Drawing for Improvements in Telegraphy
After years of experiments, Alexander Graham Bell devised the first apparatus to transmit human speech via machine. Bell patented his “Improvements in Telegraphy" (aka the telephone) on March 7, 1876, making it “…possible to connect every man’s house, office or factory with a central station, so as to give him direct communication with his neighbors.” His work culminated in one of the most profitable and contested of all 19th-century patents.
From the series: Patent Case Files, compiled 1836 - 1993. Records of the Patent and Trademark Office, 1836 - 1978.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all the territory ceded by Spain to the United States, situated to the eastward of the Perdido, and known by the name of East and West Florida, shall constitute a territory of the United States, under the name of the territory of Florida…
A bill for the establishment of a territorial government in Florida, 03/03/1822
Exactly twenty-three years later on March 3, 1845, Florida would be admitted as the 27th state.
This slave manifest for the brig Orleans, which includes Solomon Northup listed as Plat Hamilton on line 33, is now on display at the National Archives.
In 1841, Solomon Northup, a free-born African American from New York, was kidnapped by two white men and enslaved for 12 years in the deep South before he could prove his legal right to freedom. He later wrote about his ordeal in his book “12 Years A Slave” which was made into a movie.
Abducting free blacks for sale into slavery was outlawed in most of the United States. However uneven law enforcement, the marginal rights of free blacks, and mounting demand for slaves after the end of the transatlantic slave trade made kidnapping an attractive and potentially profitable prospect that encouraged the creation of a reverse underground railroad.
Kidnappers gave their victims aliases to hide their true identities. Northup recounted that he first heard the name he would be known by as a slave, “Plat Hamilton,” in New Orleans when it was called from this slave manifest (line 33) for the brig Orleans. Victims who insisted that they were free often faced severe beatings or even death. Northup accepted his identity as “Plat” because “[He] was too costly a chattel to be lost … [and] knew well enough the slightest knowledge of [his] real character would consign [him] at once to the remotest depths of Slavery.”
Vera Williams, a direct descendent of Solomon Northup works at the National Archives. You can read her personal story or learn how she walked in the footsteps of her great-great-great-grandfather.
"Officers and guests lunch under giant cactus near Fort Thomas, Arizona." February 18, 1886
From the series: Signal Corps Photographs of American Military Activity, 1754 - 1954
Minot’s Ledge Light, again
This is the plan for the second lighthouse built on Minot’s Ledge, an infamous reef southeast of Boston Harbor responsible for over 40 shipwrecks. The first lighthouse washed away in a storm in 1851, a little over a year after it was first lit. (You can find a drawing of the original ill-fated lighthouse and its iron framework in our online catalog)
Section and Elevation Drawing for Minot’s Ledge Lighthouse, 02/01/1855
From the series: Lighthouse Plans and Maps from the Records of the U.S. Coast Guard.
In 1836, President Jackson accepted 1,400-pound wheel of cheese from Col. Thomas Meacham, a dairy farmer near Sandy Creek, NY. The cheese was mammoth, and it sat, ripening, in the White House for over a year. Eventually, Jackson invited everyone in Washington, DC, to stop by and help consume the massive wheel. He threw the doors open, and in just two hours, the cheese was gone.Even members of Congress went crazy for cheese and were absent from their seats. From the Vermont Phoenix, March 3, 1837:
Mr. Alford opposed the motion for a recess. He said it was time, if they intended to do any public business this session, that they forthwith set about it, for they had wasted enough time already. As for the battle with the great cheese at the White House, he was for leaving it to those whose tastes led them there, and to-morrow they might receive a full account of the killed and slain. The gentleman from Maine, (Mr Jarvis) could as well finish the speech he was making to the few members present, as not.
Mr. Wise remarked that it was pretty well understood where the absent members had gone. There was a big cheese to be eaten at the White House to-day, and the appetites of members had driven them there to partake in the treat. To obtain a quorum he therefore moved that the Seargent-at-arms be directed to go to the President’s house, and invite the members there to return to their seats. [“Those that have done eating!”—exclaimed a member.] “Oh yes,” continued Mr. W. “those that have done eating their cheese, of course.” [“And let them bring a portion with them,” said a third.] “No, he did not want any of it—he had no wish to partake of any thing at the White House.”
A motion was again made that the House take a recess till 4 o’clock.
This true story is the basis for today’s first virtual “Big Block of Cheese Day” at the White House, which is hosting an online open house for citizens to ask questions. Sadly, there will be no physical cheese giveaway!
When we heard about the event, our archivists hunted through our records, but there are no official Federal documents relating to the cheese, probably because the cheese was a private gift. (In fact, we only turned up a handful of cheese-related records, including a recipe for making “loaf” from cottage cheese.)
