Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Government of the District of Columbia


(Record Group 351)
1791-1978
1,594 cu ft.

Table of Contents

  • 351.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 351.2 GENERAL RECORDS 1838-1978 743 lin. ft.
  • 351.2.1 Records of the Office of the Mayor
  • 351.2.2 Records of the "territorial government"
  • 351.2.3 Records of the temporary and permanent Boards of Commissioners
  • 351.2.4 Records of the Office of the Corporation Counsel
  • 351.2.5 Records of the Office of the Aging
  • 351.2.6 Records of the City Council
  • 351.3 RECORDS RELATING TO FISCAL AFFAIRS 1814-1940 163 lin. ft.
  • 351.4 RECORDS RELATING TO CONSTRUCTION, ENGINEERING, LAND, AND TRANSPORTATION 1791-1968 936 lin. ft. and 624 rolls of microfilm
  • 351.5 RECORDS OF THE METROPOLITAN POLICE 1851-1970 95 lin. ft.
  • 351.6 RECORDS RELATING TO CHARITABLE AND REFORMATORY INSTITUTIONS 1845-1965 23 lin. ft.
  • 351.7 RECORDS OF THE CITY OF GEORGETOWN, DC 1791-1897 13 lin. ft.
  • 351.8 RECORDS OF THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON, DC 1819-1900 9 lin. ft.
  • 351.9 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
  • 351.10 SOUND RECORDINGS (GENERAL)
  • 351.11 MACHINE-READABLE RECORDS (GENERAL)
  • 351.12 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)

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351.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: Effective June 1, 1871, by an act of February 21, 1871 (16 Stat. 419), abolishing the Corporations of the City of Washington, DC, and Georgetown, DC, and the Levy Court of Washington County, DC; and replacing them with a municipal corporation known as the District of Columbia.

Predecessor Agencies:

Municipal government functions:

  • Corporation of Georgetown, MD (1789-91)
  • Corporation of Georgetown, DC (1791-1871)
  • Commissioners for the District of Columbia (1791-1802)
  • Corporation of the City of Washington, DC (1802-71)
  • Corporation of Alexandria, VA (1779-91)
  • Corporation of Alexandria, DC (1791-1846, retroceded to VA)
County government functions:
  • Levy Court of Washington County, DC (1801-71)
  • County Court of Alexandria, DC (1801-46, retroceded to VA)
Functions: Exercises the executive, legislative, and judicial responsibilities of a municipal government; provides special services, as required, for those elements of the Federal Government occupying space within the District of Columbia.

Finding Aids: Dorothy S. Provine, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Government of the District of Columbia, PI 186 (1976); updated version in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Government of the District of Columbia in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government. Records of District Courts of the United States, RG 21.
Records of the Office of Public Buildings and Public Parks of the National Capital, RG 42. Records of the U.S. Senate, RG 46.
Records of the Office of the Secretary of the Interior, RG 48.
Records of the Commission of Fine Arts, RG 66.
Records of the Office of Territories, RG 126.
Records of the Rent Commission of the District of Columbia, RG 132. Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, RG 233.
Records of the National Capital Housing Authority, RG 302.
Records of the National Capital Planning Commission, RG 328.

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351.2 GENERAL RECORDS
1838-1978
743 lin. ft.

History: Establishment of a federal district for seat of U.S. Government authorized by an act of July 16, 1790 (1 Stat. 130). Selection of an area on both sides of the Potomac River from (and including) Corporation of Georgetown, MD, to the Anacostia River announced by President George Washington, January 24, 1791. Additional land acquired from MD and VA (including Corporation of Alexandria, VA), 1791, as authorized by an act of March 3, 1791 (1 Stat. 214). Federal district, unofficially referred to as Territory of Columbia, received official name of District of Columbia by an act of May 6, 1796 (1 Stat. 461).

During the period 1791-1801, government in DC was exercised by the Corporations of Georgetown (incorporated 1789) and Alexandria (incorporated 1779) within their respective jurisdictions; and by three Presidential appointees, known as Commissioners for the District of Columbia, with authority to lay out the future federal city, sell land to private buyers, and construct public buildings.

