Legislative Branch

Guide to House Records: Chapter 23

Records of the Joint Committees of Congress (Record Group 128)

Introduction to the Records of the Joint Committees of Congress

23.1 This chapter describes the records comprising Record Group 128, Records of Joint Committees of Congress. Joint committees are committees whose membership is drawn from both the House of Representatives and the Senate. When the records of the House of Representatives and the Senate were initially transferred to the National Archives, the decision was made to unite the identifiable records of joint committees in a single, distinct record group but to maintain the records in two collections within the record group.

23.2 The House collection includes those records of joint committees that were transferred to the National Archives by the House of Representatives, and the Senate collection contains those transferred by the Senate. Certain joint committees are represented in only one of the collections, while records of other committees may be found in both the House and Senate collections. Sometimes copies of the same document are found in both collections. There is no general rule that can be applied to explain these discrepancies. Neither is there any clear distinction between the collections regarding types of documents or subjects considered. For these reasons, this chapter considers the records of joint committees as a whole. Researchers should note, however, that access to the House collection is governed by the standard rules governing access to House records, while the Senate access provisions apply to the Senate collection. Information regarding access is provided in An Introduction to Research in the Records of Congress.

23.3 There are no assigned file numbers for the committees. The lack of file numbers for the records of individual and distinctive modern joint committees does not constitute any particular difficulty. The records are arranged by committee, and the relatively large quantity of material ensures that they are identifiable. Earlier committees, however, may be represented by only one document found in records that are arranged by Congress and only thereunder by committee. For these earlier committees, the chapter uses reference notations that designate either the House collection (H.C.) or the Senate collection (S.C.), followed by the number of the Congress under which the records can be found. "H.C. 45," for example, indicates the records may be found in the House collection for the 45th Congress.

23.4 There is a tremendous range in the amount and type of documentation available regarding individual joint committees. Records from over 160 joint committees1 are available for the entire period from 1789 to the Civil War in both the House and Senate collections, but they comprise less than 4 feet. The records of the 20th-century Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, on the other hand, total 406 feet. Because of the discrepancy in the amount and kinds of material relating to individual joint committees, this chapter describes the records in two parts. The first part of the chapter presents an overview of the records of joint committees whose records are very sparse, dating generally from the 18th and 19th centuries. In the second part of the chapter, committees with more substantial records, most of which date from the 20th century, are discussed individually in chronological order by date of creation.

23.5 The two Houses have relied on joint committees to undertake a wide variety of assignments involving representational, administrative, investigative, oversight, and legislative duties. For many of these committees, no unpublished records remain. Records of relatively perfunctory representational joint committees, as well as conference committees, appear among records of the 18th and 19th-century Congresses. Though these types of committees continue to be used today, no records exist for them among 20th-century joint committee records.

23.6 Certain records of RG 233 (Records of the U.S. House of Representatives) and RG 46 (Records of the U.S. Senate) are closely related to records described in this chapter. There are various reasons for this, which a few examples may explain. Many 20th-century joint committees drew their members exclusively from the membership of certain standing committees. An example is the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation, which was composed of members of the House Committee on Ways and Means and the Senate Committee on Finance. In contrast, sometimes (especially in the 18th and 19th centuries) the House members and Senate members of a joint committee would function autonomously as committees in their own chambers for certain purposes. For many years, for example, this was true of the Joint Committee on the Library, but that is by no means an isolated example. The committee system in Congress is now defined quite clearly, but that is a relatively recent development. Because of the more fluid committee system and because the records of joint committees were previously interspersed among the records of the House and the Senate, the separation of the records to form RG 128 was sometimes inexact. Original manuscripts of several of the reports of the Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War, for example, are among Senate records (Sen 37A-D1, Sen 38A-D1). Certain records of the House Select Committee on Reconstruction that was appointed on July 3, 1867, on the other hand, are among the joint committee records (H.C. 40, 41).

23.7 Some of the records described in this chapter are published in American State Papers, the Congressional Serial Set, or as printed hearings or committee prints. For information on such publications and available indexes, see An Introduction to Research in the Records of Congress.

23.8 The Joint Commission on the Ford`s Theater Disaster and the Congressional Aviation Policy Board, while they were not called joint committees, nevertheless drew their membership entirely from Congress and reported to it. For this reason, their records are in RG 128 and are described here.

Back to Top

Records of the Joint Committees of Congress, 1st-52nd Congresses (1789-1893)

Collection    Number of Committees    Volume
House 31 2 ft.
Senate 142 4 ft.
TOTAL: 173 6 ft.

23.9 Joint committees date from the earliest days of Congress. On April 9, 1789, 3 days after the United States Congress first achieved a quorum of both Houses, the House of Representatives received word that the Senate had appointed a committee to confer with a House committee "in preparing a system of rules to govern the two Houses in cases of conference, and to regulate the appointment of Chaplains" (House Journal, 1st Cong., 1st sess., pp. 11-12). The House likewise appointed a committee and, within a week, the two groups met and agreed to a report, which read in part:

  • That in every case of an amendment to a bill agreed to in one House, and dissented to in the other, if either House shall request a conference, and appoint a committee for that purpose, and the other House shall also appoint a committee to confer, such committees shall, at a convenient hour, to be agreed on by their Chairmen, meet in the conference chamber, and state to each other, verbally or in writing, as either shall chuse, the reasons of their respective Houses for and against the amendment, and confer freely thereon.

Other than the Senator and two Representatives who were appointed to sit at the clerk's table to tally the votes of the electoral college, this was the first joint committee of Congress. The committee's manuscript report is among the records in RG 128 (S.C. 1).

23.10 Most of the records of early joint committees are committee reports. The reports are usually in manuscript form, though they are sometimes printed, and they often contain strikeouts or inserts. Occasionally, the report will have a notation to indicate House or Senate action on the report. In the case of the reports from the joint committee dealing with newspapers for Members of Congress and with printing arrangements, the House disagreed to the conference report on the newspaper issue and amended the report concerning printing. An extract of the House Journal detailing these actions was sent to the Senate. That document is filed with the committee reports and includes a notation showing the Senate's response (S.C. 1). Other documents appearing occasionally among the early records include resolutions to establish a particular committee and orders appointing committee members.

23.11 Many joint committees of the early Congresses were established to consider administrative or housekeeping details for Congress. Some such assignments were unique, such as that of the joint committee charged with viewing the rooms in city hall that had been offered to Congress and deciding on whether they would be needed (S.C. 1). Other assignments were recurring. There are records in several Congresses, for example, relating to committees on the business necessary to be finished prior to recess or adjournment. The reports of these committees usually consist of lists of bills by categories: those that have passed the House, those that have passed the Senate, those in committee in the House, and so forth (H.C. 11, 12; S.C. 1, 2).

23.12 Records of committees to examine votes for President and Vice President and records of committees to notify the President of his election appear regularly among the records. The records of these two types of committees tend to be quite predictable, but this is not always the case. In 1837, in response to certain allegations in the press, the committee that examined the votes was also instructed to investigate whether there was any violation of the constitutional prohibition that "no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector" (article II, section 1). The records include lists of electors, letters from the various Cabinet officials in response to committee inquiries regarding the matter, and the committee report (S.C. 24).

23.13 In 1849, the joint committee appointed to inform the Whig candidate Zachary Taylor of his election to the Presidency noted that Taylor, in response to the committee's message, alluded to the fact that the committee chairman "represented a public body, a majority of whom was opposed in political opinion, to the President Elect." He "expressed an ardent wish that he might be able, in any degree, to assuage the fierceness of party, or temper with moderation the conflicts of those who are only divided as to the means of securing the public welfare" (H.C. 30).

23.14 There are records for joint committees that had more unique mandates, including committees that focused on a particular event or issue, such as George Washington's death (S.C. 6) or the depressed state of American shipbuilding (S.C. 40, 47). Others studied a subject, such as yellow fever and cholera (S.C. 45), or investigated some problem, such as charges of wrongdoing in the government of the District of Columbia (S.C. 43). The problems revealed in the D.C. investigation led to a decision to change the form of government there. Another joint committee was appointed to draft a bill providing the framework for the government, and a few records of that committee are available (S.C. 44).

23.15 While the single type of document most likely to be among the records of any joint committee is a committee report, other types of documents occasionally appearing include letters, exhibits, minutes, and printed reference materials. There is a February 1832 letter from the venerable Chief Justice John Marshall regretfully declining an invitation to deliver an oration in honor of the centennial of Washington's birth and explaining that, though flattered by the request, his voice had "become so weak as to be almost inaudible even in a room not unusually large. In the open air it could not be heard by those nearest" to him (H.C. 22). An inventory of the furniture and other property in possession of the President in February 1801 contains the suggestion that, since the President planned to leave Washington early on the morning of March 4, someone might be designated to spend the night of March 3 at the President's House in order to receive the keys the next morning (S.C. 6). A letter of February 17, 1868, from the Director of the Bureau of Statistics provides a historical and technical review relating to the revenue collected on distilled spirits (H.C. 40).

23.16 The records of some joint committees include a wide variety of documents, as is the case with an 1874 committee dealing with the District of Columbia. The committee resulted from a memorial of certain residents of the District of Columbia, charging that unlawful contracts had been let and unlawful assessments and taxes had been levied. Some documents among the records were submitted by the counsel representing the memorialists, such as lists of persons to be subpoenaed and papers indicating what would be proved by calling individual witnesses. Other records include receipts, assessor's notices, transcripts of correspondence and other papers of the Board of Public Works, and reports on the work done on various projects in the District, as well as memorials of citizens, contractors, and the governor of the District of Columbia (S.C. 43).

Conference Committees

23.17 When bills pass the House and Senate in different forms, conference committees may be appointed to resolve the differences. Conference committees are always select and expire when their reports are acted upon by the two Houses. The members, who are known as conferees or managers, are usually drawn from the committees that considered the bill in the two Houses. Conference committees are distinctive in that the managers from each House vote as a unit while the members of other joint committees cast individual votes.2

23.18 Conference committees usually are documented only by their reports. The Senate collection includes reports of certain conference committees through 1843.3 Included are the reports of the conference committees on the acts that led to the Whiskey Rebellion (S.C. 1), banned the importation of slaves to the United States beginning in 1808 (S.C. 9), and established the Tariff of 1824 (S.C. 18). There is also the manuscript report of the conference committee that finally reached the Missouri Compromise (S.C. 16).

23.19 There is only one conference committee report among the House collection. It is the February 12, 1818, report of the managers appointed by the House regarding the military appropriations bill for 1818. The conference did not resolve the disagreement between the Houses. The report of the House members outlines in some detail the House objections to the Senate amendment regarding the pay of brevet officers, as well as the Senate's arguments and the attempts at compromise (H.C. 15).

Committees Relating to the Civil War and Reconstruction (1861-1873)

23.20 The special demands placed on the Federal Government by the Civil War and its aftermath led to the establishment of several joint committees. Few unpublished records of these committees are found in RG 128, however.

23.21 The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War was established on December 9, 1861, at the instigation of Senator Zachariah Chandler of Ohio and continued until May 1865. Senator Benjamin F. Wade of Ohio served as chairman. During the committee's existence, it held 272 meetings and received testimony in Washington and at other locations, often from military officers. Though the committee met and held hearings in secrecy, the testimony and related exhibits were published in the numerous committee reports of its investigations. The records include the original manuscripts of certain postwar reports that the committee received from general officers. There are also transcripts of testimony and accounting records regarding the military administration of Alexandria, VA (S.C. 38).

23.22 On December 13, 1865, the two houses reached agreement on an amended version of a House concurrent resolution introduced by Representative Thaddeus Stevens of Pennsylvania to establish a joint committee of 15 members known as the Joint Committee on Reconstruction to "inquire into the condition of the States which formed the so- called Confederate States of America, and report whether they, or any of them, are entitled to be represented in either house of Congress." Senator William Pitt Fessenden of Maine served as chairman. The joint committee divided into four subcommittees to hear testimony and gather evidence regarding the situation in each of four groups of Southern States. In all, 144 witnesses were called to testify. The records contain part of the committee report, as well as a few petitions concerning restoration of the former Confederate states to representation in Congress. The petitions are from Iowa, Kansas, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. There is also a resolution of the legislature of New York regarding this issue and advocating equality of suffrage in the District of Columbia for all adult males (H.C. 39; S.C. 39).

23.23 The Joint Committee on Reconstruction was not revived in the next Congress. The House of Representatives, however, established its own Select Committee on Reconstruction on July 3, 1867. Records of the House select committee are among RG 128 and include the resolution instructing the committee to investigate Ku Klux Klan activities. There are also letters, petitions, and a memorial from Tennessee detailing the situation in that State. They indicate that, under the new constitution, former rebels were regaining control of the government and intimidating or attacking supporters of the Union and blacks. Also among the records are the printed proceedings of a convention at Nashville on February 16, 1870, aimed at revitalizing and reorganizing the Republican Party in Tennessee.

23.24 Concern about Ku Klux Klan activities led to establishment of another Joint Committee to Inquire into the Condition of the Late Insurrectionary States on April 17, 1871. A portion of the committee's minute book, covering the period from February 10 to 19, 1872, is among the records.

Back to Top

Records of Individual Joint Committees

Select Committee Volume    Congresses (Years)
Joint Committee on the Library 7 ft. 9th-90th (1806-1968)
Joint Committee on Printing 98 ft. 30th-90th (1846-1968)
Joint Committee on the Disposition of Useless Papers (1889-1935)   
Joint Committee on Disposition of Executive Papers (1935-1970)
53 ft. 53rd-89th (1889-1970)
Joint Commission on the Ford's Theater Disaster 3 in. 53rd-54th (1894-1897)
Joint Committee on the Revision of the Laws 1 ft. 59th-61st (1907-1910)
Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation (1926-1975)
Joint Committee on Taxation (1976-)
460 ft. 69th-90th (1926-1968)
Joint Committee on Muscle Shoals 4 in. 69th (1926)
Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs 5 ft. 72nd-73rd (1932-1933)
Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters 1 ft. 73rd (1933)
Joint Committee on the Tennessee Valley Authority 80 ft. 75th-76th (1938-1939)
Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress 1 ft. 78th-79th (1944-1946)
Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack 40 ft. 79th (1945-1946)
Joint Committee on the Economic Report (1946-1956)
Joint Economic Committee (1956-1968)
18 ft. 79th-90th (1946-1968)
Joint Committee on Atomic Energy 406 ft. 79th-95th (1946-1977)
Joint Committee on Labor Management Relations 15 ft. 80th-81st (1947-1949)
Joint Committee on Housing 4 ft. 80th (1947-1948)
Congressional Aviation Policy Board 24 ft. 80th (1947-1948)
Joint Committee on Defense Production 37 ft. 81st-90th (1950-1977)
Joint Committee on Washington Metropolitan Problems 4 in. 85th-86th (1957-1960)
Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress 3 ft. 89th (1965-1966)

Back to Top

Joint Committee on the Library (1806-1968)

23.25 On April 24, 1800, under an act to make further provision for the removal and accommodation of the Government of the United States (2 Stat. 55), $5000 was appropriated to purchase books for the use of Congress and to prepare an "apartment" for them in the Capitol. The act specified that the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House were to make the purchase under the direction of a joint committee of both Houses and place the books in one apartment for the use of both Houses, "according to such regulations as the committee aforesaid shall devise and establish."

23.26 The joint committee was appointed within a week, but no further reference to it appears in either the House or Senate Journal or the Annals of Congress. The Secretary did proceed with the purchase, however, because, in December 1801, another joint select committee was appointed "to take into consideration a statement made by the Secretary of the Senate, respecting books and maps purchased pursuant to a late act of Congress, and to make report respecting the future arrangement of the same." On December 21, the committee submitted its report, which indicated the room in which the books and maps would be placed, described the cases to be used for them, and specified loan policies and procedures, hours of operation, and other details. A manuscript copy of the report is among the records (H.C. 7). 4

23.27 The Joint Committee on the Library became a standing committee by an act of February 21, 1806 (2 Stat. 350), which established an annual appropriation for the purchase of books for Congress under the direction of a joint committee "to be appointed every session of Congress, during the continuance of this appropriation." In time, the committee's jurisdiction expanded beyond its original, narrow focus to include matters relating to the Botanic Garden, the Smithsonian Institution, works of art in the Capitol, and other subjects.

23.28 Records of the Joint Committee on the Library are available, in either the House or the Senate collection, for most Congresses before 1900 and infrequently thereafter. The records include manuscript committee reports, minutes of committee meetings, petitions and memorials, correspondence, bills, and resolutions on assorted topics.

23.29 Some of the records reflect the historical development of the Library. There are a few annual reports of the Librarian of Congress, ranging from one dated April 11, 1807, to one for the fiscal year ending in 1962 (S.C. 10; H.C. 88-90). The earliest reports list the books donated to the library during the preceding year and indicate the donor of each. From the period immediately following the burning of the Capitol during the War of 1812, there is a letter from Samuel H. Smith, agent for Thomas Jefferson, offering to sell Jefferson's library to Congress. In addition, three committee reports among the records deal with this transaction (S.C. 13). A report from January 1816 addressed the question of where to house the books while Congress met in its temporary quarters (S.C. 14).

23.30 Many of the letters and memorials among the records are from publishers seeking financial support from Congress for specific publications designed to inform the public about history or government. Some of the publications, such as Statutes At Large and the Dictionary of the United States Congress, developed into notable series of reference works (H.C. 28, 35). There are various papers relating to the publication of American State Papers by Gales and Seaton, 5 including a report of the Secretary of the Senate and Clerk of the House detailing their activities in selecting and transcribing the congressional documents that were to appear in the publication (H.C. 22). Certain reports, memorials, and letters deal with the purchase or publication of personal papers, including those of James Madison (S.C. 25), Alexander Hamilton (S.C. 29, 30), Thomas Jefferson (S.C. 28; H.C. 29), and General Nathanael Greene (H.C. 32).

23.31 There are memorials and petitions relating to the dissemination of compilations of laws, congressional publications, and books. The New York Chamber of Commerce and the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb (H.C. 23, 28) were among the groups that asked Congress to donate books or publications to their libraries. Other memorials, such as the one from William Brent, Jr., of Virginia, called for systematic distribution of such materials to all court houses, schools, or other entities (H.C. 25). Regular and systematic distribution of laws of the United States did occur, in fact, as a result of an act of April 20, 1818. The communication from Secretary of State Henry Clay that is attached to the joint committee's report of May 16, 1828 (H.C. 20), explained that no State received fewer than 110 copies of the annual publication of acts of Congress passed at the preceding session.

23.32 Alexandre Vattemare, a French citizen and elector of the Department of the Seine and Oise, was interested in an even wider distribution of printed materials. He worked for years to establish an international system of exchange of government publications and of scientific and learned materials. Included among the records are memorials, letters, reports, and printed materials prepared by Vattemare (S.C. 26, 28, 30, 31; H.C. 26, 30). As a result of Vattemare's efforts, on June 26, 1848, Congress passed an act to regulate exchanges (9 Stat. 240), and Vattemare himself was appointed as the agent. A manuscript copy of his report on the exchanges is among the records (S.C. 31), as well as two letters of Chief Justice Roger B. Taney regarding certain exchanges with the French Government (S.C. 28).

23.33 The 19th century witnessed widespread interest in the quest for scientific knowledge, and this is reflected in the unprecedented and unsolicited bequest of James Smithson, a wealthy Englishman who died in 1829. Under the terms of the will, Smithson's $500,000 estate was given to the United States, "to found, at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men." Accordingly, on August 10, 1846, Congress created the Smithsonian Institution. Joint committee documents relating to the Smithsonian include petitions (H.C. 28-33), a committee report that includes a letter from Secretary of the Smithsonian Joseph Henry (H.C. 33), and letters regarding the international documents exchange program (S.C. 49). 6

23.34 An interest in science is also evident in petitions from organizations such as the American Statistical Association (S.C. 28) and the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge (S.C. 25). The National Institute for the Promotion of Science, a leading contender for receiving grants from the Smithson bequest, figures in several joint committee documents, including a committee report that reviews its history, organization, and extensive collections (S.C. 28; H.C. 28, 29).

23.35 From 1838 to 1842, the Government-sponsored United States Exploring Expedition traveled to South America, Antarctica, the South Pacific, and Oregon Territory under the command of Lt. Charles Wilkes. Its scientists and crew charted and surveyed unknown waters and terrain, made meteorological and geological observations, and amassed significant collections of specimens and artifacts. The collections of the exploring expedition, and Government efforts to publish its findings, are discussed in the records (S.C. 29; H.C. 28, 33, 34). A petition from expedition naturalist Titian Peale details the personal articles that he lost when the U.S.S. Peacock sank as the expedition was entering the Columbia River (H.C. 33).

23.36 Artists and their work appear regularly as topics among the records of the Joint Committee on the Library because of the committee's role in approving and purchasing artwork for the Capitol and because of its jurisdiction over the Smithsonian. Among the documents is a letter from sculptor Horatio Greenough defending his controversial statue of George Washington, seated and draped in a classical manner, and asking that it be moved outside to a location on the Capitol Grounds (S.C. 27). There are various letters advocating the purchase of Gilbert Stuart's portraits of the first five Presidents that were on display in the Capitol, including some reminiscences of the painter at work on them (S.C. 33). Memorials and petitions, printed press excerpts, letters, committee reports, and a descriptive catalog are among the materials relating to George Catlin's collection of 300 portraits, 200 other paintings, and writings relating to his travels among 48 tribes of North American Indians (H.C. 29; S.C. 30). Catlin's efforts to sell the collection to the United States for the Smithsonian Institution's art gallery eventually failed by one vote in the 32d Congress.

23.37 The 20th-century records of the joint committee that are among RG 128 are relatively limited. They include committee minutes, 1912-13 and 1926-33, regarding artwork in the Capitol, the Botanic Garden, memorial commissions, and certain historical monuments and markers in the District of Columbia and elsewhere (S.C. 62 and bound volume 69th-72d Cong.). Correspondence, petitions, minutes, transcripts of hearings, memoranda, printed materials, and other papers are available for the years 1959-68. These dealt with numerous subjects, including the James Madison Memorial Building, facilities for the use of individual scholars, loans of books to Members of Congress and their staff, a Brookings Institution survey of Federal departmental libraries, and codification of Federal statutes regarding the Library of Congress (H.C. 88-90).

23.38 Related records are in RG 233 and RG 46. Until 1947, the members of the Joint Committee on the Library comprised separate standing committees in each of the Houses they represented. 7 Records of the House Committee on the Library date from 1857 and are in RG 233, while records of the Senate Committee on the Library dating from 1873 are in RG 46. In contrast to the joint committee's records, the records of the separate standing committees are more complete for the 20th century.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Printing (1846-1968)

23.39 Among the records of the First Congress is a May 1789 report from a joint committee established in part to receive proposals for printing the acts and other proceedings of Congress (S.C. 1). Congress has traditionally issued numerous publications regarding its own activities, as well as the operation of executive agencies and other matters. During the 19th century, for example, the annual reports of executive Departments were published as congressional documents.

23.40 Until 1819 public printing, as it was called, was contracted out to the lowest bidder. In that year, however, a resolution (3 Stat. 538) was passed setting fixed rates of compensation for the printing and specifying that each House would elect a printer to execute its work during the next Congress. This system was followed until 1846 when, by the terms of a joint resolution (9 Stat. 113), Congress reverted to the lowest bid system and established the Joint Committee on Printing with power to adopt the necessary measures "to remedy any neglect or delay on the part of the contractor to execute the work ordered by Congress,... or to refuse the work altogether, should it be inferior to the standard." The committee was also directed to audit all printing accounts. The resolution further specified that any motion to print extra copies of an item should be referred for consideration and a report to the members of the printing committee of the House where the motion occurred. Over the years, the joint committee has been assigned a variety of additional administrative functions relating to the general supervision of Government printing.

23.41 The bulk of the records are among the Senate collection and date from 1900 to 1968. They consist mainly of proposals submitted to the Joint Committee on Public Printing by private companies in response to requests for bids to furnish paper to the Federal Government during the coming fiscal year. The first such documents relate to the year from March 1900 to February 1901. There are also ledgers and charts showing a comparison of the bids.

23.42 There are a few records dating from the first 50 years of the joint committee. The earliest record is a committee report of June 14, 1848, arising from an apparent misunderstanding on the part of the printing firm of Wendell and Van Benthuysen who held the printing contract from Congress, about whether the firm was promised certain binding jobs as part of the contract. A petition from the firm, dated a year later, seeks compensation for losses incurred in the execution of the contracts (H.C. 30). Other private printers also appealed to Congress for relief in connection with congressional printing. In a March 1878 petition, Franklin Rives and other proprietors of the Congressional Globe, noting that their business had suffered substantially because Congress had directed the public printer to undertake publication of congressional proceedings, asked Congress to purchase the plates and back volumes that they had in their inventory (H.C. 45).

23.43 In April 1878, H.R. 4292, a bill to reduce the expense of the public printing and binding, was introduced by Representative Otho R. Singleton of Mississippi, chairman of the House Committee on Printing. A variety of documents relate to this measure. Before the bill was introduced, letters were sent to heads of Federal agencies and other officials soliciting information concerning what congressional documents they received, how they were used, how many copies were absolutely necessary for Department business, what the Government Printing Office (GPO) printed for the departments, and whether forms and other supplies could be ordered several months in advance. Replies to the inquiries are among the records, as well as the report of an interdepartmental group that considered how Government documents might be supplied to Departments more efficiently and economically. Because H.R. 4292 would have abolished virtually all Federal printing offices and binderies except the GPO, the War Department submitted documents to the committee asking permission to continue certain printing operations in the Department. There is, accordingly, material relating to the office that compiled the records of the Civil War, including samples of correspondence concerning the acquisition and publication of Confederate records (H.C. 45).

23.44 In order to institute paper standards for the GPO, the joint committee on August 15, 1911, established the Paper Specifications Committee, comprised of representatives of the Bureau of Standards, Bureau of Chemistry, and the Government Printing Office, as well as the two clerks and the inspector of the Joint Committee on Printing. The Paper Specifications Committee was directed to prepare standard specifications and samples of paper for submission to the joint committee, along with recommendations for a uniform method of testing paper for the Government. There are notes, memorandums, correspondence, minutes, and annual reports of the Paper Specifications Committee (S.C. 62, 63). The transcript of a joint committee hearing of January 4, 1930, regarding paper specifications is included, as well as a few paper and board samples and copies of trade journals of the paper industry (S.C. 60, 62, 65). There also are GPO monthly reports regarding authorities granted to Federal agencies to purchase work from commercial sources (S.C. 76).

