Getting to Know the Presidents from the Intelligence Community’s Perspective

February 10, 2014

Presidents Day originated as a holiday to celebrate George Washington’s birthday on February 22nd. As a result of the Uniform Monday Holiday Act of 1968, the holiday was changed to the third Monday in February. While the holiday commemorates  George Washington, it also honors Abraham Lincoln whose birthday is ten days before Washington’s on February 12th. Consequently, Presidents Day always falls between the two birthdays. Let’s also give a shout out to two other Presidents whose birthdays fall in February – Ronald Reagan’s birthday on February 6th and William Henry Harrison on February 9th.

In recent years, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has been declassifying documents and releasing historical collections giving the public access to fascinating and relatively unknown U.S. history. These collections have been made available through GPO’s bookstore and have been the topic of previous blog posts.

In honor of Presidents Day, Government Book Talk is taking a look at two recent books published by the CIA focusing on the relationship between Presidents and the intelligence community.

Crafting the U.S. Intelligence Community

Crafting an Intelligence Community-Papers of the First-4-DCIs ISBN 9780160920523The CIA’s predecessor, the Central Intelligence Group, was created after World War II in response to the success and usefulness of intelligence gathering during the war. The booklet and accompanying DVD Crafting an Intelligence Community: Papers of the First Four DCIs looks at the first Directors of Central Intelligence (DCI) and their relationships with President Truman and Congress during the initial years of the newly created intelligence agency during the transition from wartime to peacetime. History buffs and President Truman enthusiasts will particularly enjoy pouring through the 800 recently declassified documents from the DCIs from 1946-1953 that are found on the DVD.

The CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence and CIA Historical Collections Division describe this multimedia publication:

Admiral Sidney W. Souers, General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter and General William Bedell Smith accepted President Harry S. Truman’s challenge to craft an intelligence organization.  Each man marked his tenure with his unique brand of leadership that provided his successor with the foundation needed for the next step toward the Central Intelligence Agency of today.

 The Crafting of an Intelligence Community collection of 800+ Agency documents along with 600 supplemental items shows the day-by-day activities, decisions, staff meetings and contacts that confronted each DCI.  They ran the gamut of choosing a secretary to responding to a Presidential question to an evening social event with various ambassadors and dignitaries.

Briefing the Presidential Candidates and Presidents-Elect

CIA Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 ISBN 9781929667192Getting To Know the President: Intelligence Briefings of Presidential Candidates, 1952-2004 (Book and DVD) or in Audio Book version was recently featured in the Washington Post for being the federal government’s first downloadable audio book available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The book is an historical account of the information sharing process between the intelligence community and Presidential candidates and Presidents-elect during campaigns and administration transitions.  The early chapters when this practice was not yet well-established provide the greatest insight to the briefing process.

It starts with the transition periods from the Dwight D. Eisenhower to Harry Truman administration through the candidate and Presidential briefings of Presidents John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton, ending with President George W. Bush.

An interesting anecdote from the book occurs during the period leading up to the 1960 election when then-Vice President Richard Nixon was running against then-Senator John F. Kennedy. At the time, there were concerns regarding the intelligence briefings on Cuba and the U.S.’s policy towards the Castro government. The recent revolution in Cuba that led to a Soviet-supported communist government was a hot topic during the election and the Presidential debates. Since Nixon was running for President while serving as Vice President, he was privy to information on the covert actions that had been underway in Cuba during the Eisenhower administration. Vice President Nixon raised concerns over what information was shared with Kennedy by the DCI Allen Dulles and how it could affect Kennedy’s positions during the election and the success of the covert actions. This was the first time the CIA was part of a political campaign raising questions on which topics and to what extent Presidential candidates should be briefed.

Here is an excerpt from the book detailing this fascinating controversy:

Well before the Cuba liberation issue came to a head in October, the outgoing Eisenhower administration had realized that covert action planning on Cuba could be a political bombshell. Following one of Allen Dulles’s briefings of the National Security Council in early August, for example, the vice president pulled the DCI aside to ask him whether Kennedy and his running mate, Senator Lyndon Johnson, were being provided information on covert action projects, specifically those related to Cuba. Dulles gave a carefully crafted answer to the effect that Kennedy was being told a little but not too much. According to former Agency officials familiar with the exchange, Nixon reacted strongly to Dulles’s reply, saying, “Don’t tell [Kennedy] anything. That could be dangerous.”

