Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Bureau of Ordnance


(Record Group 74)
1818-1967

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 74.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY
  • 74.2 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF ORDNANCE AND HYDROGRAPHY AND OF THE BUREAU OF ORDNANCE 1842-1967
  • 74.2.1 Correspondence
  • 74.2.2 Special collections of records
  • 74.3 RECORDS RELATING TO VARIOUS SUBJECTS 1818-1942
  • 74.3.1 Records relating to the manufacture and testing of guns, gun parts, ammunition, and armor
  • 74.3.2 Records relating to gun exercise and target practice
  • 74.3.3 Records of guns and ordnance material
  • 74.3.4 Records relating to patents and inventions
  • 74.3.5 Records relating to supplies, accounts, contracts, and personnel
  • 74.4 RECORDS OF SUBORDINATE UNITS 1900-44
  • 74.5 RECORDS OF ORDNANCE BOARDS 1845-1911
  • 74.6 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL) 1818-1965
  • 74.7 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL) 1864-1946

74.1 ADMINISTRATIVE HISTORY

Established: In the Department of the Navy, by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), which transferred the hydrographic functions of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography to the Bureau of Navigation.

Predecessor Agencies:

In the War Department:

  • Office of the Secretary of War (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 Ordnance and Hydrography (1842-62)
Functions: Procured, stored, and issued all ordnance and ordnance equipment used by the navy. Operated ordnance production and storage facilities.

Abolished: By an act of August 18, 1959 (73 Stat. 395), establishing the Bureau of Naval Weapons, Department of the Navy.

Successor Agencies: Bureau of Naval Weapons.

Finding Aids: William F. Shonkwiler, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Bureau of Ordnance, PI 33 (1951); Harry Schwartz, comp., "Supplement to Preliminary Inventory No. 33, Records of the Bureau of Ordnance," NM 51 (1965).

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

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Bureau of Ordnance in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government. Records of the Board of Naval Commissioners in RG 45, Naval Records Collection of the Office of Naval Records and Library.

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74.2 GENERAL RECORDS OF THE BUREAU OF ORDNANCE AND HYDROGRAPHY
AND OF THE BUREAU OF ORDNANCE
1842-1967

History: Responsibility for naval affairs, including naval ordnance, initially vested in the War Department, established by an act of August 7, 1789 (1 Stat. 49). Separate Department of the Navy established by an act of April 30, 1798 (1 Stat. 553). Ordnance functions handled by the immediate Office of the Secretary of the Navy, 1798-1815. Three-member Board of Naval Commissioners established by an act of February 7, 1815 (3 Stat. 202), to provide administrative assistance to the Secretary of the Navy, including that with respect to logistics of ordnance procurement and distribution. Board abolished by an act of August 31, 1842 (5 Stat. 579), with functions distributed among five newly established bureaus, including Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, redesignated Bureau of Ordnance by an act of July 5, 1862 (12 Stat. 510), with hydrographic functions transferred to newly established Bureau of Navigation. SEE 74.1.

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74.2.1 Correspondence

Textual Records: Letters and telegrams sent, 1842-1911, with registers, 1842-49, 1863. Letters received, 1842-85, with registers, 1842-61. General correspondence, 1885-1912 (1,600 ft.). Miscellaneous correspondence, 1906-17. Formerly security- classified general correspondence, 1912-44 (5,600 ft.) with indexes, 1914-43. History cards for correspondence, 1912-26.

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74.2.2 Special collections of records

Textual Records: Reports and correspondence arranged by subject, 1849-1920, including reports and letters by John A. Dahlgren, 1849-70; correspondence and reports relative to experiments with torpedoes, 1864-84; reports on installation and operation of wireless telegraphy on U.S.S. Chicago and U.S.S. Iowa, 1904-5; and reports, photographs, and diagrams relating to damage to ship armor during the Battle of Jutland, 1915-20. Mixed files relating to organization, contracts, and weapons design and development, 1902-67 (5,684 ft.).

