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Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11, honoring those who served in the United States Armed Forces. Each year, we acknowledge the work done and sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform.

Photograph of a joint services color guard marching in a parade
A joint services color guard marches in the dedication day parade for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, 1/1/1983. National Archives Identifier 6375696

We invite you to explore the wealth of records held by the National Archives that document U.S. military encounters from the 18th century through the 20th century, including the Veterans Day Military History roundup on the Unwritten Record blog, and our Veterans Day Resources on archives.gov.

Photograph of two armed services members maintaining a OV-1A

Color Photographs of Signal Corps Activity, 1944 - 1981. 2.75 mm Rockets Loaded on to a OV-1A, 9/11/1967. National Archives Identifier 176250302

The National Archives is proud to serve veterans and their families, especially through our work at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, MO. You can find out how we help veterans access their records to receive benefits, and read about the work our Preservation staff do to make these records accessible. Be sure to take a look at our free special programs on topics from the Revolutionary War to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and World War II movies.

To all veterans and their families: thank you for your service.

Black and white photograph of an engineer camp during the civil war, 8th state militia

Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes. Engineer camp, 8th N.Y. State Militia, ca. 1860-1865. National Archives Identifier 524918

Black and white photograph of a group of men from the 369th 15th NY in 1919
Men of 369th (15th N.Y.) who won the Croix de Guerre for gallantry in action, 2/12/1919. National Archives Identifier 26431282
Black and white photograph of three women from Women Airforce Service pilots in and around an airplane consulting documents

WASPs Around a Curtis A-25A, ca. 1943. National Archives Identifier 176250894

Photograph of sailors kneeling in a line placing wreaths on memorials of casualties of Pearl Harbor. A mountain is seen in the background

Photograph of Sailors Paying Tribute to Casualties of the Pearl Harbor Attack at a Hawaiian Islands Cemetery. National Archives Identifier 12009116

Photograph of american troops gathered together and smiling for the camera as they prepare for the Normandy invasion
Photograph of American Troops on LCT Preparing for Normandy Invasion, 6/1944. National Archives Identifier 12008276
Black and white photograph of a group of army nurses in the bed of a truck
U.S. Army nurses arrive to relieve the nursing problem of Santo Tomas University prison camp, Manila, Luzon, P.I. National Archives Identifier 204950951
Black and whilte photograph on a mounting card of the flag raising at Iwo Jima

Flag Raising on Mount Suribachi, Iwo Jima, Japan, 2/23/1945. National Archives Identifier 100310761

Color photograph of a woman working on an airplane

Woman Working on Inside of SNV Fuselage at Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Plant in Downey, California, 7/1943. National Archives Identifier 176217199

Transcribe Records as a Citizen Archivist

American Civil War Military Service Records, “United States Colored Troops”

In honor of Veterans Day, we invite you to help transcribe records related to the “United States Colored Troops." These records include the military service records of Union volunteer soldiers who served during the American Civil War. Records include jackets (folders) containing cards on which information relating to individuals, companies, and regiments of the Volunteer Service of the United States during the Civil War have been copied from original records such as muster rolls, returns, descriptive books, and morning reports.

Military service record for David Cyles, United States Colored Troops
On May 22, 1863, the War Department issued General Order 143, establishing a “Bureau of Colored Troops” in the Adjutant General’s Office to recruit and organize African American soldiers to fight for the Union Army. With this order, all African American regiments were designated as “United States Colored Troops (USCT).” Learn more about the digitization of these records on the Pieces of History blog.

Military Service Record of David Cyles, United States Colored Troops: 56th US Colored Infantry. National Archives Identifier 200635072

Every word you transcribe helps to make these records more searchable and accessible online. Get started transcribing!

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100th Anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

November 2021 marks the centennial of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. On November 11, 1921, following the end of World War I, the repatriated remains of an unknown member of the American Expeditionary Forces were interred at Arlington National Cemetery. Since then, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier has provided a final resting place for Unknowns from World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. Learn more on the Education Updates blog.

Photograph of President Barack Obama at a wreath laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

President Barack Obama Participates in a Wreath Laying Ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, 11/11/2012. National Archives Identifier 176552676

This new exhibit on Google Arts and Culture showcases special media records, including drawings, photographs, and film, relating to the history of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Tomb is one of America’s most iconic memorials and is visited every year by millions of visitors.

Screenshot of the Google Arts and Culture exhibit for the 100th anniversary of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier
Photograph of a service member placing a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier

Memorial Day Services, Memorial Amphitheatre, Arlington National Cemetery, 5/30/1936. National Archives Identifier 209280045

Photograph of gold star mothers at the tomb of the unknown soldier

Annual Pilgrimage of the Gold Star Mothers, Inc. of New York and nearby States, to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, Arlington National Cemetery., 9/30/1934. National Archives Identifier 209280039

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The Catalog Newsletter

Learn about newly added records and receive tips on using the Catalog's features, functionality, and guides. The National Archives Catalog is the online public portal to our records where you can learn more about our holdings. This email newsletter is delivered on a biweekly basis. Subscribe to the National Archives Catalog Newsletter

Ribbons, thread, sealing wax, grommets. Do you have a favorite historical fastener? Join us as we cut through the red tape in this week’s newsletter to bring you stories of various document fasteners found in the records at the National Archives.