In his own account of these events, published in 1962, Nixon charged that Kennedy, before the election of 1960, had knowledge of covert action planning “for the eventual purpose of supporting an invasion of Cuba itself.” This charge prompted a formal press release from the White House on 20 March 1962 denying that Kennedy had been told of any plans for “supporting an invasion of Cuba” before the election. The White House denial was backed up by Dulles, by then a former DCI, who explained that Nixon’s comments were apparently based on a misunderstanding of what was included in the briefings he had given Kennedy.

Senator-Kennedy-DCI-DullesImage from “Getting to Know the Presidents”: Senator Kennedy with former DCI Allen Dulles heading to a press briefing on the information the CIA provided Kennedy and Johnson. Source: White House

Celebrate Presidents Day and get to know the Presidents from the intelligence community’s perspective with these new CIA publications or any of the publications found in the GPO Bookstore’s Presidential History collection, which also includes the popular Public Papers of the Presidents collection.

HOW DO I OBTAIN THESE PUBLICATIONS?

About the author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. 

Additional images and content provided by Government Book Talk Editor Michele Bartram is Promotions and Ecommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division in Washington, DC, and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


Relive the first year of the Obama Presidency

September 24, 2013

Portrait of the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama As we experience the first year of President Obama’s second term as the 44th President of the United States, take a look back on what was going on at this time during the first year of his first term as president with the Public Papers of the Presidents, Barack Obama 2009, Book 2. This volume covers the public messages and statements made by President Obama during the second half of his first year in office from July to December 2009.

Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, Barack Obama, 2009, Book 2, July 1 to December 31, 2009.  ISBN: 9780160860867 and GPO Stock #069-000-00185-8Some highlights of those six months include the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor as President Obama’s first nomination to the Supreme Court, the shaping of the health care law (Read our blog post: “Everything You Should Know About The Health Care Law“), and the continuing efforts to create jobs and rebuild the U.S. economy. The book also includes a section of official color photographs from events during the time period.

This book is part of the Public Papers of the Presidents series which consists of public writings, addresses and remarks made by the President and is the second volume of the Barack Obama Public Papers collection, which includes an eBook version of Book 1. (Read about the first volume in our blog post: “The First Collection of President Obama’s Public Papers.”)

As in other Public Papers volumes, the appendices provide listings of:

  • A digest of President Obama’s daily schedule and meetings, when announced, and other items of general interest issued by the White House Office of the Press Secretary;
  • President Obama’s nominations submitted to the Senate;
  • A checklist of materials released by the Office of the Press Secretary that are not printed full-text in the book; and
  • A table of Proclamations, Executive Orders, and other Presidential documents released by the Office of the Press Secretary and published in the Federal Register.

Public Papers of the Presidents series

The entire Public Papers of the Presidents series is published by the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) and includes two volumes per year, each volume covering a six-month period of the presidency, with the OFR checking remarks against a recording and signed documents against the original to ensure accuracy. The series started with President Hoover and continues to President Obama, with the exception of President Roosevelt who chose to have his papers published privately.

To learn more about the process of compiling the Public Papers of the Presidents, watch this video below on the production of President Obama’s first volume at the Government Printing Office (GPO):

Video Government Printing Office The Making-of-Barack-Obama-Public-Papers-of-the-President

Image: Excerpted from the video of the Making of the Public Papers of the President. Depicts President Obama in the Oval Office being presented with the first volume in his Public Papers printed by the Government Printing Office in April 2011. Pictured from left to right are: current Public Printer of the United States, Davita Vance-Cooks; previous Public Printer, William J. Boarman; President Barack Obama; Archivist of the United States, David S. Ferriero, and Director of the Federal Register, Ray Mosley.

The Public Papers of the Presidents series is also available on GPO’s Federal Digital System (FDsys). The public can digitally access the digitized volumes starting in 1991 with President George H. W. Bush through President Barack Obama, 2009 from this page on FDsys.

GPO also makes the Public Papers of the Presidents series available in print through the agency’s online bookstore with volumes back to Herbert Hoover. The public can browse through the various volumes from different presidents on the Public Papers of the Presidents collection page in the Presidential History collection under the US & Military History category.

How do I obtain a copy of the Public Papers of the Presidents, Barack Obama 2009, Book 2?

