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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 181–192 of 192 results

Weathering Washington by Watching the Weather

Before there were smart phones equipped with weather apps, news anchors in front of green screens, or radar for tracking storms, Members of the House still wanted the latest weather forecasts. And for a century, the weather map in the Members' Retiring Room—just outside the House Chamber—became a social nexus for Members and House staff alike, many of whom wanted to know the conditions back home.
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Edition for Educators – Congress in Wartime

The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war and maintain and fund the armed forces. From the harrowing night in 1814 when war arrived on the Capitol’s doorstep to the war on terror, the House and its Members have been key players in wartime decisions.
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Categories: Edition for Educators, War

“The City Scavenger Butters Your Bread”

What piece of legislation best illustrates the tensions facing Congress when it attempts to regulate the diverse U.S. economy? One about butter: the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.
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Categories: Legislation

Good Vibrations: In Defense of the Beach Boys

Fireworks over the National Mall
The nation’s birthday is an event that annually unites Americans from all walks of life. But when a Cabinet Secretary tried to ban one of the most beloved rock groups of all time from playing a July Fourth concert on the National Mall in 1983, Members of the people’s House mounted a vigorous—and humorous—defense of the Beach Boys’ right to perform.

 

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Categories: Holidays

Getting a Foot in the (Chamber) Door

When newly elected Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau of Puerto Rico, the first Member of Congress from the island territory, began his service in the 57th Congress (1901–1903), the media treated him with attentive curiosity. But despite the fanfare and expression of goodwill, Degetau remained unwelcome in the one place that served as the legislature’s nerve center: the House Floor.
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“You Start It and You Like the Work, and You Just Keep On”

To date, 259 Members have served 30 years or more in the U.S. Congress, constituting just two percent of the total historic membership. Yet in an institution where long service often yields greater power, many of these Members became some of the House’s most famous and influential people.
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The Most Kissed Man in America

On June 3, 1898, in the middle of the Spanish-American War, Lieutenant Richmond Pearson Hobson sailed the U.S. collier Merrimac into Santiago Harbor with a hand-picked skeleton crew. Hobson schemed to sink his vessel at the entrance to the Cuban bay, trapping the Spanish fleet.  Though he failed to blockade the harbor, Hobson would soon become a national celebrity for another kind of mission—one ideally suited for the handsome young man.
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Categories: Members of Congress

Were There Any Witnesses? Segregation in the House Visitors’ Gallery

Were African Americans in attendance to witness the legislative debates that shaped their freedom? Well, yes and no. The nation barred them from citizenship and service as Members of Congress until the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868, but barring African Americans, slave or free, from the Capitol has a murkier history.
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30,000 Letters or Bust: Ansel Wold’s 1928 mission

Over the course of three years in the mid-1920s, the clerk of the Joint Committee on Printing, Ansel Wold, had a mission: find Representative Victor Berger's middle name and the name of the town in which Mr. Berger settled upon his arrival to the U.S. in the 1870s. And Wold needed to find this information fast, in time to publish the 1928 edition of the Biographical Directory of the American Congress.
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Discovering a Page’s Place in the “Second American Revolution”

During the Reconstruction Era, African Americans gained elective office and the U.S. House of Representatives was forever changed. Americans know the narrative that describes Reconstruction as the “Second American Revolution”—one in which basic political and citizenship rights were conferred upon freed slaves (at least the men). Congressional Reconstruction imposed in the South also changed the face of the membership of the House. Until recently, however, we knew very little about the changes that Reconstruction wrought at the staff level in the House.
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“This Greater than Roman Forum”—The Wartime 38th Congress

It had been three weeks since President Abraham Lincoln visited the rolling hills of the Gettysburg battlefield and delivered his now famous address, intoning "that government of the people by the people for the people shall not perish from the earth." At the time, no one could have predicted that the war would rage for another year and a half. But that December, few Americans not named Lincoln likely felt the weight of their responsibilities more than the men who had assembled in the U.S. House of Representatives for the opening of the 38th Congress (1863–1865). And few Members of the House seemed to feel the day's pressure more than Schuyler Colfax of Indiana who had just been elected Speaker.
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Weekend at Woodrow’s

Early in the afternoon on Saturday, July 20, 1912, more than 100 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all of them Democrats, got off the train in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and walked down the dusty road toward Woodrow Wilson’s summer cottage. Wilson had recently accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, and he’d been entertaining political visits at his seaside home ever since.
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Categories: Presidents, Elections