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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 35 results

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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Inside the Chamber on Opening Day

Every two years, as mandated in Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives starts a new legislative session, known as a Congress. Using longstanding precedent and a few highly visible artifacts, the House embarks on the pomp and ritual of its biennial Opening Day.

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A Proper Symbol of Office

The Mace of the House of Representatives
Wherever and whenever the U.S. House of Representatives meets, this historic artifact is there.
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Before the Flag

Workers affix the flag in the House Chamber
In 1929, the Capitol celebrated Flag Day with the United States Flag Association rolling out the (allegedly) largest flag in the world on the West Front, accompanied by an amplified, patriotic program. But what about the normal-sized, everyday flags in the Chamber? One might assume that its current spot— front and center, behind the Speaker on the rostrum—was always the case. However, there is no official protocol on flag display, so we turn to images from the House Collection to piece together the history of the flag in the House Chamber.
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Categories: House Chamber, Photographs, Art

(Congress)Men without Hats

British traveler Henry B. Fearon cast a critical gaze from the House Gallery across the frothy sea of nearly 200 Representatives of the 15th Congress (1817-1819). "Spitting boxes are placed at the feet of each member, and, contrary to the practices of the [Senate], members and visitors wear their hats."
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The Saga of “Sausage” Sawyer

In politics as in life, everyone discovers that they have to choose their battles, deciding when to fight and when to walk away. The lucky ones get to learn this lesson early and in private. Then there are others, like Ohio Representative William Sawyer.
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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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The Man in Black’s Tribute to the Ragged Old Flag

On June 14, 1977, the Man in Black strode into the House Chamber as if it were the stage of a country music hall. But music legend Johnny Cash wasn't about to belt out tunes for any ordinary concert. Rather, Cash delivered a moving poem to celebrate the bicentennial of the U.S. flag.
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Edition for Educators—Gaveling In

Declaration of War Gavel
This month’s Edition for Educators focuses on an everyday tool with a rich tradition in the history of the House of Representatives: the gavel. Gavels have special significance in the House, where they have many purposes: as instruments of order and decorum, as symbols of power, and sometimes as souvenirs. Each, in its own right, could tell a unique tale. Following are a few examples.
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To Be a Gallery God

“To be a gallery god in the House of Representatives is to have a free seat at a unique performance.” So said one newspaper, and for two centuries Americans have agreed, with gusto. The House Collection contains some of the oldest (and newest) varieties of gallery tickets, from scribbled passes to high-tech printed ones.
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Floor of the Floor

Installing New Carpet in 1938
Carpets have played an important role in interior design for both private and public buildings. Over two centuries, flooring decisions in the House have swung back and forth between form (symbolism, aesthetics, and glamour) and function (practicality, cost, and durability).
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Cloaked in Secrecy

Republican Cloakroom Telephone Message Note
The House Cloakrooms are simple, comfortable waystations where Members can wait between votes, escape for a snack, or conduct business with other Members.
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