23.45 The records of the joint committee among the House collection are scanty and begin in 1934. They include correspondence, printed materials, staff reports, clippings, minutes, and memorandums. Among the subjects considered are the establishment of the Federal Register, the rule regarding insertion of material in the Congressional Record that is not spoken on the floor (H.C. 73), and contracts.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Disposition of Useless Papers (1889-1935)
Joint Committee on Disposition of Executive Papers (1935-1970)

23.46 In March 1887, the Senate established a select committee to examine and analyze the methods and work of the executive Departments and determine the causes of alleged delays in transacting the public business. The committee proceeded by addressing letters of inquiry to the heads of the Departments. The select committee submitted its report on March 8, 1888 (S. Rept. 507, 50th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 2521), including the responses from the Departments. The report noted that, during the course of the committee's investigation in the various Departments, "it became manifest that there were large masses of files of papers, which have been accumulating for a long series of years and now occupy much room." The committee noted that many of the papers were not used for current business and had neither permanent value nor historical interest. Further investigation revealed that statutes authorizing disposal of the unneeded, nonpermanent papers existed only for the post office and the office of the auditor for the Post Office Department. Accordingly, the committee proposed legislation to provide a system of disposition of such papers throughout the Federal Departments.

23.47 On February 16, 1889, an act was approved to authorize and provide for the disposition of useless papers in the executive departments (25 Stat. 672). Under its provisions, heads of Governmental Departments that had an "accumulation of files of papers, which are not needed or useful in the transaction of the current business... and have no permanent value or historical interest" were instructed to send a report to Congress regarding the papers. When Congress received the report, a joint committee would be appointed to consider and report on it.

23.48 The records consist primarily of transmittal letters to Congress accompanied by lists of records proposed for destruction. The earliest example is the letter of September 11, 1893, from the Postmaster General asking for the appointment of a joint committee to authorize disposal of records of the Post Office that were no longer useful (S.C. 53). Changes in the procedures are reflected in the documents. The early transmittal letters came from the heads of the Departments that created or received the papers. At first, the disposition recommendations were solely the responsibility of those Departments. Executive Order 1499 of March 16, 1912, however, required that lists had to be submitted to the Librarian of Congress and evaluated for historical interest before being referred to Congress. This process is reflected in the transmittal letters. Later, in accordance with 1934 amendments, the newly established National Archives, rather than the Library of Congress, assumed the review responsibility. Beginning in 1936, the actual transmittal came from the Archivist of the United States.

23.49 Also among the records are various committee reports regarding disposition of the records appearing on the lists, as well as the first annual report of the National Archives (for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1935) and the transcript and minutes of the first meeting (February 10, 1936) of the National Archives Council (S.C. 74).

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Commission on the Ford's Theater Disaster (1894-1897)

23.50 On June 9, 1893, while 490 clerks of the Record and Pension Division of the War Department were working at their offices in the Ford's Theater building, workmen in the basement were removing portions of the building's foundation. The building collapsed. Eighteen employees were killed immediately and several more died later. Many more were injured.

23.51 In December 1893, the Senate established a select committee to investigate the disaster and report whether the Government should compensate the victims (S. Rept. 528, 53d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 3192). A few months later, the sundry civil appropriations bill of August 18, 1894 (28 Stat. 392), created a joint commission of the existing Senate select committee and five Members of the House of Representatives. The commission was directed to investigate the disaster and report to the two Houses "whether in equity and justice the Government should compensate the sufferers of that disaster for the injuries sustained by them." If such compensation seemed appropriate, the act required the commission to investigate each case to determine the amount that should be paid.

23.52 Upon investigation, the commission unanimously concluded that compensation should be made "by reason of the fact that in the contract for removing the underpinning of said building no provision whatever for shoring up the building during the excavation was made, and the fact that no provision was made for expert superintendence, the building at the time containing about 500 Government clerks" (S. Rept. 908, 54th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 3366).

23.53 The commission proceeded to consider individual claims of death or injury due to the disaster, taking testimony and affidavits from claimants and witnesses. The commission referred all claims for permanent injury to a medical board. An abstract of each case was appended to a commission report of May 11, 1896. The committee completed its task on February 25, 1897, with the issuance of its final report (S. Rept. 1548, 54th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 3476), including synopses and recommendations on three new cases and some reconsidered claims. Among the records are the original claim forms and transcript of questions regarding the last few claims considered by the commission, as well as transcripts of coroner's inquests into the deaths of Frederick B. Loftus and J.H. Chapin. There are also letters, resolutions, an investigative report, and a printed copy of H. Exec. Doc. 61 (53d Cong., 2d sess., Serial 3223) consisting of a January 1894 letter from the Secretary of War regarding the condition of the building (S.C. 53, 54).

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Revision of the Laws (1907-1910)

23.54 Beginning in 1845, Little and Brown began publishing Statutes at Large, a series containing all the laws of the United States in order of enactment from the First Congress to the present. Such an arrangement is not necessarily the most convenient format for researchers. A compilation and codification of laws, for example, groups all laws by subject, with obsolete sections deleted. Such a publication is called a code, revised code, or revised statutes. The first official codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States was issued in 1874 and revised or updated in 1878.

23.55 No further revisions occurred during the 19th century, and so, from 1897 to 1906, a Commission to Revise and Codify the Laws labored over a new codification of the laws. The commission`s original assignment was limited to the criminal and penal laws but later expanded to include the judiciary act and its amendments as well. Eventually the commission was directed that it "shall bring together all statutes and parts of statutes relating to the same subjects, shall omit redundant and obsolete enactments, and shall make such alterations as may be necessary to reconcile the contradictions, supply the omissions, and amend the imperfections of the original text; and may propose and embody in such revision changes in the substance of existing law; but all such changes shall be clearly set forth in an accompanying report which shall briefly explain the reasons for the same" (H. Doc. 783, pt. 1, 61st Cong., 2d sess., Serial 5830).

23.56 Three months after the commission submitted its final report, Congress established the Joint Committee on the Revision of the Laws "to examine, consider, and submit to Congress recommendations upon the revision and codification of the laws reported by the statutory revision commission." John L. Lott from the Department of Justice served as assistant to the joint committee. The committee first considered the commission's work regarding the penal code and proposed the codification and revision of the penal laws that was approved on March 4, 1909 (35 Stat. 1088). The following year, the committee presented S. 7031, 61st Cong., a bill to codify the laws relating to the judiciary. It was enacted as Public Law 61-475. The committee terminated on March 15, 1910, with its presentation of the judiciary code. 9

23.57 The records of the joint committee consist primarily of reports and correspondence. Many of the documents were sent by executive Departments in response to commission-prepared drafts of revision of the laws. The Navy, Forest Service, Civil Service Commission, and Department of Commerce and Labor are among the agencies represented. The laws considered relate to a wide variety of subjects, such as public lands, tariffs, immigration, the administration of the Philippine Islands, and the Smithsonian Institution. There are letters sent to Lott by William White, Superintendent of the Government Hospital for the Insane (St. Elizabeths Hospital). These discuss the District of Columbia's requirement of "an inquisition by jury to admit a feeble-minded person" to the hospital, as well as such topics as the admission of alcoholics as insane persons, proposed features of an insanity law for the District of Columbia, and the various State requirements for a determination of questions of insanity.

23.58 Some materials among the records reflect the work of the commission, predating the establishment of the committee. Included are the commission's journal for the period from June 1898 to July 1901, correspondence of the commission, responses from Federal attorneys in various parts of the country to the commission's request for suggestions regarding the revision and codification of criminal and penal laws, comments of the Chicago Bar Association on the proposals for legislation, and a 1901 report of the New York Bar Association on the proposed revision of the criminal and penal laws (S.C. 61).

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation (1926-75)
Joint Committee on Taxation (1976-88)

23.59 With the exception of the Civil War period, before 1913 the United States Government had derived most of its revenue from indirect taxes, such as duties and excise taxes. On February 25, 1913, however, the 16th Amendment was added to the Constitution, clearing the way for Federal income taxes. In October of that year, under section 2 of an act to reduce tariff duties and to provide revenue for the Government (Public Law 63-16), the Federal Government imposed an income tax and began relying on direct taxation for its main source of revenue. The years immediately following brought a flurry of other tax laws, due in part to the demand for Government expenditures associated with World War I. The revenue collected by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Federal agency assigned to collect the income tax, increased 956 percent from 1916 to 1920. It was admittedly a period of experimentation regarding tax policy, and problems abounded.

