Learn about the beta

1910–1919

February 17, 1911

The Lowden Act (36 Stat. 917) authorized the Secretary of State to acquire building sites for diplomatic and consular missions. Spending under the Act was limited to $500,000 per year and $150,000 at any one location. Between 1911 and 1924, $1,669,123 was spent on nine diplomatic missions.

August 23, 1912

A federal appropriations act (37 Stat. 372) made the position of Counselor a Presidential appointment (37 Stat. 372). From 1913 to 1919, the Counselor was the second-ranking officer in the Department.

September 30, 1912

Departmental Order 43 transferred the personnel and the duties of the Bureau of Trade Relations to the Consular Bureau.

August 1, 1914

After the outbreak of World War I, Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan sent a circular telegram to all U.S. chiefs of mission authorizing them to issue emergency passports to American citizens on request. Consular officers were to advise American citizens in their districts to register, and were to provide duplicate certificates of registration to those not having passports. Consular agencies could issue certificates in emergencies. Chiefs of mission were to protect all Americans needing or requesting it, and were to notify the Department about all requests for financial assistance.

August 1914

Establishment of a Welfare and Whereabouts Section in the Consular Bureau to assist American citizens who were stranded in war zones.

August 7, 1914

The State, Treasury, War, and Navy Departments formed a relief board to organize the repatriation of American citizens stranded in Europe by the outbreak of World War I. Wilbur J. Carr, Director of the Consular Bureau, became its chairman. Congress later appropriated $2,750 million for relief, protection, and transportation purposes.

September 12, 1914

Secretary Bryan sent a circular telegram to U.S. chiefs of mission in Europe that emphasized the need to verify the citizenship of persons requesting U.S. passports or consular registration certificates.

November 13, 1914

An Executive Order set forth “Rules Governing the Granting and Issuing of Passports in the United States.” Only the Secretary of State had the authority to issue (or refuse to issue) passports in the United States. Diplomatic and Consular officers overseas could only issue passports in emergencies. The next day, the Department of State required that all American citizens traveling abroad have a valid passport.

December 2, 1914

The U.S. Embassy in London announced the first hiring of an official diplomatic courier. Before then, an irregular system of “Bearers of Dispatches” carried U.S. official correspondence overseas.

December 9, 1914

The Department of State began validating passports for travel only to specific countries and for specific purposes.

December 21, 1914

Department of State regulations required photographs to be submitted with passport applications for the first time. Applicants were also required to submit birth or naturalization certificates or previous passports. They also had to state countries to be visited and the purpose of the visit. Passports would be valid for only those countries.

January 12, 1915

Passport regulations were revised to limit the validity of U.S. passports to six months. Renewals were only permitted for persons outside the United States, and were limited to a maximum of six months.

February 5, 1915

“An act for the improvement of the foreign service” (38 Stat. 805) commissioned Diplomatic secretaries and Consular officers to a rank rather than to a specific post, so that they could be transferred from one post to another as required. All classified positions below the rank of ambassador or minister would be held by career officers. The Act established five classes of Diplomatic secretaries, five classes of Consuls General, and nine classes of Consuls. The Secretary of State was authorized to submit to the President a list of persons recommended for promotion or transfer. Diplomatic secretaries and Consular officers could be assigned to duty with the Department for up to three years without loss of rank or salary.

June 1, 1915

The Department of State authorized the issuance of passports to aliens who had announced their intention to become citizens, provided that they had resided in the United States for at least three years, they were not yet eligible for naturalization, they had a pressing need to travel abroad, and did not hold another country’s passport. These passports were valid for six months, were not renewable, and would not be issued to natives of belligerent countries or to persons wishing to visit belligerent countries.

July 28, 1915

Departmental Order 60 established the Division of Mexican Affairs to deal with issues resulting from the Mexican Revolution. Leon J. Canova was its first Chief.

December 15, 1915

Executive Order No. 2285 required all persons leaving the United States to have passports issued by their countries’ governments. U.S. passport regulations were updated two days later. Applicants had to specify their date and place of departure and document the purpose of their travel. Applications for American passports were to be made at a court and applicants had to take an oath of allegiance.

December 17, 1915

Departmental Order 66 announced the opening of a “branch office of the Bureau of Citizenship” in New York City, effective January 2, 1916. This was the first passport agency outside Washington, D.C.

December 23, 1915

Secretary of State Robert Lansing informed foreign diplomatic representatives in the United States that all persons leaving the United States needed to have properly-issued passports that had been examined and stamped by U.S. officials at the point of departure. Each mission was asked to supply the Department with blank or expired passports so that U.S. officials could recognize foreign passports.

January 31, 1916

Departmental Order 68 replaced the Bureau of Trade Relations with the Offices of the Foreign Trade Adviser and the Adviser on Commercial Treaties. Charles A. Holder and William B. Fleming held the new positions.

April 4, 1916

The Secret Intelligence Bureau was established to deal with espionage and sabotage by agents of the Central Powers during World War I. Leland Harrison was its Director.

July 1, 1916

An appropriations act for the Diplomatic and Consular Services (39 Stat. 252) established the rank of Counselor as the second-ranking officer at a diplomatic mission. Class 1 Diplomatic secretaries were eligible for this new position.

The Act also introduced the first post allowances, for Diplomatic and Consular officers stationed in belligerent countries (39 Stat. 261).

