Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 5

Records of the Banking and Currency Committees

Committee records discussed in this chapter:

Records of Committees Relating to Banking and Currency, 39th-90th Congresses (1865-1968)

History and Jurisdiction

5.1 The Banking and Currency Committee was created in 1865 to relieve the Ways and Means Committee of part of its workload. Its jurisdiction included the chartering and oversight of national banks; the issue of national bank loans; the issue, taxation, and redemption of national bank notes; and the authorization of bond issues. It was responsible for legislation involving the deposit of public moneys, strengthening the public credit, monetary parity, and the issuance of silver certificates as currency. The investigation of the failure of State banks and the affairs of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company were also part of its jurisdiction.

5.2 The committee's jurisdiction included the legislation that created the Federal Reserve System in 1913 and the establishment and operation of Federal Reserve banks since that date. Since 1921 it has included legislation regarding the War Finance Corporation, the provision of credits for essential industries, rural credits, and farm loans. Since 1932 it has been responsible for home-loan bills.

5.3 In 1921 part of the jurisdiction of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures was transferred to the Banking and Currency Committee, and in 1946 the remainder of the former committee's jurisdiction relating to coinage was similarly transferred as part of the reorganization of Congress. The new formal jurisdiction of the committee was defined to include the following subjects and remained the same until 1971:

  • (a) Banking and currency generally. (b) Control of price of commodities, rents, or services. (c) Deposit insurance. (d) Federal Reserve System. (e) Financial aid to commerce and industry, other than matters relating to such aid which are specifically assigned to other committees under this rule. (f) Gold and silver, including the coinage thereof. (g) Issuance of notes and redemption thereof. (h) Public and private housing. (i) Valuation and revaluation of the dollar. 1

Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 39th-79th Congresses (1865-1946)

Record Type Volume Congresses (Dates)
Minute Books 23 vols. 40th-43rd (1867-75), 45th-65th (1877-1919), 1945-45 (79th)
Docket Books 26 vols. 1869-83 (41st-47th), 1885-1919 (49th-65th), 1939-42 (76th-77th), 1945-46 (79th)
Petitions and Memorials   9 ft. 1865-67 (39th), 1873-83 (43rd-47th), 1885-1921 (49th-66th), 1939-41 (76th), 1943-46 (78th-79th)
Committee Papers 10 ft. 1865-69 (39th-40th), 1871-81 (42nd-46th), 1885-1915 (49th-63rd), 1917-27 (65th-69th), 1937-46 (75th-79th)
Bill Files 7 ft. 1903-09 (58th-60th), 1911-27 (62nd-69th), 1929-31 (71st), 1937-46th)
Total 26 feet and 49 volumes (4 ft., 1 in.)  

5.4 The minute books and docket books contain substantial documentation of committee meetings from the creation of the committee until the end of World War I (1865-1919). The minutes for the period between 1919 and 1945 are missing. The earliest minute book, covering the 40th and 41st Congresses (1867-71), contains over 300 handwritten pages, although the majority of the minute books are much briefer. The records of the 62d Congress (1911-13) contain a special minute book for the meetings of the subcommittee, headed by Arsene P. Pujo, to investigate the so-called Money Trust, in addition to the minute book for meetings of the full committee. There are two minute books for the 79th Congress (1945-46), which document the appearance of witnesses before the committee, mark-up sessions, proposed amendments to legislation, and records of the yea and nay votes at committee meetings.

5.5 The docket books usually contain entries for each of the bills and resolutions referred to the committee during a given Congress, along with a brief description of the legislation and a record of the progress of the legislation—committee meetings, hearings, and reports; floor consideration, votes, and passage of the measure; and activity in the Senate or White House.

5.6 The petitions and memorials that were referred to the committee document the opposing viewpoints on the financial issues of the day and identify the groups and individuals who supported various policy alternatives. During the years following the Civil War, the financial policy preferences of the debtor and creditor classes were reflected in petitions and memorials concerning legislation on national banks, greenback currency, the resumption of specie payment, inflation of the currency, and other issues.

