Pennsylvania Archives


  In 1903 the State Archives was established at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. The purpose of the Archives was to provide a safe repository for the many original documents that had been created over the years. The idea for the Archives was not a new one. In the year 1837, a group of interested members of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania and the American Philosophical Society approached the Pennsylvania State Legislature with a proposal. The object of that proposal was to urge the Legislature to preserve the Commonwealth’s provincial records. The way to do that was to have them transcribed and pub-lished. The proposal was favorably received, and an Act of the General Assembly was passed on 04 April, 1837 authorizing the printing of "the Minutes of the Council of the Proprietary Government."

  Three volumes, known as the first edition of the Colonial Records, were printed in 1838 and 1840. They covered the time period from 10 March, 1682/3 to 23 January 1735/6. Lack of funding brought the project to a halt after the publication of the initial three volumes.

  Ten years passed before the project was resumed. In 1851, Governor William E. Johnston obtained the support of the Pennsyl-vania Legislature and the necessary funding to begin publishing again. Between 1851 and 1853 the original three volumes, along with thirteen additional volumes, were published. Because the pagination of the first three volumes varied from that of the 1838-1840 edition, this second printing was considered to be a second edition, rather than simply a resumption of the intitial printing.

  The magnitude of documents maintained in the Archives was so large that it was necessary to publish more than sixteen volumes to hold all of the transcriptions. The Colonial Records contained only the minutes of the Supreme Executive Council and the Council of Safety. Within those minutes were references to related documents such as letters and petitions. The second series of volumes to be published amounted to transcriptions of those supporting documents. That series was formally titled the Pennsylvania Archives, although, in order to differentiate it from subsequent series of transcribed documents, it is often referred to as the First Series. As funding became available, and the documents could be transcribed and set in type, groups of the documents were collected together and published as new series. Certain of the later series were devoted to documents pertaining to a particular subject, such as the Fifth Series, which, besides the first volume, is devoted entirely to the Revolutionary War. The Seventh Series consists solely of the index to the Sixth Series. The number of volumes in the various series varied according to the subjects covered. The aforementioned Seventh Series consists of five volumes; the Fifth Series consists of eight volumes. Eventually, the published Pennsylvania Archives filled nine series within 138 volumes.

  The records transcribed for the published Pennsylvania Archives cover the period of time from 1664 to 1902. Later documents have been stored in the State Archives, which was created in 1903 as the State Library's Division of Public Records. Various collections of those later records, along with certain of the earlier records are being scanned and made available online.

  Additional information on the Pennsylvania Archives can be obtained at the URL address: