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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 37–48 of 89 results

Jet and Ebony and Yvonne Burke

Yvonne Brathwaite Burke was a rising star in national politics when she arrived in the House in 1973. Mainstream media, however, rarely covered any African-American or female legislator in depth. One exception was the Black media empire founded by Jack Johnson, with the influential Ebony and Jet magazines at its center.
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John Marshall, One of a Kind?

Chief Justice John Marshall, the man who single-handedly shaped the constitutional role of the judicial branch of the U.S. government, was one of a kind. But his portrait in the U.S. Capitol? Not so much. The imposing painting, more than 10 feet tall, is based on an earlier Marshall portrait. It’s a painted copy. A copy of a copy of a copy, in fact.

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Categories: Members of Congress, Art

Lady Luck and the Office Lottery

Thomas Steed's Office
New Members-elect crowd into a committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building, plunging into the centuries-old struggle over real estate known as the office lottery.
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Lawn and Order

Seven workers lowered their scythes and posed for a picture outside the Capitol. In the 19th century, a well-manicured lawn symbolized stability and righteousness—exactly the image of the nation that Congress wanted to project. But it took a lot of work to keep the Capitol’s grounds photo ready. It was a real case of lawn versus order.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Art, Artifacts

Lobbying in the Lobby

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?
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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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“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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Palm Reading

Errett Scrivner Palm Card Detail
A palm card is possibly the simplest piece of congressional campaign literature: a single piece of cardstock containing information about a candidate. In scores of congressional races from 1900 to 1960, palm cards were also the smallest pieces of literature in a campaign’s toolbox.
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Party Like It's 1732

Landmark birthdays are a big deal, and for George Washington’s 200th, a master party planner was necessary. The House’s own Rep. Sol Bloom applied his talents to the task, coordinating a cross-country series of events—and some interesting souvenirs—throughout 1932.


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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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Post It

Clarence MacGregor Campaign Poster
The modern congressional campaign poster is a familiar sight, but it is nothing like the ones plastered all over town a century ago.
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

Postcards from the House(s)

At the turn of the century, you could send a picture and a message across the country to share your adventures with friends and family for just a penny. How many bore pictures of Representatives’ homes?
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