Municipal Archives


Resources for Researching City of Dallas Governing Bodies

Pathfinder Number 3​

​Researching the governing bodies of the City of Dallas from 1868 through today frequently presents challenging issues. It is valuable to understand some basic facts about the historical changes of City government. The Mayor-Alderman system existed from 1856-1906 and included a Mayor and five elected Aldermen. The Mayor-Commissioner system, which included a Mayor and four elected Commissioners, existed from 1907 to 1930. Finally, the Mayor-Council system has existed from 1931 to the present and currently includes a Mayor and fourteen elected Councilmembers.  Councilmember representation numbers have changed often over the intervening years with each modification requiring approval by the citizens of Dallas through charter amendments.

The reporting and recording methods used for indexing minutes, ordinances and resolutions also differ greatly.  For example, until 1978, minutes, ordinances and resolutions were maintained in separate ledger books, each with an individual index until 1969.  After 1978, the City Secretary ceased to use large ledger books for the three types of records and instead combined them all in a smaller, 8.5 x 11 inch, bound format.  The current indexing system includes a monthly compilation and an annual cumulative index available on microfiche.

Prior to the 1940s, Council agenda items did not have discrete, associated file numbers.  Since then, a file number referenced in the numbered agenda corresponds to a file with the original signed ordinance, resolution, or other Council action.

Because basic factual information (ordinance or resolution wording, date of passage, vote tallies) is available in the minutes, viewing the original file is not always necessary.  An original file is usually consulted if there is a need for an attachment, a reference to a printed document that isn't reproduced in the minutes or an original contract.

The Dallas Municipal Archives and the City Secretary’s Office do not collect the papers of former Mayors or Councilmembers.  For papers of former mayors, see Pathfinder Number 4: Resources for Researching Former Mayors of Dallas:  A Selected Annotated Guide.
 

City Secretary’s Office Files/Council Action Files

[City Council Minutes, Ordinances and Resolutions]

​Dallas City Council’s official records, including minutes of the Dallas City Council [and earlier forms of government], from 1868 to the present, are available for research in paper, electronic, and micrographic forms. 

Complete earlier records (1868-1950) and later records (1979-1997) are on microfiche and indexed by subject matter and by ordinance and resolution numbers, and may be viewed at the City Secretary’s Office. 

Mid-century minutes, ordinances and resolutions (1950-1970s) are indexed and microfilmed, excluding original contracts and memoranda.  Other council records from the same period are in process of microfilming; contact Archivist for status.

Council minutes, agendas, and ordinances and resolutions from 1995 to the present are available in electronic form at the City Secretary’s Office website.

Council records contain primary documents associated with annexation, early neighborhoods and neighborhood groups, evidence of construction of streets, bridges, parks, libraries, and other city properties and services in specific neighborhoods.

Further notes to aid in researching the Dallas City Council

Indexes to Minutes and Ordinance Books 1868-1977 are available on microfiche during office hours of the City Secretary’s Office.  These are alphabetical by subject and indexed by individual year or in groups of years.  Individual pages may be copied to hard copy from the microfiche.   

Indexes to City Council action items and other items filed with the City Secretary’s Office 1970-Present (excluding present month) are available on microfiche.  These are alphabetical by subject and indexed by individual year or in groups of years.

A card file system index to city ordinances from 1900-1976 (including a few references to 19th century ordinances) is available on 16mm microfilm. Indexes are alphabetical within a variety of subject groups, such as “abandonments” or “airports”.

Minutes and Ordinances enrolled in minute books from 1868-1977 are available on microfiche.  Copies of individual pages may be copied to hard copy from the microfiche.  

Hard copy files of City Council action items and other items filed with the City Secretary’s Office from 1955 to 1977 are stored off-site and require up to two days for retrieval.  Call (214) 670-3738 to place an order.

Hard copy files of City Council action items and other items filed with the City Secretary’s Office for 2000-present are available in the City Secretary’s Office. 
 
Files of City Council action items and other items filed with City Secretary’s Office for 1988-1994 are available in microfiche format.  Copies of individual pages or entire files may be copied to hard copy from the microfiche. 

Audio of City Council meetings from 1968-Present is available.  Older reel-to-reel tapes up to 1995 are in process of transfer to digital format; consult the City Archivist for availability.  Cassette audio tapes of City Council meetings from August 15, 1995, through 2005 are available during office hours in the City Secretary’s Office.  Digital audio of City Council meetings from 2005 to present is available through the City Secretary’s Office and on the City Secretary’s Office website. 

Manuscript and Paper-based Materials

Collection 1991-010—Letter From H. A. Dixon to City Secretary Earl Goforth, 1947
Collection 1992-001—Mayor Annette Strauss Plaques and Awards, 1985-1991
Collection 1994-041—City Council Candidate Orientation Materials, 1991
Collection 1994-042—Dallas City Council Inauguration Planning Materials, 1985
Collection 1994-043—Dallas City Council Inauguration Planning Materials, 1983
Collection 1994-044—Dallas City Council Inauguration Planning Materials, 1980-1983, undated
Collection 1994-047—Dallas City Council Inauguration Materials, 1993
Collection 1995-005—City of Dallas Mayor and Commissioners Property Inventory, 1909
Collection 1995-010—City Council Agenda Sample in Braille, 1994
Collection 1995-029—City Council 1995 Inauguration, 1995
Collection 1996-017—Study of the Organization and Operations of the Dallas City Council, 1973
Collection 1997-029—Plaques and Award - Mayor Steve Bartlett
Collection 1998-011—City Council Compensation, 1941
Collection 2003-004—Master Plan Minority Report [Elizabeth Blessing], 1963

Records created by or concerning the Office of the Mayor and City Council. These records do not include minute books.

​Photographs

​Collection 1999-003— City Photographer, 1950-1997
 
Five thousand black and white and color photographic negatives and prints documenting people, places, and events concerning Dallas city government.  Although city government is the focus of this collection, photographs for neighborhood research include parks, recreation centers, and events held at specific sites around Dallas.  A second series of evidential photographs used for legal cases in Code Compliance 196-197, organized by street address, occasionally document building and block façades.  

Photographs prior to 1950 by the City Photographer are located in the Texas/Dallas History & Archives division of the Dallas Public Library.

Collection 1994-008—City Council Inauguration Contact Proofs, 1991
Collection 1994-009—City Council Inauguration Photographs and Negatives, 1992
Collection 1994-047—Dallas City Council Inauguration Materials, 1993
Collection 1995-029—City Council 1995 Inauguration, 1995
Collection 1997-019—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 1997
Collection 1997-019—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 1997
Collection 2000-001—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 1999
Collection 2000-001—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 1999
Collection 2001-001—Dallas City Council Videotapes, 1994-1999
Collection 2002-009—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 1998
Collection 2003-003—Dallas City Council Portrait, 1963
Collection 2003-005—City of Dallas Mayor Portraits, 1894-2001
Collection 2003-013—Dallas City Council Inauguration Photographs, 2001
Collection 2006-002—City Council Inauguration Photographs, 2005
Collection 2011-002—Dallas City Council Inauguration Photographs, 2011