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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 28 results

Hollywood's Love Affair with Thaddeus Stevens

Pennsylvania’s Thaddeus Stevens, gaunt, grim, and badly bewigged, would appear to be a poor candidate for the silver screen. Yet, he has appeared as a major character in three movies, each of which portrayed him in a different light.
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Categories: Members of Congress, War

I've Scalped Him?

In the early morning hours of February 6, 1858, a fight erupted between South Carolina Fire-Eater Laurence Keitt and Republican abolitionist Galusha Grow of Pennsylvania on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. As Members from each side joined the fray, Wisconsin Representative John F. Potter, the “Western Hercules,” snatched the toupee from atop Mississippi Representative William Barksdale’s head and the House erupted in laughter at the absurdity. “Horray, boys! I’ve got his scalp!” shouted Potter with perfect rhetorical flourish. Or so we thought.
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Time Travel: Daylight Saving Time and the House

When first-term Representative Leon Sacks of Pennsylvania introduced H.R. 6546 on April 21, 1937, the Earth did not stop spinning. Time did not stand still.

But it almost did.

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Categories: Legislation, War

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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Everyone Loves a Good Story!

People tell stories for many reasons: to entertain, to make connections, to explain a point of view. Oral histories rely on stories of all kinds to complement other sources about past events and historic figures. Individual oral histories featuring descriptive anecdotes and personal reflections can stand on their own, but when several oral histories are woven together around a common theme or event, they work to tell a more complex and complete account.
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Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.
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Rising up in the House—Part II:
The House Debates the “Irish Question”

On April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson addressed a joint session of Congress to denounce German aggression. Dramatically abandoning his commitment to neutrality, he urged Congress to declare war on Imperial Germany to “make the world safe for democracy.” Wilson emphasized that the United States must undertake a principled intervention in the war in order to protect the right of self-determination for small nations. When Congress passed a war declaration on April 6, Members seized the moment to revive the issue of Irish independence, which had failed to gain traction in the House a year earlier when Missouri Representative Leonidas C. Dyer insisted that Congress support the Easter Rising.
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Categories: Legislation, War

Rising up in the House—Part I:
Rep. Dyer and the Irish Rebellion of 1916

On April 24, 1916, Irish republicans took up arms against the British government in what became known as the Easter Rising. They seized the General Post Office in Dublin and distributed the Proclamation of the Irish Republic, which affirmed the right of the Irish people to form an independent government and claimed the support of Ireland’s “exiled children in America.” The Irish insurgency, and the British response to it, both captivated and appalled the U.S. public—including Congress.
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Categories: Legislation, War

I Can Vote for War

Declaration of War Against Germany
Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to Congress, gained notoriety through the accidents of history. A confirmed pacifist, her two widely separated terms in the House put her in the position of voting against U.S. participation in both World War I (April 6, 1917) and World War II (December 8, 1941). But there was another vote...
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Chasing Congress Away

John Dickinson
In the summer of 1783, a rowdy, slightly tipsy band of unpaid soldiers chased the Confederation Congress from Philadelphia, its home for much of the Revolutionary War.
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The Second Battle of New Orleans

General Jackson
Two hundred years ago this week, the Battle of New Orleans—the final military campaign of the War of 1812—culminated on January 8, 1815, when forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson routed British troops at Chalmette Plantation, along the Mississippi River just downstream from the great port city.
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Categories: War

Hoist the Colors!

Captain Samuel C. Reid
Tasked with updating the American flag following the War of 1812, New York Representative Peter H. Wendover sought the advice of Captain Samuel C. Reid, one of America’s most famous privateers. After privateering under the star-spangled banner, what fresh ideas could Reid bring to the much-needed new design?
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Categories: Legislation, War