Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 12 Public Lands 1947-1968


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Chapter 12. Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816-1968


Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs and Predecessor Committees, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Public Lands, 1947-48 and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1948-68

12.78 Under the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946, four committees--Public Lands and Surveys, Territorial and Insular Affairs, Indian Affairs, and Irrigation and Reclamation--were terminated and their responsibilities were consolidated, effective with the beginning of the 80th Congress, under a single committee, the Committee on Public Lands. The jurisdiction of this committee in 1947, as described in Senate Rule XXV, included the following subjects: The public lands generally; mineral resources on public lands; forfeiture of land grants and alien ownership, including alien ownership of mineral lands; forest reserves and national parks created from the public domain; military parks and battlefields, and national cemeteries; preservation of prehistoric ruins and objects of interest in the public domain; measures relating generally to Hawaii, Alaska, and the insular possessions of the United States, except those affecting the revenue and appropriations; irrigation and reclamation and related water projects, including the acquisition of private land to complete projects; interstate compacts relating to apportionment of water for irrigation purposes; mining interests generally; mineral land laws and claims and entries thereunder; geological survey; mining schools and experimental stations; conservation of petroleum resources on public lands and conservation of the radium supply in the United States; relations with Indians and Indian tribes; and measures relating to the care, education, and management of Indians, including the care and allotment of Indian lands and measures relating to claims paid out of Indian funds. Responsibility for these jurisdictional areas was further divided among subcommittees, following the pre-1947 committee structure.

12.79 Early in the 2d session of the 80th Congress, the chairman of the Public Lands Committee, Hugh Butler of Nebraska, submitted S. Res. 179 to rename the committee, and effective January 28, 1948, the committee became the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs. In 1977, most of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee's jurisdiction was transferred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

12.80 The National Archives has among its holdings 458 feet of records of the Committee on Public Lands, 1947-48, and the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1948-68, and their subcommittees.

Records of the Full Committee

12.81 The major series of records of the committee consists of legislative case files ("accompanying papers"), 1947-68 (235 ft.). These papers document legislative and internal committee and subcommittee action on bills and resolutions referred to it. Arranged for each Congress by type of bill or resolution and thereunder by number, the case files may consist of as little as one or two printed items or as much as several boxes of material. The types of records found in the files include printed material, such as bills, reports, hearings, committee prints, and amendments; transcripts of unprinted public hearings and executive sessions of committee or subcommittee sessions at which legislation was discussed, 1947-60 only; memorandums written by professional staff members to advise the committee chairman or other members; correspondence from executive agencies, either forwarding proposed legislation or commenting on legislative proposals; correspondence with the general public; official statements of interested organizations; and printed reference material, often submitted by organizations or the public. In later years, each file folder is coded with initials to indicate the subcommittee to which the bill was referred. In a few instances, this series also contains records of committee investigations pursuant to Senate resolutions; for example, the file on S. Res. 248, 85th Cong., to compare river and related water resources development programs of the United States, Soviet Union, and the People's Republic of China, 1957-58, contains almost 1 linear foot of exhibits, committee prints, and related records.

12.82 For the 80th Congress (1947-48), the series is divided between the Public Lands Committee and the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, with most being under Public Lands because the majority of bills tend to be introduced in the 1st session. Even if hearings on bills were held after January 28, 1948, the records will still be found as part of the Public Lands Committee records.

12.83 Among the larger files are S. 1222, 80th Cong., to liquidate the Klamath Indian reservation; H.R. 49, 80th and 81st Congresses, to grant statehood to Hawaii; H.R. 331, 81st Cong., to grant statehood to Alaska; S. 5, 82d Cong., to authorize a desalination of water demonstration project; S. 1333, 84th Cong., to authorize construction of the Hells Canyon dam on the Snake River; and S. 4028, 85th Cong., to establish a national wilderness preservation system. S. 49, 85th Cong., was enacted as the Alaska statehood bill (Public Law 85-508), and S. 50, 86th Cong., was enacted as the Hawaii statehood bill (Public Law 86-3). Hearing and executive session transcripts are not maintained with the legislative case files after 1960, but are in a separate series described below.

12.84 Legislative files relating to coastal zones and tidelands, 1951-53 (2 ft.), are filed separately. They contain various types of records on bills relating to submerged lands. Included are numerous memos to Chairman Joseph O'Mahoney from the committee's legal counsel, Stewart French.

