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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 85–96 of 389 results

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

Edition for Educators—Hispanic Heritage Month

Romualdo Pacheco
Learn about the efforts and accomplishments of Hispanic Americans in Congress for Hispanic Heritage Month.
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“Harry Needs a Rest”

Harry Parker
In an institution still largely segregated and even unwelcoming to its African-American Members in the 1930s, Harry Parker’s six decades of loyal service to the House engendered respect and affection. The New York Times described the House Chamber’s 1937 celebration of Parker's retirement as the “most extraordinary tribute ever paid” to an African-American in the House up to that point.
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Take a Seat

For more than a century, a desk in the House Chamber was a Member’s office. He stowed his hat beneath his chair, wrote and stored papers in the writing desk, and occasionally propped his feet up to listen to debate. Why did picking one's desk matter?
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Leave No Forwarding Address: When Congress Almost Abandoned D.C.

Admiral George Cockburn
It was a low moment. When the 13th Congress (1813–1815) trickled into Washington, D.C., in September 1814 for a third session, they found a terrorized community, most public buildings destroyed, and a humiliated army on retreat. Once the grandest building in North America, the unfinished Capitol resembled a charcoal briquette. And though the invading British forces had departed more than three weeks previously, the damage they inflicted—both physical and emotional—very nearly convinced the shocked legislators to abandon Washington for good.
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Plastic Fantastic

Bakelite Desks
Stylish! Modern! Sturdy! And cheap! In the 1930s, Bakelite, an early plastic, was touted as “The Material of a Thousand Uses.” What uses, exactly? In one instance, desks for Congress.
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Edition for Educators—Elections

Nathaniel Banks
Constitutionally mandated to be the “People’s House,” the House of Representatives has always been elected directly by the voters bienially.
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“Issue the Order, Sir, and I’ll Storm Hell!”

Anthony Wayne
On July 4, 1809, an unusual reburial ceremony took place at the Wayne family burial grounds in Radnor, Pennsylvania. For 12 years, the remains of “Mad” Anthony Wayne, the Revolutionary War hero and former congressman, had rested 400 miles away on the shores of Lake Erie. But on that early summer day, Mad Anthony’s remains were going home—well, most of them were going home.
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Did You #AskACurator?

Adam Clayton Powell
Large and small, the questions came, and @USHouseHistory answered them during #AskACurator day on September 17. In what has now become an annual Twitter event, 47,546 tweets used the hashtag #AskACurator to pose questions to and elicit answers from curators at 721 museums in 43 countries. They weren’t all directed to or coming from the House, but many were, and the House Curator Farar Elliott spent an hour answering them. Here are some of the most intriguing responses.
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Edition for Educators—Veterans and Congress

Speaker Sam Rayburn with War Veterans
This month's Edition for Educators focuses on the relationship between Congress and the men and women who have fought for the United States at home and abroad.
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The Last Will and Testament of a Lame Duck

Clifford K. Berryman Lame Duck Cartoon
It’s not a hunting term. Nor is it a cooking experiment gone wrong. It’s a phrase often bandied about after an election: the “lame duck,” or departing politician who returns to office for the remainder of his or her term after the November elections. It can be an awkward position, but one in which at least one woman Member found creative inspiration.
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“The Only Thing You Could Hear Was People Crying”

President Kennedy's body in the Capitol Rotunda
“Where were you when President Kennedy was shot?” became a defining question for a generation of Americans stunned by the violent act which took the life of the 35th U.S. President. As the nation sought to come to terms with the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Capitol prepared for a rare lying-in-state ceremony reserved for the country’s most distinguished citizens. Countless staff worked behind the scenes to quickly assemble a memorial service to honor a fallen President and to help a distraught nation mourn the untimely passing of a popular American leader.
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