Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 22: 1910-1946 Real Estate Bondholders Reorganizations

Chapter 22. Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives

Table of Contents

Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives (1789-1988) from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States, 1789-1988

Committee records described in this chapter:

Select Committee to Investigate Real Estate Bondholders' Reorganizations (1934-38)

Select Committee to Investigate:VolumeCongress (dates)
Real Estate Bondholders' Reorganizations247 feet73d-75th (1934-38)

22.90 During the optimistic 1920's, more than a million Americans who were swayed by promises of high interest bought bonds secured by real property. The depression of the 1930's brought a decline in payments on the bonds and the establishment of so-called protective bondholders committees. By playing upon people's fears, the committees encouraged bondholders to turn over to them their securities, as well as powers of attorney over the real estate securing the bonds.

22.91 Congress received thousands of letters and telegrams complaining that the bondholders committees served special interests, charged exorbitant fees, and defrauded investors. In addition, holders of defaulted securities looked to Congress for relief. Accordingly, on June 15, 1934, the House established a select committee to investigate the methods, activities, and practices of real estate "reorganization" or "bondholders" committees and to make recommendations for corrective legislation. The 1935 reauthorization of the investigation directed the committee to request the appropriate Federal agency to assign attorneys or agents to the committee whenever a possible violation of Federal law was discovered. Later the scope of the investigation broadened to include an investigation of receivers' and lawyers' fees, and court appearances by committee members to furnish evidence in connection with reorganization proceedings. Adolph J. Sabath of Illinois served as chairman throughout the life of the committee.

22.92 Records of the committee reflect the work of the committee's Washington, DC, office and field offices in Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and San Francisco. The records of each office remain as a separate unit except for the records of the Milwaukee office, which are interfiled with those from Washington, DC.

22.93 The committee gathered most of the information for its study through questionnaires, public hearings, and private hearings conducted by members of the staff in the field offices. Some questionnaires were sent to protective committees, banks, receivers of defaulted mortgages and bonds, lawyers, and associated groups. Other questionnaires, designed to be completed by holders of defaulted securities, appeared in newspapers and magazines.

22.94 Among the records are correspondence between the field offices and the Washington, DC, office, general correspondence, investigative reports, memorandums, and work papers. There are responses to the questionnaires submitted by bondholders protective committees, banks, attorneys, real estate agents, receivers of defaulted mortgages and bonds, and others, as well as copies of deposit agreements, balance sheets, statements of profits and losses, prospectuses, and reorganization plans. Records relating to various legislative proposals include copies of printed bills and resolutions with related drafts, analytical memorandums, amendments, and work papers. Other records include transcripts of testimony, depositions, drafts of the committee reports, and related work papers. There are also press releases, drafts of speeches by Sabath, newspaper clippings, subpoenas, and committee personnel and financial records,

22.95 A finding aid to the records of this committee is available.

Return to Select Committees List

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.