Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library [ONRL]
(Record Group 45)
1691-1945 (bulk 1794-1927)
2,995 cu. ft.
Table of Contents
- 45.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
- 45.2 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY OF THE NAVY
1,127 lin. ft.
- 45.2.1 General records
- 45.2.2 Fiscal records
- 45.2.3 Personnel records
- 45.2.4 Legal records
- 45.2.5 Miscellaneous records
- 45.3 RECORDS OF THE BOARD OF NAVY COMMISSIONERS
109 lin. ft.
- 45.4 RECORDS OF BUREAUS OF THE NAVY DEPARTMENT
38 lin. ft.
- 45.4.1 Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks
- 45.4.2 Records of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography
- 45.4.3 Records of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and
- 45.4.4 Records of the Bureau of Construction and Repair
- 45.4.5 Records of the Bureau of Steam Engineering
- 45.4.6 Records of the Bureau of Navigation
- 45.4.7 Records of the Bureau of Equipment
- 45.5 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE CHIEF OF NAVAL OPERATIONS
159 lin. ft.
- 45.5.1 Records of the Office of Naval Intelligence
- 45.5.2 Records of the Ships Movements Division
- 45.5.3 Records of the Communications Division
- 45.5.4 Records of the Division of Operating Forces
- 45.5.5 Miscellaneous records
- 45.6 RECORDS OF NAVAL SHORE ESTABLISHMENTS
21 lin. ft.
- 45.7 RECORDS OF BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS
2 lin. ft.
- 45.7.1 Records of the Board for Testing Ordnance
- 45.7.2 Records of the Board to Prepare a Code of Regulations for
the Government of the Navy
- 45.7.3 Records of the Naval Examining Board
- 45.7.4 Records of the Permanent Commission
- 45.7.5 Records of the Joint Army and Navy Board
- 45.7.6 Records of the Board for the Examination of Officers for
- 45.7.7 Records of the Commission to Ascertain the Cost of
Removing the Naval Observatory
- 45.8 RECORDS AND PAPERS ACQUIRED FROM GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS AND
100 lin. ft.
- 45.8.1 Records acquired from the War Department
- 45.8.2 Records acquired from the Department of the Treasury
- 45.8.3 Records acquired from the State Department
- 45.8.4 Records acquired from private citizens
- 45.8.5 Records acquired from foreign sources
- 45.8.6 Records acquired from various sources relating to the
government and citizens of the Confederate States of America
- 45.9 "AREA" AND "SUBJECT" FILES
1,225 lin. ft.
- 45.10 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
- 45.11 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)
Established: ONRL established in the Office of the Secretary of the Navy by an omnibus appropriation act (38 Stat. 1025), March 4, 1915.
In the Department of the Navy:
- Navy Department Library (NDL), Office of the Secretary of the Navy (1800-82)
- NDL, Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Bureau of Navigation (BuNav, 1882-84)
- Naval War Records Office (NWRO), NDL, ONI, BuNav (1882-84)
- Office of Library and Naval War Records (OLNWR), ONI, BuNav (1884-89)
- OLNWR, Office of the Secretary of the Navy (1889-1915)
- Historical Section, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OCNO, 1918-26)
Transfers: To ONI, OCNO, by order of the Secretary of the Navy, July 1, 1919.Functions: Performed archival and library functions (collection, arrangement, description, publication, and reference) on the noncurrent permanently valuable records of the Department of the Navy.
Abolished: By merger with the Office of Naval History, March 10, 1949, pursuant to instructions from the Chief of Naval Operations.
Successor Agencies: Naval Records and History Division (1949-52); Naval History Division (1952-71); and Naval Historical Center (1971- ).
Finding Aids: James R. Masterson, comp., "Preliminary Checklist of the Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library," PC 30 (1945).
