Third Time’s a Charm?

Last Friday was our third and final trip to the national archive in DC. I personally wanted to make sure that I not only was obtaining as much information as possible but that I was also ensuring that I fully understood the files that I had already discovered to be useful. Thus, I asked for some files to be pulled a second time, so that I could take another look at them after obtaining contextual information from my secondary research.

For example, the file on Dr. Hume, which I mentioned in my last post, was no longer terribly shocking, as I had learned that medical examiners often made excuses to exclude certain persons from entry (but it’s still unclear even after a second read if Hume was doing this on purpose). Diagnosis discrepancies were not terribly common, however, so Hume remains a special case, in addition to another doctor, Dr. Wright, who’s file was found by another member of the group. He was found to be delivering clean bills of health to those who were actually ill, allowing them entry when another examiner would have excluded them.[1] Unsurprisingly, Dr. Wright was fired for this misdiagnosis in 1912, though he was able to continue practicing medicine at the hospital he also worked at. Hume, on the other hand, faced little to no repercussions; a sternly worded letter from the surgeon-general and a period of supervision by another examiner but held the position of Assistant Quarantine Surgeon until his death in 1939 when he was hit by a truck.[2] This is almost definitely due to Hume falsely excluding rather than falsely allowing entry. I had not realized prior to this that examiners at ports of entry actually did not work for the Immigration Service, but rather for the Department of Public Health.[3] I’m not sure how this different chain of command would have affected the examinations, but it is definitely one more thing to look into.

Also, another aspect I had never connected was the refugee crisis surrounding the Mexican Revolution/Civil War around 1914, which is right in the time period we are looking at for El Paso. I was given three massive boxes full of files pertaining to Mexican emigrants, looking to get away from the conflict in Texas. This influx was a strain on the administrative side of El Paso and the Immigration Service overall, with letters between the Secretary of War, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of Labor and the Supervising Inspector at El Paso.[4] While I lacked the time to fully read through all of these files, it did create a connection to international relations that I was previously unaware of. Time to start pulling everything together for the final product


[1] Inconsistency, file 53,431-025 Accession E9, subject correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington D.C).

[2] Texas Department of Health, “Death Certificate for Lea Hume,” July 28, 1939.

[3]  More Experienced for Mexican Border, file 53,511-003 accession E9, subject correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington D.C).

[4] File 53,108-071 , file 53,511-003 accession E9, subject correspondence, 1906-1932, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, RG 85 (National Archives, Washington D.C)

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