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

Luaus to Lusitania

On the near-cloudless Monday morning of May 3, 1915, the steamer Sierra floated on an untroubled sea off the coast of Honolulu, the lush capital of the Territory of Hawaii. On deck, 125 people outfitted in white linen suits and dresses—among them 48 Members of Congress—polished off breakfast and prepared to disembark for what most hoped would be a tropical vacation. From the harbor, five launches sailed out to meet them, carrying a welcoming committee comprised of the Royal Hawaiian band, lei greeters, the mayor of Honolulu, the leadership of the territorial legislature, and Hawaiian Delegate Jonah “Prince Kuhio” Kalanianaole.

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House Select Committee Investigates Japanese Evacuation and Relocation

Letter from Mr. and Mrs. H. Lee Sutton to Representative John H. Tolan
On December 7, 1941, the Japanese military attacked the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, pulling America into World War II. On February 13, 1942, referencing the presence of Japanese Americans and immigrants living on the West Coast, the congressional delegation from those states called for a policy that became one of the darkest chapters in American history: the forced imprisonment and internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans.

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Veteran-Artists in the House Collection

Two artists’ paths were different, but their careers converged in unlikely places—World War II combat and House committee hearing rooms. William Draper and Brummett Echohawk both served in the military during the war, and later completed chairman portraits for the House of Representatives. In honor of Veterans Day, we present their stories.

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Categories: Art & Artifacts, War

Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.

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Categories: Rankin Centennial, War

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