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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 37 results

“Female Cranks” and “Gallery Girls”

There once was a room in the Capitol that no longer exists—the Ladies’ Reception Room. Well-dressed young women, stouthearted activists, and despairing widows filled its sofas and chairs in the 19th century. Long before women entered the House Chamber as Representatives, this space was a battleground in the clash over women’s “proper” role in politics.
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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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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

Ten Trumpets and a Flying Coffin

What did it take to be heard in the House of Representatives? Acoustics were notoriously bad in the House Chamber in the early 20th century. Getting from “wait, what?” to “loud and clear” required three tries, ten trumpets, and a flying coffin.
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Categories: House Chamber, Photographs

(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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Photography’s Ghosts

1913 electoral vote count
What’s that in the back of the House Chamber? Is the camera out of focus, or could there be a ghost in the Capitol?
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Categories: House Chamber, Photographs

(Stereo)View the House in 3-D

Anaglyph Version of House Chamber Stereoview
“A new optical instrument, called the Stereoscope, is attracting much attention,” wrote the Baltimore Sun in 1852. The apparatus worked with special images, called stereoviews. Seen through the stereoscope, these prints appeared shockingly three-dimensional. No need for 19th century technology. Now you can put on your 3-D glasses to explore the history of this format and take a new look at House Collection stereoviews.
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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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Wheelchairs, Ramps, and a Scooter Named “Lulu”

In the House of Representatives, accessibility was a subject of consideration on the House Floor in the first half of the 20th century, many decades before Rep. Tony Coelho introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1989. Wheelchairs, scooters, and ramps were known to be used in the Chamber and around the Capitol as early as 1881. Photographs from the House Collection document the history of accessibility in the House Chamber.
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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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