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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 74 results

Do Me a Favor

Detail of a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Joe Cannon
In 1994, an Appropriations Committee staffer discovered an old wooden trunk tucked away in the attic of the Cannon House Office Building. The trunk, it turned out, contained letters older than the building itself and belonged to none other than the powerful Speaker of the House, Joe Cannon.
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Experience, Wisdom, Knowledge . . . Before Twenty-Five

In July 1797, a young southern judge named William Charles Cole Claiborne penned an enthusiastic letter to one of his political mentors, then-Representative Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Claiborne had his eyes set on serving in Congress. With only two months until the general election in October, and with Jackson leaving for the Senate, Claiborne was eager to win election to Jackson’s soon-to-be vacant seat in the House of Representatives. There was, however, one potentially very large problem: Claiborne was not more than 22 years old.
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Lady Luck and the Office Lottery

Thomas Steed's Office
New Members-elect crowd into a committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building, plunging into the centuries-old struggle over real estate known as the office lottery.
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Edition for Educators—Following the Rules

The U.S. House of Representatives is governed by an ever-expanding matrix of rules and precedents, procedural compass points that have been accumulating every year since the very first Congress in 1789. The Constitution says little about the internal governing structure of the House other than that it “may determine the Rules of its Proceedings.” That vague allowance enables the House to create and maintain both its legislative processes and rules guiding the personal behavior of its Members.
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Reporting Live from the House Chamber

Press Gallery Pass
Reporters have covered the House from its earliest days, providing a vital link between the people and their Representatives.
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“As the Game Goes So Goes the Election” . . . or Not

James Mead at Bat
“As the game goes so goes the election,” predicted the cover of the 1932 Congressional Baseball Game program.
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Luaus to Lusitania

On the near-cloudless Monday morning of May 3, 1915, the steamer Sierra floated on an untroubled sea off the coast of Honolulu, the lush capital of the Territory of Hawaii. On deck, 125 people outfitted in white linen suits and dresses—among them 48 Members of Congress—polished off breakfast and prepared to disembark for what most hoped would be a tropical vacation. From the harbor, five launches sailed out to meet them, carrying a welcoming committee comprised of the Royal Hawaiian band, lei greeters, the mayor of Honolulu, the leadership of the territorial legislature, and Hawaiian Delegate Jonah “Prince Kuhio” Kalanianaole.
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Wooden Sword, Spitting Lyon

For several weeks in early 1798 legislative business in the U.S. House of Representatives slowed to a crawl as the relatively young chamber grappled with a quandary both uncharted and unpleasant: whether and how to discipline its Members for unacceptable behavior.
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A Proper Symbol of Office

The Mace of the House of Representatives
Wherever and whenever the U.S. House of Representatives meets, this historic artifact is there.
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Home at the House

Mrs. Smith with Pages
For more than two centuries, Pages assisted Representatives with errands, relaying messages, and other tasks. Early on, Members appointed Pages from the Washington area, but by the 20th century, most were selected from congressional districts around the country. When teenaged Pages came to Washington, they often made their temporary home in a residence like Olive Smith’s house.
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Mourning in the Chamber

The Funeral of Edward W. Pou
The House Chamber is known as a space for discourse and debate, but it also has a more somber history. From 1820 to 1940, the Chamber served as the setting for the funerals of some sitting Members. Learn more about this tradition through four photographs from the House Collection.
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Sit and Stay for a Portrait

A Capitol dome, an American flag, and a “part bichon frise and part some other things?” Such symbols of leadership and personality occupy prominent positions in House committee chairman portraits.

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