National Archives at New York City

Guide to U.S. Virgin Islands Records at the National Archives at New York City

Introduction

This guide describes the records held by the National Archives at New York City pertaining to Federal government activity in the United States Virgin Islands.  These records currently span 13 different record groups dealing with a broad spectrum of Federal activity, including military installations, economic development, and court proceedings.  More detailed information, such as box or folder lists, may be available by contacting the New York staff. 

In addition to the records described by this paper, the National Archives maintains records related to the U.S. Virgin Islands at other facilities.  Researchers should search both the National Archives Catalog, as well as the Guide to Federal Records, to learn about records held throughout the National Archives system.  It should be noted that entries in the catalog are routinely being added and updated, and, due to varying levels of detail, relevant records may not necessarily be described as related to the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Patrons are encouraged to conduct more targeted searches in the catalog based on their specific research topic or interests.  Questions regarding any of these records should be sent to the National Archives unit listed in the contact section of the catalog record or to the main NARA inquiry email (Inquire@nara.gov).  Researchers should also consider using the collections of the Presidential Libraries, as appropriate, and may wish to consult their online finding aids

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Negotiations between the United States and Denmark were initiated on several occasions between 1865 and 1917 when the final deal was struck and the United States bought the Danish West Indies for $25 million.

The United States flag was hoisted on the three ''Virgin Islands of America' on the March 31, 1917. The islands remained under administrative control of the U.S. Navy until 1931.  During this time several major public works and social reform projects were undertaken. Governors were appointed from 1931 until 1969 when the first elected governor took office.

 

RG 21 District Courts of the United States
 

The District Court of the United States Virgin Islands has jurisdiction over federal and diversity actions in the United States Virgin Islands.  The court sits in both St. Croix and St. Thomas.  Unlike other United States district courts, judges on the District Court of the Virgin Islands do not have life tenure, as the court is not an Article III court.  Instead, the court is an Article IV court, created pursuant to Congress's Article IV, Section 3 powers.  Appeals of the court's decisions are taken to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in Philadelphia.

 

The District Court used to have jurisdiction over most local civil actions brought in the Virgin Islands, but in 1991 the Virgin Islands Legislature, pursuant to the Revised Organic Act of 1954, gave this jurisdiction to the Superior Court of the Virgin Islands. Similarly, in 1993, the Legislature gave the Superior Court jurisdiction over criminal actions brought under Virgin Islands, although the United States Attorney may still bring such actions in the District Court in some circumstances.

 

Records are primarily case files - papers in a specific case filed by attorneys or issued by the court, such as affidavits, complaints, depositions, indictments, judgments or final decrees, motions, petitions, subpoenas, and writs.  Documentary exhibits submitted as part of court proceedings usually were returned to the parties involved, but they are sometimes included in the case file.  Transcripts are seldom part of the file.

 

  • Civil Case Files, St. Croix (1921-1997)
  • Civil Case Files, St. Thomas (1921-1999)
  • Criminal Case Files, St. Thomas (1947-2000)


RG 26 U.S. Coast Guard

The U.S. Coast Guard was established in the Department of the Treasury by an act of January 28, 1915, which consolidated that department's Revenue Cutter and Lifesaving Services. The Coast Guard took over the administration of lighthouses in 1939, and in 1942 assumed functions of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (RG 41) relating to navigation and inspection laws and to merchant seamen. On April 1, 1967, the Coast Guard became a part of the Department of Transportation and assumed responsibility for functions transferred to it from the Bureau of Customs (RG 36) pertaining to the admeasurement and documentation of U.S. vessels.

The Customs Service, created by an act of July 31, 1789, became part of the Department of the Treasury when that department was established in September 1789.  The Service has been responsible for the enforcement of numerous laws and regulations pertaining to the import and export of merchandise, collection of tonnage taxes, control of the entrance and clearances of vessels and aircraft, regulation of vessels involved in the coastwise and fishing trades, the protection of passengers.  A Bureau of Customs was established on March 3, 1927, to supervise these activities, and in 1942, it assumed the responsibilities of the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (RG 41) relating to the registering, enrolling, licensing, and admeasurement of merchant vessels. This responsibility was assigned to the Coast Guard in 1967.

