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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 24 results

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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House Pages Shoulder the Weight of History: The Story Behind an Iconic Image

Sixty-five years ago, four members of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party opened fire on the House Chamber from the visitors’ gallery, wounding five Members, and causing mayhem across the Capitol. In the midst of the terror, others on the floor responded by assisting those wounded in the attack. Photographs snapped in the aftermath captured these efforts, including an iconic image of three young House Pages carrying a wounded Member down the steps of the Capitol. Perhaps more than any other image, that photo came to embody both the violence and the solemnity of the day.
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Home at the House

Mrs. Smith with Pages
For more than two centuries, Pages assisted Representatives with errands, relaying messages, and other tasks. Early on, Members appointed Pages from the Washington area, but by the 20th century, most were selected from congressional districts around the country. When teenaged Pages came to Washington, they often made their temporary home in a residence like Olive Smith’s house.
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“A Voice as Resounding as a Trumpet”

Inside the House Chamber, along its southern wall, an American flag hangs above a modest three-tiered structure that is arguably one of the most recognizable pieces of furniture in the federal government—the House rostrum, the institution’s central nervous system. The rostrum’s middle row is reserved for three clerks, in particular: the House Journal clerk, the tally clerk who records votes, and the reading clerk who, as the job suggests, reads legislation and once called the roll of Members before the House switched to an electronic voting system in 1973. With such a prominent and vocal responsibility, reading clerks are often in the public eye. Most have remained anonymous, but in the first half of the 20th century the colorful personality and vocal endurance of Patrick James Haltigan made him a star.
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Dial Main 3120 for Members

Harriott Daley, Director of the Capitol Switchboard
Standing next to the Capitol switchboard, chief operator Harriott Daley broke into a smile. “She must have a lot of interesting recollections,” a Washington Post reporter mused, “since she is in the top telephone spot in the Nation.”
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"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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“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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“His Own Little Club”

Before Lyndon Baines Johnson rose through the political ranks as a Member of the House and Senate (and later Vice President and President of the United States), the young, congressional secretary to Congressman Richard Kleberg of Texas set his sights on a smaller, lesser-known organization: the Little Congress.
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Mildred Reeves and the Quiet Revolution

Sometime around 1916 or 1917, the exact date isn’t clear, a woman in her early 20s from Washington, DC, named Mildred Reeves took a job in the office of Congressman Nicholas Longworth, an up-and-coming Republican legislator from Ohio. Within just two years or so, Reeves had gone from a minor role handling the mail to becoming one of Longworth’s chief aides, responsible for running his office—a position equivalent to today’s chief of staff.
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Hanging on Every Word

La Salle Stenotype Machine
When the House is in session, official reporters record every word.
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Dreams Can Come True

Clerk Donnald K. Anderson’s 35-year career in the U.S. House began somewhat improbably before he was even old enough to vote.
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Front and Center

Rostrum in the House Chamber
The Speaker’s rostrum announces its importance visually. Framed by walls of multicolored marble, columns, symbolic relief sculptures, and a large American flag, it is located front-and-center in the House Chamber.
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