The Wise Owl Club

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Wise Owl Club display table with photos of three workers wearing safety glasses—and a stuffed owl also wearing safety glasses. (Record Group 434, National Archives Identifier 22118410)

While searching for images of owls in our digital catalog for #SuperbOwl (check Twitter the night of #SuperBowl!), I came across this curious photo of an owl wearing safety goggles. In the same search I found photographs of men shaking hands and showing off tiny owl lapel pins.

Turns out, these are photographs of inductees to the Wise Owl Club. Membership was gained by surviving a terrifying industrial workplace accident where eye protection saved your vision.

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Leo Kalis shows the broken tool that could have blinded him and the protective eyewear that saved his vision and earned him membership into the Wise Owl Club. (Record Group 255, National Archives Identifier 17474611.

The Wise Owl Club of America was founded in the 1950s as an industrial and school eye safety incentive program. The Rocketeer, the newsletter of an ordnance test station in California, featured six new Wise Owl members in 1961. The five men and one woman had worn safety glasses that saved their vision during explosions caused by fires, rocket fuel explosions, and chemical mixes.

Unfortunately, the photographs in the digital catalog don’t give us written details, but they do show some recreations of the scene of the accident with the new Owl wearing his damaged glasses.

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A recreation of the incident that earned Leo Kalis his Wise Owl membership.

So whether you are doing some woodworking or throwing a potato chip at your mouth on Sunday while cheering on your team, be a Wise Owl and wear the right safety equipment!

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Look closely for the little owl pin! (Record Group 255, National Archives Identifier 17450994)

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African American History at the National Archives

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

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National Archives Conference on Federal Archives as Sources for Research on Afro-Americans program, July 4-5, 1973. (Records of the National Archives)

In the late 1960s the National Archives began hosting conferences for researchers and scholars. These were held on a variety of subjects, but all related to records held by the institution. The purpose was not only to publicize National Archives holdings but also for the National Archives to learn how it could better serve the needs of researchers and scholars.

In 1973 the National Archives decided to hold a conference on African American sources to highlight its vast amount of material related to black history. Attention to African American history had been increasing dramatically in the years leading up to the conference, and with that came an increased interest in the primary sources that document that history.

In 1971 the National Archives hired Robert L. (Bob) Clarke from the Virginia State College as a specialist in African American records. Clarke served as the conference director.

The conference was held June 4-5, 1973, and featured staff from the National Archives, representatives from several colleges and universities, and authors and editors—all with extensive experience with African American history.

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Jeannette Rankin: The woman who voted to give women the right to vote

Today’s post comes from Christine Blackerby, an archives specialist with the Center for Legislative Archives at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

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Jeannette Rankin, oil on canvas, Sharon Sprung, 2004. (Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives)

2017 marks the centennial of the swearing-in of the first woman to become a member of the U.S. Congress, Jeannette Rankin (R-Montana).

A pacifist and suffragist, Rankin was elected to Congress four years before the 19th Amendment gave women nationwide the right to vote. In 1914, her home state of Montana passed a law granting suffrage to women in that state. In fact, 15 states allowed women to vote before the 19th Amendment’s ratification in 1920.

Before running for Congress, Rankin promoted suffrage in many states with the New York Women’s Suffrage Party and the National American Woman Suffrage Association in the 1910s. She was also heavily involved in the campaign for suffrage in Montana.

In 1916 she decided to try to continue that work in Congress. Running as a Republican, Rankin campaigned for one of two at-large seats from Montana in the U.S. House of Representatives. She came in second place, thus securing one of the seats.

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Special Exhibit: Alexander Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures

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Hamilton, Alexander. Painting by John Trumbull (copy). (Records of Commissions of the Legislative Branch, National Archives)

As the first Secretary of Treasury, Alexander Hamilton had a vision for the economic foundation of the country. Its three major components were the federal assumption of state debts, the creation of a Bank of the United States, and support for the nation’s emerging industries.

