The Department of State is headed by the secretary of the Commonwealth, whose office was established under the Constitution of 1776. The secretary is the keeper of the Great Seal and the initial custodian for many of the official documents of state government. Election returns, the laws and resolutions of the General Assembly, and proclamations, veto messages, and other recorded acts of the governor are all filed with the Department of State. The department is also responsible for issuing commissions to elected and appointed officials, receiving and examining documents relating to the incorporation and regulation of corporations, regulating professional boxing and wrestling matches, and administering legislation relating to election procedures, professional licensing, and the operation of charitable organizations.


Attorney General’s Correspondence, 1791-1894. (1 box) Arranged chronologically. Correspondence received and sent by the attorneys general of Pennsylvania. Among the items found is a cache of eleven letters dated May 17-24, 1838 relating to the disturbances in Philadelphia that resulted in the destruction of Pennsylvania Hall, a large structure built for public meetings that served as a gathering place for the African American community and as a center of abolitionist activity. Among the correspondence are two letters to Governor Joseph Ritner from Pennsylvania Adjutant General William B. Reed, two letters to the governor from Samuel Webb stating that the riots caused African Americans in Philadelphia to fear for their lives, a resolution of the board of managers of the Pennsylvania Hall appointing Charles Harris as the messenger to inform the governor and others as to the status of the rioting, letters between Adjutant General Reed and Secretary of the Commonwealth Thomas H. Burrows, letters between Adjutant General Reed and Mayor John Swift, and letters from John G. Watmough to Adjutant General Reed and Governor Ritner.

Clemency File, 1790-1873. (68 boxes) Arranged chronologically. Individual case files that may contain diverse documents about persons seeking pardons from the president of the Supreme Executive Council, the governor, or the Board of Pardons. Types of documents for each case may include summary sheets, letters, petitions, court transcripts, newspaper notices, death warrants, pardon proclamations or respites. The information found in the file varies with each dossier and the time period. While one case file may merely provide a person’s name and reason for being imprisoned, another may also list the incarcerated individual’s occupation and particulars about his or her life and family. In a few instances photographs of prisoners are included. Some examples of cases involving African Americans are:

• April 1791. Commonwealth vs. Phoebe Douglas. Phoebe Douglas, a "Negroe," was convicted of taking property valued at thirty shillings from Ralph Izard for which she was sentenced to make restitution and serve six months of hard labor. Included are four petitions for pardon based upon Phoebe’s good moral character.

• September 7, 1791. Commonwealth vs. Negro Perry. Negro Perry was convicted of fraud, sentenced to one year’s hard labor, and fined one pound, seventeen shillings, and six pence. Included is a petition for pardon with pardon statement and fine cancellation dated April 18, 1792.

• December 1791. Commonwealth vs. Andrew Wilson. Andrew Wilson, a black man, was fined ten pounds "for fornication and bastardy on a Negro girl," Rebecca Knowles. The court adjudged him to pay thirty shillings fine and two shillings, six pence per week in support until the child turned five years old.

• November 1792. Commonwealth vs. Benjamin, a Negro. Benjamin was convicted of burglary and sentenced to hard labor until December 25, 1792. Included is a petition of Benjamin which also notes "pardoned December 1, 1792."

• November 1792. Commonwealth vs. Bello Robinson, Negro. Bello Robinson was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to be branded on the "brown of the left thumb with the letter "M," to pay a fine of five pounds, and to undergo a servitude of hard labor for three months. Includes petition and a notation of pardon given February 26, 1793.

• January 12, 1793. Commonwealth vs. Negroe Virgil Williams. Virgil Williams was convicted of fornication and bastardy. Includes petitions for remission of his fine, which was forgiven February 9, 1793.

• November 1863. Commonwealth vs. Frances Wilson, Gillmore Hull, Sylvester Gordon, Edward Stuckey, and Franklin Bostick. John Brown, a free African American accused of robbing a store and, though he protested his innocence, he was nonetheless banished into Maryland from his home in Salisbury Township, Lancaster County where he was physically abused and almost sold back into slavery by the defendants in this suit. This file contains testimonies of many people who saw John Brown being abused and beaten, one of whom was his wife, Susan Brown.

