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

Henry Clay’s On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with the House

Henry Clay of Kentucky had one of the most superlative political careers in American history. A lawyer by training, Clay served in almost every level of government possible in the 19th century: the Kentucky state house of representatives, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the executive branch as Secretary of State. On top of that, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and ran for President three times over three decades on three different party tickets.

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What's in the Speaker's Office?

Increased space, more frequent visits by foreign dignitaries, and the demand for news photos spurred development of what is today known as the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office. The room was part of the 1857 Capitol extension and is furnished to suit the Victorian style with pieces from the House Collection.

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Edition for Educators—Speakers of the House

This Edition for Educators highlights the Speaker of the House. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” The Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles, including the institutional role of the presiding officer of the House, the partisan leader of the majority party, and the representative role of an elected Member of Congress.

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The Speaker Inquisition of 1856

Shortly before seven o’clock in the evening, on Saturday, February 2, 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, strode to the well of the House, climbed the rostrum’s few steps to the Speaker’s chair, and sat down. He paused for a moment. With his thick dark hair swept to one side and a prominent mustache obscuring his upper lip, Banks then stood to address his colleagues.

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Categories: Speakers of the House

Being Seen and Heard—A Tantalizing Prospect

Clifford Berryman's Political Cartoon
A parliamentary insult hurled at a Republican freshman had the effect of briefly banding his colleagues into a memorable (and merry) bloc.

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Please Pass the Gavel

Bob Michel
During his nearly four decade career in Congress, Republican Leader Bob Michel of Illinois had only one chance to preside over the House. Ironically, his short-lived time in the Speaker’s chair came when the Democrats held the majority and because his colleague Speaker Tom Foley of Washington decided that Michel had waited long enough to wield the gavel.

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