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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 34 results

How the House Almost Added a 13th Month

On February 9, 1922, the House Judiciary Committee held a brief hearing on a long subject: the passage of time, and how America kept track of it. Specifically, the committee met to hear from a handful of witnesses about a bill that would have created the “Liberty Calendar,” a uniform new annual calendar—13 months of 28 days divided evenly into four weeks—that supporters argued would make timekeeping more efficient and help meet the demands of the twentieth century.
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Categories: Legislation, Committees

“Every Right and Every Privilege”: Oscar De Priest and Segregation in the House Restaurant

Oscar De Priest Discharge Petition
Oscar De Priest entered the 71st Congress as the only African American in the House of Representatives. Throughout his political career, De Priest confronted racial discrimination, including in the Capitol itself as a Member of Congress.
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Time Travel: Daylight Saving Time and the House

When first-term Representative Leon Sacks of Pennsylvania introduced H.R. 6546 on April 21, 1937, the Earth did not stop spinning. Time did not stand still.

But it almost did.

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Categories: Legislation, War

Edition for Educators—Statehood

This month’s Edition for Educators focuses on the often-complex process of attaining statehood through the lens of the House of Representatives.
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A Capital Game

Lobby: A Capital Game Board
“Here’s your chance to be a Congressman!” an advertisement read. In 1949, Milton Bradley introduced Lobby: A Capital Game, a board game meant to be both educational and fun. However, legislation and lobbying may not have been quite as entertaining as the toymaker expected.
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Legislating the Liquor Law—Prohibition and the House

Summers in Washington, DC, are always hot, but the dog days of 1919 were particularly heated as Congress held ongoing debates over how best to enforce a ban on the sale and transportation of alcohol in a sweeping new policy known as prohibition.
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The Waste Basket Committee

For his maiden speech in the 69th Congress (1925–1927), Representative Robert Alexis “Lex” Green, as he was known, chose to take on his own party, arguing against an inheritance tax that would affect his aging Florida constituents. House Democratic leaders responded to his impudence by assigning him to the most “prosaic” of committees: the Committee on Disposition of Useless Executive Papers.
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Congress and the Women’s Suffrage Movement

Petition for Woman Suffrage
Women’s suffrage did not take a year, or 10 years, or even 50 years to accomplish. These documents show one aspect of the movement: the institutional perspective of Congress and how citizens and advocacy groups interacted with Congress regarding the right of suffrage for women, as well as the amendment’s passage by Congress.
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“Why Not Have it Constitutionally?”: Race, Gender, and the Nineteenth Amendment

On May 21, 1919, Representative James Mann of Illinois, the bespectacled, gray-bearded, 62-year-old former Republican Leader, made an announcement from the House Floor, cementing a change in American history that had been building for decades. “I call up House joint resolution No. 1, proposing an amendment to the Constitution extending the right of suffrage to women,” he said, “and ask that the resolution be reported.”
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The Apportionment Act of 1842: “In All Cases, By District”

In April 1842, the United States House of Representatives began what could arguably be called the first reorganization process—the first spring cleaning, as it were—in Congress’ history. The size of the House had increased steadily since 1789, and as required by the Constitution it had adjusted its Membership every 10 years following the Census in a process called reapportionment. In a decision that shaped the makeup of the House for decades, Congress broke with 50 years of precedent to make two dramatic and substantial changes: it shrunk the size of the House for the first time in U.S. history, and standardized what we would recognize as the modern congressional district.
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Categories: Legislation, Elections

A Great Disaster

Homecoming–Kaw Valley Lithograph
In October 1951, every Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate received an unusual petition in the mail from an artist named Thomas Hart Benton.
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Sick Days

Shortly after noon on Friday, October 11, 1918, Martin D. Foster of Illinois anxiously asked for permission to speak on the floor. The six-term Congressman, who’d been a small-town doctor in down-state Illinois, was still digesting the latest grim reports about the rapid spread of the lethal Spanish influenza outbreak. What Foster had read alarmed him.
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Categories: Legislation