23.60 In 1924, the Senate established the Select Committee on Investigation of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in response to problems in the administration of the tax system. In its report of February 6, 1926 (S. Rept. 27, 69th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 8529), the select committee called for Congress to develop expertise in this area and to maintain close contact with the Bureau. Accordingly, on February 26, the Revenue Act of 1926 (Public Law 69-20) established the Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation to investigate the operation, effects, and administration of Federal internal revenue taxes and to study ways the system might be improved. Its 10 members were evenly drawn from the Senate Committee on Finance and the House Ways and Means Committee. 10

23.61 The committee was given no legislative authority. Instead, it retained a professional staff of lawyers, economists, accountants, statisticians, and other tax experts to study and analyze the tax system and recommend improvements in it. Within a short time, the staff of the joint committee had become trusted advisors on tax issues for the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee. On the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the joint committee, Representative Daniel A. Reed of New York summarized this important role in the Congressional Record:

  • The Joint Committee staff generally has furnished the entire technical assistance to both the Committee on Ways and Means of the House of Representatives and the Committee on Finance of the Senate on every item of tax legislation, large and small, irrespective of which party happened to be in control of the Congress at any particular time. Thus, the staff has been a truly nonpartisan one, providing an extraordinary reservoir of professional talent available to all Members of the Congress regardless of party.11

23.62 In the course of its consideration of tax laws and tax policy, the joint committee staff worked both jointly with agency personnel and independently. They conferred with businessmen, economists, lawyers, individual taxpayers, and representatives of various tax organizations. Besides studies and analysis, the committee was given the additional duties of reviewing proposed individual tax refunds in excess of $75,000 and codifying the internal revenue laws.

23.63 The records of the committee from its inception through 1968 total approximately 460 linear feet. They were transferred to the National Archives in lots over a period of years, beginning in 1973. The records are in several series, in part reflecting the periodic nature of the transfers. A few series are limited to certain document types, such as publications of the joint committee or publications of other committees. Most, however, are large, general series containing a mixture of document types. Among these general series, the arrangement may be alphabetical by subject or by section of the Internal Revenue Code. In addition, there is considerable overlapping of dates covered and types of documents included, and some records have no discernible arrangement.

23.64 The records include correspondence (much of it with Members of Congress), memorandums, staff working papers, studies, statistical data, congressional and agency publications, pamphlets and other informational materials, press releases, news clippings, administrative papers, and binders regarding specific tax legislation. There is material on the Federal budget, public debt, tax reform, the administration and operations of the Bureau of Internal Revenue or (after 1953) the Internal Revenue Service, social security, estate taxes, sales taxes, withholding, antitrust activities, life insurance companies, political campaign financing, specific tax cases, and myriad other subjects relating to Federal taxation policy and practices.

23.65 A manuscript, informal list that provides some indication of the topics covered in 1067 boxes of the records of the joint committee now in the National Archives is available for use.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Muscle Shoals (1926)

23.66 Section 124 of the National Defense Act of 1916 (Public Law 64-85) authorized the President to provide for the generation of power and the production of nitrates in order to manufacture munitions and fertilizers. The facilities were to be constructed and operated solely by the Federal Government. Accordingly, two nitrate plants were built on the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Alabama, during World War I. The Wilson Dam was constructed to supply power for the plants.

23.67 The advent of peace ended the need for munitions, but the plants were not used to manufacture fertilizer as promised. Instead, by the end of 1925, the plants had been standing idle for 7 years, and their future was a controversial issue. In his annual message to Congress of December 8, 1925, President Calvin Coolidge pressed for transfer of the property to private management. He recommended "appointment of a small joint special committee... to receive bids, which when made should be reported with recommendations as to acceptance, upon which a law should be enacted, effecting a sale to the highest bidder who will agree to carry out these purposes."

23.68 Shortly thereafter, on March 13, 1926, Congress established the Joint Committee on Muscle Shoals consisting of three members each from the Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry and the House Committee on Military Affairs. The committee was charged with negotiating for the lease of the nitrate and power properties of the United States at Muscle Shoals. To fulfill this mandate, the committee issued a request for bids for a lease of 50 years or less to maintain the nitrate plant, produce fertilizer, and distribute surplus power. After consideration, the committee recommended acceptance of the offer by the Muscle Shoals Fertilizer Company and the Muscle Shoals Power Distributing Company, two corporations created by a consortium of southern power companies. Bills were introduced to this effect, but no action was taken on them.

23.69 The records of the joint committee contain the nine proposals received in response to the request for bids. Also available is the committee minute book, which includes newspaper clippings and press releases.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Veterans Affairs (1932-1933)

23.70 Part II of the Legislative Appropriations Act for fiscal year 1933 (Public Law 72-212) presented measures designed to reduce Government expenditures. The Senate Committee on Appropriations, in its report on the bill (S. Rept. 756, 72d Cong., 1st sess., Serial 9488), included veterans benefits among the programs singled out for such reductions. These provisions failed to win congressional approval, however. Instead, the statute established a joint committee to "investigate the operation of the laws and regulations relating to the relief of veterans of all wars and persons receiving benefits on account of service of such veterans and report a national policy with respect to such veterans and their dependents,... and recommend such economies as will lessen the cost... of the Veterans' Administration."

23.71 The records of the committee (5 ft.) consist mainly of documents related to its hearings, such as witness statements, requests for permission to testify, original transcripts of the hearings, and printers' galleys. Certain summary statistics, tables displaying inequalities in veterans benefits, and a list of Veterans Administration employees receiving disability compensation or emergency pay are among the records. There are copies of printed congressional materials, such as rules of the House Committee on Invalid Pensions, extracts from the Congressional Record regarding the Disabled Emergency Officers' Retirement List, and a "strictly confidential" print of certain papers submitted to the House Committee on Invalid Pensions of the 71st Congress. Other documents among the records include a proposed resolution, draft report, and correspondence.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters (1933)

23.72 The U.S.S. Akron, a dirigible designed for the Navy by the Goodyear-Zeppelin Corporation of Akron, Ohio, made its maiden flight on September 23, 1931. The design of the Akron supposedly had resolved previous safety problems involving rigid airships, but, on April 4, 1933, the Akron crashed just off the coast of New Jersey under stormy conditions. Of the ship's company of 77 officers and men, 74 servicemen, including Rear Admiral William A. Moffett, lost their lives.

23.73 The Joint Committee to Investigate Dirigible Disasters was created by H. Con. Res. 15, 73d Cong., to investigate the cause of the Akron disaster and the wrecks of other Army and Navy dirigibles and to determine responsibility. The committee was also directed to inquire generally into the question of the utility of dirigibles in military and naval establishments and make recommendations to the Senate and House of Representatives regarding their future use. Its final report was submitted on June 14, 1933 (S. Doc. 75, 73d Cong., 1st sess., Serial 9748). Col. Henry Breckenridge, former Assistant Secretary of War, served as counsel for the joint committee. Senator William H. King of Utah served as chairman, though Representative John J. Delaney of New York was chairman of the subcommittee that gathered the data and facts and arranged a program as to the method of investigation.

23.74 The records include minutes of committee meetings, correspondence, memorandums, notes, working papers, staff reports, statements and narratives, digests of testimony, and questions for witnesses. There are also many documents used by the committee in its investigation, such as maps, photographs, pamphlets, newspaper clippings and articles, and a bound volume of the nearprint Key to the Development of the Super-Airship Luftfahrzeugbau Schuette-Lanz collated and edited by Frederick S. Hardesty in 1930. Copies of various congressional publications regarding the committee's work and copies of the findings of facts and opinions of the Navy's U.S.S. Akron Court of Inquiry are included.

23.75 Among the subjects covered by the records are the wreck of the Akron, the history and development of lighter-than-air craft in Germany and elsewhere, airship patents, the merits of various types of rigid airships, the committee's methods of investigation, and administrative matters.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Tennessee Valley Authority (1938-1939)

23.77 The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) was created by Public Law 73- 17, approved May 18, 1933, to promote the social and economic welfare of the Tennessee Valley, an area encompassing parts of seven States. Through a series of dams and related programs, the TVA would generate and sell power, control floods and soil erosion, promote navigation, develop fertilizers, and encourage industry.

23.78 In early 1938, Arthur E. Morgan, chairman of the three-man Board of Directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, charged that dissension existed among the board and that there had been inefficient and uneconomical administration of the TVA Act. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt held hearings on the matter in March and then removed Morgan.

23.79 The Joint Committee on the Tennessee Valley Authority was created in the wake of these events on April 4, 1938 (S. J. Res. 277, 75th Cong.). The committee was directed to investigate the administration of the TVA Act, particularly "any interference or handicaps placed in the way of the prompt, efficient, and economical administration of [TVA's] functions by internal dissension." They were to investigate allegations of partiality to large corporations, interference with the Comptroller General's audits of the TVA, and dissipation of funds through extravagance and mismanagement, as well as activities of private power companies opposed to TVA and the possibility of the production of sodium nitrate at a lower price.

23.80 Senator Vic Donahey of Ohio was elected chairman. Francis Biddle served as general counsel, Thomas A. Panter as chief engineer, and W. O. Heffernan as secretary. The committee held hearings in Washington, Knoxville, and Chattanooga at which 100 witnesses testified, including all three board directors.