Related Records: Administrative records and general correspondence of the Office of Naval Records and Library, 1885-1945, and of the Historical Section, 1917-19, in RG 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
NDL established by order of President John Adams, March 31, 1800. Transferred to the ONI, BuNav, by General Order 292, Navy Department, March 23, 1882. Nucleus of Naval Records Collection dates from establishment of NWRO (also known as the Office of Records of the Rebellion) as an unofficial adjunct to NDL, 1882, to compile for publication primary source documents on naval aspects of the Civil War. NWRO formally consolidated with NDL by Naval Appropriation Act (23 Stat. 185), July 7, 1884, to form OLNWR, which returned to the Office of the Secretary of the Navy, October 19, 1889, at which time the pre-1886 office files of the Secretary were transferred to it. OLNWR redesignated ONRL, 1915 (SEE 45.1). Historical Section, established in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, July 18, 1918, to collect records relating to U.S. Navy operations in World War I, merged functionally into ONRL by order of the Secretary of the Navy, July 1, 1919, and consolidated legislatively by the Navy Appropriation Act (44 Stat. 595), May 21, 1926. During the period between World War I and World War II, ONRL acquired many documents relating to naval history from private and public sources. The Naval Records Collection was transferred to the National Archives in November 1942.
History: Department of the Navy established by act of April 30, 1798 (1 Stat. 553), assuming responsibility for naval affairs formerly vested in the War Department. Reconstituted as a military department under the National Military Establishment (NME) pursuant to the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 500), July 26, 1947, and continued as such under the Department of Defense, which superseded the NME pursuant to the National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 578), August 10, 1949.
Textual Records: Letters sent, 1798-1886. Confidential letters sent, 1861-75. Uncoded versions of letters sent in cipher, 1888- 1910. Letters received, 1801-86. Decoded versions of letters received in cipher, 1888-1910. Issuances, 1798-1913, with gaps.
Microfilm Publications: M89, M124, M125, M147, M148, M149, M209, M441, M472, M480, M518, M977, M984.
Related Records: Correspondence of the Office of the Secretary of the Navy in RG 80, General Records of the Department of the Navy, 1798-1947.
Textual Records: Letters sent by the Accountant of the Navy, 1798-1800. Letters received from the 4th Auditor and 2d Comptroller of the Treasury, 1847-84. Letters received from the Secretary of the Treasury, 1884. Ledgers, 1811-13, 1845-51. Registers of bills and warrants, 1811-65. Inventories of naval stores and property, 1798-1800, 1878, 1885-1913.
Textual Records: Correspondence concerning appointments and resignations, 1803-90. Muster rolls and payrolls, 1798-1859. Rosters, 1798-1889. Registers of applications and appointments, 1814-87. Registers of regular officers, 1798-1874; and volunteer officers, 1861-79. Registers of officers' orders, 1823-73.
Textual Records: Case files, 1846-74. Records relating to prizes, prize cases, and the awarding of prize money, 1861-74. Records relating to prisoners of war, 1862-65. Records of examining boards, 1867, 1871-72. Contract ledgers, 1834-56. Records of proceedings of courts of inquiry into restoring retired officers to active duty, 1857-59. Correspondence relating to fraud investigations, 1864-65. Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General, consisting of court-martial records, 1799-1867; and miscellaneous case files, 1863-83.
Related Records: Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Navy), RG 125.
Textual Records: Letters relating to the Barbary pirates, 1803-8. Correspondence relating to the reception of liberated Africans in Liberia, including letters from the American Colonization Society, 1818-58. Letters sent relating to the Naval Asylum, 1834-40. Records relating to the operations of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps in the Second Seminole War, 1835-42.
History: Established by an act of February 7, 1815 (3 Stat. 202), to consist of three officers attached to the Secretary's office to provide assistance in the discharge of his official duties. Responsibilities confined in practice to logistical matters (supply and construction). Abolished by an act of August 31, 1842 (5 Stat. 579), and superseded by autonomous bureaus (SEE 45.4).
Textual Records: Official journal of the board, 1815-42, with a register, 1825-42. Letters sent, 1815-42, with a register, 1817- 42. Letters received, 1814-42. Reports from the Chief Naval Constructor, 1827-34. Contracts, 1794-1842. Inventories of naval stores in navy yards, 1814-16, 1825-43; and in shore establishments, 1819-42. Navy yard budget estimates, 1835-36. Journals of timber expeditions, 1817-19.
