Page images
PDF
EPUB

skilled tasks of the city's work force such as common day labor. White immigrants, on the other hand, although over two-to-one in the manual class, were more evenly dispersed occupationally than either black group and were heavily concentrated in the skilled category. Given the disparity between both black groups and the white immigrants, it is plain that racial considerations were paramount in Miami's employment structure. A foreigner and a native American were treated alike if both were black. With respect to the distribution of native whites, it is not surprising that they occupied the position of greatest strength in relation to the other groups and un

doubtedly enjoyed the greatest number of benefits resulting from the city's wartime prosperity. The key queston of whether the occupational experience of blacks "fits anywhere on the immigrant spectrum” 14 requires further historical investigation. Hopefully, it will receive at least partial treatment from other researchers in their exploration of the World War I Selective Service records available in Atlanta.

14 Stephan Thernstrom, “Immigrants and WASPS: Ethnic Differences in Occupational Mobility in Boston, 1890-1940,” in Stephan Thernstrom and Richard Sennett, eds., Nineteenth-Century Cities: Essays in the New Urban History (New Haven, 1969),

pp. 125-164.

BRINGING THE ARCHIVES INTO THE CLASSROOM:

THE FEDERAL RECORDS CENTER AS

THE HISTORIAN'S LABORATORY

JACK F. KILFOIL

The most effective and stimulating approach to the study of history is that which allows the student to write it himself. Additional incentive is provided if the student is convinced that he is breaking new ground -that his research will perhaps result in a unique contribution to the study of history. In 1971 the history department at California State College, Dominguez Hills, with the cooperation of the Los Angeles Federal Records Center conducted an experimental class in historical methods for undergraduate history majors by using the resources of the records center as a historical laboratory. The following is a description of the pilot project.

First, a dozen items were selected from the center's preliminary inventories. Documents that were in fragile condition or that might be easily disarranged when handled by novice researchers were omitted. From this material three types of records were chosen as especially promising, using as criteria the self-contained nature of the set, the amount of narrative as opposed to printed forms, and the inherent interest of the material, for example, Chinese deportation cases rather than government boundary survey reports.

The assignment to the students was intentionally vague-go to the records center, plan to spend a few hours looking over the selected material in the search room, visit the center at least once again, and complete a report describing the experience. While it was not a requirement, the students were encouraged to try to unearth a story or a coherent sequence of events from the documents. Originally the students were to be given a tour of the records center to acquaint them with the history and purpose of the federal records centers. Unfortunately, a severe earthquake in February 1971 disrupted these plans, and, except for the initial group of six students, orientation was conducted on an individual basis as each student arrived. Because time would not allow this method as a regular procedure, a videotape tour and lecture was produced and in the future will be shown to each class prior to their visit to the center. It was also recommended that students read Gerald T. White, "Government Archives Afield: The Federal Records Centers and the Historian," Journal of American History, 55 (1969) : 833-842.

The student reports produced after contact with archival material varied from general surveys evaluating the usefulness of such primary material to specific topics as, for example, "Racial Discrimination in the Federal Courts (United States District Court, Southern Division), 1912,” “Cigar Smuggling and the United States Customs Office, San Diego, 1880-1886," "Enforcement of the Chinese Exclusion Act in the Second Judicial District of the Territory of Arizona, 1907," and "Indian Families on the Fort Apache Reservation, 1912." These reports demonstrated that the students devoted extraordinary time and effort to the project primarily because they were thrilled at the prospect of seeing and touching the original source materials. One student, although he complained that the archival material was “quite dry and boring,” visited the center more often than required and compiled a report that represented many hours of concentrated reading in a wide range of primary materials. Curiosity and the interest stimulated by contact with old documents acted as powerful attractions. One student stressed that "the work at the archives was a particularly interesting and beneficial exercise primarily because it was

new experience, but also because we seemed to be putting into practice what we had been studying and discussing in class.”

The most common student complaint,

one that had been anticipated, was that they were unable to comprehend the significance of documents because their historical background was inadequate. Several more experienced history majors, prepared with background material, are now using records center resources for more ambitious research projects. The vast majority of Dominguez Hills history majors are preparing for elementary and secondary school teaching careers and probably will never undertake full-scale research projects. Their introduction to archival material was primarily to impress upon them the vast gulf between the raw evidence that has survived and the smooth narrative history texts, which they are assigned and from which they in turn will teach. Students learned that neither historians nor histories are infallible.

Because of the success of the pilot project, a new course, “Research Methods and Field Study," has been added to the history curriculum at Dominguez Hills. Required of all history majors in the junior year, the course seeks to develop critical and bibliographical skills for historical research and provide guided observation and analysis of manuscript collections and specialized libraries. The college will make use of the federal records center, where not only the historian and graduate student but the undegraduate is welcomed.

a

ACCESSIONS AND OPENINGS

by a consultant to the secretary of labor during Phase I of President Nixon's economic stabilization program. Both accessions have been made by the Industrial and Social Branch.

