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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 88 results

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

Stamp of Genius

Postage Stamps Featuring Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm forever. (“Forever” stamp, that is.)
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Categories: Artifacts

Engraving the Phoenix

1907 Print of African-American Members
On a sheet the size of a small poster, 22 politicians’ portraits crowd the image, titled “Colored Men Who Have Served in the Congress of the United States.” The worn print recalls the decades following the Civil War, when African Americans came to Congress to represent their fellow Southerners in the national legislature. And more than a memory, it testifies to the persistence of hope during Jim Crow–era political violence and disenfranchisement.
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Floor of the Floor

Installing New Carpet in 1938
Carpets have played an important role in interior design for both private and public buildings. Over two centuries, flooring decisions in the House have swung back and forth between form (symbolism, aesthetics, and glamour) and function (practicality, cost, and durability).
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East from the Capitol

Looking East from the Capitol Stereoview
Photographers hauled their equipment to the top of the Capitol's giant new cast-iron dome and captured the city as it transformed from Civil War chaos to Gilded Age glamour. This 1875 image showed a city that still looked something less than glamorous.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

A Capital Game

Lobby: A Capital Game Board
“Here’s your chance to be a Congressman!” an advertisement read. In 1949, Milton Bradley introduced Lobby: A Capital Game, a board game meant to be both educational and fun. However, legislation and lobbying may not have been quite as entertaining as the toymaker expected.
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