National Archives | RG 48

RG 48

Entries 1-50 | Entries 51-100 | Entries 101-150 | Entries 151-200 | Entries 201-250 | Entries 251-300 | Entries 301-350 | Entries 351-400 | Entries 401-450 | Entries 451-500 | Entries 501-550 | Entries 551-600 | Entries 601-650 | Entries 651-700 | Entries 701-750


The Department of the Interior was established by an act of Congress of March 3, 1849 (9 Stat. 395). This act provided that the Secretary of the Interior should assume the supervisory and appellate powers previously exercised by the Secretary of War over the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, by the Secretary of the Treasury over the Commissioner of the General Land Office, by the Secretaries of War and the Navy over the Commissioner of Pensions, by the Secretary of State over the Commissioner of Public Buildings. The Secretary of the Interior also was to assume the duties of the Secretary of State concerning the census, the duties of the Secretary of the Treasury concerning the accounts of the officers of U.S. courts and concerning lead and other mines, and supervisory control over the Board of Inspectors and the Warden of the Penitentiary for the District of Colombia.

The Secretary of the Interior is the chief administrator of laws assigned by Congress to the Department of the Interior and the responsible official for discharging duties delegated by the President. The Secretary sets policy and supervises its implementation, reviewing the decisions of heads of the operational units immediately subordinate and adjudicating any matters and controversy.

As mentioned, the initial duties of the Secretary related principally to the public domain, Indian affairs, pensions, and patents. Since 1849 a number of major and long term responsibilities have been added: Territories and Island possessions, mine safety, Depression and wartime emergency programs, geological and boundary surveys, national parks and monuments, fish and wildlife, mineral resources, River basin programs, soil conservation, departmental participation in national and international expositions, and the compilation of statistical information relating to agriculture, education, and labor. During the same period, the Secretary also had significant but short term responsibilities for the following: care and education of handicapped persons, medical care for indigents in the District of Columbia, extension of the U.S. Capitol and the construction of the Library of Congress, the construction of wagon roads, suppression of the slave trade and encouragement of black colonization, assistance to railroad construction, and distribution of public documents.

The records of his inventory reflect the conduct of the Office of the Secretary in all matters mentioned above, although some are less well-documented than others.

The act establishing the Department of the Interior in 1849 provided only for a Secretary, a Chief Clerk, and several clerks in the Office of the Secretary. The registers, copyists, and most other employees in the Office of the Secretary were transferred from those executive agencies formerly having responsibility for the duties assigned the Secretary of the Interior. The position of Assistant Secretary was established in 1862, that of The First Assistant Secretary in 1885, and that of Under Secretary in 1935. In 1944 the distinction of ranks and Assistant Secretaries was discontinued, and the First Assistant Secretary was designated Assistant Secretary. From 1871 to 1914 the legal officer for the Department was the Assistant Attorney General; in 1914 the position title was changed to Solicitor. Until 1926 he was an official of the Department of Justice on detail to the Department of the Interior; they're after he was an officer of the Interior Department.

From 1849 to about 1870 departmental clerks, under the direction of the Chief Clerk, were assigned duties relating to specific areas of responsibility such as land matters, Indians, patents, and pensions. By approximately 1870 these areas had he involved into record-keeping divisions. The major divisions were commonly referred to as Appointments, Finance, Patents and Miscellaneous, Lands and Railroads, and Indian Divisions. The Indian Territory Division was added in 1898. Divisional clerks became specialists in these areas by, in addition to maintaining files, reviewing all correspondence between the Secretary and the bureau chiefs. Each division was presided over by a clerk holding the title of Chief of Division. It was charged that the divisions, which were intended to be primarily clerical, frequently exercised supervisory authority over the bureaus. Sometimes a division chief might, in effect, the acting as the superior of a bureau chief, making decisions that by law were the responsibility of the Secretary. This procedure was much criticized during the early years of the 20th century, most notably by the Committee on Departmental Methods (Keep Commission). The Keep Commission, authorized by the President, investigated the complaints and recommended a reorganization of the Office of the Secretary.