5.7 The records from the 39th Congress (1865-67) document some of the financial concerns of citizens just after the end of the Civil War—notably the effects of the tax measures that had been initiated to finance the war. There are petitions from several New York counties asking for the repeal or postponement of the 10-percent tax on the notes of state banks—a tax that the petitioners said would cause a sudden decrease in the amount of currency in circulation and seriously interrupt the business operations of the country. The inhabitants of Oberlin, OH, sent a petition objecting to the national bank system and favoring legal tender currency. Their petition says:

  • ...the present 'National Banking System' of currency is unjust in all its bearings; and especially in that it leaves the control of currency, which should belong to the entire people, to the few capitalists... It secures to these capitalists double interest on their bonds, which the people, the laboring classes, have to pay directly or indirectly. (39A-H3.1)

J. B. Walker and other officers of the New Hampshire Savings Bank petitioned Congress for changes in another tax law so that savings institutions with no capital stock would be freed from the 5-percent tax on their dividends (39A-H3.1).

5.8 A few years later, during the 43d Congress (1873-75), the major issues of the petitions and memorials had to do with the depression that had struck the country and the kind of monetary policies that should be pursued in order to aid recovery. Inflationary solutions were encouraged by such petitioners as "John Harbison and 98 other citizens of Livingston County, Illinois, asking as farmers and working men, that the greenback currency be increased," while other petitioners feared that the inflationary policies would be carried out. Typical petitions from citizens who favored tight currency came from "bankers, merchants, and other citizens of Philadelphia protesting against increase of the volume of currency and praying for a speedy return to specie payment" and from "merchants of Chicago protesting against any further issue of legal tender notes" (43A-H2.1).

5.9 Some of the petitions were directed toward specific pieces of legislation or policies. A petition from citizens of Hamilton, OH, indicates that the citizens were pleased with the way Congress handled the currency problem, saying that they approved "the action of Congress legalizing the reissue of $44,000,000 legal tender reserve. And the increase of the National Bank Currency to $400,000,000" (43A-H2.1).

5.10 The largest number of petitions referred to the committee during the 43d Congress, dealt with the control of corruption in government finance rather than with a great national economic problem. Dozens of petitions were received demanding that Congress enact a proposal from the Joint Select Committee on Retrenchment that would guard against the possibility of counterfeiting, altering, overissuing, duplicating, or other fraud in the printing of Government notes, bonds, or coupons (43A- H2.1).

5.11 Other petitions and memorials referred to the committee claimed compensation for damages that could be attributed to the Government. An example is the petition from a teller at the North Berwick National Bank of North Berwick, ME, asking for the passage of an act to authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to replace $85 in mutilated bank notes that were burned in a mail-car fire (H.R. 3724, 43d Congress). During the same Congress there were several petitions from persons injured by the failure of some branch banks of the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, claiming the right to compensation for the loss (43A-H2.1).

5.12 The repeal of the taxes on banks that had been imposed to finance the costs of the war was the subject of petitions during the 1870s (44A-H2.2, 46A-H4.3). The Louisville Board of Trade submitted a petition with the signatures of 3,220 citizens declaring, "The tax on capital and deposits of banks and bankers was imposed at a time it was needed for the exigencies of war [but] for some years this tax has been unwarranted and unjustified, and the improved finances of the country no longer require it." Beside each signature is listed the occupation of the petitioner (46A-H4.3).

5.13 Some of the petitions were quite specific when describing the beliefs and desires of the petitioners. The endorsement from an 1876 petition, for instance, expresses dissatisfaction with specific clauses of the Legal Tender Act of 1875:

  • The petition of J. W. Bates and 179 other citizens of Athens, Ohio, who are opposed to inflation, but ask for the repeal of so much of the Act of Congress approved March 14, 1875, as provides for the payment of United States legal tender notes in coin upon the 1st day of Jan. 1879; and so much of the said Act as authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to sell and dispose of the Bonds of the United States for the purpose of enabling him to redeem such legal tender notes. (44A-H2.1)

At other times, petitioners simply favored making all money issued by the federal government full legal tender (46A-H4.1, 52A-H4.2, 53A-H4.1). Other subjects include a limitation on the rate of interest charged by national banks (44A-H2.3).

