On view in the Patrica D. Klingenstein Library, New-York Historical explores what it means to be an American citizen through documents and manuscripts from its collection, as part of the CitizenshipProject. The U.S. Constitution, drafted in 1787, established a new nation. It also introduced national citizenship, the eligibility for which would be determined by Congress. The Naturalization Act of 1790 offered citizenship to “free white persons” who had resided in the country for at least two years and could prove they were of good character. Naturalization is the process through which someone becomes a citizen.
Although eligibility for U.S. Citizenship has changed repeatedly since 1790, three aspects of naturalization have remained the same: the act of petitioning or applying for citizenship, taking an oath of allegiance to the United States, and receiving a document that certifies citizenship. Learn more about the documents on view.
This exhibit was curated by Nina Nazionale, director of library operations and curator of printed collections.