When Elvis Met Nixon

Teacher Notes:

Introduction to Case


This exercise was inspired by an exhibit, “When Elvis Met Nixon” in the Exhibit Hall on the National Archives website (www.nara.gov).


Historical Context

Implementation Ideas

Word document of Case and documents


From the trenches...

Insert case study, video here


Becoming a Detective


Why was this photograph of Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon taken in December of 1970?


Investigating the Evidence

There are a series of documents that follow. It is your job to determine the type of evidence included within this file, the credibility of each piece of evidence and how the evidence fits together. Finally, you will be asked to come up with a plausible explanation of why the photograph was taken and how you came to that particular conclusion.

  • Document A: Letter from Elvis Presley to President Nixon, December 21, 1970
  • Document B: Photo of Nixon and Presely in the Oval Office, December 21, 1970
  • Document C: White House agenda for meeting, December 21, 1970
  • Document D: White House Memorandum, December 21, 1970


Searching for Clues

Please answer the following questions about each document or download the formatted Case File (Word Format | PDF Format).

  1. What type of document is this?
  2. Examine any unique physical qualities of the document and make a notation within your log: (e.g. Interesting letterhead, Handwritten, Typed, Seals, Notations, "RECEIVED" stamp, etc.)
  3. What is the date of the document? Who is the author of the document? For whom was the document written?
  4. List three things the author said that you think are important.
  5. Why do you think this document was written?
  6. What evidence in the document helps you know why it was written? Quote from the document.
  7. List one thing the document tells you about life in the United States at the time it was written.
  8. Write a question to the author that is left unanswered by the document.



Cracking the Case

BBased on your analysis of the four documents and citing evidence to support your answer, please write a paragraph answering the following question: Why was this photograph of Elvis Presley and President Richard Nixon taken in December of 1970? Please indicate whether you were satisfied with the evidence and list any additional questions that have been left unanswered through your investigation.