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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 49–60 of 389 results

Edition for Educators—State of the Union Address

The formal basis for the State of the Union address is from the U.S. Constitution. Earlier State of the Union addresses (also called Annual Messages) included agency budget requests and general reports on the health of the economy. During the 20th century, Congress required more-specialized reports on these two aspects, separate from the State of the Union. Over time, as the message content changed, the focus of the State of the Union also changed.
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White Tie and Tails?—The 1936 Annual Message

Tuxedo? Business suit? Dress up or dress sensibly? It’s not the Oscars . . . it’s the first evening Annual Message. American citizens are accustomed to seeing the President of the United States deliver prime-time addresses to a worldwide audience. However, when presidential night-time addresses were unique events, a previous generation of Members and their spouses were puzzled by what constituted proper fashion protocol at a speech that slowly emerged as a major policy—and social—statement.
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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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The Origins of Prince Cupid

He belonged to the Royal Family, fought against usurpers of the throne, languished in prison, and went into exile from his native land before settling in Washington. There he lavishly entertained the capital elite. His was the stuff of romantic adventure novels like The Prisoner of Zenda, The Count of Monte Cristo, or The Riddle of the Sands. And yet, Jonah Kuhio Kalanianaole served as the Delegate from Hawaii from 1903 until his death in 1922. Known as “Prince Cupid” for much of his life, the name captured his flamboyant lifestyle.
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George Washington’s Bling

The oldest object in the House Collection is also one of the smallest. It’s less than an inch across, but the man who owned it was a giant figure in American history.
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Categories: Presidents, Artifacts

Edition for Educators—Celebrating Black History Month

In 1870, Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first African Americans to serve in Congress. Since that time, a total of 140 African Americans have served as U.S. Representatives or Senators. Learn about the many accomplishments and historic firsts among African-American Members of Congress for Black History Month.
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“Firecrackers” in the House Chamber

“It sounded like a package of firecrackers were lit and set off, but with the ricochet, in my mind, it identified it as a shot, so I hit the floor very quickly,” House Page and future Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania recalled. When the House convened on March 1, 1954, no one would have imagined the danger awaiting Members and staff. Within a matter of moments, normal House proceedings turned to uncertainty and chaos. During the past decade, the Office of the Historian interviewed eyewitnesses to the House shooting. Sixty years later, we can glean what happened through the eyes of four of these interviewees.
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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

“No Other Word than Magic”

Mantle Clock
Clocks all over the House of Representatives—the plain ones, the fancy ones, even the ones that look like they belong in a high school classroom—have a little set of lights connected to them. Sometimes one is lit, sometimes all seven flash, and sometimes they are accompanied by loud buzzes (or rings, as they are officially termed) blasting a seemingly incomprehensible sequence. How did such a sound-and-light show end up in Congress?
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Edition for Educators – Celebrating Women’s History Month

Jeannette Rankin
Jeannette Rankin’s life was filled with extraordinary achievements: she was the first woman elected to Congress, one of the few suffragists elected to Congress, and the only Member of Congress to vote against U.S. participation in both World War I and World War II. Learn more about the efforts and accomplishments of Rankin and other Women in Congress for Women's History Month.
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George H. Tinkham—The Subtitles Write Themselves

George H. Tinkham
Once storied but now largely forgotten, the life and times of Representative George Holden Tinkham of Massachusetts beckon an enterprising biographer. Were someone to take up the call, the list of amusing subtitles might include: The Shot Heard ‘Round the World, Gone on Safari or The Congressman Who Rarely Campaigned.
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Categories: Members of Congress

Sentenced to Death

Robert W. Wilcox
Successful candidates to the House of Representatives usually differentiate themselves from other office seekers. Few, however, prove their commitment to the people by being sentenced to death like Robert W. Wilcox, the first Delegate from the Territory of Hawaii.
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