Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 17: Public Works

Chapter 17. Records of the Public Works Committees

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Records of the Committees Relating to Public Works (1815-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter.
Committee on Public Works (1947-68)

History and Jurisdiction

17.61 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 the Committees on Public Buildings and Grounds, Rivers and Harbors, Roads, and Flood Control were combined to form the Committee on Public Works. Its jurisdiction from the beginning of the 80th Congress (1947-48) through the 90th Congress (1967-68) remained the same:

    (a) Flood control and improvement of rivers and harbors. (b) Measures relating to the Capitol Building and the Senate and House Office Buildings. (c) Measures relating to the construction or maintenance of roads and post roads, other than appropriations therefore; but it shall not be in order for any bill providing general legislation in relation to roads to contain any provision for any specific road, nor for any bill in relation to a specific road to embrace a provision in relation to any other specific road. (d) Measures relating to the construction or reconstruction, maintenance, and care of the buildings and grounds of the Botanic Gardens, the Library of Congress, and the Smithsonian Institute. (e) Measures relating to the purchase of sites and construction of post offices, customhouses, Federal courthouses, and Government buildings within the District of Columbia. (f) Oil and other pollution of navigable waters. (g) Public buildings and occupied or improved grounds of the United States generally. (h) Public reservations and parks within the District of Columbia, including Rock Creek Park and the Zoological Park. (i) Public works for the benefit of navigation, including bridges and dams (other than international bridges and dams). (j) Water power.1

17.62 The four original committees retained their separate identities but were reduced to subcommittees. In addition, the committee created subcommittees for Beach Erosion, 80th Congress (1947-48) and for Watershed Development, 86th-90th Congresses (1959-68). Special Subcommittees included those: to Investigate Questionable Trade Practices, 80th Congress; to Study Civil Works, 82nd Congress (1951-52); on the Federal-Aid Highway Program, 86th-90th Congresses; and on Economic Development Programs, 89th-90th Congresses (1965-68). Ad Hoc Committees were established on Montana Flood Damage, 88th Congress (1963-64); on Appalachian Regional Development, 88th-90th Congresses; and on the 1967 Alaska Exposition, 89th Congress.

Records of the Committee on Public Works, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-68)

Record TypeVolumeCongresses (Dates)
Minute Books1 vol. 80th (1947-48)
Minutes32 ft. 81st-90th (1949-68)
Docket Books1 vol.80th (1947-48)
Petitions and Memorials4 ft.80th-90th (1947-68)
Committee Papers62 ft.80th-90th (1947-68)
Bill Files62 ft.80th-90th (1947-68)
TOTAL:160 ft. and 2 vols. (2 in.) 
Committee Records Summary Table

17.63 The minute book for the 80th Congress (1947-48) includes separate sections of typed pages of minutes for the full committee followed by subcommittee minutes for Rivers and Harbors, Flood Control, Public Buildings and Grounds, Roads, Beach Erosion, and the Special Subcommittee to Investigate Questionable Trade Practices. These minutes give little more than the dates when the committee or subcommittee met and adjourned, the names of persons who were present, and the disposition of measures discussed. Unbound copies of minutes for the full committee for the 81st-86th Congresses are similar in format and content to those in the bound volume for the 80th Congress. For the 87th-90th Congresses the minutes greatly increase in quantity, since single-page sheets listing those present are affixed to transcripts of the meetings.

17.64 The bulk of subcommittee minutes, which make up 19 feet of the total 32 feet of committee minutes, are actually transcripts of subcommittee hearings rather than minutes per se. The subcommittee records are discussed in more detail below.

17.65 The sole docket book among the committee's records is that for the 80th Congress (1947-48). Information given consists of the date legislation was introduced, the name of the Member who introduced it (or the author in the case of executive communications and petitions and memorials), subject matter with bill numbers where appropriate, and subsequent actions. The latter includes referral dates to agencies and their positions, dates of hearings, and dates of further legislative developments.

17.66 While only one docket volume exists, docket information figures prominently in committee calendars. Final editions of the calendars are in the committee papers for all Congresses except the 83d (1953-54), for which there is an interim calendar; the 84th (1955-56); and the 89th (1965-66). The calendars give docket numbers under the following groups: bills by type (H.R., H.J. Res., etc.); status of bills reported to the House by the committee; numerical docket listings; executive communications; and indexes by subjects and by names of Representatives.

17.67 The calendars also include complete listings of petitions and memorials, showing the date they were referred to the committee, by whom (most often the Speaker of the House), and the subject matter. The actual petitions and memorials, invariably 4 or 5 inches of documents per Congress, have each been placed within separate envelopes on which basic descriptive information has been written. For most Congresses memorials (generally documents from State legislatures) and petitions have been grouped in separate sets of roughly comparable size, each arranged in chronological order.

17.68 For a typical Congress, such as the 88th Congress (1963-64), memorials came from the legislatures of Illinois, Idaho, Washington, Hawaii, Montana, North Dakota, Colorado, Maine, California, Alaska, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Florida. Subjects covered included requests for a water pollution field control laboratory, the renaming of a dam in honor of a deceased Senator, authorization and appropriations for the reconstruction of a jetty to breakwater standards, an increase in the Federal portion of cost on Federal-aid primary and secondary highways, the payment of non-Federal costs in Federally approved water projects, completion of a particular U.S. Army Corps of Engineers investigation and the development of a favorable report, relocation of the Denver Mint, extension of the northern terminus of the Interstate and Defense Highway System in Maine, enactment of flood control appropriations for a particular county water agency, enactment of legislation extending financial aid to a State for purification of the waters of one of its rivers, and protection for the interests and rights of persons and villages affected by the Rampart Dam hydroelectric project (88 PW.3). Petitions in the 88th Congress oppose the proposed removal of responsibility for water pollution control from the U.S. Public Health Service, and request a flood control project along Pinal Creek in Arizona, the naming of a bridge in honor of Estes Kefauver, the establishment of a mint in Chicago, and financial aid for sewage and pollution control (88 PW.3).

