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

An Ode to Poetry at the Capitol

Consultant in Poetry Elizabeth Bishop Writing with a View of the Capitol
During a Joint Meeting honoring the bicentennial of Congress in 1989, Minority Leader Robert Michel suggested that what Congress needed during the celebration was “not more congressional prose, but the fiery, living truth of great poetry.”

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A Proper Symbol of Office

The Mace of the House of Representatives
Wherever and whenever the U.S. House of Representatives meets, this historic artifact is there.

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Mourning in the Chamber

The Funeral of Edward W. Pou
The House Chamber is known as a space for discourse and debate, but it also has a more somber history. From 1820 to 1940, the Chamber served as the setting for the funerals of some sitting Members. Learn more about this tradition through four photographs from the House Collection.

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Women Take the Spotlight

Rankin and Other Congresswomen
On January 6, 1941, Jeannette Rankin attended a Joint Session of Congress just days after being sworn in to a second term in the House. For Rankin, who’d first entered Congress 24 years earlier at the opening of the 65th Congress in 1917, the scene must have been familiar—war clouds gathering on the horizon, a dramatic presidential address, and a whirl of press attention, much of it paid to her return and, remarkably, still focused on her gender.

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Inside the Chamber on Opening Day

Every two years, as mandated in Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives starts a new legislative session, known as a Congress. Using longstanding precedent and a few highly visible artifacts, the House embarks on the pomp and ritual of its biennial Opening Day.

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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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