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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 37 results

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

“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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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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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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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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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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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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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

“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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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

Can I Have this Dance?

Support the American Square Dance Logo
In 1973, American square dancers tried to call the tune with the House of Representatives, urging it to act quickly on legislation near and dear to their hearts. “What’s the hold up? Get busy now. Let’s not wait any longer,” one demanded. “We’re still waiting for some results,” another pressed, concerned that a years-long petition drive to enshrine the uniquely American folk dance was proceeding more like a slow waltz than an up-tempo jig.
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Centennial of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau

Detail of a Petition to Establish a Bureau of Labor for Women
The Women’s Bureau of the Department of Labor, created by Congress 100 years ago on June 5, 1920, still exists today. Established at a time when women were moving into the workforce but were still months away from having the right to vote, the Women’s Bureau studied and advocated for working women.
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