Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 5

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Chapter 5. Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 1913-1968

Records of Committees Relating to Banking and Currency, 1913-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 1913-1968 (801 ft.)

5.1 The Committee on Banking and Currency was established March 15, 1913, during a special session of the 63d Congress, to have jurisdiction over banking and currency legislation, matters previously handled by the Committee on Finance. The Banking and Currency Committee's first chairman, Robert L. Owen, obtained, after some acrimonious debate, authorization to investigate banking conditions (S. Res. 66) and funding for a clerk (S. Res. 67). Senator Owen was instrumental in securing passage of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and thereby establishing Banking and Currency as a major standing committee of the Senate.

5.2 On several occasions before the 63d Congress, the Senate had appointed select committees to consider specific measures relating to banking and currency matters. One such select committee for which some records have been preserved is the Select Committee on the Memorial of the President, Directors, and Company of the Bank of the United States (22d Cong.), which was appointed in 1832 to consider the bank's request for renewal of its charter. Other select committees on banking activities for which unpublished records have survived are the Select Committee on Banks in the District of Columbia (35th Cong.) and the Select Committee on National Banks (53d-60th Congresses).

5.3 On October 26, 1970, as part of the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1970 (Public Law 91-510), Senate Rule XXV was modified to assign jurisdiction over urban affairs generally to the Banking and Currency Committee, which was then renamed the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.

5.4 No comprehensive history of the Committee on Banking and Currency has been published. The committee has published Committee on Banking and Currency, United States Senate: 50th Anniversary (S. Doc. 15, 88th Cong., 1st sess., Serial 12550), which lists the membership of the committee and its subcommittees, 1913-63, legislative and executive activities, 1931-63, and other information, but does not contain any narrative. A History of the Committee on Finance (S. Doc. 57, 91st Cong., 2d sess., Serial 12887) discusses briefly the Finance Committee's role in early banking legislation and on the establishment of the Banking and Currency Committee.

Records of the Committee on Banking and Currency, 1913-1946

5.5 There are three series of records of the Committee on Banking and Currency for this period: Committee papers (108 ft.), petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures that were referred to the committee (4 ft.), and minutes of committee meetings, 1927-46 (1 ft., incl. 7 vols.). Legislative case files for bills and resolutions referred to the committee through 1946 are located in the series of papers supporting specific bills and resolutions, which includes such records for all Senate committees. There are no committee papers for the 66th and 68th Congresses, and nearly two-thirds (71 ft.) of the committee's records for this entire period were created or obtained under subpoena by committee lawyers and investigators for the so-called Pecora Committee investigation of stock exchange practices, 1932-34 (73A-F3).

5.6 Generally referred to by the name of the fourth and final counsel to the committee for this investigation, Ferdinand Pecora, the Pecora Committee was created on March 4, 1932, with approval of S. Res. 84, 72d Cong. Chaired by Peter Norbeck in the 72d Congress and Duncan U. Fletcher in the 73d, its first two counsels were fired and a third resigned after the committee refused to give him broad subpoena powers. Pecora, an assistant district attorney for New York County, discovered, upon taking the committee counsel position, that the investigation was incomplete.

5.7 The records include correspondence, investigators' reports, and photostats of company records obtained voluntarily or under subpoena, arranged by subject of investigation. Among those businesses or subjects investigated were National City Bank and its investment affiliate, National City Company; J.P. Morgan and Company; Kuhn, Loeb, and Company; Chase National Bank and its Chase Securities Corporation; Dillon, Read, and Company; Cities Service Company; banking institutions in Detroit and Cleveland; and aviation stocks. Because the investment bankers' influence touched so many industries, records of other companies are also found in these files. The records also include completed questionnaires sent by the Pecora Committee, as part of its investigation of the New York Stock Exchange, to 1,375 exchange members and special questionnaires for the exchange itself. A detailed unpublished index to the Pecora Committee records accompanies the records.

5.8 Other committee papers include correspondence files, arranged by subject, of the committee during the chairmanships of Duncan U. Fletcher, 1935-36 (74A-F3, 6 ft.), and Robert F. Wagner, 1937-40, 1943-46 (75A-F3, 76A-F3, 78A-F4, 79A-F3, 8 ft.). Fletcher's files contain substantial unpublished information about the Banking Act of 1935. The records also include a number of typed or near-print reports of Federal agencies under the committee's jurisdiction, including the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), which was required to submit monthly reports on loans made, 1933-46 (73d-79th Congresses), and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which made studies of dealer-broker relationships, over-the-counter stock trading, and other subjects that were not regulated by the SEC under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (74A-F3). Also among the committee papers is an unpublished transcript of a hearing on an extension of rent control, July 2, 1946 (79A-F3). The remainder of the committee papers consist of Presidential messages and executive reports from the Comptroller of the Currency, Federal Reserve Board, and Federal agencies concerned with banking, credit, and housing.

5.9 Petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee during the 1910's and 1920's concern rural credit legislation and institutions such as the Federal Farm Loan Bank (63A-J3, 64A-J12, 66A-J3, 67A-J9) and farmer opposition to executive nominations to the Federal Farm Loan Board (68A-J10, 70A-J3); opposition to branch banking (64A-J12, 67A-J12); suggestions for amending the Federal Reserve Act (63A-J4, 66A-J3); a State tax on nationally chartered banks (71A-J14); and opposition to a proposal regulating stock exchanges by preventing fraudulent use of the mails (63A-J4).

5.10 As the Great Depression worsened in the 1930's, the farmers' main interest no longer was farm loans, but rather a moratorium to prevent foreclosures on their mortgages (72A-J8, 72A-J12, 73A-J9). The committee was one of several that received please for unemployment relief through public works (72A-J9). Other petitions and memorials supported revaluation of the dollar (72A-J11), dropping the gold standard (72A-J12), and even a Federal takeover of the banking system (73A-J9). As late as 1940, elements of the public supported Federal control of the value of money and abolition of the privately owned Federal Reserve System (75A-J3). Bankers objected to the practice of publishing public notice of Reconstruction Finance Corporation loans (72A-J10), and stock brokers and business organizations opposed regulation of the stock market proposed in the Fletcher-Rayburn bill (73A-J8).

5.11 During and immediately following World War II, the petitions, memorials, and resolutions emphasize the need for price and rent controls and gasoline rationing (77A-J3, 78A-J3), support for the actions of the Office of Price Administration (78A-J3, 79A-J3), continuation of low-interest farm loans (77A-J3), support for the Bretton Woods Agreement (79A-J3), and opposition to a proposed $4 billion loan to postwar Great Britain (79A-J3).

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Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.