 2014. (Photograph by Jeff Reed, National Archives)

 

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Victory! Americans Everywhere Celebrated the End of World War II in 1945

(Today’s post is from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue magazine, the quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, and is based on a longer article in the Summer 2015 issue.)

President Harry Truman reads the Japanese message agreeing to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945. (Harry Truman Library)

President Harry Truman reads the Japanese message agreeing to unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945. (Harry Truman Library)

President Harry S. Truman watched the clock closely, wanting to abide by the agreement to make the historic announcement at the same time as our Allies in London and Moscow.

At exactly 7 p.m. Eastern War Time on August 14, 1945, Truman revealed Japan’s response to the Allied demand for unconditional surrender.

The announcement the world was waiting for came just a few days after atomic bombs fell on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the opening shots in the nuclear era.

The emperor of Japan, the statement read, had agreed to unconditional surrender to the Allies. The President then appointed Gen. Douglas MacArthur supreme commander in Japan and the Pacific and who would officially accept Japan’s surrender September 2, 1945.

American servicemen and women gather in front of “Rainbow Corner” Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the conditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945. (111-SC-210241)

American servicemen and women gather in front of “Rainbow Corner” Red Cross club in Paris to celebrate the conditional surrender of the Japanese on August 15, 1945. (111-SC-210241)

 

New Yorkers in Little Italy celebrated the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945. (208-N-43468; National Archives Identifier 535794)

New Yorkers in Little Italy celebrate the Japanese surrender on August 14, 1945. (208-N-43468; National Archives Identifier 535794)

The euphoria that erupted May 8 when Truman announced the Germans had surrendered unconditionally, ending the war in Europe, erupted again. Now, it was much more full throated than before.

The Second World War—the deadliest and most destructive war in history, referred to by generations as simply “The War”—was officially over. The official day of celebration would be September 2, when the Japanese signed the surrender documents aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.

Ships loaded with war-weary veterans of the European theater headed for Japan could turn back. The high casualties predicted for an invasion of the Japanese mainland would not happen.

Children who had never seen their fathers or uncles or big brothers would soon see them coming home in uniforms with dufflebags on their shoulders. The rationing of everything from gasoline to food would come to an end. No more blackouts. No more round-the-clock watching for enemy planes or submarines.

Gaunt Allied prisoners of war, waving flags of the United States, Great Britain, and Holland at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan, cheer rescuers from the U.S. Navy on August 29, 1945. (80-G-490444; National Archives Identifier 520992)

Gaunt Allied prisoners of war, waving flags of the United States, Great Britain, and Holland at Aomori camp near Yokohama, Japan, cheer rescuers from the U.S. Navy on August 29, 1945. (80-G-490444; National Archives Identifier 520992)

When the war was over, some 60 million to 80 million people, depending on which data are used, had died in battle, because of starvation or disease, or as victims of crimes against humanity. It was about 3 percent of the world’s population then.

The roster of war dead included about 420,000 Americans—in Europe, North Africa, the Pacific, and elsewhere. The American toll amounted to about three-tenths of one percent of the United States’ population, but the war took its toll from nearly every American city, town, village, and rural area.

Within minutes of Truman’s announcement on August 14, people began celebrating—spontaneously, enthusiastically—in many ways.

Two million people squeezed into New York City’s Times Square, always a measure of public excitement, in a celebration that went on for several days. Paper rained down on them, conga lines snaked around, and people kissed anybody in sight.

The Chicago Tribune reported that a man climbed a ladder to light an 18-foot-tall solid wax victory candle that had taken three months to make. In downtown Chicago, a half-million people crowded into the Loop, singing and dancing down the main streets.

Amid the celebrations and homecomings, however, was apprehension of what was to come. The abrupt end to the war had also ushered in the nuclear age, with all its possibilities and fears that the next war would be even more deadly than the one we just won.

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Behind him are American Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainright and British Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, both of whom were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. (80-G-348366; National Archives Identifier 520694)

Gen. Douglas MacArthur signs as Supreme Allied Commander during formal surrender ceremonies on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Behind him are American Lt. Gen. Jonathan Wainright and British Lt. Gen. Arthur Percival, both of whom were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese. (80-G-348366; National Archives Identifier 520694)

America’s great industrial sector had converted to bombers, tanks, and rifles for the war. Now, it would reconvert to automobiles, household appliances, and a new kind of appliance people heard about that would change their lives—television.

As soldiers and sailors put away their uniforms, they married and started families (their children would become known as “baby boomers”). The GI Bill would help them buy a home and get a college degree, something previously obtainable only by the upper classes.

Labor unrest resulted from returning GIs looking for jobs and unions demanding higher wages. And fighting and killing were over. For now.

 

The-Amarillo-Globe-Aug-14-45-short

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