The People's Platform
In the late 19th century, industrialization and migration from countryside to cities created new groups of Americans, new constituencies. The House gave them a forum. Frequent elections and small districts made the House a place where marginal or regional interests could gain seats and make their voices heard.
In the South, however, "Jim Crow" laws enforced segregation, pushing African-Americans out of the political process. Former rebels easily captured Southern seats.
Later in the century, the House became a national stage for rural Populists. In an era when unregulated development often favored the wealthy, Populists championed farmers and laborers who felt exploited or left behind.
Changing the House
Early in this era, Democrats dominating the House continually battled a Republican president or Senate, making it difficult to achieve results. Outside observers of the House described a legislature that depended too heavily on standing committees—"little legislatures"—to provide direction and get things done. Many observers also concluded that the House was hobbled by outdated rules and procedures. By the end of the period, a series of strong Speakers had helped to streamline operations and shepherd the chamber into the 20th century.