Held at: Independence Seaport Museum, J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library [Contact Us]Penn's Landing on the Delaware River, 211 South Columbus Blvd. and Walnut St., Philadelphia, PA, 19106
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the Independence Seaport Museum, J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
The Albert Family papers document the naval service of two brothers during the Civil War and a grandson during World War II.
John S. Albert (1835 - 1880) was born in Brooklyn, New York. After studying mechanics, he entered the U.S. Navy in 1855 as Third Assistant Engineer and rose to the rank of Chief Engineer by 1861. John S. Albert served aboard the USS Mohawk, a ship that was involved in naval blockading during the Civil War. Later in the war, he served on the USS , a vessel that claims the dubious distinction of being the first war ship sunk by a submarine. In 1876, he took a leave of absence from the Navy and was placed in charge of Machinery Hall for the Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia. Returning to the Navy he was assigned to the USS Quinnebaug, sailing throughout the Mediterranean from 1879 - 1880. After falling ill aboard that ship, he was granted medical leave and died two months later.
Sidney Albert (1839 – 1874) was the younger brother of John S. who also joined the naval service in1859 and achieved the rank of Chief Engineer in 1870. Sidney Albert was stationed aboard the USS Hartford from 1859 - 1860, seeing his early service in the Far East. In 1864 he was aboard the USS Kearsarge when it was engaged in a battle with the Confederate ship Alabama off the coast of Cherbourg, France. From 1866 to 1870 he was stationed overseas, off the coast of South America. In 1872 he retired from the Navy and moved to Minneapolis where he was Superintendent of Water Works. He died there after a sleigh accident in 1874.
Mary Albert (1815 – 1893) lived in New York and was the mother of three sons, including John S. and Sidney Albert.
John S. Albert III (1914 - ) is the grandson of John S. Albert. He followed in his grandfather’s footsteps, serving in the U.S. Navy during World War II, from 1941 – 1945. He was aboard the USS Kearney when it was torpedoed in October, 1941 – almost two months before the U.S. entry into World War II. Later he commanded the USS Naifeh from its commissioning in 1944, till his retirement from active duty in 1945.
This collection is divided in to four series, John S. Albert, Sidney Albert, Mary Albert, and John S. Albert III. Series I, John S. Albert, focuses on his early military career, his later duties as Chief of Bureau of Machinery for the Centennial Exhibition, and finally, his return to Navy service. The series consists of correspondence, military appointments and reports, notebooks, photographs, scrapbooks, invitations and tickets. Highlights of the series include letters and a log that John kept while serving as an engineer aboard the USS Mohawk and the USS Housatonic. Forming the bulk of the correspondence, John wrote his mother regularly from 1861 – 1863 detailing his participation in the naval blockade of the Confederacy off the coasts of Florida and South Carolina. In addition to personal matters, he used a log and letters to describe movements of the blockading ships and his experiences. His attitudes towards the war, the Confederacy, and Confederate soldiers are often revealed in these writings. Another noteworthy aspect of this series is the materials relating to John’s involvement in the 1876 Centennial Exhibition. This includes a scrapbook with newspaper clippings describing the various exhibits as well as invitations and tickets to the numerous parties associated with this event. In addition, there are photographs of John and of his wife, Sarah, although there is no other information on her or their marriage. John’s notebook entries are few for the period from 1864 – 1878 when he is attached to the USS Quinnebaug, but after his departure in 1879 to the Mediterranean, he writes more frequently and in more detail about his experiences aboard ship.
Series II, Sidney Albert, is largely personal correspondence between his family members, in particular with his mother, while serving as a navel engineer aboard the USS Hartford and later, the USS Kearsarge. The early letters (1859 – 1860) are largely anecdotal describing his travel from Boston to the Mediterranean and the Far East. These relay his impressions of the country and people while stationed off the coast of Hong Kong, China as part of the American forces sent to support the British during the Second Opium War (1856 – 1860). These letters showcase a particular perspective of a comfortable, educated officer. They are often humorous and elegant, some of which were published; one is included in John S. Albert’s scrapbook. There is also a charming poem written to Sidney’s nieces, May and Nellie. From 1863-1869 he was aboard the USS Kearsarge stationed overseas in Japan, France, the Mediterranean, and South America. In 1864 Albert was aboard this ship when it engaged in battle with the CSS Alabama. While letters about this do not appear in this collection, there is a newspaper clipping in the scrapbook. Included are his enlistment and discharge naval documents.
Series III, Mary Albert, is made up entirely of correspondence to her son Sidney between 1862 and 1866. The letters give insight into the day to day life of an apparently affluent family living in New York City. The letters tell mostly of affairs of family and friends, gossip, and inquire into the health and well being of her son. During the Civil War, there is mention of the rising cost of cotton, sugar, and coffee, rioting in New York over the draft, and even draft-dodging through financial pay-offs. There are also brief and random mentions of particular battles, generals, and ships of the Civil War. One photograph of Mary Albert is included.
Series IV, John S. Albert III, consists of papers, a log and map, and two scrapbooks related to his career in the U.S. Navy. The papers are mainly in the form of official military correspondence, such as orders, and cover John S. Albert III’s service during both active and inactive duty from 1921 to 1954. The first scrapbook is dedicated entirely to newspaper clippings regarding the torpedoing of the USS Kearney by a German submarine just prior to U.S. entry into World War II and his presence on this ship. In 1944, he was named commanding officer of the USS Naifeh. In October 1945, the Naifeh was involved in the rescue of the ship Glenn’s Ferry after it had run aground off the coast of Manila. The log, map, and second scrapbook all relate to John S. Albert III’s service aboard this ship from its commissioning till his separation from active duty in late 1945. The log and map show the Neifeh’s position and activities while the scrapbook provides a more personal look at ship life.
- American Civil War
- American Civil War, letters and diaries
- Centennial Exhibition (1876: Philadelphia, Pa.)
- Kearney (Destroyer)
- Kearsarge (Sloop)
- Letters home from servicemen
- Naifeh (Destroyer escort)
- Opium trade
- USS Hartford
- USS Housatonic
- USS Kearney
- USS Kearsarge
- USS Mohawk
- USS Naifeh
- USS Quinnebaug
- Independence Seaport Museum, J. Welles Henderson Archives and Library
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Donna Guerin & Dean Williams
- Finding Aid Date
- June 16, 2009