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U.S. Federal Documents on HathiTrust: US Congressional Serial Set

A research guide to HathiTrust's collections of U.S. Federal Documents


Images from the US Congressional Serial Set.

The US Congressional Serial Set began publication in 1817 with the 15th Congress and contains House and Senate Documents and Reports, such as journals, directories, manuals, legislation, annual reports from agencies, investigations, statistics, and surveys. 

Comprised of 15,000 volumes and almost 13 million pages, the Serial Set is an invaluable primary source of American history. 

Access HathiTrust's US Congressional Serial Set Collection. 

What can you find in the Serial Set?

The Serial Set covers a wide array of topics, including: 

  • Artwork, including renderings of portraits, pottery, canvas, clothing, and basket designs of North and South American indigenous peoples. 
  • Architectural plans
  • Explorer accounts of the American West
  • Accounts of expeditions to Japan and China
  • Agricultural history
  • Labor and economic issues
  • Reports from the Bureau of American Ethnology
  • Civil War and Reconstruction
  • Constitutional amendments
  • Coast surveys
  • Science and technology
  • Social justice issues
  • Controversies and scandals
  • Compilation of the messages and papers of the presidents from 1789 to 1897


Finding a known document or volume can be tricky.

  1. Item classification can be inconsistent.
    • Some items have only the volume number in the title while some only have the year.  
    • Many do not have the year included in the record at all, meaning it is necessary to know the volume numbers that cover a certain Congress session. 
  2. Multiple volumes are included under one catalog record, making searching for a specific volume via title or catalog record difficult. 
  3. The majority of the collection has not been fully indexed with optical character recognition technology, making full-text search (for a specific document within a volume, for example) nearly impossible. 

Tips for Searching HathiTrust's Serial Set Collection

  • The side navigation bar on the collection's home page allows researchers to narrow down their searches by subject, author (in this case, usually the government agency), and date of publication, among others. 
  • If searching for a known named document, it is best to narrow down the volumes by year using the side navigation bar. Again, the index is not always perfect, but it's a good place to start your search. 
  • For documents from 1957 on, use the Numerical List of Documents and Reports to get an idea of which Congress sessions and volumes cover specific years. 




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