U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994
An Archive of Americana Collection
Unprecedented and convenient access to a mountain of valuable source materials....the Serial Set serves many different disciplines.
Suping Lu, Professor and Liaison Librarian, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Quick Facts

  • A required foundational resource for American history, society and politics
  • The definitive digital edition of more than 370,000 valuable government documents
  • Superior search results, unique browse capabilities and comprehensive bibliographic records


The single most important series of American government documents, the U.S. Congressional Serial Set is an incomparably rich source of primary and secondary material on the people, issues and events of the United States.  Spanning nearly two centuries of American and world history, this monumental collection—the Reports, Documents and Journals of the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives—covers myriad subjects ranging from slavery in Antebellum America and the expansion of the American West and the impeachment of presidents to the founding of the United Nations, public and private legislation, and more.

Presenting every cameral publication from the 15th through 103rd Congress, the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994, provides more than 370,000 individual documents originally bound in 14,000 volumes.  This definitive digital edition contains a wealth of documents, illustrations, maps and charts on cultural, legislative, military, political, social and scientific history.  Among the countless topics addressed are women’s suffrage and minority rights; environment, energy and natural resources; Native American life; race relations, international relations; wars, worldwide discovery and exploration; and investigations of all kinds.

Superior research results
Readex used the original printed paper documents to create high-resolution images of every publication, including more than 74,000 maps. To ensure the best search results, Readex has created unequalled indexing of subject terms, executive agency names and bill numbers as well as of personal, corporate, committee and geographic names. In addition, the Readex edition offers links from terms in bibliographic records for quick retrieval of related documents, a fully integrated subject thesaurus, cartographic indexing and Open URLs for every publication. Catalog records in MARC format are also available.

Wide acclaim from leading scholars and librarians alike
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University, writes, “The Readex digital U.S. Congressional Serial Set is a great boon…making instantly accessible a wealth of information and documentation previously very difficult to locate and access,” and Gerald L. Gill, Head of Reference and Government Documents, James Madison University, says it “provides essential primary sources in humanities, social sciences and even some science areas….the Serial Set is a virtual encyclopedia of America.”

Advisory Board

Charles Eckman
AUL & Director of Collections
University of California, Berkeley

Cathy Hartman
Head, Government Documents Department
University of North Texas

Mary Mallory
Head, Documents Department
University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana

Richard McKinney
Assistant Law Librarian
Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System

John B. Phillips
Head, Documents Department, Edmon Low Library
Oklahoma State University

August A. Imholtz, Jr.
Vice President, Readex
Advisory Board Secretary


“Readex’s ambitious digitalization of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set has provided unprecedented and convenient access to a mountain of valuable source materials. The abundant and wide variety of information contained in the Congressional Serial Set serves many different disciplines, including Asian Studies and Asian American Studies. The contribution that Chinese laborers made to building the transcontinental railroad is one of the many interesting topics documented in the Set.” 
— Suping Lu, Professor and Liaison Librarian, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

“When I set out to write a biography of Cornelius Vanderbilt, a man known by the informal title of “Commodore,” I faced one mystery after another. Even though he was one of the richest and most powerful businessmen in American history, he conducted most of his operations in secret. He left no diary, no collection of papers, and carried out many transactions orally, without committing them to paper....I was ready to indict and convict Vanderbilt of war profiteering, if that’s where the evidence led me. Instead, it convinced me that the Commodore deserved his gold medal. Vanderbilt has often been treated with cynicism by historians, who are ready to believe the worst of a staggeringly rich, secretive, and combative man. Certainly I did not set out to rehabilitate his reputation. But I couldn’t ignore the evidence—evidence provided in breathtaking abundance by Congress in its Serial Set, now more accessible than ever thanks to digitization.” 
— T.J. Stiles, author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 2009 National Book Award Winner

“The U.S. Congressional Serial Set illustrates the important role of rivers through its collection of more than 50,000 maps, many in full color. In addition to its vast number of U.S. maps, the Serial Set includes maps from locales as widely scattered as Asia, South America and the Yukon Territory....Beyond their contributions to navigation and exploration, maps serve as graphic reminders of a region's history, people and politics. The maps of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set illustrate the physical features of land and waterways around the world and—through accompanying journals and sketches—offer insight into the people, culture and times that produced them.” 
— Donna Koepp, former head of government documents/microforms and head of reference and instruction for the Harvard College Library's Social Sciences Program