5.14 The petitions and memorials during the last quarter of the 19th century contain numerous documents stating the opinions of groups of citizens on the policy of the Government regarding the issuance of money. The records of the 46th Congress (1879-81) contain many petitions advocating the prohibition of the issuance of money by corporations. Horace Bodwell and 65 other inhabitants of Acton, ME, state their understanding of the concept of sovereignty and the issuance of currency as follows:

  • ...the issuing of money is an act of sovereignty which can properly be exercised by Congress, and that the issuing of money by corporations, chartered by States the General Government is detrimental to the interest of the people... (46A-H4.2)

5.15 Between 1889 and 1891, numerous petitions called for the passage of laws for the perpetuation of the national banking system. The petitioners viewed the banking system as one under which the interest of depositors was protected by Government supervision and as a major factor in strengthening Government credit since the establishment of the system in 1863 (51A-H3.3).

5.16 The records of the 52d and 53d Congresses (1891-95) contain many petitions from various groups advocating repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. H. C. Deland and 173 businessmen and citizens of Bergen County, NJ, note that "the purchase of silver bullion under the Act of Congress known as the 'Sherman Bill' has proved detrimental to the business interests of our Country, and the continuance of such purchase will within a short time result in financial disaster" (52A-H4.3).

5.17 Other petitioners demanded general reform of the banking and currency system in the United States, and many of the petitions contain suggestions about how to accomplish the reforms. The 1897 records contain petitions proposing the appointment of a Presidential commission to study banking and currency legislation, an idea that had been recommended earlier by a monetary convention at Indianapolis (55A-H2.1).

5.18 The petition and memorial files around the end of World War I concern a different set of issues. The Half Century Association of Los Angeles presented a memorial suggesting the creation of a "Federal Interest Commission" to determine what constituted a just rate of interest (65A-H2.2), and the University of Missouri College of Agriculture prepared an analysis of the proposed amendments to the Federal Farm Loan Act and gave a well-reasoned argument against the amendments (65A- H2.2). The 66th Congress (1919-21) records contain petitions (5 in.) supporting passage of H.R. 10518, a bill to provide for a "Federal Urban Mortgage Bank" that would provide Government financial backing for the homeowner the same way the Government already protected the farmer and the banker through the Federal Farm Loan Bank System and the Federal Reserve System (66A-H3.5).

5.19 During the early 1940's, the control of prices and Government-backed financing for farmers and homeowners were major issues dealt with by the committee. There are petitions urging the extension and amendment of the Housing Act of 1937 and the passage of the Housing Act of 1940 from such diverse groups as the Philadelphia Council of the National Negro Congress and the Pacific Coast Asphalt Shingle and Roofing Institute (76A-H3.6 and H3.7). Other groups, such as the Sheepshead Bay Property Owners Association of Brooklyn, NY, petitioned for amendments to the Homeowners Loan Corporation Act (76A-H3.5), and the Elmhurst Heights Taxpayers Association endorsed five bills amending the Homeowners Loan Corporation Act, including H.R. 9059, a bill to provide for a 2-year moratorium on foreclosures (76A-H3.5).

5.20 During the 76th Congress (1939-41) the committee received many petitions demanding that it hold hearings and report favorably on H.R. 4931, the Voorhis bill, to establish a more Constitutional money system—under Article I, section 8, the power to coin money is reserved to the Congress. Other petitions concerned legislation affecting the Federal Reserve System (76A-H3.4), the federal land banks (76A-H3.3), and credit unions (76A-H3.2).

5.21 The records of the 78th Congress (1943-44) contain a petition to reduce the cost of living—to roll back prices to the September 1942 levels—signed by 54,607 citizens of Greater St. Louis (78A-H2.1, 18 in.). There are petitions and memorials on various provisions of the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942. The Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association demanded amendments to the Emergency Price Control Act and prefaced their resolutions with the slogan, "Refuse to sell cheese at a loss" (78A-H2.4). Consumers and labor organizations, such as the Pennsylvania Federation of Labor, favored extension of the Emergency Price Control Act "without crippling amendments" (78A-H2.2), but other organized campaigns produced large numbers of petitions and memorials favoring changes in the law. Hundreds of bankers and owners of rental property flooded the committee with petitions demanding amendment to the rent-control provisions of the act (78A-H2.6).

5.22 The 79th Congress was greeted by the first postwar petitions from such groups as the Federation of Architects, Engineers, Chemists, and Technicians and the Ladies Auxiliary of the American Legion of Fort Worth, who encouraged the passage of S. 1592, the Wagner-Ellender-Taft housing bill, to establish a national housing policy and a means for its implementation (79A-H.3), and by "veterans who are now students living on fixed incomes," who demanded strong price control (79A- H2.4). Several petitions concerning a proposed $3 billion loan to the British for war recovery were also referred to the committee (79A-H2.2).

