Buttonholing Members of Congress to tell them how you think they should vote—that’s as old as the republic itself. But calling it “lobbying”? Where does that come from?
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.
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.
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?
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.