• December 1864. Commonwealth vs. Glenalvin J. Goodridge. Glenalvin Goodridge was accused of raping a white woman named Mary E. Smith. Mary E. Smith claimed that she went to his photography studio to have a photograph taken and that he pulled her into a darkroom and raped her. This file contains a copy of the record in the Court of Oyer and Terminer and General Jail Delivery for the County of York. Information includes statements as told by Mary E. Smith and other witnesses and several letters of testimony from people who wrote to Governor Andrew G. Curtin, requesting a pardon for Goodridge. The Governor pardoned Glenalvin J. Goodridge on December 13, 1864. The certificate of pardon is also in this file.

Executive Correspondence, 1790-1969. (108 boxes) Arranged chronologically date of letter. Executive correspondence of the Pennsylvania secretary of the Commonwealth containing both official correspondence and election returns. The following items are representative of materials that relate to African Americans:

• Undated list of illegal voters dated February 15, 1799. Heading the list is Benjamin Mengole, a "bad voter," a "foreigner" and a "Mulatto boy." The paper states that while his father became a citizen, Benjamin did not. He had immigrated with his father from Port-au-Prince in 1793.

• Correspondence dated January 8, 1805 from the Legislature of North Carolina to the governor of Pennsylvania. The letter asked for Pennsylvania’s concurrence in a proposed amendment to the federal Constitution that would "prevent the further importation of Slaves, or People of Colour, from any West-India Islands, from the Coast of Africa, or elsewhere, into the United States, or any part thereof."

• Letter, dated April 24, 1811, and an enclosure, both informing the Commonwealth that a black man, Thomas Lock, had reported the death of another African American, John Lloyd, whose material possessions now belonged to the Commonwealth because he had no heirs.

• Letter dated April 26, 1839 from George Sanderson to Secretary of the Commonwealth Francis R. Shunk informing him of the new library that would be open by summer 1840 in Carlisle. Connected with the Equal Rights Society, the library was incorporated in 1837 as the Equal Rights Library and contained 348 volumes. The Library would be a public library with every citizen to have access to it upon payment of $1.00.

• Letter dated May 11, 1861 from W. McCauley to Governor A. G. Curtin regarding the enlistment of the first "colored" soldiers to offer their services during the Civil War. McCauley refers to the noble history of Negro soldiers in the American Revolution and the War of 1812.

• A resolution dated October 20, 1861 from the citizens of Coudersport, Potter County, to the president of the United States protesting the use of Pennsylvania soldiers to capture and return fugitive slaves.

• Letter dated October 26, 1863 from the Provost Marshal General’s Office, Washington, D.C., signed by the following: James B. Fry, provost marshal general; Henry Stone, assistant adjutant general; and C. C. Gilbert, major, 19th US Infantry, acting assistant provost marshal general of Philadelphia. The letter, addressed to Brigadier General R. A. Pierce, assistant provost marshal general of Massachusetts, was written in response to certain recruitment questions including whether or not colored volunteers would be credited to the state’s quota and paid the offered bounty. The response was that they would be accepted but that it was uncertain whether or not the bounty would be paid.

• Letter dated May 15, 1865 from Governor A. G. Curtin to State Treasurer William H. Kemble, instructing him to pay five hundred dollars to the treasurer of the Home for Destitute Colored Children of Philadelphia.

• Letter dated June 5, 1865 from Governor A. G. Curtin to President Andrew Johnson that makes reference to a policy of paying a one hundred dollar bounty to recruits "white or colored."

• Letter dated December 12, 1866 addressed to Governor A. G. Curtin regarding the Pennsylvania Soldiers’ Orphans Schools, the presence of "colored soldier’s orphans" in the schools, and the possibility of appointing a "colored man to travel the state and locate additional colored orphans."

• Report bearing the notation "1867" addressed to the Committee on Out Wards lists the names of Pennsylvania soldiers being cared for in an almshouse that was apparently located in the city of Philadelphia. The report names the "colored soldiers" and reports a total of "thirty colored soldiers in residence at the almshouse."

• Letter dated February 23,1867 from Governor J. W. Geary to Major General George G. Meade regarding the arrival of "colored troops" in the state for discharge and the need to provide them with "rations, quarters and transportation."

