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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 48 results

Northwest from the Capitol

Looking Northwest from the Capitol Stereoview
Take a close look at this “Bird’s-eye View” stereoview. The photographer pointed his camera northwest from the Capitol dome toward Indiana Avenue and clicked. The result shows a city exploding into being in the 1870s and 1880s.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

Bathing the Capitol

Firefighters Hose Down the Capitol in 1910
In November 1899, Washington, DC, loaned the Architect of the Capitol a fire engine, along with its firemen, for a special task: to give the Capitol a bath. As House Collection photographs show, the custom continued for more than 60 years.
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Thanking the Troops

When the first cannon shots of the Civil War landed on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, the Abraham Lincoln administration confronted a rebellion against the United States and an urgent security problem in the nation’s capital. When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, only the Potomac River separated Washington from the hostile ambitions of the Confederacy. In those anxious April days the city was—in President Lincoln’s own words—“put into a condition of siege.”
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The Fallout

Medical Kit C
In 2015, House curators carefully unpacked water purification tablets, surgical soap, gauze pads, and a toothache remedy from Medical Kit C. The large cardboard box and the basic medical supplies it contained are artifacts of Cold War–era Washington, when the threat of nuclear attack hung over the country, and officials stockpiled emergency food, water, and medicine across the Capitol complex.
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Capitol Art & Artifacts: Girandole

Girandole
In a quiet corner of today’s Speaker’s Ceremonial Office hangs a girandole mirror. When candles are lit, light bounces off the mirror. The House’s girandole dates from the first half of the 19th century and boasts a Capitol provenance from its association with an early Clerk of the House of Representatives.
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Edition for Educators—Remembrance in the Capitol

Though typically bustling with the business of legislation, there are times when Congress pauses to reflect, grieve, and memorialize the passing of national figures. Conscious of its place on the national stage, Congress occasionally offers the Capitol Rotunda or House Chamber as a place for the public to mourn and celebrate the lives of dedicated and notable citizens.
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South from the Capitol

Looking South from the Capitol Steroview
The same year America celebrated its 100th birthday, a photographer perched on the Capitol’s eastern pediment to photograph the view. The resulting stereoview, an early 3-D photograph sold as a souvenir, captures Washington in 1876, looking southeast across the House portico to the swiftly changing neighborhood. A closer look at contemporaneous images in the House Collection shows just how fast the area changed.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

Notes from Underground, Part II: The Rayburn Subway

Bud Shuster and Jack Schenendorf Riding the Rayburn Subway
When the dust settled after construction of the first House and Senate Office Buildings, only the Senate had a subway line. Representatives had to wait—and walk—until the Rayburn House Office Building opened in 1965.
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Notes from Underground, Part I: The Book Tunnel

Detail of the Tunnel in an Architectural Plan
For more than a century, a tunnel ran between the Capitol and the Library of Congress to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. Using iron rails, electricity, and an endless cable, the underground shaft automatically shuttled books to Members of Congress. “There is nothing like it in this country or, so far as known, in any other,” the Washington Post told readers in 1895.
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Tour the Capitol from Home

Ordinarily, the U.S. Capitol in springtime bustles with visiting school groups and vacationing families from around the world. For visitors who cannot travel to Washington this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the History, Art, and Archives website has a number of resources that visitors can use to learn about some of the Capitol’s statues, landmarks, and art, as well as stories about the people, places, artifacts, and events that make Congress unique.
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Snowball Fight at the Capitol!

1923 Snowball Fight
Photographs from the House Collection capture the fun of snowball fights outside the Capitol, a tradition for House and Senate Pages.
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East from the Capitol

Looking East from the Capitol Stereoview
Photographers hauled their equipment to the top of the Capitol's giant new cast-iron dome and captured the city as it transformed from Civil War chaos to Gilded Age glamour. This 1875 image showed a city that still looked something less than glamorous.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts