George Maurer, reading clerk for the U.S. House of Representatives | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, George Maurer, reading clerk for the U. S. House of Representatives for nearly two decades, died at the age of 56. Born in Easton, Pennsylvania, Maurer earned a law degree from George Washington University Law School. In 1939, he accepted a position in the Parliamentarian’s Office for the House of Representatives where he worked with the longtime Parliamentarian, Lewis Deschler. He served in that capacity for three years before becoming a reading clerk for the House in 1943—a position he received through the patronage of Congressman Francis “Tad” Walter, also a native of Easton, Pennsylvania. In the 78th Congress (1943–1945), Maurer joined Alney Chaffee as one of two reading clerks for the House. On the job before the installation of an electronic amplification system on the House Floor, Maurer, known for his deep, clear voice, earned the admiration of Members for his ability to quickly and accurately read the roll call. Described by his colleagues as a “perfectionist” who “was like a machine who never made mistakes,” Maurer read complicated legislation in a timely and easy manner. Maurer also had the unique responsibility of reading the Annual Message addresses before a Joint Session of Congress for President Franklin D. Roosevelt. “George won the friendship and admiration of the Members of the House by his unstinting devotion to his work as well as by the efficient way in which he discharged his responsibilities," Representative Thomas E. Morgan of Pennsylvania recalled upon Maurer’s passing.
The Life and Times of a Campaign Button | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesEach election cycle, campaign buttons bloom on voters’ lapels like flowers in spring. These bright badges come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, and boast catchy slogans such as “We Love Lindy.” Campaign buttons made their debut on the trail in the late 1890s with the advent of a new material called celluloid.Celluloid was invented in 1868 by John and Isaiah Hyatt as a substitute for ivory used in billiard balls. The material was also used for the manufacture of piano keys, combs, and dolls. Celluloid first covered political buttons in 1894, and in 1896, Amanda Lougee patented its use for a textile-surfaced button coated in a thin layer of celluloid. The celluloid provided a clear protective layer for intricate designs beneath. Lougee sold her patent rights to the Whitehead & Hoag Co., which began producing campaign buttons through a process that hasn't changed in the century since. Images and slogans were printed on paper and placed on the face of a metal disk. A celluloid layer was placed on top and secured to the disk using a thin, metal ring that crimped under the curl of the disk. The end of the ring was typically bent to form a pin to attach the button to the bearer's garment.In 1920, buttons with a lithograph printed on metal debuted on the campaign trail. A lithograph is an etched drawing transferred from one surface to another. Originally, the drawing was made on limestone and transferred to paper or, in the case of campaign buttons, tin. Lithograph buttons were simpler to produce, since the designs and colors could be directly applied to the metal surface of the button. Gasp! What did this mean for celluloid buttons? Not much, as it turned out. Manufacturers primarily produced less-interesting designs in few colors. Because the image or slogan was printed directly onto the metal, it was susceptible to chipping and scuffing.Buttons took a third form in the early 20th century, as tabs. Originally made of paper, tabs were first produced in tin in 1924. Tabs were small, intended to be folded over the edge of a lapel or collar; as such, they typically bore the just candidate's name only. Occasionally, tabs were made in the shape of an object. But, whether tin, cellophane, or any other material, they shared the inestimable quality of demonstrating the wearer’s engagement with the politics of choosing a Member of the House of Representatives. Sources: Richard Friz, Collecting Political Memorabilia. (New York: Random House, 2004).
