Skip Content
U.S. Flag

Senate Chamber Desks

Overview    |    Seating Plans    |    Desk Occupants    |    The Desks    |    Traditions    |    Timeline

Desk 71 (LXXI)

TitleDesk, Senate Chamber, 71 (LXXI)
Artist/Makerafter T. Constantine & Co. (1817 - 1826) 
Date19th or early 20th century
MediumMahogany and mahogany veneer (primary)
Dimensions h. 34.87 x  w. 29 x  d. 20.62 in. ( h. 88.58 x  w. 73.66 x  d. 52.38 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number66.00071.001

  • 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
    1NelsonKnute NelsonMinnesotaR Republican
    2SterlingThomas SterlingSouth DakotaR Republican
    3FernaldBert M. FernaldMaineR Republican
    4PhippsLawrence C. PhippsColoradoR Republican
    5ShortridgeSamuel M. ShortridgeCaliforniaR Republican
    6StanfieldRobert N. StanfieldOregonR Republican
    7ShipsteadHenrik ShipsteadMinnesotaFL, R
    8SackettFrederic M. SackettKentuckyR Republican
    9RobinsonArthur R. RobinsonIndianaR Republican
    10SteiwerFrederick SteiwerOregonR Republican
    11BarbourWilliam W. BarbourNew JerseyR Republican
    12DowneySheridan DowneyCaliforniaD Democrat
    13SchwartzHenry H. SchwartzWyomingD Democrat
    14SmathersWilliam H. SmathersNew JerseyD Democrat
    15BerryGeorge L. BerryTennesseeD Democrat
    16MillerJohn E. MillerArkansasD Democrat
    17HillJoseph L. HillAlabamaD Democrat
    18WileyAlexander WileyWisconsinR Republican
    19WillisRaymond E. WillisIndianaR Republican
    20LangerWilliam LangerNorth DakotaR Republican
    21RobertsonAbsalom W. RobertsonVirginiaD Democrat
    22SmithHoward A. SmithNew JerseyR Republican
    23CapehartHomer E. CapehartIndianaR Republican
    24MartinEdward MartinPennsylvaniaR Republican
    25EctonZales N. EctonMontanaR Republican
    26KuchelThomas H. KuchelCaliforniaR Republican
    27MartinThomas E. MartinIowaR Republican
    28CooperJohn S. CooperKentuckyR Republican
    29ProutyWinston L. ProutyVermontR Republican
    30JordanLeonard B. JordanIdahoR Republican
    31MillerJack R. MillerIowaR Republican
    32JacksonHenry M. JacksonWashingtonD Democrat
    33TowerJohn G. TowerTexasR Republican
    34DoddThomas J. DoddConnecticutD Democrat
    35ProxmireWilliam ProxmireWisconsinD Democrat
    36MoynihanDaniel P. MoynihanNew YorkD Democrat
    37RockefellerJohn D. Rockefeller, IVWest VirginiaD Democrat
    38AkakaDaniel K. AkakaHawaiiD Democrat
    39HironoMazie K. HironoHawaiiD Democrat
  • More about this Object
  • Related Objects
  • Rights and Reproduction
  • Policies, Permissions, and Copyright