Guide to Federal Records

Records of the Office of Territories

(Record Group 126)
1885-1976

Overview of Records Locations

Table of Contents

  • 126.1 Administrative History
  • 126.2 General Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors 1885-1971
  • 126.3 Records of Subordinate Units to the Office of Territories and its Predecessors 1941-53
    • 126.3.1 Records of the Research Unit on Territorial Policy
    • 126.3.2 Records of the Civilian Food Reserve Section
    • 126.3.3 Records of the Executive Officer, Office of Territories, relating to Korean War activities in U.S. territories under the Defense Production Act of 1950
  • 126.4 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Puerto Rico 1920-51
    • 126.4.1 Records of the Special Disbursing Officer of Puerto Rico
    • 126.4.2 Records of the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Commission (PRHRC) and its successor, the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Loan Section (PRHRLS)
  • 126.5 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Alaska 1934-49
    • 126.5.1 Records relating to the Matanuska Valley Colony
    • 126.5.2 Records of the Federal Inter-Agency Alaskan Development Committee
    • 126.5.3 Records of the field representative of the Civilian Food Reserve Section in Alaska
  • 126.6 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Other Geographic Areas 1921-76
    • 126.6.1 Records of the West Indian Conference
    • 126.6.2 Records of the Pacific Islands recruitment program
    • 126.6.3 Records relating to the administration of Guam
    • 126.6.4 Records relating to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands
  • 126.7 Records of the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands 1935-59
    • 126.7.1 General records
    • 126.7.2 Records relating to the World War II program for safekeeping currency, gold, securities, and other valuables after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines
  • 126.8 Records of the U.S. Antarctic Service (USAS) 1939-43
  • 126.9 Still Pictures (General) 1908-57

Top of Page

126.1 Administrative History

Established: In the Department of the Interior by Administrative Order 2577, July 28, 1950.

Predecessor Agencies:

In the Department of State:

  • Office of the Secretary of State and/or Chief Clerk (1789-1833)
  • Home Bureau (1833-53)
  • Domestic Bureau (1853-55)
  • Office of the Chief Clerk (1855-70)
  • Domestic Records (1870-72)
  • Territorial and Domestic Records Bureau (1872-73)

In the Department of the Interior:

  • Patent and Miscellaneous Division (1873-1907)
  • Miscellaneous Section, Office of the Chief Clerk (1907-34)
  • Division of Territories and Island Possessions (1934-50)

  • Alaska Engineering Commission (1915-23)
  • The Alaska Railroad (1923-36)
    The Alaska Railroad, Division of Territories and Island
  • Possessions (1936-50)
  • Alaska Road Commission (1932-36)
    Alaska Road Commission, Division of Territories and Island
  • Possessions (1936-50)

In the War Department:

  • Division of Customs and Insular Affairs (1898-1900)
    Division of Insular Affairs (1900-2)
  • Bureau of Insular Affairs (1902-39)
  • Alaska Road Commission (1905-32)

In the Department of the Navy:

Administration of the following insular possessions:

  • American Samoa (1898-1907, 1910-51)
  • Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (1947-51)
  • Guam (1898-1907, 1910-50)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands (1916-31)

Functions: Administered U.S. territorial possessions.

Abolished: Effective July 1, 1971, by Secretary's Order 2942, June 30, 1971.

Successor Agencies: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Territorial Affairs, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Land Management (1971-73); Office of Territorial Affairs (1973-80); Office of Assistant Secretary for Territorial and International Affairs (1980- ).

Finding Aids: Richard S. Maxwell and Evans Walker, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the Office of Territories, PI 154 (1963).

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

Related Records: Record copies of publications of the Office of Territories in RG 287, Publications of the U.S. Government.

Top of Page

126.2 General Records of the Office of Territories and its
Predecessors
1885-1971

History: General administration of the territories formed out of lands acquired by the United States on the mainland of North America vested in the Department of State, 1789. Exercised by the Secretary of State directly, or by his Chief Clerk, until establishment of the Home Bureau by Secretary's order, June 30, 1833. Home Bureau redesignated Domestic Bureau, 1853, and abolished, effective June 30, 1855, by provisions of the Civil and Diplomatic Appropriation Act (10 Stat. 669), March 3, 1855. Functions reverted to Chief Clerk until establishment of unit known as Domestic Records, 1870. Redesignated Territorial and Domestic Records Bureau, 1872. Abolished concurrent with transfer of responsibility to the Department of the Interior by act of March 1, 1873 (17 Stat. 484).

