United States Senate
United States Senate Senators HomeCommittees HomeLegislation & Records HomeArt & History HomeVisitor Center HomeReference Home
United States Senate
Origins & Development
Historical Minutes
Special Collections Highlights
Graphic Arts
Oral History


Rumors: Tall Tales About Senate Art

Return to Myths Home


Battle of Lake Erie

Battle of Lake Erie, by William Henry Powell, 1865

This painting commemorates the famous naval battle fought between British and American fleets during the War of 1812. During the engagement, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's flagship, the U.S. Brig Lawrence was badly damaged so he and several crewmembers transferred to another ship by boldly rowing through the battle in a small boat. From his new flagship, U.S. Brig Niagara, Perry directed the American fleet to a resounding victory.


The Rumor

Some people think that all the faces in the painting are the same. They say the artist was penniless and needed to save money, so he used the same model for all the men.

The Truth!

Artist William H. Powell used actual sailors from the Brooklyn Navy Yard and workers from the U.S. Capitol as models.

How Do We Know the Truth?


Myths: Did you know?
The Senate's Battle of Lake Erie is a copy made by William Henry Powell of Perry's Victory on Lake Erie, which the artist painted for the Ohio Statehouse in 1865.

Myths: Origins of the Myth?
The artist painted these men with similar expressions of wide-eyed terror to contrast them with Oliver Hazard Perry's calm demeanor. In fact, the painting was criticized at the time for lack of artistic merit, and the overly dramatic style.