New York State Archives
Note: Records series that are restricted are marked with an "R." In some instances, it may be possible to examine these series. Contact the State Archives for more information.
Office of Governor
Current Functions. The governor, as chief executive officer of the State, is responsible for ensuring that the laws of the State are carried out. The governor exercises executive power and authority over the administrative machinery of State government, including all departments, divisions, offices, bureaus, and commissions established by constitutional provision or by statute. The governor acts as commander-in-chief of the State's military and naval forces; directs to the legislature an annual message concerning the condition of the State; recommends action to the legislature and approves or vetoes actions proposed by the legislature; convenes extraordinary sessions of the legislature, or of the senate only, when necessary; appoints, and may remove, heads of most State departments; prepares annually for the legislature a comprehensive State budget; and may grant reprieves, commutations, and pardons to persons convicted of crimes (other than treason or impeachment cases).
Organizational History. New York's first constitution in 1777, and subsequent constitutions of 1821, 1846, and 1894, vested supreme executive power and authority in a governor. Colonial precedents for a governor as executive officer were the director general, who administered New Netherland under the Dutch from 1624 to 1664; and the royal governor, who administered the colony under the British until 1776. In April 1777, the Convention of Representatives of the State of New York (renamed the Fourth Provincial Congress) adopted the first State constitution, and two months later George Clinton was elected first governor of New York State.
New York's constitution of 1777 created the office of governor "to take care that the laws are faithfully executed" and "to transact all necessary business with the officers of government." The governor was required to report on the condition of the State at each legislative session, could convene the legislature in special session, prorogue it, and recommend matters for legislative consideration. The governor was designated commander-in-chief of the armed forces and could grant reprieves and pardons to persons convicted of crimes other than treason and murder. The constitution provided for the election of the governor by freeholders for a three-year term, with no limit placed on the number of terms an individual might serve.
Executive power was restricted by means of a system of checks and balances, including the legislature, a Council of Appointment, and a Council of Revision. The Council of Appointment, consisting of the governor and four senators elected annually by the assembly, selected nonelective public officials except those otherwise provided for in the constitution. The Council of Revision, made up of the governor, the chancellor of the State's equity courts, and the justices of the supreme court, exercised a veto power over bills passed by the legislature, but a two-thirds vote of both houses of the legislature could override a veto.
Both councils were abolished by the second State constitution of 1821. The legislature assumed the power of electing major government officials (the comptroller, attorney general, secretary of state, state engineer, and treasurer), but the governor retained the power to appoint other state officials with the consent of the senate. Veto power was now vested in the governor alone. The governor could no longer prorogue the legislature, and his term of office was reduced from three to two years. The power to grant pardons and reprieves was amended to exclude only treason and impeachment cases. The other powers and duties of the governor were retained as they were described in the first constitution.
The third (1846) State constitution continued the governor's powers and duties as defined in the second constitution. Constitutional amendments in 1874 increased the term of office to three years, allowed the governor to veto individual items in appropriation bills, and provided that extraordinary sessions of the legislature could consider only matters recommended by the governor.
The fourth State constitution was approved by the voters in 1894 and remains today as the basic legal document of New York government. It continued previous constitutional definitions of the governor's powers and duties, but reduced the term of office to two years.
By the early twentieth century the executive branch of State government had grown to include nearly 200 administrative departments, boards, and commissions. Constitutional amendments in 1925 and 1927 significantly consolidated these administrative offices and expanded the power of the executive office. A 1925 amendment reduced the number of elective officials to four -- governor, lieutenant governor, comptroller, and attorney general (the latter two were first made elective posts by the 1846 constitution) -- and provided for the consolidation of all administrative agencies into not more than twenty State departments.
One of the authorized departments was the Executive Department. Two laws (1926, Chapter 546, and 1928, Chapter 676) defined the organization and duties of the Executive Department. It serves as the administrative department of the governor, and through it the governor supervises the activities of all other constitutional departments. The governor was authorized to establish, consolidate, or abolish additional executive department divisions and bureaus, and many such offices have been created or eliminated by executive order or statute since 1928.
In 1927, a constitutional amendment specified that the heads of all departments other than Audit and Control, Law, Education, and Agriculture and Markets be appointed by the governor with the consent of the senate, and that department heads may be removed by the governor as prescribed by law. Another amendment in 1927 required all departments to submit annually to the governor itemized estimates of necessary appropriations and required the governor then to submit to the legislature an executive budget containing a complete plan of proposed expenditures and estimated revenues. In 1937, a constitutional amendment increased the governor's term of office to four years.
The governor and immediate executive office staff, consisting of the secretary to the governor, counsel to the governor, press secretary, appointments officer, and other administrative advisors and assistants, have been generally referred to (both before and after reorganization) as the executive chamber.
