Featured Records

  • George Washington’s First Annual Message
George Washington’s First Annual Message

On January 8, 1790, President George Washington delivered his first annual message to Congress at Federal Hall in New York City. With this speech, 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.

In celebration of the 225th anniversary of the First Congress, the first Journal of the House of Representatives is on display in the National Archives Museum in Washington, DC, showing the final page of George Washington’s State of the Union speech until February 4. The image shown here is a page from the Records of the U.S. Senate, recording the same speech.

Learn more about this speech, and the evolution of this “State of the Union” tradition.

Past Featured Records
  • Surrender? “Nuts!” Gen. Anthony McAuliffe’s 1944 Christmas Message to his Troops
    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. Caught in what would become known as the “Battle of the Bulge,” the 101st Airborne Division of the United States Armed... Read more

  • Judiciary Act of 1789
    Judiciary Act of 1789

    Article III of the Constitution of the United States established the Supreme Court but left open to Congress the ability to create lower courts. During the first session of Congress in April 1789, just one day after the Senate had achieved a quorum, the first... Read more

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

    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 stand as one of the lowest points in U.S. history.  The American victory at Baltimore,... Read more

  • Senate Revisions to House Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution
    Senate Revisions to House Proposed Amendments to the U.S. Constitution

    On June 8, 1789, Representative James Madison of Virginia introduced a series of proposed amendments to the newly ratified U.S. Constitution. Though initially against the idea of an enumerated list of individual rights, fearing that they would be redundant and possibly limit... Read more

  • Richard Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s Pardon
    Richard Nixon’s Resignation Letter and Gerald Ford’s Pardon

    During the night of June 17, 1972, five burglars broke into the offices of the Democratic National Committee at the Watergate office complex in Washington, DC. Investigation into the break-in exposed a trail of abuses that led to the highest levels of the Nixon administration and... Read more

  • Tonkin Gulf Resolution
    Tonkin Gulf Resolution

    By 1964, Vietnam had been torn by international and civil war for decades. U.S. military support for South Vietnam had grown to some 15,000 military advisers, while the North received military and financial aid from China and the Soviet Union.

    In a late-night televised address on August... Read more

  • G.I. Bill of Rights
    G.I. Bill of Rights

    Originally established to provide services and benefits to the veterans of World War II, the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, also known as the G.I. Bill of Rights, was signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on June 22, 1944, after it had passed the House... Read more

  • Civil Rights Act of 1964
    Civil Rights Act of 1964

    The Civil Rights Act, signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 2, 1964, prohibited discrimination in public places, provided for the integration of schools and other public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal. This document was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since... Read more

  • Whitman’s Report on Cemeteries: Shiloh Illustration
    Whitman’s Report on Cemeteries: Shiloh Illustration

    Fought April 6-7, 1862, the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee was one of the first major battles in the Western Theater of the American Civil War. 54,000 Union troops under Ulysses S. Grant and Don Carlos Buell battled 44,000 Confederates under Albert Sidney Johnston and P.G.T. Beauregard as part of the Union’s effort to cut off Confederate rail communications along... Read more

  • Letter from Mrs. Neil Williams to Julia Lathrop of the Children’s Bureau, 1920
    Letter from Mrs. Neil Williams to Julia Lathrop of the Children’s Bureau, 1920

    On May 9, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the second Sunday in May a holiday for the “public expression of love and reverence for the mothers of our country.” To commemorate the centennial of the first national observance of Mother’s Day,... Read more