Letters and Financial Reports, June-December 1870, and Letters and Endorsements Pertaining to Trusses, November 1875-July 1884, by Assistant Surgeon John S. Billings

There are now 26.7 million descriptions and 136 million digital objects (images) in the National Archives Catalog. Those figures will continue to grow.

One recently digitized series – that consists of just one item (one volume) – is the “Letters and Financial Reports, June-December 1870, and Letters and Endorsements Pertaining to Trusses, November 1875-July 1884, by Assistant Surgeon John S. Billings” (National Archives Identifier 15501038).

A truss is a prosthetic appliance used by a person with a hernia. The Act of Congress of May 28, 1872 (17 Statutes at Large 164), “An Act to provide for furnishing Trusses to disabled Soldiers,” entitled “every soldier of the Union army who was ruptured while in the line of duty” during the Civil War “to receive a single or double truss of such style as may be designated by the Surgeon-General of the United States Army as the best suited for such disability.” Section 2 of the act directed the soldier to make his request to “an examining surgeon for pensions” who would “prepare and forward the application” without charge. Section 3 of the act directed the Surgeon General to purchase trusses “at a price not greater than the same are sold to the trade at wholesale.”

This volume contains two different sets of fair copies of correspondence sent by Assistant Surgeon General and Brevet Lieutenant Colonel John S. Billings.

Pages 1-32 contain fair copies of correspondence sent by Dr. Billings from June 1, 1870, to December 31, 1870, and related records. These are letters to various payees who received government checks for services or supplies; suppliers of artificial limbs concerning limbs for specific veterans; and others. There are copies of receipts issued for money received from the sale of surplus U.S. Government property as well as weekly financial statements submitted to the Surgeon General concerning the financial condition of the Medical and Hospital Department, Army Medical Museum, Surgeon General’s Office Library, and the funds for the “Comfort of Sick and Discharged Soldiers.” Pages 23-32 (August 6 – December 31, 1870) consist solely of financial statements.

Pages 35-49 contain a name index arranged roughly alphabetical by the initial letter of the surname. Each entry includes the person’s name and the page number in this volume upon which correspondence was recorded.

Page 51-201 and 204-237 contain fair copies of letters sent and endorsements made by Dr. Billings concerning trusses from November 1875 to May 1884. Letters were recorded on the upper section of pages 51-71 while an endorsement on an unrelated matter was recorded sideways on the lower section of pages 51-58, 62-65, 70-71, 85, 100, 109, and 151, and sideways on the upper section of page 165. Letters addressed to manufacturers are primarily purchase orders or, in a few cases, complaints about specific truss models. Many letters to U.S. Pension Examining Surgeons and other physicians are notifications that individual soldiers were ineligible to receive a free replacement truss, while others address concerns about a truss issued to a particular pensioner. There is also correspondence with pensioners and the Pension Office. The endorsements copied into this volume were made on truss applications returned to examining surgeons with directions to obtain measurements necessary to provide the applicants with the correct size truss. A sample of the form of notice that the Act of May 28, 1872, permitted only one truss per soldier was inserted loosely at pages 358-359. Page 358 also contains a brief note in shorthand. For unknown reasons, an anatomical diagram of the “venus sinusesal base of brain” was inserted loosely at pages 360-361.

Pages 33-34, 202-203, 238-357, and 359 are blank.

The 1950 Census Training Timetable

Successful accomplishment of a project requires a plan. If that project involves other people, they need to be trained to do the task correctly the first time. No do-overs, please!

The Bureau of the Census needed to hire and train 140,000 enumerators (all temporary workers) to count 152.3 million people during the course of the 1950 census. A four-month training plan was devised beginning with “Chief Instructors” who taught “Instructors” who taught “Crew Leaders” who then taught the Enumerators. The time schedule was tight for a reason. If you train people too far in advance of when before they need the information, they will forget important details. Adapted from 1950 Census: It Took More Than 148,000 People to Make it Happen!

Item, “Technical Training Program – 1950 Census” from “[Folder 2] Flow Charts, 17th Decennial Census, 1950” (NAID 195980236), in series “Narrative Histories, Committee Minutes, and Procedural Manuals Primarily Relating to the 17th Decennial Census” (NAID 5634057).