OFFICE OF GOVERNOR
General Agency-level Records
13682 Central subject and correspondence files, 1919-1954, 1959-1983. 1,786 cu. ft. and 2,646 microfilm reels.
This series includes records of the following gubernatorial administrations:
- Alfred E. Smith, 1919-1920, 1923-1928 101 cu. ft. (169 microfilm reels)
- Nathan L. Miller, 1921-1922 17 cu. ft.
- Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1929-1932 91 cu. ft. (219 microfilm reels)
- Herbert H. Lehman, 1933-1942 106 cu. ft. (106 microfilm reels)
- Thomas E. Dewey, 1943-1954 275 microfilm reels
- W. Averell Harriman, 1955-1958 141 microfilm reels
- Nelson A. Rockefeller, 1959-1973 520 microfilm reels
- Malcolm Wilson, 1973-1974 57 microfilm reels
- Hugh L. Carey, 1975-1982 915 cu. ft. (499 microfilm reels)
- Mario M. Cuomo, 1983-1994 660 microfilm reels
A0283 Monthly reports and minutes of meetings of boards of managers of State institutions, 1902-1914. 9.2 cu. ft. (129 volumes)
B1689 Governors copies of reports of directors of mental health facilities to boards of visitors, 1983-1984. 1 cu. ft. R
GOVERNOR'S COMMISSION APPOINTED TO REVIEW NEW YORK STATE'S ABORTION LAW
10996 Committee reports and public hearing transcript, 1968. 0.3 cu. ft.
Commission on Cultural Resources
B1056 Photoprints of Mental Hygiene and State University of New York buildings,ca. 1970. 0.2 cu. ft.
New York (State). Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient
The Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient was created (Laws of 1914, Chapter 272) to examine the existing system for the care and training of the mentally deficient, including epileptics, and to make recommendations to the Legislature for improvement. The Commission was tied closely to the work of the State Board of Charities; Robert W. Hebberd, Secretary of the Board, was Chairman of the Commission and Commission staff used the Board's office and resources. The Commission submitted its final report to the Legislature in February 1915. The Commission gathered information from state custodial institutions, training schools, private charitable agencies, hospitals, and other institutions in New York and other states. Extensive public hearings were held throughout the state to collect evidence from state and local health officials, educators and researchers, police officials, corrections officials, private charity administrators, and others. Special surveys were distributed in New York to public schools to determine the nature and extent of special classes for mentally deficient students and to county prisons to determine the number of mentally deficient inmates in the prison population. The Commission also sponsored an extensive survey of mentally deficient persons in Westchester County that was carried out by local government officials and private agencies in the county. The Commission, in its 628-page final report, concluded that the care and training of mentally deficient persons should be viewed as a state government problem and that increased funding was needed to make improvements in the system. The Commission found that only 3,000 of the estimated 24,000 mentally deficient persons in New York were cared for under the present system. It further concluded that 25% of mentally deficient persons were susceptible to criminal activity, thus adding further evidence for the need to segregate these people from the rest of the population. In its report, the Commission recommended that more money be provided for State Board of Charities programs, that state custodial facilities be expanded, and that several new institutions be built. It further recommended that more money be allocated for special programs and vocational training in public schools and for the establishment of a statewide clearinghouse to help identify persons needing special care and to ensure proper placement of mentally deficient persons in the custodial system.
Commission to Investigate Provision for the Mentally Deficient
A4222 Correspondence and report files, 1914-1915. 1 cu. ft.
A4229 Letter books, 1914-1915. 0.5 cu. ft. (3 volumes)
A4231 Administrative reports and meeting minutes, 1914-19150.1 cu. ft.
A4221 Institutional reference file, 1901-1914 (bulk 1911-1913). 4 cu. ft.
A4227 Mental deficiency reference file, 1905-1914 (bulk 1912-1914). 0.5 cu. ft.
A4223 Public hearing testimony, 1914-1915. 1 cu. ft. (5 volumes)
A4228 Photographs of custodial institutions for the mentally deficient, ca. 1910-1914. 1 cu. ft.
A4224 Survey on public school classes for mentally deficient students, 1914. 0.2 cu. ft.
A4225 Survey of mentally deficient inmates in county jails, 1914. 0.2 cu. ft.
A4226 Survey of custodial institutions for the mentally deficient, 1914. 0.2 cu. ft.
A4230 Day book, 1914. 0.1 cu. ft.
A4233 Blank survey forms, 1914-1915. 0.1 cu. ft.
A4232 Blank medical forms file, 1910-1914. 0.1 cu. ft.
World's Fair Commission
A0569 Subject and meeting files and World's Fair exhibit design and building plans, 1937-1939. 21 cu. ft.