Masterpieces of Freedom: The Faulkner Murals

Today’s piece comes from Lily Tyndall from the National Archives History Office.

Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC, on July 22, 2016.

Faulkner murals in the Rotunda of the National Archives in Washington, DC, July 22, 2016. (NARA photo by Brogan Jackson)

In 1933, the artist Barry Faulkner began work on two murals that were to adorn the walls of the National Archives Rotunda. The paintings were to reflect and honor the spirit of our nation’s founding documents.

After three years of sketching and editing the designs, and the actual painting, the murals were installed in 1936 (the Constitution and Declaration, which inspired them, didn’t come until 1952).

These larger-than-life murals are more than just art. They represent the complex work that went into drafting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, the documents that rest below them. Continue reading

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Where were our World War II leaders during World War I?

Today’s post comes from Jim Worsham, editor of Prologue, the quarterly magazine of the National Archives.


Capt. Dwight D. Eisenhower at Camp Colt, Pennsylvania, 1918. (Eisenhower Library, National Archives)

As the nation began assembling its troops to fight World War I in Europe, Capt.  Dwight D. Eisenhower desperately wanted a combat assignment.

And “Ike” never passed up an opportunity to put in for one, even being reprimanded for asking for overseas duty so often.

When he finally received orders to ship off to Europe in mid-November 1918, Eisenhower was in command of a tank school at Camp Colt, Pennsylvania, ready to go. But the orders came too late—the war ended and they were revoked.

The man who, a quarter-century later, would lead the D-Day invasion of western Europe, never left American soil.

Other World War II leaders, however, did see action in World War I, as described in an article in the Summer 2017 issue of Prologue magazine, the official publication of the National Archives.

The article is part of Prologue’s series of articles this year and next about World War I on the occasion of its centennial. Continue reading

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Before Stonewall: Facing Congress with Courage

Today’s post comes from Judith Adkins, an archivist with the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.

In June 1969, patrons of New York City’s Stonewall Inn and their supporters took to the streets to resist police harassment. National Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month commemorates these events, widely credited with sparking the modern LGBT rights movement.

Well before the heady days of gay liberation, however, an earlier generation of “homophile” activists advanced the cause, step by step.

Chief among these pioneers was astronomer-turned-activist Franklin Kameny. Ousted from his government job in 1957 because of his sexual orientation, Kameny appealed his firing all the way to the Supreme Court. Mere months after losing that appeal in 1961, he co-founded the Mattachine Society of Washington, the first gay rights organization in the nation’s capital.

This “first” led to another: In defense of Mattachine, Kameny became the first openly gay person to testify before the U.S. Congress.

In 1962 the Mattachine Society of Washington applied for and was granted a city license to fundraise in the District of Columbia. When Congress learned that an organization working on behalf of homosexuals had received such a permit, some members were not pleased. Congress’s jurisdiction over the capital city gave it the means to take concrete action.

Dowdy Proposal, 88, RG233 H Comm on D.C., Legislative Files, Folder 4 of HR 5990 Bill File, 9E2-2-1-4

Dowdy Proposal, 1963. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

On May 1, 1963, Congressman John Dowdy of Texas introduced a bill, H.R. 5990, to amend the existing D.C. Charitable Solicitations Act. Dowdy’s bill stipulated that before granting a fundraising license the D.C. Board of Commissioners had to certify that the grantee would “benefit or assist in promoting the health, welfare, and the morals of the District of Columbia.”

Dowdy’s original bill proposal makes it clear that Mattachine was both the impetus behind the bill and its intended target.

As president of Mattachine, Kameny requested that a representative of the organization be permitted to testify at any hearings held on the bill. In response, the committee invited Kameny himself to speak.

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Defining a Spy: the Espionage Act

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. 

Rediscovery #: 08414Job A1 11-022 Docs Teach

The Espionage Act, June 15, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 5721240)

On June 15, 1917, just two months after the United States entered World War I, Congress adopted the Espionage Act. The act, which was meant to define the act of espionage during wartime, put new limits to Americans’ First Amendment rights.

The Espionage Act gave the federal government increased leverage to prosecute what it considered unruly elements. Though the charge of espionage included “promot[ing] the success of [the United States’] enemies” it also encompassed a much greater swath of possible violators.

Based on the terms dictated by Congress, anyone who interfered with or attempted to undermine the United States’ war effort could be prosecuted under the law and face a 20-year prison sentence and a $10,000 fine.

Thanks to the convenient wording of the act, those who protested against newly introduced conscription, or against the war itself, became prime subjects for prosecution.

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Honoring Justice Thurgood Marshall: the right man and the right place


Thurgood Marshall, 6/13/1967. (National Archives Identifier 2803441)

On June 13, 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson nominated Thurgood Marshall to be the first African American justice of the Supreme Court of the United States.

