Researchers and the public alike have long recognized that in American politics visibility matters. To claim credit for policies, to recruit supporters, and to maintain democratic legitimacy, the lawmaking process must be visible to the American public. Yet little is known about how the public perceived the legislative process during the nineteenth century. This article uses systematic qualitative and quantitative analysis of newspapers in Baltimore, Maryland, Portland, Maine, and Charleston, South Carolina, to measure the comparative visibility of lawmaking at the state and federal levels between 1830 and 1880. The research demonstrates how analysis of newspaper coverage can be used to better understand public perceptions of state and federal lawmaking during time periods without polling data. The visibility of congressional lawmaking varied greatly from one state to the next, and competition for coverage between state legislatures and Congress remained strong across the country throughout the studied period.