The Center for Legislative Archives

Guide to the Records of the U.S. Senate at the National Archives (Record Group 46)


Table of Contents

Chapter 20. General Records of the US Senate, 1789-1968


General Records of the US Senate, 1789-1968 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States


Committee records discussed in this chapter:
General Records of the US Senate, 1789-1968 (5,763 ft.)

Manuscripts of Printed Senate Records

20.1 Among the records of the Senate are several series of records, most of which have appeared in printed form. Many of the original manuscripts of these records are with the unpublished records of the Senate and are described in the following section of this guide.

20.2 The Constitution provides that "each House shall keep a Journal of its proceedings and from time to time publish the same." The original Senate Journals and minute books, 1789-1968 (250 ft.), consist of handwritten (or typescript after 1890) manuscripts of the Senate Journal in either the rough (first draft) version or more often the smooth (final) version that was sent to the printer. There is usually one volume for each session of Congress.

20.3 The Journal gives a narrative summary of the day-by-day proceedings of each session, recording all bills introduced, the committees to which they were referred, and all subsequent floor action. Also recorded are all roll-call votes with the names of Senators voting yea or nay. The Journal is well indexed by subject and serves as the basic finding aid for unpublished legislative case (bill) files. By means of the subject index, bill numbers and committees of referral can be located so that searches can be made for related records. Petitions, memorials, and executive communications are also recorded in the Journal and are indexed. The Journal does not include any record of debate on the floor, although the texts of some Presidential messages are printed.

20.4 This series also includes minute books for the first 36 Congresses (1789-1861) and for the 66th through the 90th Congresses (1919-1968). These are the rough notes made on the floor by clerks working for the Secretary of the Senate, who is the official actually responsible for the production of the Journal. After 1890, printed sections of the Congressional Record are often pasted in the original typewritten Journal volumes to show the results of votes. Printed copies of bills and proposed amendments were often added in the same way.

20.5 The Executive Journal, 1789-1898 (16 ft.), is a separate series that records proceedings of the Senate when it considers treaties and Presidential nominations. It has been printed also, in limited quantities at irregular intervals. The records of the Senate in the National Archives include the manuscript Executive Journal for the 1st through the 56th Congresses. Since that time, the Executive Clerk has reportedly disposed of the original after the printed edition appears.

20.6 Original Senate bills, resolutions, motions, and bills originating in the House and transmitted to the Senate, 1789-1968 (1,970 ft.), are in various forms, reflecting the stages of the legislative process. There are first the original bills, that is, the papers "dropped into the hopper" by the Senator introducing the bill. Most bills were handwritten until the use of the typewriter became common in the late 19th century, but some were printed because a printed copy of an identical bill submitted in a previous Congress may be introduced again as a new bill and given a new number.

20.7 After the original bills, there are frequently "Senate bills on which further action was taken" or "Senate bills reported and placed on the calendar"; these are printed, sometimes with handwritten annotations as to further action taken. There may be still other versions, such as "desk copies of Senate bills passed." There may also be a series of amendments "intended to be proposed to Senate bills and resolutions." There are finally the engrossed bills, which are those actually passed by the Senate, certified by the Secretary of the Senate, and usually bound into volumes.

20.8 The bills and resolutions originating in the House and considered in the Senate are printed. They may also be found in several versions reflecting their legislative progress.

20.9 The completeness of the series of original Senate bills, resolutions, and so forth varies. There are major gaps from the 40th through the 56th Congresses (1867-1901). For example, the records of the 40th-41st, 44th-46th, and 53d-55th Congresses include no series of Senate bills except for the engrossed bills, and even those are missing for the 44th Congress. For the 43d Congress, there are only copies of S. 200 through S. 298. There are no House bills in Senate records for the 43d, 52d-54th, and 56th Congresses. Before and after this 1867-1901 period, the series is complete.

