Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 9: Records of the Committee on Education, 1883-1946

Chapter 9. Records of the Committees on Education and Labor

Table of Contents

Records of Committees Relating to Claims 1794-1946 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committees discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Education, 1883-1946

History and Jurisdiction

9.12. When the Committee on Education and Labor was separated into two committees in 1883, the jurisdiction of the new Committee on Education included all legislation and documents relating to the subject of education. This included proposed legislation providing aid from the Federal Government to common schools, aid to the education of deprived or handicapped persons, the establishment of colleges for the benefit of agricultural and mechanical education, and efforts to deal with illiteracy at the national level. The committee functioned until 1946 when it was reunited with the Committee on Labor under the Legislative Reorganization Act to form the new Committee on Education and Labor.

Records of the Committee on Education 48th-79th Congresses (1883-1946)


Record TypeVolumeDates (Congresses)
Minute Books8 volumes1891-99 (52d-55th), 1901-03 (57th), 1937-38 (75th), 1943-46 (78th-79th)
Docket Books6 volumes1891-1903 (52d-57th), 1919-21 (65th)
Petitions and Memorials5 feet1883-89 (48th-50th), 1891-1903 (52d-57th), 1909-21 (61st-65th), 1923-25 (68th), 1929-31 (71st), 1939-41 (76th-77th), 1945-46 (79th)
Committee Papers3 feet1885-87 (49th), 1891-1903 (52d-57th), 1911-15 (62d-63d), 1917-21 (65th-66th), 1923-27 (68th-69th), 1929-31 (71st), 1937-46 (75th-79th)
Bill Files4 feet1909-11 (61st), 1917-25 (65th-68th), 1927-31 (70th-71st), 1933-46 (73d-79th)
Total volume12 feet and
14 vols.
Committee Records Summary Table

 9.13. It can be seen in the table above that there are many gaps in the records of this committee. Minute books and docket books are both very incomplete. There are no unpublished records for 1923-27 and 1929-31.

9.14. The petitions and memorials, 1883-1946, provide evidence of a continuing demand for federal aid to education in general and for federal aid to a variety of special educational projects. An 1884 petition with the names of over 5,000 readers of The Continent Magazine asked for aid to education (48A-H8.1). Federal aid to public schools was the subject of a petition campaign that produced over 5 inches of petitions between 1887 and 1889 (50A-H7.1). An organized campaign in 1929-30 produced over 3 inches of petitions supporting the Robinson-Capper free public school bill (71A-H2.1). Petitions for general aid to education also appear through the World War II years (76A- H5.1, 77A-H5.2, 79A-H4.1).

9.15. Other petitions appealed for more specialized educational aid. For instance, an 1883 petition from the National Educational Association demanded that the Federal Government make some provision for educational facilities in Alaska because it would be embarrassing to the United States if the educational resources that had been provided by Russia before U.S. purchase were not continued by its new owners (48A-H8.1). There are petitions from an 1885-87 organized drive for Federal support of temperance education (49A-H8.1, 3 ft.), and petitions suggesting spelling reform (52A-H6.1, 53A- H7.1), the establishment of a national university (54A-H8.1), aid to education for the blind (57A- H5.1), the establishment of a children's bureau (62A-H6.1), censorship of motion pictures (63A-H5.2, 64A-H5.1), vocational education (64A-H5.4), and education for handicapped children (77A-H5.1).

9.16. The committee papers, 1885-1946, generally contain copies of bills and resolutions referred to the committee, copies of reports and printed hearings produced by the committee, and various documents submitted to the committee.

9.17. There are, for instance, correspondence and reports on adult illiteracy (65A- F5.1), vocational education (65A-F5.3), and a kindergarten division in the Bureau of Education (65A- F5.2) in the records of the 1917-19 period. The records from the 76th-79th Congresses (1939-46) contain correspondence files that document interest in such war-related subjects as the deferment of medical students from the draft (76A-F9.2, 77A-F9.1, 78A-F8.1) and the effect of wartime activities on colleges and universities (79A-F8.1). The committee papers also include a report on disbursements under the Agricultural College Act (54A-F8).

9.18. The records show evidence of the eagerness of American intellectuals and inventors to persuade Congress to appropriate funds for the testing and dissemination of new educational methods and tools. A statement from the Citizens Committee of the District of Columbia for Scientific Temperance Education explained the origin of the concept of scientific temperance education and supported a bill before the House to provide for such instruction (49A-F9.2). A file of material supporting passage of H.R. 303, a bill "To test and try the science of spelling," contains a long letter to the committee written by Charles A. Story, the inventor of the science of spelling, supportive letters from dozens of citizens from Illinois, copies of H.R. 303, and copies of several books published by Story, including Story's Blending and Spelling Book and Complete Word-Builder for All Nations and The Last Three Pages of the Music of the Spelling Book (49A-F9.1, 2 in.). The committee papers from 1892 contain a letter and flyer from L. S. Benson, the inventor of a geometric method for the trisection of an angle, which claim to provide a proof of his geometry and support his protests against the appropriation of Federal funds for the teaching of geometry at the military academies at West Point and Annapolis because this constitutes the teaching of false knowledge (52A-F8.2).

9.19. The bill files also contain records from and about the work of scientists and inventors. The bill file on H.R. 6490, a bill to require the Commissioner of Education to devise a plan to eliminate illiteracy in the United States, includes a letter from the inventor of the groove impression method of teaching beginners the fundamentals of writing, offering her assistance to the committee (65A-D4). The files for 1913-14 contain a transcript of a hearing on H. Res. 408, a resolution to establish the priority of the discovery of the North Pole (63A-F6).

9.20. The bill files from this committee consist almost entirely of printed copies of bills and the related printed hearings and reports. The records in the 65th and 75th through 79th Congresses do, however, contain unpublished documentation and provide insight into public opinion related to the legislation that was referred to the committee. For example, the records from 1917 through 1919 (65A-D4, 1 ft.) contain substantial files on H.R. 244, a bill to create a bureau for the deaf and dumb; H.R. 6445, a bill to establish a national conservatory of music and art; S. 3805 and H.R. 9686, bills to establish engineering experiment stations to measure various aspects of military and naval preparedness; H.R. 6490, a bill to require that methods and plans for the elimination of illiteracy be developed; H.R. 11367, a bill to provide for vocational rehabilitation for veterans; H.R. 15400, a bill to create a department of education.

9.21. The bill files from the 76th through 79th Congresses (1939-46) contain substantial documentation on such subjects as vocational education for disabled veterans (78A-D7, 79A-D10), child care for the children of mothers employed in the war industries of the United States (78A-D7), aviator education (76A-D10, 78A-D7), and Federal aid to physical health education for national defense purposes (76A-D10). The bills that elicited the largest amount of mail from citizens were the so-called Hinshaw bills from the 77th Congress (1941-42)--bills that proposed to eliminate the teaching of foreign languages in schools during wartime. The files on two of the Hinshaw bills, H.R. 6820 and H.R. 7422, contain postcards from hundreds of citizens protesting the unconstitutionality and inappropriateness of the proposed legislation (77A-D9).

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.