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Understanding the Past:
Budgeting & Government Accounting

The responsibility for the federal budget and accounting/budgeting practices has changed over time. For much of the history of the U.S., the agency responsible was the Department of the Treasury. However, there was no overall, comprehensive budget for the U.S. government. Meaning there was no overall central document and the budget process was piecemeal with agencies submitting their budget request directly to Congress creating lots of budgets instead of as a whole entity. Eventually there was recognition that this was not the best way to operate and in 1910 President Taft created a Commission on Economy and Efficiency. Their 1912 report urged the creation of a central budget but it wasn't until 1921 that the Bureau of the Budget was established as a part of the Department of the Treasury by the Budget and Accounting Act of 1921 (Pub.L. 67–13, 42 Stat. 20, enacted June 10, 1921) but by Roosevelt's Executive Reorganization Plan of 1939 it was moved over to the Executive Office of the President. Nixon's Executive Reorganization Plan of 1970 renamed it the Office of Management and Budget.

The material in this section is intended to assist researchers in gaining a better understanding of U.S. federal budgeting and finance throughout the country's history. It primarily includes legislation, analysis, historical overviews, and textbooks but many of the titles also contain tables of taxes, budget, etc.. A special section devoted to War and National Defense has been created here as there are special issues and concerns that are specific to that activity.

Discussion, analysis, insight, and data can also be found in many of the publications produced by the Department of the Treasury or Congress. Some titles by these agencies have been included in the guide but the contents of this guide and this quick list is not a full accounting of the various publications on the U.S. federal budget.

                 Major Titles                General History      
                             War & National Defense           

Federal Budget: Sources of Information

June 2014
Updated June 2016

Table of Contents

Background & Basics
Current Budget
Historical Budget Information
Understanding the Past
LC Subject Headings

From An Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of the United States for the year 1803

Image (above): For compensation to the President and Vice President of the United States...
From An Account of the Receipts and Expenditures of the United States for the year 1803.
Library of Congress General Collections.
Courtesy of Gulnar Nagashybayeva

Major Titles

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General History

Bartelt, Edward F. Accounting Procedures of the United States Government; Chicago, Public administration service, 1940.
LC Call Number: HJ9801 .B3
LC Catalog Record: 40034818

Edward Bartlet was the Commission of Accounts & Deposits at the U.S. Treasury, and this is a book based on his decades of experience and knowledge. This title is an historical overview beginning with the founding of the country and is account of the development of the Treasury and the actual methods used in government accounts work.

Blum, John Morton. From the Morgenthau Diaries. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1959-67.
LC Call Number: HJ257.B6
LC Catalog Record: 59008853

Henry Morgenthau, Jr. served as Secretary of the Treasury from January 1, 1934 – July 22, 1945 under presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. He was Secretary of the Treasury in the years after the Depression during the New Deal, and during World War II. Morgenthau worked with the author to create a three volume set. Volumes include: 1. The Early Years, 1928-1938; 2. 1938-1941; and 3. 1941-1945.

Bolles, Albert Sidney. The Financial History of the United States. New York, A. M. Kelley, 1969.
LC Call Number: HJ241 .B752
LC Catalog Record: 68022371
Available online: Volume 1 and Volume 2

This is a three volume title broken down by time: v. 1. From 1774 to 1789, embracing the period of the American Revolution; v. 2. From 1789 to 1860; v. 3. From 1861 to 1885. Each volume was originally published between 1884-1894 as individual volume but the 1969 reprint has created this as a single title.

Bulletin. Executive Office of the President, Bureau of the Budget. Washington, D.C. : The Bureau
LC Catalog Record: HJ2050 .U54a
LC Catalog Record: 92660555

Holdings: 1947-1980. First issue was 1947-48:4, the last was 1980:14 This publication was intended to be guidance that went out to the heads of the executive department agencies.

[Circular]... United States. Bureau of the Budget. Washington, 1921-
LC Call Number: HJ2051 .A597
LC Catalog Record: unk81047171
LC Catalog Record: sf83006806

Holdings: #1-274 (1921-1930 bound together); individual circulars 195a, 291, 276, 324; numbers A1-10 (1948-65), A12-A30 (1946-70), A31-48 (1948-70), A11 (one per year for: 1950-56, 1957-60, 1957-61. 1964-68, 1970), and A50-A98 (1959-1970). These Circulars were instructions to be used for the preparation and submission of the annual budget estimates.

