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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 25–36 of 37 results

Take a Seat

For more than a century, a desk in the House Chamber was a Member’s office. He stowed his hat beneath his chair, wrote and stored papers in the writing desk, and occasionally propped his feet up to listen to debate. Why did picking one's desk matter?
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Mr. Silversmith Goes to Washington

Once upon a time, a young man came to Washington. He wasn’t sophisticated, but he had loads of ambition. He was destined to leave his mark on Congress. No, it wasn’t Jimmy Stewart's fictional character arriving in 1939 to clean up the corrupt Senate in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.
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Vent Elation

Cooler Summers
“No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.” Speaker of the House John Nance Garner spent 30 years in Congress, and he knew to get out of town ahead of the wilting summer weather. Washington in July and August is a desperately swampy place. Then one day in 1928, “manufactured weather” arrived in the House of Representatives’ Chamber.
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“Firecrackers” in the House Chamber

“It sounded like a package of firecrackers were lit and set off, but with the ricochet, in my mind, it identified it as a shot, so I hit the floor very quickly,” House Page and future Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania recalled. When the House convened on March 1, 1954, no one would have imagined the danger awaiting Members and staff. Within a matter of moments, normal House proceedings turned to uncertainty and chaos. During the past decade, the Office of the Historian interviewed eyewitnesses to the House shooting. Sixty years later, we can glean what happened through the eyes of four of these interviewees.
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I've Scalped Him?

In the early morning hours of February 6, 1858, a fight erupted between South Carolina Fire-Eater Laurence Keitt and Republican abolitionist Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. As Members from each side joined the fray, Wisconsin Representative John F. Potter, the “Western Hercules,” snatched the toupee from atop Mississippi Representative William Barksdale’s head and the House erupted in laughter at the absurdity. “Horray, boys! I’ve got his scalp!” shouted Potter with perfect rhetorical flourish. Or so we thought.
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What's Buzzing in the Chamber?

There’s a funny-looking push button on desks that sat in the House Chamber from 1877 to 1913. Why would a Member of Congress need to ring a doorbell at his desk?
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Categories: House Chamber, Art, Artifacts

Edition for Educators – The Old Hall of the House of Representatives

It’s a room that opened shortly after the Republic’s birth, was burned by marauding British forces during some of Washington’s darkest days, witnessed passage of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and even hosted a backbencher Illinois Congressman named Abraham Lincoln. The Old Hall of the House of Representatives had a cherished place in House history even before it housed marble and bronze likenesses of a host of prominent Americans in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
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Carnation Nation

It was the opening day of Congress, and all the popular men had flowers on their desks. “Floral tributes,” enormous congratulatory bouquets, made their way into the House Chamber on the first day of each session of Congress from the 1870s until 1905. Pages and messengers staggered in with vase after vase.
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Weathering Washington by Watching the Weather

Before there were smart phones equipped with weather apps, news anchors in front of green screens, or radar for tracking storms, Members of the House still wanted the latest weather forecasts. And for a century, the weather map in the Members' Retiring Room—just outside the House Chamber—became a social nexus for Members and House staff alike, many of whom wanted to know the conditions back home.
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Getting a Foot in the (Chamber) Door

When newly elected Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau of Puerto Rico, the first Member of Congress from the island territory, began his service in the 57th Congress (1901–1903), the media treated him with attentive curiosity. But despite the fanfare and expression of goodwill, Degetau remained unwelcome in the one place that served as the legislature’s nerve center: the House Floor.
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“A Bevy of Ladies”

Today, Capitol police officers direct some visitors in the House Chamber through a door marked “Ladies’ Gallery.” Men and women sit there, and always have. So why call it the Ladies’ Gallery?
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Were There Any Witnesses? Segregation in the House Visitors’ Gallery

Were African Americans in attendance to witness the legislative debates that shaped their freedom? Well, yes and no. The nation barred them from citizenship and service as Members of Congress until the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868, but barring African Americans, slave or free, from the Capitol has a murkier history.
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