1770s

Damaged records from the 1890 census. Most of these records ended up being destroyed. (Image source: National Archives)

Just Stick It in the Basement: Before the Archives

Today, the founding documents of America - the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Bill of Rights - are on display at the Charters of Freedom exhibit in the Rotunda of the National Archives. Tourists from across America and the world make pilgrimages to see the most revered documents in American history. Extensive preservation measures have been put in place. But this wasn’t always the case. For most of our nation’s history, these charters, now considered priceless, were kept with the United States’ other government documents - that is, shoved wherever officials could find space. Before the National Archives was founded in 1934, these documents were stored essentially at random, in basements, on walls, or even piled in hallways.

Lost History: Hungerford's Tavern

 

Apparently it was the place to be. Back in the day, Hungerford’s Tavern in Rockville, Maryland hosted and housed a number of big shots including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry – the list goes on and on.

Constructed around 1750, it was one of America’s first real taverns and was named after Charles Hungerford, one of the early owners. The tavern was the center of early Rockville and was the town’s popular hang out spot; the place you went for news, entertainment, business… and to fan the flames of Revolution.