Today’s post comes from Adam Berenbak, archivist in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.
The Continental Army and Gen. Samuel Parsons first occupied the land at West Point, New York, owned by Steven Moore, in the winter of 1778. The fort was crucial in defending New York, the Hudson River, and the lines of communication to the northeastern states. The new American government continued to lease the property from Moore after the Revolutionary War.
During the First Congress, the House of Representatives received a petition, the fourth sent by Moore, to receive compensation for damages to his property. The House forwarded the claim to the Treasury Department. On June 10, 1790, the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, reported back to the House that a permanent military post should be established at West Point. Hamilton believed this purchase was “expedient and necessary,” as guarding the Hudson River was essential to the “public safety.” On June 15, a committee appointed to look into the matter reported out HR 76, which authorized the purchase of the land from Moore.
Today’s post for Women’s History Month—in the voice of former National Archives employee Mabel Deutrich—comes from Alan Walker, archivist at the National Archives at College Park.
I went to the La Crosse State Teachers College in Wisconsin. It’s now the University of Wisconsin—La Crosse.
I came to the Archives in 1950, after having worked with the Army’s records since we entered World War II.
Here is a rundown of my first decade or so in government service. Competition for promotions in our unit was intense. Upon reading this document reviewing the candidates, I would remark that you should take care in what you commit to paper: “Deutrich’s only disadvantage in this respect lies in her being a woman.”
In spite of this assessment, I persevered; my knowledge of Army records and their organization proved immensely helpful as we were being inundated with them after the war.
Indeed I did pass! And I continued with my studies. It’s not often that you can get your Ph.D. examination board to convene at your workplace:
Today’s post comes from Ashley Mattingly, who is an archivist at the National Archives at St. Louis, where she manages the collection of archival civilian personnel records.
The most well-known lighthouse keeper in the world was an American woman who was a Federal civil servant. Ida Wilson Lewis, lighthouse keeper of Rhode Island, saved somewhere between 13 and 25 lives, including men stationed at Fort Adams and a sheep.
Ida Wilson Lewis was born Idawally Zorada Lewis in 1842. In 1870, she married Capt. William Wilson. Although they separated two years later, Ida used “Wilson” as her middle name for the rest of her life.
In 1853, Ida’s father, Capt. Hosea Lewis, was appointed the first lighthouse keeper at Lime Rock, an island in Newport Harbor. A few months after his appointment, Captain Lewis was stricken by a paralytic stroke. As a result, his wife, Zorada, and Ida carried out the lighthouse duties in addition to their everyday household chores.
Performing numerous lighthouse and domestic duties groomed Ida for an appointment as the official lighthouse keeper of Lime Rock in 1879 and sent her down the path to becoming a renowned rescuer. … [ Read all ]
Posted by Hilary on March 24, 2015, under National Archives Near You, Unusual documents.
Tags: civil servants, history, lighthouse, lighthouse keeper, Rhode Isnad, WHM2015, women, Women's History Month
Today’s post comes from Samantha Payne, intern in the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, DC.
The Constitution requires that Congress conduct a census every 10 years to determine the representation of each state in the House of Representatives. When the authors of the Constitution allocated seats in the House for the First Congress, they had no census data to guide them. As a result, the sizes of the first congressional districts varied dramatically. A Massachusetts congressman represented 96,550 people, while one from Georgia represented only 16,250.
To solve this problem, Congress had to determine how to conduct a census. The new nation was the first to institute a national, periodical census. The size of the United States made the task rather daunting. The Senate census committee worked for eight months before they decided to start from scratch in January of 1790.
Regional interests dominated the debate over the census. Northern representatives pushed for a rapid enumeration, but southerners insisted on more time, so that census-takers could canvas their large, rural states. On February 4, 1790, Congressman Theodore Sedgwick implied that Georgia’s population did not merit three representatives. A South Carolinian retorted that Sedgwick “would not be content until there were 24 members” representing … [ Read all ]
Today’s post was written by Damani Davis, reference archivist at the National Archives in Washington, DC.
On March 3, 2015, the National Archives will commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Freedman’s Savings & Trust Company, better known as the “Freedman’s Bank.”
The founding of the Freedman’s Bank was spearheaded by John W. Alvord, a Congregationalist minister and abolitionist originally from New England, who served as a chaplain accompanying Gen.William Tecumseh Sherman’s troops during their march through Georgia. During his time in Georgia, Alvord observed the destitute conditions of the former slaves and also noted a pressing need for greater financial literacy and some type of savings bank to serve the black soldiers of the U.S. Colored Troops.
To address this need, Alvord later went to New York, where he met with philanthropists and leading businessmen to plan a “benevolent banking institution that would provide black soldiers with a secure place to save their money and at the same time encourage the values of thrift and industry in the newly freed African-American community.” John W. Alvord and the founding trustees succeeded in getting a charter for incorporation … [ Read all ]