Posts from history.house.gov
Capitol, Eagle and Flag Postcard | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThis colorful, embossed postcard was mailed to a lucky recipient on May 28, 1908. Publisher Julius Bien and Co. was known for its sentimental thematic cards. In the foreground are familiar patriotic symbols: a bald eagle and an American flag. The eagle is depicted with its wings extended, gripping a laurel branch and flag in its talons. In the background, the front of the Capitol Building completes the classic composition.
Capitol and Reflecting Pool, Washington, D.C. Postcard | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThe surprisingly colorful fountains between the reflecting pool and the Capitol show the qualities of the “Colorchrome” postcard printing process and linen-textured paper, both popular in the 1930s. This striking view was produced by Washington News Company, a D.C.-based postcard publisher specializing in views of the iconic local scenery.
HAMILTON, Alexander | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesHAMILTON, Alexander, a Delegate from New York; born on the island of Nevis, British West Indies, January 11, 1757; immigrated to the United States in 1772, where he received educational training in the schools of Elizabethtown, N.J., and King's College (now Columbia University), New York City; entered the Continental Army in New York in 1776 as captain of Artillery; appointed aide-de-camp to General Washington March 1, 1777, and served in that capacity until February 16, 1781; Member of the Continental Congress in 1782, 1783, and 1788; member of the Annapolis Convention of 1786; served in the New York State assembly in 1787; member of the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 which adopted the Constitution of the United States and signed it; member of the State ratification convention in 1788; studied law; was admitted to the bar and practiced in New York City; Secretary of the Treasury in the Cabinet of President Washington 1789-1795; returned to New York and resumed the practice of law; mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr at Weehawken on the Hudson, and died in New York City the following day, July 12, 1804; interment in Trinity Churchyard.
Edition for Educators—Hamilton and the House | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesIn honor of the television debut of one of history’s favorite Broadway stars, this Edition for Educators explores how the life of Alexander Hamilton, a Member of the Continental Congress, intersected with the early history of the House of Representatives.“Young, Scrappy, and Hungry”Use People Search to explore biographies of the Members who served with Hamilton in the Continental Congress, as well as those who served from the 1st to the 8th Congresses (1789–1805) during Hamilton’s time as Treasury Secretary, and later when he returned home to New York to practice law.Alexander HamiltonAlexander Hamilton was born on the island of Nevis, British West Indies, on January 11, 1757. He immigrated to the United States in 1772, where he received educational training in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and King's College (now Columbia University) in New York City. Hamilton entered the Continental Army in New York in 1776 as Captain of Artillery and he was appointed aide-de-camp to General George Washington on March 1, 1777, serving in that capacity until February 16, 1781.Hamilton was a Member of the Continental Congress in 1782, 1783, and 1788. He also served in the New York state assembly in 1787 before becoming a member of the Constitutional Convention that same year. Hamilton was a signatory to the U.S. Constitution and a member of the New York state ratification convention in 1788.Hamilton studied law and practiced in New York City. He served as Secretary of the Treasury under President Washington from 1789 to 1795. Hamilton returned to New York and resumed his law practice until he was mortally wounded in a duel with Aaron Burr in Weehawken, New Jersey. He died in New York City on July 12, 1804.James MadisonJames Madison was a Delegate in the Continental Congress, a Representative from Virginia, and the fourth President of the United States. He was instrumental in shaping the duties, powers, and procedures of the House of Representatives. He also introduced the resolution that became the Bill of Rights—the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution.Madison was born in Port Conway, King George County, Virginia, on March 16, 1751. He studied under private tutors and graduated from the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University) in 1771. Madison was also a member of Virginia’s first general assembly in 1776.Madison served as a Member of the Continental Congress from 1780 to 1783 and 1787 to 1788. The Virginian was also a Delegate in the Federal Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and signed the Constitution. Madison won election to the House of Representatives in the 1st through 4th Congresses, serving from March 4, 1789, to March 3, 1797.In 1799, he again served as a member of the Virginia Assembly from Orange County until he was appointed Secretary of State by President Thomas Jefferson on March 5, 1801; Madison served in this capacity from his swearing-in on May 2, 1801, until March 4, 1809. James Madison was elected President of the United States in 1808 and re-elected in 1812. At the end of his second term, Madison, a slaveholder, retired to his plantation, "Montpelier," in Orange County, Virginia, and lived there until his death on June 28, 1836.Looking for Aaron Burr? The “prodigy of Princeton College” served in the U.S. Senate and can be found in the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress.“I’d Rather be Divisive than Indecisive”Hamilton served in the Continental and Confederation Congresses, the precursors to the modern Federal Congress. These legislative bodies managed the Revolutionary War, set the groundwork for what would become a new nation, and, following the end of hostilities with Great Britain, authored a limited central governing structure in the Articles of Confederation. When the Articles proved incapable of meeting the needs of the young country, states sent Delegates to the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787. Alexander Hamilton was among those who drafted a new, stronger governing document, creating the United States of America and its federal legislature, including the House of Representatives.Learn more about the meeting places, leadership, and participants in the Continental and Confederation Congresses. Also read about the Delegates who ultimately signed the United States Constitution.