Return To Main Page


Looking For Roots


Sweeney History


John David Sweeney, Jr.

A Sweeney receives the first ever U.S. Social Security Number!

When the first United States Social Security Numbers arrived in the Baltimore administration center in 1936, they were grouped in blocks of 1,000 and the master records were created. On December 1, 1936 the first block of 1,000 records were assembled and were ready to start their way through the nine-step process that would result in the creation of a permanent master record and the establishment of an earnings record for the individual.

When this first stack was ready, Joe Fay, head of the Division of Accounting Operations in the Candler Building, walked over to the stack, pulled off the top record, and declared it to be the official first Social Security record. (This was the first point in the process where there was enough control to designate an official first card--it would have been impossible to try and identify the first card typed in one of the 1,074 typing centers around the country.) This particular record, (055-09-0001) belonged to John D. Sweeney, Jr., age 23, of New Rochelle, New York.

The next day, newspapers around the country announced that Sweeney had been issued the first SSN. It would be more accurate to say that the first Social Security record was established for John David Sweeney, but since master records were invisible to the public and the Social Security card was a very visible token of the program, the newspapers overlooked the nuance. And so John David Sweeney, Jr. is the closest thing we have to the first person to have received a Social Security card--although his status is more symbolic than actual.

John Sweeney was the son of a wealthy factory owner, and had grown up in a 15-room Westchester County home staffed with servants. In an effort to learn the family business, Mr. Sweeney was working as a shipping clerk for his father at the time he filled out his application for a social security card. The Sweeneys were Republicans and the whole family voted for Landon in 1936, although John Jr. allowed that he liked the new Social Security program even though he didn't think much of the Rosevelt's New Deal. John Sweeney died of a heart attack in 1974 at the age of 61 without ever receiving any benefits from the social security program; however, his widow was able to receive benefits based on his work until her death in 1982.

Have you got a story you would like to see here?
Send it to us at

<< Back To Notable Sweeneys
Click here to visit the
Sweeney Clan Shop


© Sweeney Clan 2003 Web Site by John Michael Sweeney