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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 409 results

“Firecrackers” in the House Chamber

“It sounded like a package of firecrackers were lit and set off, but with the ricochet, in my mind, it identified it as a shot, so I hit the floor very quickly,” House Page and future Representative Paul Kanjorski of Pennsylvania recalled. When the House convened on March 1, 1954, no one would have imagined the danger awaiting Members and staff. Within a matter of moments, normal House proceedings turned to uncertainty and chaos. During the past decade, the Office of the Historian interviewed eyewitnesses to the House shooting. Sixty years later, we can glean what happened through the eyes of four of these interviewees.
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Edition for Educators—Celebrating Black History Month

In 1870, Senator Hiram Revels of Mississippi and Representative Joseph Rainey of South Carolina became the first African Americans to serve in Congress. Since that time, a total of 140 African Americans have served as U.S. Representatives or Senators. Learn about the many accomplishments and historic firsts among African-American Members of Congress for Black History Month.
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White Tie and Tails?—The 1936 Annual Message

Tuxedo? Business suit? Dress up or dress sensibly? It’s not the Oscars . . . it’s the first evening Annual Message. American citizens are accustomed to seeing the President of the United States deliver prime-time addresses to a worldwide audience. However, when presidential night-time addresses were unique events, a previous generation of Members and their spouses were puzzled by what constituted proper fashion protocol at a speech that slowly emerged as a major policy—and social—statement.
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Edition for Educators—State of the Union Address

The formal basis for the State of the Union address is from the U.S. Constitution. Earlier State of the Union addresses (also called Annual Messages) included agency budget requests and general reports on the health of the economy. During the 20th century, Congress required more-specialized reports on these two aspects, separate from the State of the Union. Over time, as the message content changed, the focus of the State of the Union also changed.
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Where’s Waldo?

At some point in history … the House of Representatives lost a 93-year-old Chaplain. Despite prominent mentions in the Congressional Record, newspapers from across the country, and in texts such as Chaplains of the Federal Government (1856), the Reverend Daniel Waldo vanished from the official list of House Chaplains sometime during the last 150 years.
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Edition for Educators – Happy Holidays!

The Holidays are a time for family and traditions. In the House of Representatives, Decembers have included celebrations surrounding the Capitol Christmas Tree mixed with hectic legislative sessions to conclude business so Members could return to their families.
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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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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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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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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