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Historical Highlights

The First House Chamber Funeral

December 18, 1820
The First House Chamber Funeral Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
The Old Hall of the House (now Statuary Hall) was the site of 15 funerals for Members while it was the House’s meeting place from 1819 to 1857.
On this date, the first known funeral in the House Chamber occurred. Representative Nathaniel Hazard of Rhode Island died the day before in Washington, D.C. On the morning of the 18th, Representative Samuel Eddy of Rhode Island announced the death to the full House. The House approved a number of resolutions relating to funeral attendance by Members and appointed a committee of seven to tend to the funeral arrangements. The House agreed to observe a 30-day period of mourning where Members would wear black crepe arm bands. A message was transmitted to the Senate informing the other chamber of Hazard’s death. The Senate followed the practice of the House, donning the black arm bands and adjourning to attend the funeral. Only three days later, a chamber funeral was held for Congressman Jesse Slocumb of North Carolina who had passed away on December 20, 1820. There were four chamber funerals during the 16th Congress (1819–1821). In total there have been 32 funerals in the Old Hall of the House (now Statuary Hall) and the current chamber. During the early 19th century, most Members were buried in the Congressional Cemetery, located blocks from the Capitol. The practice of holding funerals in the chamber ended in 1940 following the death of Speaker of the House William Bankhead of Alabama.

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