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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 394 results

What Killed the Political Ribbon?

Ribbons that declared "The Winner." Ribbons for the "Peter J. Dooling Association." Ribbons mourning a dead Speaker of the House. Once, they were all the rage. Then, in the 1890s, a single innovation changed everything. Political ribbons went from reigning supreme as the most portable, wearable, and popular campaign decoration to being a deposed monarch of politicking, exiled to conventions and party dinners. What happened?
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Categories: Elections, Artifacts

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

What’s in a Name? Origins of the Chowder & Marching Club

In an institution where legislative victories are often stitched together with shifting blocs, coalitions, and alliances, it isn’t surprising that most Members of Congress are joiners. For new Representatives particularly, membership in caucuses and other informal clubs and groups fills a yearning to belong, to swap legislative strategies freely, to learn the chamber’s folkways and norms, and, sometimes, simply to socialize.
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What's in the Speaker's Office?

Increased space, more frequent visits by foreign dignitaries, and the demand for news photos spurred development of what is today known as the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office. The room was part of the 1857 Capitol extension and is furnished to suit the Victorian style with pieces from the House Collection.
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Wheelchairs, Ramps, and a Scooter Named “Lulu”

In the House of Representatives, accessibility was a subject of consideration on the House Floor in the first half of the 20th century, many decades before Rep. Tony Coelho introduced the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1989. Wheelchairs, scooters, and ramps were known to be used in the Chamber and around the Capitol as early as 1881. Photographs from the House Collection document the history of accessibility in the House Chamber.
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When Ice Cream Got Hot in Congress

Bossie the Cow in the House Office Building Courtyard
In October 1921, a cow mysteriously appeared in the grassy House Office Building courtyard. Bossie arrived amid milkshake profiteering, sundae protests, and illegal ice cream on the Capitol grounds. Cold and creamy on a summer evening, ice cream seems like the most innocent of sweets. But it once got pretty sticky around the House.
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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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Where the Seats Have No Name

New Seats in 1913
The year 1913 dawned with a conundrum. There were 401 desks and chairs in the crowded House Chamber and 440 people who needed a seat when Congress convened in the spring. How could each Member of Congress claim a chair?
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“Which Side Are You On?”

On July 14, 1955, John F. Pickett, a deputy U.S. Marshall for the Southern District of New York, traveled to Beacon, New York. The town had been founded in the early eighteenth century and later grew into a bustling commercial port. During the American Revolution, lookouts lit bonfires atop the surrounding hills to signal the approach of British troops—beacons, for which the town was later named. In the summer of 1955, Pickett made his way north in the shadow of those same hills to deliver a far different message to a resident of Beacon.
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Categories: Committees

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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“Who Do You Represent?”

In March 1971 the 13 African-American Members of the U.S. House of Representatives founded the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), declaring their intention to reshape policy, legislation, and the nature of representation on Capitol Hill. For the first time, black Members worked together to draft an agenda for African-American communities across the nation.
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Who Kicked the Dogs Out?

Eccentric and quick-tempered, Virginia Representative John Randolph spent nearly half of his House service in a chamber that had quite literally gone to the dogs—his dogs, in fact. Randolph often brought his hunting dogs into the House Chamber, leaving them to lop and lounge about the floor during the session’s proceedings, much to the ire of some of his colleagues . . . especially a new Speaker of the House named Henry Clay of Kentucky.
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