Mission and Scope

FRASER is a digital library of U.S. economic, financial, and banking history—particularly the history of the Federal Reserve System.

Providing economic information and data to the public is an important mission for the St. Louis Fed started by former St. Louis Fed Research Director Homer Jones in 1958. FRASER began as a data preservation and accessibility project of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis in 2004 and now provides access to data and policy documents from the Federal Reserve System and many other institutions.

Part of this mission includes seeking out a wide range of historical materials. For a detailed overview of the scope of the FRASER collection, see the Collection Development Policy or this list of highlighted content. In some cases, there are gaps in collections that we strive to fill. Our Needs List identifies the specific documents needed to complete collections already on FRASER, as well as materials we have not yet digitized but would like to. To better inform our users, our staff occasionally add digital material to FRASER from other sources such as the Internet Archive and the American Memory program of the Library of Congress in order to provide further context for materials digitized for FRASER.

FRASER can be used in conjunction with other Federal Reserve resources, including FRED, ALFRED, the Federal Reserve History website, and curriculum materials developed by the Fed's economic education staff. To connect the public to our free economic history materials, our staff also add links to FRASER resources from relevant Wikipedia pages.


We gratefully acknowledge the generous assistance from our partners:

Brookings Institution
Carl Albert Congressional Research and Studies Center
Federal Depository Library Program (FDLP) libraries
Federal Reserve System libraries
Harry S. Truman Library and Museum
Library of Congress
Missouri Historical Society
National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)
St. Louis Public Library
University of Utah
Washington University in St. Louis
U.S. Government Publishing Office (GPO) (digital preservation partner)
GPO Official Partnership Logo Image

Please contact us if you would like to discuss collaborating on an appropriate digitization project or have documents you would like to contribute to the FRASER collection.

Technical Information

Documents digitized for FRASER have been processed by optical character recognition (OCR) software to provide machine-readable text and to assist in full-text searching. Strict scanning and image correction standards are followed to ensure the best possible OCR results, but the resulting text or data are kept as they are and are not corrected or modified in any way. Therefore, users should check any text or data copied directly from a PDF for inaccuracies.

Some born-digital publications have been downloaded from their original institutions or secondary sources, including the websites of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System and the Government Printing Office (GPO). These files may have different security or content attributes than materials produced for FRASER.

As part of our work with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA), FRASER provides access to metadata records via OAI-PMH. Documentation for our API is available, along with an overview of our MODS metadata schema implementation.


Is everything on FRASER free of copyright restrictions? How do I obtain permission to use FRASER documents?

Most FRASER documents are in the public domain and are free of any copyright restrictions, but some documents are posted with permission from the copyright holders. The inclusion of documents on FRASER does not necessarily mean they are free of restrictions for all users. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis does not own copyright for the majority of documents included on FRASER and cannot grant or deny permission to use the content. The responsibility for making an independent legal assessment of the copyright status and ownership of an item and for securing any necessary permissions rests with the individual who wants to use the item.

In general, works published in the United States before 1923 and works created by the U.S. government are in the public domain. Additional information on copyright and public domain status is available from the Cornell Copyright Information Center, Copyright Clearance Center, and the U.S. Copyright Office.

Is it possible to suggest that a publication be included in FRASER?

Yes. We welcome suggestions for adding publications and statistics to FRASER. Please feel free to contact us with the name and dates of the publication you would like to include. Also, if you know of a repository (e.g., library) that would like to donate the publication for scanning, please let us know.

Why are some publications missing an issue? For example, there is no July 3, 1953, issue of Weekly Business Statistics.

Despite our best efforts, in some cases FRASER staff have not yet located all issues of every publication. We continue to search for missing issues and ask anyone with information on their location to contact us. Our Needs List identifies the specific documents we need to complete series already on FRASER, as well as series that we have not yet digitized. Our goal is to make our digital collection complete.

Can I get the data in spreadsheet or plain text format?

Converting scanned tables into spreadsheet format is complicated by the quality of the scan and the layout of the table, and this makes converting images to a usable format cost-prohibitive. The text in FRASER PDFs is generated by optical character recognition software but is not corrected. Users may copy the text into a spreadsheet, but for accuracy, the user must verify the formatting and content. Some statistical content may be available in FRED and ALFRED (see below).

What is the difference between FRASER and ALFRED?

Both FRASER and ALFRED offer the ability to locate unrevised data, but they do so in different ways and may serve different users. Economic data are frequently revised. Data series are often revised multiple times after the initial series release, and then are revised again over the course of many years through benchmark revisions or changes in the data construction. Because of this, data that illustrate some moment in history may be significantly different from the data initially released.

ALFRED captures each vintage of a data series held in FRED and accurately provides it in a spreadsheet or programming interface. FRASER captures the digital image of many data publications and provides the data as an image. The images have optical character recognition but have not been corrected and require human quality checks.

Furthermore, ALFRED applies only to series in FRED, and the vintages captured typically date back only to the early 1990s. Earlier vintages for a few series have been reconstructed for ALFRED, but for the vast majority of FRED data, the revisions have been captured for ALFRED only as long as the series have been in FRED (FRED started in 1991). ALFRED provides data to users in a spreadsheet format, allowing them to easily examine a single series and its revisions over time.

The data series in FRASER date back much further and are broader in scope than a single series or indicator. Publications such as the Survey of Current Business (back to 1921), Employment and Earnings (back to 1954), and Business Conditions Digest (back to 1968) tracked the economy in multiple ways and with multiple series. The scanned images from these publications capture the data as they were released at the time. FRASER is ideal for users who want to know how policymakers and others understood the state of the economy at a particular point in time.

I have noticed that certain documents on FRASER are marked “CONFIDENTIAL,” “PRIVATE,” or “SECRET” and wondered if you meant to make these public.

FRASER does not make non-public materials available. Some FRASER documents include labels such as confidential and privileged and other indications that the material should not be widely shared. Because FRASER digitizes archival materials from sources such as the Library of Congress, the National Archives and Records Administration, and university special collections, the original labels may still exist despite the fact that the content has been available to the public for some time. Some additional collections have been released to the public through FRASER, under direction of the collections' owners. Most of the documents on FRASER are old enough that the topics once considered sensitive are now of a historical nature and the confidentiality concerns no longer exist. In addition, FRASER aligns itself with the Census Bureau's 72 year rule, under which records containing personally identifiable information (PII) are not released to the public until 72 years after the date of their creation. Where necessary, a note is inserted in the FRASER digital file that the materials were redacted or that pages were removed during the digitization process.

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