Morose Marginalia on Naturalization Records

Today’s post was written by Andrew Salyer, archives technician at the National Archives at Philadelphia.

National Archives staff reference staff respond to thousands of requests for records every year, and many of those requests are for naturalization records. These records are pretty standard, oftentimes looking very similar to one another…but not always. During the course of a search for a Pittsburgh petition for naturalization, Archives Technician Andrew Salyer came across dozens of caricatures in the margins of these late nineteenth century citizenship records, now preserved in perpetuity as part of our national records.

As important as it is for us at the archives to safeguard the more impressive documents of our national heritage, it’s rewarding to know that tucked in the margins are little glimpses of the humor, personality and daydreams of the people that created them. Featured here are some of the more interesting doodles:

Petitions for naturalization filed in federal courts in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania have been digitized and are available through the National Archives Catalog. Naturalization records filed prior to 1906 are name searchable as items in this entry, and the digitized microfilm rolls can be viewed by selecting the appropriate file unit. Interested in learning more or reviewing the records? Email to discuss.