Interior Department territorial administration exercised by the Patent and Miscellaneous Division, 1873-1907, and by the Miscellaneous Section in the Office of the Chief Clerk, 1907-34. Division of Territories and Island Possessions established, effective July 29, 1934, by EO 6726, May 29, 1934. Redesignated Office of Territories, 1950. See 126.1.

Functions of the War Department's Bureau of Insular Affairs relating to Puerto Rico assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions by EO 6726. Office of Territories responsibilities with respect to Puerto Rico terminated upon proclamation of Commonwealth status, July 25, 1952, pursuant to act approving Puerto Rican constitution (66 Stat. 327), July 3, 1952, as drafted pursuant to the Puerto Rico Federal Relations Act (64 Stat. 319), July 3, 1950. Residual functions of the Bureau of Insular Affairs, relating primarily to the Philippine Islands, transferred to Division of Territories and Island Possessions, 1939 (see 126.7.)

Interior Department assumed responsibility for territorial affairs in Alaska pursuant to the act of 1873. Assigned to the Division of Territories and Island Possessions by Secretary's Order 1040, February 13, 1936, and to Office of Territories, 1950. Interior Department administration lapsed when Alaska became a state January 3, 1959, pursuant to an act of July 7, 1958 (72 Stat. 339). Interior Department responsibility for The Alaska Railroad assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions by Secretary's Order 1040, February 13, 1936, and to Office of Territories, 1950. (For administrative history of The Alaska Railroad, see RG 322.)

Alaska Road Commission, established in the War Department by an act of January 27, 1905 (33 Stat. 616), transferred to the Department of the Interior by an act of June 30, 1932 (47 Stat. 446). Assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions by Secretary's Order 1040, February 13, 1936, and to Office of Territories, 1950. Transferred to Bureau of Public Roads, Department of Commerce, 1956.

Under authority of the act of 1873, the Department of the Interior claimed original administrative jurisdiction over the Hawaiian Islands, annexed by joint resolution, July 7, 1898, and organized as a territory by act of April 30, 1900 (31 Stat. 141). Assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions by Secretary's Order 1040, February 13, 1936, and to Office of Territories, 1950. Interior Department administration lapsed when Hawaii became a state August 21, 1959, pursuant to an act of March 18, 1959 (73 Stat. 4).

Administration of the Pacific Equatorial Islands placed under Department of the Interior by EO's 7368, May 13, 1936 (Baker, Howland, and Jarvis Islands), and 7828, March 3, 1938 (Canton and Enderbury Islands), and assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions, and subsequently to Office of Territories, 1950.

Administration of the U.S. Virgin Islands transferred from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior by EO 5666, February 27, 1931. Assigned to Division of Territories and Island Possessions by Secretary's Order 1040, February 13, 1936, and to Office of Territories, 1950. (For administrative history of the government of the Virgin Islands, see RG 55.)

Administration of the following insular possessions transferred to the Department of the Interior from the Department of the Navy, and assigned to the Office of Territories: Guam, by EO 10077, September 7, 1949, with an effective date of July 1, 1950, set by EO 10137, June 30, 1950; and American Samoa, by EO 10264, June 29, 1951, effective July 1, 1951.

The Office of Territories was abolished, effective July 1, 1971, by Secretary's Order 2942, June 30, 1971, creating the position of Deputy Assistant Secretary for Territorial Affairs (DASTA), Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Land Management. DASTA superseded by the Office of Territorial Affairs (OTA), May 7, 1973, pursuant to Secretary's Order 2951, February 6, 1973. OTA superseded by Office of the Assistant Secretary for Territorial and International Affairs, pursuant to Secretary's Order 3046, February 14, 1980.

Textual Records: Central classified files relating to departmental administration of AK, AZ, Guam, HI, NM, OK, the Philippine Islands, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, DC, the Virgin Islands, equatorial islands, Antarctica; the civilian food reserve program; trust territories; and The Alaska Railroad, 1907-71. Indexes relating to the central classified files, 1934- 71, and to the Philippine Islands, 1939-46. Letters and memorandums concerning the Virgin Islands, 1931-34. Cables sent to and received from Puerto Rico, 1934-40. Project files and correspondence concerning public works in Alaska and the Virgin Islands, 1945-61. Office files of the Director of the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, 1942-45, of the Executive Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior relating to Alaska, 1929-31, and of the Chief Counsel, 1939-46.

