Traveling Exhibit: "American Originals" Treasures from the National Archives
- Press Release: The National Archives Takes "American Originals" on the Road
- Photo Gallery: Highlights of the Traveling Exhibition. Download publication-quality images of some of the documents in the traveling exhibition, including the six core documents and images of regional interest from each of the sites.
- Information on the "American Originals" Catalog
- View the Online Exhibit Hall version of "American Originals"
- Press Kit for the Washington, D.C. Exhibition of "American Originals" Displayed March 16, 2001-July 4, 2001.
- Factsheet on the National Archives and Records Administration
Note: All of the documents featured in "American Originals" are from the holdings of the National Archives. For prints, or for more information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Media Desk.
The National Archives Takes
"American Originals" on the Road
Washington, D.C. … The Louisiana Purchase. The Emancipation Proclamation. Thomas Edison's patent for the "Electric Lamp—" These documents represent milestones in American history, and all are part of "American Originals," a new traveling exhibition from the National Archives and Records Administration. This major exhibition is scheduled to travel to nine cities, bringing some of the rarely-seen treasures in the holdings of the National Archives to people across the nation.
"American Originals" is currently scheduled to travel to the following locations:
- The New York Public Library, New York City, New York (Oct. 5, 2001-Jan. 5, 2002)
- The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago, Illinois (Feb. 8-April 28, 2002)
- Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, Ohio (May 24-Sept. 2, 2002)
- Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, Atlanta, Georgia (Sept. 27, 2002-Jan. 5, 2003)
- Union Station Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri (Jan. 31-May 4, 2003)
- Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas (May 31-Sept. 1, 2003)
- Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, California (Oct. 4, 2003-Jan. 4, 2004)
- Museum of American Political Life, University of Hartford, Hartford, Connecticut (Jan. 30-May 9, 2004)
- Delaware Art Museum at the Bank One Center on the Riverfront, Wilmington, Delaware (Sept. 2-Oct. 17, 2004)
"American Originals" showcases original documents that have charted the course of American history. The exhibition is drawn from the vast holdings of the National Archives, which preserves and makes available to the public those records of the United States government that have been identified as having permanent value. These original documents are the raw stuff of history. They are physical links to the past - pieces of history in its most unprocessed form. While some of the documents announce their own importance with flourished signatures and wax seals, others are deceptively routine in appearance. All of them have passed through the hands of the most notable figures in our nation's history, and hold messages beyond their words.
In conjunction with "American Originals," the National Archives will also share one of its greatest treasures with the American people by sending the original, signed Emancipation Proclamation to each of the eight sites. To ensure its preservation for future generations, this fragile landmark document will be on special display for four days at each venue.
Archivist of the United States John Carlin said, "'American Originals' gives us an invaluable opportunity to share our nation's rich historical resources with Americans around the country. The traveling exhibition is scheduled to coincide with an extensive renovation of the National Archives Building in Washington, D.C. When we reopen the Rotunda in 2003, the Charters of Freedom will be more accessible to all Americans and our renovated building will have better public areas to showcase our nation's documentary heritage."
Highlights of the Traveling Exhibit: "American Originals" Treasures from the National Archives
"American Originals" includes original documents that have charted the course of American history. This online press kit features images of the documents that will be traveling to every venue, as well as one document that is of unique regional interest to each venue. For preservation purposes, the pages of a particular document or the version of that document may vary from site to site. Click on the thumbnail images for a high-resolution image of the document. For prints, or for more information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Media Desk.
(These documents will travel to every site; due to conservation concerns, different pages will be on display at different sites.)
- Voting record of the Constitutional Convention, 1787.
- Louisiana Purchase Treaty, April 30, 1803.
- The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862.
- Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Lincoln, January 1, 1863.
- Thomas Edison's patent application for an "Improvement in Electric Lamps," November 1, 1879.
- German Military Surrender, signed at the end of World War II, May 1945.
- John F. Kennedy's handwritten draft of his inaugural address, January 17, 1961.
Other Documents of Regional Interest
- New York: George Washington's first inaugural address, delivered in New York City, April 30, 1789.
- Chicago: Notebook recording the first controlled, self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.
- Columbus: President Abraham Lincoln's nomination of Ulysses S. Grant, a native son of Ohio, to be Lieutenant General of the U.S. Army, February 29, 1864.
- Atlanta: President Jimmy Carter's draft, "Framework for a settlement in the Sinai," 1978.
- Kansas City: A note, in case of failure, written by Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower on June 5, 1944. This document is on loan from nearby Dwight D. Eisenhower library.
