National Historical Publications & Records Commission

NHPRC News - December 2013

NHPRC News — December 2013

National Archives Awards $2.3 Million in Grants for Historical Records Projects


Refer to Caption Christmas letter written by Howard to his son, Guy, in 1861, courtesy Bowdoin College
Following the November meeting of the Commission, Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero awarded 44 grants totaling $2,283,079 in Federal funds for archives and publishing projects in 32 states, territories, and the District of Columbia. A complete list of new grants is online at

Publishing Grants totaling $1.1 million went to nine publishing projects from the U.S. Colonial and Early National Period, including the papers of Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Dolley Madison, and John Jay. Projects to record the Documentary History of the Ratification of the U.S. Constitution and the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress also received funding.

Grants totaling nearly $700,000 went for State and National Archives Partnership (SNAP) grants to enable 28 state historical records advisory boards to carry out their mission to support archival education and strengthen the nation's archival network.

Refer to Caption 19th century fruit company trademark, California Archives

Digitizing Historical Records grants, totaling over $500,000, went to seven projects to digitize World War II Oral History files; the papers of Leo Szilard, the nuclear physicist; the papers of General Oliver Otis Howard, Civil War general, Commissioner of the Freedman's Bureau, and third president of Howard University; Historical Collective Bargaining Agreements from the 1880s through the 1980s; the Center for Jewish History's American Soviet Jewry Movement collections; Early Connecticut manuscripts; and 19th century trademark files in the California Archives, including the original trademarks and specimens from Levi Strauss & Co. jeans, 19th century medicines and tonics, and Anheuser Busch's Budweiser lager.

Publications Director to Retire


Timothy Connelly joined the staff of the Commission in December 1984 after serving for nearly two years in other positions at the National Archives. He earned his B.A. and M.A. from American University and his Ph.D. in History from the University of Maryland. In 1996, he was appointed Director for the Publications program, and he has served with great distinction in that role for over 17 years. In this role, he managed all of the documentary editing projects and has been a fixture at the Institute for Documentary Editing. Through all these years, he has earned respect and admiration from researchers, scholars, and editors in the field and his colleagues here at the NHPRC. He will retire from government service at the end of January 2014.

Archives Leadership Institute Deadline

Looking for a way to recharge your professional life? Seeking a challenge that will get you thinking about archives in a radically new way? Eager to expand your network of peers while building relationships that will impact you for the rest of your career? Ready to lead?

If so, you should consider the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI), a dynamic program that meets for one week each summer. In a relaxed setting, the ALI provides advanced leadership training and mentorship for 25 innovative archival leaders, giving them the knowledge and tools to transform the profession in practice, theory and attitude.

Drawn from programs across the country, participants are usually mid-career archivists or archives professionals who show leadership potential and who have a solid professional foundation of practical knowledge and experience and a strong grasp on archival practice and theory. To get an idea of what you might expect, take a look at this StorifyStorify by Sibyl Schaeffer from the summer of 2013.


Refer to Caption Students at the 2013 Archives Leadership Institute, courtesy Luther College
Created through an initiative of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission in 2008, this year's ALI will run from June 15-21, 2014 at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. A cohort of 25 people attend from archives of all kinds, from state and local government, public institutions of all sizes, and from the private sector.

If you would like to be a part of the 2014 Institute, please apply before January 3, 2014. Details about the application process and what characteristics the ideal ALI participant has can be found at the ALI website. Participants selected as the 2014 cohort will be notified by the end of February.


News from the Field

George Washington's Financial Papers

Refer to CaptionVolumes from the print edition of the Papers of George Washington

Editors at the University of Virginia have been hard at work publishing the Papers of George Washington, in print and online. The documentary editing project was founded in 1968, first conducting a worldwide document search that eventually netted copies of some 140,000 documents. The project first published Washington's diaries in six volumes (1976-1979), and began publishing Washington's general correspondence in multiple series in 1983. To date, the project has published 64 of an estimated 87 printed volumes of Washington's correspondence. A digital edition team was established in 2004 to collaborate with the University of Virginia Press's Rotunda imprint in the creation of online versions of the volumes. And the Washington Papers are also available on Founders Online.

