History Is New Again at the Capitol Visitor Center

Display Highlights the Creation of Social Security, War With Germany, Emancipation

Posted April 21, 2009 at 4:11pm

Ever wonder who first came up with the idea of Social Security numbers? A new display at the Capitol Visitor Center sheds light on that piece of trivia and about 50 other historical tidbits.

For example, a man named A.E. Bosley from Akron, Ohio, wrote to his Congressman recommending that the federal government use “permanent registered identification numbers to track worker’s lifetime earnings and contributions— — in other words, Social Security numbers.

Along with that letter, the CVC’s new exhibit includes President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s message to Congress announcing the Social Security program in 1934.

Roosevelt wrote that “fear and worry based on unknown danger contribute to social unrest and economic demoralization.— He added that citizens deserved protection from their government, arguing that “If, as our Constitution tells us, our federal government was established among other things to promote the general welfare, it is our plain duty to provide that security upon which welfare depends.—

Brian Crossman, a visitor assistant and a former history teacher, explained that Roosevelt’s plan was only intended to be a quick fix. “The idea was that most of the programs would last five to 10 years,— Crossman said. “I don’t think he expected them to last any longer than that. It was just to get us out of the Depression.—

Other documents on display at the CVC include Abraham Lincoln’s notes for an anti-slavery bill. Lincoln, a junior Congressman at the time, urged Congress to adopt a joint resolution to encourage gradual emancipation, with payment to slave owners and emancipation only for children born after 1850. The document gives visitors a look at the process leading to the Emancipation Proclamation.

Also on display is the first draft of S.J.Res. 119, adopted Dec. 11, 1941, declaring war against Germany. One fascinating element of the draft is that it shows the Senate based the draft on S.J.Res. 116, an earlier declaration of war against Japan, with the word “Japan— crossed out and the word “Germany— written above it.

A document that shows explorer Meriwether Lewis’ supplies from an 1803 trip — including gifts for Native Americans whom he expected to encounter — offers a glimpse into the historic expedition of Lewis and William Clark.

These documents will be on display until Oct. 1. They are on loan from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress.