Solon Buck Portrait

In the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, hang portraits of the first nine Archivists of the United States, and Waldo Gifford Leland, who was instrumental in the agency’s creation.

Sharing a wall with Leland and the first U.S. Archivist Robert D.W. Connor is the portrait of our second Archivist, Solon J. Buck. Buck became Archivist on September 18, 1941—just a few months before the country entered World War II.

Archivist Portraits

Portrait of the second Archivist of the United States Solon Buck, painting 1960 based on a 1941 photograph. (Records of the National Archives)

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U.S. Entry into the War to End All Wars

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A Joint Resolution declaring that a state of war exists between Germany and the United States, April 6, 1917. (National Archives Identifier 5916620)

2017 marks the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I. Visit the National Archives website to learn how the National Archives is commemorating the anniversary. Today’s post comes from Sonia Kahn in the National Archives History Office. 

Two and a half years of American neutrality in the ongoing war in Europe came to an end on April 6, 1917, when Congress passed a resolution declaring war on Germany, thus pushing the U.S. into World War I.

Four days earlier, on April 2, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to request a declaration of war on Imperial Germany.

Among his reasons for war was Germany’s failure to comply with its promise to halt unrestricted submarine warfare in the North Atlantic. Continued German attacks upon merchant shipping brought Wilson to insist that “warfare against commerce is a warfare against mankind.”

Still fresh in the nation’s memory was the May 1915 sinking of the RMS Lusitania, and the ensuing loss of 131 Americans, as evidence of the chaos German submarines could cause.

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Original Alaska Purchase Documents travel to the Anchorage Museum

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the Alaska Purchase. To celebrate, the National Archives at Seattle has added 150 images from the Alaska Digitization Project to their Flickr gallery. 

Today’s post comes from Jim Zeender, Senior Registrar in the National Archives Exhibits Office.

On the morning of February 27, 2017, I left Washington, DC, with temperatures forecast in the 70s. Later that day, I was flying north from Seattle along the western coast of Canada, over Vancouver Island on my way to Anchorage, Alaska. Along the way, the endless snow-topped Rockies spread out below to the horizon east and north.

Finally, as we approached Anchorage, I could see the majestic Denali in the distance with lesser mountains running down to the coastal areas. When we touched down, I was greeted with temperatures in the teens and 20s. At night, I stayed warm in my hotel room when the temps dove to single digits.

My destination was the Anchorage Museum to participate in installing an exhibition called “Polar Bear Garden,” commemorating the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Alaska Purchase Treaty and celebrating the American, Russian, and Native peoples who settled this rugged land.

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Visitors viewing Alaska Purchase documents at the Anchorage Museum, 2017. (Photo by Georges Toumayan)

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What’s Your Story, Adelaide Minogue?

March is Women’s History Month! Visit our website for more resources on women’s history and to see how the National Archives is celebrating the month.

Today’s post comes from Alan Walker, an archivist in Textual Processing at Archives II.

I am flabbergasted at how popular this photograph has become.

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Mrs. Adelaide Ansley Checking Hygrothermograph in Stack Area, 1940. (National Archives Identifier 3493247)

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On Exhibit: the Indian Removal Act

Rediscovery #: 0831312-A1-141 Research Request

The Indian Removal Act, May 28, 1830. (General Records of the United States Government, National Archives)

In the early 19th century, American demand for Indian nations’ land increased, and momentum grew to force Indians further west.

The first major step to relocate American Indians came when Congress passed, and President Andrew Jackson signed, the Indian Removal Act on May 28, 1830.

It authorized the President to negotiate removal treaties with Indian tribes living east of the Mississippi River. The goal was to remove all Native Americans living in existing states and territories and send them to unsettled land in the west.

On December 6, 1830, in his annual message to Congress, President Andrew Jackson informed Congress on the progress of the removal, stating, “It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation.”

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“What a moment in time!”

Sharon Farmer was the first woman and the first African American to be named Chief White House Photographer.

