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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 97–108 of 389 results

"You've Won Your Way Into Our Hearts"

Tucked away in a corner of the L-shaped Republican Cloakroom reserved for Members of Congress, a hard-working, modest woman ran a cramped lunch counter. Part of a world built upon power and influence, Helen Sewell did not use her position for political gain, but focused instead on caring for the people she considered family for more than 70 years.
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Half Baked

Rayburn at 1937 Potato Battle
Most debates in the House are settled on the House Floor. But one unusual battle was fought—with potatoes—at the House Restaurant. In the northeastern corner, armed with Aroostook spuds, was Maine. In the northwestern corner, nicknamed the “Potato State,” was Idaho. Maine versus Idaho: the half-baked potato war of 1937.
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September 12, 2001: “We All Went Back to Work”

After the terrorist attacks against the United States on September 11, 2001, the country spent time mourning and reflecting on the tragedy. For many people at the U.S. Capitol, September 12th meant a return to work, but it was far from business as usual.
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Categories: Interviews

“It Isn’t a School, and I’m Not a Schoolmaster”

Do you remember having jitters on the first day at a new school? It could be a strange environment with unfamiliar classrooms, new teachers, and fidgety students who wanted to be somewhere else. New Members of Congress have had similar feelings.
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The Artist Formerly Known as Fox

At 10 different portrait unveilings on Capitol Hill, a man named Charles J. Fox was praised as the artist who captured the sitter’s likeness. In fact, Fox was not an artist. His name wasn't even Charles. The real creator was someone else entirely.
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Categories: Practice & Customs, Art

Edition for Educators—Continental and Confederation Congresses

Fifteen years before the First Federal Congress met, Great Britain’s American colonies convened a Continental Congress in response to the Intolerable Acts, a series of taxes imposed in the wake of the Boston Tea Party incident of December 1773. The Confederation Congress was dissolved after ratification of the Constitution, and prior to the convening of the First Federal Congress in the spring of 1789.
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Chasing Congress Away

John Dickinson
In the summer of 1783, a rowdy, slightly tipsy band of unpaid soldiers chased the Confederation Congress from Philadelphia, its home for much of the Revolutionary War.
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Fair Fight

World’s fairs were big business at the turn of the 20th century, and constituents—with scores of pro-fair campaign postcards in hand—lined up behind San Francisco Representative Julius Kahn’s efforts to bring the 1915 event to the city by the bay.

 

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Edition for Educators—Gaveling In

Declaration of War Gavel
This month’s Edition for Educators focuses on an everyday tool with a rich tradition in the history of the House of Representatives: the gavel. Gavels have special significance in the House, where they have many purposes: as instruments of order and decorum, as symbols of power, and sometimes as souvenirs. Each, in its own right, could tell a unique tale. Following are a few examples.
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To Be a Gallery God

“To be a gallery god in the House of Representatives is to have a free seat at a unique performance.” So said one newspaper, and for two centuries Americans have agreed, with gusto. The House Collection contains some of the oldest (and newest) varieties of gallery tickets, from scribbled passes to high-tech printed ones.
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Topping Uncle Joe

Joseph Cannon in his topper
Just an accessory? Maybe not. At a time when men’s hats spoke volumes about their personalities and status, Speaker Joseph Cannon’s headwear, including slouch hats, straw hats, and an “ancient woolly topper,” proved a potent symbol of his iron power, strong personality, and folksy manner.
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The Second Battle of New Orleans

General Jackson
Two hundred years ago this week, the Battle of New Orleans—the final military campaign of the War of 1812—culminated on January 8, 1815, when forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson routed British troops at Chalmette Plantation, along the Mississippi River just downstream from the great port city.
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Categories: War