Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 22

Records of the Select Committees of the House of Representatives

Committee records described in this chapter:

History and Jurisdiction

22.1 The House of Representatives achieved a quorum and commenced business on Wednesday, April 1, 1789. Its first committee, a select committee assigned to prepare and report standing rules and orders for House proceedings, was appointed on April 2 and submitted its report five days later. Since that time, Congress has always relied on committees as the best means to accomplish its work in an orderly, efficient, and expeditious manner.

22.2 The committee system has grown and evolved over the years. During the earliest Congresses, select committees, created to perform a specific function and terminated when the task was completed, performed the overwhelming majority of the committee work. The third Congress (1793-95), for example, had only three standing committees1 but approximately 350 select committees.2 The committee system is now firmly established in both House and Senate procedure, with the rules of each House establishing a full range of permanent standing committees and assigning jurisdiction of all legislative issues among them. Nevertheless, select committees, which have been used throughout the history of Congress to respond to unique and difficult issues, continue to be established from time to time to meet special needs.

22.3 This chapter examines records of select committees among the Records of the United States House of Representatives.3 These records not only contain information about the individual committees to which they pertain, but, taken as a whole, they reveal the wide-ranging jurisdictions and diverse roles of select committees in the history of the House.

Group of men seated on the wharves, store-lined street in the background.

The weather-beaten wharves between Piety and Desire Streets, New Orleans, Louisiana, 1881 from the Select Committee Relative to Appropriations for the Improvement of the Mississippi River. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.4 The large number and wide variety of subjects addressed in the select committee records preclude the possibility of mentioning all of them in this chapter. Rather, the chapter is designed to provide a sense of the breadth of subjects and types of documents available for research in select committee records. The published preliminary inventory of RG 233 for the records from 1789 to 1946 also indicates the wide range of subjects because the inventory often segregates select committee records within each Congress by topic and assigns them separate file numbers. This is not always the case, however, and numerous additional subjects appear in the files designated "various select committees."

22.5 Because of the marked differences in the issues confronting Congress, as well as in congressional procedure and committee recordkeeping practices, the records of 18th-century select committees bear little resemblance to their 20th-century counterparts. For this reason, the chapter is divided into five chronological sections. The first section covers records of the years from 1789 to 1847, a period of governmental formation and economic and territorial growth. The second section discusses records dating from 1847 to 1909, encompassing both the Civil War and the later era of industrial expansion and social transformation. The third section runs from 1910 to 1946, the year of the seminal Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Finally, the fourth section discusses the select committee records dating from 1947 to 1968, and the fifth section provides a very brief descriptions of these records from 1969 to 1987.

22.6 The first four sections deal with the records in two different ways. The first two sections of the chapter consider the records of select committees during the time period as a whole, while the last two sections provide separate discussion of the records of each select committee. This is a reflection of the reduced number of select committees and the marked increase in the quantity of records pertaining to each committee after 1910.

22.7 The titles of some older select committees are not capitalized. This follows the guidance of the House Journal and reflects the fluid manner in which select committees in the early years were created, served their function, and went out of existence. Many committees were known by the date they were created or by a petition or other document that had been referred to them. In a number of instances, the Journal and other congressional publications do not consistently refer to an individual committee by the same title. Though such inconsistencies still appear in the twentieth century, they are less frequent.

22.8 Some 20th-century select committees are called special committees. These, however, do not differ in any substantive way from the others.

22.9 Beginning with records of the 68th Congress (1924-1925), some select committee records have not been assigned file numbers. Unless otherwise indicated, these records are filed with the records of the last Congress shown in the tables. Whenever a file number is available, it is provided.

22.10 For the records of some select committees, a finding aid is available. These finding aids are mentioned in the chapter and are listed in Appendix G. For guidance on other aids to research, consult An Introduction to Research in the Records of Congress, paying particular attention to the discussion of American State Papers, the Congressional Serial Set, House Journal, and Congressional Record and its predecessors. Certain records of select committees are reproduced in National Archives microfilm publications. Consult the NAIL Microfilm Publications Search or Appendix H for information on these publications.

22.11 Finally, during each of the first four time periods, select committees were created for which there are no records in the National Archives.

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Records of House Select Committees, 1st-29th Congresses (1789-1847)

Record Type Volume Congress (dates)
Minute Books 8 vols. 3rd (1793-95), 18th-19th (1823-27), 21st (1829-31),
24th (1835-37), 26th (1839-41)
Docket Book 1 vol. 24th (1835-37)
Petitions & Memorials    8 ft. 6th-29th (1799-1847)
Committee Papers 20 ft. 3rd-29th (1793-1847)
TOTAL: 28 ft. and
9 vols. (9 in.)   

22.12 From the establishment of the Federal Government in 1789 until 1847, the House of Representatives regularly created select committees to perform the full range of committee functions during the period. Many committees were created to consider a Presidential message to Congress, a private petition or memorial, or some other communication presented to the House. The creation of other committees reflected a decision by the House that a certain issue required legislation, and a select committee was established to draft it. Still other select committees were created to conduct specific investigations.

22.13 By modern standards, the records of the committees are scanty. This is no doubt due in part to the passage of time and periods of relative neglect, but perhaps more importantly it is a reflection of a simpler age, without copying machines or professional committee staffs. Minute books and docket books are available for certain select committees; these volumes generally provide rather cursory information about the committee activities. Most records of select committees from 1789 to 1847 are contained in two series: Petitions and memorials, with resolutions of State legislatures, and committee reports and papers. While scores of select committees are represented in the records, a single item, most often a petition referred to the committee or the committee report, is frequently the only document for a particular committee. For the 10th Congress, for example, both series contain records of approximately 40 select committees, even though the series of petitions and memorials amounts to only 6 inches and the committee reports and papers series for that Congress comprise 3 inches of material.

22.14 Although the title of each record series indicates the predominant type of document contained in it, both series contain a wide variety of document types. Petitions and memorials were sometimes accompanied by various papers provided either to lend support to the case or to provide additional information. The petition from seaman Andrew Montgomery asking Congress to grant him American citizenship, for example, was accompanied by a personal narrative recounting his life and service after the ship on which he was serving was captured by Americans in the Irish Channel in June 1777. Supplementing the petition are a 1786 certificate in French from the U.S. vice-consul at Marseille that refers to Montgomery as a U.S. citizen and other documents reflecting various aspects of his career (6A-F4.3). Documents accompanying the petition of the mayor and aldermen of Natchez requesting a commons area and two lots in the city include a plan of the city and an extract of minutes of the city council (8A-F5.5). An 1806 letter from William Tatham offering to sell his extensive collection of military topographical surveys, manuscript maps, books, models, and instruments is accompanied by a general schedule of the collection, as well as an outline of the benefits that Tatham believed the Government would derive from the establishment of a "Department of Works and Public Economy" (9A-F7.2). A later file concerning Tatham consists of memorials, copies of passports and letters of recommendation and commendation, reports from the Secretary of War and others, a 1775 letter to Tatham from his wealthy British aunt expressing displeasure with his decision to side with the rebellious Americans, and a list of the Members of Congress whom Tatham knew (14A-f16.7).

22.15 In addition to committee reports, the series of committee papers often includes letters, lists, reports, and other documents received from officials in executive departments and other persons in response to committee inquiries. Bills and drafts of bills, resolutions establishing committees, and orders referring petitions and other communications to committee also may be found among committee papers. The committee reports themselves are usually the original manuscripts, often bearing pencil marks made by the printer. Some committee reports provide comprehensive documentation of the committee's activities, incorporating not only the final summation of the committee but also committee minutes, documents received relating to the committee's work, and transcripts of hearings or written interrogatories.4

22.16 For the earliest Congresses, many documents among the committee papers series bear markings that indicate they probably are copies made at the time of preparation of the American State Papers.5 One example is the earliest dated committee report, a manuscript copy of the July 9, 1789, report of the committee appointed on April 29 "to prepare and report an estimate of the supplies requisite for the present year, and of the net produce of the impost as agreed to by the House" (1A-C1).

22.17 Taken as a whole, the select committee records pertain to a broad spectrum of the subjects considered by the House prior to 1848. Included are records concerning westward expansion, economic development, the controversy over slavery, establishment of new governmental structures, and myriad other topics.

22.18 Issues relating to westward expansion and internal development frequently commanded the attention of Congress during the early 19th century. Among select committee records are papers regarding compensation to Zebulon Pike and his companions for exploration services, including copies of orders, letters from Pike, and a list of participants in the 1806-7 expedition (11A-C9.2). Frontier hostilities are the subject of such documents as the copy of resolves adopted by a meeting at Vincennes, Indiana Territory, on July 31, 1811, expressing concern over the growing Indian confederation under the Prophet and his brother Tecumseh and calling upon the Government to act to ensure the security of the settlers (12A-C11.4). Also among the records is a list of losses sustained by residents of the Mississippi Territory, most of which were due to Indian depredations, during the War of 1812 (14A-F16.7).

22.19 Other select committees considered requests for preemption rights and alteration of terms for land sales in the Northwest Territory, confirmation of land grants obtained from the Spanish Government when the area was under Spanish rule, and other land ownership issues (6A-F4.3, 8A-F5.4). Some petitions and memorials were sent to Congress in hopes of gaining land grants, usually to support such educational institutions as Jefferson Academy at Vincennes, Jefferson College in Mississippi Territory, and Transylvania College in Kentucky (7A-F4.2, 21A-D25.20).

22.20 Territorial government figures in many of the records. Petitions from inhabitants of the territories, as well as communications from territorial governors or legislatures, involved issues relating to territorial government and territorial boundaries (8A-F5.5, 6A-F4.3, 9A-C5). For example, various petitions from the Territory of Indiana, as well as a memorial and joint resolutions of the Indiana Territorial Legislature, objected to the freehold requirement for suffrage in the territory and called for the right of suffrage to extend to all free males, 25 and older, who had done military service and who paid taxes (11A-F10.2).

22.21 There are reports by select committees on the admission of Mississippi Territory (11A-C9.4, 14A-C17.5) and Indiana Territory (12A-C11.4, 14A-C17.5), and also an 1818 print of the constitution of Illinois drafted by its constitutional convention (15A-D16.4). Records relating to the admission of Maine include the petition submitted by the constitutional convention, as well as a report of the Secretary of Massachusetts regarding election returns on the question of the separation of Maine from Massachusetts (16A-G21.2).

22.22 Select committees formed to consider various plans for internal improvements produced a variety of records. A number of these relate to canals, such as the printed memorial of the Kentucky General Assembly asking that a canal around the rapids of the Ohio be built on the Kentucky side. Accompanying the memorial are a print of "Proceedings of the Managers of the Ohio Canal Company at Louisville, on Wednesday, 11 September 1805" and a colored sketch and notes reflecting a survey of the location by J. Brooks (9A-F7.2). An 1811 petition regarding a canal between the Great Lakes and the Hudson River includes the signatures of Gouverneur Morris, DeWitt Clinton, Robert R. Livingston, and Robert Fulton (12A-F11.3). A petition from residents of Brooke County, VA, asked for a change in the planned route of a road to be built by the Government from the Potomac to the Ohio Rivers (10A-F9.5). Various records dating from 1801 to 1809 concern proposals for bridges or other improvements to the Potomac in the vicinity of the District of Columbia (6A-F4.3, 7A-F4.2, 10A-F9.3). There are also petitions asking for establishment of post roads between certain towns (6A-F4.1, 8A-F5.2).6

22.23 Indications of the developments in commerce and manufacturing also appear in select committee records. Several such committees, for example, considered issues relating to the recurring controversy over a national bank. Memorials from stockholders of the first Bank of the United States asking for a renewal of the bank's charter, which was due to expire on March 4, 1811, and a committee report on the topic, are among the files from the years 1808 to 1811 (11A-C9.4, 11A-F10.4). The attempt to recharter the bank failed, but the issue did not die. For the year 1815, there are printed memorials from Philadelphia and a manuscript memorial from Maine asking for reestablishment of a national bank (14A-F16.3). The second Bank of the United States was chartered for a 20-year period beginning in April 1816. President Andrew Jackson was opposed to the Bank, and its recharter became the principal issue of the Presidential campaign of 1832. During the recharter battle in Congress involving heated debate and multiple roll calls, two select committees were established. Records of the committee appointed on March 15, 1832, "to investigate the affairs of the Bank of the United States" consist of the committee's majority and minority reports, as well as a separate report by John Quincy Adams written in his own hand. There are also printed and manuscript copies of the committee's questions to certain bank officials, along with their answers (22A-D26.1). Committee minutes and minutes of meetings of the Board of Directors of the Bank of the United States are among the records of the later committee appointed April 4, 1834, to inspect the books and examine into the proceedings of the Bank of the United States (23A-D23.1).

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Petition of Eli Whitney requesting the renewal of his patent on the cotton gin on April 16, 1812. RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.24 Congress did not usually become involved in decisions to grant patents. Occasionally, however, inventors asked Congress to grant an extension of a patent, to legislate in a patent controversy, or to confer some other favor. Some select committee records reflect this activity. There is, for example, an 1822 petition of James Bennett of Philadelphia asking for exclusive rights for 40 years to the use of his flying machine in the U.S. atmosphere. Filed with it is a dissenting letter with supporting materials from David B. Lee, claiming that he had invented the flying machine first (17A-F18.1). In an 1812 petition for renewal of the patent on the cotton gin, Eli Whitney recounted the circumstances that led him to work on the gin and reviewed events that had transpired since the invention (12A-F11.2). There is a petition from 1842 regarding international copyright issues that is signed by Washington Irving, James Renwick, W.C. Bryant, and others (27A-G26.4). Records of Congresses from 1829 to 1843 relate to inventions designed to prevent steamboat explosions (21A-G22.1, 27A-G26.5). These include a list of all steamboat accidents from 1830 to 1840, noting where each accident occurred, the number of persons killed, and the cause of the accident (26A-D30.6).

22.25 Protection of commercial shipping is the subject of certain select committee records of the period from 1793 to 1813, mostly about problems with piracy along the Barbary Coast (3A-C3.1, 8A-C4.1, 10A-C7.1, 11A-F10.4).

22.26 The slavery issue concerned several select committees. Some records focus on the slave trade, such as the petition from "Absalom Jones and others—people of color and freemen of Philadelphia" complaining, in part, that the new fugitive slave law was resulting in the apprehension of freemen. The petition includes a section that expresses the hope for the complete elimination of slavery, stating: "We do not ask for the immediate emancipation of all... ; yet humbly desire you may exert every means in your power to undo the heavy burdens, and prepare the way for the oppressed to go free, that every yoke may be broken" (6A-F4.2). The petition caused controversy when it was presented to Congress on January 2, 1800, by Robert Wain of Pennsylvania. Because of the section calling for the end of slavery, only those parts of the petition that related to U.S. laws regarding either fugitive slaves or the slave trade from the United States to foreign places were referred to the committee. In addition, by a vote of 85 to 1,7 the resolution of referral was amended to state that "such part of the said petition, which invite Congress to legislate upon subjects from which the general government is precluded by the Constitution have a tendency to create disquiet and jealousy, and ought therefore to receive no encouragement or countenance from this House."

22.27 Additional select committees related to the slave trade. Among the records of the 14th Congress (1815-17) are documents of a committee established to "inquire into the existence of an inhuman and illegal traffic in slaves... in the District of Columbia." The documents focus on charges that certain freemen had been kidnapped under the false pretext that they were runaway slaves and include a deposition of Francis Scott Key and a copy of a Baltimore grand jury presentment (14A-C17.4). Petitions and memorials relating to this committee include a number of memorials, most of which were sent by Friends or Quakers, deploring American involvement in the slave trade, as well as a January 1817 letter from Friends Edward Stabler and John Janney indicating that they were transmitting various documents "agreeably to the suggestions of the Chairmen of the Committees of Congress" (14A-F16.6).

22.28 Other committee records address the question of slavery in the territories. A memorial from the American Convention for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery, dated January 29, 1804, argued against importing slaves into the Louisiana Territory (8A-F5.5). A convention of citizens from Indiana Territory, on the other hand, asked Congress for a ten-year suspension of the sixth article of the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 in order to permit the introduction of slaves born within the United States. A committee report of February 14, 1806, recommended such a suspension (9A-C5).

22.29 Certain memorials of 1817 and 1818 called for the African colonization of freemen, and in 1827 and 1828 printed petitions coordinated by the American Colonization Society sought Congressional funding for such a scheme. The funding, however, was strongly opposed by the Georgia legislature when, in December 1827, it adopted and sent to Congress resolutions declaring that it would be unconstitutional for Congress to take such action (15A-G17.1, 20A-G22.1). In December 1843, the House established a select committee to consider resolutions of the Massachusetts legislature calling for Federal representation and taxation based solely on the number of free persons in each State, thus repealing the 3/5 compromise of the Constitution. Among the documents from this committee are the Massachusetts resolutions and a number of similar memorials, as well as the majority and minority reports of the committee and its minutes (28A-G26.1, 28A-D31.1).

22.30 Congress has often used select committees to investigate particular problems. The House itself was sometimes referred to during these early years as "the grand inquest of the nation," and this role is reflected in the records. The earliest record of an investigative committee is the minute book of the committee to examine the Treasury Department. It covers the period from February 24 to May 22, 1794, and includes transcriptions of correspondence, summary fiscal information, and material submitted to the committee. On the whole, the records of investigating committees tend to be more substantial than those of other types of select committees of the period, being more likely to contain minutes, correspondence, and documents submitted to the committee in the course of the investigation. The committees usually posed questions to persons knowledgeable about the subject of the investigation, either in hearings, by means of commissioners appointed to personally question the parties involved, or by means of written "interrogatories." In some cases, the resulting transcripts or copies of interrogatories and written replies are among the records.

22.31 There are records of two select committees established in the wake of the burning of Washington, DC, in August 1814. One committee conducted an inquiry into the circumstances leading to the destruction of House documents by the British, while the other inquired more generally into the reasons for the success of the British and the amount of property destroyed. (13A-D15.2, 13A-D15.3)

22.32 There are records of the select investigating committee requested by Vice President John C. Calhoun in response to allegations appearing in the press that as Secretary of War he had profited from a War Department contract to provide stone for the construction of fortifications at the Rip Rap Shoals and Old Point Comfort in Hampton Roads, VA. The records include correspondence relating to the work of the committee, such as the letter from Calhoun requesting the investigation, as well as transcripts of hearings, exhibits, depositions, the committee report, subpoenas, and other documents. A volume of committee minutes is also available (19A-D23.9).

22.33 Some records pertain to trials conducted in the House. The trial of Colonel John Anderson for contempt of the House on a charge that he had attempted to bribe a Member is documented by a committee report covering the mode of proceeding, questions and answers, narrative, apology, and explanation by Anderson (15A-D16.4).

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Chart of the investments made with funds from the Smithsonian Bequest, from House Report 587 "Report of the Select Committee on the bequest of James Smithson." RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.34 Samuel Houston was a central figure in the activities of two select committees during the 22d Congress (1831-1833) that stemmed from allegations of irregularities in the 1830 award to Houston of a War Department contract to supply food for emigrating Indians. In 1832, William Stanberry of Ohio referred to the charges in a speech to the House. Two weeks later, Houston assaulted Stanberry on the streets of Washington. A select committee on privileges was established on April 17, 1832, to report a mode of proceeding in the trial of Houston before the House for violation of the privileges of the House. Its report was issued that same day and is among the records (22A-D26.13). Houston was found guilty of contempt and reprimanded at the bar of the House. Immediately after the reprimand, Stanberry proposed the establishment of a select committee to investigate the allegations concerning the contract. Records of that committee include an unbound journal containing committee minutes, copies of committee correspondence, and transcripts of questions in the case. There are also subpoenas (including one for Houston) and copies of the bids received for the contract (22A-D26.2).

22.35 Assaults, fights, or threats of violence are the subject of other select committee records during this period (15A-D16.4, 20A-D25.3, 23A-D23.1, 26A-D30.2). For example, there are records of the 1837 trial of Reuben M. Whitney on charges of contempt for refusing the summons of the select committee to inquire into the administration of the executive departments. He refused on the grounds that, during his testimony before the select committee on the employment of an agent by deposit banks, his life had been threatened (24A-D24.1).

22.36 Committee reports, replies from executive departments, petitions, and other documents are available among records of certain select committees that dealt with various governmental issues, such as the 1810 committee on the condition of the archives (11A-C9.4), the 1814 committees that considered rebuilding Washington or changing the seat of government following the British attack (13A-D15.4), and the committees on retrenchment formed for the purpose of considering ways to reduce governmental expenses (20A-D25.2, 27A-D25.7, 28A-D31.1, 28A-G26.1). Among records directly relating to certain governmental operations is a bound volume containing the original 1837 report of the select committee on the West Point Academy, including lists with information about cadets and officers, 1802-36.

22.37 Pensions or private claims sometimes came under the jurisdiction of select committees. Governmental action was sometimes sought on behalf of a class of persons, such as disabled veterans of the American Revolution (10A-F9.4) or witnesses who had testified at the trial of Aaron Burr (10A-C7.1, 12A-F11.4), but more often the claimant was an individual. Among the individuals whose claims were considered by select committees before 1847 are Daniel Boone (12A-C11.4), Andrew Jackson (15A-G17.3), Arthur St. Clair (15A-G17.3), and James Monroe (18A-C20.4, 19A-D23.1, 20A-D25.1, 21A-G22.3).

22.38 Select committees considered a myriad of other subjects, including the Alien and Sedition Acts and their effects (6A-F4.3, 7A-F3.1, 16A-D26.4), education of deaf and dumb persons (15A-D16.4, 18A-F20.3, 20A-G22.2, 21A-D25.4), and proposed constitutional amendments (8A-C4.1, 18A-C20.6, 23A-D23.1, 24A-D24.1, 27A-D25.1). A few bound volumes among the records include a minute book that contains minutes of meetings of the joint committee on the Smithsonian Bequest (January 26 to February 18, 1839), as well as minutes for the periods when only a House select committee existed to deal with the matter (January 4-8, 1839, and January 15, 1840, to April 6, 1842). Entries in the volume were made by John Quincy Adams.

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Records of House Select Committees, 30th-60th Congresses (1847-1909)

Record Type Volume Congress (dates)
Minute Books 36 vols. 40th-42nd (1867-73), 44th-52nd (1875-93), 55th (1897-99), 57th (1901-03), 60th (1907-09)
Docket Book 33 vols. 41st-48th (1869-85), 50th-52nd (1887-93)
Petitions & Memorials    45 ft. 30th (1847-49), 33d-52nd (1853-93), 55th-56th (1897-1901)
Committee Papers 39 ft. 30th-52nd (1847-93), 54th-58th (1895-1905)
TOTAL: 84 ft. and
69 vols. (6 ft.)  

22.39 During the period from 1847 to 1909, the U.S. Congress legislated for a Nation undergoing transformation. A bloody Civil War brought cataclysmic changes in the social, economic, and political life of the country. Territorial expansion and economic development also contributed to the growing complexity of the issues facing Congress. The House of Representatives relied on select committees to deal with many of the problems brought on by these changing conditions.

22.40 Minute books of the period, all of which postdate 1867, exist for only a small percentage of the select committees. The minutes themselves tend to be rather cursory, though there are exceptions. Docket books, which catalog the bills, resolutions, petitions, or other documents referred to a committee, appear with approximately the same frequency as minute books. Petitions and memorials, with resolutions of State legislatures are filed in a separate series. Some of these documents offer insight into the public's perspective on the great issues of the day, while others reveal individual or local efforts to influence Congress on their own behalf. Committee papers 8 relating to select committees from 1847 to 1909 contain a wide variety of document types, with committee reports being the type most frequently encountered. Also among the committee papers are resolutions, bills, amendments, committee minutes, affidavits, and transcripts of hearings, as well as correspondence with Members of Congress, Federal agencies, and the public.

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Page from the Majority Report of the Select Committee on the Assault of Charles Sumner, 1856 (HR 34A-D24.5). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.41 The Civil War and issues relating to it placed special demands on Congress, as the Federal Government struggled to survive. During the prewar, wartime, and postwar periods, the House of Representatives repeatedly relied on select committees to consider and report on developing issues. Among the records from the volatile period preceding the war, for example, are the manuscript majority and minority reports of a select committee to look into a fracas between two Members of Congress, Amos Granger of New York and Fayette McMullin of Virginia, that took place on a bus in the District of Columbia on August 18, 1856. The committee report includes the committee journal and transcripts of hearings, at which each of the parties involved in the scuffle were allowed to interrogate witnesses (34A-D24.1).

22.42 The records of two select committees established in response to Presidential messages received during the months between the election and inauguration of Abraham Lincoln document congressional attempts to reach an agreement that would avert the impending war. In response to the section of President James Buchanan's annual message that related to "the present perilous condition of the country," the so-called Committee of Thirty-three was created on December 4, 1860, and continued until January 14, 1861, when it reported to the House. Another select committee was created in response to the special message from President Buchanan of January 9, 1861, commenting on the situation in South Carolina, where a special convention had voted unanimously for secession and Federal forts, arsenals, and magazines had been seized. Among the records of the two committees are printed bills and resolutions with handwritten revisions, proposed amendments, and newspaper clippings. There are also petitions and memorials, both manuscript and printed; most seek a compromise to avert civil war, but some are in favor of war. Many express support for the Crittenden Compromise, while a few call for a national convention in order to reach a settlement. Memorials of public meetings in Caldwell County and Asheville, NC, favored secession "if necessary," while another memorial from North Carolina stressed that secession should be avoided and suggested various proposals to avert a crisis. A petition from New Jersey mechanics called for a general election to decide whether to accept a compromise (36A-D26.2, 36A-G23, 36A-G25).

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Telegram from President Abraham Lincoln to Hon. E. B. Washburn, Member of the Van Wyck Committee, regarding the Investigation of Government Supply Officers (HR37A-E21.1). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.43 As the war got underway, enormous expenditures for supplies required by the military inevitably led to reports of abuses of the procurement system and to calls in Congress for an investigation into the situation. On July 8, 1861, the Select Committee on Government Contracts was created. Chaired by Charles Van Wyck of New York, the committee conducted inquiries in 12 cities, hearing from hundreds of witnesses on a wide variety of governmental contracts. Records include House resolutions regarding the committee, committee requests for papers from Federal agencies, notes regarding potential witnesses, transcripts of hearings, correspondence of members of the committee, and copies of governmental contracts and related materials provided by government departments. The correspondence includes letters from citizens offering information on suspected fraudulent activities, as well as letters from persons involved in governmental contracts (37A-E21.1).

22.44 The advocacy of prudent military measures and promotion of local development combined in the petitions and memorials that constitute the records of the select committees created to consider the establishment of a national armory west of the Allegheny mountains and the Select Committee on Defense of the Great Lakes and Rivers. Among the localities touted for the armory were Chicago and Rock Island, IL; Toledo and Cincinnati, OH; and Pittsburgh, Johnstown, and Danville, PA (37A-G21.1, 38A-G25.2). Fortifying the Straits of Mackinac and the various harbors in the Great Lakes region, the establishment of a naval depot, and construction of a canal around Niagara Falls are among other proposals relating to the defense of the northern lakes (37A-G21.3).

