Timeline of US legislative documents and data

  • The message, “What hath God wrought?” sent later by “Morse Code” from the old Supreme Court chamber in the United States Capitol to Samuel Morse’s partner in Baltimore, officially opened the completed telegraph line of May 24, 1844. (1)
  • The private firm, Little, Brown, and Company, began publishing the Statutes at Large under authority granted by a joint resolution of the 28th Congress. (1)
  • Charles Lanman, an author and former secretary to Daniel Webster, assembled the first collection of biographies of former and sitting Members for his Dictionary of Congress. (1)
  • The Congressional Record was first published. (12)
  • Congress undertook an official codification called the Revised Statutes of the United States approved June 22, 1874, for the laws in effect as of December 1, 1873. (12)
  • Ottmar Mergenthaler demonstrates Linotype to the New York Tribune. (1)
  • Two types of typesetting machines were in wide use: the Monotype, invented by Tolbert Lanston and manufactured by the Lanston Monotype Company in Philadelphia, and the Linotype, devised by Ottmar Mergenthaler and produced by the Mergenthaler Linotype Company in Baltimore. Both machines were introduced at GPO in 1887. (1)
  • Legislative signal bells used in the House of Representatives.  (1)
  • Creation of special legislative reference service within the Library of Congress, later became the Legislative Reference Service (1946) and the Congressional Reference Service (1970)
  • House Office of the Legislative Counsel begins (1)
  • HOLC and SOLC established.  The original Legislative Drafting Service, established by Section 1303 of the Revenue Act of 1918, was a single agency composed of two independent branches, one under the direction of the Senate and the other under the direction of the House. (1)
  • First live radio broadcast on December 19, 1922 (67th Congress), during a House debate on a constitutional amendment to abolish tax-exempt securities. (1)
  • Approval by Congress for the United States Code. The official version of the Code is published by the LRC as a series of paper volumes. The first edition of the Code was contained in a single bound volume. (1)
  • National Archives established as an independent federal agency by Congress.
  • In accordance with Title 1, Chapter 2 §106a of the United States Code, the Archivist of the United States receives the original version of all statutes of the United States, once enacted. (1).
  • GPO began using phototypesetting equipment with the purchase of the Intertype Fotosetter. (1)
  • The Department of State’s responsibility for publishing the Statutes  at Large was transferred to the General Services Administration and the Office of the Federal Register. (1)
  • Mergenthaler and CBS develop the Linotron 1010 phototypesetter and a typesetting software package, the Master Typography Program (MTP) on an IBM 360 for GPO. (12)
  • Charles Goldfarb invents Generalized Markup Language (GML). (1)
  • First Electronic Vote in the House on January 23, 1973 (93rd Congress), the vote was a 15 minute roll call vote of Members, which prior to the electronic system took on average 30 to 45 minutes. (1)
  • Charles Goldfarb invents the Standard Generalized Markup Language (1)
  • GPO purchased their first ATEX system, based on Digital Equipment Corporation’s PDP-11/34 (1).
  • Senate Historical Office created (1)
  • GPO ported the MTP to the ATEX system (1).
  • MTP first used to typeset legislation with ATEX equipment (at GPO and HOLC) using magnetic tape transfers. Prior to this, legislation was typeset using the Linotype. (1)
  • First live televised debate on March 19, 1979 (96th Congress), both the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and C-SPAN picked up the House feed and broadcast the House proceedings to the public. (1)
  • US Code begins being typeset using MTP. (1)
  • Apple LaserWriter was the first printer to ship with PostScript.
  • GPO ported MTP to Microcomp for the PC (DOS) using PostScript output. (1)
  • HOLC begins drafting and printing proofs of legislation within their office. (1)
  • Landmark Informing the Nation published in October by Congressional Office of Technology Assessment.  GPO’s locator system compared to SGML. (link to report )
  • US Code started being produced using ATEX system (Digital Equipment Corp).
  • Mosaic was developed at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign beginning in late 1992. (1)
  • Acrobat 1.0 released for Macintosh computers and later released for DOS and Windows 3.1
  • Thomas.loc.gov launched in January 1995 at the inception of the 104th Congress. (1)
  • HTML 2.0 published as IETF RFC 1866 (Nov. 24). (1)
  • US Federal government enacts Paperwork Reduction Act of 1995 with the purpose of providing for “the dissemination of public information on a timely basis, on equitable terms, and in a manner that promotes the utility of the information to the public and makes effective use of information technology.”
  • ATEX system in the Office of the Law Revision Counsel was replaced with XYWrite for the US Code (DOS based editor). (1)
  • XML 1.0 became a W3C Recommendation on February 10, 1998 (1)
  • http://bioguide.congress.gov (12).  The project was the first SGML/XML project for the House and Senate and paved the way for the drafting of legislation in XML in both chambers. (1)
  • XML/XSLT support in Microsoft’s Internet Explorer were included in release 5, along with enhanced support for CSS Level 1 and 2. (1)
  • XMetaL 1.0, released in June 1999, was the first stand-alone XML editor to offer a word-processor-like user interface. (1)
  • XML Working Group chartered by the US Federal CIO Council (1)
  • House begins drafting resolutions in XML internally. (1)
  • US Conference on Congressional Organizations’ Application of XML in April: (1) This was the first conference on US legislation and XML.
  • House begins drafting bills in XML internally. (1)
  • GovTrack.us was created by Joshua Tauberer originally as a hobby. Today it is a project of Civic Impulse, LLC. (1)
  • Sunlight Foundation formed. (1)
  • GPO publishes Essential Titles for Public Use in Paper or Other Tangible Format (1).  Last updated April 2013.
  • GPO launched FDsys in January 2009 to serve as a one-stop site to authentic, published Government information. (1)
  • Statutes at Large (1951-2010) in OCRed PDF
  • Committee on House Administration hosts Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in February (1)
  • congress.gov launched (September) to replace thomas.loc.gov.  thomas.loc.gov will be available through the end of 2014.
  • Committee on House Administration hosts Legislative Data and Transparency Conference in May (1)
  • LOC announces first legislative data challenge (1)


Republished with permission from this collaborative Hackpad. Authored by multiple individuals.