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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 40 results

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House

Representative Charles F. Reavis of Nebraska
In our age of voluminous email traffic and cluttered inboxes, it’s easy to overlook certain correspondence and even misplace particular documents. Things get lost in the shuffle, we say. It happens. But as the White House demonstrated in 1920, it’s been happening for longer than we might imagine, and well before the advent of email.
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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

“Go All The Way”

In January 1977, the U.S. House of Representatives began a long-term plan to win back the confidence of the American people.
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“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

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

A Committee of One

For his entire adult life, Walter F. Brown dutifully climbed the career ladder in Toledo, Ohio, building a law firm, running businesses, and branching out into Republican politics at the state and local level. In 1920, he even ran for a seat in the U.S. Senate, only to lose in the GOP primary. It was a comfortable, fully successful life, but unremarkable in the sense that an untold number of men like Walter F. Brown lived in an untold number of American towns like Toledo.
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Jeannette Rankin and the Women's Suffrage Amendment

It was no accident—nor mere symbolism—that on January 10, 1918, a woman led the effort on the floor of the U.S. House to pass the landmark resolution for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The first such proposal had been introduced in Congress almost 50 years earlier, but it was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve on Capitol Hill, who steadily built support in the House for women's voting rights throughout the 65th Congress (1917–1919).
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Representing the President

In the spring of 1921, Republican Walter Folger Brown of Ohio, the chairman of Congress’s Joint Committee on the Reorganization of the Administrative Branch of the Government, began overhauling the size and shape of the federal bureaucracy. On paper, he seemed like a natural choice to lead Congress’s efforts to overhaul the government: a discreet business leader with progressive credentials from the key state of Ohio. A natural choice, that is, except for one detail: Brown was not a Member of Congress.
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Rising up in the House—Part II:
The House Debates the “Irish Question”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to denounce German aggression. Dramatically abandoning his commitment to neutrality, he urged Congress to declare war on Imperial Germany to “make the world safe for democracy.” Wilson emphasized that the United States must undertake a principled intervention in the war in order to protect the right of self-determination for small nations. When Congress passed a war declaration on April 6, Members seized the moment to revive the issue of Irish independence, which had failed to gain traction in the House a year earlier when Missouri Representative Leonidas C. Dyer insisted that Congress support the Easter Rising.
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Categories: Legislation, War

Rising up in the House—Part I:
Rep. Dyer and the Irish Rebellion of 1916

On April 24, 1916, Irish republicans took up arms against the British government in what became known as the Easter Rising. They seized the General Post Office in Dublin and distributed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which affirmed the right of the Irish people to form an independent government and claimed the support of Ireland’s “exiled children in America.” The Irish insurgency, and the British response to it, both captivated and appalled the U.S. public—including Congress.
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Categories: Legislation, War