The John Bailey Collection is organized thematically into five series: Series 1: Clerk of the House, Series2: Justice of the Peace, Series 3: Reform School of the District of Columbia, Series 4: Currency, and Additional Material. While the inclusive dates range from 1797-1925, the bulk of the material is from the 1850s-1880s. Due to the overlapping appointments of Bailey across his lifetime the collection is arranged thematically. The material included in this collection reflects Bailey's career as a public official. Several certificates and official appointments make up a large proportion of the collection. The included correspondences largely take an administrative tone, the majority of which are drawn from his time as Clerk of the House. Some correspondences, newspaper articles, and certificates are physically housed in an oversized box and oversized drawer.
By best estimates John Bailey was born in the 1810s in Maine. Records indicate that his lineage dates back to one of the original families that colonized New England. He divided much of his adult life between appointments as Clerk of the United States House of Representatives, Justice of the Peace for the State of Maine and District of Columbia, and trustee of the Reform School of the District of Columbia. Many of these appointments overlapped. During a term as Clerk of the House in the 1850s Bailey became involved in a scandal surrounding the Washington Gas Light Company. John Bailey died in 1884 or 1885.