1) Buy a printed copy

  • Shop Online: You can purchase a printed copy of Public Papers of the Presidents, Barack Obama 2009, Book 2 or any of the previous volume(s) of the Obama presidency by shopping the Barack Obama Public Papers collection on the U.S. Government Online Bookstore.
  • Order by Phone: Call our Customer Contact Center Monday through Friday, 8 am to 5:30 pm Eastern (except US Federal holidays). From US and Canada, call toll-free 1.866.512.1800. DC or International customers call +1.202.512.1800.
  • Visit our Retail Store: Buy a printed copy at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Federal holidays, Call (202) 512-0132 for information or to arrange in-store pick-up.
  • Find it in a Library:  GPO provides catalog records to Federal Depository libraries worldwide. Find this publication in a federal depository library.

2) View or download a PDF from GPO’s official Federal documents database, FDsys:

About the Author: Our guest blogger is Emma Wojtowicz, Public Relations Specialist in GPO’s Office of Public Affairs. Additional content provided by Government Book Talk Editor: Michele Bartram, Promotions & eCommerce Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division.


No-Vacation Nation? Take Time to Enjoy Our National Parks and Trails

August 13, 2013

Vacation-Time-Goes-Unused-in-USAmericans are generally extroverted, friendly, talkative—and apparently, workaholics. As the Europeans put it, Americans live to work, while they work to live.

Image source: From infographic on lack of vacation time in U.S. Produced by Column Five for Rasmussen College.

Studies by various travel companies and polling groups have shown that Americans are among the group of nationalities that take the least amount of vacation (others being the Japanese, Taiwanese, South Koreans, Singaporeans, and Mexicans). Part of the reason may be that the United States is the only developed nation in the world that does not guarantee any paid holidays for workers by law. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics concluded in a recent report that only seventy-two percent of wage earners in the United States received both holidays and paid vacations voluntarily granted by their employers. The rest of the employed population does not get paid vacation.

It’s unfortunate that Americans regularly skip using all their allotted vacation days*. [*See also: Schwartz, Tony (February 10, 2013). “Relax! You’ll Be More ProductiveThe New York Times.] Surveys of people in the U.S. report that they do not feel their bosses support taking leave, and they fear that being away from work looks like they are not committed to their jobs. Understandably, workers are afraid to look less than absolutely dedicated in this job market. Looking at our lack of vacation days and our failure to take advantage of them, one could conclude that we are not a well-rested people.

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Image: December 2012 infographic on why Americans don’t take more vacation time. Created by: Ally Bank from various public sources.

However, health researchers, sleep researchers, and psychologists have found that there is a direct correlation between rest and good health, and rest and productivity. Taking your vacation is almost a tonic against occupational stress.

Stop and Smell the Roses at a National Park or Trail

National Park System Map and Guide  ISBN: 9780912627878 available from http://bookstore.gpo.govIf you do get a paid vacation and have been putting off your annual jaunt, it’s time to sit down and plan one before summer ends. Many Federal Government agencies offer great resources for planning your next vacation or recreational activity.

For example, three excellent publications from the National Park Service– National Trails System: Map and Guide, National Park System Map and Guide, and the National Park System (Wall Map Poster) — can aid you in planning your trip to America’s best vacation destinations, our national parks and trails!

While most Americans are familiar with our fabulous national parks, fewer are aware of our 45 year-old National Trails System which is…

National Trails System Map and Guide“…the network of scenic, historic, and recreation trails created by the National Trails System Act of 1968. These trails provide for outdoor recreation needs, promote the enjoyment, appreciation, and preservation of open-air, outdoor areas and historic resources, and encourage public access and citizen involvement.” (National Park Service)

With the help of these National Park Service maps, you can hike interesting trails and learn history while you are appreciating the outdoors and getting a workout. Or you can pick a national park you’ve never visited before, and experience something new to spur your creativity. If you enjoy visiting cities, pick a park not far outside of town so that you could get a taste of nature in addition to some cultural experiences.

For example, the Washington, DC, area where the Government Printing Office is headquartered is a prime tourist and staycation destination with its many national parks and historic sites. Our Washington DC Area Tourism & Recreation collection includes maps, history and guidebooks about the area, including the new 2013 Washington DC tourism map by the National Park Service that includes all the newest monuments and museums. and the wonderful Capital Engineers: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Development of Washington, D.C. 1790-2004, (reviewed earlier on Government Book Talk blog) that tells “The Untold Story Behind the Engineering of Washington DC” and its many famous landmarks.

