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

“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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“Go All The Way”

In January 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives began a long-term plan to win back the confidence of the American people.

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And the Perfect Attendance Award Goes to…

Rep. William Natcher
In elementary school, perfect attendance means being at school every day. Once in a while a super kid sails through high school without missing a day. Such monumental feats are usually celebrated with a certificate from the principal, or perhaps a newspaper story. In the U.S. House, perfect attendance means never missing a vote during one’s House service and, in some rare cases, making every committee meeting. Several instances of these super Members stand out in House history.

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Father Knows Best

Shortly after noon on an unseasonably mild Thursday in late February 1842, a hush fell over the House as the venerable John Quincy Adams creakily arose from his chair. Just weeks earlier, the House had considered censuring the gray-haired Massachusetts Congressman whom many knew as Old Man Eloquent to punish him for manufacturing a crippling debate about the evils of slavery. But on this day Adams eulogized North Carolina’s Lewis Williams, whom colleagues revered as the “Father of the House”—the Member with the longest continuous service.

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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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Gone to Seed

Seed Distribution
Cucumber, watermelon, parsley, radish, and pea. Congressional seed distribution took root in 1839 to improve domestic agriculture and propagate rare plants. But it didn’t grow organically.

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