Due to a special event taking place in the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, September 18, there will be no tours of the U.S. Capitol that day until approximately noon. The Capitol Visitor Center will remain open during this time, and guided tours in the Capitol Visitor Center will be available.

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.

See More

Filter by Year:

Flexibility in meeting change is vital to the success of American democracy. And seldom has change come so quickly as in this era.

See More

Images of the Era - 1945-Present

Today the Capitol, enlarged and enhanced

Today the Capitol, enlarged and enhanced with a new visitor center, remains a forum for representative democracy in a changing world.

Architect of the Capitol

The atom bomb—here tested on Bikini Island, 1946

The atom bomb—here tested on Bikini Island, 1946 —was an ever-looming Cold War threat, fueling the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

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

Under the Marshall Plan

Under the Marshall Plan, the United States provided aid to Europe for recovery after World War II.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

The United States and its allies airlifted supplies

The United States and its allies airlifted supplies to West Berlin during the Soviet blockade, 1948.

Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress

When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, U.S.-led United Nations forces responded.

When North Korea invaded South Korea in 1950, U.S.-led United Nations forces responded.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Millions of World War II and Korean War veterans furthered their education, thanks to the GI Bill.

Millions of World War II and Korean War veterans furthered their education, thanks to the GI Bill.

New York World Telegram and Sun Collection, Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

Through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States and its European allies pledged mutual defense and peacekeeping.

Through the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States and its European allies pledged mutual defense and peacekeeping.

AP/Wide World Photos

The 1950s witnessed a rush to the suburbs, with new housing developments like Levittown, Pennsylvania.

The 1950s witnessed a rush to the suburbs, with new housing developments like Levittown, Pennsylvania.

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

The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 created a nationwide network for fast, uninterrupted travel.

The Interstate Highway Act of 1956 created a nationwide network for fast, uninterrupted travel.

D.C. Public Library, Star Collection, Copyright Washington Post

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presented evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba to the U.N. Security Council, 1962.

Ambassador Adlai Stevenson presented evidence of Soviet missiles in Cuba to the U.N. Security Council, 1962.

© Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS

Thousands joined Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in 1963 to demand jobs, freedom, and civil rights for African-Americans.

Thousands joined Martin Luther King, Jr. on the National Mall in 1963 to demand jobs, freedom, and civil rights for African-Americans.

© Flip Schulke/CORBIS

Helicopters dropped U.S. infantrymen into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in 1967 as the war escalated.

Helicopters dropped U.S. infantrymen into Vietnam’s Mekong Delta in 1967 as the war escalated.

© Bettmann/CORBIS

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin posed with the U.S. flag on the first lunar landing, July 20, 1969.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin posed with the U.S. flag on the first lunar landing, July 20, 1969.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Earth Day, initiated in 1970, became an annual celebration drawing attention to environmental concerns.

Earth Day, initiated in 1970, became an annual celebration drawing attention to environmental concerns.

© Todd Gipstein/CORBIS

Immigrants from many countries took the oath of citizenship in Seattle on July 4, 1993.

Immigrants from many countries took the oath of citizenship in Seattle on July 4, 1993.

© Dean Wong/CORBIS

AIDS activists in 1994 push for the eradication of the disease.

AIDS activists in 1994 push for the eradication of the disease.

© Mark Peterson/CORBIS

Unprecedented attacks on September 11, 2001, thrust the United States into a war against terrorism.

Unprecedented attacks on September 11, 2001, thrust the United States into a war against terrorism.

Tamara Beckwith/New York Post

Following the terrorist plane attack on September 11, 2001, firefighters hoisted the American flag over the Pentagon.

Following the terrorist plane attack on September 11, 2001, firefighters hoisted the American flag over the Pentagon.

AP/Wide World Photos

Gavel, 9/11 Commemorative Joint Session of Congress

Made for the Senate, this gavel was displayed on the rostrum during a special joint meeting of Congress in New York City on September 6, 2002, to commemorate the losses suffered during terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001.

Collection of the U.S. Senate