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74.3 RECORDS RELATING TO VARIOUS SUBJECTS
1818-1942

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74.3.1 Records relating to the manufacture and testing of guns,
gun parts, ammunition, and armor

Textual Records: Reports and correspondence relating to the inspection, manufacture, and testing of the 32-pounder gun, 1846- 48; naval gun, 1852-78; VIII-, IX-, and X-inch guns, 1855-57; Wiard steel gun, 1861-71; wrought iron gun, 1861-74; XI-inch gun, 1862-66; XII-inch rifled gun, 1863-64; XIII-inch gun, 1863; XV- inch gun, 1862-98; Woodbridge VIII-inch breech-loading rifle, 1883; 6-inch breech-loading rifled gun, 1885-90; Hotchkiss rapid fire gun, 1884-91; and Gathman torpedo gun, 1897. Letters received relating to the Murphy Iron Wheel, 1862-63, and to the trial of the Puritan Gun Carriage, 1865-66. Reports of metals tested, 1870-84. Letters received concerning machine guns and small arms, 1871-84. Reports of tests and trials of Gatling guns, 1873, and the Lowell machine gun, 1878-79. Records of gun forgings, 1894-1902; carriage castings, 1889-93; and manufacture and inspection of armor plate, 1890-1902.

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74.3.2 Records relating to gun exercise and target practice

Textual Records: Letters received from gunnery practice ships, 1870-74. Correspondence on long-range firing of heavy ordnance, 1911-18. Reports of ship inspections, 1855-72; target and ordnance practice, 1862-92; guns and powder, 1863-67; and gun exercises on ships, 1904-5. Miscellaneous ordnance reports, 1854- 72. English translation, n.d., of French naval gun exercise manual (1834). Instructions for firing large guns, n.d. Manual of diagrams of gun crew positions for firing, n.d. Journal of target practice on ships, 1916-17.

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74.3.3 Records of guns and ordnance material

Textual Records: Registers of naval guns, 1842-1900; guns at navy yards and stations, 1818-70; gun carriages, 1883-1915; gun mounts for secondary batteries, 1888-1913; and guns for main and secondary batteries, 1898-1903. Lists of armament of naval vessels, 1841-1903; guns in navy yards and on ships, 1849; guns and mounts afloat, 1860-1942 (56 ft.); ships' ordnance allowance, 1899-1912; ordnance material on steamships, 1846-58, and on ships, 1865-70; and donations of condemned ordnance, 1897-98. Reports of the service of guns on ships, 1863-68; armament on vessels, 1863-71; the disposition of guns, 1863-95; and ordnance equipment supplied to ships, 1871-72.

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74.3.4 Records relating to patents and inventions

Textual Records: Letters sent, 1842-52. Letters received, 1844- 71. Correspondence relating to examination of inventions, 1851- 80; license and royalty agreements, 1896-1926; and patent infringements, 1918-21. Reports on inventions, 1862-81. Ordnance patents, 1826-72. Patents and inventions file, 1917-25. Patent specifications, 1890-92. Patent specifications on explosive compounds, 1863-70.

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74.3.5 Records relating to supplies, accounts, contracts, and
personnel

Textual Records: Letters received relating to methods of purchasing supplies, 1863-64, and civilian personnel duties, 1870. Correspondence relating to shipments of IX-inch guns, 1861. Journals of correspondence, 1845-60. Contract ledger, 1842-62. Ordnance contracts, 1842-76. Contracts, 1912-39 (86 ft.). Record of ordnance deliveries, 1836-76. Estimates of funds required, 1844-1906. Miscellaneous financial records, 1842-1921.

