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Senate Chamber Desks

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Desk 69 (LXIX)

TitleDesk, Senate Chamber, 69 (LXIX)
Artist/Makerafter T. Constantine & Co. (1817 - 1826) 
Date19th or early 20th century
MediumMahogany and mahogany veneer (primary)
Dimensions h. 35.12 x  w. 28.62 x  d. 20.25 in. ( h. 89.21 x  w. 73.66 x  d. 51.11 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number66.00069.001

  • 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
    2WatsonJames E. WatsonIndianaR Republican
    3FrelinghuysenJoseph S. FrelinghuysenNew JerseyR Republican
    4McCormickJoseph M. McCormickIllinoisR Republican
    5PhippsLawrence C. PhippsColoradoR Republican
    6GoodingFrank R. GoodingIdahoR Republican
    7StanfieldRobert N. StanfieldOregonR Republican
    8ShipsteadHenrik ShipsteadMinnesotaFL, R
    9PineWilliam B. PineOklahomaR Republican
    10BrookhartSmith W. BrookhartIowaR Republican
    11VandenbergArthur H. VandenbergMichiganR Republican
    12HebertFelix HebertRhode IslandR Republican
    13BurkeEdward R. BurkeNebraskaD Democrat
    14ChavezDennis ChavezNew MexicoD Democrat
    15AndrewsCharles O. AndrewsFloridaD Democrat
    16LeeJoshua B. LeeOklahomaD Democrat
    17HillJoseph L. HillAlabamaD Democrat
    18MeadJames M. MeadNew YorkD Democrat
    19StewartArthur T. StewartTennesseeD Democrat
    20LumpkinAlva M. LumpkinSouth CarolinaD Democrat
    21SpencerGeorge L. SpencerArkansasD Democrat
    22RosierJoseph RosierWest VirginiaD Democrat
    23O'DanielWilbert L. O'DanielTexasD Democrat
    24DoxeyWall DoxeyMississippiD Democrat
    25MaybankBurnet R. MaybankSouth CarolinaD Democrat
    26ShottHugh I. ShottWest VirginiaR Republican
    27WherryKenneth S. WherryNebraskaR Republican
    28HickenlooperBourke B. HickenlooperIowaR Republican
    29SaltonstallLeverett SaltonstallMassachusettsR Republican
    30HartThomas C. HartConnecticutR Republican
    31BrickerJohn W. BrickerOhioR Republican
    32DouglasPaul H. DouglasIllinoisD Democrat
    33PastoreJohn O. PastoreRhode IslandD Democrat
    34UnderwoodThomas R. UnderwoodKentuckyD Democrat
    35BarrettFrank A. BarrettWyomingR Republican
    36LennonAlton A. LennonNorth CarolinaD Democrat
    37ScottWilliam K. ScottNorth CarolinaD Democrat
    38LauscheFrank J. LauscheOhioD Democrat
    39InouyeDaniel K. InouyeHawaiiD Democrat
    40JohnstonJ. Bennett Johnston, Jr.LouisianaD Democrat
    41HartkeVance HartkeIndianaD Democrat
    42GravelMaurice R. GravelAlaskaD Democrat
    43HatfieldPaul G. HatfieldMontanaD Democrat
    44SimpsonAlan K. SimpsonWyomingR Republican
    45D'AmatoAlfonse M. D'AmatoNew YorkR Republican
    46MattinglyMack F. MattinglyGeorgiaR Republican
    47TriblePaul S. Trible, Jr.VirginiaR Republican
    48PellClaiborne de Borda PellRhode IslandD Democrat
    49RobbCharles S. RobbVirginiaD Democrat
    50DorganByron L. DorganNorth DakotaD Democrat
    51JohnsonTim JohnsonSouth DakotaD Democrat
    52ReedJack ReedRhode IslandD Democrat
    53MenendezRobert MenendezNew JerseyD Democrat
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