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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 13–24 of 28 results

Jeannette Rankin for Senate

Representative Jeannette Rankin of Montana earned a permanent place in U.S. history by becoming the first woman elected to Congress. She served two non-consecutive terms and became the only person to vote against America’s entry into both World War I in 1917 and World War II in 1941. Her political career ended with her lone vote against war on December 8, 1941, as the U.S. Pacific Fleet burned at Pearl Harbor.
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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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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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“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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Please Pass the Gavel

Bob Michel
During his nearly four decade career in Congress, Republican Leader Bob Michel of Illinois had only one chance to preside over the House. Ironically, his short-lived time in the Speaker’s chair came when the Democrats held the majority and because his colleague Speaker Tom Foley of Washington decided that Michel had waited long enough to wield the gavel.
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Post It

Clarence MacGregor Campaign Poster
The modern congressional campaign poster is a familiar sight, but it is nothing like the ones plastered all over town a century ago.
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

Rolling Billboards

It started simply enough, a hundred years ago. Americans bought cars. Americans loved cars. And Americans loved politics. So, it seemed almost inevitable that automobiles became rolling billboards for their owners’ favorite candidates. Representatives cheerfully provided different auto accessories, which became a favorite method for taking the campaign on the road.

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Tabbing through Congress

If your signature look is a black bow tie, and if you are a candidate for Congress, do you want your campaign buttons to look like bow ties? Of course!
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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

The Apportionment Act of 1842: Legal, When Convenient

The debate in Congress over the Apportionment Act of 1842 had been brutal, and foes of the bill remained steadfast in their opposition. For 18 months, from Tyler’s signing statement in the summer of 1842 to the opening of the 28th Congress (1843–1845) in December 1843, the question lingered: Was the Apportionment Act law or merely a suggestion?
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The Last Will and Testament of a Lame Duck

Clifford K. Berryman Lame Duck Cartoon
It’s not a hunting term. Nor is it a cooking experiment gone wrong. It’s a phrase often bandied about after an election: the “lame duck,” or departing politician who returns to office for the remainder of his or her term after the November elections. It can be an awkward position, but one in which at least one woman Member found creative inspiration.
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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