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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

Reporting Live from the House Chamber

Press Gallery Pass
Reporters have covered the House from its earliest days, providing a vital link between the people and their Representatives.
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(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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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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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

Thanking the Troops

When the first cannon shots of the Civil War landed on Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor on April 12, 1861, the Abraham Lincoln administration confronted a rebellion against the United States and an urgent security problem in the nation’s capital. When Virginia seceded from the Union on April 17, only the Potomac River separated Washington from the hostile ambitions of the Confederacy. In those anxious April days the city was—in President Lincoln’s own words—“put into a condition of siege.”
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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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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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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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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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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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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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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