Placeholder Image

字幕表 動画を再生する

  • Nancy Wing: Good morning. I’m Nancy Wing, one of the librarians here at the

  • National Archives and I’m here to welcome you today.

  • We are so pleased that you have expressed an interest in the

  • Know Your Records program. Know Your Records

  • was designed to inform the staff, the volunteers,

  • researchers, and the general public on the records of the National Archives

  • and how they can aid in historical research.

  • We offer not only the weekly lecture series, but also genealogy workshops,

  • symposia, the annual genealogy fair, a book discussion group, and a

  • researcher newsletter. If you would like more information,

  • contact the KYR information that you have in your program.

  • Today were going to be hearing about the history of the National Archives

  • from the War Department fire in 1800 to the establishment of the

  • National Archives in 1934. Archivist Constance Potter

  • looks at why some records did not survive

  • and how others just made it to the National Archives.

  • Her focus is on records of genealogical interest.

  • Constance Potter is a reference archivist at the National Archives in

  • Washington, D.C. specializing in federal records of interest in genealogists.

  • She worked on the release of the 1920 and 1930 censuses, and is a regular

  • speaker at the Federation of Genealogical Societies, the National

  • Genealogical Society, the National Institute on Genealogical Research,

  • as well as local genealogical groups in Virginia and Maryland.

  • Today’s program will be just less than an hour long, I believe,

  • and we certainly hope you enjoy it. Please help me welcome Connie.

  • Constance Potter: Thank you, and thank you for your patience.

  • How many of you have worked in reference?

  • And you know the person who looks at you and their eyes are pleading, and

  • they say, “But that record has to exist.” And you say, “No it doesn’t.”

  • And now I’m giving you some more ammunition as to how you can nicely

  • tell them, “No, it does not exist.” This is more a history of

  • records in the Archives, and it’s divided into

  • two periods: 1776 to 1926, and then 1931 to about 1934.

  • In the Declaration of Independence – I think this is item thirteenthey wrote,

  • He,” that’s King George III, “has called together legislative bodies at places

  • unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their records for

  • the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

  • So as early as 1776, the people who were going to start the federal

  • government were interested in the whole issue of what was going to

  • happen to federal records. There were a series of fires

  • the first, and a very bad one, was November 8th, 1800.

  • The War Department had moved into a townhouse in Funkstown.

  • Who knows what Funkstown is now called? It’s Foggy Bottom.

  • It went from one really good name to another really good name.

  • Theyre not quite sure how the fire started. There’s a wonderful article

  • in Prologue by Howard Wehmann about the origins of the fire.

  • Someone who was in the building next to the War Departmentthere was a

  • wake that day, and they think it might have been because people

  • were partying, but they don’t know for sure. Anyway, there was a fire that

  • started and everyone ran through the building opening all the windows.

  • Not a good idea. So lots and lots of things burned including our registers

  • and stub books, court-martials, information on pension files.

  • If you look at the pension files on microfilm, for some of them youll see

  • there’s just one page that will have the name, the state, and at the bottom

  • is a lot of text. And the gist of this text is these records were destroyed by

  • the fire in the War Department in 1800. So even if you know somebody had a

  • pension in 1798 or 1799, it was probably destroyed in the War Department fire.

  • They also destroyed the records of the Board of War.

  • So for years, the War Department had no official records.

  • They looked at records from the Department of State, the Department of

  • the Interior, the Treasury. But late in the 19th century, they began

  • collecting records. And as you know, federal records are generally not

  • a collection. But this is one record group that is a collection of records.

  • They got a lot of records from Timothy Pickering, from the

  • Quartermaster Office. And when these records were consolidated and

  • brought together, Fred C. Ainsworthwho started the compiled military

  • system and is a great person to study if you want to build a bureaucratic

  • empire because this man knew how to do ithe used the records

  • collected in Record Group 93 to start the compiled service records.

  • And these records included muster rolls, pay rolls, and other records

  • relating to military service. Now not all of the records survived, so if you look

  • in Washington’s Crossing by David Hackett Fischer, in the back it gives the

  • order of battle. And in some cases, for example St. Claire’s, they simply say,

  • We don’t have the records. They no longer exist.”

  • So there were lots of fires, again the War Department fire. In 1801, one of

  • many fires in the Department of the Treasury. One of the people who

  • helped put out the fire was the president. John Adams had just moved

  • into the White House. He heard about the fire, he grabbed a bucket, and

  • tried to help put out the fire. In 1814 the British, as you know, burned

  • Washington in the War of 1812. And one of the places you can read about

  • what they did to the records is the first annual report of the Archivist

  • of the United States. And I want to give a plug here for early annual reports.

