Welcome to the Manuscript Division of the Library of Congress.
We hold the papers of many important Americans, including
the papers of twenty-three American Presidents, half of
the Secretaries of State, and about a third of the members
of the Supreme Court. We have papers of people who have
been in virtually every field; great scientists, writers,
and so forth. And I am going to take you on a tour of some
of the highlights, at least some of the things that I like
best, and we are going to go behind the scenes in the stacks
and you'll see the way our collections are stored, and
we'll invite you to come here and do your own research
here in the Manuscript
In this part of the stacks, we have our smallest collections.
But just because the collections are small, fit into a
file folder or two, doesn't mean they are unimportant.
For example, if I were to take out this collection, the
Harold Armold Papers, nobody in my division knows who Harold
Armold is, but if you were interested in the Second World
War and you were interested in the Japanese conquest of
our American troops in the Philippines, and a man who made
the Death March, you have here a memoir of his experiences.
By the same token, there are all kinds of other interesting
collections that we have here in this area of our stacks.
We have a journal of a whaling ship, the Constitution.
This journal was compiled in the 1840s. And every time
they landed a whale, the sailors used a stamp and they
stamped this with a whale. Now you say, well, why is that
important? The fact is that in the nineteenth century,
whaling was a very important industry in the United States
because whale oil was a wonderful material for powering
lights. And of course for women's fashions, we know that
the whalebones were used for corsets and the head of the
whale provided the basis for perfume.
Let's look at another collection. The George Young Bradley
Papers are important because Bradley went along with Powell
on his expedition down the Colorado River. And we have
a journal. So that's important for people interested in
I'll pick out another collection that may interest people.
We don't have a complete collection of this man's poems,
but the poet, Robert Frost, is represented by a small file
folder of material, including letters and some examples
of his poetry. This is signed by Robert Frost. It's a fair
copy in his own hand of one of his poems and we have a
number of them in this collection.
I'm pulling out journals of Titian Ramsay Peale. He went
along in the 1840s to the South Pacific and to the North
Pacific. The exploring expedition was sometimes called
the Wilkes Expedition. And the men spent four years out
at sea looking at these areas and particularly bringing
back botanical specimens, bringing back animal skins; they
didn't bring back any animals, but they brought back some
plants with them. And some of those plants are the grandparents
of plants that we now have in the United States Botanic
Garden just below the Capitol.
In this part of the stacks, we put things that we consider
oversized. They don't fit into the normal manuscript boxes
which you've seen before, but they can be very important
as well. For example, Caleb Cushing went as our first minister
to China and he came back in 1844 and he brought back a
commercial treaty, the Treaty of Wang Xia. But while he
was over in China, just before the age of photography,
he brought along with him a staff artist who drew pictures
of what China looked like in 1844. We have these marvelous
watercolors and other drawings in this collection. We actually
have the treaty, but it's out on loan now. The treaty is
on black ink on Chinese silk.
This is a portion of the collection, again oversized,
from the Elizabeth Cady Stanton collection. Elizabeth Cady
Stanton was a great believer in women's rights and at the
end of the nineteenth century, she decided that the fathers
who had written the Old Testament, or whoever had written
the Old Testament, had left the women out. And so she produced
the Woman's Bible. And here's an example of a page. There
would be a cutout from the Bible and then she would add
material, putting the women back in the Bible.
One of the interesting collections that we rediscovered
within the last half dozen years is this collection of
signature books that was given to the United States on
its 150th birthday by the people of Poland. In addition
to these oversized volumes, there are over a hundred volumes
of signatures; and some five million Poles, school children
and other Poles, thanked the United States. Poland was
brought back together--it hadn't existed as a country for
many years--and it was a country formed out of the remnants
of the First World War. So the Polish people wanted to
commend us on this and it was a token to the United States
on our 150th birthday in 1926.
The next item I wanted to show you was again an oversized
volume and these are the scrapbooks of George Patton, the
famous World War II general. There are about twenty of
these albums that go along with his papers. Perhaps most
famous of all are the Patton diaries. They have been published
and edited by Martin Blumenson, but we have the original
manuscripts here in the Library of Congress.
I want to show you that we have materials that are rather
humorous and this is a letter that Groucho Marx sent to
Warner Brothers. Warner Brothers had complained when the
Marx Brothers announced that they were going to produce
a picture called A Night in Casablanca. They felt it might
interfere with the sale of their great masterpiece, Casablanca.
And so Groucho wrote this letter and I'd suggest to you
that the humor displayed here was typical of Groucho and
this is a case where he put it in a letter.
So he writes, "Dear Warner Brothers, apparently there
is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it
as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated
making a picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca
belonged to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few
days after our announcement appeared that we received a
long, ominous legal document, warning us not to use the
name 'Casablanca.' It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa
Warner, the great-great grandfather of Harry and Jack,
while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had
stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock,
which he later turned in for a hundred shares of the common,
he named it Casablanca. I just can't understand your attitude.
