Senate records show that the secretary of the Senate likely purchased this seal in 1892 from H. Baumgarten, a Washington, D.C. stationery and office supply firm that is still in business. A collector discovered the seal at a political memorabilia convention and donated it to the Senate.
Seals such as this, called wax seals, embossed the sealing wax that was used to securely close letters prior to the invention of pre-gummed envelopes near the turn of the 20th century. They were emblazoned with the owner’s initials, a coat of arms, or in this case, the name of an office. Senate records reveal that the Secretary’s Office also purchased such seals for individual senators’ offices during the 19th century. The White House occasionally still uses a wax seal today on envelopes containing official documents sent to Congress.
This seal differs from the official Senate seal, which is embossed directly on documents or onto a foil wafer in order to authenticate the document.