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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 73–84 of 89 results

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

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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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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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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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

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

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

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

“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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What's Buzzing in the Chamber?

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?
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Categories: House Chamber, Art, Artifacts

Carnation Nation

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.
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Smoke If You’ve Got ‘Em

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.
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