Two Champ Clarks stand side by side. One Champ Clark gazes directly at the camera, wearing a long, dark suit jacket, with a watch chain and spectacles hanging from his vest. The other Champ Clark stares in a slightly different direction, his eyebrows edging down and his thin lips set. The Speaker on the right is a near-perfect replica of the Speaker on the left—except for his ghostly white pallor and his abrupt ending below the chest.
As sculptors chiseled the distinctive faces of House Speakers, newspaper photographers focused on the uncanny resemblance between real people and their stone replicas. Attempting to capture the curious relationship between three-dimensional busts and the figures they represented, photographers could only flatten both into two dimensions.
Busts typically represent a subject’s head and shoulders. While overseeing the extension and decoration of the Capitol in the 1850s, Montgomery Meigs intentionally left niches and unfinished details throughout the building, hoping that they would eventually fill up with new art, including busts. Sculptors have recorded the likeness of several House Speakers and leaders in marble and other materials. Demonstrating just how realistic their busts were, three House Speakers posed for photographs next to their avatars.
Sculptor Moses Wainer Dykaar crafted former Speaker Clark’s bust in 1918. “I began the clay work in the speaker’s office, and completed it there, and did the marble portrait there too,” Dykaar recalled. “I put a lot of time on it—two months on the clay model alone, and was just as slow with the marble.” As the sittings progressed, the Evening Star noted that visitors to the Speaker’s office took great interest in the sculpture. Soon after its completion, newspapers printed photographs of Clark next to his bust, nearly indistinguishable from the shoulders up.
Congress decided to place Clark’s marble bust across from one of James Robert Mann near the House Chamber in 1925, after both had died. By situating the Democratic Speaker across from his good pal, the Republican Minority Leader, the statues memorialized their bipartisan friendship.
Dykaar sculpted another bust of a Speaker, Nicholas Longworth. The sittings began in the Speaker’s office, as they had with Clark’s sculpture, but this time, Dykaar found the light unsuitable for his work. A curator found him studio space at the Smithsonian, and the work continued in the museum, presumably with better lighting.
A photograph shows Longworth, standing stiffly and looking out into the distance. Next to him, the identical bust emerges from a base, in glowing white marble form. The statue echoes the shape of Longworth’s head, hair, and throat exactly. Only his moustache seems strangely solid in the bust. Dykaar holds a chisel and mallet up to the statue’s lapel, but the sculptor appears to be posing for the camera after having completed the work, rather than still chiseling away. Completed in 1930, the bust came to the House two years later, shortly after Longworth’s death.
As space for statues began to get tight in the Capitol, the Clark and Longworth busts moved, along with others, to niches up in the galleries of the House Chamber in 1934. When the chamber underwent renovations in 1949, the busts moved again, this time joining other marble sculptures in the rotunda of the Old House Office Building (now the Cannon House Office Building).
In 1962, Congress also placed former Speaker Joseph Martin’s likeness in the rotunda. Sculptor Suzanne Silvercruys shaped his bust, which the National Federation of Republican Women funded. When she entered Martin’s office to begin work, the artist related, “I did not recognize him because his hair was all nicely arranged . . . but it didn’t take very long for that lock of hair to come down so I could start work.” The clay model progressed quickly, and at the end of two hour-long sittings, it was nearly complete. Martin, who remained in Congress after serving as Speaker, “looked right up and said, ‘I think this is a time for a picture.’”
That photograph shows Martin standing behind the clay study of the bust. The final, marble sculpture includes an unusual detail: the representation includes Martin’s hands, holding a gavel. Both versions emphasize that key detail Silvercruys noticed about the Congressman—his hair refusing to stay tidy.
“Representative Martin Has Date with History,” read the title of a Washington Post article about the bust. As the headline shows, marble portraits like Martin’s inscribe an important figure in history. Even after the deaths of these Speakers, the busts live on around the Capitol campus. Photographs showing both the sitter and the sculpture mark the moment when the Speaker’s legacy is written in stone.
Sources: David Lynn, Report of the Architect of the Capitol on the Reconstruction of the Roofs and Skylights over the House Wing of the Capitol and Remodeling of the House Chamber, 82nd Cong., 2nd sess., H. Doc. 531 (19 February 1951); Congressional Record, House, 87th Cong., 1st sess. (20 September 1961); Congressional Record, House, 87th Cong., 2nd sess. (15 May 1962); Evening Star (Washington, DC), 18 April 1918, 11 February 1925, 4 July 1926; Richmond Palladium and Sun-Telegram (Richmond, IN), 31 May 1918; Rapids Herald (Roanoke Rapids, NC), 12 July 1918; Washington Post, 3 April 1932, 17 December 1961; Charles E. Fairman, Art and Artists of the Capitol of the United of America (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1927) 149; Compilation of Works of Art and Other Objects in the United States Capitol (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1965); Art in the United States Capitol, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1976); “Montgomery C. Meigs, Engineer of the Capitol,” Architect of the Capitol, accessed 11 November 2019, https://www.aoc.gov/montgomery-c-meigs-engineer-capitol.Follow @USHouseHistory