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

The Speaker Inquisition of 1856

Shortly before seven o’clock in the evening, on Saturday, February 2, 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, strode to the well of the House, climbed the rostrum’s few steps to the Speaker’s chair, and sat down. He paused for a moment. With his thick dark hair swept to one side and a prominent mustache obscuring his upper lip, Banks then stood to address his colleagues.

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Categories: Speakers of the House

Being Seen and Heard—A Tantalizing Prospect

Clifford Berryman's Political Cartoon
A parliamentary insult hurled at a Republican freshman had the effect of briefly banding his colleagues into a memorable (and merry) bloc.

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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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