20.10 Presidential messages transmitted to the Senate, 1789-1875 (145 ft.), are a separate entity among Senate records during this period (1st through 43d Congresses). Included are the annual messages of the Presidents, customarily sent to Congress at the beginning of each session (now usually referred to as the State of the Union Messages), and other messages suggesting specific legislation or providing information. For example, a message from President Franklin Pierce was received on January 7, l857, "communicating, in compliance with a resolution of the Senate of the 23rd ult., information respecting the condition and prospects of a plan for connecting this continent and Europe by submarine wires" (34A-F2). On February 13, 1847, President James K. Polk sent a message to the Senate "recommending certain measures as necessary for the prosecution of the war with Mexico" (29A-E2).

20.11 Such messages were at first referred to appropriate committees, and many of them were then printed. They were returned to the Secretary of the Senate after being printed and then kept together as a separate record series. On occasion, documents transmitted by Presidential message were not printed, and these may be of some significance. On December 11, 1862, President Lincoln sent the Senate, in response to a resolution of that body, a message giving information on the trials of various Sioux Indians in Minnesota for crimes committed during an uprising earlier that year. The President's message itself is printed as Senate Executive Document 7, 37th Cong. 3d sess. The accompanying documents that were not printed include the transcripts of the 392 individual trials that are in this series of Senate records (37A-F2).

20.12 One subseries of this series is "messages transmitting reports." In this group the President's message is basically a transmittal note for a letter from the head of an executive Department in which that official supplies the information sought or suggests the legislation desired. The message will often be accompanied by numerous supporting documents, copies of correspondence, exhibits, and so forth.

20.13 After 1875, these original Presidential messages are found in other series, primarily messages tabled or read, 1875-1970 (32 ft.), original Senate executive documents, 1875-1964 (665 ft.), or as executive communications among the records of the committees to which they were referred. These series are described elsewhere in this guide.

20.14 The original messages were usually printed contemporaneously and are also found in such published document collections as the American State Papers (first 14 Congresses) and the Congressional Serial Set (15th Congress to the present). Their primary interest is for use as exhibits, and they are of high intrinsic value because of their origin. For example, this series includes George Washington's first inaugural address, and the original Monroe Doctrine, which is contained in certain paragraphs of President James Monroe's annual message of 1823.

20.15 Original reports and communications transmitted to the Senate, 1789-1875 (279 ft.), are similar to the preceding series of Presidential messages transmitted to the Senate, and, like that series, are maintained as a separate group of records from 1789 until 1875. These are mainly messages from executive branch officials, both heads of major Departments and some officials of lower rank (e.g., the Commissioner of Indian Affairs or the Director of the Mint), transmitting information to the Senate in response to senatorial inquiries, making suggestions for legislation, or submitting annual reports and other information required by law.

20.16 As is the case with Presidential messages, most of these communications were printed as Senate documents in the Congressional Serial Set. Some, however, were not printed. For example, the records of the 38th Congress contain a letter from the Commissioner of the General Land Office to the chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Lands recommending legislation and enclosing the draft of a bill to reserve certain sections of public lands "on the Pacific slope" for the use of the Government. The letter is endorsed "referred to the Committee on Public Lands" on February 29, 1864, and the Senate Journal notes this, but there is no indication that it was ever printed or that any other action was taken (38A-G8).

20.17 Although nearly all of these messages are from executive agencies, the records of most Congresses also include a formal report from the Secretary of the Senate on the annual payments from the Senate's contingency fund (a fund appropriated each year for unplanned administrative expenses of the Senate). These reports were also printed as Senate documents. After 1875, messages and reports of the kind found in this series are found in the series of original Senate documents or in messages tabled or read, described below. Others may be among committee records as a series called executive communications.

20.18 Since the 15th Congress (1817-19), the Senate and the House of Representatives have published a numbered series of records collectively known as the Congressional Serial Set, consisting of what are called House and Senate reports and documents. The reports are those of House and Senate committees; the documents are messages and reports transmitted to Congress from executive agencies as well as anything else that either House thinks fit to print. Examples of such documents are Index to Private Claims Before the Senate, 14th-46th Congress, (S. Misc. Doc. 14, 46th Cong., 3d sess., Serial 1945-1946); Guide to Research Collections of Former United States Senators, 1789-1995, (S. Doc. 103-35, 103rd Cong.); and the Biographical Directory of Members of Congress, 1789-1989 (S. Doc. 100-34, 100th Congress, Serial 13849).