“Here Comes the General” and “America’s Favorite Fighting Frenchman”Two portraits in the House Collection have hung together in the House Chamber since the early nineteenth century: one of the Marquis de Lafayette—a Revolutionary War ally from France and the first foreign dignitary to address the House of Representatives—and one of the first President George Washington.The full-length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette was presented to the House by French artist Ary Sheffer in honor of the occasion of his address to the House in 1824. During his visit, Lafayette, a hero of the American Revolutionary War, was received by crowds throughout the United States to great acclaim. The portrait hangs near the rostrum, to the Speaker’s left, as it has since the opening of the current House Chamber in 1857.John Vanderlyn, a leading American portrait artist in the first half of the nineteenth century, was commissioned in 1834 to paint the George Washington portrait as a companion piece to Sheffer’s portrait of Lafayette. In addition to showing a reliable likeness, Vanderlyn’s composition depicts the first President as a statesman, with sheathed sword at this side, indicating his retirement from military leadership and the hope of a peaceful future for the nation.Want more from the first President? The House Collection also includes the seal given to Washington to commemorate the laying of the U.S. Capitol’s cornerstone and one of hundreds of Washington busts commissioned to commemorate the first President’s 200th birthday in 1932.“The World Turned Upside Down”Alexander Hamilton played a key role in the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, the site of Britain’s ceremonial surrender on October 19, 1781. One hundred years later, Members of Congress traveled to Yorktown to commemorate the event. In 1880, Congress created the Joint Select Committee on the Yorktown Celebration, composed of one Representative and one Senator from each of the original 13 colonies, to organize the centennial ceremony. Participants in the celebration included President Chester A. Arthur, Virginia Governor F. W. M. Holliday, the Congressional Commission, the President’s Cabinet, the diplomatic corps, the family of the Marquis de Lafayette, and foreign dignitaries.“Why Do You Write Like You’re Running Out of Time?”Origins and Development: From the Constitution to the Modern House explores the framers’ vision for the House of Representatives and subsequent major institutional developments. This section includes essays exploring the powers and duties of the House of Representatives. Many of these powers find their origins in the Federalist Papers, penned in part by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay.“The Room Where It Happens”On July 16, 1790, President George Washington signed into law the Permanent Seat of Government Act, which established the location of the new federal city. The law moved the United States capital from New York City to a new federal district, “not exceeding ten miles square . . . [to] be located as hereafter directed on the river Potomac,” or approximately the boundaries of present-day Washington, DC. In a compromise brokered by Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton and Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson, the capital moved to a southern location and, in exchange, southern Representatives dropped their opposition to Hamilton’s program to have the federal government assume the states’ Revolutionary War debt.On February 8, 1791, Jefferson’s congressional ally, James Madison, made good on his promise. The House of Representatives passed a bill establishing the first Bank of the United States. Hamilton argued that a national bank was “a political machine, of the greatest importance to the state.” He asserted that a national bank would facilitate the payment of taxes, revenue for which the federal government was desperate after the Revolution.“Can We Get Back to Politics?”In the event that the Electoral College is deadlocked or if no candidate receives the majority of Electoral College votes, the election of the President goes to the House of Representatives. Each state delegation casts one vote for one of the top three contenders to determine a winner. Only two Presidential elections (1800 and 1824) have been decided in the House.The 1800 presidential election tested the presidential selection system when Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied at 73 electoral ballots each. After six days of debate and 36 ballots, Jefferson won 10 state delegations in the House and was named President.Congress passed, and the states ratified, the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution in time for the 1804 election. The amendment stipulated that the electors would cast two votes: one for President and the other for Vice President.“Best of Wives and Best of Women”Alexander Hamilton died on July 12, 1804, a day after his longtime political opponent, Vice President Aaron Burr, shot him in a duel. In the following years, Hamilton’s widow, Elizabeth (daughter of Philip Schuyler), twice petitioned Congress to award her Hamilton’s military pension. Part of the official Records of the House of Representatives, her petition included this statement of Hamilton’s property and debts, written in his own hand shortly before his death. He estimated his worth to be £10,000, a substantial amount of money, yet he worried that it might not cover his debts “if an accident should happen to me.” Initially unsuccessful in 1810, Elizabeth Hamilton again petitioned Congress in 1816. She was granted five years’ pay—the amount of a full pension.This is part of a series of blog posts for educators highlighting the resources available on History, Art & Archives of the U.S. House of Representatives. For lesson plans, fact sheets, glossaries, and other materials for the classroom, see the website's Education section.