Sharp Dressed Men of the 1880s – and a Few Women, Too

I recently wrote about District of Columbia police mug shots of criminals (primarily from 1883-1890) held by the National Archives in “Mug Books: An Unusual Avenue of Genealogical Inquiry” on “The Unwritten Record” blog of the National Archives. As one commenter noted there – “they are all dressed well…” – hence the title for this post.

Most of the mug shots were created by the DC police, but there are others collected from the police departments of New York City and Philadelphia. One of the most striking things about this series is that over 100 of the 717 cards in this series are for persons were arrested on March 4-6 of 1885 or 1889. This was not a coincidence. The presidential inaugurations of Presidents Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison occurred on March 4, 1885, and March 4, 1889, respectively. One can imagine professional pickpockets and other con men going to Washington, DC, to ply their trade in the well-off crowd visiting the capital for the big event. This was most likely true of famous professional criminal Charles Hallert, alias “Red Hyle” or “Cincinnati Red,” and his friend Charley Williams, alias Shane Campbell, who were both arrested on March 6, 1885. Red Hyle, “one of the most celebrated hotel thieves in this country” is profiled by NYC Chief of Detectives Thomas Byrnes in Professional Criminals of America (New York: Cassell & Company, Ltd.), at pages 109-110.

The significant “inaugural connection” of this series is not immediately obvious at a casual glance. It is an example of an archival truth – it can take deep immersion in a body of records to truly understand them. In this case, while laboriously tagging each photo in the National Archives Catalog, it eventually struck me that I was seeing “March 4” over and over again. I knew March 4 was inauguration day in the 19th century. Then I checked which years the “March 4” cards were from. With but one exception, they were from 1885 and 1889. Inauguration Day.

I hope that researchers will thoroughly study this series. There are undoubtedly many other interesting things that can be learned from it.

Identification Card No. 190, Harry Stevens (National Archives Identifier 75449274)

Counting Down to the Opening of the 1950 Census!

The “countdown clock” to the right shows you how many days remain until the digital opening of the 1950 census on 1 April 2022. It will be here faster than you think! Time to get ready!

Therefore, I’ve started writing about the 1950 census on the History Hub website with the first installment today: “1950 Census: How the Census Forms and Procedures Were Developed.”

Death and Burial Practices in World War I and World War II

You’ll want to see a great presentation by Rick Sayre, CG, CGL, FUGA, on Death and Burial Practices in World War I and World War II, a webinar on the Legacy Family Tree Webinars site. Rick walks you through the procedures used to identify, bury, and honor U.S. war dead, and the records created in that process. It’s free to all to view through 26 January 2021.

As the webinar description states: “Much of this webinar focuses on the process of collecting, identifying, and burying the dead, and the resulting records, including their genealogical significance. In World War I (1917–1918) there were 53,402 battle deaths, while in World War II (1941–1945) battle deaths rose to 291,557. There are 124,905 American war dead interred overseas. This webinar also addresses how the United States honors and memorializes those killed in battle, including the role of the American Battle Monuments Commission, the American Gold Star Mothers program, and the operation of the Army’s Grave Registration Service.”

The Ubiquitous Card File

The National Archives recently digitized the Card File of Population Data Relating to the 17th Census, 1950 (National Archives Identifier 2990400). While this card set is mundane and may not be extraordinarily useful, it serves as a good reminder that BCE – “before the computer era” – people, businesses, and government alike used “card files” as a data management tools for quick storage and retrieval of important, useful, or frequently accessed information as discussed in my recent blog post, Census Fun Fact #5 – The Geography Division’s Quick Reference Card File of 1950 Census Population Data. Check it out.

P.S.: The 1950 population census will become available to researchers on April 1, 2022.

Census Fun Fact #4 – The Nonresident Schedule of the 1940 Census

Census Fun Fact #4 – The Nonresident Schedule of the 1940 Census is the fourth installment of my “Census Fun Facts” series on the “History Hub” website. This post takes a quick look at how people away from home were enumerated – and how evidence of one Wisconsin couple’s trip to Florida in the winter/spring of 1940 came to be preserved in the 1940 census.

Census Fun Fact #3 – Do You Own a Radio Set?

Census Fun Fact #3 – Do You Own a Radio Set? is the third installment of my “Census Fun Facts” series on the “History Hub” website. As the “internet” and “social media” of its time, statistics on the rise and extent of radio ownership were important to leaders in government, business, education, and other fields. The 1930 census was the first census to feature a question about technology in the home.