Daily our anxiety levels are fueled by headlines that spotlight rising crime rates. And then our frustration levels are given a boost when we navigate a labyrinth of confusing and conflicting information about security systems. But chances are that our frustration and anxiety pales when compared to that experienced by Harry E. Neal and Archibald MacLeish shortly after Christmas 1941.
MacLeish’s anxiety and concerns had begun a year earlier. As war raged in Europe there were growing concerns that the United Staes would soon be pulled into the conflict.
Working with division heads at the Library of Congress he had been tasked with developing an inventory of irreplaceable documents, maps and other materials. Then he was to devise a plan for safe guarding them from fire, bombing or sabotage. With receipt of reports about European libraries, archives, and museums being destroyed as fighting intensified, his anxiety grew.
He devised a system to catalogue materials based on importance with creation of six groups. Priority was given to group one materials such as an original signed copy of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Journals of the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1776, a signed copy of President Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, and Pierre Charles L’Enfant’s original hand-drawn plan for the layout of Washington D.C.
The second group was a cornucopia of priceless American time capsules. These included items such as the letter of condolence from Queen Victoria to Mary Todd Lincoln after the assassination of President Lincoln. Also on the list were many of the original books that had been donated by Thomas Jefferson to establish the Library of Congress.
In the late spring of 1941 he initiated a study to find suitable storage facilities for the materials. The depository used for storage of the nations gold reserves at Fort Knox was ideally suited. In addition to a state of the art electronic security system, it was a veritable fortress built of concrete with steel reinforcement and granite protected by specially trained and equipped security personnel.
However, the facility was not large enough to hold all of the materials deemed to be irreplacaeable. So, the decision was made to use Fort Knox for the gorup one materials. For the remaining materials a search commenced to find suitable locations. This task was complicated when the decision was made to add select works from the National Gallery of Art as well as paintings from the Louvre, and other European museums and private collections to the list of items to be safely secured.
In correspondence with Harry E. Neal thirty years later, MacLeish said, “Whenever I think, now, of the terrifying responsibility of shipping the Constitution and the Declaration to Fort Knox, my appetite suffers for days. I am glad you remember it with the same emotions.”
Neal had been the Secret Service agent assigned to oversee the security of these items during shipping. After the attack on Pearl Harbor his assignment was made a national priority. Incredibly the entire plan including logistics was completed in mere weeks. It was completed and approved on Christmas Day, and then Neal’s work commenced in earnest the following day.
Surprisngly Neal had never been informed of what exactly it was that he was transporting and securing until the materials arrived under guard at the designated locations. As he later noted, it was a shock to learn that he had been entrusted with safeguarding a Gutenberg Bible, the orignal Articles of Confederation, a copy of the Magna Carta and orignal signed copy of the Constitution of the United States.
Your anxiety about home or office security may not be as pressing as that of Neal or MacLeish. But for you the solution is simple. All that is needed is just one phone call to Baron Services, the premier secruity service provider in the Colorado River Valley and western Arizona.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America