• Letter dated November 30, 1868 from Samuel Jeanes, treasurer of Home for Destitute Colored Children, to Governor J. W. Geary requesting payment of state appropriation for the facility.

• Letter dated June 19, 1869 from George F. McFarland, superintendent of the Soldiers’ Orphans School, noting clothing requirements for a total of 2,133 children, which included 124 "colored" children at the Bridgewater school.

• Letter dated July 10, 1869 from Samuel Jeanes, treasurer of the Home for Destitute Colored Children to Governor J. W. Geary requesting payment of a financial appropriation made by the state legislature to the institution.

• Report dated September 14, 1869 regarding the number of soldiers’ orphans to be clothed including those at the "colored" school at Bridgewater.

• Letter dated November 30, 1869 from Samuel Jeanes to Governor J. W. Geary applying for payment of the state appropriation funds to the Home for Destitute Colored Children.

• Letter dated January 7, 1870 from Samuel Jeanes to Governor John W. Geary repeating request for payment of the state appropriation for Home for Destitute Colored Children.

• Letter dated May 5, 1870 regarding the new treasurer of the Home for Destitute Colored Children.

• Letter dated June 1, 1872 from the trustees of the Governor Library in Buffalo, New York, requesting the donation of various materials for their collection. The trustees reported that the library would be accessible to all patrons regardless of age, sex, or color. One of the trustees whose signature appears on the letter was former United States President Millard Fillmore.

• Letter dated June 12, 1873 to General Babcock from Frederick Douglass. The author requested that his friend, George Hill, be considered for a postmaster position and that the matter be brought to the attention of President Grant.

• Document dated April 7, 1885 recording an inquiry into the conduct of the 18th Regiment, Pennsylvania National Guard while in Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of President Cleveland in March 1885. It states that a "colored boy" was dancing for the troops. Also included is the testimony of Gilbert Williams, "a colored servant."

• Document dated July 15, 1885 from the Adjutant General’s Office, Washington, D.C., providing statistics on the number of Pennsylvanians who served in the Civil War: a total of 337,936, which included 8,612 "colored troops."

Executive Minute Books, 1790-1943. (44 volumes) Arranged chronologically. A daily record chronicling the official activities of the governor of Pennsylvania, such as appointments and commissions of state and local officials (most often justices of the peace, notaries public, and police); the issuance of warrants, mandates, orders, paroles, commutations, respites, and requisitions for arrest and prisoner delivery; the certification of incorporations; account approvals given; the delivery of messages and addresses to the General Assembly; the approval of acts and resolutions of the assembly; and the receipt of official reports. The following is an example of an entry pertaining to African Americans:

• On Monday, March 20, 1837, Adam Klinefelter, Esq., sheriff of York County, was appointed an agent of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to transport Nathan S. Bemis, Edward Prigg, Jacob Forworth, and Stephen Lewis from Maryland to Pennsylvania for trial. Fugitives from justice, they were charged with having seized and taken away without lawful authority the wife and six children of Henry Morgan, a free "colored" man living in the Lower Chanceford Township, York County.

Pardon Books, 1791-1877. (12 volumes) Arranged chronologically by date of entry. A record of pardons granted to convicted felons by Pennsylvania’s Governors. The following items are typical of references to African Americans:

• Pardon Book for January 28, 1861 through November 30, 1866: a pardon certificate dated January 12, 1864 for Robert Thomas of Lancaster County who had been charged with "larceny." At the request of several affluent citizens, Governor Andrew G. Curtin pardoned Thomas in order that he could "enter the military service of the United States in a Regiment of Colored Troops."

• Pardon Book for January 28, 1861 through November 30, 1866, a pardon dated December 13, 1864, for Glenalvin J. Goodridge of York, who had been charged with a rape of Mary E. Smith. At the request of several affluent citizens, Governor Curtin pardoned Goodridge in order that he could return to teaching school and supporting his family.


Engrossed Laws, 1700-1968. (526 boxes) Arranged chronologically by date of legislation. The original laws created and established by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. One of the most important pieces of legislation is the Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery passed March 1, 1780 and amended March 29, 1788 and December 8, 1789. Among its various provisions, the act ensured that no slave could be held in servitude for more than seven years past his twenty-first birthday. Although the act did not immediately prohibit slavery, it was the first legal action taken in the country to implement a policy of gradual abolition of slavery. This series contains the official copies of other acts relating to African Americans in Pennsylvania.

