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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

Weekend at Woodrow’s

Early in the afternoon on Saturday, July 20, 1912, more than 100 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, all of them Democrats, got off the train in Sea Girt, New Jersey, and walked down the dusty road toward Woodrow Wilson’s summer cottage. Wilson had recently accepted the Democratic presidential nomination, and he’d been entertaining political visits at his seaside home ever since.
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Categories: Presidents, Elections

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

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

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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Edition for Educators—Elections

Nathaniel Banks
Constitutionally mandated to be the “People’s House,” the House of Representatives has always been elected directly by the voters bienially.
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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 Unlucky Seventh

Abraham Lincoln
If you studied Latin in school you may recall the phrase, “Omne trium perfectum” (every set of three is complete). From history to pop culture, trios make for interesting stories. Ancient Rome had Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony. The antebellum Senate boasted its Great Triumvirate—Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. The Bee Gees laid down the beat for 1970s disco goers. Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spellbound a later generation. The Illinois Seventh Congressional District of the 1840s spawned its own memorable political trio: John J. Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Abraham Lincoln.
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"20 Little Salesmen"

Not so long ago, match companies touted “the smashing advertising power of book matches!” as the best way to light a fire under voters. Budget-conscious candidates agreed. Low cost and wide use turned a set of strikes into “20 little salesmen” for congressional candidates.
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

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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Fandom

Before air conditioning, portable, collapsible, and durable handheld fans were a necessity in the hot months. For congressional candidates, summertime made fans the perfect giveaway at parades, rallies, and “any kind of places where people congregate regularly in hot weather,” as one proponent noted. The House Collection contains breezemakers from a century’s worth of sweltering campaigns.
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Get Out the Vote

An Official Ballot Dropped into a Ballot Box
After months of political advertisements and debates, citizens turn out to elect their Representatives on Election Day. Incumbent and hopeful Members of Congress also show up at the polls in their home districts, casting a ballot (presumably) for themselves. Three photographs from the House Collection show past Representatives in the act of voting, while also posing for a good photo op.
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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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