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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 25–36 of 395 results

How Congress Helped Feed, then Kill, the Postcard Craze

July 4th Postcard
In 1896, Congress fueled a postcard craze, completely by accident, when it introduced Rural Free Delivery of mail. A little more than a decade later, Congress kneecapped the phenomenon, again inadvertently. Representatives hoped the Payne-Aldrich Tariff of 1909 would help American printers cash in on postcards’ popularity. Instead, it ended up hurting the industry and undercutting the entire fad.
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Categories: Artifacts

Edition for Educators — House History for Remote Learning

With schools closed amid the pandemic, the Offices of History, Art & Archives have put together lesson plans and resources to help everyone continue to learn about history of the House of Representatives and what role it plays in America’s unique system of government.
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Categories: Edition for Educators

“I Do Hope You Can See Me Today”

About 20 minutes before noon, on Thursday, May 16, 1991, Members and Senators packed the House Chamber for a historic Joint Meeting of Congress. A small platform had been placed on the middle level of the rostrum, hidden from view, and a straight-backed chair a few feet over had been specially reserved. At the rostrum’s microphone stood a bespectacled woman in a peach-colored hat.
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Categories: Practice & Customs

Notes from Underground, Part I: The Book Tunnel

Detail of the Tunnel in an Architectural Plan
For more than a century, a tunnel ran between the Capitol and the Library of Congress to what is now known as the Thomas Jefferson Building. Using iron rails, electricity, and an endless cable, the underground shaft automatically shuttled books to Members of Congress. “There is nothing like it in this country or, so far as known, in any other,” the Washington Post told readers in 1895.
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Can I Have this Dance?

Support the American Square Dance Logo
In 1973, American square dancers tried to call the tune with the House of Representatives, urging it to act quickly on legislation near and dear to their hearts. “What’s the hold up? Get busy now. Let’s not wait any longer,” one demanded. “We’re still waiting for some results,” another pressed, concerned that a years-long petition drive to enshrine the uniquely American folk dance was proceeding more like a slow waltz than an up-tempo jig.
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Edition for Educators—The Agriculture Committee Bicentennial

On April 29, 1820, North Carolina Representative Lewis Williams rose to address what he saw as an injustice in the House of Representatives. Williams pointed out that the House already had a Committee on Manufactures which received petitions from commercial interests, but that it lacked an equivalent committee to consider the interests of America’s farmers. “When agriculture is oppressed, and makes complaint, what tribunal is in this House to hear and determine on the grievance?” he asked.
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Bringing Electronic Votes to Congress

Detail of a Letter from Otis G. Pike to Samuel N. Friedel
On January 23, 1973, Members counted down to the conclusion of the historic first electronic vote, which would shift House voting procedures into the 20th century. However, this moment almost failed to launch.
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Tour the Capitol from Home

Ordinarily, the U.S. Capitol in springtime bustles with visiting school groups and vacationing families from around the world. For visitors who cannot travel to Washington this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the History, Art, and Archives website has a number of resources that visitors can use to learn about some of the Capitol’s statues, landmarks, and art, as well as stories about the people, places, artifacts, and events that make Congress unique.
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Edition for Educators—Madam Chairman

This month’s Edition for Educators celebrates Women’s History Month by turning the focus to the many women who have chaired committees in the U.S. House of Representatives. Today, a record seven women chair House committees in the 116th Congress (2019–2021), and many more chair subcommittees responsible for significant sections of legislation and oversight.
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The “So Very Peculiar” Case of Sarah Seelye

Sarah Seelye's Application for Back Pay
Sarah Seelye lived a seemingly ordinary life in Fort Scott, Kansas, in 1882. But as her health started to falter at age 43, she realized past adventures were catching up to her. Getting help meant revealing a decades-old secret to Congress: she illegally served in the Union army disguised as a man.
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“How Does She Do This?”: Mothers in Congress

To commemorate the centennial of the election of the first woman to Congress, Jeannette Rankin of Montana, the Office of the Historian conducted interviews with former women Members and staff. The interviews covered a range of topics, including a growing phenomenon—the election of women with young children. By 1998, more than 20 percent of women Members came to Congress with children under the age of 18.
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Stamp of Genius

Postage Stamps Featuring Shirley Chisholm
Shirley Chisholm forever. (“Forever” stamp, that is.)
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Categories: Artifacts