5.23 The committee papers before 1946 are sparse, and for much of the period they consist of little more than marked-up printer's copies of hearing transcripts and copies of bills and resolutions referred to the committee.

5.24 The committee participated in the investigation of the affairs of a number of national banks and related banking matters. The committee papers between 1867 and 1881 include records relating to investigations of the following institutions: the National Bank of the Metropolis, Washington (40A-F3.1); the First National Bank of Washington (42A-F4.3); the Fourth National Bank of Philadelphia (42A-F4.4); three New York City banks—the Eighth National, the Ocean National, and the Union Square National (42A-F4.2); and the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company (43A-F4.3). The records of 1871-73 contain a file on an investigation of the relationship between the Comptroller of the Currency and the president of the troubled Tennessee National Bank of Memphis (42A-F4.5).

5.25 The committee papers from the 43d Congress (1873-75) contain the original records relating to the failure of the Ocean National Bank of New York (43A-F4.4, 7 in.). The records include a variety of documents related to the investigation of the bank: various types of correspondence; affidavits; reports of bank examiners; statements of assets and liabilities; receivership documents; numerous documents related to the U.S. circuit court and the Supreme Court of New York, including legal petitions from officers of the bank; reports describing mineral lands and lands in Illinois owned by the receivership; and briefs prepared for the courts. The files also contain typed minutes of the Banking and Currency Committee subcommittee that conducted the investigation, original handwritten drafts of the majority and minority reports of the committee, and a 438-page printed hearing held before the committee.

5.26 Another well-documented investigation by the committee was the Money Trust Investigation of 1912 conducted by a subcommittee under the chairmanship of Arsene P. Pujo. The records relating to the investigation include correspondence (62A-F2.2, 1 in.); a subcommittee minute book (62A-F2.2); and a bill file of resolutions proposing, authorizing, and funding the investigation, which includes a copy of the hearing before the Rules Committee on H. Res 411, a resolution to appropriate funds for the investigation, and a copy of the 2,226-page printed hearing of testimony taken by the subcommittee (62A-D2). The 62d Congress records also contain copies of printed hearings on banking and currency reform held by another subcommittee, chaired by Carter Glass, of the Banking and Currency Committee (62A-F2.1).

refer to caption

Exhibit 243 of House Report 1593, the Report of the Money Trust Investigation of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 1913 (HR62A-E3). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

5.27 The 67th Congress bill files contain records on H.R. 8404, a bill to authorize an investigation of the international exchange rate in order to determine the best methods of stabilizing the currency (67A-D2).

5.28 There are small collections of correspondence on various subjects for most of the period and on particular subjects for several Congresses, such as the blackmail of certain Federal and local bank officials (42A-F4.5) and national finance and currency (43A-F4.5).

5.29 The correspondence files, 1893-95 (53A-F4), relate to a cross section of subjects that concerned the committee: national banks, securities and embezzlement, national currency, currency and gold production, lost and destroyed currency, the State banking system, state bank tax, reports on State banks, bimetalism, the Freedman's Savings and Trust Company, the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, and other subjects. Most of the pre-World War II correspondence is loose and arranged by subject, but a letterpress volume book that contains copies of letters sent from the 52d Congress (1891-93) has been preserved.

5.30 There are bill files for most of the Congresses between the 57th and 79th (1901-46), but many of these files contain only printed copies of the bills and printed committee hearings, prints, and reports. The content of the bill files varies greatly during this period. While information relating to a specific bill might be found in the bill files of any of the Congresses, there are only two systematic bill file collections—the 67th Congress (1921-23, 36 in.), and the 77th Congress (1941-42, 15 in.).

refer to caption

House Engrossed Copy of Glass-Steagall Act, the Banking Act of 1933 (H.R. 5661). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

5.31 The bill files for the 67th Congress (67A-D2, 3 ft.) contain hearings, reports, correspondence, newspaper and journal articles, petitions, and a wide variety of other documents relating to legislation that was referred to the committee. The files are arranged by bill number, and some of them contain substantial documentation. Some of the most heavily documented bills are: H.R. 4906, a bill to amend the Federal Reserve Act and abolish the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (3 in.); H.R. 6257, a bill to provide for the establishment of branches to national banks (1 in.); H.R. 7879, known as the rural credit and multiple insurance act of 1921 (1 in.); H.R. 9579, a bill relating to the state taxation of national banks (3 in.); and S. 4280, a bill to provide credit to the agricultural and livestock industries of the United States (3 in.).