Cost of Government, 1923-1934. New York city, National industrial conference board, inc. [c1934]
LC Call Number:  HJ257 .N312 1923-1934
LC Catalog Record:
This title is related to Cost of government listed below under the National Industrial Conference Board. Much of this title is analysis and table of data on expenditures, debt, social and economic distribution of tax burdens, and highway expenditures. 

Dewey, Davis Rich. Financial History of the United States. 12th ed. New York, A. M. Kelley, 1968.
LC Call Number:  HJ241 .D4 1968
LC Catalog Record: 67030857

This one volume title covers the time period beginning in colonial America and goes through the Depression and includes a detailed index. It was originally published in the early years of the 20th century and had at least 12 editions.

Facts and Figures on Government Finance. New York, N.Y. : Tax Foundation
LC Call Number: HJ257 .T25
LC Catalog Record: sn86016981

Holdings: 1941, 1944, 1946/1947-2002. This title is mostly comprised of historical charts on tax, income, war finance, public debt, public administration. How the charts were organized and what was included did change over time but is still consistent.

Federal Finances, 1923-1932. New York, National Industrial Conference Board, inc., 1933.
LC Call Number: HJ257 .N32
LC Catalog Record: 33027173

Much of this title is analysis and table of data on expenditures, debt, social and economic distribution of tax burdens, and highway expenditures. This is related to the two other National Industrial Conference Board titles in this section of the guide.

Groves, Harold M. Financing Government [by] Harold M. Groves [and] Robert L. Bish. 7th ed. New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston [1973]
LC Call Number: HJ257 .G7 1973
LC Catalog Record: 72080353

While this title was primarily intended for students it proved to be great resource for scholars, public officials, and the lay public. Harold Martin Groves was a member of the Wisconsin State Assembly and the Wisconsin State Senate as well as being a tax expert and economics professor at the University of Wisconsin. It looks at the principles, practices, and problems of public finance. Because there were seven editions beginning in the late 1930s, it could be helpful in understanding any changes over the course of 30 years. Earlier editions in the Library's collection include editions published in 1939, 1945, 1950, 1954, 1958, and 1964.

Elliot, Jonathan. The Funding System of the United States and of Great Britain, with some tabular facts of other nations touching the same subject. Prepared under a resolution of the House of Representatives of the United States. New York, B. Franklin [1971]
LC Catalog Record: 77130596

There is a very detailed table of contents as well as a detailed listing of the tables. Most of the title covers the United States and includes many full text laws and reports. This title was originally published in 1845 but has been reprinted in 1968 and this edition from 1971.

Mayo, Robert. A synopsis of the commercial and revenue system of the United States, as developed by instructions and decisions of the Treasury Department for the administration of the revenue laws: accompanied with a supplement of historical and tabular illustrations of the origin, organization, and practical operations of the Treasury Department and its various bureaus, in fulfilment of that system : in eight chapters, with an appendix. Extra edition. Washington, Printed by J.& G.S. Gideon, 1847.
LC Call Number: HJ262 .M3
LC Catalog Record: 07012491

The holdings for this title include editions from several years including 1847, 1850, 1855. There is also a supplement and sometimes they reference a volume two. There are various call numbers for the different volumes/editions. The catalog record goes into much more detail as to which call number goes with which volume. There is a version of this in the HathiTrust but only two of the volumes of the entire set.

Forsythe, Dall W. Taxation and Political Change in the Young Nation, 1781-1833. New York : Columbia University Press, 1977.
LC Call Number:  HJ2368 .F67
LC Catalog Record: 77000822

This work is an analysis of the creation and adaptation of taxes and other financial policies in early United States history. It has a focus on the taxes but also uses the study of this topic to talk about nation building and political change.

Brownlee, W. Elliot, ed. Funding the Modern American state, 1941-1995 : the rise and fall of the era of easy finance. Washington, D.C : Woodrow Wilson Center Press ; Cambridge ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1996.
LC Call Number: HJ2381 .F86 1996
LC Catalog Record: 95032770

This book was a result of a series of Woodow Wilson Center workshops so each chapter has different authors.