20.19 The original Senate documents, 1875-1964 (665 ft.), are the manuscripts or typescripts that were sent to the Government Printing Office (GPO) to be printed. After the documents were printed the originals were bound by the GPO and returned to the Senate. They are arranged numerically for each session of each Congress. Research use of these records is mainly limited to a comparison of the printed version with the original; this is most often done by researchers interested in maps or some other nontextual items included as part of a document.

20.20 Original committee reports, 1847-1964 (545 ft.), are reports made by committees of the Senate on proposed legislation or reports giving the results of investigations. Each report is printed when first presented to the Senate, and they are numbered serially. Later they are printed as part of the Congressional Serial Set. These originals are the records returned to the Secretary of the Senate's office from the Government Printing Office.

20.21 Before 1847, original committee reports, some of which may not have been printed, are often found among other records of the committee making the report. The reports for 1847 through 1851 are filed separately and are in chronological order by date of report. After 1851, the reports are arranged numerically for each Congress. There are some gaps in the series. The original reports were bound by the Government Printing Office beginning with the 48th Congress (1883).

20.22 Messages, reports, and communications tabled or read, 1875-1968 (32 ft.), consist of some Presidential messages, communications from executive agencies, and some communications from nongovernmental sources--none of which were, for some reason, referred to a committee. In recent years many of the annual reports of different agencies have not been referred to the relevant standing committee but have simply been printed at once as Senate documents. Many of the messages in this series were printed as Senate or House documents, and many of them were submitted to both Houses. The unprinted items tend not to be of great research interest--for example, a letter from the family of Adm. David Porter written to the Vice President in 1891 thanking the Senate for their resolution of sympathy on the admiral's death, or a 1952 letter from the State Department transmitting a resolution of the Colombian Senate in honor of Pan American Day (51A-H2, 82A-H1).

President Roosevelt's Day of Infamy Speech, Dec. 8, 1941 (page 1) President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Day of Infamy Speech (page 3))
First and last pages from the Message of President Franklin D. Roosevelt concerning the Japanese attack on the United States, December 8, 1941 (SEN77A-H1)  
20.23

Some of the Presidential messages in this series have high intrinsic value. Annual (State of the Union) messages are sometimes found in this series, as are veto messages, accompanied by the enrolled bill that is being vetoed signed by the Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate. President Franklin Roosevelt's "Day of Infamy" speech asking for a declaration of war in 1941 is in this series (77A-H1).

Unpublished Records Relating to Private and Public Bills and Resolutions

20.24 A private bill, in legislative terminology, is a bill to grant a pension, authorize payment of a claim, or grant another form of relief to a private individual, as opposed to public bills of general application or that apply to a class of persons. Private bills were common in the 19th and early 20th centuries, when the governmental framework to handle such claims in a standardized way was not nearly as extensive as it became later. Before 1887, such records are found with other series of the committees that considered them, such as the Committees on Claims, Pensions, and Military Affairs. From 1887 until 1901 they were kept in the separate series supporting papers, 1887-1901 (144 ft.), filed by Congress and thereunder alphabetically by surname of the individual. After 1901, private bills and related papers formed case files that were filed by Congress and thereunder numerically by bill number in a series that also included papers relating to general public bills, the accompanying papers, 1901-46 (1,048 ft.).

20.25 The majority of these case files relate to bills arising from service in or claims originating in the Civil War. Federal pensions could only be obtained on the basis of US military service. Between 1862 and 1907, Congress passed five laws providing for pensions based on Civil War service, each law tending to make eligibility for pensions more liberal. If a veteran were still not able to secure a pension under the terms of these acts by applying to the Bureau of Pensions, he often arranged to have a private bill introduced into Congress in his behalf. Also, many bills were introduced to increase pensions already granted, and many were introduced to alter military personnel records. Many bills provided for the granting of pensions to widows and orphans of veterans.