Even if they plan on re-releasing the picture, I am sure
that the average movie fan could learn to distinguish between
Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could,
but I certainly would like to try. You claim you own Casablanca
and that no one else can use that name without their permission.
What about Warner Brothers--do you own that, too? You probably
have the right to use the name Warner, but what about Brothers?
Professionally, we were brothers long before you were.
When Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye,
we were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers and even
before us, there had been other brothers--the Smith Brothers;
the Brothers Karamazoff; Dan Brouthers, an outfielder with
Detroit, and 'Brother, can you spare a dime?'"
Well, when the Warner Brothers lawyers received this letter,
they responded to it and in the collected letters of Groucho
Marx, you can find the totality of the correspondence.
But this is the carbon of the letter that Groucho Marx
wrote to Warner Brothers.
We're looking at the papers of Earl Warren, who was Chief
Justice of the United States. Any of you who look at TV
and watch a crime show, know that as soon as the policeman
puts the cuffs on somebody, the first thing they do is
they read him his rights, the Miranda rights, and that's
the Miranda case. And what I have here is Earl Warren's
file. He wrote the opinion. Originally, he first drafted
an opinion on yellow foolscap paper like this. He had it
typed up and he circulated it to the other justices in
the court. And for example, he got a memo back from Justice
Brennan of New Jersey. He said, "I think this is going
to be a very important case and I have a few suggestions
to make to improve the decision." And so what happens in
the Supreme Court whenever there's a case, you have various
justices suggesting ways of improving the opinion and so
eventually you reach a consensus on what the opinion should
be and the various justices either sign on the majority
opinion or they sign on with a minority opinion.
The next set of papers I want to talk about are the papers
of the famous anthropologist, Margaret Mead. It's one of
the largest private collections we have here at the Library.
We estimate there are five hundred thousand items. More
than a third of the collection consists of photographs.
These are her field notes that she took when she was in
Samoa in 1925-26. She would go back to her tent or dwelling
place and type them up in a more formal way. But in these
notes, every time you see a line through it, it means it's
been typed and she didn't have to retype it. You can find
Samoan words for this, that, or the other thing, or you
can find out about the way the people lived.
One of the things that we haven't talked about so far
are our literary collections. And we have some really exciting
ones here at the Library. We have the papers of Walt Whitman,
we have Bernard Malamud, and these are the papers of Truman
Capote. This box contains a manuscript that he wrote for
In Cold Blood. And here he wrote it in a student notebook.
This is actually the first draft. That's the remarkable
thing about manuscripts: you can see the evolution of a
person's mind. We're going to lose that now with people
writing on computers and erasing. Nobody keeps the eleven
drafts they've written of a chapter anymore. And we'll
never see that again, the creative process, as we can see
it with some of these wonderful manuscripts which we have
here in the Division.
The Library is very fortunate in having the papers of
a great many scientists, and inventors, and so forth; the
papers of Alexander Graham Bell; and I have a box here
of the Wright brothers' notebooks and diaries. This is
one of the genuine treasures of the Library of Congress.
This is actually Orville Wright's diary of the flights
that took place at Kitty Hawk in 1903 and his description
here of the four flights of that day; and he describes
the longest flight as 852 feet, it lasted 59 seconds, and
the propeller turned over a thousand times. We also have
a wonderful telegram that they sent to their father, who
was a bishop in Ohio. They reported the success of the
flight: there were four successful flights; this was the
longest one, the fourth one. And then they wrote that we'll
try to be home by Christmas. But, the most important thing
of all from my perspective is they tell their father, "Inform
the press." Wright wanted to be sure that he got credit
for the first successful heavier-than-air flight.
We're now in Presidential Row here at the Library of Congress
in the Manuscript Division. And we are very fortunate to
be the presidential libraries for twenty-three American
presidents. We go from George Washington through Calvin
Coolidge and have most of the presidents' papers in those
periods. For more recent presidents, you have to go to
the presidential libraries, but we serve as the presidential
library for these twenty-three men. And we house these
all together. The one thing that I have to tell you about
presidential papers is though we have the originals here,
for preservation purposes, we serve microfilm in our reading
room. And we're now starting to digitize the presidential
collections so that Washington and Jefferson are already
digitized, Lincoln is digitized, and we are working on
Jackson and Madison.
One of the things that we have and is kind of unique is
the largest Jefferson collection in the United States.
But we've also collected microfilm from ten or several
more depositories, so if you come here, you'll probably
get the widest range of any place in the country.
I'm going to start with George Washington. This is actually
a notebook which Washington kept when he was a student.
There are arithmetical calculations, the geographical calculations;
it's in remarkably good shape. The paper of that day was
rag paper and it doesn't deteriorate like modern paper
does. And we have a wonderful collection of George Washington's
materials. We have the diaries he kept; we have letters
he wrote. If you look through these papers, you'll see
that he was a man of many parts. There are architectural
drawings, he was a general, he was a statesman, and altogether
a remarkable person.
