The third Monday in February is traditionally known as Presidents’ Day here in the United States. It has morphed over the years since 1885, when the holiday became nationally recognized and was coined simply as Washington’s Birthday (George Washington’s birthday is on February 22, if you are curious). A movement in the 1960s successfully combined this observance with that of Abraham Lincoln’s birthday (February 12), and today the nation generally uses this holiday to celebrate the accomplishments of all U.S. presidents over the years. We here in the Government Publications department at the McWherter Library wanted to take a look at some of the resources available in our collections and online that will help you explore this historically relevant day!
Written by Meghan Campbell, Government Publications
February 17th is Presidents’ Day! What better way to celebrate this holiday than to share government resources about your favorite American leaders? Government Publications would like to share with you some local and online resources that are free and supremely easy to access to satisfy your curiosity!
Starting with our first president, the man, the myth, the legend: George Washington. Library of Congress has provided unique and quality access to a collection of papers that were written by Washington himself. Unfortunately, you can’t read about how he chopped down a cherry tree, but you can read his personal correspondence, journals, and even take a peek at his school assignments. If you’re seeking even more Washington related documents, you can always swing by Government Publications and browse our National Park Service documents and pamphlets about the Washington Monument, George Washington’s Birthplace, and many more!
If you’re really into popular presidents, you can dive deep into the life of Abraham Lincoln. Most famous as our leader during the Civil War, Lincoln has some interesting government documents of his own. Like George Washington, Lincoln has his own set of papers and manuscripts digitized by the Library of Congress; available to for free access online. Lincoln’s boyhood home, the Lincoln Memorial, and even where he was assassinated (Ford’s Theatre) are all sites that were prevalent in his lifetime and have been preserved by the National Park Service (NPS)! Some of the most notable work done by the NPS, is a collaboration with Google Arts and Culture, bringing the public an in-person view of other Lincoln-adjacent sites; such as Ford’s Theatre, Lincoln’s home, and his memorial in Washington D.C.
While there are plenty of resources on Presidents past, there are just as many on presidents of the (sort of recent) present.
Written by Benjamin Clanton, Government Publications
Have you ever wondered what the leader of the free world actually does during their Presidency? If this is the case, a rich resource is the multivolume sets of the Public Papers of the Presidents. Published by the Office of the Federal Register, these sets contain remarks and papers of the sitting President released by the Office of the Press Secretary during that particular time period. The Government Publications department has physical copies of these important documents available to be viewed by the public, stretching from the administration of Barack Obama back to the administration of Herbert Hoover. (We also have The Public Papers and Addresses of Franklin D. Roosevelt for that time period, but those were privately printed and not produced by the Office of the Federal Register.)
It is an invaluable resource to be able to view the remarks of American Presidents concerning events and trends during their administrations, along with other papers such as meetings with foreign leaders and remarks covering a myriad of appearances and events. It is also beneficial that the website of the Government Publishing Office (GPO) has made digitized copies of the Public Papers available to peruse at the click of a button. A wonderful compliment to this resource is a volume produced yearly in the Code of Federal Regulations titled “The President.” It contains copies of both proclamations and executive orders of the President over the course of the year covered. Being able to view all of these in one place allows a researcher or curiosity seeker the opportunity to truly see the many roles an American President must assume within our government.
Beyond the Government Publications department, McWherter Library also has a variety of Presidential biographies in the stacks available to history buffs. Here are a few to get you started:
- George Washington – Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow
- Abraham Lincoln – Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- John Adams – John Adams by David McCullough
- Thomas Jefferson – The Art of Power by Jon Meacham
- Andrew Jackson (a native Tennessean) – American Lion, also by Jon Meacham
If you want to learn more about American Presidents on this day or any other day, the resources are right at your fingertips here at the Ned.