State Campaign Expense Account Files, 1974-1990. (349 cartons, 1 box) Arranged chronologically by year, and thereunder alphabetically by name of committee or candidate. The state campaign expense files consist of campaign income and expense reports of candidates for state judicial offices and political action committees. Information found includes the name and address of the candidate and of the political action committee. In addition, the expense reports contain a summary of receipts and expenditures for the dates listed on the report. The summary includes a list of contributors from whom the committee or candidate received funds and a list of recipients who received money from the committee or candidate for printing, postage, advertising, etc. The report also contains the dates for the period being reported and a notarized affidavit section completed by the individual submitting the report. Expense accounts for African American legislators include Dwight Evans and K. Leroy Irvis among others.


The records of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs also include the records of the following state boards: the Real Estate Commission, the State Board of Chiropody, the State Board of Cosmetology, the State Board of Examiners and Public Accountants, the State Board of Funeral Directors, the State Board of Medical Education, the State Board of Nurse Examiners, the State Board of Optometrical Examiners, the State Board of Physical Therapy Examiners, and the State Dental Council and Examining Board. All African Americans who have been licensed by any of these professional boards are documented in these records.

Bureau Commissioners’ Correspondence, 1961-1984. (55 cartons) Arranged in alphabetical order by institution, organization, or individual and thereunder chronologically. Incoming letters to the commissioner of the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. This series documents the commissioners’ interactions with other state agencies, individuals, and organizations both professional and vocational. The majority of information concerns public grievances, complaints, and legal action taken by each profession’s board of examiners. Included in this file are correspondence and memoranda from Secretary of State C. DeLores Tucker, the first African American woman to hold this position, and Barton A. Fields, deputy secretary. Information found includes Tucker’s stated position on a proposed work stoppage, her explanation of the pay roll situation in light of the budget crisis, and a statement of her support of the Governor’s Affirmative Action Program.

State Board of Cosmetology

Minute Books, 1967-1975. (11 volumes) Arranged chronologically by date of meeting. A record of the minutes of the meetings of the State Board of Cosmetology. Information found generally concerns enforcement of rules regulating the proper training and licensing of cosmetologists in Pennsylvania. Documented is the December 1974 investigation into why African American cosmetologists Ms. Carolyn Desmond and Ms. Daisy Restenberger failed to file the proper forms for a transfer student. Neither woman actually appeared before the board because "a satisfactory explanation was received by telephone from Ms. Restenberger."

State Board of Funeral Directors

Minute Book, 1963-1964. (1 volume) Arranged chronologically by date of meeting. A record of the minutes of State Board of Funeral Directors meetings. In 1963 this board was transferred from the Department of Education to the Department of State. Information found generally concerns enforcement of licensing procedures and practices of funeral homes in Pennsylvania. Included is an inspector’s report for the investigation of the Laws Funeral Home, Chester, Pa.. This investigation was initiated by a complaint received from a competing funeral home alleging that an unlicensed employee had been performing embalmings at the funeral home owned by Mrs. Laws. The board ruled that both funeral homes would be sent a copy of the laws governing funeral homes in Pennsylvania, specifying the activities that are allowed under a license.

State Board of Medical Education and Licensure

Index of Licensed Practitioners of Medicine in Pennsylvania, 1894-1981. (10 volumes) Arranged alphabetically by first letter of surname. An index of physicians licensed to practice medicine in Pennsylvania. Information recorded includes the physician’s name, the date of license, license number, institution, and occasionally the date of death for each doctor. The following are some African Americans who received Pennsylvania licenses:

• George Goyle Adams, #13594, a graduate of Howard University, licensed on August 26, 1931.

• Gladstone Wesley Allen, #2504, graduate of Meharry Medical College, licensed October 17, 1947.

• Felix Adolphus Anderson, #12355, a 1926 graduate of Howard University, licensed February 23, 1928 , died April 15, 1964.

• Edward Stanley Abbott, #10246, a graduate of Howard University, licensed February 23, 1921.

