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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 27 results

“Planting Laws and Institutions”: The Election of Representative John Quincy Adams

On November 6, 1830, former United States President John Quincy Adams spent the day at his family’s farm near Quincy, Massachusetts, planting trees. On the edge of what would become the orchard, he laid out five rows of chestnuts, oaks, and shagbark hickories. The final, casual line in Adams’s diary that day: “I am a member elect of the twenty-second Congress.”
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Henry Clay’s On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with the House

Henry Clay of Kentucky had one of the most superlative political careers in American history. A lawyer by training, Clay served in almost every level of government possible in the 19th century: the Kentucky state house of representatives, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the executive branch as Secretary of State. On top of that, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and ran for President three times over three decades on three different party tickets.
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From Candidate to Congresswoman

Early on November 7, 1916, households with telephones in Montana received a call. “Good morning! Have you voted for Jeannette Rankin?”
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The Apportionment Act of 1842: “In All Cases, By District”

In April 1842, the United States House of Representatives began what could arguably be called the first reorganization process—the first spring cleaning, as it were—in Congress’ history. The size of the House had increased steadily since 1789, and as required by the Constitution it had adjusted its Membership every 10 years following the Census in a process called reapportionment. In a decision that shaped the makeup of the House for decades, Congress broke with 50 years of precedent to make two dramatic and substantial changes: it shrunk the size of the House for the first time in U.S. history, and standardized what we would recognize as the modern congressional district.
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Categories: Legislation, Elections

“Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm

Since its first publication in 1951, Jet magazine had been on the forefront covering news and issues important to its African-American readership. Widely popular for its commentary on politics, culture, and the lives of everyday people, Jet posed a question in June 1971 that would soon prove prophetic: “Should a Black Politician Run for President?”
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Obstacles and Opportunities: The Experiences of Two Women Members on the Campaign Trail

Since the 1970s, women candidates running for Congress have increasingly carved out more opportunities and built new coalitions. The Office of the Historian conducted interviews with several former women Members who traveled distinct routes to Capitol Hill. Two seemingly disparate stories from the early 1990s highlight how far women candidates have come since Rankin first won election more than 100 years ago.
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Edition for Educators—Districts

Massachusetts Speaker Tip O’Neill once said, “All politics is local.” With elections held every two years, the House of Representatives is designed to be immediately answerable to its constituents. Members typically seek to gain committee assignments that align with their districts’ interests and frequently return home to connect with voters. This Edition for Educators focuses on congressional districts and how their unique needs influence the Members who represent them.
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A Womanly Woman with Womanly Ambitions

On June 1, 1917, Jeannette Rankin penned a letter to her Montana constituents articulating her frustration with some recent media coverage. “No doubt you have read in the papers about my ‘red hair’ and ‘sending the fathers to war’ and other inventions of the eastern press. I wish you were here to see Congress working and to know the true facts,” she wrote. After all, she didn’t have red hair and she voted against American intervention in World War I.
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The Original “Year of the Woman”

The woman suffrage campaign appeared to begin 1916 in rough shape. Beyond internal drama among suffragists, however, widely scattered action was taking place at the grassroots. Over the course of 1916 numerous women candidates were seeking election to Congress, and several had entered major-party primaries that now dominated candidate selection throughout the country. Jeannette Rankin was far from alone.
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The Life and Times of a Campaign Button

Each election cycle, campaign buttons bloom on voters’ lapels like flowers in spring. These bright badges come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and boast catchy slogans such as “We Love Lindy.” Campaign buttons made their debut on the trail in the late 1890s with the advent of a new material called celluloid.
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

What Killed the Political Ribbon?

Ribbons that declared "The Winner." Ribbons for the "Peter J. Dooling Association." Ribbons mourning a dead Speaker of the House. Once, they were all the rage. Then, in the 1890s, a single innovation changed everything. Political ribbons went from reigning supreme as the most portable, wearable, and popular campaign decoration to being a deposed monarch of politicking, exiled to conventions and party dinners. What happened?
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

Palm Reading

Errett Scrivner Palm Card Detail
A palm card is possibly the simplest piece of congressional campaign literature: a single piece of cardstock containing information about a candidate. In scores of congressional races from 1900 to 1960, palm cards were also the smallest pieces of literature in a campaign’s toolbox.
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