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

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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Ten Trumpets and a Flying Coffin

What did it take to be heard in the House of Representatives? Acoustics were notoriously bad in the House Chamber in the early 20th century. Getting from “wait, what?” to “loud and clear” required three tries, ten trumpets, and a flying coffin.

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Edition for Educators—Supreme Court

This edition for educators highlights some of the shared history and personalities that have shaped the House of Representatives and the Supreme Court. Beginning with the Judiciary Act of 1789, which established the court, and the selection of Continental Congress Member, John Jay, as the first Chief Justice, these co-equal branches of government have a unique history.

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Categories: Education, Institution

Dial Main 3120 for Members

Harriott Daley, Director of the Capitol Switchboard
Standing next to the Capitol switchboard, chief operator Harriott Daley broke into a smile. “She must have a lot of interesting recollections,” a Washington Post reporter mused, “since she is in the top telephone spot in the Nation.”

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Esther and Ellen

In 1910, two women artists doubled the number of paintings by women in the House of Representatives. One, Ellen Day Hale, was highly accomplished, and the other, Esther Edmonds, was an emerging talent at the start of her career.

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Framing Women Members in Photographs

Winifred Claire Stanley
News photographs often depicted early female Members of Congress as homemakers and glamour girls rather than politicians, framing the public’s view of their Representatives.

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