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


On February 20, 1933, Speaker Garner struggled to maintain order on the House Floor as Thomas Blanton, a “dry,” made a final stand in support of Prohibition. Garner impatiently tapped the inkstand on the rostrum as Representatives booed and shouted “Vote, vote!” After the House voted to repeal Prohibition, the galleries and halls overflowed with the applause of spectators. Yet dismantling the legislative trails of the 18th Amendment took nearly a year. Like a bar crawl, the end of Prohibition was full of awkward moments, fights, and beer.

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“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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