“American Originals, Part III”

In the back of your mind, you knew this stuff existed, but to read the list of items on display for the National Archives’ third “American Originals” exhibit is to be stunned again, for the first time. These are not computer-generated props but tangible evidence that history leaves behind more than merely dull dates and statistics: the Louisiana Purchase Treaty, court-martial papers against Edgar Allan Poe, Gen. Robert E. Lee’s terms of surrender, Rosa Park’s arrest sheet, even the Chap Stick tubes used in the Watergate bugging. This exhibit also serves to remind us why we choose to live in this fair city. Where else can you read the original Army report on the Battle of Little Big Horn during your lunch hour? Of course, for my money the most fascinating artifact is the first issue of Mad magazine, from October 1952. It was used by clueless senators during their misguided hearings into the so-called juvenile delinquency problem. Safely ensconced in the tax-supported care of the Archives, Alfred E. Neuman (pictured) certainly has the last laugh. At the National Archives, 7th & Pennsylvania Ave. NW. FREE. (202) 501-5000. (Dave Nuttycombe)