County government initiated by an act of February 27, 1801 (2 Stat. 103), dividing DC into the County of Washington (comprising territory acquired from MD) and the County of Alexandria (comprising territory acquired from VA), with Presidentially appointed justices of the peace holding executive authority in each county. By an act of March 3, 1801 (2 Stat. 115), the justices of the peace and other county magistrates were constituted as a board of commissioners in each county, with same authority as the levy courts of MD and the county courts of VA; hence known respectively as Levy Court of the County of Washington, DC, and County Court of Alexandria, DC.

Commissioners for the District of Columbia abolished, and City of Washington, DC, incorporated, by an act of May 3, 1802 (2 Stat. 195).

County Court of Alexandria, DC, and Corporation of Alexandria, DC, abolished by an act of July 9, 1846 (9 Stat. 35), returning county and municipality of Alexandria to VA. Corporation of Georgetown, DC, and City of Washington, DC, abolished as municipal corporations, and Levy Court of the County of Washington, DC, abolished, 1871, with functions assumed by newly established government of the District of Columbia. SEE 351.1.

DC government, 1871-74, resembled that of a U.S. Territory, with a Presidentially appointed governor and council, and a House of Delegates elected by the resident adult male citizens. Territorial form of government abolished, and government by a three-man Board of Commissioners appointed by the President established provisionally, by an act of June 20, 1874 (18 Stat. 116); made permanent by an act of June 11, 1878 (20 Stat. 102). Commission form of government superseded by that of a Presidentially appointed mayor and council, by Reorganization Plan No. 3 of l967, effective November 3, 1967. Self-government granted to DC citizens by the District of Columbia Self- Government and Governmental Reorganization Act (87 Stat. 774), December 24, 1973, with Congress retaining ultimate legislative authority in accordance with Article I, section 8 of the Constitution.

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351.2.1 Records of the Office of the Mayor

Textual Records: Manuscript laws of the City of Washington, DC, 1838-39. Letters sent, 1857-63. Journal of receipts, 1858-59.

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351.2.2 Records of the "territorial government"

Textual Records: Laws of the legislative assembly, 1871-74. Letters sent, 1871-74. Registers and indexes to letters received, 1871-74. Record of the first election in DC, 1871.

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351.2.3 Records of the temporary and permanent Boards of
Commissioners

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1874-1965, with indexes, 1880- 1909. Letters received, 1897-1933. Registers and indexes to letters received, 1874-97. Minutes and orders of the commissioners, 1874-1952, with index, ca. 1902-19. Annual reports, 1874-1941. General subject files, ca. 1924-68. Transcripts of public hearings, 1943-68.

Maps (217 items): Accompanying published annual reports of the Commissioners of the District of Columbia, 1876-1908 (216 items). DC flood emergency map, 1955 (1 item). SEE ALSO 351.9.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (35 items): Hospital buildings, buildings at Blue Plains Home for the Aged, and sewer construction, accompanying published annual reports of the commissioners, 1880-1908. SEE ALSO 351.9.

Photographic Prints (33 images): Successive commissioners appointed from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to supervise DC public improvements ("Engineer Commissioners"), 1874-1967 (EC).

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351.2.4 Records of the Office of the Corporation Counsel

History: Established as the Office of the Attorney for the District of Columbia, 1871. Redesignated Office of the City Solicitor by the DC Code of Law, January 1, 1902. Further redesignated Office of the Corporation Counsel by amendment to the DC Code of Law, July 1, 1902.

Textual Records: Opinions, 1880-1967, with index, ca. 1874-1953.

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351.2.5 Records of the Office of the Aging

Machine-Readable Records (2 data sets): Elderly needs assessment survey of persons 60 years and over residing in DC, 1977-78, with supporting documentation. SEE ALSO 351.11.

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351.2.6 Records of the City Council

Sound Recordings (1,204 items): Regular and special meetings of the council, 1969-74 (232 items). Council press conferences and swearing-in ceremonies, 1968-73 (13 items). Public hearings before the council and its standing committees, 1967-74 (959 items).

Subject Access Terms: Daugherty, Philip J.; Meyers, Tedson J.

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351.3 RECORDS RELATING TO FISCAL AFFAIRS
1814-1940
163 lin. ft.

