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Senate Chamber Desks

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Desk 48 (XLVIII)

TitleDesk, Senate Chamber, 48 (XLVIII)
Artist/Makerafter T. Constantine & Co. (1817 - 1826) 
Date19th or early 20th century
MediumMahogany and mahogany veneer (primary)
Dimensions h. 35.62 x  w. 28.25 x  d. 19.12 in. ( h. 90.48 x  w. 71.75 x  d. 48.57 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number66.00048.001

  • Object Description
  • This mahogany writing desk was made specifically for use in the Senate’s legislative chamber in the U.S. Capitol, and is one of 100 desks that are similarly constructed and used daily by senators. It features two shaped and fluted legs, a bookshelf supported by mahogany spindles, a drawer, a hinged writing top with storage, and a removable wooden tray for writing tools. Decorative enhancements, including figured mahogany veneers and circular roundels, reflect the designs of the original 48 desks created for the Senate in 1819 by the New York cabinetmaking firm T. Constantine & Co. Over the years, many senators have inscribed their names in the interior of the desk drawers, making each drawer a unique way of linking current and past desk users. Desk occupants can change every two years with a new Congress, and are based on seniority.

  • Artist/Maker
  • Thomas Constantine (1791–1849) was born in Derbyshire, England, and he and his family immigrated to New York City when he was two. Between 1806 and 1812, Constantine apprenticed with New York City cabinetmaker John Hewitt, and then served as a journeyman in the same shop between 1812 and 1814. Thomas opened his own cabinet shop in 1815, and in 1817 his firm, T. Constantine & Co., began competing with some of the city’s most notable furniture manufacturers.

    Constantine received his most celebrated commissions as Congress prepared to reoccupy the U.S. Capitol after it had been damaged by fires set by British soldiers in August 1814. In 1818, Constantine received a contract to provide the House of Representatives Chamber with carpets, wall hangings, lamps, 192 chairs, and 51 tables. The following year, Constantine was awarded a contract to furnish the Senate Chamber with 48 mahogany armchairs and desks, as well as other furnishings, lighting, and textiles. Constantine’s brother, John (1796–1845) is known to have assisted with the upholstery of the chairs made for both chambers.

    Although scholars consider Constantine’s work for the House and Senate to be the apex of his relatively brief career, T. Constantine & Co. produced furniture into the 1820s. He closed his furniture store in the summer of 1824 and furniture manufactory in 1826. Today furnishings by T. Constantine & Co. are represented in various collections, including the National Park Service, National Museum of American History, North Carolina Museum of History, U.S. House of Representatives, and Winterthur Museum.

    For more information on Thomas Constantine, see Matthew A. Thurlow, “Aesthetics, Politics, and Power in Early-Nineteenth-Century Washington: Thomas Constantine & Co.’s Furniture for the United States Capitol, 1818-1819" in American Furniture (Chipstone Foundation, 2006).

  • Desk Occupants
  • The senators' names listed in this table include both names inscribed in the desk drawer and, beginning with the 99th Congress, the names of all senators who occupied this desk.

    Order Senator State Party
    1LaneHarry LaneOregonD Democrat
    2StanleyAugustus O. StanleyKentuckyD Democrat
    3BroussardRobert F. BroussardLouisianaD Democrat
    4FeltonRebecca L. FeltonGeorgiaD Democrat
    5WatsonThomas E. WatsonGeorgiaD Democrat
    6GeorgeWalter F. GeorgeGeorgiaD Democrat
    7SchallThomas D. SchallMinnesotaR Republican
    8GoffGuy D. GoffWest VirginiaR Republican
    9WalshDavid I. WalshMassachusettsD Democrat
    10TydingsMillard E. TydingsMarylandD Democrat
    11StewartArthur T. StewartTennesseeD Democrat
    13GoldsboroughPhillips L. GoldsboroughMarylandR Republican
    14BairdDavid Baird, Jr.New JerseyR Republican
    15GrundyJoseph R. GrundyPennsylvaniaR Republican
    16WilliamsonBen M. WilliamsonKentuckyD Democrat
    17MurphyRichard L. MurphyIowaD Democrat
    18LongHuey P. LongLouisianaD Democrat
    19OvertonJohn H. OvertonLouisianaD Democrat
    20RadcliffeGeorge L. P. RadcliffeMarylandD Democrat
    21BrownPrentiss M. BrownMichiganD Democrat
    22MillerJohn E. MillerArkansasD Democrat
    23HughesJames H. HughesDelawareD Democrat
    24DowneySheridan DowneyCaliforniaD Democrat
    25KilgoreHarley M. KilgoreWest VirginiaD Democrat
    26DillClarence C. DillWashingtonD Democrat
    27TunnellJames M. TunnellDelawareD Democrat
    28StewartArthur T. StewartTennesseeD Democrat
    29TunnellJames M. TunnellDelawareD Democrat
    30CapehartHomer E. CapehartIndianaR Republican
    31MaloneGeorge W. MaloneNevadaR Republican
    32DworshakHenry C. DworshakIdahoR Republican
    33CooperJohn S. CooperKentuckyR Republican
    34GilletteGuy M. GilletteIowaD Democrat
    35BarrettFrank A. BarrettWyomingR Republican
    36CaseFrancis H. CaseSouth DakotaR Republican
    37JavitsJacob K. JavitsNew YorkR Republican
    38PearsonJames B. PearsonKansasR Republican
    39BrookeEdward W. Brooke, IIIMassachusettsR Republican
    40BuckleyJames L. BuckleyNew YorkC
    41StevensTed StevensAlaskaR Republican
    42GoldwaterBarry M. GoldwaterArizonaR Republican
    43ChafeeJohn H. ChafeeRhode IslandR Republican
    44KastenRobert W. Kasten, Jr.WisconsinR Republican
    45GrammPhil GrammTexasR Republican
    46McCainJohn McCainArizonaR Republican
    47BondChristopher S. BondMissouriR Republican
    48MurkowskiFrank H. MurkowskiAlaskaR Republican
    49McCainJohn McCainArizonaR Republican
    50KylJon KylArizonaR Republican
    51CottonTom CottonArkansasR Republican
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