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The United States Senate in Session.


The United States Senate in Session.
by Unidentified
after George W. Breck after photograph by William Kurtz
Harper's Weekly
Halftone, colored, 1894-09-22
sheet measurement
      Height: 19.5 inches  (49.53 cm)
      Width:  13.75 inches  (34.925 cm)
Cat. no. 38.00032.005

This 1894 engraving shows the Senate Chamber during a typical session in the late 19th century. Senators occupy their desks, some listening to the proceedings, while others talk with one another or attend to business. During this time, only powerful committee chairmen had personal offices, and thus members spent much of their day at their desks doing work. Senate pages can be seen sitting at the rostrum awaiting a call from a member. The position of Senate page was first created in 1829. By the turn of the century, the Senate employed at least 17 young boys as pages. Dressed in knickers and jackets, they spent their days running errands for the senators, announcing impending votes, placing papers and pens on the senatorís desks, and delivering messages throughout the city. Visitors watch the proceedings from the galleries, and three press reporters can be seen above the presiding officerís desk taking notes. The elaborate 19th-century Victorian interior shown in this image was significantly changed as part of a 1950s renovation. The original stained glass ceiling was found to be dangerously weak and had to be replaced; at the same time, the interior was altered to reflect a Federal-period look.