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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 124 results

“Planting Laws and Institutions”: The Election of Representative John Quincy Adams

On November 6, 1830, former United States President John Quincy Adams spent the day at his family’s farm near Quincy, Massachusetts, planting trees. On the edge of what would become the orchard, he laid out five rows of chestnuts, oaks, and shagbark hickories. The final, casual line in Adams’s diary that day: “I am a member elect of the twenty-second Congress.”
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Henry Clay’s On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with the House

Henry Clay of Kentucky had one of the most superlative political careers in American history. A lawyer by training, Clay served in almost every level of government possible in the 19th century: the Kentucky state house of representatives, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the executive branch as Secretary of State. On top of that, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and ran for President three times over three decades on three different party tickets.
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A “Troublesome and Greatly Derided Custom” — Answering the Annual Message

During the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, the process of the State of the Union and its responses was more genteel and singular, but no less contentious than it is today. In the 1790s, both houses of Congress drafted, debated, and marched en masse to the President’s mansion to deliver a formal, unified response, addressing the important issues raised by the executive. That is, until one volatile Member of the House dared to wonder aloud what the fuss was all about.
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Edition for Educators—Statutory Representatives

This month’s Edition for Educators highlights statutory representatives in the House. Since its inception, Congress has contended with the Constitution’s silence on the issue of representation for U.S. territories. Over decades of improvisation, a system of “statutory representation” emerged that consisting of laws crafted by Congress and evolving procedural rules in the House to give territories a limited voice in the national legislature through the offices of the Territorial Delegate and the Resident Commissioner.
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Hollywood's Love Affair with Thaddeus Stevens

Pennsylvania’s Thaddeus Stevens, gaunt, grim, and badly bewigged, would appear to be a poor candidate for the silver screen. Yet, he has appeared as a major character in three movies, each of which portrayed him in a different light.
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Categories: Members of Congress, War

“Who Do You Represent?”

In March 1971 the 13 African-American Members of the U.S. House of Representatives founded the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), declaring their intention to reshape policy, legislation, and the nature of representation on Capitol Hill. For the first time, black Members worked together to draft an agenda for African-American communities across the nation.
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Unbought and Unbossed

Shirley Chisholm
Trailblazer, committee member, presidential candidate. Photographs from the House Collection show the path of Shirley Chisholm, the first African-American woman in Congress.
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Taking the Steps: Unity and Recovery After 9/11

On the evening of September 11, 2001, congressional leadership prepared to make their first collective response to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon hours earlier. Members of Congress assembled on the Capitol steps to join leaders in a public demonstration of unity. Broadcast across the country, it became a powerful image of bipartisan cooperation and resolve, ending with an impromptu rendition of “God Bless America.” This gathering became a symbol of national unity in the ensuing weeks and months.
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Father Knows Best

Shortly after noon on an unseasonably mild Thursday in late February 1842, a hush fell over the House as the venerable John Quincy Adams creakily arose from his chair. Just weeks earlier, the House had considered censuring the gray-haired Massachusetts Congressman whom many knew as Old Man Eloquent to punish him for manufacturing a crippling debate about the evils of slavery. But on this day Adams eulogized North Carolina’s Lewis Williams, whom colleagues revered as the “Father of the House”—the Member with the longest continuous service.
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I Can Vote for War

Declaration of War Against Germany
Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, gained notoriety through the accidents of history. A confirmed pacifist, her two widely separated terms in the House put her in the position of voting against U.S. participation in both World War I (April 6, 1917) and World War II (December 8, 1941). But there was another vote...
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Close-Up and Personal

Representative William Atkeson
Congressional photographic portraits serve an important function—recording an image of a Member for history. They can also surprise the viewer with their beauty. Harris & Ewing, a Washington, D.C., photography studio, produced luminous congressional photographs that are worth a closer look.
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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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