12.85 Other records referred to the committee include Presidential messages and executive communications ("messages, communications, and reports"), 1947-68 (30 ft.) and petitions, memorials, and resolutions from State legislatures, 1947-66 (4 ft.). Arranged by Congress, thereunder by type of document and chronologically by date of referral, the Presidential messages and executive communications consist of formal communications transmitting proposed legislation, special reports requested by the Senate, and reports required by statute, such as annual reports of Interior Department agencies and territorial governments, and reports on various agency projects. The number of Presidential messages is very small. The petitions, memorials, and resolutions file consists largely of resolutions of State legislatures on subjects primarily of local or State interest. One-fourth of the total, however, are memorials from mining companies and unions favoring H.R. 2455, 80th Cong., the National Minerals Development and Conservation Act of 1947. For the 80th Congress, records in both series are divided between the Public Lands and Interior and Insular Affairs Committees.

12.86 Some executive communications also are in the special projects files ("special actions"), 1951-68 (13 ft.). This series is unique to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee, and its subjects vary from Congress to Congress. Special projects status and numbers were assigned to investigations, other matters on which hearings were held, and more routine matters such as reports submitted to the committee relating to the Small Reclamation Projects Act of 1956. Many of the documents in the files were originally referred to the committee as executive communications. The files for each Congress are arranged by SP-number, and while some special projects may continue from one Congress to the next, the file numbers do not. There are no special projects files for the 83d Congress (1953-54).

12.87 One project of the committee that went beyond these special projects or action was its national fuels and energy study. The origin of the study was S. Res. 105, 87th Cong., which was introduced by Jennings Randolph of West Virginia and called for the creation of a special committee to study the fuels industry to determine whether changes in the national fuels policy were necessary in order to maintain the Nation's energy supremacy. Randolph's resolution was approved after it was amended significantly. Although a special committee was not created, the study was assigned to the Interior and Insular Affairs Committee. Under the committee's supervision, the study was conducted by Samuel G. Lasky, an official in the Department of the Interior, who was assisted by energy specialists from the private sector. Randolph and two other Senators served as ex-officio members. The records of the Energy Study Group, 1961-62 (4 ft.), consist of correspondence with organizations, correspondence with executive agencies, a subject file, and copies of its publications (hearings and committee prints).

12.88 In general, committee correspondence is found primarily in two series: General correspondence ("subject files"), 1947-68 (57 ft.), and copies of outgoing letters ("reading files"), 1949-68 (14 ft.). For some Congresses the committee maintained additional files and these are noted below.

12.89 The general correspondence is arranged by Congress and thereunder alphabetically by subject. For the 90th Congress there are two separate subject files. The records include correspondence of the chairmen, staff directors, legal counsels, and clerks with chairmen of Interior and Insular Affairs subcommittees, other Members of Congress, officials of executive agencies of the Federal Government, lobbyists and other advocates, and the general public; printed matter, usually attachments to correspondence; and very rarely, transcripts of committee meetings and hearings. The files broadly document all legislative interests of the committee and some administrative matters. Included in the series are letters, staff memorandums, and extensive newspaper clippings concerning charges made in 1950 by Sen. Andrew F. Schoeppel that Secretary of the Interior Oscar L. Chapman and one of his principal assistants had pro-Communist sympathies. For the 80th and 81st Congresses, there are separate, chronologically arranged reading files. In addition to the larger correspondence file, for the 80th Congress two small correspondence series were maintained. The area files, 1947-48 (4 ft.), are arranged by name of Territory, and most of the material relates to a trip to Alaska by committee members, pursuant to S. Res. 148, 80th Cong. Correspondence with subcommittees, 1947-48 (4 in.), is arranged alphabetically by subcommittee and is similar to that found as part of general correspondence in succeeding Congresses.

12.90 With two exceptions, the copies of outgoing letters are arranged by Congress and thereunder alphabetically by name of correspondent. The copies are annotated to indicate the location of the originals in the general correspondence or the legislative case files. The exceptions are the 87th Congress for which there is no file of outgoing letters, and the 90th, which has separate alphabetical files for 1967 and 1968.

12.91 Transcripts of public hearings and executive sessions, 1947-68 (83 ft.), are a valuable source of information about bills, nominations, and other committee business. The series generally is arranged chronologically for each Congress and contains transcripts of public hearings, some of which were eventually printed, and of hearings and committee meetings held in executive session. The number of transcripts varies greatly from Congress to Congress, with the largest number of documents found for the 87th-90th Congresses; prior to 1961, transcripts of hearings relating to specific bills and resolutions are frequently found in the legislative case files.

12.92 Also documenting the meetings of the committee are its minutes, 1947-54 and 1961-68 (3 ft., incl. 6 vols.). Minutes for the 80th-82d Congresses are bound; those for the 83d and 87th-90th Congresses are unbound. No minutes for the 1955-60 period have been transferred to the National Archives. For the most part, the minutes are meticulous and detailed, supplemented occasionally with verbatim transcripts, agenda, vote tallies ("yeas and nays"), and copies of bills.

