rotunda gallery

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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)

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.

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One Hundred Years of the National Park Service

“Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That there is hereby created in the Department of the Interior a service to be called the National Park Service…The service thus established shall promote and regulate the use of the Federal areas known as national parks, monuments, and reservations hereinafter specified by such means and measures as conform to the fundamental purposes of the said parks, monuments, and reservations, which purpose is to conserve the scenery and the natural and historic objects and the wild life therein and to provide for the enjoyment of the same in such manner and by such means as will leave them unimpaired for the enjoyment of future generations.”

An Act of August 25, 1916, Public Law 64-235, (39 STAT 535) to Establish a National Park Service, and for Other Purposes, 8/25/1916

File Unit: Laws of the United States, 1915-16, 64th Congress, 1st Session, Part 3, Public Acts 163-241, 1789 - 2011Series: Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2011Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006

Yellowstone. The Grand Canyon. Yosemite. For many Americans, the mere mention of these sites conjures up images of grandeur and magnificence.

The Tetons - Snake River,” Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming., 1933 - 1942, from the series Ansel Adams Photographs of National Parks and Monuments, 1941 - 1942

As the conservator of the United States’ most storied and important landmarks, the National Park Service is charged with the preservation and operation of each of the nation’s 59 national parks, as well as hundreds of protected shorelines, preserves, and historical landmarks.

This summer, the National Archives will be commemorating the 100th anniversary of the National Parks Service by displaying the document that founded the NPS, the Organic Act of 1916.

Though the first national park had been established at Yellowstone on March 1, 1872, it and subsequently designated national parks were only loosely managed under the Department of the Interior.

By establishing a National Park Service, the Federal Government ensured the efficient and responsible conservation of national landmarks for future generations.

The passage of the Organic Act was the result of a collaborative effort between businessmen, government officials, and private citizens, who together  had advocated for the establishment of a National Park Service for decades.

President Wilson signed the bill on August 25, 1916, and the National Park Service was born.

The Organic Act provided for the appointment of a full-time Director of the National Park Service as well as a support staff to manage the parks from Washington, D.C. These employees were to be paid out of a pool of funds appropriated by Congress. Additionally, the Parks Director was tasked with organizing the system of local officials and park rangers that operated each site.

Today the National Park Service employs over 22,000 full time employees as well as 221,000 volunteers across more than 400 park areas. Each year, the National Park Service enables more than 275 million visitors to experience the beauty and wonder of America’s protected landmarks.

The National Archives will be displaying the Organic Act of 1916 in the East Rotunda Gallery from June 30 through August 31, 2016. Plan your visit and see the origins of the National Park Service for yourself!

Originally posted by todaysdocument

(Dogs at Yosemite National Park,  excerpted from the film “Yosemite Valley“)

Keep reading at On Exhibit: One Hundred Years of the National Park Service | Prologue: Pieces of History

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.

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

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.

Richard M. Nixon’s Resignation Letter, 08/09/1974

For two years, public revelations of wrongdoing inside the White House had convulsed the nation. The Watergate affair was a national trauma—a constitutional crisis that tested and affirmed the rule of law. On the evening of August 8, 1974, President Nixon announced his intention to resign. 

Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s subsequent Presidential Pardon are on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from August 8 through August 11, 2014.

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“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

Seventy years ago, 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.

via Prologue: Pieces of History » On display: GI Bill of Rights

The GI Bill is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from June 6 through July 14.

100 Years of the Coca-Cola Bottle

Design patent No. 48,160 for bottle or similar article, November 16, 1915.

National Archives, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office

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 among glassmakers in 1915 to design a new bottle that was distinctive in both look and feel.

The winning design, patented by the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute, Indiana, sought inspiration from Coca-Cola’s ingredients. However, the bottle’s fluted contour shape was instead modeled after the cacao pod, the main ingredient in chocolate.

The Coca-Cola Company adopted the Root Glass Company’s bottle design in 1916, but 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.

