225th Anniversary of the First Congress: We’ll be posting documents and stories highlighting the establishment of the new government under the Constitution through March 2016.
On August 31, 1789, a bill to Provide for the Safe Keeping of Acts, Records, and the Seal of the United States was introduced in the Senate. The bill was signed into law on September 15, 1789.
The Act set precedent for record keeping as an important function of the government. The Act renamed the Department of Foreign Affairs to the Department of State ( statedept) , and its leader was named the Secretary of State. The Act stated that the Secretary of State was to see that each bill, order, resolution, or vote was printed in at least three public newspapers in the United States; sent to each congressman and each state’s Executives; and that the original records would be kept with the Secretary of State. Finally, the Act established the Great Seal of the United States, and the Secretary of State as the seal’s custodian. Believe it or not, the Secretary of State still retains this responsibility!
Record keeping was a monumental task for the government. Each bill, order, resolution, and vote was kept and stored wherever space was found. This meant some legislation was stored in office basements or garages, some hidden away in file cabinets, some simply lost or destroyed, and almost all were poorly preserved. With the intention of this Act in mind, Congress established the National Archives in 1934 to properly preserve the records of the federal government.
An Act to Provide for the Safe Keeping of Acts, Records, and the Seal of the United States, and for Other Purposes, 8/31/1789, SEN 1A-C1, Records of the U.S. Senate
A telegram from Martin Luther King Jr. to President Kennedy re: the 16th Street Church bombings. Fifty years ago today, four girls - Addie Mae Collins (14), Denise McNair (11), Carole Robertson (14), and Cynthia Wesley (14) - were killed in the attack.
Prospective homesteaders prepare for the opening of the “Cherokee Strip”:
"The Nine Booths at Orlando [OkIa. Terr.] Sept. 15th, (18)’93, Where 36,000 Registered."
From the series: Opening of the Cherokee Strip in Oklahoma Territory, 1893, from the Records of the Bureau of Land Management
The opening of the “Cherokee Strip” in Oklahoma Territory on September 16, 1893 kicked off the largest land run in United States history. See also our series from last year commemorating the 150th Anniversary of the Homestead Act which provided the basis for land runs such as these.
"To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department"
The Confederacy depended on enslaved people to build fortifications, cook, drive supply wagons, work in hospitals, and produce munitions. Slave labor also planted and harvested many Southern crops, especially when white males were away fighting. The Union’s decision to emancipate, enlist, and arm black men was an enormous threat to Southern independence. This broadside urged owners to move their slaves away from the advancing Union Army and contribute their “servants” to the cause.
Broadside “To the People of the Trans-Miss. Department”, 09/15/1863. From the War Department Collection of Confederate Records
Surveying the West
Observed by curious onlookers, several boats of the Wheeler Expedition leave Camp Mojave in the Arizona Territory on September 15, 1871. Between 1871 and 1879 Lieutenant George Wheeler and his team extensively explored and surveyed land west of the 100th meridian.
Photograph of Wheeler Expedition as It Departs Camp Mojave, Arizona Territory, 09/15/1871