Our state archives, one of the oldest, began as the Division of Public Records in 1905. Our first bid to save public records was long said to have been in 1818, but a project to digitize old legislative records – funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission – just found this earlier proposal, introduced in January 1817, to create a state archive.
We happily update our history as we celebrate American Archives Month!
General Assembly, Legislative Papers
Document Date: 1817
Item Number: 1111-000-000-8070d
An Act for establishing an Archive at Dover in Kent County
Whereas it appears to this General Assembly that from the commencement of our independence to the present time, a lapse of more than Forty years, no place has been provided by law for the preservation and safe keeping of the public papers belonging to this State. That from their accumulation and importance it is necessary that a permanent archive should be established at a place most convenient to the executive the legislative and judicial departments of the government and to the citizens generally. And whereas the seat of government during the said period having been fixed at Dover.
Sec 1: Therefore be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the State of Delaware in General Assembly met, That there may be precured in the town of Dover, in Kent County, 4 ————- 6 —— by James R. Black Esq. of New Castle County, Henry M. Ridgely Esq of Kent County & William B. Cooper Esq. of Sussex County who are hereby appointed commissioners for that purpose, so much 8 land ——– in the town of Dover in the most eligible situation that can be procured as may, in the judgment of the said commissioners, be sufficient whereon to erect and construct a house of building of suitable size and dimensions for the preservation and safe keeping of the public papers and documents belonging to this State.
Sec 2: And be it further enacted, That the commissioners of the Levy-Court and Court of appeal of Kent County be and they or a majority of them are hereby authorized and empowered to convey and assure to the commissioners aforesaid, 5 much such part of the said, land, at the place above 6 described, as may belong to Kent county, to and for the use of this State, according to such form of conveyance as shall be judged expedient by the commissioners herein appointed; which conveyance and assurance when so made shall be deemed and taken to convey and grant for the use of this State, and to vest therein a good and indefeasible title to the land aforesaid.
Sec 3: And be if further enacted, That when the commissioners 2 aforesaid shall have obtained for the purpose aforesaid, the land 3 aforesaid, ——— they or a majority of them, be, and they are hereby authorized, empowered and required to cause to be constructed, erected and completed, a house or building of such dimensions and Size, as shall in their judgement, or in the judgment of a majority of them, be sufficient for the preservation, safe keeping and suitable arrangement of all the public papers belonging to this State ——–
Sec 4:And be it further enacted, That there shall be and hereby is appropriated for the purpose of defraying and paying the / expenses of procuring said land, and of erecting the said house or building, the sum of ——- Dollars, to be paid out of any money which may be in the Treasury of this State, not otherwise appropriated, which said sum of money the Treasurer of the Stat is hereby authorized to pay to the said commissioners on the draft or drafts of the said commissioners, on a majority of them.
Sec 5:And be it further enacted, That the commissioners aforesaid and the survivor or survivors of them, be and they hereby are required and directed to report their proceedings to the General Assembly of this state, at their next annual Session, in relation to their procurement of the land aforesaid; and to lay before them a fair statement and account of their expenditure of the sum of money hereby appropriated, for the procuring of said land and for the erection and construction of the house or building aforesaid.
An act for establishing an archive at Dover in Kent County.
24 Jan. 1817 reported & read.
28 —– 2nd time. –
Feb 4 —-3rd time & postponed until next session. –