17.69 With but few exceptions committee papers for the full committee consist of survey resolution dockets, executive communications, calendars, and copies of printed hearings. In quantity the survey resolution dockets, which are filed as a separate series with papers of the Committee on Public Works and Transportation from the 95th Congress, make up nearly half of this category. These survey resolution dockets are arranged by docket number. While some of the docket file envelopes are empty, most include the following documentation: the initial congressional correspondence requesting action; correspondence between the committee chair and the Corps of Engineers on possible surveys regarding navigation, beach erosion, or flood control; legislation introduced; and resolutions authorizing particular surveys.

17.70 As with petitions and memorials, a complete listing of executive communications can be found in committee calendars. The executive communications themselves are arranged in numerical order. A majority of executive communications came from the Secretary of the Army and concern matters relating to navigation, beach erosion or flood control. Others came from such persons as the Chairman of the National Park and Planning Commission, the Administrator of the General Services Administration, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the Secretary of the Interior, and the President of the United States, who transmitted drafts of proposed legislation and annual reports, and supplied requested information.

17.71 Although the committee papers for any given Congress often include a separate section for the committee's publications (most of which are transcripts of hearings), none of these collections contain all of the publications shown for the committee in the publications checklist within the legislative calendars. Other significant full committee papers include several inches of correspondence from the 80th Congress on two topics: water pollution and the Clark Hill electric power project on the Savannah River near the Georgia-South Carolina border (80A-F14.1).

17.72 Included with the committee papers are 34 feet of subcommittee papers. Of this total, 25 feet were created by the Special Subcommittee to Investigate Questionable Trade Practices (80A-F14.6), which was originated by House Resolution 403 of the 80th Congress, passed on December 15, 1947. The subcommittee's purpose was to investigate black and "gray'' market practices, expose such practices to public view, and recommend measures for remedying the factors which created the "gray'' markets. Special emphasis was placed in investigating practices in the steel industry. The subcommittee's papers consist primarily of correspondence and records of investigations, in addition to the transcripts of hearings.

17.73 The only other subcommittee with a significant quantity of papers (9 ft.)is the Special Subcommittee on the Federal-Aid Highway Program. Half of this total consists of vouchers from the 89th and 90th Congresses (1965-68); the other half is exhibits from the 90th Congress (1967-68). The exhibits include reports, affidavits. maps, drawings, booklets, and photographs for hearings on policies and practices in Florida, Massachusetts, New Mexico, West Virginia, Arizona, and Louisiana, as well as for hearings on toll facilities and safety.

17.74 Records of other Subcommittees of the Committee on Public Works consist primarily of minutes and transcripts for the following:

SubcommitteeCongresses (Dates)Volume
Subcommittee on Flood Control80th (1947-48), 82d-90th (1951-68)4 in.
Subcommittee on Roads80th (1947-48), 82d-90th (1951-68)3 ft.
Subcommittee on Rivers and Harbors80th (1947-48), 82d-90th (1951-68)10 in.
Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds80th (1947-48), 82d-90th (1951-68)1 ft.
Subcommittee on Beach Erosion80th (1947-48)1 in.
Subcommittee on Watershed Development86th-90th (1959-68)7 in.
Special Subcommittee to Investigate Questionable Trade Practices82d (1951-52)3 in.
Special Subcommittee to Study Civil Works80th (1947-48), 82d-90th (1951-68)4 in.
Special Subcommittee on Federal-Aid Highway Program86th-90th (1959-68)11 ft.
Special Subcommittee on Montana Flood Damage88th (1963-64)1 in.
Special Subcommittee on Economic Development Programs89th-90th (1965-68)5 in.
Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Appalachian Regional Development88th-90th (1963-68)10in.
Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Alaska Exposition, 196789th-90th (1965-68)1 in.
Subcommittees on Flood Control and Rivers and Harbors--Joint Meetings80th (1947-48), 89th-90th (1965-68)6 in.
Special Subcommittee on Federal-Aid Highway Program and Subcommittee on Roads--Joint Meetings on Roads89th (1965-66)9 in.
Subcommittee Records Table, 80th-90th Congresses

17.75 Bill files form the nucleus of the committee's records. For most Congresses the files are arranged by type of legislation--H.R., H.J. Res., H.Res., H. Con. Res., S., S.J. Res.--and thereunder numerically by docket number. For the 90th Congress (1967-68) the bill files are in straight docket order with the various categories of legislative measures intermixed. Within each bill file are copies of bills and appropriate support correspondence. Individual files may also contain copies of bills as printed with Union Calendar numbers, reports, and manuscript or printed copies of transcripts of hearings. For the 90th Congress the series identified as "Duplicate Bill Files'' is in fact a companion to the main set of bill files containing additional background data for the measures in question. Bill files exist for such important public works legislation as the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956 (84A-D14); the Public Buildings Act of 1959; the 1959 bond financing amendments to the Tennessee Valley Authority Act of 1933 (86A-D11); the River and Harbor Act of 1962 (87A-D12); the Appalachian Regional Development Act of 1965 and the Public Works and Economic Development Act of 1965 (89 PW.1).

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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, pp. 350-351.

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.