Henry Clay | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThe Henry Clay portrait—the first Speaker portrait donated to the House of Representatives— was a gift from the Italian-born artist Giuseppe Fagnani in 1852. Accepted by the House on July 3, 1852 (shortly after Clay’s death), Fagnani’s portrait shows Clay as he appeared during his career in the House several decades earlier. The artist’s paintings of allegorical subjects are in notable collections, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, but he was also known as portrait artist, depicting such famous individuals as Daniel Webster and Samuel F. B. Morse.
Civil Rights | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesSparked by a growing grassroots movement during the mid-20th century, Congress passed landmark legislation to protect American civil rights and to prevent discrimination. Narratives from the era include accounts of racial and gender barriers, as well as historic firsts in the House of Representatives. Members and staff share stories of the movement both within the institution and beyond. To learn about the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the House and the Selma-to-Montgomery marches, please visit our online exhibit, The House and Civil Rights.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, the House of Representatives passed the final version of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. With momentum building for congressional action on the issue of civil rights, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Emanuel Celler of New York and Ranking Member William McCulloch of Ohio led a bipartisan coalition to shepherd the landmark legislation through the House. Prior to its passage, Congressman Charles Weltner of Georgia, an initial opponent of the bill, remarked on the House Floor, “Mr. Speaker, I shall cast my lot with the leadership of my community. I shall cast my vote with that greater cause they serve. I will add my voice to those who seek reasoned and conciliatory adjustment to a new reality. And finally, I would urge that we at home now move on to the unfinished task of building a new South. We must not remain forever bound to another lost cause.” The act, the most significant civil rights legislation passed since the Reconstruction Era, prohibited discrimination in public accommodations and state and municipal facilities. In addition to incorporating the famed Powell Amendment—a rider barring federal funds for institutions that promoted or endorsed segregation—the bill also prohibited discrimination in hiring and employment and created the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to investigate workplace discrimination. President Lyndon B. Johnson signed P.L. 88–352 only a few hours after its overwhelming approval in the House, 289 to 126. “Let us close the springs of racial poison,” the President urged with much fanfare during the nationally televised signing of the historic legislation. “Let us lay aside irrelevant differences and make our Nation whole.”
The Capitol from the Virginia Side of the Potomac | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesThis view of the Capitol takes advantage of its pastoral setting on the Potomac River. From the Virginia riverbank, the building, with its original copper-covered dome, made the most of the hill on which city planner Pierre L’Enfant had sited it. The lithographer Philip Haas had established himself in Washington a decade earlier, and likely was aware of the most popular vantage points for the city’s monumental sights.
