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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

“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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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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Adjournment Fever

House Pages Throw Paper in the Air
Finishing the legislative session in the summer used to be a yearly occurrence, with its own traditions. Members tried to guess the correct date of adjournment, sweltered through the final bills of summer, then sang into the night. Before Congress headed home for the season, these congressional traditions were recorded in photographs and oral histories.
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An Ode to Poetry at the Capitol

Consultant in Poetry Elizabeth Bishop Writing with a View of the Capitol
During a Joint Meeting honoring the bicentennial of Congress in 1989, Minority Leader Robert Michel suggested that what Congress needed during the celebration was “not more congressional prose, but the fiery, living truth of great poetry.”
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“As Large as Life”: Lafayette's Portrait

What becomes a military legend most? For the Marquis de Lafayette, dashing hero of the American Revolution, the portrait now in the House Chamber was just the thing. Arriving from France in 1824, it was a huge hit across the nation. Becoming the most famous image of Lafayette during his wide-ranging tour of the United States that same year, the portrait appeared on posters, memorabilia, and even on currency.
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Categories: House Chamber, Art

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

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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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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(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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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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Edition for Educators—The House Chamber

Since 1789, the House of Representatives has met in a number of locations. But regardless of the setting, the House Chamber has always been a storied space. Since the House first met in closing years of the eighteenth century, thousands of men and women from all corners of the country have filled its seats to debate legislation and shape the rhythms of American life. Today, the modern House Chamber, which first opened in 1857, can often seem to be two things at once: intimidating but also welcoming, imposing but also familiar. This Edition for Educators highlights the spaces which have served as the meeting place for the People’s House.
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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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