 

Navigation laws were passed by the first Congress in 1789 and were enforced by customs officers under the supervision of the Department of the Treasury.  In 1884, a Bureau of Navigation under the control of the Commissioner of Navigation was established within the Department of the Treasury to administer the navigation laws.  In 1903, it was transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor along with the Steamboat Inspection Service, which had been established in the Department of the Treasury in 1852 to formulate rules and regulations for steamboat inspections.  The two bureaus were merged in 1932 to form the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection, which was renamed the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation (BMIN) in 1936.  In 1942, its functions relating to merchant vessel documentation were transferred to the Bureau of Customs (RG 36), while those pertaining to merchant vessel inspection, safety of life at sea, and merchant vessel personnel were transferred to the U.S. Coast Guard (RG 26).  The Bureau was abolished in 1946.

The records held in New York concern ownership of vessels registered in the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as unit logs from the Ham Bluff facility.

  • Bills of Sale (1933-1975)
  • Preferred Mortgages (1952-1973)                                                                                                                                            
  • Ham Bluff Unit Logs (1971-1973)  
                                                                                                                                              

RG 36 U.S. Customs Service, Customhouses and Collection Districts, Collection District of the Virgin Islands

 

The Customs Service, created by an act of July 31, 1789, became part of the Department of the Treasury when the Department was established by an act approved September 2, 1789.  The office of the Secretary of the Treasury and, later, the Division of Customs administered the Customs Service until the Bureau of Customs was created in 1927.  The Bureau also assumed the functions of the Special Agency Services which was the successor to the Division of Special Agents created in 1878. 

The Bureau of Customs administered functions pertaining to the importation and exportation of merchandise into and out of the United States, the collection of tonnage taxes, entrance and clearance of vessels, and the regulation of vessels in the coasting and fishing trades.

 

  • Register of Collections and Deposits under the Department of Commerce (1917-1923)
  • Registers of Entries and Liquidations (1917-1923)                                                                                       
  • Records of Imports and Exports (1917-1927)                                                                                               
  • Records of Entrances and Clearances (1917-1933)                                                                                     
  • Record of Labor Performed (1923-1928)                                                                                                      
  • Vessel Files (1941-1961)                                                                                                                         


RG 77 Office of the Chief of Engineers

The Corps of Engineers, U.S. Army, with headquarters at Washington, DC, was a result of orders of April 3, 1818.  The military responsibilities of the Office of the Chief of Engineers (OCE) have included producing and distributing Army maps, building roads, planning camps, and constructing and repairing fortifications and other installations.  Its civil duties have included maintaining and improving inland waterways and harbors, formulating and executing plans for flood control, operating dams and locks, and approving plans for the construction of bridges, wharves, piers, and other works over navigable waters.  Expansion of the OCE's river and harbor improvement work after the Civil War necessitated the establishment of district offices throughout the United States.  The engineer officer in charge of each district reported directly to the Chief of Engineers until 1888 when engineer divisions were created with administrative jurisdiction over the district offices.

The Corps of Engineers activities in the U.S. Virgin Islands fell under the San Juan, Puerto Rico office.  It is unclear when Puerto Rico was first established as an Engineer District.  By 1907, the headquarters for this district was located in Tompkinsville, NY and in September 1910 it was moved to New York City. 

The records from the Puerto Rico Engineers Office related to the U.S. Virgin Islands document civilian and military activities of the OCE including administration, coastal defense projects, construction of facilities on military bases, flood control, as well as maintenance and improvement of inland waterways and harbors.  They provide geological, hydrological, and economic data about construction projects and their impact on the surrounding area.  Included are correspondence, data and permit files, notebooks, reports, and studies.  Construction project files contain correspondence, design memorandums, notes, plans, progress reports, specifications, and test results.  Material also includes monthly reports on bridge and permit applications, probings and ranges for proposed docks, as well as a survey of Little Krum Bay, as well as material realted to Crown Mountain, St. Thomas.Nontextual records include engineering drawings, blueprints, maps, and a collection of photographs.

The photographic materials include locations such as St. Thomas Harbor, including Kings Wharf, as well as Turpentine Run and Crown Mountain Water Courses.  St. Croix locations include Christiansted Harbor and Frederiksted Harbor, Fair Plain Gut, St. Creque Gut, and the St. Croix Air Base.  There are also some photos of Long Bay Swamp

  • Civil Works and Military Construction Projects (1935-1949)                                                                                
  • Civil Works Projects Studies and Reports, San Juan Office (1937-1940)                                                          

 

RG 121 Public Building Service

 

The Public Building Service was established as part of the General Services Administration (GSA) on December 11, 1949, to supersede the Public Buildings Administration, Federal Works Agency (FWA), which had been abolished by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act (63 Stat. 380) on June 30, 1949.  The functions of the Public Building Service include the design, construction, management, maintenance, and protection of most federally owned and leased buildings.

