Since 1936, the Federal Register has been the official instrument for publicizing proposed government regulations, inviting comments from the public, and then publishing the regulations in their final form. This periodical, published Monday through Friday except for federal holidays, also contains notices of Federal agencies and organizations, as well as executive orders and other presidential documents.
Now, for the first time, the Government Publishing Office (GPO) and the National Archives’ Office of the Federal Register (OFR) have made the entire run of the Federal Register from March 14, 1936 to the present available online in digital format free of charge. This information can be accessed and downloaded by anyone with a smartphone, tablet, laptop, or desktop computer, without the need to go to the library or to pay a hefty subscription fee.
To browse the issues by date or search the contents by keyword, go to https://www.govinfo.gov/app/collection/FR
The Federal Register is also available for browsing and searching in the Library of Congress Digital Collections.
Here are just a few of the fascinating items that have appeared in this publication over the years:
Friday, March 20, 1942: The executive order that created the War Relocation Authority, which was the federal agency responsible for forcibly relocating and interning Japanese-Americans during World War II, appeared beginning on page 2165 (the first page of that issue).
Tuesday, December 9, 1958: The first list of foods generally recognized as safe (GRAS) appeared on pages 9516 to 9517.
Saturday, March 11, 1967: The first endangered species list appeared on page 4001.
Wednesday, January 14, 2015: The latest list of federally recognized tribes in the contiguous United States and in Alaska appeared on pages 1942 to 1948.
Do You Want to Know More?
Reg Map provides an overview of the regulatory process. (Office of Management and Budget)
Federal Register Tutorial: What It Is and How to Use It describes how the Federal Register is organized, explains how you can research the history of regulations online, and explains how you can participate in the public policy process by commenting on proposed regulations. (National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register)
A Research Guide to the Federal Register and the Code of Federal Regulations describes the history of the Federal Register and it companion set, the Code of Federal Regulations, which arranges all currently active regulations by subject matter. It also describes how both these publications are organized, and how to use the paper and electronic versions of each. (Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC)
The Office of the Federal Register: A Brief History Commemorating the 70th Anniversary of the Publication of the First Issue of the Federal Register March 14, 1936 describes how the Federal Register came to be, and how it has evolved over the 70 years since its first issue was published. (National Archives and Records Administration, Office of the Federal Register)
Setting Up the Federal Register, 1935 describes in detail how the Federal Register was conceived and how the logistics were worked out to make the idea a reality. (The National Archives: The Text Message Blog)
Article by Bobby Griffith.
Illustration: Nameplate from the first issue of the Federal Register.