23.81 The records of the committee contain a good deal of duplicate material, reflecting the fact that they are comprised of separate files of the committee secretary, auditor, general counsel, assistant general counsel, and chief engineer, as well as the general files of the committee.

23.82 Many types of documents appear among the records. There are minutes of committee meetings, some of which were held in executive session, as well as copies of the committee report (S. Doc. 56, 76th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 10308), the preliminary report (S. Doc. 22, 76th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 10315), hearings transcripts, and committee press releases. Correspondence, memorandums, and reports and data prepared for the committee by TVA divisions and others are among the records, along with weekly reports of the general counsel, chief engineer, and secretary. There are transcripts and summaries of testimony, as well as reports, exhibits, and witness statements relating to the committee's hearings. Many items retained for reference purposes are among the records, including a copy of the Supreme Court decision upholding the constitutionality of the TVA, President Roosevelt's message dismissing Morgan, and a compilation of speeches and statements by Morgan. There are TVA pamphlets, bulletins, and reports, including a two-volume compilation of TVA administrative bulletins, as well as maps, plans, tables, and other documents relating to TVA projects and the Memphis and Chattanooga, TN, power systems. Administrative material of the committee among the records includes vouchers, ledgers, personnel files, and documents containing information on the committee's budget, equipment, and supplies.

23.83 The records provide information on the activities and complaints of power companies opposed to the TVA program, complaints regarding TVA labor practices and land acquisitions, cooperation between TVA and State agencies, alleged changes made in TVA board minutes, and many other subjects relating to the TVA, including its board members and accounting methods. Also included is information on more general subjects, such as power rates, rural electrification, flood control, and regional conservation and development,

23.84 A finding aid to the records of the committee and some informal notes listing folder titles of certain portions of files are available.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress (1944-1946)

23.85 As World War II ended and the atomic age began, a consensus developed among Members of Congress that the committee structures by which the two Houses disposed of their business were antiquated, inefficient, and generally ill-suited to the new era. Committees frequently had overlapping jurisdictions, and there were too many committees, according to the prevailing view.

23.86 The Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress was established by S. Con. Res. 23, 78th Cong., with a mandate to study and make proposals to improve the organization and effectiveness of Congress. The committee held 39 public hearings between March 3 and June 29, 1945, as well as four executive sessions. Over 100 witnesses testified, including 45 members of Congress. An additional 37 members submitted statements. The final result of the committee's efforts was the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946.

23.87 The records include copies of resolutions and other documents relating to the committee's establishment, a suggested agenda for the committee, the minutes of the committee's first meeting, a copy of the printed hearings of the committee, and a conference committee print showing the differences between the two versions of the Legislative Reorganization Act. There is correspondence with the public and with Members and staff of Congress, as well as files of documents containing suggestions from Members of Congress, congressional employees, organized groups, and private citizens. Lists of the resolutions and bills that were introduced within the preceding 6 years proposing changes in the legislative organization and operation are supplemented by newspaper clippings and letters regarding the proposals, as well as copies of them. Also included is a typewritten paper entitled "On Reforming Congress" and news notes prepared by staff director George B. Galloway.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack (1945-1946)

23.88 At dawn on December 7, 1941, Japanese bombers staged a surprise attack on U. S. military and naval forces in Hawaii. In a disastrous and humiliating defeat, the United States suffered 3,435 casualties and loss of or severe damage to 188 planes, 8 battleships, 3 light cruisers, and 4 miscellaneous vessels. Japanese losses were less than 100 personnel, 29 planes, and 5 midget submarines.

23.89 After the defeat of Japan almost 4 years later, Congress established the Joint Committee on the Investigation of the Pearl Harbor Attack to "make a full and complete investigation of the facts relating to the events and circumstances leading up to or following the attack." (S. Con. Res. 27, 79th Cong.) In its investigation, the committee sought to determine whether shortcomings or failures on the U.S. side might have contributed to the disaster and, if so, to suggest changes that might protect the country from another such tragedy in the future. The committee's public hearings commenced on November 15, 1945, and continued to May 31, 1946. Testimony was received from 43 witnesses and ran to 15,000 typewritten pages.

23.90 The records of the committee include records relating to the seven previous governmental investigations of the Pearl Harbor attack. These were the Roberts Commission undertaken by Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts in 1941 at President Roosevelt's request; the investigation conducted by Admiral Thomas C. Hart in 1944 at the behest of the Secretary of the Navy; the 1944 Army Pearl Harbor Board; the 1944 Navy Court of Inquiry; the 1944-45 investigation by Col. Carter W. Clarke for Army Chief of Staff George C. Marshall; Maj. Henry C. Clausen's 1944-45 investigation for the Secretary of War; and Admiral H. Kent Hewitt's 1945 study for the Navy Secretary. In all, these investigations produced 9,754 pages of testimony from 318 witnesses. The joint committee published the proceedings of all seven as exhibits.

23.91 Among the records are galleys of the proceedings and reports, as well as other records, of the seven inquiries. There are transcripts and exhibits relating to the joint committee hearings, and a copy of the committee report (S. Doc. 244, 79th Cong. 2d sess., Serial 11033). The documents include correspondence with the public and with current and former governmental agencies and officials, memorandums of the committee counsel, copies of correspondence and memorandums of executive departments (much of it formerly classified), copies of intercepted Japanese messages, replies to interrogatories, photographs, notes, and excerpts from newspapers dated November 20 to December 7, 1941. There are explanatory memorandums prepared by the retiring counsel for the new counsel and also receipts regarding documents borrowed, returned, and distributed. The records include various documents regarding the committee's plans, rules of procedure, and activities, as well as the committee's briefing book.

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

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Economic Report (1946-1956)
Joint Economic Committee (1956-1968)

23.93 The Employment Act of 1946 (Public Law 79-304) reflected both the lingering wounds of the Great Depression and the confident aspirations of the immediate postwar era. Section 2 declared it to be "the continuing policy and responsibility of the Federal Government to use all practicable means... for the purpose of creating and maintaining... conditions under which there will be afforded useful employment opportunities... for those able, willing, and seeking to work, and to promote maximum employment, production, and purchasing power." To achieve this policy, section 3 required the President to send Congress an annual report reviewing the economic program of the Federal Government and current conditions in the Nation, and outlining a program for implementing the policy proclaimed in section 2.

23.94 Section 5 of the act established the Joint Committee on the Economic Report, now known as the Joint Economic Committee.12 The committee's functions were outlined in the Employment Act and included studying the economic report, exploring means of coordinating programs to further the government's policy regarding employment, and providing guidance to congressional committees regarding the economic report. In short, the mandate enabled the committee to consider and make recommendations on the whole range of economic policy. Over the years, the committee provided facts and analyses to Congress on developing economic trends, offered advice regarding the mix of public and private policies most likely to achieve full employment, and issued annual reports to assist committees in dealing with legislation relating to the President's economic report.

23.95 The records of the joint committee include 26 volumes of unpublished transcripts of hearings held by the committee's eastern, mid-continent, and western subcommittees during September and October 1947. These hearings were authorized by S. Con. Res. 19, 80th Cong., to study the high prices of consumer goods in order to make recommendations to Congress regarding legislation. The subcommittees held hearings in 26 cities in the three regions. They heard from hundreds of witnesses, representing producers, processors, wholesalers and retailers of farm products, as well as manufacturers and distributors of consumer goods, labor organizations, civic and consumer groups, economists, and research organizations. The transcripts are arranged by city.

23.96 Correspondence among committee members and staff, with other Members of Congress, and with interested citizens is also among the records. For the years 1965 to 1968, there is a chronological file of copies of outgoing letters, staff reports, and press releases. Other records of the committee include memorandums and speeches of committee members and staff, and information on committee activities. There are assorted materials regarding the February 1966 symposium held to honor the 20th anniversary of the Employment Act of 1946, as well as correspondence, memorandums, magazines, statements, charts, and press releases concerning the annual report of 1967.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Atomic Energy (1946-1977)

23.97 The complex technology and high-level security classifications peculiar to atomic power led Congress to make special provisions for dealing with it. As a result, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy was established by the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 (Public Law 79-585). The committee was created to "make continuing studies of the activities of the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) and of problems relating to the development, use, and control of atomic energy." Unlike other joint committees created during the modern era, the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy was given the authority to report legislation. Indeed, the Atomic Energy Act directed that "all bills, resolutions, and other matters in the Senate or the House of Representatives relating primarily to the Commission or to the development, use or control of atomic energy" should be referred to the joint committee.