History: Bureaus of Naval Yards and Docks; Construction, Equipment, and Repairs; Provisions and Clothing; Ordnance and Hydrography; and Medicine and Surgery established by an act of August 31, 1842 (5 Stat. 579), as successors to the Board of Naval Commissioners. Existing bureaus were reorganized and increased to eight (Yards and Docks, Provisions and Clothing, Ordnance, Equipment and Recruiting, Construction and Repair, Steam Engineering, Navigation, and Medicine and Surgery) by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510). (For subsequent histories of these bureaus, see History blocks below.) Bureaus gradually replaced by unified commands reporting to the Chief of Naval Operations, beginning in 1966.
History: Established as the Bureau of Naval Yards and Docks, 1842. Renamed Bureau of Yards and Docks, 1862. Abolished by Department of Defense Reorganization Order, March 9, 1966.
Textual Records: Payrolls of civilian employees, 1811-79. Letters received from timber agents ("Live Oak Letters"), 1828-59. Reports of experiments on preserving timber against marine worms, 1850-55. History (1797-1875) of the Boston Navy Yard, by Commodore George Henry Preble, 1875.
Microfilm Publications: M118.
Related Records: Records of the Bureau of Naval Yards and Docks and the Bureau of Yards and Docks in RG 71, Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks.
History: Established, 1842. Redesignated Bureau of Ordnance, with hydrographic functions to Bureau of Navigation, 1862. Abolished by an act of August 18, 1959 (73 Stat. 395), with functions to Bureau of Naval Weapons.
Textual Records: Letters received relating to hydrography, 1842- 62. Journals of the North Pacific Exploring Expedition, 1853-56.
Microfilm Publications: M88.
Related Records: General records of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in RG 74, Records of the Bureau of Ordnance. Hydrographic records of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in RG 37, Records of the Hydrographic Office.
History: Established, 1842. Abolished, 1862, with functions divided among Bureaus of Equipment and Recruiting, Construction and Repair, and Steam Engineering.
Textual Records: Statistics on the cost of naval construction, 1825-53. Reports on the sailing qualities of naval vessels, 1826- 48. Reports of engineers, 1844-50.
Related Records: Records of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs in RG 19, Records of the Bureau of Ships.
History: Established as one of the successors to Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs, 1862. Consolidated with the Bureau of Engineering by an act of June 20, 1940 (54 Stat. 492), to form Bureau of Ships.
Textual Records: Register of contracts, 1865-76.
Related Records: Records of the Bureau of Construction and Repair in RG 19, Records of the Bureau of Ships.
History: Established as one of the successors to Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs, 1862. Redesignated Bureau of Engineering by an act of June 4, 1920 (41 Stat. 828). Consolidated with Bureau of Construction and Repair by an act of June 20, 1940 (54 Stat. 492), to form Bureau of Ships.
Textual Records: Register of acting assistant engineers, 1861-65. Report of machinery inspection on U.S.S. Trenton, 1886.
Related Records: Records of the Bureau of Steam Engineering in RG 19, Records of the Bureau of Ships.
History: Established as one of the successors to Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs, 1862. Initially responsible for providing nautical charts and instruments and for supervising the Naval Observatory, Hydrographic Office, and Nautical Almanac Office. Acquired personnel responsibilities in an exchange of functions with the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting in the Navy Department reorganization of June 30, 1889, under General Order 372, Navy Department, June 25, 1889. Redesignated Bureau of Naval Personnel by an act of May 13, 1942 (56 Stat. 276).
Textual Records: Letters sent relating to resignations and appointments, 1813-42. Cruising reports on naval vessels, 1895- 1910. Daily reports of vessel arrivals and departures, 1897-1910. Register of movements of vessels, 1900-10.
Related Records: General records of the Bureau of Navigation in RG 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel. Hydrographic records of the Bureau of Navigation in RG 37, Records of the Hydrographic Office.
History: Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting established as one of the successors to the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs, 1862. Initially responsible for recruiting and equipping officers and managing naval enlisted personnel. Acquired responsibility for supervision of the Naval Observatory, Nautical Almanac Office, Office of the Superintendent of Compasses, and Office of the Inspector of Electrical Appliances in an exchange of functions with the Bureau of Navigation in the Navy Department reorganization of June 30, 1889, under General Order 372, Navy Department, June 25, 1889. Acquired Hydrographic Office from Bureau of Navigation by General Order 72, Department of the Navy, May 9, 1898, implementing an act of May 4, 1898 (30 Stat. 374). Redesignated Bureau of Equipment by the Naval Services Appropriation Act (26 Stat. 192), June 30, 1890. Functionally abolished by redistribution of responsibilities pursuant to an act of June 24, 1910 (36 Stat. 613), effective June 30, 1910. Formally abolished by act of June 30, 1914 (38 Stat. 408).
