This month’s Edition for Educators highlights trivia spanning the history of the House of Representatives, spotlighting a few unique firsts, records, and watershed moments. Who was the first known Representative to be elected by a write-in vote? What is on Charles Schulz’s Congressional Gold Medal? And how long would “Uncle Joe” cook a ham hock for his bean soup? All of this trivia and more can be found on the History, Art & Archives website.
The First Evening Annual Message
January 3, 1936
On this date, during the second session of the 74th Congress (1935–1937), President Franklin D. Roosevelt held the first nighttime Annual Message. Designed to reach the largest possible radio audience, the last-minute decision by Roosevelt to deliver an evening speech, spawned major media attention and heightened interest in Congress and the President.
Felda Looper, the First Female Page
May 21, 1973
On this date, Felda Looper became the first woman to serve as a Page for the U.S. House of Representatives, appointed by Speaker Carl Albert. “Somebody was going to be first. It was going to happen, and I was psyched it was me,” Looper recalled. “It was a really exciting time, and the letters I got from people were indicative of the fact that people were paying attention to that.”
Firsts & Milestones
This section of the website highlights notable superlatives across the history of the House of Representatives. Curious about the oldest House Member? Want to know when Congress first met in the current House Chamber? Need to find out when Congressional proceedings first showed up on television? All of this information can be found on these pages in easily digestible blurbs.
The inkstand, which you may have spotted resting atop the House Rostrum, is considered to be the oldest artifact in the House Chamber. It was crafted by a Washington area silversmith and gifted to the House around 1819.
This portrait of Gunning Bedford, Jr., is one of the oldest items in the House Collection. Charles Willson Peale painted this image of Delaware’s delegate to the Continental Congress in the late 1700s. It was gifted to the Capitol in 1872.
John D. Dingell, Jr.
Representative John Dingell, Jr., of Michigan, became the longest serving Member of Congress on June 7, 2013. Dingell’s service spanned more than 59 years as a Representative. Dingell served as a House Page before following in the footsteps of his father John David Dingell. Below, Dingell recalls the way relationships developed between Members’ families in the period he entered Congress.
The British Are Coming!
King George VI and Queen Elizabeth made history when they became the first reigning English monarchs to visit the United States in June 1939. Eager to host royalty, both the House and Senate made meticulous preparations for a reception. Representative Sol Bloom of New York led efforts to offer a much warmer reception than the British forces of Paul Revere’s time.
Check out other Firsts and Milestones recorded in our blog.
Minorities in Congress Series: Historical Data
Each exhibit in the Minorities in Congress series includes a section on historical data, providing information on leadership positions, chairmanships, and committee assignments. For each exhibit, you can learn the total number of Members, both current and historical. To find these helpful charts and lists, see Women in Congress, Black Americans in Congress, and Hispanic Americans in Congress.
David “Davy” Crockett’s Certificate of Election
He may have been “born on a mountain in Tennessee” and “raised in the woods so’s he knew every tree” according to legend. On the Hill, however, Representative David Crockett was a three-term nonconsecutively-serving Congressman before he lost re-election in 1834. Afterwards, Crockett marched off to Texas, where he famously fought and died at the Battle of the Alamo in 1836. Among the House’s many records is this gem, Crockett’s original certificate of election from 1827.
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.