The Capitol Celebration of Former Speaker of the House Joe Cannon of Illinois
May 07, 1920
Collection of the U.S. House of Representatives About this objectWhile in Congress, Cannon was an inveterate domino player and cigar smoker.
On this date, “Uncle Joe” Cannon of Illinois celebrated his 84th birthday. Born on May 7, 1836, in Guilford, North Carolina, Cannon served in the House of Representatives for nearly 50 years and was Speaker of the House from the 58th Congress through the 61st Congress (1903–1911). Senator Carroll Page of Vermont hosted an “elaborate luncheon” in honor of Cannon’s birthday. The celebration, which featured New England trout and “near beer,” included the seven oldest sitting Members of Congress. Throughout the day, Cannon received numerous congratulatory messages as well as a thunderous ovation on the House Floor when Representative Frank Mondell of Wyoming announced the former Speaker’s birthday. “Men wiser than I long ago said that the first blessing of earth is toil; and the second blessing health, which wealth cannot buy,” Cannon replied. “I accept both and believe that the first contributes much to the second. At 84 I can wish no greater blessings to the present and coming generations than those of work and health.” Although age had caught up to Cannon by the end of his long congressional career he nevertheless attended committee meetings and participated in the proceedings on the House Floor, he greeted visitors, read constituent mail and newspapers, and burnished his reputation as an adept dominoes player.