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Archives Experience Newsletter - December 6, 2022

  • The Happiest Records on Earth

In 1928, an artist named Walt Disney sat down to draw a cartoon inspired by his pet mouse. Who would have known that for more than a century, his stories, animations, parks and the studio he started would touch the lives of nearly every American?
There’s an iconic Disney movie for every generation, and his work set a new standard in animation. He sought to do so much more than entertain. His movies explore universal human experiences like love, loss and achieving dreams, while reflecting a changing American society. Because of Disney’s long legacy, his work found itself into the holdings of the National Archives.
In celebration of his birthday on December 5, we’re opening up our magic vault to all things Disney.

I only hope that we never lose sight of one thing — that it was all started by a mouse.
~ Walt Disney


Patrick Madden
Executive Director
National Archives Foundation


Coat of Arms

Before World War II began, the U.S. Armed Forces were miniscule. The army alone numbered only about 174,000 active personnel on September 8, 1939, when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared a limited national emergency because of the growing Nazi threat in Europe and authorized the regular army to increase its numbers to 227,000. Then a year later, the government approved the Selective Service Act, which increased the size of the military to 1.4 million by drafting young men into the service.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, however, millions of American men flocked to recruiting offices to sign up to fight. By the time the war ended, more than 16 million people, both men and women, were in military uniform – and all of those uniforms needed unit badges.
The Walt Disney Animation Studio stepped up to meet the challenge, assigning five of its animation artists to draw insignias for the hundreds of new units that were being created. By the end of the war, they had drawn more than 1,200 new insignias to decorate patches that soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines could proudly wear on their shoulders. Many of them may look familiar, especially since the Disney Studio had been entertaining the world with animated classic films like “Pinocchio,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” and “Dumbo” for years prior to World War II, but many of the insignias are completely original.
Here are just a few examples.

Insignias, Emblems, Patches, and Seals

National Archives Identifier: 74240252
National Archives Identifier: 74240219
National Archives Identifier: 74240174
National Archives Identifier: 205576022
National Archives Identifier: 74240003
National Archives Identifier: 74239964
National Archives Identifier: 74239919
National Archives Identifier: 74239898
National Archives Identifier: 74239871
1/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74240252
2/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74240219
3/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74240174
4/9 - National Archives Identifier: 205576022
5/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74240003
6/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74239964
7/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74239919
8/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74239898
9/9 - National Archives Identifier: 74239871
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National Archives Identifier: 74240252
National Archives Identifier: 74240219
National Archives Identifier: 74240174
National Archives Identifier: 205576022
National Archives Identifier: 74240003
National Archives Identifier: 74239964
National Archives Identifier: 74239919
National Archives Identifier: 74239898
National Archives Identifier: 74239871
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A More Perfect Celebration

In September 1983, Congress created the Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution to organize the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Constitution of the United States. President Ronald Reagan appointed the commission, which consisted of 23 members and was chaired by Warren E. Burger, who resigned his seat on the U.S. Supreme Court to undertake the duty.
Disney World hosted the commission at a celebration in October 1986 to kick off the bicentennial celebrations and to celebrate the 15th anniversary of Disney World. Ronald Reagan welcomed the group to Disney World, saying, “You can provide a great service to our nation during the next three years in helping all Americans to reflect on this, a cornerstone of the American experiment in democracy.” Although the bicentennial commission was originally planned to last three years, from 1987 through 1989, Congress extended it for two more years to include the Bill of Rights in the celebrations. When the celebrations ended on December 31, 1991, more than 1,000 bicentennial programs had been held across the land.


President Reagan tapes remarks for the Constitution’s bicentennial celebration in 1986 – the largest celebration is taking place at Disney World.
National Archives Identifier: 161351872


Touring Main Street

You may remember that in our newsletter about clowns this summer, we told you about a 1989 goodwill tour by three Soviet warships that docked in Norfolk, Virginia. After the 1,100 sailors from those ships had spent five days there, they sailed on to Mayport, Florida, where they toured Walt Disney World and Epcot Center in Orlando. No doubt Mickey Mouse and Goofy were on hand to greet them!



Archives Experience Newsletter
August 2, 2022


Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Williams is flanked by two Soviet chief petty officers at Walt Disney World
National Archives Identifier: 6477845


Soviet Sailors tour Epcot
National Archives Identifier: 6477844


Hall of Presidents

When Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his family vacationed at Disneyland in Anaheim, California in June 1959, Walt Disney himself gave them a personal tour. Here the family are preparing to ride the monorail, a futuristic transportation system featured in the Tomorrowland section of the park.
Nancy Reagan made her own trip to Disney World as First Lady, when she appeared at an event for foster grandparents. She then traveled to the Magic Kingdom, where she made a set of handprints on a concrete tile to be displayed at Disney’s MGM studios park. Before she left, she gifted Mickey Mouse a jar of presidential jelly beans for his 60th birthday.
Barack Obama made a trip to Disney World as well, though his trip was more business than pleasure. He journeyed to Orlando in 2013 to talk about his administration’s efforts to boost tourism to the U.S. And what better place to travel to (or give a speech in front of) than Cinderella’s Castle at the Happiest Place on Earth?



Richard Nixon and family prepare to ride the monorail
National Archives Identifier: 16916139


President Obama speaks at Disney World about boosting US tourism
Source: Obama White House website


Nancy Reagan makes a concrete handprint at Disney World
National Archives Identifier: 75856161


From Castle to House

One perk of being president is that if you can’t get to Disney World or Disneyland, the Magic Kingdom will come to you. During the Kids’ State Dinner with the winners of the 2016 Healthy Lunchtime Challenge at the White House, First Lady Michelle Obama and guests were treated to a performance by Walt Disney World Resort’s “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic!” on July 14, 2016.



Performers from Walt Disney World Resort’s “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic!” Entertain the Guests
Source: National Archives Identifier: 230249810


Performers from Walt Disney World Resort’s “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic!” Entertain the Guests
National Archives Identifier: 230249808


The Cast of “The Jungle Book: Alive with Magic!” Performing at the 2016 Kids State Dinner
National Archives Identifier: 138925672


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