5.32 The 77th Congress bill files (77A-D3) contain substantially the same type of documentation, but they include more transcripts of executive session committee meetings and mark-up sessions. There are transcripts of unpublished executive session meetings on legislation such as H.R. 4621, a bill to amend the National Housing Act of 1937; H.R. 7801, a bill to authorize the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to issue $5 million in new bonds, notes, and debentures; H.R. 4694, a bill to continue the Commodity Credit Corporation; and S. 2315, a bill to relieve dealers in rationed commodities. The file on H.R. 5479, the price control bill of 1941, contains a 2,305-page printed hearing, transcripts from 4 days of executive session meetings, typed and handwritten amendments proposed by committee members in markup sessions, and various other documents, including a Legislative Research Service (LRS) summary of testimony on the 1941 bill.

5.33 The bill files from the 68th, 78th, and 79th Congresses also contain substantial documentation on several bills, but they do not contain systematic files for a large proportion of the bills referred to the committee. For instance, the bill files for the 79th Congress (79A-D4, 7 in.) consist mainly of copies of the bills and resolutions and the printed reports and hearings that accompany them. Although little correspondence or other unpublished documentation is in these files, two of the bill files contain unique original documents: the file on S. 1592, the general housing bill of 1946, contains an unpublished hearing transcript, and the file on H.R. 6042, a bill to amend the Emergency Price Control Act of 1942 and the Stabilization Act of 1942, contains the enrolled bill that was presented to President Harry S. Truman for his signature and the original veto message that Truman returned with the unsigned bill (79A-D4).

Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)*

Record Type Volume Dates (Congresses)
Minutes 1 ft. 1955-62 (84th-87th)
Petitions & Memorials 2 ft. 1947-68 (80th-90th)
Comm. Papers 26 ft. 1947-68 (80th-90th)
Bill Files 22 ft. 1947-68 (80th-90th)
  TOTAL:51 ft.  

*See table for earlier records, 39th-79th Congresses after para.5.3.

5.34 There are no docket books from the 1946-68 period, but much of the information that would have been included in them is in the committee calendars. The minutes, which are unbound, are filed with the committee papers and average 3 inches of loose leaf, typed documentation per Congress. They include copies of the bills and resolutions under consideration at committee meetings, mimeographed copies of proposed amendments to legislation, roll-call votes, copies of committee staff memorandums, correspondence from executive agencies, and copies of committee prints, hearings, and reports. The minutes provide the most detailed record of the progress of legislation while in the committee and of the contributions of individual committee members to its consideration. The minutes include extensive documentation on some legislation—for instance, the minutes for 1958 record 15 days of executive session meetings devoted to S. 1451, a bill to amend and revise the statutes governing financial institutions and credit (85A-F3.3).

5.35 The majority of the petitions and memorials from this period are in the form of resolutions from State legislatures or other organizations. The records of most of the Congresses between 1947 and 1969 contain documents relating in some way to housing—Federal support for low- income housing, public housing for the elderly, low-interest mortgages, rent control, and Federal aid to housing construction. Other subjects that appear in the petition files include sugar production and rationing (80A-H2.2); the international wheat agreement (83A-H3.2); price controls (82A-H3.2); school construction (82A-H3.3); Federal disaster insurance (84A-H3.1); urban renewal (85A-H3.1); Federal aid to depressed or distressed areas (85A-H3.1); the promotion of full employment (86A-H3.1); the investigation of the causes of inflation (86A-H3.1); Federal aid to urban mass transit (87A-H3.1, 88A-H3.1); low-interest, long-term loans to small businesses (89A-H3.1); flood control (88A-H3.1, 90A- H3.1); and aid to urban centers for projects involving air pollution, urban renewal, housing, and other problems (90A-H3.1).

5.36 The petition and memorial files contain numerous resolutions from state legislatures requesting that commemorative coins and bills be produced for special events: South Dakota wanted a dollar bill with the Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the inscription "THE SHRINE OF DEMOCRACY" printed on it (90A-H3.1); Oklahoma wanted a half dollar to commemorate its 50th anniversary (84A-H3.1); and Nevada wanted a silver dollar to commemorate its centennial (86A-H3.1). Somewhat related to these requests are petitions from mining states that suggest certain legislation to benefit the domestic gold industry (85A-H3.1, 87A-H3.1).