The administrator of general services is authorized by law to accept for accessioning as part of the National Archives of the United States the records of a federal agency or the Congress that the archivist of the United States judges to have sufficient historical or other value to warrant their continued preservation by the United States government. In addition, certain personal papers and privately produced audiovisual materials that relate to federal activities may also be accepted. Normally, only records at least twenty years old are considered for transfer; the chief exceptions are essential documentary sources of federal actions and the records of terminated agencies.

Excluded from the recent accessions described below are those that only fill minor gaps or extend the date span of records already in the custody of the National Archives and Records Service. As noted, some of the accessions have been made by the archives branches of the federal records centers and by the presidential libraries.

Price and wage stabilization controls are not new to the American taxpayer. During the Korean War certain controls were administered by the Office of Price Stabilization (OPS) and the Wage Stabilization Board (WSB), which were units of the Economic Stabilization Agency. The agency was activated during the war to control inflation and to maintain stabilization of the national economy. The Archives Branch, Denver Federal Records Center, has accessioned thirty-one cubic feet of records from 1951 to 1953 of the Denver regional offices of the OPS and WSB, which had responsibility for Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. Among the WSB records received are rulings and opinions case files; a general subject file that includes file headings pertaining to accounting, communications, meetings, cooperation with other federal offices, public relations, and wages; and record copies of minutes of the Eleventh Regional WSB meetings. The Denver OPS office had responsibility for the price stabilization program in the region. Of interest are regional price surveys that indicate price changes during 1952.

The Archives Branch, Kansas City Federal Records Center, has recently accessioned sixteen cubic feet of records created

Cost of Living

The worth of the dollar today may be compared with data reported in over two hundred cubic feet of Bureau of Labor Statistics cost-of-living schedules collected for the periods 1918-19, 1932-33, and 1935-36. What some members of the public thought about efforts to combat more recent inflation is shown in correspondence handled

by field units of the Economic Stabilization Agency. The records consist chiefly of correspondence, newspaper clippings, and Rent Advisory Board minutes, 1950-53, for the Rent Stabilization Office located in Rolla, Missouri; rulings and opinions files, correspondence, subject files, minutes, and publicity materials, 1951-53, for the Kansas City and Minneapolis Regional Wage and Salary Stabilization Offices; and ruling interpretations, reports, and minutes for the Kansas City and Minneapolis Regional Offices of Price Stabilization.

U.S. Grant; several items created by the Confederate States of America, including a letter from J.E.B. Stuart, printed Confederate regulations relating to the preservation of tithe cotton, the activities of produce loan agents, and a small quantity of Confederate currency; and a copy of Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction.

The Dukes County Historical Society, Edgartown, Massachusetts, has donated federal records relating to Fort Sill, Indian Territory, 1867-70, and to Freedmen's Bureau activities in Northern Virginia. These records were discovered in a house on Martha's Vineyard and were formerly in the custody of Colonel Samuel P. Less, who was on active duty in the army during the period covered by the records. The records have been accessioned by the Old Military Branch.

The Legislative, Judicial, and Fiscal Branch has accessioned the records of the National Commission on Consumer Finance, 1970-72. The commission was established by the Consumer Credit Protection Act of 1968 to study the functioning and structure of the consumer credit system in the United States and to report on the availability of credit at reasonable rates and the adequacy of the existing systems of credit regulation. The accession includes correspondence files of the executive director and other staff members; typed transcripts of public hearings held by the commission; minutes of commission meetings; research studies on different aspects of the U.S. credit system done by members of the commission staff and outside experts under contract; questionnaires received from banks and other lenders in response to a commission “survey of creditors' remedies"; and records relating to a major investigation of outstanding loans and rates made for the commission by the Bureau of the Census.

The Modern Military Branch has accessioned five cubic feet of Navy Department Armed Guard reports for the period 1917 to 1918. The records include reports and correspondence submitted by commanding officers of navy gun crews assigned to merchant vessels to protect them in the event of attack by German submarines or surface raiders.

The Archives Branch, Chicago Federal Records Center, has accessioned the following additions to the records of the United States Coast Guard: Marine Inspection Detachment, Chicago, original vessel log books, 1959-67, three cubic feet; Marine Inspection Office, Detroit, original office log books, 1853-1907, two volumes; and Coast Guard Base, Sault Ste. Marie, original vessel log books, 1968-70, one cubic foot.

The Archives Branch, Los Angeles Federal Records Center, has received the following addition to its Coast Guard holdings: USCG Air Station, Los Angeles, unit logs for the period January 1, 1972, to September 30, 1972, one cubic foot; and Coast

War and Peace

Through the generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Stidham, a collection of documents relating to the Civil War has been received by the Legislative, Judicial, and Fiscal Branch. These include letters signed by Andrew Johnson, William T. Sherman, and

« PreviousContinue »