A Call to Public Service: the Peace Corps

This May we celebrate both Public Service Recognition Week and the centennial of the birth of a President closely associated with public service: John F. Kennedy.   

In Kennedy’s first inaugural address, in 1961, he made his famous call to public service by asking Americans “to ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.”

Less than six weeks later, on March 1, he issued an executive order establishing a the Peace Corps as a pilot program within the Department of State.

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Executive Order 10924 in which President John F. Kennedy establishes the Peace Corps, March 1, 1961. (National Archives Identifier 300010)

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The Doolittle Raid: America’s First Strike Back on Japan

Today’s post comes from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue, the quarterly magazine of the National Archives.

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A B-25 bomber takes off from the flight deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942, armed with bombs and headed for Tokyo. (Local Identifier 342-FH-3A-2972-A-51233)

Four months after Japan’s surprise attack at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, the aircraft carrier USS Hornet sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and out of San Francisco Bay into the Pacific on a secret mission.

On the Hornet’s deck sat 16 specially equipped B-25 bombers—accompanied on this mission by a 200-strong contingent of crews and maintenance personnel. The Hornet’s own fighter planes were parked below deck to make room for these special passengers.

A few days after leaving the West Coast, the Hornet was met by a group of other U.S. carriers, destroyers, and cruisers that would escort it to the location in the Pacific where its mission would begin.

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Posted in - World War II | 2 Comments

From 1600 to 700 Pennsylvania Avenue: Presidential Visits to the National Archives

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President Herbert Hoover at the cornerstone-laying ceremony of the National Archives Building, 2/20/1933. (National Archives Identifier 12168464)

Since the National Archives was established more than 80 years ago, millions of people from the United States and abroad have visited our historic building in Washington, DC.

Ten of those visitors were sitting U.S. Presidents.

In 1933, before there was a building, President Herbert Hoover became the first President to visit when he laid the cornerstone on February 20, 1933. (Okay, the building wasn’t open yet, but we’re still counting Hoover.)

Hoover envisioned this as a place where the most important documents in American history would be stored, calling the unfinished building “the temple of our history.”

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Posted in - Constitution, - Declaration of Independence, - Presidents, - World War II, Bill of Rights, National Archives History | 1 Comment

Solon Buck Portrait

In the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, hang portraits of the first nine Archivists of the United States, and Waldo Gifford Leland, who was instrumental in the agency’s creation.

Sharing a wall with Leland and the first U.S. Archivist Robert D.W. Connor is the portrait of our second Archivist, Solon J. Buck. Buck became Archivist on September 18, 1941—just a few months before the country entered World War II.

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Portrait of the second Archivist of the United States Solon Buck, painting 1960 based on a 1941 photograph. (Records of the National Archives)

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U.S. Entry into the War to End All Wars

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A Joint Resolution declaring that a state of war exists between Germany and the United States, April 6, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 5916620)

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I. Visit the National Archives website to learn how the National Archives is commemorating the anniversary. Today’s post comes from Sonia Kahn in the National Archives History Office. 

Two and a half years of American neutrality in the ongoing war in Europe came to an end on April 6, 1917, when Congress passed a resolution declaring war on Germany, thus pushing the U.S. into World War I.

Four days earlier, on April 2, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war on Imperial Germany.

Among his reasons for war was Germany’s failure to comply with its promise to halt unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic. Continued German attacks upon merchant shipping brought Wilson to insist that “warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.”

Still fresh in the nation’s memory was the May 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, and the ensuing loss of 131 Americans, as evidence of the chaos German submarines could cause.

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Original Alaska Purchase Documents travel to the Anchorage Museum

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase. To celebrate, the National Archives at Seattle has added 150 images from the Alaska Digitization Project to their Flickr gallery. 

Today’s post comes from Jim Zeender, Senior Registrar in the National Archives Exhibits Office.

On the morning of February 27, 2017, I left Washington, DC, with temperatures forecast in the 70s. Later that day, I was flying north from Seattle along the western coast of Canada, over Vancouver Island on my way to Anchorage, Alaska. Along the way, the endless snow-topped Rockies spread out below to the horizon east and north.

