Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 12: Committee on Disposition of Executive Papers

Chapter 12. Records of the Administration Committee and Its Predecessors

Table of Contents

Records of the House Administration Committee and Its Predecessors from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committees discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on the Disposition of Executive Paprers (1889-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

12.44 The Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers was established on Feb. 16, 1889, by "An Act to authorize and provide for the disposition of useless papers in the Executive Departments." The act provided that whenever an executive department accumulated files of papers that were not needed for the transaction of current business and possessed no permanent value or historical interest, the head of the agency would submit a report to Congress with a concise statement of the character and condition of such papers. The presiding officer of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives would, upon receipt of the report, each appoint two Members to sit on a joint committee to meet and examine the reports and papers, and report on them. If the report of the joint committee agreed that the papers were useless, the head of the department would be ordered to sell them as wastepaper or otherwise dispose of them.

12.45 As the disposition process became institutionalized a Select Committee on the Disposition of (Useless) Executive Papers was regularly appointed at the beginning of each Congress. In 1911 it was recognized as a standing committee in the revised Rules of the House. Under the 1934 National Archives Act the Archivist of the United States was given responsibility for governmental records and archives and was required to submit the disposition lists formerly submitted by the agencies.

12.46 In addition, the committee occasionally held hearings and reported bills relating to governmental recordkeeping and archives. Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, the two House Members on the Joint Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers were selected from the membership of the House Administration Committee.

Records of the Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers, 51st-79th Congresses (1889-1946)

Record TypeVolumeCongresses (Dates)
Committee Papers 2 inches 75th-76th (1937-41)
Bill Files 2 inches 74th-76th (1935-41)
Total4 inches  
Committee Records Summary Table

12.47 The committee papers and bill files of the standing House committee consist of printed copies of bills, hearings and reports. Most of the records related to congressional action on the disposition of executive papers are found in the records of the joint committee.

Related Records

12.48 In addition to the records of the standing committee, there are records of the Joint Committee on the Disposition of Executive Papers (see Chapter 23). The records of the joint committee are arranged in two groups, a House collection and a Senate collection. They contain reports from executive agencies and the National Archives that were submitted to the committee for review. These agency reports contain detailed descriptions of the records which are summarized in the printed joint committee reports. The House joint committee collection (7 ft.) contains records for the period between 1889 and 1946. The Senate joint committee collection (9 ft.) contains scattered records from 1893 through 1964.

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.