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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 44 results

A Marvel among Swindles: The Louisiana State Lottery Company and the Post Office Department

Advertisement for the Louisiana State Lottery
Records of the House Committee on Post Office and Post Roads and congressional sources help tell the dramatic story of congressional intervention into the 19th-century Louisiana State Lottery Company.
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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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Bums, Beatniks, and Birds: The House Responds to Anti-Vietnam War Protests

Setting draft cards on fire may have sparked outrage on Capitol Hill in 1965, but within a matter of years a new generation of lawmakers offered a far more sympathetic audience.
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Categories: Legislation, Committees, War

Starring Hazel Scott as Herself

Hazel Scott and Adam Clayton Powell Jr. on the Cover of Jet
Civil rights, Congress, and the performances of jazz pianist Hazel Scott coincided in the late 1940s and early 1950s. “I’ve been brash all my life, and it’s gotten me into a lot of trouble,” Scott said. “But at the same time, speaking out has sustained me and given meaning to my life.”
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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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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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“Which Side Are You On?”

On July 14, 1955, John F. Pickett, a deputy U.S. Marshall for the Southern District of New York, traveled to Beacon, New York. The town had been founded in the early eighteenth century and later grew into a bustling commercial port. During the American Revolution, lookouts lit bonfires atop the surrounding hills to signal the approach of British troops—beacons, for which the town was later named. In the summer of 1955, Pickett made his way north in the shadow of those same hills to deliver a far different message to a resident of Beacon.
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Categories: Committees

A Congressional Made Man

Print of the House Chamber in 1836
In the winter of 1842, inventor Samuel F. B. Morse nervously wrote to his brother Sidney Morse from Washington, DC. Morse hoped that the House of Representatives would appropriate $30,000 “to test the practicability of establishing a system of electro magnetic telegraphs.”
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Categories: Superlatives, Committees, Art

Centennial of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

Detail of a Petition to Establish a Bureau of Labor for Women
The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, created by Congress 100 years ago on June 5, 1920, still exists today. Established at a time when women were moving into the workforce but were still months away from having the right to vote, the Women’s Bureau studied and advocated for working women.
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Can I Have this Dance?

Support the American Square Dance Logo
In 1973, American square dancers tried to call the tune with the House of Representatives, urging it to act quickly on legislation near and dear to their hearts. “What’s the hold up? Get busy now. Let’s not wait any longer,” one demanded. “We’re still waiting for some results,” another pressed, concerned that a years-long petition drive to enshrine the uniquely American folk dance was proceeding more like a slow waltz than an up-tempo jig.
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Edition for Educators—The Agriculture Committee Bicentennial

On April 29, 1820, North Carolina Representative Lewis Williams rose to address what he saw as an injustice in the House of Representatives. Williams pointed out that the House already had a Committee on Manufactures which received petitions from commercial interests, but that it lacked an equivalent committee to consider the interests of America’s farmers. “When agriculture is oppressed, and makes complaint, what tribunal is in this House to hear and determine on the grievance?” he asked.
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