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
“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?
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.
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?
For a House committee, commissioning paintings during the post-Civil War era involved more than matching colors with the furniture. When the House Committee on Indian Affairs hired artist and Army officer Seth Eastman in 1867 to produce nine paintings for their hearing room, his task was not only to decorate their space, but to project an ideology through images.
For generations, chewing tobacco was immensely popular in the House of Representatives. Members of Congress chewed with gusto, and spat tobacco juice with equal enthusiasm. Receptacles for tobacco spittle—spittoons—were a common sight in the Capitol from at least the 1830s.