His first and second reports to Congress dealt with the first two issues; his third, the Report on the Subject of Manufactures, presented to Congress on December 5, 1791, tackled the issues the nation’s industries.

The report outlined Hamilton’s plan to make the United States independent from foreign countries. To do this, he called for the U.S. Government to institute tariffs to protect American industry from foreign competition, give subsidies for industry, and support internal improvements.

December 5 marked the 225th anniversary of Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures, the final of Hamilton’s seminal reports on the economy, national debt, and financial condition of the early republic that laid the economic foundation of the nation.

This original document, submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives, is on display in the West Rotunda Gallery through January 31, 2017.

Read the introductory note on Hamilton’s Report on Manufactures on Founders Online.

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Report of the Secretary of the Treasury on the Subject of Manufactures, December 5, 1791. (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives)

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“Let the Word Go Forth:” A President’s First Inaugural Address

Today’s post comes from Tom Putnam, Acting Director of the Office of Presidential Libraries.

The inauguration of a new President offers the nation an opportunity to witness not only the peaceful transfer of power but also the transformation of a person we’ve known for over a year as a candidate, and for two months as President-elect, into the President of the United States of America.

For that reason the first inaugural address is an exceptionally important speech. Each new President hopes to use his first words as President to capture the moment, chart a new course, and galvanize the country.

Some iconic quotes, of course, ring through the ages and most Americans can complete the quote when hearing just the first few words.

“The only thing we have to fear….” or “Ask not what your country can do for you….”

As the nation prepares for the inauguration of our 45th president, we have assembled a number of signature quotes from the first inaugural address of our last 14 Presidents (whose papers are all housed in within the Presidential Library system administered by the National Archives and Records Administration).

This was not a scientific selection nor do we mean to imply that these are the most important quotes in each President’s speech. They are simply quotes that struck us as noteworthy as we recently read through these addresses.

“The influence and high purposes of our Nation are respected among the peoples of the world. We aspire to distinction in the world, but to a distinction based upon confidence in our sense of justice as well as our accomplishments within our own borders and in our own lives.”

Herbert Hoover, March 4, 1929

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Herbert Hoover delivering his Inaugural Address at the U.S. Capitol. March 24, 1929. From the Hoover Presidential Library

“This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

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Reading copy of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first Inaugural Address, page one. From the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library

“The first half of this century has been marked by unprecedented and brutal attacks on the rights of man, and by the two most frightful wars in history. The supreme need of our time is for men to learn to live together in peace and harmony.”

Harry S. Truman, January 20, 1949

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Bible used by Harry S. Truman at his 1945 and 1949 swearing-in ceremonies. From the Truman Presidential Library

“Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in this world must first come to pass in the heart of America.”

– Dwight D. Eisenhower, January 20, 1953

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Reading copy (page 32) of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s first Inaugural Address, delivered on January 20, 1953. From the Eisenhower Presidential Library

“And so, my fellow Americans: Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”

– John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961

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John F. Kennedy delivers his Inaugural Address during ceremonies at the Capitol on January 20, 1961. From the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library

“Justice requires us to remember that when any citizen denies his fellow, saying, ‘His color is not mine,’ or ‘His beliefs are strange and different,’ in that moment he betrays America, though his forebears created this nation.”

– Lyndon B. Johnson, January 20, 1965

“The greatest honor history can bestow is the title of peacemaker. This honor now beckons America — the chance to help lead the world at last out of the valley of turmoil and onto that high ground of peace that man has dreamed of since the dawn of civilization.”

– Richard M. Nixon, January 20, 1969

“I believe that truth is the glue that holds government together, not only our government but civilization itself.”

– Gerald R. Ford, address after taking the oath of office on August 9, 1974

“To be true to ourselves, we must be true to others. We will not behave in foreign places so as to violate our rules and standards here at home, for we know that the trust which our Nation earns is essential to our strength.”