  • Real Property Disposal Case Files (1949-1977)                                                                                               

Property in the U.S. Virgin Islands for which oversized material exists include:

  • Contract Drawings of Public Buildings: St. Thomas (1953-1963)                                                                   
  • Contract Drawings of Public Buildings: St. John (1953-1963)                                                                        
  • Contract Drawings of Public Buildings: Christiansted (1953-1963)                                                               

 

RG 126 Office of Territories, Virgin Islands Corporation

 

The Virgin Islands Corporations was a wholly owned government corporation created by the Virgin Islands Corporation Act of June 30, 1949. (48 U.S.C. 1407), as successor to the Virgin Islands Company which was incorporated in 1934.  The Corporation’s principal offices were located in St. Croix.  Management of the Corporation was vested in a 7-member Board of Directors with the Secretary of the Interior as its chair.  The Corporation was charted through June 30, 1969, unless dissolved by act of Congress.  The programs run by the Corporation were ultimately terminated on June 30, 1965, and the Corporation itself was dissolved on July 1, 1966.

 

The major revenue producing activities of the Corporation included growing sugar cane, manufacturing of raw sugar, and the generation and distribution of electric power.  It also delivered potable water to the Government of the Virgin Islands from salt water distillation facilities and managed certain Navy owned properties on St. Thomas, such as the Naval Submarine Base and the Marine Corps Air Facility.  Other miscellaneous revenue producing activities includes the administration of an agricultural and industrial loan program, management of a small livestock herd, and providing housing for employees and others on St. Croix.  Furthermore, the Corporation engaged in non-revenue producing activities designed to promote the economic development and general welfare of the Virgin Islands population. 

 

Records related to the Virgin Islands Corporation can also be found in RG 323 Records of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration.

  • General Operation Records (1935-1966)                                                                                                                       

RG 127 U.S. Marine Corps, Marine Corps Air Station, St. Thomas


The U.S. Marine Corps Air Station at St. Thomas was established on December 1, 1941 with the redesignation of the Marine Corps Air Facility at Bourne Field.  Bourne Field, located two miles west of Charlotte Amalie, had been commissioned on September 1, 1935.  The air station was made part of the Navy Operating Base, St. Thomas on March 4, 1943.  During World War II, the station included a seaplane base at Lindbergh Bay, as well as a leased emergency field located on Anguilla.  Following the end of the war, the air station was reduced to a caretaker facility on September 30, 1946 and further reduced to inactive status on December 1, 1946.  The facility was closed on February 16, 1948.

  • Administrative Files (1942-1947)                                                                                                                                      

 

RG 146 U.S. Civil Service Commission

The United States Civil Service Commission (USCSC) was created by an act of Congress of January 16, 1883 [22 Stat. 403].  The USCSC administered the federal civil service system, including employee appeals of adverse agency personnel actions.  The Commission also provided examinations to applicants for competitive service and established standards for qualifications, promotion, transfers and reinstatement of Federal employees in Federal agencies throughout the country. 

The New York regional office of the United States Civil Service Commission was originally established in 1905 as District 2, and its jurisdiction eventually included New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

With the passage of the Civil Service Reform Act of 1978, many of its functions were taken over by the Office of Personnel Management on January 1, 1979.

The records of the Qualitative Reviews of State and Local Merit Systems document reviews of state and territorial government agencies to ensure compliance with Civil Service Commission regulations.  Materials include correspondence, Comprehensive Employment and Training Administration (CETA) reviews, reports, and evaluations of agencies in New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands who were the recipient of Federal grants to verify their personnel management and operating procedures complied with Federal regulations.  Records related to the U.S. Virgin Islands are located in Box 7.

