Celebrating George Washington and the Other Presidents of the United States with Primary Sources

Portrait of George Washington

George Washington. Victor Facchina, 1930

As we noted in a blog post several years ago, the third Monday in February is designated Washington’s Birthday by law, though many people call it Presidents’ Day and celebrate all of the U.S. presidents.

We wanted to take an opportunity to highlight resources you might use with your students to honor George Washington and the others who have held this office.

  • The Prints and Photographs Division has a collection of images of presidents of the United States.
  • What can a portrait tell you about a president? This blog post provides tips on using photographs to learn more about a person. Need a bit more support? This blog post and the photo analysis teachers guide may be helpful.
  • While exploring the portraits, take a moment and see how cartoonists can shape what people think of a president. Take the exploration further and see how presidents are memorialized and how that can shape how a president is viewed in history.
  • Search the American Archives of Public Broadcasting collection for recordings of the presidents, including the 1960 presidential debate between Nixon and Kennedy.
  • The Library holds the papers of 23 presidents of the United States. Use the tips in this article to encourage students to explore the papers of the presidents. Want even more resources? Search the Library’s resource guides under the subject heading of “political science” to access guides relating to presidents and the presidency.

What resources will you use with your students to celebrate Washington’s Birthday? Let us know in the comments.

Taking a Closer Look at Presidential Inaugurations: Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address

A recent blog post on presidential inaugurations noted that while the Constitution requires only an oath of office, presidential inaugurations have evolved to include many more activities. Many of these elements, including inaugural addresses, are documented in primary sources from the Library of Congress.