“In December 2009 and at the end of a thirteen-year journey through three administrations and an array of proceedings against four Secretaries of the Interior, a Class Action Settlement Agreement was reached in Cobell v. Salazar before the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. This accord recommends a two-part resolution to claims of alleged federal mismanagement of American Indian tribal funds and other assets, resulting from the government’s failure to meet its fiduciary responsibilities as specified by the General Allotment Act of 1887....Serial Set materials create a foundation for an understanding of the Cobell proceedings. Readex’s extension of the Serial Set database through the 103rd Congress will bring these effective digital search capabilities up to the very threshold of these judicial events, thereby increasing the scope of any investigation.” 
— Charles D. Bernholz, Professor and Government Documents Librarian, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Latin American Newspapers, 1805-1922 and the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994 are two databases of great importance for Latin American studies. Together they provide more than 30 newspapers and 400,000 government documents that provide Latin American researchers with access to critical historical information without requiring travel to the United States or neighboring countries. These high-quality Readex collections offer new opportunities to explore, understand and reveal our own history; both are of huge value to historical researchers in many different fields of the humanities and social sciences.” 
— Prof. Kátia Couto, Department of History, Universidade Federal do Amazonas-UFAM

“The Readex digital U.S. Congressional Serial Set is a great boon to scholars of 19th-century America, making instantly accessible a wealth of information and documentation previously very difficult to locate and access.”
Eric Foner, DeWitt Clinton Professor of History, Columbia University

“The ‘U.S. Congressional Serial Set’ provides essential primary sources in humanities, social sciences and even some science areas. With information coming from every level and agency of government, the ‘Serial Set’ is a virtual encyclopedia of America, replete with information on everything from alcoholism to Zanesville, Ohio. At my institution, the ‘Set’ supports 56 courses across eight departments and makes a strong contribution to the liberal arts curriculum.

“The Readex Serial Set supports faculty and student research and gives them tools, unavailable until now, to mine this rich vein of knowledge. A well-designed database that goes far beyond the essentials, the Readex edition opens up the resources in ways that make them readily accessible to undergraduates. Very few databases actually invite users to explore their contents the way this one does. It puts a sense of discovery back into the learning process and allows users to exercise considerable control in their searching.

“The interface is laid out logically, easily and with all important functions always available, whether in search or display mode, on the top half of the visible screen. There is never any doubt as to what the user’s options are at any point in the process—whether that is to view the document, search within the results, ask for help or download a document. The only directly similar databases in structure are the digital Early American Imprints and Early American Newspapers, also published by Readex.

“The best source for undergraduate and faculty research, the Readex Serial Set stands as the preeminent edition of the ‘Serial Set’ in terms of enhanced and value-added access. I strongly recommend the Readex Serial Set as an investment in permanent and enhanced access to the major historical record of the United States.”
Gerald L. Gill, Professor, Head of Reference and Government Documents, James Madison University

"The U.S. Congressional Serial Set will make unearthing debates in Congress over slavery and abolition, among many other topics, a far simpler and efficient process. I recommend the Archive of Americana to any scholar, student or layperson as the most speedy and rewarding way of conducting historical research today.”
Manisha Sinha, Associate Professor of Afro-American Studies, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

“The Readex digital U.S. Congressional Serial Set provides our faculty, students, and other patrons almost unlimited access to the primary documentation of United States history. Its usefulness was immediate: two days after purchase a history department professor assigned class work with this collection.

“In my own research on American Indians, I have found the enhanced indexing to be enormously helpful, the color maps especially valuable for study, and the search capabilities highly effective. The Personal Names and the Groups of People subject indexes let me quickly pinpoint relevant documents. The Legal System index option affords prompt access to treaty and claims materials. The Standing-Committee Author index supports the complete investigation of the results of specific Committees relevant to my inquiries.

“The University Libraries are very pleased with the Readex digital Serial Set and expect to have high patron usage.”
Charles D. Bernholz, Government Documents Librarian, University of Nebraska-Lincoln

MARC Records

MARC Records for the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Readex offers catalog records in MARC format for every publication in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1817-1994. These 373,656 Serial Set MARC records offer the high level of indexing found in the full citations of the Readex digital edition. Readex also offers 6,354 catalog records in MARC format for every publication in its digital edition of American State Papers.

For more information on acquiring these MARC Records, contact Readex at 800.762.8182 or sales@readex.com.

Readex’s cataloging of the Serial Set includes: 

  1. Description, which may include the title, statement of responsibility, edition, material specific details, publication information, series, notes, and standard bibliographic numerical data specific to the Reports, Documents, and Journals of the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.
  2. Main entry (either the “United States Congress. Senate” or “United States Congress. House of Representatives”) and added entries (full official committee name)
  3. Subject headings, based on the following authorities:
  • Legislative Indexing Vocabulary of the Congressional
  • Research Service of the Library of Congress
  • Library of Congress Subject Headings
  • United States Congressional Biographical Directory for names of Senators and Representatives
  • Getty Thesaurus of Geographical Names 

View three samples of Serial Set MARC records.  

In addition, Readex offers Simple Dublin Core records-at no charge-to customers of the full digital edition of the Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set. Under the guidance of Terry Reese, Cataloger for Networked Resources and Digital Production Unit Head, Oregon State University Libraries, Readex has generated Simple Dublin Core records from our basic Serial Set citation records. Our generation of these records follows the Open Archives Initiative Protocol for Metadata Harvesting (OAI-PMH).



