Facial Hair Friday: Thad Page, First Administrative Secretary for the National Archives

To celebrate American Archives Month, today’s Facial Hair Friday looks at the National Archives’ first Administrative Secretary: Thad Page.

Thaddeus “Thad” Shaw Page was born in 1890 in Aberdeen, NC, to a prominent North Carolina family. After attending the University of North Carolina, Page served as secretary to his father, who was a member of Congress. When his father left the House in 1916, Page moved into automobile sales (a vocation that stereotypically requires a mustache). In 1931, he moved to Washington, DC, to work as secretary to North Carolina Senator Josiah W. Bailey. After the Congress passed legislation to create the National Archives, Senator Bailey suggested Page move to the new agency because it needed someone on staff who knew Capitol Hill. 

On July 8, 1935, President Roosevelt nominated Page to be Administrative Secretary to the National Archives. In addition to the position of the Archivist of the United States, a few of the early positions required Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, specifically anyone making over $5,000 a year (Page was to make $6,000). On July 20, 1935, the Senate confirmed Page’s nomination, along with Dorsey Hyde as Director of Archival Services, Solon Buck as Director of Publications, and Collas Harris as Executive Officer.

Page served as Administrative Secretary first under Archivist R. D. W. Connor and then under Archivist Solon Buck. In addition to serving as a liaison to the Hill, his duties were extensive and included formulating the annual budget, preparing the annual report of the Archivist of the United States, preparing lists of permanent records for Congress, arranging exhibits, preparing and issuing all public announcements, and conducting general correspondence. He also was in charge of the National Archives seal and certifying copies of records.

If that wasn’t enough, in his capacity as Administrative Secretary, Page also served as the Secretary for the National Archives Council, the body that advised the Archivist of the United States on documents to be accessioned into the National Archives holdings. 

In 1943 he also assumed the duties of Chief of the Legislative Archives, and after the agency underwent a reorganization in 1947, and the position of Administrative Secretary was abolished, Page became Chief of the new Legislative Reference and Records Division.

During his tenure, he was instrumental in two long-awaited records moves. First, he was involved in the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, which stipulated that, after years of delay, the historic records of the House of Representatives, which were in desperate need of attention, needed to be transferred to the National Archives. By 1957, House records for the first 82 Congresses (1789-1952) had all been transferred, inventoried, and described.

Second, in early 1952, Page used his connections on the Hill to help convince the Joint Committee on the Library to mandate that the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Papers of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention move to the National Archives—the Archives had been waiting for over 15 years to acquire the documents from the reluctant Librarian of Congress. That summer, the Papers moved to the National Archives, followed by the Declaration and Constitution on December 13, 1952.

Page retired from the National Archives in 1960. Upon his retirement, his colleague Harold Hufford composed a poem about “Mr. Page,” which was read at his retirement party.

After his retirement, Page became a real estate agent. He passed away on September 5, 1973, in Alexandria, VA at age 82.

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