National Affairs: Red Wax, Green Light

One day last week, President Harry Truman pulled out a sheet of his pale green personal stationery and penned a personal letter. A little later, a White House functionary brought in the antiquated equipment necessary for affixing the Presidential Seal. He lit a stick of red sealing wax, allowed some to drip on the envelope and quickly pressed it with a heavy, wrenchlike instrument.

A few minutes later, the letter—addressed in longhand to General Dwight D. Eisenhower—was on its way to the Pentagon offices of the Overseas Courier service. That night, it was flown across the Atlantic, and the next day was...

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