City Archives
New Orleans Public Library

New Orleans (La.) City Council.
Official Proceedings
Date range: 1866-2007
Size of collection: ca. 405 linear feet, 27 microfilm reels, 4 sets microfiche
Terms of Access: Non-microfilmed records are available to registered researchers by appointment


Historical Note

The legislative branch of New Orleans municipal government has operated under several official designations since 1866. The uniform term, City Council, is being used to describe the complete body of records. For a description of the pre-1866 records see Records of the City Councils in our Guide to the Early Records (1760-1861) in the New Orleans City Archives.

New Orleans municipal government has operated under several charters since 1866.

  • Charter of 1852

    The pre-Civil War charter survived that conflict and the first years of Reconstruction. It called for a bicameral Common Council, comprised of a Board of aldermen and a Board of Assistant aldermen. City government was suspended following the Federal capture of New Orleans in 1862 and did not resume until the end of the occupation period in 1866. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the Old Series (O.S.)

  • Charter of 1870

    Seven administrators and a Mayor were elected by city-wide vote for a term of two years. Each administrator served as the head of a city department, being elected to that particular position. The departments were Finance, Commerce, Improvements, Assessments, Police, Public Accounts, and Water Works & Public Buildings. The Mayor was not the head of any department, but served with the administrators as a member of the legislative body. He had no vote except to break a tie, but possessed the veto power, which could be overridden by five of the seven administrators. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the Administrative Series (A.S.)

  • Charter of 1882

    The city returned to the Mayor-Council form of government in 1882 with a Mayor elected for four years and a Council of thirty members, all of whom were elected by districts. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the Council Series (C.S.)

  • Charter of 1896

    This charter continued the Mayor-Council form of government but reduced the size of the Council to seventeen members. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the New Council Series (N.C.S.)

  • Charter of 1912

    In 1912, New Orleans began a commission form of government with a Mayor and four Commissioners elected at large for four-year terms. The Mayor headed the Department of Public Affairs, but assignments to the other departments-Public Finance, Public Safety, Public Utilities, and Public Property-were by majority vote of the Council. The Commission Council was the legislative body, and its acts were not subject to veto by the Mayor. It also appointed other top administrative officials and was responsible for preparing the budget of the city. In 1948 the Commission Council was reorganized to consist of eight members--the Mayor and seven Commissioners, each of the seven being elected from a municipal district. The number of departments was similarly increased through the addition of Public Streets, Public Sanitation, and Parks & Institutions. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the Commission Council Series (C.C.S.)

  • Charter of 1954

    The Home Rule Charter of 1954 provided for a Mayor-Council form of government with a chief administrative officer who is appointed by, and is responsible to, the Mayor. The Council, which is the legislative body, is composed of seven members, five of whom are elected from districts and two at large. Ordinances passed by the Council under this charter are identified as the Mayor Council Series (M.C.S.)


Arrangement

The records are arranged into several physical groups:


Detailed Description of the Records

Manuscript Volumes

AB300
1868-1870
Asst. Ald.
Rough Min.

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the Board of Assistant Aldermen, rough minutes, 12/18/1868 - 4/8/1870
1 v.

Manuscript record in more or less outline form, perhaps recorded during the actual sessions of the Board, complete with scratch-outs, doodles, etc. The last entry actually is for the April 7, 1870 meeting; newspaper clippings of the proceedings for April 4, 5, and 8, 1870 are pasted in at the rear of the volume.
AB300
1870-1897

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the City Council, 4/4/1870 - 6/29/1897
14 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Records for December 31, 1873 - December 17, 1876 are missing. In addition to recording the actions taken by the Council, these volumes also include transcripts of the Mayor's messages to the Council and, occasionally, transcripts of various reports, petitions, and communications.
AB300
1888-1893
Rough Min.

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the City Council, rough minutes, 9/11/1888 - 9/26/1893
3 v.

Manuscript record in more or less outline form, perhaps recorded during the actual sessions of the Council.

v. 1   9/11/1888 - 4/25/1889
v. 2   1/2/1890 - 11/17/1891
v. 3   4/26/1892 - 9/26/1893

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Scrapbooks

AB301
1866-1870
Aldermen

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the Board of Aldermen, 3/19/1866 - 12/20/1870
5 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Newspaper clippings from the Official Journal, pasted into the volumes.
AB301
1866-1870
Asst. Ald.

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the Board of Assistant Aldermen, 3/19/1866 - 4/6/1870
2 v. [click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Newspaper clippings from the Official Journal, pasted into the volumes.
AB301
1870-1940

Journal of the minutes and proceedings of the City Council, 4/12/1870 - 8/20/1940
9 v. [With several gaps; click HERE for a detailed list of the extant volumes]

Newspaper clippings from the Official Journal, pasted into the volumes.
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Published Volumes

During the period 1870-1873, the official journal, then the New Orleans Republican, published the official proceedings in separate stand-alone volumes as well as in the newspaper itself. The Archives holds copies of the volumes, in various bindings, under the call number AB301, for the period April 4, 1870-July 15, 1873.

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Proceedings Files

While essentially the working papers of City Council meetings, these files also provide the most comprehensive record of what transpired at each session of the body. There is at least one file folder for each Council meeting. Contents of the files vary over time, but may include some or all of the following:

  • copy of the meeting agenda
  • copy of the completed agenda, showing actions taken
  • a meeting summary
  • copy of the official proceedings as submitted to the Official Journal for publication
  • communications from the Mayor
  • communications from other City officers
  • reports of Council committees
  • reports from other City agencies, including often extensive materials from the City Planning Commission
  • petitions, complaints, and correspondence from citizens and other interests
  • ordinances, motions, and resolutions introduced as new business before the Council and amendments thereto
  • full text of motions and resolutions adopted by the Council, with a record of the vote on each item (generally, adopted ordinances are NOT included in the proceedings files)
The City Archives holds the proceedings files from 1909-2007 and accessions new files on an irregular basis. For pre-1909 proceedings files, see Separated Records.

