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Ansel Wold's Biographical Directory of the American Congress

September 03, 1953
Ansel Wold's <i>Biographical Directory of the American Congress </i> Foreword, Biographical Directory of the American Congress, 1774–1927, Government Printing Office, 1928
On this date, Ansel Wold, clerk for the Joint Committee on Printing and chief compiler of the 1928 edition of the Biographical Directory of the American Congress, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Born in nearby Madelia, Minnesota, Wold came to Washington in 1899 at the age of 18 and worked for the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Senate before being promoted to chief clerk of the Joint Committee on Printing in 1921. Wold spent four years revising the Biographical Directory and was eventually dubbed the “official biographer of Congress” by the Baltimore Sun. As part of the editing process, the Joint Committee sent questionnaires—upwards of 30,000 of them, according to one estimate—to postmasters in the hometowns of former Members. The committee then received a variety of responses from town officials, Members’ descendants, and local historians. Wold and his staff received so much information that they had to re-write some profiles “four and five times.” In December 1945, Charles Plumley of Vermont submitted H. Con. Res. 107 calling for a revision of the 17-year old publication. Fortunately, Wold maintained an extensive file of Member biographies after the publication of the 1928 edition. He retired in February 1948, but the Joint Committee undoubtedly used his files for the Biographical Directory’s 1949 update. Since its first publication in 1859, the Biographical Directory  has had 16 significant revisions. The most recent print edition lists the biographies of the nearly 12,000 individuals who’ve served from 1774 to 2005, in the federal Congress, as well as the Continental and Articles of Confederation Congresses. The online edition of the Biographical Directory is edited regularly by the professional staff in the Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, and in the Senate Historical Office.

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