Attorney General and Secretary of State Lead Successful Effort to Return Historical Document to State Archives


State prison ledger from 1888 returned to Rhode Island by Connecticut antiquarian book seller


PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Attorney General Peter F. Neronha and Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea announced today that through joint efforts, their offices have secured the return of a unique 19th century state prison ledger to the Rhode Island State Archives from a Connecticut-based antiquarian book seller.


Under Rhode Island law, certain types of state property cannot be sold to private persons or entities. Such property includes public records of designated state agencies, like documents, maps, recordings, or other material. 


The historical ledger consists of one bound 526-page volume of inmate incarceration and release records encompassing the time period of 1888 through 1905. The volume contains an index of individual state prison inmates along with details of their criminal history as well as personal and family characteristics.


The State of Rhode Island was able to reach an amicable resolution with the bookseller, who ultimately donated the historical ledger to the State Archives. 


“On its face, a nearly 150-year-old ledger of state prison inmate records may not raise any eyebrows but this document, and other historical documents like it, are important pieces of our state history that illuminate our understanding of our identity as Rhode Islanders,” said Attorney General Neronha. “This is a unique primary source that should be available to historians and researchers to support their meaningful work. Through the help of a member of the public, we’ve been able recover a valuable piece of our history.”


The State became aware of the prison ledger in October 2020, after an archivist from the Rhode Island Department of State discovered the document listed for sale on the internet. The archivist then alerted the Office of the Attorney General to initiate possible action to recover the document.


Several weeks later, the State and book seller arrived at the amicable resolution, who ultimately donated the document to the State. The historical ledger has since been returned to the State and is being stored at the State Archives.


“Rhode Island has perhaps the richest history of any state, and it’s a privilege to oversee our State Archives’ efforts to preserve and display that history for future generations,” said Secretary of State Gorbea. “Documents like this ledger play a vital role in understanding our past and are an invaluable resource to researchers. I thank the Attorney General’s office and State Archivist Ashley Selima for their diligent work in returning this historical document to our collection.”


Over the years, members of the public have been instrumental in reuniting valuable historical documents with the State. The public is encouraged to contact the State Archives by calling 401-222-2353 to share information about possible state-owned documents.


The State has previously pursued repossession of state property held in private hands. In 2018, the Office of the Attorney General successfully blocked the sale of 18th century Providence County court documents that were placed for auction on the internet. Those documents were later returned to the state archives.

This month is now the deadliest of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. Johns Hopkins University shows roughly 77-thousand-700 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far in January. That surpasses the previous high of just under 77-thousand-500 in December.        More winter storms are threatening to spead more misery across more of the nation today. Something called an atmospheric river storm is forecast to barrel into California with major downpours, destructive flows of debris, and heavy snow. Travel conditions are treacherous across much of the country.        A Virginia police department has fired two officers who took part in the riot at the U.S. Capitol three weeks ago. The former officers dismissed from the Rocky Mount Police Department face federal charges for unlawful entry into a restricted area. They were off-duty when they were at the Capitol.        Oregon is considering allocating COVID-19 vaccines according to race. The state's COVID-19 Vaccine Advisory Committee has been called on to ensure that "systemically affected populations, including communities of color" get health equity. The committee's tentative vaccination list includes black, indigenous, and other people of color, with other groups to be determined later.        The crew for the first-ever privately-funded space mission is set. The crew announced Tuesday by Houston-based Axiom Space will include a former astronaut, a former Israeli fighter pilot, a Canadian philanthropist, and the second oldest person ever to fly into space. The four men will fly to the International Space Station next year for a cost of 55 million dollars per person.       More guns are being confiscated at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International than any other airport in the country. The TSA reports screeners in Atlanta took 220 guns from passengers in 2020.