Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators – The House Page Program

Pages Celebrate Early Adjournment/tiles/non-collection/7/7schools_1965_89th_congress.xml Image courtesy of the Library of Congress Pages from the First Session of 89th Congress erupt from the House Chamber on October 23, 1965, in celebration of an early adjournment.
 “I guess I wanted to become a Page. The fact that it was history-making didn’t really affect me. Because you don’t feel or sense history while it’s being made. You’re just going through the motions of living your life. I mean, and the perspective of what I did and when I did it is really only something I’ve thought about from a deep historical context in the last few years.”
—Frank Mitchell, U.S. House Page, 1965–1966

For more than two centuries, young people served as Pages in the U.S. House of Representatives and enjoyed an unparalleled opportunity to observe and participate in the legislative process in “the People’s House.” Learn more about the origins of the House Page Program and the traditions that made it unique.

Featured Exhibit

The History of the House Page Program
Experiences of House Pages, regardless of when they served, have been linked by certain commonalities—witnessing history, interacting with Representatives, and taking away lifelong inspiration to participate in civic life. Changing institutional needs and broader civil rights reforms transformed the composition of the Page ranks over time.

Featured Oral History

Eyewitnesses to both ordinary proceedings and monumental events, Pages played an important role in the House of Representatives from the earliest Congresses. Learn about the institution through the eyes of the young messengers who ran errands for Members and assisted in floor operations.

Featured Historical Highlight

Frank Mitchell, the First African-American Page for the U.S. House of Representatives
On April 14, 1965, Frank Mitchell became the first 20th-century, African-American Page in the U.S. House of Representatives. Congressman Paul Findley of Illinois made the historic appointment the day after Senator Jacob Javits of New York named Lawrence Wallace Bradford, Jr., the first 20th-century, African-American Page in the Senate. Mitchell’s appointment and arrival in Washington, D.C. received national media attention. Congressman Findley, Minority Leader and future President Gerald Ford of Michigan, and Republican Whip Leslie Arends of Illinois hosted a press conference at the Capitol to discuss the groundbreaking event. “This marks an historic moment in the history of the House of Representatives,” Ford observed.

Pages in the Chamber During a Joint Meeting/tiles/non-collection/2/2respons_2002chamber_2002-06-12_dwr_0081.xml Image courtesy of the U.S. House of Representatives Photography Office Pages stand in the back of the House Chamber during a Joint Meeting Address by Prime Minister John Howard of Australia. The chance to shake hands with a foreign leader after a Joint Meeting was an opportunity at which many Pages leapt during their time in the Capitol.

Featured Objects in the House Collection

House Page Uniform, 1906-1907
This blue wool Page uniform, which boasts a mandarin collar jacket, full-length trousers, and suspenders, belonged to Roy Tasco Davis, Jr., a House Page in 1907. “Page” is emblazoned on the jacket’s stand-up collar. The look of this uniform is inspired by military styles of the period and differs from other Page costumes of the early 20th century. Pages were often photographed wearing knickers—short pants usually reserved for children or sporting pursuits.

House Page Uniform, 2005
The dress of House Pages evolved over the years to this final iteration: a navy blazer; grey trousers; white shirt; and a red, white, and blue striped tie. Comfortable shoes were not issued, but suggested in the dress code, as the Page’s days often included multiple circuits around the Capitol complex, running errands for Members. This standardized look was codified by the 1980s, and it made the teenage workers easily identifiable in the Capitol.

Featured Research Resource

House Page Program Bibliography
This resource is an annotated bibliography of primary and secondary sources on the Page program at the U.S. House of Representatives. It is not meant to be an exhaustive list but should provide a starting point for researchers interested in the topic.

This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.