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Index to Official Proceedings

Sixteen boxes of index cards, arranged alphabetically by subject, personal name, street name, etc. referencing the meeting dates at which relevant motions, resolutions, petitions, communications, reports, messages from the Mayor, and other documents were presented before the Council.

Overall, the cards cover the period 1901-1973, but they are broken up into several series: 1901-1905, 1904-1908, 1908-1910, 1912-1920, and 1921-1973. The the pre-1921 cards comprise three boxes, the later records are broken down alphabetically as follows:

  • Box 01:   A - Bids
  • Box 02:   Bienville - Cazale
  • Box 03:   Cefalu - Congregation
  • Box 04:   Congress - Elm
  • Box 05:   Elmira - Gayoso
  • Box 06:   Geary - Issak
  • Box 07:   Jackson - Louisiana Portland Cement
  • Box 08:   Louisiana Power & Light - Mystery
  • Box 09:   Nachary - Parish Road
  • Box 10:   Park - Pyzlkienicz
  • Box 11:   Quality - Seventeenth
  • Box 12:   Sewerage - Trafalgar
  • Box 13:   Traffic - Zoological

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Minutes

The minutes are tear sheets of the published Official Proceedings, apparently maintained by the Clerk of Council for convenience of access. The Archives holds copies for the period 1969-1992. Another copy is also included in the Proceedings Files. For many years, the Archives also maintained a copy in the Official Vertical File, a practice that has been discontinued. Most of those copies were reproduced in microform; see below for details.

The minutes of the City Council from January 6, 1994 are available online through Municode.com.

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Agendas/Completed Agendas

The agendas are copies of the order of business prepared prior to each City Council meeting. The completed agendas are separate documents that record the action taken on each agenda item. The Archives holds copies of the completed agendas for the following time periods: Jan. - May, 1981; Jan. 1983 - Jun., 1984; Jan. 1985 - Jun., 1992. Other copies are also included in the Proceedings Files. For many years, the Archives also maintained copies in the Official Vertical File, a practice that has been discontinued.

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Separated Records

Two groups of records were separated from the Proceedings Files over the years. Apparently, it was an early practice by the City Archives Department, following its transfer to the New Orleans Public Library, to alienate records from their proper provenance and original order and to file them either in related record groups within the Archives or in a library vertical file or other location. For at least the last thirty years, archivists have attempted to recover such documents and to restore them to their proper places. Endorsements and other notes made by the Clerk of Council, usually on the verso of each document, were used as a guide in this process.

Proceedings Files (fragments), 1839-1909

Housed in six boxes, these files were reconstructed as noted above. The first item, dated August 9, 1839, is a receipt acknowledging payment for printing the Journal of the General Council. For the next sixty years, there are only scattered contents, some years having none at all. By 1899 the files are more substantial, generally with a folder for each month. The last folder in the group includes documents from the meeting of November 2, 1909. Also included in Box 1 are loose pages from the Journal of the First Municipality Council for April 30, May 6, May 10, and May 13, 1836.
Miscellaneous Correspondence/Subject Files, 1916-
These post-1909 records were removed some time in the past from the Official Proceedings of the New Orleans City Council and filed in the Louisiana Division's Official Vertical File. Rather than replace them in their original locations, we have artificially created a separate series of what amounts to miscellaneous correspondence and subject files. Additions to this series are anticipated as work continues on a backlog of unprocessed materials.

For an inventory of these records, click HERE.

Petitions before the Council
Petitions that were removed some time ago from the Proceedings Files and filed in the Louisiana Division's Vertical File. Rather than replace each of them in its original location, we have artificially created a separate series for these records and organized them into a database.

A listing of the 371 petitions is HERE.

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Microforms

Scrapbooks, 1860-1925

35mm microfilm made from scrapbooks of the Official Proceedings as published in the Official Journal. These are available for January 3, 1860-May 25, 1886 and for 1917-1925. The completeness of the films is uncertain.
Tear Sheets, 1925-1977
35mm microfilm made from copies of the tear sheets of the Official Proceedings as published in the Official Journal. The series continues through 1971 on 16mm film. From 1973-1977 the records are available on microfiche produced by the Greenwood Press Urban Documents Program. The proceedings for 1975 are not included in this series, and there may be other gaps in coverage throughout.
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Related Records

Sound Recordings

The Archives holds sound recordings made at City Council meetings in several formats, but does not have equipment or facilities for their playback, much less duplication, other than the cassettes. For information on access to the earlier formats, please consult with an archivist.

  • Wire recordings, 1951-1954 (a short-lived project to create reel-to-reel tape copies of these recordings produced several tapes covering part of the year 1954)
  • SoundScriber discs, 1960-1969
  • Dictabelts, 1961/04-1980/05
  • Reel to reel tapes, 1980-1991/02
  • Cassette tapes, 1980-1992
Video Recordings
The Archives holds the video recordings of City Council meetings made by Cox Cable New Orleans and subsequently broadcast on their government access channel. Coverage is from 1983/03/03-2003/05/01 and from 2007-2008. Beginning with the meeting of 2008/12/18, videos are available for viewing on the Council's web site.
Clerk of Council's Office. Miscellaneous Files, 1929-2000 [bulk, 1955-1996]
Included are transcripts of portions of Council Meetings and other records of what transpired at selected sessions of the body.

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11/5/2014