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Sharon Farmer in front of Air Force One. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

Farmer joined the team of four photographers at the Clinton White House in 1993, and worked as director from 1999 to 2001.The four photographers took nearly 12,000 rolls of film each year as they documented pubic and private moments. You might recognize Farmer’s shot of the famous handshake between the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat, or the image of Presidents Bill Clinton and Nelson Mandela, their arms around each other during a visit to South Africa.

But for Farmer, one of her most memorable assignments took place thousands of miles from the White House:

“In 1998, I accompanied the President and Mrs. Clinton to Ghana. There was a huge rally in the stadium in Accra. There must have been over 250,000 people cheering the President and First Lady. They were given the kente cloth of the Africans and, wearing them, proudly stood next to President and Mrs. Rawlings of Ghana. What a moment in time!”

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Address to the People of Ghana at Independence Square in Accra on March 23, 1998. Photograph by Sharon Farmer. (William J. Clinton Presidential Library)

“Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that an American President would visit an African country and be received so wonderfully. That moment, to me, is only second to watching and photographing Nelson Mandela being sworn in as President of South Africa. I attended the event with Mrs. Clinton and the delegation that Vice President Gore led. Every day I pinch myself to see if I’m dreaming that I have this job here, in this time, in this world.” (Fall 1999: Meet White House Photographer Sharon Farmer)

Farmer continues her work as photographer. She was the campaign photographer for Sen. John Kerry’s Presidential run, and she teaches and lectures on photojournalism. Her work is part of the permanent collections of various museums.

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SNAC: Connecting Archival Collections

Today’s post comes from Dina Herbert, the National Archives Liaison to Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC). 

History buffs love trivia and making connections between historical figures. Like, how many degrees of separation are there between George Washington and Albert Einstein? Answer is two! (They both have materials at the Columbia University Libraries.) Or did Eleanor Roosevelt and Shirley Chisholm ever connect? 

There is now a way to easily find these connections, and it’s through a cooperative called Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC). While part of its name is Social Network, SNAC is not a social networking or social media tool like Facebook or Twitter, although we sometimes joke that SNAC is the Facebook for dead people. Rather, it is a way to connect the scattered archival collections of important people, places, and events.

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The National Archives is a key partner in SNAC, which is wrapping up a two-year pilot phase funded through an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant. The cooperative partners are National Archives, IATH at the University of Virginia, and California Digital Library, plus 16 other institutions (libraries, archives, and museums). During this pilot phase, SNAC is developing its prototype research tool as a usable and successful platform.
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LBJ: From Teacher to President

Today’s post comes from Alexis Percle, archives technician at the Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library and Museum, in honor of our upcoming National Conservation on Educational Access and Equity on March 7. Register to attend in person or watch the livestream.

“As a son of a tenant farmer, I know that education is the only valid passport from poverty.

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LBJ and his teacher Ms. Kate Deadrich Loney (LBJ Library)

As a former teacher–and, I hope, a future one–I have great expectations of what this law will mean for all of our young people.

As President of the United States, I believe deeply no law I have signed or will ever sign means more to the future of America.”

With these words, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Elementary and Secondary Education Act on April 11, 1965.  Sitting beside him was his first teacher, Ms. Kate Deadrich Loney, who taught Johnson in a one-room schoolhouse just outside Stonewall, Texas.

As a young high school graduate, Johnson did not immediately pursue education, opting instead to travel with friends to California and work odd jobs, including as an elevator operator. After this experience, and a short career as a manual laborer for a road crew, Johnson became frustrated with the lack of opportunity available to him.

So, in 1927, Lyndon Baines Johnson enrolled at Southwest Texas State College. Prior to beginning his courses as a college student, Johnson had to complete pre-college courses. As a graduate of a rural school, Johnson and similar students had to complete these pre-college courses to ensure they met minimum qualifications and standards. Then, in the summer of 1928, Johnson once again had to put his college career on hold so he could earn enough money to continue paying for his college courses.

It was this financial need that motivated Johnson to accept a position as a teacher at Welhausen School in Cotulla, Texas, a small town on the border of Texas and Mexico. Johnson’s classes were made up of the children of Mexican-American farmers. Johnson didn’t speak Spanish and many of his students didn’t speak English. Despite this limitation, Johnson quickly and enthusiastically began teaching and encouraging the children to speak English by holding speech and debate tournaments.

