Featured Records

  • Declaration of War: The U.S. Enters World War I
Declaration of War: The U.S. Enters World War I

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson signed this joint resolution, ending America’s neutral stance on the ongoing global conflict – later deemed a “World War” – and formally declaring war against Imperial German Government.

Nearly three years earlier, Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria had been assassinated by a Serbian nationalist in Sarajevo on June 28, 1914. This triggered a series of conflicts that conflated into war across the European continent. The United States, however, sought to remain neutral through a policy of nonintervention.

In early 1917, that policy became unfeasible when Germany began attacking American ships, but President Wilson, who had campaigned on a platform of peace, remained hesitant to enter the fray. The final straw came when Great Britain shared the intercepted Zimmermann Telegram with the United States, revealing that Germany had promised American territory to Mexico in return for attacking the U.S. if it entered the war.

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson made a special address before a joint session of Congress asking for a declaration of war against Germany. Both the Senate and the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted in favor of going to war, and on April 6 President Wilson signed this formal war declaration, stating “that a state of war exists between the Imperial German Government and the Government and the people of the United States.”

Click here to download a high-resolution scan of the Joint Resolution of April 6, 1917, from the National Archives Catalog.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of U.S. entry into World War I, this document was on display in the “Featured Documents” exhibit in the East Rotunda Gallery of the National Archives in Washington, DC, from April 4 through May 3, 2017.

The National Archives Museum’s “Featured Document” exhibit is made possible in part by the National Archives Foundation through the generous support of Ford Motor Company Fund.

Past Featured Records
  • Credentials of Jeannette Rankin, the First Congresswoman
    Credentials of Jeannette Rankin, the First Congresswoman

    In 1916 – four years before before the 19th Amendment granted women across the country the right to vote – Jeannette Rankin was elected to Congress as a Representative from Montana.

    Rankin was sworn into office on April 2, 1917, having presented this credential as evidence that she... Read more

  • George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789
    George Washington’s First Inaugural Address, 1789

    On April 30, 1789, George Washington placed his hand upon a Bible and took the oath as the first President of the United States. The oath was administered on a second-floor balcony of Federal Hall, above a crowd assembled in the streets to witness this historic event. President... Read more

  • President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech
    President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Day of Infamy” Speech

    At 7:55 a.m. on December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers and torpedo planes attacked the U.S. Pacific fleet anchored at Pearl Harbor, catapulting the United States into World War II. In less than 2 hours, the fleet was devastated, and more than 3,500 Americans were either killed... Read more

  • National Museum of African American History and Culture Act
    National Museum of African American History and Culture Act

    Following decades of work to promote and feature the contributions of African Americans, the Act to establish the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) was authorized by Congress in 2003. The museum, which will house 36,000 artifacts, officially opens on the National... Read more

  • Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010
    Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010

    During World War II, the U.S. Armed Forces established a policy that discharged homosexuals regardless of their behavior. In 1981, the Defense Department prohibited gay and lesbian military members from serving in its ranks with a policy that stated, “Homosexuality is incompatible with military service.” In... Read more

  • The Tuskegee Airmen
    The Tuskegee Airmen

    On January 16, 1941, the War Department announced the creation of the Army Air Corps 99th Pursuit Squadron – the nation’s first African American flying unit.

    The 99th Pursuit Squadron trained at the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama, where there was an airfield and a civilian... Read more

  • 13th Amendment
    13th Amendment

    On December 6, 1865, slavery throughout the United States became illegal when Georgia ratified the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.

    Four years earlier, however, Congress had passed a different 13th Amendment, stating, “No amendment shall be made to the Constitution which will authorize or give to Congress the power... Read more

  • Refugee Act of 1980
    Refugee Act of 1980

    In the aftermath of the Vietnam War, the need for a change in American policy concerning refugees became apparent as hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians fled political chaos and physical danger in their homelands. Between 1975 and 1979, some 300,000 of these refugees... Read more

  • The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon
    The Coca-Cola Bottle: Celebrating 100 Years of an American Icon

    “A bottle which a person could recognize even if they felt it in the dark”
    –Coca-Cola Company, 1915

    Today the Coca-Cola bottle is one of the most recognizable containers in the world, but a century ago nearly all soda bottles looked the same. To distinguish its product... Read more

  • Japanese Instrument of Surrender, 1945
    Japanese Instrument of Surrender, 1945

    On September 2, 1945, representatives from the Japanese government and Allied forces assembled aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay to sign the Japanese Instrument of Surrender, which effectively ended World War II.

    The document was prepared by the U.S. War Department and approved... Read more