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United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records, 1831-1936: Finding Aid

Published in 1990

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 247
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records
  • Dates: 1831-1936
  • Size: 0.8 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 5 volumes
  • Creator: Naval Home (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: The United States Naval Home in Philadelphia was a home for U.S. Navy pensioners and retirees from 1834 to 1976. The records focus primarily on the identity and conduct of the pensioners living at the Home.

History of the U.S. Naval Home, Philadelphia

Founded as the Philadelphia Naval Asylum, the Naval Home was created "to provide an honorable and comfortable home, during their life, for old, disabled, and decrepit officers and men of the Navy and Marine Corps."

The cornerstone of the first building of the Naval Asylum was laid on April 3, 1827. Lack of funds slowed construction, delaying completion of the building until 1833. Toward the end of that same year, patients from the old hospital building began to occupy part of the new Asylum, even though the interior was not yet fully finished. Lieutenant James B. Cooper, U.S.N., was chosen as the Asylum's first Superintendent in 1834, and was followed by James Biddle, James Barron, A.H. Foote, W.W. McKean, and Charles W. Morgan.

To help satisfy the Navy's need for well-educated, well-trained officers, a U.S. Naval School was established at the Naval Asylum. In 1839, eleven midshipmen reported to the Asylum for instruction, with Professor Daniel McClure serving as instructor. According to Park Benjamin, "the Asylum School in the beginning was practically one for cramming for examination." In 1842, Professor William Chauvenet took over the school, introducing a more formal course of study. When the U.S. Naval Academy opened its doors in Annapolis in 1845, much of the Asylum's furniture and equipment, as well as Professor Chauvenet and three other professors, where transferred to the new school in Annapolis.

In 1889, the Naval Asylum was renamed the Naval Home to better reflect its role as a home for pensioners. In 1976, after determining that the Philadelphia campus could no longer be modernized and expanded to fit the Home's needs, the Naval Home moved to new facilities in Gulfport, Mississippi.

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Description of Contents

The United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records, comprising five volumes of documentation, span from 1831 through 1936. The records focus primarily on the identity and conduct of the pensioners living at the Naval Home.

Three of the five volumes consist almost entirely of conduct offenses committed by the pensioners living at the Home, as well as the resulting punishments imposed upon them. One volume consists entirely of a muster roll of pensioners. One final volume, subdivided into three parts, includes a record of the admission and discharge of pensioners, a roster of officers and servants stationed at the Home, and a daily log of occurrences at the Home. This daily log, which spans from 1842 to 1844, includes numerous mentions of the activities of midshipman studying at the U.S. Naval Asylum School, a precursor of the United States Naval Academy.

Entries throughout the record books offer basic biographical information on the pensioners, such as their date of birth, rank, length of naval service, and pension amount.

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The United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records are organized by volume number.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.

It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Rear Admiral Clyde J. Van Arsdall, Jr. in September 1975.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Photographs of the buildings and grounds of the U.S. Naval Home are available in the Transitional Picture File, Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library. Additional records of the Naval Home are available in Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798-2007 at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

United States Naval Home, Philadelphia Records, MS 247

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1990. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1990 and revised by David D'Onofrio in May 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Military pensions -- United States
  • Naval Home (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  • Retired military personnel -- United States

Genre Terms

  • Logs (records)
  • Manuscripts
  • Muster rolls
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Contents List

Volume 1: Record, United States Naval Asylum, Philadelphia, 1831-1845

Volume 1 Item 1

Admission and Discharge Record, 1831-1838 4 pages

Information includes names of admittees, admission date, discharge date, reason for discharge, and clothing allotment.

Volume 1 Item 2

"Officers and Servants of the Naval Asylum", 1938-1839 1 page

Volume 1 Item 3

"Pensioners Who Were in the Asylum", 1835-1845 8 pages

Information includes names of pensioner, admission date, clothing allotment, and often date of death in place of date of discharge.

Volume 1 Item 4

"Remarks and Occurrences in the U.S. Naval Asylum", 1842-1844 145 pages

Daily log entries, beginning from the back of the volume, on subjects such as pensioners, building construction, workers' duties, and supplies.

Also includes remarks regarding midshipmen at the Naval School, including duels between midshipmen (1842 October 23-25, 29, November 3, 9, April 12-15, 17, and June 22); noise and conduct issues (1843 January 7 and March 12, 14); the funeral of Commodore Hull (1843 February 19); midshipmen hanging the Medical Bureau in effigy (1843 March 15); a visit by President John Tyler (1843 June 10); and the funeral of Admiral David Dixon Porter (1844 January 27).

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Volume 2

Volume 2: Muster Roll of Pensioners at the United States Naval Asylum, 1864-1875

Monthly and quarterly muster rolls of pensioners, including pensioners' names, age, date of admission, length of naval service, date of discharge, and (occasional) remarks on their health or status.

Volume 3

Volume 3: Offense and Punishment Record, 1889-1905

Arranged by pensioner number, with an index in front of volume.

Includes pensioner's name, rank, date of admission, age, length of naval service, pension amount, nature of offense, punishment, date of offense, and remarks.

Volume 4

Volume 4: Offense and Punishment Record, 1905-1936

Arranged by pensioner number, with an index in front of volume.

Includes pensioner's name, rank, date of admission, age, length of naval service, pension amount, nature of offense, punishment, date of offense, and remarks. Occasional notes and supporting documents have been tipped in, such as receipts for repairs to damages caused by pensioners.

Volume 5

Volume 5: Offense and Punishment Record, 1862-1875

First section, 1862-1875, records pensioner name, date of admission, number of punishments, and brief remarks. Arranged alphabetically.

Second section, 1867-1875, records pensioner name, offense, and punishments in the form of monetary and tobacco restrictions, as well as incarceration. Arranged chronologically.

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