We the People

of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America

Constitution of the United States
Series: The Constitution of the United States, 9/17/1787 - 9/17/1787. Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006

Happy Constitution Day!

(via GIPHY)

Petition for Naturalization for Hiao-Tsiun Ma, 10/11/1972

Series: Petitions for Naturalization, 1824 - 1991Record Group 21: Records of District Courts of the United States, 1685 - 2009

Composer and conductor Hiao-Tsiun Ma was born in Ningpo, Chekian, China, on July 11, 1911. He filed this petition for naturalization on October 11, 1972. He had two children, one of whom is the famous cellist Yo-Yo Ma. (via DocsTeach)

Wondering about your own genealogy?  Come to the @usnatarchivesVirtual Genealogy Fair on Wednesday October 25!

I John Parker, of lawful Age, and Commander of the Militia in Lexington, do testify & declare that on the 19th Instant, in the morning, about one of the Clock, being informed that there were a Number of Regular Officers riding up and down the Road, Stopping and insulting People as they passed the Road, and also was informed that a Number of Regular Troops were on their March from Boston, in order to take the Province Stores at Concord, ordered our Militia to meet on the Common in said Lexington, to consult what to do, and concluded not to be discovered nor meddle or make with said Regular Troops (if they should approach) unless they should insult or molest us - and upon their sudden Approach I immediately ordered our Militia to disperse and not to fire - Immediately said Troops made their Appearance and rushed furiously, fired up-on and killed eight of our Party, without receiving any Provocation therefor from us,
John Parker

Deposition of Captain John Parker Concerning the Battle at Lexington, 4/25/1775

On April 19, 1775, Capt. John Parker of the Lexington militia gave this account of the battle of Lexington, Massachusetts. After confronting the British Regulars, Parker ordered his men “to disperse and not to fire.” Suddenly a shot rang out, fired by an unknown person; the British reacted by firing, killing eight of Parker’s men. 
(via DocsTeach)

Immediately after the incidents at Lexington and Concord, MA, of April 19th, 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress lead by Dr. Joseph Warren, ordered that depositions be collected from eyewitnesses to the battles. These would be sent to Colony Agent Benjamin Franklin in England in order to garner popular support for the colonials, and they were also sent to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. These are preserved today among the Papers of the Continental Congress at the National Archives.  

This and other accounts of the battles at Lexington and Concord are available and transcribed in the National Archives Catalog.

Watch for more eyewitness accounts on the 240th Anniversary of the Battle of Lexington and Concord!

“…the most overwhelming disaster of Jewish history has befallen Jews in the form of the Hitler mass-massacres…”

Letter from Stephen Wise, President, American Jewish Congress, to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, 12/02/1942

A plea for action and public support

“We are dealing with an insane man— Hitler, and the group that surrounds him represents an example of a national psychopathic case. We cannot act toward them by normal means. That is why the problem is very difficult.”—Franklin Roosevelt, December 8, 1942 during his meeting with American Jewish leaders

Rabbi Stephen Wise, President of the American Jewish Congress, wrote to President Franklin Roosevelt on December 2, 1942, appealing to him to publicly acknowledge that Hitler had begun the “Final Solution to the Jewish question”—the systematic slaughter all Jewish people in the lands he ruled.

Roosevelt met with Wise and other leaders on December 8th. Granting the committee one of their requests but declaring it was too early to intervene, Roosevelt offered to make a public statement if Wise and the others would compose it. Wise spent the remainder of the war trying to publicize the genocide.

via DocsTeach

Burning Draft Cards, 1/14/1968

National Archives Identifier: 7419593, Records of U.S. Attorneys

This photograph is of a young unnamed man burning a draft card at an anti-Vietnam draft rally at a New York town hall meeting.

(This document was digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2013 Summer Workshop at our Boston location.)

via DocsTeach

Thomas A. Edison’s Patent for An Improvement in Electric Lamps, 1/27/1880

From the Records of the Patent and Trademark Office

On January 27, 1880, The Patent Office granted Thomas Edison’s patent for “an Improvement in Electric Lamps” His patent was an improvement on electric lamps, not the invention of them, but because of Edison’s design changes and the materials he used—such as a carbon filament—his patent allowed for an electric lamp that was reliable, safe, and practical.

via DocsTeach

Long distance calls

Photograph of Women Working at a Bell System Telephone Switchboard, 12/22/1943
From the series: Women Working In Industry, 1940 - 1945; Records of the Women’s Bureau

This photograph shows a telephone switchboard where overseas phone calls were handled during World War II. Many women patriotically joined the industrial workforce to work in shipyards or an aircraft factories, but many more worked in service or clerical jobs as secretaries, bank tellers, retail clerks, and telephone operators.

via DocsTeach



Telegram from Senator Joseph R. McCarthy to President Harry S. Truman, with Truman’s Reply, 02/11/1950

