Librarian of Congress Archibald MacLeish was concerned for the United States’ most precious artifacts during World War II. On April 30, 1941, before the US’s involvement, he began to make plans that would keep the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution safe “in the unlikely event that it becomes necessary to remove them from Washington.” Where does one keep the most valuable and important pieces of this country’s history? MacLeish decided it was best to keep them in one of the safest and most secure places – Fort Knox.
On December 23, 1941 the Declaration of Independence and Constitution were removed from Washington. Under the constant eyes of guards, the two documents (along with other boxes of vital records) were carefully packed and loaded into an armed and escorted truck. They were placed, with secret service agents, into a Pullman sleeper compartment at Union Station. The documents left Washington D.C. at 6:30 p.m. and arrived at Louisville, KY at 10:30 a.m. on December 27, 1941.
During its stay at the United States Bullion Depository at Fort Knox, the Declaration was periodically examined and small repairs were done. Military authorities assured the Library of Congress in 1944 that the documents could be safely displayed again. On September 19, 1944, they were withdrawn from Fort Knox and the Declaration was back in its place of honor at the Library on October 1st.