Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Bureau of Ships


(Record Group 19)
1794-1972

OVERVIEW OF RECORDS LOCATIONS

Table of Contents

  • 19.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 19.2 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF CONSTRUCTION, EQUIPMENT, AND REPAIRS
    1820-62
  • 19.3 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF CONSTRUCTION AND REPAIR 1794-1941
  • 19.3.1 General records
  • 19.3.2 Records of subordinate organizations
  • 19.3.3 Technical records
  • 19.3.4 Records relating to vessel claims
  • 19.3.5 Records relating to vessels
  • 19.3.6 Fiscal records
  • 19.4 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF ENGINEERING 1840-1942
  • 19.4.1 General records
  • 19.4.2 Records of subordinate organizations
  • 19.4.3 Technical records
  • 19.4.4 Fiscal records
  • 19.5 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF EQUIPMENT 1875-1917
  • 19.6 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT OF IRONCLADS AND THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL INSPECTOR OF IRONCLADS 1861-67
  • 19.6.1 Records of the Office of the General Superintendent of Ironclads
  • 19.6.2 Records of the Office of the General Inspector of Ironclads
  • 19.7 RECORDS OF THE COORDINATOR OF SHIPBUILDING 1939-40
  • 19.8 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF SHIPS 1794-1972
  • 19.8.1 General records
  • 19.8.2 Records of the Maintenance Division
  • 19.8.3 Records of the Electronics Division
  • 19.8.4 Records of the Publications Division
  • 19.8.5 Records of the Shipbuilding Division
  • 19.8.6 Records of the Naval Research Laboratory
  • 19.9 RECORDS OF REAR ADM. GEORGE H. ROCK RELATING TO THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SAFETY OF LIFE AT SEA 1928-30
  • 19.10 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
  • 19.11 MOTION PICTURES (GENERAL)
  • 19.12 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL) 1898-1966

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19.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: In the Department of the Navy by an act of June 20, 1940 (54 Stat. 492), consolidating the functions of the Bureau of Engineering and the Bureau of Construction and Repair.

Predecessor Agencies:

  • War Department (1789-98)

In the Department of the Navy:

  • Office of the Secretary of the Navy (1798-1815)
  • Board of Naval Commissioners (1815-42)
  • Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs (1842-62)
  • Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting (1862-91)
  • Bureau of Equipment (1891-1914)
  • Bureau of Steam Engineering (1862-1920)
  • Bureau of Engineering (1920-40)
  • Bureau of Construction and Repair (1862-1940)

Transfers: With the Department of the Navy to the National Military Establishment (NME), established effective September 18, 1947, by the National Security Act of 1947 (61 Stat. 500), July 26, 1947; with the Department of the Navy to the Department of Defense (formerly NME), established by the National Security Act Amendments of 1949 (63 Stat. 579), August 10, 1949.

Functions: Supervised the design, construction, conversion, procurement, maintenance, and repair of ships and other craft for the U.S. Navy. Managed shipyards, repair facilities, laboratories, and shore stations. Developed specifications for fuels and lubricants. Conducted salvage operations. After 1947, purchased ships for the Departments of the Army and the Air Force, coordinated Department of Defense (DOD) shipbuilding activities, and coordinated navy repair and conversion programs with other federal agencies.

Abolished: By DOD Order, March 9, 1966.

Successor Agencies: Naval Ship Systems Command.

Finding Aids: Elizabeth Bethel, Ellmore A. Champie, Mabel E. Deutrich, Robert W. Krauskopf, and Mark N. Schatz, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Ships, PI 133 (1961); Harry Schwartz, comp., "Supplement to Preliminary Inventory No. 133, Records of the Bureau of Ships," NM 58 (1965); supplement in National Archives microfiche edition of preliminary inventories.

Security-Classified Records: This record group may include material that is security-classified.

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Ships and its predecessors in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government. Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, RG 24.
Records of the Board of Naval Commissioners relating to vessel construction and repair before 1842 in RG 45, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library.