Maps: Topographic maps of the Hawaiian Islands prepared from Hawaiian Government and Hawaiian Territory Surveys, showing crown and government lands, forests, grazing lands, homestead settlement tracts, plantations, and mills, 1885-1919 (46 items). Maps relating to Alaska, 1909- 51 (46 items), from the governor's annual reports, showing radio stations, judicial districts, lines of communications, and national forests, 1923- 31; prepared by the Alaska Road Commission showing wagon roads, sled roads, pack trails, telegraph lines, and wireless stations, 1909-51; showing The Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks, 1918-19; and showing the Chickaloon and Bering River coal fields, 1916-22.

Architectural and Engineering Plans: Public works, including schools, hospitals, sewer and water facilities, and airports in Alaska, 1947-61 (6,800 items), and the Virgin Islands, 1946-60 (2,700 items).

Aerial Photographs: Charlotte Amalie, Virgin Islands, 1955(68 items).

Photographs: Photographic prints, negatives, and slides of construction of sanitation and sewer systems, hospitals, schools, and roads, and the effects of heavy rains in the U.S. Virgin Islands, 1947-56. (VI, 1,575 images).

Top of Page

126.3 Records of Subordinate Units to the Office of Territories and its Predecessors
1941-53

Top of Page

126.3.1 Records of the Research Unit on Territorial Policy

History: Established by Secretary of the Interior's Order 1767, November 25, 1942, to research territorial problems and prepare a report on the subject for the guidance of the Secretary in setting policy. Terminated upon reassignment of its director, 1944. No report or analysis issued.

Textual Records: Reference file of the director, 1941-44.

Top of Page

126.3.2 Records of the Civilian Food Reserve Section

History: Established in the Division of Territories and Island Possessions to administer the emergency food reserve stockpile provisions of an act providing funds for relief and civil defense in Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (55 Stat. 856), December 23, 1941. Program terminated November 30, 1945.

Textual Records: General records of the Washington, DC, office, 1942-45, including correspondence with the War Food Administration and the Office of Price Administration, and minutes of meetings of the Interdepartmental Shipping Priorities Advisory Committee and the Interagency Food Allocations Committee.

Related Records: Records of the field representative in Alaska are described under 126.5.3.

Top of Page

126.3.3 Records of the Executive Officer, Office of Territories, relating to Korean War activities in U.S. territories under the
Defense Production Act of 1950

History: The Defense Production Act of 1950 (64 Stat. 798), September 8, 1950, authorized the Office of Territories to allot materials and set priorities for defense-related projects in AK, HI, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Textual Records: Correspondence, memorandums, reports, allotment forms and requests, requests for priorities, and construction schedules, 1950-53.

Top of Page

126.4 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Puerto Rico
1920-51

Top of Page

126.4.1 Records of the Special Disbursing Officer of Puerto Rico

History: Established under the Bureau of Insular Affairs in 1917 to pay for purchases made at the direction of the insular government. Transferred to the Division of Territories and Island Possessions in 1939. Terminated, September 30, 1945.

Textual Records: Office files, 1920-51.

Top of Page

126.4.2 Records of the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Commission
(PRHRC) and its successor, the Puerto Rican Hurricane Relief Loan
Section (PRHRLS)

History: PRHRC established by joint resolution, December 21, 1928 (45 Stat. 1067), to provide assistance to victims of the hurricane of September 1928, and later extended to other hurricanes. Composed of the Secretaries of Agriculture, War, and the Treasury. Responsibilities administered in Puerto Rico by the Commission's Board of Alternates, consisting of representatives of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Collector of Customs at San Juan, and the Department of Agriculture. Abolished by Public Resolution 22, 74th Congress, June 3, 1935 (49 Stat. 320), effective June 18, 1935, with functions devolving upon the Secretary of the Interior, who issued Order 950, June 18, 1935, establishing the PRHRLS in the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, to continue the work of the PRHRC, including the adjustment of loans made by the former commission. PRHRLS lapsed following transfer of its functions to the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, June 30, 1946.

Textual Records: Administrative and loan records, 1929-35; and quarterly and annual reports, 1929-35, of the PRHRC. Monthly, 1929-33, and quarterly, 1933-35, reports of the PRHRC Board of Alternates. Administrative records, 1935-50; quarterly reports, 1935-36, 1938-46; semiannual reports, 1937; and annual reports, 1935-36, of the PRHRLS.

