The King and (Archives) I

Today’s post comes from Sam Anthony, special assistant to the Archivist of the United States.

When President Obama visited Thailand on Sunday, he brought a piece of the National Archives as a diplomatic gift.

In preparation for the President’s trip to Asia, the Protocol Office of the State Department asked for facsimiles of photographs of Presidents with Rama IX, also known as Bhumibol Adulyadej, the King of Thailand. The King of Thailand is the longest serving head of state (since 1946) and longest reigning monarch in Thailand’s history.

The staff at the Presidential libraries searched their holdings and discovered that the King has met with six Presidents: Eisenhower, Johnson, Nixon, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. He’s also met with one of the First Ladies (Nancy Reagan). The National Archives Digitization Lab staff created high-quality facsimiles from digital scans of the photographs and delivered them to our colleagues at the State Department.

While facsimiles of our records are often taken to heads of state, sometimes the head of state comes to the National Archives. In 1960, King Adulyadej visited the National Archives Building (known as Archives I) and handled a facsimile of an 1833 treaty with Thailand (then Siam).

Pat Steffing, Dr. Grover, and King Adulyadej on July 1, 1960 (ARC 3493259)

In this photograph, National Archives staff member Pat Steffing is on the left.  Dr. Grover—Archivist of the United States from 1948 to 1965—is in the middle, holding the facsimile of the treaty with his right hand. King Adulyadej is on the right, holding the facsimile with his left hand.

The original treaty between the United States and Siam is 21 inches wide and over 9 feet long. It was signed in 1833, then rolled up and stored in a canister. It remains in the National Archives, part of Record Group 11, the General Records of the United States.

In August 2008, President George W. Bush’s staff requested a facsimile so that the President could give the copy to the King on the 175th anniversary of this treaty. After some quick work by the preservation and digitization staff at the National Archives, the President—on his way to China for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing—visited Thailand and presented the copy of the historic 1833 treaty.

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