The Mace

Mace 2006_162_000/tiles/non-collection/h/hc_rostrum_mace_2006_162_000.xml
Mace, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The silver Mace, symbol of the House’s authority, has been in use in the House since 1841 when the Members met in the old House Chamber. It was crafted by William Adams, a New York silversmith.
Congressional Pugilists 2004_089_000
Congressional Pugilists, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The first known instance of the presentation of a mace took place in Philadelphia's Congress Hall on January 30, 1798. A brawl erupted between Representatives Matthew Lyon and Roger Griswold, involving an attack with fireplace tongs.
The Sergeant at Arms leads duty-shirking Members back to the Chamber for a night session, holding the Mace aloft as a symbol of his disciplinary authority.
The Sergeant-at-Arms Bringing in Absentee Members, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Sergeant at Arms leads duty-shirking Members back to the Chamber for a night session, holding the Mace aloft as a symbol of his disciplinary authority.
House Sergeant at Arms Zeke W. Johnson, Jr., (right) supervises as House Messenger Leo Glascoe polishes the House mace. When the House is out of session, the Sergeant at Arms looks after the Mace.
Polishing the Mace, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
House Sergeant at Arms Zeke W. Johnson, Jr., (right) supervises as House Messenger Leo Glascoe polishes the House mace. When the House is out of session, the Sergeant at Arms looks after the Mace.
Dennis Hastert's Speaker portrait includes the Mace as a symbol of the authority of both the House and the Speakership. A gavel and the silver inkstand, both omnipresent when the House is in session, are also included./tiles/non-collection/H/Hastert.xml
John Dennis Hastert, Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
Dennis Hastert's Speaker portrait includes the Mace as a symbol of the authority of both the House and the Speakership. A gavel and the silver inkstand, both omnipresent when the House is in session, are also included.
The Mace of the U.S. House of Representatives is among the oldest and most important symbols of American government.

In one of its first resolutions, the U.S. House of Representatives of the 1st Federal Congress (April 14, 1789) established the Office of the Sergeant at Arms. The first Speaker of the House, Frederick Muhlenburg of Pennsylvania, approved the Mace as the proper symbol of the Sergeant at Arms in carrying out the duties of this office. The tradition of using a symbolic mace to represent authority originally derives from Medieval Europe, and was also a well established tradition in the North American colonial legislative bodies.

Following tradition, the House’s Mace adheres to the basic design of the weapon it shares its name with, a long shaft with a heavy, round implement on top. The Mace of the U.S. House of Representatives, however, adds nuance and meaning to this basic form. The shaft, which is made up of thirteen ebony rods, representing the original states in the union, bound together with intertwining silver bands, recalls ancient Roman fasces. The fasces were a symbol of authority in Rome, with its bound rods symbolizing the strength of unity. Atop the ebony rods rests a cast-silver globe, surmounted by an eagle with spread wings. The continents are etched into the globe, with North America facing front. The eagle, the national bird, is cast in solid silver.  

Three maces have been used by the House of Representatives since its inception. The arrival of the original is undocumented, but it is known to be in use not long after the 1789 resolution to establish the Sergeant at Arms. The first mace was destroyed in 1814. Between the destruction of the Capitol in 1814 and the receipt of the current Mace in 1841, a wooden mace was used. The current Mace was “presented and qualified” on December 29, 1841, and was made by silversmith William Adams. A letter to Adams, Speaker John White specified that the new Mace should be “similar to the one destroyed in the year 1814.”

The Mace in the House Chamber

Each day when the House of Representatives is called to order, the Sergeant at Arms or the Deputy Sergeant at Arms carries the Mace into the House Chamber and places it on its green marble pedestal on the Rostrum, to the right of the Speaker.

The Mace remains in place while the House is in session, allowing Members and visitors to easily determine whether the House is in session or in committee. The lower level of the marble pedestal is used when the House is resolved into the Committee of the Whole for the President’s State of the Union address.

The Mace Used to Restore Order

In accordance with the Rules of the House, on the rare occasions when a Member becomes unruly, the Sergeant at Arms, on order of the Speaker, removes the Mace from its pedestal and presents it before the offenders, thereby restoring order. Although there is no official history of the disciplinary use of the Mace, incidents of unrest often appeared in the press.