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1. Roman Emperors: The Most Important People in Ancient Rome 2. Ancient Roman Architecture: How Did They Build Such Magnificent Structures? 3. Ancient Roman Gladiators: How Did They Survive? 4. Ancient Roman Art and Sculpture: What Are Its Most Famous Works? 5. Ancient Roman Religion: What Were Its Main Beliefs? 6. Ancient Roman Technology: How Did They Innovate? 7. Ancient Roman Women: How Did They Fare in Ancient Rome? 8. Ancient Roman Military: How Did They Conquer the World? 9. Ancient Roman Entertainment: What Did They Do for Fun? 10. Ancient Rome and the Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire: What Are the Causes and Effects?

Best of the Blog in 2015 | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

As December draws to a close, there’s a tendency to review the efforts of the past year. In 2015, House History, Art & Archives added a slew of new information to the website, including pages on signers of the U.S. Constitution, histories of the House Office Buildings, trivia about addresses by Foreign Leaders, a documentary on the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and much more. On the blog, we introduced the new Photography blog entries, took you inside the Speaker’s Office, and traveled to Selma, Alabama. Here are just a few of our favorites from the past year.Breaking the Code: Duncan Lee, HUAC, and the Venona FilesHere’s the thing about being a spy: You can’t tell anybody. Especially if you’re a descendant of the Lee family of Virginia, educated at an elite prep school and university, a Rhodes Scholar, a lawyer at a prominent Manhattan law firm, and working in counterintelligence for the United States. Duncan Chaplin Lee was and did all of those things. He was a spy, and he got away with it.Read more.Plating PossumWhen a possum snuck into the Old House Office Building in 1946, it had little idea that it would end up as a Capitol dinner. The possum, or opossum, is a nocturnal marsupial, known for playing dead when faced with danger. Usually found in the woods of the southeastern and northwestern United States, possums have occasionally wandered into buildings in Washington, D.C. In March 1946, a particularly resourceful possum broke into the Old House Office Building (now known as the Cannon Building) and roamed the hallways for nearly a week while staffers hunted it down.Read more.The Unlucky SeventhIf you studied Latin in school you may recall the phrase, “Omne trium perfectum” (every set of three is complete). From history to pop culture, trios make for interesting stories. Ancient Rome had Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony. The antebellum Senate boasted its Great Triumvirate—Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. The Bee Gees laid down the beat for 1970s disco goers. Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spellbound a later generation. The Illinois Seventh Congressional District of the 1840s spawned its own memorable political trio: John J. Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Abraham Lincoln.Read more.Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage “Like Going to Normandy with Dwight Eisenhower”Rarely do we visit a historic site with someone who helped to make history there. But one weekend a year, more than 60 Members of Congress travel to Alabama with Selma veteran and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia. The Congressional Civil Rights Pilgrimage in 2015 commemorated the 50th anniversaries of the Selma-to-Montgomery marches which spurred passage of the landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965. The pilgrimage is an important congressional tradition and one the Office of the Historian chronicles through its civil rights oral history project.Read more.The Artist Formerly Known as FoxAt 10 different portrait unveilings on Capitol Hill, a man named Charles J. Fox was praised as the artist who captured the sitter’s likeness. Fox didn’t immediately fit the image of an artist in mid-century America—an unkempt genius in a beret and paint-splattered smock. Instead, he looked like a prosperous businessman with a well-tailored suit and receding hairline. Nor did he look like a sophisticated aesthete, although a promotional pamphlet described him as “the son of a well-known Austrian artist whose subjects were European royalty and continental society.” The only problem was that Charles J. Fox was not the true identity of the artist.Read more.The Saga of “Sausage” SawyerIn politics as in life, everyone discovers that they have to choose their battles, deciding when to fight and when to walk away. The lucky ones get to learn this lesson early and in private. Then there are others, like Ohio Representative William Sawyer. On Wednesday, March 4, 1846, the House of Representatives finished its daily business. At this point, an angry William Sawyer of Ohio rose and demanded recognition “to make an explanation personal to himself.” He brusquely sent to the House Clerk a recent copy of the New York Tribune which he declaimed had a “personally abusive” article and demanded that the article be read for the record.Read more.The Speaker Inquisition of 1856Shortly before seven o’clock in the evening, on Saturday, February 2, 1856, Nathaniel P. Banks of Massachusetts, strode to the well of the House, climbed the rostrum’s few steps to the Speaker’s chair, and sat down. He paused for a moment. With his thick dark hair swept to one side and a prominent mustache obscuring his upper lip, Banks then stood to address his colleagues, referencing “unusual difficulties.” What he unassumingly called “unusual difficulties” was, in fact, the fallout from the most chaotic period in House history.Read more.What’s in the Speaker’s Office?A space dedicated to receiving honored guests, a staging spot for invitees addressing joint meetings and a genteel setting for photo ops wasn’t part of the Speaker’s suite of offices until the mid-1930s, after the Longworth House Office Building opened. Increased space, more frequent visits by foreign dignitaries, and the demand for news photos spurred development of what is today known as the Speaker’s Ceremonial Office.Read more.Stay tuned in 2016 for the tale of one of the worst snowstorms to ever hit D.C., some Capitol Hill movie trivia, a look at the first female House photographer, and plenty more!Follow @USHouseHistory

