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Representative Joel P. Heatwole of Minnesota

August 22, 1856
Representative Joel P. Heatwole of Minnesota Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives
About this object
One of 176 first-term Members from the 54th Congress (1895–1897), Minnesota Representative Joel Heatwole chaired the Committee on Ventilation and Acoustics as a sophomore Member of the House in the 55th Congress (1897–1899).
On this date, Representative Joel P. Heatwole of Minnesota was born at Waterford Mills, Indiana. A former teacher and news reporter, Heatwole moved to Northfield, Minnesota, and began publishing the Northfield News. After campaigning unsuccessfully for election to the 53rd Congress (1893–1895) in 1892, Heatwole ran for the House of Representatives two years later and won election to 54th Congress (1895–1897) and to the three succeeding Congresses. In addition to serving on the Committee on Foreign Affairs, Heatwole was chairman of the Committee on Ventilation and Acoustics during the 55th Congress (1897–1899). Frustrated with the noise level on the House Floor, Heatwole, as chairman, introduced a bill (H. Res. 367) that would have remodelded the House Chamber in the style of the British House of Commons: “The size of the House and the irrelevant noise,” he wrote in the committee report, “is such that ordinarily no man of average lung power can be heard throughout the Hall.” The chairman proposed shortening the chamber by 60 feet, ripping out the Members’ desks, and installing benches on the floor “half of them facing westward and half facing eastward.” Though Heatwole’s design would eventually leave most Members without office space (the first House office building would not open for another decade), it ensured a seating capacity of 406 in such a way that “legislative discussion may be heard and understood by those who are charged with the duty of legislating,” he wrote. The measure failed, and Heatwole turned his attention to other pursuits, namely hunting and fishing. “Like every other ardent fisherman,” reported the Washington Post in 1902, “Mr. Heatwole keeps his tackle always near at hand. In his committee room, he has his fine Kentucky reels and his split bamboo rods and his lines and spoons and flies.”

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