  • Qualitative Reviews of State and Local Merit Systems (1974-1981)                                                                     

 

RG 181 Naval Districts and Shore Establishments, Saint Thomas Naval Station

 

The general correspondence covers such administrative functions as personnel assignments and enlistments, pay and allowances, discipline issues such as courts martial and inquiries, property issues, financial accountings and appropriations, transportation and logistics, requisitions and supplies, ordnance, radio communications, hygiene and sanitation, the U.S. Marine Corps, and the movement of vessels including the USS Grebe, USS Umpqua, USS Cormorant, and USS Kiterry.  Also included is material on early motion picture programs for naval station personnel, as well as the impact of hurricanes.  There is also some material related to Puerto Rico interfiled with these records.

  • Correspondence of Commandant Waldo Evans (1927 - 1931)                                                                               
  • General Correspondence (1917 - 1931)                                                                                                                 
  • Correspondence Relating to Personnel Assignments (1927 - 1931)                                                                      
  • Naval Station Regulations and District Orders (1917 - 1931)                                                                                 
  • Radio Messages Sent and Received (1930 - 1931)                                                                                               
  • Station Logbooks (1921 - 1931)                                                                                                                               
  • Register of Enlisted Men's Offenses and Punishments (1922 - 1927)                                                                    
  • Register of Changes in the Pay Status of Personnel (1929 - 1931)                                                                       

 

RG 187 National Resource Planning Board

The National Resources Planning Board (NRPB) came into existence under the President’s Reorganization Plan No. 1, effective July 1, 1939, as the successor organization to the National Resources Committee, to study the physical, human, and technological resources of the nation.  It engaged in four major lines of activity: 1) planning and programming public works; 2) stimulating local, state, and regional planning; 3) coordinating Federal planning with respect to the conservation and use of national resources; 4) conducting a research program of long-range studies as requested by Congress or directed by the President.  The NRPB also addressed special problems relating to World War II.  The NRPB was abolished by the Independent Offices Appropriation Act of 1944 [57 Stat. 170], effective August 31, 1943, which provided that its functions could not be transferred to another agency.  It was given until January 1, 1944 to conclude its affairs.  Region 11 consisted of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 
 

The General and Technical Correspondence relates to planning in the U.S. Virgin Islands represents the central files of the regional office and documents various fields of planning, projects, investigations, and studies.  This includes correspondence with the NRPB and other Federal agencies, with British Caribbean authorities concerning joint planning, with other regional offices and the Government of Puerto Rico, as well as with public and private organizations and individuals.  The series also includes reference materials, working papers of reports, minutes of meetings, and statistical and graphic matter. 

  • General and Technical Correspondence Relating to Planning in the Virgin Islands (1942-1943)

 

RG 188 Office of Price Administration
 

The office of Price Administration (OPA) originated in the Price Stabilization and Consumer Protection Divisions of the Advisory Commission to the Council of National Defense on May 29, 1940, and in their successor, the Office of Price Administration and Civilian Supply, created in April 1941 and redesignated the Office of Price Administration by an Executive order of August 28, 1941. The OPA was given statutory recognition as an independent agency by the Emergency Price control Act of January 30, 1942. Under this legislation the OPA attempted to stabilize prices and rents by establishing maximum prices for commodities (other than agricultural products, which were under the control of the Secretary of Agriculture) and rents in defense areas. It also rationed scarce essential commodities and authorized subsidies for the production of some goods. Most of the price and rationing controls were lifted between August 1945 and November 1946.

 

Region IX was established by Administrative Order No. 4, issued May 7, 1942. It was headquarters in Washington DC and its jurisdiction encompassed Alaska, Hawaii, the Panama Canal Zone, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other possessions. A supplement to this order, dated May 26, 1942, gave Region IX wide latitude of discretion in dealing with price control in the territories and possessions. The records in the National Archives at New York comprise the records of the Region IX regional office as well as materials maintained by OPA offices in the Virgin Islands.
 

OPA Region IX, Office of the Territorial Director for the Virgin Islands

  • Information Activities and Plans Reports (1943-1946)                                                                                                                                                                   

Office of the Territorial Rationing Executive

  • Commodity Rationing Records (1942-1945)                                                                                                                                                                       

Enforcement Division

  • Case Files (1943-1946)                                                                                                                                                                        