Next, we're going to turn to Thomas Jefferson, perhaps
the most rounded of all of our American presidents. Many
years ago, when John F. Kennedy had a room, the state dining
room, filled with Pulitzer Prize winners, he said there
wasn't so much intellect gathered here excepting when Thomas
Jefferson ate alone. But, Jefferson was a man who was interested
in a great many things. For example, he was much interested
in cookery. He brought back, when he was in Europe, recipes
for his chefs in Monticello to make. This is a recipe for
meringue. On the other side, it's a recipe for "Nomilly
a maccaroni." We have other interesting items. For example,
the material which Jefferson wrote when he was Vice President
for the Senate. He decided that the Senate was a rather
anarchic place and it needed rules to run itself and he
created Jefferson's Parliamentary Rules for the Senate.
We'll turn next to Abraham Lincoln. I'm going to show
you a letter where the original is actually here in the
collection and this was a letter on what was passed for
White House stationery in those days. And it said Executive
Mansion. The name of the building really officially wasn't
changed till Theodore Roosevelt's time, so that in Lincoln's
day, he was president from 1861 to '65, Executive Mansion
was the proper thing. This is a letter dated July 14, 1863.
And it was written to General Meade who had been the Union
commander at Gettysburg. And to me, this letter is the
quintessence of why Lincoln is considered the greatest
of American presidents. He writes this letter; he thanks
General Meade for the wonderful, wonderful success at Gettysburg.
But what happened in the few days after Gettysburg, the
final battle was on July 4th, is, Lee retreated. But he
couldn't cross the Potomac because the river was at flood
stage and he waited there several days and Lincoln was
terribly distressed because Meade did not advance on Lee.
He might have been able to wipe him out and end the Civil
War right there. In the letter he said, I'm very, very
happy about Gettysburg, but why didn't you pursue Lee?
And Lincoln, being the great president that I think he
was, left this envelope behind, and it says, "To General
Meade, never sent or signed." In other words, Lincoln knew
that Meade was a pretty good, maybe not the greatest, but
he was a good commander. If he had sent this letter to
Meade criticizing him for the post-Gettysburg few days,
Meade would have resigned his commission and Lincoln would
have lost a decent general. So, being the statesman that
he was, he took the letter and he stuffed it in his desk.
And the final president that I wanted to talk about briefly
is Theodore Roosevelt. Most people think of Theodore Roosevelt
as the Roosevelt carrying a big stick and speaking softly
and so forth. Less is well known, less is known, about
Roosevelt as a human being. I have here some of the pocket
diaries which he kept early in life. This diary entry is
February, Friday the 13th of 1880. And what has transpired
is that Theodore Roosevelt has been courting a woman, Alice
Hathaway Lee, for over a year, and she has finally consented
to marry him. And he writes in his diary, "Raining hard,
I drove over in a buggy to the Lees' to dinner, and thanks
to the storm, spent the night there. In the evening, I
was all the time with my darling little sunshine. She is
so marvelously sweet, and pure, and lovable, and pretty
that I seem to love her more and more every time I see
her. Though I love her so much now, that I really cannot
love her more. I do not think that ever a man loved a woman
more than I love her. For a year and a quarter now, I have
never, even while hunting, gone to sleep or waked up without
thinking of her. And I doubt if an hour has passed that
I have not thought of her. And now, I can scarcely realize
that I can hold her in my arms and kiss her and caress
her and love her as much as I choose." And terribly tragically,
in 1884, as she gave birth to a child, she died essentially
in childbirth. And the child grew up and lived on and was
known as Alice Roosevelt Longworth. And she was still alive
here in town, one of the grandes dames, when I first moved
to town. The impact of the death of Roosevelt's first wife
was very traumatic. And Roosevelt eliminated all of the
photographs of his first wife, he tore up the letters,
and he never was able to talk to his daughter Alice about
her mother, Alice. He stopped writing his diaries in 1884
after his wife--and actually his mother died on the same
day, of typhus, in the same house in New York, I think
it's 28th Street, on the east side of New York. They both
died in the same day and Roosevelt wrote about that and
he stopped keeping diaries, as far as we know.
It's been a pleasure talking to you about some of the
collections that we have here in the Manuscript Division.
We have in the vicinity of twelve thousand collections,
with something like sixty million separate items here.
And we welcome you to Washington to use the materials that
we have. We will be delighted to bring out collections
that you want to see. Most of the material, you'll see
the original material. As I said earlier, there are some
collections which we have microfilm for preservation purposes,
but ninety percent of the material we have here is available
for you and our reference librarians will be very happy
to serve you here at the Library of Congress in Washington.
So, enjoy the collections as I have for so many years.
They are simply marvelous and they are wonderful ways to
get inside of other people who have passed from the scene.