But a quandary has occurred over the treatment of the voluminous financial records of George Washington, and how best to develop an online mechanism for the editing and display of financial records from the Colonial and Early National Period. The George Washington Financial Papers Project (GWFPP) aims to address the challenge of transcribing and researching handwritten financial records of the 18th and 19th centuries. These records are rich sources of information about the economic patterns and daily lives of their creators.

Washington was as much a businessman and entrepreneur as he was a military and political leader. He kept detailed records of his personal expenses, the expenses related to his estate at Mount Vernon, his military finances, and his presidential household. The financial records document interactions with thousands of individuals, including men and women, large and small-scale farmers, tradespeople, mariners, and barristers. These records are on thousands of manuscript pages that would probably total 30,000 pages in print form.

Refer to Caption Detail from a financial ledger from George Washington, courtesy University of Virginia
A brief foray into how these records appear in ledgers helps explain the complexities associated with this data. Ledgers are arranged in date order, but the dates are only written out the first time, until a new day or year occurs. Likewise, if multiple transactions are associated with the same person, "dittos" or other marks (rather than text) are included. Then, monetary values may be listed in many different currencies, often unfamiliar to the modern reader. Finally, as in most handwritten documents, spelling is inconsistent and abbreviations can be unfamiliar. As a result, the GWFPP staff concluded that it needed to develop new tools and new approaches for the presentation of such records different from those used in traditional documentary editing.

With support of an NHPRC Innovation Grant, the GWFPP staff plans a free online version of George Washington's financial records and, further, will test the methods that are developed on an 1811-1816 account ledger of ambitious financial investor, Gouvernor Morris, documenting his rather dramatic decline in wealth near the end of his life.

Regrants in Ohio

Refer to Caption Reference and archives librarian Polly Reynolds of the Hudson Library and Historical Society

The State and National Archival Partnership program of the NHPRC provides funds to historical records advisory boards across the nation. In many cases, a portion of that funding goes to re-granting for projects at the local level. The Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board recently awarded 8 grants for local projects:

  • Delaware County Historical Society: Historical Records Cataloging and Preservation Project
  • German Township (Fulton County): Records Processing and Preservation Project
  • Historical Society of Mount Pleasant: Arrangement and Preservation of Genealogical Records
  • Hudson Library and Historical Society: Preserving and Improving Access to Hudson, Ohio Historic Photographs
  • Shaker Historical Society: Elizabeth Nord Research Library & Archives Map and Stereoview Collections Preservation and Reorganization
  • University of Akron: Digitization of the Daniel Guggenheim Airship Institute Technical Reports
  • Welsh American Heritage Museum: Access and Preservation of Historical Records
  • Wyandot County Historical Society: Photographic Collection Storage Project

Reference and archives librarian Polly Reynolds of the Hudson Library and Historical Society (pictured here) said that staff and volunteers will organize and process the library's historic photograph collection and digitize a selection of 200 photographs through the Summit Memory project, a county-wide collaborative online initiative.

JFK and the Editors

Refer to Caption Photograph from the October 1961 luncheon: (eft to right) J. Russell Wiggins, Editor of The Washington Post; John W. Sweeterman (behind and between Mr. Wiggins and President Kennedy); President Kennedy; Thomas Wilson, Director of the Harvard University Press; Thomas Boylston Adams; Lyman Butterfield (back row), courtesy John F. Kennedy Presidential Library
President John F. Kennedy was a student of American history and had an abiding interest in the Founding Fathers. On October 3, 1961 a luncheon was held to celebrate the release of The Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, a publication of the first four volumes of the Adams Family Papers.

Three years after this lunch, the Federal Government-through the NHPRC-made its first grants to the five Founding Fathers projects: Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and James Madison. A sixth project-the George Washington Papers-received its first grant in 1968.