Records of the Naval Observatory, the Nautical Almanac Office, and the Hydrographic Office, all at one time part of the Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting, in RG 37, Records of the Hydrographic Office, and RG 78, Records of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

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19.2 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF CONSTRUCTION, EQUIPMENT, AND REPAIRS
1820-62

History: Responsibility for naval affairs, including functions later centralized in the Bureau of Ships, vested in the War Department, established by an act of August 7, 1789 (1 Stat. 49), until separate Department of the Navy established by an act of April 30, 1798 (1 Stat. 553). Naval construction initially handled by the immediate Office of the Secretary of the Navy. Subsequently vested in the Board of Navy Commissioners, established by an act of February 7, 1815 (3 Stat. 202) to provide logistical assistance to the Secretary. Board abolished by an act of August 31, 1842 (5 Stat. 579), which assigned its functions to five independent bureaus, including the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs, which assumed direction of ship construction program. Bureau abolished by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), with its functions divided among Bureau of Construction and Repair (SEE 19.3), Bureau of Steam Engineering (SEE 19.4), and Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting (SEE RG 24 and 19.5).

Textual Records: Abstracts of letters received and sent, January 1848-January 1849. Letters received from the Boston Navy Yard, September-December 1861. Registers of letters received, 1842-44, 1846-47, for which the correspondence has not been located. Fragmentary records relating to supplies and accounts of ships and shipyards, and including descriptions of ship repairs, inventories and memorandums of stores, and cost data on construction and maintenance, 1820-62. Cruise journal of Philip Hichborn aboard the merchant vessel Dashing Wave on a voyage from Boston to San Francisco, 1860.

Related Records: Most records of the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs are interfiled with the records of the Bureau of Construction and Repair (SEE 19.3).

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19.3 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF CONSTRUCTION AND REPAIR
1794-1941

History: Established by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), as one of the three bureaus superseding the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs (SEE 19.2). Responsible for all aspects of ship construction except propulsion systems (Bureau of Engineering, SEE 19.4) and equipage (Bureau of Equipment, SEE RG 24 and 19.5). When Bureau of Equipment discontinued, 1910, and formally abolished, 1914, its functions were divided between the Bureau of Construction and Repair and Bureau of Steam Engineering. These two bureaus were placed under the supervision of the Coordinator of Shipbuilding (SEE 19.7), 1939, and were superseded by the Bureau of Ships, 1940 (SEE 19.1).

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19.3.1 General records

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1850-80. Letters received, 1861- 82, 1885-86. General correspondence, 1887-1940 (3,425 ft.), with registers, 1890-95, history cards, 1896-1925, and indexes, 1896- 1925. Miscellaneous correspondence, 1887-1912. Correspondence relating to ships, 1886-94, 1896-1925 (3,077 ft.). Administrative and fiscal correspondence, 1896-1940. Copies of correspondence with Adm. William S. Sims, commanding the U.S. Naval Forces Operating in European Waters, 1917-19. Issuances, 1865-92, 1911- 12, 1917-19.

Photographic Prints (6,502 images): U.S. Navy vessels; ship damage and repair; interior and exterior views of decks, quarters, and fittings; shops and facilities at navy yards; ships of the French and German Navies; Samoa; and ports of Brest and Cherbourg, France, in albums, 1883-1941 (A, 6,300 images). Damage to ships, and salvage of U.S.S. Maine and other vessels, in album, 1911-17 (AWD, 202 images). SEE ALSO 19.12.

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19.3.2 Records of subordinate organizations

Textual Records: Records of the Design Division relating to weight and stability of ships, 1912-40, and to design data for naval vessels, 1914-27; and confidential memorandums of the Design Division relating to European naval construction in World War I ("Lessons from the European War"), 1915-17. Correspondence, reports, and other records of the Camouflage Section of the Maintenance Division concerning use of camouflage in World War I, 1917-19. Records of the Scientific and Computing Branch, ca. 1900-18, consisting of enclosures to correspondence on tonnage calculations and moldloft dimensions, ca. 1900-18.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (4,827 items): Camouflage ship designs, 1917-19. SEE ALSO 19.10.

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19.3.3 Technical records

Textual Records: Records of descriptions, dimensions, weights, tests, and trials of vessels, including data on ship weights, 1886-1921; experiment data, 1895-1925; and general information booklets about naval vessels, 1900-17.

Architectural and Engineering Plans: (47,411 items): Plans of ships and stations, 1794-1910 (46,000 items), with related card indexes. Plans of foreign naval vessels, 1917-33 (400 items). Miscellaneous plans, 1863-1919 (200 items). Plans of battleships, 1896 (19 items). Plans of U.S.S. Chicago, 1907 (72 items). Standard boat detail sheets, 1919-37 (720 items). SEE ALSO 19.10.

