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The Recitation of the Gettysburg Address on the House Floor

February 12, 1920
The Recitation of the Gettysburg Address on the House Floor Image courtesy of Library of Congress On the House Floor, Joe Cannon of Illinois recited the Gettysburg Address in honor of President Abraham Lincoln's birthday.
On this day, former Speaker of the House  Joe Cannon of Illinois, the iconic octogenarian who served in Congress for 46 years, recited the Gettysburg Address on the House Floor in commemoration of the anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln’s birthday. For Cannon, who had personal memories of the great emancipator, this moment held particular significance. The two had run on the same Illinois Republican ticket in 1860—Lincoln as President and Cannon as prosecuting attorney. Cannon was the only surviving person who had appeared on a ballot with Lincoln. Cannon stood next to Freeman Thorp’s portrait of Lincoln, one the artist created from live sketches of the former President. Reporting on the speech, the Chicago Daily Tribune described the “mellowed voice of the veteran Republican from Illinois [that] rose and fell as he [Cannon] recalled to his colleagues the scene on the battlefield of Gettysburg.” The moment was solemn and reverent, as Representative James Monahan of Wisconsin declared, “The Gettysburg address you have heard read this morning so beautifully, so expressively, by one who lives not in Danville, not in Illinois, but in the hearts of every man, woman and child in the United States, Uncle Joe Cannon.”

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The Cannon House Office Building, opened in 1908 and later named for Speaker Joseph Cannon of Illinois, is the oldest congressional office building. The creation of offices for Members of Congress forever changed how the House of Representatives worked.

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