Historical Highlights

The First House Office Building Room Selection

January 09, 1908
The First House Office Building Room Selection Image courtesy of Library of Congress Each Member’s office was furnished in the contemporary fashion, carpeted, and equipped with all the newest conveniences: a sink, forced-air heat, a wall telephone, and electric light fixtures.
On this date, in an elaborate ceremony, the Members of the House of Representatives selected office assignments for the first time. With the construction of the House Office Building (later named after Illinois Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon), 12 months from completion, Members eagerly awaited their turn. A blindfolded Page drew marbles from a bag, which corresponded to a Member's name. The Member then selected his new office from a chart. The Page selected North Carolina Representative Claude Kitchin's number first and the Congressman chose room 430 (present-day room 423) from the diagram. Prior to the opening of the House Office Building, members worked without staff from their desks in the House Chamber. Desk location was then an affair of chance as well. An 1873 description of the process specified that the Clerk drew names written on slips of paper from a box. As the names were called, each Member came forth and chose their desk. That year, Alexander Stephens of Georgia, the elderly and infirm former Confederate States Vice President, and “Dean of the House" Henry Dawes of Massachusetts–the longest serving congressman–were exempt from the drawing and chose their desks in advance of the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) lottery.

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The Cannon House Office Building, completed in 1908 and later named for Speaker Joseph Cannon of Illinois, is the oldest congressional office building. The creation of offices for Members of Congress forever changed how the House of Representatives worked.

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