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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 135 results

“Somebody Was Going to Be the First”

During the 1970s, amid the women’s liberation movement, women across the country fought for equal rights and for a louder voice in the decision-making process on a wide range of domestic and international issues. Capitol Hill also became more diverse, as women of color—Members and staff alike—won election to and took jobs in the House, changing a powerful workplace which had been dominated by White men since its inception.
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Kitchen Table Campaigning

John Bonifas Bennett Sewing Kit detail
About 30 years after the 19th Amendment was ratified in 1920, political campaigns increasingly targeted women for votes. Political appeals to women were by no means a new idea. However, women’s relatively recent victory in winning the right to vote, coupled with postwar sexism, added modern twists to old traditions of looking for women’s political support.
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License to Legislate

Detail of a 1972 Congressional License Plate
Congressional license plates may have been just thin strips of metal affixed to the top of a regular license plate, but the plates ended up giving Members of Congress motoring superpowers.
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“Here will I hold my stand”: James Tallmadge Jr. and the Fight to Stop the Spread of Slavery

As a young man, James Tallmadge of New York challenged policymakers to uphold the principles of equality in the Declaration and make real a world devoid of slavery. Two decades later, when Tallmadge was one of those policymakers, he turned away from idealism of his youth and toward the legal might of the Constitution to limit slavery’s spread.
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An Interbranch Brawl

In 1915, a year after World War I engulfed the European continent, Democrat Frank Buchanan of Illinois declared that he was willing to go to any length to stop the United States from getting drawn into the conflict. Within months, however, the Congressman found himself in a little war of his own, not against a foreign adversary but with his own Justice Department.
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Space Oddity

Don Fuqua
Five paintings in the House Collection show how Science Committee chairs shared national enthusiasm for extraterrestrial exploration and embedded allusions to America’s space program in their portraits.
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Too Fast Too Furious: Uncle Joe Gets Driven Out

On March 15, 1910, House Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois suffered a rare legislative setback when 14 of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats to cut funding for the routine maintenance of his official government automobile. By all appearances, it seemed like a minor, personal rebuke. But in this case, it foreshadowed a much larger problem for one of the most powerful Speakers in American history.
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The Superhero Style of Robert Smalls

Drawings of Robert Smalls from Golden Legacy
A dramatic backstory helped to launch Robert Smalls’s congressional career in the 1870s. A century later, the daring ship captain and Civil War hero’s story reappeared in the public eye as the subject of a volume of Golden Legacy, a comic book format Black history series for children.
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Fast and Furious I: Danville Drift

In 1909 Congress appropriated money specifically to purchase automobiles for the President; only months later, it considered providing the Speaker and the Vice President with similar funding. But not every Member believed the government should spend public money on what would essentially be a private car, and not every Member wanted to give Joe Cannon such a generous perk.
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Edition for Educators—Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina

For Black History Month, this Edition for Educators celebrates the life and career of Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey.
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“By Any Fair Means”: Joseph H. Rainey’s Contested Elections

Joseph Rainey Certificate of Election
When Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina served in the House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 as its first Black Representative, the political inroads made during Reconstruction by Blacks in the South started to disintegrate rapidly. The contested election was weaponized as a method of excluding African Americans from representation 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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