Finally, as we approached Anchorage, I could see the majestic Denali in the distance with lesser mountains running down to the coastal areas. When we touched down, I was greeted with temperatures in the teens and 20s. At night, I stayed warm in my hotel room when the temps dove to single digits.

My destination was the Anchorage Museum to participate in installing an exhibition called “Polar Bear Garden,” commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Alaska Purchase Treaty and celebrating the American, Russian, and Native peoples who settled this rugged land.

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Visitors viewing Alaska Purchase documents at the Anchorage Museum, 2017. (Photo by Georges Toumayan)

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What’s Your Story, Adelaide Minogue?

March is Women’s History Month! Visit our website for more resources on women’s history and to see how the National Archives is celebrating the month.

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, an archivist in Textual Processing at Archives II.

I am flabbergasted at how popular this photograph has become.

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Mrs. Adelaide Ansley Checking Hygrothermograph in Stack Area, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 3493247)

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On Exhibit: the Indian Removal Act

Rediscovery #: 0831312-A1-141 Research Request

The Indian Removal Act, May 28, 1830. (General Records of the United States Government, National Archives)

In the early 19th century, American demand for Indian nations’ land increased, and momentum grew to force Indians further west.

The first major step to relocate American Indians came when Congress passed, and President Andrew Jackson signed, the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830.

It authorized the President to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi River. The goal was to remove all Native Americans living in existing states and territories and send them to unsettled land in the west.

On December 6, 1830, in his annual message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress on the progress of the removal, stating, “It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.”

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“What a moment in time!”

Sharon Farmer was the first woman and the first African American to be named Chief White House Photographer.

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Sharon Farmer in front of Air Force One. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

Farmer joined the team of four photographers at the Clinton White House in 1993, and worked as director from 1999 to 2001.The four photographers took nearly 12,000 rolls of film each year as they documented pubic and private moments. You might recognize Farmer’s shot of the famous handshake between the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, or the image of Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, their arms around each other during a visit to South Africa.

But for Farmer, one of her most memorable assignments took place thousands of miles from the White House:

“In 1998, I accompanied the President and Mrs. Clinton to Ghana. There was a huge rally in the stadium in Accra. There must have been over 250,000 people cheering the President and First Lady. They were given the kente cloth of the Africans and, wearing them, proudly stood next to President and Mrs. Rawlings of Ghana. What a moment in time!”

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Address to the People of Ghana at Independence Square in Accra on March 23, 1998. Photograph by Sharon Farmer. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that an American President would visit an African country and be received so wonderfully. That moment, to me, is only second to watching and photographing Nelson Mandela being sworn in as President of South Africa. I attended the event with Mrs. Clinton and the delegation that Vice President Gore led. Every day I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming that I have this job here, in this time, in this world.” (Fall 1999: Meet White House Photographer Sharon Farmer)

Farmer continues her work as photographer. She was the campaign photographer for Sen. John Kerry’s Presidential run, and she teaches and lectures on photojournalism. Her work is part of the permanent collections of various museums.

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SNAC: Connecting Archival Collections

Today’s post comes from Dina Herbert, the National Archives Liaison to Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC). 

History buffs love trivia and making connections between historical figures. Like, how many degrees of separation are there between George Washington and Albert Einstein? Answer is two! (They both have materials at the Columbia University Libraries.) Or did Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Chisholm ever connect? 

There is now a way to easily find these connections, and it’s through a cooperative called Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC). While part of its name is Social Network, SNAC is not a social networking or social media tool like Facebook or Twitter, although we sometimes joke that SNAC is the Facebook for dead people. Rather, it is a way to connect the scattered archival collections of important people, places, and events.

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The National Archives is a key partner in SNAC, which is wrapping up a two-year pilot phase funded through an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant. The cooperative partners are National Archives, IATH at the University of Virginia, and California Digital Library, plus 16 other institutions (libraries, archives, and museums). During this pilot phase, SNAC is developing its prototype research tool as a usable and successful platform.
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