Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 21: 1946-1968

Chapter 21. Records of the Ways and Means Committee (1795-1968)

Table of Contents

Records of the Ways and Means Committee (1793-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter:

Records of the Committee on Ways and Means, 1947-68

Records of the Committee on Ways and Means, 1947-68
Record TypeVolumeCongress (dates)
Minute Books73 vols.80th-90th (1947-68)
Petitions & Memorials15 ft.80th-89th (1947-66)
Committee Papers275 ft.80th-90th (1947-68)
Bill Files114 ft.580th-90th (1947-68)
Bound Documents84 ft.47th-96th (1881-1978)
Historical Collection9 ft.1st-82nd (1789-1952)
TOTAL:497 ft. and 73 vols. (56 ft.) 
Committee Records Summary Table

21.63 There are no docket books after 1947, but the committee calendars document much of the information that had been included in the docket books previously.

21.64 The minute books of the Ways and Means Committee for the 80th to 90th Congresses are the most voluminous, and probably the most complete of any committee in Congress. Beginning in the 81st Congress (1949-50) the minutes are so extensive that they require multiple volumes. The minute books include the actual minutes typed on loose leaf pages and bound together with a wide variety of related documents such as transcripts of executive session hearings, confidential committee prints, printed bills and resolutions, and briefs and summaries of legislation prepared for committee meetings. Some of the minute volumes are indexed.

21.65 The typed minutes proper (not counting the exhibits and other attached documents) appear to be very thorough, including summaries of the comments of all speakers at meetings. Minutes of some executive session meetings appear to be especially well documented; for instance the executive session meeting of November 29, 1950 includes 23 pages of discussion summary and roll call vote tallies.

21.66 There are two volumes of subcommittee minutes. One volume contains minutes from the Subcommittee on Internal Revenue Taxation, 85th Congress. The second volume contains the minutes from the Subcommittees on Excise Taxes, 85th Congress; Foreign Trade Policy, 85th Congress; Administration of the Social Security Laws, 86th Congress; Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws, 81st-83d Congresses; and Customs, Tariffs, and Reciprocal Trade Agreements, 85th Congress.

21.67 The petition and memorial files for the 80th-89th Congresses are generally smaller than those from the period between the Civil War and World War II because correspondence replaced petitions and memorials as the primary method for citizens to express their concerns to Congress. The subjects of the petitions and memorials included excise taxes, income taxes, taxes on State and municipal bond interest, tariffs, social security, pension plans for the self-employed, medical care for the aged, and trade agreements. Petitions favoring the Townsend plans appear in the records until the 83d Congress (1954). The more recent files contain resolutions from State and Territorial governments and small numbers of petitions and memorials from private citizens.

21.68 The committee papers consist primarily of correspondence arranged by subject. In addition to correspondence, there are usually executive communications, messages from the President, transcripts of hearings, printed copies of bills and resolutions, hearings and reports, and a variety of other types of documents.

21.69 Correspondence files comprise the bulk of the committee papers may be arranged by subject in alphabetical order or in large files on a given subject may be filed individually--not as part of a larger alpha-file. The subject files generally consist of correspondence from private citizens, from interested trade or professional organizations or businesses, and from other government agencies. They occasionally contain documents relating to hearings, materials submitted or procured by the committee for research purposes, memos and other documents produced by staff members, and other documents relating to the subject. An 80th Congress (1947-48) file on tax exempt cooperatives (80A-F18.6) consists of 8 feet of correspondence and 1 foot of statements, briefs, summaries, and other documents submitted at hearings on the subject. In several Congresses the subject files are supplemented by chronological files of outgoing correspondence called "green files" (86A-F17).

21.70 There are correspondence files on social security in the records of each Congress between the 80th and 90th. Other subjects that appear are income tax, tax reduction, tax exemption, and tax revision; pensions, annuities, and medical care for the aged; excess profits, capital gains and double taxation of bonds; the tariffs; reciprocal trade agreements; renegotiation of war contracts; a national lottery; postal rates; revenue sharing; the Revenue Act of 1964; unemployment compensation; veteran's legislation; and natural resources taxation.

21.71 The committee papers contain records of numerous subcommittees, but the records of the subcommittees are usually spotty and incomplete. Subcommittee records are most numerous for the 82d and 83d Congresses (1951-54). The 82d Congress (1951-52) records contain correspondence and reports from the Subcommittee on Amortization; news releases and summaries of hearings from the Subcommittee on Unemployment Insurance; news releases, transcripts of executive sessions, press releases, bills, and studies from the Subcommittee on Coordination of Federal, State, and Local Taxes; and reports from various agencies from the Subcommittee on Narcotics. The 83d Congress (1953-54) records contain correspondence, hearings and reports from the Subcommittee on Taxation of Life Insurance Companies, and a substantial file from the Subcommittee on Social Security, which includes correspondence, clippings from newspapers and periodicals, press releases, speech material, hearings and other material analyzing the social security system, and various staff working papers.

21.72 The most complete subcommittee records are from the Subcommittee on the Administration of the Internal Revenue Laws, which was established in 1950 and issued its final report in 1953. There are 4 feet of transcripts, exhibits, and page proofs of hearings in the 82d Congress records, and 2 feet of correspondence and hearings in the 83d Congress records. A large collection (59 feet) of records retired separately contains the general files of the subcommittee. The records are arranged like a large subject file covering administrative, investigative, and legislative subjects. There is a folder title list that is indispensable for locating subjects in the large file.

21.73 There are bill files from every Congress between the 80th and 90th, although the files for the 80th through 82d Congresses are fragmentary. The 83d Congress file contains over 4 feet of bill files, which consist of copies of the bills and reports, copies of speeches made by representatives, correspondence from executive agencies, and correspondence from lobbyists. Some of the bill files contain transcripts of executive session meetings.

21.74 The bill files from the 84th through the 88th Congress are arranged in two series: a series of "bills not reported" and a series of "bills reported" by the committee. The files from the 80th-82d Congresses (1947-52) are sparse and incomplete, together totaling less than 1 foot of material, while the files of later years contain as much as 25 ft. per Congress. The files on certain pieces of legislation are voluminous; for instance, the file on H.R. 6675, 89th Congress, a bill to provide for old age hospital insurance under the Social Security Act, measures over 5 feet, and includes several oversize briefing books. The bill files from the 88th Congress contain a 3 foot file on H.R. 11865, the Social Security Act Amendments of 1964, and over 7 feet of documentation on H.R. 8363, the Revenue Act of 1964.

21.75 The records of the Ways and Means Committee include two special collections of material that provide easy access to vital information about its work. A collection of bound documents (84 feet) consisting of bills, resolutions, and communications from the executive department covers the period between 1881 and 1980.

21.76 The historical collection contains a variety of printed material, mostly congressional publications, and research notes of staff members prepared as part of historical studies of the committee. Included are collections of reports of the committee and acts of the committee from the 50th through the 82d Congress (1887-1952), compilations of tariff acts from 1789 to 1909, and copies of various documents printed by Congress concerning tariff acts from the 40th through the 81st Congress. There is a collection of the calendars of the Ways and Means Committee for the 60th through 75th Congresses, and the Senate Finance Committee for the 66th through 81st Congresses, and a set of indexes to reports of the Senate Finance Committee from the 31st through 54th Congresses. Other documents include lists of committee membership from the 1st through 79th Congresses, a list of committee reports for the 14th through 59th Congresses, a collection of documents from around 1933 concerning reciprocal trade agreements, and voluminous notes on various aspects of the committee's business.

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.