22.45 Some select committees considered policies regarding slaves. On April 7, 1862, for example, the House authorized a select committee to consider the feasibility and desirability of proposals for gradual emancipation in Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Missouri. Petitions and memorials referred to the committee are among the records. Most are printed, and many contain general statements favoring abolition. A number of memorials from Maryland called for compensated emancipation in the States that remained loyal to the Union. One petition from free blacks in the District of Columbia asked for an area to be set aside for blacks in "Central America" (37A-G21.4). Another select committee was appointed during the 38th Congress, on December 14, 1863, to consider issues relating to emancipation. Committee minutes, notes, a copy of a bill to establish a Bureau of Emancipation, and various petitions and memorials are among the records of this committee (38A-E23.2, 38A-G25.1).

22.46 The debate over Reconstruction dominated American politics in the years following the Civil War. The problems facing the Nation as it struggled to recover are reflected in the records of several select committees that dealt with conditions in the defeated Southern States and with the formulation of policy to restore the South to the Union.

refer to caption

President Andrew Johnson's Veto of the Third Reconstruction Act (HR 40A-F28.4). RG 233, Records of the U.S. House of Representatives, National Archives.

22.47 The most important of these was the Select Committee on Reconstruction, created on July 3, 1867, as successor to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.9 Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania served as chairman until his death in 1868, when he was succeeded in that position by George Boutwell and subsequently Benjamin Butler, both of Massachusetts. The committee investigated conditions in the South, including "the Ku Klux outrages' and election irregularities. The House also referred to this committee the applications for removal of political disabilities imposed by section 3 of the 14th Amendment. That section barred from civil or military office any person who had violated their official oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution by supporting the Confederacy; the section included a proviso that, by a two-thirds vote of each House, Congress could remove the disability. Records of the committee are substantial (30 ft.) and consist mostly of petitions in the form of letters from individuals praying for the removal of political disabilities imposed upon them and related documents supporting or opposing specific removals. An example of such a related document is the letter from General U.S. Grant in support of the removal of the political disabilities of former Confederate General James Longstreet. Other records include letters from private individuals and from civil and military officials that provide information, offer opinions, and suggest courses of action in regard to the former Confederate States. Included also are two July 19, 1867, veto messages from President Andrew Johnson regarding Reconstruction legislation that were overridden. A rolled petition signed by 3,400 citizens of Rhode Island that is among the records was aimed at changing suffrage requirements imposed by that State's constitution and called for enforcement of the 14th and 15th Amendments there (40A-F28.4, 40A-H21, 41A-F28.2, 41A-H18). Seven volumes from the committee are available, including lists, indexes, dockets, and a minute book covering the period from March 1869 to February 1871. A finding aid to most of the records of the committee is available and includes lists of folder titles.

22.48 A grim example of conditions in the postwar South occurred in October 1865, when three U.S. Army soldiers were murdered in South Carolina. Arrests were made and subsequently a military commission condemned the accused to death. After the condemned were transferred to another prison and released on a writ of habeas corpus, the House created the Select Committee on the Murder of Union Soldiers in South Carolina to investigate the entire matter. Records of the committee include transcripts of testimony, official copies of the trial transcript, copies of papers and correspondence of the War Department, and copies of petitions concerning the accused that had been sent to the President (39A-F28.2).

22.49 Civil War veterans constituted one of the most important political constituencies in the postwar period, and occasionally select committees were created to deal with issues of particular importance to them. The records include transcripts of public hearings held by the Select Committee on Soldiers' and Sailors' Bounties in 1867 (40A-F28.3). Records of the 1867-68 Select Committee on Fraud in the Pay Department pertain to an investigation of allegations that black veterans were being defrauded of bounties. Included are affidavits relating to claims, requests for materials, communications between the committee and executive departments, and various documents provided to the committee by governmental agencies (40A-F28.1). The Select Committee on the Payment of Pensions, Bounty, and Back Pay, created on January 12, 1880, considered the cases of 539 dissatisfied veterans. Records of the committee consist in large part of letters written to the committee by disappointed claimants, occasionally accompanied by letters from the Pension Office of the Department of Interior or by affidavits in support of the claims. There are also other letters and petitions received by the committee in support of sundry specific legislative proposals, as well as two volumes of letter press copies of outgoing letters, including indexes by name of addressee. Various communications and papers from Federal agencies are among the records, such as tables from the Commissioner of Pensions listing the claimants from Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin whose claims were rejected between August and December 1884 (46A-F41.1-2, 46A-H28.1, 47A-F33.1, 47A-H25.1-5, 48A-F43.1, 48A- H34.1-10).

22.50 Postwar politics were characterized by bitter partisanship that at times sparked controversies that led to the establishment of select committees. In February 1867, while the House Committee on the Judiciary considered a resolution of impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, rumors spread through Washington that certain Members of Congress had met privately with Johnson to strike a bargain whereby they would vote against any report unfavorable to the President in exchange for Presidential support on certain matters. In reaction, the House established a Select Committee on Alleged Private Meetings of Members of the House with a View to a Corrupt Bargain with the President. Records of the committee consist of copies of House resolutions to establish the committee, transcripts of committee testimony, and newspaper clippings about the alleged bargaining (39A-F28.1).

22.51 Several select committees were appointed to consider various aspects of the controversial 1876 Presidential election between Samuel J. Tilden of New York and Rutherford B. Hayes of Ohio, which led to the end of the Reconstruction era. Records of the Select Committee on the Privileges, Powers, and Duties of the House of Representatives in Counting the Electoral Votes for President and Vice President of the United States contain materials pertaining to the contested votes in six States and document the work of the electoral commission set up by Congress to resolve the controversy, including the formal objections from Senators and Representatives to the counting of the votes of specific electors and the reports of the electoral commission. There are also a number of petitions and memorials, some of which counsel fairness and impartiality while others take a clear position on the candidates. A volume of committee minutes covers the period from January 6 to March 2, 1877 (44A-F39.2, 44A-H21.2).

22.52 Another select committee that concerned the 1876 election was the Select Committee on Alleged Frauds in the Late Presidential Election, established on October 2, 1877. Records include manuscripts of the proceedings of the electoral commission and the joint meeting of the two Houses of Congress to count the electoral votes, printed Congressional documents, an "extra" edition of the New York Tribune, and committee exhibits, correspondence, affidavits, and interrogatories. There is a minute book for the period from May 22, 1878, to March 3, 1879 (45A-F37.1).

22.53 The records of many select committees of the period have nothing to do with the Civil War and related issues. Among these are the records of various investigative committees established during the 31st to the 60th Congresses (1849-1909). Most relate to investigations of governmental agencies or officials, and some pertain to significant scandals in American history. Included are the 1873 investigation to determine whether prominent politicians had accepted stock in the Credit Mobilier company used by officials of the Union Pacific Railroad to siphon off profits from construction of the railroad (42A-F31.1), and the 1876 inquiry into the St. Louis Whiskey Ring that was devised to defraud the Government of the internal revenue tax (44A-F39.7). The records of investigative committees generally consist of reports, depositions, correspondence, transcripts of testimony, and exhibits. There may also be papers collected during the course of investigations. Among the records of the Select Committee on Alleged Abuses of the Franking Privilege, for example, are political materials, such as the "Garfield and Arthur Campaign Song Book, 1880" and 'Maxims of James Abram Garfield," that had been mailed in franked envelopes (46A-F39.1). Committee minutes are available for some of the investigative committees. The combined minute and docket book of the 1877-79 Select Committee on Reform in the Civil Service includes minutes of the subcommittee to examine and audit claims against the House of Representatives arising from charges that John W. Polk, Doorkeeper of the House, had employed 63 more persons than authorized for that office (45A-F37.4).

22.54 Records exist for a number of select committees concerning social issues of the day. Some of these considered immigration policy, with the earliest created in response to a section of President Lincoln's annual message of 1863 concerning encouragement of European immigration (38A-E23.3). Certain select committees from 1887-93 focused on the issue of limiting immigration, particularly from China. Records of these committees consist mainly of petitions favoring limitations, but they also include copies of bills, depositions, communications from governmental agencies, and committee minutes (50A-H33.1, 51A-F46.1-3, 51A-H27.1-3, 52A-F50.1-3, 52A-H28.1-4).

22.55 Concern over epidemics of contagious diseases attracted the attention of select committees of Congress in the years 1877- 85. The records of these committees include printed bills and resolutions, a manuscript report from a committee-appointed board of experts, letters and memorials received from health associations and others, and committee minutes. Among the topics considered were a national quarantine policy and the role of the National Board of Health. The minute book of the 1879-81 Select Committee on the Origin, Introduction, and Prevention of Epidemic Diseases also contains minutes of a joint session of both House and Senate committees on epidemics and of a joint House-Senate subcommittee appointed to visit Memphis and other places to study causes and prevention of yellow fever and cholera (45A-F37.3, 46A-F38.1, 46A-H26.1, 48A-F45.1, 48A-H35.1).

22.56 From 1879 to 1893, the House maintained a Select Committee on Alcoholic Liquor Traffic. Records consist mostly of petitions and memorials from religious groups or temperance associations, such as the Woman's Christian Temperance Union and the Sons of Temperance. Many called for the appointment of a commission to study the alcoholic liquor traffic and its relation to public revenue and taxation, crime, pauperism, morals, and other matters. Other memorials proposed legislative restrictions on alcoholic beverages. There are also bills and resolutions, and docket and minute books (46A-H25.1-3, 47A-F31.1-2, 47A-H23.1, 48A-F37.1-2, 48A-H31.1-2, 50A-H31.1, 51A-F43.1-3, 51A-H24.1-7, 52A-F46.1-2, 52A-H25.1-3).

22.57 Various records, mainly petitions and memorials, pertain to committees dealing with matters of commerce or economics, such as the 1854 Select Committee on the Guano Trade (33A-D21.5, 33A-G27.1), the Civil War era Select Committee on a Bankrupt Law (37A-G21.2), and several committees created during the 1870's and 1880's to consider issues relating to American shipping (41A-F28.3, 41A-H16.1, 48A-F38.1, 48A-H32.1, 49A-H26.1-3). Records of the Select Committee on the Interoceanic Ship Canal, established on December 16, 1879, include letters received from private citizens and Federal agencies, bills and resolutions referred to the committee, private and governmental publications regarding proposals for canals, transcripts of hearings, memorials, a minute book, and a docket volume. There is a large foldout map and topographical profile of a canal route across Nicaragua from the year 1852 and sketches of a ship railway that were prepared by William F. Channing in 1859 and 1865 (46A-F40.1-3, 46A-H27.1). There are also records of select committees regarding a railroad to the Pacific (34A- D24.4, 34A-G23.1, 36A-D26.3, 36A-G24.1, 39A-H26.3), the establishment of postal telegraph lines (41A-F28.1), and the irrigation of arid lands (51A-H29).

22.58 Records exist for a number of select committees dealing with specific governmental functions. Petitions and memorials, letters and papers received, maps, charts, and minute and docket volumes dating from 1869 to 1903 document some of the numerous select committees regarding the census (41A-H16.1, 41A-F28.4, 47A-F32.1-3, 47A-H24.1, 551A-f45.1-3, 51A-H26.1-4). During the 52d Congress (1891-93), the Select Committee on the Eleventh Census investigated the Census Bureau, and the records include minutes, affidavits, correspondence, statements of witnesses, and various copies of newspapers or clippings. An October 1891 article from the New York Herald that is among the records proclaims "Speed Everything Accuracy Nothing" as it reports on the use of the Hollerith machine, considered the first computer used by the U.S. Government, to transcribe the census results (52A-F49.3). Among records of another select committee on the census are minutes of the Republican Caucus in February 1902 (57A-F39.1).

22.59 The records of various select committees, dating from 1853 to 1893, concern civilian employees of the Federal Government. These concern such matters as the superintendence of civil works by military officers (33A-D21.11), apportionment of governmental positions among residents of the various States (35A-D23.3), reorganization and reform of the civil service (42A-F31.2, 42A-H16.1, 45A-F37.4, 46A-H29.1, 51A-F49.1-3, 52A-F52.1-3), and veterans preference in hiring (51A-H30.1, 52A-H29.1). Bills, resolutions, reports, petitions and memorials, correspondence, minutes, and dockets are included.

22.60 Miscellaneous other subjects considered by select committees from 1847 and 1909 are documented among the records. From the period before the Civil War, for example, there are protests against European taxation of American tobacco products (30A-D26.7, 36A-D26.6), while there are numerous turn-of-the-century protests against allowing polygamist Brigham Roberts to take a seat in the House (55A-H31.1, 56A- H30.1). The foundation of the Capitol extension (32A-D23.1), the Washington Monument (33A-D21.12, 42A-F31.4), and the World's Columbian Exposition of 1892 (51A-F50, 51A-H31, 52A-F47) are among notable undertakings of the era mentioned in the records.

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Records of House Select Committees, 61st-79th Congresses (1910-1946)

22.61 The number of standing committees, many of which had evolved from select committees, peaked during the early years of the 20th century. The House continued to establish select committees during the period from 1910 to 1946; both individually and as a group, however, their jurisdiction was more restricted than it had been during the 19th century. Most commonly, the select committees were authorized to consider narrow topics that had caught the public's interest. The limited scope and popular appeal did not mean the issues raised were necessarily frivolous or insignificant. Some reflected important societal changes, the expansion of U.S. commercial and financial activity, and the impact of World War II.

22.62 The appointment of a select committee has never signaled an intention on the part of the House to pass legislation upon a particular topic, and this has been especially true in the 20th century. The main thrust of many select committees has been investigative rather than legislative.