 – Jimmy Carter, January 20, 1977

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Jimmy, Rosalynn, and Amy Carter walk hand-in-hand on the Inaugural Parade route from the Capitol to the White House on January 20, 1977. Jimmy Carter began the tradition of exiting the Presidential car and walking in the parade: no other President had ever done so before. From the Carter Presidential Library

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

– Ronald Reagan, January 20, 1981

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Ronald Reagan delivering the Inaugural Address from the Capitol on January 20, 1981. From the Reagan Presidential Library

“America is never wholly herself unless she is engaged in high moral principle. We as a people have such a purpose today. It is to make kinder the face of the nation and gentler the face of the world.”

– George H. W. Bush, January 20, 1989

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George Bush takes the oath of office administered by Chief Justice William Rehnquist on January 20, 1989. From the Bush Presidential Library

“There is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”

– Bill Clinton, January  20, 1993

“Through much of the last century, America’s faith in freedom and democracy was a rock in a raging sea. Now it is a seed upon the wind, taking root in many nations.”

– George W. Bush, January 20, 2001

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George W. Bush is sworn-in at the U.S. Capitol on January 20, 2001. From the George W. Bush Presidential Library

“Our time of standing pat, of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions — that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.”

– Barack Obama, January 20, 2009

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Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, and daughters Malia and Sasha wave to the crowd after the inaugural address on January 20, 2009. Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Do you have a favorite quote from a President’s first inaugural address?  Why do you think those particular words speak so profoundly to you?

If you have a favorite quote from a President’s first inaugural we hope you will share it in our comment section.

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A precedent-breaking inauguration

On January 20, 1941, President Franklin D. Roosevelt made history by being the first President to be inaugurated for a third term.

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Franklin D. Roosevelt at his third inauguration, January 20, 1941. (Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library & Museum)

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On Exhibit: George Washington’s First Inaugural Address and Bible

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In honor of the upcoming Presidential inauguration, Washington’s first inaugural address and the Bible that he used to swear his oath of office are on display. The Bible was loaned for the occasion by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, which still owns the Bible today.

Since the country’s first inauguration of George Washington as President, Presidential inaugurations have been important civic rituals in our national political life. George Washington set many precedents as the first President of the United States, beginning on the day he took office. The Constitution requires only that the President-elect swear or affirm an oath to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.” No particular ceremony is mandated for the occasion.

On April 30, 1789, in the temporary capital of New York City on the second floor balcony of Federal Hall, George Washington placed his hand upon a bible and publicly swore his oath before a cheering crowd.  He then delivered his inaugural address to a joint session of Congress in the Senate Chamber in Federal Hall. These rituals observed during Washington’s first inauguration are the foundation upon which inaugural traditions are based today.

George Washington was keenly aware of the magnitude of his inauguration and the expectation and anxiety of many Americans regarding the future of the fragile new government. His first words as President would set the tone not just for his Presidency, but the entire country. Therefore, he sought to assure the nation and the world of his determination to make the American experiment a success.

“My station is new; and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground.”

–George Washington in a letter, January 9, 1790

In this handwritten address to Congress, he humbly noted the power of the nation’s call to serve as President and the shared responsibility of the President and Congress to preserve “the sacred fire of liberty” and a republican form of government. Washington’s address was later printed and distributed throughout the nation and around the world.

Article 2, Section 1, of the United States Constitution requires that the President-elect swear the oath of office before assuming the Presidency. It does not specify how that oath should be administered. A devout man, George Washington swore his oath with his hand placed over Genesis chapters 49-50 on this King James Bible at Federal Hall in New York City. The Bible was loaned for the occasion by St. John’s Lodge No. 1, Ancient York Masons, which still owns the Bible today. Additionally, the Bible has been used in the inaugurations of Presidents Harding, Eisenhower, Carter, and George H.W. Bush. Most, but not all, Presidents since Washington have sworn their oath over a Bible or other religious text.

The speech and the Bible will be on display until January 25, 2017. The Museum at the National Archives is open to the public on Inauguration Day (January 20).

