Edition for Educators—The House By the Numbers

Virginia's <a href="/People/Listing/N/NEWTON,-Thomas,-Jr--(N000078)/" title="Thomas Newton, Jr.">Thomas Newton, Jr.</a> was the first Member with longest continuous service to swear in the Speaker. Once referred to as “Father of the House,” this honorific post is now known as Dean of the House./tiles/non-collection/1/11-28-Newton-2016_120_000.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives Virginia's Thomas Newton, Jr. was the first Member with longest continuous service to swear in the Speaker. Once referred to as “Father of the House,” this honorific post is now known as Dean of the House.
Before the 115th Congress (2017–2019) convenes in early January, review the latest statistics about the House and its history on the History, Art & Archives website. All numbers are current as of November 15, 2016.

House Service & Seniority

Since the U.S. Congress convened in 1789, 12,180 individuals have served as Representatives, Senators, or in both capacities—84 percent have served only in the House (10,217). A total of 1,294 Members have served only in the Senate and 669 have served in both chambers. In addition, there have been 144 people who have served exclusively as Territorial Delegates and another 32 as Resident Commissioners from the Philippines or Puerto Rico.

Can you guess how many served for 40 years or longer? Who is the Dean of the House?

Firsts & Milestones

With more than 59 years of service, Representative John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, holds the record for longest consecutive service. Calculated from the time of his first election, the youngest person to be elected to the House was William Charles Cole Claiborne of Tennessee, who was elected to the 5th Congress (1797–1799) at the age of 22. The oldest (at the time of his retirement) was Representative Ralph Hall of Texas. He left the House in 2015, at the age of 91.

With more than 17 years wielding the gavel, who is the longest-serving Speaker of the House?

Representative Joseph Rainey and Senator Hiram Revels, two of the first African-American Members of Congress, are featured in this engraved illustration from an 1886 publication on Congress./tiles/non-collection/1/11-28-Revels-2008_059_000pq.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
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Representative Joseph Rainey and Senator Hiram Revels, two of the first African-American Members of Congress, are featured in this engraved illustration from an 1886 publication on Congress.

Minorities in Congress

Since Jeannette Rankin of Montana was first elected in 1916, 313 women have served in Congress. More than one-third of all the women who have ever served in Congress are current Members and 85 percent have served exclusively in the House.

Since Hiram Revels was first appointed to the Senate in February 1870 (followed closely by Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina in December 1870), 146 African Americans have served in Congress; 32 percent of that total are currently serving. All but 10 (93 percent) have served exclusively in the House.

Since Delegate Joseph Marion Hernández of Florida was elected to the House in 1822, 107 Hispanic Americans have served in Congress; more than one-third of these individuals are currently serving. All but 11 (90 percent) have served exclusively in the House. A total of 33 Hispanic Members have been statutory representatives, serving U.S. territories in Congress—19 Resident Commissioners from Puerto Rico and 14 Delegates from other territories.

How many women of color have served in Congress?

Vacancies & Successors

House vacancies can be caused by death, resignation, declination, withdrawal, or House action, but the Constitution requires that they be filled by election—often in mid-Congress special elections. Seventy-six Members have come to the House via special election from 1997 to 2016.

How many women have directly succeeded their late husbands in special elections to their vacant seats?

<a href="/People/Detail/18986?ret=True" title="Mae Ella Nolan">Mae Ella Nolan</a> of California became the first woman to succeed her husband in Congress when she won election in 1923./tiles/non-collection/1/11-28-Nolan-PA2016_06_0003b.xml Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives Mae Ella Nolan of California became the first woman to succeed her husband in Congress when she won election in 1923.

Congressional Apportionment

Article I, Section II of the Constitution provides each state at least one U.S. Representative, while the size of a state’s delegation to the House depends on its total population. As the United States expanded and the population grew, the Membership of the House of Representatives increased and individual Members’ constituencies were enlarged. Whereas the 1st Congress (1789–1791) had 65 Members, that number more than doubled after the 1800 Census. The average population of a congressional district in 1790 was 30,000 people; today, Representatives serve an average of a little more than 710,000 constituents according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

In what year(s) did the House set its size at the current 435 voting Representatives?

Leadership

Since 1789, 54 individuals have served as Speaker of the House.

How many previously served as Majority or Minority Leaders?

Profiles of Past Congresses

Ever wish statistics for one Congress lived in one place? Congressional profiles include party divisions, session dates, leadership, committee information, and anecdotes about that Congress, all linked from one page.

This is a sampling of the plethora of data, lists, superlatives, and statistics available about the U.S. House of Representatives in the Institution Section of the History, Art & Archives website.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. The series appears monthly. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.

Categories: Education