Since its inception the municipal government has contracted out various types of work. In the early years the major contract work was for street paving and cleaning, and the erection of city buildings. Up until 1858 contracts were awarded by the city officer in charge of the work, usually specially-appointed commissioners. In 1858 a more formal process was instituted whereby city officers advertised for sealed proposals for public work; these proposals were opened at a public meeting and the contracts1 awarded to the lowest, responsible bidder. This system has remained essentially the same. From 1900 until 1947 proposals were opened and contracts awarded by a Board of Awards (RG.37) and since its abolition by the Board of Estimates (RG.36).
Records relating to contracts prior to 1907 are scattered. They will be found in the extant records of the officer requiring the work, especially the various commissioners and the City Register (RG.32) who after 1858 was involved in awarding all contracts. For information on buildings erected or repaired by the city after 1871 see the records of the Inspector of Buildings who was empowered to make all contracts for the construction and repair of all city buildings except those which pertained to the water and harbor boards.
Records for contracts awarded from 1907 to the present are more complete and are contained in this record group. In this series is one of three copies of successful contracts, and the contractors bond, for work performed or materials acquired by the city. The other copies went to the agency requiring the work and the successful bidder.
The contracts, have been maintained in two forms of arrangement. Contracts and Bonds, 1907-24, were arranged by the Historical Records Survey in the 1930s. The archivists re-arranged the contracts by the agency for which the work was performed, and the index reflects this arrangement. The material was also divided into two groups by date, 1907-17 and 1917-24. The majority of these contracts concern street paving and sewer construction although there are also materials relating to the building and maintenance of city structures such as public schools, markets, parks, baths, bridges, City Hall, the jail, and the courthouse. There are also contracts for expenditures by the fire department, the street lighting superintendent, the harbor board, and the water board. The largest group of records from this period is plumbers1 bonds, forms filled out by individuals doing street paving work for the city. One type of contract that does not appear after 1924 is that between the municipal government and charitable institutions.
The contracts and bonds from 1925 to the present are arranged by contract number which was assigned the year the contract was completed rather than by the agency requiring the work as with the earlier contracts. The index is by contract number. The material has been screened to retain contracts and bonds mainly for the construction or alteration of structures such as buildings and bridges. Materials discarded includes street paving contracts and, after 1959, sewer, electrical conduit, and manhole contracts; contracts for the maintenance of school buildings such as paving, landscaping, converting electrical or heating systems, and the installation of new windows or flooring; and elevator maintenance contracts and architects agreements. Samples of discarded material have been retained.
Between 1960 and 1966 contracts for some supplies and equipment were retained, especially contracts for school instructional and athletic equipment and magazine subscriptions. Before 1960 and after 1966 supply contracts did not list individual items and were not retianed. Another type of contract was that for razing or rehabilitating buildings in urban renewal areas in the 1960s and 1970s. Areas in which there was large scale razing or rehabilitation include Shot Tower and Camden Industrial Parks, the University of Maryland, Harlem Park, Madison- Park South, the Upton Area, the Washington Hill-Chapel Area, and the Inner Harbor.