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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 13–24 of 31 results

Please Pass the Gavel

Bob Michel
During his nearly four decade career in Congress, Republican Leader Bob Michel of Illinois had only one chance to preside over the House. Ironically, his short-lived time in the Speaker’s chair came when the Democrats held the majority and because his colleague Speaker Tom Foley of Washington decided that Michel had waited long enough to wield the gavel.
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Being Seen and Heard—A Tantalizing Prospect

Clifford Berryman's Political Cartoon
A parliamentary insult hurled at a Republican freshman had the effect of briefly banding his colleagues into a memorable (and merry) bloc.
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Topping Uncle Joe

Joseph Cannon in his topper
Just an accessory? Maybe not. At a time when men’s hats spoke volumes about their personalities and status, Speaker Joseph Cannon’s headwear, including slouch hats, straw hats, and an “ancient woolly topper,” proved a potent symbol of his iron power, strong personality, and folksy manner.
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The Speaker Inquisition of 1856

Shortly before seven o’clock in the evening, on Saturday, February 2, 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, strode to the well of the House, climbed the rostrum’s few steps to the Speaker’s chair, and sat down. He paused for a moment. With his thick dark hair swept to one side and a prominent mustache obscuring his upper lip, Banks then stood to address his colleagues.
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Edition for Educators—Speakers of the House

This Edition for Educators highlights the Speaker of the House. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” The Speaker acts as leader of the House and combines several roles, including the institutional role of the presiding officer of the House, the partisan leader of the majority party, and the representative role of an elected Member of Congress.
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What's in the Speaker's Office?

Increased space, more frequent visits by foreign dignitaries, and the demand for news photos spurred development of what is today known as the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office. The room was part of the 1857 Capitol extension and is furnished to suit the Victorian style with pieces from the House Collection.
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The Many Depictions of Thomas Brackett Reed

On October 18th we wished Thomas Brackett Reed, accomplished and admired three-time Speaker of the House of Representatives, a happy 177th birthday!
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Categories: Speakers of the House, Art

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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Edition for Educators—Thomas Brackett Reed

This Edition for Educators highlights the always quotable Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine.
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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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Edition for Educators—House Leadership

This Edition for Educators highlights House Leadership. The U.S. Constitution offers spare guidance as to how House leadership should be organized, noting only that the Membership “shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” By the early 20th century, each of the major parties gradually created entire organizations to advance their legislative agendas in the House.
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A Message Too Far: The House Reprimands President Roosevelt

Laughter flooded the House Chamber, rising from both sides of the floor and cascading down from the crowded galleries. Atop the marble rostrum Speaker Joseph G. Cannon of Illinois, looking to regain order, banged his gavel so hard that he cracked the top of his desk. The cause of this ruckus stood frozen at the chamber’s entrance looking bewildered and embarrassed—a House Doorkeeper and a White House clerk who had just interrupted debate with an announcement from President Theodore Roosevelt.
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