The Office of the Secretary was reorganized in 1907 in line with the recommendations of the Keep Commission. The Patents and Miscellaneous, Lands and Railroads, Indian, and Indian Territory Divisions were abolished. They're after, many of their former duties were handled directly in the bureaus without review and the Office of the Secretary. Matters that required action in the Secretary's Office were referred directly to the Secretary, First Assistant Secretary, Assistant Secretary, or later, the Chief Clerk. The Department retained the Appointments and Finance Divisions because there are ongoing functions could not be readily delegated to a bureau. In 1907 a Mails and Files Division was established in the Office of the Secretary to perform the custodial functions handled by the four former divisions. This Division maintained the Central classified file, which was set up to cover, by its subject classifications, most of the substantive program areas administered by the Interior Department That. This file was to be the main file for documenting communications between the Office of the Secretary and the bureau chiefs.

The pre-1907 records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, including the records of the divisions mentioned above, the Office of Explorations and Surveys (transferred from the War Department), and the Office of the Assistant Attorney General are described in part one of this inventory.

The general records-- including the Central classified file, of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, 1907-53; office files a certain Secretaries, Assistant Secretaries, and other officials; records of several staff groups; records of the Office of the Solicitor; records of administrative divisions and other units; and records of several entire agency commissions and committees-- are described in in part two of this inventory.

Cartographic and photographic records and sound recordings are described with related textual records.

Since the department's inception in 1849, many functions and activities have been administered in the Office of the Secretary of the Interior; others were delegated to bureaus and offices. The major bureaus of the Department have been the Bureau of Indian Affairs, General Land Office (later Bureau of Land Management), Pension Office, the Patent Office, Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, Census Office, Office of Education, National Park Service, Office of Territories, the Commissioner of Railroads, Geological Survey, Bureau of Reclamation, Bureau of Mines, Bonneville Power Administration, Southwestern Power Administration, Southeastern Powered Ministration, Alaska Power Administration, Fish and Wildlife Service (later the US Fish and Wildlife Service), Bureau of Outdoor Recreation (later the Heritage Conservation and Recreation Service), and Federal Water Pollution Control Administration. Because the operations of all the component bureaus, offices, and other administrative units of the Department are reflected in the records of the Office of the Secretary, some information about them and their relationship to the Department presented chronologically is helpful in using this inventory.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs (known as the Office of Indian Affairs until 1947) has responsibility for matters concerned with the Federal Government's relations with Indians. It has remained in the Department of the Interior continuously since 1849. The Board of Indian Commissioners was established in 1869 to exercised joint control with the Secretary of the Interior overt disbursements for Indian affairs. In 1882, the duties of the board That were restricted, but he continued to function until 1933.

The General Land Office had charge of the survey, management, and disposition of the public domain and generally of the execution of the laws relating to public lands. It also had charge of matters concerning forest reserves established by the President under authority of an act of March 3, 1891 (26 Stat. 1103). In 1905 most of the responsibility for forest reserves was transferred to the Department of Agriculture. The General Land Office was in the Department of the Interior from 1849 until 1946, when it was merged with the Grazing Service to form the Bureau of Land Management. This Bureau is still in the Department.

The pension office (or Bureau) examined and adjudicated claims for pensions and bounty lands based on military or naval service. It remained in the Department of the Interior from 1849 to 1930, when it was transferred to the new Veterans Administration That.

The Patent Office, which administers patent laws, remained in the Department of the Interior from 1849 until 1925, when it was transferred to the Department of Commerce. The Patent Office had an Agricultural Division, which collected information and distributed seeds; when an independent Department of Agriculture was established in 1862, it took over at the Division's property and activities.

The Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings (and Grounds) was in charge of the construction, improvement, and repair of public buildings, grounds, and streets in the District of Columbia. In 1867 this Office was transferred to the War Department. Also transferred to the War Department in 1867 were certain responsibilities of the Secretary of the Interior concerning the construction of waterworks in the District of Columbia (Potomac Waterworks and Washington Aqueduct). The Secretary of the Interior retained responsibility for approving the disbursement of appropriations for certain construction projects, most notably the Capitol Extension. The on-site construction work was supervised by the Architect of the Capitol Extension, later renamed the Architect of the Capitol. In 1933 the Secretary's function concerning disbursements was transferred to the Division of Disbursement of the Treasury Department.

