U.S. Capitol Historical Society

U.S. Capitol Historical Society


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Today, we’re proud to join the Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society in releasing the Abramoff Portrait in Oversight, which describes the 2004 Congressional investigation – championed by Senator John McCain – that exposed multiple corrupt lobbying practices. Learn more about how this investigation model can help Congress counter corruption in our press release:
Just added to our online museum collections database! This pocket watch was owned by Timothy Pickering of Massachusetts—a soldier, scholar, politician, and diplomat. During the Revolutionary War, Pickering commanded an Essex County militia unit that responded to the Lexington Alarm, then served the Continental Army as adjutant general, quartermaster general, and member of the Board of War. A military scholar, he wrote a widely used treatise on military discipline, An Easy Plan of Discipline for a Militia, first published in 1775. At the close of the Revolution, he became an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati.

Pickering went on to have a long career in public service in the formative years of his country. During President George Washington’s administration, Pickering was appointed postmaster general (1791-1795), secretary of war (1795), and secretary of state (1795-1800). In the early nineteenth century he was elected to both the United States Senate and House of Representatives from Massachusetts. This gold watch was made in London about the time Pickering became secretary of state.

Find out more about the watch in our online museum collections database: https://americanrevolutioninstitute.pastperfectonline.com/webobject/4EFFEBEE-288C-4796-BCE4-746018766572

U.S. Capitol Historical Society

Can anyone on this post identify where in the Capitol one might find this mantel (left)? The photo was taken some time ago by a government photographer (Theodor Horydczak) and appeared on a recent link with our White House group. It matches in close detail to two mantels installed in the Executive Mansion in 1818 (now in the Green and Red Rooms, right). Any help would be appreciated. The Office of the Architect of the Capitol is unresponsive to this repeated request for information. The mantel seems to be in a room with a circular end.
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From the first Earth Day, to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to cooperation between and President Richard Nixon, explore the impact of the on the with this NEW lesson featuring speechwriter Bob Bostock, activist Denis Hayes, and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society: https://www.c-span.org/classroom/document/?19227.

Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum
JM Historical is proud to offer a one-of-a-kind limited edition print by Arthur Szyk You can proudly display this print in your home today which highlights Szyk’s appreciation of America and its multi-ethnic culture that has made America great. You can purchase your piece of American history today on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/JMHistoricalArt
During the major exterior restoration for both the House (South) and Senate (North) Wings, our team performed chemical consolidation & laser cleaning on the carved marble cornice, columns, pilaster capitals, and window and door surrounds.

The use of lasers effectively reduced black crusts and soiling on the marble, leaving a substantially cleaned surface.

See our conservators in action on the Senate & House Wing façade at the link: http://ow.ly/Xi5H50J1IGa

Architect of the Capitol U.S. Capitol Visitor Center U.S. Capitol Historical Society
The Pediment on the Senate (North) façade was installed in 1863. We took part in the extensive conservation cleaning and repair on this pediment sculpture, Progress of Civilization, in 2018.

Our conservators also completed extensive conservation treatments and repair on the House (South) pediment sculpture, Apotheosis of Democracy, the last major sculpture campaign on the exterior, being completed in 1916.

Explore the Senate & House Wing façade pediments at the link:

Architect of the Capitol U.S. Capitol Visitor Center U.S. Capitol Historical Society
The original War and Peace sculptures by Luigi Persico were carved from marble between 1829 - 1834, and stood on the East façade of the U.S. Capitol. The originals deteriorated in the 1950s, were removed, and casts were taken for plaster replicas.

In 1960, the plaster replicas were placed on display in the Canon House, where they stayed until our team removed them for conservation.

We conserved the plaster replicas and installed them into the niches of the East façade over the course of two years, from 2015 -2017.

Learn more about the journey of War and Peace, or explore our interactive map at the link: https://evergreene.com/explore-the-u-s-capitol-campus-inside-out/

Architect of the Capitol U.S. Capitol Historical Society U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
The U.S. Capitol Rotunda sits directly in the center of the building, and spans from the second floor up 180 feet high.

In 2015, we joined this monumental restoration project to take on the dome’s decorative paint and ornamental plaster.

Look up to discover our work, or explore our interactive map at the link: http://ow.ly/6x6X50IZbbv

Architect of the Capitol U.S. Capitol Historical Society U.S. Capitol Visitor Center
Have you ever hosted a discussion of the Capitol Crawl?
Celebrate Preservation Month this May with an in-depth tour of the U.S. Capitol Campus to explore our project work both "inside & out."

You will witness the amazing transformations our conservators, craftspeople, and artists have extended to the building and grounds for three million visitors a year to enjoy!

