Historical Highlights

Alexander McDowell, Long-serving Clerk of the House

March 15, 1897
Alexander McDowell, Long-serving Clerk of the House Members of the House of Representatives, Sixtieth Congress Clerk of the House Alexander McDowell of Pennsylvania is one of 13 Clerks to have also served as a Member.
On this date, Alexander McDowell of Pennsylvania was elected Clerk of the House for a second term. A Civil War veteran and banker, McDowell represented an At-Large Pennsylvania district in the House during the 53rd Congress (1893–1895). After two years as a Representative, McDowell chose not to seek a second term and instead was elected Clerk of the House for the 54th Congress (1895–1897). At the opening of the 55th Congress (1897–1899), McDowell, in his capacity as Clerk, called the House to order and read the roll. During the first day of the new Congress, Speaker Thomas Bracket Reed of Maine administered the oath of office to McDowell and the other House Officers—Benjamin Russell (Sergeant at Arms), William Glenn (Doorkeeper), Joseph McElroy (Postmaster), and Henry Couden (Chaplain). As one of the longest-serving Clerks in House history, McDowell worked for three Speakers during his eight terms: Reed, David Henderson of Iowa, and Joe Cannon of Illinois. When the Democrats took control of the House in the 62nd Congress (1911–1913), McDowell’s nearly two-decade career on Capitol Hill came to a close. "Now that the hour of my departure is at hand, I take the opportunity of expressing my sincere and heartfelt thanks to the Members of the past eight Congresses for their uniform kindness and courtesy to me," McDowell remarked. "During my eight terms as Clerk 87 Members of Congress have died while in office, and they are silently and patiently waiting beyond the river for the supreme committee on committees to properly place them."

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The House has elected or appointed employees to carry out a wide variety of tasks throughout its history. The officers’ duties are prescribed both by law and Rule II of the Rules of the House of Representatives.

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