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

“Female Cranks” and “Gallery Girls”

There once was a room in the Capitol that no longer exists—the Ladies’ Reception Room. Well-dressed young women, stouthearted activists, and despairing widows filled its sofas and chairs in the 19th century. Long before women entered the House Chamber as Representatives, this space was a battleground in the clash over women’s “proper” role in politics.

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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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Postcards from the House(s)

At the turn of the century, you could send a picture and a message across the country to share your adventures with friends and family for just a penny. How many bore pictures of Representatives’ homes?

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Categories: Art & Artifacts

Gone Fishin’

John Nance Garner Holding Fish
When legislative sessions run long and the sun bakes down on the Capitol dome, sometimes Members of Congress just want to go fishing. A congressional recess tradition, fishing has long been a respite from the humidity and politics of Washington, and a source of unbelievable stories.

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Adjournment Fever

House Pages Throw Paper in the Air
Finishing the legislative session in the summer used to be a yearly occurrence, with its own traditions. Members tried to guess the correct date of adjournment, sweltered through the final bills of summer, then sang into the night. Before Congress headed home for the season, these congressional traditions were recorded in photographs and oral histories.

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Fandom

Before air conditioning, portable, collapsible, and durable handheld fans were a necessity in the hot months. For congressional candidates, summertime made fans the perfect giveaway at parades, rallies, and “any kind of places where people congregate regularly in hot weather,” as one proponent noted. The House Collection contains breezemakers from a century’s worth of sweltering campaigns.

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