History Helpings

Beauty and Grace

While First Lady Jackie Kennedy is well known for her keen sense of style and the influence she had on fashion around the world, she accomplished much more than that. Check out this picture book biography to learn more about her childhood and time in the White House that led to her become such a powerful figure.

From Hoop Skirts to Shorts

Even back in the day, style needed to change during the hot summer months. In the 1800s, women were searching for a way to keep heavy dress fabric away from their skin, and thus, the hoop skirt was born. This patent shows the inner workings of such a skirt and how cumbersome this style was. How thankful are we for shorts!

I’ll Dress Myself Today

There comes a certain time in every person’s life when they feel responsible enough to make their own fashion choices. For President John F. Kennedy, this moment came when he had just entered his teenage years at Choate Academy. He wrote to his mother that he had received the suit she sent, but that he “did not like the color and it was a pretty itchy looking material.” We can only imagine what the suit looked like to so displease young JFK.

FLOTUS Fashion

First Ladies and their fashion not only served as an outward display of style, but were also used to advance their own (and their husbands’) agendas on special causes and politics. Explore some of the most memorable First Lady Fashions on the National Archives Pinterest page, and then head over to the Eisenhower Library to put together a puzzle of Mamie’s inaugural gown.

Smile for the Camera––Or Not

The National Archives holds many original records written by George Washington about his experiences in early America, but one in particular describes a more superficial problem he had: dealing with the 18th century equivalent of the paparazzi––portrait artists. In this letter to his friend Governor Henry Lee of Virginia, Washington described how “heartily tired” he is of these portrait artists.

Dear Diary…

What must life be like for a teen living in the White House? In 1975, First Daughter Susan Ford gave Americans a glimpse behind the curtain when she began writing a monthly column for Seventeen magazine. Check out clippings from her White House diary, in which she talks about everything from boys to her mother’s battle with cancer to the letters she received from the public.

A Little Country Boy

Forest Delano Roosevelt Ferguson wrote to the President when he was just 8 years old. While he thought his original letter was lost, his daughter did some digging more than 70 years later and found it in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Library! In block print, little Forest chatted with his namesake like they were old pals, telling him how he got in trouble for talking too much. He even included this picture of himself for the President to keep.

History is Now

This group of second graders provided a unique perspective of the 1965 inauguration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Just as history is made when a president is elected, it continues to be made each and every day. Take a page from the scrapbook of these youngsters and create your own poster, drawing or journal entry describing a situation you’ve experienced recently. Your firsthand account of history may live on forever for future generations.

History Made by YOU

Speaking of your role in shaping history, have you heard of My Wish for U.S.? Tell us what your wish is for America for the next 250 years, and take the first step in being part of history today.

How to Build a Flying Saucer

Ever wondered what the inside of a flying saucer looks like? In the 1950s, the U.S. Air Force hired a Canadian company to design and create a disc-shaped craft that was supposed to take off and land vertically, moving four times as fast as the speed of sound. Curiously, this aircraft quite closely resembles those flying saucers that were ever-so popular in sci-fi novels around the same time. This craft made it to testing…but unfortunately, it only reached 35 miles per hour and couldn’t get very high off the ground. Chalk it up to an alien-tasic pipe dream!

Saucers over Washington, D.C.

This comic strip from the National Archives holdings illustrates a UFO sighting from July 19, 1952. Just after midnight, radar controllers observed seven strange objects appearing on the control center over restricted areas of Washington, D.C.––including the White House and Capitol! Their response is depicted in this comic, in which the Air Force determined that these sightings were simply caused by temperature inversion. But there are “just two points, boys” for why that might not be the case…

Take Us to Your President

Get ready as we drop a catchy new track Archives-style. Believe it or not, President Richard Nixon was given several songs by members of the public to commemorate the Apollo 11 moon landing––including one titled “Take Us to Your President.” Listen for yourself for a rather different perspective of those “who may be among you soon.”

After jamming out with aliens, try your hand at this JFK Moonshot AR Experience from the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.

Teddy’s Bear

Not only did President Roosevelt protect our national parks, we also have him to thank for our favorite stuffed animal!

During one hunting trip in 1902, Roosevelt refused to shoot an old bear. The story quickly got out, and cartoonist Clifford Berryman took the tale and used it to poke fun at the President through this comic. Morris Mitchum, a Brooklyn shop owner, took inspiration from the comic and made the first stuffed toy bear, naming it “Teddy’s Bear” in dedication to the President.

Declare Your Independence, Again

Not only does Uncle Sam want you, Thomas Jefferson does too. Get a sneak peek of tomorrow from the Founding Father himself. Wait until you hear what he thinks of the King of England!