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19.3.4 Records relating to vessel claims

Textual Records: Records of boards of naval officers in the cases of Civil War vessels U.S.S. Ashuelot, Manayunk, Naubuc, Nauset, Squando, and Wassuc, 1892-93. Published Court of Claims records in cases involving naval vessels, 1878-1910. Record of labor and material costs for U.S.S. Farragut, 1896-97, and U.S.S. Wyoming, 1899-1902. Miscellaneous records concerning Civil War and post- Civil War vessels, 1867-1911. Report and proceedings of the Board on Claims of the Electric Boat Company, Groton, CT, 1921-25.

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19.3.5 Records relating to vessels

Textual Records: Ship construction and repair reports, 1837-96. Reports of boards of survey concerning ships and their equipment, 1854-69. Vessel specifications, 1883-1917. Movement of vessel reports, 1895-1914. Records relating to the salvaging of submarines S-51, 1925-26, and S-4, 1928.

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19.3.6 Fiscal records

Textual Records: Copies of contracts, 1852-84. Registers of contracts, 1873-78, 1882-83. Specifications and related records, 1914-39. Allowance lists of equipage and supplies, 1893-1934. Returns, inventories, and lists of supplies and stores, 1842-87. Invoices and bills of lading, 1842-88.

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19.4 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF ENGINEERING
1840-1942

History: Bureau of Steam Engineering established by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), as one of the three bureaus superseding the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs (SEE 19.2). Responsible for ship propulsion systems. When Bureau of Equipment (SEE RG 24 and 19.5) discontinued, 1910, and formally abolished, 1914, its functions were divided between the Bureau of Construction and Repair (SEE 19.3) and Bureau of Steam Engineering, redesignated Bureau of Engineering by an act of June 4, 1920 (41 Stat. 828). These two bureaus were placed under the supervision of the Coordinator of Shipbuilding (SEE 19.7), 1939, and were superseded by the Bureau of Ships, 1940 (SEE 19.1).

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19.4.1 General records

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1862-90. Letters and reports received, 1861-72. Letters sent and received, 1888-1910, with indexes. Register of letters received, 1881-88. General correspondence, 1885-87, 1910-40 (3,576 ft.), with indexes.

Photographs (1,080 images): Accumulated by the Bureau of Steam Engineering, showing bureau facilities at the New York Navy Yard, steam turbines, coal mining and coaling operations, diving bells, radio installations, and the Honda Point disaster, 1863-1929 (SEA, SEE, SEL, SEM). SEE ALSO 19.12.

Photographic Prints (1,000 images): Used to illustrate report by Lt. W.H. Chambers, "Corrodibility of Boiler Tubes," 1903 (SEC). SEE ALSO 19.12.

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19.4.2 Records of subordinate organizations

Textual Records: Records of the General Inspector of Machinery, consisting of correspondence and reports concerning tests of equipment and inspections of machinery at naval and private shipyards, 1905-26; and correspondence of Rear Adm. John R. Edwards relating to the London Radio Telegraphic Conference (June 1912), 1912. Records of the Division of Logs and Records, including logs of naval steam vessels, 1845-1906; and publications and other vessel reference data, 1887-1935, with indexes. Records of the Radio Division, including orders and memorandums, 1906-30; semimonthly radio reports, 1915-19; semiannual reports of naval radio stations and ships, 1910-17; reports and other records relating to experiments in radio operations and technology, 1919-42; scrapbooks of the Alaska Radio Expedition, 1912 and 1914; reports concerning naval radio installations in Alaska, 1917-23; and historical and descriptive reports, with illustrative material, from naval radio stations and ships, 1925-40. Records of Examining Boards of Naval Engineers, Philadelphia, PA, 1863-99, and of the Examining Board of Naval Engineers, New York, NY, 1898. Record book of the Board on Plans of Steam Capstans, Steam Engineering Gear, and Steam Windlasses, 1877-78. Records of the Board on Tests of Liquid Fuel for Naval Purposes, 1902-4.

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19.4.3 Technical records

Textual Records: Laboratory test reports concerning equipment and materials, 1910-41. Reports of machinery weights of vessels, 1890-1915. Records and reports relating to engineering tests and to engineering performances of vessels, 1862-1940. Reports on results of engineering trials and vessel performances, 1886-1939.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (5,000 items): Naval vessels, principally boilers and engines, 1840-1932. SEE ALSO 19.10.

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19.4.4 Fiscal records

Textual Records: Records relating to contracts, 1936-40. Records relating to contracts for engineering materials, 1904-42. Ship specifications, 1889-1922. Requisitions for machinery and supplies, 1862-65. Allowance lists of vessels, 1917-18. Records relating to appropriations, 1924-32.

