This collection of regular passport applications has been compiled from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) collections M1372 and M1490. Each record will provide a transcript and were available an image of the original documents. Transcripts will provide you with the following fields:
Spouse’s first name(s)
Spouse’s last name
NARA publication number
In looking at the images, you can learn the details of their citizenship: when and from where they immigrated, by what means they arrived in the United States, and when they were naturalized. For those born in the United States, you may learn details of their fathers’ naturalization: full name, birthplace, and date and place of emigration. Additional details were also recorded such as physical descriptions, which provides details regarding an applicant’s eye color, mouth, nose, forehead, chin, complexion, face, and hair color. For instance, we learn that Niels Nielsen was "full bearded" and his nose was "rather prominent."
Earlier passport applications, from 1795 for example, would contain fewer details. However, they would still include name, age, and physical description.
Most applications are one to two pages in length and, starting on 21 December 1914, photographs were required with applications and can be viewed on the second page. Be sure to use the previous and next buttons in the image viewer to see all the relevant images for your ancestor.
Until the middle of the 20th century, passports were not been required for US citizens leaving the country. However, there were periods when passports were either required or recommended, often coinciding with the outbreak of war:
August 1861 to 17 March 1862 - required for all travel (Civil War)
15 December 1915 – President Wilson issued Executive Order 2285, which recommended that anyone leaving the country obtain a passport
22 May 1918 to 1921 - required for all travel (First World War)
21 June 1941 to 1945 - required for all travel (Second World War)
Other countries may have required passports. A passport was useful means of protection for those traveling in foreign lands as it proved citizenship. This was particularly appealing for naturalized citizens who were concerned with complications arising from visiting their country of origin. Some countries would go so far as to enlist such individuals who were visiting their home country.
NARA publication M1372 Passport Applications, 1795-1905 covers 27 October 1795 to 30 November 1812, 22 February 1830 to 15 November 1831 and 13 May 1833 to 31 December 1905.
NARA publication M1490 Passport Applications, 1906-March 31, 1925 covers 2 January 1906 to 31 March 1925.
Famous American author Ernest Hemingway is included in these records. Hemingway, known for his war-themed novels such as The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, was born in Oak Park, Illinois, on 21 July 1899. Included in his application, on the reverse side, is a photograph of the novelist. In his application, we see that his father’s name is Dr. C.E. Hemingway. His occupation is listed as a newspaper reporter. He applied for his passport for the purpose of traveling to Italy for a period of six months to be an ambulance driver for the Red Cross during World War One. His intended date of departure is listed as 15 May 1918.
You can find the passport application for John D Rockefeller Jr., the prominent American financier. He applied for his passport for the purpose of traveling to France and the British Isles for 3 months. He planned to depart from New York on the S.S. Majestic on 23 June 1923. From his application, we further learn that he had resided in China and Japan from September 1921 to November 1921. His occupation is listed as an investor and his residence as 10 W 54th Street in New York City. On the reverse side of his application, we can see a photograph of Rockefeller and a description of him. Rockefeller’s legacy has lived on in America due to his great philanthropy work; you can see his name across many buildings and organizations across the country.
The famous twentieth-century American musician, Cole Porter, has two passport applications in this collection. The first application in 1917 was during World War One. He was traveling to France in order to drive a ford truck for Duryea War Relief. His second application from 1919 lists his reason for traveling to France, Spain, and Italy as “to study music.” He has listed his occupation as student and was living at Sea Cliff on Long Island, New York. You can see his signature and a photo of the musician. Porter wrote both lyrics and music for his compositions and was a very successful Broadway music composer in the 1920s and 1930s. Porter is still known today for his catchy tunes like “I Get a Kick Out of You” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.”
William Randolph Hearst was a newspaper publisher in America who played a significant role in the evolution of American journalism. Hearst first acquired The New York Journal in 1895 and would go on to acquire around 30 different papers. Eventually he expanded into magazines and created the largest newspaper and magazine business worldwide.
Hearst’s life was actually one of the inspirations behind the main character in Citizen Kane.
On his form, Hearst is described as 6’1’’ with blue eyes and a straight nose. He was 38 at the time of his application. He’s listed as having been born in San Francisco on 29 April 1863.