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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 37 results

“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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Edition for Educators—Madam Chairman

This month’s Edition for Educators celebrates Women’s History Month by turning the focus to the many women who have chaired committees in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, a record seven women chair House committees in the 116th Congress (2019–2021), and many more chair subcommittees responsible for significant sections of legislation and oversight.
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How the House Almost Added a 13th Month

On February 9, 1922, the House Judiciary Committee held a brief hearing on a long subject: the passage of time, and how America kept track of it. Specifically, the committee met to hear from a handful of witnesses about a bill that would have created the “Liberty Calendar,” a uniform new annual calendar—13 months of 28 days divided evenly into four weeks—that supporters argued would make timekeeping more efficient and help meet the demands of the twentieth century.
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Categories: Legislation, Committees

“Every Right and Every Privilege”: Oscar De Priest and Segregation in the House Restaurant

Oscar De Priest Discharge Petition
Oscar De Priest entered the 71st Congress as the only African American in the House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, De Priest confronted racial discrimination, including in the Capitol itself as a Member of Congress.
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“I Told Everything I Know”: Patty Duke’s Secret Testimony to Congress

Patty Duke
“I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception.” With those words to a congressional committee, the house of cards built by the producers and sponsors of popular televised quiz shows tumbled at last.
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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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Edition for Educators—The Final Frontier

On July 20, 1969, Americans from all walks of life gathered around television sets to witness a truly remarkable event. Broadcast live to half a billion people, Commander Neil Armstrong stepped down from the lunar lander onto the surface of the moon at 10:56 p.m. EDT and uttered his iconic phrase, “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” Outer space has long captured the popular imagination, fascinating people of all ages and backgrounds, including Members of Congress.
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The Waste Basket Committee

For his maiden speech in the 69th Congress (1925–1927), Representative Robert Alexis “Lex” Green, as he was known, chose to take on his own party, arguing against an inheritance tax that would affect his aging Florida constituents. House Democratic leaders responded to his impudence by assigning him to the most “prosaic” of committees: the Committee on Disposition of Useless Executive Papers.
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