- San Antonio: Credentials of the Honorable Sam Houston, Senator from Texas, February 21, 1846.
- Los Angeles: John Wayne's application for a commission with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), 1943.
- Hartford: Opinion of the Supreme Court in United States v. The Amistad, March 9, 1841. The first court proceedings of this case took place in Hartford's Old State House.
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Voting record of the Constitutional Convention, 1787 (first page). For 4 months, the delegates debated fundamental questions relating to government, power, and human nature. Each and every issue of the Constitution was painstakingly argued and resolved. The voting records reflect the countless concessions and compromises that produced the Constitution. This page records the final vote taken September 15, 1787. Delegates to the Convention signed the proposed Constitution on September 17, 1787. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Continental and Confederation Congresses and the Constitutional Convention. Due to conservation restrictions, different pages will be displayed at each venue.
(Image size: 2.1 MB)
Signature PageLouisiana Purchase Treaty, April 30, 1803. The Louisiana Purchase added 828,000 square miles of land west of the Mississippi River to the United States. For roughly 4 cents an acre, the United States had purchased a territory whose natural resources amounted to a richness beyond anyone's wildest calculations. National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the U.S. Government. Due to conservation restrictions, this document will be displayed in New York, Columbus, and Atlanta. A related treaty from the Louisiana Purchase will be on display in Kansas City, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Hartford.
(Image size: 3.7 MB)
Page Two, Page Three. The Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, September 22, 1862. President Lincoln proclaimed in this document that all slaves in states that were still in rebellion as of January 1, 1863, would be free. One hundred days later, with the Confederacy still in full rebellion and the nation approaching its third year of bloody Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the U.S. Government. Due to conservation restrictions, different pages will be displayed at each venue.
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Page Two, Page Three, Page Four, Page Five. Emancipation Proclamation, signed by President Lincoln, 1863. National Archives and Records Administration, General Records of the U.S. Government. That proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states "are, and henceforward shall be free." Due to the fragility of this document, it may be exhibited for no longer than four days in each city.
(Image size: 1.7 MB)
Thomas Edison's patent application for an "Improvement in Electric Lamps," November 1, 1879. Thomas Edison propelled the United States out of the gaslight era and into the electric age. In 1878, the creation of a practical long-burning electric light had eluded scientists for decades. With dreams of lighting up entire cities, Edison lined up financial backing, assembled a group of brilliant scientists and technicians, and applied his genius to the challenge of creating an effective and affordable electric lamp. On January 27, 1880, Edison received the historic patent embodying the principles of his incandescent lamp that paved the way for the universal domestic use of electric light. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Patent and Trademark Office. Due to conservation restrictions, some venues will display the first page of the original document and a facsimile of the second page, while the other venues will display a facsimile of the first page and the original second page.
(Image size: 1.7 MB)
Page Two, Page Three. German Military Surrender, signed at Berlin, May 8, 1945. This document was a purely military surrender, aimed at ending the fighting and halting any further bloodshed. Article 4 provided for a more general political surrender that would come later. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. Due to conservation restrictions, this document will be displayed in New York, Columbus, and Atlanta. The Act of Military Surrender, signed at Rheims on May 7, 1945, will be on display in Kansas City, San Antonio, Los Angeles, and Hartford.
(Image size: 1.3 MB)
John F. Kennedy's handwritten draft of his inaugural address, January 17, 1961, first page. In this draft written three days before the inauguration, Kennedy wrote down 15 statements, most of which were used in the final speech after being revised and refined in subsequent drafts. While most of the speech looked to the future, heralding "a new generation of Americans," its opening lines saluted the past and the legacy of the American Revolution. Kennedy linked himself to the Presidents that preceded him in taking the oath to uphold and preserve the U.S. Constitution. National Archives and Records Administration, John Fitzgerald Kennedy Library, Boston, Massachusetts. Due to conservation restrictions, different pages will be displayed at each venue.
Other Documents of Regional Interest
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New York Public Library, New York, New York:
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The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago, Illinois:
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Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, Ohio:
(Image size: 1.5 MB)
Jimmy Carter Library, Atlanta, Georgia:
(Image size: 2.5 MB)
Union Station Kansas City, Kansas City, Missouri:
(Image size: 2.9 MB)
Witte Museum, San Antonio, Texas:
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Page One, Page Eleven.
Los Angeles Public Library, Los Angeles, California:
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Museum of American Political Life, Hartford, Connecticut: