Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 6: Pensions 1880-1946

Chapter 6. Records of the Claims Committees

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Committees discussed in this chapter:
Committee on Pensions (1880-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

6.64 The committee was created in 1880 with jurisdiction over subjects relating to the pensions of all the wars of the United States other than the Civil War. It replaced the old ">Committee on Revolutionary Pensions. The appropriations authorized by this committee were reported by the ">Committee on Appropriations rather than by the Pensions Committee.

6.65 On Jan. 3, 1939 the jurisdiction of the committee was rewritten to include, the pensions of the Spanish-American War, Philippine Insurrection, and Boxer Rebellion, while all other pension legislation was referred to the Committee on Invalid Pensions.15 The committee was abolished under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 and its jurisdiction transferred, for the most part, to the executive agencies.

Records of the Committee on Pensions, 46th-79th Congresses (1880-1946)

Record TypeVolumeCongress (dates)
Minute Books16 vols.46th-54th (1880-97), 57th-59th (1901-07), 62nd (1911-13), 74th-79th (1935-46)
Docket Books29 vols.46th-63rd (1880-1915)
Petitions & Memorials12 ft.47th-48th (1881-85), 59th-64th (1905-17), 69th (1925-27), 74th (1935-36), 76th-79th (1939-46)
Committee Papers3 ft.47th-64th (1881-1917), 69th-70th (1925-29), 72nd (1931-33), 74th-79th (1935-46)
Bill Files125 ft.58th-79th (1903-46)
TOTAL:140 ft. and 45 vols. (8 ft.) 
Committee Records Summary Table

6.66 The earliest minutes and docket are bound together with those for the Committee on Revolutionary Pensions (see para. 6.61). The minutes for the 1935-46 period are unbound and are filed along with the committee papers.

6.67 Most of the petition and memorial files are sparse--less than 1/2 inch per Congress. Exceptions are the 48th Congress (1901-3) when the committee received the results of a petition drive supporting the Mexican Pension Bill (48A-H22.1, 9 ft.) and the 62d Congress (1911-13) when it received 2 feet of petitions supporting passage of a bill providing pensions for men and women over the age of 60 (62A-H23.1).

6.68 The committee papers are also thin, containing documents relating to various claims, copies of bills and resolutions, receipts for case files loaned to the committee by the Veterans Administration, compilations of State laws relating to veterans, and small collections of correspondence.

6.69 The bulk of the committee's records are the bill files from the 58th-79th Congresses (1903-46). As with the other claims committees, the private claims for the years before 1903 are filed in the accompanying papers files.

6.70 The bill files are arranged alphabetically by name of claimant, and they usually contain the following: the petition submitted by the claimant, the bill proposing his or her relief, soldier's or widow's affidavits, correspondence with the Bureau of Pensions, medical reports and other notarized affidavits, and charge cards indicating records loaned to the committee from the Pension Bureau. Some of these records provide rare insights into the personal lives of individuals and the conditions in which they lived. The case of William Garnett (alias Billie Hunter) is a case in point.

6.71 William Garnett was a scout, guide, interpreter and spy for the U.S. Army from October 1876 until September 1877. He was honorably discharged in 1877, but his 1920 claim for a pension was rejected because the records of the War Department indicated that he had not been enlisted in the United States military service, but had been a civilian employed as a scout.

6.72 Garnett's file (67A-D26) contains a wealth of documentation to prove that he "always took an active part in all the fighting" even though he was carried on the rolls as an interpreter and not pensionable. He was the half-blood son of Brigadier General R.B. Garnett and an Oglala Sioux woman named Looks-at-Him or Mollie Campbell. He fought in campaigns against the Sioux under Chiefs Red Cloud, and Red Leaf, and the Cheyennes under Chiefs Dull Knife, and Little Wolf and played an active roll in several other battles. His file contains supporting documents from Indians, soldiers, and Interior Department bureaucrats attesting to his activities. Among those who contributed letters and depositions are J.D. Corder, an Indian trader and dealer in general merchandise; Indians named Lone Dog, Dirt Kettle, Red Shirt, Kills A Hundred, and Painted Horse; the superintendent of the Pine Ridge Indian Agency; and various other officials involved in the administration of the Pine Ridge Agency.


15 U.S. Congress, House of Representatives, Committee on Pensions, Committee Print, "History of the House Committee on Pensions", available in the CIS Committee Prints Microfiche Collection, Microfiche #10969, p. 2.

Table of Contents

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.