20.26 A private bill file may be voluminous or may contain only a copy of the bill and one or two letters. A file may have correspondence and affidavits from other veterans who knew the soldier. There is generally a report from the War Department Record and Pension Office giving the military record of the veteran as shown in his personnel files. Many private bills to grant pensions did become law in this period, although the majority did not. These records can be of great value to genealogists or social historians.

20.27 Many private bills were not pension applications but were claims against the Government. Many of these claims were submitted to each Congress from the Civil War years to 1900 and later. The documentation can be very bulky, and in some cases many of the papers in the claim were printed as Senate documents; for example, see both printed and unprinted records in the claim of Norman Wiard for over $200,000 for ordnance furnished the Army and Navy (51A-E1). A not untypical claim of an individual is that of David Allen, who asserted that backpay was due to him as an Army teamster from 1862 until 1864 (S. 746, 51st Cong.) although War Department records show him as discharged in 1862. Allen's file contains over 20 letters from the War Department alone.

20.28 In order to see if a private bill was introduced in behalf of a given individual, researchers should check the index found in each volume of the Senate Journal for the 50th through the 56th Congresses. The Senate has also published, as Senate documents, Indexes to Private Claims Before the Senate. The six volumes covering the period in which these records were created are S. Misc. Doc. 266, 53d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 3175, covering the 47th-51st Congresses (1881-90); S. Doc. 449, 56th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 3881, covering the 52d-55th Congresses (1891-98); and S. Doc. 221, 57th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 4433, covering the 56th-57th Congresses (1899-1902).

20.29 After the 56th Congress, the supporting papers are replaced by a similar series known as papers accompanying specific bills and resolutions, 1901-46 (1,048 ft.), often called legislative case files or bill files. This series is arranged numerically by bill or resolution number (S. 1, S. 2, and so forth) for each Congress from the 57th through the 79th (1901-46). The series includes files for House bills and joint resolutions if they passed the House and were then referred to Senate committees. Unlike the supporting papers, these records relate to both public and private bills. They were created and maintained by the committees to which the bills were referred, but were collected at the end of each Congress by the Secretary of the Senate and filed as a single series; it is therefore difficult to determine how many records are present in any Congress for any specific committee.

20.30 These accompanying papers are among the Senate records most useful to researchers even though there are gaps in the series; sometimes no records are found even when the legislation is of great significance. The contents of one file may vary greatly from those of another. There is usually a copy of the printed bill and the committee report, if any. There may be original correspondence between the committee and executive agencies, interest groups, and the general public. There may be committee staff memorandums. The incoming letters are usually addressed to the chairman, and the outgoing letters are sent over his signature, but such letters are committee records, not personal papers. Printed hearings and transcripts of unpublished ones are sometimes found in this series. The unpublished hearings have now been reproduced on microfiche by a commercial firm (see the information on published sources in Chapter 1).

20.31 Since these files are retrievable only by bill number, it is important for the researcher to note that in any Congress a number of bills that are practically identical in language may be introduced. Any important records are normally filed with the bill selected for attention and are also more likely to be filed with the Senate version of the proposed legislation, if there is one, even though it may be the House bill that becomes law. There are exceptions, however, to all of these generalizations.

20.32 A major piece of proposed legislation may be introduced in several Congresses, and the bill numbers will of course be different in each Congress. A researcher should be prepared with these numbers since there may be more records of interest filed with earlier versions than with the bill ultimately enacted. For example, the Banking Act of 1933 (the Glass-Steagall Act), which created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and divorced investment banking from commercial banking, was passed as H.R. 5661 of the 73d Congress, but the only Senate records filed under that number are printed hearings and reports. The Senate version of the bill in the same Congress, S. 1631, also contains only a few printed items. However, the records of the previous (72d) Congress, include rather large files of unpublished records on S. 4115 and S. 4112, both referred to as the "Glass bill" and the "Banking Act of 1932."

