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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 73–84 of 393 results

The Apportionment Act of 1842: “In All Cases, By District”

In April 1842, the United States House of Representatives began what could arguably be called the first reorganization process—the first spring cleaning, as it were—in Congress’ history. The size of the House had increased steadily since 1789, and as required by the Constitution it had adjusted its Membership every 10 years following the Census in a process called reapportionment. In a decision that shaped the makeup of the House for decades, Congress broke with 50 years of precedent to make two dramatic and substantial changes: it shrunk the size of the House for the first time in U.S. history, and standardized what we would recognize as the modern congressional district.
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Categories: Legislation, Elections

If These Walls Could Talk

Bowler Hat before and after Conservation Composite Image
A major renovation of the Cannon House Office Building began in late 2014, uncovering some surprises. Artifacts pulled from the trenches and walls of the building during the restoration tell the story of the structure and its workers.
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Edition for Educators—Celebrating Women’s History Month 2019

To celebrate Women’s History Month, this Edition for Educators blog focuses on content we’ve added to the History, Art & Archives website within the last year alongside new images the office has acquired. This year, we’ve compiled a few of the new oral histories, blogs, digitized images, and updated statistics for the 116th Congress (2019–2021) to feature below. In preparation for next year’s anniversary, the office has also added a new House Record to commemorate the 19th Amendment granting women’s suffrage.
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Do Me a Favor

Detail of a letter from Theodore Roosevelt to Joe Cannon
In 1994, an Appropriations Committee staffer discovered an old wooden trunk tucked away in the attic of the Cannon House Office Building. The trunk, it turned out, contained letters older than the building itself and belonged to none other than the powerful Speaker of the House, Joe Cannon.
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Obstacles and Opportunities: The Experiences of Two Women Members on the Campaign Trail

Since the 1970s, women candidates running for Congress have increasingly carved out more opportunities and built new coalitions. The Office of the Historian conducted interviews with several former women Members who traveled distinct routes to Capitol Hill. Two seemingly disparate stories from the early 1990s highlight how far women candidates have come since Rankin first won election more than 100 years ago.
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House Pages Shoulder the Weight of History: The Story Behind an Iconic Image

Sixty-five years ago, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party opened fire on the House Chamber from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five Members, and causing mayhem across the Capitol. In the midst of the terror, others on the floor responded by assisting those wounded in the attack. Photographs snapped in the aftermath captured these efforts, including an iconic image of three young House Pages carrying a wounded Member down the steps of the Capitol. Perhaps more than any other image, that photo came to embody both the violence and the solemnity of the day.
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The Last Hours of John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams Box Sofa
Representative John Quincy Adams knew he was nearing the end of his career. However, he likely did not suspect that his last hours in the Capitol would become a national media event, driven by brand-new technologies and nostalgia for the past that Adams represented.
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Edition for Educators—Celebrating Black History Month 2019

Bolton and Diggs
In celebration of Black History Month, this Edition for Educators blog focuses on content we’ve recently added to the History, Art & Archives website. For this February, we’ve compiled a few of the new oral histories, blogs, digitized images, and updated statistics from the last year to feature below.
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A Great Disaster

Homecoming–Kaw Valley Lithograph
In October 1951, every Member of the House of Representatives and the Senate received an unusual petition in the mail from an artist named Thomas Hart Benton.
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Edition for Educators—The House Chamber

Since 1789, the House of Representatives has met in a number of locations. But regardless of the setting, the House Chamber has always been a storied space. Since the House first met in closing years of the eighteenth century, thousands of men and women from all corners of the country have filled its seats to debate legislation and shape the rhythms of American life. Today, the modern House Chamber, which first opened in 1857, can often seem to be two things at once: intimidating but also welcoming, imposing but also familiar. This Edition for Educators highlights the spaces which have served as the meeting place for the People’s House.
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Experience, Wisdom, Knowledge . . . Before Twenty-Five

In July 1797, a young southern judge named William Charles Cole Claiborne penned an enthusiastic letter to one of his political mentors, then-Representative Andrew Jackson of Tennessee. Claiborne had his eyes set on serving in Congress. With only two months until the general election in October, and with Jackson leaving for the Senate, Claiborne was eager to win election to Jackson’s soon-to-be vacant seat in the House of Representatives. There was, however, one potentially very large problem: Claiborne was not more than 22 years old.
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Lady Luck and the Office Lottery

Thomas Steed's Office
New Members-elect crowd into a committee room in the Rayburn House Office Building, plunging into the centuries-old struggle over real estate known as the office lottery.
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