16 Times History Made Us Hungry For Pi Day

Happy Pi Day! Are you baking up a fresh dessert to celebrate? Get inspired by some historic pie deliciousness, fresh from our archives.


Everything about this photo is vintage #piegoals. The apron, the polka-dot potholders, that oven!

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Elderly lady removes pie from oven.” From the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library catalog.archives.gov/id/195874

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Annie Oakley: A Woman to be Reckoned With

March is Women’s History Month! Today’s post comes from Madie Ward in the National Archives History Office.

Among the billions of documents in the National Archives, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero has a favorite: the 1898 letter from Annie Oakley to President William McKinley offering 50 American lady sharpshooters in the Spanish-American War.  

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Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley in which she offers the services of a company of 50 lady sharpshooters who would provide their own arms and ammunition to the government should war break out with Spain, 4/5/1898. (National Archives Identifier 300369)

When I asked why, he replied, “[It is] an example of why archives are not boring! Most people have a mindset that these kinds of institutions are full of boring and dusty pieces of paper. I constantly remind people that each of our 13 billion pieces of paper and parchment—and everything else we have in our holdings—tells a story.” Continue reading

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Morgantown Ordnance Works Panoramas, 1940-1942

Today’s post comes from Nicholas Novine, a processing intern at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

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Photograph of the Morgantown Panoramas pre-treatment, 10/19/2015. (Photo by Gail Farr)

We are pleased to announce that a series of 91 panoramas documenting industrial developments of the Morgantown Ordnance Works at Morgantown, West Virginia have been digitized and are available through our online catalog.

Staff at the National Archives at Philadelphia discovered these panoramas, which were tightly rolled and inaccessible, while processing a series related to the construction of the Morgantown Ordnance Works.

The panorama series required special attention because of the large size (approximately 10 inches in height by 60 inches in width) and condition of the pictures, which had been stored in tight rolls for decades.

Staff gently unrolled the photos enough to create a preliminary inventory and sent them to our colleagues in the Conservation department for treatment. After being conserved, the panoramas were digitized by our colleagues in Digitization Services and are now available through our online catalog.

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Panoramic photograph of the construction of the Morgantown Ordnance Works in West Virginia, 12/18/1940. (National Archives Identifier 72014151)

The photos, taken between 1940 and 1942, are not only compelling for their compositional and aesthetic quality, they also provide a more intimate glimpse into the transformation of a small rural community into a multi-acre manufacturing complex, and illustrates a striking relationship between country and industrialization.

The site, built by E. I. DuPont De Nemours & Co. under the supervision of the Quartermaster Corps, was used by several groups, including the U.S. Department of Defense for the manufacturing of chemicals used in weapons production during World War II.

The Morgantown Ordnance Works, along with the Wabash River Ordnance Works in Indiana and the Alabama Ordnance Works, was part of three construction initiatives built by DuPont selected for the P-9 Project, a code-named endeavor spearheaded by physicist Hugh Taylor via the Office of Scientific Research and Development in 1943.

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Panoramic photograph of the construction of the Morgantown Ordnance Works in West Virginia, 1/19/1941. (National Archives Identifier 72014158)

The project had two primary objectives: to provide heavy water (water that contains a large quantity of the hydrogen isotope deuterium) to serve as a moderator for nuclear reactors, and to examine the properties of the water for new uses.

The U.S. Government was aware that the Germans were working on heavy water production. Staying abreast of research in the event that an additional use was discovered became a priority. The P-9 project was a component of the Manhattan Project, which resulted in the creation of the first nuclear weapons, and the Morgantown facility played a significant role as an electrolytic finishing plant—the final step in the production process.

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Panoramic photograph of the construction of the Morgantown Ordnance Works in West Virginia, 2/25/1941. (National Archives Identifier 72014163)

By the end of 1944 it was determined that the P-9 project had met its goals, and in the summer of 1945 the Morgantown plant as well as the two other facilities were completely shut down.

The manufacturing activities resulted in the contamination of nearby soils, sediments, lagoons, as well as the neighboring Monongahela River, which supplies drinking water for approximately 60,000 residents of the county.

Concerns regarding air quality in the region and surrounding the adjacent Monongahela River began to emerge between 1946 and 1951 in the local newspapers, which reported on the activities of various individuals and organizations addressing the issue.


Panoramic photograph of the construction of Morgantown Ordnance Works looking north and east at the Plant, 8/20/1942. (National Archives Identifier 74627954)

In 1986, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added this site to the National Priorities List (NPL), initiating clean-up activities including off-site removal of contaminated soil and replacing the affected areas with clean soil, as well as repairing the wetlands along the Monongahela River.

