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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 61–72 of 192 results

Knit One, Purl Two in the House Gallery?

Eleanor Roosevelt
Opening day of a new Congress is usually a day full of excitement and activity. A new session begins, the Members are sworn in, and the House of Representatives organizes itself for the first time in a new term. Adding to the excitement of the opening day of March 9, 1933, a special visitor was in attendance, the new First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The flurry of activity in the House Chamber can sometimes be chaotic, but the rules of the House maintain the decorum and help the “People’s House” function smoothly. But, as the First Lady’s visit soon proved, those same rules are sometimes subject to change for special visitors.
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Hoist the Colors!

Captain Samuel C. Reid
Tasked with updating the American flag following the War of 1812, New York Representative Peter H. Wendover sought the advice of Captain Samuel C. Reid, one of America’s most famous privateers. After privateering under the star-spangled banner, what fresh ideas could Reid bring to the much-needed new design?
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Categories: Legislation, War

"A Law-Making Mill:" The Hopper, The House, and Agrarian America

The Hopper
A basket, a hopper, a bin. All new legislation has its start here, a container located on the rostrum in the House Chamber. At the end of every legislative day the Clerk of the House collects the bills and assigns each one a number. From there, the bills are referred to committee by the Speaker with the aid of the Parliamentarian. The story of how the hopper got its name speaks to the nation’s agrarian roots and the legislative process.
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Categories: Practice & Customs

“Some of Our Boys Died Last Night”

On June 6, 1944, Allied forces commenced the invasion of Western Europe known today as D-Day. Chaplain Reverend James Shera Montgomery opened the June 7 meeting of the House with a prayer that reflected both the nation’s concerns and hopes.
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Categories: Practice & Customs, War

Edition for Educators – Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois

Speaker Joe Cannon
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” And when Congress first convened in 1789, the House chose Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg as its Speaker. More than a century later, the House chose Joe Cannon of Illinois to serve as its leader. A self-described “hayseed” from Illinois, Cannon ruled the House with an iron fist. Learn more about colorful “Uncle Joe” Cannon and the Office of the Speaker.
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The Original Snowmageddon

You thought the wild wintry weather of 2010’s popularly dubbed Snowmageddon in the nation’s capital was bad? More than one hundred years ago, a record-setting blizzard blanketed Washington, D.C., grinding the city’s operations to a halt. But as even Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine huddled in his hotel away from the chill, the House of Representatives soldiered on.
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Speaker Reed’s Movember Catfish

Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine apparently celebrated Movember before it was cool.
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Who Kicked the Dogs Out?

Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent nearly half of his House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting dogs into the House Chamber, leaving them to lop and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.
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One Small Step . . . for Housekind

In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. As the nation marveled at this feat, the U.S. House of Representatives slowly prepared for its own launch: into the computer age. Months before the astronauts had touched down on the moon, Members of the House of Representatives descended on the Rayburn House Office Building to witness one of the three Capitol computers in action.
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Room Service in the Clink: The Case of the Consumptive Witness

The power to investigate is a central role played by Congress. House committees often call witnesses to testify in order to oversee the administration of government, to educate public opinion, and to inform the process of crafting new legislation. Occasionally, when the House weighs contempt-of-Congress charges against uncooperative witnesses, the Historian’s Office receives the question: where have contumacious witnesses, placed in the custody of the Sergeant at Arms, been imprisoned?
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Categories: Practice & Customs

Skip the Record and Go Straight to the Journal

Researchers often ignore the House Journal in favor of its flashier cousin, the Congressional Record. If laws were sausages, the Congressional Record would report the grinding process of making them. The House Journal by contrast has—with a few minor formatting adjustments—remained a constant over the span of House history, as a simple recapitulation of House actions as required by the Constitution.
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From Averting Death to Common House Practice: The Committee of the Whole

Parliamentary procedure itself rarely generates heated discussion, but that's mainly because the drama that created the precedent has long passed. What today is dry and routine often was, at one point, highly contentious.
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