Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records 1917-1921

Front Cover & Binding, Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records 1917-1921: National Archives Publication No. 24, 1943.

Front Cover & Binding, Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records 1917-1921: National Archives Publication No. 24, 1943. GGA Image ID # 17dfe4ae59

Handbook of Federal World War Agencies and Their Records 1917-1921: National Archives Publication No. 24 published by U. S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. in June 1943. ISBN: 0837186021, Hardcover, 666 pp. including Appendix. Cover is Dark Blue with no imprinting.


This Handbook is issued in response to a current demand for information concerning the functions and records of agencies of the United States Government that contributed to the participation of the United States in the first World War.


This Handbook is issued in response to a current demand for information concerning the functions and records of agencies of the United States Government that contributed to the participation of the United States in the first World War.

In time of war the Government assumes control over activities and aspects of life with which it has little to do in time of peace. It must therefore turn for any study of precedents and administrative experience in such matters to records of the previous war. Records once deemed to have little more than academic interest suddenly acquire vital importance.

Records can neither be found nor used effectively, however, unless one knows the names of the agencies that created the files, the niches occupied by those agencies in the structure of the Government, and something of their objectives and activities.

The greater part of the extant records of the first World War, except those relating to actual field operations of the armed forces, are now in the National Archives.

The records so centralized include those of all the large emergency war agencies and those for the war years of most of the permanent executive departments and independent agencies.

Other records are constantly arriving, so that the information furnished in some entries concerning the location of records will be out of date when this volume is issued.

The Handbook is being supplemented as rapidly as possible by preliminary checklists and inventories designed to show in greater detail the organization and character of the more important record groups.

This Handbook was planned In the spring of 1941 by the present writer, who was then serving as Director of Research and Publications, with the assistance of members of his office staff; and its preparation was approved by the Archivist of the United States, R. D. W. Connor, on June 7, 1941.

Since January 1, 1942, the responsibility for continued planning and supervision of the project has rested on Oliver W. Holass, Director of Research and Records Description.

Carl L. Lokke assisted the successive Directors in planning and administering the project, and he and Marion L. Rice did most of the work of coordinating, editing, and supplementing the material submitted by the compilers.

The preparation of drafts of the individual articles, however, was in large measure the work of members of the staffs of the records divisions who were familiar with the records of the agencies they were describing or who because of interests and training possessed special competencies in certain fields.

Many of them are now in the armed forces or have transferred to other Government agencies. The names of all compilers, including those who assisted in the work of editing, are listed on the following page.

Archivist of the United States
June I943


This volume is modeled in pert on the Handbook of Economic Agencies of the War of 1917, which was published by the War Department in 1919. it covers the period from America's entrance into the war in 1917 to the peace resolution of 1921.

The word "agency” as used in the title of the present publication denotes any organizational unit (that is, branch, section, division, board, or the like) of the Federal Government, or any interallied body in which the United States had representation.

Articles for some 2,400 permanent and emergency agencies, alphabetically arranged by titles of agencies, are included. A list at the back of the volume shows the same agencies arranged in such wise that subordinate units appear under their superior agency.

Each article treats a single agency and stands by itself. First the title of the agency is given in capital letters, in an inverted form if necessary, to bring out the key words.

The name of the superior agency, if one existed, follows immediately, thus: TEXTILE AND ROBBER DIVISION, War Industries Board.

As a rule the title or titles used are the ones under which the unit functioned at the height of its activity during the war period. Earlier or later titles are usually mentioned in the article. The text of the article 1s divided into three parts: (1) History, (2) functions, and (3) records.

References to publications containing additional information are usually included in the articles dealing with executive departments and other important agencies. The bibliography that follows this introduction contains general references on the war period.

Such ln brief is the framework of the volume, Within the framework much variation will be noted. In general the articles for large organizations, as compared with those for lesser units, occupy more space. But many exceptions occur.

Words are not spared when they are needed to describe the tortuous history and complicated functions of a small unit. The site of an article, therefore, is no criterion of the Importance or lack of importance of the agency in question.

A number of subordinate units lack articles entirely because little or nothing is known of their activities. In such cases an effort has been made to call attention to the existence of the units by listing them in the article on the superior agency and in cross references.

The discrepancy in the amount of information given concerning the records also requires a word of explanation. The records of many agencies, particularly those of the War Department, have not yet been studied sufficiently to permit of detailed analysis of contents.

The files of others are swallowed up among the records of a superior or a successor agency: in such cases it is obviously impossible to give exact measurements or other details. Some of the World War records still remain in the custody of the agencies that created them or in the custody of successor agencies.

Others are in private hands. The whereabouts of still others is at present, unknown to the National Archives, particularly that of the records of many of the international bodies in which the United States had representation.