22.63 Twentieth century advancements in technology and increasing governmental and economic complexity combined to account for a marked increase in the volume of records generated by individual committees. Because of the decreased numbers of select committees and the greater volume of records per committee, the records of each select or special committee of this period are described here separately, in order of the date of establishment of the committee. There are two exceptions. The records relating to the various committees on campaign expenditures, though filed as separate units and spanning the period from 1928 to 1964, are described collectively at the end of the next section. In addition, no description is provided for select committees whose records consist solely of copies of the committee publications.

Select Committee Volume    Congresses (Years)
Select Committee to Investigate Conditions Interfering with Interstate Commerce
between the States of Illinois and Missouri
2 ft. 65th (1917-18)
Special Committee on Water Power 4 in. 65th-66th (1918-21)
Select Committee to Investigate Contracts and Expenditures Made by the War Department during the War    110 ft. 66th (1919-21)
Select Committee on United States Shipping Board Operations 13 ft. 66th-67th (1919-21)
Select Committee to Investigate the Preparation, Distribution, Sale, Payment, Retirement, Surrender,
Cancellation, and Destruction of Government Bonds and Other Securities
2 ft. 68th (1924-25)
Select Committee of Inquiry into Operation of the United States Air Services 21 ft. 68th-69th (1924-25)
Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources 9 ft. 73rd-79th (1934-46)
Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda
and Certain Other Propaganda Activities
21 ft. 73rd-74th (1934-35)
Select Committee to Investigate Real Estate Bondholders' Reorganizations 247 ft. 73rd-75th (1934-38)
Select Committee on Government Organization 6 ft. 75th-76th (1937-41)
Special Committee to Investigate the National Labor Relations Board 91 ft. 76th (1939-40)
Select Committee to Investigate Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens;
Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration
65 ft. 76th-78th (1940-43)
Select Committee to Investigate Air Accidents 24 ft. 77th-78th (1941-43)
Select Committee to Investigate Acts of Executive Agencies beyond the Scope of Their Authority 37 ft. 78th-79th (1943-46)
Special Committee on Postwar Economic Policy and Planning 1 ft. 78th-79th (1944-46)
Select Committee on Post-War Military Policy 10 ft. 78th-79th (1944-46)
Select Committee to Investigate the Seizure of Montgomery Ward and Company 1 ft. 78th (1944)
Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission 45 ft. 78th (1943-45)
Select Committee to Investigate the Disposition of Surplus Property 10 ft. 79th (1946)

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Select Committee to Investigate Conditions Interfering with Interstate Commerce between the States of Illinois and Missouri (1917-1918)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Interstate Commerce between   
Illinois and Missouri
2 feet 65th (1917-1918)

22.64 East St. Louis, IL, a heavily industrialized city across the Mississippi River from St. Louis, MO, was the scene of race riots stemming from labor unrest and characterized by indiscriminate attacks on blacks during the summer of 1917. According to official reports, 9 whites and at least 39 blacks were killed, hundreds were wounded, and more than 300 buildings and 44 railroad freight cars were destroyed in the riots. The Illinois National Guard was called in to assist the East St. Louis Police Department, but firsthand accounts indicated that certain members of the law enforcement groups participated in, rather than suppressed, the riots.

22.65 Agencies and citizens of East St. Louis asked the Federal Government to investigate the circumstances surrounding the riots. In response, the House established the select committee on September 11, 1917, with Ben Johnson of Kentucky as chairman (65A-F30.1). The committee collected information from a wide variety of sources and interviewed a broad range of witnesses before its report was presented to the House on July 6, 1918 (H. Doc 1231, 65th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 7444).

22.66 Records of the committee include unpublished hearings, exhibits, photographs, transcripts of the June 1917 hearings held by the Labor Committee of the Illinois State Council of Defense to investigate the cause of the migration of Southern blacks to East St. Louis, labor bulletins, a grand jury report, and a petition from the citizens of East St. Louis demanding improvements in law enforcement. There is a draft of the committee report, as well as financial and other administrative records of the committee.10

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Special Committee on Water Power (1918-1921)

Select Committee on:    Volume Congress (dates)
Water Power 4 inches    65th-66th (1918-1921)

22.67 The Special Committee on Water Power was established on January 11, 1918, and assigned jurisdiction over all bills and resolutions involving development or utilization of water power within the United States. For several years previously, Congress had failed in its attempts to pass legislation authorizing the building of dams on navigable streams. In consequence, the Secretaries of War, Interior, and Agriculture, all of whom had authority over some aspect of the issue, cooperated in drafting a water power bill. In the House, the jurisdiction was split: the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce had jurisdiction over bills regarding construction of bridges and dams over navigable waters within the States, the Committee on Public Lands had jurisdiction over dams on public lands, and the Agriculture Committee had jurisdiction over those on forest reserves. To prevent the Secretaries' bill from being fragmented among committees, the special committee was created, drawing its members from the three standing committees. The committee was renewed in the 66th Congress (1919-21).

22.68 Records of the committee (65A-F31, 66A-D33, 66A-H23.2) include petitions and memorials from clubs and individuals protesting a water power bill that was passed in 1920 and supporting H.R. 14469 (66th Cong.) to exclude the national parks and monuments from the operation of the act. Four bill files relating to committee activities consist of bills, reports, memorandums, letters from Federal agencies, and a resolution of the Montana Legislative Assembly. Minutes of the committee appear in two bound volumes; there is also a docket book.

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Select Committee to Investigate Contracts and Expenditures Made by the War Department During the War

Select Committee to: Volume Congress (dates)
Investigate Expenditures in the War Department    110 feet    66th (1919-1921)

22.69 On June 4, 1919, Frank W. Mondell of Wyoming, speaking before the House, noted that "in ordinary times" the War Department spent approximately $130 million each year, but that during the war it had spent $16 billion. He argued that, in fairness to the American public, there should be a select committee to review these enormous expenditures. Though a standing committee with jurisdiction in this matter already existed (see Chapter 11), Mondell noted that it was not equipped or inclined to undertake the task. The resolution to create the select committee was resisted by Democrats who perceived it as a political attack on the Wilson Administration. Nevertheless, the resolution passed, establishing the select committee (66A-F41.1). The select committee created five subcommittees to deal with the areas of aviation, camps, foreign expenditures, quartermaster corps, and ordnance.

22.70 Almost all of the extensive records of the committee are documents transmitted by the Secretary of War to Congress as a report of claims adjusted under the act of March 2, 1919, to provide relief in cases of contracts connected with the prosecution of the war (Public Law 65-322). The Secretary's cover letter and summary report were transmitted to Congress with six file cabinets full of documents and one bound volume. The records consist of case files regarding the claims that are filed according to an alphanumeric scheme. The case files include copies of contracts and related documents, affidavits, statements of claims, and memorandums prepared for the claims board. The claims cover a wide range of contracts, relating to the air service, chemical warfare, construction, real estate, the signal corps, transportation, and other subjects.

22.71 Other records include correspondence, subcommittee minutes, subcommittee staff reports, copies of printed hearings, and administrative records. There are statements of accounts from the War Department for the years 1915-16, lists of salaries of claims board personnel, photographs, blueprints, maps, memorandums, and a card index to committee correspondents.

22.72 Some records concern the Council of National Defense established in August 1916 by Public Law 64-242 for the coordination of industries and resources for the national security and welfare. The Council was comprised of the Secretaries of War, Navy, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, and Labor. The select committee records include minutes of the Council and of its advisory commission.

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Select Committee on United States Shipping Board Operations (1919-1921)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
United States Shipping Board Operations    13 feet 66th-67th (1919-1921)

22.73 On September 7, 1916, the United States Shipping Board was established for the promotion of the American Merchant Marine and the regulation of foreign and domestic shipping. During the period of United States involvement in World War I, the Shipping Board, working through the Emergency Fleet Corporation, exercised emergency powers to fulfill wartime shipping requirements. In accomplishing its enormous task, the Shipping Board expended approximately one-tenth of every dollar spent on the war and encountered considerable criticism regarding costs, the awarding of contracts, commandeering of ships, and the postwar disposition of vessels. After the war, the suspicion was widespread that inefficiency and extravagance had prevailed in the conduct of wartime activities generally and the Shipping Board in particular.

22.74 On July 24, 1919, amid a highly-charged political atmosphere and in the face of angry opposition, the House established the Select Committee on United States Shipping Board Operations (66A-F40.1). Joseph Walsh of Massachusetts served as chairman. The committee began its work by holding hearings aboard a train en route from Spokane to Seattle. It later held hearings at Bellingham, WA; Seattle; Portland; San Francisco; New York City; and Washington, DC, and visited numerous plants and shipyards. The committee presented its report on March 2, 1921 (H. Rept. 1399, 66th Cong., 3d sess., Serial 7777).

22.75 The records include annotated copies of a report on investigations into many aspects of the Shipping Board's operations prepared for the committee by its clerk and statistician and his assistant, published and unpublished materials submitted to the committee, correspondence, investigative reports and papers, and personnel and other administrative records. There are exhibits relating to the reconditioning of the U.S.S. Leviathan for conversion from a troopship to a commercial passenger vessel, including blueprints, correspondence, and memorandums. Printed and typewritten transcripts of hearings, and typewritten minutes of the committee are also among the records.

22.76 A finding aid is available for the records of this committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Preparation, Distribution, Sale, Payment, Retirement, Surrender, Cancellation, and Destruction of Government Bonds and Other Securities (1924-1925)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
. . . Government Bonds and Securities    2 feet 68th (1924-1925)

22.77 On January 15, 1924, Charles B. Brewer, Special Assistant to the Attorney General, submitted a report to the Attorney General charging that there had been fraudulent duplications or overissues of certain Government bonds, that Treasury Department officials had suppressed information concerning the matter, and that there was fraud or carelessness in the handling of securities after retirement. On March 24, 1924, the House established the select committee to investigate the handling of government bonds and other securities. Brewer served as its counsel. In a letter to the President of April 26, 1924, Secretary of the Treasury A.W. Mellon denied the charges, but acknowledged some mechanical clerical errors in preparing and recording wartime securities, as well as some petty thefts of retired securities. Mellon protested that Brewer was raising old allegations that had previously been laid to rest and strongly denied any cause for alarm.

22.78 Among the records are copies of the committee report and the confidential committee print of proceedings and hearings, as well as newspaper clippings, magazine articles, minutes, and bills and resolutions relating to the investigation. There are transcripts of testimony, correspondence, and other papers from the Secretary of the Treasury pertaining to a case involving a theft of government bonds from the Studebaker Corporation of South Bend, IN.

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Select Committee of Inquiry into Operation of the United States Air Services (1924-1925)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Operation of the U.S. Air Services    21 feet 68th-69th (1924-1925)

22.79 The Select Committee of Inquiry into Operation of the United States Air Services (68A-F41) was established on March 24, 1924, in response to allegations that conditions in the Government air services tended to place the air defense of the United States in peril. It was charged that Army and Navy contracting officers and members of the aircraft industry were guilty of corruption, that aircraft builders conspired among themselves and made excessive profits, and that certain aircraft builders were stealing the patents of inventors.

22.80 The select committee was authorized to investigate the operations of the United States Army Air Service, United States Naval Bureau of Aeronautics, and the United States Mail Air Service. In addition to the various charges, other topics considered by the committee included the state of the aircraft industry, the development of commercial flights, and the administration of the air services, particularly in relation to national defense. The committee held intermittent public hearings from October 4, 1924, to March 2, 1925, in Washington, DC; New York City; Pasadena; and San Diego at which more than 150 witnesses testified. In addition, the committee visited a number of air fields and other locations in order to gain better understanding of the issues. J. Frederick Richardson, chief consulting investigator of the committee, visited Europe on a factfinding mission for his analytical comparison of the air services of England, France, Italy, and the United States. The committee reported its finding and recommendations on December 14, 1925.

22.81 Records of the committee include correspondence, memorandums, committee minutes, subpoenas, informational materials maintained for reference purposes, and records regarding committee finances and personnel. The committee sent three successive questionnaires to the Navy, War, and Post Office Departments regarding such topics as procurement practices, personnel, facilities, operations, and air accidents. Replies, along with accompanying documents, are among the records. Exhibits, few of which were published with the hearings transcripts, are included, as well as an alphabetical subject index to most of the committee records and to related information in various publications by groups other than the committee.

22.82 There is a finding aid to the records of this committee.

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Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources (1934-1946)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Conservation of Wildlife Resources    9 feet 73rd-79th (1934-1946)

22.83 On January 29, 1934, the House created the Select Committee on Conservation of Wildlife Resources, consisting of 15 members, including the chairmen of the Committee on Agriculture and the Committee on Merchant Marine, Radio, and Fisheries, as well as the two House Members on the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission. A. Willis Robertson of Virginia served as committee chairman throughout the committee's 13-year existence. The committee monitored, studied, and investigated the wildlife conservation activities of a number of Federal agencies, including the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and other agencies tangentially involved in wildlife conservation.

22.84 Among the records are printed copies of House and Senate bills, accompanied by related correspondence with Members of Congress, Federal and State agencies, private groups, and individual citizens. These touch upon such topics as wildlife and migratory bird refuges, construction of certain public works, conservation of fishery resources, and the acquisition of additional land for national parks. Also included is correspondence on more general subjects, memorandums, published materials relating to conservation, and drafts and copies of committee reports. Records relating to the committee hearings include correspondence with Federal and State agencies in preparation for the hearings, correspondence with witnesses after the hearings, lists of witnesses and the topics to be discussed during the hearings, and the published transcripts of committee hearings. There are committee minutes, copies of speeches by Robertson, clippings from the Congressional Record, and correspondence from citizens requesting copies of the published hearings and reports.