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19.5 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF EQUIPMENT
1875-1917

History: Bureau of Equipment and Recruiting established by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), as one of the three bureaus superseding the Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repairs (SEE 19.2). Responsible for equipping naval vessels under construction or repair. (For a history of the recruiting and personnel functions of the bureau and its exchange of duties with the Bureau of Navigation, 1889, SEE RG 24.) Redesignated Bureau of Equipment by the Naval Services Appropriation Act (26 Stat. 192), June 30, 1890. Bureau functionally abolished by redistribution of responsibilities pursuant to an act of June 24, 1910 (36 Stat. 613), effective June 30, 1910; and formally abolished by act of June 30, 1914 (38 Stat. 408), with its functions divided between the Bureau of Construction and Repair (SEE 19.3) and Bureau of Steam Engineering (SEE 19.4).

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1899-1910 (298 ft.), with registers, 1891-96, 1899-1906, and indexes, 1875-83, 1891- 1910 (119 ft.). Records relating to naval coaling stations, 1885- 1910. Records concerning homing pigeons, 1896-99, and tests of wireless equipment, 1904-10. Record books (243 vols.) containing plans, drawings, and descriptive texts relating to electrical appliances on vessels, 1893-1917.

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19.6 RECORDS OF THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL SUPERINTENDENT OF IRONCLADS AND THE OFFICE OF THE GENERAL INSPECTOR OF IRONCLADS 1861-67

History: By letter of the Secretary of the Navy, July 10, 1861, Rear Adm. Francis H. Gregory designated to supervise construction and equipping of gunboats, later extended to all ships and engines, including ironclads and monitors. Position informally known as General Superintendent of Ironclads. Assisted by an officer designated to inspect vessels, known variously as the General Inspector of Ironclads and General Inspector of Steam Machinery for the Navy. Gregory died on October 4, 1866, and was succeeded by Commodore Cadwalader Ringgold, his assistant. Office of General Superintendent closed by order of the Secretary of the Navy, November 1, 1866.

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19.6.1 Records of the Office of the General Superintendent of
Ironclads

Textual Records: Letters sent and received, 1861-66. Telegrams received, 1863-66. Registers of payments on contract, 1861-63. List of vessels purchased, 1864.

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19.6.2 Records of the Office of the General Inspector of
Ironclads

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1862-67. Letters received, 1862- 66. Record book of monitor drawings, 1863. List of equipment for light-draft monitors, n.d.

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19.7 RECORDS OF THE COORDINATOR OF SHIPBUILDING
1939-40

History: Chief of the Bureau of Engineering appointed Coordinator of Shipbuilding for the Navy by Secretary of the Navy, September 14, 1939, to expedite ship construction, with Chief of the Bureau of Construction and Repair as Assistant Coordinator. Position lapsed effective with establishment of the Bureau of Ships, 1940, when chief of the new bureau assumed coordinator's duties.

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1939-40. Letters sent, 1939-40. Register of correspondence about the shipbuilding program, 1939-40.

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19.8 RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF SHIPS
1794-1972

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19.8.1 General records

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1940-45 (7,185 ft.). Unclassified general correspondence, 1946-66 (6,837 ft.). Confidential general correspondence, 1947-61 (1,113 ft.). Secret general correspondence, 1915-65 (3,585 ft.). Reports of experiments conducted at naval laboratories, 1939-46.

Motion Pictures (1 reel): Security-classified film, 1962 Nuclear Sea Tests, from secret general correspondence, 1963.

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19.8.2 Records of the Maintenance Division

Textual Records: Hull and machinery allowance lists, 1911-45.

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19.8.3 Records of the Electronics Division

Textual Records: General correspondence, 1943-44. Correspondence about research and experimental projects, 1931-42. Specifications, 1937-44.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (3,200 items): Radio, radar, sonar, and other electronic equipment, 1916-46. SEE ALSO 19.10.

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19.8.4 Records of the Publications Division

Textual Records: Reports of performance tests of auxiliary machinery, 1900-45. Descriptions of electrical installations on naval vessels, ca. 1900-48. Publications concerning naval vessels ("General Information Books"), 1900-45.

Photographs (173,850 images): General photographic file of the Bureau of Ships, documenting the history of the U.S. Navy, and including views of U.S. Navy vessels; construction and launching of ships; construction facilities; sailors, officers, Navy Department officials, and noted individuals; and nautical artworks (some dating to 1776), 1883-1972 (N). SEE ALSO 19.12.

