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

Edition for Educators—Trivia

This month’s edition for educators focuses on finding factoids about the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, using the History, Art & Archives website. The most basic information can sometimes be the hardest to find. Two hundred twenty-eight years of history and precedent produces plenty of unique and obscure trivia, and this blog presents a search for some of that trivia across our online resources.

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The Original “Year of the Woman”

The woman suffrage campaign appeared to begin 1916 in rough shape. Beyond internal drama among suffragists, however, widely scattered action was taking place at the grassroots. Over the course of 1916 numerous women candidates were seeking election to Congress, and several had entered major-party primaries that now dominated candidate selection throughout the country. Jeannette Rankin was far from alone.

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Edition for Educators—The House By the Numbers

Before the 115th Congress (2017–2019) convenes in early January, review the latest statistics about the House and its history on the History, Art & Archives website.

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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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Rediscovering Rainey's Reign

It’s unclear what prompted Representative Luke Poland of Vermont to leave the rostrum that day and yield the gavel, as the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) debated an Indian appropriations bill. But what is clear is that he set in motion a series of events that seemed the very culmination of the Civil War. When Poland stepped down, Joseph Hayne Rainey of South Carolina—a former slave who had once been impressed into service by the Confederacy before escaping to Bermuda—mounted the Speaker’s rostrum, grasped the gavel, and set Capitol Hill abuzz.

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