Historical Highlights

Longtime Congressional Employee Ben Jones

August 05, 1879
Longtime Congressional Employee Ben Jones Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
House Pages grab a quick snack at the Republican Cloakroom snack bar (referred to as the "Republican") during a busy legislative day.
On this date, Benjamin (Ben) Jones—the longtime manager of the House Republican Cloakroom—was born in East St. Louis, Illinois. Upon the recommendation of Representative William August Rodenberg of Illinois, Jones left his home state in 1907 to take a job at the Capitol checking coats and hats for Republican Representatives. During his nearly four-decade career in the Republican Cloakroom, Jones worked under nine Speakers of the House, from “Uncle Joe” Cannon of Illinois to Sam Rayburn of Texas. Looking to fill time during slow periods while the House was in session, Jones began serving coffee to Members. Encouraged by the positive response of Republican Representatives, he gradually expanded the services of the cloakroom to include the sale of fruit, candy, doughnuts, and homemade sandwiches. The cloakroom lunch and snack bar became a mainstay and a convenient place for Members to relax and socialize. As a House employee for 39 years, Jones’s knowledge of House procedure enabled him to broaden the services he offered to Members. “He was in daily contact with the membership of the Republican side of the aisle, and was always prepared to advise as to what the program of the day would be,” Congressman Earl Michener of Michigan recalled. As the popularity of the cloakroom lunch and snack bar grew, Jones had his daughters help him with the day-to-day operations. After his death in April 1946, his daughter Helen managed the food operations for the cloakroom—a position she held for nearly 60 years. “Ben Jones has endeared himself to all of us who sit on the Republican side of the aisle by his good nature, his kindly disposition, and courteous service,” future Speaker of the House Joe Martin of Massachusetts eulogized on the House Floor. “He was a man of fine character, and he had a profound knowledge of national affairs. He loved the House; he was a sturdy champion of it as an institution and strong in the Republican faith.”

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