The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

‘Orgies’ in Congress got so wild a century ago that a warning sign went up

The U.S. Capitol, pictured in 1923. (Library of Congress)
2 min

Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.) claimed last week that a lawmaker had invited him to an “orgy” and that the capital was full of “sexual perversion.” That prompted a rebuke Wednesday from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who said Cawthorn’s claims were untrue.

In light of the scandal, we are republishing a Washington Post story from a century ago on “orgies” taking place in the halls of Congress — though the term was used more loosely back then. This story originally ran on Sept. 8, 1923.

Sign Stops Wild Revels In House Office Building

Policemen Bar Entrance of Visitors at 5 P. M. on Account of Parties Staged During Recess of Congress. Refuse to Disclose Details of Orgies.

In an effort to stop an epidemic of wild parties which have been held with great frequency in the House Office building during the recess of Congress, the superintendent of public buildings and grounds has had erected this sign in the rotunda of the main floor:

“Visitors not allowed after 5 p.m.”

Policemen stationed at the entrance to the building have been instructed to enforce the rule strictly and they are, much to the embarrassment, if not disgust, of the employees of the representatives.

Officials in charge of the building make no secret of the reasons which prompted them to attempt the exclusion of visitors after 5 p.m., but they refuse to disclose the details.

However, all sorts of reports are current as to the nature of the offense which brought forth the ban on visitors. One is that at one of the parties staged in the office of a dry representative corn whisky and hard cider were the chief liquid refreshments. All went well for a short time until the whisky and the cider got in their work and the men got in a free-for-all fight over the girls. One of the men was knocked against a wash bowl in the room and so badly cut that it was necessary to take him to a hospital.

On the heels of that affair a “watermelon party” was held in the office of a representative on the fourth floor. Corn liquor was also served at that function and the guests became extremely hilarious. Two of the girls dressed like Eve ran a race up and down the corridors, it is said.

For some time certain offices in the building have been under surveillance and policemen stationed in offices have been able to learn the names of the offenders. Just what action they intend to take has not been disclosed.