Interact with our custom map as your guide to our featured U.S. Capitol projects. Follow along via social media all month with , and at the link: https://evergreene.com/explore-the-u-s-capitol-campus-inside-out/

Architect of the Capitol U.S. Capitol Visitor Center U.S. Capitol Historical Society
On this day 233 years ago - April 30, 1789 - George Washington took the oath of office as the first President of the United States. The ceremony took place at Federal Hall on Wall Street in New York City.

Federal Hall was the nation's first capitol building under the new Constitution. The original building no longer stands; the Federal Hall now administered by the National Park Service as Federal Hall National Memorial was built in the early 1840s.

To this day, George Washington remains the only president in American history unanimously elected in the Electoral College. And he did it twice: in 1788 and again in 1792.

To learn more about Federal Hall National Memorial, visit www.nps.gov/feha/index.htm

(Photo: U.S. Capitol Historical Society, www.uschs.org.)

The Ulysses S. Grant Memorial was dedicated 💯 years ago. Grant was born 200 years ago. 🎉

Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton joined Senator Roy Blunt, author Ronald White and the U.S. Capitol Historical Society to celebrate. Full video of the event at the link below.

The U.S. Capitol Historical Society was chartered by Congress to foster an "informed patriotism."

Operating as usual

Timeline photos 01/26/2023

in ,1863, the Secretary of War permitted the Governor to raise a Black militia to fight in the . It was one of the earliest such units. It would not be the last. By the War’s end, 178,000 soldiers of color had enlisted, with a disproportionate one-fifth dying in the fight for—what Lincoln called—“a new birth of freedom.”

At the War's onset, was reluctant to recruit Black soldiers for fear of losing Border states. But as White recruitment dwindled and enslaved men continued to escape to the Union, the calculus changed. Thus, in July 1862, overrode a 1792 law that prohibited the enlistment of Black men into the .

As a result, state volunteer units began forming, and in 1862 alone, Black soldiers from Louisiana, Kansas, and South Carolina all saw combat. Then, on January 1, 1863, the reinforced that Black men would be “received into the armed service of the .” Enlistment also improved with the aid of Black leaders, like Frederick Douglass, who framed the War as a fight for abolition. The Bureau of Colored Troops was also established and converted new and existing regiments into the United States Colored Troops.

USCT units were primarily composed of Black soldiers, but other minorities, including Asians and Native Americans, also served. Despite being given inferior weapons, they fought with valor at nearly every major battle in the last years of the War. After the Battle of Vicksburg, General Ulysses S. Grant wrote to Lincoln that by arming Black men, “we have added a powerful ally. They will make good soldiers and taking them from the enemy weaken him in the same proportion they strengthen us.”

For their courage on the battlefield, 16 African Americans earned the Medal of Honor. “Without the military help of the black freedmen,” Lincoln said in 1865, “the war against the South could not have been won.”

Timeline photos 01/25/2023

in , 1945, the Battle of the Bulge ended in ’s defeat. It was Hi**er’s last gamble of . But the Allies' courage and sacrifice denied him a final victory, spelling the beginning of the end of N**i tyranny.

After , Allied Forces enjoyed months of steady movement through Europe before being slowed and setting up operations in E. Belgium. Though commanders believed the war would soon be over, Hi**er sought a surprise attack. He hoped if he broke the Allied lines, he could capture the port city of Antwerp, split—then destroy—the and British armies, forcing a negotiated peace that would allow him to concentrate on the Soviets in the East.

On Dec. 16, when the attack began, the Allies were overwhelmed and suffered enormous bloodshed. Then, on the 2nd day, the Malmedy Massacre occurred, in which the SS captured 113 soldiers & medical personnel, lined them in a field, and opened fire. While some survived by playing dead, 84 were murdered in cold blood.

The Allied lines, however, bulged but never broke as land reinforcements quickly arrived; and once the weather cleared, so did air support. As the Allied counteroffensive progressed, the N**is—drained of manpower and resources—were forced to withdraw.

Two days after battle's end, the Soviet Army liberated Auschwitz. During the Allies' push to Germany, tens of thousands of prisoners were freed from death camps, where the true horrors of the War were exposed. Soldiers found hundreds of decomposing corpses, crematoriums with human remains, and personal belongings of the dead, including 14,000 lbs of human hair. After inspecting one camp, Gen. Eisenhower said, “We are told that the American soldier does not know what he is fighting for. Now, at least, he will know what he is fighting against.”

To learn more, help us recognize during Thursday's webinar, “How Tried to Save the Jews From the Holocaust.” Register for free at: https://bit.ly/4047s0b

Timeline photos 01/24/2023

in , 1933, the 20th Amendment to the was ratified. It changed the start and end of ' terms from March 4 to Jan. 3; and for the , from March 4 to Jan. 20. In so doing, the Amendment alleviated the political consequences of lengthy “lame duck” periods, when un-elected officials remained in office for months after election day.

