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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 361–372 of 390 results

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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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

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

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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“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

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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Good Vibrations: In Defense of the Beach Boys

Fireworks over the National Mall
The nation’s birthday is an event that annually unites Americans from all walks of life. But when a Cabinet Secretary tried to ban one of the most beloved rock groups of all time from playing a July Fourth concert on the National Mall in 1983, Members of the people’s House mounted a vigorous—and humorous—defense of the Beach Boys’ right to perform.

 

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Categories: Holidays

Getting a Foot in the (Chamber) Door

When newly elected Resident Commissioner Federico Degetau of Puerto Rico, the first Member of Congress from the island territory, began his service in the 57th Congress (1901–1903), the media treated him with attentive curiosity. But despite the fanfare and expression of goodwill, Degetau remained unwelcome in the one place that served as the legislature’s nerve center: the House Floor.
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Out of the Blue: UFOs and the Freedom of Information Act

The existence of UFOs may seem like the exclusive domain of science fiction, but as Representative John Moss of California laid the groundwork for legislation that eventually became the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966, he didn’t discriminate in his pursuit to open as much government information as possible to the public.
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“You Start It and You Like the Work, and You Just Keep On”

To date, 259 Members have served 30 years or more in the U.S. Congress, constituting just two percent of the total historic membership. Yet in an institution where long service often yields greater power, many of these Members became some of the House’s most famous and influential people.
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“A Bevy of Ladies”

Today, Capitol police officers direct some visitors in the House Chamber through a door marked “Ladies’ Gallery.” Men and women sit there, and always have. So why call it the Ladies’ Gallery?
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The Most Kissed Man in America

On June 3, 1898, in the middle of the Spanish-American War, Lieutenant Richmond Pearson Hobson sailed the U.S. collier Merrimac into Santiago Harbor with a hand-picked skeleton crew. Hobson schemed to sink his vessel at the entrance to the Cuban bay, trapping the Spanish fleet.  Though he failed to blockade the harbor, Hobson would soon become a national celebrity for another kind of mission—one ideally suited for the handsome young man.
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Categories: Members of Congress