In his remarks at the luncheon, the President referred to J. R. Wiggins, editor and executive vice president of the Washington Post; Lyman H. Butterfield, editor of the Adams Papers; Dr. Julian P. Boyd, editor of the Jefferson Papers; and Thomas B. Adams, president of the Massachusetts Historical Association and a great-great-great grandson of John Adams. Here are the remarks in full:

Mr. Wiggins, Mr. Butterfield, Dr. Boyd, Mr. Adams, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen:

First of all, I want to say to Mr. Adams, that it is a pleasure to live in your family's old house, and we hope that you will come by and see us.

I suppose a number of things attract us all here today. Some of us think it wise to associate as much as possible with historians and cultivate their good will, though we always have the remedy which Winston Churchill once suggested in the House of Commons, when he prophesied during World War II that history would deal gently with us. And then in an afterward he said, "Because I intend to write it."

And then I think we like to be here because all of us as Americans are constantly bemused and astounded by this extraordinary golden age in our history which produced so many men of exceptional talent. I have not heard, nor I suppose is there a rational explanation for the fact that this 'small country, possessed of a very limited population, living under harsh circumstances, produced so many, many, many brilliant and extraordinary figures who set the tone for our national life and who really represent the most extraordinary outpouring of human ability devoted to government, really, than any time since the days of Greece. And any touch which we may have in our lives with that period attracts us all.

And then I think we are here because of our regard for the extraordinary record of the Adams family. I have in my office at the White House one of the few papers which got out of the hands of the Adamses, which is a report of a committee of the Congress which Mr. John Quincy Adams as Senator headed, which supported Thomas Jefferson's embargo which ruined Massachusetts commerce, and which cost John Quincy Adams his seat.

This tremendous devotion to the public interest, this vitality which goes from generation to generation down to the present is really the most exceptional scarlet thread which runs throughout the entire tapestry of American political life.

It is an interesting fact that Mr. Charles Francis Adams who was the Secretary of the Navy was also probably the best sailor that this country ever produced. This ability to do things well and to do them with precision and with modesty attracts us all. And therefore, as an honorary member of the Massachusetts Historical Society, I was delighted and proud of the fine speech made by our President, Mr. Adams, today.

Thomas Jefferson and Adams exchanged one bit of correspondence which I think is rather illuminating. In a letter to Jefferson in 1815, Adams wrote: "Who shall write the history of the American Revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it?" And Jefferson replied: "Nobody, except merely its external facts. All its councils, designs and discussions having been conducted by Congress with closed doors .... These, which are the life and soul of history must forever be unknown."

These books, these volumes, do something to open those doors. But I am impressed by the difficulty, even with these contemporary records of the Adamses, the Jeffersons, Madisons, Franklins, and all the others, of really getting to the historical truth. Even with the most complete reporting which we now have, even with the most accurate contemporary record which may be kept, I still am impressed, from personal experience as well as observation, with how difficult it ever is to feel that we've finally gotten to the "bone" of truth on any great historical controversy.

But this does open the doors. This does bring us closer to the tables where the record was written. And for this reason it serves as a most valuable chronicle of a long series of lives which stretch down to the present date. And therefore this formidable record of a formidable family deserves the kind of great editorial support which it's now receiving.

I have no doubt that Lyman Butterfield and Thomas Adams are breathing heavy sighs of relief--4 volumes out, and only 80 or 100 more to go. Obviously the worst is over.

In a different field, I sometimes feel that way myself, until I read the somber words of Mr. Wiggins in the morning papers and realize how far we have to go.

It is interesting that in John Adams' pre-presidential days, he once wrote, "The Deliberations of the Congress are spun out to an immeasurable Length. There is so much Wit, Sense, Learning, Acuteness, Subtlety, Eloquence, etc., among fifty Gentlemen, each of whom has been habituated to lead and guide in his own Province, that an immensity of Time is spent unnecessarily." Which shows how times do change.