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Page one of Washington’s first inaugural address, National Archives, records of the U.S. Senate

 

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Eighth and final page of Washington’s first inaugural address, National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate

 

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Carl Laemmle: Founder of Universal Studios and Humanitarian

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

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Carl Laemmle, ca. 1915-1920. (Photo Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

One of the founders of today’s Universal Studios, Carl Laemmle, was born to Jewish parents in Lupenheim, near Stuttgart, Germany, on January 17, 1867. Young Carl immigrated to Chicago in 1884 and became a naturalized citizen five years later. His Declaration of Intention is among the holdings of the National Archives in Chicago.

He worked his way through an assortment of jobs before becoming the bookkeeper at Continental Clothing Company in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in 1894, where he developed a taste for advertising.

In 1906, Laemmle opened the first movie theater in Chicago; created his own company, Independent Producers of America; and promoted young stars like Mary Pickford. He was one of the original “indies.”

Meanwhile, Thomas Edison formed the Motion Pictures Patent Company (Edison Trust) and dominated the early film industry and sued Laemmle hundreds of times for intellectual property infringements.

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J. Franklin Jameson: the Father of the National Archives

Today’s post comes from Elle Benak from the National Archives History Office.

On December 28, 1954, the American Historical Association dedicated a plaque to J. Franklin Jameson, noting his “persistence and wise guidance” in establishing the National Archives.

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Photograph of plaque presented to the National Archives by the American Historical Association in tribute to J. Franklin Jameson, 1954. (National Archives Identifier 12169393)

The plaque still hangs on the wall in the Pennsylvania Avenue entrance of the National Archives Building in Washington, DC, as a reminder of Jameson’s role in establishing the agency and his dedication to preserving our history. Continue reading

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Featured Document: A Right to a Fair Trial

Gideon v. Wainwright (1963), is the landmark the Supreme Court decision that requires states to provide defense attorneys for criminal defendants who can’t afford them.

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Petition for a writ of certiorari from Clarence Gideon to the Supreme Court of the United States, 1/5/1962. (National Archives Identifier 597554)

The case centers on Clarence Earl Gideon, a poor drifter with an eighth-grade education.

Gideon was arrested in 1961 for allegedly breaking into pool hall and stealing money and alcohol. He was charged with a noncapital felony.

Gideon could not afford a lawyer and asked the judge for an attorney to represent him. The judge said that Florida law only allowed the courts to provide attorneys to indigent defendants charged with capital crimes and denied Gideon’s request.

Gideon was left to represent himself.

Not surprisingly, Gideon was found guilty and sentenced to five years in prison. While in jail, he filed a writ of habeas corpus (petition for release from unjust imprisonment) with the Florida Supreme Court. He claimed his conviction was unconstitutional because he had lacked a defense attorney at the trial.

After the Florida Supreme Court denied his request, Gideon submitted a writ of certiorari (a petition asking to review the lower court’s decision) to the United States Supreme Court.

In his petition—in pencil, on lined prison paper—Gideon claimed he was a “pauper” who had been unconstitutionally denied the right to a lawyer and therefore did not have a fair trial.

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Abe Fortas, June 9, 1968. (LBJ Library, photo by Frank Wolfe)

The Supreme Court agreed to hear his case and assigned Gideon a prominent Washington, DC, lawyer and future Supreme Court justice: Abe Fortas.

After hearing arguments from both sides, the justices agreed with Gideon—that the Constitution required the court to provide counsel for defendants in all serious criminal cases who were too poor to hire one.

The court’s opinion stated, “lawyers in criminal courts are necessities, not luxuries,” and ruled that, just like the federal government, states too are bound by the Sixth Amendment. This is because the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause mandates that states abide by the Bill of Rights.

In the second trial, Gideon was found not guilty.

The consequences were far-reaching. Not only were defendants now guaranteed their constitutional rights to counsel, the case had a profound impact on the courts. Following the case, many states and counties needed to establish a system of public defenders. The case is considered one of the most significant Supreme Court decisions in American history.

Gideon’s petition to the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari is currently on display in the Rubenstein Gallery at the National Archives in Washington, DC.

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