Johns Hopkins University Press

About the First Federal Congress Project and the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791

Mission: The First Federal Congress Project (FFCP), a research center affiliated with the Department of History at the George Washington University (GWU) since 1966, has a dual mission: (1) editing and publishing the universally acclaimed and well reviewed Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, l789-l791 (DHFFC), and (2) serving as a research center on the most important and productive Congress in U.S. history. The Johns Hopkins University Press has published 20 volumes of the official and unofficial records of this Congress—all available on this site. Five volumes of FFC-related correspondence and other materials remain to be published.

History: The Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791 was first envisioned by the Commission on the Sesquicentennial of the United States Constitution in 1937. Preliminary work was accomplished in the 1950s and 60s under the auspices of the National Historical Publications Commission (now NHPRC), but the FFCP began in earnest with the move to GWU in 1966. The FFCP staff has collected the complete known extant documentary record of this Congress from hundreds of libraries, archives, historical societies, private collectors, etc. Published in 1972, volume 1 was the first of eight volumes of that make up the official series (1-8). A six volume debate series (9-14) followed. Three volumes of the 8 volume correspondence series (15-22) have been published with the editing of 5 more volumes well underway. In addition, the editors have curated an exhibit on the FFC entitled: Birth of the Nation: The First Federal Congress, 1789-1791. Coeditors Charlene Bickford and Kenneth Bowling published a short history of the FFC with the same title. That exhibit is now on the FFCP's website (, along with a guide for educators using the exhibit to teach about the FFC. The FFCP staff also edited Creating the Bill of Rights: The Documentary Record from the First Federal Congress: 1789-1791 and will soon mount a website of newspaper public opinion pieces. The editors have individually published numerous books and articles on subjects related to the FFC.

Model Editions Partnership: The First Federal Congress Project was also part of the Model Editions Partnership, exploring electronic publication of documentary histories. To learn more about this project and view the FFCP's mini-edition on the subject of creating the executive departments, visit the MEP website at

Assistance to Researchers and educational efforts: The FFCP offices are open to all researchers and the project staff answers all inquiries or points researchers in a particular direction. Researchers at all levels, including high school students, documentary film makers, Congressional staffers, attorneys working on federal cases, and Pulitzer prize winning historians, have used the FFCP's files. Project editors often teach sessions at teacher institutes, give public lectures, talk to high school and college classes, and participate in other educational efforts.

FFCP Staff: The First Federal Congress Project is staffed by four professionals with extensive experience and knowledge about the First Federal Congress and the profession of historical documentary editing. These individuals are:

Charlene Bangs Bickford
Project Director and Co-editor

Kenneth R. Bowling

Helen E. Veit
Associate Editor

William C. diGiacomantonio
Associate Editor

Sponsors: The FFCP's primary funder and its host institution play vital roles in our success. The National Historical Publications Commission, now the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC), founded the FFCP and has been a steady financial supporter throughout its history. NHPRC subvention grants have assisted with publication costs. The George Washington University, the FFCP's institutional home since 1966, has assisted the Project in myriad ways, providing space, financial and other support, and a supportive intellectual milieu.

Additional Funders of the DHFFC: From 1989-91, grants from the United States Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution helped support the editorial work on the debates series. Since 1993 numerous and substantial grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) have helped to sustain the FFCP and ensure our progress. The NEH has also supported the FFCP by designating it as a We the People Project and identifying the Project's website as an Edsitement education site. In the 1990s the United States Capitol Historical Society provided small annual grants which assisted with travel to search for documents. During the first decade of the 21st century, the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation has steadily provided much needed private funding for an Associate Editor to match federal funds.

Funders of special projects: Birth of the Nation, the exhibit and book, were supported by the Bicentennial Committee of the Second Circuit Federal Court, the United States Capitol Historical Society, The New York State Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution, and The William Nelson Cromwell Foundation. The Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the Constitution subsidized Creating the Bill of Rights. The MARPAT Foundation has funded special projects, including the FFCP's website, a follow up document search, and the Public Opinion Project, which will present 4,000 newspaper pieces about the new federal government and the issues it faced on a free intellectually accessible and word searchable website.