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Senate Chamber Desks

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Historical Timeline

  • 1800–1859 | (Old Senate Chamber)
  • 1800:  The Senate took up residence in the north wing of the unfinished Capitol in Washington, D.C.,  on November 17, and achieved its first quorum in the new national capital on November 21.

    1814:  During the War of 1812, British troops set fire to the Capitol building on August 24.

    1819:  On December 6, the Senate occupied its newly reconstructed chamber that served as its home until 1859.

    1836:  On February 17, the Senate reserved one-third of its chamber's circular gallery for the exclusive use of women.

    1841:  On July 8, the Senate amended Rule 47, removing reporters from the floor of the Senate Chamber and placing them in the eastern gallery, known thereafter as the “press gallery.”

    1846:  Members began to sit together in the Senate Chamber according to party affiliation.

    1847:  On December 3, the Senate Chamber was lit with gas for the first time, providing “light enough to write by and read the finest print in any part of the chamber.”

  • 1859–Present | (Senate Chamber)
  • 1859:  The Senate occupied its current Chamber for the first time on January 4.

    1877:  To allow all members of each party to sit together in the Chamber, on March 5 the Senate began the practice of moving desks according to party division rather than keeping an equal number of desks on each side of the center aisle.

    1895:  Assistant Doorkeeper Isaac Bassett  died on December 18. Bassett began his Senate service in 1831 as a page and after 1860 became widely identified as keeper of the Senate's historical lore.

    1896:  A ventilation system was installed in the Senate Chamber and metal grilles were installed on the feet of each Senate Chamber desk.

    1927:  On December 5, Democratic Leader Joseph T. Robinson (D-AR) started the tradition of party floor leaders sitting at the front-row, center-aisle desk in the Senate Chamber.

    1939:  Columbia Pictures released Frank Capra's film  Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Forty-five senators attended the film’s world premiere on October 17, held at Washington's DAR Constitution Hall.

    1949:  A major remodeling project began in the Senate Chamber, to replace the roof and ceiling, and to redecorate the room.

    1965:  Senator George Murphy of California originated the practice of keeping a supply of candy in his desk for the enjoyment of fellow senators.

    1969:  The Senate authorized adding a public address system in the Senate Chamber.

    1971:  Each Senate Chamber desk was fitted with a small microphone and an amplification box. Amplification speakers were also installed in the public galleries.

    1974:  The Senate provided that the Daniel Webster Desk be assigned to the senior senator from New Hampshire.

    1986:  Regular television coverage (C-Span 2) of Senate floor proceedings began.

    1995:  The Senate provided that the Jefferson Davis Desk be assigned to the senior senator from Mississippi.

    1999:  The Senate provided that the Henry Clay Desk be assigned to the senior senator from Kentucky.

    2006:  The Senate provided that the Henry Clay Desk be reassigned to the junior senator from Kentucky when the senior senator serves as party leader.