House History Timeline, 1900–1999
Representative Joseph Gurney Cannon of Illinois was elected Speaker for the first time. “Uncle Joe” Cannon became one of the House’s most powerful Speakers as a proponent of less legislative intrusion on growing American industry.
With the completion of the first House Office Building construction, Members drew numbers to occupy personal offices for the first time. As a result, five years later, the House approved new theater seating in its chamber to replace Members’ individual desks.
Nearly 200 Members of the House banded together to strip Speaker Joseph Cannon of his power to appoint Members to the influential Committee on Rules. Known as the Cannon Revolt, the action greatly curtailed the Speaker’s absolute control over the House Chamber and proceedings.
Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first woman Member.
After the Senate failed to pass the 19th Amendment in the prior Congress, the House again passed the measure which granted women the right to vote. Before being sent to the President, Speaker Frederick Gillett of Massachusetts signed the approved final version of the bill. The states ratified the law in 1920.
The House passed the Permanent Apportionment Act of 1929, setting the number of Representatives at 435. After each decennial census since 1930, seats have been apportioned among the states using the formula established in that act.
In an attempt to jumpstart the domestic economy, the House passed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff, raising duties once again to extremely high levels. The tariff backfired, severely inhibiting foreign trade and sending the American economy deeper into the Great Depression.
The Republicans won a narrow majority of House seats in the fall elections, but the deaths of 19 Members-elect before the opening of the 72nd Congress (1931–1933) allowed the Democrats to gain a majority after a series of special elections. Texas Representative John Nance Garner was elected Speaker of the House.
The House elected Representative Sam Rayburn of Texas Speaker for the first time. The longest-serving Speaker, Rayburn later was instrumental in expanding the Committee on Rules to dilute the power of racial conservatives opposed to social legislation.
Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana cast the sole vote against the declaration of war on Japan. By her vote Rankin became the only Member of Congress to oppose U.S. participation in both world wars.
The House unanimously passed the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (GI Bill of Rights) which provided far reaching educational aid, employment assistance, medical care, and housing opportunities for returning World War II veterans. Edith Nourse Rogers of Massachusetts, a long time advocate for U.S. veterans, helped craft many of the bill’s provisions.
The House passed the first Legislative Reorganization Act, a sweeping set of reforms that limited the number of House Committees, increased office allowances, and required lobbyist to register.
Based on testimony by former Communist Party member Whittaker Chambers, the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), chaired by J. Parnell Thomas of New Jersey, grilled former State Department official Alger Hiss as part of an investigation into his alleged work as a Soviet spy. The Hiss–Chambers hearings dominated headlines and epitomized wide-ranging congressional anti-communist investigations during the early Cold War.
A group of armed Puerto Rican nationalists fired onto the House Chamber while in session, wounding five Members before being subdued by police and public visitors in the House gallery.
Representative Dalip Singh Saund of California became the first Asian American to serve in Congress.
The cornerstone for the new Rayburn House Office Building was laid. Two days prior, President John F. Kennedy signed legislation to rename the old and new House office buildings as the Cannon and Longworth buildings, respectively.
The House passed the Civil Rights Act, which expanded federal power to protect African-American voting rights and penalties for states that failed to desegregate public schools and accommodations.
Representative Shirley Chisholm of New York became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress.
As a result of the 1970 Legislative Reorganization Act, the first electronic voting system was utilized in the House Chamber, streamlining the roll call vote process.
The House Judiciary Committee approved the first of three articles of impeachment against President Richard M. Nixon stemming from the Watergate Scandal. Facing impeachment articles of obstruction of justice, abuse of presidential power, and contempt of Congress, Nixon resigned on August 9, 1974.
For the first time, the House began live television broadcasts of its complete floor proceedings.
The House participated in a ceremonial Joint Session of Congress in Congress Hall and Independence Hall in Philadelphia. The session commemorated the bicentennial of the Great Compromise at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.
Organized under a series of campaign promises dubbed “The Contract with America,” the Republican Party assumed the majority in the House of Representatives for the first time in 40 years. The new majority elected Georgia Representative Newt Gingrich Speaker of the House.
Two Capitol police officers, Jacob Chestnut and John Gibson, were shot to death by a deranged gunman entering the Capitol. Both men lay in honor in the Capitol Rotunda on July 28 prior to burial at Arlington National Cemetery.
The House impeached President William J. Clinton for obstruction of justice and perjury. The Senate acquitted him on February 12, 1999.