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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 132 results

“Here will I hold my stand”: James Tallmadge Jr. and the Fight to Stop the Spread of Slavery

As a young man, James Tallmadge of New York challenged policymakers to uphold the principles of equality in the Declaration and make real a world devoid of slavery. Two decades later, when Tallmadge was one of those policymakers, he turned away from idealism of his youth and toward the legal might of the Constitution to limit slavery’s spread.
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An Interbranch Brawl

In 1915, a year after World War I engulfed the European continent, Democrat Frank Buchanan of Illinois declared that he was willing to go to any length to stop the United States from getting drawn into the conflict. Within months, however, the Congressman found himself in a little war of his own, not against a foreign adversary but with his own Justice Department.
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Space Oddity

Don Fuqua
Five paintings in the House Collection show how Science Committee chairs shared national enthusiasm for extraterrestrial exploration and embedded allusions to America’s space program in their portraits.
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Too Fast Too Furious: Uncle Joe Gets Driven Out

On March 15, 1910, House Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois suffered a rare legislative setback when 14 of his fellow Republicans joined Democrats to cut funding for the routine maintenance of his official government automobile. By all appearances, it seemed like a minor, personal rebuke. But in this case, it foreshadowed a much larger problem for one of the most powerful Speakers in American history.
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The Superhero Style of Robert Smalls

Drawings of Robert Smalls from Golden Legacy
A dramatic backstory helped to launch Robert Smalls’s congressional career in the 1870s. A century later, the daring ship captain and Civil War hero’s story reappeared in the public eye as the subject of a volume of Golden Legacy, a comic book format Black history series for children.
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Fast and Furious I: Danville Drift

In 1909 Congress appropriated money specifically to purchase automobiles for the President; only months later, it considered providing the Speaker and the Vice President with similar funding. But not every Member believed the government should spend public money on what would essentially be a private car, and not every Member wanted to give Joe Cannon such a generous perk.
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Edition for Educators—Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina

For Black History Month, this Edition for Educators celebrates the life and career of Representative Joseph Hayne Rainey.
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“By Any Fair Means”: Joseph H. Rainey’s Contested Elections

Joseph Rainey Certificate of Election
When Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina served in the House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 as its first Black Representative, the political inroads made during Reconstruction by Blacks in the South started to disintegrate rapidly. The contested election was weaponized as a method of excluding African Americans from representation in Congress.
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Palm Reading

Errett Scrivner Palm Card Detail
A palm card is possibly the simplest piece of congressional campaign literature: a single piece of cardstock containing information about a candidate. In scores of congressional races from 1900 to 1960, palm cards were also the smallest pieces of literature in a campaign’s toolbox.
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The Fallout

Medical Kit C
In 2015, House curators carefully unpacked water purification tablets, surgical soap, gauze pads, and a toothache remedy from Medical Kit C. The large cardboard box and the basic medical supplies it contained are artifacts of Cold War–era Washington, when the threat of nuclear attack hung over the country, and officials stockpiled emergency food, water, and medicine across the Capitol complex.
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“Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm

Since its first publication in 1951, Jet magazine had been on the forefront covering news and issues important to its African-American readership. Widely popular for its commentary on politics, culture, and the lives of everyday people, Jet posed a question in June 1971 that would soon prove prophetic: “Should a Black Politician Run for President?”
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Notes from Underground, Part I: The Book Tunnel

Detail of the Tunnel in an Architectural Plan
For more than a century, a tunnel ran between the Capitol and the Library of Congress to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. Using iron rails, electricity, and an endless cable, the underground shaft automatically shuttled books to Members of Congress. “There is nothing like it in this country or, so far as known, in any other,” the Washington Post told readers in 1895.
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