Issuing Executive Orders is one of the informal powers of the President of the United States. The power to issue E.O.’s stems from the executive authority inferred from Article II of the U.S. Constitution.
The Federal Register Act of 1935 required that Executive Orders of general applicability and legal effect be published in the daily Federal Register. This publication pattern began in 1936. Prior to publication, an E.O. is assigned a sequential number. The numbering continues through Presidential administrations without a break. Prior to 1936, E.O.’s were not required to be published, nor did they receive a number for citation purposes. A retrospective effort by the American Presidency Project has gone back to number executive orders beginning with Theodore Roosevelt; however, there are still gaps.
The E.O.’s that are published in the Federal Register eventually find their way into Title 3 of the Code of Federal Regulations. They will also appear in the Compilation of Presidential Documents (a weekly publication from 1965 to 2009, and now a daily publication), and finally in the Presidential Papers of the President.
The National Archives has digitized the Codification of Presidential Proclamations and Executive Orders which is a subject orientation to E.O.'s from 1945 to 1989.
Prior to 1936, it is recommended to use the CIS Index to Executive Orders and Proclamations to track pre-1936 E.O.s. You may also find reprints of E.O.’s in collections of papers for our earlier Presidents, or in archives related to their work.
The resources recommended here are linked to the left and right of this text.