Photograph of handwritten documents shown tied together with red tape

Original red tape keeping a bundle of documents together. Government documents were wrapped in red ribbon or tape, so that you would literally have to “cut through the red tape” to gain access to these records. (Photo by the National Archives)

In the centuries before the self-inking notary public’s stamp, U.S. government clerks and secretaries used brightly-colored silk ribbons, wax seals, and embossed paper seals attached with wafers to verify the security of important documents. Learn more on the Pieces of History blog:  Holding It Together: Before Passwords—Ribbons and Seals for Document Security.

Seals with famous signatures on the Treaty of Paris

Treaty of Paris, 9/3/1783 National Archives Identifier 299805

A small, raised dot of red on a document—is it sealing wax? Not always. In some cases what looks like sealing wax is actually a wafer seal, sealing wax’s cheaper cousin. Wafers are thin, flat, baked adhesive discs made from starch, binders, and pigment that were used for joining and sealing documents during the 17th through 19th centuries in Great Britain and other European countries and their colonies. Although they were usually red in color, they were produced in a variety of colors and sizes according to their intended purpose. Learn more on the Pieces of History blog, Holding It Together: A Seal—Or Not?

Examples of wafer seals appear on this land bounty application from 1851, where the wafers from the now-separated papers are clearly visible at the bottom, and the wafers at the top are visible through the paper. Bounty Land File for Colonel Richard E. Parker, 1851. National Archives Identifier 27494175

Even in the decades when the oldest records in the National Archives were being created, government clerks and officials had access to many different ways to hold documents together, including ribbon, pins, thread, sealing wax, and wafers. With a store of silk ribbon or cotton tape nearby, they could easily attach documents to each other by cutting two slits in the paper and feeding a ribbon through them. This would let them quickly bind several sheets together into a pamphlet, or sew sheets together to create a longer piece of paper.

This treaty is composed of several sheets of paper sewn together: the use of blue silk ribbon highlights the diplomatic importance of the treaty. Treaty between the United States and the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapho, Crow, Assiniboin, Gros Ventre, Madan, and Arikara Indians at Fort Laramie, Indian Territory, 9/17/1851, image cropped. National Archives Identifier 12013686

Before the invention of stapled bindings, the “pamphlet stitch” was common to sew short texts together—though most used plain thread, not silk ribbon. After this treaty was printed, the sheets were folded into pages, and the pages were sewn together to form a pamphlet:

Treaty between the United States and the Six Nations of New York Indians, shown with pamphlet stitch binding the pages together

Printed Copy of the Treaty Between the United States of America and the Six Nations of New York Indians, Concluded January 15, 1838, as Amended by the Senate June 11, 1838, and Ratified April 4, 1840. National Archives Identifier 176561681

Some documents were attached or repaired by even simpler methods: threading a needle with a piece of linen thread, and sewing a torn document back together, or attaching papers with a loop of thread, as shown in this heavily-worn fraktur. Learn more on the Pieces of History blog Holding It Together: Ribbons in NARA's Records.

Family record (fraktur) shown stitched together with thread

Illustrated family record (Fraktur) found in Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land-Warrant Application File W6302, for John Tomlin, Virginia. National Archives Identifier 300246

And last but not least, red tape! While red tape may be used in the metaphorical sense these days, it used to refer to literal red tape: a narrow ribbon made from cotton or linen, dyed red. This was used by government clerks for all sorts of purposes, from tying bundles of related papers together, to sealing official documents, to tying shut envelopes. Learn more on the Pieces of History blog Holding It Together: From Red Tape to Grommets.
Handwritten document shown bound with red tape
Staff showing document bound with red tape to a child during Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the National Archives

Staff take out a document bound with faded red tape during Take Your Daughters and Sons to Work Day at the National Archives. Photo by Jeff Reed, National Archives

Special thanks to Rachel Bartgis, conservator technician at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. This feature was adapted from Rachel’s “Holding it Together” series on the Pieces of History blog.

Transcribe Records as a Citizen Archivist
Thumbnail images of documents in the National Archives Catalog showing blue tags indicating transcription

Do you like helping to complete every page of a transcription project? Then we need your help with the "Don’t Leave Us Hanging" mission. Records in this mission have not yet been fully transcribed and completed. To transcribe, select a record from the list and find a page that does not have a blue tag on the thumbnail. Every page helps us make these records more searchable and accessible in the Catalog.

Get started transcribing!

New to the Citizen Archivist program? Learn how to register and get started.

Start your research on History Hub
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Have a question? Find your answer on History Hub!

Did you know October is American Archives Month? Learn more about how our staff make your history accessible to you!  In celebration of American Archives Month, we invite you to “Ask an Archivist” on History Hub!

We encourage you to browse recent posts and questions on History Hub, such as:

See our recent newsletter for more details, information, and instructions about using History Hub for your research.

Citizen Archivists, there's a group just for you!  You can share tips and strategies, find new challenges, and get support for your work.  Get started with our poll: What kinds of records do you like to transcribe?

Make History Hub your first stop! You can ask—or answer—questions on History Hub, or see if your question has already been answered.

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The Catalog Newsletter

Learn about newly added records and receive tips on using the Catalog's features, functionality, and guides. The National Archives Catalog is the online public portal to our records where you can learn more about our holdings. This email newsletter is delivered on a biweekly basis. Subscribe to the National Archives Catalog Newsletter