Hogeland, William. Founding Finance: How Debt, Speculation, Foreclosures, Protests, and Crackdowns Made us a Nation. 1st ed. Austin : University of Texas Press, 2012.
LC Call Number: HJ247 .H64 2012
LC Catalog Record: 2012023318

Each chapter is broken down for a particular time period and there is an extended index and references section.

Love, Robert A. Federal Financing; A Study of the Methods Employed by the Treasury in its Borrowing Operations. New York, 1931.
LC Call Number: HJ241 .L6 1931a
LC Catalog Record: 31008508

Chapters broken down thematically: Post-revolutionary period; War of 1812 period; the period from 1839-1857; the Civil War conditioning facts and theories; the Civil War special financing devices; Civil War to 1917; adjustments in the financial structure; first, second, third, fourth Liberty loans; Victory Loan (5th Liberty Loan); post World War. There are a significant number of fold-out charts and a sizable index. An additional copy is available at a slightly different call number. Item is available in the HathiTrust.

National Industrial Conference Board. Cost of Government in the United States ... New York, National industrial conference board, inc., 1926-
LC Call Number:  HJ257 .N3
LC Catalog Record: 30006654

Each titles covers different years: 1925/1926, 1926, 1926/1927, 1927/1928, 1928/1929, 1929/1930, 1933-1935, 1934-1936, 1935-1937. Much of this title is analysis and table of data on expenditures, debt, social and economic distribution of tax burdens, and highway expenditures. Related title: Cost of Government, 1923-1934 that is listed above.

Noyes, Alexander Dana. Forty Years of American Finance; New York and London, G. P. Putnam's sons,
LC Call Number: HJ255 .N72 1909
LC Catalog Record: 09013622

This titles covers the years after the Civil War 1865-1907 and is generally organized by time period and by subjects put into their chronological place – like the Panic of 1893, government loans and tariff of 1894, speculative mania of 1901, the Panic of 1906, etc.. There are also reprints of this title in 1930 and 1980 and is a follow up to his Forty Years of American Finance.

Smith, Harry Edwin. The United States Federal Internal Tax History from 1861 to 1871. Boston, New York, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1914.
LC Call Number: HJ2362 .S64
LC Catalog Record: 14007065

Title broken down by tax – direct, income, inheritance, on banks, stamp taxes, license/special taxes, liquors, etc. There are a significant number of tables mostly on receipts while some are on rates. Item is available in the HathiTrust.

Stabile, Donald. The Origins of American Public Finance : Debates Over Money, Debt, and Taxes in the Constitutional era, 1776-1836. Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1998.
LC Call Number: HJ247 .S73 1998
LC Catalog Record: 98011163

This title presents historical analysis particularly as they affect contemporary issues.

Stevenson, Faber. The Accounting System of the United States from 1789 to 1910. Washington, Govt. Print. Off., 1911.
LC Call Number: HJ263 .S7
LC Catalog Record: 11035283

Includes a general written history but the bulk of the title are the text of the laws.

Treasury Financial Manual. [Washington, DC]: Financial Management Service, Dept. of the Treasury, [1991?-
LC Call Number:  HJ257.2 .T739 1991
LC Catalog Record: 91212948

This is only volume 1 of the manual. It was instruction and guidance for agencies for central accounting and reporting. It covered witholdings, disbursements and deposit regulation and circulars.

United States. Department of the Treasury.  Rules and Regulations Governing the Treasury Department in its Various Branches. Washington, Govt. print. off., 1907-08.
LC Call Number:  HJ263.A4 1907 and Microfilm 24050 HJ
LC Catalog Record: 07035298

Holdings: volumes 1, 2 and 4 in print but there is also a microfilm record. It is in 4 parts: Pt. 1 Offices of chief clerk and superintendent, secretary, treasurer, director of the mint, comptroller of the Treasury, auditor for the Interior department, supervising architect, Bureau of Engraving and Printing; Pt. 2 Revenue-cutter service; Pt. 3 Customs regulations of the United States, prescribed for the Instruction and guidance of customs officers (1908); Pt. 4 Internal Revenue Service.

