Publication Date

May 5, 2014

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities



What surprises are hidden inside the American Historical Association building? While working on my master’s degree, from George Mason University, I digitized old documents and pictures that are housed at the AHA headquarters office and at the Library of Congress. The photographs offer a visual history of the AHA, and the National History Center.A sampling of these pictures can be found in the following gallery, which will be updated regularly.

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These documents offer a surprising glimpse into the Association’s history. For instance, in 1889 some senators were hesitant about the US Congress officially incorporating the AHA. Senator George F. Edmunds (R-VT) stated that holding the annual meeting in different parts of the country “raises to my mind a pretty serious question as to how far the power of Congress may go into the States to create corporations all over the country.”[1] However, Senator George Frisbie Hoar (R-MA) clarified that even though the annual meeting would be held in various locations, the headquarters office would be located in Washington, DC.[2]

It was also exciting to see how close former leaders of the AHA were to very influential political leaders, including US presidents. These close ties can be seen in the following picture of Theodore Roosevelt with a personal handwritten note to the prominent former AHA member and secretary Albert J. Beveridge. Roosevelt became president of the Association in 1912. Roosevelt’s legacy in the AHA continues to this day in the form of the current Roosevelt-Wilson Award given by the AHA to honor individuals outside the historical profession who have made a significant contribution to the study, teaching, and public understanding of history.


Other pictures show luminaries like Eric Foner and John Hope Franklin speaking on the same stage and former AHA president John Coatsworth enjoying night life during the annual meeting.


Distributing these pictures through the AHA’s social media allows followers a unique opportunity to participate. Can you spot a historian in one of the photos? If so, please let us know in a comment!


[1] Cong. Rec., 50th Cong., 2nd sess., December 18, 1888, vol. 20, No 13: 304.

[2] Ibid

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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Matthew Keough
Matthew Keough

American Historical Association