Textual Records: Letters sent by the resident inspector at the Union Iron Works, San Francisco, CA, 1888-90. Records relating to the installation of wireless telegraphs at the Puget Sound Naval Yard, WA, and the San Juan Naval Station, PR, 1907.
Related Records: Records of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs and the Bureau of Equipment in RG 19, Records of the Bureau of Ships. Records of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting in RG 24, Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel.
History: Established by the Navy Appropriation Act (38 Stat. 929), March 3, 1915, to function as a naval general staff, with the Chief of Naval Operations as ranking naval officer and principal uniformed adviser to the Secretary of the Navy. (For a detailed administrative history, SEE RG 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.)
Textual Records: Letters, reports, and other communications sent by naval attaches in London, 1889-1914. Letters sent and received by Lt. Nathan Sargent, naval attache in Rome, Vienna, and Berlin, 1889-93. Reference copies of letters, telegrams, and reports sent and received by the Office of the Secretary of the Navy and BuNav relating to disturbances in Latin America, 1903-14, including Panama, 1903-4, Santo Domingo, 1904-7, and Cuba, 1906; and to the Chinese Revolution, 1911-12. War diaries of U.S. Navy vessels, 1917-27.
Related Records: Additional records of the Office of Naval Intelligence in RG 38, Records of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations.
Textual Records: Movement reports of naval vessels, including submarines, 1892-1941.
Textual Records: Retained copies of messages sent and received by various units of the Navy Department, 1912-26; and by U.S. naval stations, France, and U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, 1917-23.
Textual Records: Letters sent and other records of the Commander- in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, 1917- 19. Messages sent and received by the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces in France, 1918-20. Correspondence of the Commander, Mine Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet, 1918-19.
Textual Records: Unconditional surrender documents of Japanese military, naval, air, home guard, and civilian forces on islands in the Pacific, August-October 1945.
Textual Records: Correspondence, orders, logs, and miscellaneous records of the Baltimore Naval Station, 1863-64; Charlestown (Boston) Navy Yard, 1814-67; Gosport (Norfolk, VA) Navy Yard, 1840; Havana Naval Station, 1899-1903; Key West Naval Air Station, 1918-19; Mare Island, CA, Navy Yard, 1854-91; Mound City, IL, Naval Station, 1864-71; New Orleans Naval Station, 1863-67; Newport Torpedo Station, n.d.; New York (Brooklyn) Navy Yard, 1815-75; Pensacola Naval Air Station, 1911-14; Pensacola Navy Yard, 1837-1911; Philadelphia Navy Yard, 1823-76; Portsmouth, NH, Navy Yard, 1840-45; Rio Grande Station (Brownsville, TX), 1875-79; U.S. Naval Academy, 1852; and Washington, DC, Navy Yard, 1814-1909.
Engineering Plans (35 items): Sail plan profiles and other ship plans drawn by sailmaker Charles Ware at Charlestown (Boston) Navy Yard, and by others, 1812-54. SEE ALSO 45.10.
Related Records: Records of Naval Districts and Shore Establishments, RG 181. Records of the United States Naval Academy, RG 405.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy, July 12, 1836. Terminated September 1837.
Textual Records: Minutes of meetings, August 1836-September 1837.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy, August 3, 1857, pursuant to provisions of the Naval Appropriation Act (11 Stat. 243), March 3, 1857. Terminated February 19, 1858.
Textual Records: Board journal, August 1857-February 1858.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy, December 27, 1861, to examine and report upon various matters, particularly "plans, propositions, and suggestions" made to the Navy Department by outside parties. Terminated December 1865.
Textual Records: Minutes of meetings, January-July 1862. Letters referred to the board, March 1861-July 1862.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy, February 11, 1863, as a successor to the Naval Examining Board in "questions of science and art." Terminated December 1865.
Textual Records: Minutes of meetings, 1863-64. Correspondence, 1863-65. Letters referred, 1861-65.
