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“To Pass Without Delay or Hindrance”: Passports in the Unclaimed Property Collection

A passport is both a highly practical and importantly symbolic item. It provides not only identification but also identity, allowing the bearer to travel to new lands or to start a new life as an immigrant. We recently discovered a born-digital project called Let Me Get There, which contains images from passport applications from US consulates around the world, between 1914 and 1925. This project inspired us to search our own collections for passports.

While the Library does not have any specific collections of old passports, one state records collection did have a large number of passports featured. The papers of the Treasury Department’s Division of Unclaimed Property consist of lots from abandoned safe deposit boxes, whose contents have reverted to the ownership of the state. In several instances, the personal papers left unclaimed in these boxes include passports. Several examples of these appear below.

 

A Greek passport issued to David Lifschitz in 1913, from the Papers of Samuel P. Ratner, Lot 358.

 

A seaman’s passport issued to Barclay Lyon, 1942, from the Papers of Barclay Lyon, Lot 636.

 

A passport issued to Arline Mae Gales in 1975, showing her with an unnamed minor, from the Papers of Arline M. Gales and Cheryl L. Hales, Lot 6414.

 

The Korean passport of Mrs. Duk Hyun Hunt, nee Kim, issued in 1961; the passport of Billy Hunt, issued 1960; and the American passport of Mrs. Barbara Ann Hunt, issued 1963; all from the Papers of Bill Hunt, Lot 13047. Billy Hunt and Kim Duk Hyun married in 1960 in Seoul, South Korea; they were divorced in 1977. The collection includes copies of a Mailgram that Hunt sent to Kim in Seoul in 1979, which was returned with the note “addressee unknown.”

 

A Russian passport issued to Lydia Olivia Sorvali in 1913, from the Papers of Lydia O. Grimberg, Lot 13383. Sorvali was born in Finland in 1889. In 1920, she married John Grimberg, who was naturalized in New York in 1900, and they divorced in 1930.

 

A passport issued to Nellie Louise Eagle in 1956, from the Papers of John E. Eagle, Lot 312408. It notes that the bearer is accompanied by minor children Ann, Johnnie, and Katie.

 

From the Papers of Joseph Schwerin, Lot 781208. Two passports issued to Joseph Schwerin (born 1906), one issued in 1927, one issued in 1967; a certificate of residence created by the Consulate of Prussia located in New Orleans, Louisiana for Joseph Schwerin, dated 19 February 1863; court papers regarding the naturalization of Joseph Schwerin in the District Court of the United States, North Carolina District, dated 29 April 1870; and a passport certificate for Dorothea Schwerin issued by the United States Department of State, dated 27 May 1903.

 

-Claire Radcliffe, State Records Archivist

 

 

 

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1 Comment

  1. Stephen Ballard said:
    7 March 2018 at 1:06 pm

    This had me curious if any of the subjects were still living. I searched for Barclay Lyon, and found that he passed away in 2010, age 86, and his tombstone identifies him as a Merchant Marine.

    https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/63696268

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