Historical Highlights

The First Sergeant at Arms, Joseph Wheaton

May 12, 1789
The First Sergeant at Arms, Joseph Wheaton Image courtesy of the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Mace, which symbolizes the authority of House of Representatives, resides near the Speakers rostrum while the House is in session.
On this date, the House elected its first Sergeant at Arms, Joseph Wheaton. As the chamber’s principal law enforcement official, the modern day Sergeant at Arms maintains security on the floor and for the House side of the Capitol complex. Mandated under the current House Rule II, the Sergeant at Arms also enforces protocol and ensures decorum during floor proceedings. The First Congress (1789–1791) adopted many of the traditions of colonial parliamentary bodies and the British Parliament, including the use of a ceremonial mace by the Sergeant at Arms to symbolize the national legislature’s power. The House declared on April 14, 1789, that, “A proper symbol of office shall be provided for the Sergeant-at-Arms, of such form and device as the Speaker shall direct, which shall be borne by the Sergeant when in the execution of his office.” The original House Mace was destroyed when British forces burned the Capitol in 1814. New York silversmith William Adams crafted the current mace in 1841. Crowned with an eagle atop of a globe, the current mace is comprised of 13 ebony rods bound by silver bands, representing the 13 original colonies.

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Fast Facts

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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