The Unlucky Seventh | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives

If you studied Latin in school you may recall the phrase, “Omne trium perfectum” (every set of three is complete). From history to pop culture, trios make for interesting stories. Ancient Rome had Julius Caesar, Cleopatra, and Mark Antony. The antebellum Senate boasted its Great Triumvirate—Webster, Calhoun, and Clay. The Bee Gees laid down the beat for 1970s disco goers. Harry Potter and his friends, Ron and Hermione, spellbound a later generation.The Illinois Seventh Congressional District of the 1840s spawned its own memorable political trio: John J. Hardin, Edward D. Baker, and Abraham Lincoln.Illinois’ population had trebled in the 1830s, increasing its representation in Congress from three to seven seats after the 1840 Census. Reapportionment carved out the new Seventh District from 11 central-Illinois counties, taking in Springfield, the state capital. The Seventh was the only district in the Democrat-dominated state that tilted to the opposing Whig Party.For up-and-coming Whig politicians looking to make their mark and advance past the state legislature, the Seventh had a funneling effect: multiple aspirants scrambled for the one viable seat in Congress. In 1843, the competitors—Hardin, Baker, and Lincoln—shared similar traits. They were thirty-somethings, with legislative experience in Springfield, tireless campaigners, solid stump speakers, and rising stars in the party.When the Whig nominating convention gathered that spring in Pekin, Illinois, Hardin had the votes to win. But immediately after that count had been tallied, Lincoln—who had been pledged to back Baker—did something amazing for its guile and political prowess. He moved that the convention approve Baker as a suitable candidate in 1844, thus setting in place a system of rotation in office. Each would serve a single term and yield to the next in line. This was common in many states, but Lincoln’s ability to apply it in the new district was masterful.Hardin served in the 28th Congress (1843–1845) dutifully but with little fanfare, holding seats on the Military Affairs and the Post Office and Post Roads committees. From Hardin, however, we have one of the great descriptions of the House Chamber in that period. Of “all the places to speak or to try & do any business,” he wrote, “the Hall of the House is the worst I ever saw. I would prefer speaking in a pig pen with 500 hogs squealing . . . or talk to a mob when a fight is going on . . . no one but JQ Adams is even listened to by the House, unless there is a quarrel going on or the prospect of a row is brewing. Last week the scenes in the House would have disgraced the meanest western grocery. Bullying & Billingsgate are the only order of the day.”Baker distinguished himself in 1844 with flamboyant, soaring oratory that drew crowds. Among his more outlandish campaign props, writes Carl Sandburg, was a pet eagle trained to turn its head downward pensively and droop its shoulders when Baker referenced Democrats’ failures. When Baker shifted to discuss Whig principles, the raptor spread its wings wide and screeched. Baker, too, had a seat on the Military Affairs Committee and, it was perhaps no coincidence, that shortly after Congress declared war on Mexico in 1846, the martial spirit moved him to resign his seat and join the fight.Though Hardin toyed with the idea of running against Lincoln for the nomination in 1846, Lincoln outmaneuvered him by quietly rounding up support from local Whig leaders. Safely elected to the 30th Congress (1847–1849) by a wide margin, Lincoln held seats on the Post Office and Post Roads and the Expenditures in the Military Department committees. His term was more energetic—if tumultuous—than those of his predecessors. He introduced the “Spot Resolutions” questioning (like many other Whigs) President James K. Polk’s justifications for initiating the war with Mexico, promoted Zachary Taylor as his party’s successful presidential candidate, and authored a still-born proposal to end slavery in the District of Columbia.But the tragic career trajectories of this political trio also bear out that old superstition that bad luck often comes in threes.Shortly after the outbreak of the war with Mexico, Hardin raised and led a volunteer regiment of Illinoisans. At the Battle of Buena Vista in February 1847, a fatal bullet to the chest felled Colonel Hardin.Baker, who won re-election to the House from another Illinois district in 1848, followed his political aspirations westward to California and eventually Oregon. In the fall of 1860 he was appointed as a Republican to Oregon’s vacant U.S. Senate seat. On October 21, 1861, at the Civil War battle of Balls’ Bluff in Loudon County, Virginia, commanding a group of volunteers, Baker was shot and killed—the only sitting U.S. Senator to die in battle. His death stung Lincoln, a close friend who had named his second son for Baker.Lincoln, as we well know, fit this tragic pattern, too. In 1848, he had declined to seek re-nomination to a second term in the House and returned home to Springfield. Later, after two failed Senate bids, he was elected President in 1860 as the country plunged into a fratricidal war. His skill as a wartime President drew upon cajoling, compromise, and patient determination—traits which he also displayed during his House service. This week, 150 years ago, an assassin’s bullet cut his life short just days after Confederate forces surrendered at Appomattox, Virginia.All things being equal, some sets of three seem more complete—and consequential—than others.Sources: Michael Burlingame, Abraham Lincoln: A Life Vol. 1 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008): 213–308; David Herbert Donald, Lincoln (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995): 111–141; Donald W. Riddle, Lincoln Runs for Congress (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1948) and Congressman Abraham Lincoln (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1957); Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln, the Prairie Years and the War Years (New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1966); Paul Findley, A. Lincoln: The Crucible of Congress (New York: Crown Publishers, 1979); Albert J. Beveridge, Abraham Lincoln, 1809–1858 (Boston: Houghton-Mifflin, 1928).Follow @USHouseHistory