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“The House of Representatives, in some respects, I think, is the most peculiar assemblage in the world,” Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois once observed. Behind the legislation and procedure, House Members and staff have produced their own institutional history and heritage. Our blog, Whereas: Stories from the People’s House, tells their stories.

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Displaying 1–12 of 82 results

The Not So “Prompt and Ample Relief” of Polly Lemon

Plat Map Showing Polly Lemon's Homestead
Not much is known about Polly Lemon—where she was born, who her parents were, how she lived. But research into an 1833 petition filed in the official records of the House of Representatives opens a small window onto the life of an early female settler on the Louisiana frontier. Although women could petition Congress and single women were permitted to own land during the early 19th century, few exercised these freedoms as Polly did.
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Notes from Underground, Part II: The Rayburn Subway

Bud Shuster and Jack Schenendorf Riding the Rayburn Subway
When the dust settled after construction of the first House and Senate Office Buildings, only the Senate had a subway line. Representatives had to wait—and walk—until the Rayburn House Office Building opened in 1965.
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Centennial of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

Detail of a Petition to Establish a Bureau of Labor for Women
The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, created by Congress 100 years ago on June 5, 1920, still exists today. Established at a time when women were moving into the workforce but were still months away from having the right to vote, the Women’s Bureau studied and advocated for working women.
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Notes from Underground, Part I: The Book Tunnel

Detail of the Tunnel in an Architectural Plan
For more than a century, a tunnel ran between the Capitol and the Library of Congress to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. Using iron rails, electricity, and an endless cable, the underground shaft automatically shuttled books to Members of Congress. “There is nothing like it in this country or, so far as known, in any other,” the Washington Post told readers in 1895.
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Can I Have this Dance?

Support the American Square Dance Logo
In 1973, American square dancers tried to call the tune with the House of Representatives, urging it to act quickly on legislation near and dear to their hearts. “What’s the hold up? Get busy now. Let’s not wait any longer,” one demanded. “We’re still waiting for some results,” another pressed, concerned that a years-long petition drive to enshrine the uniquely American folk dance was proceeding more like a slow waltz than an up-tempo jig.
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Bringing Electronic Votes to Congress

Detail of a Letter from Otis G. Pike to Samuel N. Friedel
On January 23, 1973, Members counted down to the conclusion of the historic first electronic vote, which would shift House voting procedures into the 20th century. However, this moment almost failed to launch.
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The “So Very Peculiar” Case of Sarah Seelye

Sarah Seelye's Application for Back Pay
Sarah Seelye lived a seemingly ordinary life in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1882. But as her health started to falter at age 43, she realized past adventures were catching up to her. Getting help meant revealing a decades-old secret to Congress: she illegally served in the Union army disguised as a man.
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“Every Right and Every Privilege”: Oscar De Priest and Segregation in the House Restaurant

Oscar De Priest Discharge Petition
Oscar De Priest entered the 71st Congress as the only African American in the House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, De Priest confronted racial discrimination, including in the Capitol itself as a Member of Congress.
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Written in Stone

Champ Clark and Bust
Two Champ Clarks stand side by side. The Speaker on the right is a near-perfect replica of the Speaker on the left—except for his ghostly white pallor and his abrupt ending below the chest.
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Snowball Fight at the Capitol!

1923 Snowball Fight
Photographs from the House Collection capture the fun of snowball fights outside the Capitol, a tradition for House and Senate Pages.
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“I Told Everything I Know”: Patty Duke’s Secret Testimony to Congress

Patty Duke
“I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception.” With those words to a congressional committee, the house of cards built by the producers and sponsors of popular televised quiz shows tumbled at last.
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Congressmobiles

Robert Griffin and His Mobile Office
Congressional mobile offices emerged at the intersection of U.S. politics and love for automobiles.
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