The First Labor Day | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, President Grover Cleveland signed S. 730 into law declaring Labor Day a national holiday. Since 1882, Labor Day had been celebrated at the local and state level. From 1887 to 1894, 23 states enacted a Labor Day holiday. But according to the Washington Post, the celebration alternated between the first day of September, the first Monday of September, and the first Saturday of September depending on the location. After being introduced in August 1893, S. 730 sat for ten months without debate in the Senate. Once Senate leaders brought it to the floor, however, the bill quickly passed. Four days later, on June 26, 1894, the Chairman of the House Labor Committee, Lawrence McGann of Illinois, began consideration of the Senate bill in the House, replacing an earlier House version sponsored by Amos Cummings of New York. The legislation passed with no objection and was sent to the President. The response to the new holiday was overwhelmingly positive. Labor unions in cities such as Boston, Nashville, and St. Louis celebrated with parades and picnics. Large turnouts in Chicago (30,000) and Baltimore (10,000) underscored the holiday’s popularity. At the first official Labor Day parade in Chicago, Chairman McGann reminded the revelers, “Let us each Labor day, hold a congress and formulate propositions for the amelioration of the people. Send them to your Representatives with your earnest, intelligent indorsement [sic], and the laws will be changed.” Over time, Members of Congress began utilizing their role as participants in numerous Labor Day holiday parades as a means to reach out to constituents.1
Capitol Interior | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesWhen air conditioning was still rare, summer in Washington meant white suits, white shoes, and straw hats. A group of visitors to the Capitol, dressed for the season, congregated just outside the House Chamber, perhaps waiting to meet Representatives as they came off the Floor. For those lucky few inside the Chamber, air conditioning had arrived already, installed in 1928.
Wash, Rinse, and Equal Treatment | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesIn December 1967 Representative Martha Griffiths stepped in to save a teetering but beloved decades-old institution known as the House Beauty Shop. What began as a makeover became a movement for equality on Capitol Hill.For more than 30 years, customers ranging from House secretaries to Members’ wives to the growing number of women Representatives had walked through the white swinging doors of the House Beauty Shop. Tucked away in the basement of the Longworth Office Building, a small staff of stylists fixed hair, applied makeup, and made last-minute touches to their clientele in a cramped space with worn marble floors and plaster peeling from the walls.Mabel Z. Solomon, a local beautician, had established the shop in 1932. Business was brisk, and the shop was rumored to be lucrative, bringing in nearly $150,000 per year by the 1960s. With little oversight and no overhead costs—the House picked up the tab for “space, electricity, water, and even towels”—Solomon split the receipts paid to each staff member directly by the clients, taking half of whatever they earned.Many congressional reformers in the late 1960s shared the impulse to modernize the House which, coupled with mounting concerns about the Beauty Shop’s management, led to calls for better supervision. In 1966, when health problems led to Solomon’s extended absences, Speaker John McCormack of Massachusetts, Catherine May of Washington, and Griffiths began to investigate the Beauty Shop’s operations, much to Solomon’s chagrin. “We have no way of knowing how much she made for she kept the records,” Congresswoman May observed. Griffiths added that Solomon’s operation had never been subject to audit or oversight because Congressmen who controlled the most powerful House committees “never looked at the place at all.”A Necessary MakeoverBut as Griffiths and May readied a resolution for the House to buy or rent the Beauty Shop’s equipment, Solomon abruptly ended her 35-year association with the House by packing all of the hair dryers, sinks, and mirrors into five moving vans and spiriting them away over a weekend. “I walked in Monday morning for a 7:30 appointment and saw all the equipment gone,” recalled a surprised Edith Green of Oregon. Scheduled to speak later that morning, she “had no choice” but to hasten home to fetch a wig.That’s when Griffiths, the Michigan Congresswoman and “Mother of the ERA,” swung into action. She ordered new equipment, consulted with cosmetologists, and took the shop’s calls. She also submitted a resolution to form a three-Member select committee—made up exclusively of Congresswomen—to oversee the shop’s operations and provide a $15,000 loan to cover initial expenses.