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US Government Information in the Study of History

describes historically significant documents in the Library's collection, and important web sources for history

Online: History of Congress

Primary Sources: Congress' Own Documents

Reference Materials:

In depth research about Congress, as well as historical research in many areas, may require access to Congressional papers. Here are some sources for these archives:

Online: History of the Presidency

Primary Documents:

Reference Sites & Materials

Online: Agencies & the Courts

In order to find information pertaining to an agency's history, look for the following sorts of links from agency homepages: "About Us," "About the Agency," "History," "Archives." An example:

In the Library: History of Congress

NOTE that the Library ceased receiving new tangible government documents in Spring, 2016, and withdrew large numbers of tangible documents during the previous year.

Primary Sources: Congress' own documents

Congressional Record and antecedents. The floor debates of Congress now published as the Congressional Record have had various titles through history, and the Library's holdings of this material are in varying formats. The "bound" or permanent CR is now received in microfiche and classified X 1.1: . For a listing of all the iterations of this title, and locations in the Library, see the "General" tab of this guide. For more information about the Record, see this LibGuide.

Congressional Record

Journals. 1979- present. These records of the proceedings of the House and Senate are the only publications expressly required of them by the Constitution. They are published at the end of each Congressional Session and give daily summaries of motions, action taken, and roll call votes. They are received in the Library in microfiche and classified "XJ," so they are filed immediately following the Congressional Record. Each volume includes a summary legislative history of all bills introduced in the Session, and an index of subjects and names.

Since the Journals are published at the end of a Session, there may be a long gap between the last Journal received and the current Congressional Session. FDSys provides online access to the House Journal from 1992-1999.

Continential Congress and other early records:

  • Index to the Journals of the Continental Congress. GS 4.2:C 76/2/774-89.
  • Index to the Papers of the Continental Congress. GS 4.2:C 76/3/774-789.
  • Letters of Delegates to Congress. LC 1.34: . Includes all documents written by delegates to Congress bearing directly on their work during 1774-89.

Secondary Sources: Reference books & histories

Bio.Dir. of CongressBiographical Directory of the U.S. Congress, 1774-2005Y 1.1/2:14902. Listings by Congress, with brief biographical information. (this directory is available online in different versions, with different features:

Historical Almanac of the U.S. Senate. Y 1.1/2:13947. 1989. Chronology of important events relating to the Senate. Includes many photographs and other illustrations, and an index.

History of the United States House of Representatives, 1789-1994. Y 1.1/2:14248.

The Senate, 1789-1989: Addresses on the History of the U.S. Senate. Y 1.1/2:13723. By Robert Byrd. A compilation of Byrd's addresses, delivered on the Senate floor from 1981-87. Extensive notes, a short bibliography and a detailed index are included.

 

CapitolHistory of the United States Capitol: a chronicle of design, construction, and politics. Y 1.1/2:14620. From planning through 20th-century additions and improvements to the Capitol building. Available online through FDSys.

Capitol builder: the shorthand journals of Montgomery C. Meigs, 1853-1859, 1861 : a project to commemorate the United States Capitol bicentennial, 1800-2000. Y 1.1/2:14612. Notes by architect Meigs, who oversaw many building projects in Washington during this period, including major additions to the Capitol. Available online through FDSys.

For more information on Congress, see our Congress, Legislation, etc. Libguide. The photo of the Capitol in spring was borrowed from the House of Representatives website.

In the Library: History of the Presidency

NOTE that the Library ceased receiving new tangible government documents in Spring, 2016, and withdrew large numbers of tangible documents during the previous year.

Arrangement of Presidential documents in the Library

White House

Presidential documents are classified PR in the documents stacks, with a number following the PR designating the presidency. For example, publications from Jimmy Carter's presidency are classified PR 39....

Another section of publications related to the Presidency is classified PREX. These are publications issued by various more-or-less permanent offices under direct control of the White House. These are some of the most important and their classification numbers:

  • Bioethics Advisory Commission PREX 1.19: .
  • Central Intelligence Agency PREX 3.  .
  • Council on Environmental Quality PREX 14. .
  • Drug Control Policy Office PREX 26. .
  • Managment and Budget Office PREX 2. .
  • Trade Representative PREX 9. .

