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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 124 results

30,000 Letters or Bust: Ansel Wold’s 1928 mission

Over the course of three years in the mid-1920s, the clerk of the Joint Committee on Printing, Ansel Wold, had a mission: find Representative Victor Berger's middle name and the name of the town in which Mr. Berger settled upon his arrival to the U.S. in the 1870s. And Wold needed to find this information fast, in time to publish the 1928 edition of the Biographical Directory of the American Congress.
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A Committee Chair Huddle

A Meeting Between Representatives Mary Norton and Caroline O'Day and Senator Hattie Caraway
Maybe it was a chance meeting . . . or maybe it wasn’t? On July 23, 1937, House Members Caroline O’Day of New York and Mary Norton of New Jersey met Senator Hattie Caraway of Arkansas in the halls of the U.S. Capitol. What made this spur-of-the-moment meeting unique was that three women chaired three committees simultaneously for the first time in congressional history.
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A Member by Any Other Name

“Old Man Eloquent,” “Sunset Cox,” “Czar Reed,” “Uncle Joe,” “Vinegar Bend,” “Mr. Sam,” the “Little Giant.” Since the earliest Congresses, Members of the House have earned—or received—nicknames based on their careers and interests, monikers that have long outlived them.
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Categories: Members of Congress

A “Troublesome and Greatly Derided Custom” — Answering the Annual Message

During the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, the process of the State of the Union and its responses was more genteel and singular, but no less contentious than it is today. In the 1790s, both houses of Congress drafted, debated, and marched en masse to the President’s mansion to deliver a formal, unified response, addressing the important issues raised by the executive. That is, until one volatile Member of the House dared to wonder aloud what the fuss was all about.
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A Womanly Woman with Womanly Ambitions

On June 1, 1917, Jeannette Rankin penned a letter to her Montana constituents articulating her frustration with some recent media coverage. “No doubt you have read in the papers about my ‘red hair’ and ‘sending the fathers to war’ and other inventions of the eastern press. I wish you were here to see Congress working and to know the true facts,” she wrote. After all, she didn’t have red hair and she voted against American intervention in World War I.
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Absorbing Constituent Needs

Representative Herbert Drane with a Sponge
A Member of Congress represents and assists constituents. So when a Representative served a district known for one of the largest natural sponge markets in the world . . . well, that Member advocated for the absorbent product.
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Advice to New Members

Luther Patrick Makes a Face
On March 6, 1941, Alabama Representative Luther Patrick gave advice to new Members from the House Floor. His 32-point list detailed the dos and don’ts of congressional behavior. If only he took his own advice.
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Americans Can’t Can

Can All You Can Poster
Housewives and gardeners hurried from store to store during the summer of 1975 only to find the shelves devoid of one item on their shopping lists: canning lids. Desperate to preserve their fruits and vegetables before they rotted on the vine, the people turned to Congress for help.
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And the Perfect Attendance Award Goes to…

Rep. William Natcher
In elementary school, perfect attendance means being at school every day. Once in a while a super kid sails through high school without missing a day. Such monumental feats are usually celebrated with a certificate from the principal, or perhaps a newspaper story. In the U.S. House, perfect attendance means never missing a vote during one’s House service and, in some rare cases, making every committee meeting. Several instances of these super Members stand out in House history.
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Before Bloody Sunday

Congressional Delegation to Visit Alabama
A month before Selma became synonymous with the struggle for voting rights, a group of Congressmen traveled to the city and returned to Washington to sound the alarm. “We—as Members of Congress—must face the fact that existing legislation just is not working,” Joseph Resnick of New York said upon his return. “The situation in Selma must jar us from our complacency concerning voting rights.”
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Behind the Photos

Dapper Representative John Sosnowski
This portrait of Representative John Sosnowski seems pretty standard—until you turn it over and read the back.
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Being Seen and Heard—A Tantalizing Prospect

Clifford Berryman's Political Cartoon
A parliamentary insult hurled at a Republican freshman had the effect of briefly banding his colleagues into a memorable (and merry) bloc.
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