“We’ve got to have a beauty shop,” Speaker McCormack concurred in a statement that dripped with patriarchal approval. “Without it, there would be a revolution.” The overwhelmingly male House approved unanimously.The select committee hired Betty Jane Oszust, a beautician from suburban Maryland, to manage the shop which was relocated to a larger space in the Cannon House Office Building in 1969. From 1968 to 1976, the staff more than doubled to 26 licensed operators who were paid 60 percent of their total receipts.Business boomed, topping six figures annually. By September 1970, the $15,000 loan had been repaid to the U.S. Treasury. Griffiths, as chair of the select committee, proudly crowed that the Beauty Shop was the only House support office “operated by women” and was “the only thing around here operating in the black.”From Makeover to RevolutionGriffiths led the House Select Committee on the Beauty Shop from 1967 until she retired from Congress in December 1974. Her service as chairwoman spanned a period when women Members of Congress asserted themselves as advocates for women’s equality in every facet of national life—employment, access to credit, consumer affairs, education, and healthcare. And it’s within this context that the select committee made the national issue of workplace parity a local one—by advocating for equal treatment of the Beauty Shop stylists.Because the Beauty Shop remained a quasi-official House entity, the staff did not receive benefits such as health insurance, life insurance, or a comprehensive retirement plan. In contrast, the staff of the House Barber Shop, who catered to Congressmen, got a benefits package.At the start of the 95th Congress (1975–1977), Yvonne Brathwaite Burke of California succeeded Griffiths as chair of the select committee. Burke, one of the first African-American women elected to Congress, recalled that her own staff resisted her participation on the Beauty Shop Committee, telling her, “‘You can’t take that. Can you imagine going back to your district and saying, ‘I chair the Beauty Shop Committee?’” But she deflected those concerns, emphasizing her desire to advance the cause of women’s rights wherever she could.In February 1977 Burke submitted H. Res. 315, calling for the select committee to be abolished and its jurisdiction transferred to the Committee on House Administration. Her proposal also brought the Beauty Shop employees under the purview of the House Employee Classification Act, giving them equal status to the House barbers and guaranteeing them health benefits, life insurance, and a retirement plan.Later that May, the House Administration Committee’s Subcommittee on Services convened a hearing to discuss the resolution. Following Burke’s introductory remarks, Mo Udall of Arizona testified as a male patron who had “shed a few locks on the floor of the House Beauty Shop.” Udall supported Burke’s bill and the shop staff, although he also sheepishly and rather condescendingly admitted, “I am here because my wife said to be here.” His testimony contrasted the management of the profitable Beauty Shop with that of the House Barber Shop, which operated at a loss of nearly $200,000. Another witness, Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm of New York, considered the treatment of Beauty Shop employees as the “last visible vestige of blatant discriminatory practices on Capitol Hill.” Manager Betty Jane Oszust rounded out the testimony noting that the shop had hundreds of “happy and satisfied customers”—and well-placed ones at that, “senators, congressmen, 14 of our 18 congresswomen, members’ wives, and a large number of Capitol Hill staff.” To bolster her claim, Oszust submitted a 27-page petition with the signatures of nearly 700 clients from around the capital city requesting passage of H. Res. 315.Not every Congresswoman agreed with Burke’s resolution. During final debate on the House Floor, a remaining naysayer and staunch fiscal conservative, Millicent Fenwick of New Jersey, objected to “the idea that 28 beauty shop operators are going to be added to the 2,840,000 people who are already on the Federal payroll.” But Members from both parties (and both genders) voiced their support before the House passed H. Res. 315, 273 to 131. The Beauty Shop was folded into the House employee system via the Legislative Branch Appropriations Act for 1979.Representative Burke proudly recalled her work with the House Beauty Shop years later.The actions of Burke, Griffiths, and their women colleagues on the Select Committee on the Beauty Shop professionalized a House institution that served an extensive clientele, rescued it from extinction, and preserved it for subsequent generations of women Members, Capitol Hill staff, and the general public.Speaker McCormack flippantly anticipated a minor uprising, but the actions of a handful of determined Congresswomen suggested that a wider revolution was well underway.Sources: Congressional Record, 90th Cong., 1st sess. (6 December 1967); Congressional Record, 95th Cong., 1st sess. (1 November 1977); Yvonne Brathwaite Burke Interview, Office of the Historian, U.S. House of Representatives, July 22, 2015; Hearing Before the House Subcommittee on Services of the Committee on House Administration, Beauty Shop Hearings, 95th Cong., 2nd sess. (1977); Hearing Before the House Subcommittee on Legislative Branch Appropriations of the Committee on Appropriations, Legislative Branch Appropriations for 1979, 95th Cong., 2nd sess. (1978); Atlanta Constitution, 2 March 1969; Chicago Tribune, 20 August 1974; New York Times, 7 December 1967; The Sun (Baltimore, Md.), 12 December 1967; Washington Post, 12 December 1967; 30 April 1971.In honor of the 100th anniversary of the election and swearing-in of the first woman in Congress, we will publish a series of blog posts about the early women Members and the changing role of women in the institution. Check back each month through 2017 to see the latest posts.Follow @USHouseHistory
Balloon View of Washington, D.C. | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesWhen this print was made, the nation awaited the start of the Civil War with interest. Harper’s Weekly touted its ability to satisfy readers’ hunger for news with innovations like hot air balloons that allowed “artist-correspondents” to show entire battlefields. Until there were battles, they made do with images like this one, of Washington at the start of war, with the unfinished dome of the Capitol in the foreground.
