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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 25–36 of 386 results

Smoke If You’ve Got ‘Em

Hamilton Fish—that doesn’t sound like a great name for a cigar. But for the average smoker a century ago, the name was synonymous with power and position.
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“The City Scavenger Butters Your Bread”

What piece of legislation best illustrates the tensions facing Congress when it attempts to regulate the diverse U.S. economy? One about butter: the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.
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Categories: Legislation

Tie a Yellow Ribbon

Tony Orlando—the force behind a House tradition? The inspiration for the tradition was not his harmonious backup singers or his luxuriant mustache, but his 1973 hit recording, “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree.” From those pop music origins grew the tradition of wearing a colored ribbon to mark major events, a practice that was taken up by the House during joint sessions and meetings of Congress.
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Room Service in the Clink: The Case of the Consumptive Witness

The power to investigate is a central role played by Congress. House committees often call witnesses to testify in order to oversee the administration of government, to educate public opinion, and to inform the process of crafting new legislation. Occasionally, when the House weighs contempt-of-Congress charges against uncooperative witnesses, the Historian’s Office receives the question: where have contumacious witnesses, placed in the custody of the Sergeant at Arms, been imprisoned?
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Categories: Practice & Customs

Edition for Educators – Congress in Wartime

The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war and maintain and fund the armed forces. From the harrowing night in 1814 when war arrived on the Capitol’s doorstep to the war on terror, the House and its Members have been key players in wartime decisions.
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Categories: Edition for Educators, War

Weathering Washington by Watching the Weather

Before there were smart phones equipped with weather apps, news anchors in front of green screens, or radar for tracking storms, Members of the House still wanted the latest weather forecasts. And for a century, the weather map in the Members' Retiring Room—just outside the House Chamber—became a social nexus for Members and House staff alike, many of whom wanted to know the conditions back home.
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Picking Sides: Loyalists in the Legislature

When the Second Continental Congress convened in 1775, firebrands including Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and Patrick Henry of Virginia steered the 13 colonies of the United States toward a complete break with Great Britain. But that sentiment wasn’t universally shared a year earlier by members of the First Continental Congress. Grievances against British government policies were rife in the session which met in 1774, but some, notably Isaac Low of New York and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania, counseled against fully separating from the British Empire.
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Carnation Nation

It was the opening day of Congress, and all the popular men had flowers on their desks. “Floral tributes,” enormous congratulatory bouquets, made their way into the House Chamber on the first day of each session of Congress from the 1870s until 1905. Pages and messengers staggered in with vase after vase.
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Edition for Educators – Back to School

Whether weighing in on the 1875 Civil Rights Bill or advocating Title IX of the 1972 Higher Education Act, Members of the House have been champions of American education.
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Categories: Edition for Educators

“Can I Actually Close Down Congress?”

Most people are well aware of what they were doing when they first learned about the attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001. But how many people know how Speaker of the House J. Dennis Hastert of Illinois, who at the time was the second in line in presidential succession, spent his day? In an interview with the Office of the Historian, Speaker Hastert shared his recollections and personal memories of 9/11.
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“All the World’s a Stage”

Speaker of the House William Bankhead of Alabama loved the theater. In his youth, he briefly pursued an acting career, but he ultimately joined the family business: politics.  Bankhead followed in the footsteps of his father, John, (a U.S. Representative and Senator) and his elder brother, John II, (a U.S. Senator). His daughter Tallulah, however, inherited his thespian gene and would eventually command center stage in Hollywood during its heyday.
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Categories: Speakers of the House

Gained in Translation

Just weeks after José Manuel Gallegos triumphed in a contested election in 1853, becoming New Mexico’s first Hispanic Territorial Delegate in the U.S. House, he found himself in a difficult quandary. Gallegos spoke no English and his request to use an interpreter on the floor failed to win his colleagues’ support. Yet, Gallegos’s early experience didn’t constitute the final word on the use of foreign languages on the House Floor. Indeed, for many reasons, Representatives have spoken in languages other than English. And, occasionally, they have done so in Spanish.
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