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Washington Navy Yard Payroll May 1862
with names and wages of Nineteen Female employees
of the Ordnance Department, Laboratory

Submitted by John Sharp

Washington Navy Yard Payroll May 1862, with names and wages of Nineteen Female employees of the Ordnance Department, Laboratory


Introduction: The Civil War dramatically increased demand for labor throughout the federal government. During the war years, the Departments of the Treasury and the Census Bureau began to employ women as clerks and currency counters. Department of the Navy did not employ women in clerical positions until after the war, but the requirements of naval munitions and ordnance manufacture created some opportunities for working class women. Many of the armaments for the war were manufactured at the Washington Navy Yard and the Washington Arsenal. The need to rapidly sew large quantities of canvass bags for these weapons and also to sew, canvass awnings, and flags for naval ships, a task normally done by male sail makers. As a result the Department of the Navy, decided to abandon tradition and employ women in the Ordnance Laboratory for the first time. The transcribed list below for May 1862 reflects the workers employed in the laboratory for that month. Most of the women employed, either related to employees of the Navy Yard of were widows of men killed during the war or on government service.

The history of nineteen century female employees at the Washington Navy Yard, with one exception has received little attention.i For many years the documentation while available, was very difficult to access, it was only in the latter part of the twentieth century that the Department of the Navy, began to systematically, collect data on employee race and gender. The majority of the records reside in large old style payroll ledgers, the greater part of which are housed at the National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Records Group 71. These payroll records have never been transcribed nor microfilmed. Some years, ago, while doing some research for what became my History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799 -1962,ii I came across a November 1867 payroll record, with a listing of six women, employed as horse cart drivers. iii Intrigued to find other such records, during a recent brief stop in Washington, I went to NARA to again look for documentation regarding women and found the payroll record below dated May 1862. This record lists the names of women employed at the WNY Ordnance Department, Laboratory. Most of these workers were paid about a $1.00 per day. Exactly what they were assigned to perform is not stated, but women were later employed at the Yard to sew canvas bags used to store gun powder. Most employees at the Navy Yard worked ten hours a day, six days a week. Working at the WNY, Ordnance Department, Laboratory, was both patriotic and dangerous for there was always risk of a single errant spark igniting nearby gun powder or pyrotechnics with catastrophic results such as the explosion and fire on 17 June 1864 that killed twenty one young women working U.S. Army Arsenal Washington D.C iv My short time in Washington did not allow me sufficient opportunity to review the payrolls for the remaining war years.

Transcription: This transcription was made from digital images of the holographic document. National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Records Group 71Washington Navy Yard Payroll May 1862 Ordnance Department Laboratory. The spelling, punctuation, strikeouts and the use of ampersands are those of the original document.

My thanks to Mr. Charles Johnson, Archives Specialist, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C., for his help in locating this and other Department of the Navy payroll documents


John G. Sharp June14, 2010

Concord, California

The photo is circa 1850’s and is from the collection of the Library of Congress and public domain.



PAY ROLL

For Persons

Employed

In the Navy Yard


Ordnance Department

Laboratory




Name

Location

Number of Days

Dollars

Cents

Mary Wilson

Laboratory

25

31

35

Jaime O Leary

25

29

37

Emma J. Sainsbury

26

26

50

Martha Pumphrey

27

27


Sophia Pumphrey

27

27


Rebecca Grimes

24

24


Emma Eleox

23

23


Isabella Beach

15

15


Charlotte Peake

14

14


May Rigsby

25

25


Ruth Davis

18 ½

18

50

Sarah Pritchard

26

26


Jane McCarty

26 ½

26

50

Mary Sommers

12 ½

12

50

Henryetta Hill

19

19


Rebecca Applegate

26 ½

26

50

Mary Hall

27

27


Fannie Fare

27

27


Catherine Mc Sweeney

13 ½

13

50

Salena Burgess

27

27


Maria Southern

15

15


Matilda Edelin

22

22


Kate Magraw

13 ½

13

50

Cecilia Leonard

27

27


Mary Hodges

14

14


Susan Clark

24 ½

24

50

Sallie Hoofnagel

13

13


Catherine Lynch

12 ½

12

50

Cecilia Moriarty

14

14


iEndnotes

Almira V. Brown nee Rudd, first went to work at the Washington Navy Yard in 1864 as a seamstress, Brown continued to work at the Yard until her retirement in 1922 Brown’s husband Francis Brown was killed in a tragic explosion at the laboratory in March 1861 see http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/biographies/bio2.html#BROWN,_VIRGINA_ALMIRA .

Edward Marolda, . The Washington Navy Yard: An Illustrated History. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1999. Dr. Edward Marolda was first to document Brown’s employment.

 

ii John G. Sharp, History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799 -1962 accessed on line Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/books/sharp/WNY_History.pdf

 

iii National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, Records Group 71Washington Navy Yard Payroll for November 1867 Horse Cart Drivers accessed http://www.genealogytrails.com/washdc/WNY/1867horsecartdrivers.html

 

iv Daily National Intelligencer, Washington D.C. June 18, 1864 and Washington Times, May 17, 2008 “Tragedy at the City’s Washington Arsenal”

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