22.85 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized to Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities (1934-1935)

Special Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
UnAmerican Activities to investigate Nazi Propaganda    21 feet 73rd-74th (1934-1935)

22.86 The Special Committee on Un-American Activities Authorized To Investigate Nazi Propaganda and Certain Other Propaganda Activities (73A-F30.1), forerunner of the Committee on Un-American Activities (also known as HUAC), was created pursuant to House Resolution 198, 73d Cong., adopted on March 20, 1934. The committee was established in reaction to the overthrow of a number of established foreign Governments in favor of communist or fascist systems and reflected concern that foreign propaganda might subvert the U.S. Constitution. Accordingly, the committee was established to ascertain information on how foreign subversive propaganda entered the U.S. and the organizations that were spreading it, as well as to suggest legislation to remedy the situation.

22.87 The committee was frequently referred to as the McCormack-Dickstein Committee in reference to its chairman and vice chairman, John W. McCormack of Massachusetts and Samuel Dickstein of New York. It conducted public and executive hearings intermittently between April 26 and December 29, 1934, in Washington, DC; New York; Chicago; Los Angeles; Newark; and Asheville, NC, examining hundreds of witnesses and accumulating more than 4,300 pages of testimony. The committee accumulated evidence regarding individuals and organizations who worked to establish in the United States policies followed by the Nazis in Germany, the Fascists in Italy, and the Communists in Russia. The committee gave particular attention to the organization and activities of Friends of New Germany and Silver Shirts of America. The committee submitted its report on February 15, 1935 (H. Rept. 153, 74th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 9890).

22.88 Records of the committee include correspondence, investigative reports, press reports, drafts of the committee report, printed resolutions pertaining to the committee or related topics, and vouchers and other administrative documents. There are also transcripts of both public and executive hearings, exhibits, subpoenas, memorandums, reference materials, and copies of domestic and foreign publications circulated in the United States. Records obtained by the committee from the files of William Dudley Pelley, leader of the Silver Shirts of America, are also included; they consist of correspondence concerning personal matters and his activities as a writer, as well as correspondence and other records concerning the organization and administration of the Silver Shirts. Records are described at the series level in the National Archives Catalog.

22.89 There is a finding aid to the records of this committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Real Estate Bondholders' Reorganizations (1934-1938)

Select Committee to Investigate: Volume Congress (dates)
Real Estate Bondholders' Reorganizations    247 feet    73rd-75th (1934-1938)

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.

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Select Committee on Government Organization (1937-1941)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Government Organization    6 feet 75th-76th (1937-1941)

22.96 On January 12, 1937, President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a message to Congress in which he outlined the need for a reorganization of the administrative management of the executive branch and transmitted the report of the Committee on Administrative Management, which he had appointed to examine the problem and propose changes. Roosevelt noted that implementation of the committee's five-point program would require congressional action. Accordingly, on January 14, 1937, the House established the Select Committee on Government Organization (76A-F44.1) to consider and report on the President's message and on all legislative proposals regarding governmental reorganization and related subjects. The committee continued until January 3, 1941.

22.97 Records include hearings transcripts, briefs, correspondence, memorandums, petitions, and reference materials. There are also copies of legislative proposals regarding governmental reorganization and a comparative analysis of them, as well as materials regarding the proposals of the President's Committee on Administrative Management. The committee report, printed hearings, and studies of the Joint Committee on Government Organization, which was composed of both the House select committee and its counterpart in the Senate, are among the records, as are staff reports, correspondence, and printed materials regarding the predecessor Select Committee on Reorganization (1936).

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Special Committee to Investigate the National Labor Relations Board (1939-1940)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate the National Labor Relations Board    91 feet 76th (1939-1940)

22.98 The National Labor Relations Act, enacted on July 5, 1935, established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) with authority to conduct plant elections and issue restraining orders against unfair practices. In 1939, criticisms of the Board were voiced at congressional hearings held before the House Committee on Labor and the Senate Committee on Education and Labor. Industrialists, who from the beginning had resisted the NLRB, were pressing for repeal; in addition, certain union leaders took issue with some of the actions of the Board and accused it of maladministration. These criticisms led to the establishment of the Special Committee to Investigate the National Labor Relations Board on July 20, 1939 (76A-F.45.1).

22.99 The committee mailed 60,000 questionnaires to persons mentioned in the case dockets of the NLRB and received 10,000 responses. Another questionnaire mailed to every police chief in the country elicited 600 replies. Letters sent to every law professor whose expertise related to the subject solicited their opinions on the Board's administration and invited comment on the National Labor Relations Act. The committee conducted hundreds of interviews and received thousands of letters. It conducted searches of NLRB files in Washington and nine regional offices, obtaining photostatic copies of case notes, minutes, instructions, and decisions. Extensive committee hearings resulted in the publication of 1,600 printed pages of transcripts and exhibits.

22.100 Records of the committee are voluminous and consist largely of responses to the committee questionnaires, materials obtained from the offices of the NLRB, correspondence, and exhibits entered into the record of the committee hearings. There are also records relating to committee finances and personnel, as well as card indexes relating to the work of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens (1940-1941)
Select Committee to Investigate National Defense Migration (1941-1943)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
National Defense Migration   
(and Destitute Migration)
65 feet 76th-78th (1940-1943)

22.101 One of many profound effects of the economic troubles of the 1930's was the interstate migration of large numbers of people in search of employment. This mass movement in itself caused social and economic changes. On April 22, 1940, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate Interstate Migration of Destitute Citizens to study the migration, the social and economic needs of the poor, and the existing government programs to meet those needs in order to gain better understanding of the situation and its implications and to aid Congress in enacting remedial legislation. John H. Tolan of California was appointed chairman. Between July 1940 and March 1941, the committee held public hearings in various regions of the country at which 371 witnesses testified; it presented its final report on April 3, 1941.

22.102 While conducting the study, the committee became aware of another large-scale migration that was occurring. Increasingly, workers were moving to manufacturing centers in search of employment in defense industries. Accordingly, on March 31, 1941, the House passed a resolution continuing the select committee under the title of Select Committee Investigating National Defense Migration to study the ramifications of the defense-oriented migration. The committee conducted public hearings around the country from June 1941 to September 1942, including hearings on the West Coast in February and March 1942 to consider the problems inherent in the proposed relocation of enemy aliens and Japanese-Americans. The committee issued eight reports relating to national defense migration and the evacuation effort, culminating with the final report on January 8, 1943 (H. Rept. 3, 78th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 10760).

22.103 Records of the two committees were maintained as one unit, reflecting the continuity in membership and general subject matter rather than the change in name and focus. Included is correspondence with Federal agencies, Members of Congress, State Governors and other governmental officials, representatives of labor and welfare organizations, businessmen, farmers, and the general public. Memorandums, staff reports containing personal histories of workers, interview summaries, transcripts of hearings, and witness statements are also among the records, as well as drafts of committee reports and monographs prepared to supplement a committee report. There are newspaper clippings and other informational materials, maps and charts, press releases, and records regarding committee personnel.

22.104 Among the topics covered by the records are migration, settlement of indigent farm families in Brazil, agricultural workers, labor supply problems in Florida, and migration problems of specific locations. Subjects relating to World War II include evacuation of enemy aliens and others from the Pacific Coast, utilization of the Nation's industrial capacity in the defense effort, and shortages of community facilities in defense areas.

22.105 There is a finding aid to the records of this committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Air Accidents (1941-1943)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Air Accidents    24 feet 77th-78th (1941-1943)

22.106 Beginning in the fall of 1940, a series of fatal accidents involving commercial aircraft appalled the public and led to demands for a thorough investigation. Accordingly, on March 12, 1941, the House created the Select Committee to Investigate Air Accidents to ascertain the facts about all aspects of the air accidents that occurred in 1940 and 1941. (This was later extended to encompass accidents in 1942.) The committee was given authority to investigate airplane construction, ground facilities, airline management and operations, laws and regulations, enforcement activities, airline liability, and other information necessary to enable the committee to recommend improvements. Jack Nichols of Oklahoma was appointed chairman.

22.107 The committee held executive hearings at the scenes of various accidents. Its findings and recommendations for actions to be taken by the airlines, Federal agencies, and Congress were presented to the House of Representatives in a series of reports. In addition, during the war years, the committee became an advocate for development of the civilian commercial aviation industry as a defense measure. The committee ended on May 12, 1942, with the submission of its last report.

22.108 Records of the committee include accident reports, photographs of plane crashes, and documents containing flight and maintenance data, as well as correspondence with Federal agencies, commercial airlines, and others. There are memorandums, exhibits, reference materials, stenographic notes, proofs of hearings testimony, and vouchers and other administrative records.

22.109 Subjects covered by the records include specific air accidents, manufacture of cargo and passenger planes, jurisdiction over the air space, liability for accidents, development and safety of commercial planes, and airline operations. Some records relate to a committee trip to Latin America in the fall of 1941.

22.110 There is a finding aid to the records of this committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Acts of Executive Agencies Beyond the Scope of Their Authority (1943-1946)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Acts of Executive Agencies beyond   
the Scope of their Authority
37 feet 78th-79th (1943-1946)

22.111 Both the Depression and World War II witnessed the creation of numerous additional executive agencies; some, such as those in charge of the rationing programs, had considerable power. On February 11, 1943, the House created the Select Committee to Investigate Acts of Executive Agencies Beyond the Scope of Their Authority in response to the general perception that Congress had relinquished its authority. The committee was to serve as a board of review over administrative procedures by conducting investigations of Federal department or agency actions and regulations if the committee received complaints that a particular Federal agency was exceeding its authority, invading constitutional rights, or imposing penalties without providing citizens a fair tribunal to present their defense. Howard W. Smith of Virginia served as chairman.

22.112 Within one month after the creation of the committee, it had received over 4,000 complaints from businesses and private citizens against Federal agencies, most notably the Office of Price Administration, the War Production Board, and the National War Labor Board. The committee held hearings intermittently from April 1943 to June 1946, receiving testimony from complainants and Federal officials. A series of reports to the House conveyed the committee findings and its recommendations for legislation or administrative measures to remedy problems.

22.113 Records of the committee consist mainly of correspondence and accompanying documents regarding complaints, as well as evidence received during committee hearings. Most of the correspondence is with complainants, but Federal agencies, Members of Congress, and members of the general public are also represented. There are transcripts of hearings, copies of committee reports, staff memorandums and reports, legal documents, and some administrative records of the committee.

22.114 The records are arranged by the Department or agency against whom a complaint was made. Included are the President's Fair Employment Practice Committee, National War Labor Board, Office of Price Administration, Federal Home Loan Bank Administration, War Production Board, and many other agencies.

22.115 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Special Committee on Postwar Economic Policy and Planning (1944-1946)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Post War Economic Policy & Planning    1 foot 78th-79th (1944-1946)

22.116 As World War II began drawing to a close, concern grew that the United States would experience severe unemployment during the reconversion period. On January 26, 1944, the House created the Special Committee on Postwar Economic Policy and Planning to undertake a comprehensive study to assist Congress in formulating a postwar economic policy that would ease the transition to a peacetime economy. Working through seven subcommittees, the committee held extensive hearings and conducted studies on various phases of the economy. It issued 10 reports on specific subjects in addition to the final report of December 12, 1946 (H. Rept. 2729, 79th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11026).

22.117 Records include reports, printed hearings, exhibits, reports on certain Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) conferences with private groups, and a number of prospectuses submitted by corporations to the SEC.

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Select Committee on Postwar Military Policy (1944-1946)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Post War Military Policy    10 feet 78th-79th (1944-1946)

22.118 As World War II was coming to an end, the House, on March 28, 1944, established the Select Committee on Post-War Military Policy composed of seven members each from the committees on military and naval affairs and nine additional members. The select committee was directed to study postwar military requirements and report the findings periodically. Clifton A. Woodrum of Virginia served as chairman.

22.119 The committee concentrated on three problems: whether a universal military training program should be established, whether a single department should be created to encompass all the armed services, and how the armed services might benefit from scientific research and development. Extensive public hearings were held from April 1944 to June 1945, with witnesses including civilian and military officials of the Federal Government, representatives of veterans organizations, leaders of labor unions, and other citizens.

22.120 The records include the chairman's correspondence, transcripts of hearings, statements of witnesses, treatises on topics relating to the committee's work, newspapers and magazine clippings, and administrative records of the committee. Also included are transcripts of testimony and statements of witnesses presented before the special committee commissioned by the Joint Chiefs of Staff to obtain the views of ranking military officers regarding the optimum organization of the national defense agencies.

22.121 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Seizure of Montgomery Ward and Company (1944)

Select Committee to Investigate: Volume    Congress (dates)
Seizure of Montgomery Ward & Co.    1 foot 78th Congress (1944)

22.122 On April 26, 1944, the United States Government seized the Chicago properties of Montgomery Ward and Company under an Executive order issued because the corporation refused to abide by a National War Labor Board order extending a union contract with the firm. Montgomery Ward challenged the Government's authority to take this action; Sewell Avery, chief executive officer, refused to cooperate or to leave his offices and was subsequently carried from the building by two soldiers. On May 5, 1944, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate the Seizure of Montgomery Ward and Company. The committee held hearings in May and June and submitted its report on September 19, 1944.

