A new multimedia exhibit displays the autobiographical manuscript of Isaac Bassett, a Senate employee for 65 years during the 19th century.
On December 5, 1831 12-year-old Bassett was appointed a page in the U.S. Senate. Eventually promoted to messenger and then assistant doorkeeper, Bassett remained at his post on the Senate Chamber floor until his death in 1895. He witnessed many of the Senate's great debates and compromises during the tumultuous years between 1820 and 1860. He lived through the turbulence of Civil War. He watched the Senate struggle to reconstruct a shattered nation, then cope with America's emergence as a continental power and industrial giant.
We would know little of Isaac Bassett had he not decided late in life to write a memoir for publication after his death. Although he never completed the task, his descendants faithfully preserved his efforts and eventually transferred the papers and many associated artifacts to the Senate.
The purpose of this exhibit is not to produce the volume that Isaac Bassett originally intended to publish, or to provide a comprehensive history of the Senate, but rather to reproduce a colorful sample of Bassett's recollections.