Only a few days left to see the electoral tally with George Washington elected President!
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.
“Don’t wish to disturb you”
On the afternoon of April 14, 1865, just hours before he assassinated President Lincoln, John Wilkes Booth left this calling card for Vice President Andrew Johnson at his Washington D.C. hotel. Booth’s co-conspirator, George Atzerodt was to kill Johnson that night, but he lost his nerve and did not make an attempt. Historians continue to debate why Booth left his card with Johnson.
Calling card left by John Wilkes Booth. National Archives, Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army)
Booth’s calling card is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
The tradesmen and manufacturers in Baltimore began drafting this petition asking for duties on certain imported goods in February 1789, before Congress had even met for the first time. The petition is from approximately 750 citizens, and received in Congress on April 11, 1789. The new revenue system passed by the First Congress included four acts that related to foreign trade: the Impost Act, HR 2; the Tonnage Act, HR 5; the Collection Act, HR 11; and the Coasting Act, HR 16.
Petition of the Tradesmen, Manufacturers, and Others of Baltimore, 4/11/1789, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (NAID 7788930)
“I don’t know whether I am doing a right deed as to plead to you. But I do know that I am all right to plead for my race…I am a Southern colored girl in New York.” –Miss South Carolinean, April 10, 1933
Letter from Miss South Carolinean [Carolinian] to President Franklin Roosevelt Regarding the Scottsboro Case
Clarence Norris, Charlie Weems, Haywood Patterson, Ozie Powell, Willie Robertson, Eugene Williams, Olen Montgomery, Andy Wright, and Ray Wright were known as the “Scottsboro Boys.” In 1931, the nine African Americans were tried and convicted of assault and rape in Alabama by all-white juries within two weeks. Eight were sentenced to death. In this letter to Franklin Roosevelt, “Miss South Carolinian” asked for the President’s help.
The initial speedy trials, the age of the defendants, the racial bias of the juries and the severity of the sentences led to arguments that the defendants never received fair trials and a movement to free them. Their case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, which ruled they were denied the right to counsel, violating their right to due process under the 14th amendment. Eventually, their sentences were commuted and charges against four were dropped, but their lives were forever changed as most spent years in jail. On November 21, 2013, posthumous pardons were issued by the state of Alabama to Charlie Weems, Andy Wright and Haywood Patterson.
This letter is among the featured items at the “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" exhibit now on display at the National Archives Museum.
On April 8, 1789, the Senate elected Samuel Otis as the first Secretary of the Senate, the Senate’s chief legislative, financial, and administrative officer. Otis served the Senate loyally until his death in 1814—he never missed a day of work in the 25 years that he held the position.
Happy 110th Birthday, Times Square!
Originally named Longacre Square, it was officially renamed Times Square on April 8, 1904 in honor of the New York Times.
Snapshots of the “Crossroads of the World” from the 1910s, 1940s, 1970s, 1980s and 2000s:
- New York City celebrating the surrender of Japan. They threw anything and kissed anybody in Times Square., 08/14/1945. National Archives Identifier: 520697
- A view of the neon lights of Broadway. The United Services Organization (USO) GEN Douglas MacArthur Memorial Center, located in Times Square at 45th Street and Broadway…01/01/1983. National Archives Identifier: 6367334
- Peace rumor, New York. Crowd at Times Square holding up Extras telling about the signing of the Armistice. The Government report that the news was not true did not stop the celebration. National Archives Identifier: 533477
- TIMES SQUARE, 08/1973. National Archives Identifier: 554298
- Sailors attached to USS IWO JIMA (LHD 7) gather together for an impromptu group shot while on liberty in Times Square during Fleet Week 2002.05/22/2002. National Archives Identifier: 6640589
- V-J Day in New York City. Crowds gather in Times Square to celebrate the surrender of Japan., 08/15/1945. National Archives Identifier: 531350
This ‘letter of recommendation’ is from members of the Confederation Congress on behalf of James Mathers, who served as their doorkeeper and messenger in 1788. On April 7, 1789, the Senate elected James Mathers to be Senate Doorkeeper. Mathers served as Doorkeeper (and later Sergeant at Arms) until his death in 1811.
As Doorkeeper, Mathers maintained the Senate chamber, stoked the fire, cared for the Senate’s two horses, oversaw the transfer of records and furnishings to Philadelphia in 1790 and Washington, DC in 1800, and kept order once the galleries were permanently opened. In 1795, his job was expanded to Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper to enforce the law should anyone refuse to appear before the Senate in cases of trial and impeachment.
Recommendation From Members of the Confederation Congress to Appoint James Mathers Senate Doorkeeper, 3/4/1789, Records of the U.S. Senate (NAID 7788932)
The committee appointed to report on the rules and orders of proceedings of the House on April 2, 1789 issued its first report on April 7. The report included duties of the Speaker of the House, rules of decorum and debate, rules for bills, and rules for the Committee of the Whole House. The House adopted the rules with little debate.
See the journal page that records the election of George Washington of Virginia, now on display from April 1 to 16, 2014, in the National Archives Building.
This year marks the 225th anniversary of the First Congress. On March 4, 1789, the Congress of the United States met for the first time. It was arguably the most important Congress in U.S. history.
To this new legislature fell the responsibility of passing laws needed to implement a brand new system of government, defining the rules and procedures of the House and Senate, and establishing the precedents that set constitutional government in motion.
One of the first duties of the new legislative body was to meet jointly and count the electoral ballots for President and Vice President of the United States. This page of the first Senate Journal shows the results of that election: George Washington of Virginia was unanimously elected President, and John Adams of Massachusetts, who finished second in the balloting, was elected Vice President.
Image: Senate Journal of the First Congress, First Session, showing entry for April 6, 1789. National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate
“…I am ready to place a company of fifty lady sharpshooters at your disposal.”
Letter to President William McKinley from Annie Oakley in which she offers the services of a company of fifty lady American sharpshooters who would provide their own arms and ammunition, to the government should war break out with Spain., 04/05/1898 - 04/05/1898
Item from Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. (03/04/1907 - 09/18/1947)
Don’t forget—the National Archives’ new exhibition “Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures” opens March 21, 2014.
On April 4, 1789, the House elected the first doorkeeper, Gifford Dalley, and assistant doorkeeper, Thomas Clayton. The resolution to create the positions was passed by the House of April 2.
A Future President Visits the White House, 1949
During his first year as a Congressman Gerald R. Ford was assigned to the House Committee on Public Works. He and the other committee members met with President Truman and toured the White House on April 2, 1949. Afterwards Ford wrote these reflections on the building that would become his residence 25 years later.
Ford’s notes on the White House visit from the Ford Congressional Papers, Committee on Public Works, October 1948-April 1949.
President Truman’s appointment calendar courtesy of the Harry S. Truman Library & Museum.
On April 2, 1789, the second day that the House was officially conducting business, they appointed a committee to determine the standing rules and the rules and duties of the Sergeant at Arms.