History: Established jointly by the Secretary of the Navy and the Secretary of War, February 15, 1866, to consider and report upon harbor defenses. Terminated July 14, 1866.
Textual Records: Board journal, March-July 1866.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy pursuant to act of April 21, 1864 (13 Stat. 53). Terminated April 1869.
Textual Records: Letters sent, October 1868-April 1869.
History: Established by the Secretary of the Navy pursuant to an act of June 20, 1878 (20 Stat. 241). Terminated December 7, 1878.
Textual Records: Commission journal, July-December 1878.
Textual Records: Letters sent by the Secretary of War to naval officers, constructors, shipbuilders, and others, 1790-98. Records of the Philadelphia Arsenal relating to military and naval supplies, 1796-1814. Correspondence between the Secretary of War and Samuel Hodgdon and John Harris, storekeepers at the Philadelphia Arsenal, relating to the arming of frigates and warships, 1795-98.
Microfilm Publications: M739.
Textual Records: Indexes to bonds executed by navy paymasters, 1809-65. Notes on naval fiscal matters, 1844-62.
Textual Records: Letters from collectors of customs to the Secretary of State relating to commissions for privateers, 1812- 13.
Textual Records: Originals and copies of logs, journals, and sea diaries of naval officers, 1776-1910, including copies of logs of the U.S.S. Wasp, 1776; U.S.S. Ranger, 1777-80; U.S.S. Bonhomme Richard, 1779; H.M.S. Serapis, 1779; H.M.S. Alliance, 1779-80; and H.M.S. Ariel, 1780; copies of logs kept aboard U.S.S. Constitution, 1798-1894; log of the U.S.S. Monitor, 1862; and logs and journals of American privateers and merchant vessels, 1776-1869. Letter books of naval officers, 1778-1909.
Microfilm Publications: M206, M875, M876, M981, M1034, T1097.
Engineering Plans (110 items): Ship plans, sketches, and statistical compilations relating to the construction of U.S., British, and French Navy ships, and U.S. drydock facilities, prepared or collected by Naval Constructor Francis Grice, 1813- 51. SEE ALSO 45.10.
Textual Records: Documents and copies of documents, 1691-1908, many of them concerning the British Navy, including logs and journals of naval and merchant vessels, 1775-1889; documents relating to John Paul Jones, 1778-79; and registers of U.S. prisoners in Halifax, Barbados, Jamaica, and Quebec, 1805-15.
Textual Records: Account books of naval vessels and payrolls of civilian personnel at naval shore establishments, 1861-64. Muster rolls, payrolls, logs, and journals of Confederate privateers, 1861.
Related Records: War Department Collection of Confederate Records, RG 109. Treasury Department Collection of Confederate Records, RG 365.
History: Two collections of records, one arranged by geographical region ("Area File") and the other by topic ("Subject File"), were created by ONRL staff during the period 1924-42 by combining loose documents obtained from departmental and other sources with original records in the Naval Records Collection. During the period 1918-27, the historical Section created two similar collections of records dealing with World War I and the postwar decade.
Textual Records: "Area File" and "Subject File," 1775-1910. "Area File" and "Subject File" of records, separated from the 1775-1910 collections, dealing with the Confederate States Navy, 1861-65. "Area File" and "Subject File," 1911-27.
Microfilm Publications: M625, M1091.
Maps and Charts (508 items): Separated from the 1775-1910 "Subject File," relating to naval operations, engagements with enemy vessels, naval bases, hydrographic surveys, and public land surveys, ca. 1775-1910 (280 items). Separated from the 1911-27 "Subject File," relating to World War I mining operations, convoy and submarine activities, and naval bases, ca. 1914-18 (228 items).
Maps and Charts: Photostatic copies of historical maps and charts of the Mediterranean Sea area (ca. 1780-1816), n.d.
SEE Maps and Charts UNDER 45.9. SEE Engineering Plans UNDER 45.6 and 45.8.4.
Posters: Used by the U.S. Navy during World War I in recruiting and as a means of involving civilian and navy personnel in the war effort, 1914-18 (WP).
Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States. Compiled by Robert B. Matchette et al. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1995.
3 volumes, 2428 pages.
This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.