First-Term Members of the House of Representatives

The roles and expectations for first-term Members of the House of Representatives have changed over time. The earliest Congresses typically featured a large number of first-term Representatives after each election cycle because Members did not usually pursue long congressional careers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. This meant that first-term Members occasionally assumed prominent roles in the House. Henry Clay of Kentucky, for instance, won election as Speaker in his first term in the House.

But by the early 20th century, first-term Members were expected to go through a period of apprenticeship, learning about the House’s rhythms and procedures from more senior Members before taking on complex policies and managing legislation on the floor. As House Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri once said, “A man has to learn to be a Representative just as he must learn to be a blacksmith, a carpenter, a farmer . . . or a doctor.”By the mid-20th century, first-term Members were often called “freshmen.”

The table below documents the number of Representatives serving their first term for each Congress:

A “pre-convening” freshman is a Member (present on Opening Day of a new Congress) who won a seat in the general election. This category also includes people who won a special election prior to the first meeting of a new Congress. This often occurred in the 19th century as Congress typically did not convene for more than a year after the states held their general elections, leaving plenty of time for Members-elect to die, accept an appointment elsewhere in the government, or decide not to serve.

A “post-convening” freshman is someone who entered office mid-Congress and served a partial term. This includes those who won a special election after Congress convened, those who successfully contested an election, and Members whose office was established mid-Congress, such as when a new state is admitted to the Union.

CongressPre-convening FreshmenPost-convening FreshmenTotal2
2nd Congress (1791–1793)28533
3rd Congress (1793–1795)56460
4th Congress (1795–1797)351045
5th Congress (1797–1799)381250
6th Congress (1799–1801)32941
7th Congress (1801–1803)40747
8th Congress (1803–1805)64771
9th Congress (1805–1807)48856
10th Congress (1807–1809)42850
11th Congress (1809–1811)431255
12th Congress (1811–1813)53457
13th Congress (1813–1815)9014104
14th Congress (1815–1817)721587
15th Congress (1817–1819)10213115
16th Congress (1819–1821)711283
17th Congress (1821–1823)84993
18th Congress (1823–1825)81788
19th Congress (1825–1827)751388
20th Congress (1827–1829)66773
21st Congress (1829–1831)83992
22nd Congress (1831–1833)79483
23rd Congress (1833–1835)11419133
24th Congress (1835–1837)8716103
25th Congress (1837–1839)11016126
26th Congress (1839–1841)10314117
27th Congress (1841–1843)91697
28th Congress (1843–1845)14213155
29th Congress (1845–1847)9917116
30th Congress (1847–1849)1109119
31st Congress (1849–1851)11810128
32nd Congress (1851–1853)1216127
33rd Congress (1853–1855)1387145
34th Congress (1855–1857)1325137
35th Congress (1857–1859)10210112
36th Congress (1859–1861)1064110
37th Congress (1861–1863)8819107
38th Congress (1863–1865)1044108
39th Congress (1865–1867)751186
40th Congress (1867–1869)7040110
41st Congress (1869–1871)9729126
42nd Congress (1871–1873)10612118
43rd Congress (1873–1875)14710157
44th Congress (1875–1877)15915174
45th Congress (1877–1879)1266132
46th Congress (1879–1881)1197126
47th Congress (1881–1883)937100
48th Congress (1883–1885)15914173
49th Congress (1885–1887)1186124
50th Congress (1887–1889)1123115
51st Congress (1889–1891)11417131
52nd Congress (1891–1893)1429151
53rd Congress (1893–1895)13518153
54th Congress (1895–1897)16612178
55th Congress (1897–1899)13214146
56th Congress (1899–1901)10511116
57th Congress (1901–1903)861399
58th Congress (1903–1905)1219130
59th Congress (1905–1907)82890
60th Congress (1907–1909)88896
61st Congress (1909–1911)741387
62nd Congress (1911–1913)11817135
63rd Congress (1913–1915)14818166
64th Congress (1915–1917)1186124
65th Congress (1917–1919)692190
66th Congress (1919–1921)9719116
67th Congress (1921–1923)10217119
68th Congress (1923–1925)1176123
69th Congress (1925–1927)68573
70th Congress (1927–1929)50959
71st Congress (1929–1931)592180
72nd Congress (1931–1933)76985
73rd Congress (1933–1935)15013163
74th Congress (1935–1937)9710107
75th Congress (1937–1939)8816104
76th Congress (1939–1941)10424128
77th Congress (1941–1943)601979
78th Congress (1943–1945)9417111
79th Congress (1945–1947)661581
80th Congress (1947–1949)9018108
81st Congress (1949–1951)9311104
82nd Congress (1951–1953)581169
83rd Congress (1953–1955)77986
84th Congress (1955–1957)49453
85th Congress (1957–1959)401050
86th Congress (1959–1961)791089
87th Congress (1961–1963)551166
88th Congress (1963–1965)651277
89th Congress (1965–1967)83992
90th Congress (1967–1969)60666
91st Congress (1969–1971)361349
92nd Congress (1971–1973)481058
93rd Congress (1973–1975)661076
94th Congress (1975–1977)86995
95th Congress (1977–1979)63669
96th Congress (1979–1981)75782
97th Congress (1981–1983)72981
98th Congress (1983–1985)77885
99th Congress (1985–1987)38543
100th Congress (1987–1989)46854
101st Congress (1989–1991)311142
102nd Congress (1991–1993)41849
103rd Congress (1993–1995)1088116
104th Congress (1995–1997)84690
105th Congress (1997–1999)67976
106th Congress (1999–2001)39342
107th Congress (2001–2003)40949
108th Congress (2003–2005)52456
109th Congress (2005–2007)37542
110th Congress (2007–2009)511364
111th Congress (2009–2011)541165
112th Congress (2011–2013)891099
113th Congress (2013–2015)721082
114th Congress (2015–2017)56662
115th Congress (2017–2019)511465

Footnotes

1Richard F. Fenno Jr., “The Freshman Congressman: His View of the House,” in American Governmental Institutions, ed. Aaron Wildavsky and Nelson Polsby (Chicago, IL: Rand McNally and Co., 1968): 21.

2These figures only include Representatives; they do not include Delegates and Resident Commissioners. In many cases, the total number of freshmen in each Congress were not concurrently serving. Sources for this data include: Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, http://bioguide.congress.gov; Michael J. Dubin, United States Congressional Elections, 1788–1997 (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 1998); Journal of the United States House of Representatives, various editions; Jennifer E. Manning, “First-Term Members of the House of Representatives and Senate, 64th–114th Congresses,” Report R41283, 7 March 2016, Congressional Research Service; “Session Dates of Congress”; Congressional Directory, various editions.