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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 93 results

The Superhero Style of Robert Smalls

Drawings of Robert Smalls from Golden Legacy
A dramatic backstory helped to launch Robert Smalls’s congressional career in the 1870s. A century later, the daring ship captain and Civil War hero’s story reappeared in the public eye as the subject of a volume of Golden Legacy, a comic book format Black history series for children.
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Starring Hazel Scott as Herself

Hazel Scott and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on the Cover of Jet
Civil rights, Congress, and the performances of jazz pianist Hazel Scott coincided in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “I’ve been brash all my life, and it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble,” Scott said. “But at the same time, speaking out has sustained me and given meaning to my life.”
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The Parliamentarian’s Scrapbook

Detail View of the Parliamentarian's Scrapbook
The Parliamentarian's index finger rests on one precise spot in his scrapbook of precedents—the important reference file of a man known for his influence.
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How Gallery Tickets Were Born

Gallery Visitors
On February 21, 1868, a one-sentence resolution in the House of Representatives brought thousands running to the Capitol: “That Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, be impeached of high crimes and misdemeanors.” Alongside the national consequences of impeachment, massive public interest caused a smaller development: the introduction of gallery passes.
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Palm Reading

Errett Scrivner Palm Card Detail
A palm card is possibly the simplest piece of congressional campaign literature: a single piece of cardstock containing information about a candidate. In scores of congressional races from 1900 to 1960, palm cards were also the smallest pieces of literature in a campaign’s toolbox.
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The Fallout

Medical Kit C
In 2015, House curators carefully unpacked water purification tablets, surgical soap, gauze pads, and a toothache remedy from Medical Kit C. The large cardboard box and the basic medical supplies it contained are artifacts of Cold War–era Washington, when the threat of nuclear attack hung over the country, and officials stockpiled emergency food, water, and medicine across the Capitol complex.
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Where the Seats Have No Name

New Seats in 1913
The year 1913 dawned with a conundrum. There were 401 desks and chairs in the crowded House Chamber and 440 people who needed a seat when Congress convened in the spring. How could each Member of Congress claim a chair?
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Capitol Art & Artifacts: Girandole

Girandole
In a quiet corner of today’s Speaker’s Ceremonial Office hangs a girandole mirror. When candles are lit, light bounces off the mirror. The House’s girandole dates from the first half of the 19th century and boasts a Capitol provenance from its association with an early Clerk of the House of Representatives.
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A Congressional Made Man

Print of the House Chamber in 1836
In the winter of 1842, inventor Samuel F. B. Morse nervously wrote to his brother Sidney Morse from Washington, DC. Morse hoped that the House of Representatives would appropriate $30,000 “to test the practicability of establishing a system of electro magnetic telegraphs.”
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Categories: Superlatives, Committees, Art

South from the Capitol

Looking South from the Capitol Steroview
The same year America celebrated its 100th birthday, a photographer perched on the Capitol’s eastern pediment to photograph the view. The resulting stereoview, an early 3-D photograph sold as a souvenir, captures Washington in 1876, looking southeast across the House portico to the swiftly changing neighborhood. A closer look at contemporaneous images in the House Collection shows just how fast the area changed.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

What Does “Civilization” Look Like?

Detail of Harper's Weekly Cover
Reconstruction Era illustrations from Harper’s Weekly both showed and told their audience about new civil rights laws and gave them a graphic sense of changes in America.
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How Congress Helped Feed, then Kill, the Postcard Craze

July 4th Postcard
In 1896, Congress fueled a postcard craze, completely by accident, when it introduced Rural Free Delivery of mail. A little more than a decade later, Congress kneecapped the phenomenon, again inadvertently. Representatives hoped the Payne-Aldrich Tariff of 1909 would help American printers cash in on postcards’ popularity. Instead, it ended up hurting the industry and undercutting the entire fad.
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Categories: Artifacts