• Clyde Harrison Anthony, #11677, a Meharry Medical College graduate, licensed February 11, 1926.

• Charles Theophilus Atkinson, #21500, who transferred into Howard University in 1944 licensed December 12, 1946, died March 2, 1980

• Burl Bassette, #996, who also transferred to Howard University, licensed November 1, 1927.


Charitable Solicitations Registration File, 1924-1961, 1963-1987. (234 cartons) Grouped loosely by date of approval and thereunder alphabetically by name of organization. The Solicitation Act was passed by the General Assembly in 1925 to protect citizens from illicit charity drives. Registration was required of fund-raising groups that planned to solicit contributions. Some applications contain only the names of the organization and its officers, and the name of the proposed program. Many application files, however, are rich with information on the formation and work of the organization, as well as correspondence from officers, bureau officials, boards of directors, or supporters of the organization’s proposal. Cited below by county are some of the African American organizations’ applications who sought registration:

Allegheny: African Orthodox Science Church, Pittsburgh; Bethel African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church, Pittsburgh, 1942; Beulah Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, 1942-1945; Buena Vista Friendship Home for Indigent Colored Masons, Pittsburgh, 1951-1955; Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, Pittsburgh, 1942-1943; Coleman Industrial Home for Colored Boys, Pittsburgh, 1931-1945; Ebenezer Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, 1947; Golden Link Society, Pittsburgh, 1948; Grace Hope Tabernacle, Pittsburgh, 1951; Grand Order of Eastern Star, Pittsburgh, 1946-47; Inter-Racial Action Council, Pittsburgh, 1945-1949; Inter-Racial Hospital Association, Pittsburgh, 1939; Moore Athletic Association, Pittsburgh, 1947-1948; Morning Star Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, 1946; Mother’s Club of Etna, Pittsburgh, 1946; National Association of Negro Musicians, Inc., Pittsburgh, 1941; National Negro Hospital Foundation, Inc., Pittsburgh; New Pilgrim Baptist Church, Pittsburgh, 1948; Omega Grand Order of Eastern Star, Pittsburgh, 1946-1947; Order of Independent Americans, Pittsburgh, 1948; Pennsylvania Federation of Negro Woman’s Clubs, Sewickley, 1949; St. Mark A.M.E. Church, Pittsburgh, 1950-1951; St. Philip’s Orthodox Christian Science Church, Pittsburgh; John Wesley A.M.E. Zion Church, Pittsburgh, 1934-1950; and Mary E. Wilson Rebekah Lodge, Pittsburgh. Of special note is the Pennsylvania Federation of Negro Women’s Clubs’ file which contains the charter, dated the 28th day of July, 1906, and the earlier constitution and bylaws, November 10th, 1903, when it first became affiliated with the National Association of Colored Women.

Beaver: Aliquippa Youth Cooperation Council, 1947.

Chester: Cheyney State Teachers’ College Alumni Association, 1947; Downingtown Industrial and Agricultural School, Downingtown, 1948; Tabernacle Baptist Church, Coatesville, 1925-1928 .

Cumberland: Social Service Welfare Club, Carlisle, 1951.

Dauphin: Church of God in Christ, Harrisburg, 1950.

Lycoming: Aged Colored Women’s Home, Mary Slaughter, founder, Williamsport, 1953; Bethune-Douglass Community, Williamsport, 1953; and Williamsport Community Welfare Corporation.

Philadelphia: Richard Allen Statue Committee Fund, 1949; Bethel A.M.E. Church, 1928; Center for Older Adults, Northwest, 1978; Committee for Racial and Religious Tolerance, 1939-1941; Community Home for the Aged Colored People, 1946-1947; Independent Order of Odd Fellows, 1947-1948; Negro Veterans’ Association, 1949; Philadelphia Metropolitan Council, National Council of Negro Women, 1949; YMCA, Christian Street Branch, 1947-1948.

Washington: Eva Mae Brown Home for Negro Delinquent Girls, Canonsburg, 1938-1943; Washington County Welfare League of Negro Women, Washington, 1940.

York: Citizens Committee to Open Municipal Swimming Pool (Regardless of Race), York, 1949.