22.123 Records of the committee include correspondence, minutes, briefing materials, and committee vouchers, as well as material received from the National War Labor Board including press releases, reports, and rules of organization and procedure. Printed materials among the records include newspaper clippings, magazine articles, and copies of the committee's report and printed hearings.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission (1943-1945)

Select Committee to Investigate: Volume    Congress (dates)
the Federal Communications Commission    45 feet 78th (1943-1945)

22.124 The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) was established on June 19, 1934, to regulate radio broadcasting and interstate and foreign communications by radio and wire. On January 19, 1943, the House passed a resolution introduced by E. E. Cox of Georgia that established the Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission and endowed it with broad authority to study and investigate the organization, personnel, and activities of the FCC to determine if it was acting lawfully and in the public interest. In his comments on the resolution, Cox said that he had introduced it in response to numerous complaints from small broadcasters, newspapers having an interest in broadcasting, and employees of various Government departments, including the Army and Navy. Cox stated that "all these people insisted that Mr. [James L.] Fly, the Chairman of the Commission, was undertaking to set up a despotic dictatorship over all media of communication." Cox charged that he had suffered FCC harassment since introduction of the resolution.11

22.125 Records include correspondence with radio stations, the FCC, and others. There are memorandums, statements of witnesses, transcripts of hearings, exhibits, newspaper clippings, and printed reference materials. Documents obtained by the committee from the FCC are among the records, including licensing case files, press releases, public notices, speeches of FCC officials, and organizational charts. Vouchers and other financial records of the committee are also included.

22.126 Topics covered by the records include radio station licensing, FCC personnel, and the Radio Intelligence Division of the Foreign Broadcast Intelligence Service.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Disposition of Surplus Property (1946)

Select Committee to Investigate: Volume    Congress (dates)
the Disposition of Surplus Property    10 feet 79th (1946)

22.127 Among the many important tasks facing the Government at the end of World War II was that of divesting itself of much unneeded equipment, facilities, and real estate acquired during the war effort. Faced with this task, it is perhaps unsurprising that charges of favoritism in the disposal of property surfaced in the press by May 1946. In response to these charges, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate the Disposition of Surplus Property on May 9, 1946. The committee was authorized to study and investigate the program to dispose of surplus real estate, munitions, vehicles, and other defense-related holdings of the Government, taking into consideration the contracts, methods of selection, effects on employment, advisability of continued Government operation of some of the property, and related matters. Roger C. Slaughter of Missouri was appointed chairman.

22.128 The select committee concentrated its efforts upon an investigation of the administrative and operational practices of the War Assets Administration, the Federal agency with primary responsibility for the property disposition program. The committee held intermittent public hearings from July to December 1946 in Washington, D.C.; Atlanta; Kansas City; Brooklyn, NY; St. Louis; and Los Angeles, compiling 6,500 pages of testimony and 445 exhibits from approximately 300 witnesses. The hearings covered a variety of topics, including site sales, disposal of specific types of material, allocation of C-54 airplanes to commercial airlines, and diversion of steel rails by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration from China to Yugoslavia. The committee also received many letters of complaint from citizens and businesses that were referred to the War Assets Administration for correction or explanation. The committee was dissolved when it filed its third and final report on December 31, 1946.

22.129 Records of the select committee include transcripts, exhibits, correspondence, informational materials, memorandums, work papers, and other documents pertaining to committee hearings. There are also summaries of the testimony of individual witnesses and two sets of the published hearings.

22.130 Although the select committee did not survive the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, its work was taken over by the standing Committee on Expenditures in the Executive Departments, which created the Surplus Property Subcommittee (see Chapter 11). A finding aid that describes the records of both the select committee and the subcommittee is available.

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Records of House Select Committees, 80th-90th Congresses (1947-1968)

22.131 The practice of establishing select committees to investigate specific issues of particular concern met with strong opposition during consideration of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946 (S. 2177, 79th Cong.). The original version of the bill that reached the House of Representatives after passage by the Senate stated, in section 126: "No bill or resolution, and no amendment to any bill or resolution, to establish or to continue a special or select committee, including a joint committee, shall be received or considered in either the Senate or the House of Representatives." Critics of select committees argued that if the Legislative Reorganization Act clarified jurisdictional boundaries among the various standing committees, there would be little likelihood that an issue of critical concern would not fit clearly within the jurisdiction of a standing committee. If clear and comprehensive jurisdictional assignments covered every conceivable subject of legislative concern, continual oversight of Federal agencies by the standing committees could be provided rather than sporadic monitoring by the select committees. The result would be less duplication of effort and a generally more efficient Congress.

22.132 The House of Representatives was not ready to relinquish the practice of establishing select committees; that Chamber sent the Legislative Reorganization Act back to the Senate without the section prohibiting select and special committees. When the act was eventually signed as Public Law 79-601, the House version had prevailed on this issue.

22.133 Nevertheless, as the 80th Congress began, the attitude toward select or special committees was not entirely positive. The standing committees jealously guarded their carefully delineated jurisdictional prerogatives, and a number of proposals to establish new select committees encountered formidable resistance. Ironically, however, some of the select committees that were established owed their existence to the jurisdictional fragmentation among standing committees. In such cases, a subject that cut across jurisdictional lines, such as foreign aid, might be assigned to a select committee drawing members from the various standing committees with jurisdictional claims to the subject.

22.134 In this section, as in the previous one, the records of each select or special committee are described separately and arranged in order of the date of establishment of the committee, with one exception: all records of the various committees on campaign expenditures, though filed as separate units and dating from 1928 to 1964, are described collectively at the end of the section.

Select Committee Volume     Congresses (Years)
Select Committee on Newsprint and Paper Supply 5 in. 80th (1947-1948)
Special Committee on Foreign Aid 50 ft. 80th (1947-1948)
Select Committee to Investigate Commodity Transactions 12 ft. 80th (1947-1948)
Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission 8 ft. 80th (1948)
Select Committee on Lobbying Activities 22 ft. 81st (1949-1950)
Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food and Cosmetics 25 ft. 81st-82nd (1950-1952)
Select Committee to Investigate Educational, Training, and Loan Guaranty Programs
under the G.I. Bill
25 ft. 81st-82nd (1950-1952)
Special Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and
Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre
10 ft. 82nd (1951-1952)
Select Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations     60 ft. 82nd-83rd (1952-1954)
Select Committee on Communist Aggression 22 ft. 83rd (1953-1954)
Select Committee on Survivor Benefits 1 ft. 83rd-84th (1954-1955)
Select Committee on Export Control 5 ft. 87th (1961-1962)
Select Committee on Government Research 46 ft. 88th (1963-1965)
Select Committee on Standards and Conduct 1 in. 89th (1966)
Select Committee Pursuant to House Resolution 1, 90th Congress, 1st session 8 ft. 90th (1967)
Special Committees to Investigate Campaign Expenditures 81 ft. 70th (1928), 79th-88th (1944-1964)
Select Committee on Offensive and Undesirable Books, Magazines, and Comic Books 4 in. 82nd (1952)

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Records of the Select Committee on Newsprint and Paper Supply (1947-1948)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Newsprint and Paper Supply    5 in. 80th (1947-1948)

22.135 The Select Committee on Newsprint and Paper Supply (80A-F20.1) was established on February 26, 1947, to continue an investigation begun by a subcommittee of the Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce in response to complaints from newspaper publishers and other consumers of paper products about a scarcity of newsprint and other paper. Creation of the select committee was controversial. Supporters argued, among other points, that a select committee was required because the subject of the investigation overlapped the jurisdiction of five standing committees. Opponents of the select committee favored continuation of the investigation in the Commerce Committee and argued that creation of a select committee contravened the spirit of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.

22.136 The select committee was directed to focus its investigation on possibilities of increased paper production in the United States, prospects of securing increased supplies from other sources, and roles that governmental agencies or officers might play in alleviating the shortage. The committee and its members worked with various private groups and governmental agencies in the study and survey of available pulpwood supplies, conducted a series of public hearings, held a series of conferences in Toronto, Canada, to discuss the newsprint and paper supply situation, made visits to paper mills and other relevant sites, and assisted various publishers' associations and individual publishers in obtaining needed supplies of newsprint. The committee submitted its final report on December 31, 1948.

22.137 Records of the committee include copies of committee reports, minutes of meetings, and transcripts of testimony received in hearings.

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Select Committee on Foreign Aid (1947-1948)

Select Committee on:    Volume    Congress (dates)
Foreign Aid 50 feet 80th (1947-1948)

22.138 Speaking at the commencement ceremonies of Harvard University in June 1947, Secretary of State George C. Marshall advised the war-torn countries of Europe to formulate a joint plan for reconstruction and pledged that the United States would cooperate to ensure its success. Policy makers in the United States had arrived at the conclusion that European recovery was in the Nation's self-interest. An intense, large-scale foreign aid program would be required.

22.139 In the House of Representatives, at least six standing committees claimed some jurisdiction over foreign aid issues and programs. Under the circumstances, a select committee whose membership represented each of these standing committees seemed the most likely means of producing a comprehensive analysis of the components of an effective foreign aid program.

22.140 On July 15, 1947, Christian A. Herter of Massachusetts introduced H. Res. 296, 80th Cong., providing for the appointment of a Select Committee on Foreign Aid to undertake a broad, in depth study that would give the U.S. Government the fundamental understanding necessary to launch an adequate and effective program of foreign aid. The committee was authorized to determine the present and future relief and rehabilitation requirements of foreign nations, the resources and facilities available to meet those needs, and related matters. Charles A. Eaton of New Jersey was appointed chairman of the 19-member committee. Herter served as vice chairman.

22.141 The committee began its task with a factfinding trip to Europe, where it separated into five subcommittees to study the various countries. They toured factories, shops, and homes, interviewing political, business, labor, and farm leaders. The committee also profited from reports and information supplied by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress, and executive agencies. By the time it concluded its work in early May 1948, the committee had produced 24 preliminary reports and supplements in addition to its final report (H Rept. 1845, 80th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11214).

22.142 Records include press releases, minutes of staff meetings, and correspondence and memorandums of committee members and staff, as well as memorandums and reports from Federal agencies, private groups, and international organizations and copies of the President's message on the Marshall plan. There are committee prints of preliminary staff studies on subjects of interest to the committee and some public preliminary reports of the committee. Among the informational materials are reports and transcripts of testimony of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, economic data and reports such as detailed statistical reports on the foreign trade of the United States from 1938 to 1947, and papers from the Brookings Institute and other private groups. There are also published bills and resolutions regarding foreign aid, with accompanying committee reports, and copies of some public laws of the 80th Congress.

22.143 Records document four of the subcommittees established at the time of the committee's European trip: those visiting France and the Low Countries; Germany; Italy, Greece, and Trieste; and the United Kingdom. The subcommittee records include reports from American diplomats and others, memorandums summarizing interviews with foreign officials, foreign publications, newspaper clippings, subcommittee minutes and memorandums of conferences, correspondence, and communications and reports from foreign governments about conditions in postwar Europe.

22.144 A variety of records relate to the Committee on European Economic Cooperation, which represented 16 European Nations and met in Paris to formulate a joint economic recovery program in accord with Marshall's suggestion. Included are copies of reports from various nations, dealing with economic conditions in their countries, and copies of State Department memorandums of conversations.

22.145 Personnel records, vouchers, and index cards comprising the mailing list of the select committee or referring to publications relevant to the inquiry are also included.

22.146 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Commodity Transactions (1947-1948)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Commodity Transactions    12 feet 80th (1947-1948)

22.147 On December 18, 1947, the House responded to charges that Government employees had used inside information to profit from speculation in commodity futures by creating the Select Committee To Investigate Commodity Transactions. The committee was authorized to investigate the purchase and sale of commodities, the activities of Federal departments or agencies affecting such purchase and sale, and the involvement of any Government personnel with the purchase or sale of commodities. August H. Andresen of Minnesota was appointed chairman.

22.148 Public hearings took place between March 1 and June 16, 1948. The committee also used circular letters to brokerage firms to elicit complete information regarding certain commodity transactions and obtained additional information from certain Federal agencies. The committee presented four reports to the House on its findings and recommendations.

22.149 Most records are arranged by investigative subject, including commodity trading activities of Government employees, the effect of Government commodity purchases on the cost of food, the commodity futures trading activities of aliens, speculation in fats and oils futures, and the severe drop in commodity prices on February 4, 1948. Among the records are correspondence with brokerage firms, copies of trading accounts received under subpoena from brokerage firms, abstracts of data from the replies to committee inquiries, and documents (such as lists of employees or traders and statistical tables and charts) supplied to the committee by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of War. There are also transcripts of testimony, and copies of subpoenas issued by the committee.

22.150 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Federal Communications Commission (1948)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate the Federal
Communications Commission   
8 feet 80th (1948)

22.151 The Select Committee To Investigate the Federal Communications Commission was created on June 19, 1948, to determine if the FCC was acting in accord with the law and public interest, particularly (but not exclusively) in its licensing and license renewal activities; whether the FCC was engaged in regulating radio-program content; whether the FCC licensed any station owned or controlled by persons associated with subversive or Communist front organizations; and whether there existed a concerted movement to limit the issuance of radio station licenses to a select few instead of distributing them equitably according to the Communications Act of 1934, as amended. Forest A. Harness of Indiana was appointed chairman.

22.152 The committee focused its attention on the quasi-judicial nature of FCC functions and studied several cases involving possible conflict between the ideals of free speech and the public interest. Its findings and reports were presented in its final report on December 31, 1948.

22.153 Records include minutes, investigative reports, and memorandums, as well as correspondence with the FCC, radio stations, networks, and others. Among the records are documents obtained from the files of the FCC, such as the photostatic copies of personnel records of the Legal Division, and reports received from the Committee on Un-American Activities regarding the backgrounds of certain FCC employees. There are also copies of committee reports and printed hearings, press releases, reference materials, and a ledger book and other materials regarding committee expenses. There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee on Lobbying Activities (1949-1950)

Select Committee on:    Volume    Congress (dates)
Lobbying Activities 22 feet 81st (1949-1950)

22.154 During World War II and the immediate postwar years, there was a marked increase in efforts of outside individuals and groups to influence Congress with regard to legislation. One result of this activity was Title III of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. This section was entitled the Regulation of Lobbying Act; it required lobbyists to register with the Clerk of the House of Representatives and the Secretary of the Senate, to keep detailed financial records, and to file certain statements publicly disclosing information regarding the identity of contributors and amounts of the contributions. The continuing growth in lobbying activities and the need to monitor the effectiveness of the new law, led the House to establish the Select Committee on Lobbying Activities on August 12, 1949, to conduct a study and investigation of all lobbying activities. The committee was also directed to study efforts of Federal agencies to influence legislation. Frank Buchanan of Pennsylvania was appointed chairman.

