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Statutes at Large Numbering of Laws

Volumes 1-31, 1789-1901 (1st through 56th Congress)

Chapter Volume Page Number
Ch. 3 5 Stat. 4

The laws compiled in Statutes at Large were originally identified by chapter numbers that were assigned in chronological order of approval and did not distinguish between public and private laws. Since the public and private laws were listed separately during this period, each list will appear to be missing numbers if the other list is not taken into consideration. The numbering system started anew at the beginning of each session, so a single Congress could have two, three or four laws with the same chapter number, depending on the number of sessions in that particular Congress. A search for Chapter 2 in the 40th Congress, for example, will produce three results, one for each session. In this case, it is necessary to know the session number or date of enactment in order to identify a specific law.

Volumes 32-70, 1901-1956 (57th through 84th Congress)

Public Law Number Chapter Volume Page Number
Public No. 1 Chap. 1 32 Stat. 753

In addition to chapter numbers, laws during this period were also assigned public or private law numbers or public or private resolution numbers. During the 57th through 59th Congresses, these law and resolution numbers were assigned sequentially with the sequence beginning anew with each session of Congress, but from the 60th Congress forward, the numbering has started at the beginning of each Congress rather than each congressional session. Beginning with the 77th Congress, the separate numbering system for bills and resolutions was discontinued and from that time forward no distinction has been made between laws that were introduced as bills and laws that were introduced as joint resolutions.

Volumes 71 and forward, 1957-Present (85th Congress forward)

Public Law Number Volume Page Number
P.L. 85-1 71 Stat. 3

In 1957, use of chapter numbers was discontinued. Public and private laws continued to be numbered sequentially and separately, with each sequence covering a complete Congress rather than a session. The number of the Congress in which the law was enacted was added as a prefix to both public and private law numbers.

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