January 30, 1917

Departmental Order 78 outlined which administrative officers were responsible for the various divisions and bureaus of the Department. The Counselor was in charge of special matters of law and policy, the Latin American and Mexican Divisions, the Trade Adviser’s Office, and the Information Division. He shared responsibility for diplomatic appointments with the Third Assistant Secretary. The Assistant Secretary was in charge of departmental administration, the Chief Clerk’s Office, the Diplomatic Service, and the Western European and Near Eastern Divisions. The Second Assistant Secretary was in charge of the mail, the Citizenship (less legal questions), Index, and Diplomatic Bureaus, the Rolls and Library, and editing the laws. The Third Assistant Secretary was responsible for Diplomatic appointments (shared with the Counselor), Consular appointments (with the Director of the Consular Service), the Far Eastern Division, the Bureau of Accounts, International Conferences and Commissions, and Ceremonials. The Director of the Consular Services, in addition to the Consular Bureau and Consular appointments, was responsible for appropriations, the Emergency Fund, and the Trade Advisers Office. The Solicitor was in charge of claims, extradition, legal questions in the Citizenship Bureau, naturalization, and miscellaneous legal matters.

February 1917

Establishment of the Office of the Chief Special Agent, headed by Joseph M. Nye, as the first investigative office in the Department. Its security missions included protection of visiting foreign dignitaries, making travel arrangements for the Secretary of State, and domestic surveillance. Before his appointment, Nye had been a Secret Service Agent and had been in charge of surveillance of the German Embassy.

May 7, 1917

Departmental Order 82 renamed the Division of Information the Division of Foreign Intelligence. Its new duties included preparing press releases and supplying information to the government and the press.

May 11, 1917

Executive Order No. 2619 amended the Consular Regulations to require U.S. Diplomatic and Consular officers to verify U.S. and foreign passports. This was the beginning of a visa requirement for entry into the United States.

May 29, 1917

A Circular Telegram to Diplomatic and principal Consular officers gave Consular officers the responsibility for issuing or denying visas.

July 26, 1917

The Secretary of State and the Secretary of Labor signed a “Joint Order requiring passports and certain information from aliens who desire to enter the United States during the war” that specified visa requirements.

August 31, 1917

Secretary of State Lansing requested that Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels assign Marines to serve as diplomatic couriers. Nine Marine NCOs were assigned to the Department on September 6. They wore civilian clothes, received special passports, were based in London and served the Scandinavian capitals, Petrograd (Russia), and Jassy (Romania). The first courier mission began on November 21. Six more Marines were added to the program on February 26, 1918. The Department of State terminated the program on December 22, 1920.

March 1918

The Department issued the “Grey Code” to replace the Green Code for confidential messages. However, some posts continued to use earlier codes or even commercial codes.

August 8, 1918

President Woodrow Wilson announced in Proclamation 1473 that American citizens could not be issued passports unless they had definite reasons for foreign travel and that their travel was not prejudicial to the interest of the United States. This implemented the Travel Control Act of May 22, 1918 (40 Stat. 559).

August 13, 1918

The Bureau of Citizenship became the Division of Passport Control by Departmental Order 113. Passport Bureaus were established in New York and San Francisco. The same Departmental Order established the Visa Office within the Division of Passport Control.

August 24, 1918

A courier service was established between Laredo (Texas) and Mexico City. In November, one was established between Tokyo and Peking.

October 7, 1918

Departmental Order 122 established the Correspondence Bureau to review outgoing correspondence. Its chief was Margaret Hanna, the first woman to hold a supervisory position in the Department. It was abolished by Departmental Order 169 in 1920.

December 2, 1918

The Department of State’s Diplomatic Courier Service formally began when Major Amos J. Peaslee and some former military couriers began delivering official mail between Paris and Washington. By 1919 it served U.S. diplomatic posts in much of Europe with 70 couriers. After the American Commission to Negotiate Peace terminated its activities, the Courier Service was terminated on September 1, 1919. Couriers were still assigned to the embassies in Paris, London, and Rome.

March 1, 1919

A general government appropriations act (40 Stat. 1224) created the position of Under Secretary of State to replace the Counselor as the second-ranking officer in the Department. Counselor Frank Lyon Polk assumed the new title on July 1 before departing for Paris to assume charge of the American Commission to Negotiate Peace, so that he would hold rank comparable to his foreign counterparts. Polk resigned as Counselor on June 30, 1919, but served as Under Secretary until June 15, 1920. The Under Secretary remained the second-ranking officer in the Department until 1972. The office of Counselor remained vacant until 1937.

March 4, 1919

A Diplomatic and Consular Services appropriations act (40 Stat. 1325) authorized payment of transportation expenses for the families and household effects of Diplomatic and Consular officers. It also made post allowances based on the local cost of living available to all overseas personnel.

July 1, 1919

Departmental Order 143 made the War Trade Board part of the Department of State.

July 7, 1919

Secretary of State Robert Lansing issued Regulations Governing Interpreters and Student Interpreters in China, Japan, and Turkey.

August 8, 1919

Departmental Order 145 formally appointed Charles Lee Cooke as Ceremonial Officer. A Ceremonial Section was established in the Office of the Third Assistant Secretary.

August 13, 1919

Departmental Order 146 established the Division of Russian Affairs.

November 21, 1919

Departmental Order 150 separated the Visa Office from the Division of Passport Control.