LANGSTON, John Mercer | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOne of the most prominent African Americans in the United States before and during the Civil War, John Mercer Langston was as famous as his political nemesis, Frederick Douglass.1 One of the first African Americans to hold elective office in the United States (he became Brownhelm, Ohio, township clerk in 1855), Langston topped off his long political career by becoming the first black man to represent Virginia in the U.S. House of Representatives. John Mercer Langston was born free in Louisa, Virginia, on December 14, 1829.2 His father, Ralph Quarles, was a plantation owner and had been a captain in the Revolutionary War. Langston's mother, Lucy, was a free Native American–black woman who had been Ralph Quarles's slave. Quarles emancipated Lucy and their daughter, Maria, in 1806. Lucy Langston left Quarles shortly after she was freed and had three children outside their relationship: William, Harriet, and Mary Langston. The couple later reunited, though state law forbade them to marry, and had three more children: Gideon, Charles Henry, and John Mercer. When John Langston's parents died in 1834, his father's estate was divided among his three sons and held in trust. Four–year–old John Langston moved in with a family friend, William Gooch, and his family in Chillicothe, Ohio. When Langston was 10 years old, Gooch made plans to move to Missouri, then a slave state. John's half brother, William, sued to relinquish Gooch's custody over his brother, fearing the move would jeopardize John's freedom and his substantial inheritance. The court prevented Gooch from taking the child to Missouri, and Langston became the ward of Richard Long, an abolitionist who had purchased William Gooch's Ohio farm.3 In 1840, John Langston's brother Gideon brought John to live with him in Cincinnati. One of the city's leading black figures, Gideon ensured that his brother received a good education. In Cincinnati, John Langston heard some of the strongest antislavery rhetoric in the pre–Civil War North, and experienced the violent race riots of 1841 and the restrictive "Black Laws" imposed as a consequence.4 In 1843, William Langston took custody of John and returned with him to Chillicothe. John's older brothers and their colleagues, who were among the first black graduates of Oberlin College in Ohio, inspired him to attend their alma mater. Langston received a B.A. in 1849 and an M.A. in theology in 1852. Langston wanted to become a lawyer, a profession only three black men in the nation had officially achieved nationwide in the early 1850s. After two law schools denied him admission, he studied under local abolitionists in Elyria, Ohio. In September 1854, a committee on the district court confirmed his knowledge of the law, deeming him "nearer white than black," and admitted him to the Ohio bar. He commenced his practice in Brownhelm, Ohio.5 In 1854, he married Caroline Wall, also a former student at Oberlin, who was active in the abolitionist movement and the Liberty Party.6 The couple raised five children: Arthur, Ralph, Chinque, Nettie, and Frank.7Langston's political involvement started with the Ohio conventions. A series of public meetings held statewide by prominent African Americans, the conventions called for the enfranchisement of black men and promoted their political participation. In 1852, Langston officially allied himself with the Free Democrats, who condemned the Fugitive Slave Law, allowed black delegates at their conventions, and elected Frederick Douglass as the national party secretary.8 Langston's political career soared throughout the 1850s and 1860s. On April 22, 1855, he became one of the first African Americans elected to public office in the United States when Brownhelm Township voted him clerk on the Liberty Party ticket.9 In 1856, he left Brownhelm for Oberlin and served on the town's board of education. During the Civil War, Langston recruited black soldiers in the Midwest. He never served in the Union Army, but hired a substitute to take his place—a practice common among wealthy white men.10 Following the war, he served on the Oberlin city council. In 1867, Langston served as Inspector General of the Freedmen's Bureau, touring the postwar South and encouraging freedmen to seek educational opportunities. He regularly spoke out against segregated facilities, including churches.11For the first two decades of the postwar era, Langston held prominent political and educational appointments. In 1868, he returned to Washington, DC, where he established the law department at Howard University, a new college founded to educate African Americans. In the early 1870s, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts sought Langston's aid in drafting his Civil Rights Bill. In 1871, Langston received an appointment from President Ulysses S. Grant (for whom he had campaigned in 1868) to the District of Columbia Board of Health. Langston served as Howard University's dean from 1868 to 1875 and from 1874 to 1875 as vice president and acting president of Howard; however, he resigned from the university when the board of trustees failed to offer him a full term as president. In 1877, President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Langston resident minister to Haiti and chargé d'affaires in Santo Domingo. Following his departure in 1885, Langston petitioned the Court of Claims for over $7,000 withheld from him after the Democratically controlled House appropriated less than his fixed diplomatic salary. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor in 1886. From 1885 to 1887, Langston served as president of the Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute in Petersburg. He left after the college's board of governors fell into Democratic hands. Settling in south–central Virginia, Langston was viewed as a celebrity by his black neighbors. In 1888, a citizen's committee asked Langston to run for a seat in the U.S. House, representing the "Black Belt of Virginia," a region whose population was 65 percent black.12 Although Langston had been assured that his nomination and election were nearly guaranteed, he began an aggressive campaign for the Republican ticket.13 Langston lobbied both white and black delegates to the district convention at a lavish party hosted by several prominent black women in Petersburg.14 His efforts were thwarted by strong opposition from white Republicans led by scalawag Confederate General William Mahone, a central figure in Virginia Republican politics.15 Using his formidable power over district Republicans—both black and white—Mahone orchestrated a separate district convention, excluding Langston's supporters, to nominate white candidate Judge R. W. Arnold. Though his appeal for support from the National Republican Executive Committee was unsuccessful, Langston obtained the backing of a biracial committee of district Republicans, entered the race as an Independent Republican, and methodically canvassed the district.16The election brought out stark racial divisions. Democratic candidate Edward Venable refused to share a debate platform with Langston throughout the campaign.17 Moreover, because Langston's candidacy threatened to divide the Republican