To a degree the description of functions in these cases compensates for the paucity of information in regard to the records. In truth, to recite the functions of an operating unit is virtually to indicate, in a general way, at least, the contents of its records.

It is not amiss to remark further that the correspondence files of an agency consist of letters received and copies of letters sent by it.

Consequently if no information is available in regard to the whereabouts of such correspondence files, one can be reasonably sure of finding at least some of the correspondence of the agency in question duplicated in the correspondence files of agencies with which it had relations.

Because of the close cooperation existing between many agencies, this duplication often extends to reports, minutes of meetings, circular materials, and other papers.

Field records are described, if at all, with those of the central office. Those of the Food and Fuel Administrations are cases in point. A different policy has been pursued with respect to the records of the fighting forces.

The enormity of the task precluded at this time any treatment of such records created by the Army or the Navy, or of records of the war period created by embassies, legations, and consular offices under the direction of the State Department. The National Archives has in its custody a considerable amount of such material.

The use of some World War records is restricted, even though they may now be deposited in the National Archives. This statement applies especially to the records of the State Department and to some of those of other executive departments.

Therefore, an indication of the existence of such records is not to be construed as meaning that they are available for general consultation and research.

Some of the papers mentioned as being deposited elsewhere may also be restricted, such as the Woodrow Wilson Papers in the Library of Congress, mentioned under "President of the United States," which may be consulted only with the consent of Mrs. Wilson.

A number of agencies have been knowingly omitted from the volume. Among those excluded are units that performed only office management functions for a superior agency such as those relating to accounting, mail and files, library activities, information, and personnel.

Administrative and executive offices, established merely to facilitate the operations of the superior agencies, are also omitted. The inclusion of such units -- every agency of any importance had housekeeping units -- would have greatly increased the size of the volume without, it was felt, adding a proportionate usefulness.

It is fully realized that the housekeeping units in any agency play an extremely important part in the performance of its functions. Indeed, the personnel and accounting records in the National Archives are among those most frequently consulted.

The beginning and terminal dates of an emergency agency are given when they could be obtained at this time. Those of the agencies that existed before and continued to exist after the war period were less important for the present purpose and consequently are given less frequently.

Sometimes the dates given are less exact than they appear to be. One unit may have been operating long before the date of the order creating it, while another may not have begun to operate until days or weeks after such an order was Issued.

As regards terminal dates, several of the larger emergency agencies with numerous subdivisions ceased activity gradually rather than on any particular day.

Those who use the volume would do well to bear in mind that only part of its content for a given subject is readily seen at first glance.

The alphabetical arrangement of the entries by titles of agencies, together with the use of inverted forms of titles as cross references when necessary to bring out key words, serves to bring into juxtaposition many of the agencies concerned with similar or related matters.

But this arrangement fails to bring together such agencies if none of the key words in their titles happened to be the same.

A user of the volume who is interested, for example, in such subjects as aircraft, food, lumber, priorities, transportation, or wages, after looking for titles beginning with these words should look also for titles beginning with such words as aeronautics or aviation; meat, fish, canned goods, or agriculture; forest products or timber; contracts; traffic, railroads, shipping, or inland waterways; and labor or industrial relations.

No system of arrangement could bring out information hidden under some titles. The Bean Division of the Grain Corporation handled transactions not only in beans but also in peas, rice, and rolled oats.

The National Museum conducted experiments on poison gases by means of the humble garden slug, yet the title gives no hint of this fact. Consequently an inspection of titles in this volume should be merely the prelude to further investigation.

It would be difficult to imagine any Government activity during the World War concerning which information could not be found among the records in the National Archives.

Sample Record

PUBLIC HEALTH EDUCATION SECTION, Public Health Service, Treasury Department.—Organized on April 7, 1919. Incorporated during the fiscal year 1922 in the Sanitary Reports and Statistics Division. Functions : Stemming from the appeals for authoritative information during the influenza epidemic, the Section was designed as a national center or clearinghouse on the subject of public health education. Records: Records concerning public health education are among those of the Service in NA [National Army].

Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • LC Control No.: 75035366
  • Type of Material: Book (Print, Microform, Electronic, etc.)
  • Corporate Name: United States. National Archives and Records Service.
  • Main Title: Handbook of Federal World War agencies and their records, 1917-1921 / the National Archives.
  • Published/Created: Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1976.
  • Description: xiii, 666 p.; 24 cm.
  • ISBN: 0837186021
  • Notes: Reprint of the 1943 ed. published by the U.S. Govt. Print. Off., Washington, which was issued as National Archives publication no. 24. Bibliography: p. xi-xiii.
  • Subjects: Executive departments --United States. World War, 1914-1918 --United States.
  • LC Classification: JK464 1943 .A52 1976
  • Dewey Class No.: 353
  • Geographic Area Code: n-us---
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