"The Serial Set is an incredibly rich full text resource of reports, documents and journals of the House and Senate. It provides an amazing view of the history and culture of the United States from 1817 to 1994. The database is fully searchable by subject, personal names, places and acts. You can download and print text and images in full color. The resource also includes an impressive collection of maps of territories and states covering a wide range of subjects that are researched by the Congress. There is even a collection of pre-1800 maps including subjects you might not expect like Attila’s empire and Ptolemy’s view of the world. Check it out!"
— William Mitchell College of Law, Warren E. Burger Library, Blog (Feb. 2012)

“Patrons of libraries that buy this Readex Set will enjoy using this excellent product.” 
— L. M. Stuart, Johns Hopkins University, in Choice (July 2010)

"The online U.S. Congressional Serial Set by Readex is a thing of beauty, with tremendous added value in the extensive indexing."
—Katherine Holvoet, Head, Government Documents, University of Utah, in Against the Grain (September 2006)

“It's 3 a.m., and you're writing a paper. You need to know what George Washington said to the House of Representatives about the situation in Europe in 1793…. So who do you turn to?

“Students can find answers to their queries through the U. S. Congressional Serial Set database, an online compendium of documents published by Congress from 1817 through today….

“Congress later realized that all documents generated before 1833 were difficult to access. So it retroactively published a set called the American State Papers, which is a 38-volume collection of documents dated between 1789 and 1838.

“Topics like slavery in pre-Civil War America, women's rights and American western expansion are covered in a wealth of documents in the papers…. “In sorting the documents, Readex broke them down into a variety of subcategories by subject matter. Whether a person needs to read documents about the Treaty of Ghent, the South Sandwich Islands or the Republic of Texas, all are readily available and easy to find.

“The ability to view scanned, searchable copies of documents that are more than 200 years old gives members of the University community a unique opportunity. Students can study the issues and conflicts that shaped the United States as a nation in the very words of those that shaped it.”
—Joseph Shure, The Daily Targum, Rutgers University

"The Readex interface is straightforward and user-friendly with many options for efficiently searching, navigating and retrieving the extensive and complex collection of government information in the Serial Set. Most important, the primary database use options are prominently displayed at the top of the screen to matter where one is in the database. This effectively gives even the novice user a sense of control and mastery.

"Readex created a complete bibliographic record for each document in the Serial Set Digital Edition that greatly enhances the probability of searching success. It is this superior level of indexing that makes finding information so good.

"The Readex database is not the only source for a digitized version of the Serial Set.... The Readex database though is one of the most complete, and its browse and search functionality seem superior to any that this reviewer has tried.

"We should all be so fortunate as to be able to add this impressive database to our library collections. Our students and faculty will thank us if we do."
—Barbara Norelli, Social Sciences & Instructional Services Librarian, Skidmore College, in Microform & Imaging Review (Winter 2005)

“Readex delivers scholarship and browsability.”
—Ann E. Miller, Federal Documents Librarian, Duke University, in Documents to the People (Summer 2005)

“The Readex U.S. Congressional Serial Set, Digital Edition, when complete, will cover a longer period of the Serial Set publication than any other digital resource available ….Although a digital product, the database retains the historical taste of the print collection. Everything on the screen is thoughtfully designed and organized to allow the convenient use of the database without a librarian’s help. The interface is intuitive and easy to learn and follow...Readex designed all kinds of browsing and searching options.”
—Jian Anna Xiong, Assistant Professor/Government Information Librarian, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, in The Charleston Advisor (April 2004)

“The U.S. Congressional Serial Set is the single most valuable resource on U.S. history, economy, international relations, law, politics and society…

“The Serial Set digital edition is part of Readex's Archive of Americana, which aims to provide a comprehensive collection of primary source documents in American history, literature and culture. The interface will be familiar to users of Readex products such as Early American Imprints or Early American Newspapers. It utilizes a clean, uncluttered style where users can search or browse documents from the home page or top of each screen.

“Browsing is facilitated by using pre-determined subject categories organized hierarchically. A default basic search screen allows a keyword search within a citation or selected fields, while an advanced search allows users to link searches with “And”, “Or” or “Not”, to perform field and full-text searches and set limits by date. Given the large proportion of statistical tables, maps and illustrations in the collection, the ability to limit searches to documents containing these features is extremely useful….

“With a collection this large and spanning such a long period, subject searching using controlled vocabulary and authority control become critical, as changes in terms and vocabulary render free-text searching problematic. The large number of congressional, agency and organizational corporate authors in these volumes (the bane of many a searcher) make the care taken with authority control a great benefit. The availability of free-text searching (excluding most text on maps, illustrations and statistical tables) deftly complements the other search options, and supports research needs of literary and linguistic scholars….

“Color illustrations and maps are of extremely high quality. In contrast to many electronic products, Readex's Serial Set captures much of the feel of the original print documents.”
—Hui Hua Chua, U.S. Documents Librarian, Michigan State University, in Reference Reviews (Volume 19, Number 4 2005)

For more information, contact a Readex representative by calling 800.762.8182 or by using our easy contact form.

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