HBD Uncle Sam

The Founding Fathers seem to get all the attention on July 4th, but don’t forget about America’s Uncle! While legend has it that this iconic bushy-bearded man came into popular use during the War of 1812, our records show that he truly rose to prominence as a recruitment tactic during both world wars.

Fun at the Fair

The United States has hosted many a World’s Fair over the years, with the primary purpose of showcasing international exhibitions and the achievements of nations. However, a typical American celebration can certainly be experienced by reading this full schedule for the 1939 New York World’s Fair, including an opening concert, grand parade, fireworks and even dancing in the streets.

A (Hot) Dog’s Best Friend

Ketchup is an all-American staple that pairs perfectly with summer barbecues. But did you know that “catsup” originated in the United Kingdom and was just a broad term for any kind of spiced sauce?

Americans were the first to create ketchup with tomatoes, a crop native to North America, and an 1896 issue of The New York Tribune even declared tomato ketchup to be America’s national condiment found “on every table in the land.” The most famous tomato ketchup is the Heinz 57 variety. Apparently, founder Henry Heinz purposely created his own spelling of “ketchup” to differentiate from his “catsup”-peddling competitors.

Learn more about the hot dog’s BFF here.

Roughin’ It

A hot dog’s other best friend is the invention that cooks it to perfection while you’re out breathing the fresh air of the great outdoors. Check out this patent for a camp stove by D. L. Miller in 1904. We like to imagine this invention stemmed from Miller growing tired of roasting them on sticks over the fire!

Happy Camper

Going to summer camp is often a rite of passage for most kids––even though it might break their mother’s heart. When Allan Hoover headed off to camp in Wyoming, First Lady Lou Hoover missed her son so much she started sending him letters nearly every day! Allan finally wrote back at the end of camp, saying, “I really feel guilty as a fool for not having written before.” He ended up writing her a 23-page letter the next day about his many camp adventures, which thrilled his mother.

Soak up the Sun…and Pie?

Celebrate “Great Outdoors Month” by testing your nature knowledge with this fun quiz, and safely spend some time outside with this Backyard Bird Bingo activity from the National Parks Service.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, here’s some pie recipes for you to share with friends (or gobble up yourself like the winner of this pie eating contest).

Happy Camper

Going to summer camp is often a rite of passage for most kids––even though it might break their mother’s heart. When Allan Hoover headed off to camp in Wyoming, First Lady Lou Hoover missed her son so much she started sending him letters nearly every day! Allan finally wrote back at the end of camp, saying, “I really feel guilty as a fool for not having written before.” He ended up writing her a 23-page letter the next day about his many camp adventures, which thrilled his mother.

Fatherly Advice

We all know that no matter how old we are, guidance and support from dad is a priceless gift. President Gerald Ford not only raised his teenage daughter Susan while in the White House, but also jotted down some advice to all teenage daughters after reflecting on his own lessons learned in life. Check out what words of wisdom he had to offer to America’s daughters.

Fathers Were Freed (Finally)

Juneteenth marks the moment when the last enslaved people in Galveston, Texas found out they were free. This news came late––2.5 years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation calling for enslaved people to be freed.

This letter from a formerly enslaved man, Samuel Cabble, was sent to his wife telling her he had enlisted in the Union Army in 1863. He wrote that he “looked forward to a brighter day when I shall have the opportunity of seeing you in the full enjoyment of freedom.” Once the Civil War was over, Cabble went home to his wife and had a son of his own. Can you imagine how this father felt knowing his son would never be enslaved?

A Lasting Letter to POTUS

Letters to the President of the United States are an important way for citizens to participate in democracy. Did you know that most letters written to the President eventually ends up at the National Archives?

This letter was written to President John F. Kennedy in 1963 by a young boy, Tom Oberdorfer, from Washington, D.C. In the letter, Tom urges the President to protect black Americans from racially charged violence in Birmingham, Alabama.

Ruby Bridges Goes to School

On November 14, 1960, 6-year-old Ruby Bridges made history when she became the first black student to integrate an elementary school in the South. Until this time in American history, most schools were separated for white students and black students. Ruby Bridges’ courageous act to attend the all-white William Frantz Elementary School was an important moment that opened up equal access to education for young people.

Founding Father Thomas Jefferson Honors Class of 2020

A Big Foot in the Archives

In addition to President Nixon’s speeches, orders and photographs, did you know the Nixon Presidential Library has a 200-million-year-old dinosaur track? That’s right, the impression was made from a track of a Eubrontes Gigantes—which would have stood approximately nine feet tall. It was made in 1970 by a teenage boy who had heard a news report about the discovery of dinosaur tracks in an abandoned quarry near his New Jersey home. He and his friend jumped on their bikes, went to investigate and uncovered thousands of fossilized dinosaur tracks.

