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The District of Columbia (Washington, DC)

Reference Reports

An act of Congress on July 16, 1790 (1 Stat. 130) established a Federal district for the seat of the United States government along the Potomac River on lands donated by Virginia and Maryland. Stretching from Georgetown to the Anacostia River, and later including Alexandria, the new Federal territory was officially named the District of Columbia in 1796. The Federal government relocated to the District of Columbia from Philadelphia on December 1, 1800, with Congress exercising exclusive management and legislative control over the district via designated committees in the House and Senate.

As the national capital, the District of Columbia became the center for numerous charitable organizations and institutions, including the Freedmen's Bureau and Hospital, the Freedman's Bank, the Government Hospital for the Insane (St. Elizabeths), the Columbia Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb and the Blind, and the Board of Children's Guardians. During the Civil War, the district also established the first Federal police force with the Metropolitan Police.

District of Columbia Reference Reports describe strategies to research these organizations as well as other topics, including the district in the Federal census, immigration into Alexandria and Georgetown, naturalizations, slavery in the Federal capital, congressional and district court records, military service during the Civil War, and DC building permits and city directories.

Click on the title to view a PDF version of the reference report.


Board of Children's Guardians

Freedmen's Bank and Bureau

Hospitals and Institutions

Columbia Hospital and Institution

Freedmen's Hospital

St. Elizabeth's Hospital



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