The Lost Gift Stones of the Washington Monument

February 19, 2018, is the Federal holiday celebrated as George Washington’s Birthday. Today’s post comes from John Lockwood, a long-time federal employee who has written numerous articles, many for the National Archives.

Some time back, I was busy working on an article about how in 1854 Pope Pius IX donated a gift stone to be installed in the wall of the indoor stairway of the Washington Monument. Although the Monument was still unfinished at that time, other such stones had already been added, beginning with Alabama’s in 1849.

Unfortunately, before it could be put into place, the Pope stone was stolen by members of the (anti-Catholic) Know Nothing Party, so named because any outsider who asked about their activities received the answer, “I know nothing.”  The Know Nothing members then dumped the stone into the nearby Potomac River. A replacement Pope stone was later added in 1982.


Pope’s stone replacement installed in 1982. (National Park Service)

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Are You Watching the XXIII Winter Olympics?

Today’s post comes from Madie Ward in the National Archives History Office.

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Mount Van Hoevenberg Olympic Bobsled Run, 2007. (National Archives Identifier 75317791)

The XXIII Winter Olympics are here!

They are being held in PyeongChang, Republic of Korea, from February 9 to 25.

With a total of 102 medal events, this year’s Olympics is the first to surpass 100. The games feature fifteen disciplines: alpine skiing, biathlon, bobsleigh, cross country skiing, curling, figure skating, freestyle skiing, ice hockey, luge, Nordic combined, short track speed skating, skeleton, ski jumping, snowboard, and speed skating. 

Ninety-two countries are participating, bringing thousands of athletes to the world’s foremost sports competition.

Within the nationwide holdings of the National Archives we have myriad items that relate to this iconic tradition. These include: Continue reading

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The “EP” at the National Archives

Final version of the Emancipation Proclamation

Page one of the Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863 (National Archives Identifier 299998)

On January 1, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation (what some of us here at the Archives call the “EP”)in the middle of the U.S. Civil War. In it, he declared all slaves within the states that were currently in rebellion to be free. Although it did not abolish slavery altogether, the document became a symbol of hope and freedom during the war.

After Lincoln signed the Proclamation in his study at the Executive Mansionnow known as the White Houseon New Year’s Day, Secretary of State William Seward also signed it. It was then kept at the Department of State for safekeeping as there was no National Archives in 1863. The original five-page document was originally tied with red and blue ribbons, which were attached to the signature page by an impression of the seal of the United States.

The document remained at the State Department for many years, bound in a red morocco leather book with other Presidential proclamations. When the National Archives was created in 1934, the EP was housed in the vault at the Old Executive Office Building. Continue reading

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Black History Month: the 54th Massachusetts

Today’s post comes from Austin McManus with the National Archives History Office.

Rediscovery #: 07231Job A1 09-069 Civil War

Recruitment poster, 1863. (National Archives Identifier 1497351)

To commemorate Black History Month, we celebrate the story of the 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment, the first African American unit of the U.S. Army. These brave men served honorably during U.S. Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history.

President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation in the middle of the war, signaling that the war for union was also a war for freedom and the abolition of the institution of slavery.

The Proclamation most notably freed slaves in the rebellious states. However, an additional provision is often overlooked: it authorized the U.S. Army and Navy to receive African American men “of suitable condition” into their ranks.

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Vietnam: the First Television War

Today’s post comes from Madie Ward in the National Archives History Office.


U.S. soldiers in position in the first wave of a helicopter combat assault, 10/26/1967. (National Archives Identifier 66956835)

The Vietnam War (1955–75) was a time of great controversy in the United States. Cold War tensions ran high as the country relentlessly fought against the alleged evils of communism.

At the same time, advances in video and audio recording enabled both easier and more news coverage. From 1950 to 1966, the percentage of Americans who owned a television skyrocketed from 9 percent to 93 percent as televisions became essential for everyday life.

With the proliferation of televisions, news networks strived to have the most exciting, dramatic, and attractive stories. They competed for the finest reporters, highest-rated equipment, and largest number of viewers. To succeed, they had to do something unprecedented: on-site coverage of the war in Vietnam. For the first time in American history, the news from the front lines was brought straight into the living room. Continue reading

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The “Terr-A-Qua Globe”


Finn Ronne speaking at the dedication of the globe, October 21, 1969. (National Archives Identifier 23856033)

On October 21, 1969, a large, illuminated, rotating globe was dedicated in the Exhibition Hall at the National Archives Building in Washington, DC.

The globe was one of eight made by the Terr-A-Qua Globes & Maps Company of Santa Ana, California, between 1966 and 1973. The globes show, in raised relief, all three of the Earth’s surface features—ocean floor, ocean surface, and continental topography.