Refer to Caption Abigail and John Adams from the Adams Family Papers Electronic Archive at the Massachusetts Historical Society

Reading about the Presidency in those days does bring us a certain nostalgia. John Adams used to spend every summer in Quincy, and during the undeclared war with Spain he spent a substantial time away from Washington. I suppose for one who has spent, in the words of the AP, 14 straight weekends at Hyannis Port, we should not be too critical. But it does indicate that there was a different and more satisfactory pace in those times.

I feel that the Adams family intimidates us all, and what it has been, their extraordinary contribution to the public service, I have examined with some care. It is a source of interest to me that this extraordinarily able group of public servants, President Adams and his son, were the only two Presidents of the United States who were not reelected during the first 50 years of our country's service. So when posterity gives them something better than reelection, it does present a heart-warming thing to some of us who face the hazards of public life. And I'm sure they would have felt that way, too.

I think the other quality which I find interesting in the Adamses is their constant dissatisfaction with their own record. John Adams' son, John Quincy Adams, could write after having been Minister to Holland and Russia, England--worked for us in France, taking part in the Treaty ending the War of 1812--he could still write in his diary, "Two-thirds of a long life have passed, and I have done nothing to distinguish it by usefulness to my country and to mankind." And in his 70th year, after having held more offices than any other American in the history of our country, he could pronounce his life a whole succession of disappointments. "I can scarcely recollect a single instance of success in anything that I ever undertook."

This high regard for his own position, his own qualities, which led him into constant frustration and disappointment that he could never achieve in his own mind the goal that he and his wife and his family had set for themselves, represents a most extraordinary prod, and I think explains the tremendous contribution which he and his successors have made to our country.

In a sense it was their self-love and self-esteem, rather than any synthetic sense of their inadequacy, that made them work so hard, and yet made them all feel that they had failed to achieve what they were capable of and what the times demanded.

I think therefore that we can consider that they have bequeathed to us two extraordinary and important qualities: conscience, Puritan conscience, and courage--the courage of those who look to other days and other times.

A few days before John Adams in 1826 died, his fellow townsmen of Quincy asked him to send them a toast for the Fourth of July. His response was brief but comprehensive. His toast stands both for the Adamses and for America.

He recommended that the patriots of Quincy drink to a simple sentiment: independence forever.

I congratulate all those gentlemen who have labored so long to produce these volumes. I congratulate Dr. Boyd who was a pioneer in this field. I congratulate those Presidents of the United States who in recent days have been most concerned that effective, contemporary records be kept. I congratulate us--I congratulate this country-I congratulate us all--in being part of the legacy which President John Adams left to US.

Thank you.

The Story Behind Rudolph


Refer to Caption Montgomery Ward Department Store Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer , 1939, by Robert L. May

The story behind "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" begins in 1939 when Robert May wrote the tale as a promotional booklet for the Montgomery Ward department store chain. His brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, turned it into a song and sent a demo to several pop singers including Gene Autry.

According to the Autry Archives, "Gene gave it a listen, but was not impressed. He played it for his wife, Ina, who loved it and suggested that it would be a big hit. Carl Cotner, Gene's long-time arranger, also encouraged the Singing Cowboy to do it. On June 27, 1949 Gene went in the studio and laid down the track. And, if you can believe this, Autry writes in his autobiography Back in the Saddle Again, that it was done in one take!"

The Gene Autry Personal Papers and Business Archives (1930 - 1998) are part of the Autry National Center, a museum dedicated to exploring and sharing the stories, experiences, and perceptions of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past to the present to inspire our shared future.

Refer to CaptionThe Autry National Center celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2013 and features highlights from its collection online.
Autry was not only a popular entertainer but a very successful businessman as well. The Autry archives contain music correspondence, business records, scripts, photos, and ephemera.

A grant from the NHPRC helped the Archives process the Autry papers and over 1,800 feet from various archival collections that broaden the story of the American West, Native American people and culture, Western entertainment, regional California history, and the fields of archeology, anthropology, and ethnology.


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