The Children Who Ran For Congress and the School Up On The Hill: An Oral-Institutional History of Capitol Page School, 1926-1983
Gonzalez, Darryl James
Finkelstein, Barbara J.
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Although the corpus of work on Congressional history is impressive, there is one aspect of life inside the Capitol that has been neglected for over 200 years. Young messenger boys, or Pages, have worked for Congress since its early sessions but have never received much attention. This dissertation traces the evolution of Capitol Page School and by doing so, also follows the evolution of the larger Page system. The purpose of the study is to find out what the historical record can reveal about the history of Capitol Page School. Once that story is told, conclusions can be drawn about things like institutional inertia in Congress, preserving tradition, unusual childhood occupations and informal civic education, among others. Using both a documents review and an oral history approach allowed for a rich description of the evolution of Capitol Page School. Chapter Two reports on Page culture before 1926, concentrating on the relationships between Members of Congress and the boys, and how Pages formed their own culture and community as adjuncts of the Congress. Chapter Three examines the social conditions that were present in the 1920s which forced the formation of a school specifically for Pages inside the Capitol, run as a private enterprise by an individual teacher, and the subsequent attempts to continue the school. Chapter Four describes how Senator Harold Burton intervened to improve conditions at Capitol Page School, and also includes a previously unknown cache of information and behind-the-scenes maneuvering. Chapter Five explains the physical move of the school and then traces the substantial legislation that Congress failed to pass in order to give Pages an official residence to live in, and describes the precarious nature of the school. Chapter Six gives special attention to three noteworthy subcultures within the Page system: girls, African-Americans and Supreme Court Pages, and describes how each group began and received special consideration. Chapter Seven reports on how Capitol Page School was forced to dissolve in the early 1980s and how two new schools were formed to replace it. Chapter Eight discusses what can be learned from the historical record.