Bill of Rights Day: the People’s Vote

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, which commemorates the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. Today’s post comes from Bailey Martin from the National Archives History Office.


Visitors in the National Archives Rotunda, 1973. (National Archives Identifier 35810210)

December 15, Bill of Rights Day, is an important day for the National Archives because it is the one day of the year specifically set aside to acknowledge one of our nation’s most important documents—the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.

Though not a holiday in the traditional sense, its importance lies in the fact that it reminds the people of the United States of the magnitude and significance of a document that protects our most fundamental rights.

In 1999, nearly 50 years after first going on display in the Rotunda, the National Archives announced a renovation for the home of the Charters of Freedom (the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights). Continue reading

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Bill of Rights Day: Celebrating Our Most Precious Freedoms

December 15 is Bill of Rights Day, which commemorates the ratification of the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. For more information on events and resources at the  National Archives, visit our Bill of Rights Day website.


President Truman unveiling the “Charters of Freedom” for the first time on display together, December 15, 1952. (National Archives Identifier 12168006)

While the National Archives has well documented its many celebrations for Constitution Day and July 4th, we haven’t paid quite as much attention to how we’ve celebrated Bill of Rights Daythe day commemorating our third “Charter of Freedom.”

We’ve had the original Bill of Rights 14 years longer than the other two—since 1938, before there was even a Bill of Rights Day (FDR established Bill of Rights Day in 1941).

And the first time the National Archives celebrated Bill of Rights Day, it was a big one: the unveiling of the document with its co-Charters two days after they arrived at the National Archives on December 13, 1952. Continue reading

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Do You Have What It Takes to be a Midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy? 1913 Edition

While we are not rooting for one team or the other in the upcoming Army vs. Navy game, we must concede that the 1913 regulations governing the admission of candidates into the U.S. Naval Academy were rigorousLearn more in today’s post from Samuel Limneos, an archives technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia. 

Are you physically sound, well formed, and of robust constitution?

Do you have good natural capacity, an aptitude for study, industrious habits, perseverance, an obedient and orderly disposition, and a correct moral deportment?

Can you hear the ticking of an ordinary watch at a distance of 40 inches?

Do you have at least eight opposing molars, two on each side in each jaw?

If so, do you think you have what it takes to be admitted as a midshipmen at the United States Naval Academy?

Continue reading

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The First to Fight: The 11th Engineers in the Battle of Cambrai

Today’s post comes from Austin McManus with the National Archives History Office.


President Woodrow Wilson’s proclamation declaring that a state of war exists between Germany and the United States, April 6, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 299966)

The United States, following the tradition of neutrality established by President George Washington and maintained over the decades, remained uninvolved as Europe became embroiled in World War I in 1914.

American public attitude toward neutrality began to change after Germany’s policy of unrestricted submarine warfare led to the death of 128 American civilians Germany’s sinking the RMS Lusitania in 1915.

After the British revealed the Zimmerman Telegram in March 1917, shocked and angered Americans began to lean toward war. At the request of President Woodrow Wilson, Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917.

Americans had volunteered to fight alongside the British and French on land, on the seas, and in the air since 1915. Hundreds of Americans had served as infantrymen, ambulance drivers, pilots, and nurses before the United States’ official declaration of war. But it wasn’t until November 1917 that the first unit of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) fought in Europe. Continue reading

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The Lifecycle and Preservation of Electronic Records

November 30, 2017, is International Digital Preservation Day (Twitter hashtag #IDPD17). The National Archives is participating in this worldwide initiative to promote digital preservation by talking about its work with electronic records. Today’s post comes from Ted Hull (Electronic Records Division), Leslie Johnston (Digital Preservation), and John Martinez (Policy and Standards Team).

The National Archives and Records Administration has a long history of working with born-digital electronic records—as far back as 1970. An integral part of this work is the issuance of extensive guidance on all aspects of Federal electronic records eligible for transfer to NARA, including media types, file formats, and metadata.

The development of this guidance is now complemented by a greater focus inside NARA on digital preservation. NARA has recently issued its first agency-wide digital preservation strategy. We are also developing file format preservation plans that align with the guidance issued to agencies to inform both the processing and the preservation of its electronic records holdings.

