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

A Committee of One

For his entire adult life, Walter F. Brown dutifully climbed the career ladder in Toledo, Ohio, building a law firm, running businesses, and branching out into Republican politics at the state and local level. In 1920, he even ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, only to lose in the GOP primary. It was a comfortable, fully successful life, but unremarkable in the sense that an untold number of men like Walter F. Brown lived in an untold number of American towns like Toledo.

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The Search for Common Ground

In the span of five months during the winter and spring of 1962 two major entrenched powers faced off in an obstinate battle of wills. This wasn’t a traditional war, but more of a smoldering, protracted conflict between long-time rivals with competing interests. Territory was contested. Stakes escalated. Worldviews were challenged. Catastrophe beckoned. And all the while, the ability of the federal government to function hung in the balance.

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“I Ask Nothing Because I am a Negro”: A Letter to the Committee on Military Affairs

By age 26, Henry Ossian Flipper’s place in history was already assured. In 1877, he was the first African American to graduate from the United States Military Academy at West Point, where his race was a fact his fellow students never let him forget. He was the first African-American commissioned officer in the U.S. Army.

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Jeannette Rankin and the Women's Suffrage Amendment

It was no accident—nor mere symbolism—that on January 10, 1918, a woman led the effort on the floor of the U.S. House to pass the landmark resolution for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The first such proposal had been introduced in Congress almost 50 years earlier, but it was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve on Capitol Hill, who steadily built support in the House for women's voting rights throughout the 65th Congress (1917–1919).

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Jeannette Rankin’s Fight to Make Mines Safe for Democracy

On August 18, 1917, 15,000 people packed into a baseball park in the mining town of Butte, Montana, to listen as Representative Jeannette Rankin assailed the Anaconda Copper Mining Company for its role in an ongoing labor dispute. Two months earlier, on June 8, an inferno had engulfed the nearby Speculator Mine, killing 168 miners. In the aftermath, the surviving miners went on strike, and Rankin traveled to her home state to offer her full-throated support for the walk out. The Washington Times reported, “Miss Jeannette Rankin is a friend of the striking miners.”

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Representing the President

In the spring of 1921, Republican Walter Folger Brown of Ohio, the chairman of Congress’s Joint Committee on the Reorganization of the Administrative Branch of the Government, began overhauling the size and shape of the federal bureaucracy. On paper, he seemed like a natural choice to lead Congress’s efforts to overhaul the government: a discreet business leader with progressive credentials from the key state of Ohio. A natural choice, that is, except for one detail: Brown was not a Member of Congress.

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