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

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On the afternoon of February 6, 1967, Representatives Catherine May, Patsy Mink, and Charlotte Reid derailed Herb Botts’ day. Botts managed the men’s gym in the basement of the Rayburn House Office Building, but he never expected the three Congresswomen to show up for his 4:45 p.m. calisthenics class. Hawaii Representative Patsy Mink pointed to her stuffed handbag and politely announced, “We’ve come to join the class.” Flustered, Botts exclaimed, “It’s just for Members of Congress.”

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Crowned with Freedom

Capitol Architect Thomas U. Walter had not slept well in days. The painstaking process required to mount the Statue of Freedom atop the Capitol’s unfinished new Dome had kept him awake at night. But on December 2, 1863, clear skies and a gentle breeze greeted Walter as his team of workers adjoined the final piece to the 19-foot, six-inch statue.

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Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11

On the evening of September 11, 2001, congressional leadership prepared to make their first collective response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hours earlier. Members of Congress assembled on the Capitol steps to join leaders in a public demonstration of unity. Broadcast across the country, it became a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation and resolve, ending with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” This gathering became a symbol of national unity in the ensuing weeks and months.

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Categories: Oral History, Institution

We Can’t Make This Stuff Up Either

A pianist, a professor, and an anthropologist walk into the Capitol. It sounds like the set up for a bit joke. However, in researching the institution, we occasionally stumble upon a few stories that prove once again that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This edition features a well-known Member and his lesser known musical career; a tenthidean cephalopod on the House Floor; and the weight of a Members’ brain.

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Categories: People, Institution

Rising up in the House—Part II:
The House Debates the “Irish Question”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to denounce German aggression. Dramatically abandoning his commitment to neutrality, he urged Congress to declare war on Imperial Germany to “make the world safe for democracy.” Wilson emphasized that the United States must undertake a principled intervention in the war in order to protect the right of self-determination for small nations. When Congress passed a war declaration on April 6, Members seized the moment to revive the issue of Irish independence, which had failed to gain traction in the House a year earlier when Missouri Representative Leonidas C. Dyer insisted that Congress support the Easter Rising.

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Categories: Institution, Legislation, War

Rising up in the House—Part I:
Rep. Dyer and the Irish Rebellion of 1916

On April 24, 1916, Irish republicans took up arms against the British government in what became known as the Easter Rising. They seized the General Post Office in Dublin and distributed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which affirmed the right of the Irish people to form an independent government and claimed the support of Ireland’s “exiled children in America.” The Irish insurgency, and the British response to it, both captivated and appalled the U.S. public—including Congress.

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Categories: Institution, Legislation, War