Poland Celebrates the Sesquicentennial of U.S. Independence, 1926: Part II

Today’s post is written by David Langbart, an Archivist in the Textual Records Division at the National Archives at College Park.

Part I described the events in Poland to celebrate the sesquicentennial of American independence, which included the preparation of over 100 volumes of greetings from the people of Poland.

Once the celebrations ended, the ceremonial volumes were held in Poland until a time could be arranged to present them to President Calvin Coolidge. That did not take place until October 1926, after the President had returned to Washington from his vacation. On October 4, Polish Minister to the United States Jan Ciechanowski sent the following diplomatic note to the Department of State.[1]

 

In response, on October 9, Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright, who had charge of ceremonial and protocol matters in the Department of State, wrote to Everett Sanders, the Secretary to the President, explaining the matter. The letter endorsed the idea of the President personally receiving the delegation, noting:

It is thought in the Department of State that a movement so friendly to the United States and so largely representing the Polish nation should receive due recognition, and that it would be entirely appropriate for the President to receive the Commissioners and to give expression of his own appreciation and that of the people of the United States.[2]

Sanders wrote back the same day, stating that President Coolidge would receive the Polish delegation at the White House on October 14 at 11:30 in the morning. The Department so informed the Polish minister on October 11, and released to the press a statement announcing the upcoming ceremony on October 12.[3]

Upon delivering the books to President Coolidge, Leopold Kotnowski, a chairman of the Polish celebration committee made the following statement:

     Mr. President:

As a chairman of the National Sesqui-Centennial Celebration Committee of American Independence Day in Poland, constituted under the direct patronage of the President of Poland, I have been selected, together with Professor Iwanowski, to convey to Your Excellency the tribute of the Polish nation expressed in a message of friendship and admiration for the people of the United States of America.

This declaration has been signed by the President of Poland and five million Poles in all walks of life — in fact, by one-sixth of the total population of Poland.

I have the honor to present to Your Excellency the message and the signatures, bound in one hundred volumes, as a lasting testimonial of that sincere admiration which the Polish nation feels for the American people, who, to all truly peace-loving and democratic communities, are pioneers and exponents of the noblest and highest principles of humanity.

In commemoration of the celebration which, under the patronage of the President of Poland, took place all over the country on the Fourth of July, a medal was struck off in gold for Your Excellency as a gift subscribed on behalf of the Polish people.

The spontaneous tribute paid to the people of this great Democracy by the people of Poland on the Fourth of July, and the nation-wide message of friendship, of which I have the signal honor to be the bearer, are the living proof that love for those highest and noblest ideals of humanity – Freedom, Equality, Justice, and Peace among Nations – which animates the American and Polish people alike, binds nations more closely together than any material considerations.[4]

The Department of State prepared the following reply for President Coolidge:

Mr. Chairman:

It is my pleasure and privilege to receive from your hands as Chairman of the National Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee of American Independence Day in Poland the Declaration of admiration and friendship for the United States signed by His Excellency the President of Poland and five million Poles in all walks of life, together with the specially struck medal in commemoration of the celebrations throughout Poland of the sesquicentennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

The tribute thus paid to the United States by the Polish people and the act of the President of Poland in proclaiming the Fourth of July last a National Polish Holiday are gratefully acknowledged and are evidence of amity and good will towards the country which are most highly appreciated by the Government and people of the United States, who hold for the Government and people of Poland sentiments of high regard and the best of wishes, as has been manifested by the part taken by this country in the revivification of Poland.

I shall be glad if you will make these sentiments known to the Polish people and will express to the President of Poland and accept for yourselves my thanks and appreciation for the friendship he and you have personally shown.[5]

To close out the festivities, on October 18, the Kosciuszko Foundation and others sponsored a meeting in Washington to honor the general. The Department informed the U.S. legation about the meeting in the following telegram.[6]

Another issue that required a decision was where the ceremonial volumes should be deposited. After the ceremony with the Polish delegation, the President turned the books over to the Department of State. The initial thought had been to place them in the National Museum, now known as the Smithsonian Institution.[7] When the Department made informal contact with the museum, however, its director, Charles D. Walcott, stated that he thought the Library of Congress would be a better repository as it was better equipped for their handling and exhibition. The Department, accordingly, made that suggestion to the President’s secretary.[8] Sanders replied that the suggestion “is entirely agreeable to the President.”[9] Consequently, on November 1, the Department sent the volumes to the Library of Congress.[10]

As recently reported in the Washington Post, the Library of Congress, in cooperation with the Polish Library of Washington and the Polish embassy, digitized the volumes and they are now available online.


[1] Legation of Poland to the Department of State, Diplomatic Note 3858/26, October 4, 1926, file 860c.415/5, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State (NAID 302021). All the records cited herein are available on National Archives Microfilm Publication M1197 roll 16.

[2] Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright to Secretary to the President Everett Sanders, October 9, 1926, file 860c.415/5, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[3] Secretary to the President Everett Sanders to Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright, October 9, 1926, file 860c.415/7, Department of State to the Legation of Poland, October 11, 1926, file 860c.415/7, and Press Release, October 12, 1926, file 860c.415/5, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[4] Enclosure to Minister of Poland Jan Ciechanowski to Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright, October 13, 1926, file 860c.415/13, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[5] Enclosure to Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright to Secretary to the President Everett Sanders, October 14, 1926, file 860c.415/13, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  The Department directed the legation in Warsaw to pass President Coolidge’s thanks and appreciation to the President of Poland.  See Department of State to U.S. Legation in Poland, Instruction 195, November 1, 1926, file 860c.415/13, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.  The legation subsequently reported its actions on November 20.  See U.S. Legation in Poland to Department of State, Despatch 679, November 20, 1926, file 860c.415/16, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[6] Department of State to U.S. Legation Poland, Telegram 46, October 19, 1926, file 860c.415/10, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[7] Memorandum by Sydney Y. Smith, October 7, 1926, and Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright to Secretary to the President Everett Sanders, October 9, 1926, file 860c.415/5, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[8] Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright to Secretary to the President Everett Sanders, October 25, 1926, file 860c.415/15, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[9] Secretary to the President Everett Sanders to Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright, October 26, 1926, file 860c.415/14, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

[10] Assistant Secretary of State J. Butler Wright to the Librarian of Congress, November 1, 1926, file 860c.415/14, 1910-29 Central Decimal File, RG 59: General Records of the Department of State.

 

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