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

Carnation Nation

It was the opening day of Congress, and all the popular men had flowers on their desks. “Floral tributes,” enormous congratulatory bouquets, made their way into the House Chamber on the first day of each session of Congress from the 1870s until 1905. Pages and messengers staggered in with vase after vase.

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Mr. Sam’s House

On January 3, 1949, only a few years after America’s triumph in World War II, Representatives gathered in the House Chamber for the opening day of the 81st Congress (1949–1951). On a day full of tradition and fanfare, the families of many Members packed the galleries and the House Floor to watch the proceedings.

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“This Greater than Roman Forum”—The Wartime 38th Congress

It had been three weeks since President Abraham Lincoln visited the rolling hills of the Gettysburg battlefield and delivered his now famous address, intoning "that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth." At the time, no one could have predicted that the war would rage for another year and a half. But that December, few Americans not named Lincoln likely felt the weight of their responsibilities more than the men who had assembled in the U.S. House of Representatives for the opening of the 38th Congress (1863–1865). And few Members of the House seemed to feel the day's pressure more than Schuyler Colfax of Indiana who had just been elected Speaker.

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How Loud Is a Gavel?

The commanding rap of a gavel punctuates each meeting of the House of Representatives. House gavels have always been practical wooden mallets, perfect for grabbing the attention of a loud, large group of legislators. But how loud is a gavel in the House?

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