5.37 The committee papers contain documentation useful for obtaining an overview of the official work of the committee, but they do not provide insight into how these activities were carried out within the committee. They generally contain copies of all the bills and resolutions referred to the committee and copies of all the hearings, reports, and committee prints produced by the committee. There are no correspondence files for the full committee for this period, and the only subcommittee correspondence is the reading file from the Subcommittee on Consumer Affairs for the 89th Congress (1965-66, 5 in.).

5.38 A large proportion of the committee papers consists of executive communications that were referred to the committee, except that executive communications are missing entirely for the years 1955-58. Executive communications include annual and other reports from such federal agencies as the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Export-Import Bank, the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, the Federal Home Loan Bank, and the Office of Price Administration; reports required under legislation within the jurisdiction of the committee, such as the Small Business Act of 1958 and the Housing Act of 1959; and drafts of proposed legislation within the committee's jurisdiction submitted by executive agencies. Also included in the records of the 81st through the 83d Congresses (1949-54) are messages from the President that were referred to the committee.

5.39 The committee papers for this period contain copies of bills and resolutions referred to the committee. In some cases a folder was set up for each bill or resolution, but the only documentation contained therein is a copy of the bill and of the printed committee hearings and report. They do not contain correspondence, memorandums, or other related unpublished working papers. For the period 1949-58, there is a series of records called bill files, but these contain, for the most part, only copies of printed documents.

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Records of the Committee on a Uniform System of Coinage, Weights, and Measures (1864-1867)
Records of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures (1867-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

5.40 In 1864 the Committee on a Uniform System of Coinage, Weights, and Measures was established, and in 1867 the name was shortened to Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures.

5.41 Its jurisdiction included the subjects listed in its name: coinage, weights, and measures. The coinage part of the jurisdiction included the defining and fixing of standards of value and the regulation of coinage and exchange. This included the coinage of silver and the purchase of bullion, the exchange of gold coins for gold bars, the subject of mutilated coins, and the coinage of souvenir and commemorative coins. The committee's jurisdiction also included legislation related to mints and assay offices and the establishment of legal standards of value in the insular possessions.

5.42 The weights and measures part of the jurisdiction included legislation to establish a national standardization bureau and the standardization of various weights, measures, packing, and grading techniques used in interstate commerce.

5.43 The part of the jurisdiction of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures relating to stabilization of the currency was transferred to the Banking and Currency Committee in 1921. Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the coinage part of its jurisdiction was transferred to the Committee on Banking and Currency and the weights and measures jurisdiction was transferred to the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce.

Records of the Committee on Coinage, Weights, and Measures, 38th-79th Congresses (1864-1946)

Record Type Volume   Date (Congress)
Minute Books 14 vols. 1867-17 (40th-41st, 1877-95 (45th-53rd), 1897-1907 (55th-59tyh, 1937-42 (75th-77th), 1945-46 (79th)
Docket Books 16 vols. 1867-71 (40th-41st), 1873-75 (43rd), 1879-95 (46th-53rd), 1897-1907 (55th-59th), 1923-25 (68th), 1931-38 (72nd-75th), 1941-42 (77th), 1945-46 (79th)
Petitions and Memorials 5 feet 1873-75 (43rd), 1883-1907 (48th-59th), 1933-34 (73rd), 1937-42 (75th-77th)
Committee Papers 9 inches    1869-71 (41st), 1873-75 (43rd), 1887-91 (50th-51st), 1893-1903 (53rd-57th, 1905-07 (59th), 1923-25 (68th), 1931-38 (72nd-75th), 1941-42 (77th), 1945-46 (79th)
Bill Files 9 inches   1905-09 (59th-60th), 1925-27 (69th), 1929-42 (71st-77th, 1945-46 (79th)
Total volume 6 ft. 6 in.  

5.44 There are no unpublished records for the committee during its earliest years, 1864-67. During the remainder of the life of the committee, the petition and memorial files and the minute and docket books contain the most systematic documentation of committee activity, the committee papers files contain less than 1 inch of material per Congress, and the bill files are spotty and thin.

