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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 13–24 of 87 results

“No Other Word than Magic”

Mantle Clock
Clocks all over the House of Representatives—the plain ones, the fancy ones, even the ones that look like they belong in a high school classroom—have a little set of lights connected to them. Sometimes one is lit, sometimes all seven flash, and sometimes they are accompanied by loud buzzes (or rings, as they are officially termed) blasting a seemingly incomprehensible sequence. How did such a sound-and-light show end up in Congress?
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Jacob Coxey: Guerrilla Lobbyist

The cover of an 1894 Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly shows the dramatic end to Jacob Coxey’s journey to Washington—his arrest amidst a crowd of supporters at the Capitol. So how did this wealthy eccentric and his entourage become national news?
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

The White Squadron

Peace (The White Squadron in Boston Harbor), or more simply Peace, has been around the block—the Capitol block. It started out in Chicago, came to the Capitol, and then arrived at the Cannon House Office Building.

 

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Categories: Capitol Campus, Committees, Art

Doing the Dishes

Sifted peas, Vanderbilt dressing, kraut juice, steak Stanley, and kaffee hag  –  now that sounds like a hearty meal. Historic menus from the House Restaurant, dating back more than 80 years, include some incomprehensible dishes.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

Psychological Gastronomy

“Gastro psychologist, doctor of roasts” was the honorary title bestowed on House Restaurant proprietor Tom Murrey by the Washington Post in an 1894 article. The reason for this accolade was Murrey’s theory on the relationship between what a Member would eat at lunch and what legislative work he accomplished—or rather, didn’t accomplish—afterward.
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Categories: Art

Vent Elation

Cooler Summers
“No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.” Speaker of the House John Nance Garner spent 30 years in Congress, and he knew to get out of town ahead of the wilting summer weather. Washington in July and August is a desperately swampy place. Then one day in 1928, “manufactured weather” arrived in the House of Representatives’ Chamber.
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Mr. Silversmith Goes to Washington

Once upon a time, a young man came to Washington. He wasn’t sophisticated, but he had loads of ambition. He was destined to leave his mark on Congress. No, it wasn’t Jimmy Stewart's fictional character arriving in 1939 to clean up the corrupt Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
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Wish You Were Here

As long as people have traveled, they have wanted to share experiences with the folks at home, and nearly 200 years of tourism show that visitors to the Capitol are no exception. The invention of picture postcards in the late 19th century added a level of efficiency to the impulse to share, and quickly escalated into a mailing frenzy. And as a prime destination, the Capitol was a mainstay of the genre with every photogenic part finding its way through the mail.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

Take a Seat

For more than a century, a desk in the House Chamber was a Member’s office. He stowed his hat beneath his chair, wrote and stored papers in the writing desk, and occasionally propped his feet up to listen to debate. Why did picking one's desk matter?
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Plastic Fantastic

Bakelite Desks
Stylish! Modern! Sturdy! And cheap! In the 1930s, Bakelite, an early plastic, was touted as “The Material of a Thousand Uses.” What uses, exactly? In one instance, desks for Congress.
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Did You #AskACurator?

Adam Clayton Powell
Large and small, the questions came, and @USHouseHistory answered them during #AskACurator day on September 17. In what has now become an annual Twitter event, 47,546 tweets used the hashtag #AskACurator to pose questions to and elicit answers from curators at 721 museums in 43 countries. They weren’t all directed to or coming from the House, but many were, and the House Curator Farar Elliott spent an hour answering them. Here are some of the most intriguing responses.
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A Tale of Two Vases

Sevres Vase blooms
Once upon a time, in 1918, the U.S. House of Representatives received a gift of two porcelain vases. They were exquisite. Commanding attention, standing nearly six feet tall, the attractive vessels were a gesture from France expressing gratitude for America’s role in World War I.
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Categories: Practice & Customs, Art