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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 39 results

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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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

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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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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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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“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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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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