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Art & History

Splendid Hall

The Hall of the House of Representatives (1807-1857)

This exhibition explores the House of Representatives as it was during the half century it met in the old Hall of the House or old House Chamber. Now called Statuary Hall, it is one of the most historic parts of the U.S. Capitol. The House of Representatives met here from 1807 until 1857, when the present House Chamber was completed. In this Hall, Representatives debated the destiny of an expanding young nation.

The Members sat at desks of various sizes arranged in tiered semi-circular rows with aisles between them. The Speaker’s Rostrum, with its elaborate canopy, stood below the sculpture of Liberty and the Eagle, which still occupies the space. The sculpture depicts an allegorical female Liberty, who holds a scroll representing the Constitution over a bald eagle, which represents America. A serpent, representing wisdom, loops around a fasces-like bundle, an image similar to that seen on the legs of the silver inkstand which would have rested on the Speaker’s rostrum below. The group is carved in plaster.

The Car of History, carved in marble by Italian sculptor Carlo Franzoni in 1819, can be seen directly across from Liberty and the Eagle. Also part of the original décor of the Old chamber, this sculpture depicts Clio, the Muse of History astride a winged chariot, with a clock on the face of the chariot’s wheel. The clock was made by Simon Willard in 1837, and still keeps time today.

In 1864, the Congress designated this room National Statuary Hall and invited each state to contribute two statues of deceased citizens deserving of lasting commemoration. The statues in this room are part of that collection; the rest of the National Statuary Hall Collection displayed throughout the Capitol complex.

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Liberty and the Eagle

Liberty and the Eagle, Enrico Causici, Plaster, 1817–1819 Image Courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

Car of History

The Car of History, Enrico Causici, Plaster, 1817–1819Image Courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol

Meeting of Congress

“The Meeting of Congress–Hall of Representatives,” Harper’s Weekly, wood engraving, 1857 Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives

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