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History Bytes

History Bytes: Seaman’s Protection Certificates

In 1796, Congress authorized the creation of Seaman’s Protection Certificates as a way to prevent foreign navies from kidnapping or “impressing” American mariners into service. Issued by the US Customs House of the home port, the certificates were proof of American birth or citizenship including the name of the sailor, his age, height and other distinguishing physical features such as scars, birthmarks and hair color. One copy was held by the mariner and a duplicate was filed with the Custom House, now in the custody of the National Archives.

Seen here, a 1797 protection certificate for 15 year old John Borden signed by William Ellery, from the NHS archives.

 

History Bytes: Vice President Morton

Over the centuries, Newport has hosted a fair share of US presidents. The recent visit by Gov. Tim Kaine, who received the invitation to be Hillary Clinton’s running mate while visiting Newport, reminds us that the city has also hosted many vice presidents, past, present and future. The most notable was Levi Parsons Morton (1824-1920), who served under the Harrison administration from 1889-1893.

Morton purchased the “Fairlawn” estate on Bellevue and Ruggles Avenues in 1868 and employed Richard Morris Hunt, George Champlin Mason and the firm of McKim, Mead and White to make extensive renovations and improvements to the house throughout his 22 year ownership. A banker by profession, Morton served in the US Congress and was Minister to France from 1881-1885. He formerly accepted the gift of the Statue of Liberty on behalf of American citizens and drove the first rivet in its assembly. Locally he is remembered for giving Morton Park to the City Newport in 1886.

He sold “Fairlawn” shortly after accepting the vice presidency in 1889, and later served as Governor of New York in 1895, residing at his estate in Rhinebeck, NY. Today “Fairlawn” is owned by Salve Regina University and houses the Pell Center for International Relations.

Above: Photograph of “Fairlawn” by Clarence Stanhope circa 1912 from the NHS collection.

A 1926 photograph of "Fairlawn" on Bellevue Avenue from "The Newport Daily News" collection in the NHS archives.

A 1926 photograph of “Fairlawn” on Bellevue Avenue from “The Newport Daily News” collection in the NHS archives.

Photograph of "Fairlawn" by John T. Hopf from the NHS archives.

Photograph of “Fairlawn” by John T. Hopf from the NHS archives.

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History Bytes: The USO

The United Services Organization (USO) was founded in 1941 under President Franklin Roosevelt to provide entertainment and recreational facilities for American Servicemen. With federal grants, it merged the YMCA, Salvation Army and other existing social service organizations, specifically for the war effort. Newport had six USO sites including The United Baptist Church and the Edward Street clubhouse, built in 1944, now the Martin Luther King Center.

Jamestown’s USO building was erected in 1942 on the site of the old Gardner House Hotel, which was demolished the previous year. After 1946 it became the town recreation center and police headquarters.

Above: Image found in the 1942 publication “You and the War”  published by the US Office of Civilian Defense, from the NHS collection.

 The cover of the 1942 publication “What Can I Do: the citizen's handbook for war”, from the NHS collection.

The cover of the 1942 publication “What Can I Do: the citizen’s handbook for war”, from the NHS collection.

An entry from “What Can I Do” suggesting ways in which actors and entertainers can support the war effort, from the NHS collection.

An entry from “What Can I Do” suggesting ways in which actors and entertainers can support the war effort, from the NHS collection.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo of the Martin Luther King Center, by Bert Lippincott.

Photo of the Martin Luther King Center, by Bert Lippincott.

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