Some miscellaneous publications, such as speeches and one-time reports, are classified in PREX 1.2: . Over the years, there has seemed to be little logic behind the decision to place a commission's report in PR or PREX. For this reason, browsing the stacks alone should not be substituted for a search of the Library Catalog when looking for Presidential publications. 

checkIMPORTANT NOTES: Some important series of Presidental documents are classified oddly, or are in different locations within the Library:

  • Economic Report of the President. Classified PR xx.9: , where "xx" is the number of the presidency. Note that this means these reports are dispersed throughout the PR section of the stacks. Economic Reports are available online from 1995 up to the present through FDSys.
  • President's budget. These volumes are classified PREX 2.8: , therefore shelved together within the stacks. They are available online from 1996 to the present through FDSys.
  • Public Papers of the Presidents. 3rd FLOOR--J 82Texts of documents from administrations of Hoover to the present (Franklin Roosevelt excepted). The University of California, Santa Barbara's American Presidency Project offers digital versions of many of the papers for Presidents since Hoover (including Roosevelt). The University of Michigan's Digital Library also offers digitized copies. Note that prior to the Hoover Administration (1928-32) there is no official compilation of Presidential papers.
  • Compilation of Presidential Documents. Texts of documents, which used to be published weekly, and which are later compiled into the Public Papers series. The Blume Library no longer has holdings of this title in tangible form but the Law Library does. It is also available online through FDSys for 1993 to the present, updated continually.

Reference materials

Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents of the U.S. Y 1.1/2:13914. 1989. Gives addresses of presidents from Washington through George H.W. Bush. A brief historical note, and picture, precede each text. Bartleby makes an updated version available online.

Index to Presidential Papers. LC 4.7: . Indexes collections of papers in the Library of Congress; includes 23 presidents, Calvin Coolidge being the most recent.

Presidential Vetoes. Y 1.3:S.PUB.102-12; 107-10. Lists vetoes chronologically; gives bill numbers and references to veto messages and other related material. There is a subject index. Senate Publication 102-12 covers vetoes from 1789-1988. The latest update publication is 107-10, which covers 1989-2001.


Specific Presidents

Kennedy Assassination materials

  • Warren Commission report and associated materials. The Report itself (published in 1964) is a single volume classified PR 36.8:K 38/R 29. Accompanying the Report are 15 volumes of hearings and another 11 volumes of exhibits submitted in conjunction with the hearings; these are classified PR 36.8:K 38/H 35. Each volume contains a detailed table of contents and notes; plus, there is an overall index of names in volume 15.
  • House Select Committee on Assassinations. In 1978, this House Committee revisited the assassination of Kennedy (in addition to that of Martin Luther King, Jr.) and issued 12 volumes of hearings. A general description of the coverage in each volume appears on the cover. Volume 12 includes lengthy bibliographies of writings about the assassination. The hearings are classified Y 4.AS 7:K 38.
  • The National Archives has a voluminous collection of records regarding this event, many of which are available online through this portal.

graphic from National Archives

scalesPresidential Impeachment materials

  • Richard Nixon. The House Judiciary Committee, which investigated Nixon administration activities prior to recommending articles of impeachment to the full House, issued a 22-volume Statement of Information detailing the findings of their investigation. These volumes, along with 4 volumes of appendices, are classified Y 4.J 89/1:IN 3. General descriptions of the content of each volume appear on its cover. A summary of their findings is classified Y 4.J 89/1:IN 3/4. In addition, there is a 4-volume response to the Committee's case submitted by Nixon's counsel. This Statement is classified Y 4.J 89/1:IN 3/2. Transcripts of the famous "White House tapes," as submitted to the Committee by the President, are available at PR 37.2:C 76. An online repository of audio files and transcriptions of the tapes is available here.
  • Bill Clinton. Since Clinton was actually impeached and tried (unlike Nixon, who resigned before he could be impeached) the documentary trail is more complete in his case. We have the result of the House Judiciary Committee's inquiry ("Consideration of Articles of Impeachment") at Y 4. J 89/1:IN 7/19,20. There are also two sets of documents which emerged from the Senate trial. The Evidentiary Record is 22 volumes, classified Y 1.1/3:106-3. The Proceedings of the U.S. Senate in the Impeachment Trial of President William Jefferson Clinton is shelved at Y 1.1/3:106-4 and consists of 4 volumes: Preliminary Proceedings, Floor Trial Proceedings, Depositions and Affadavits, and Statements of Senators.

In the Library: Agency Histories

calendarNOTE that the Library ceased receiving new tangible government documents in Spring, 2016, and withdrew large numbers of tangible documents during the previous year.

Individual agencies—and even sub-agencies and facilities such as laboratories, bases and research centers—often publish self-histories. Some examples are: Donovan and the CIA (PrEx 3.10:D 71); Dreams, hopes, realities : NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center : the first forty years (NAS 1.21:4312); History of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (D 1.2:H 62/3). NASA in particular actively publishes histories about all aspects of aeronautics and the space program.

NASA

Consult the Government Documents Index or the Library Catalog for particular agency histories. Combine "HISTORY" with keywords from the agency's name in performing an advanced keyword search.

Another important type of agency historical publication are legislative histories of important laws. For example: Legislative history of the Labor Management Relations Act, 1947 (LR 1.5:L 11/3). The wonderful law librarians in Washington have compiled this listing of online legislative histories for important laws.

The Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress (Y 1.1/2:14902) (described in the "History of Congress" box on the right) includes a comprehensive listing of major executive officers from 1789 to the present.