British troops invaded a nearly empty Capital city on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812. Prior to the invasion clerks in the House of Representatives were frantically trying to find carts and oxen to evacuate the records of Congress safely out of the city. This letter, sent to the Clerk of the House on September 15, chronicles the actions of the two men left in the Clerk’s office who were in charge of removing as many records as possible. The clerks were only able to get one cart of manuscripts and papers out of the office before the Capitol went up in flames. Among the items lost were committee manuscripts from the 13th Congress, the secret journal of Congress, petitions submitted to Congress before 1799, and the private accounts and vouchers of the Clerk of the House. The Clerk forwarded this letter to the Speaker of the House on September 20 asking for a committee to be created to handle the investigation of the burning of the Capitol.
Letter to Patrick Magruder, Clerk of the House, 9/15/1814, HR 13A-D15.2, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives
Rare color scenes from the Liberation of Paris, August 25, 1944, including an intact Eiffel Tower flying the French Tricolour, General Charles De Gaulle marching down the Champs Elysees, and Allied troops marching in front of the Arc de Triomphe.
Excerpted from: D-Day to Germany, 1944
Taken by newsreel cameraman Jack Lieb, this color home movie was donated by the Lieb family to the National Archives in 1984. You’ll see World War II from a perspective different than the official military film or commercial newsreel. With his personal footage, Lieb takes the viewer through the preparations in England, where he spent time with war correspondents Ernie Pyle, Jack Thompson, and Larry LaSueur, to the liberation of Paris and finally into Germany. Along the way, Lieb captured his experience on 16mm Kodachrome, filming everyday people in France and the occasional celebrity, such as Edward G. Robinson or Ernest Hemingway.
The Liberation of Paris
After an uprising by the French Resistance and days of street fighting, Paris is liberated as German occupiers surrender to Allied forces seventy years ago on August 25, 1944.
PROGRESS IN SOUTHERN FRANCE (ST. RAPHAEL) [ETC.], 1944
The Burning of Washington
Two hundred years ago on August 24 and 25, 1814, British troops occupied Washington, DC and burned the Capitol, the President’s house, and other public buildings during the War of 1812.
The Battle for Paris began with a coordinated uprising by the French Resistance on August 19, 1944, following a city-wide general strike. Watch as deserted streets give way to barricades and organized resistance:
Occupied by German forces since June 1940, the city would be liberated on August 25, 1944, following the arrival of Free French and U.S. Army forces.
Petition from Minnie Fisher Cunningham of the Texas Woman Suffrage Association for passage of the “Susan B. Anthony Amendment” sent to Congress on May 2, 1916
The amendment passed Congress on June 4, 1919. It was ratified as the 19th Amendment on August 18, 1920.
Petition from Texas Woman Suffrage Association, 5/2/1916, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives (ARC 306659)
Day 77 - FDR visits the Panama Canal
Throughout his travels FDR made many trips through the Panama Canal, including a visit to the nearly completed Canal in 1912. The work on the Canal started under President Theodore Roosevelt and was finished in 1914. FDR traveled to Panama with his brother-in-law Hall Roosevelt and his friend and Republican Senate colleague J. Mayhew Wainright. The trio was given their own personal observation car to use through the nine-mile Culebra Cut. FDR wrote home to his mother Sara saying:
I can’t begin to describe it and have become so enthusiastic that if I didn’t stop I would write all night. The two things that impress me most are the Culebra Cut, because of the colossal hole made in the ground, and the locks because of the engineering problems and size. Imagine an intricate concrete structure nearly a mile long and three or four hundred feet wide, with double gates of steel weighing 700 tons apiece!
Our museum collection includes this watercolor painting of the U.S.S. Houston at the Panama Canal by Ian Marshall. This painting depicts the scene of the Houston passing through the Panama Canal on July 11, 1934 with President Roosevelt on board. This was the first passage through the completed Canal by a U.S. President while in office.
The Panama Canal - Before and After:
- Map of the Isthmus of Panama Showing the Proposed Interoceanic Ship Canal, 1875
- Map of the Panama Canal Zone, 08/01/1920
The first map shows a proposed route for the canal, created during a 1875 U.S. Surveying Expedition. The second shows the route of the canal and the surrounding Canal Zone circa 1920.
After years of difficult work and a loss of many lives to tropical diseases, the Panama Canal officially opened 100 years ago on August 15, 1914. Considered one of the great engineering feats of modern times, the Canal greatly reduced transit time from east coast ports to west coast ports of the United States and for European shippers as well.
Completed 10 years after the United States controversially took control of the project and possession of the surrounding Canal Zone in 1904, the Canal was eventually relinquished to Panama in 1977 by President Jimmy Carter.
A Hero’s Welcome for the Astronauts of Apollo 11
After Apollo 11 astronauts Edward “Buzz” Aldrin, Neil Armstrong, and Michael Collins safely returned to Earth following their successful mission to the surface of the Moon, they spent several weeks in quarantine, and were finally greeted with ticker tape parades and celebrations in New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles on August 13, 1969.
From the series: Headquarters’ Films Relating to Aeronautics, 1962 - 1981. Records of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, 1903 - 2006
A colleague from preservearchives in action, circa 1942.
See more images from the National Archives then and now in the series on the 80th anniversary of the creation of the National Archives from earlier this summer!
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 10, 1789, President George Washington forwarded to the Senate a statement by General Henry Knox. Knox laid out the organization of the military as established under the Articles of Confederation in 1787. He included details relating to the number of troops, their pay and rations, and where they were stationed. Knox noted at the end of his message that the articles of war needed to be amended to align with the Constitution, and that new troop oaths and officer commissions would also be required.
President George Washington’s Message on the Military Establishment with a Statement of Troops in Service from General Henry Knox, 8/10/1789, SENA1A-E4, Records of the U.S. Senate