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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 30 results

The Not-So-Lonesome West

For a House committee, commissioning paintings during the post-Civil War era involved more than matching colors with the furniture. When the House Committee on Indian Affairs hired artist and Army officer Seth Eastman in 1867 to produce nine paintings for their hearing room, his task was not only to decorate their space, but to project an ideology through images.
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Categories: Committees, Art

Out of the Blue: UFOs and the Freedom of Information Act

The existence of UFOs may seem like the exclusive domain of science fiction, but as Representative John Moss of California laid the groundwork for legislation that eventually became the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966, he didn’t discriminate in his pursuit to open as much government information as possible to the public.
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War and Peace: Representative Ron Dellums and the House Armed Services Committee

For many freshman Representatives, finding a way to stand out in the large and crowded House of Representatives poses a major challenge. Ron Dellums of California had no such problem. Elected to the House in 1970, at the age of 34, Dellums drew upon his national reputation as an outspoken anti-war and anti-establishment activist to challenge the institution and to secure a spot on the unlikeliest of panels: the House Armed Services Committee.
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The White Squadron

Peace (The White Squadron in Boston Harbor), or more simply Peace, has been around the block—the Capitol block. It started out in Chicago, came to the Capitol, and then arrived at the Cannon House Office Building.

 

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Categories: Capitol Campus, Committees, Art

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 Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House

Representative Charles F. Reavis of Nebraska
In our age of voluminous email traffic and cluttered inboxes, it’s easy to overlook certain correspondence and even misplace particular documents. Things get lost in the shuffle, we say. It happens. But as the White House demonstrated in 1920, it’s been happening for longer than we might imagine, and well before the advent of email.
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Breaking the Code: Duncan Lee, HUAC, and the Venona Files

Duncan Lee
Here’s the thing about being a spy: You can’t tell anybody. Especially if you’re a descendant of the Lee family of Virginia, educated at an elite prep school and university, a Rhodes Scholar, a lawyer at a prominent Manhattan law firm, and working in counterintelligence for the United States. Duncan Chaplin Lee was and did all of those things. He was a spy, and he got away with it.
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Edition for Educators—Black History Month: African-American Congressmen in Committee

The institution of Jim Crow laws in the late 1800s sharply limited the number of African Americans elected to Congress until passage of the Voting Rights Act in 1965. As voting reforms led to greater black political participation and more African-Americans being elected to Congress, Black Members began to establish seniority sufficient to attain chairmanships and better committee assignments.
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Wash, Rinse, and Equal Treatment

In December 1967 Representative Martha Griffiths stepped in to save a teetering but beloved decades-old institution known as the House Beauty Shop. What began as a makeover became a movement for equality on Capitol Hill.
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The “Mayor of Washington” and the Unexpected Portrait

The story of Representative Mary Norton’s portrait commemorating her stint as “Mayor of Washington” reflects Norton’s guiding ethos throughout her career. Commissioned by a group of notables from the District, and painted by local artist Elaine Hartley, the Norton portrait was executed in a spirit of community in appreciation, and in support of a fellow professional woman.
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“Congress Took No Further Action”: Women and the Right to Petition

In 1838, women in Brookline, Massachusetts, reacted with “astonishment and alarm” at the recently adopted gag rule, which tabled all antislavery petitions. They signed their names to a brief but searing petition to the U.S. House of Representatives. Read about this and other petitions sent by women to Congress requesting assistance with issues of both national and personal importance.
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Representing the President

In the spring of 1921, Republican Walter Folger Brown of Ohio, the chairman of Congress’s Joint Committee on the Reorganization of the Administrative Branch of the Government, began overhauling the size and shape of the federal bureaucracy. On paper, he seemed like a natural choice to lead Congress’s efforts to overhaul the government: a discreet business leader with progressive credentials from the key state of Ohio. A natural choice, that is, except for one detail: Brown was not a Member of Congress.
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