Price Division

  • Commodity Program (1942-1946)                                                                                               
  • Services and Commodities Maximum Price Statements (1942-1946)
  • Operations Files (1942-1946)                                                                                                                                  
  • Progress Reports (1942-1946)                                                                                                                                 
  • Price and Compliance Surveys (1942-1946)                                                                                                           
  • Correspondence Relating to Taxes and Rates for Electric Energy, Transportation, and Storage (1943-1946)           
  • Records Pertaining to Maximum Price Regulations (1942-1946)                                                                                       
  • Regional Commodity Progress Reports (1944-1945)                                                                                               
  • Progress Reports (1942-1946)                                                                                                                           
  • Commodities and Services Records (1942-1946)                                                                                                    
  • Operations Correspondence (1942-1946)                                                                                                                
  • Petitions for Authorization of Prices (1942-1946)                                                                                                     

RG 269 General Services Administration
 

The General Services Administration (GSA) was established as an independent agency by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of June 30, 1949.  The act consolidated and transferred to GSA certain real and personal property and related functions formerly assigned to various agencies.  Its purpose is to provide an economical and efficient system for managing government property and services, including such activities as construction and operation of buildings, procuring and distributing supplies, disposal of surplus property, and stockpiling strategic and critical materials.  The Federal Property Resources Service was established within the General Services Administration by Administrator's Order ADM 5440.123, on July 18, 1978, to administer the utilization and disposal of surplus federal real property.  The Region 2 Office of the GSA, headquartered in New York City, includes the U.S. Virgin Islands.

 

The records consist of Real Property Disposal Case Files which document the sale or donation of Federal property, such as military installations, post office buildings, and Veterans Administration Hospitals.  The case files generally include correspondence, deeds, narrative reports, appraisal reports, surveys, and title searches.  Nontextual records may include maps and photographs.

  • Real Property Disposal Case Files (1946-1976)                                                                                                         

Property in the U.S. Virgin Islands for which case files exist include:

  • Marine Corps Air Facility (College Site), St. Thomas                                                                       
  • Marine Corps Air Facility, St. Thomas                                                                                                   
  • Estate Dorothea (Agricultural Station), St. Thomas                                                                        
  • Municipal Market-Cold Storage Plant, Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas

 

RG 270 Records of the War Assets Administration
 

The War Assets Administration was established in the Office for Emergency Management, effective March 25, 1946, by Executive Order 9689 issued on January 31, 1946.  The agency was charged with disposing of surplus consumer, capital, and producer goods, industrial and maritime real property, and airports and aircraft located in the United States and its territories.  The agency was abolished by the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act [63 Stat. 738], June 30, 1949.

 

The records consist of Real Property Disposal Case Files which document the sale or donation of Federal property, such as military installations, post office buildings, and Veterans Administration Hospitals.  The case files generally include correspondence, deeds, narrative reports, appraisal reports, surveys, and title searches.  Nontextual records may include maps and photographs.

  • Real Property Disposal Case Files (1937-1955)                                                                                                        

Property in the U.S. Virgin Islands for which case files exist include: Virgin Islands Corporation, St. Croix, Fort Louise Augusta Lighthouse Reservation, St. Croix, and Benedict Field, St. Croix      

 

RG 452 American Revolution Bicentennial Administration

 

The American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA) New York Regional Office (Region II) was one of ten field office established to stimulate and encourage the Bicentennial celebration.  Based in New York City and headed by Barbara Wainscott as director, Region II consisted of New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

 

ARBA was established by President Nixon on December 11, 1973 under the authority of Public Law 93-179 [87 Stat 697].  ARBA superseded the American Revolution Bicentennial Commission and was headquartered in Washington, DC.  The New York regional office was established to support ARBA’s  mission, which was to act as a clearinghouse for bicentennial information as well as to coordinate and support events and projects that commemorated the American Revolution Bicentennial .  The responsibilities of the regional offices included routing grant applications and requests for official recognition of local programs to the national headquarters and representing ARBA at ceremonial functions.

 

Records pertaining specifically to the U.S. Virgin Islands are incorporated throughout the Administrative Records for Region II.  The administrative records in general document the activities of the regional office.  They primarily concern the coordination of a variety of bicentennial events organized throughout New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Files include correspondence, applications for official recognition, agendas, travel vouchers, printed materials and photographs.  Correspondence is primarily related to the relocation and set-up of the regional office, meetings, communications with communities and bicentennial commissions, event invitations, corporate involvement, and information requests.  Materials documenting proposed and approved bicentennial programs include brochures, information packets, operations strategy proposals, photographs and sheet music.  Arranged alphabetically within the following categories: Office Administration, Meetings, Applications, Correspondence, Travel, Non-ARBC Events, Region II Events, and Publications.

  • Administrative Records (1974-1976)

 

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