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)

The design patent of the winning bottle design and an original contoured “Coke” bottle is currently on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Museum, October 29 - December 2, 2015.

via Prologue: Pieces of History » The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

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. 

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On Exhibit: An Act to establish the NMAAHC

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (@nmaahc ) officially opens this weekend on the National Mall.

It is the 19th and newest Smithsonian Institution museum and is devoted to documenting African American life, history, and culture.

The museum was established by a December 16, 2003, act of Congress, but efforts to create a national museum dedicated to African American history and culture dates to the early 20th century.

In 1915, African-American veterans of the Union Army met in Washington, DC, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the end of the Civil War. After facing discrimination and segregation in the nation’s capital, the veterans formed a committee to build a memorial to honor African Americans’ service to the country.

The committee’s efforts eventually led to 1929 legislation authorizing a National Memorial Commission to construct a memorial building as a tribute to African American achievements.

The law had a condition that private capital would be needed. Because of the stock market crash and subsequent Great Depression, the commission was not able to raise the necessary funds.

S. 277, A bill to Authorize the Establishment of the National African American Museum Within the Smithsonian Institution, 1993 (did not pass). (ARC Identifier 6036654)

In the 1970s and 1980s, there was a renewed interest in such a museum but Congress failed to pass the necessary legislation.

After a long legislative struggle, the museum was finally authorized in 2003, and its site on the Mall finalized in 2006.

When the museum was authorized it had no collection. However, after years of work to populate its archives, the museum has collected more than 36,000 artifacts and has nearly 100,000 charter members.

On Saturday, September 24, 2016, the museum will hold an outdoor dedication ceremony. In the afternoon the museum will officially open to the public.

For more information visit the NMAAHC website.

In celebration of the opening of the NMAACH, a 1927 pamphlet showing an early design for an African American memorial museum, and the act that was ultimately passed in 2003 will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery from September 1 to November 9, 2016.

(via On Exhibit: An Act to establish the NMAAHC | Prologue: Pieces of History)

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.

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The Fiftieth Anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Incident:

Fifty years ago on August 2, 1964, three North Vietnamese patrol boats attacked the USS Maddox in the Gulf of Tonkin. The Maddox and aircraft from the USS Ticonderoga damaged all three hostile boats, almost sinking one. Following reports of a second alleged incident two days later, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Lyndon B. Johnson advance approval to respond to military aggression in Southeast Asia without congressional consultation, and leading to an escalation of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.

Read more at Prologue: Pieces of History » On exhibit: Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

The original Gulf of Tonkin Resolution is on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives Building from July 15 to August 7, 2014.

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The Civil Rights Act of 1866

Act of April 9, 1866 (Civil Rights Act), Public Law 39-26, 14 STAT 27, which protected all persons in the United States in their civil rights and furnished the means of their vindication., 4/9/1866

Series: Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789 - 2011Record Group 11: General Records of the United States Government, 1778 - 2006

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 survived President Andrew Johnson’s veto and was voted into law by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress. It was the first attempt at civil rights legislation after the 13th Amendment abolished slavery. Its landmark language attempted to put African Americans on equal footing with whites and paved the way for the 14th Amendment.

After the destruction of the Civil War, some believed Congress was warranted on trying to remove the marks left behind by slavery. The act conveyed the ideals of the Radical Republicans, who saw the end of the Civil War as an opportunity to create an egalitarian society. Opponents argued that this was an unprecedented and unwanted intrusion into local government by the Federal Government.

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 is now on exhibit in the National Archives Museum’s East Rotunda Gallery through April 27, 2016.