Charter Books, 1812-1875. (8 volumes) Arranged chronologically. A record of charters granted to private corporations and organizations in the Commonwealth. These volumes contain charters from the following African American organizations as well as corporations and institutions that supported African Americans. The following are examples of materials containing references to African Americans:

Volume l, 1812-14: African Humane Society of Philadelphia, African Farmers’ and Mechanics’ Society, and the Benezet Philanthropic Society of Philadelphia.

Volume 2, 1815-19: African Friendly Society and Female Benevolent Society of St. Thomas African Episcopal Church of Philadelphia, Rush Beneficial Society of the Free Sons of Ethiopia of Philadelphia, First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Society of the Sons of Africa, Friendly West Indian Society, African Washington Benevolent Society of Pennsylvania, and the African Warner Mifflin Society of Philadelphia.

Volume 3, 1819-25: Angolian Society of the City of Philadelphia, Female Benezet Society of Philadelphia, Granville Harmony Society of Philadelphia, African Benevolent Association, Wilberforce Benevolent Society of Philadelphia, Society of the Daughters of Ethiopia, Benezet Philanthropic Society of Philadelphia, Brotherly Union Society of the County of Philadelphia, African Methodist Episcopal Wesley Church of the City of Philadelphia, Benevolent Sons of Bethel and Union Churches, Tyson Benevolent Association of the City and County of Philadelphia, African Union Society, and the Female Baptist Assistant Society of Philadelphia.

Volume 4, 1825-32: Female Granville Society of Philadelphia, First Colored Wesley Methodist Church in the City of Philadelphia, Benevolent Daughters of St. Thomas, Daughters of Absalom, Daughters of Zion of the Angolian Ethiopian Society of Philadelphia, United Daughters of the Wesley Society of Philadelphia, United Brethren Society of Philadelphia, United Benevolent Daughters of Zion, Second African Presbyterian Congregation of Philadelphia, Benevolent Daughters of Wesley of the City and County of Philadelphia, Society of the Friendly Benevolent Sons of Zion, Coachmen’s Benevolent Society of Philadelphia, Association for the Care of Colored Orphans, First African Baptist Female Union Society of Philadelphia, Wilberforce Association of Philadelphia, Society of the Sons of St. Thomas, Society of the Female Daughters of Hosea, Pennsylvania Colonization Society, African Porter Benevolent Society, Female Methodist Assistant Society of Philadelphia, United Sisters’ Society, Daughters of Aaron, Harrison Benevolent Society of Philadelphia, Society of the Daughters of Isaiah, Daughters of Africa, African Methodist Episcopal Church of York, Benevolent Daughters of Tyson, and United Shipley Beneficial Society of Philadelphia.

Volume 5, 1832-36: Philadelphia Association for the Moral and Mental Improvement of the People of Color.

Volume 6, 1836-41: Philadelphia Library Company of Coloured Persons, Rush Librarian Debating Society of Pennsylvania, Benevolent Sons of Africa, African Methodist Episcopal Church of Columbia, African Zoar Methodist Episcopal Church, Benevolent Sons of Bethel and Union Churches, Citizen Sons of Philadelphia Association, Brotherly Union Society of the County of Philadelphia.

Volume 7, 1841-52: Brown Beneficial Society of the City and County of Philadelphia, Rising Sons and Daughters of Lucretia Mott, First African Baptist Church of Philadelphia, Union Sons of Industry of the City and County of Philadelphia, Beneficial Sons of Clayton Durham, Union Sons of the Borrows Beneficial Society of the City and County of Philadelphia, Association of the Benevolent Daughters of Borrows, Female Rush Assistant Society of Pennsylvania, Union Benevolent Daughters of Elijah Society of Philadelphia, Guardian Samaritan Society of the City and County of Philadelphia, Joseph Cox Beneficial Society of the City and County of Philadelphia, African Methodist Episcopal Mount Pisgah Church of the Borough of West Philadelphia, Lombard Street Central Presbyterian Congregation of Philadelphia, United Sons and Daughters of the Lovejoy Society of the City and County of Philadelphia, United Sons and Daughters of Joseph Henderson Society, Union Sons and Daughters of Peter Spencer Association, African Union Church.

Volume 8, 1856-75: St. Thomas’s African Episcopal Church and American Union Church.

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