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U.S. House of Representatives, The Office of the Historian
The Great Seal of the United States of America
Office of the Historian
U.S. House of Representatives
B-56 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-226-5525
Facsimile: 202-226-2931
Email: historian@mail.house.gov
The Historian's Response

Members and Senators did receive trunks for moving their personal papers from Washington D.C. to their district. On May 9, 1911, Mr. John C. Floyd, of Arkansas, from the Committee on Accounts, submitted a report from which the following is an excerpt taken from the Congressional Record that day 62nd Congress, 1st Session Report no. 25 to accompany H. Res. 128:

“The duty of distributing packing boxes for frankable matter remains that of the Clerk, and it will not impose a heavy duty on the force at his command to discharge it in such manner as the Clerk may direct. Heretofore these boxes have been distributed from the Clerk’s document room. For the information of new Members we will state than an annual appropriation of $3,000 is made as a part of the House contingent fund for packing boxes, intended for the shipment of bulky frankable matter. This custom has obtained, for many years, the item dating back to 1857, when “boxes for books” were provided for; in 1862 the term “packing boxes” was first and has since been employed. These boxes are secured by contract pursuant to the act of March 3, 1901(Supp. R.S. vol. 2, p. 1530), and paid for out of the contingent fund upon vouchers approved by the Committee on Accounts. Each Member is entitled to 3 boxes- 1 large pine, 1 large redwood and 1 small pine. The latter is generally used for sending out bedding plants from the Botanic Garden to any given address, the box being labeled here and sent to the garden with a Member’s frank. The large boxes are convenient for mailing documents and files of official correspondence to Member’s homes at the end of a session.”

With the increase in the membership of the House in 1913, the appropriation bill was increased to $4,500 and remained unchanged in subsequent appropriation bills. In 1921 the appropriation was not expanded as the rapid rise in prices following the war rendered it inadequate. The following year it was found sufficient to provide each Member with one box, and since that time the quota has been limited to one trunk per member.

The National Archives Center for Legislative Archives has a trunk that belonged to Speaker Joseph Cannon. The practice in the Senate ended with the Secretary of the Senate stating it to end in the October 1st, 1977 Legislative Appropriations Act with the House following suit shortly thereafter.

Below is an image, courtesy of the Office of Representative Brad Ellsworth who has, within his possession, an old U.S. House of Representatives Trunk in his personal office.