Having been the first of our profession who arrived to the assistance of our late President, and having been requested by Mrs. Lincoln to do what I could for him I assumed the charge until the Surgeon General and Dr. Stone, his family physician arrived, which was about 20 minutes after we had placed him in bed in the house of Mr. Petersen opposite the theatre, and as I remained with him until his death, I humbly submit the following brief account.
— 

Report of Assistant Surgeon Charles A. Leale concerning the death of President Abraham Lincoln

There was a doctor in the house the night President Lincoln was assassinated—Dr. Charles A. Leale, a recently employed surgeon at the U.S. Army General Hospital. Six weeks out of medical school, the 23-year-old doctor went to Ford’s Theatre on April 14, 1865, hoping to catch a glimpse of President Lincoln. In the course of the evening, he found himself attempting to remove a bullet from the President’s skull. Leale was the first medical professional to arrive at the wounded President’s side. His report of the events of that evening takes us to the scene of a crime that irreversibly altered the future of the United States.

Dr. Leale’s Report is currently on exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives through April 29, 2015.

Dr. Leale’s Report as well as other items relating to the Lincoln Assassination can be transcribed in the National Archives Catalog

  1. How to get started transcribing
  2. Help to transcribe Dr. Leale’s Report in the National Archives Catalog
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The Bicentennial of the Battle of Baltimore, September 12-14, 1814:

Letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith to James Monroe about the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814.

List of killed and wounded from Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814.

National Archives, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

Following the Battle of North Point, British forces moved on the city of Baltimore and Fort McHenry on September 13, 1814, subjecting the fort to an unrelenting naval bombardment.  (As described in the report by the fort’s commander, American Lt. Col. George Armistead.)

When Francis Scott Key, an American lawyer watching the battle from behind the British lines, saw that the American flag was still waving over Fort McHenry on the morning of September 14, he knew the fort’s defenders had prevailed. He was so moved by their heroism, he wrote a poem,  “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Set to music, the poem eventually became the national anthem.

In celebration of the Bicentennial, these documents are on exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives through November 3, 2014

Plus:

Sketch Showing Lifeboats Stowed and Secured on Board the SS [RMS] Lusitania, 12/6/1917

From the series:  In the Matter of the Petition of the Cunard Steamship Company, Limited, as Owner of the Steamship LUSITANIA for Limitation of its Liability

Built in England, the RMS Lusitania was the pride of the Cunard Line’s fleet. Lusitania completed 201 Atlantic ocean crossings between her maiden voyage in September 1907 and May 1915, holding the record for the fastest time between 1907 and 1909.

The Lusitania left New York for the final time on May 1, 1915, under good weather, but that did not mean she was entering calm waters.

Although technically still neutral in 1915, the United States continued to conduct commerce with the Great Britain, a practice that put the Lusitania at risk. Fearing passenger boats would be used to ship war material, the German government approved unrestricted submarine warfare in February 1915.

After sighting her on May 7, 1915, off the coast of Ireland, the German submarine U-20 fired a single torpedo at the ship at 3:10 p.m. It was a direct hit.

A secondary explosion rocked the Lusitania shortly after the torpedo hit, only adding to the confusion on the ship. As passengers and crew scrambled to the lifeboats, survival took precedence over custom and law as those aboard discovered that many lifeboats were impossible to launch.

Survivor James Leary recalled that he reminded a crewmember that sailors were legally required to save passengers before abandoning ship. The crewman replied “passengers be damned: save yourself first.”

Eighteen minutes after being struck, the Lusitania lay beneath the waves. In total, 1,198 civilians perished, including 128 Americans, largely due to the Lusitania’s poorly designed lifeboat launch system.

A century later, historians question whether the U-20’s sinking of the Lusitania led the United States to enter World War I. Yet, they generally agree that it played a significant role in turning public opinion against Germany. Past blogs have explored this relationship, which can be found here and here.

Regardless of whether or not it was a contributing factor in sending our doughboys to France, the Lusitania is a notable chapter in the history of World War I and the United States more generally.

In recognition of the centennial of the sinking of the Lusitania, a sketch of the lifeboats will be on display in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from April 30 through June 3, 2015.

via Prologue: Pieces of History » On Exhibit: sketch of the RMS Lusitania’s lifeboat storage mechanism

More on the 100th Anniversary of the Sinking of the Lusitania »