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

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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Edition for Educators – Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois

Speaker Joe Cannon
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” And when Congress first convened in 1789, the House chose Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg as its Speaker. More than a century later, the House chose Joe Cannon of Illinois to serve as its leader. A self-described “hayseed” from Illinois, Cannon ruled the House with an iron fist. Learn more about colorful “Uncle Joe” Cannon and the Office of the Speaker.

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A Mob in Search of a Speaker

Robert M. T. Hunter
During the chaotic first two weeks of the 26th Congress (1839–1841) in December 1839, three separate men presided over the House of Representatives: Clerk Hugh Garland of the previous Congress, Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts in an entirely invented position, and finally Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia, the youngest Speaker of the House ever to hold the office.

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The Original Snowmageddon

You thought the wild wintry weather of 2010’s popularly dubbed Snowmageddon in the nation’s capital was bad? More than one hundred years ago, a record-setting blizzard blanketed Washington, D.C., grinding the city’s operations to a halt. But as even Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine huddled in his hotel away from the chill, the House of Representatives soldiered on.

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Speaker Reed’s Movember Catfish

Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine apparently celebrated Movember before it was cool.

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Who Kicked the Dogs Out?

Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent nearly half of his House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting dogs into the House Chamber, leaving them to lop and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.

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