Official reporters transcribe House Floor proceedings verbatim for publication in the Congressional Record. They also provide support to committees for hearings, meetings, and markup sessions. Their transcripts create an easily accessible public record of the House’s work.
Until stenography machines came into use in the 20th century, official reporters took handwritten notes in shorthand. This print dramatizes this challenge: Many voices in a sometimes chaotic environment all needed to be captured in the word-for-word accounts created for each session. As a newspaper described it, a hardworking scribe “walks between a double row of shaking fists, and his trained ear catches all that is possible of the screaming.” By the next morning, most of these notes were transcribed, edited, proofed, and printed in the Congressional Record.
Stenotype machines made this job easier, although not without effort. Former Chief of Official Reporters Joe Strickland demonstrated how typing and transcription worked on a mid-20th century model.