Once you pick a park, search the Web site recreation.gov to find the activities available there. If you look at the National Park system map and find yourself spoiled for choice, you may be able to narrow down your options when you discover the types of activities available at the parks. And if you are interested in vacationing in a city or a resort, but want to hit a nearby recreation center, you can search for alternatives just by entering a city or zip code. For example, if you plan to visit Las Vegas, but you’d like some time to enjoy rock climbing, too, you might rent a car for the day and drive to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, 12.57 miles from the city center. Most of the National Parks have guidebooks available to help you plan your trip: a number of them are available for sale from the U.S. Government Bookstore.

Of course, the money and time needed for a vacation are no joke. You may be one of the unlucky 28% that does not get a paid vacation. Or getting time off work may just be impossible. If any one of those factors applies to you, try a weekend getaway someplace nearby instead. The National Park Service has suggestions for quick breaks or “staycations” all the country. Once you’ve selected a site, you can fine-tune your plans with the information about reservations and camping available at recreation.gov.

Support for Your Pursuit of Happiness

As our nation has declared the pursuit of happiness a self-evident truth and an inalienable right, it seems we have a patriotic duty to pursue a holiday. The Federal government definitely supports your vacation. After all, each one of our modern presidents has set a prime example for the people by taking vacations to better handle the rigors of the job. As President Nixon put it: “Like other presidents, before and after me, I felt the need to get out of the White House and out of Washington in order to keep some sense of perception.”

Obamas-at-Grand-CanyonImage: U.S. President Barack Obama and family vacationing at the Grand Canyon National Park in August 2009. Source: White House. 

How can the public find these tourism and recreation maps and guidebooks?

How can Federal Depository librarians access these publications?

  • Find the records for these titles via the cataloging records in GPO’s Catalog of Government Publication or CGP.
  • Find them in a federal depository library.

About the author(s): Adapted from an original article on the FDLP Community Blog by Jennifer K. Davis from GPO’s Library Services & Content Management Division that supports the Federal Depository Libraries Program (FDLP). Editor and additional content by: Government Book Talk Editor-in-Chief and , GPO Promotions & Ecommerce Manager, Michele Bartram.


The End of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

June 25, 2012

On September 20, 2011, the 18-year old United States military official “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (DADT) policy came to an end.

Six months later, a new book by J. Ford Huffman and Tammy S. Schultz was published by the Marine Corps University Press entitled, The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans.

This is a collection of four scholarly studies and 25 essays about the impact of living under this policy from a diverse group of gay and straight, current and former military members from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.

Since June is Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) Pride Month, we thought it appropriate to review this book available through GPO and give some background on the policy that led to it.

Rise of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell

In the early 1990’s in the United States, a push for more rights for non-heterosexuals in both civilian and military life was rising.  Eventually, on June 2, 2000, President Bill Clinton declared June 2000 the first official “Gay & Lesbian Pride Month” in the United States. (This was later renamed by President Barack Obama in 2009 who declared June as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Pride Month which it is called today).

However, lawmakers and the military establishment in 1993 were not ready to allow openly gay, lesbian or bisexual individuals to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces.

As a compromise, United States federal law Pub.L. 103-160 (10 U.S.C. § 654 called the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” Policy, nicknamed DADT, was passed and went into effect on December 21, 1993. It “prohibited military personnel from discriminating against or harassing closeted homosexual or bisexual service members or applicants, while barring openly gay, lesbian, or bisexual persons from military service” (Wikipedia).

Image: Web banner from the U.S. Army’s DADT website

Not Asking vs. Not Telling

The “Don’t Ask” part of the DADT policy specified that superiors should not initiate questioning or investigation of a military service member’s sexual orientation without first having witnessed disallowed behaviors or received credible evidence. Because of the number of unauthorized investigations and harassment of suspected servicemen and women, the policy was expanded to “don’t ask, don’t tell, don’t pursue, don’t harass.”

Under the “Don’t Tell” aspect of the policy, the military service members themselves were prohibited from disclosing their sexual orientation or homosexual relationships while actively serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Anyone who did disclose or were discovered to be homosexual could be separated (discharged) from the military, resulting in some 14,346 members of the military being discharged because of their sexual orientation under 18 years of the DADT policy.

Changing Times, Changing Military Needs Led to DADT’s Repeal

After nearly two decades under DADT and the increasing need to recruit and retain the best able service members to help fight wars on multiple fronts, many American military and political leaders felt it was time to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” The Pentagon performed a detailed analysis of possible issues and recommendations for implementation in the November 30, 2010 Support Plan for Implementation: Report of the Comprehensive Review of the Issues Associated with a Repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”.

