The White House Central Files

The White House Central Files (WHCF) was a filing and retrieval system shared by President Ford and his staff. It includes many of their communications with each other, federal agencies, Members of Congress, and individuals and institutions across the spectrum of American public and private life. Some routine foreign government correspondence is included as well. A president's WHCF begins the day he takes office and ends the day he leaves (for Ford, August 9, 1974-January 20, 1977).

The Ford Domestic Council and National Security Council staffs also used the WHCF. The latter mostly limited its use to unclassified and "Confidential" (least sensitive) classified material. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller and his staff did not use WHCF, nor did the many federal agency personnel who worked in the White House building complex. The Ford WHCF did not use computers except for some correspondence tracking and form letter applications. Thus, it relied heavily on cross-references (annotated and photocopied cover pages) to provide multiple access points to individual documents. The result is a complex system that provides good retrieval accuracy but which can briefly confuse a first-time user.

WHCF SUBJECT FILE, 1974-1977 (970 feet)
The heart of the WHCF is its Subject File. It contains information on nearly everything and everyone associated with the Ford administration. Sixty basic subject categories divide into over 1,000 subcategories using alphanumeric file codes, e.g. CO-Countries has a subcategory CO 75 Japan, and FI-Finance has a subcategory FI 4 Budget-Appropriations. Generally higher level materials are in yellow-labeled "Executive" folders, while samples of public opinion mail and similarly routine materials are in green-labeled "General" folders. Click on the names of the primary Subject File categories below to see detailed finding aids describing each of the subcategories.

AG - Agriculture (2 linear feet)
AR - Arts (2 linear feet)
AT - Atomic Energy (1 linear foot)
BE - Business-Economics (39 linear feet)
CA - Civil Aviation (9 linear feet)
CM - Commodities (6 linear feet)
CO - Countries (25 linear feet)
DI - Disasters (4 linear feet)
ED - Education (2 linear feet)
FA - Federal Aid (8 linear feet)
FE - Federal Government (3 linear feet)
FG - Federal Government Organizations/Units (88 linear feet)
FI - Finance (13 linear feet)
FO - Foreign Affairs (20 linear feet)
GI - Gifts (16 linear feet)
HE - Health (6 linear feet)
HI - Highways-Bridges (less than 1 linear foot)
HO - Holidays (10 linear feet)
HS - Housing (1 linear foot)
HU - Human Rights (6 linear feet)
IM - Immigration-Naturalization (2 1linear feet)
IN - Indian Affairs (1 linear foot)
IS - Insurance (2 linear feet)
IT - International Organizations (6 linear feet)
IV - Invitations (31 linear feet)
JL - Judicial-Legal (13 linear feet)
LA - Labor-Management (5 linear feet)
LE - Legislation (2 linear feet)
LG - Local Governments (6 linear feet)
MA - Medals-Awards (7 linear feet)
MC - Meetings-Conferences (8 linear feet)
ME - Messages (46 linear feet)
ND - National Security-Defense (30 linear feet)
NR - Natural Resources (6 linear feet)
OS - Outer Space (less than 1 linear foot)
PA - Parks-Monuments (2 linear feet)
PC - Peace (less than 1 linear foot)
PE - Personnel Management-Federal Government (5 linear feet)
PL - Political Affairs (38 linear feet)
PO - Postal Service (less than 1 linear foot)
PP - President-Personal (80 linear feet)
PQ - Procurement (less than 1 linear foot)
PR - Public Relations (66 linear feet)
PU - Publications (2 linear feet)
RA - Real Property (1 linear foot)
RE - Recreation-Sports (3 linear feet)
RM - Religious Matters (1 linear foot)
RS - Reports-Statistics (2 linear feet)
SA - Safety-Accident Prevention (1 linear foot)
SC - Sciences (1 linear foot)
SO - Social Affairs (4 linear feet)
SP - Speeches (38 linear feet)
ST - States-Territories (4 linear feet)
TA - Trade (12 linear feet)
TN - Transportation (3 linear feet)
TR - Trips (31 linear feet)
UT - Utilities (7 linear feet)
VA - Veterans Affairs (2 linear feet)
WE - Welfare (11 linear feet)
WH - White House Administration (4 linear feet)

Researchers can locate information in the Subject File by using both a subject index to the file system and narrative summaries of the material located under each file heading. The Subject File is also described in PRESNET.

WHCF NAME FILE, 1974-1977 (1,420 feet)
The WHCF Name File is a name index to the Subject File. Cross-references to the Subject File are filed under the names of Senators and Representatives; organizations, corporations, and institutions; local, state, and foreign government officials; businesspersons, educators, celebrities, and office seekers; and many private citizens. A few projects are also indexed, at least partially, e.g. "Swine Flu Program." The Name File also includes many items deemed too unimportant for the Subject File. The Name File has only marginal value for names of White House staff and certain other Executive branch officials. It cites them sparingly. However, Subject File category FG 6-11-1/(name) is useful when a White House staff member was the subject of a memo or letter, e.g. a resignation letter. The President's Daily Diary database, searchable by name, can compile the dates and times of anyone's access to the President.
See "Must I make advance arrangements to see certain "open" collections?"

WHCF BULK MAIL FILE, 1974-1977 (510 feet)
Most public mail was sorted by broad subject but otherwise left unarranged and undescribed. The White House answered the mail by form postcard, form letter, or not at all. The Ford Library has destroyed about 1,350 feet of this material, saving samples, records of the sampling process, and a few complete sections such as letters for and against the Nixon pardon. Weekly public mail tabulations and summaries are in WHCF Subject File subcategory WH 4-1 and in the Robert Hartmann Papers, boxes 139 - 144.

WHCF CHRONOLOGICAL FILE, 1974-1977 (31 feet)
Chronologically arranged carbons of letters sent over the President's facsimile signature and, occasionally, his real signature. Almost all are form letters and messages.
See " Must I make advance arrangements to see certain "open" collections?"

This collection consists of two series: KARDEX Directories and Outgoing Correspondence Indexes.

KARDEX Directories (Boxes 1-3, 1 linear foot). This series consists of computer printouts of KARDEX directories. There are five directories: last name; state or country, thereunder by last name; category, thereunder by last name; first name; and state or country, thereunder by first name. Each directory includes information on presidential acquaintances, athletes, celebrities, politicians, and other prominent individuals. An individual record includes the following fields: name, address, and assigned category code (e.g., personal friend, celebrity, former White House staff, etc.). View the list of category codes.

Outgoing Correspondence Indexes (Boxes 3-58, 24 linear feet). This series consists of computer printout indexes to outgoing White House correspondence, especially form responses to public opinion and request mail. The indexes include the names and addresses of correspondents, method of delivery (e.g., mail, hand-carried, or telegram), category code (e.g., post election support, religious messages, and childrens letters), form letter number, and the dates the correspondence was received and the White Houses response was sent out. View the list of category codes.

View the folder title list for this collection.


This filing system was shared by the White House East Wing staff, who assisted Mrs. Ford and the Ford children in their public activities. It includes a Subject File, Name File, Chronological File, and Bulk Mail File that are comparable to the separate system used by the President and his staff in the West Wing. Also included are the East Wing Staff Files and the Ford Children Files. Correspondence with the general public comprise most, but not all, of the material. The material concerns views on public issues, expressions of support or criticism, holiday greetings, invitations, schedule requests, and plans, assistance requests and offers, and other matters. See "Must I make advance arrangements to see certain "open" collections?"

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