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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 389 results

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

The Not-So-Lonesome West

For a House committee, commissioning paintings during the post-Civil War era involved more than matching colors with the furniture. When the House Committee on Indian Affairs hired artist and Army officer Seth Eastman in 1867 to produce nine paintings for their hearing room, his task was not only to decorate their space, but to project an ideology through images.
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Categories: Committees, Art

Were There Any Witnesses? Segregation in the House Visitors’ Gallery

Were African Americans in attendance to witness the legislative debates that shaped their freedom? Well, yes and no. The nation barred them from citizenship and service as Members of Congress until the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868, but barring African Americans, slave or free, from the Capitol has a murkier history.
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30,000 Letters or Bust: Ansel Wold’s 1928 mission

Over the course of three years in the mid-1920s, the clerk of the Joint Committee on Printing, Ansel Wold, had a mission: find Representative Victor Berger's middle name and the name of the town in which Mr. Berger settled upon his arrival to the U.S. in the 1870s. And Wold needed to find this information fast, in time to publish the 1928 edition of the Biographical Directory of the American Congress.
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Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend

When Jessie Wilson, daughter of President Woodrow Wilson, became engaged to Francis Bowes Sayre in 1913, Washington was aflutter with excitement. Washington society had not had such an occasion to anticipate since the marriage of Alice Roosevelt to Nicholas Longworth set extravagant expectations for what a Washington wedding could be. In the early 20th century, it was common practice for the president’s cabinet, world leaders, diplomats, and Members of Congress to present often lavish gifts to the daughter of the president on the occasion of her marriage.
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“Headquarters of Tobacco-Tinctured Saliva”

For generations, chewing tobacco was immensely popular in the House of Representatives. Members of Congress chewed with gusto, and spat tobacco juice with equal enthusiasm. Receptacles for tobacco spittle—spittoons—were a common sight in the Capitol from at least the 1830s.
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Discovering a Page’s Place in the “Second American Revolution”

During the Reconstruction Era, African Americans gained elective office and the U.S. House of Representatives was forever changed. Americans know the narrative that describes Reconstruction as the “Second American Revolution”—one in which basic political and citizenship rights were conferred upon freed slaves (at least the men). Congressional Reconstruction imposed in the South also changed the face of the membership of the House. Until recently, however, we knew very little about the changes that Reconstruction wrought at the staff level in the House.
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“As Large as Life”: Lafayette's Portrait

What becomes a military legend most? For the Marquis de Lafayette, dashing hero of the American Revolution, the portrait now in the House Chamber was just the thing. Arriving from France in 1824, it was a huge hit across the nation. Becoming the most famous image of Lafayette during his wide-ranging tour of the United States that same year, the portrait appeared on posters, memorabilia, and even on currency.
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Categories: House Chamber, Art