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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 1–12 of 411 results

The Speaker Inquisition of 1856

Shortly before seven o’clock in the evening, on Saturday, February 2, 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, strode to the well of the House, climbed the rostrum’s few steps to the Speaker’s chair, and sat down. He paused for a moment. With his thick dark hair swept to one side and a prominent mustache obscuring his upper lip, Banks then stood to address his colleagues.
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“Planting Laws and Institutions”: The Election of Representative John Quincy Adams

On November 6, 1830, former United States President John Quincy Adams spent the day at his family’s farm near Quincy, Massachusetts, planting trees. On the edge of what would become the orchard, he laid out five rows of chestnuts, oaks, and shagbark hickories. The final, casual line in Adams’s diary that day: “I am a member elect of the twenty-second Congress.”
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Vent Elation

Cooler Summers
“No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.” Speaker of the House John Nance Garner spent 30 years in Congress, and he knew to get out of town ahead of the wilting summer weather. Washington in July and August is a desperately swampy place. Then one day in 1928, “manufactured weather” arrived in the House of Representatives’ Chamber.
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Jeannette Rankin: “I Cannot Vote for War”

Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve in Congress, voted against United States entry into World War I in 1917 and did not run for reelection to the House of Representatives in 1918. Ever since, historians have assumed that Rankin’s no vote cost the Congresswoman her seat in Congress.
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Henry Clay’s On-Again, Off-Again Relationship with the House

Henry Clay of Kentucky had one of the most superlative political careers in American history. A lawyer by training, Clay served in almost every level of government possible in the 19th century: the Kentucky state house of representatives, the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives, and the executive branch as Secretary of State. On top of that, he helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812, and ran for President three times over three decades on three different party tickets.
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Through Her Lens

With a bounce in her step and a camera in hand, Dolly Seelmeyer walked through the halls of the United States Capitol, from 1972 to 2004, as the first female House photographer, ready to prove she could do anything a male photographer could do—“and do it better.”
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Congress and the Case of the Faithless Elector

On January 6, 1969, Representative James O’Hara of Michigan took a seat on the House Floor for what seemed like a routine day of business. Since the late nineteenth century, the Electoral College count had occurred every four years without incident. This year, however, would be different.
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Jeannette Rankin and the Women's Suffrage Amendment

It was no accident—nor mere symbolism—that on January 10, 1918, a woman led the effort on the floor of the U.S. House to pass the landmark resolution for a constitutional amendment granting women the right to vote. The first such proposal had been introduced in Congress almost 50 years earlier, but it was Jeannette Rankin, the first woman to serve on Capitol Hill, who steadily built support in the House for women's voting rights throughout the 65th Congress (1917–1919).
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Inside the Chamber on Opening Day

Every two years, as mandated in Article I, Section 2, of the Constitution, the U.S. House of Representatives starts a new legislative session, known as a Congress. Using longstanding precedent and a few highly visible artifacts, the House embarks on the pomp and ritual of its biennial Opening Day.

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A “Troublesome and Greatly Derided Custom” — Answering the Annual Message

During the presidencies of George Washington and John Adams, the process of the State of the Union and its responses was more genteel and singular, but no less contentious than it is today. In the 1790s, both houses of Congress drafted, debated, and marched en masse to the President’s mansion to deliver a formal, unified response, addressing the important issues raised by the executive. That is, until one volatile Member of the House dared to wonder aloud what the fuss was all about.
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#ThenAndNow: Photographs from the House Collection

Then and Now photo of horseshoes game practice at the Capitol
May is National Photo Month. We celebrated by spotlighting four photographs from the House Collection, creating and tweeting #ThenAndNow images around the Capitol.
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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