Renowned aerial photographer Talbert Abrams donated the globe to the National Archives in honor of retired Navy Captain Finn Ronne and his wife, Edith “Jackie.”

From 1947 to 1948, Finn Ronne mapped the last unexplored coastline in the world. He discovered that the Weddell Sea and Ross Sea were not connected, confirming that Antarctica is a single landmass. Jackie accompanied him on the expedition and was the first woman to explore Antarctica. Continue reading

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Unsung heroes of World War I: the carrier pigeons

Today’s post comes from Garet Anderson-Lind from the National Archives History Office.

World War I was one of the first great wars during the industrial revolution. From the introduction of airplanes to the use of tanks and railway guns on the battlefield, soldiers had to contend not only with each other but with the productions of the factory floor. Even the recent invention of the telephone made its way into battlefield units, where soldiers used it to convey orders or direct artillery fire.

In a conflict of the size and duration of World War I, communication was key. Unfortunately, technology—like the telephone or the telegraph—was not as reliable as the commanders of Europe would have liked. In an attempt to improve combat communications, the leaders of World War I turned to a much older form of communication: the carrier pigeon.


Carrier Pigeons (Signal Corps). 2nd Lt. Milne, S.R.C. and the pigeons he is raising for the Army, 1918. (National Archives Identifier 55166221)

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Happy New Year!


Cartoon by Clifford Berryman, Washington Evening Star, January 4, 1914. (National Archives Identifier 6011024)

Clifford Berryman was one of the most widely acclaimed political cartoonists in the first half of the 20th century. For over 50 years, his cartoons appeared on the front page of Washington newspapers, first the Washington Post and later the Washington Evening Star.  

Throughout his extensive career, Berryman drew Presidents, members of Congress, cabinet secretaries, foreign dignitaries, and other important figures. His drawings also depicted local sports teams, federal workers’ woes, national holidays, and commentary on the infamous Washington weather.

This cartoon hits on two of Berryman’s favorite topics—holidays and the weather. It appeared in the Washington Evening Star on January 4, 1914, at the start of the new year.  The new year in Washington, DC, began with several days of cold and rainy weather. As the young New Year (1914) arrives with satchel in hand, he looks at a poster of Father Time (1913), remarking, “No wonder one ages so rapidly with such weather for a starter.”

The National Archives holds a large collection of Berryman’s original drawings. Discovered in the Berryman family home upon the death of daughter Florence in 1992, this rare collection was purchased from the estate by the Charles Engelhard Foundation and donated to the U.S. Senate. It is now part of the historical records of Congress in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. These cartoons are available online in the National Archives Catalog.

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A Gift from an Archivist

Today’s post comes from Corinne Porter, a curator from the National Archives Exhibits Program in Washington, DC.


Office of War Information “Santa” Memo, page 1, December 24, 1942. (National Archives Identifier 4751483)

The Featured Document exhibit is the place in the National Archives Museum where we share—a document or two at a time—some of the most incredible records that belong to the American people.

Featured Document exhibits often commemorate landmark anniversaries or highlight records that provide historical context to current events or pop culture.

It’s also the space where we get to share the one-of-a-kind gems discovered in our stacks, like this clever memo penned by an anonymous bureaucrat many holiday seasons ago that is currently on exhibit.

Someone in the Office of War Information (OWI) News Bureau was certainly having a jolly old time on Christmas Eve 1942, when they wrote this memorandum concerning rumors flying around (by way of a reindeer-led sled) about a “man in whiskers who . . . will come down many chimneys bringing gifts to hundreds of American homes. Continue reading

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Reflections of Two American Archivists on the Soviet Union’s Archives

Today’s post come from Erik Moshe from the National Archives Public Media and Communications Office. You can read the entire article online on the National Archives website

Just months after President Ronald Reagan’s “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” speech in West Berlin in 1987, two men arrived in Russia. Their destination: the Soviet Archival Research Center. They had been selected to be the first archivists from the United States to visit the archives of the Soviet Union under the U.S./USSR program of cultural exchanges. Their trip lasted from September 18 to October 2, 1987.


A view of the Red Square showing the Lenin Mausoleum and a portion of the Kremlin Wall. Behind the wall is the building of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (formerly the Senate), the seat of the Soviet government, 9/17/1985. (National Archives Identifier 6408421).

This visit was one of a series of exchanges authorized by agreements between the Commission on Soviet-American Archival Cooperation of the American Council of Learned Societies and the Main Archival Administration of the USSR Council of Ministers, administered in the U.S. by the International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX).
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