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Senate Chamber Desks

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Desk 96 (XCVI)

TitleDesk, Senate Chamber, 96 (XCVI)
Artist/Makerafter T. Constantine & Co. (1817 - 1826) 
Date19th or early 20th century
MediumMahogany, mahogany veneer and rosewood veneer (primary)
Dimensions h. 35.37 x  w. 27.87 x  d. 20 in. ( h. 89.85 x  w. 70.8 x  d. 50.8 cm)
Credit LineU.S. Senate Collection
Accession Number66.00096.001

  • 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
    1HillDavid B. HillNew YorkD Democrat
    2TillmanBenjamin R. TillmanSouth CarolinaD Democrat
    3MartinThomas S. MartinVirginiaD Democrat
    4SimmonsFurnifold M. SimmonsNorth CarolinaD Democrat
    5AshurstHenry F. AshurstArizonaD Democrat
    6StewartArthur T. StewartTennesseeD Democrat
    7KilgoreHarley M. KilgoreWest VirginiaD Democrat
    8SpencerGeorge L. SpencerArkansasD Democrat
    9RosierJoseph RosierWest VirginiaD Democrat
    10O'DanielWilbert L. O'DanielTexasD Democrat
    11EastlandJames O. EastlandMississippiD Democrat
    12WalshArthur WalshNew JerseyD Democrat
    13HallWilton E. HallSouth CarolinaD Democrat
    14MagnusonWarren G. MagnusonWashingtonD Democrat
    15MosesJohn MosesNorth DakotaD Democrat
    16MitchellHugh B. MitchellWashingtonD Democrat
    17BriggsFrank P. BriggsMissouriD Democrat
    18YoungMilton R. YoungNorth DakotaR Republican
    19KnowlandWilliam F. KnowlandCaliforniaR Republican
    20HuffmanJames W. HuffmanOhioD Democrat
    21GossettCharles C. GossettIdahoD Democrat
    22BurchThomas G. BurchVirginiaD Democrat
    23SwiftGeorge R. SwiftAlabamaD Democrat
    24MaloneGeorge W. MaloneNevadaR Republican
    25AndersonClinton P. AndersonNew MexicoD Democrat
    26MonroneyAlmer S. M. MonroneyOklahomaD Democrat
    27DanielMarion P. DanielTexasD Democrat
    28ErvinSamuel J. Ervin, Jr.North CarolinaD Democrat
    29BurkeThomas A. BurkeOhioD Democrat
    30CrippaEdward D. CrippaWyomingR Republican
    31NeubergerRichard L. NeubergerOregonD Democrat
    32NeubergerMaurine B. NeubergerOregonD Democrat
    33HumphreysRobert HumphreysKentuckyD Democrat
    34YarboroughRalph W. YarboroughTexasD Democrat
    35ProxmireWilliam ProxmireWisconsinD Democrat
    36EngleClair EngleCaliforniaD Democrat
    37NeubergerMaurine B. NeubergerOregonD Democrat
    38AllenJames B. AllenAlabamaD Democrat
    39YarboroughRalph W. YarboroughTexasD Democrat
    40DeConciniDennis W. DeConciniArizonaD Democrat
    41ExonJ. James ExonNebraskaD Democrat
    42HeflinHowell T. HeflinAlabamaD Democrat
    43HarkinTom HarkinIowaD Democrat
    44KerreyJ. Robert KerreyNebraskaD Democrat
    45LandrieuMary L. LandrieuLouisianaD Democrat
    46CardinBenjamin L. CardinMarylandD Democrat
    47CaseyRobert P. Casey, Jr.PennsylvaniaD Democrat
    48BegichMark BegichAlaskaD Democrat
    49KaineTim KaineVirginiaD Democrat
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