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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 29 results

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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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—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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A Mob in Search of a Speaker

Robert M. T. Hunter
During the chaotic first two weeks of the 26th Congress (1839–1841) in December 1839, three separate men presided over the House of Representatives: Clerk Hugh Garland of the previous Congress, Representative John Quincy Adams of Massachusetts in an entirely invented position, and finally Robert M. T. Hunter of Virginia, the youngest Speaker of the House ever to hold the office.
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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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Edition for Educators – Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois

Speaker Joe Cannon
Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution states: “The House of Representatives shall chuse their Speaker and other Officers.” And when Congress first convened in 1789, the House chose Frederick A.C. Muhlenberg as its Speaker. More than a century later, the House chose Joe Cannon of Illinois to serve as its leader. A self-described “hayseed” from Illinois, Cannon ruled the House with an iron fist. Learn more about colorful “Uncle Joe” Cannon and the Office of the Speaker.
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The Original Snowmageddon

You thought the wild wintry weather of 2010’s popularly dubbed Snowmageddon in the nation’s capital was bad? More than one hundred years ago, a record-setting blizzard blanketed Washington, D.C., grinding the city’s operations to a halt. But as even Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine huddled in his hotel away from the chill, the House of Representatives soldiered on.
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Speaker Reed’s Movember Catfish

Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine apparently celebrated Movember before it was cool.
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Who Kicked the Dogs Out?

Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent nearly half of his House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting dogs into the House Chamber, leaving them to lop and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.
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From Averting Death to Common House Practice: The Committee of the Whole

Parliamentary procedure itself rarely generates heated discussion, but that's mainly because the drama that created the precedent has long passed. What today is dry and routine often was, at one point, highly contentious.
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Capitol Art & Artifacts: Girandole

Girandole
In a quiet corner of today’s Speaker’s Ceremonial Office hangs a girandole mirror. When candles are lit, light bounces off the mirror. The House’s girandole dates from the first half of the 19th century and boasts a Capitol provenance from its association with an early Clerk of the House of Representatives.
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Written in Stone

Champ Clark and Bust
Two Champ Clarks stand side by side. The Speaker on the right is a near-perfect replica of the Speaker on the left—except for his ghostly white pallor and his abrupt ending below the chest.
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