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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 108 results

Obstacles and Opportunities: The Experiences of Two Women Members on the Campaign Trail

Since the 1970s, women candidates running for Congress have increasingly carved out more opportunities and built new coalitions. The Office of the Historian conducted interviews with several former women Members who traveled distinct routes to Capitol Hill. Two seemingly disparate stories from the early 1990s highlight how far women candidates have come since Rankin first won election more than 100 years ago.
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The Last Hours of John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams Box Sofa
Representative John Quincy Adams knew he was nearing the end of his career. However, he likely did not suspect that his last hours in the Capitol would become a national media event, driven by brand-new technologies and nostalgia for the past that Adams represented.
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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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Congressional Eagles

Edith Nourse Rogers
In the early 1920s, one Member of Congress flipped and looped over the Capitol in a biplane. But after famous pilot Charles Lindbergh took Representatives up for a ride in 1928, aviation soared in the Washington imagination.
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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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House-Brewed Home Brew

John Philip Hill and Guests at the Franklin Farms Party
Representative John Philip Hill tried very hard to get arrested by the Commissioner of Prohibition.
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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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Slam Dunk: Doughnuts and the House

Dunking a Doughnut into Coffee
Doughnuts have long been a favorite Washington breakfast. Crullers cooked up debate both on and off the House Floor.
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The Cowboy of Congress

Percy Gassaway
The Congressman stuck both index fingers down into his cowboy boot and yanked it up under his pant leg, getting ready for another day at the office.
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"The Battle of the Portraits"

Four Portraits of Speaker Henry Rainey
Newspapers called it “the battle of the portraits.” As many as 16 artists entered the fray of the late Speaker Henry Rainey’s official portrait commission, a tradition in the House of Representatives.
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Jeannette Rankin for Senate

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana earned a permanent place in U.S. history by becoming the first woman elected to Congress. She served two non-consecutive terms and became the only person to vote against America’s entry into both World War I in 1917 and World War II in 1941. Her political career ended with her lone vote against war on December 8, 1941, as the U.S. Pacific Fleet burned at Pearl Harbor.
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