Textual Records: Assessment and taxation records, 1814-1940. Records relating to licenses, 1818-79. Journals, ledgers, accounts, and other fiscal records, 1815-83. Proceedings of the Joint Committee on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal Fund, 1830-34.

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351.4 RECORDS RELATING TO CONSTRUCTION, ENGINEERING, LAND, AND
TRANSPORTATION
1791-1968
936 lin. ft. and 624 rolls of microfilm

Textual Records: Deed books, 1792-1869. Building permits, 1877- 1915, and (on 624 rolls of microfilm), 1915-49; with card index, 1877-1958. Records of the Board of Public Works, 1871-75. Plats, surveyors' field notes and calculations, correspondence, reports, estimates, and other records of the Office of the Surveyor, concerning land and subdivisions in DC and neighboring parts of MD and VA, ca. 1804-1938. List of public buildings and wharves owned by DC, 1875-76. Record of real estate acquired, owned, or leased by DC, 1844-76. Records of the Office of the Water Registrar, 1859-81. Records concerning the Washington Canal, 1810-71. Records (in College Park) related to the cartographic records described below, consisting of an index of city squares divided, 1791-1802; "surveyor's slips," recording the original surveys of city squares, 1793-99; surveyors' log books relating to surveys in DC, 1829-54, and Georgetown, 1886-88; and field notebooks relating to surveys in DC and Occoquan, VA, 1879-1938.

Microfilm Publications: M1116.

Maps (7,085 items): Copies of the King plats of Washington City, and of the L'Enfant, Ellicott, and Dermott maps of Washington City and of DC, published by the Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1887- 88 (23 items). Maps relating to surveys prepared by the Office of the Surveyor, 1792-1936 (588 items). Brewer Collection, consisting of working plats and related records collected by Henry W. Brewer, primarily of Georgetown and western DC, 1809-91 (522 items). Latimer Collection, consisting of working plats and calculations of William Latimer, primarily relating to surveys in eastern DC, 1887-99 (165 items). Bound volumes, some indexed, of plats of city squares and other DC surveys, including the record plat books of squares and a register of squares, 1792-1809 (1,658 items); plat books showing subdivisions of the squares, by Nicholas King, William Forsyth, and others, 1809-83 (1,727 items); plat books of Washington County surveys, 1860-74, including copies of some earlier surveys (158 items); a plat book of surveys in eastern DC by William Latimer, 1872-1903 (96 items); a plat book of western DC (Georgetown), 1883 (156 items); a published plat book of the eastern and southeastern portions of DC, 1892 (136 items); and plat books of squares published in 1895 and annotated to 1908 (1,323 items). Individual volumes relating to surveys of the Washington Canal, 1833 (21 items); docks and wharves along the Potomac River, 1876 (7 items); the Petworth Addition, 1889 (10 items); Rock Creek Park, 1894 (5 items); and the DC reformatory site near Lorton, VA, 1913 (25 items). Bound atlases of the District of Columbia, including one showing land ownership outside the city, 1881 (31 items); three editions of G.M. Hopkins' real estate atlas of the city, 1887-93 (161 items); three volumes of maps showing a plan for the extension of streets north of the city, 1893-97 (155 items); topographic maps of DC outside the city prepared by the Coast and Geodetic Survey, 1892- 94 (59 items); and maps prepared to show public lands under federal jurisdiction, 1915 (44 items). Maps used in the Department of Highways and Traffic transportation studies of the Washington metropolitan area in 1948 and 1955, and other DC highway maps, 1911-68 (15 items). SEE ALSO 351.9.

Architectural Plans (18,100 items): Building plans separated from District of Columbia building permits, 1877-1902. SEE ALSO 351.9.

Machine-Readable Records (11 data sets): Department of Highways and Traffic transportation studies of the Washington metropolitan area, 1948, 1955, with supporting documentation. SEE ALSO 351.11.

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351.5 RECORDS OF THE METROPOLITAN POLICE
1851-1970
95 lin. ft.

