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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 18 results

Home at the House

Mrs. Smith with Pages
For more than two centuries, Pages assisted Representatives with errands, relaying messages, and other tasks. Early on, Members appointed Pages from the Washington area, but by the 20th century, most were selected from congressional districts around the country. When teenaged Pages came to Washington, they often made their temporary home in a residence like Olive Smith’s house.
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Edition for Educators—Congressional Staff

This month’s Edition for Educators features the staffs who work for the Members of Congress. Since the late 19th century, Congressional staffs help the House conduct the nation’s business in Members’ offices, on committees, or through House Officers such as the Clerk of the House or Sergeant-at-Arms. Learn more about some of the individuals that one scholar called the House’s “unelected representatives.”
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Unique Circumstances: A Look at the House Journal on September 11, 2001

Eve Butler-Gee pulled up to the United States Capitol under a cobalt-blue sky early on the morning of September 11, 2001. It was well before the workday began, but she hoped to complete a stack of paperwork before the legislative session started at 9 a.m. As a House journal clerk, she had to proofread the prior day’s House Journal and then report to the floor to record a new day’s proceedings.
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“A Voice as Resounding as a Trumpet”

Inside the House Chamber, along its southern wall, an American flag hangs above a modest three-tiered structure that is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of furniture in the federal government—the House rostrum, the institution’s central nervous system. The rostrum’s middle row is reserved for three clerks, in particular: the House Journal clerk, the tally clerk who records votes, and the reading clerk who, as the job suggests, reads legislation and once called the roll of Members before the House switched to an electronic voting system in 1973. With such a prominent and vocal responsibility, reading clerks are often in the public eye. Most have remained anonymous, but in the first half of the 20th century the colorful personality and vocal endurance of Patrick James Haltigan made him a star.
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The House Gets a Used Ford

On any given June day, summertime tourists visit their Representatives in the three House Office Buildings near the Capitol. But off the beaten path, at the foot of Capitol Hill, another House Office Building stands in relative obscurity. This is the story of the Ford House Office Building, an old structure that got a new lease on life, becoming the House’s own used Ford.

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Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11

On the evening of September 11, 2001, congressional leadership prepared to make their first collective response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hours earlier. Members of Congress assembled on the Capitol steps to join leaders in a public demonstration of unity. Broadcast across the country, it became a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation and resolve, ending with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” This gathering became a symbol of national unity in the ensuing weeks and months.
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Take Two Aspirin and Give Me a Signed Photo

Signed Photo
As Attending Physician to Congress, George Calver received a special perk: Every Representative who visited him gave the doctor a signed photograph. Calver amassed a collection of congressional headshots inscribed with personal notes to him. These signed photos, now in the House Collection, reveal relationships and personalities in Congress.
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Through Her Lens

With a bounce in her step and a camera in hand, Dolly Seelmeyer walked through the halls of the United States Capitol, from 1972 to 2004, as the first female House photographer, ready to prove she could do anything a male photographer could do—“and do it better.”
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Dial Main 3120 for Members

Harriott Daley, Director of the Capitol Switchboard
Standing next to the Capitol switchboard, chief operator Harriott Daley broke into a smile. “She must have a lot of interesting recollections,” a Washington Post reporter mused, “since she is in the top telephone spot in the Nation.”
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"You've Won Your Way Into Our Hearts"

Tucked away in a corner of the L-shaped Republican Cloakroom reserved for Members of Congress, a hard-working, modest woman ran a cramped lunch counter. Part of a world built upon power and influence, Helen Sewell did not use her position for political gain, but focused instead on caring for the people she considered family for more than 70 years.
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“It Isn’t a School, and I’m Not a Schoolmaster”

Do you remember having jitters on the first day at a new school? It could be a strange environment with unfamiliar classrooms, new teachers, and fidgety students who wanted to be somewhere else. New Members of Congress have had similar feelings.
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“Harry Needs a Rest”

Harry Parker
In an institution still largely segregated and even unwelcoming to its African-American Members in the 1930s, Harry Parker’s six decades of loyal service to the House engendered respect and affection. The New York Times described the House Chamber’s 1937 celebration of Parker's retirement as the “most extraordinary tribute ever paid” to an African-American in the House up to that point.
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