Additional responsibilities concerning the acquisition of land and construction of public buildings were allocated to the Secretary of the Interior. Together with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Postmaster General, the Secretary of the Interior approved plans and estimates for public buildings throughout the United States from 1875 to 1910. During part of this period, 18781897, the secretary had duties relating to the acquisition of land war and the construction of the present main building of the Library of Congress. From 1912 to 1927 the Secretary was authorized to read buildings and land acquired for the enlargement of the Capitol Grounds.

Some duties transferred to the Interior Department in 1849 were not delegated to an office or bureau. These functions, relating to the decennial censuses, the accounts of officers of the U.S. courts, and the Penitentiary for the District Of Columbia, were administered in the Office of the Secretary, usually in the Patents and Miscellaneous Division.

A temporary office or bureau was organized for each decennial census until 1902 when a permanent Census Office was established. In the interim between censuses, clerks in the Office of the Secretary compiled statistics and made information available from the rolls. In 1903 the Census Office was transferred to the Department Of Commerce and Labor.

Between 1849 in 1870 the Secretary supervised the accounts of marshals, clerks, attorneys, and other officers of the U.S. courts. When the abolition of slavery virtually ended the slave trade as a domestic institution, part of the work of the marshals and attorneys became the apprehension and prosecution of persons suspected of engaging in the slave trade. An executive order of May 2, 1861, but the Secretary of the Interior in charge of all activities relating to the suppression of the slave trade. However, in 1870 the responsibility for activities outside the territorial limits of the United States was transferred to the State Department and control over court officers was transferred to the new Department of Justice, thus ending any responsibility of the Secretary of the Interior concerning the slave trade. From 1862 to 1864 the Secretary supervised the attempted colonization of free blacks in Liberia, Haiti, and other places.

The organic act of 1849 provided that the Secretary of the Interior would exercise supervisory control over the Board of Inspectors and Warden of the Penitentiary of the District Of Columbia regarding the disbursement of funds. Until 1854 the Board and Warden reported annually to Congress. From 1854 to 1862, when the Penitentiary was closed, those officials reported to the Secretary of the Interior.

After 1849 the Secretary of the Interior was assigned certain responsibilities regarding other penal institutions, charitable and educational institutions, and private corporations in the District of Columbia. The records relating to these duties were maintained in the Patents and Miscellaneous Division.

In 1864 Congress authorized the appointment of a Warden for the District Jail, who was to report to the Secretary of the Interior, and in 1866 Congress ought to rise the construction of a new jail under the supervision of the Secretary. Management of the jail was transferred to the Department of Justice in 1872, but the Secretary retained responsibility for its construction until it's completed in 1878. From 1866 to 1872 the Secretary had supervisory duties concerning the House of Correction for Boys, or Reform School for Boys, in district, and until 1873 had some authority concerning police matters in the district. These duties were also transferred to the Department of Justice.

From 1851 to 1940 the Secretary of the Interior also had responsibilities concerning the care and education of handicapped persons and the medical care of indigents in the District. Usually, the Secretary controlled the disbursement of congressional appropriations for certain government and privately operated educational and charitable institutions that were required to submit reports to the Secretary. The government operated institutions were the Government Hospital for the Insane (renamed St. Elizabeth's Hospital in 1916) and Freedmen's Hospital; the private institutions included the Columbia Institution for the Deaf (later renamed Gallaudet College), Maryland School for the Blind, Columbia Hospital for Women, National Soldiers and Sailors Orphaned Home, Howard University, Washington Hospital for Foundlings, Children's Hospital, and Pennsylvania Institution for Feebleminded Children. In 1940 functions of the Department concerning the Columbia Institution, Howard University, and the two government operated hospitals were transferred to the Federal Security Agency. Also at that time the orphaned home was closed, the responsibilities for feebleminded children were transferred to the Board of Children's Guardians of the District, and the functions concerning the other institutions were transferred to the Commissioners of the District Of Columbia.

