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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 373–384 of 416 results

What's Buzzing in the Chamber?

There’s a funny-looking push button on desks that sat in the House Chamber from 1877 to 1913. Why would a Member of Congress need to ring a doorbell at his desk?
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Categories: House Chamber, Art, Artifacts

Poinsett’s Popular Poinsettia

Sure, he was a Representative from South Carolina, the first U.S. Minister to Mexico, and a Secretary of War. But what is Representative Joel Roberts Poinsett really famous for? This time of year, the answer might be found in a nearby display of holiday decorations.
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Speaker Reed’s Movember Catfish

Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine apparently celebrated Movember before it was cool.
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Who Kicked the Dogs Out?

Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent nearly half of his House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting dogs into the House Chamber, leaving them to lop and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.
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War and Peace: Representative Ron Dellums and the House Armed Services Committee

For many freshman Representatives, finding a way to stand out in the large and crowded House of Representatives poses a major challenge. Ron Dellums of California had no such problem. Elected to the House in 1970, at the age of 34, Dellums drew upon his national reputation as an outspoken anti-war and anti-establishment activist to challenge the institution and to secure a spot on the unlikeliest of panels: the House Armed Services Committee.
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One Small Step . . . for Housekind

In 1969, the Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon. As the nation marveled at this feat, the U.S. House of Representatives slowly prepared for its own launch: into the computer age. Months before the astronauts had touched down on the moon, Members of the House of Representatives descended on the Rayburn House Office Building to witness one of the three Capitol computers in action.
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Edition for Educators – The Old Hall of the House of Representatives

It’s a room that opened shortly after the Republic’s birth, was burned by marauding British forces during some of Washington’s darkest days, witnessed passage of the Missouri Compromise of 1820, and even hosted a backbencher Illinois Congressman named Abraham Lincoln. The Old Hall of the House of Representatives had a cherished place in House history even before it housed marble and bronze likenesses of a host of prominent Americans in the National Statuary Hall Collection.
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Picture This: Lewis Hine’s Photographs of Child Labor

Today, the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words” is the kind of trite shortcut your English teacher deducts points from your essay for using. But at the turn of the century the visceral power of a photograph was a new concept.
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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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“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

“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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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