In this telegram to President Harry S. Truman, Senator Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin repeats his assertion that he has the names of fifty-seven Communists who are working in the State Department, and calls upon the President to provide Congress with a full accounting of Communist infiltration of the Department, including the role of alleged Communist spy Alger Hiss in protecting security risks. In an undated (and apparently unsent) reply, the President states that McCarthy is not fit to serve in the U.S. government, adding that the people of Wisconsin must be “extremely sorry that they are represented by a person who has as little sense of responsibility as you have.

via DocsTeach

National Archives’ Citizen Archivist Celebrates Sunshine Week

You can do your part to help improve public access to information by transcribing records in the National Archives Catalog. Every transcription helps “unlock” the information and helps open government records. Each day of this week-long event we’ll release a mission based on an historical era. Our goal is to transcribe 2,000 pages this week. Transcriptions created by Citizen Archivists will enhance searches in our catalog and the transcriptions will be added to DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

New to transcription? Learn how it works.

Looking for more missions?  See the other Transcription Challenges from earlier this week:

National Archives’ Citizen Archivist Celebrates Sunshine Week

You can do your part to help improve public access to information by transcribing records in the National Archives Catalog. Every transcription helps “unlock” the information and helps open government records. Each day of this week-long event we’ll release a mission based on an historical era. Our goal is to transcribe 2,000 pages this week. Transcriptions created by Citizen Archivists will enhance searches in our catalog and the transcriptions will be added to DocsTeach, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives.

New to transcription? Learn how it works.

Looking for more missions?  See the other Transcription Challenges from earlier this week:



This is an annotated speech card from President Jimmy Carter’s April 1980 speech announcing that a rescue mission attempting to free American hostages in Iran had failed.

President Jimmy Carter’s Annotated Statement on the Failed Rescue Mission Regarding the Hostages in Iran, 04/25/1980

President Carter’s speech can be transcribed in the National Archives Catalog:

via DocsTeach

Fallout Shelter Stocking, 01/22/1963

Records of the Office of the Chief of Engineers, National Archives Identifier: 7419775

This is a photograph of fallout shelter supplies being distributed to nuns at the Villa Augustana Academy in Goffstown, New Hampshire. The nuns in the photograph include Mother Wilfred and Mother Superior Liguori.

(This document was digitized by teachers in our Primarily Teaching 2013 Summer Workshop at our Boston location.)

via DocsTeach

U.S. Representatives to the First United Nations General Assembly, 12/28/1945

Letter to H. M. Galdwyn Jebb, Executive Secretary, Preparatory Commission of the United Nations, 12/28/1945.
File Unit: 501.BB/12-2145 to 501.BB/1-246 [½], 1910 - 1963Series: Central Decimal Files, 1910 - 1963Record Group 59: General Records of the Department of State, 1763 - 2002

This letter lists the representatives and alternate representative of the United States of America to the first part of the First Session of the General Assembly of the @united-nations , including former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt.  

Many people—men and women alike—thought that Franklin D. Roosevelt’s widow, Eleanor Roosevelt, would be an outstanding representative to the first meeting of the United Nations Assembly to be held in London in January 1946. She had been a spokesperson for numerous causes, including community service, civil rights, and international cooperation, during her husband’s administration. Women, especially those who had begun to assume increasingly demanding roles both at home and in the military, were particularly insistent that female candidates be seriously considered as delegates to the new United Nations. Many contended that women were predisposed by nature to seek peaceful means of resolving conflict. This letter identifies Mrs. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt as one the representatives of the United States in this international forum.  
(via DocsTeach)

Calling Educators & Citizen Archivists! A Primary Source Transcription Mission!

“Food substitutions for meatless and wheatless meals, 12/18/1917. “
From the Records of the U.S. Food Administration. National Archives Identifier 20737679.

This summer teachers in our Primarily Teaching institutes across the country found and digitized primary sources related to Chinese immigration, President Hoover, World War I, NASA, and Native American fishing rights.

These educators hand-picked documents that they knew would make useful teaching tools.

But now we’re inviting students, teachers, and learners of all ages to make these primary sources even more accessible by transcribing them. To help:

  1. Create a username and password in the National Archives Catalog.
  2. Log in.
  3. Head to our Transcription Missions page and click on “Teacher-Found Primary Sources.”
  4. Click on a document.
  5. Select the “View/Add Contributions” button located below all images in the catalog.
  6. Select the “Transcribe” tab for the page of the record you would like to transcribe.
  7. Select the “Edit” button and remember to save frequently.

These primary sources are available in the National Archives Catalog as well as on DocsTeach, our online tool for teaching with documents. They form the basis of teacher-created online learning activities and are ready to be used by any DocsTeach member in new activities.

