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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 388 results

The Apportionment Act of 1842: Legal, When Convenient

The debate in Congress over the Apportionment Act of 1842 had been brutal, and foes of the bill remained steadfast in their opposition. For 18 months, from Tyler’s signing statement in the summer of 1842 to the opening of the 28th Congress (1843–1845) in December 1843, the question lingered: Was the Apportionment Act law or merely a suggestion?
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The Fallout

Medical Kit C
In 2015, House curators carefully unpacked water purification tablets, surgical soap, gauze pads, and a toothache remedy from Medical Kit C. The large cardboard box and the basic medical supplies it contained are artifacts of Cold War–era Washington, when the threat of nuclear attack hung over the country, and officials stockpiled emergency food, water, and medicine across the Capitol complex.
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We’ve Redesigned Our Oral History Section

In August 2020, we launched the redesigned Oral History section of the website. The new design makes it easier to browse all interviewees, filter by their positions and service dates, and access all available full transcripts in PDF format. The highlight of the redesign is a searchable database of oral history audio and video clips. Users can use a free text search and filter clips by events, themes, or interview subjects.
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Categories: Announcements

The Not So “Prompt and Ample Relief” of Polly Lemon

Plat Map Showing Polly Lemon's Homestead
Not much is known about Polly Lemon—where she was born, who her parents were, how she lived. But research into an 1833 petition filed in the official records of the House of Representatives opens a small window onto the life of an early female settler on the Louisiana frontier. Although women could petition Congress and single women were permitted to own land during the early 19th century, few exercised these freedoms as Polly did.
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“Catalyst for Change”: The 1972 Presidential Campaign of Representative Shirley Chisholm

Since its first publication in 1951, Jet magazine had been on the forefront covering news and issues important to its African-American readership. Widely popular for its commentary on politics, culture, and the lives of everyday people, Jet posed a question in June 1971 that would soon prove prophetic: “Should a Black Politician Run for President?”
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Where the Seats Have No Name

New Seats in 1913
The year 1913 dawned with a conundrum. There were 401 desks and chairs in the crowded House Chamber and 440 people who needed a seat when Congress convened in the spring. How could each Member of Congress claim a chair?
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Capitol Art & Artifacts: Girandole

Girandole
In a quiet corner of today’s Speaker’s Ceremonial Office hangs a girandole mirror. When candles are lit, light bounces off the mirror. The House’s girandole dates from the first half of the 19th century and boasts a Capitol provenance from its association with an early Clerk of the House of Representatives.
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“Which Side Are You On?”

On July 14, 1955, John F. Pickett, a deputy U.S. Marshall for the Southern District of New York, traveled to Beacon, New York. The town had been founded in the early eighteenth century and later grew into a bustling commercial port. During the American Revolution, lookouts lit bonfires atop the surrounding hills to signal the approach of British troops—beacons, for which the town was later named. In the summer of 1955, Pickett made his way north in the shadow of those same hills to deliver a far different message to a resident of Beacon.
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Categories: Committees

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—Remembrance in the Capitol

Though typically bustling with the business of legislation, there are times when Congress pauses to reflect, grieve, and memorialize the passing of national figures. Conscious of its place on the national stage, Congress occasionally offers the Capitol Rotunda or House Chamber as a place for the public to mourn and celebrate the lives of dedicated and notable citizens.
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South from the Capitol

Looking South from the Capitol Steroview
The same year America celebrated its 100th birthday, a photographer perched on the Capitol’s eastern pediment to photograph the view. The resulting stereoview, an early 3-D photograph sold as a souvenir, captures Washington in 1876, looking southeast across the House portico to the swiftly changing neighborhood. A closer look at contemporaneous images in the House Collection shows just how fast the area changed.
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Categories: Capitol Campus, Artifacts

“I’m Not Going to Waste It”

From February 1959 to June 1961, James Johnson attended the Capitol Page School, a one-of-a-kind learning environment for high schoolers working for the House, Senate, and Supreme Court. Johnson was one of the first African-American students admitted to the school, but because of a mix-up—the details of which remain unclear even today—he never received an official appointment as a Page like the rest of his classmates. But Johnson credits his experience at the Page School and working for the House for setting him on the path to a distinguished medical career with the U.S. Navy.
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