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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 18 results

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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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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A Congressional Made Man

Print of the House Chamber in 1836
In the winter of 1842, inventor Samuel F. B. Morse nervously wrote to his brother Sidney Morse from Washington, DC. Morse hoped that the House of Representatives would appropriate $30,000 “to test the practicability of establishing a system of electro magnetic telegraphs.”
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Categories: Superlatives, Committees, Art

Edition for Educators—Trivia

This month’s edition for educators focuses on finding factoids about the history of the U.S. House of Representatives, using the History, Art & Archives website. The most basic information can sometimes be the hardest to find. Two hundred twenty-eight years of history and precedent produces plenty of unique and obscure trivia, and this blog presents a search for some of that trivia across our online resources.
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The Original “Year of the Woman”

The woman suffrage campaign appeared to begin 1916 in rough shape. Beyond internal drama among suffragists, however, widely scattered action was taking place at the grassroots. Over the course of 1916 numerous women candidates were seeking election to Congress, and several had entered major-party primaries that now dominated candidate selection throughout the country. Jeannette Rankin was far from alone.
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Edition for Educators—The House By the Numbers

Before the 115th Congress (2017–2019) convenes in early January, review the latest statistics about the House and its history on the History, Art & Archives website.
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And the Perfect Attendance Award Goes to…

Rep. William Natcher
In elementary school, perfect attendance means being at school every day. Once in a while a super kid sails through high school without missing a day. Such monumental feats are usually celebrated with a certificate from the principal, or perhaps a newspaper story. In the U.S. House, perfect attendance means never missing a vote during one’s House service and, in some rare cases, making every committee meeting. Several instances of these super Members stand out in House history.
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Rediscovering Rainey's Reign

It’s unclear what prompted Representative Luke Poland of Vermont to leave the rostrum that day and yield the gavel, as the 43rd Congress (1873–1875) debated an Indian appropriations bill. But what is clear is that he set in motion a series of events that seemed the very culmination of the Civil War. When Poland stepped down, Joseph Hayne Rainey of South Carolina—a former slave who had once been impressed into service by the Confederacy before escaping to Bermuda—mounted the Speaker’s rostrum, grasped the gavel, and set Capitol Hill abuzz.
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One Small Step . . . for Housekind

In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. As the nation marveled at this feat, the U.S. House of Representatives slowly prepared for its own launch: into the computer age. Months before the astronauts had touched down on the moon, Members of the House of Representatives descended on the Rayburn House Office Building to witness one of the three Capitol computers in action.
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Edition for Educators—Through the Glass Ceiling

For Women’s History Month, this Edition for Educators highlights some of the women who have broken glass ceilings in the House of Representatives.
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“By Any Fair Means”: Joseph H. Rainey’s Contested Elections

Joseph Rainey Certificate of Election
When Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina served in the House of Representatives from 1870 to 1879 as its first Black Representative, the political inroads made during Reconstruction by Blacks in the South started to disintegrate rapidly. The contested election was weaponized as a method of excluding African Americans from representation in Congress.
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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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