Election predictions from the past

Election predictions — not a new thing as I was reminded last year while working with pre-Civil War records from the New Orleans Custom House.

On Election Day, the election prediction I have in mind is from the presidential election of 1860. This particular prediction is significant, as I wrote on the National Archives Text Message blog Inside the New Orleans Custom House, because it was written by Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard in July 1860. Beauregard’s predictions were wrong. (He projected the Southern Democratic candidate John C. Breckingridge to win by a slim margin.) Less than a year later,  Beauregard would become the Confederate general who fired on Fort Sumter. Therefore, the 1860 prediction represents part of a particularly fractious chapter in our nation’s history.  However, with its meticulous breakdown of states, candidates, and probabilities, it also demonstrates how detailed electoral predictions were, even without the benefit of dry erase boards and touch-screen electoral maps.

Presidential Election Prediction by J. K. Duncan and G. T. Beauregard, July 1860 (The National Archives)

You can find more documents from the New Orleans Custom House on the National Archives Flickr page or in the ARC catalog. Learn about the new digitization project underway in New Orleans to make colonial Louisiana records more accessible.

For all things presidential, check out The American Presidency Project from UC Santa Barbara, an online resource and searchable database of American presidential papers, including executive orders, proclamations, and public addresses.

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October is Archives Month!

October is Archives Month! In celebration of American Archives Month 2012, the Council of State Archivists has compiled a list of special events and activities by state on their website.

Caddo Lake State Park - Plot Plan for Cabins, Roads, and Parking Areas - SP.40.10

Tissue paper with ink and pencil draft of Caddo Lake State Park by draftsman Paul E. Pressler (June 1939). Members of the Civilian Conservation Corp helped build the trails, roads, and cabins at Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, TX. (Texas State Archives’ Flickr photostream)

Texans will want to check out the PDF of the 2012 Texas Archives Month poster on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission website. This year’s theme is “Preserving Texas’ Civil War Records” to commemorate the sesquicentennial of the Civil War — that’s 150 years since the start of the war in 1861. For Civil War and other Texas state records explore their online collections.

Take a look at the Civilian Conservation Corps plans and drawings from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to learn about public works projects in Texas during the Great Depression. Many are on Flickr Commons. A while back, I discovered a stack of old family photos and documents, including my relative’s Certificate of Discharge from the CCC. Part of Company 889, he helped build roads at Caddo Lake State Park. The CCC drawings were a great find that made my relative’s service record come alive (in color, no less). It was no longer just a camp number (Camp SP-1-T), but an actual place that people still enjoy today. For those who don’t happen to have CCC service files hanging around their closet, CCC Enrollee Records can be found at the National Archives at St. Louis. For a list of CCC Camps by state, the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy organization has a helpful index.

In the midst of pumpkin spice lattes and flu shots, American Archives Month is great way to recognize and celebrate those who preserve the documentary heritage of our communities. The threat of closure for the Georgia State Archives reminds us of the importance of making records available, an essential service to students and teachers, scholars and genealogists, and the public at large. Check out what your local archives has to offer.

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