Related Records: Records of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration, RG 323.

Top of Page

126.5 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Alaska
1934-49

Top of Page

126.5.1 Records relating to the Matanuska Valley Colony

History: Established at Palmer, AK, 1934. Under administration of the Federal Emergency Relief Administration, 1934-35, and the Work Projects Administration, 1935-38. Transferred to Division of Territories and Island Possessions, 1938.

Textual Records: Correspondence relating to employment, homesteading, project goals and administration, and other aspects of settlement, 1934-39.

Top of Page

126.5.2 Records of the Federal Inter-Agency Alaskan Development Committee

History: Established at the suggestion of the Secretary of the Interior, in a circular letter to heads of federal agencies, October 7, 1947. Consisted of representatives of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, and the Interior; the Maritime Commission; the Reconstruction Finance Corporation; the Federal Security Agency; the Federal Works Agency; and the Housing and Home Finance Agency. Held eight meetings between October 10, 1947, and December 29, 1948. Records maintained by the Division of Territories and Island Possessions.

Textual Records: Correspondence, minutes, reports, budget estimates, and other records relating to plans for the development of Alaska, 1947-49.

Top of Page

126.5.3 Records of the field representative of the Civilian Food Reserve Section in Alaska

Textual Records (in Anchorage): Subject file, 1942-44.

Related Records: Records of the Washington, DC, Office, Civilian Food Reserve Section, are described under 126.3.2.

Top of Page

126.6 Records of the Office of Territories and its Predecessors Relating to Other Geographic Areas
1921-76

Top of Page

126.6.1 Records of the West Indian Conference

History: Met under the auspices of the Anglo-American Caribbean Commission at Barbados, British West Indies, March 1944, and at St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, February 1946, to discuss Caribbean problems, including nutrition, employment, health, housing, and industrial development. Records maintained by the Division of Territories and Island Possessions.

Textual Records: Minutes, agenda, press releases, and drafts of committee reports, 1944-46.

Top of Page

126.6.2 Records of the Pacific Islands recruitment program

History: Program developed in 1949 under general direction of the Department of the Interior to recruit through the International Refugee Organization displaced persons with medical degrees for positions in the U.S. territorial possessions.

Textual Records: General administrative records, including correspondence, applications for positions, personal data sheets, and registers of displaced physicians, 1949-51.

Top of Page

126.6.3 Records relating to the administration of Guam

Textual Records (in San Francisco): Records of the High Commissioner, 1921- 38. Executive Orders, 1946-76.

Top of Page

126.6.4 Records relating to the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands

Textual Records (in San Francisco): Inspection report, Caroline Islands, 1946. Records relating to the Island Trading Company of Micronesia, 1947-54.

Top of Page

126.7 Records of the Office of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands
1935-59

History: Philippine Islands acquired by the treaty ending the Spanish- American War, December 10, 1898. Administered by the War Department through the Division of Customs and Insular Affairs, 1898-1900, Division of Insular Affairs, 1900-2, and Bureau of Insular Affairs, 1902-39. Functions transferred to Division of Territories and Island Possessions, Department of the Interior, by Reorganization Plan No. II of 1939, effective July 1, 1939. (For an administrative history of the Bureau of Insular Affairs and its predecessors, see RG 350). Between November 15, 1935, when the Commonwealth of the Philippines was declared in accordance with the Tydings-McGuffie (Independence) Act (48 Stat. 456), March 24, 1934, and July 4, 1946, when the independence of the Philippines was proclaimed, a U.S. High Commissioner, reporting through the Bureau of Insular Affairs and subsequently through the Division of Territories and Island Possessions, represented U.S. interests. Functions of the U.S. High Commissioner transferred to the Secretary of the Interior by EO 9245, September 16, 1942. Functions restored by EO 9616, September 14, 1945.

Top of Page

126.7.1 General records

Textual Records: Records of the U.S. High Commissioner's offices at Manila, 1935-46, and Washington, DC, 1942-48. List of persons interned by the Japanese, 1942. Correspondence concerning internees, 1942-47. Radiograms sent and received, February- September 1946. Claims of staff members in the High Commissioner's Office for World War II losses, July 1949.

Finding Aids: Richard S. Maxwell, comp., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the U.S. High Commissioner to the Philippine Islands, PI 151 (1963).

