Government Trivia

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff

Members of Congress don't need postage stamps for their official mail—they just need a frank. No, not a hot dog! It's their signature on the outside of envelopes that hold letters mailed to constituents. Franks can't be used for personal business or for political campaigns, however.

The sound of carriages and carts passing on cobblestone streets outside the Pennsylvania State House distracted the delegates to the Constitutional Convention, who were busy writing the Constitution. They solved the problem by hiring people to shovel dirt onto the street to muffle the noise.

The youngest people working in Congress are pages. These high school juniors carry legislative documents between the House of Representatives and the Senate. They also help answer phones in the party cloakrooms and deliver phone messages to Congress members.

The Republican Party has been known as the G.O.P., or Grand Old Party, since around 1880. Although no one knows the exact origin of the moniker, many people think it was taken from the nickname of British prime minister William Gladstone. He was known as the Grand Old Man, or G.O.M.

Only John Hancock and Charles Thomson, secretary of the Continental Congress, signed the first copy of the Declaration of Independence. The men could have been jailed or killed by the British for putting their names to the document. The other Founding Fathers waited about six weeks to add their names to the Declaration.

“Pork barrel” legislation refers to bills introduced by members of Congress that only benefit people in their home states. The phrase, which came into use after the Civil War, refers to when plantation owners took salt pork from barrels to give to their slaves as a treat.

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