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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

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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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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“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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A Great Disaster

Homecoming–Kaw Valley Lithograph
In October 1951, every Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate received an unusual petition in the mail from an artist named Thomas Hart Benton.
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A Committee of One

For his entire adult life, Walter F. Brown dutifully climbed the career ladder in Toledo, Ohio, building a law firm, running businesses, and branching out into Republican politics at the state and local level. In 1920, he even ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, only to lose in the GOP primary. It was a comfortable, fully successful life, but unremarkable in the sense that an untold number of men like Walter F. Brown lived in an untold number of American towns like Toledo.
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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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“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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“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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Do Me a Favor

Detail of a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Joe Cannon
In 1994, an Appropriations Committee staffer discovered an old wooden trunk tucked away in the attic of the Cannon House Office Building. The trunk, it turned out, contained letters older than the building itself and belonged to none other than the powerful Speaker of the House, Joe Cannon.
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