Civics 101: How has the U.S. House changed?

Hank Hayes • Aug 13, 2018 at 9:30 AM

Every time you turn on the news these days, it seems someone is talking about the 2018 midterm elections. 

All 435 seats in the U.S. House of Representatives and 35 of the 100 seats in the United States Senate will be contested.

With this in mind, let’s take a look back at the history of United States House of Representatives.


In 1789, the U.S. House of Representatives assembled for the first time in New York. It moved to Philadelphia in 1790 and then to Washington, D.C., in 1800. In 1807, the House moved into the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., four years before the Capitol’s House wing was fully completed.

In 1814, the House and the nation were severely tested when invading British forces burned the Capitol. It would be another five years before the House’s chambers were fully restored. In 1857, the House met for the first time in its present-day chambers.


Among the early pieces of legislation passed by the House were funding approval for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803 and the Thirteenth Amendment abolishing slavery in 1865.

Later notable legislation included the Nineteenth Amendment guaranteeing women’s right to vote in 1919 and the Clean Water Act in 1972.

The House’s first African-American member took office in 1870. The first Hispanic member took office in 1877, the first woman member in 1917, the first Asian-American member in 1957, and the first African-American woman member in 1969.


Technology has altered the way the House does business. Electronic voting began in 1973, and live television broadcasts of floor proceedings began in 1979. In 2010, House members were first allowed to bring wireless electronic devices on the House floor, and the Clerk launched HouseLive, streaming video of live and archived House floor proceedings.

Source: U.S. House of Representatives

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