Photographic Prints (315 images): Mounted views of ships, 1890- 1917 (N[C], 185 images). Small boats and auxiliary vessels, 1865- 1941 (NS, 130 images). SEE ALSO 19.12.

Finding Aids: Vessel name/hull number index to photographic series N.

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19.8.5 Records of the Shipbuilding Division

Textual Records: Records relating to ship design, 1890-1942. Specifications for materials, 1909-44. Tables of requirements relating to lend-lease materials, 1942-44. Records relating to fuel oil investigations, 1937-41. Patent infringement case files, 1929-42. Correspondence and subject files of the Technical Intelligence Liaison Sub-Section, Research and Standards Branch, 1945-52.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (7,425 items and 1,151 rolls of microfilm): Captured Japanese ship plans, 1932-47 (425 items). Plans of U.S. Navy vessels, 1908-59 (7,141 items and 1,150 rolls of microfilm), with index, 1908-48. Microfilm copy ("Roll 32516" of plans) and other data concerning U.S.S. Constellation, 1794- 1947 (1 roll). SEE ALSO 19.10.

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19.8.6 Records of the Naval Research Laboratory

History: Established, 1923, under the Office of the Secretary of the Navy. Transferred to Bureau of Engineering, 1931. Returned to Office of the Secretary of the Navy, 1939. Assigned to Bureau of Ships, 1941. Assigned to Office of Research and Inventions, 1945, and to Office of Naval Research, 1946.

Textual Records: Security-classified and unclassified general correspondence, 1920-42.

Related Records: Records of the Office of Naval Research, RG 298.

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19.9 RECORDS OF REAR ADM. GEORGE H. ROCK RELATING TO THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON SAFETY OF LIFE AT SEA
1928-30

History: Conference of 18 nations held in London, April 16-May 31, 1929, to revise an international convention for the safety of life at sea, signed January 20, 1914. U.S. delegation included Rear Adm. George H. Rock, Assistant Chief, Bureau of Construction and Repair, who served as chairman of the Construction Committee and as a member of the Committee on Lifesaving Apparatus. Conference concluded with the signing of the International Convention and Regulations for Promoting Safety of Life at Sea, May 31, 1929. Convention proclaimed by the President, after Senate ratification, September 30, 1936.

Textual Records: Minutes of meetings of the U.S. delegation, 1929. Minutes of meetings of the Committees on Construction, Lifesaving Apparatus, Radiotelegraphy, and Safety of Navigation, 1929. Copies of published final report and minutes of committees, 1929. Technical reports, correspondence, interfiled photographs and blueprints, and miscellaneous materials, 1928-30.

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19.10 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)

SEE Architectural and Engineering Plans UNDER 19.3.2, 19.3.3, 19.4.3, 19.8.3, and 19.8.5.

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19.11 MOTION PICTURES (GENERAL)

SEE UNDER 19.8.1.

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19.12 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)
1898-1966

Photographs (5,987 images): U.S. Navy ships at Veracruz, Mexico (1914); Mexican refugees, and Mexican and American officials; ships on sea trials, in drydock, and fitting out; and U.S. Navy midshipmen, 1914-20 (VC, 120 images). Review of Atlantic Fleet, 1915 (BNR, 38 images). Motor buzzer transmitter, n.d. (MBT, 29 images). Ships of the British Royal Navy, 1941-45 (SB, 5,800 images).

Photographic Prints (165,221 images): Ship fittings, equipment, and interiors; model ships; tests and experiments; damage to ships; views of Boston and New York Navy Yards; and the navy exhibit at the 1926 Sesquicentennial International Exposition, Philadelphia, PA, 1902-39 (E, 4,200 images). Construction, launching, refitting, and sea trials of U.S. Navy vessels, 1902- 65 (LC, LCA, LCM; 157,625 images). Navy radio and communications illustrations and equipment, 1907-24 (RS, 1,550 images). Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and bureau chiefs, 1917 (NBC, 10 images). Models and mockups of U.S. Navy ships, 1941-46 (MM, 1,200 images). Launching and commissioning of post-World War II surface ships and submarines, 1946-66 (NV, 500 images). U.S. and foreign naval vessels, 1898-1945 (NAO, 136 images).

Photographic Negatives (12 images): Alterations to the carrier U.S.S. Lexington (CV-2), 1942 (X).

SEE Photographs UNDER 19.4.1 and 19.8.4. SEE Photographic Prints UNDER 19.3.1, 19.4.1, and 19.8.4.


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.

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


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