Section 1655 of Title 28, U.S.C. (1948) was originally section 8 of an act of Congress approved March 3, 1875. A somewhat similar statute, limited to equity cases, had been enacted in 1872. Paragraph one of the present section reads:

"In an action in a district court to enforce any lien upon or claim to, or to remove any incumbrance or lien or cloud upon the title to, real or personal property within the district, where any defendant cannot be served within the State, or does not voluntarily appear, the court may order the absent defendant to appear or plead by a day certain."

This paragraph is part of the first sentence of section 8 of the Act of 1875 with only one substantial change: The original section authorized the proceeding when "one or more of the defendants therein shall not be an inhabitant of, or found within, the said district." The proceeding is now authorized when "any defendant cannot be served within the State." In the original section the word "suit" was used in place of "action." The court originally designated was "circuit" court instead of "district" court.