Vent Elation | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives“No good legislation comes out of Washington after June.” Speaker of the House John Nance Garner spent 30 years in Congress, and he knew to get out of town ahead of the wilting summer weather. Washington in July and August is a desperately swampy place. Then one day in 1928, “manufactured weather” arrived in the House of Representatives’ Chamber.By the time this wondrous new weather, better known today as air conditioning, came to the House, politicians had been complaining about Washington’s heat since the moment the capital was established there. To alleviate some of the swelter, light summer fabrics covered the furniture, rush matting replaced heavy wool carpets, and Members wore white suits and straw hats. It was all to no avail. When required to stay into the summer months one year, there was considerable unhappiness in Congress. And with good reason. The House Chamber was windowless, airless, and so oppressive that an official reporter collapsed from the heat one year. The advent of the automobile in the 1910s sent Representatives on all-night countryside drives at top speeds, just to feel a breeze.By 1928, Members of Congress were genuinely concerned about their ability to work under such conditions. Several Representatives announced that 202 of their colleagues had died in office in the previous 35 years, and suggested unhealthful air in the House Chamber as a contributing cause. A study of the Capitol’s ventilation was commissioned and recommended air conditioning the chamber. The House jumped at the prospect. In May a call went out for a new system, and within months the Carrier Corporation had designed and installed its “Manufactured Weather,” with air that would “guard the Health, assure the Comfort and inspire the Achievement of the Nation’s representatives.”The great air conditioning project of 1928 was a huge success. The House announced that the system collected 500 pounds of dust and dirt in its first three months. That heap of pollution confirmed in many minds that air conditioning was the healthy way to go. The Senate quickly followed the House’s lead, and the two legislative chambers became the most comfortable spots in the Capitol (although the Senate had to post notices to assure its more timid members that there was nothing to be frightened of.) The Carrier Corporation, giddy with success, predicted that air conditioning might “have a profound effect upon our governmental system! Congress may voluntarily remain in session throughout the summer, in order that our Congressmen may be protected from the intolerable discomforts and dangers of the ordinary outdoor weather!” Congress did sit longer into the summer, and legislating became a year-round endeavor, although this was attributable as much to the twin crises of economic collapse and global conflict in the 1930s as to cooler spaces. A partial summer recess, however, was still sacrosanct. Through June and July, Representatives anticipated the August break from the sweltering heat. When it finally arrived, Members greeted the recess with cheers and singing, and ran for the doors, headed home to see constituents and families.Sources: Richard A. Baker, 200 Notable Days: Senate Stories, 1878 to 2002 (Washington: GPO, 2006); Annual Report of the Architect of the Capitol (Washington: GPO, 1929); William Allen, History of the United States Capitol (Washington: GPO, 2002); Washington Post, July 15, 1929.Follow @USHouseHistory
The Speaker’s Broken Gavels | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, Speaker of the House Joseph Cannon of Illinois broke a gavel while putting the House into the Committee of the Whole for further consideration of a bill. The Speaker banged the gavel hard enough to knock off the head, which landed between the clerks on the lower tier of the rostrum. Instances of gavels breaking during a session were not uncommon. Speaker Champ Clark of Missouri broke two gavels during the opening session of the 62nd Congress (1911–1913) while Speaker of the House John Nance Garner of Texas broke three gavels early in his Speakership. Tired of breaking gavels, Garner reportedly ordered an “unbreakable” gavel to be made of black walnut and treated with a special curing process. Speaker Thomas Brackett Reed of Maine was known as such an enthusiastic gavel wielder that he splintered the rostrum desktop. When the felt from his desktop was replaced late in the 51st Congress (1889–1891), visitors obtained the wood splinters as souvenirs. Speaker Sam Rayburn of Texas acquired an eclectic collection of gavels made from historic lumber. One gavel was reportedly made of timber dating to the burning of the White House in 1814. Of gavels Speaker Rayburn once said, “In the Speakership, the gavel becomes almost a part of the office.” He continued, “It’s habit. Any gavel you use has a lot of sentiment attached.” As in the past, most House gavels are still created in the House Carpentry Shop.
