Overview of Governor’s Records at the State Archives of North Carolina

Some of our readers may be curious about the various types of Governor’s records which are available at the State Archives of North Carolina.  Here is an overview of the various record series held by our repository:

 Colonial Governors’ Papers, 1694-1775

      Since the governors of the colonial period looked upon their orders and instructions from the Crown, their commissions, and their letters from offices of the ministry in Great Britain as belonging to them personally, their papers were often retained by them or their families as private papers.  Some of these private papers (or copies of them) have been brought together in the State Archives to create an artificial series styled Colonial Governors’ Papers.  Calendars of these documents have been compiled and are available in the State Archives Search Room.  Records from this series have also been entered into the Archives’ MARS (Manuscript and Archives Reference System) database system.  Copies of documents obtained from the Colonial Office Record Series of the British Public Records Office are also available at the State Archives, and contain correspondence and rich information about the activities of North Carolina’s colonial area governors.

Governors’ Papers, 1777-1839 (G.P. 1 – G.P. 88)

      These records consist of the official correspondence of the governor, including both letters sent and received.  During the early 20th century, it was the practice of the Archives to unfold, flatten, repair, and hinge mount these documents in leather bound volumes.  In total, 88 volumes of bound volumes were created spanning the years 1777-1839. A finding aid to these documents was created by preparing a catalog card for each, filed by both subject and letter writer.  Calendars of selected letters are available in the Archives Search Room.  Currently, a new project is underway to dismount, re-house these documents from the bound volumes, as many contain acidic pages and have failing bindings.  More information about this exciting project will be available in a subsequent post. 

 Governors’ Papers, 1839-1929 (G.P. 88.1- G.P.610)

         Beginning with the second administration of Edward B. Dudley in 1839, the format of the governors’ papers changed.  The records ceased to be mounted in bound volumes, and were stored in flat manuscript boxes following a chronological arrangement.  The finding aids of these boxes was limited to summary catalog cards giving brief notations of the contents of each manuscript box.  Both the summary cards and calendars covering some of these years (1835-1858) are filed in the Archives Search Room.  There are also descriptions of these records in MARS (Manuscript and Archives Reference System).  Recently, these records have been re-foldered and re-housed in acid free materials.  For governors’ papers between 1901-1929, the records are being re-foldered, but remain in their original manuscript boxes.  New, more detailed finding aids have also been created for all governors from Edward B. Dudley to Angus W. McLean.

 Governors’ Papers, 1929-Present

       Beginning with the administration of Governor O. Max Gardner, the G.P. numbering system was abandoned, and from there onward each administration’s records were arranged according to its own numerical sequence. Finding aids for each administration’s record series have been created, listing contents down to the box or folder level.  These finding aids are available in the Archives Search Room, as well as in the office of the Governors’ Records Archivist.  Descriptions of these records to the series level are also contained in MARS (Manuscript and Archives Reference System).  Modern governors’ records consist of numerous record series generated by the many various offices organized under the governor.  They are comprised of a wide variety of physical forms and formats (e.g. paper documents, publications, photographs, audio and video tapes, electronic records, etc.).

  Governors’ Letter Books, 1782-1916

       Contemporary letter books of the governor’s correspondence commenced in 1782 during the first administration of Governor Alexander Martin by virtue of an act that year requiring their creation.  These letter books were to contain transcriptions of the governor’s official correspondence. Letter book volumes of Governor Caswell and Governor Burke’s administrations were created between 1845 and 1848 by resolution of the General Assembly, thus artificially extending the letter books back to 1776.  Letter books were created for each administration until Governor Locke Craig’s term, which ended in 1917. 

 Published Governors’ Papers, 1917-present

      Since the administration of Governor Locke Craig, selections of certain records from the administration of each governor have been edited and published by Archives and History (formerly the North Carolina Historical Commission). These volumes of published papers have generally consisted of biographical sketches, inaugural addresses, messages to the General Assembly, public addresses and statements, appointments, executive orders, and calendars of omitted speeches and appearances.   The North Carolina Archives and History Act of 1973 (Article 121-6b of the North Carolina General Statutes) contains a provision covering the publication of the governors’ papers.  Copies of these published papers are found widely in many libraries.

 Governors’ Office Records (G.O.)

      This record group consists of records which are shared in common by two or more governors in the exercise of specific gubernatorial powers.  They consist of volumes used as recording docket for actions taken by successive governors.  Some series are comprised of unbound papers as well.  Typical series within this record group include appointments and commissions, Council of State minutes and correspondence, records relating to criminals, internal improvements, judges and courts, justices of the peace, land grants, military board, notaries public, oath books, public buildings, confederate pardons, provisional government, railroads, and warrant books.  A finding aid for the Governors’ Office is located in the Archives Search Room.

Governor’s Office Electronic Records and  E-mail

       This is a completely new format of records which are now being received by the State Archives for permanent preservation.  Electronic files and some e-mail for the last administration of Governor James B. Hunt and the two terms of Governor Michael F. Easley  have been transferred to the Archives.