The original March 4 transition date was necessitated by the slow travel and communication of the early . But as technology improved, lengthy transition periods became a burden.

For instance, after was elected in 1860, he watched powerlessly as Southern states seceded from the Union. All the while, lame duck Pres. Buchanan did nothing, believing that secession was unconstitutional—but that he wasn't empowered to prevent it. During this time, Lincoln was publicly silent but privately communicated with Southern leaders to show his willingness to compromise. Yet by the time he was sworn in, the was on the brink of .

In 1893, outgoing Pres. Harrison’s actions were arguably motivated by vengeance when he refused to prevent an economic panic and used friendly newspapers to blame Pres.-elect Cleveland and the Democrats. One year later, the GOP continued to blame Cleveland and won the largest landslide victory in midterm history.

In 1923, a GOP Senator introduced—and the Senate approved—an amendment to shorten lame-duck periods, but his party denied a vote in the House for a decade. Finally, in the wake of the Depression, enough Democrats won to ensure its passage. The Amendment, however, was not ratified until after ’s election, which meant he had to wait months before implementing the New Deal.

The Amendment did not eliminate lame ducks entirely. But it was the quickest to achieve ratification in every state, signaling the country’s endorsement of a more democratic system—one in which officeholders better reflect the will of the people.

Timeline photos 01/23/2023

in , 1737, John Hancock was born in . He is best remembered for his signature on the . But years before 's separation from Britain, he was at its epicenter of resistance.

When the Sugar Act was passed in 1764 to raise revenue, Hancock—a merchant and one of the richest men in America—only criticized its impact on business. His politics evolved, however, as he mingled with more Bostonians, including Sam Adams and James Otis, the latter of whom penned a pamphlet on the principle of no taxation without representation.

Thus, when the Stamp Act was implemented, Hancock's business boycotted British goods as he declared, “I have a right to the Libertys and privileges of the English Constitution, and as [an] Englishman, will enjoy them.”

But in 1768, officials seized Hancock's ship “Liberty” after suspecting him of smuggling, leading to erupt in riots. Simultaneously, discontent grew over the new Townshend duties, and the British responded by sending 1,200 troops to quell the unrest. Instead, their presence culminated in the Boston Massacre. Afterward, Hancock told the Governor that 10,000 armed colonists would march on Boston if the troops weren't removed. Though it was a bluff, they left Boston's mainland.

When the Tea Act threatened another crisis in 1773, Hancock attended every town meeting and approved of the , proclaiming, “Let every man do what is right in his own eyes.” The defiance set in motion the events that precipitated the and Continental where Hancock, as , presided over the most important debate in history: whether the colonies "ought to be, free and independent States.”

After history was made, only Hancock signed the Declaration on July 4. An apocryphal story says that in one more act of defiance, he wrote his name in large font so as to dare the King to arrest him: “There," he said, "His Majesty can now read my name without spectacles.”

Timeline photos 01/20/2023

in 1870, 's legislature elected Hiram Revels to the U.S. Senate, where he made as the first African American in . This accomplishment was short-lived, though, as Black voting rights dwindled after Reconstruction and were not restored until a century later.

After the , Congress' Reconstruction plan gave all Black adult males the right to vote. In Mississippi, which was 60% Black, Revels and about 40 African Americans were elected to the state senate in 1869. There, they ratified the 14th and 15th Amendments to protect the citizenship and voting rights of Blacks. Afterward, Revels was chosen by the legislature to fill one of the U.S. seats left vacant by Albert Brown and Jefferson Davis at the War's onset.

Though Revels—a moderate Republican—was born free, Democratic Senators questioned his appointment's legality. They argued that because the 14th Amendment was only adopted in 1868, Revels did not meet the 9-year citizenship requirement for Senators. But after days of debate, Revels was finally sat by a 48-8 vote along party lines. A decade after Mississippi’s delegation resigned to form the Confederacy, a Black man replaced them.

Of this achievement, a supportive Senator commented, ”what a magnificent spectacle of retributive justice is witnessed here today!” Unfortunately, the resistance Revel would still face in Congress was an early indicator of the discrimination all African Americans would endure when Reconstruction ended in 1877 after federal troops left the South.

It was then that Southern states began instituting literacy tests, grandfather clauses, and poll taxes. And by 1910, nearly all Black people were barred from voting in the South. Not until the passage of the 24th Amendment and the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s was this right finally restored. Then, in 1966—almost a century after Revels took his seat in Congress—Edward Brooke was elected the first Black Senator since Reconstruction's end.