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LBJ (center) with his students at Welhausen School in Texas (LBJ Presidential Library)

In addition, Johnson organized a literary society, an athletic club, and organized field trips to neighboring towns so his students could compete in sporting events, speech, and spelling contests. With his first paycheck, Johnson bought playground equipment. In a letter home to his mother, Johnson wrote about his work with the students and asked her for help in sending toothpaste for the children and borrowing materials for his debate team.

Despite his strict nature as a teacher, Johnson’s concern for the students left a lasting impression on both his co-workers and his students. In 1929, the Superintendent wrote a colleague calling Johnson a “school man of the highest type” and a “tireless worker,” saying, “He is one of the very best men I have ever had with me…”

His experiences at Cotulla and the hardships faced by his students inspired many of the educational policies sought by Johnson during his presidency. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, the nation’s efforts to improve education focused on the upper grades. But many young African-American and Mexican-American students did not remain in school long enough to benefit from these programs.

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LBJ as a young man (LBJ Library)

Johnson recognized the need for assistance in the early grades. He saw the need for programs which would help disadvantaged students compete with their counterparts in middle class neighborhoods. Aside from legislation like the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, President Johnson launched programs like Project Head Start, which offered health, social services, and early learning experiences to children about to enter kindergarten or first grade. President Johnson also encouraged programs to support bilingual education, child nutrition (which included access to free breakfast and lunches for impoverished children), and Federal aid to elementary schools.

Throughout his presidency and, indeed, his life, President Johnson maintained a firm conviction that the American promise of opportunity could best be pursued through education. In 1972, the Lyndon B. Johnson Library in Austin, Texas hosted a symposium highlighting Johnson’s accomplishments in the field of education. Sidney P. Marland, the U.S. Commissioner of Education under President Nixon said, “President Johnson, I believe, takes satisfaction in being called ‘the Education President.’ He richly and fully deserves it.”

Part of education is studying the past and applying those lessons to the present. Archivist of the United States David Ferriero said, “The role of the National Archives is to ensure that people have access to the records that demonstrate how those rights were achieved, so that we can learn from those records.”

In establishing the LBJ Library, President Johnson epitomized that role by donating his papers to the American people. At the opening ceremony of the library, President Johnson reiterated his intent to provide access to the records of his administration for future students and historians. In addition, Johnson further emphasized his strong belief in the power of education by establishing the Library and Museum in connection with the LBJ School of Public Affairs, where he spent part of his post-presidential life by, once again, becoming a teacher and instructing University of Texas students in public policy and affairs.

Register to attend in person or watch the livestream of our upcoming National Conservation on Educational Access and Equity on March 7.

 

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Women’s History in the Archives

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

In spring 1976 the National Archives held a ground-breaking conference on women’s history. It highlighted National Archives records that focused on the subject and discussed how women’s history could be studied as part of general history; not just as a facet of historical narratives.

Women’s history was not a serious field of study before the 1960s. As its popularity grew, many scholars looked to the National Archives for guidance on finding records related to the subject.

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Women working as chippers in a shipyard, 1942. An example of the many records at the National Archives related to women. (National Archives Identifier 522892)

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The drawings of Charles Alston

February is Black History Month! Visit the National Archives website to learn more about our many events and activities celebrating African American History.

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Sgt. Romare Bearden (right) in front of his painting, “Cotton Workers,” with first his first art teacher, Pvt. Charles H. Alston, ca. 2/1944.” (National Archives Identifier: 535841)

Charles Henry Alston (November 28, 1907–April 27, 1977) was a noted African American artist and teacher. He is best known for sculpting the bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., on display in the White House, but his association with the federal government started much earlier.

Born in Charlotte, North Carolina, Alston moved with his family to New York City in 1915. He spent his life living and working in Harlem and was active in the Harlem Renaissance.

During the 1930s, the WPA’s Federal Art Project commissioned Alston to paint murals for a hospital in Harlem.

Later, during World War II, the Office of War Information hired Alston for a series of drawings to be featured in black newspapers. The Records of the Office of War Information at the National Archives contain many of these drawings.

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