Top of Page

126.7.2 Records relating to the World War II program for
safekeeping currency, gold, securities, and other valuables after
the Japanese invasion of the Philippines

Textual Records: Records relating to the safekeeping program, including the destruction of currency by U.S. authorities, 1941- 59. Records sent by the Office to the Bureau of Accounts, Department of the Treasury, and records created by the Bureau in providing control over the valuables after their transfer to the continental United States and in acting on claims arising from the safekeeping program, 1941-59. Lists (counterparts) of documents received by the Bureau of Accounts from the Office and an index of important Japanese properties in the Philippine Islands, 1942.

Top of Page

126.8 Records of the U.S. Antarctic Service (USAS)
1939-43

History: Established by appointment, July 7, 1939, of Richard E. Byrd to command Antarctic expedition authorized by the Urgent Deficiency and Supplemental Appropriation Act, June 30, 1939 (53 Stat. 580). Expedition established bases in Bay of Whales (West Base) January 12, 1940, and on Palmer Peninsula (East Base), January 14, 1940. Expedition ended by evacuation of Bay of Whales, February 1, 1941, and Palmer Peninsula, March 22, 1941. USAS formally terminated, June 30, 1943, upon expiration of final appropriation.

Textual Records: Office file of the Executive Secretary of the Executive Committee, 1939-41. General Files I, 1939-42, and II, 1939-43. Information and special subject files, 1939-42. Letters sent by the administrative assistant, 1942-43. Radiograms, 1940- 41. Records relating to appropriations, 1939-40. Scientific and technical reports, 1939-43. Fiscal and supply correspondence, 1939-42, with a subject-classified requisition file, 1939. Contracts, purchase orders, and vouchers, 1939. Card index of personnel, n.d., and personnel data file, 1939-43. Equipment index, n.d.

Maps: General maps of Antarctica, 1939 (2 items). Maps prepared by personnel of East Base, 1939-41 (17 items), and West Base, 1939-42 (12 items).

Aerial Photographs : Oblique photographs taken with hand held cameras of parts of Antarctica in the vicinity of East Base and West Base, including negatives and an incomplete set of prints, 1940 (12,256 items).

Motion Pictures : Silent films, black and white and color, of the Antarctic expedition, including loading of supplies in Boston; transiting the Panama Canal; Pitcairn Island; scenes of icebergs, whales, seals, and penguins; camp near Rockefeller Mountain; unloading of supplies at West Base; sled dogs in action; storms and blizzards; laboratory and machine shops; and general scenes of camp life, 1939-41 (97 reels).

Photographs: U.S. Antarctic Expedition, photographed by Richard E. Byrd, 1939-41 (AS, 6,336 images). Topographical views of Antarctica made by Finn Ronne, 1940 (FR, 120 images). Cape Erelson, Antarctica, 1940 (CE, 2 images). David Hilton's sledging expedition, 1940-41 (DH, 252 images). Radiophotos transmitted by the USAS, 1940-41 (RP, 47 images).

Color slides: People and scenes in Antarctica, 1939- 41 (CS, 75 images).

Finding Aids: Charles E. Dewing and Laura E. Kelsay, comps., Preliminary Inventory of the Records of the United States Antarctic Service, PI 90 (1955).

Top of Page

126.9 Still Pictures (General)
1908-57

Photographs: General file relating to Alaska, 1915-45, including construction of The Alaska Railroad and the Matanuska Colonization Project (AG, 3,000 images). President Warren G. Harding in Alaska, and his funeral, 1923 (ARB, 35 images). Activities of the Puerto Rico Reconstruction Administration; aspects of Puerto Rican geography, topography, land use, urban and rural development, historical sites, culture, prominent personalities; and President Harry S. Truman's 1948 visit to the island, 1935-48 (PG, 2,500 images; PRA, 190 images). Hawaii, showing agriculture, industry, social activities, education, transportation, and a 1938 Hilo labor demonstration, 1936-57 (HG, 470 images).

Photographs and Lantern Slides: Copper River Railroad, AK; survey, construction, and operation of The Alaska Railroad; views of Alaska, wildlife, officials, workers, settlers, and natives, 1908-33 (AR, 2,500 images; ARS, 122 images; ARA, 500 images).

See Photographs under 126.2 and 126.8. See Color slides under 126.8.


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.


Top of Page

Guide to Federal Records >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.