Houston's Wooden Heart

"Samuel Houston"
W.J. Edwards, after daguerreotype

"Sam Houston Whittling in the Senate."
Unknown Artist
Reminiscences of Sixty Years in the National Metropolis


Senator Houston Gives a Young Lady a Wooden Heart

On one occasion just after the Senate adjourned, Mr. Houston was in his seat cutting a stick out of which he was making a heart, and he wished to finish it before he left the Senate. He promised to give it to a young lady who was then waiting in the Reception Room. In the meantime Mr. Young, the messenger, who swept the Senate Chamber every evening after the Senate adjourned, came in with his broom in hand, and seeing the senator from Texas in his seat, cutting chips and scattering them on the floor, went up to him and said, “Senator do you know that I have great trouble in get[ting] your chips out of the carpet? Sir I will tell you what I want you to do. Please put a newspaper under your desk every morning and cut your chips on that.” The senator stopped cutting and seemed to be astonished at what the messenger had said. He then commenced whittling and said . . . “You are right.” He called the page and told him every morning to “Spread a newspaper under my desk, for I see what trouble I give this poor old man.” The next day several senators noticed the paper spread un[der] his desk and ask him what that was for. He told them and it created quite a laugh all around the Senate. [2A227-2A228]

Editor's Note:

Samuel Houston was the senator from Texas from 1846 to 1859. He was a member of the Democratic Party, then later joined the American (Know-Nothing) Party.

People, Places, & Things:

  • Reception Room - Bassett is likely referring to the lobby area adjacent to the Old Senate Chamber.
  • Messenger - Messengers delivered documents, brought messages, and informed members of a roll call vote.
  • Page - For more than 175 years, messengers known as pages have served the U.S. Senate. Page duties consist primarily of delivering correspondence and legislative material within the Capitol complex. Other duties include preparing the Senate Chamber for Senate sessions, and carrying bills and amendments to the presiding officer’s desk.