Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Thanks for Traveling Frederick! ~ An Emergency U.S. Passport Application from 1907

This is part of a series of posts in which I share the documents relating to the travels of Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster and his family.

In my previous "Thanks for Traveling Frederick!" post, I mentioned a passport application filled out by my great-grandfather, Watson (Frederick) Emory Webster, a.k.a. "The Traveling Dentist." So, here it is! Frederick's passport application dated April 17, 1907.1 He actually filled this out while he was in Mexico. The source citation states that this was an Emergency Passport Application (Issued Abroad). Hmmm. Interesting.

Frederick Emory Webster passport application 1907

So, what information is contained in this passport application?

  1. Frederick E. Webster stated he was a native and loyal citizen of the United States.
  2. Frederick applied to the Consul at Guaymas, Mexico for a passport for himself. (Guaymas is located in the southwestern part of the Mexican state of Sonora. Why was Frederick there?)
  3. Frederick was born in Athens, Ohio. (His birthplace is Coolville, Athens, Ohio.)
  4. Frederick was born on February 14, 1870. (That's weird. His actual birthdate is February 14, 1864. So, why did he say he was born in 1870?)
  5. Frederick stated that his father was a native born citizen of the United States.
  6. Frederick stated that his permanent residence in the United States was El Paso, Texas. (Hmm. Why was he living in El Paso, Texas?)
  7. Frederick's occupation was listed as a dentist. (No surprise here.)
  8. Frederick stated that he left the United States on January 19, 1907.
  9. He also stated that he was temporarily living in Guaymas, Sonora, Mexico.
  10. Frederick stated that he intended to return to the United States within eighteen months.
  11. Frederick stated that he desired the passport for the purpose of traveling in South America. (This is an interesting tidbit of information. Frederick eventually ended up living in Brazil and passed away there in 1946. My grandfather Debs, who was Frederick's son, and my mother were born in Brazil.)
  12. Hurray! Frederick's signature is on the document.
  13. Hurray again! We get a description of the applicant (Frederick).
  14. Description of Frederick E. Webster
    1. Age: 37 years old
    2. Stature: 5 feet 5 inches tall
    3. Forehead: Very high (bald)
    4. Eyes: Blue
    5. Nose: Medium
    6. Mouth: Large
    7. Chin: Medium
    8. Hair: Brown
    9. Complexion: Light
    10. Face: Full
  15. Identifying Witness for Frederick Webster – R. M. Black from Little Rock, Arkansas (Hmm. I wonder how Frederick knew this man. Did Frederick ever travel or live in Little Rock, Arkansas? Actually, I know Frederick was in Clarendon, Arkansas in 1899. And that's not too far from Little Rock. Frederick was awarded a patent in 1899. In this patent it states that Frederick was from Clarendon, Arkansas. If you'd like to see this patent, I shared it in a blog post. You can read about it by clicking HERE. It's pretty cool. And yes, it has to do with dentistry. And there are sketches of his invention included too.)

As you can see, this emergency passport application contains a wealth of interesting information. I sure am glad my great-grandpa Frederick traveled as much as he did. Doing so has created a great paper trail for me to follow. Thanks for traveling Frederick!

Thanks for reading!


© 2013 Copyright by Jana Last

1 Source Citation: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington D.C.; Emergency Passport Applications (Issued Abroad), 1877-1907; Collection Number: ARC Identifier 1187503 / MLR Number A1 515; NARA Series: M1834; Roll #: 21; Volume #: 35. Source Information: Ancestry.com. U.S. Passport Applications, 1795-1925 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2007.


  1. So what was the "emergency"? Just a last minute decision to travel??

    I love the description of the "very high" forehead followed by "bald" as if the clerk had tried to be polite but gave in as if to say, "Oh heck with it -- he's bald."

    1. Hi Wendy,

      That's a very good question! I don't know what the "emergency" was unfortunately. I wonder if he realized that he needed a passport AFTER he left the country.

      And hahaha...ya. It looks like the clerk was trying to be "diplomatic" in his description of Frederick's "very high" forehead at first and then decided to go with the obvious. He's bald!

      Thanks so much for stopping by!

  2. How fun to get a signature! As I read your transcription, I scrolled back up and saw "Fredrick." At first I thought that was his signature, then realized it was written by the witness. I think all the descriptors are interesting. These days we just take a photo and there's no need to describe in words. I was wondering about the emergency part, too.

    1. Hi Nancy,

      Yep! I love ancestor signatures. So much so, that I've created a special page for them at the top of my blog. =) And I like a good description as well. It's neat to see how tall our ancestor was, the color of their eyes and hair (ya, those black and white photos aren't helpful in those areas), and the other descriptors too. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. I love finding passport applications from this era - they can contain so much information!

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      You are so right! And I've seen other passports in my research that included a picture of the applicant. Pictures = Awesome! Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Replies
    1. Hi Colleen,

      Thanks! I'm loving the paper trail my great-grandfather left behind because of his travels. =) Thanks for stopping by!

  5. These types of records are my favorites to find! SO much information (usually a lot of it conflicting, as you found - keeps us up at night as to WHY?). :) I am fascinated by the fees charged for the processing of the passport in this era - $1.03! Now, it costs hundreds!! Amazing!

    1. Hi Piper,

      I also noticed the fees listed at the top right corner of this document and found that bit of information quite interesting too. Thanks for stopping by!




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