The duties of the Secretary of the Interior concerning private corporations in the district included the approval of rails used by railroads and streetcar companies with terminals in the district. Certain officials of the district, although not associated by statute with the Department of the Interior, were regularly included in lists and reports of employees of the department, and some reported to the Secretary of the Interior. These officials were the recorder (register) of deeds, register of wills, inspector of gas beaters, and Inspector of coal and wood. Other duties of the Secretary of the Interior concerning the District of Columbia concerned the conveyance of low ground Lotz, the establishment of a zoological Park, and acquisition of land for Meridian Hill Park.

Another function delegated to the Secretary of the Interior, and he eventually assigned to a Division of Public Documents, involved the distribution of printed materials. Beginning in 1857, Congress required the Secretary to distribute certain journals and documents of Congress previously distributed by the Secretary of State and Library of Congress. Two years later, Congress made the Secretary responsible for the retention of record copies and distribution of all U.S. Government printed journals and other books and documents, except for those printed or purchased for the particular use of Congress, the President, or executive departments. In 1861, the Secretary was given responsibility for the compilation of a biennial register of federal employees entitled the Official Register of United States and popularly known as the Biennial Register or "Blue Book." In 1869 the Secretary appointed a Superintendent of Public Documents to carry out these responsibilities. The Superintendent headed the Division of Public Documents until he was transferred to the Office of the Public Printer in 1895. The Division of Public Documents, renamed the Division of Documents, was retained in the office of the Secretary and continued to distribute documents until 1906, when responsibility for the Biennial Register was transferred to the Director of Census of the Interior Department.

The Returns Office, headed by a returns clerk, was established by legislation in the office of the Secretary in 1862 to prevent fraud in the letting of contracts for office supplies, ordnance, etc.. It was to service and maintain copies of contracts issued by the War, Navy, and Interior Departments. The Office was transferred to the General Accounting Office in 1929.

The administrative duties of the Secretary of the Interior grew substantially between 1869 in 1910. These new responsibilities related to education, parks, Territories, railroad accounts, geological surveys, reclamation, labor, and mines.

The Department Of Education was established as an independent agency in 1867 and was made a bureau of the Department of the Interior two years later. Called the Bureau of Education until 1929 in there after the Office of Education, its principal functions were to collect and disseminate information about education and generally to promote the cause of primary and secondary education. In 1884 the Bureau was made responsible for the education of all school age children in Alaska. However, in 1905 supervision of public schools for white children and children of mixed blood was transferred to the Governor of Alaska; the Bureau retained control only of schools for Native Children. Also in 1905 the Bureau undertook medical work and economic assistance for Alaskan Natives, including the introduction of reindeer into Alaska. In 1931 the Alaska Division of the Office of Education was transferred to the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Office of Education was transferred to the Federal Security Agency in 1939.

The first national park, Yellowstone, was established in 1872 and placed under the supervision of the Secretary of the Interior. All national parks established there after were placed under the control of the Secretary of the Interior. On the other hand, national monuments established by the President under the "Antiquities Act" of June 8, 1906 (34 Stat. 225), were administered by the executive departments having jurisdiction over the areas in which the monuments were located; namely, Agriculture, Interior, and War. The 1906 act also authorize the Secretary of the Interior to grant permits for archaeological explorations upon lands under the Department's jurisdiction. The supervision of national parks and those monuments, including archaeological sites, under the jurisdiction of the Interior Department remained in the office of the Secretary until 1916, when the National Park Service was established within the Department. In 1933 all national monuments under the jurisdiction of other departments, certain other areas of historical sickbed tickets, and the National Capitol Parks were transferred to the National Park Service.

 

Entries 1-50 | Entries 51-100 | Entries 101-150 | Entries 151-200 | Entries 201-250 | Entries 251-300 | Entries 301-350 | Entries 351-400 | Entries 401-450 | Entries 451-500 | Entries 501-550 | Entries 551-600 | Entries 601-650 | Entries 651-700 | Entries 701-750

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