Image courtesy of the Library of Congress
Located two miles from the U.S. Capitol, Congressional Cemetery was the final resting place for many Members from the 1800s.
On this date, the House held a funeral for Congressman James A. Black
of South Carolina. He was the sixth Member of the House to die that Congress
. At the time, it was not uncommon to hold services in the House Chamber for Members who had died in Washington. Funerals
were occasions of pomp as well as sorrow, and included a solemn parade from the Capitol to the Congressional burial ground. The order of procession was announced in the local newspapers. In Black’s case, it included everyone from the physicians who attended him to the Speaker of the House. Congressional Cemetery, as it later became known, was the burial site for 80 Members of Congress. It is also home to 169 cenotaphs. Traditionally a cenotaph, which derives from the ancient Greek term for “empty tomb,” was a memorial to a person buried elsewhere. Congressman Black’s body rested only for several months in a temporary vault before being interred in South Carolina, and a cenotaph was subsequently raised in his honor. The congressional cenotaphs were designed by architect Benjamin Latrobe, while he was working on the House wing of the Capitol in the 1810s. They were built of the same Aquia Creek sandstone used for the Capitol, and like the building, painted white.