2014 Press Releases

National Archives Brings U.S. History to Life Through Signatures Exhibit
Press Release · Friday, March 21, 2014

Washington, DC

"Making Their Mark: Stories through Signatures" Opens March 2014

Washington, DC…The National Archives announced today that it will open a new exhibition on March 21, 2014, titled "Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" in the Lawrence F. O'Brien Gallery of the National Archives Building. "Making Their Mark" invites visitors to look at a signature, imagine the moment the document was signed, and realize how each one has made its mark on our American narrative.

The exhibition will be on display through January 5, 2015, and is free and open to the public. The National Archives is located on the National Mall on Constitution Avenue at 9th Street, NW. Museum hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Thanksgiving and December 25.

Signatures are personal. The act of signing can be as simple as a routine mark on a form, or it can be a stroke that changes many lives. Signatures can be an act of defiance, or a symbol of thanks and friendship. "Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" will draw from the billions of government records at the National Archives to showcase a unique collection of signatures and tell the stories behind them.

Many of the treasured documents in the immense holdings of the National Archives are inscribed with signatures.

Some of the signatures are:

  • Notable, such as Thomas Jefferson, Harry S. Truman, George Washington, and James Madison, while others are famous individuals, such as Katharine Hepburn, Magic Johnson, and Jackie Robinson;

  • Important not for the individual names, but for the strength of many names signed together for a common cause. There are petitions asking for change and a letter to President Ford with 75 Senators signing in unity to "reaffirm the commitment…that has been the bipartisan basis of American policy for over 26 years and five administrations."

Other signatures reveal the world around them by:

  • Capturing a moment in history: In World War II, a Japanese American inside an internment camp signed a loyalty oath; in 1938 a Jewish tailor wrote to President Roosevelt pleading for an escape from Budapest because of “political happenings”; and, in the 19th century, Texas landowner Polly Lemon petitioned Congress but, unable to sign her name, made her mark with an "x;"

  • Offering a window into a very young America, such as the 1798 petition signed by employees at the U.S. Mint, promising to return to work once the yellow fever epidemic passed, or the letter from George Washington to the Continental Congress asking how he should resign as Commander-in-Chief.

"Making Their Mark: Stories Through Signatures" is made possible in part by the Foundation for the National Archives with the generous support of Lead Sponsor AT&T. Major additional support provided by the Lawrence F. O'Brien Family and members of the Board of the Foundation for the National Archives. Family and educational programming related to "Making Their Mark" is sponsored in part by Fahrney's Pens and Newell Rubbermaid - Parker Pen Company.

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For more information about "Making their Mark," or to obtain images of the items included in the exhibition, call the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

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