After graduating from Howard University Law School in 1933, Marshall worked in private practice in his home town, Baltimore. In one of his earliest cases, he represented the local chapter of the NAACP in a suit challenging the University of Maryland Law School’s segregation policy.

Marshall himself had been a victim of that policy, having applied to the program but turned down because he was black.

After winning the case, Marshall joined the NAACP national staff in New York in 1936. For the next 25 years he led the legal challenge to end racial segregation in U.S. Continue reading

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International Archives Day

June 9 is International Archives Day. It commemorates the day the International Council on Archives (ICA) was created in 1948. On International Archives Day, archives all over the world will host special events to show off their collections or the work that they do, and will share stories with each other and with fans of archives worldwide using the social media hashtag #IAD17

In Celebration of International Archives Day on Friday, June 9, the National Archives in Washington, DC, will show a selection of short films from  U.S. Information Agency under President John Kennedy’s administration.


Archivist of the United States Solon J. Buck, delivering a lecture in the Dominican Republic, 3/15/1948. (National Archives Identifier 12167214)

The International Council on Archives was established in Paris during a three-day meeting of archivists from June 9 to 11, 1948. Its purpose was to strengthen relations among archivists of all nations, to promote the use of records, and to advance the documentation of human experience.

The National Archives supported the ICA’s creation because it would provide a much-needed forum for archivists from around the world to discuss common issues.

Archivist of the United States Solon Buck addressed the Society of American Archivists (SAA) in October 1946 to promote international cooperation.

In this address, titled “One World,” Buck, then president of the SAA, proposed an international organization of archivists and outlined the steps needed to make it happen. The National Archives had been active in protecting records during World War II, and Buck was eager to ensure that archives continued to be safe in the postwar world.

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Our First Intern, 1939

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, an archivist in Textual Processing at the National Archives at College Park. 

Now that the spring semester for colleges and universities across the nation has winded down, thousands of students are preparing to begin their internships. Many of them will come to Washington, DC, to work in the many federal agencies which will host them.

The National Archives and Records Administration is no exception; a variety of important and interesting opportunities await those who have been selected.

What must it have been like for the first student who interned at the National Archives?

The National Archives had been in operation for only a few years when, in the spring of 1939, it was contacted by the National Institute of Public Affairs (NIPA) to solicit interest in hosting an intern. Since 1934, NIPA had been administering an internship program to provide students with experience working in the federal government.

NIPA Story Washington Post 1938 p 1 RG 64 A1 1 file 776 Internships box 40

NIPA article in The Washington Post, May 29, 1938. (National Archives Identifier 654329)

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Celebrating JFK

May 29, 2017, marks the 100th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s birth. Visit our JFK Centennial web page to celebrate the life and legacy of the 35th President of the United States.

The John F. Kennedy Library didn’t open for more than 15 years after the President’s death. It was originally supposed to have been built near Harvard University in Cambridge, but after years of delays, the location moved to Columbia Point in South Boston. Ground was broken on June 12, 1977, and the building was officially dedicated on October 20, 1979.

But long before the library opened to the public, an exhibit of its future holdings went on a worldwide tour.


John F. Kennedy Library Exhibit, 1965. (National Archives Identifier 17616812)

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Chinese Exclusion Act Case Files and the USCIS Master Index

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. Visit the National Archives website for more information on our related holdings.

Today’s guest blogger is Zack Wilske, Senior Historian at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). 


Affidavit of Loui Young stating that he is the father of Louie Jock Sung, one of many sources documenting claimed familial relationships typical of Chinese Exclusion Act case files. (National Archives Identifier 278671)

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) Chinese Exclusion Act case files held at National Archives facilities across the country provide valuable resources for Chinese American genealogists searching for records of their ancestors’ immigrant experiences, as well as for scholars researching the history of American immigration policy.

Unfortunately, locating a specific individual’s case file can sometimes be difficult because the files are scattered in several locations, and no unified, comprehensive, publicly available index exists for them.

Researchers who have difficulty locating Chinese Exclusion Act case files may consider using the US Citizenship and Immigration Service’s (USCIS) index search service, which includes citations for nearly all of the Chinese Exclusion Act case files now stored in regional archives nationwide.

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Happy Mother’s Day!

Every year I struggle with how I can show appreciation for my mom on Mother’s Day. This year I’m going retro and “making” my mom a gift by highlighting some of the National Archives holdings that relate to Mother’s Day.

Although it was celebrated in several states for years, the first time Mother’s Day became recognized as a U.S. federal holiday was on May 11, 1914, when President Woodrow Wilson issued a Presidential Proclamation designating the second Sunday in May as “Mother’s Day.”

He called for flags around the country to be flown “as a public expression of our love and reverence we have for the mothers of our country.”


President Woodrow Wilson’s Mother’s Day Proclamation, May 9, 1914. (Presidential Proclamation 1268; National Archives Identifier 299965)

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