Press Release
Press Release · Friday, January 23, 1998

Press Release
January 23, 1998
Designs for Democracy: 200 Years of Drawings from the National Archives

Washington, DC. . . Over the course of its history, the United States government has prepared, commissioned, received or approved designs for millions of objects. These objects range in size from minuscule to mammoth, from chandelier lamps to bridges. The design for each of these objects was created in response to a specific Federal policy or program and reflects the diversity and creativity that forms the core of the American character.

Nearly 100 of these drawings will be on display in "Designs for Democracy," a major exhibition in the Circular Gallery of the National Archives Building that opens to the public on Friday, March 13, 1998. The exhibition, which is free, will remain open through January 10, 1999. The National Archives and Records Administration is located on Constitution Avenue, between 7th and 9th Streets, NW.

These designs were originally created to support military objectives, provide civilian services and facilitate government business. As a result, drawings can be found among National Archive’s records of a great many Federal agencies. "Designs for Democracy" highlights some of the essential evidence representing 200 years of Federal design.

"Designs for Democracy" includes elegant watercolors, exquisite ink and wash drawings, bold charcoal and pencil sketches and finely executed engineering details created by professional artists, engineers, inventors, draftsmen or graphic artists -- a few were submitted by inspired citizens. While some bear the signature of a well-known designer, many the imprimatur of an approving Federal official, often they are unsigned and their creator remains unknown.

Highlights in the exhibition include:

Sketch of the Great Seal
By Francis Hopkinson, May 10, 1780
Pencil and ink on paper
Records of the Department of State
Although Francis Hopkinson’s 1780 design for the Great Seal of the United States was not accepted, several of its components were incorporated into the approved design of 1782. Hopkinson introduced the arrow and olive branch as symbols of war and peace. He also suggested the red, white and blue colors for the shield.

"Plans for the Arlington Memorial Bridge"
William Mitchell Kendall, architect, McKim, Mead, and White, for the Arlington Memorial Bridge Commission, 1923
Pencil, ink and wash on paper
Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital
In 1922 the Memorial Bridge Commission selected William Mitchell Kendall’s design for a bridge linking Washington, D.C., to Virginia’s Arlington Cemetery. Kendall’s design served not only as a memorial to Americans who had died in military service, but also as the symbolic reunification of North and South after the Civil War.

Submarine Torpedo Boat
By John P. Holland, February 18, 1875
Ink on paper
Records of the Office of the Chief of Ordnance
In 1875 Irish American John H. Holland sent the U.S. Navy this design for an experimental 15½-foot long torpedo boat, designed to operate underwater. Although this design was rejected, Holland continued to improve his invention and on October 12, 1900, the U.S. Navy commissioned the first true submarine, the 64-foot U.S.S. Holland

"John Gorham’s Design for Spoons"
By John Gorham
Patent granted April 10, 1855
Watercolor and wash on paper
Records of the Patent and Trademark Office
John Gorham applied for a design patent for his pattern of decoration for a spoon.

For additional PRESS information, please contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at (301) 837-1700 or by e-mail.


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