Image: Pentagon’s November 2010 implementation plan and report on the issues associated with DADT repeal. Source: Gawker.com

Bipartisan support in Congress led them to pass the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.” The caveat was that the policy would remain in place until the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the military all certified that the repeal of DADT would not harm military readiness, followed by a 60-day waiting period. The required certification was sent to Congress on July 22, 2011, which set the end of DADT for September 20, 2011.

In a statement accompanying the certification, President Obama said:

Today’s report confirms that a strong majority of our military men and women and their families—more than two-thirds—are prepared to serve alongside Americans who are openly gay and lesbian. This report also confirms that, by every measure, from unit cohesion to recruitment and retention to family readiness, we can transition to a new policy in a responsible manner that ensures our military strength and national security.

Thus, on September 20, 2011, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” was repealed. Said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, a Republican credited with pulling together bipartisan support for the repeal: “Today, for the first time in our history, we will welcome the service of any qualified individual who’s willing to put on the uniform of our country,” (Source: CNN).

Image: President Obama signs the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act of 2010.” Source: AP

Covered in the Book

The first part of The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell book contains academic reports and research that “shed light on the way forward for the services and policy makers.” This includes a report by Dr. Nora Bensahel who conducted extensive research with RAND Corporation on experiences of the other 26 countries who allow homosexuals to openly serve in their militaries. Other reports by military officers include one discussing the importance of considering service members’ “family readiness,” as well as the prevailing views and culture in the military in 2010 toward “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.”

The second part of the book includes personal essays from both gay and straight members of the military who served under DADT, emphasizing their personal experience of living under this policy. In them, the authors either provided details or “assurances that they were willing to testify under oath regarding their experiences.” As described by editors Schultz and Huffman in their introduction: “These personal essays peel back the curtain of the shame, uncertainty, homophobia, anger, fear, and other emotions of living under DADT. These are the views, recollections and words of the authors alone.

In one essay, a former female Marine described herself as: “I was a woman. I was black. I was gay. ‘Don’t ask, don’t tell.’ I was invisible.”  She concludes her essay with hope that her story helps others:

 “Change and transition can be difficult, and there will be casualties along the way. If sharing my story helps someone in the military whether they are gay or straight, it will have been worth it. If it helps the leadership make different decisions that include and help everyone with the transition of the repeal of DADT, it will have been worth it.

An Air Force officer who was discharged after his superior searched his personal emails and discovered he was gay was gratified that so many members of his old unit said they’d be honored to serve with him again. He sums up his essay with:

Soon I hope to resume my career as an officer and leader in the Air Force without the mandatory silence of DADT and the constant fear that I will be fired… Now [after the repeal of DADT] our military can judge its men and women on their merit and not their sexual orientation.

Image: A sign at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island in Washington State. Source: Oregon Public Broadcasting

The Best Story Ends with a Non-Event

The most common argument by critics against DADT’s repeal was that changing the policy in the middle of multiple wars would be a distraction and could cost lives. This was the original opinion of Marine Commandant General James E. Amos who lobbied against allowing gays to serve openly when the repeal was first passed in 2010, even though the Pentagon’s own 2010 research had shown already that 70% of Service members said they would be able to “work together to get the job done” with a gay service member in their immediate units.

Today, Amos, as are other military leaders, are pleased with the progress of the Armed Forces’ implementation of the repeal, with mandatory training sessions for all levels of the military haven taken place. DADT support groups say they have received no reports of harassment, discrimination or negative experiences connected with the DADT repeal from gay and lesbian active military.

In fact, an April 2012 article in the Marine Corps Times seems to show just how smoothly the transition has gone, as demonstrated by this anecdote involving Amos and his wife, Bonnie, at the Marine Corps Birthday Ball in November 2011. During the Ball, a female Marine introduced her lesbian partner to Amos’ wife, General Amos explained: “Bonnie just looked at them and said, ‘Happy birthday ball. This is great. Nice to meet you…’ That is happening throughout the Marine Corps.

Image: General Amos & Bonnie Amos. Source: Black Tie International Magazine.

Retired Marine Col. Brendan Kearney predicted a smooth transition in one of the book’s essays: “I believe the demise of DADT will quickly become a non-event, and the services as a whole will get on with the business at hand: Defeating the enemies of our country.”

