About the National Archives

Milestones of the U.S. Archival Profession and the National Archives, 1800-2011

Year: Event:
1800 Fires damaged records of the War Office and the Treasury Department from 1800-1801
1861-1865 Number of federal records surged and the Government grew during Civil War
1877 Fire destroyed top floor of Patent Office Building and led General Meigs to propose a fireproof Hall of Records
1884 American Historical Association (AHA) was founded in 1884. The AHA focused on the development of standardized systems of archival organization
1895 As a result of his study of European archives, J. Franklin Jameson submitted a program to the AHA for the systematic collection and selective publication of American historical source materials. The AHA established the Historical Manuscripts Commission and appointed Jameson as its chairman. Jameson was also the founding editor of the American Historical Review
1898 Plans for a "hall of records" sent to Congress; no funds were appropriated
1899 The Public Archives Commission was established in 1899 as a result of the Historical Manuscripts Commission's emphasis on the difference between private papers and public archives; the Commission surveyed state archives in the years between 1900 and 1917
1899 Legislation allowed agencies to submit to Congress lists of records recommended for disposal
1904 The publication of the Guide to the Archives of the Government of the United States in Washington by the Public Archives Commission in 1904 was important to the development of the federal archives movement
1908 Nine eminent historians named to a committee on documentary historical publications to report a plan to guide the government in future publications of that sort. The committee recommended the erection of a national archives building and the creation of permanent Commission on National Historical Publications
1909 Conference of Archivists organized to work for the establishment of new archives and the improvement of existing ones
1910 American Historical Association went on record in support of a national archives
1911 Fire in New York State Capitol destroyed much of New York state's archives
1912 President Taft raised the need for a national archives with Congress
1921 Commerce Department fire destroyed census records of 1890
1926 $1,000,000 was fully appropriated for a national archives building
1930 President Hoover appointed Advisory Committee for the National Archives to draw up specifications to guide an architect
1930 John Russell Pope selected as architect for the archives building
1931 On September 9, 1931, ground was broken for the archives building in Washington, DC
1933 On February 20, 1933, President Herbert Hoover laid the cornerstone for the National Archives building
1934 On June 19, 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the National Archives Act creating the National Archives as an independent agency (48 Stat. 1122) and creating the National Historical Publications Commission (NHPC)
1934 R.D.W. Connor became the 1st Archivist of the United States
1935 National Historical Publications Commission meets for the first time on January 29, 1935 in the temporary office of Archivist Connor in the Justice building
1935 First staff moves into the uncompleted National Archives building in November, 1935
1935 The Federal Register Act was approved to provide a National Archives publications function*
1935 Historical Records Survey (HRS) was organized in 1935 as part of the Work Projects Administration's (WPA) Federal Writers' Project, to document resources for research in U.S. history. The HRS was terminated in 1942 **
1936 Survey of Federal Archives (SFA), a Work Projects Administration's (WPA) project, was organized in January 1936 with the National Archives as cooperating sponsor. It became part of the HRS in 1937 and was terminated on June 30, 1942 **
1936 The Society of American Archivists (SAA) was founded in December 1936
1936 Murals by Barry Faulkner installed on walls of rotunda
1937 Extension to National Archives building completed June 1937
1937 The first annual meeting of the SAA was held in Washington, DC, on June 18-19, 1937
1938 SAA's journal, the American Archivist, was first published in January 1938
1939 Franklin D. Roosevelt Library was made the first Presidential archival depository, the first of the presidential libraries now comprising the Presidential Library system
1941 Solon Buck became the 2nd Archivist of the United States
1941 The first Code of Federal Regulations was produced as the government's central publication point for laws
1941 R.D.W. Connor, 1st Archivist of the United States from 1934-1941, becomes President of the SAA on October 6, 1941; he maintains that office until November 15, 1943
1948 Wayne Grover named the 3rd Archivist of the United States
1949 On June 30, 1949, the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act transferred the National Archives to the General Services Administration (GSA). Because the agency had gained new responsibilities for current records, its name was changed to National Archives and Records Services (NARS)
1949 Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (63 Stat. 378 Sec. 104) transferred the National Archives to the newly-created General Services Agency. The name was changed to the National Archives and Records Service (NARS) to reflect its responsibility for current records as well as archives. The Federal Records Act of 1950 clarified this records responsibility
1950 The Federal Records Act of 1950 further expanded the records management role of NARS; NARS began establishing a series of records centers to store semi-active federal records
1952 On December 13, Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were transferred from the Library of Congress to the exhibit hall of the National Archives building. See Milt Gustafson's feature article titled "Moving the Charters of Freedom"
1961 Robert H. Bahmer serves as SAA President during 1961-1962
1966 Robert H. Bahmer became the 4th Archivist of the United States
1968 James B. Rhoads named the 5th Archivist of the United States
1974 The Presidential Recordings and Materials Preservation Act of 1974 gave the government custody over the Nixon tape recordings, documents, and records
1974 James B. Rhoads became the SAA President
1976 Robert M. Warner became the SAA President
1978 The Presidential Records Act of 1978 made all Presidential records created after January 20, 1981, the property of the United States
1980 Robert M. Warner named the 6th Archivist of the United States***
1984 The National Archives again attained independence as an agency in October 1984 (effective April 1, 1985), when it became known as the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
1985 Frank Burke served as Acting Archivist of the United States from April 16, 1985-December 4, 1987
1987 Don Wilson became the 7th Archivist of the United States
1993 Trudy Huskamp Peterson served as Acting Archivist of the United States from March 25, 1993-May 29, 1995
1993 NARA's state-of-the-art archival building, the National Archives at College Park (Maryland), was accepted as "substantially complete" in July 1993 and dedicated on May 12, 1994. It opened for research on January 3, 1994.
1995 John W. Carlin became the 8th Archivist of the United States
2001 The Rotunda closed on July 5 for renovation of the original National Archives building
2003 The renovated Rotunda of the original National Archives building reopens September 18
2005 Allen Weinstein became the 9th Archivist of the United States on February 16, 2005
2008 Adrienne C. Thomas served as Acting Archivist of the United States from December 20, 2008 to November 5, 2009.
2009 NARA celebrated its 75th Anniversary.
2009 David S. Ferriero became the 10th Archivist of the United States on November 6, 2009.

*  Visit the Federal Register to learn more about their function.

**  More than two thousand inventories were published during the short life of the HRS. NARA has an excellent collection of the published inventories resulting from the Historical Records Survey and the Survey of Federal Archives. Library staff are in the process of cataloging these inventories. Go to the ALIC Online Catalog. Search in the keyword field for historical records survey. See the 1980 SAA publication, The WPA Historical Records Survey: a guide to the unpublished inventories, indexes, and transcripts, for information on unpublished HRS materials.

***  Robert M. Warner, 6th Archivist of the United States, wrote a book telling about NARA's independence efforts in 1995. The book, Diary of a dream: a history of the National Archives independence movement, 1980-1985, is available through Scarecrow Press.

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