History: A local ordinance, adopted September 20, 1803, provided for a Superintendent of Police appointed by the Mayor. An ordinance of October 13, 1804, authorized the Mayor to appoint as many as four constables or policemen for active duty during the daytime. An act of August 23, 1842 (5 Stat. 511), supplemented the day force by an "auxiliary watch" (night watch). An act of August 6, 1861 (12 Stat. 320), abolished the day force and night watch and created a centralized police district comprising the Corporations of Washington City and Georgetown and the County of Washington, governed by the Metropolitan Police Board (MPB). MPB abolished by an act of March 3, 1878 (20 Stat. 107), with functions transferred to the Board of Commissioners.

Textual Records: General and special orders, 1862-95. Records pertaining to appointments to the force, 1861-1930, including personnel case files for those appointed, 1861-1950 (bulk 1861- 1900). Oaths of office, 1862-78. Payroll book, 1861-66. Rollcall book, 1888-95. Accounts relating to the purchase of uniforms, 1901-6. Record of the disposition of cases, 1851-52. Reports of arrests, 1861-1925. Blotters, 1862-1933, including a blotter of the Detective Corps that contains reports of President Abraham Lincoln's assassination and a blotter with reports of the arrest of President James A. Garfield's assassin. Property books, 1861- 1914. Reports of accidents, 1901-9. "Look-out" books, 1901-3. Identification books, ca. 1883-90. Register of letters received, 1877-78. Records pertaining to business licenses, 1877-1936. Register of lodgers, 1891-98. Police census returns, 1913-19. Logs of calls to physicians to the poor, 1939-55. Traffic analysis reports, 1970.

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351.6 RECORDS RELATING TO CHARITABLE AND REFORMATORY INSTITUTIONS
1845-1965
23 lin. ft.

History: Superintendent of Charities, appointed by the President, established by an act of August 6, 1890 (26 Stat. 308). Board of Children's Guardians, to provide for the care of dependent children, established by an act of July 26, 1892 (27 Stat. 268). Superintendent of Charities superseded by Board of Charities, pursuant to an act of June 6, 1900 (31 Stat. 664). Board of Charities and Board of Children's Guardians superseded by Board of Public Welfare, pursuant to an act of March 16, 1926 (44 Stat. 208). Board of Public Welfare abolished, with functions transferred to Board of Commissioners, by Reorganization Plan No. 5 of 1952, effective July 1, 1952. Responsibility assigned to Department of Public Welfare, established by DC Commissioners' Reorganization Order No. 58 (Amended), July 31, 1953. Department of Public Welfare superseded by Department of Human Resources, pursuant to DC Commissioners' Order No. 70-83, March 6, 1970.

Textual Records: Minutes of the Board of Children's Guardians, 1915-26; the Board of Charities, 1900-26; the Board of Public Welfare, 1926-53, and its committees, 1926-44; and the Public Welfare Advisory Council, 1953-65. Letters sent by the president and other officials of the Board of Children's Guardians, 1895- 1914. Minutes and other records relating to the Industrial Home School for White Children, 1896-1917; Junior Village, 1957-60; and D.C. Village, 1956-58. Histories of committed children, 1884- 1917. Cashbook of the Superintendent of the Workhouse, 1845-70.

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351.7 RECORDS OF THE CITY OF GEORGETOWN, DC
1791-1897
13 lin. ft.

Textual Records: Assessment and taxation records, 1800-97. Journals, ledgers, and daybooks, 1801-73. Ordinances and resolutions, 1791-1871. Records related to cartographic records described UNDER 351.4, consisting of a copy of minutes (1751- 1825) of Georgetown commissioners' meetings, dealing mainly with the laying out of lots, n.d. (in College Park).

Microfilm Publications: M605.

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351.8 RECORDS OF THE COUNTY OF WASHINGTON, DC
1819-1900
9 lin. ft.

Textual Records: Proceedings of the Levy Court, 1819-67. Assessment and taxation records, 1855-1900. Register of tax-lien certificates, 1871-77.

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351.9 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)

SEE Maps UNDER 351.2.3 and 351.4. SEE Architectural and Engineering Plans UNDER 351.2.3. SEE Architectural Plans UNDER 351.4.

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351.10 SOUND RECORDINGS (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 351.2.6.

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351.11 MACHINE-READABLE RECORDS (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 351.2.5 and 351.4.

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351.12 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)

SEE Photographic Prints UNDER 351.2.3.


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.

Ordering information

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1995.


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