RG-25. RECORDS OF SPECIAL COMMISSIONS
The records of temporary independent commissions have been
placed in one record group. These commissions were created to perform a specific function and they were terminated at the completion of that function. Being independent, they were not established under the purview of an on-going executive department. As can be ascertained from their names, these commissions were formed to serve primarily as investigative or planning bodies, or as vehicles to erect public monuments and promote the official commemoration of historic events.
COMMEMORATIVE, MONUMENT AND EXPOSITION COMMISSIONS
Fiftieth Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg Commission
General Correspondence, [ca. 1909-1914]. (4 volumes) Grouped alphabetically by first letter of correspondent’s surname. Correspondence exchanged between national, state, and local officials and private citizens involved in planning the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg in 1913. Also included are addresses given at the anniversary celebrations. At the New York veteran’s celebration on July 3, 1913, the Rev. Dr. Newell Dwight Hillis spoke on the history of slavery, its role in the division between the North and the South, and the consequent reconciliation between Union and Confederate soldiers.
Pennsylvania Constitution Commemoration Committee
General Correspondence, 1935-1938. (11 boxes, 6 folders) Grouped by type of material and arranged thereunder chronologically. Contains minutes, general correspondence, and miscellaneous papers of the executive, regional, and special committees organized to plan Pennsylvania’s 150th anniversary commemoration of the ratification of the U.S. Constitution. Included in this series is a folder entitled "Negro Participation, June 20, 1938." Materials found include letters and papers documenting the participation of African Americans in ceremonies in Philadelphia. Constitution Commemoration Committee members included the following African Americans: Robert L. Vann, chairman of the Pennsylvania Negro Committee, Pittsburgh Region, W. T. Poole, Richard F. Jones, P. J. Clyde Randall, Homer S. Brown, and Ivory Cobb. Also present in the file are many letters to and from Dr. John P. Turner, chairman of the Pennsylvania Negro Committee, Philadelphia Region, containing references to the celebration. Despite opposition to "negro" participation, the celebration was held at Convention Hall in Philadelphia on Monday June 20, 1938. The program included a choir, a pageant dramatizing the death of Crispus Attucks, and addresses by Philadelphia Mayor S. Davis Wilson, the Rev. Dr. Robert Bagnoll, pastor of the St. Thomas Presbyterian Episcopal Church, and former Mayor Harry Mackey. Bagnoll’s address reiterated the theory that Alexander Hamilton’s mother was a "negro" from the Virgin Islands. There are also letters of invitation to various African American churches and organizations to participate in the celebration parade. These organizations included the Charles Young Company #27 of United Spanish War Veterans; George Bratcher Post #3614, Knights of Pythias; Colonel Charles Young Post #682; Quaker City Lodge, Elks #720; O. V. Catto Lodge, Elks #20; Holly Briggs Post VFW #2168; Leon Spencer Reid Post #547, American Legion; Pyramid Temple Shriners; Clarence Hill Post #1297; Crispus Attucks Post #151; and Cris Perry Lodge of Elks. The files include a listing of African American magazines and newspapers published in the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
Publicity and Newsclippings, 1936-1938. (7 boxes, 32 folders) Unarranged. Included in this collection are 372 photographs relating to activities celebrating the 150th anniversary of the United States Constitution. The prints were collected from newspapers throughout the state, especially from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh presses. In a folder labeled "Publicity-Photographs, 1937-1938" are several photographs of African American celebrations including parade scenes, contestants gathered in the William Penn School for Girls, images of bands and choruses performing at a June 18, 1938 birthday celebration for Dr. John P. Turner, and the Crispus Attucks Pageant held on June 20, 1938. A copy of a Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader article entitled "Program Gives Actual Picture of Washington" provides background information on George Washington. This article contains a paragraph headed "Slavery" that quotes Washington’s sentiments with regard to slavery: "I shall never purchase another slave, but I cannot sell them, because I have principles against this tragedy in the human species. It is the wish nearest my heart that some way might be found to abolish slavery by law. It would prevent much future mischief."
Pennsylvania Three Hundredth Anniversary Commission (Swedish Tercentenary)
Historical Data, undated. (7 folders) Grouped by subject, and thereunder alphabetically by first letter of correspondent’s surname. A record of general correspondence and miscellaneous papers and financial accounts of the anniversary commission established to celebrate the arrival of the first Swedish settlement on the Delaware River. Included in the folder is the following item relating to African Americans: "Bibliography and Books, 1937-1938," in the August 1938 issue of The Delaware County Advocate, which contains an article "From Shanties to a Park: The Restoration of John Morton’s Birthplace." Accompanying this article is a photograph of the home in Prospect Park, Chester, in which John Morton was born, surrounded by "negro shanties."
Sesqui-Centennial Commission of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Correspondence Relating to Exhibits, 1926. (3 folders) Grouped by type of material. Reports and general correspondence of the commission that oversaw the exhibits for the 1926 state Sesqui-Centennial Exposition in the state building in Philadelphia. Included are letters from State Archivist H. R. Shenk requesting information from various groups in order to represent "all racial and religious elements" in the Pennsylvania Building at the Sesqui-Centennial. Additionally, the file holds a report from Shenk to Dr. Clyde L. King outlining six "achievements of the colored race."
PLANNING AND OTHER COMMISSIONS
Pennsylvania Post-War Planning Commission
General Correspondence, [ca. 1943-1947]. (8 boxes) Arranged chronologically by date of correspondence. This Commission was created in 1943 to undertake studies in order to prepare for the economic dislocations expected in the post-war period and to devise measures to prevent the kind of mass unemployment that resulted at the end of the First World War. Included in this file are letters to and from Joseph V. Baker, chief of the Division of Negro Research and Planning in the Department of Labor and Industry. The letters are dated 1943 and allude to working toward meeting the needs of the black community in Pennsylvania after World War II.