At the time Joseph Cannon
was Speaker of the House, the power to assign Representatives to committees resided solely with him. As a result, each Congress, he received hundreds of letters from Members requesting particular assignments, as well as from companies and individuals with vested interests in the placement of their Representatives. The 59th Congress was Mississippi Representative Benjamin G. Humphreys’s
second term in Congress, so he was unable to make his request from a position of seniority on the Rivers and Harbors Committee. Hoping to bolster his position, the Vicksburg division of Houston Bros. Mills & Yards sent Speaker Cannon a letter on Humphreys’s behalf. The city of Vicksburg is situated on the Mississippi River, so Houston Bros. would have relied on the river to ship its lumber to other cities or move lumber to sawmills. Having a Representative who would communicate their concerns to Congress was critical. Humphreys served on the Rivers and Harbors Committee for seven Congresses. He also shepherded legislation related to flood control on the Mississippi into law as Chairman of the Committee on Flood Control during the 64th and 65th Congresses.