Here’s an introduction to the lifecycle for one category of electronic records—textual—from start to preservation. Continue reading

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A Thanksgiving Presidential Proclamation

Today’s post comes from Bailey Martin of the National Archives History Office.

A Proclamation:

Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

So begins the first time the President of the United States issued a proclamation for Thanksgiving Day.


George Washington, copy of painting by Gilbert Stuart. (National Archives Identifier 532888)

The statement, by President George Washington on October 3, 1789, officially gave the holiday his blessing. Though Thanksgiving was certainly not a new holiday requiring great fanfare, this particular year was special because it was the first celebrated under the new Constitution.

Though Presidential proclamations are not a Thanksgiving requirement, they serve as an enduring tradition while offering a unique look into the various struggles that were affecting Americans around this time of year. It is customary for each President to release a statement every year—in addition to the now-familiar rituals of turkey pardonings and quiet Presidential retreats to Camp David—to officially acknowledge the nationwide celebration of the holiday. Continue reading

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Researching the Osage Murders

November is National Native American Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month. Today’s post comes from Becca Watford of the National Archives History Office.

killer-of-the-flower-moon-david-grannIn his recent book, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI, journalist and bestselling author David Grann brings to light how money and greed led to the tragic murder of the Osage tribe of Oklahoma.

In the 1920s, after the discovery of the presence of millions of dollars in oil under the Osage reservation, a man named William Hale hatched a plot to kill Native Americans so he could take the profits for himself.

The Osage had “headrights,” meaning they received the money from the oil. Although he was behind the murders of at least 60 Native Americansincluding nearly an entire familyHale was put on trial for only one of his victims, Henry Roan.

Continue reading

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New Web Exhibits Explore the Inside of the National Archives Building

Today’s post comes from Lily Tyndall and Austin McManus of the National Archives History Office.

National Archives Rotunda

The Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom, 2014. (Photograph by Jeff Reed, National Archives)

Three new online exhibits about the National Archives are now available on Google Cultural Institute. These exhibits allow viewers to learn about the interior of the National Archives Building, from symbolic design to exciting exhibits.

The online exhibit Inside the National Archives Building brings visitors into the Rotunda and presents John Russell Pope’s symbolic design for the National Archives as a temple to American history. Continue reading

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Vietnam and the Women Who Served

In honor of Veterans Day, today’s post comes from Bailey Martin, an intern in the National Archives History Office. Visit our website for more information on our resources related to veterans.

As we open the new Vietnam exhibit at the National Archives, we also mark the anniversary of important milestones for women in the U.S. Marine Corps that occurred during that war. 

When we think of the Vietnam War, we bring to mind countless images of men in uniform and recall stories of the men who fought and lost their lives during the war. What most people don’t realize is that women also played a crucial role in this war and had been making their own contributions for several decades.

When the Marine Corps first opened their branch to women in 1918, advertisements called for “only women of excellent character and neat appearance, with business and office experience.”


During World War I, the Marine Corps called for women to be typists, stenographers, and bookkeepers. These women were the first to volunteer in New York City, 1918. (National Archives Identifier 45568009)

Continue reading

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Nation to Nation: Treaties at the National Museum of the American Indian

November is National Native American Heritage Month! Visit our web page for resources on related records and how we are commemorating the month. Today’s post comes from Becca Watford from the National Archives History Office.

Every few months the National Archives lends a treaty negotiated between the United States and Native Americans to the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI) for display in its “Nation to Nation” exhibit. The National Archives—which holds the treaties—has had this relationship with the museum since 2014.  

On September 19, 2017, the two institutions replaced the Treaty of Medicine Creek of 1854 with the Fort Wayne Treaty of 1809.


The Treaty of Fort Wayne, 1809, on loan from the U.S. National Archives, on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington DC, September 19, 2017. (Kevin Wolf/AP Images for National Museum of the American Indian)

The Fort Wayne Treaty of 1809 was an agreement between the United States and the Delaware, Potawatomi, Miami, and Eel River tribes, ceding tribal territory to the U.S. Government. This treaty, along with 11 others, was negotiated by future President William Henry Harrison. The U.S. Government and Native Americans hoped these treaties would end tribal conflicts throughout the region. Continue reading

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