On September 29, 2017, the EPA signed the Final Close-Out Report and is preparing the site for NPL deletion consideration; however chemical companies under the guidance of the EPA continue to monitor ground and surface water.

The panoramic photos of the construction progress include views of various facilities including factory buildings, coke oven works, coal wharf and gas generator building, pumping station, gas house, coke handling tower, light oil plant, and the formaldehyde and examine production area.

Ultimately, the juxtaposition of the rolling hills of West Virginia with the angular metal and billowing smoke of industry portrayed in these panoramas provide a contemplative reflection of the cost of military industrialization and the development of what is arguably an example of a truly American landscape.


Panoramic photograph of the construction of Morgantown Ordnance Works looking southeast at the plant, 10/9/1942. (National Archives Identifier 74627974)


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Andrew Johnson: Path to Impeachment

Today’s post comes from Tom Eisinger, an archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC. It is part one of a two-part series on the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson.


President Andrew Johnson, ca. 1865. (National Archives Identifier 528284)

Politics were unsettled during the 1864 Presidential election. The incumbent, Abraham Lincoln, was opposed by the “Radical Republicans” in his own party who did not believe he was doing enough to prosecute the end of the Civil War. At the same time, some pro-war Democrats supported Lincoln.

Consequently, the Republicans changed their name to the National Union Party for the 1864 Presidential election. As a gesture to the pro-war Democrats, the National Union Party nominated Andrew Johnson, a Democrat, as Lincoln’s running mate. Johnson was serving as the military governor of Tennessee at the time. It was, indeed, an unusual situation.

A second term for Lincoln was not a foregone conclusion for much of 1864.  However, critical Union military victories earned him enough public support to win a comfortable victory in the November election. When Lincoln was assassinated several weeks into his second term, Andrew Johnson became President, taking the oath of office on April 15, 1865. Continue reading

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We are wrapping up our commemoration of Black History Month. Today’s post comes from Madie Ward in the National Archives History Office.


Martin Luther King, Jr., talks with President Lyndon B. Johnson, December 3, 1963. (Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, National Archives)

The National Archives has countless items that highlight African Americans’ struggles for freedom and civil liberties. Included are documents on the Civil Rights Movement and, more specifically, on President Lyndon B. Johnson and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s relationship during that tumultuous time.

President Johnson was known for his vision of a Great Society to end poverty, reduce crime, improve the environment, and advance civil rights.

As part of this vision, Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, dismantling official segregation, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, prohibiting racist voting laws, and the 1968 Civil Rights Act, ending discrimination in housing sales. He also appointed Thurgood Marshall, the first African American on the Supreme Court. Continue reading

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His was “Service Honest and Faithful, Character Excellent”

Today’s post comes from John P. Blair with the National Archives History Office.

Ever since President Gerald Ford recognized Black History Month during the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976, each February brings forth a celebration of the history and accomplishments of notable African Americans. However, there are hundreds of thousands of other African Americans who have served our nation, contributed to our society, and who during their lifetimes influenced hundreds of others.

Black History Month is for them too.


“Floyd H. Crumbly, Capt 49th Inf. U.S.V.” November 9, 1899. (Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office)

The records of the National Archives and Records Administration reveal the lives of many relatively obscure African Americans—if one knows where to look.

For instance, there is Floyd Henry Crumbly. Crumbly was a successful businessman in Atlanta and Los Angeles, and a civic and social leader who rose through the ranks of the U.S. Army to lead troops when our nation called.

Born in Rome, Georgia, on May 10, 1855, Crumbly’s father, Robert Crumbly, was a slave, but his mother, Mariah Connally, was a free woman of color. Crumbly later wrote his mother, although free born, “under the custom of the times was practically a slave having married a slave man.”

During the American Civil War, Crumbly and his mother left for Nashville, but he returned to Georgia after she died of smallpox in 1869. Continue reading

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Bienvenue à Port-au-Prince, Monsieur Douglass

Today’s post comes from John P. Blair with the National Archives History Office.


Frederick Douglass, c. 1879, (National Archives Identifier 558770)

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass, arguably America’s most accomplished African American civil rights leader of the 19th century.

As we recognize the contributions of African Americans during Black History Month, we are reminded that on June 26, 1889, President Benjamin Harrison appointed Douglass to serve as the Minister Resident and Consul General of the United States to Haiti.

Douglass, the abolitionist, author, journalist, and social reformer, was born into slavery with the name Frederick Augustus Washington Bailey around the year 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. He chose the name Douglass following his first marriage and residence at New Bedford, Massachusetts.

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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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