Dad Set a Shining Example | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesJoseph Byrns, Jr., son and namesake of former Speaker Byrns, admires his father’s portrait on his first day of work as a new Member of the House. The younger Byrns was elected in 1938, just two years after his father’s death in office, and he served only one term. He returned to law after leaving Congress and served in the Army during World War II.
Paul John Kvale | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesElected to fill the vacancy caused by the untimely death of his father, Congressman O. J. Kvale, Paul J. Kvale served in the House from 1929 to 1939. Kvale, who had served as his father’s secretary, campaigned on a promise to adhere faithfully to his father’s stance on issues.
Father’s Day Becomes A National Holiday | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesOn this date, President Richard M. Nixon signed P.L. 92-278, designating the third Sunday in June as “Father’s Day.” Representative Andrew Jacobs, Jr., of Indiana introduced the legislation (H.J. Res. 687) on June 7, 1971. Although Jacobs sponsored the final bill, Walt Horan of Washington introduced earlier resolutions during his House service. In a 1961 House Floor speech, Horan described how his Spokane, Washington, constituent, Sonora Dodd, initiated the holiday in her hometown. In the spring of 1910, Dodd presented a petition to a ministerial association in Spokane to celebrate Father’s Day on June 5 (the birthday of her father, a widower who raised her and her five siblings). The association approved the suggestion, but could not schedule the holiday until the third Sunday of June. From the first Father’s Day in 1910, the movement spread across the country. Americans fêted fathers in an informal fashion, but Horan noted that while Father’s Day “has gained nationwide observance . . . it has never been given the official recognition of Congress.” Despite the efforts of the Father’s Day Association and support over the years from political luminaries such as former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska, President Woodrow Wilson, and President Calvin Coolidge the holiday never received the legislative status of its counterpart, Mother’s Day. Representative Horan stated, “In our present age of complex scientific activities, such as sending a man, or perhaps I should say a father, into outer space, it is indeed refreshing to take time to grant simple official recognition to our American fathers.” While Horan passed away five years later in 1966, Dodd lived to see the petition she championed to honor her father become law on the 62nd anniversary of the first Father’s Day celebration.
Clean-Up | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesWhenever Congress goes out of session, legions of workers descend on the Capitol for maintenance and repairs. This scene was captured during the 1948 August recess. The Chamber’s ceiling required supports—visible on the right—because of the failing 19th-century roof. While that repair was still in process, crews cleaned and refreshed the walls of the Visitor’s Gallery. The full renovation was completed two years later, in 1950.