20.33 In order to give some idea of what might be found in this series, an arbitrary search was made for records relating to various well-known pieces of legislation enacted during the years 1901-46. Only the records of the Congress that enacted the law were checked and only that version of the bill that became law; therefore, as previously noted, this search was not a complete one.

20.34 For one example, no unpublished Senate records were found relating to H.R. 7837, 63d Cong., which became the Federal Reserve Act of 1913. The records include only one folder of papers on the Clayton Antitrust Act of 1914 (H.R. 15657, 63d Cong.) and about 2 inches of records relating to the Volstead Act (H.R. 6810, 66th Cong.). There are, however, abundant records of the interwar tariff laws--the Fordney-McCumber Act of 1922 (10 ft.) and the Smoot-Hawley Act of 1930 (3 ft.). Much of the material on the tariff bills consists of correspondence with affected business and industry.

20.35 Much of the major New Deal legislation such as the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (H.R. 5755, 73d Cong., 2 ft.) and the original Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933 (H.R. 3835, 7 in.), is not well documented in unpublished Senate records. There is little or nothing on the Social Security Act of 1935 (H.R. 7260, 74th Cong.), but a rather extensive file on the Public Utility Holding Company (Wheeler-Rayburn) Act of 1935 (S. 2796, 74th Cong., 14 ft.). More records were retained for tax bills (other than the tariffs) for the period, especially the Revenue Acts of 1934, 1941, and 1942, each of which is documented by several feet of unpublished records.

Tabled Petitions

20.36 Those petitions and memorials submitted to the Senate that were not referred to committees are known as petitions and related documents that were presented, read, or tabled, 1815-1966 (250 ft.). They are arranged alphabetically by subject and thereunder by date of submission to the Senate's Presiding Officer.

20.37 The term "tabled petitions" comes from the parliamentary expression used when some item before the Senate, such as a bill, a communication from an executive Department, or a petition, is ordered to "lie on the table." Tabling an item generally means that no further consideration will be given to it, although not always; something may be ordered to "lie on the table and be printed"; or it may be taken off the table and referred to a committee at a later date.

20.38 The volume of tabled petitions is much less than that of those referred to committees since such referral was and is the more likely method of disposition of such communications. Petitions can be ordered tabled if there is objection to their referral by any Senator and the objection is sustained by the Senate, or if a resolution has been passed ordering any petition on a particular subject or worded in a particular way to be tabled. The largest volume of Senate tabled petitions and the primary subjects involved are found in records from the following time periods:

20.39 1837-41: Annexation of Texas; passage of a bankruptcy law; slavery; treaty with the Cherokees at New Echota; dueling; and banking and currency legislation (25A-H1 through 25A-H7 and 26A-H1 through 26A-H4).

20.40 1869-73: Abolition of the franking privilege; legislation to build the Cincinnati and Southern Railway; pensions to all remaining veterans of the War of 1812; relief for victims of the Chicago fire; bankruptcy legislation; prohibition of liquor; and various contested elections (41A-J1 through 41A-J6 and 42A-J1 through 42A-J7).

20.41 1889-99: Bankruptcy legislation; Federal aid for public schools; immigration restriction; legislation to ban oleomargarine; pure food and lard legislation; silver coinage; prohibition of futures and options trading; a canal through Nicaragua; tariffs; polygamy; annexation of the Hawaiian Islands; prizefights; postal savings banks; lotteries; and Indian education (51A-K1 through 51A-K15, 52A-K1 through 52A-K14, 53A-K1 through 53A-K13, 55A-K1 through 55A-K14).

Election Records

20.42 The records in this category are formal documents reflecting the certification of the election of the President and Vice President of the United States and of individual Members of the Senate.

20.43 The original electoral votes and certificates of ascertainment, 1789-1969 (103 ft.), are sent from each State following the meeting of its Presidential electors every 4 years. The certificates, often with elaborate seals and decoration, are signed by the Governors of the States and give the names of those chosen as electors and the result of their votes for President and Vice President. In the 20th-century certificates, the popular vote count is often given. In the 18th and 19th centuries, certificates were also included to certify the messenger chosen to deliver the documents to Washington. A tabulation sheet kept by two Senators and two Representatives during the counting of the vote in a joint session of the two Houses is also usually present. The electoral votes are in the records of every other Congress beginning with the first and are arranged alphabetically by State.