23.98 Created to serve as a "watchdog" of the U.S. atomic energy program, the committee monitored the Government's classified and unclassified activities involving peaceful and military applications of atomic energy. The committee held hearings in both public and executive sessions, reported bills, undertook studies, and published reports, committee prints, and hearings transcripts that sometimes included testimony taken in executive session with classified material deleted. Through hearings and other public informational activities, the committee played a significant role in encouraging peacetime uses of atomic energy. The committee dealt with such subjects as the budget authorization bills for the Atomic Energy Commission, international agreements regarding atomic energy stemming from President Dwight D. Eisenhower's "Atoms-For-Peace" speech of December 1953, and various mutual defense agreements.

23.99 The records of the committee (406 ft.)13 are divided into eleven series. The unclassified general subject file comprises 75 percent of all the records. The series includes documents dating from 1946 to 1977, filed alphabetically by subject. There is correspondence with Members of Congress, the AEC and other executive agencies, utility companies, plant construction firms, research institutions, and private citizens. Also in this series are memorandums, printed reports, studies, brochures and pamphlets, minutes of meetings, transcripts of hearings, copies of committee prints, bills and accompanying papers, speeches, press releases, maps, photographs, and news clippings, as well as committee administrative materials. The entire range of subjects considered by the committee is represented here, including atomic weapons, nuclear weapons tests, atomic power, civil defense, nuclear facilities, radiation, research, nuclear accidents, nuclear propulsion, raw materials, foreign relations, legislation, and the Atomic Energy Agency, International Atomic Energy Agency, and Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

23.100 The classified general subject file, like its unclassified counterpart, is arranged alphabetically by subject. It contains national security classified materials dating from 1947 to 1977. Among the many subjects considered in the documents are activities and weapons of foreign nations, international negotiations, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the reactor development program, weapons tests, the thermonuclear program, ores and raw materials, and radiation. Types of documents include correspondence, memorandums, reports, photographs, charts, and training manuals. There is a classified index to classified general subject file, arranged alphabetically by subject. The index lists the subject of the document, document number, date, and a description of the document (including sender and recipient, where applicable).

23.101 Unclassified transcripts of hearings and meetings held in executive session, 1954 to 1961, and classified transcripts of meetings and hearings in executive session, 1947 to 1977, are among the records and filed chronologically. There is also a classified index to classified transcripts of meetings and hearings in executive session that includes the date of the hearing or meeting, its subject, the file number, and a brief description of the document. Investigative records dealing with the nomination of David E. Lilienthal to be chairman of the AEC date from January to March 1947 and were created or received by the committee during its consideration of the nomination. Lilienthal served as chairman of the Tennessee Valley Authority from 1941 to 1946, and the committee's investigation centered on conflict of interest charges raised as a result of his previous position with TVA. Lilienthal was confirmed, nevertheless, and served as AEC chairman until 1950. The records consist of correspondence, including various attachments such as reports and newspaper clippings, as well as printed hearings regarding the nomination and other matters.

23.102 Investigative records regarding the nomination of Allen Whitfield to be commissioner of the AEC consist of documents dating from 1937-55, arranged by subject. Whitfield was nominated in 1955, and the joint committee investigated allegations of financial irregularities. There are copies of wills and other documents relating to estate settlement, financial records, hearings and interview transcripts, and a committee staff report on the results of the investigation.

23.103 Files of Senator Brien McMahon of Connecticut, first chairman of the joint committee, date from 1945 to 1950. McMahon served as chairman of the Senate Special Committee on Atomic Energy and introduced the bill that became the Atomic Energy Act. In 1945, he became the chairman of the joint committee, relinquished the post from 1947 to 1948, and then returned to it from 1949 until his death in 1952. Included among the records is correspondence with members of Congress, executive departments, businessmen and private citizens. There are also reports, bills, memorandums, and news clippings and other printed materials. Some of the materials relate to non-committee responsibilities.

23.104 Records of the Panel on the Impact of the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy, March 1955 to March 1956, are arranged in part by chapter number of the panel's report and in part by subject. The joint committee appointed the panel on March 26, 1955, to conduct a comprehensive study of the peaceful uses of atomic energy and to recommend to the committee legislative or administrative action to promote such uses.

23.105 The panel's members were nine private citizens drawn from science, education, industry, labor, and the press; and it was chaired by Robert McKinney, editor and publisher of the Santa Fe New Mexican. The panel surveyed the fields of power, medicine and public health, agriculture, food preservation, propulsion, and industry. It considered the organization of the AEC, control of information, research and development, manpower, education, hazards, protection and insurance, ownership of materials, licensing and regulation, financing, and patents. The results were published in January 1956 as a two-volume joint committee print, entitled Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy. Volume 1: Report of the Panel on the Impact of the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy and Volume 2: Background Material for the Report of the Panel on the Impact of Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.

23.106 Among the records is correspondence with the AEC, other executive Departments, and officials of interested industries. There are also reports and surveys submitted to the panel, and partial drafts and galley proofs of the panel's report.

23.107 General administrative and financial records, 1945-76, are arranged chronologically by year and thereunder by type. They include bank statements, payroll records, petty cash receipts, vouchers, travel account ledgers, staff leave and attendance records, guard registers, and visitor logbooks.

23.108 A finding aid is available for the records of this committee, including folder title lists for the unclassified general subject file, unclassified transcripts, records relating to the nominations of David E. Lilienthal and Allen Whitfield, the files of Senator McMahon, and the records of the Panel on the Impact of the Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy.

23.109 Many records of the committee remain classified. Some have recently been declassified. Others, no doubt, could be declassified upon review. A researcher interested in a topic that appears in the classified records of the committee may request such a review.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Labor Management Relations (1947-1949)

23.110 The National Labor Relations Act (Public Law 74-198), also known as the Wagner Act, was enacted as part of the New Deal on July 5, 1935. It guaranteed workers the right to organize and join labor unions and to bargain collectively through representatives of their own choosing. It also established the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to enforce the act.

23.111 The Labor Management Relations Act of 1947 (Public Law 80-101), known as the Taft-Hartley Act, passed despite President Harry Truman's veto. The act reaffirmed the Wagner Act's basic guarantees but contained certain provisions designed to correct the perceived imbalance of the Wagner Act in favor of labor. The Taft-Hartley Act also created the Joint Committee on Labor Management Relations, with members drawn from the Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare and the House Committee on Education and Labor. The committee was authorized to study and investigate "the entire field of labor-management relations," including ways to secure "permanent friendly cooperation between employers and employees," the means for an individual employee to produce more and benefit more, the organization and administration of labor unions, the impact of the closed shop, labor relations policies and practices of employers, the desirability of employee welfare funds, best procedures for collective bargaining, and the administration and operation of Federal laws regarding labor relations.

23.112 The records of the committee include correspondence of committee members and staff, memorandums, a research report, notes, minutes, and press releases, as well as witness statements, original transcripts, and galleys relating to committee hearings. Among the records concerning the committee's study of labor relations in specific industrial establishments are materials from plant studies of B.F. Goodrich, Botany Worsted Mills, International Harvester, and R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company. Also included are printed promotional materials of corporations and documents regarding welfare fund and pension plans.

23.113 Many of the documents pertain directly to National Labor Relations Board activities. These include briefs and other legal documents regarding cases before the NLRB, speeches by Board personnel, letters and other correspondence, memorandums by NLRB general counsel and staff, a statistical summary of NLRB casework, a summary of Board decisions, and documents regarding legal proceedings pursuant to various sections of the Labor Management Relations Act. Nine binders contain NLRB printed materials, such as laws, regulations, decisions, and weekly analyses of significant developments.

JC.114 Newspaper clippings, magazines, committee press releases, and applications for positions on the committee staff are also among the records.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Housing (1947-1948)

23.115 Home building virtually stopped during World War II as supplies and labor were diverted elsewhere. When the veterans returned to civilian life at the end of the war, an acute housing shortage developed. In an effort to deal with this crisis, Congress established the Joint Committee on Housing, with members drawn from the House and Senate Committees on Banking and Currency. The committee conducted hearings in 33 cities, receiving testimony from 1286 witnesses. It also undertook extensive studies on specific subjects and conferred informally with industry and labor leaders. The committee submitted its final report (H. Rept. 1564, 80th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11210) on March 15, 1948.

23.116 The records consist of the committee's minute book, as well as original and printed transcripts of the hearings, and other printed materials of the committee.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Congressional Aviation Policy Board (1947-1948)

23.117 The new and terrible threat posed by modern aircraft carrying atomic weapons, coupled with the threatened bankruptcy of the aircraft and air carrier industries, raised grave concerns about the country's air defenses in the period immediately following World War II. Accordingly, on July 18, 1947, President Harry S. Truman appointed a panel of private citizens, the Presidential Air Policy Commission, to assist him in formulating a national policy on aviation.

23.118 By act of July 30, 1947 (Public Law 80-287), the Congressional Aviation Policy Board, a similar body but composed of five Members of each House of Congress, was established. The Congressional Aviation Policy Board was directed to study current and future needs of American aviation, both civil and military, and to develop a national aviation policy that would meet the needs of national defense, interstate and foreign commerce, and the postal service. It was to study the current and future needs of the aircraft and related industries, determine the aircraft and air transportation industries necessary to provide for these needs, and suggest the proper role of the government in aviation matters.