However, we did find a mention of Jackson and cheese in this handwritten note (see page 4 and 5) from President Truman in 1952. The White House was being renovated, and Truman was thinking of previous Presidents and their treatment of the official furnishings.
Truman wrote, “Then old Andy Jackson and his rough, tough backwoods [illegible] walking on the furniture, with muddy boots and eating a 300-pound cheese, grinding it into the lovely Adams and Monroe carpets!”
Jackson was not the first President to receive a giant wheel of cheese as a gift. President Jefferson received on as well. There is even a monument in Cheshire, MA, to the cheese press used to make the cheese for Jefferson.
Alas, this cheese slicer was patented 30 years too late to help President Jackson get rid of his cheese more quickly….
Cheese Press & Slicer patents thanks to our colleagues at the National Archives at Kansas City!
Patent for a cheese press, given to Luke Hale in June, 1838 (National Archives at Kansas City).
Patent for a cheese slicer, granted to J. G. Barker in 1860 (National Archives at Kansas City)
Proclamation to the People of New Orleans, 12/20/1803
Following Senate ratification of the Louisiana Purchase in October, 1803, this three-language broadside was written to announce the United States’ purchase of the Louisiana Territory and to clarify for the people of New Orleans their citizenship status.
We asked Senior Paper Conservator, Kathy Ludwig, about the most interesting project she’s worked on. The most intrinsically valuable document she has treated at the National Archives is the Monroe Doctrine. The document is the Senate version the 36-page text of President James Monroe’s seventh annual Message to Congress on December 2, 1823. The Monroe Doctrine, hand-written by an administrative assistant and signed by the President, was a defining moment in American foreign policy. We’ll explore its conservation treatment in the next few posts.
Lincoln at Gettysburg
150 years ago on November 19, 1863, four months after the battle, President Abraham Lincoln came to Gettysburg to dedicate the national cemetery for the Union dead. In his remarks, he paid tribute to the brave men who died there and insisted that their sacrifice would increase the will of the people to fulfill America’s promise. Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, a rhetorical masterpiece delivered in less than three minutes, defined the war as necessary for the survival of the nation and its ideals.
This rare photo from a glass plate negative by Matthew Brady is the first–and possibly only–photograph of Lincoln at Gettysburg.
Signatures and Pictographs
Representatives of the Ottawa, Chippewa, Potawatomi, and Wyandot tribes signed this treaty with the United States on November 17, 1807, ceding millions of acres in Ohio and Michigan. Each tribal representative signed with a pictograph. President Thomas Jefferson and Secretary of State James Madison signed at the bottom. The tribes received $10,000 collectively, $2,400 annually, and reservations of 1 to 6 square miles.
Treaty between the Ottawa, Chippewa, Wyandot, and Potawatomi Indians, 11/17/1807
(November is Native American Heritage Month!)
Census of the First Christian and Orchard Parties of Oneida Indians, residing at Green Bay, Wisconsin Territory, taken by Henry S. Baird, U.S. Commissioner, on November 15, 1838…
(first and signature pages)
Taken 175 years ago today on November 15, 1838, a census of the Oneida Indians at Duck Creek (now Oneida), Wisconsin.
(November is also Native American Heritage Month!)
The movie “12 Years A Slave” tells the story of Solomon Northup, a free black man who was kidnapped. His journey into slavery can be found in our records.
In the slave manifest for the brig Orleans, Solomon Northup is gone, but Plat Hamilton is present.
A ban on federal slavery legislation was written into the Constitution in 1787. But an 1807 Act of Congress outlawed foreign importation of slaves. Slave manifests that documented each slave’s name, sex, age, and color were then required.
When slaves were forced into the haul of the Orleans on April 27, 1841, the Port of Richmond collector Thomas Nelson approved the slave manifest. When the ship docked in New Orleans on May 24, 1841, the inspector matched Solomon Northup’s description to the name Plat Hamilton. And Solomon Northup the free man of color ceased to exist.
Northup was transported on the Orleans with approximately forty other slaves to New Orleans where he was later sold to Edwin Epps, who owned a cotton plantation in the Louisiana Red River area. Northup was enslaved for the next twelve years. All rights and privileges that come with freedom, beginning with his given name, were stripped away from him.
To see more documents related to the life of Solomon Northup, go to the National Archives Education blog: http://go.usa.gov/WBjw
Image: Slave Manifest for the Brig Orleans, including Solomon Northup, listed as Plat Hamilton (#33)
Sgt. Thomas Shaw: Buffalo Soldier & Medal of Honor Recipient
Did you know Thomas Shaw, the subject of yesterday’s post, was a Buffalo Soldier and Medal of Honor recipient, and is interred at Arlington National Cemetery?