Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr are legal colleagues, the Titanic looks seaworthy, and the Rosenbergs are on trial. The documents that say so are right here in Bayonne.
But few people come to the industrial town jutting into New York Harbor to find them. So the National Archives this summer will move the documents, and many more besides, to a more accessible site in New York City.The archives moved its northeast regional headquarters from New York to New Jersey in 1973 because the Bayonne site was more fireproof. But only about 12 to 15 people visit each day, most of them genealogists, said assistant director John Celardo.
Among the 12 regional archives offices, only the Alaska branch has fewer visitors.
Not only is the site difficult to reach by public transportation, many researchers don't even know the archives are in Bayonne, said Robert Morris, head of the northeast branch. The new center will be in Manhattan near the campus of New York University.
The old center's quarter-mile-long rows of 14-foot-high shelves contain about 3 percent of the documents created by 47 federal agencies in New York, New Jersey, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. The rest were thrown out or recycled.
The oldest of the center's 190 million pages date from 1685. They concern a conflict between the slave ship Pink Charles and the Royal Africa Co., which held a monopoly on the slave trade.
Other documents include a 1790 list of attorneys with the signatures of Hamilton and Burr. Fourteen years later, Burr, then vice president, would shoot to death Hamilton, the nation's first treasury secretary, in a duel at nearby Weehawken.
There also are deck plans for the Titanic, used as evidence in a damage claims lawsuit after the ocean liner sank in 1912, and a file with evidence used in the 1951 nuclear secrets trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.
Now comes the delicate task of moving 65,000 cubic feet of documents by truck, and not losing or damaging anything.