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Q&A: Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor in the Serial Set

Question: One of the volumes of the Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor [the 3rd, dated 1887 and printed in 1888] is missing from the Fed Docs collection, and I was told that it's included in the US Congressional Serial Set. I checked the Databases, and searched the US Congressional Serial Set, using: Annual Report Commissioner of Labor, and I only get one page orders by Congress for printing the report, not the report itself. Is it in the Serial Set or not?

Answer: Yes, the report is there, but it's hidden inside the Annual Report of the Secretary of the Interior, and, for 1887, forms the 5th volume of that Report. You can discover this by searching: Bureau of Labor in Author
and you'll notice that for 1887 and 1888, the Report of the Secretary of Interior keeps coming up, and volume 5 is highlighted. This is a bureaucratic problem which is now a bibliographic problem. The US Congressional Serial Set database is organized exactly like the actual Serial Set, volume by volume, and in 1887 and 1888, the Bureau of Labor was under the Department of Interior, as was the Bureau of Education at that time. So, traditionally, those bureau reports are parts of Department reports. Confusion occurs when Congress then orders for these Bureau reports to get their own printing and they are issued separately, as the Commissioner of Labor's reports were, from 1886 until around 1915.

The important thing to remember is that the language and description of the bureau reports inside the Serial Set won't always match the language and description of the Reports when they are published separately. The advantage of the database version of the Serial Set is that a keyword search like Bureau of Labor will point you at the Report of the Secretary of Interior. The disadvantage is the one you had when you searched for the title Annual Report of the Commissioner of Labor, which brought up those separate orders by Congress to have that report printed.

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