Blast from the Past: Why House members are dressing in 1913-period clothing

Reps. Ed Greef (R-Florence) and Ray Shaw (R-Sheridan) converse before House session commemorating 100th birthday of the state House Chambers

Reps. Ed Greef (R-Florence) and Ray Shaw (R-Sheridan) chat before House session commemorating 100th birthday of the state House Chamber

No, the center aisle of the Montana House of Representatives is not normally lined with spittoons–just today, in an homage to the past.

The likes of spittoons, top hats and ascots were common place 100 years ago, when the current House Chamber was first used. To celebrate, House members are trying to bring it all back. The chamber itself has been re-decorated, House members and staff are dressed in period clothing, and today’s floor session even features mock debate on bills from the 1913 session.

“This occasion only comes around every 100 years,” House Speaker Mark Blasdel (R-Somers) said in a press release. The Legislature has just returned from its transmittal break and Blasdel says the schedule was light enough to swing this re-enactment.

Business continues as usual for House Page Logan Schuelke

Business continues as usual for House Page Logan Schuelke

“We would only have had 8 bills on the floor today and none tomorrow,” Blasdel said. “So we rescheduled all the bills for tomorrow. There’s no other day on the calendar when we would have been able to take the time.”

Representative Tom Woods (D-Bozeman) was working on his Macbook Pro decked out in a bowler hat, spats, and a vest he wore in his wedding. He says it’s important to recognize the past, and to further urge togetherness among lawmakers: “(This) has started out to be a very good session in terms of relations between parties on both sides of the aisle. I think (this activity) is probably promoting that camaraderie, that civility.”

The 1913 bills being ‘discussed’ today on the House floor:

  • HB 94: Defining the Crime of Seduction and fixing the penalty therefore 
  • HB 64: Defining the term Communicable Disease
  • HB 156: Regulate the sale of intoxicating liquor
Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre) wears the demure expression of the times

Rep. Kristin Hansen (R-Havre) wears the demure expression of the times

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