23.119 At the first meeting of the Congressional Aviation Policy Board, held on September 15, 1947, Senator Owen Brewster of Maine was elected chairman, and Representative Carl Hinshaw of California, vice chairman. The Board worked closely with an advisory council composed of aviation experts drawn from Government, industry, military, and other sources. In addition, the Board consulted with the Presidential Air Policy Commission in order to prevent a duplication of effort and to provide for the mutual exchange of data and information.

23.120 The Congressional Aviation Policy Board established four subcommittees to consider different components of a coordinated aviation policy. The subcommittees dealt with combat aviation, Government organization, manufacturing, and transportation.

23.121 The Board held intermittent executive sessions from September 15, 1947, to February 23, 1948, at which high-level Government and military officials discussed the problems facing U.S. military and civil aviation and possible solutions. On March 1, 1948, the Board issued its report (S. Rept. 949, 80th Cong., 2d sess., Serial 11206), which contained 92 recommendations in five areas: combat aviation, air transport, aircraft manufacture, research, and Government organization. Although it had issued its report, the Board continued to function until the end of the 80th Congress on December 31, 1948, working to translate its recommendations into national policy.

23.122 The records of the Policy Board include administrative materials, documents concerning the executive hearings and meetings of the board, correspondence, legislative files, and certain records relating to the President's Air Policy Commission. There are also records of the subcommittees on combat aviation, Government organization, and transportation. Two card files index certain records of the Board. A few of the records are security classified.

23.123 Types of documents include correspondence, memorandums, minutes, agenda, reports, studies, charts, working papers, copies of bills and resolutions, press clippings, and printed informational materials, as well as payroll and personnel records. There are transcripts of the hearings and meetings of the Board and of the press conferences held by the chairman and vice chairman. The records relate to proposed legislation, governmental aviation activities, aviation requirements of the Air Force and Navy, methods of maintaining a strong aircraft industry, the financial position of the air transportation industry, ground facilities, safety issues, and many other issues involving aviation.

23.124 A finding aid is available for these records. For related records, see records of the President's Air Policy Commission among Record Group 220, Records of Presidential Committees, Commissions, and Boards.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Defense Production (1950-1977)

23.125 Rising wages and prices during the Korean War caused serious economic difficulties within the United States. In an effort to expand production and insure economic stability, the Defense Production Act of 1950 (Public Law 81-774) authorized Governmental activities in various areas, including requisition of property for national defense, expansion of productive capacity and supply, wage and price stabilization, settlement of labor disputes, control of consumer and real estate credit, and establishment of contract priorities and materials allocation designed to aid the national defense. Under section 712, the Joint Committee on Defense Production was established to serve as a "watchdog" over Federal agencies administering the various programs authorized by the act. The members of the committee were drawn from the Senate and House Committees on Banking and Currency.

23.126 The committee undertook continuing studies and reviews of progress achieved under the various programs established by the Defense Production Act. It received quarterly reports from each Department or agency performing functions under the act, as well as a summary of yearly activities for inclusion in the committee's annual report of the committee to Congress. The agency reports provided information regarding authorities and responsibilities, progress and problems of current defense programs, future objectives, mobilization readiness, cooperation with small business, advisory committees, and related matters. Committee staff reviewed the reports and undertook interviews in the Departments. The committee held hearings on programs, activities, and problems, and it monitored expenditures of funds authorized by the act to purchase materials to expand supplies of strategic and critical materials and to provide loans to private enterprises for capital expansion or the production of essential materials. By the mid-1950's, the focus of the committee had changed from mobilization activities to preparation for future emergencies.

23.127 The records of the committee include correspondence with small businesses, 1950-1953, regarding problems arising from the imposition of various controls deriving from the Defense Production Act. Other records for the same period include reports from Federal agencies, agency regulations, and executive orders, as well as a general subject file, comprised mainly of correspondence, regarding such issues as price controls, export licenses, Federal procurement policies, and other activities under the Defense Production Act. There are records regarding various legislative proposals relating to the work of the committee from 1950 to 1953 and to the steel strike of 1952. These include working papers, analyses, memorandums, extracts from the Congressional Record, correspondence, and press releases.

23.128 Legislative oversight records, 1951 to 1974, relate to machine tools, transportation, rationing, the borrowing authority, and stockpiles and consist of correspondence, memorandums, reports to the committee, executive orders, staff reports and summaries, and printed materials used for reference purposes. Unpublished transcripts of hearings, 1951-1959, as well as certain reports and studies from executive Departments and others, are among the classified records of the committee. There is also a classified subject file that includes reports, memorandums, correspondence, and commodity fact sheets and inventories.

23.129 A manuscript, informal folder title list is available for most of these records.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on Washington Metropolitan Problems (1957-1960)

23.130 The Department of Interior Appropriations Act for FY 1957 included funds for the National Capital Planning Commission and the National Capital Regional Planning Council to conduct a joint "survey of the present and future mass transportation needs of the National Capital region" (70 Stat. 271). As the survey proceeded, those involved became convinced that a more wide-ranging and comprehensive study was required. Accordingly, a joint Congressional committee was established to study the problems created by growth in the greater District of Columbia region and to make recommendations regarding them. Members of the committee were drawn from the House and Senate Committees on the District of Columbia.

23.131 The committee's work proceeded in two phases. During the first phase, until January 1959, the committee studied and prepared staff reports on the region's water supply, pollution, economic development, park areas, and governmental organization. Transportation problems were not a special focus of the committee during the first phase because the mass transportation survey was not yet completed. The second phase, beginning in November 1959, concentrated on transportation issues and resulted in the National Capital Transportation Act (Public Law 86-669).

23.132 The only records of the committee are two volumes of transcripts of committee meetings held in executive session. These cover the entire life of the committee, dating from October 30, 1957, to August 23, 1960.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Joint Committee on the Organization of the Congress (1965-1966)

23.133 The Joint Committee on the Organization of the Congress was established by S. Con. Res. 2, 89th Cong., on March 11, 1965, to study the organization and operation of Congress and recommend improvements "with a view toward strengthening the Congress, simplifying its operations, improving its relationship with other branches of the United States Government, and enabling it better to meet its responsibilities under the Constitution." For 5 months, the committee held hearings at which 199 witnesses testified, including 106 Members of Congress. The committee issued its final report (S. Rept. 1414, 89th Cong., 2d sess., Serials 12712-2) on July 28, 1966.

23.134 The committee's work led eventually to the passage of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-510). Among other provisions, the legislation opened committee proceedings to more public scrutiny by mandating that committee meetings and hearings be open to the public unless the committee specifically voted to close them and requiring that all committee roll call votes should be made public.

23.135 The records include correspondence, memorandums, analytical reports, committee agenda, texts of speeches, press releases, and copies of committee publications and other printed materials. Various papers pertain to the committee hearings, including statements and summaries of hearings. There are memorandums, proposals, analytical reports, and a bibliography regarding "The Press and the American Political Scene" prepared by the Legislative Reference Service of the Library of Congress. A dissertation on evasiveness of governmental administrators when answering questions is also among the files.

23.136 Subjects covered include possible applications of computer technology to assist Congress in its work, as well as proposals regarding fiscal controls, congressional authority, ethics, and staffs.

Back to Records of Individual Joint Committees

Back to Top


1 This figure includes 73 conference committees.

2 Asher C. Hinds, Hinds' Precedents of the House of Representatives of the United States (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1907), vol. IV, pp. 879-80; vol. V, p. 685.

3 Later conference reports are filled with engrossed bills. In rare instances, papers relating to conferences may be found among committee papers or bill files.

4 From markings on the document, it is clear that this copy of the committee's report was used in the preparation of American State Papers. The report is published there in Miscellaneous, vol. 1, p. 253, no. 149. See para. JC.030 for information on the role of the Clerk of the House and Secretary of the Senate in the publication of American State Papers.

5 See Research Strategies for Using the Records of Congress for information on this publication and other reference works regarding Congress and its history.

6 See "Records of House Select Committees (1789-1846)" for information on records of the House Select Committee on the Smithsonian bequest, including a minute book that contains joint committee minutes.

7 After the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, members of the Joint Committee on the Library were drawn from the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration and the House Committee on House Administration.

8 The name changed on April 9, 1935.

9 The revised codification of the general and permanent laws of the United States was not completed until 1925. That code is volume 44, part 1, of Statutes at Large.

10 The Joint Committee on Internal Revenue Taxation is currently known as the Joint Committee on Taxation. The name change occurred in 1976 (90 Stat. 1835).

11 Congressional Record, 84th Cong., 2d sess., 27 July 1956, vol. 102, pt. 11, p. 15341.

12 The name was changed by section 2 of Public Law 84-591 of June 18, 1956.

13 This figure includes some records created after 1968. Because of the arrangement of the general subject files, it is impossible to provide a figure that represents the volume of records of the committee that date from 1968 or earlier.

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