National Archives Legislative Archives Fellow 2011-2012


Peter Schulman: I’m looking at the ways a new technology, in this case ocean-going steamships, introduced new questions and problems into American foreign relations. These steamships were also subsidized by the government. They carried passengers, they carried freight, and they carried the mail. Which is how this all passed constitutional muster. Thora Colot: The Foundation for the National Archives is really pleased to welcome Peter Schulman as our first fellow and to fund the fellowship that he’s been working on in partnership with the National Archives. David Ferriero: Peter Schulman’s selection was because of the quality of his proposal. He’d done fantastic research in lots of other collections, but had never used the records of Congress to a great extent. And he was really excited about what he had found. Peter Schulman: This is a telegram from San Fransisco to these representatives in Congress. House and Senate. Several pages here of merchants, traders, shippers. They’re very concerned that Congress is going to cut these subsidies. A half a million dollar subsidy, which is a lot of money in the mid-1870’s. The extension was opposed, though, by the legislature of California. It’s strange when you look at a state working against what appear to be the economic interests of the commercial community of its largest city. Thora Colot: This idea, in terms of an individual looking at the records and doing scholarly research with them, is really a favorite topic of the Archivist of the United States. David Ferriero: It was something that I brought with me to the Archives. In thinking about ways that we could encourage the use of the collections and the creation of new scholarship. Peter Schulman: This is a resolution from the legislature of California. “The granting of such subsidies to steamship companies running on said waters facilitates, encourages, and aids the immigration of Chinese to our shores to the detriment of our state.” These ships were to transport the mail. Well on the way back the ships were also bringing laborers. So this ties in directly with an issue that’s well-known to historians about fights over immigration. So it ties together lots of things that ostensibly seem unrelated. And technology is really at the center of this. David Ferriero: I would love to get to the point where we have in-residents folks. People who spend an economic year with us, or a semester with us, going through the collections to do their research.

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