Featured Document Display: Earth Day: 50th Anniversary

Friday, April 17, 2020 - Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The Congress, the Administration and the public all share a profound commitment to the rescue of our natural environment, and the preservation of the Earth as a place both habitable by and hospitable to man.

—President Richard Nixon, "Reorganization Plan No. 3," message to Congress about establishing EPA, July 1970

More than 20 million Americans participated in the first Earth Day on April 22, 1970. Recognized by many as the birth of the U.S. environmental movement, the nationwide demonstration spurred a dramatic rise in public concern about environmental issues. It also secured political action that led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by President Richard Nixon later that year and the passage of important environmental protection legislation including the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts throughout the 1970s.

In the 50 years since its creation, Earth Day has grown into an event observed by a billion people in nearly 200 countries each year. For many, the global challenge to preserve and protect the environment continues with increasing urgency. 

Robert Rauschenberg's iconic Earth Day Poster
Iconic Earth Day poster
Artist Robert Rauschenberg originally designed his iconic poster to support the American Environment Foundation in honor of the first Earth Day. It features an image of a bald eagle surrounded by a photo montage showing endangered animals, deforestation, and land, water, and air pollution. According to the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, the artist’s use of the American eagle “symbolically placed the United States at the center of a global problem.” The United States Information Agency made this reproduction of Rauschenberg's original work in 1993.

National Archives, Records of the U.S. Information Agency


Explore the past National Archives exhibition, “Searching for the Seventies: The DOCUMERICA Photography Project."   

Find more resources related to Environmental Studies at Archives.gov