  • In the 19th and early 20th century, annual reports are narrative.

  • They tell a story. You can find out about a tornado in Georgia, and it

  • describes what happened on particular farms. You can get a good history of

  • your agency. You can find out about the Army Corps of Engineers doing

  • construction on rivers in Florida. It’s not what it is now, a nice little PR piece.

  • So go see Jeff Hartley in the library and ask to see early annual reports,

  • because theyre great. So the British carried away the records, they

  • destroyed the records, and worst of all they disarranged the records.

  • In 1851 there was a fire at the Library of Congress that destroyed a lot of

  • Thomas Jefferson’s collection that was the foundation of the library.

  • In 1877, the top floor of the Patent Office burned and we think that the

  • Declaration of Independence might have been there at that time.

  • 1911, the Coast and Geodetic Survey. But two that really continue to affect us

  • today are the Commerce fire in 1921 that damaged the 1890 census.

  • Now that census wasn’t destroyed until the 1930’s.

  • And at that time the appraisal process would go through the Librarian of

  • Congress, and he would look at what was considered were useless papers.

  • He said, “These are useless papers. Destroy them.” And that was about

  • the same week we laid the cornerstone to the National Archives building.

  • And a lot of people, people you probably know, are still affected by the 1973

  • fire in St. Louis, Missouri that destroyed the World War I and World War II

  • Army and some of the Air Force records. But even recently, although it was

  • not primarily a fire, think of Katrina. That destroyed local, state, and federal

  • records in Louisiana and Mississippi. So fires

  • and natural disasters are always a problem.

  • How many of you recognize this gentleman? If you go into Archives I,

  • youre going to see his picture as you come into the Archives.

  • This is J. Franklin Jameson. Although I talk about the destruction of

  • records, the government was creating a lot of records.

  • And the numbers that I’m giving here, I’m not sure where they got these

  • numbers, but in 1860 it was estimated that the government had

  • about 180,000 cubic feet of records. By the time we got to 1916, before the

  • U.S. entered into World War I, it was about a million cubic feet of records.

  • And people were constantly trying to put bills before congress.

  • Between 1881 and 1912 alone, there were forty-two bills to establish

  • a National Archives. In 1913 J. Franklin Jameson, who was the president of

  • the American Historical Association, almost got an archives bill.

  • Then there came the war in Europe. The United States joined in 1917,

  • and that ended the movement at that time.

  • This is the central market at 7th and Pennsylvania.

  • It was built, and still is, on the Tiber River and the canal.

  • It was so marshy that sometimes they called this the marsh market.

  • Until 1850 there were slave pens on this site.

  • So when the president got out at the corner of 7th and Pennsylvania during

  • the inauguration, I think he knew what he was doing when he got out of

  • the car there. In 1923, 1924, and 1925, Coolidge recommended an archives in

  • his budget message. And as late as 1926, the United States was the only

  • only countryall European countries had archives, twelve Latin American

  • countries had archives, but the United States didn’t. And so on July 3rd,

  • 1926, congress approved the Second Deficiency Act that provided for 7 million

  • dollars to build an archives. And then they later increased that to 8 million.

  • Now the first part of this discussion is about a national archives.

  • I’m now going to talk about the National Archives.

  • This looks like someone laying a cornerstone. It is, it’s Hoover.

  • Rick Blondo however told me, “Look at it closely.” This is February 20th, 1933.

  • And in March, FDR, who was a member of the Society for American

  • Archivists, was about to become president. Hoover wanted to be the one

  • to lay the cornerstone for the Archives. If you look closely, there’s no

  • building there. It’s just on a wooden platform. . So this was an honorary,

  • ceremonial laying of the cornerstone and they had to put it in later.

  • These two guys, I don’t know how heavy that thing is but theyre holding

  • onto it for dear life. And inside the cornerstone is a Bible, a copy of the

  • Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the American flag, the

  • public acts authorizing the construction of the building, and other things.

  • But it wasn’t until June 19th, 1934 that congress finally provided the funding

  • to staff the Archives building in an act to establish a National Archives of the

  • United States government and for other purposes.

  • And the act provided for all archival records belonging to the

  • government to be under the charge of the Archivist.

  • The first Archivist of the United States was Robert D.W. Connor of the

  • University of North Carolina. And most of the early staff, in fact all four of

  • them, were historians. They weren’t archivists. For awhile the Archives

  • was across the street, but by the time they moved into the building there we

  • had a staff of eighty. So we had the building, we had the staff, but what was

  • it going to hold? Although the Archivist had the power to get the records, he

  • wasn’t going to go all around and look for all the records. So who would locate

  • the records and who would decide if they were permanent or temporary?