Timeline photos 01/19/2023

in , 1981, the Algiers Accords were signed, securing the release of 52 hostages in . The next day, their 444-day captivity ended when they began their journey home just minutes after 's inauguration.

In 1979, the allowed the Iranian Shah—deposed by the Islamic Revolution—to receive cancer treatment in , despite calls for his extradition. In response, a small group of students gathered outside the Embassy in Tehran. However, their protest quickly escalated into a siege, and 66 were taken hostage. Though Ayatollah Khomeini did not plan the protests, he inspired and praised them.

Khomeini then ordered the release of all but three female and Black hostages under the assumption they were junior staffers. Afterward, tougher guards replaced the student captors, and most hostages were moved to the Embassy's fungi-prone basement, nicknamed the “Mushroom Inn.” Throughout their captivity, they were subjected to interrogation, beatings, and threats of torture & death; some, unsure of their fate, wrote notes to their families. Others attempted su***de.

At the outset, Carter hesitated to demand a deadline for their release, as “any excessive threat…might cause the deaths of the hostages.” But refused a diplomatic solution, he ordered an air rescue operation. Two of the helicopters, though, malfunctioned. And when the other aircraft tried to withdraw, two collided, killing eight soldiers.

Carter’s inability to negotiate the hostages' release aided Reagan’s landslide victory. But after Iraq invaded Iran, Carter seized on its vulnerability to ensure the Algiers Accords were signed before he left office.

In , 2 million people lined the streets for a parade to welcome the hostages home. They were met with cheers, songs, and signs that read “free at last.” Then, they were treated to a private dinner in the World Trade Center, where they watched fireworks over the Statue of Liberty.

Timeline photos 01/18/2023

in , 1919, the Peace Conference convened to negotiate an end to . Present were representatives from nearly 30 nations, though the leaders who dominated the conference's 1st six months were from the “Big Four”: , , , and the .

Wilson arrived in France expecting to act only as an arbiter, commenting that would be “the only disinterested people at the Peace Conference.” That's because the entered as only an Associated Power of the Allies and was thus not beholden to their prior agreements about territory redistribution. Wilson opposed many of these agreements and instead foresaw his “Fourteen Points” as a basis for global .

The points centered on achieving this through self-determination and collective security, protected by a League of Nations. But while the British tended to agree with Wilson’s vision, they also wanted to maintain naval superiority and control new colonies. They further believed that should pay reparations—as did France—which wanted to weaken Germany by limiting its military and creating new states from German land to balance its power. Italy, meanwhile, was focused on territorial gains, which it was promised in a secret treaty with the Allies.

These debates, however, almost derailed the conference. And for Wilson to secure a League of Nations, he had to capitulate on measures regarding the control of seas and reparations. As a result, the Treaty of Versailles was much harsher on Germany than the Fourteen Points called for: it was forced to limit its military, give up 10% of its prewar European territory and all overseas holdings, assume responsibility for the war, and pay nearly $40 billion in reparations.

Many hoped the Peace Conference would establish a lasting peace. But it became clear that the resulting Treaty failed to do so. After its signing, the French Marshall maligned, “This is not a peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.”

Timeline photos 01/17/2023

in 1920, the Volstead Act was enacted—and the Prohibition Era began. The Act was designed to enforce the 18th Amendment, which made it illegal to manufacture or sell alcoholic beverages. But though this was supposed to crack down on social disorder, any positive impact was overshadowed by soaring crime rates & a troubled economy.

this was not the 1st time alcohol was banned in the ? In the 19th century, towns & states also tried in vain to enforce temperance without success. Nevertheless, in 1917—after temporary prohibition to save grain during — gave way to the movement, passing the 18th Amendment & overriding Wilson’s veto of the Volstead Act.

Though alcohol consumption & public intoxication arrests dropped, the economic effects were dismal. Restaurants & theaters closed, jobs were lost, and industries that expected to benefit from ' extra time & money saw little increase in sales. The Government, meanwhile, lost $11 billion in tax revenue.

On the other hand, the bootlegging industry soared; the Mafia dominated alcohol production and, as a result, established a system of organized crime that still exists today. Using a loophole that allowed pharmacists to provide whiskey for ailments, pharmacies became a popular front for bootlegging. In fact, the number of registered pharmacists in tripled during Prohibition, and attendance grew at churches & synagogues where wine was permitted.

The most infamous bootlegger was Capone, who, ironically, was born . He was behind the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre of seven rival gang members. Citizens were shocked by the bloodbath & lawlessness in , leading Prohibition's support to decline. It was this & the economic strain of the Depression that finally led to the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933.

With Americans ready to move on, admitted after a busy start to his presidency, “I think this would be a good time for a beer.”

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