vote, several prominent African Americans campaigned against him.18 Frederick Douglass, chief among Langston's detractors, wrote a letter denouncing his candidacy, and the Mahone faction spread copies throughout the district.19 On Election Day, Langston dispatched supporters to monitor every precinct for irregularities. His lieutenants instructed voters to say Langston's name after voting, as evidence of their support. Separate lines for blacks and whites at the polls meant black voters had to wait as long as three hours to vote. Ballot boxes were allegedly emptied of Langston's votes; Langston's supporters were not permitted to witness the count.20 As predicted, the Republican vote split; initial results indicated that Langston lost by 641 votes to Venable. Arnold was a distant third.21Langston contested the result in the House. At first, he had trouble hiring a lawyer; most attorneys in the district were white, and even sympathetic Republicans feared social and political ostracism.22 Langston finally hired a biracial team of lawyers (the white lawyers charged an exorbitant fee). The case took several twists. One of Langston's witnesses was cross–examined for six days, an incident Langston interpreted as a stalling tactic.23 Langston meanwhile tried to mend political fences in his district and even agreed to work on Mahone's gubernatorial campaign.24 The Republican majority on the Committee on Elections ruled in Langston's favor on June 16, 1890, but the whole House delayed hearing his case for three months.25 Democrats repeatedly blocked the case from coming to a vote on the floor, primarily by vacating the chamber to prevent a quorum, leaving only a few Members to address their interests.26 On September 23, 1890, Langston's case finally came to a vote before a crowded gallery occupied primarily by African Americans.27 All but nine of the 152 Democratic Members retired to the hallway to avoid a quorum. But Republican discipline prevailed; the majority doggedly mustered enough Members, primarily from their own ranks.28 Over Democratic protests that a quorum was not present, the House declared Langston the winner in a lopsided vote of 151 to 1.29 The vote gave Langston Venable's seat for the remaining seven months of the Congress. Most Democratic Members boycotted Langston's swearing in a few minutes later, but a few offered him cordial congratulations upon re–entering the chamber.30 Langston's experience in higher learning earned him a position on the Committee on Education.31 He immediately assisted the Republican majority by voting in favor of the controversial McKinley Tariff, a protective measure designed to drive up the price of cheap goods manufactured abroad. A Democratic newspaper commented that Langston's position on tariffs represented "a wall about the country so high and so great that the British lion would never have been able to get over it without the aid of dynamite or a scaling ladder."32 Only one week after arriving in Congress, Langston had to return home to campaign for re–election. Despite their previous "truce," William Mahone, now the governor, refused to support Langston as his district's Republican candidate. Antagonized by Langston's Independent run for office in 1888, Mahone accused him of purposely dividing the electorate by race.33 Langston responded that Mahone was blinded by racism and "almost a Democrat."34 The district convention backed Langston, whose strong support was primarily from the black population. Republican newspaper accounts indicate that President Benjamin Harrison, congressional Republicans, and the GOP national leadership supported Langston's re–election.35 However, many white Republicans in the district followed Mahone's lead and abandoned Langston, in some measure because of his unpopular vote on the McKinley Tariff.36 Langston lost the election to Democratic candidate James Epes by about 3,000 votes in the state's first Democratic sweep since before secession.37 Democratic newspapers blamed black voters' apathy for their party's solid victory in the state, but the contest mirrored a national trend: From nearly a 20–Member deficit, Democrats in the U.S. House captured a 100–Member majority.38 Langston believed the election was tainted by fraud—as evidenced by long lines for black Republicans at the polls, missing ballots in black strongholds, and undue pressure by Mahone supporters.39 But he feared contesting the election in the strongly Democratic Congress would be expensive.40 Returning in December 1890 as a lame duck to his first full session in Congress, Langston made his first speech on January 16, 1891. He emphasized blacks' U.S. citizenship, condemning calls for foreign emigration and what he deemed the Democratic Party's attempt to thwart black freedom. "Abuse us as you will, gentlemen," Langston told Democrats, "we will increase and multiply until, instead of finding every day five hundred black babies turning their bright eyes to greet the rays of the sun, the number shall be five thousand and still go on increasing. There is no way to get rid of us. This is our native country." Frequent, loud applause from the Republican side of the chamber interrupted Langston's speech. Newspapers admitted that Langston's speech rambled, but deemed him one of the most eloquent speakers on the House Floor.41 One day after his speech, Langston asked the U.S. Attorney General to send the House all documentation of suits on alleged violations of voting rights.42 The Judiciary Committee agreed to Langston's resolution, and it was adopted in the whole House. However, the Attorney General's office never complied, and the disfranchisement of southern freedmen continued. Not all of Langston's legislative efforts were successful. Langston submitted bills to establish a national industrial university to teach blacks useful labor skills and to observe as national holidays the birthdays of former Presidents Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant, but the bills died in committee.43 Langston was unable to secure the appointments of several black candidates to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis.44 On February 27, 1891, Langston returned to the House Floor to debate a civil appropriations bill. He used his experience as a diplomat in the Caribbean to advocate protection for American shipping interests.45 Langston returned to Petersburg, Virginia, at the end of the 51st Congress. In 1892, Republicans in his Virginia district asked him to run again, but he refused, noting that a white candidate would likely have more success. He continued to be active in politics, often speaking publicly about the achievements of his race.46 Promised a federal judicial appointment as well as several Treasury Department patronage positions, Langston began campaigning for President Benjamin Harrison's re–election in 1892; however, when the administration withdrew the promised positions, he backed rival Republican James G. Blaine's quest for the nomination. Langston spent the remainder of his life traveling between Petersburg and Washington and working on his autobiography, From the Virginia Plantation to the National Capitol, which was published in 1894. Langston died at home in Washington, DC, on November 15, 1897.
