House pages are feted, July 25, 1937

President John F. Kennedy poses with graduates of the Capitol Page School after presenting them with their diplomas in Washington on June 11, 1963. | Harvey Georges/AP Photo

On this day in 1937, Democratic Missouri Rep. Joseph Shannon (1867–1943) sponsored his fifth annual banquet for House pages at Washington’s Mayflower Hotel, featuring poetry readings and music. The congressional pages feasted on chicken and ice cream and debated topics of the day — including some fictional ones — and discussed parliamentary procedures.

Shannon saw the dinners as a chance to impart advice to the young aides. “Do not bite at the bait of pleasure,” he warned them at the 1937 dinner, “till you know there is no hook beneath it.”

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The banquet also featured speeches by several pages about House leaders and the inner workings of Congress. They also celebrated their victory over the Senate pages in a baseball game.

After his death in 1943, members of Congress eulogized Shannon. “A man with such a heart,” Rep. Donald McLean (R-N.J.) said, “is bound to leave behind a lot of good.” McLean, who served as a Senate page from 1897 to 1902, added, “His useful example will live in the hearts he leaves behind.”

Pages were a fixture at the House for more than 180 years. They delivered correspondence and packages within the congressional complex, answered phones in members’ cloakrooms and distributed documents to the House floor before each session.

As early as 1827, congressional staffers hired young men to serve as messengers. (In the Congressional Record [formerly known as the Congressional Globe], the term “page” first appeared in 1839. It was defined as a youth employed as a personal attendant to a person of high rank.) However, some sources assert that pages have served as messengers…

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