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74.4 RECORDS OF SUBORDINATE UNITS
1900-44

Textual Records: Letters sent by Bureau Desks A (Chief of Bureau), B (Assistant to the Chief of Bureau), C (Chief Clerk), H (Armor), I (Supply), and M (Mount), 1912-17. Correspondence of Bureau Desk N (Mines and Nets) relating to submarine nets, 1916- 17; mine and torpedo inventions, 1918; and the mine depot at Yorktown, VA, 1919. Records of Bureau Desk M-A (Aviation Ordnance), consisting of correspondence, 1918; and working papers, 1918-19. Research data on guns and torpedoes, compiled by the Division of Research and Development, 1900-43. Letters received by the Division of Research and Development from Albert Einstein relating to his participation in the navy's torpedo research program, 1944. Formerly security-classified correspondence of the Production Division relating to test and experiment projects concerning equipment purchased under ordnance contracts, 1922-39.

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74.5 RECORDS OF ORDNANCE BOARDS
1845-1911

Textual Records: Reports, correspondence, and other records of the Board on Navy Armament, 1845; Board on Rifled Guns, 1863; Board on Parrot 100-Pounder Guns, 1865; Permanent Ordnance Board, 1869-71; Board on Breech-Loading Rifles, 1869; Board on Naval Torpedo Boats, 1871-72; Naval Torpedo Boards, 1889, 1891, 1905- 11; Armor Factory Boards, 1891, 1897; Armor Plate Board, 1891-93; and Special Board on Armor Plate, 1895.

Architectural and Engineering Plans (40 items): Oversized blueprints of a proposed ordnance factory drawn for the Armor Factory Board, 1897. SEE ALSO 74.6.

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74.6 CARTOGRAPHIC RECORDS (GENERAL)
1818-1965

Maps (31 items): Eastern branch of the Potomac River, showing channels and a battery at Washington Navy Yard, 1842-60 (2 items). Track of U.S.S. Constellation during its summer cruise from Buzzard's Bay, MA, to Cape Hatteras, NC, with a separate chart of Buzzard's Bay, 1876 (2 items). Naval magazine at Hingman and Weymouth, MA, 1905 (17 items). Plans of cities suggested for a naval armor plant site, 1916 (6 items). North Sea mine barrage, 1922 (4 items).

Architectural and Engineering Plans (24,944 items): Plans and drawings of the Louisville, KY, Ordnance Plant, 1915-65 (5,100 items, in Chicago). Numbered plans, tracings, and blueprints of guns, machinery, ordnance parts, and ordnance plants, including some plans of Confederate and foreign guns and some ship plans, 1818-1921 (17,000 items). Unnumbered plans of naval gun sights and gun mounts of World War I, 1918 (2,000 items). Blueprints of armor plating used on battleships, 1915-17 (320 items). Plans of machine tools used in the U.S. Naval Gun Factory, Washington, DC, 1910-18 (300 items). Plans for the construction of the Navy Nitrate Plant at Indian Head, MD, including site plans and blueprints of chemical converters and furnaces, 1918 (200 items). Formerly security-classified World War II ordnance drawings and plans of a bomb rack for naval aviation, 1942-43 (24 items).

SEE Architectural and Engineering Plans UNDER 74.5.

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74.7 STILL PICTURES (GENERAL)
1864-1946

Photographs (10,672 images): U.S. and foreign ordnance and ordnance tests, including armor, guns, shells, torpedoes, and mines; and naval bases, buildings, personnel, trains, ships, machinery, and instruments, 1864-1922 (B, 3,160 images; BB, 319 images). Artillery and carriages made in the Creusot works of Schneider and Company, France, 1874-81 (CS, 27 images). Naval ordnance used in Operation Crossroads, Bikini, Marshall Islands, and resulting underwater damage caused to ships, 1946 (BO, 3,000 images; BU, 261 images; BN, 249 images; BT, 3,656 images).

Photographs, Glass Negatives, and Lantern Slides (793 images): Ordnance tools; smoke bomb tests; graphs and charts; construction of the Fort Defiance Machinery Co., Defiance, OH; machinery at the Russell Motor Co., Ontario, Canada, and the Linderman Steel and Machine Co.; the Allied Fleet at Scapa Flow, Scotland; minelaying; guns; ships; machines; naval railway batteries; and Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels and his trip to Europe, 1917-21 (M, 113 images; LS, 680 images).


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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