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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 166 results

The Apportionment Act of 1842: “In All Cases, By District”

In April 1842, the United States House of Representatives began what could arguably be called the first reorganization process—the first spring cleaning, as it were—in Congress’ history. The size of the House had increased steadily since 1789, and as required by the Constitution it had adjusted its Membership every 10 years following the Census in a process called reapportionment. In a decision that shaped the makeup of the House for decades, Congress broke with 50 years of precedent to make two dramatic and substantial changes: it shrunk the size of the House for the first time in U.S. history, and standardized what we would recognize as the modern congressional district.
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Categories: Legislation, Elections

Edition for Educators—Celebrating Women’s History Month 2019

To celebrate Women’s History Month, this Edition for Educators blog focuses on content we’ve added to the History, Art & Archives website within the last year alongside new images the office has acquired. This year, we’ve compiled a few of the new oral histories, blogs, digitized images, and updated statistics for the 116th Congress (2019–2021) to feature below. In preparation for next year’s anniversary, the office has also added a new House Record to commemorate the 19th Amendment granting women’s suffrage.
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Edition for Educators—Celebrating Black History Month 2019

Bolton and Diggs
In celebration of Black History Month, this Edition for Educators blog focuses on content we’ve recently added to the History, Art & Archives website. For this February, we’ve compiled a few of the new oral histories, blogs, digitized images, and updated statistics from the last year to feature below.
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Edition for Educators—The House Chamber

Since 1789, the House of Representatives has met in a number of locations. But regardless of the setting, the House Chamber has always been a storied space. Since the House first met in closing years of the eighteenth century, thousands of men and women from all corners of the country have filled its seats to debate legislation and shape the rhythms of American life. Today, the modern House Chamber, which first opened in 1857, can often seem to be two things at once: intimidating but also welcoming, imposing but also familiar. This Edition for Educators highlights the spaces which have served as the meeting place for the People’s House.
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Experience, Wisdom, Knowledge . . . Before Twenty-Five

In July 1797, a young southern judge named William Charles Cole Claiborne penned an enthusiastic letter to one of his political mentors, then-Representative Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Claiborne had his eyes set on serving in Congress. With only two months until the general election in October, and with Jackson leaving for the Senate, Claiborne was eager to win election to Jackson’s soon-to-be vacant seat in the House of Representatives. There was, however, one potentially very large problem: Claiborne was not more than 22 years old.
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Guts, Stamina, Audacity: Shirley Chisholm’s House Career

Fifty years ago this month, Shirley Chisholm, the charismatic and outspoken Brooklyn educator and politician, made history when she became the first African-American woman to serve in Congress. Small in stature, but with a larger-than-life persona, “Fighting Shirley” was a tireless advocate for her constituents, quotable and stylish and unyielding. Chisholm encapsulated the resolve of the civil rights movement of the 1960s and brought national attention to the issues she championed.
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Best of the Blog in 2018

The year 2018 wasn’t just about a midterm election for the Offices of History, Art & Archives. We introduced a lot of content throughout the year, including 43 blogs! Here’s a few of our favorites from the past year.
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Categories: Announcements

Sick Days

Shortly after noon on Friday, October 11, 1918, Martin D. Foster of Illinois anxiously asked for permission to speak on the floor. The six-term Congressman, who’d been a small-town doctor in down-state Illinois, was still digesting the latest grim reports about the rapid spread of the lethal Spanish influenza outbreak. What Foster had read alarmed him.
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Categories: Legislation

Edition for Educators—Following the Rules

The U.S. House of Representatives is governed by an ever-expanding matrix of rules and precedents, procedural compass points that have been accumulating every year since the very first Congress in 1789. The Constitution says little about the internal governing structure of the House other than that it “may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” That vague allowance enables the House to create and maintain both its legislative processes and rules guiding the personal behavior of its Members.
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“Planting Laws and Institutions”: The Election of Representative John Quincy Adams

On November 6, 1830, former United States President John Quincy Adams spent the day at his family’s farm near Quincy, Massachusetts, planting trees. On the edge of what would become the orchard, he laid out five rows of chestnuts, oaks, and shagbark hickories. The final, casual line in Adams’s diary that day: “I am a member elect of the twenty-second Congress.”
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Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

In the summer of 1988, President Ronald Reagan signed into law an act that expanded Hispanic Heritage Week, first created by Congress in 1968, into Hispanic Heritage Month. Sponsored by California Representative Esteban Torres and Illinois Senator Paul Simon, the new law created an annual month-long celebration of Hispanic-American culture and history.
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Edition for Educators—Presidency and the House

This Edition for Educators highlights the Presidency and its complicated relationship with the House of Representatives.
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