We’ll incorporate all transcriptions into the new and improved version of DocsTeach that launches next year with a transcription feature!

via A Primary Source Transcription Mission! | Education Updates


Happy ‪#‎AskAnArchivist‬ Day!

We have five staff members from across the National Archives answering your archives questions. Tweet us your questions–our experts will be standing by at 11 am ET  on Twitter at @usnatarchives!


Audrey Amidon and Criss Kovac
Audrey and Criss work in the Motion Picture Preservation Lab, where they and their colleagues perform conservation and preservation work on motion picture records held across the National Archives. They write about their work and their favorite film finds on The Unwritten Record. Audrey studied film archives at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England and previously worked at the Peary-MacMillan Arctic Museum. Criss studied film preservation at the L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation and has been supervisor of the Motion Picture Lab since 2005.


Stephanie Greenhut

Stephanie Greenhut runs, the online tool for teaching with documents from the National Archives, and shares teaching resources via National Archives Education on Facebook and the Education Updates blog. She focuses on education technology, incorporating primary sources into websites, apps, eBooks, and other online learning resources. She is a former classroom teacher.


Natalie Rocchio
Natalie specializes in digital outreach for the Center for Legislative Archives. She creates content, manages, and maintains the Center’s twitter and tumblr accounts, as well as the Center’s portion of She has a Master’s degree in History with concentrations in American History and Public History from American University.

@archivespres (Preservation Programs)

Nancy Stanfill
Nancy is a Preservation Technician at the St. Louis Preservation Program. She co-chairs the Preservation Programs Social Media accounts, which includes highlights from the Persons of Exceptional Prominence (PEP) records and updates on breakthroughs in filming and scanning severely burned records. She has a Master’s degree in Library and Information Science with a Certificate in Conservation from the University of Texas at Austin, where she was a member of the first class to begin the program in 1993.


Joseph P. Keefe

Joe is an Archives Specialist and Reference Team Lead and Social Media co-coordinator with the National Archives at Boston. He began his National Archives career in the Federal Records Center where he worked in both research and the Transfer of records into the facility. He moved to his current position as an Archives Specialist in 2006. Joe has a bachelor’s degree in History from Framingham State University in Framingham, Massachusetts and a MA in American History from the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

He has lectured on numerous subjects in New England including genealogical research, Census, Naturalization and Passenger Lists and 18th 19th and 20th Century Military records, 54th Massachusetts Infantry and National Archives records related to World War II.


On July 2, 1964, with Martin Luther King, Jr., directly behind him, President Lyndon Johnson scrawled his signature on a document years in the making—the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the landmark legislation.

Civil Rights Act of 1964 , 07/02/1964

President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the 1964 Civil Rights Act as Martin Luther King, Jr., others look on, 07/02/1964. (The Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library)

The first and the signature pages of the act will be on display at the National Archives Rubenstein Gallery in Washington, DC, until September 17, 2014. These 50-year-old sheets of paper represent years of struggle and society’s journey toward justice.

The most comprehensive civil rights legislation since the Reconstruction era, the Civil Right Act finally gave the Federal Government the means to enforce the promises of the 13th,  14th, and 15th Amendments. The act prohibited discrimination in public places, allowed the integration of public facilities and schools, and forbade discrimination in employment.

But such a landmark congressional enactment was by no means achieved easily…

Keep reading at Prologue: Pieces of History » Now On Display: The Civil Rights Act of 1964

Plus more on the Civil Rights Act of 1964:

Photograph of Hungry Internees at the German Prison Camp in Belsen, Germany, 4/28/1945

Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives Identifier: 594425

Holocaust Remembrance Week is April 27–May 4, 2014

On April 28, 1945, the Army Signal Corps photographed these internees at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany 13 days after their liberation by the British. Despite desperate efforts to save them, 14,000 of the 45,000 prisoners interned at Bergen-Belsen had died by the end of June from the effects of their imprisonment.

via DocsTeach


Happy 227th #ConstitutionDay!

September 17 is designated as Constitution Day and Citizenship Day to commemorate the signing of the U.S. Constitution in Philadelphia on September 17, 1787. Learn more about the U.S. Constitution through programs, and resources from the National Archives:

Have you ever been to the usnatarchives to see the Constitution in person?  

Bonus question - have you ever slept over in the same room as the Constitution?

World War II Begins Seventy Five Years Ago:

Bedside Note of President Franklin D. Roosevelt Regarding the Invasion of Poland by Germany, 09/01/1939

In the early morning of September 1, 1939, German tanks crossed the German-Polish border—sparking World War II. Five hours later, at 3:05 A.M. local time, President Franklin D. Roosevelt received a phone call from Ambassador William C. Bullitt in Paris, who relayed the news from Ambassador Anthony Biddle in Warsaw. After notifying the military, FDR jotted down this bedside note.

via DocsTeach