22.155 The committee inquired generally into the role of lobbying in representative government, then proceeded to investigate the activities of particular organizations, including the United States Savings and Loan League, the American Enterprise Association, the National Economic Council, the Civil Rights Congress, and Americans for Democratic Action, in addition to its study of Federal agency activities. The committee sent questionnaires to Members of Congress; business, labor, and farm organizations; political scientists; journalists; and others. It held intermittent hearings from March to August 1950 and submitted several reports to the House. The presentation of the minority report marked the end of the committee's work (H. Rept. 3239, Pt. 2, 81st Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11385).

22.156 Records include transcripts of committee meetings held in executive session and of the committee hearings, and copies of the committee reports. All other records comprise a single, consolidated alphabetical file. Included are correspondence, memorandums, investigative reports, photostatic copies of materials from the files of persons and organizations being investigated, publications issued by such organizations, press releases, newspaper clippings, and replies to questionnaires. There are also vouchers and other administrative records of the committee.

22.157 Subjects covered by the records are the identity of lobbyists and lobbying groups, interrelationships among them, their expenditures, their sources of funds, and direct and indirect lobbying techniques.

22.158 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food and Cosmetics (1950-1952)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate the Use of Chemicals in   
Food and Cosmetics
25 feet 81st-82nd (1950-1952)

 22.159 During the 1940's, the number and variety of chemicals added to the Nation's food supply increased at an unprecedented rate, alarming certain scientists and nutritionists who questioned the long-term effects of these chemicals and challenged the adequacy of the testing process. Accordingly, on June 20, 1950, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate the Use of Chemicals in Food Products. James J. Delaney of New York was appointed chairman. Vincent A. Kleinfeld, Special Assistant to the United States Attorney General, was loaned to the committee by the Department of Justice to serve as chief counsel.

22.160 The committee was authorized to inquire into the extent and the effect of the use of chemicals, synthetics, pesticides, and insecticides in the production and preparation of food products and to determine the effects of such use on the public and upon agricultural stability. The committee also was directed to consider the use of chemicals, compounds, and synthetics in the manufacture of fertilizer and to analyze their effects on soil, vegetation, animals, the quantity and quality of food production, and public health and welfare. In October 1951, the committee was given the additional authority to investigate the use of chemicals, compounds, and synthetics in the production of cosmetics and determine the health effects of the practice. The committee's title was changed accordingly.

22.161 The select committee held 20 days of intermittent public hearings in Washington and Chicago from September to December 1950. Additional hearings were held on 39 days from April 1951 to March 1952 in six cities. Among the 217 witnesses who testified were Federal agency officials, prominent scientists and other experts, as well as representatives from the affected industries, medical and health organizations, professional associations, and consumer groups. The findings and recommendations of the committee were presented in a series of reports.

22.162 Records include correspondence, memorandums, and minutes of executive meetings of the committee. Samples of form letters sent to elicit information from scientists, manufacturers, processors, health organizations, and others are among the records, along with the replies to the form letters and accompanying documents. Records relating to the committee and subcommittee hearings include transcripts, correspondence with witnesses, and their prepared statements. There are reference materials stating the views of consumer organizations, educational and research institutions, labor and industry, and Federal agencies, as well as various lists, a statistical table, copies of bills and resolutions, and newspaper clippings concerning the committee inquiry. Copies of the committee reports, press releases, correspondence relating to personnel applications, material regarding committee finances, and committee mailing lists are also included. There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate Educational, Training, and Loan Guaranty Programs under the G.I. Bill (1950-1952)

Select Committee to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Education, Training and Loan Guaranty Programs Under the G.I. Bill    25 feet 81st-82nd (1950-1952)

22.163 As World War II drew to a close, Congress recognized the need to establish benefit programs for the Nation's returning veterans. The Vocational Rehabilitation Act of 1943 (Public Law 78-16) instituted a rehabilitation program for disabled veterans. In the following year, on June 22, 1944, the Servicemen's Readjustment Act became law (Public Law 78-346). The 1944 Act, frequently referred to as the G.I. Bill of Rights, or simply the G.I. Bill, provided, among other things, for guaranteed loans to veterans and for payment of educational and living expenses to veterans who wished to pursue educational and vocational training goals.

refer to caption

Act of June 22, 1944, also known as the Servicemen's Readjustment Act or the G.I. Bill of Rights. RG 11, General Records of the U.S. Government, National Archives.

22.164 Participation in the veterans programs was overwhelming, but both veterans and educational institutions quickly criticized management of the educational program by the Veterans Administration (VA), charging ineptitude, waste, abuse, and even corruption. In response to these allegations, in August 1950, the House established the Select Committee to Investigate the Educational, Training, and Loan Guaranty Programs Under the G.I. Bill. Olin E. Teague of Texas was appointed chairman.

22.165 The select committee's initial investigations considered the management of the education and training program, policies regarding the issuance of supplies to the students and trainees, contract procedures concerning educational institutions, and the on-the-job training program. When the committee was revived in 1951 at the beginning of the 82d Congress, its powers were increased to include an investigation of the loan guaranty program, and the committee title was expanded to reflect the change. The committee held hearings between December 1950 and June 1952 in California, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and the District of Columbia. It presented its findings to the House in two reports before concluding its work in September 1952.

22.166 Records of the committee include documents concerning the committee's organization and operation, as well as reference service reports from the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress. Among the records are reports received from the State and territorial agencies discussing their programs to approve schools for participation in the G.I. Bill programs and from insurance companies and agencies regarding their on-the-job training programs. Other records include replies to a letter sent by the committee to each VA regional office for the purpose of compiling a list of VA personnel involved in irregularities connected with the education program.

22.167 Correspondence, investigative reports, staff memorandums, and newspaper clippings are available concerning committee hearings on several subjects. These include the operations of Pennsylvania's Department of Public Instruction in approving schools to participate in the G.I. Bill programs, abuses in administration of the loan guaranty program by the San Diego regional office, the General Accounting Office survey of the education and training program, and payments to the University of Maryland under the Servicemen's Readjustment Act. Staff memorandums, correspondence, affidavits, photographs and other exhibits received by the committee, and informational materials document the committee's investigations of the Tri-State Training Institute of Wheeling, WV; housing bought by veterans in the Washington metropolitan area; private trade schools in Tennessee; and VA policies and practices for furnishing educational supplies and equipment to students.

22.168 There are case files relating to 258 unnamed educational institutions mentioned in Appendix D of a 1950 VA report to the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare. The appendix had detailed the types of problems that existed between the VA and educational institutions, outlining cases involving the 258 schools. The select committee obtained the names of the schools and undertook a study of all the charges against them.

22.169 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee to Investigate and Study the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre (1951-1952)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
the Katyn Forest Massacre    10 feet 82d (1951-1952)

22.170 In April 1943, in the Katyn Forest near Smolensk in the Soviet Union, German troops discovered several mass graves containing the remains of thousands of Polish Army officers and intellectual leaders captured by the Soviets during their invasion of Poland in September 1939. The Soviets blamed the Germans, but a medical commission organized by the Germans determined that the massacre occurred at a time when the area was under Soviet control.

22.171 On September 18, 1951, the House established the Select Committee to Conduct an Investigation and Study of the Facts, Evidence, and Circumstances of the Katyn Forest Massacre. Ray J. Madden of Indiana was appointed chairman.

22.172 The committee assembled records relating to the Katyn massacre and its aftermath from the files of the State Department, the War Department, and elsewhere. In addition, the committee heard extensive testimony from witnesses, took depositions from others not appearing at the hearings, and interviewed numerous other individuals whose appearance as witnesses was not deemed necessary.

22.173 The committee undertook to determine which Nation was guilty and whether any American officials had engaged in a coverup regarding the massacre. With regard to the first issue, the committee laid the blame for the massacre on the Soviet NKVD and recommended that the Soviets be tried before the International World Court of Justice. The question of an American coverup was less clear cut. In its final report, the committee concluded that U.S. officials failed to properly evaluate and act upon clear danger signals available as early as 1942 that the Soviets had imperialist intentions (H. Rept. 2505, 82d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11578). In addition, the committee found that American policy toward the Soviet Union might have been different if information deliberately withheld from the public had been disseminated. The committee mentioned the possibility, without elaboration, that lower level governmental officials with Communist sympathies might have attempted to cover up such reports.

22.174 Records of the select committee include correspondence with individuals, organizations, and Federal agencies. Some of the letters received are written in German or Polish, and these are accompanied by typewritten English translations. Other records include memorandums, depositions, affidavits, summaries of interviews, transcripts of hearings, exhibits, notes, and copies of the committee reports, as well as sound recordings and stenographer's notes of committee hearings in London and Frankfurt. A note among the records indicates that documents the committee obtained from the Department of State and the Department of War were returned to the agencies.

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Special Committee to Investigate Tax-Exempt Foundations and Comparable Organizations (1952-1954)

Select Committee to Investigate:    Volume    Congress (dates)
tax-Exempt Foundations and
Comparable Organizations
60 feet 82nd-83d (1952-1954)

22.175 Concern that certain educational and philanthropic tax-exempt organizations were using their resources for un-American and subversive activities led the House to establish the Select Committee to Investigate Foundations and Other Organizations on April 4, 1952, after an extended debate that included discussion of whether the investigation might be better undertaken by one of the House standing committees. E.E. Cox of Georgia was appointed chairman.

22.176 The committee sent questionnaires to approximately 1,500 organizations, conducted personal interviews, corresponded with hundreds of additional individuals, held public hearings, received prepared statements, and studied various reference materials before January 1, 1953, when it submitted its final report lamenting that insufficient time had been allotted to accomplish its task (H. Rept. 2514, 82d. Cong., 2d Sess., Serial 11578).

22.177 Despite continuing opposition, the investigation of tax exempt foundations was reinstituted on July 27, 1953, under the chairmanship of B. Carroll Reece of Tennessee. The revived committee's mandate was expanded to include an investigation to determine whether the foundations and organizations were using their resources for political purposes, propaganda, or attempts to influence legislation. The committee assembled and studied pertinent material, held 16 public hearings, and received additional statements for inclusion in the hearings transcripts before completing its work with the presentation of its final report on December 16, 1954 (H. Rept. 2681, 83d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11748).

22.178 Records of the select committee under Chairman Cox include replies and accompanying documents elicited by questionnaires sent to hundreds of foundations and other organizations. Also among the records are minutes of executive session meetings, correspondence, investigative reports and memorandums, press releases, witness statements, and informational materials relating to over one hundred foundations. Replies from the House Un-American Activities Committee to select committee inquiries concerning the loyalty of certain individuals and organizations are included. A large scrapbook of clippings from Chicago, New York, St. Louis, and Washington newspapers relates to the committee's activities. There are personnel records, including applications for employment with attachments, correspondence, and memorandums. A card index to certain records of the committee is also included.

22.179 Records of the select committee under Chairman Reece consist of replies from foundations to committee queries regarding operating expenses and foundation grants in 1953 and preceding years, along with supplemental documents. There are also replies to questionnaires sent to publishers of learned journals, institutions of higher learning, and university presses regarding financial support received from foundations and other matters. Other records include transcripts of committee meetings and hearings, minutes, correspondence, memorandums, work papers, informational materials, and newspaper clippings. Statements from foundations and individuals presented in hearings or prepared for inclusion in the record, a draft of the rules of procedures to govern the committee's investigation, press releases, and progress reports are also included. Administrative records include payroll records, applications for employment and other personnel records, and vouchers. A card index of names of individuals was prepared for the study of interlocks among foundations and is among the records.

22.180 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee on Communist Aggression (1953-1954)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Communist Aggression    22 feet 83rd (1953-1954)

22.181 The House created the Baltic Committee, more formally known as the Select Committee to Investigate the Incorporation of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia into the U.S.S.R., on July 27, 1953 (83A-F20.1). Charles J. Kersten of Wisconsin was appointed chairman. In 1954, the committee's name was changed to the Select Committee on Communist Aggression when its investigative authority was broadened by H.Res. 438, 83d Cong., to include matters concerning "the subversion and destruction of free institutions and human liberties in all other areas controlled, directly or indirectly, by world communism." The committee is also known as the Kersten Committee.

22.182 The committee held public hearings in the United States, Britain, and Germany, receiving the testimony of over 300 witnesses and approximately 1,500 exhibits. The identity of some of the witnesses was not disclosed, for fear of reprisals against relatives and friends in Communist nations. Other witnesses submitted written statements to the committee upon a pledge of anonymity.

22.183 The committee was assisted by the Department of State, the United States Information Agency, the Committee for a Free Europe (Radio Free Europe), the Foreign Operations Administration, the Legislative Research Service of the Library of Congress, Georgetown University, and various non-governmental religious and ethnic organizations.

22.184 The committee completed its study and investigation on December 31, 1954. Its findings were presented in 27 reports.

