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Senate Chamber Desks

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Desk 55 (LV)

TitleDesk, Senate Chamber, 55 (LV)
Artist/Makerafter T. Constantine & Co. (1817 - 1826) 
Date19th or early 20th century
MediumMahogany, mahogany veneer and rosewood veneer (primary)
Dimensions h. 34.56 x  w. 27.87 x  d. 19.87 in. ( h. 87.78 x  w. 70.8 x  d. 50.48 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number66.00055.001

  • 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
    1PoindexterMiles PoindexterWashingtonR, P, R
    2ShermanLawrence Y. ShermanIllinoisR Republican
    3SutherlandHoward SutherlandWest VirginiaR Republican
    4BallLewis H. BallDelawareR Republican
    5PhippsLawrence C. PhippsColoradoR Republican
    6McCormickJoseph M. McCormickIllinoisR Republican
    7ShortridgeSamuel M. ShortridgeCaliforniaR Republican
    8OddieTasker L. OddieNevadaR Republican
    9SchallThomas D. SchallMinnesotaR Republican
    10BilboTheodore G. BilboMississippiD Democrat
    11HerringClyde L. HerringIowaD Democrat
    12SmathersWilliam H. SmathersNew JerseyD Democrat
    13BerryGeorge L. BerryTennesseeD Democrat
    14GravesDixie B. GravesAlabamaD Democrat
    15MillerJohn E. MillerArkansasD Democrat
    16HillJoseph L. HillAlabamaD Democrat
    17MiltonJohn G. MiltonNew JerseyD Democrat
    18DanaherJohn A. DanaherConnecticutR Republican
    19ThomasJohn ThomasIdahoR Republican
    20LangerWilliam LangerNorth DakotaR Republican
    21MooreEdward H. MooreOklahomaR Republican
    22FlandersRalph E. FlandersVermontR Republican
    23AikenGeorge D. AikenVermontR Republican
    24CapehartHomer E. CapehartIndianaR Republican
    25HickenlooperBourke B. HickenlooperIowaR Republican
    26ThyeEdward J. ThyeMinnesotaR Republican
    27JennerWilliam E. JennerIndianaR Republican
    28LodgeHenry Cabot Lodge, Jr.MassachusettsR Republican
    29SmithHoward A. SmithNew JerseyR Republican
    30FlandersRalph E. FlandersVermontR Republican
    31ClarkJoseph S. ClarkPennsylvaniaD Democrat
    32CarrollJohn A. CarrollColoradoD Democrat
    33BartlettDewey F. BartlettOklahomaR Republican
    34MathiasCharles McC. Mathias, Jr.MarylandR Republican
    35HeinzHenry J. Heinz, IIIPennsylvaniaR Republican
    36QuayleJ. Danforth QuayleIndianaR Republican
    37D'AmatoAlfonse M. D'AmatoNew YorkR Republican
    38McConnellMitch McConnellKentuckyR Republican
    39BondChristopher S. BondMissouriR Republican
    40CraigLarry E. CraigIdahoR Republican
    41KylJon KylArizonaR Republican
    42AllardWayne AllardColoradoR Republican
    43SessionsJeff SessionsAlabamaR Republican
    44ColemanNorm ColemanMinnesotaR Republican
    45CoburnTom CoburnOklahomaR Republican
    46LankfordJames LankfordOklahomaR Republican
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