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

It’s All Fun and Games Until

Sammy Reshevsky Plays Chess with Three Representatives
Members of Congress excel in drafting legislation, helping constituents, and campaigning. But sometimes, Representatives are no match for kids.

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Categories: People, Photography

Speaking Up

This wasn’t how Jeannette Rankin envisioned her first speech in the House. Surely, Rankin—who had spent her entire adult life fighting for equal rights before becoming the first woman elected to Congress—would use her inaugural address to champion the issue of women’s suffrage when the moment arose. But recent events in her Montana district forced her to speak up sooner than she had planned.

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Categories: Rankin Centennial, People

“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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Absorbing Constituent Needs

Representative Herbert Drane with a Sponge
A Member of Congress represents and assists constituents. So when a Representative served a district known for one of the largest natural sponge markets in the world . . . well, that Member advocated for the absorbent product.

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Congressional Bicycles

Group Ride up Capitol Hill
“The latest fad among our national statesmen is the Congressmen’s Bicycle Club,” reported the San Francisco Chronicle in 1892. Ever since, Representatives have gone from teetering atop high-wheeled penny-farthings to racing on road bikes. Members of Congress have spun gleefully around the capital, mixing both politics and fun into the ride.

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Masquerading as Miss Rankin

When Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri adjourned the 64th Congress sine die at noon on March 4, 1917, the House dissolved into customary revelry. Members and visitors joined in throaty renditions of “Dixie” and “The Old Oaken Bucket,” belting out lyrics until the chorus grew hoarse. When the crowd lurched into “How Dry I Am,” the “Wets” in the chamber, those Members who wanted to keep alcohol legal and who were on the verge of failing to block Prohibition, sang with particular gusto.

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Categories: Rankin Centennial, People