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Serial Numbering

The serial numbers from which the set gets its popular name owe their existence to Dr. John G. Ames, head of the Document Division in the Department of the Interior, and later, Superintendent of Documents in the Government Printing Office. In 1892, the Interior Department issued his "List of Congressional Documents, 15th-51st Congress, and of Government Publications Containing Debates and Proceedings of Congress, 1st-51st Congress, with miscellaneous lists of public documents, historical and bibliographical notes". This was the first edition of a work that, because of its unwieldy title, quickly became known as the Checklist. Its second edition, published in 1895, contained a set of serial numbers that Dr. Ames had devised for numbering volumes in the Congressional Edition from 1817 onward.

Starting with serial number one assigned to the Senate Journal for the 15th Congress, 1st session every item in the set received a serial number according to its shelf position when arranged by Congress, session, and volume number. While they lacked sessional volume numbers, the journals were conventionally placed before documents and reports for serial numbering purposes. During all of the 54th Congress and the 1st session of the 55th Congress, serial numbers were omitted from the journals of both Houses. These journals have since conventionally been given the number of the volume preceding the number they should have received plus the letter "A".

The sequence of publication class series in the Serial Set for each session before 1902 was as follows: Senate journal, Senate documents (executive documents preceding miscellaneous documents, 1847-1895), Senate reports (1847-1902), House journal, House documents (executive documents preceding miscellaneous documents, 1847-1895), and House reports (1819-1902). Since 1902 the arrangement has been Senate journal (1902-1952), House journal (1902-1952), Senate reports, House reports, Senate documents, House documents.

Since 1979, all reports and all documents have been arranged and bound in numerical sequence.

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