This section is from the book "The National Capitol. Its Architecture Art And History", by George C. Hazelton, Jr. Also available from Amazon: The National Capitol Its Architecture Art and History.
From any one of the galleries, the hall occupied by the Representatives appears, as it is, considerably larger than the Senate Chamber. It is 139 feet in length, 93 feet in width and 36 feet in height. The medallions of stained glass in the center of each square of the ceiling represent the coats-of-arms of the various States and Territories which comprise the Union. Beneath the galleries, but opening directly off the hall, are rooms known as the Republican and Democratic cloak rooms, where the Members of the House and its employes receive the attention of barbers and hang up their political hats. Unlike in the tonsorial parlors of the Senate, its patrons are compelled to pay for shaving.
The first House of Representatives consisted of 65 Members. Under the apportionment act of February 7, 1891, the number of Representatives from States already in the Union was limited to 356, and since that time, in 1896, Utah has been admitted. This makes the number at present 357, besides the Delegates, one from each of the Territories, Arizona, Oklahoma and New Mexico, who, however, have no vote. Had the body been left to increase in numbers under the census of 1900, as it did under the census of 1890, the chamber would prove inadequate to the accommodation of the House.
Each new House is called to order by the Clerk of the preceding House. One of the Representatives is elected Speaker, and sworn into office by the oldest Member, or " Father of the House." The Speaker then administers the oath to the various Representatives, and the House is an organized body and ready for business. The Speaker receives $8,000 a year salary, and the Members each $5,000—together with mileage from their homes to the capital, and $125 for stationery each Congress. A like compensation is provided for Senators. In 1873, Congress increased the salaries to $7,500 and made the law relate to the full Congress just expiring; but this law was almost immediately repealed by the incoming Congress under the popular clamor against " salary grabbers.".
The Speaker, who presides over the' body, occupies the rostrum in the center of the south side of the room. The steps leading to this were formerly crowded with pages, whom the Members summoned by clapping their hands; but, at the beginning of the Fifty-fourth Congress, benches for these floor-messengers were provided in the east and west cloak-rooms, and electric buttons attached to each of the desks. The Clerk of the House, the two reading clerks and the tally and journal clerks occupy the marble desk in front of the Speaker, while the one below is assigned to the official stenographers, whose duties in taking and preparing its proceedings for the Record are similar to those of the stenographers in the Senate. On the Speaker's right sits the Sergeant-at-Arms; on his left, the Doorkeeper.
The center aisle of the hall is customarily the dividing line between the two great parties, the Democrats sitting upon the Speaker's right and the Republicans upon his left. In the present crowded condition of the House, many of the Republicans are forced to sit upon the Democratic side in a row of seats which has become known as the " Cherokee Strip, or No Man's Land." From this center aisle one of the private secretaries to the President announces the Messages of the Executive, and the Secretary of the Senate any communication which that honorable body may desire to send to the House. When a division is called, the tellers, appointed by the Speaker to count the votes, stand where this aisle broadens into the semicircular space before the desk of the presiding officer, while the Members pass between them. ,At this bar, Congressmen are arraigned for non-attendance upon a " call " of the House. Here also are brought those in contempt of the House, prominent among whom has been Hallet Kilbourn, a private citizen, arrested for refusing to answer questions propounded by a committee in regard to a certain real estate " pooj "in Washington.
The galleries have a seating capacity for 1,100 persons. They are open to the public at any time when the House is in session, with the exception of those which are reserved for the press, the Cabinet and the diplomatic corps, and for the families and friends of Members. The central southern gallery, over the Speaker's chair, is the press gallery, where the correspondents of the newspapers or news exchanges of this country and Europe which are represented at the Capitol view and make notes of the proceedings of the House. Behind it, ample means are provided to send by telegraph or telephone dispatches to all parts of the world.
Directly opposite the press gallery, over the main entrance to the chamber, is a bronze clock which has marked the dying hours of many sessions. Its hands have often been conveniently turned back to prolong a Congress until the business of the House could be finished. .The figures are those of a pioneer and an Indian. Surmounting it is an eagle for which the government paid Archer, Warner, Miskey & Co. $150.