You are viewing a Web site, archived on 01:45:16 Dec 12, 2008. It is now a Federal record managed by the National Archives and Records Administration.
External links, forms, and search boxes may not function within this collection. Note that this document was downloaded, and not saved because it was a duplicate of a previously captured version (17:21:38 Nov 24, 2008). HTTP headers presented here are from the original capture.
Meet the Clerk
Learn About Congress
How Laws are Made
Time Traveler
Field Trip!
The Capitol Complex
Time Warp: People
Time Warp: Art

What's in the House Chamber? Click around the Chamber to find out!

House Chamber graphic The Well Coin Silver Inkstand Portrait of Lafayette Portrait of Washington Mace U.S. Flag Rostrum Bronze Fasces Bronze Fasces Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Press Gallery Press Gallery Lawgivers Relief Portraits Lawgivers Relief Portraits Lawgivers Relief Portraits

Reveal Hot Spots

Hide Hot Spots

The House Chamber
Unlike the Members of the Senate, Members of the House have no assigned seats but are by tradition divided by party; Members of the Democratic Party sit to the Speaker's right and Members of the Republican Party sit to his left.

Among the 448 permanent seats on the House Floor are four tables, or two on each side. These tables are occupied by Members of the Committee that have brought a bill to the floor for consideration and by the respective party leadership.

The Rostrum imageThe Rostrum

The Rostrum, a place for public speaking, is the location from which the Speaker of the House presides.

U.S. Flag imageU.S. Flag
The U.S. flag hangs on the wall behind the Speaker's chair and, since 1901 has been provided by the Daughters of the American Revolution whenever it needed to be replaced. The original design of the flag is described as follows in a resolution adopted by the Marine Committee of the 2nd Continental Congress at Philadelphia on June 14, 1777. As stated in the resolution,
"Resolved, that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field representing a new constellation."

Coin Silver Inkstand imageCoin Silver Inkstand
The coin silver inkstand on the Speaker's desk is the oldest surviving relic of the House. The origin of the inkstand is unclear, but it appears in portraits dating from 1821 and is stamped with the mark of J. Leonard, a Georgetown silversmith. The tray contains three crystal inkwells and is adorned on both sides by eagle medallions. The feet of the tray are fasces entwined by a serpent, a classical symbol of wisdom surrounding authority.

Bronze Fasces imageBronze Fasces
The bronze fasces, used since Roman times to symbolize civic authority, are located on both sides of the U.S. flag. The original Roman fasces consisted of an axe within a bundle of rods, bound by a red strap. The fasces were carried before the consul and were used to restore order and to carry out the punishment of the courts.

The Mace, which is the symbol of the Office of the Sergeant at Arms, is placed by the Sergeant at Arms on a pedestal at the Speaker's right each time the House convenes. The Mace is moved to the lower pedestal of the Speaker's rostrum when the Speaker declares the House in the Committee of the Whole House on the State of the Union for the consideration of legislation.

The Mace consists of 13 tiny ebony rods, representing the 13 original states, and is bound with sterling silver bands. At the top of the Mace is a silver orb, engraved with a map of the world, on which stands a silver eagle with outstretched wings. The current Mace was crafted by New York silversmith William Adams in 1841. The original Mace was destroyed when the Capitol was burned by the British in 1814.

To restore order in the Chamber, the Speaker may direct the Sergeant at Arms to take the Mace from its pedestal and present it before an unruly Member.

Portrait of Washington imagePortrait of Washington
A portrait of George Washington hangs at the right of the Speaker's rostrum. This portrait was commissioned in 1834 from American artist John Vanderlyn as a companion to the portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette. The portrait is life-size and depicts Washington standing at a desk next to a window, with a chair and red drapery behind him. Washington directs his glance at the viewer. He is wearing a black suit with a lace-collar shirt, typical of Revolutionary times.

Portrait of Lafayette imagePortrait of Lafayette
A full length portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette, the first foreign dignitary to address a joint meeting of the Congress, was presented to the House by the French artist Ary Scheffer in 1824. The portrait is located to the left of the rostrum. The portrait is life-size and depicts Lafayette standing in a simple landscape, with only a boulder behind him and a cloudy sky. Lafayette directs his glance to the right and is wearing a black suit with a white, high-collared shirt and a tie. His full-length coat looks like it is made of soft leather, and he holds his black hat and cane in his right hand.

The Well imageThe Well
Members address the House from microphones at any table or from the well, the area immediately in front of the rostrum.

Press Gallery imagePress Gallery
The Press Gallery, the area above the rostrum with wooden benches, is reserved for members of the accredited media. The remaining gallery space is open to the public upon presentation of a gallery pass obtained from a Member of Congress or an officer of the House.

Electronic Voting Board imageElectronic Voting
Recorded and roll call votes are normally taken by electronic device, except when the Speaker orders the vote to be recorded by other methods prescribed by the Rules of the House. Each Member is provided with a personalized Vote-ID Card which can be used to vote electronically. Each vote station has a slot into which the voting card is inserted and buttons marked "yea," "nay," "present." Members vote by inserting the voting card into the card slot and pressing the appropriate button to indicate the Member's choice. The voting machine records the votes and tallies the result when the vote is completed.

Lawgivers Relief Portrait imageLawgivers Relief Portraits
Visitors to the House Chamber will appreciate the fact that modern U.S. lawmakers are building upon the priceless heritage of Western civilization. Today's Congress must pick up the mantle of a centuries-old challenge to develop a workable, enforceable, and equitable system of justice. As a constant reminder of this task, 23 marble-relief portraits of noted lawgivers, placed over the gallery doors when the House Chamber was remodeled from 1949 to 1951, adorn the walls.

Created in bas-relief on white Vermont marble, by seven different sculptors, the plaques each measure 28" in diameter. From the full face of Moses on the north wall, 11 profiles face left and 11 face right, ending at a quotation from Daniel Webster on the south wall above the Speaker's chair.

Parents & Teachers
Tools for Learning

Did You Know?
A Little Known Fact
Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day! Find out more about Federal Holidays in Inspect-A-Law.

Check This Out!

Be a smarty pants!
Test your brain power with the Challenge Questions found throughout this site.

Glossary Terms
Key Words
Use the glossary to learn key terms.

Electronic Voting Machine
House Chamber

Home | Meet the Clerk | Learn About Congress | How Laws Are Made
Time Traveler
| Field Trip! | Fun & Games | Parents & Teachers

Office of the Clerk - U.S. Capitol, Room H154
Washington, DC 20515-6601 - (202) 225-1908

Contact Us | About this Site | Security and Privacy Notice | Office of the Clerk

The Well Coin Silver Inkstand Portrait of Lafayette Portrait of Washington Mace U.S. Flag Rostrum Bronze Fasces Bronze Fasces Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Electronic Voting Press Gallery Press Gallery Lawgivers Relief Portraits Lawgivers Relief Portraits Lawgivers Relief Portraits