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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 385–396 of 409 results

“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

Carnation Nation

It was the opening day of Congress, and all the popular men had flowers on their desks. “Floral tributes,” enormous congratulatory bouquets, made their way into the House Chamber on the first day of each session of Congress from the 1870s until 1905. Pages and messengers staggered in with vase after vase.
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Picking Sides: Loyalists in the Legislature

When the Second Continental Congress convened in 1775, firebrands including Samuel Adams of Massachusetts and Patrick Henry of Virginia steered the 13 colonies of the United States toward a complete break with Great Britain. But that sentiment wasn’t universally shared a year earlier by members of the First Continental Congress. Grievances against British government policies were rife in the session which met in 1774, but some, notably Isaac Low of New York and Joseph Galloway of Pennsylvania, counseled against fully separating from the British Empire.
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Weathering Washington by Watching the Weather

Before there were smart phones equipped with weather apps, news anchors in front of green screens, or radar for tracking storms, Members of the House still wanted the latest weather forecasts. And for a century, the weather map in the Members' Retiring Room—just outside the House Chamber—became a social nexus for Members and House staff alike, many of whom wanted to know the conditions back home.
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Edition for Educators – Congress in Wartime

The Constitution grants Congress the power to declare war and maintain and fund the armed forces. From the harrowing night in 1814 when war arrived on the Capitol’s doorstep to the war on terror, the House and its Members have been key players in wartime decisions.
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Categories: Edition for Educators, War

“The City Scavenger Butters Your Bread”

What piece of legislation best illustrates the tensions facing Congress when it attempts to regulate the diverse U.S. economy? One about butter: the Oleomargarine Act of 1886.
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Categories: Legislation

Smoke If You’ve Got ‘Em

Hamilton Fish—that doesn’t sound like a great name for a cigar. But for the average smoker a century ago, the name was synonymous with power and position.
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Good Vibrations: In Defense of the Beach Boys

Fireworks over the National Mall
The nation’s birthday is an event that annually unites Americans from all walks of life. But when a Cabinet Secretary tried to ban one of the most beloved rock groups of all time from playing a July Fourth concert on the National Mall in 1983, Members of the people’s House mounted a vigorous—and humorous—defense of the Beach Boys’ right to perform.

 

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Categories: Holidays

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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