|Badge, United States Senate Page
|1879 ca. or 19th c.
|h. 1.5 x w. 1.38 x d. 0.5 in. (h. 3.8 x w. 3.5 x d. 1.3 cm)
|U.S. Senate Collection
This personalized silver badge is engraved with the name of French E. Helm (18681916), who worked as a U.S. Senate page from 1879 to 1883. Little is currently known about its provenance; the Senate sometimes issued badges to identify pages as employees on official business. Senate reports do not indicate routine purchases of page badges during the late 19th century, though there is one documented instance, in which 17 were acquired from a local silver-plater, Robert A. Whitehand, in 1891. The ornate inscription on Helm's badge raises the possibility that it may have been a gift or commemorative item.
Born in Virginia, Helm attended public primary school in Washington, D.C., before becoming a page. He received $2.50 per day to deliver messages and run errands for senators, among other tasks. During his tenure, Helm would have worked alongside notable employees, including Isaac Bassett, one of the earliest Senate pages (then serving as assistant doorkeeper), and Andrew Slade, the Senate's first African American page.