Historical Highlights

Early Efforts to Preserve the Records of the House of Representatives

February 21, 1910
Early Efforts to Preserve the Records of the House of Representatives House Resolution 403, 61st Congress Early efforts to preseve the records of the House of Representatives unearthed an original letter from Former First Lady Martha Washington to the Congress.
On this date in the 61st Congress (1909–1911), Massachusetts Congressman Joseph Francis O’Connell introduced H. Res. 403, a resolution allocating $2,500 “for the better preservation of the early files of the House.”  Referred to the Committee on Accounts, the Committee later printed House Report No. 677, describing the rapidly deteriorating condition of House Records still kept in the Capitol’s attic. The space contained hundreds of bundles of the earliest records, which were piled to the ceiling in a narrow passageway. The papers were “neglected and decaying.” The report called for additional funding to classify and rejacket these materials, which included original bills and amendments, correspondence, memorials of state and territorial legislatures, petitions, and reports. The records covered “a variety of subjects and in themselves [furnish] a documentary history of some of the most important events in our history.” The report described the circumstances of a letter from Martha Washington to Congress consenting to the burial of President George Washington in the Capitol crypt. The letter had been cut from one of the bound volumes of original documents, but was later recovered. The committee recommended the deposit of all original papers and letters of historical value with the Librarian of Congress. After this initial transfer, the Librarian continued to accept periodic deposits from the House, but was eager for an alternative storage space. More than 40 years later, House records were transferred from the Library of Congress to the National Archives building and today are cared for by the Clerk of the House’s official archival staff.

Related Highlight Subjects