  • So were going to look at some of the records. This is a good picture.

  • This is in the garage of the White House. It’s War Department records.

  • You can seethere’s the ramp going down, there’s some metal bars here,

  • this is wood, and things are, wellThis is also the White House garage.

  • This is hard to see, but there’s a door here that’s ajar.

  • And what can come in through doors? Mice, other animals.

  • Here’s a bare light bulb, that’s always good.

  • A tire. This is the garage floor, so youve got the cars with exhaust, oil spills.

  • And here we have wooden bookcases. Just note this one little piece of

  • paper right here. This is about August 3rd, 1935, and the following picture

  • was taken four days later. There’s that same little piece of paper.

  • In one lecture I gave, someone asked me what that piece of paper was.

  • I don’t know. The people who looked at the records in Washington D.C.

  • were called deputy examiners.And the WPA hired people to

  • look at the records throughout the country.

  • They found records in basements, attics, carriage houses, abandoned

  • buildings; anyplace they could put a record they found it.

  • And in the early daysthe 1820’s, 1830’s – they complained that if you

  • walked into the Department of Treasury, the records were just piled here.

  • And so you might have a tour group going through and they’d say,

  • Oh yeah, that looks interesting.”. And they’d walk off with it.

  • And there’s no law against it. Things disappeared.

  • You never knew what, you never knew when, you never knew how.

  • After opening file cabinets or something like this, they would complete a form.

  • And it would give you the quantity of records, the arrangements, dates,

  • and the research values of the records. And this is what a survey worker

  • wrote in the Midwest: “We then asked the custodian to show us this room.

  • He shuddered at the thought of entering the dungeon. He warned us that we

  • would be subject to possible attack by the many rats that make their home

  • in these quarters. Local hoards of silverfish have feasted on the bindings

  • of these books for so long that there are practically no records that are

  • securely bound. It is rather disheartening to spend time shoveling

  • dust and plaster off the upper part of the container and find that the bottom

  • contains records that are so moldy that it is almost impossible to separate

  • the pages.” At one point – I think these are records from Galveston

  • and in fact this is a perfect example. So theyre walking down the staircase

  • and there’s garbage. And they see something lying there on the floor, and

  • it’s trash, it’s going to be thrown away. And they look at it, and it is slave

  • manifests from Galveston to New Orleans 1836 to 1838.

  • Had somebody not walked down and seen this thing lying on the floor,

  • those records would have been lost forever. So they picked it up and kept it.

  • The deputy examiners found more than 6,500 depositories or rooms in the

  • Washington area and about three million cubic feet of records.

  • 43% of those records they brought to the Archives. And most of the agencies

  • gave up their records because they simply didn’t have the space.

  • The WPA survey found four million cubic feet of records, most of them in

  • post offices and customs houses. So after they brought them into the

  • Archiveshere’s some post office records. And this is a little hard to see,

  • but see the volume right here? This huge volume, and here’s the binding,

  • and it’s working on that canvas bag and paper wrapping.

  • This is the Civil Service Commission. Fairly good storage here, but wooden

  • boxes here. I don’t know if these are heat pipes or water pipes, but still,

  • water and humidity are not good. This is the Civil Service Commission,

  • a little bit of red tape. But you can see how things

  • are bound in twine, just stuffed into corners.

  • These are the records arriving at the National Archives.

  • For those of you who were here when we moved from downtown,

  • remember the Mayflower buses? Trucks going on and on.

  • And here they are arriving at the Archives. And do you know what I just

  • realized? You can see there’s no Federal Trade Commission.

  • Here they are in the loading dock. Here they are taking them out of the trucks.

  • And here are the woodruff boxes, which of course are wooden, high acid,

  • open, dust and stuff get down. Trifolded, as the conservatists say.

  • Degradation in two places. And theyre smushed together with metal.

  • I mean, there’s nothing good about a woodruff box, but they were still using

  • them when I got here. Here theyre fumigating them. Years ago I was called

  • into the central research room on a Saturday because one of our

  • researchers had come down with yellow fever from the Spanish-American

  • War records. She also went, for those of you who remember, Mr. Jim McGronigal,

  • she went into her office to complain so her research card was revoked.

  • She had other issues. She was so busy being the Queen of England and

  • Norway, however, that she couldn’t contest the removal of her research

  • card. And here theyre fumigating them some