Why working at the National Archives is so interesting

Today’s post is written by David Langbart.

To a large degree, working with the records at the National Archives is a never-ending series of fascinating encounters with the original documentation of U.S. history. The following document, a memorandum of conversation (memcon) drafted by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles in January 1954, gives an idea why (the attachment to the memcon is not imaged).

This document relates to U.S. policies and actions following President Dwight Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech. Eisenhower gave the speech before the United Nations General Assembly on December 8, 1953, and it was followed by an active effort by American diplomats around the world to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.

The document was considered important enough by the Department of State’s Office of the Historian (HO) to include in the premier documentary series Foreign Relations of the United States.

While the document can be read in the volume (double click on the image to enlarge) and on HO’s website, there is something inherently more interesting, at least to me, in seeing the original document (or a direct image thereof) with all the bureaucratic markings as well as Dulles’s initials and only partially legible handwritten annotation.

Source: Memorandum of Conversation by Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, January 5, 1954, file: 600.0012/1-554, 1950-54 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

2 thoughts on “Why working at the National Archives is so interesting

  1. Very cool, to be able to find that actual document. And the annotations only add to its lustre. Nicely done!

  2. Indeed! Published volumes are great resources, but they don’t always tell the whole story. Certainly in my research (particularly in British diplomatic and military records) I’ve found that the marginalia are just as informative as the original text – and sometimes more telling. Unfortunately, they’re often very difficult to read. Lord Halifax, who was ambassador to the US for much of WWII, always commented with a fine red pen, but except for his initial (he always just wrote “H”) his scrawl looked more like pin-plot data than handwriting. Maddening!

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