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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 112 results

Legislating the Liquor Law—Prohibition and the House

Summers in Washington, DC, are always hot, but the dog days of 1919 were particularly heated as Congress held ongoing debates over how best to enforce a ban on the sale and transportation of alcohol in a sweeping new policy known as prohibition.
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In the Bag

Detail of Ruth Bryan Owen's Bag
“Representative Ruth Bryan Owen has designed a handbag for business women,” the Chicago Daily Tribune reported. In 1931, the Congresswoman’s pocketbook made the news. Her choice of accessory became a subtle statement about gender expectations in Congress.
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Welcome to the Hotel Congressional

Hotel Congressional Matchbook
How the Hotel Congressional went from a sleek, modern hotel to a dowdy House workspace to a parking lot, and later, the O'Neill House Office Building, is a tale of the changing nature of congressional work.
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Railroaded to Congress

“East and West Shaking Hands at the Laying of the Last Rail” Photograph
Grenville Dodge loathed being on Capitol Hill. He much preferred exploring the western wilderness, scoping out the path of the transcontinental railroad. No oath of office could keep him from it.
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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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