September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787! Today’s post comes from Rebecca Watford from the National Archives History Office.
Constitution Day, September 17, 1956. (National Archives Identifier 12169242)
As the keeper of the U.S. Constitution, the National Archives has a long tradition of celebrating Constitution Day.
After acquiring the original Constitution in 1952, the National Archives’ first major Constitution Day was in 1956—the 169th anniversary of the document’s signing. That was also the first year that Constitution Week was celebrated—a seven-day observance promoting education about the Constitution.
That year, the National Archives brought in an Honor Guard to watch over the Constitution during the week-long celebration. The Honor Guard was the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (“The Old Guard”), the oldest active-duty infantry unit in the Army, which has served the country since 1784, even before there was a Constitution.
Hispanic Heritage Mural, ca, 2003-2004 (National Archives Identifier 6190418)
It’s National Hispanic Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month.
Today’s post comes from Kathleen Brown, an archivist in the Textual Processing unit at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. She is also co-chair of the Hispanic and Latino Organization (HALO) Employee Affinity Group (EAG) at the National Archives.
The Hispanic and Latino Organization, better known as HALO, is one of several Employee Affinity Groups (EAGs) at the National Archives that staff may join. The general goals of these groups are to promote interagency collaboration, diversity, and inclusion, and to provide a sense of community.
Beyond these overarching goals, each EAG has individual goals related to the community that it represents both within and outside of the National Archives.
HALO exists not only to connect National Archives employees who identify as Hispanics/Latinx and their allies, but also to promote cultural awareness of Hispanic/Latinx culture in the United States, and the individual and diverse cultures of the many countries that comprise Latin America. Continue reading
Dear Federal Colleagues—on Constitution Day we here at the National Archives are happily tasked with promoting the United States Constitution . . . and you are too! Why? Because of an act of Congress that was the brainchild of Senator Robert C. Byrd (1917–2010).
The Honorable Robert Byrd (left), U.S. Senator (D-Va.) and Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, March 9, 2006. (National Archives Identifier 6702111)
Senator Byrd loved the Constitution. He studied it in college. He recited it on countless occasions during his 92 years. He even carried a pocket version of it with him at all times. Over the course of his 60-year congressional career, he pulled out his mini-Constitution during numerous speeches and debates.
Byrd loved the Constitution so much that he founded the modern Constitution Day (although Constitution and Citizenship Day have long been celebrated). Since the Constitution symbolizes one of our country’s greatest accomplishments, Byrd wanted a holiday that not only honored it but also promoted it.
For Byrd, the Constitution was not just the piece of parchment in the National Archives, but “a revered and living document, capable of inspiring a nation to achieve seemingly impossible dreams and irrepressible hopes.” Continue reading
Today’s post comes from Austin McManus with the National Archives History Office.
Come see our traveling exhibition, “Amending America: The Bill of Rights,” at George Mason’s Gunston Hall through October 21, 2017.
Portrait of George Mason (Courtesy of Gunston Hall)
One of the documents on display in the Rotunda in the National Archives is the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Its serves as a prominent reminder of our right as Americans.
But the document that inspired the Bill of Rights, as well as its main author, George Mason, are lesser known.
Mason’s Virginia Declaration of Rights, completed in June 1776, served as the basis for our nation’s Bill of Rights.
Mason was raised in a wealthy planter family in the Northern Neck region of Virginia. By his early 20s, Mason emerged as one of the wealthiest men of the colony and began a successful career as a businessman, lawyer, and public servant for his colony and, later, his country. Continue reading
Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, archives specialist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. She is also co-curator of the exhibit “Amending America.”
“The Bill of Rights and Beyond,” 1991. (National Archives Identifier 24520428)
More than 11,000 constitutional amendments have been introduced in Congress since the Constitution was written in 1787. What most of these proposals have in common, though, is that they failed to be enacted. Only 27 amendments have been ratified to become part of the Constitution.
So, what succeeded and what failed?
“Amending America,” a National Archives exhibit, invites us to discover the remarkably American story of how we have amended, or attempted to amend, our Constitution in order to form a more perfect union.
“Amending America” is on display in the Lawrence F. O’Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building through September 4, 2017. Continue reading
Today’s blog post comes from Lily Tyndall in the National Archives History Office.
Map of the Territory of Hawaii, 1915. (National Archives Identifier 25464219)
Hawaii’s journey to statehood was long and difficult.
For centuries the islands of Hawaii were ruled by warring factions. In 1810, King Kamehameha unified all of the Hawaiian Islands into one royal kingdom.
During the 19th Century, Western influence grew and by 1887 the Kingdom of Hawaii was overrun by white landowners and businessmen. They forced then-King Kalākaua to sign a constitution stripping him of his power and many native Hawaiians of their rights. Continue reading
Today’s post comes from Riley Lindheimer from the National Archives Public and Media Communications Office.
On August 21, the continental United States will experience the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, a celestial phenomenon that has inspired awe in viewers around the world for centuries.
Time lapsed photographs of the February 26 total solar eclipse from the Lacreek National Wildlife Refuge annual report, 1979. (National Archives Identifier: 25496903)
In anticipation of the event, the National Archives is sharing eclipse-related documents and photographs from our holdings on our social media channels.
Although partial solar eclipses occur more frequently, total solar eclipses require the perfect alignment of the sun, moon, and Earth.
Observers in the “path of totality,” a narrow path of visibility, will experience a period of temporary darkness while the moon passes between the sun and the Earth, blocking the sun and its corona. Continue reading
Today’s post comes from Marie Taylor, Preservation Technician with Preservation Programs at the National Archives.
Photo of Joe Louis from his Official Military Personnel File, n.d. (National Archives Identifier 57277097)
Have you ever wondered what Elvis did during his time in the military? How about Humphrey Bogart, Sammy Davis Jr., or even legendary boxer Joe Louis?
Many people forget or simply don’t know that these famous individuals served in our nation’s Armed Forces. That awareness might change in the future, thanks to a new initiative from the National Archives at St. Louis.
Many of the Official Military Personnel Files (OMPFs) from the Archives’ Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) collection will now be available to view or download on the National Archives Catalog.
So, what are the PEPs? The PEPs are Specially Protected Holdings (SPHs) of accessioned military and civilian personnel files of prominent individuals who served in the military or Federal Government. They warrant special protection due to their status, what they did while serving, or as a result of their service. Continue reading
In 1878 Senator Aaron A. Sargent introduced into Congress a resolution proposing a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote.
On June 4, 1919, after 40 years—and much effort and debate—Congress passed, by a two-thirds vote of both houses, that proposed amendment.
It was then up to the states to ratify it.
Many states quickly approved the amendment, and by the end of March 1920, it was just one state shy of ratification.
Mississippi could have been the final vote needed to make the amendment law, but the state rejected it on March 29.
The amendment still needed one more state for ratification when the Tennessee legislature met in special session that summer. Continue reading
Today’s post comes from Sonia Kahn in the National Archives History Office. Visit the National Archives website for a full list of events and activities related to the 100th anniversary of World War I.
It is almost eerie to watch the silent black-and-white footage, panning over the rubble remaining from small villages of France and Belgium, seeing cannons fire, and watching a zeppelin drop bombs on London rooftops, all without a sound. These are just some of the haunting images captured on the reels of recently digitized footage of World War I.
Digitized World War I footage, National Archives