United States. Department of the Treasury. Division of bookkeeping and warrants. Information Relating to the Accounting System of the United States Treasury Department ... Washington, Gov't print. off., 1905
LC Call Number: HJ263 .A4 1905
LC Catalog Record: 07018358

According to the title page this is a "A compendium of the principal United States statutes and comptroller's decisions relating to the accounting officers of the Treasury, their duties and jurisdiction, to the manner of rendering and settling the public accounts, and to the custody of public moneys by public officers." Chapters include: the Department of the Treasury, the Accounting Officers, Accounts & Claims, Jurisdiction, Public Moneys, Contracts, and Court of Claims. Much of what is covered is what was then current practice, but does touch on historical practices as they related to what developed. A digital version is available via the HatiTrust.

United States. President's Commission on Economy and Efficiency. The Need for a National Budget. Washington [Govt. print. off.] 1912.
LC Call Number: HJ2051 .A6 1912
LC Catalog Record: 12035989

This was the final report from the President's commission on Economy and Efficiency making the case about the need for a budget.

United States. Department of the Treasury. The National Loans of the United States, from July 4, 1776, to June 30, 1880. By Rafael A. Bayley. <2d ed.> As prepared for the tenth census of the United States. Washington, Govt. print. off., 1882.
LC Call Number:  HJ8101 .A3 1881a
LC Catalog Record: 07007772

The is a very chronological look at government loans. It includes a few relevant letters and charts, as well has having limited subject index. Item is available in the HathiTrust.

United States Government Financing from 1791 to 1918. New York : National City Company, [1918]
LC Call Number: HJ243 .N3
LC Catalog Record: a20000576

This is a booklet produced by the National City Company who felt there was a need for a non-technical government bond analysis.

United States. Congress. The New American State Papers: Public Finance. Introd. by Sidney Ratner. Wilmington, Del., Scholarly Resources [c1972-73]
LC Call Number: HJ249 .U55 1972
LC Catalog Record: 72095580

This is a 32 volume set that is a compilation of official laws related to public finance and revenues. Different volumes cover different years. Material comes "from three major sources: the original American States papers [documents of the U.S. Congress] published by Gales & Seaton between 1832 and 1861; the serial volumes of the official documents of the U.S. Congress printed continuously after 1817; and the Legislative Records Section of the National Archives."

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War & National Defense

Financing the war / editor in charge of this volume: E.M. Patterson. Philadelphia : American Academy of Political and Social Science, 1918.
LC Call Number: HJ257.A75
LC Catalog Record: 18003578

The volume consists of a number of essays on topics particular to financing issues during war time and issues about financing war activities. Good for understanding activities around World War I.

Hormats, Robert D. The Price of Liberty : Paying for America's Wars. 1st ed. New York : Times Books, 2007.
LC Call Number:  HJ8101.H67
LC Catalog Record: 2006051416
Publisher description

This covers the history of financing war in one volume so it is not as detailed as a multi volume treatise. Each chapter roughly corresponds to the larger conflicts. It does include a detailed notes section.

Noyes, Alexander Dana. The War Period of American finance, 1908-1925. Being the continuation of "Forty years of American Finance." New York, London, G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1926.
LC Call Number: HJ257 .N6
LC Catalog Record: 26011811

This title may be helpful for those trying to understand government finance and spending in the period leading up to WWI as well as the war years and the years immediately after. Chapters include: "On the eve of the War;" "The outbreak of the war;" "The United States enters the war;" "Mobilization of American Industry;" "The first year after the war;" "The crisis of 1920;" etc.. There is also a 1973 reprint.

Pollack, Sheldon David. War, Revenue, and State Building : Financing the Development of the American State. Ithaca : Cornell University Press, 2009.
LC Call Number: HJ2362.P69
LC Catalog Record: 2009013056

One volume title looking at the development of the American state as a function of war and financing of war and the military.

Warren, Robert, Homer Jones, Frank Seidman et al. Tax Institute of America. Financing the war. Symposium conducted by the Tax Institute, December 1-2, 1941, Philadelphia. Philadelphia, Tax Institute [1942]
LC Call Number: HJ257.T3
LC Catalog Record: 42008816

The volume consists of a number of essays on topics particular to financing issues during war time and issues about financing war activities. Good for understanding activities around World War II.

Last updated: 06/29/2016

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