22.185 Records of the committee include letters received commenting on the work of the committee, resolutions of ethnic groups commending the committee, and correspondence with Members of Congress and Federal agencies. There are translations of European newspaper articles regarding the committee, investigative memorandums, correspondence and memorandums of the chairman and staff, studies, and informational materials. Records relating to the committee hearings include correspondence, lists of questions for prospective witnesses, forms providing information about potential witnesses, eyewitness statements, exhibits, and stenographic transcripts of executive hearings. Photographs of committee activities and of scenes relating to the committee's subject of inquiry are included. Other records include copies of the committee's published hearings and reports, press releases, vouchers and other financial records, applications for employment, and mailing lists. There are three card indexes prepared by the committee relating to ethnic organizations and committee witnesses.

22.186 Information in the records relates to Communist tactics and strategy. There are records pertaining to the Communist occupation of Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland, East Germany, the Balkans, and to the communization of the constituent Nations of the Soviet Union, especially the Ukraine. Other records, from the committee's Subcommittee on Latin America, relate to communist aggression in Latin America, especially Guatemala.

22.187 There is a finding aid to the records of the committee.

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Select Committee on Survivor Benefits (1954-1955)

Select Committee on:    Volume    Congress (dates)
Survivor Benefits 1 foot 83rd-84th (1954-1955)

22.188 Following World War II, benefit programs for survivors of military personnel and veterans multiplied to the extent that, by the mid-1950's, there were five separate and distinct programs dealing with almost half a million cases. This created an administrative maze that had to be negotiated before survivors could obtain the benefits to which they were entitled. In order to simplify the application process and eliminate duplication of effort, Congress decided to undertake a study of the survivor benefit programs and prepare new legislation. Because four standing committees had jurisdiction over the five existing survivor benefit programs, the House chose to establish the Select Committee on Survivor Benefits on August 4, 1954, to undertake the study and to draft the legislation.

22.189 For its staff, the committee relied on 10 experts from five Federal agencies. The committee held 28 executive sessions or hearings and 29 public hearings at which representatives of every major veterans organization were invited to testify. The result was the Servicemen's and Veterans' Survivor Benefits Act (Public Law 84-881).

22.190 Records of the committee include transcripts of public and executive hearings, committee minutes, copies of the committee report, the conference report on the survivor benefits legislation, and legislative proposals relating to the committee and its work.

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Select Committee on Export Control (1961-1962)

Select Committee on:    Volume    Congress (dates)
Export Control 5 feet 87th (1961-1962)

22.191 The Export Control Act of 1949 (Public Law 86-464) declared it to be U.S. policy to use export controls to protect the domestic economy from scarcity and inflation, to further U.S. foreign policy, and to protect national security. Concern over the large number of licenses granted for exporting goods to Communist countries prompted the House, on September 7, 1961, to establish the Select Committee on Export Control to inquire into the administration, operation, and enforcement of the Export Control Act of 1949 and related acts.

22.192 As a result of its study, the select committee declared that it had "found glaring instances where we have economically strengthened countries in the Soviet bloc" and offered suggestions and recommendations to tighten the export control program (H. Rept. 1753, 87th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 12430).

22.193 Records of the committee include correspondence regarding the administration of the committee, correspondence with Federal departments, transcripts of hearings, memorandums, mailing lists, speeches, press releases, and vouchers. Copies of the committee report and legislative material on the Export Control Act of 1949 also are included.

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Select Committee on Government Research (1963-1965)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Government Research    46 feet 88th (1963-1964)

22.194 By FY 1965, the Federal Government was spending approximately $15 billion annually on research and development, a sum accounting for over 15 percent of the total Federal budget. The authorizations and appropriations for the research and development programs had fallen under the jurisdiction of a number of standing committees, which led to the perceived need for an overview of the interrelations of the research and development programs of the various Federal departments and agencies. On September 11, 1963, the House authorized a select committee to undertake the task. Carl Elliott of Alabama served as chairman for the committee, which was known as the Select Committee on Government Research (88 GR).

22.195 The committee began its work by establishing working relationships with the 9 Federal departments and 12 agencies that conducted research and development. In addition, the committee established a group of specialists from education, industry, and government to serve as a general advisory committee. The committee held hearings from November 1963 to January 1964 at which 55 scientists and administrators testified and 25 others submitted written statements. The committee then prepared studies of 10 specific aspects of the topic, including grants administration, manpower, Federal facilities, documentation and dissemination of results, student assistance, program impact, contract policies and procedures, interagency coordination, and national goals and priorities. To accomplish this task, the committee sent questionnaires and forms to the appropriate governmental and nongovernmental entities and established an advisory panel for each of the studies.

22.196 Records of the committee include minutes, correspondence, memorandums, papers of the general advisory committee, transcripts of hearings, press releases, and personnel and other administrative records. Also included are computer punch cards and printouts, copies of committee publications, and numerous pamphlets regarding commercial and governmental activities. There are memorandums, correspondence, printed materials, trip reports, and notes relating to committee field trips. Records regarding Federal departments and agencies include annual reports and other publications, memorandums of meetings, newspaper clippings, correspondence, prepared statements offered by governmental officials at committee hearings, and work papers. There is extensive material collected during the various studies undertaken by the committee.

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Select Committee on Standards and Conduct (1966)

Select Committee on: Volume    Congress (dates)
Standards and Conduct    1 inch 89th (1966)

22.197 The establishment of a House Select Committee on Standards and Conduct was one of the recommendations contained in the September 1966 final report of the Joint Committee on the Organization of the Congress. Accordingly, the select committee was established on October 19, 1966. The resolution establishing the select committee vested it with discretionary authority to recommend rules for insuring proper standards of conduct by House Members and employees and to report violations to proper authorities, but it did not authorize the select committee to receive and investigate specific complaints and recommend disciplinary action. Charles E. Bennett of Florida was appointed chairman. Only two formal meetings of the committee were held, on October 20 and November 28. Committee staff met weekly during the period.

22.198 Records include a copy of the committee report, the summary staff report, transcripts of committee meetings, correspondence, notes, newspaper clippings, press releases, and vouchers.

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House Select Committee Pursuant to House Resolution 1, 90th Congress, 1st session (1967)

Select Committee: Volume    Congress (dates)
Pursuant to House Resolution 1, 90th Congress    8 feet 90th (1967)

22.199 During 1965 and 1966 (89th Cong.), Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., of the 18th Congressional District of New York, chairman of the House Committee on Education and Labor, became the target of widespread congressional and public criticism for contemptuous conduct toward the courts of New York and misconduct in office. There were charges that Powell misused both travel funds and his clerk-hire authority. A special subcommittee of the Committee on House Administration investigated these charges.

22.200 Powell was reelected to the 90th Congress by a large majority of his constituency in November 1966. Before the organization of the 90th Congress, however, the caucus of Democrat Members-elect voted to remove Powell from his chairmanship. When it met on January 10, 1967, Congress adopted H.Res. 1, barring Powell from being sworn in and seated in the 90th Congress pending the report of a special committee investigation and House determination. Emanuel Celler of New York was appointed chairman of the committee.

22.201 The committee held hearings in February. Powell was present only on the first day and declined to testify. The committee had access to the hearings, exhibits, and report of the subcommittee investigation during the previous Congress. Audits of expenditures of the Committee on Education and Labor and investigations of New York court records and other sources were undertaken by the select committee. The select committee presented its report on February 23, 1967, recommending that Powell be sworn in as a Member of the 90th Congress, then immediately censured before the bar of the House, fined, and stripped of his seniority. If Powell failed to appear to take the oath of office by March 13, the seat should be declared vacant.

22.202 Records consist mainly of multiple copies of the committee publications and unanswered mail. There are documents designated as the files of the minority counsel, including memorandums, correspondence, subpoenas, and briefs and other legal documents relating to the proceedings in New York. A number of extracts from Hind's Precedents and Cannon's Precedents are also among the records, as well as newspaper clippings, copies of magazine articles, a copy of Ronald L. Goldfarb's The Contempt Power (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963), and a 33 1/3 RPM January 1967 recording of Powell entitled "Keep the Faith, Baby": Adam Clayton Powell's Message to the World (Jubilee Records).

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Special Committees to Investigate Campaign Expenditures

Special Committees to: Volume    Congress (dates)
Investigate Campaign Expenditures    81 feet 70th, 79th-88th (1928, 1944-1964)

22.203 On May 29, 1928, the House established the Special Committee to Investigate Campaign Expenditures to consider election disputes and charges of electoral fraud and excess campaign expenditures that might arise from the upcoming Presidential and congressional campaigns (70A-F33.1). Similar select committees became regular features of each election year beginning in 1944 (78A-F41.1, 80A-F19.1, 83A- F19.1, 84A-F18.1, 85A-F18.1, 86A-F18.1, 87A-F17.1, 88 ICE). The committees were authorized to investigate campaign contributions and expenditures in both the primary and general election contests, violations of Federal election laws, and other matters that might aid the House in drafting any necessary remedial legislation or in deciding contests regarding the right to a seat in the House of Representatives.

22.204 The committees furnished candidates with information on Federal election laws. They collected campaign finance information, either directly from candidates, political parties, congressional campaign committees, and others by means of questionnaires and circular letters, or from reports and statements submitted by political organizations and candidates to the House Clerk or State officials. The committees also received complaints regarding allegations of unfair campaign practices, fraudulent vote counting, or other election misdeeds and investigated those with sufficient facts to establish prima facie cases. The committees sent representatives to the congressional districts involved in the dispute to conduct interviews, examine evidence, and collect information. On occasion, the special committees held public hearings on the disputes in Washington or in the districts involved. The special committees also undertook studies of Federal, State, and local statutes regulating elections.

22.205 For the 1928 committee, there are hearings transcripts, exhibits, correspondence, and newspaper clippings. There are no records of the special committees established to deal with the elections between 1930 and 1942.

22.206 Records exist for each of the campaign expenditure committees from 1944 to 1964 and include correspondence with candidates, political groups, governmental officials, and the public. There are election complaints, memorandums, minutes, investigative files regarding complaints, transcripts of testimony, exhibits, affidavits of interviewees, completed questionnaires, notes, statistical worksheets, and drafts of committee reports. Among the materials received by the committees are correspondence obtained from files of organizations, information submitted by candidates, reports to the Clerks of the House and Senate from the Democratic National Committee, campaign literature, tally sheets and recount documents, and certain records of the Police Department of New York City. Administrative records include press releases, subpoenas, stenographer's notebooks, personnel records, and vouchers. There are various published materials, including copies of committee publications, printed compilations of elections laws, newspaper clippings, and other materials collected for informational purposes.

22.207 The records pertain to election laws, specific electoral contests, and other matters such as the Anti-Nazi League and the use of the franking privilege for mailing campaign literature.

22.208 There are finding aids available regarding records of the committees that dealt with the elections of 1944, 1946, 1948, 1950, 1952, 1954, 1958, 1960, and 1962.

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Records of Select and Special Committees and Commissions of the House, 91st-100th Congresses (1969-1988)

22.209 The National Archives holds records for the select and special committees and commissions listed below. Like the recent records of the standing committees, the measurements of these records are tentative because more records from these committees may eventually be retired, and non-record material may be removed from the records that are now in the custody of the National Archives.

Name of Committee or Commission Volume    Congresses
Select Committee on Small Business 20 ft. 81st-94th
Select Committee on Crime 3 ft. 91st-92nd
Select Committee on the House Restaurant 1 in. 91st
Special Comm. to Invest. Campaign Expenditures 14 ft. 92nd
Select Committee on Committees 25 ft. 93rd
Ad Hoc Committee on the Outer Continental Shelf 84 ft. 94th-95th
Select Committee on the Outer Continental Shelf 30 ft. 96th
Select Committee on Aging 165 ft. 94th-99th
Select Committee on Missing Persons in South East Asia   9 ft. 94th
Select Committee on Professional Sports 14 ft. 94th-95th
House Commission on Information and Facilities 20 ft. 94th
Commission on Administrative Review 16 ft. 94th
Select Committee on Assassinations 419 ft. 95th
Select Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control 156 ft. 94th-102nd
Ad Hoc Committee on Energy 4 ft. 95th
Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence 5 ft. 95th-99th
Select Committee on Congressional Operations 17 ft. 95th-96th
Select Committee on Population 57 ft. 95th-96th
Select Committee on Committees 16 ft. 96th
Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe    6 ft. 97th
Select Committee on Hunger 9 ft. 98th-99th
Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards 9 ft. 98th
Select Committee on Iran Contra 156 ft. 100th
Select Committee on Children, Youth, and Families 49 ft. 98th-103rd
TOTAL: 1,098 ft.  

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1 These were the House Committee of Elections, the House Committee on Claims, and the Joint Committee on Enrolled Bills. The Senate had no standing committees at the time.

2 George B. Galloway, Congress at the Crossroads (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Co., 1946), p. 88.

3 Some records of select committees that were immediate predecessors of House standing committees are described in other chapters of this Guide.

4 Beginning in 1817 (15th Cong.), all committee reports were published in the Congressional Serial Set. Before 1817, some reports were printed in either the House Journal or American State Papers. See "Research Strategies for Using the Records of Congress" for more information on these publications.

5 For information on the role of the Clerk of the House in the publication of American State Papers, see the description of the Joint Committees on the Library.

6 In creating post roads, the Government did not undertake the building of roads but rather designated routes along which post offices would be established.

7 Only George Thatcher of Massachusetts voted against the amendment to the resolution.

8 The title of this series is committee reports and papers for records dating before 1862.

9 For information on the joint committee and its records, as well as records of the House select committee that are filed with the joint committee's records, see the description of the records of the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.

10 The National Archives has produced a microfilm publication of these records. For information, see Appendix H.

11Congressional Record, 78th Cong., 1st sess., 19 January 1943, vol. 89, pt. 1, p. 234.

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.

This Web version is updated from time to time to include records processed since 1989.

Return to the Table of Contents for the Guide to the Records of the U.S. House of Representatives