Hawaii Four-9 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & ArchivesSamuel Wilder King stands tall, looking directly into the camera. The Hawaiian Delegate’s eyes twinkle with pride. His open hand gestures to one star on the U.S. flag behind him—the 49th star. This unofficial flag, made by Hawaiian women in 1935, showed the territory’s aspiration to become a state, including it as a star. In the 20th century, flags became symbols of Hawaii’s status in the offices of its Territorial Delegates.Hawaii was an independent kingdom until the draw of sugar industry profits and rising political instability led the United States to annex it as an American territory. In 1898, the Hawaiian flag was lowered at Iolani Palace in Honolulu and the U.S. flag was raised in its place. Hawaii officially became a U.S. territory in 1900. In 1912, with the addition of New Mexico and Arizona as states, the U.S. flag had 48 stars, organized into six rows of eight stars. In the years afterward, as Hawaiians advocated for statehood, the idea of the 49-star flag took on aspirational significance. To Hawaii’s Delegates, a 49th star on the flag would mean that Hawaii had achieved statehood.A 1926 photograph shows William P. Jarrett, Hawaiian Delegate from 1923 to 1927, in his office. In the image, Jarrett stands on a chair, gesturing at a large Hawaiian flag. Jarrett pointedly chose to display a flag from Hawaii’s own national history, rather than the 48-star U.S. flag, which had no star for the territory. It was the Hawaiian flag, with the same design as the flag removed from Iolani Palace in 1898. His office displays the bustle of congressional life: On the window sill, a stack of papers threatens to crash onto a clock, while a pencil sharpener perches above a full waste paper basket. A March 1926 calendar page from the Alexander & Baldwin company, proclaiming “sugar factors shipping commission merchants insurance pineapples Honolulu Seattle San Francisco” in all-caps, hangs askew on the wall. Although many objects are visible in the photograph, the flag overwhelmingly draws the viewer’s eye.Nine years later, in 1935, Delegate King showed off an unofficial 49-star flag. At the time, King had been advocating for Hawaiian statehood, but to no avail. The flag was created by four young Hawaiian women of different ethnic backgrounds: Tamar Kahalelehua, Philomena Cabral, Rose Lam, and Constance Morrell. Newspapers chuckled over the idea of “island Betsy Rosses,” as the Los Angeles Times put it. The Washington Post wrote: “‘Tamar Kahalelehua’ doesn’t sound much like ‘Betsy Ross,’ we’ll admit, but [she] is performing much the same function that Betsy did long ago.” King used the flag as a visual prop accompanying his 1935 petition for statehood, showing how easily and neatly Hawaii’s star could fit into the nation’s symbol.Describing the flag, the Baltimore Sun wrote: “The flag has forty-nine stars instead of forty-eight and they are arranged in seven lines of seven stars each instead of six lines of eight stars each. This, beyond doubt, will be the arrangement when Hawaii is admitted but there is as yet no official sanction for it.” Despite King’s political efforts and Kahalelehua’s handiwork, Hawaii remained a territory during the Delegate’s House service. A revenge killing known as the Massie affair and the Jones–Costigan Act, which classified Hawaii as a “foreign” market, wiped statehood off the table for the moment. (However, after sugar companies faced profit losses that only statehood could fix, the Jones–Costigan Act later drove support of statehood.) Hawaiian politicians continued to advocate for statehood into the 1950s. Delegate Joseph R. Farrington displayed his own unofficial, aspirational 49-star flag in his office, in the Old House Office Building. The Washington Post noted that visitors had been able to see the unofficial flag in his office from 1947 on.World War II had changed the political landscape, because the attack on Pearl Harbor reverberated as an attack on the United States. Hawaiian statehood again moved forward in Congress. But to keep political balance in the Senate, statehood for Hawaii, which typically voted Republican, was linked to statehood for Alaska, which leaned Democratic. Democratic Senators, including Majority Leader Lyndon B. Johnson, did not want to lose the party’s majority. King’s and Farrington’s flags ended up incorrectly predicting history—Hawaii did not become the 49th state. There was a 49-star flag, briefly, but the 49th star signified Alaska, not Hawaii. Alaska became the 49th state on January 3, 1959, just months before Hawaii.The dates of statehood threw flag makers into a quandary. After Alaska entered the Union, the industry created a swath of 49-star flags. According to the 1818 Act to Establish the Flag of the United States, a new state’s star must be added to the U.S. flag on the next July 4th. If both Alaska and Hawaii achieved statehood before July 4, the 49-star flags would be outdated before they were even sold. Flag makers fretted that their companies would be ruined if Hawaii achieved statehood too soon.In the end, Hawaii was admitted as a state on August 21, 1959. The official 49-star flag appeared for only one year, from July 4, 1959, to July 4, 1960, when Hawaii’s star finally took its place on Old Glory.Sources: Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1935; Baltimore Sun, February 9, 1936; Washington Post, March 28, 1953; Wall Street Journal, March 13, 1959; Atlanta Constitution, July 2, 1959; Act of April 4, 1818, ch. 34, 3 Stat. 415; and Ben Reed Zaricor, “Whose Flag Is It, Anyway?” The American Flag: Two Centuries of Concord & Conflict, ed. Howard Michael Madaus and Whitney Smith (Santa Cruz, C.A.: VZ Publications, 2006).This is part of a series of blog posts exploring the art and history of photographs from the House Collection.Follow @USHouseHistory