Whereas: Stories from the People’s House

Edition for Educators—House History Through Official House Records

/tiles/non-collection/7/7-24-Jeanette_Rankin_Election_Certificate.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

One document can trace the will of the people, the history of the country, and the work of the House of Representatives. House Records—defined as the official, permanent records of the House Committees and Officers—reflect how citizens and their government address and advocate for issues. Recently we launched a way to explore a selection of these records in the Record Search database.

Records in this database are organized several ways:

  • By state and territory, with at least one record from each state. Which records can you find for your state or territory?
  • Five document categories that cover the broad swath of the permanent records of the House of Representatives.

Our archivists have recommended sample documents from each category; these are listed below.

/tiles/non-collection/7/7-24-Letter_Regarding_Mount_Baker.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration


Letter Regarding Mount Baker
Naturalist and writer Enos A. Mills spearheaded the creation of Rocky Mountain National Park, which gained its status as a national park on January 26, 1915. Just a few months later, Mills wrote this letter petitioning Representative Lindley H. Hadley to make Mount Baker, in Washington State, a national park. Mills writes in poetic language of his experiences climbing and camping in the area surrounding Mount Baker.

Elections and Credentials

Jeannette Rankin Election Certificate
Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, was elected to represent Montana in 1916. This election certificate, signed by both the governor and secretary of state, confirmed Rankin’s election with the Clerk of the House. Rankin was seated as a Member of Congress at the opening of the 65th Congress in April 1917.

Rankin's certificate is featured at the top of this post.

/tiles/non-collection/7/7-24-Testimony_of_Patty_Duke.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Hearings and Investigations

Testimony of Patty Duke
In 1958, reports were made public that contestants on popular television quiz shows were coached or received answers to the questions before broadcast. The House Interstate and Foreign Commerce Committee’s Special Subcommittee on Legislative Oversight responded to the allegations by holding hearings to investigate the claims during October and November 1959. Regulating communications fell under the committee’s jurisdiction.

In 1959, Patty Duke was a pre-teen Broadway star in The Miracle Worker. The year before, Duke had appeared as a contestant on the $64,000 Challenge, where she won $32,000. However, in closed executive session testimony, Duke revealed that she had been told beforehand what topics she should study.

/tiles/non-collection/7/7-24-National_Defense_Education_Act.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Legislation and Floor Proceedings

National Defense Education Act
The National Defense Education Act (NDEA) was passed in 1958 in response to Soviet acceleration of the space race with the launch of the satellite Sputnik. The law provided federal funding to “insure trained manpower of sufficient quality and quantity to meet the national defense needs of the United States.” In addition to fellowships and loans to students, the legislation bolstered education in the areas of science, mathematics, and modern foreign languages.

This version shows the conference report with typesetting marks, indicating how the printed version of the report should appear.

/tiles/non-collection/7/7-24-Utah_Territory_Mail_Routes.xml Image courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration

Petitions and Memorials

Utah Territory Mail Routes
The Compromise of 1850 was a series of laws passed to preserve the balance of free and slave states to prevent conflict between the North and South. Part of the compromise established the Utah Territory from the land ceded by Mexico in the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo. The intervening years saw rapid westward expansion of the country’s population, a civil war, and industrialization. An integral part of territorial development was the establishment of overland routes to deliver mail.

This circa 1863–1865 map shows existing and proposed southern mail routes in the Utah Territory. It was included with a report drafted by Cornelius Cole, a member of the Committee on Post Office and Post Roads, detailing the “numerous and forcible” reasons for such a route.

Want More House Records?

Only a select few of the records of the House are available in Record Search. Where can you find more documents?

The records of the House of Representatives are on deposit at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). Researchers can access most materials at the Center for Legislative Archives, part of the National Archives, in downtown Washington, D.C. Although House Records are preserved and accessed through the Center for Legislative Archives, they remain the property of the House and are subject to its rules.

To begin your research, visit the Finding Aids by Congress page. You can also use the Research Portal of the Center for Legislative Archives at NARA to search or browse House Records in the catalog of the National Archives.

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.