East Rotunda Gallery

Featured Document Exhibit

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Documents” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation.

Currently on Exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery
January 6 – February 4, 2015

George Washington’s First Annual Message

In celebration of the 225th anniversary of the First Congress, the first Journal of the House of Representatives is on display, showing the final page of George Washington's State of the Union speech. With this speech, delivered on January 8, 1790, Washington established the precedent of delivering a formal address to Congress to report on the state of the Union. He praised the accomplishments of the First Congress and gave a brief overview of his administration’s agenda. The President emphasized the need to provide for the common defense; establish uniform systems of currency, weights, and measures; and promote education.

Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops
House Journal of the First Congress, Second Session, showing the final page of President George Washington’s first annual message to Congress, January 8, 1790


Upcoming Featured Documents

Unbroken: Records from Louis Zamperini’s Incredible World War II Story

On May 27, 1943, Army Air Force bombardier Louis “Louie” Zamperini’s B-24 airplane crashed into the Pacific Ocean. The former U.S. Olympian survived, only to face months adrift at sea and years as a Japanese POW. His fate unknown in the U.S., Louie was declared dead a year and a day after his plane went down and was “posthumously” awarded a Purple Heart. Louie’s Purple Heart medal (on loan courtesy of Laura Hillenbrand, author of UNBROKEN), copies of the certificate awarding him the Purple Heart and a condolence letter from FDR to the Zamperini family will be on display. Miraculously, Zamperini survived and was liberated at the end of the war.
East Rotunda Gallery, February 5 through March 4, 2015.

Previous Featured Documents

Surrender? “Nuts!” Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops

In mid-December 1944, Allied forces were surprised by a massive German offensive through the Ardennes Forrest that created a “bulge” in the Allied lines. On Christmas Eve, 1944, Gen. Anthony McAuliffe sent a message to his men besieged in Bastogne, Belgium. Bastogne was a key road junction that had to be held at all cost. The message recounts McAuliffe's famous reply of "Nuts!" to a German demand to surrender and the announcement of an American counterattack. The National Archives presents this document display in celebration of Veterans' Day and in commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops
Gen. Anthony McAuliffe's Christmas Message, December 24, 1944
National Archives, Records of the Adjutant General's Office

The Bicentennial of the Burning of Washington and the Battle of Baltimore

During the War of 1812, the summer of 1814 saw military actions in Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, with dramatically different outcomes. The British capture of the nation’s capital and the destruction of public buildings including the White House, stand as one of the lowest points in U.S. history. The American victory at Baltimore, however, brought new hope and determination to the country. It inspired Francis Scott Key to write the poem “The Defence of Fort McHenry.” Set to music, the poem eventually became the national anthem.

Revisions tot he Bill of Rights
Letter from Maj. Gen. Samuel Smith to James Monroe about the bombardment of Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

Revisions tot he Bill of Rights
List of killed and wounded from Fort McHenry, September 24, 1814
National Archives, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War

Revisions tot he Bill of Rights
Burned piece of the 1814 Executive Mansion (today known as the White House). The wood was removed during a renovation of the White House under the Truman administration from 1949-1952.
National Archives, Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum

225th Anniversary of the First Federal Congress

Two hundred and twenty-five years ago in the summer of 1789, the First Congress proposed, debated, and finally agreed on a series of proposed amendments to the U.S. Constitution. On August 24 the House passed 17 amendments and sent them to the Senate. This document shows many of the Senate's handwritten changes to the House-passed articles of amendments. Ten of these amendments were ratified by the states and became part of the U.S. Constitution as the Bill of Rights.

Revisions tot he Bill of Rights
Senate Revisions to the Proposed Bill of Rights, September 9, 1789
National Archives, Records of the U.S. Senate
View this record in the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

Resignation and pardon: ending Watergate

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. One month later, President Ford pardoned him so that the nation could begin to heal.

Nixon's Resignation Letter
Richard Nixon’s letter resigning the Presidency, August 9, 1974
National Archives, General Records of the Department of State
View Richard M. Nixon's Resignation Letter in the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

President Ford's Pardon
Gerald R. Ford’s pardon of Richard Nixon, September 8, 1974
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government
View President Gerald Ford’s pardon of President Nixon in the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

50th Anniversary of the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution

The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution marked a major turning point in the Cold War struggle for Southeast Asia. The resolution stated that “Congress approves and supports the determination of the President, as Commander in Chief, to take all necessary measures to repel any armed attack against the forces of the United States and to prevent further aggression” in Southeast Asia. The resolution gave President Lyndon B. Johnson authority to expand the scope of U.S. involvement in Vietnam without a declaration of war.

First of the Resolution
Joint Resolution for the Maintenance of International Peace and Security in Southeast Asia, (Public Law 88-408, House Joint Resolution 1145), also known as the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, August 10, 1964
National Archives, General Records of the U.S. Government

Servicemen’s Readjustment Act

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, 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.

First and Last Page of the Act
Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, July 22, 1944
National Archives, General Records of the United States Government
View this record in the National Archives’ Online Public Access Database.

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This exhibition was created by the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC, with support from the Foundation for the National Archives and with the generous support of Lead Sponsor Toyota.