Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 12: Committee on Printing

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 Printing (1846-1946)

History and Jurisdiction

12.52 Hind's Precedents of the House of Representatives describes the Printing Committee in the following way, "While in fact a joint committee, the House branch acts also as a standing committee of the House, receiving resolutions and bills which are referred to it and reporting them by its own authority, without the concurrent action of the Senate branch." The Joint Committee on Printing established in 1846 has continued until the present date. The House branch acting as a standing committee continued until 1947 when it was incorporated into the House Administration Committee. House Members of the Joint Committee have been selected from the membership of the House Administration Committee since 1947.

12.53 The jurisdiction of the Committee on Printing included all proposed legislation or orders touching on printing. In practice this included the general supervision of the printing, management, and policies of the Government Printing Office (GPO) and occasionally the pay of its employees; the letting of contracts; procurement of suitable paper; control of the arrangement, style, bulk, and indexing of the Congressional Record; and supervision of the printing of the Congressional Directory. The committee reported bills and resolutions regarding the printing, binding, and distribution of public documents, including the annual reports of executive agencies, bureaus, and commissions; messages of the President; special scientific studies and reports; public health reports and statements; historical documentary publications such as the Territorial Papers of the United States; and hearings of congressional committees.

Records of the Committee on Printing, 29th-79th Congresses (1846-1946)


Record TypeVolumeCongresses (Dates)
Minute Books 11 volumes 50th-54th (1887-97), 56th-57th (1899-1903), 64th-65th (1915-19), 67th-72d (1921-33), 75th (1937-38)
Docket Books 12 volumes 50th-51st (1887-91), 54th-57th (1895-1903), 64th-71st (1915-31)
Petitions and Memorials 1 foot 31st-33d (1849-55), 35th (1857-59), 37th-38th (1861-65), 43d-44th (1873-77), 46th-48th (1879-85), 51st-56th (1889-1901), 67th-68th (1921-25), 73d (1933-34), 76th (1939-41), 79th (1945-46)
Committee Papers 6 feet 32d (1851-53), 34th-35th (1855-59), 44th (1875-77), 46th (1879-81), 48th-57th (1883-1903), 64th (1915-17), 66th-77th (1919-42), 79th (1945-46)
Bill Files 3 feet 59th-60th (1905-09), 64th (1915-17), 66th-72d (1919-33), 74th-79th (1935-46)
Total10 feet and 23 volumes (2 ft.)  
Committee Records Summary Table

12.54 The minute books generally contain brief entries documenting the business acted on by the small (three-member) committee. The docket books usually contain a more detailed accounting of the bills, resolutions, petitions, memorials, and other documents referred to the committee, and the associated committee activity. The docket books record resolutions providing for the printing, binding, and distribution of documents such as the Congressional Record, additional copies of House and Senate committee reports and documents, and special projects such as the A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1902, which was prepared by James D. Richardson, chairman of the House Printing Committee.

12.55 The petition and memorial files for this committee are not extensive. Most of the petitions are from the 19th century. They include prayers from printers seeking contracts for the printing of Congress or asking that Congress purchase copies of their publications; memorials of printers and printing unions wishing to influence public printing policy; and citizens praying for increased distribution of congressional documents such as mailing the Congressional Globe to every family (46A-H20), or for the preservation and publication of specific documents, such as the papers of the Continental Congress (54A-H27.1) or the records of the Civil War (51A-H18.2).

12.56 Committee papers prior to the 56th Congress (2 ft.) consist primarily of correspondence related to specific bills and resolutions. The subjects included are similar to those of the petitions.

12.57 After 1903 there are records designated as bill files, and as committee papers, but there is no clear distinction between the records in the two series: both contain files arranged by bill or resolution number, and contain correspondence related to the legislation. These records document the evolution of public printing and distribution policy, and the individuals and groups who expressed interest in specific publication policies and projects. Among the records are numerous resolutions providing for the printing of documents such as Thomas Jefferson's "Morals of Jesus of Nazareth," numerous U.S. Department of Agriculture publications such as The Woodsman's Handbook, and the annual and special reports of the executive agencies. Other records found in the committee papers include transcripts of 1875-77 committee hearings on the cost of GPO work (44A-F27), and 1899-1901 hearings on the pay of laborers at GPO, and the Daniel process of map-making (56A-F31).

Related Records

12.58 The records of the Joint Committee on Printing (see chapter 23) are preserved in two "collections" and contain material that is related to that of the House standing committee. The joint committee files before 1845 (29th Congress) are from temporary joint committees established before the creation of the standing Joint Committee in 1846. The House collection of records of the Joint Printing Committee contains files from 1847 through 1942 with gaps. The Senate collection of Joint Committee on Printing records contains scattered files from 1789 through 1958.

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.