20.44 Original credentials of individual Senators, 1789-1968 (15 ft.), are also formal certificates signed by State Governors stating that certain individuals have been chosen as Senators for a given period. They are arranged without regard to Congress alphabetically by State and thereunder alphabetically by surname of Senator. There are also handwritten copies of Senators' credentials, 1789-1968 (10 vols., 1 ft.), one volume of which includes an alphabetical (by surname) list of Senators for the entire period, and oaths of Senators, 1868-1965 (10 vols., 1 ft.), which include the original signatures of the Senators and the Vice President attesting to the Senators' pledge to carry out their duties under the Constitution. The copies of credentials and the oaths are both arranged chronologically and thereunder alphabetically by surname of Senator.

Records of the Secretary of the Senate 1789-1946 (1st-79th Congresses)

20.45 The records of the Secretary's office for this period consist almost entirely of various kinds of record books and unbound papers relating to bills and petitions presented to the Senate and to various kinds of administrative expenditures. There is also some correspondence relating to leaves of absence for Senators and to appointments of Senators to committees, and there are some formal messages from the House of Representatives reporting that body's action on legislation or arranging for adjournments and reconvening of the two Houses.

20.46 The record books include contingent expense fund payments, 1822-1946 (6l vols., 12 ft.); salary registers of officers and employees, 1849-93 (8 vols., 2 ft.); and newspaper and stationery accounts, 1872-1915 (9 vols., 2 ft.). There are bill books, 1795-1946 (54 vols., 9 ft.), which are registers listing bills in numerical order and giving the dates of legislative action taken on them. There are many gaps in the bill book series, especially for the period l889-1921. There may be bill books for any given session for Senate bills only, for House bills only, or for both. Another series of record books extant for the early Congresses consists of transcribed committee reports, transcribed reports and messages from executive agencies, and transcribed treaties presented to the Senate, 1789-1821 (14 vols., 4 ft.). In many cases the originals of these documents are also in the records of the Senate; these copies were made by clerks in the Secretary's office, presumably as a kind of security copy.

20.47 In addition to the specific series described above, there are miscellaneous bound volumes, 1803-1946 (60 vols., 9 ft.), including registers of petitions; receipt books for enrolled bills presented to the President; registers of matters referred to executive agencies; records of supplies and stationery bought by the Secretary; accounts of bookbinding expenses incurred by Senators and committees; "committee books," which list chronologically the issues referred to each committee, and include bills and the actions taken by the committee; and registers of private claims referred to the Court of Claims.

20.48 The miscellaneous unbound records of the Secretary's office, 1789-1946 (75 ft.), in addition to the types of correspondence mentioned above concerning publications and distribution of supplies, often include roll-call votes and tally sheets and notices from Members of their intent to introduce motions. There also is a series of crank letters, 1929-46.

20.49 All candidates for the Senate were required by the Federal Corrupt Practices Acts of 1911 and 1925 to submit to the Secretary reports on receipts and expenditures in campaigns by Senatorial candidates, 1912-46 (15 ft.). These reports were submitted at prescribed times (so many days before and after the elections) on printed forms and are arranged chronologically and thereunder alphabetically by State and name of candidate. They are not as valuable for research as might be imagined since loopholes in these laws allowed much of the money spent on campaigns to go unreported.

1947-68 (80th-90th Congresses)

20.50 Many of the series in the records of the Secretary before 1947 continue into the post-World War II period. There are bill books, 1949-64 (34 vols., 8 ft.), and journals of contingent expenditures, 1947-64 (24 vols., 5 ft.). The campaign expense reports, 1947-68 (13 ft.), are a continuation from the earlier period. Miscellaneous unbound records, 1947-68 (10 ft.), include roll-call tally sheets kept by the tally clerk, memorandums naming Senators to certain committees and appointing Senators to preside over sessions of the Senate; and messages from the House of Representatives on formal matters, such as expressing sympathy on the death of a Senator.

