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History of Congress and the Capitol

This is the story of one of the world's great experiments in government by the people.

For more than two centuries, a new Congress has convened every two years following elections that determine all the seats in the House and one-third of those in the Senate. While the individuals change, the institution has endured-through civil and world wars, waves of immigration and great migrations, and continuous social and technological change.

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Most Americans greeted the 20th century with optimism. The early decades saw economic growth and the expansion of democracy as women gained the vote. But two world wars, the Great Depression, and the nuclear age later tested such confidence.

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Images of the Era - 1913-1945

Through two world wars and the Great Depression, the Capitol retained its familiar form.

Through two world wars and the Great Depression, the Capitol retained its familiar form.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Silent marchers in New York City protested rising violence nationwide against African-Americans, 1917.

Silent marchers in New York City protested rising violence nationwide against African-Americans, 1917.

Photographs and Prints Division, SchomburgCenter for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations

A U.S. Army gun crew fired at entrenched German soldiers on the Western Front, 1918

A U.S. Army gun crew fired at entrenched German soldiers on the Western Front, 1918.

National Archives and Records Administration

In 1920, with the Nineteenth Amendment, women gained the right to vote in national elections.

In 1920, with the Nineteenth Amendment, women gained the right to vote in national elections.

Culver Pictures

Police destroyed beer kegs when the Eighteenth Amendment took effect in 1920, banning the sale of alcoholic beverages.

Police destroyed beer kegs when the Eighteenth Amendment took effect in 1920, banning the sale of alcoholic beverages.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

The Wall Street crash of 1929 left many people penniless and triggered the Great Depression.

The Wall Street crash of 1929 left many people penniless and triggered the Great Depression.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Breadlines sprang up in cities across the country during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Breadlines sprang up in cities across the country during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Through the WPA, the government offered employment on public projects to millions of Americans during the 1930s.

Through the WPA, the government offered employment on public projects to millions of Americans during the 1930s.

Poster by Vera Bock. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In the 1930s, workers around the country staged sit-down strikes to demand more favorable working conditions.

In the 1930s, workers around the country staged sit-down strikes to demand more favorable working conditions.

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Japan’s attack on the U.S. fleet in Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.

Japan’s attack on the U.S. fleet in Pearl Harbor brought the United States into World War II.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

American troops prepare to land at Normandy, World War II.

American troops prepare to land at Normandy, World War II.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

During World War II, the U.S. government interned approximately 110,000 Japanese Americans in camps like Manzanar in California.

Photograph by Dorothea Lange. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

With men away fighting in World War II, millions of women entered the workforce in the 1940s.

With men away fighting in World War II, millions of women entered the workforce in the 1940s.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

The NAACP worked to eradicate the racial discrimination symbolized by “Jim Crow.”

The NAACP worked to eradicate the racial discrimination symbolized by “Jim Crow.”

Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

American soldiers in Paris celebrated Japan’s surrender, which ended World War II in August 1945.

American soldiers in Paris celebrated Japan’s surrender, which ended World War II in August 1945.

National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

The Medal of Honor

The Medal of Honor is the highest award for military bravery bestowed upon individuals in this country and is presented “in the name of the Congress of the United States.” It is awarded for a deed of personal bravery or self-sacrifice above and beyond the call of duty while an individual is a member of the armed services.

Since its inception in 1861, during the time of the Civil War, more than 3,400 individuals have received the Medal of Honor. It has been awarded to members of each of the five services: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard. Twenty-one of its recipients later became members of Congress.

House of Representatives

Henry H. Bingham, Pennsylvania–Civil War
John C. Black, Illinois–Civil War
Thomas W. Bradley, New York–Civil War
Amos J. Cummings, New York–Civil War
Newton M. Curtis, New York–Civil War
Byron M. Cutcheon, Michigan–Civil War
John M. Farquhar, New York–Civil War
John H. Moffitt, New York–Civil War
Charles E. Phelps, Maryland–Civil War
Philip S. Post, Illinois–Civil War
Daniel E. Sickles, New York–Civil War
Richmond P. Hobson, Alabama–Spanish-American War
Willis W. Bradley, California–World War I
Edouard V. Izac, California–World War I

Senate

Adelbert Ames, Mississippi–Civil War
Henry A. DuPont, Delaware–Civil War
Matthew S. Quay, Pennsylvania–Civil War
William J. Sewell, New Jersey–Civil War
Francis E. Warren, Wyoming–Civil War
Daniel K. Inouye, Hawaii–World War II
Joseph R. (Bob) Kerrey, Nebraska–Vietnam War