12.93 Records of nominations referred to the committee comprise the nominations case files, 1947-68 (4 ft.). Nominees for high-level positions in the Department of the Interior, such as the Secretary, Undersecretary, assistant secretaries, Director of the Bureau of Mines, Commissioner of Indian affairs, Territorial governors, and members of the Indian Claims Commission are among those referred. For each Congress the files are arranged alphabetically by name of nominee. They may include such records as transcripts of nomination hearings (after 1958, see series of transcripts of hearings and executive sessions), correspondence for and against the nomination, biographical sketches, nomination reference and report forms, and newspaper clippings. Among the largest files are those for the following nominees: Dr. James Boyd, to be Director of the Bureau of Mines (80th and 81st Congresses); Mariano Villarongo, to be Commissioner of Education for Puerto Rico (80th Congress); Ernest Gruening, to be Governor of Alaska (81st Congress) and Raphael M. Paiewonsky to be Governor of the Virgin Islands (87th Congress).

Records of Subcommittees

12.94 The organization of subcommittees of the Interior and Insular Affairs Committees parallels closely the committees that were merged into the Committee on Public Lands by the Legislative Reorganization Act of 1946. Although Chairman Joseph O'Mahoney proposed the elimination of subcommittees at the committee meeting of January 12, 1949, subcommittees continued to have a significant role in considering legislation and investigating other matters. While much documentation of subcommittee activities is contained in the various series of the full committee records, a few series of records were maintained separately.

Subcommittee on Indian Affairs

12.95 The largest of the separate files are the records of the standing Subcommittee on Indian Affairs, 1947-52. Because these are a continuation of a series that originated with the standing Committee on Indian Affairs prior to the 1946 reorganization, the records of the subcommittee are intermixed with those of the predecessor committee. Consequently, they are described with the records of that committee. One small series of subcommittee records that is not interfiled with the main series relates to an investigation of complaints concerning the Interior Department's administration of revested Oregon and California Railroad Company lands and related timberland agreements. Records relating to the sustained timber yield investigation, 1948-49 (6 in.), consist of statements and printed matter submitted by witnesses at the hearing in Eugene, OR, in 1948, and related correspondence.

Subcommittee to Investigate the Explosion at Centralia Coal Mine #5

12.96 On March 25, 1947, an explosion destroyed the Centralia Coal Mine #5, at Wamac, IL, killing 111 miners. Demands for a congressional investigation were swift and within days, the Senate approved S. Res. 98, 80th Cong., which authorized the appointment of a special subcommittee on the Public Lands Committee to investigate the causes of disaster. Guy Cordon of Oregon was named chairman. The incident and subcommittee investigation were followed by enactment of S. J. Res. 130, 80th Cong., which extended the safety code for mine inspections.

12.97 The records, April-July 1947 (2 ft.), include transcripts of hearings, copies of subpoenas, correspondence, an alphabetical subject file, newspaper clippings, mine inspection reports for the Centralia Coal Mine #5 and other coal mines, maps of the mine, and other exhibits.

Subcommittee to Investigate Minerals, Materials, and Fuel Economics

12.98 Pursuant to S. Res 143, 83d Cong., and continued by four additional Senate resolutions during the 84th Congress, the subcommittee, chaired by George W. Malone of Nevada, conducted a study of the accessibility of critical raw materials. Hearings were begun in Seattle, WA, in September 1953 and continued until May 1954. The materials of greatest concern were nickel, titanium, and uranium, all of which were essential to the military. The subcommittee was highly critical of stockpiling procedures and in response, President Dwight D. Eisenhower instituted a new policy to maintain sufficient supplies of strategic raw materials. The records, 1953-54 (3 ft.), consist of transcripts of hearings, excerpts of transcripts, and exhibits.

Records of the Staff

12.99 The general correspondence and legislative case files contain much of the staff's memorandums to their chairmen and correspondence with the general public. Especially evident in these records are the contributions of longtime staffmembers, including committee counsel Stewart French and staff director Jerry T. Verkler (see the Senate Historical Office's oral history with Verkler). However, the only records of a professional staffmember that have been transferred to the National Archives are the reference files of Elmer K. Nelson, 1937-52 (3 ft.). Nelson was a consulting engineer and later a professional staffmember of the committee, who collected printed material on water projects in Arizona, California, and Colorado.

Records of the Committee on Interior and Insular Affairs, 1948-68

12.100 Major series for the full committee include legislative case files, general subject files, transcripts of hearings and executive sessions, "special actions," nominations files, executive communications, and petitions. There are also records for the following subcommittees: Energy Research and Development (4 ft.); Recreation and Renewable Resources (8 ft.); Parks (1 ft.); and Public Lands (20 ft.).

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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.