20.51 The Federal Regulation of Lobbying Act (Title III of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, Public Law 79-601), resulted in a new series of records maintained by the Secretary: quarterly lobbying reports, 1949-68 (130 ft.). The act called for the registration of any person or organization collecting or receiving money for the purpose of directly influencing legislation and for quarterly reports of receipts and expenditures for that purpose. The records are arranged chronologically and thereunder alphabetically by name of lobbyist. Most of the information contained in these reports, which were submitted on printed forms, is published in the Congressional Record.

Records Since 1969

20.52 Noncommittee records of the Senate include original Senate bills and related records of the Bill Clerk, 1969-86 (335 ft.); records of the Enrolling Clerk, 1977-86 (83 ft.); original nomination messages maintained by the Executive Clerk, 1977-86 (10 ft.); manuscript journals, roll call votes, and other records maintained by the Legislative Clerk, 1963-86 (60 ft.); lobbying reports and campaign contribution and expenditure reports maintained by the Office of Public Records, 1965-86 (166 ft., including microfilm); records of the Interparliamentary Services Office, 1963-82 (7 ft.); correspondence of the Office of Senate Chaplain, 1969-76 (1 ft.); case files of the Office of Legal Counsel, 1971-86 (2 ft., including microfiche) records of the Commission on the Operation of the Senate, 1975-77 (19 ft.); records relating to the 1985 Presidential inauguration maintained by the Senate Historical Office, 1984-85 (5 in); records of the Sergeant at Arms 1983-86 (3 ft., including video tapes); logbooks and correspondence maintained by the Office of the President of the Senate, 1969-80 (2 ft.); and electoral vote records, resignation letters, receipts, and other records maintained by the Secretary of the Senate, 1969-72 (5 ft.).

Senate Party Policy Committee Records

20.53 The Senate Policy Committees were established in 1946 as part of a Supplemental Appropriations Act (79th Congress, 2nd Session, PL 663). The Act set up separate policy committees for the U.S. Senate majority and minority parties to help formulate the over-all legislative plan for each party. Funds were appropriated for staffs to study and research policy determinations. The committees met regularly while Congress was in session.

20.54 The Democratic Policy Committee records consist of seventeen boxes of printed voting records and 54 boxes of publications and other documents. These records are open when they are 20 years old.

20.55 The Republican Policy Committee records consist of four boxes of minutes and 68 boxes of reports, staff studies, article books, and memos from the Policy Committee and its predecessor, the Senate Steering Committee. These records are open for research when they are 30 years old.

History of the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, 1947-1997

Senate Party Conference Records

20.56 The Center also has minutes of the Democratic Conference from 1903-1964 and the Republican Conference 1911-1964. The Conferences were a gathering of all members of the same party. They met periodically to discuss political strategy and to review party positions on pending legislative business.

20.57 Democratic Conference records consist of four boxes of minutes that have been microfilmed and are available for research. The Senate Historical Office prepared an annotated documentary publication of these minutes covering 1903-1964 that is available online through the GPO's Access database.

20.58 Republican Conference records consist of thirteen boxes of minutes and seating diagrams that open when they are 30 years old. The Senate Historical Office prepared an annotated documentary publication of these minutes covering 1903-1964 that is available online.

Videotapes of Senate Floor Proceedings

20.59 On February 27, 1986, the Senate approved S. Res. 28, 99th Cong., to establish a test period during which the floor proceedings of the Senate, except for closed-door sessions, would be broadcast on closed circuit television. At the end of the trial, the Senate judged the experiment a success and in July 1986 regular coverage over the C-SPAN cable network began. Copies of the tapes are available to the public at the Library of Congress.

Table of Contents


Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.
The Center for Legislative Archives >

The U.S. National Archives and Records Administration
1-86-NARA-NARA or 1-866-272-6272

.