January 6, 2012 •

U.S. Congress: This Week in History

The United States House of Representatives Office of the Clerk offers this fascinating look into this week in history:

This week in history

January 03, 1930The 1930 fire near the dome of the Capitol


January 03, 1936President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s first evening Annual Message


January 04, 1965President Lyndon B. Johnson delivered the first televised, evening State of the Union Address.


January 05, 1949President Harry S. Truman’s Fair Deal proposal to a Joint Session of Congress

Photos courtesy of the Library of Congress and the Office of the Clerk website.

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December 21, 2011 •

A New Holiday Tradition for America Begins

The National Christmas Tree was lit for the 89th year

A tradition which began in 1923 under President Coolidge is still going strong in its 89th year. On December 1st, the National Christmas Tree was lit celebrating the beginning of the holiday season.

National Christmas Tree Lighting 2011The Obama family began a new tradition this year as this year’s tree replaces one that was part of the national tradition for 30 years, until it was lost in a storm February of this year. The new tree measures 26 feet, 4 inches and is still growing.

After the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree, the Pathway of Peace begins. The Pathway, featuring trees representing the states and territories of the United States, also includes a number of musical performances and runs from December 6th to December 23rd.

Before the Obama family lit the tree, The First Lady joined by Kermit the Frog read “Twas the Night Before Christmas” to the crowd and President Obama shared a few short remarks about what the holidays mean to him.

Even a family as busy as the Obama’s, as well as other D.C. notables, find time to maintain Chrismas traditions. Holiday traditions are what make this time of the year memorable and special, so try to make time for them no matter how busy you are.

Happy Holidays Everyone!


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October 7, 2011 •

Highlighted Site of the Week – This Day in History

On this day in 1918, the U.S. House public galleries were closed because of the outbreak of the Spanish flu pandemic.

U.S. House public galleries pass Each week the U.S. House Office of the Clerk gives “Historical Highlights” and today it remembers how 93 years ago the country was facing a flu pandemic. The House and Senate decided to close the public galleries.

The Office of the Clerk gives us an idea of the scope the problem: “According to some modern estimates, more than 50 million persons perished worldwide in the 1918–1919 outbreak; most sources attribute 500,000 or more deaths in the U.S. alone to the Spanish flu. Washington, D.C., swelled by an influx of government workers during the First World War, was particularly hard hit.”

They reported that there were 400 deaths in D.C. during the second week of October, and 730 deaths the week after that. A number of House members were absent from the session and action had to be taken.

U. S. Rep. Henry Rainey (D-Ill.) said, “Mr. Speaker, it is matter of common knowledge that an epidemic of alarming proportions is prevailing throughout the country. … Out of an abundant precaution the Senate has ordered the galleries closed, which action, I understand, meets with the approval of the medical authorities, and so I ask unanimous consent that the Speaker be instructed to close the galleries of this House until further action shall be taken by the House.”

The motion was approved without objection, and the House and Senate galleries were closed and were not reopened until November 4.

Spanish Flu Ward Walter Reed
The Spanish Flu ward at Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, D.C.


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September 7, 2011 •

On This Day In History

California was admitted into the Union 161 years ago

On this day in history 161 years ago, September 7, 1850, California was admitted to enter into the Union as a free state as part of the Compromise of 1850.

Two days after the House passed the bill, President Millard Filmore signed the measure into law, allowing California to enter the union as the 31st state on September 9th.

Read more from The Office of the Clerk.

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September 8, 2010 •

On This Day: Pardon me, Mr. President…

Today, September 8, 2010 marks the 36th anniversary of a moment that many Americans do not recall and those that do, perhaps, wish they didn’t.

On this day, thirty-six years ago, President Gerald R. Ford issued Proclamation 4311 announcing the unconditional pardon of ex-President Richard Nixon.

Ford had been President just short of a month following the resignation of Nixon on August 9, 1974 when he took the momentous step of pardoning his predecessor. Issuing the pardon would go on to define Ford’s presidency—and most likely cost him the 1976 election against Democrat Jimmy Carter. At the time, many people suspected a backroom deal had led to the pardon, but Ford disagreed. The country needed to move on from the trauma of Watergate and he alone had the power to pardon Richard Nixon even though no charges had been officially filed at that point in time. President Ford, though, believed the time was right. The country’s “long national nightmare” had to end.

Ford’s pardon of Nixon helped the country move past Watergate even though he may have paid a price for it politically in 1976. In 2001, the John F. Kennedy Foundation awarded President Ford the Profile in Courage Award. The Profile in Courage Award honors “modern-day elected officials who stand up for the public interest, even when it is not in their own interest to do so. The award celebrates individuals who choose principles over partisanship – who do what is right, rather than what is expedient.”


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