Co-editor Tammy Schultz believes The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell book outlines a “relatively smooth compliance with the new law” according to a Huffington Post article. She concludes: “That is not to say that challenges don’t remain ahead, and our book details some of those. But the U.S. military can more than handle it.

So in the case of the end of the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy, the best story ending seems to be that it is a non-event.

UPDATE 2012/06/27: On June 26, 2012, the Defense Department hosted its first ever Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Pride Month event since the repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” at the Pentagon. Click here to watch the program on C-SPAN.

HOW DO I OBTAIN The End of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell: The Impact in Studies and Personal Essays by Service Members and Veterans?

  • Buy it online 24/7 at GPO’s Online Bookstore.
  • Buy it at GPO’s retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401, open Monday-Friday, 9am to 4pm, except Federal holidays, (202) 512-0132.
  • Find it in a library.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for online and offline marketing of the US Government Online Bookstore (http://bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public.


This Day in History: Lincoln visits the GPO

October 24, 2011

Guest blogger Emma Wojtowicz talks about an important day in GPO history.

On October 24, 1863 – 148 years ago today – President Abraham Lincoln visited the Government Printing Office, the only sitting president to visit the agency. To celebrate the anniversary of his visit, Government Book Talk is taking another look at GPO’s own publication, Keeping America Informed: The U.S. Government Printing Office, 150 Years of Service to our Nation (the book was previously featured on this blog on June 15).

GPO opened for business on the same day that Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as President of the United States – March 4, 1861. The following year in September 1862, GPO printed the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation issued by Lincoln as a general order. Then in 1863, Lincoln visited GPO by invitation from Public Printer John Defrees.

President Abraham Lincoln reads a draft of the Emancipation Proclamation to his Cabinet

Figure 1. First reading of the draft of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln to his Cabinet on July 22, 1862.

[Painted by F.B. Carpenter ; engraved by A.H. Ritchie. Image courtesy of: The Library of Congress]

These unknown facts about Lincoln are part of GPO’s history and foundation. For 150 years, GPO has worked quietly and diligently behind-the-scenes for Congress, the White House, Federal agencies, and the public. Keeping America Informed tells the story of the United States from the different and unknown perspective of GPO employees and their consistent contribution to the workings of the Government. The book is full of “did you know?” facts and tidbits of information, often accompanied by an illustration or picture. For example, did you know that GPO has produced the United States passport since the 1920s?

Well, even if you did, you can learn a brief history of the passport – an idea originally conceptualized and produced by Benjamin Franklin, which identified the bearer as a trusted individual who was able to enter the U.S. The State Department took over control of the passport in 1856 and the single engraved page was produced by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. When in the 1920s the League of Nations created an international standard for a booklet-style passport, the State Department sought GPO’s services to print it, and has remained a loyal customer ever since.

Earliest booklet-style US passports printed by the Government Printing Office (GPO)

Figure 2. First generation of booklet-style US passports. Printed by GPO. Source: “Keeping America Informed”

These types of facts and added background are what make Keeping America Informed a worthwhile read. Similar information can be found on the United Nations Charter, the Warren Commission, President George H. W. Bush’s 1991 inauguration, and the list goes on. In between, you can see historical photographs from GPO’s vast collection.

The book was written, edited, designed, and printed by GPO employees, which is entirely fitting because the message of the book is centered on GPO employees and how they have played a major role in the history of the United States. Abraham Lincoln visited GPO when the agency was still in its infancy, yet working around the clock in support of the war effort.

As the book details, GPO is a much different place today than when Lincoln visited; however, the mission of GPO remains the same. Keeping America Informed: The U.S. Government Printing Office, 150 Years of Service to our Nation is available through GPO’s online bookstore, retail bookstore, on our FDSys federal document database or in a library.

You can see the original printer’s proof of the Emancipation Proclamation in person at GPO’s 150th anniversary history exhibit now through December 2011!

To view an original copy of the preliminary version of the Emancipation Proclamation that was issued by President Lincoln and printed by GPO, visit our 150th anniversary history exhibit located at 732 North Capitol Street NW in Washington, DC. The Emancipation Proclamation is on loan from the Library of Congress only through December…

Click here to watch a video of our 150th anniversary exhibit on GPO’s YouTube channel.

The GPO 150th anniversary exhibit is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on Federal holidays.

Read more about Abraham Lincoln and his rise to the Presidency in the National Park Service’s recent work commemorating the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s inauguration: Abraham Lincoln’s Journey to Greatness.


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