rotunda gallery


Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same.

To distinguish its product from competitors, the Coca-Cola Company launched a competition in 1915 among glassmakers to design a new bottle that was unique in both look and feel.

The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, had a fluted contour shape that was modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate. However the original prototype was never manufactured because it was top-heavy and unstable.

The first commercial “Coke” bottles debuted with a wider base and slimmed-down, contoured shape. This silhouette became so unmistakable that in 1961 the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office gave it trademark status.

See the original patent in person at the National Archives in Washington, DC, from June 4 through July 29, 2015, in the West Rotunda Gallery; and from October 29 through December 2, 2015, in the East Rotunda Gallery.

Images: Original Coke Bottle Patent, November 16, 1915. (Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, National Archives)

Men of the 133rd Field Artillery Battalion enjoy Cokes on the front, March 17, 1944. (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives)

Military Police officers toast with their Coca-Colas at a “Retreat Club,” July 21, 1945. (Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, National Archives)

Beginning today through February 4, President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress will be on display at the National Archives in the Rotunda Gallery to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the First Congress (1789-1791).

On January 8, 1790 President George Washington delivered his first annual message to Congress. This was the shortest annual message ever delivered to Congress. Since 1934, the President’s annual message has commonly been referred to as the State of the Union address.

Photograph of the Rotunda Gallery Exhibit on Display Beginning January 6, 2015

The Nixon Tapes

President Richard Nixon captured every word spoken in key locations in the White House and Camp David from 1971 to 1973 on a voice-activated taping system. Historian and author Douglas Brinkley and Luke Nichter have transcribed the tapes, giving us an unprecedented account of one of the most controversial Presidencies in U.S. history. A book signing follows the program.

President Nixon’s resignation letter and President Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery from August 8 to 11.

Friday, August 8 at noon in the William McGowan Theater (enter the National Archives Building through the Special Events entrance at Seventh Street and Constitution).

Image: Richard M. Nixon press conference releasing the transcripts of the White House tapes., 04/29/1974. National Archives Identifier: 194576.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives through the generous support of Toyota.

Dr. Charles A. Leale was the first doctor to attend to Abraham Lincoln after he was shot at Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865. The President died on April 15, 1865, at 7:22 a.m. with Leale holding his hand.

Leale, like Lincoln, was attending the performance of “Our American Cousin.” The play, Leale later noted, “progressed very pleasantly” until half past 10, when “the report of a pistol was distinctly heard” and the whole theater erupted in confusion.

Next, a man brandishing a dagger jumped from the President’s box onto the stage, dislodged himself from the flags in which he had been entangled, and ran. As John Wilkes Booth made his escape, Lincoln slumped in his chair.

Leale fought his way up to the President’s box. He was the first doctor on the scene and examined the President while the family physician and surgeon general were called.

Leale found the President “in a state of general paralysis” and barely breathing. After movng Lincoln out of his chair and onto the floor, Leale examined the President. Since Booth had been clutching a dagger when he landed on the stage, Leale assumed that Lincoln had been stabbed and searched in earnest for a wound, only to find a bullet hole at the base of Lincoln’s skull.

As word spread, Washingtonians gathered outside the nearby Peterson house, where Lincoln had been taken. The President died the next morning.

In recognition of the sesquicentennial of the Lincoln’s assassination, Assistant Surgeon Robert A. Leale’s report on the event will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from March 6 through April 29, 2015.

Read the full report.

The Monuments Men

Yesterday we were privileged to host two special advance screenings of The Monuments Men, one especially for the staff of the National Archives. Thanks to the generosity of Sony Pictures, Columbia Pictures, and Robert Edsel, author of The Monuments Men upon which the film is based for making this possible. The film will open in theaters around the country on February 7th.

In our East Rotunda Gallery, through the 19th of February, our featured document is an Einsatzstab Reichsleiter Rosenberg (ERR) album that records artwork looted by the Nazis during the Second World War – one of a series of photo albums created for Adolph Hitler’s benefit to document the Nazis’ systematic looting of cultural treasures and to serve as a pick list for his planned museum in Linz after the war. The Army’s Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives program recruited the group known as the Monuments Men (although there were also Monuments Women), and they used these albums to return treasures to their rightful owners. The volume on display is one of several recently discovered albums donated to the National Archives by Robert Edsel, the president of the Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art. The newly discovered albums supplement the 40 already in the custody of the National Archives.

Read the full post on the AOTUS blog.

Beginning today through April 16, the First Senate Journal will be on display at the National Archives in the Rotunda Gallery to commemorate the 225th anniversary of the First Congress in 1789. The Journal is open to the entry from April 6, which shows the results of the electoral tally for President and Vice President of the United States: George Washington of Virginia was unanimously elected President, and John Adams of Massachusetts, who finished second in the balloting, was elected Vice President. 

The GI Bill is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building now through July 14.

“With the signing of this bill a well-rounded program of special veterans’ benefits is nearly completed. It gives emphatic notice to the men and women in our armed forces that the American people do not intend to let them down.” President Franklin Roosevelt’s Statement on Signing the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, June 22, 1944

President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act into law on June 22, 1944, just days after the D-Day invasion of Normandy.

Also known as the GI Bill of Rights, it offered World War II veterans grants and loans for college and vocational education, unemployment insurance, and low interest loans for housing. The bill had unanimously passed both chambers of Congress in the spring of 1944.

The act put higher education, job training, and home ownership within the reach of millions of World War II veterans. By 1951, nearly 8 million veterans had received educational and training benefits, and 2.4 million had received $13 billion in Federal loans for homes, farms, and businesses.

Image: The Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (Public Law 78-346), approved July 22, 1944. National Archives, General Records of the United States Government.