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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 193–204 of 207 results

We Can’t Make This Stuff Up Either

A pianist, a professor, and an anthropologist walk into the Capitol. It sounds like the set up for a bit joke. However, in researching the institution, we occasionally stumble upon a few stories that prove once again that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. This edition features a well-known Member and his lesser known musical career; a tenthidean cephalopod on the House Floor; and the weight of a Members’ brain.
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Categories: Members of Congress

We’ve Re-launched Our Blog

When we launched our blog in late 2012, a new world of storytelling opened. For the last six years, the historians, curators, and archivists at the U.S. House of Representatives have discovered and documented an eclectic mix of people, events, records, and artifacts that have helped reveal how the House has evolved over the last 229 years. This summer, after having published nearly 300 entries to our blog since 2012, we’ve given it an overhaul.
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Categories: Announcements

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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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

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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What’s in a Name? Origins of the Chowder & Marching Club

In an institution where legislative victories are often stitched together with shifting blocs, coalitions, and alliances, it isn’t surprising that most Members of Congress are joiners. For new Representatives particularly, membership in caucuses and other informal clubs and groups fills a yearning to belong, to swap legislative strategies freely, to learn the chamber’s folkways and norms, and, sometimes, simply to socialize.
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Where’s Waldo?

At some point in history … the House of Representatives lost a 93-year-old Chaplain. Despite prominent mentions in the Congressional Record, newspapers from across the country, and in texts such as Chaplains of the Federal Government (1856), the Reverend Daniel Waldo vanished from the official list of House Chaplains sometime during the last 150 years.
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“Which Side Are You On?”

On July 14, 1955, John F. Pickett, a deputy U.S. Marshall for the Southern District of New York, traveled to Beacon, New York. The town had been founded in the early eighteenth century and later grew into a bustling commercial port. During the American Revolution, lookouts lit bonfires atop the surrounding hills to signal the approach of British troops—beacons, for which the town was later named. In the summer of 1955, Pickett made his way north in the shadow of those same hills to deliver a far different message to a resident of Beacon.
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Categories: Committees

White Tie and Tails?—The 1936 Annual Message

Tuxedo? Business suit? Dress up or dress sensibly? It’s not the Oscars . . . it’s the first evening Annual Message. American citizens are accustomed to seeing the President of the United States deliver prime-time addresses to a worldwide audience. However, when presidential night-time addresses were unique events, a previous generation of Members and their spouses were puzzled by what constituted proper fashion protocol at a speech that slowly emerged as a major policy—and social—statement.
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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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Who’s Who In the 65th

65th Congress
In 2007, while conducting image research at the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, our office ran across a record vaguely labeled “65th Congress.” This blog discusses how researchers, with very few clues about the image’s original provenance, answered two big questions: when during the 65th Congress (1917–1919) was the image taken, and could the Members in the photograph be identified?
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“Why Not Have it Constitutionally?”: Race, Gender, and the Nineteenth Amendment

On May 21, 1919, Representative James Mann of Illinois, the bespectacled, gray-bearded, 62-year-old former Republican Leader, made an announcement from the House Floor, cementing a change in American history that had been building for decades. “I call up House joint resolution No. 1, proposing an amendment to the Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women,” he said, “and ask that the resolution be reported.”
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