Historical Highlights

The Delayed End of the First Session of the 59th Congress (1905–1907)

June 30, 1906
The Delayed End of the First Session of the 59th Congress (1905–1907) Image courtesy of Library of Congress Serving nearly 25 years in the House, James Mann of Illinois chaired three committees and was elected House Minority Leader.
On this date, the first session of the 59th Congress (1905–1907) ended several hours late, due to an editing error at the Government Printing Office (GPO). Though both houses had finished their pending business, Secretary of State Elihu Root discovered an erroneous $3,000,000 appropriation for a new federal building in the enrolled version of an omnibus public buildings bill, which had been signed by President Theodore Roosevelt that morning. Both the House and Senate were forced to stay in Washington after quickly passing two resolutions—one that repealed the wrong law and the other that passed the corrected version—to wait for the new legislation to return with Roosevelt’s signature. In what proved to be the hottest afternoon of the summer up to that point, Members sweltered in their steamy chambers. “The House managed to get along fairly well,” noted a New York Times reporter, “because it is not so dignified as the Senate. It whiled away its time singing, whistling, making burlesque motions, and fake speeches, and otherwise enjoying itself.” Speaker Joseph “Uncle Joe” Cannon of Illinois declared seven recesses of varying length throughout the afternoon and evening, allowing Members to depart the chamber for some respite. In the Senate, Vice President Charles Fairbanks was often left to mind the chamber alone. After President Roosevelt returned the signed legislation late that night, the session officially ended just before eleven o’clock. Public Printer Charles Stillings later noted that the large number of bills flooding GPO at the end of the session had allowed the mistake to slip past its proof readers. Members, however, were wary of the mistake. “I appreciate the hard labor they have on their hands at the closing days of the session,” noted Representative James Mann of Illinois, “but we ought to have some method by which we know whether an item is in an enrolled bill or out of an enrolled bill when signed.”

Related Highlight Subjects

Blog Post

July 8, 2014

Vent Elation