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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 32 results

Notes from Underground, Part II: The Rayburn Subway

Bud Shuster and Jack Schenendorf Riding the Rayburn Subway
When the dust settled after construction of the first House and Senate Office Buildings, only the Senate had a subway line. Representatives had to wait—and walk—until the Rayburn House Office Building opened in 1965.
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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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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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Bringing Electronic Votes to Congress

Detail of a Letter from Otis G. Pike to Samuel N. Friedel
On January 23, 1973, Members counted down to the conclusion of the historic first electronic vote, which would shift House voting procedures into the 20th century. However, this moment almost failed to launch.
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The “So Very Peculiar” Case of Sarah Seelye

Sarah Seelye's Application for Back Pay
Sarah Seelye lived a seemingly ordinary life in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1882. But as her health started to falter at age 43, she realized past adventures were catching up to her. Getting help meant revealing a decades-old secret to Congress: she illegally served in the Union army disguised as a man.
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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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“I Told Everything I Know”: Patty Duke’s Secret Testimony to Congress

Patty Duke
“I was involved, deeply involved, in a deception.” With those words to a congressional committee, the house of cards built by the producers and sponsors of popular televised quiz shows tumbled at last.
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Americans Can’t Can

Can All You Can Poster
Housewives and gardeners hurried from store to store during the summer of 1975 only to find the shelves devoid of one item on their shopping lists: canning lids. Desperate to preserve their fruits and vegetables before they rotted on the vine, the people turned to Congress for help.
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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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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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Railroaded to Congress

“East and West Shaking Hands at the Laying of the Last Rail” Photograph
Grenville Dodge loathed being on Capitol Hill. He much preferred exploring the western wilderness, scoping out the path of the transcontinental railroad. No oath of office could keep him from it.
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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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