History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives

Take a Seat

For more than a century, a desk in the House Chamber was a Member’s office. He stowed his hat beneath his chair, wrote and stored papers in the writing desk, and occasionally propped his feet up to listen to debate. Why did picking one's desk matter?

More >

Wish You Were Here

As long as people have traveled, they have wanted to share experiences with the folks at home, and nearly 200 years of tourism show that visitors to the Capitol are no exception. The invention of picture postcards in the late 19th century added a level of efficiency to the impulse to share, and quickly escalated into a mailing frenzy. And as a prime destination, the Capitol was a mainstay of the genre with every photogenic part finding its way through the mail.

More >
Categories: Art & Artifacts

Mr. Silversmith Goes to Washington

Once upon a time, a young man came to Washington. He wasn’t sophisticated, but he had loads of ambition. He was destined to leave his mark on Congress. No, it wasn’t Jimmy Stewart's fictional character arriving in 1939 to clean up the corrupt Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.

More >

Vent Elation

Cooler Summers
“No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.” Speaker of the House John Nance Garner spent 30 years in Congress, and he knew to get out of town ahead of the wilting summer weather. Washington in July and August is a desperately swampy place. Then one day in 1928, “manufactured weather” arrived in the House of Representatives’ Chamber.

More >
Categories: Institution, House Chamber

Psychological Gastronomy

“Gastro psychologist, doctor of roasts” was the honorary title bestowed on House Restaurant proprietor Tom Murrey by the Washington Post in an 1894 article. The reason for this accolade was Murrey’s theory on the relationship between what a Member would eat at lunch and what legislative work he accomplished—or rather, didn’t accomplish—afterward.

More >
Categories: Art & Artifacts

Doing the Dishes

Sifted peas, Vanderbilt dressing, kraut juice, steak Stanley, and kaffee hag  –  now that sounds like a hearty meal. Historic menus from the House Restaurant, dating back more than 80 years, include some incomprehensible dishes.

More >
Categories: House Traditions