Our Documentary Heritage showcases holdings drawn from the vast collections of the Pennsylvania State Archives.

Most records acquired by the Pennsylvania State Archives are obtained through regularly scheduled transfers of files no longer needed by an agency to conduct government business. When appraising records to determine if they possesses sufficient permanent or historical value to justify their transfer to the State Archives, archivists are looking for those that best document important agency activities. Archival records are different from books and materials found in libraries in that they were not created for some broad cultural purposes but as part of the process of transacting government business.

Occasionally, government agencies obtain and maintain records under unusual circumstances. The National Archives, for example, safeguards records of Nazi Germany confiscated by American troops during World War II, including such oddities as a photograph album kept by Adolph Hitler’s mistress Eva Braun. In the 1960s, the Pennsylvania State Police transferred to the Pennsylvania State Archives a group of records of about five cubic feet relating to various Ku Klux Klan (KKK) chapters active in the Commonwealth between 1922 and 1940. The records arrived surreptitiously one night in 1941 at the Philadelphia headquarters of the Pennsylvania Motor Police (renamed the Pennsylvania State Police in 1943), possibly delivered by a disgruntled Klan member. This collection is significant because it contains detailed information on the extent and sophistication of the KKK in Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey during its heyday in the twenties and thirties: enlistment papers, manuals, official bulletins, quarterly reports, passwords and countersigns, promotional literature, even forms for robe fittings.

The records offer a rare glimpse into the highly organized networking of this secret society. The KKK holdings, now part of Record Group 30 (RG-30), the Records of the Pennsylvania State Police, are considered invaluable for research by scholars. They were extensively used by Philip Jenkins for his 1997 book, Hoods and Shirts: The Extreme Right in Pennsylva­nia, 1925-1950. Several illustrations accompanying “Violence and Vigilantes: The KKK in Pennsylvania,” by Charles Hardy III, in this issue were selected from the Records of the Pennsylvania State Police.