Archival Experience #1 – Courtlyn Plunkett

Friday, September 27, 2019 was our first class trip to the National Archives. The trip was an adventurous and educational experience. Seeing how the actual archives look in comparison to looking on the computer was an eye-opening process. However, there were a lot of trial and errors when it came to finding valuable sources. I received only one box of files to begin my research, within the file were numerous folders. The first five of my files were sadly not exactly about my research topic. Throughout these files, I learned a lot about the Philadelphia Immigration Station and how there were numerous cases of people being found guilty of being an alien and an LPC. As well, there were numerous records of fines being made to commanders of ships for smuggling aliens into the United States. The fines ranged from $10 to $300. It was not until my last three files that I was able to find information more relevant to my research topic, Angel Island. I received files from Angel Island Station, specifically Special Inquiry applications from immigrants coming through Angel Island. It provided the board’s decision on whether they are to be allowed or not. Another interesting piece I found were images of the men immigrating as well as Alien Affidavits. The Alien Affidavits had pictures of the aliens and their finger prints. This was a pretty cool piece to find. 

            Along with all this new information I found, there was one saying that stuck out to me while I was reading through my archival files. It was found whenever the board was making their decision to exclude the immigrant into the United States. For example, it stated “You are excluded as an alien enemy under the provisions of the President’s Proclamation of April 6, 1917, and also on the grounds that you are a person likely to become a public charge.” I am familiar with what an LPC is but unfamiliar with what the President’s Proclamation was. Doing further research has led to me to find out that this proclamation was made by Woodrow Wilson and was to minimize the threat of German aliens into the United States. This piece of information makes sense when reviewing the archival information I found. The majority of the work I found were about German immigrants. In particular, an archive that I found useful was a case file on German detainee named Theodor Ebsen. Within his file there was correspondence letters to and from Churchill. As well, it provided his special inquiry at Angel Island Station about admission to the United States and his Alien Affidavit. His Alien Affidavit includes his photograph, fingerprints, and factual information about himself. This piece of archival research could be useful for our project because it gives us information on how the immigration service worked and how they decided who was to be excluded. Since we are looking into Angel Island, it is interesting to see the diversity of all who came and were detained there. Therefore, in order to understand Angel Island’s operations, we must look at individual records of those who were detained there. This will allow us to determine what the determining factors were if they were to be excluded or not. As well, we need to look into a certain time frame of Angel Island to determine where the majority of the immigrants were coming from and the laws that affected their immigration statuses. 

Brigadier General M. Churchill, Director of Military Intelligence, Washington, D.C., May 21, 1919, File 54590-19, accession E9, Subject Correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington, DC).

 U.S., President, Proclamation,”Alien Enemy Regulation” Statutes at Large, vol. XL, Part 2, pp. 1651-1652; U.S., President , Proclamation, “Additional and Supplemental Regulations Concerning Alien Enemies” Statutes at Large, vol. XL, Part 2, pp. 1716-1718.

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