5.45 The extant minute and docket books are fairly complete. The minute books appear to have been well kept, documenting committee meetings, witnesses heard, and legislation discussed. They average 25 pages per Congress and are handwritten during most of the period.

5.46 Three-quarters of the petitions and memorials in the files of this committee relate to the issue of silver coinage between 1885 and 1895. The records of the 53d Congress (1893-95) contain an even distribution of petitions and memorials for and against the increased coinage of silver (53A-H5.2, 22 in.). Groups such as the citizens and businessmen of Far Rockaway, NY, believed that in order to restore confidence in the currency it was necessary to repeal the purchasing clause of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and appoint an expert commission to devise a scientific plan for the currency. On the other end of the spectrum, the "friends of silver" of Spokane, WA, were "unalterably opposed to the repeal of legislation commonly known as the 'Sherman Act' of 1890," unless the repealing legislation included a more powerful coinage provision. Other groups, such as the Glass Blower's Association of the United States and Canada, petitioned for "restoration of the American law of coinage as it was until 1873 when silver was demonitized without debate, and without the knowledge of the American people," favoring a return to the free coinage of silver and gold at a ratio of 16 to 1.

5.47 Legislation concerning the adoption of the metric system of weights and measures has been the subject of petitions and memorials over many years (43A-H3.2, 48A-H5.1, 54A-H6.1, 57A- H3.1, 59A-H5.1). The records of the 54th Congress (1895-97), for instance, contain petitions urging passage of a bill to adopt the metric system, H.R. 2758, from citizens from many cities and from pharmaceutical and engineering groups. The legislation was opposed by members of the Master Car Builders Association and the builders of certain railroad cars (54A-H6.1).

5.48 Other subjects that appear are petitions and memorials concerning redemption of the trade dollar (48A-H5.2, 49A-H6.2), the establishment of a national bureau of standards (56A-H3.1), coinage at the Denver Mint (43A-H3.1), and the restoration of the bimetallic monetary system (73A- H3.2). Less than 2 inches of petitions and memorials have been preserved since 1907.

5.49 The committee papers files primarily contain copies of bills and resolutions referred to the committee and copies of committee reports and hearings produced by the committee. Among the committee papers are correspondence from several civil engineers in 1887 favoring adoption of the metric system of measurement (50A-F6.1), a petition and an accompanying letter suggesting the adoption of the "dime system" of coinage (43A-F6.2), and communications from various executive departments concerning legislation that affected them.

5.50 The bill files contain printed copies of bills and resolutions, associated reports and hearings, and, occasionally, a transcript of an unprinted hearing or a letter from an executive agency commenting on legislation that affected the agency. They reflect the subjects of the bills referred to the committee.

5.51 There are numerous bills proposing that commemorative coins be issued. The records from 1925 to 1927 (69A-D6) contain files on H.R. 16916, a bill to provide for a coin to commemorate the services, sacrifices, and patriotism of American women of all wars; H.R. 8306, a bill to coin a 50-cent piece commemorating the courage of the Oregon Trail pioneers; and H.R. 17268, a bill to coin a 50-cent piece to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the meeting of the Continental Congress at York, PA. The records from 1933 and 1934 (73A-D4) contain a file on H.J. Res. 72, a resolution proposing to award a gold medal to Mrs. W. F. Cross for her service protecting the life of President Franklin D. Roosevelt by diverting an assassin's bullet in 1933; in the file is correspondence favoring presentation of the medal and correspondence contesting the appropriateness of its presentation.

5.52 Other bill files include legislation such as H.R. 6976, which became the Gold Rescue Act of 1934 (73A-D4), and H.R. 5677, a bill to fix standards for hampers, round stave baskets, and split baskets for fruit and vegetables (69A-D6). The bill files from 1907 to 1909 contain copies of bills accompanied by very little other documentation. Among them are bills to establish assay offices at specific locations (60A-D4) and to restore "IN GOD WE TRUST" to coin-faces (60A-D4).

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1. U.S. Congress, House, Constitution, Jefferson's Manual, and Rules of the House of Representatives of the United States, Ninetieth Congress, H. Doc. 529, 89th Cong., 2d sess., 1967, p. 333. [Back to text]

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States House of Representatives at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-245). By Charles E. Schamel, Mary Rephlo, Rodney Ross, David Kepley, Robert W. Coren, and James Gregory Bradsher. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

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