The life and mysterious disappearance of Representative John V. Creely of Pennsylvania | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, one-term Representative John V. Creely was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. A lawyer and Civil War veteran, Creely entered politics as a member of the Philadelphia city council. After Republican Congressman Charles O’Neill of Pennsylvania fell from the good graces of the Philadelphia political machine, Creely found support to run as an Independent Republican against O’Neill. Elected to the 42nd Congress (1871–1873), Creely was assigned to the Committee on Indian Affairs. However, newspaper accounts suggested the Congressman failed to embrace his new role and shirked his duties as a Member. With only one listing in the Congressional Globe index for the ceremonial roll call of the Members for the start of the Congress, Creely seemed to do little to dispel the allegation. The Representative disappeared sometime in 1872 with little fanfare or news coverage. Few realized his absence. A year after his disappearance creditors attempted to collect on his House paychecks. The 42nd Congress came to a close with no sign of the Congressman; Philadelphia voters returned O’Neill to the House for the 43rd Congress (1873–1875). Nearly 20 years later, John Creely’s sister successfully had him declared dead. When the Joint Committee on Printing prepared to reprint the Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress in 1927, the committee clerk, Ansel Wold, went to great lengths to obtain more information on Representative Creely. In a series of letters, he wrote to the men who served with Creely in the Union Army. One respondent noted, “He [Creely] was a splendid soldier, with a fine record and was honorably discharged at the end of his term of service. . . He went to Washington and that was the last time I, or any of his friends, ever heard of him. He never came back to Philadelphia, and disappeared utterly.”
What’s on the Menu? Bean Soup! | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives“Thunderation,” roared Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois. “I had my mouth set for bean soup! From now on, hot or cold, rain, snow, or shine, I want it on the menu every day.” A common item in the U.S. House of Representatives even before the turn of the 20th century, bean soup became a permanent fixture in the institution when Speaker Joe Cannon of Illinois discovered that his favorite meal had not been prepared by the kitchen staff on a hot, summer day in 1904. Dismayed by the omission, the Speaker directed that bean soup be served in the House every day, regardless of the weather. More than a century after Speaker Cannon’s decree, bean soup remains on the menu in the House Restaurant, making it one of the more longstanding and famous traditions in the House.Recipe for Bean Soup Served in the U.S. House of Representatives Restaurant(from House of Representatives Menu, 1955)2lb. No. 1 white Michigan beans.Cover with water and soak overnight.Drain and re-cover with water.Add a smoked ham hock and simmer slowly for about 4 hours until beans are cooked tender. Then add salt and pepper to suit taste.Just before serving, bruise beans with large spoon ladle, enough to cloud. (Serves about six persons) Teaching TipsAsk students to make a list of traditions in their family, school, or town and lead a discussion about their importance. Then have students think about the meaning of traditions and why an institution like the House of Representatives would have longstanding customs. Divide students in groups and have each create a recipe for their own soup or sandwich. Each group should make a five-minute presentation on why their meal would best represent the students of their school. Afterwards, have students vote on their favorite, and, if time, cook and serve the meal chosen by the class.For an extended activity ask students to interview a family member about his/her “famous” recipe. Have students draft a series of questions about their family member’s connection to the recipe and any traditions or special stories connected with the meal. Memories of Bean SoupFormer House Page Bill Goodwin remembers his arrival at the Capitol, including his first encounter with House Bean Soup.House Restaurant Menu