National Archives Ceremonial Letters and Presidential Gifts Featured in Friendship Exhibit in Thailand
Press Release · Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Washington, DC


On March 21, the exhibit “Great and Good Friends: 200 Years of U.S.- Thai Friendship,” opens in Bangkok, Thailand, and celebrates the bicentennial of U.S.-Thai diplomatic relations.  The exhibit will be held at the Queen Sirikit Museum of Textiles, and runs through June 30, 2018.

“Great and Good Friends” includes 42 items from the National Archives, including ceremonial letters, head-of state gifts and an 11-foot facsimile of the 1833 U.S.-Siam Treaty, exchanged between Thai royalty and American Presidents, on loan from the National Archives and its Presidential Libraries and Museums.  These special items have never before been exhibited outside the United States, and are shown alongside manuscripts, musical instruments, textiles and other 19th century artifacts from our neighboring U.S. institutions: the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution.

Highlights from the National Archives include:

  • Letter from King Mongkut to President James Buchanan, 1861, offering a gift of elephants “ be let loose...increase and multiply in the continent of America”
  • Enameled miniature of Thailand’s first constitutional monarch King Prajidhipok, given by the King to First Lady Lou Hoover in 1931
  • Gold cigarette case given to President Franklin Roosevelt by Luang Praditmanutham, Regent of King Ananda Mahidol, delivered through the Office of Strategic Services in 1945
  • Silver-framed photograph of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, inscribed by the King and given to President John F. Kennedy in 1963

Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, explained the importance of this exhibit and the special relationship between the two countries:

While it is true that in 1862 President Lincoln politely declined King Mongkut's offer of elephants, Lincoln did accept the other gifts "in accordance with Your Majesty's desire as tokens of your goodwill and friendship for the American People."  Lincoln promised the King that these treasures "will be placed among the archives of the Government, where they will remain perpetually as tokens of mutual esteem and pacific dispositions more honorable to both nations than any trophies of conquest could be."  

More than 150 years later, we are pleased to share these and other historic treasures, and are honored to partner with the U.S. Embassy in Bangkok, Meridian International, the Library of Congress, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Queen Sirikit Museum on the "Great and Good Friends" exhibit. These ceremonial gifts, on loan from the National Archives and our Presidential Libraries, reflect the continuing strong friendship of the American and Thai peoples.

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This page was last reviewed on April 12, 2018.
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