“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.
“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,
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.
Peace (The White Squadron in Boston Harbor)
, or more simply Peace
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.
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?
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?
The oldest object in the House
Collection is also one of the smallest. It’s less than an inch across, but the
man who owned it was a giant figure in American history.
There’s a funny-looking push button on desks that sat in the House Chamber from 1877 to 1913. Why would a Member of Congress need to ring a doorbell at his desk?
It was the opening day of Congress, and all the popular men had flowers on their desks. “Floral tributes,” enormous congratulatory bouquets, made their way into the House Chamber on the first day of each session of Congress from the 1870s until 1905. Pages and messengers staggered in with vase after vase.
Tony Orlando—the force behind a House tradition? The inspiration for the tradition was not his harmonious backup singers or his luxuriant mustache, but his 1973 hit recording, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” From those pop music origins grew the tradition of wearing a colored ribbon to mark major events, a practice that was taken up by the House during joint sessions and meetings of Congress.
Hamilton Fish—that doesn’t sound like a great name for a cigar. But for the average smoker a century ago, the name was synonymous with power and position.
Today, Capitol police officers direct some visitors in the House Chamber through a door marked “Ladies’ Gallery.” Men and women sit there, and always have. So why call it the Ladies’ Gallery?