When they launched a successful campaign to preserve the site as an education park, they earned an official commendation from President Richard Nixon. One of those boys, Paul Olsen, is today one of the nation’s foremost paleontologists, recently elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

Image: Paul Olsen in front of the dinosaur footprint he sent to President Nixon nearly 40 years earlier.

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Suiting up for Land and Sea

During a famous operation in World War II called D-Day, the United States and our allies had to prepare for an attack that started at sea and ended on land. In this drawing from the National Archives holdings, you can see the specially designed outfits soldiers wore for swimming in the ocean and running on the beach. Want to learn more about D-Day? View the story of D-Day through gifs made with film from the National Archives.

What’s inside Your Lunchbox?

Lunch is our second favorite subject in school (after history, of course). But it’s not an easy feat to cook for lots of hungry students. Luckily, these 1946 recipes from the Bureau of Human Nutrition and Home Economics will feed 100 people. What do 16 eggs and 8 pounds of ham make? Enough ham loaf for the entire school. Hope you’re hungry!

Caption Contest: Announcing the Winner!


And that’s when I said, “cat got your tongue?”

Moms Get It Done

Our moms have always stepped up to the plate to get important work done. During World War II, while men were fighting overseas, women took their spots on the production lines in factories to make essential supplies for the war. This marked an important milestone for women in the workforce. 💪And as a bonus, it provided us with some pretty great gifs!

When You Wish upon a Star

Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for you and me? That’s right, it’s Mickey Mouse and his infamous creator, Walt Disney. The Disney company has a rich history in the Archives. But it wasn’t smooth sailing in the beginning. We have the bankruptcy file for Walt’s first animation studio, Laugh-O-Gram, which folded in just one year. But the venture wasn’t a total failure. Word on the street is that a brave little mouse who used to visit Walt at that studio eventually became inspiration for Mickey himself!

Smokey’s Self Pawtraits

You may know Smokey the Bear for his fire safety tips––he can stop, drop and roll with the best of them! But did you know that he’s also an expert in catching butterflies and making plaster casts of animal tracks? That’s right, he was quite the Boy Scout in his day. Learn all his tricks of the trade from this 1959 comic book.

Off-roading Moon Buggy

In 1971, Apollo 15 became the first mission to use the Lunar Roving Vehicle (LRV). That’s right, the Apollo 15 crew drove a specially designed vehicle on the moon so they could explore more of the lunar surface. But don’t forget, there’s no speeding on the moon! This LRV drove 17 miles in three hours and two minutes.

The Apollo 15 crew had a lot of practice before they went off-roading on the moon. Astronauts Jim Irwin and Dave Scott trained in the LVR at Cinder Lake, Arizona where volcanoes erupted thousands of years ago. Cinder Lake was designed by the United States Geological Survey’s Branch of Astrogeology to simulate the cratered surface of the Moon. Practice makes perfect!


Easter Egg Roll

The White House Easter Egg Roll—when kids race decorated eggs to the finish line with big spoons—is a tried and true tradition dating back to 1878. But like all good traditions, it took some trial and error to nail down the process. One of the smelly errors? When Pat Nixon organized a White House egg hunt with hard-boiled eggs. The kids had a grand time, but not all the eggs were found until days later, when they started stinking up the White House lawn. What a rotten deal!

On the brightside, First Lady Pat Nixon redeemed herself when one of her staffers wore a fluffy white bunny costume to the festivities in 1969. At this moment, the White House Easter Bunny became an official tradition.


Weekends Are for Waffles

What are the grooves for in waffles? For the answer, you’d have to travel back in time to 1869 and chat with Dutch American Cornelius Swartwout, who received a patent for the first waffle iron. Thanks, Cornelius, for this glorious honeycombed griddle that’s become a staple in American homes.

Image: Cornelius Swartwout’s “Waffle Iron,” patented August 24, 1869. (U.S. Patent No. 94,043)

While we wait for a time machine, let’s just say the grooves are to hold extra syrup and whip up a batch of waffles! Try President John F. Kennedy’s favorite waffle recipe this weekend.

JFK’s Favorite Waffles


  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 7/8 cup milk or 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 cup and 1 tablespoon of sifted cake flour
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 2 stiff beaten egg whites
  • 4 teaspoonsful baking powder


    • Cream butter and sugar, add egg yolks. Beat. Add flour and milk alternately. This may be done at any time. When ready to bake fold in egg whites, and add baking powder.
    • Mixture should be thick and fluffy.
    • Bake and serve with hot maple syrup and melted butter.


Storytime with Abigail Adams

Journey back in time with us as founding mother, Abigail Adams, takes us back to 1810 to read a special story, The Entertaining History of Giles Gingerbread, a Little Boy Who Lived Upon Learning.

Produced for the National Archives Foundation by American Historical Theatre, www.ahtheatre.org.

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