Members of the House interact with the animal kingdom more than we might think, whether they’re considering legislation that affects American wildlife or posing for photographs or portraits alongside a beloved pet. This Edition for Educators focuses on all things animal in Congress.
The Endangered Species Act of 1973
On December 28, 1973, President Richard M. Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act of 1973 into law. Spurred by the success of the National Earth Day movement, Congress initiated legislation to preserve and protect various plant and animal species facing extinction from land development and man-made environmental hazards.
Walking Into Members' Offices
Dolly Seelmeyer, the first female House photographer discusses what she could expect heading into a Member’s Office—such as the occasional cougar or python.
House Speaker Tom Foley's Dog Alice
Alice the dog was a frequent visitor to the Capitol. Speaker of the House Tom Foley of Washington rescued the Belgian shepherd from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York, where she had been left unclaimed in an animal holding area.
This charming, seated donkey was painted and personalized in 1967 for Representative Hale Boggs, a Democrat from Louisiana. The shape of the piece combines the familiar 19th-century symbol of the Democratic Party with the mid-20th century hobby of collecting animal figurines.
Trap Possum in House Office Building
In 1946, this possum roamed the hallways of the Old House Office Building for a week, surprising staffers and escaping from traps. Neal Burnham, bookkeeper for the House stationery room, eventually enticed the creature out of a stack of paper with raw meat. Burnham crowed to reporters that he planned to bring it to the House Restaurant of the Capitol “to be cooked Southern style.”
The appearance of a dog in this and several other House portraits is not surprising, given the oft-quoted saying that “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Here, Armed Services Committee Chairman Les Aspin’s frequent office companion, Junket, sits beside her owner, whose slightly rumpled appearance and sheaf of papers was as familiar a sight around the Capitol as his dog.
Report on Chicago Stock Yards
President Theodore Roosevelt submitted this report on the meatpacking industry to Congress in 1906. At the turn of the 20th century, the Union Stock Yards in Chicago, Illinois, processed much of the pork and beef Americans consumed. In 1906, Upton Sinclair published The Jungle, a fictionalized account of the seven weeks he spent living and working in the stock yards. Sinclair’s vivid descriptions of the horrific working conditions and unsanitary nature of the meat processing industry shocked Americans, including President Roosevelt who commissioned the report.
George Holden Tinkham
Once storied but now largely forgotten, George Holden Tinkham of Massachusetts brought boundless character to the House of Representatives. Representing Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood, Tinkham noisily prodded Congress to end discriminatory Jim Crow laws and denounced Prohibition, but he spent much of his time out of session hunting down big game animals in the African savanna. Trophies nicknamed for his political opponents ringed the walls of his office and animal skin rugs of every variety lay on the floor of his office in what is now the Cannon Building. When Tinkham died in August 1956, normally sedate wire service reporters eulogized him as “the wettest, most adventurous and most picturesque congressman.”
Who Kicked the Dogs Out?
Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent his early House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting hounds into the House Chamber, leaving them to lope and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.
When legislative sessions run long and the sun bakes down on the Capitol dome, sometimes Members of Congress just want to go fishing. A congressional recess tradition, fishing has long been a respite from the humidity and politics of Washington, and a source of unbelievable stories.
When Ice Cream Got Hot in Congress
In October 1921, a cow mysteriously appeared in the grassy courtyard of the House Office Building. Bossie arrived amid milkshake profiteering, sundae protests, and illegal ice cream on the Capitol grounds. Cold and velvety on a summer evening, ice cream seems like the most innocent of sweets. But it once got pretty sticky around the House.
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.Follow @USHouseHistory