The Second Original United Nations Charter

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

UN Charter.Cover

The Charter of the United Nations signed in San Francisco on June 26, 1945, at the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO) is housed in the National Archives pursuant to Article 111.

UN Charter.Article 111 Selected

After the Conference ended, Alger Hiss, who served as the Executive Secretary of the conference, carried the Charter from San Francisco to Washington on an airplane.  The Charter had its own parachute and Hiss was directed that if anything went wrong with the airplane, his first responsibility was to save the Charter by throwing it out the door.[1] The Department of State retained custody of the document until 1980, at which time it was transferred to the National Archives.[2]

Recently noticed among some indifferently described records of the Department of State in the National Archives is a second “original” charter of the United Nations. This second original, however, was never used.

The pace of events at the UN Conference was hectic. The text of the charter was in constant flux as its provisions were being negotiated. Because of that, there was some fear that a final printed text might not be ready for the formal signing ceremony. As a contingency, therefore, the secretariat of the conference prepared hand-typed versions of the charter and the interim arrangements agreement.

The typed versions were not used and after the Conference, National Archives employee Florence Nichol, who had been temporarily assigned to work in the Secretariat of the Conference, brought the documents to Washington on her return. Her home office at the Archives was the organization responsible for exhibits. The documents were held by that office until 1972, when they were formally accessioned into the National Archives as part of Record Group 43: Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions.

Here are the title and principles page in English from the printed Charter signed in San Francisco[3] and the title page in English and the principles page in each of the five languages of the Charter from the typed[4] (unused) version of the Charter.

UN Charter.TitleU.N. Charter-TitleUN Charter.Principles

The entire Charter in all five languages (English, French, Chinese, Russian, and Spanish) is available online in the National Archives Catalog here (NAID 5730932).

Footnotes


[1] See “The Founding of the United Nation: An Interview with Alger Hiss,” on the United Nations website at http://dag.un.org.handle/11176/89612.

[2] The author of this post had the privilege of handling the transfer of the Charter and preparing the paperwork necessary to accession it into the holdings of the National Archives.  He was the first National Archives employee to hold the Charter when it was removed from the portable safe in which it was transported.

[3] Source: Charter of the United Nations, Entry A1-14, RG 11: General Records of the U.S. Government.

[4] Source: Typed copy of UN Charter, Copies of the United Nations Charter Records, Entry P-12, RG 43: Records of International Conferences, Commissions, and Expositions.

 

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